How to capture digital videos and photos from VHS tapes

Recently, I wanted to get photos of my cousin from old home movies, and to digitally capture and edit an historic VHS tape of an interview with the co-pilot of the Bock’s Car.

You can capture photos and digital videos from VHS with a handy product called VidBox, available from BestBuy ($60) in both Mac or Windows versions. As seen here, VidBox connects to your old VHS’ RCA jacks and to your computer’s USB port. VidBox includes software to capture the video as it’s played, and you get a nice digital file to edit.

For editing, I used CyberlinkPowerDirector and PhotoDirector.  (About $99 in a bundle.) PowerDirector makes it relatively easy to add photos, music, and video clips to create interesting videos, and PhotoDirector lets you capture photos from video, as well as re-touch and create sophisticated effects.
The oldest images were originally shot on 8mm and transferred to VHS by videotaping a screen. Direct-to-VHS yielded better results, but both gave me the feeling that I was reaching back into history to capture some wonderful, evocative photos that had been – until now – lost to time.

Turn your videos into books
Video images are smaller than the high-resolution cameras we use today, but, once you’ve captured photos from video, it’s an easy step to upload them to dotphoto and auto-populate a beautiful dotphoto book.  Video: How to make a dotphoto booK and get $49 off

The strange and curious future of photography

This blog is devoted to a trend in camera development, and to related features that are in your phone today.
Cameras are moving from capturing photos to gathering light, and the trend is accelerating. Lenses are going away, and cameras themselves may also disappear as light-gathering devices become so small and ubiquitous that you will be able to call up images from virtually anywhere – and then focus, crop, zoom, and edit as you like.

We’re getting a taste of that in the evening news: when a crime occurs, images are gathered from security cameras in the area. Cameras now in development are so small and inexpensive that they may be built into your watch, glasses, clothing or anything you commonly carry – and they may be everywhere. You may ask dotphototo sort through the best images that you automatically gathered that day, or ask your theme park to track your location so their cameras can serve up a photo album for you to refine after your visit.

Zoom in later.
The difference for photographers is that the emphasis will go from taking a picture in the moment to taking a picture afterward. This happens even today. For instance, many camera phones have such high resolution that you can crop out one player on a baseball field to create the player’s portrait. We recently helped a dotphotocustomer do just that with the dotphoto editor. How to crop with the dotphoto editor

Panoramas are light-gatherers.
If you take panoramic photos, your camera is acting as a light-gathering device: as you scan across an area, the software stitches together the image. You can edit the panorama afterward to produce the best possible shot.

Ratios won’t matter.
We think in terms of 4×6, 5×7 and 8x10s because it’s cheap to mass produce prints and frames in standard sizes. However, the move to digital from film frees photographers from ratios. Dotphoto provides custom-sized prints, laminated prints, posters, and frames for panoramas and virtually any shape through our custom framing shop.  Click here for more on printing custom sizes.

Ultra-thin, tiny, lense-free cameras
Lens-free camera on a pennyThat bump on your camera phone is too fat for a scientist at Caltech who has already miniaturized amplifiers for phones, put radar on a chip for self-driving cars, and designed an electromagnetic medical chip. His Optical Phased-Array (OPA) receiver collects light for processing later. Focus in or out, zoom, crop, and establish your picture later. One company, Lytro, already provides niche light-gathering cameras, but the OPA demonstrates that light-gathering technology can change photography dramatically.

New Sharing Options at dotPhoto

The wonderful thing about sharing your photos from dotPhoto is that you have one place where you can upload, organize and edit your photos, and – after creating the story you want to tell – you can share your photos as you like – through email, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, discussion boards, and many other sharing services. dotPhoto will send your albums, slideshows or individual images wherever on the web that you meet your friends.
Photo sharing may be the only place where you can have your cake and eat it, too. When we share our photos, people are a little bit happier, and so are we.

dotPhoto has improved our sharing capabilities lately, so we’ve made this 3-minute video to explain how to use dotPhoto’s sharing resources.

NEW dotPhoto Mail-for-Me Cards

Here’s another dotPhoto Club benefit: 5x7 Mail for Me Cards for only $1.99

You can create, sign, seal, stamp and send a customized 5×7 photo card without leaving your desk for only $1.99 for Club Members. That’s $1.79 LESS than the average card-store card with first class stamp.*

Customize your dotPhoto card with:

  • Photos inside and out
  • Caption on front
  • Large text box inside
  • Signature box below the text box

Make your own card and send a unique, genuine message for significantly less than the cost of a card-store card.

In the Shop, type Mail to find Mail for Me cards, and use the All Occasions designs.

Colorize your black-and-white photos!

Color brings to life older black-and-white photos. The best reason to colorize may be that young people don’t like to look at anything that is not color. I want my children to have a few nice color photos of their grandparents.

Colorization was once a difficult art, but you can now colorize a photo by choosing a color from an existing image and “painting” it over the region of the black-and-white photo. Here is a photo of Pearl S. Buck, the first  American woman to win the Nobel prize for literature.

In the example here, we borrowed lip color from a color portrait of Mrs. Buck, and found a model on the web to lend auburn hair color. We also tried an automatic colorization app, but it generated too much red tint for our taste. Try here

When you’re finished, you can download your colorized image, and print it on dotPhoto.