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Check Out Our New Website – My Gift IQ

mygiftiq-large-app-icon-512I know…another post that’s not really related to photography, but we just got this new website (and an Android App) launched, and I really think it’s awesome for everyone that has ever given or received a gift, and it’s FREE!

The site is called My Gift IQ and it solves a problem that comes around a number of times each year…”What should I get (insert friend or family members name here) for their birthday, Christmas, anniversary, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Valentines Day?”  We make the phone calls to ask, they give us vague answers that are rarely helpful.  We wonder what size they are, can’t remember if it’s dark or milk chocolate that they love, is their favorite wine from France or California, does little Johnny like Star Trek or Star Wars, and on, and on, and on.  My Gift IQ is an app that allows a user to create a personal profile (as well as profiles for their children) listing all the things that they love.  It’s broken down into categories that cover almost any type of gift imaginable.  In it, you store all the things you’d like to receive.

But it’s not just about what you want, or what your children want.  You can search for your friends and family’s Gift IQ profile the next time their special day approaches and feel great about giving them the perfect gift.  For many of us, giving a wonderful gift is even better than receiving one.

My Gift IQ is about smarter gifting, but that doesn’t mean it’s just for women.  How many men out there are caught driving home from work and realize that their wife or girlfriend’s anniversary/birthday is just around the corner (like tomorrow)?  Now you can pull out your phone, launch My Gift IQ, look up her Gift IQ profile and find something she really wants in seconds.  If she’s posted links in her profile, you can even order the item right there on the spot.

From now on, when your Mom calls asking what she should get you (or your spouse or children) for Christmas or for a birthday, tell her to check out your Gift IQ.  You’ll never again be put on the spot having to come up with some lame gift idea that you hope you can figure out a way to return.

Join others in sharing your favorite things for perfect gift giving and receiving. This is where you list your favorites of everything…a great new perfume you just found, your favorite flower, that perfect pair of shoes you saw online, a watch you love, your favorite bourbon, the best raincoat ever, running shoes, chocolate, cigars, authors, tools, cookware, the cutest umbrella you’ve ever seen…you love it, you list it. If you want to get real specific, copy and paste a web link to exactly what you want. If you choose to use it, there are even places to put your size so your friends and loved ones don’t have to guess. This makes everyone happy.  Not only do you receive gifts that you truly want, but the giver has that wonderful feeling of having given you the perfect gift. No more guessing! Be sure to encourage your friends and family to sign up as well so you can use My Gift IQ to search for their Gift IQ Profile. Then you can be as great a gifter to them as they’ll be to you!

Smarter gifting with My Gift IQ.

Check out our Android App here.

Check Out Our New Cameras And Equipment Reviews

After many subscriber request, I’ve added a Cameras And Equipment Review page.  For starters, I’ve included one of the most popular camera subjects, Point And Shoot Cameras.  It covers cameras from the best in high end to the best in budget, and a really sweet one that falls in the middle.

If you’re in the market for a new point and shoot camera, I highly recommend checking out the page, but if you’re a “meat-and-potatoes” type, I’ll summarize with this…If I could only have one camera to carry around, and money was “somewhat” of an issue, for about $275, I’d grab a Nikon Coolpix S9900.  It’s an outstanding camera, fully featured, at a great price!

Be sure to check back with this page frequently, as I’ll be reviewing new items as often as possible.

Don’t Let The Cold Weather Get You Down

Getting motivated to go out in the cold weather sucks!  But you’ve got to do it.  The better you feel about yourself will improve everything else you do…better work, better play, better time with the kids or significant other…everything is better!  Get out of the house and run.  15 minutes after you start, you’ll be glad you did, and 30 minutes after, you’ll be elated.

And by the way, even I can take a crappy photo.

Snow Beard

Here’s a great example of distortion from a cell phone camera.  With my dogs nose so close to the tiny lens, her head looks bigger than mine.  But it’s OK…sometimes you just need to document that it happened!

Now go get some exercise!  Photographing your life is going to require you to be in decent shape.


10 Months Into A 1 Year Beard

So, my wonderful wife agreed to me growing my beard for 1 full year…no trimming.  It’s been wonderful (for me, anyway).  I’m kind of a messy guy, so letting it go has been a real joy.  Unfortunately, I’m 10 months in, with only 2 to go before a clean shave ravages me.  I thought I should document it while testing out a knew background I just got from David Maheu (of Backgrounds by Maheu).  I really moved myself and the lights away from the background, to keep it on the darker side (it’s a pretty light, but warm yellow) and just put a spot light in the center.  It came out pretty nice.



A “Founder of the Internet” says we really need to be printing our images!

Vint Cerf, a “father of the internet”, says he is worried that all the images and documents we have been saving on computers will eventually be lost.

This is a really smart guy telling the world the same thing I’ve been saying here…don’t just save your images, print them!

Currently a Google vice-president, he believes this could occur as hardware and software become obsolete.  He fears that future generations will have little or no record of the 21st Century as we enter what he describes as a “digital Dark Age”.  Mr Cerf made his comments at a large science conference in San Jose.

His focus now is to resolve a new problem that threatens to eradicate our history.  “Our life, our memories, our most cherished family photographs increasingly exist as bits of information – on our hard drives or in “the cloud”. But as technology moves on, they risk being lost in the wake of an accelerating digital revolution.  Old formats of documents that we’ve created or presentations may not be readable by the latest version of the software because backwards compatibility is not always guaranteed.  And so what can happen over time is that even if we accumulate vast archives of digital content, we may not actually know what it is.”

“We have various formats for digital photographs and movies and those formats need software to correctly render those objects. Sometimes the standards we use to produce those objects fade away and are replaced by other alternatives and then software that is supposed to render images can’t render older formats, so the images are no longer visible.”

“This is starting to happen to people who are saving a lot of their digital photographs because they are just files of bits. The file system doesn’t know how to interpret them, you need software to do that. Now you’ve lost the photograph in effect.”

“If there are pictures that you really really care about then creating a physical instance is probably a good idea. Print them out, literally.”

Fun With Cupid

Cupid Image

We decided to have a little Valentine’s Day fun and ordered this Cupid set-up from  Here again, anytime you’re dealing with a small child (6 months in this case), remember to get down low to compose your shot.  I was lying on my stomach for this one.  I shot this in our studio, but you could also create a great shot like this at home in front of a window (preferably a large one).  Try setting your child up on a table (with a helper to make sure no one accidentally falls off the table…that really ruins the photographic mood for most kids) to get them centered in the window, and throw a clean sheet or two over the table to soften the image.  It’s best done in a well lit room, but you might try opening the front door to let more light in.  If you can get the table set up about 10 or 12 feet away from the window in the background, and use a wide open f stop (like f2.8 or 3.5), you’ll get a soft, beautiful blur behind your cupid.  Remember to try raising your ISO (to 2000 or more if available) to deal with having less available light.  That should help get your f stop as low as possible.

Woo Hoo! Got a new camera for Christmas! Nikon Coolpix P7800 Review

I bought Kaysi a new point-and-shoot camera for Christmas.  It’s a Nikon Coolpix (I’m not pimping them…just about everything out there will do the job).  I’ll be using it or my cell phone camera to take most of the shots I post here.  I’m doing that because I want to show everyone that a $10,000 camera is not needed to get amazing images.  After the holidays settle down, I’ll get some shots from it posted.  We’re going to be working on learning how to shoot in Aperture Priority Mode (it’s easy…I promise), and why you’d want to do that.  It’s no more difficult than shooting in Auto Mode, but you get much more control and a better result.

UPDATE:  OK, after using our Coolpix 7800 for the past 2 weeks, I am going to pimp this camera.  Yes, I’m shamelessly promoting it.  Here’s my mini-review:

Although I previously said, “just about everything out there will do the job,” and that’s true…this one does it much better than I expected.  To say it’s awesome is an understatement.  It’s the best point-and-shoot camera I’ve used.  Its Auto Mode is outstanding, but what I really love is that it’s a fully functional manual camera as well.  In other words, as you learn more about what a great camera is capable of (we’ll teach you!), it will grow with your abilities.

The 7x optical zoom gives you the same effect as a 35mm camera’s 28-200mm zoom (any idea how heavy that is?), and it has Vibration Reduction (VR) to help eliminate blurry images from a shaky hand.

Another feature I really enjoy using is the viewfinder.  That’s the little glass area we all used to look through before giant digital screens became the rage.  I don’t mean to imply that a big viewing screen is a bad thing, but if you’ve ever been out on a bright clear day, with the sun slightly behind you, the glare on those screens can make it very difficult to see where you’re actually pointing the camera.  Here’s where having a viewfinder will save the day.  Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of point-and-shoot cameras left that still have one.

It’s handling of color (particularly skin tone) is also amazing.  Overall, I’m so pleased with it, that when we travel now, knowing I’m going somewhere that I plan on capturing some great images, I will no longer be lugging around 40 pounds (and $12,000) of my Digital SLR gear.  It’s just me and my sweet little Coolpix.

Who am I and what is the intent of this blog?

Hi, my name is Grey Darrah. My wife, Kaysi, and I run a family and children portrait studio outside of Atlanta, GA. I’ve been a professional photographer since getting out of the Marine Corps in 1985. If you’re interesting in seeing some of the work we do (I wouldn’t want you to think I was making all of this up!), you can check us out at I’m not a professional writer, so if you find a few misspelled words or the occasional grammatical error (I do love a good comma), I apologize and encourage you to make fun of me.