Using Creative Commons to Find Photos You Can Use

Photos and the Internet go together like peanut butter and jelly. For as long as there have been web browsers, people have generously posted photos online--which other people have then downloaded and used for their own purposes, whether or not they've actually asked for permission. To make it easier to legally and ethically reuse photos posted online, the Creative Commons license was created. I first mentioned Creative Commons in "Your Photos, Your Rights, and the Law." This week let's learn a little more about Creative Commons--both how you can use it to share your own photos and how to use other peoples' works.

Don't Republish Photos You Just Happen to Find Online

Before we go any further, I should point out that every photo on the Internet has been taken and published by someone, and that means all of those images are implicitly under copyright. You don't have to see an explicit copyright notice in order for an image to be protected by law. Indeed, all creative works are implicitly protected by U.S. copyright law.

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A Fast Trick to Salvage an Underexposed Photo

Cameras are, like Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnel, easily confused. If you take a photo of a scene that has a lot of contrasty lighting, you're likely going to end up with parts of the photo that are under- or overexposed. I have written about ways to fix photos like this--for example, check out how to brighten unwanted shadows. Most of these sorts of techniques take time and effort, though.

This week, I've got a trick that takes less than 2 minutes and is perfect for situations in which you want to take a photo with badly underexposed areas and make it presentable for uploading to Facebook. It won't be perfect, and I wouldn't use this approach to make a large print, but it's awesome for rapidly making snapshots presentable.

Duplicate the Photo

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Using White Balance With RAW, Resetting a Photo's Date, Understanding Crops, and More

Have a question about digital photography? Send it to me. I reply to as many as I can--though given the quantity of e-mails that I get, I can’t promise a personal reply to each one. I round up the most interesting questions about once a month here in Digital Focus.

For more frequently asked questions, read my newsletters from December, January, and February.

Does RAW Format Use the Camera's White Balance?

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Four Easy Tricks for Better Photos

There are about a million books about photography on the shelf of your local bookstore. I should know, because mine is one of them. But you don't need to remember a book's worth of tips and tricks to improve your photography; for the highlights, you might want to play with an online camera simulator. And when you get right down to it, there are just a handful of easy things you can do to make a dramatic improvement to your photos.

1. Remember the Rule of Thirds

Want to improve your photographic composition? Stop putting your subject in the center of the frame. The "rule of thirds" tells us that photos (and video--watch TV and movies for proof) look better when the subject is off-center, aligned about a third of the way from the right or left side. Here, you can see that the wolf's face is positioned on the line of thirds on the right side of the photo, and his eyes are almost exactly a third of the way from the top as well.

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Understanding Your Camera's ISO Control

A few weeks ago, I wrote that photography is often called "painting with light." In response, a reader asked me what you do when there isn't any--light, that is. Well, unless you're shooting inside a closet or at the bottom of a mineshaft, there's always some light around. Your job as a photographer is often to make the most of whatever light you have access to. I've explained how to get the best results with your flash, but there's a way to maximize the natural light in your scene as well: Using your camera's ISO control.

ISO in a Nutshell

I get a lot of questions about ISO--many photographers don't seem to understand exactly what it does. Your camera's ISO control determines how sensitive the camera's sensor is to light. On most cameras, ISO starts at 100 and goes up from there; the higher the number, the more sensitive the sensor will be.

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Finding an Alternative to the Free Picnik Photo Editor

If you haven't yet heard the news, allow me to bring you some sad tidings: Google is shuttering Picnik, the superb free online photo editor that Google had acquired back in 2010 and that I've recommended in the past.

You have until April 19 to get your fill of Picnik--that's when the site crops its last pixels. If you've used Picnik and have some photos there that you'd like to preserve when the site goes offline, that's easy to do. Picnik Takeout is a one-click tool that collects all of your online photos and zips them up for download.

There is some good news in all of this. While you previously had to pay for the advanced features found in Picnik Premium, Google has shut down the cash registers and made the premium edition free for all from now until the doors close in April. So you have another 6 weeks or so of full-strength Picnik goodness at no cost.

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Watermarking Photos, Removing Date Stamps, Erasing Power Lines, and More

Have a question about digital photography? Send it to me. I reply to as many as I can--though given the quantity of e-mails that I get, I can’t promise a personal reply to each one. I round up the most interesting questions about once a month here in Digital Focus.

For more frequently asked questions, read my newsletters from October, December, and January.

Protecting Photos With a Watermark

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