Sunday, February 26, 2012

Weekly Photography Challenge: 'H' - High Dynamic Range (HDR)

This week's photography challenge was about the letter 'H'.  We chose to execute HDR images as our focus this week.  We spent some time in our favorite ghost town of Spokane, SD to show how images can go from the radical 'grunge' look of HDR to the almost realistic look. 

High Dynamic Range HDR by Dakota Visions Photography LLC Black Hills SD antique cars

It's all in the settings.  Watch for our post this week on a 'How To...' on High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing.  We'll share our tips, secrets, and a walk through from start to finish. 

If you are looking to start processing some HDR photographs in the near future, please watch for our post this week on HDR.  Purchase your copy of Photomatix Pro from and get ready to have some fun.  (We highly recommend purchasing from  We do get a small referral fee if you purchase from this link, but we feel your experience will be worth the recommendation.)

High Dynamic Range HDR by Dakota Visions Photography LLC Black Hills SD antique cars

We hope you enjoy these enough to like us on Facebook or share this blog post with the other social media links below.  Leave a link to your weekly photography challendge pictures in the comments below.  Follow along with us each week.  Next week, it's something with the letter 'G' in the photograph.

High Dynamic Range HDR by Dakota Visions Photography LLC Black Hills SD antique cars

Sign up for future blog posts in the upper right hand corner of this page.  Subscribe to our RSS & Atom feeds or join us by sharing your email address.  We look forward to serving you for a long, long time.  We'll See You Behind the Lens...

High Dynamic Range HDR by Dakota Visions Photography LLC Black Hills SD antique cars

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What Camera Gear to Buy With Your Tax Return

I cannot tell you how many times we've been asked by friends, family, or clients what suggestions we have for camera gear.  So with tax returns coming back, we decided it was time to put our recommendations into an article on the blog that we could refer people to. 

First of all, there is a lot of hype and emotion about whether Canon or Nikon is better.  We have chosen to become a Canon shop, so that is what our recommendations will be based upon, but either brand will serve you well.  When it all comes down to it, it is the person behind the lens that makes the difference - not the brand of the camera.

The Guts:
For enthusiasts starting out with a new DSLR to mid-level skilled amateur photographers, we recommend the Canon EOS Rebel T2i 18 MP APS-C Digital SLR Camera (Body Only) .  You may ask why not the Canon EOS Rebel T3i ?  We do not feel the extra $125-150.00 is worth the flip-out view screen unless you intend to shoot hours of HD video. 

The Eyes:
We do not recommend buying the 'kit' lenses that come packaged with either camera body.  Instead, we recommend buying the 50mm lens listed below.  The lens quality is much better than the kit lenses, and it will be transferable to larger camera bodies as you progress in skill.

The General Use Lens - Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens
This general use lens will cost you about the same or a slight bit more than the 'kit' lens that comes with the camera.  This is the first lens that we would recommend to you for immediate purchase.  It is of much higher quality, and allows photographs to be taken in much lower light.  Your ability to create images with backgrounds either in crystal clear clarity or in a beautiful blur while your subjects are in full focus is enhanced with this lens.  It is a 'manual' zoom lens - in other words - you have to get up on your feet and move to zoom in or out.  This lens will be transferable to full-frame DSLR bodies.

What Photography Gear to Buy with Your Tax Return Canon 50mm Lens by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

The next two lenses, we would only suggest buying after you feel accomplished with your Canon EF 50mm lens.  The move up in price considerably, but are well worth the extra money for the glass that you receive.

The Landscape Lens - Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Ultra Wide Angle Zoom Lens
This lens is what we consider one of the most important lenses in Canon's lineup for a landscape photographer.  The Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM is the new standard for professional and serious amateurs.  Vignetting is somewhat identifiable for full-frame users in the corners at 16mm and f/2.8, but for medium format camera bodies (like the T2i) it is highly unnoticeable.

What Photography Gear to Buy with Your Tax Return Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8L II USM Ultra Wide Angle Zoom  Lens by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

The Candid Portrait / Sports / Wildlife Lens - Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens
This lens can fill a book with its uses.  Some may feel this is a long focal length for portraits but it works great for candid portraits in low light action situations or tight, crisp head shots.  Events usually occur in low light venues and the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM lens is a great event or sports lens (usually best on large field sports events like soccer, baseball, etc.).  The serious wildlife photographer will probably go for a longer focal length Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens , but the Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 L IS II USM lens works great if the subject is relatively close or a larger bodied animal.  If you pair this lens with the Canon EF 1.4X II Extender on a Canon T2i body, you get that extra reach the wildlife photographer is looking for.  We consider this a core piece in our arsenal.

What Photography Gear to Buy with Your Tax Return Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L IS II USM Lens by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

OK - The Tax Return Was REALLY BIG Gear:
It's always nice to dream, right?!  Here is what we would do if our tax return was REALLY, REALLY big!
Canon EOS 1D Mark IV 16.1 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3-Inch LCD and 1080p HD Video (Body Only)
What Photography Gear to Buy with Your Tax Return Canon EOS Mark IV 16.1MP DSLR by Dakota Visions Photography LLC
Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II Ultra Wide Tilt-Shift Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras
What Photography Gear to Buy with Your Tax Return Canon TSE 24mm f3.5L II by Dakota Visions Photography LLC
Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM Super Telephoto Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras
What Photography Gear to Buy with Your Tax Return Canon 800mm f5.6L USM Lens by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

Suggested Place to Buy Your Camera Gear:
Personally, we have bought the majority our gear at  They are trust-worthy, competitive pricing, easy to work with including returns, and have never caused us to rethink our recommended place of purchase.  If you do purchase from using one of the links above, we do get a small referral fee.  It's not a lot, but it is always appreciated and it's the law that we tell you.  And besides, we are pretty sure the Tilt Shift lens is not going to show up in our PO Box any day soon?!

Most Importantly - Learn How to Use your Camera!
That's the most important purchase advice we could give.  Regardless of what you buy for camera gear, learn how to use your camera.  Take online classes, read books, or take time with a mentor photographer to learn your camera, its settings, and good technique.  Top-of-the-line gear is only as good as the photographer behind the lens. 

So, we'll See You Behind the Lens...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Weekly Photography Challenge: 'G' - Gremlin or Goat?

We had visions of grapes on granite with a nice bottle of wine, graffiti from downtown Rapid City, and even doing a piece on grain in photographs for this week's challenge.  Then, on a whim, we went to the 13th Annual Counts of the Cobblestone Car Show at in Rapid City today. 

We didn't have our DSLR with us, but instead of letting the moment slip away - we embraced the iPhone apps we have! 

So, Gremlin or Goat?  We found our 'G' photography right on the show floor.  A 1972 AMC Gremlin owned by Steven & Deb Berg from Rapid City, SD and a 1967 Pontiac GTO owned by Lenny Jennings of Rozer, WY.  What a lucky day!

1967 Pontiac GTO by Dakota Visions Photography LLC
1967 Pontiac GTO

We processed all the photographs through Photoshop for watermarking.  Three of the photographs were edited in Photoshop while the other two are edited using the iPhone app, Ta-Da!  I'll let you guess which go to which technique. 

1972 AMC Gremlin by Dakota Visions Photography LLC
1972 AMC Gremlin

1972 AMC Gremlin by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

What did we learn in this week's photography challenge?  It's not about the equipment.  It's about composition, finding the right angles, and taking a photograph that tells a story different than anyone else.  It was getting away from our "it's our equipment" excuse and getting back to photography itself. 

Pontiac GTO by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

Pontiac GTO by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

We hope you enjoy and leave your links to your weekly challenge photographs in the comments section below if you followed us this week.  Also, give us a 'Like' on the buttons below to pass this along on Facebook or other social media.  Next week it's 'H' for the challenge.  What are we going to do?  HDR, horses, hair, or half?  You'll have to keep watching to find out...

We'll see you behind the lens...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pinterest, Or Not to Pinterest...That is the Question.

Shakespeare fan or not, the question nowadays is where do you spend your social media time?  We may not have all the answers, but we thought we would share what we have learned.

The basic mechanics of Pinterest are simple: Add Pinterest to your Favorites bar and click it when you want to post an image to your Pinterest boards.  Then share with the world your visual treasures.

But how do we use it to improve our own photography or our business?  Some users are finicky in pinning only the finest images and articles, while others take the "spray and pray" method posting everything they see on the internet.  Let's take a look at some ideas in between these two areas.

1. Improving your Photography
What better use for a purely visual platform than to improve your own visuals?  Organize your Pinterest boards into categories such as photo lighting, posing, and (insert your speciality here - weddings, landscapes, wildlife, etc.).  Study patterns, styles, and techniques to establish the best of all in your own next photo shoot.

We have enjoyed looking at the following photography boards for inspiration: ImprovePhotography, For the Love of Photography, and Photojojo.

2.  Improving your Business

Pinterest is now roughly a third of the size of Twitter - roughly 11 million users.  Last month, these 11 million users spent an average of 100 minutes on the site, compared with 19 minutes on the professional social-networking site LinkedIn.  What businesses have stepped up to the plate and added Pinterest buttons on their site?  The likes of Neiman Marcus, Lands' End, and

The easiest idea is to slowly (don't post all your images at once) place your artwork that's for sale in an online Pinterest Board.  You can include where to purchase, price, and even the inspiration behind your artwork. 

Post your blog articles on Pinterest to gain organic buzz.  Showcase and socialize your next gallery opening with Pinterest awareness.  Incorporate vital information like date, time, and place right into the image to ensure maximum exposure from 'repins'.

Post a "How To" video on Pinterest.  Post a fun video on how you do "Trash the Dress" photo shoots and let it virally take Pinterest by storm.  Pinterest can be a great brand strengthening tool. 

Pin personal stuff for your clients to get to know you.  When we sell a photography shoot, much of what we are selling is an experience - make it better by helping your clients get to know you.

Market research, inspiration, and identifying new trends are also great business uses of Pinterest. 

Hopefully today's article got you excited to try out this new social marketing tool.  But one last thing, it's by invitation only.  Stop by our Pinterest page and begin following our pins at Dakota VisionsPhotography or leave us a message on our Dakota Visions Photography, LLC website contact page to request an invitation (make sure you leave us your email address and mention it's for a Pinterest invitation).

We'll see you behind the lens...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Weekly Photography Challenge: 'F' - Fallen but not Forgotten

We don't get to complain about how cold the floor was when we got out of bed this morning, but we do get to thank a veteran for the hell they went through in some foreign country to defend our freedoms. 

Fallen but not Forgotten Black Hills National Cemetery Sturgis SD by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

We don't get to complain that we had to get up early this morning to get the kids ready to take to church, but we do get to remember those who gave their lives for our religious freedom. 

Fallen but not Forgotten Black Hills National Cemetery Sturgis SD by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

We don't get to complain about how heavy the traffic was on the way to the restaurant this evening, but we do get to drive from place to place without having to stop at armed checkpoints because of our men and women in uniform. 

Fallen but not Forgotten Black Hills National Cemetery Sturgis SD by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

We don't get to complain that we have to go to work tomorrow morning, but we do get to choose the career we want because our freedoms have been fought for and paid for in blood. 

Fallen but not Forgotten Black Hills National Cemetery Sturgis SD by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

The men and women in the Black Hills National Cemetery have fought for our freedoms, defended our rights, and have died to keep this country free.  They have fallen, but they will not be forgotten.

What did we learn in this week's photography challenge?  That each photograph has a voice.  Use that voice to raise money for a charity, scream at injustice, chant for change, or speak in civilized protest.  But do not let those photographs fall silent. 

We can change the world, one photograph at a time.  Speak and be heard.  For the fallen in these photographs have paid the ultimate price to defend your freedom.  Don't let the fallen be forgotten.

Share your photographs of change in the comments below.  Leave a link to your photograph on Flickr, Picasa, or in a web gallery.  Share this article, pass it on, and give your photographs a voice.  We'll see you behind the lens...

Friday, February 10, 2012

Product Review: The Antzl Project

While wasting time searching the endless realms of Facebook one evening, we actually found a quality product worth sharing - 'The Antzl Project'.  It is a digital photograph to premium canvas gallery wrap service only available on Facebook.  No brick & mortar overhead, no additional website costs, and no advertising costs lead to a lower cost product returned to you with extraordinary customer service.  You won't find a more affordable way to hang your quality photographs on premium quality canvas with 1-1/4" construction with a finished back. 

Kevin's service is top-notch with all communication done via email.  His ordering prices are clearly listed on the 'Info' tab of his Facebook page.  Proofs are delivered in a timely fashion and all details are explained as you move through the process with him.  (Remember, like the days when customer service was actually focused on the customer!)  Recently having ordered canvas gallery wraps from three different companies, it was easy to recommend Kevin and The Antzl Project as providing the most quality product along with superb customer service. 

Sunset at Sylvan Lake Antzl Project Review by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

Kevin additionally provides an extra free service he calls, 'Antzl Me!'  During this process, he will make sure that your photograph is ready for a large format gallery wrap, place a border appropriately around the photograph, and allow you to choose a variety of printed messages including name of photograph, business or photographer.  And to top off the quality product, service, and communication - all prices include shipping.

Sunset on Needles Highway Antzl Project Review by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

We are currently using The Antzl Project for our own limited edition canvas gallery wraps now available at the Foothills Trading Post in Hermosa, SD.  Stop by and check them out when you visit the Black Hills of South Dakota this summer.  We look forward to continuing our business with Kevin and The Antzl Project.  We hope you take some time to find Kevin on Facebook and give him a Like, but more importantly, give him a try!

Don't forget to leave a comment, share us on your favorite social media, or give us a Like on Facebook below!  We'll see you behind the lens...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Weekly Photography Challenge: 'E' - Envy

OK - this week is tongue-in-cheek, or maybe tongue somewhere else!  You know I had to put these photographs out here this week.  For those of us from cold & flu territory, these photographs represent what we would all like to do when that cold takes a hold of us and fills up our nasal passages. 

This little guy was out playing around near his mother in Wind Cave National Park this Saturday when I was trying to focus on getting some elk photographs.  When he caught my eye, he was flicking his tongue around.  I really didn't know what we had captured until we got back and downloaded the files.  We laughed hysterically.  And the first words out of our mouths were "Don't you wish you could do that when you have a cold?!"  Gross, I know - but we have all had those nasty colds where we just want that mucus out of there!

Hilarious Bison Buffalo Calf with Tongue up Nose by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

What did we actually learn this week?  We learned that the more time you spend with the subjects you are photographing, the better your photographs will be.  Sometimes, it's about catching those moments that everyone knows happens - but we just don't get the chance to see them unless we know when to look.  We knew something special was happening because of the way he was reacting to his mother, and the other young calves around him.  We just didn't know how special it was until we got home. 

Hilarious Bison Buffalo Calf with Tongue up Nose by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

So, tongue-in-nose, our weekly challenge turned into 'Envy'!  We are envious - and what we found out was that he kept doing it!  We hope you have as much fun as we had getting these ready for you.  Share the link to our post this week or hit the Like button below to give a shout out on Facebook or Google+.

Hilarious Bison Buffalo Calf with Tongue up Nose by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

If you participated in this week's photography challenge, leave a link to your 'E' photograph in the comments below.  Copy and paste a link to your Flickr, Picasa, or web gallery with your weekly challenge photograph for something containing the letter 'E'. 

We look forward to getting 'out of the box' next week with the letter 'F'.  Oh, what to choose with the letter 'F' - but remember, keep it clean!  We'll see you behind the lens...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

How to Get $50, $150, or over $10,000 in Facebook Advertising

Facebook has been rolling out a lot of new features in front of their upcoming IPO.  But you may be thinking, how does that affect me as a small business owner - especially a photographer?  Many of our Facebook friends and blog readers already have a Facebook page as well as their personal page.  If you already have a page or have thought about setting one up, but need some incentive - then keep reading.

Small business owners, located in the United States, that manage a page on Facebook can enter a contest called the Small Business Boost that through interactive growth can lead to an opportunity to win $10,000 in free advertising dollars!  There is an app that is available on the Facebook Marketing Solutions page - but wait, continue reading for an additional opportunity before signing up for this contest. 

The Small Business Boost is available for pages that are located in the United States and have at least 50 Likes on their page when they sign up for the contest.  If you meet all the Facebook criteria for the contest as described on their Marketing Solutions page, you will receive a $50 credit in your page's funding source account.  Pages that gain 100 new Likes by April 1, 2012 will earn another $100 ad credit.  And, if you are one of the top 10 businesses with the most Likes added during the contest, you may win $10,000 in free advertising credits.  See the Facebook Marketing Solutions page for complete contest details.

Additional hints:  Make sure that you have an address (at least city/state) on your Facebook page so that eligibility can be determined.  Once you select the page (you are only eligible for one regardless of how many pages you admin) and submit your entry, it may take Facebook from 2 hours up to 7 days to respond via email about your application.  From the acceptance email, you will click on a link that takes you to the ad creation page.  Once your advertisement is created, the coupon will be applied.

Before you sign up, I want to make sure you have the chance for even more free advertising.  If you have never advertised on Facebook before, you have the opportunity to gain the $50 advertising credit for new advertisers.  But, you must sign up for this credit before you sign up for the Small Business Boost contest or you will not be eligible.   Once you have advertised on Facebook, this promotion is no longer available.  This initial advertising credit may help you gain your first 50 Likes on your page to become eligible for the Small Business Boost contest.

Does it work to advertise on Facebook?  We were able to turn our first $50 free advertising credit as a new advertiser into 125 Likes with a focused marketing plan including age, interests, page preferences, and physical location.  We will continue to post articles on how to advertise in the correct manner on Facebook so your likes don't devalue.  With about half of our Small Business Boost $50 credit, we have been able to additionally add another 125 Likes.  But again, this was with a focused marketing plan for the advertisements.

We hope you are encouraged by the fact that there are free advertising dollars available to small businesses within the United States provided by Facebook.  To take advantage of these opportunities follow our links above and make sure you read through all the rules. 

We hope you enjoy this article, and encourage you to sign up either for the RSS feed or submit your email address at the top, right portion of our page to receive future blog articles. 

Tell us your success story in the comments below and feel free give us a Like on Facebook!

We'll see you behind the lens...