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How to Improve Your Landscape Photography By Understanding Portrait Lighting

Sat, 06/23/2018 - 15:00

The further I have gone on my photography journey, the more I have come to learn about the importance of understanding light. I believe light is the single most important element that makes a photograph. Not a great subject. Not great composition. It’s great lighting that will make a photograph amazing.

So what is great light? There is no one type of light that makes a photograph good or bad. Hardness, brightness, color, direction. All these things and more will dictate how your image looks, and more importantly, how it feels.

One of the ways I’ve learned to see and understand light and how it affects my landscape photography is by learning about and understanding portrait lighting. Portrait photographers know that the way light falls on the human form dramatically affects the photograph.

Although you can’t control the light in landscape photography, learning to apply the principles of portrait lighting will help you create far more dramatic landscapes that make the viewer feel something.

Light and Shadow

At its most basic level, a photograph is made up of light and shadow. We have a tendency to focus a lot on light in photography, but shadows are just as important, if not even more so. Shadows reveal shape, depth, and texture.

Portrait photographers understand light and shadow better than anyone. They shape a portrait by moving the light source around until the light falls in just the right way so that the shadows reveal the contours of the subject. When shooting with natural light that can’t be controlled, they will move the subject instead.

The transition from light to shadow is often lost in modern landscape photography. Camera sensors with incredible dynamic range, along with the popularity of HDR techniques, have allowed us to bring back a lot of detail in the shadows of our landscapes.

This isn’t a bad thing in itself, because usually, we want some detail in the shadows, but it often goes too far. Just because we can brighten the shadows doesn’t mean we should. Leaving parts of the image in darkness add mood and mystery.

Rembrandt Lighting

I learned about Rembrandt lighting before I had ever heard of the artist it was named after. Rembrandt was a master painter who understood the principles of light and shadow better than anyone. Studying his paintings will teach you a lot about how they can create mood and drama in an image.

Rembrandt self-portrait.

Rembrandt lighting has become known as a classic lighting setup in portrait photography. Using soft side-lighting, this technique creates a beautiful look that you will likely recognize.

When the light source is coming from the side of the subject, it causes the light to reveal and conceal various elements. The parts of the subject that are visible to the light source will be illuminated while the parts which aren’t visible to the light source will be in shadow.

Understanding portrait lighting to bring out texture and dimension.

You obviously can’t control the light source when photographing landscapes, but you can still apply the same principles.

Considering how the light will fall on your landscape can guide the way you photograph it. The position you shoot from, your composition, and the time of day will all affect how the lighting affects your landscapes. Even though you can’t control the light, it never stays the same, so waiting for the angle of the sun to change or for a gap in the clouds can make a big difference to that way it illuminates the scene.

Reverse Engineering Photos

A great exercise for learning to understand light is to reverse engineer a photograph. When I was learning portrait photography I would regularly study an image and try to figure out how it had been lit. Is it natural light or flash? How far away from the subject is it? How big is the light source? Is there more than one light source?

These days as a landscape and travel photographer, I still ask myself those questions when looking at a photograph. Which direction is the light coming from? What time of day was it taken? Was the sky clear or cloudy? Learn to get in the habit of analyzing photos that you admire by asking yourself more specific questions like this rather than what gear or presets the photographer used.

Dodging and Burning

Shaping light and shadow doesn’t stop when you take the photo. Dodging and burning is the process of lightening and darkening areas of a photo in post-production. It doesn’t need to be a complicated process. Often all that is necessary is burning (darkening) areas that could use more shadow or might be distracting.

One of the best ways to think of dodging and burning is to ask yourself where you want the viewer to look. It may be a specific element of the photo, or you may want to draw the viewer’s eye through the image. You can paint more light and shadow into a photo to guide this process.

Our eyes are naturally drawn to brighter parts of an image. Portrait photographers will often dodge and burn to draw the viewer to the subject’s eyes or another important element of the subject. When editing landscapes, try to paint in light and shadow to control which parts of the image are attracting your attention.

Go Practice

The next time you’re photographing a landscape, try taking another look at the light. Ask yourself some of the questions I’ve mentioned. Look for the shadows. Experiment with side-lighting. Wait until the light changes. By understanding portrait lighting you will be better equiped to apply it to your landscape photography.

You’ll find that thinking of the landscape as contours with depth and shape rather than separate elements will help you make more engaging landscapes with mood and drama.

The post How to Improve Your Landscape Photography By Understanding Portrait Lighting appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Two Ways to Replace the Sky Using Photoshop

Sat, 06/23/2018 - 10:00

There are many things that you can control when shooting a photograph, but the weather is not one of them! If you have a great landscape or architecture photo but the sky is too dull it will bring down the entire image, so just keep reading to learn how to replace the sky with Photoshop.

“Give the clouds an assignment.” said photographer Werner Mantz.

He was right, sometimes you can have the best weather and end up with a flat blue sky. Even worse if you have a horribly cold day that gives you a dull grey sky. Either way it can be the win or lose element of the image. No need to panic though, you can composite two photos into one perfect shot and replace the sky with a better one.

Method #1 – Sky Replacement in Photoshop

Most importantly you need an image from a cloudy sky that matches the mood of the image onto which you’re going to paste it. I’m going to work with a vertical shot so it’s better if the one from the sky has the same format. The subject is a ship aground in iced waters so my sky should be ideally from a stormy day.

With the image of the subject open, make a selection of the sky that needs to be covered by the new one. For this you can use any tool with which you feel comfortable. I usually start with a broad selection using the Magic Wand and then get closer with the different types of Lasso tools. You’ll see a dotted line (marching ants) around the area that is being selected.

Refine the selection

I find it’s also useful to go into Menu > Selection > Edit in Quick Mask. This will show the parts that are not selected in a red mask, so you can paint with the Brush tool what you want out and use the Erase tool to include in the selection.

Now open the sky image and select it all (Cmd/Ctrl + A), then go to Menu > Edit > Copy. Turn back into the first image and go to Menu > Edit > Paste Into. Notice that it becomes a new Layer and it has a Layer Mask with the shape of the selection you made, therefore you can now scale it and move it around and your subject won’t be affected, you’ll see the new sky directly as it would be fit in the image.

Once you’re happy with the montage, you can add some adjustment layers so that the two parts have the matching brightness, tone, etc., and the result seems as natural as possible.

Method #2 – Sky Replacement in Photoshop

When your landscape has a diffused horizon line like one with trees, for example, especially if you just need the sky to have a few more clouds instead of completely replacing the original sky then this technique is much more efficient because you don’t have to do the precise selection needed in the previous method. So go ahead and open both images on Photoshop.

In the image of the sky go to Menu > Selection > Edit in Quick Mask Mode and then choosing the Gradient tool draw a line from bottom to top, this will make the image appear with a red mask, faded gradually from one edge to the other.

Now go back to Menu > Selection > Edit in Quick Mask Mode and click again, this will turn the Quick Mask off, and you’ll see a rectangular selection on your image without noticing the gradient. But don’t worry, it’s still there.

Now pull the tab of the image to the side so that you can access the two images simultaneously, then drag the sky selection and drop it on top of the first image.

Now pick the Eraser tool and with a soft brush start erasing the part of the new layer that is covering the subject. You can also decrease the opacity of the layer so that it blends in a bit more smoothly.

There you go, you can do the final touches with adjustment layers so that levels and colors match.


So there you have two methods to replace the sky using Photoshop.

Have you tried this technique before? Please share your questions and comments about it below.

The post Two Ways to Replace the Sky Using Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Macro

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 15:00

Time to get close-up with some macro photography this week.

Need some tips? Read these dPS articles:

Weekly Photography Challenge – Macro

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge. Sometimes it takes a while for an image to appear so be patient and try not to post the same image twice.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

You can also share your images in the dPS Facebook group as the challenge is posted there each week as well.

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Macro appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Hands-On with the new Sony RX100 VI Compact Camera

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 10:00

Sony continues to innovate and release new versions of their popular line of mirrorless and compact cameras. Just release is the newest Sony RX100 VI, the sixth version in just six years. But at just under $1200 USD is it worth the price? Let’s see.

There are quite a few new things and upgrades from the Mark V. Let’s see what a few different testers had to say about it in Venice recently where Sony handed out some cameras to put through the paces. Here’s a small list of features:

Image courtesy of Sony.

  • New 24-200mm lens (with the 2.73 crop factor) but with an f/2.8 maximum aperture.
  • 24 frames per second burst mode.
  • Buffer 233 JPEGs standard.
  • 315 phase detection autofocus points.
  • 90-degree tilting LCD screen.
  • New touchscreen capabilities.
  • Easier popup electronic viewfinder.
  • Does 4K video.
  • New Vlogging stick available for easier video creation.
Photo Gear News

Richard Sibley from Photo Gear News gives the Sony RX100 VI some good tests as he walks around Venice. See what he has to say about shooting video, slow-motion, and other things. He talks about the aperture range limitations and the menu system.


Camera Labs

See what Gordon Laing, prolific camera reviewer, had to say about the Sony RX100 VI. His test of the tracking autofocus shows impressive results on moving subjects with the phase detect autofocus of this camera.

So what does he like, and what does he miss from the Mark V? Watch to find out.


Things missing on the RX100M6 he’s noted are:

  • No microphone jack or Bluetooth audio connection
  • The wider aperture of f/1.8 that was available on the Mark V
  • No built-in Neutral Density filter that was on earlier models
For a little humor

Finally, to inject a little humor into things is Kai (former of DigitalRevTV). His point of view and way of approaching things is unique and adds a bit of spice to reviews that can otherwise get a little dull.


The official word from Sony

Lastly, here is Michael Bubolo from Sony to give us the low-down on some of the official specs and features of this new camera.


Is this camera for you?

I have to admit when I heard about the 24-200 equivalent zoom lens I was a bit jealous as compared to my Fuji X100F with a fixed 23mm (35mm equivalent) lens. But the 1″ sensor (2.73x crop factor) on the Sony is a lot smaller, so I’ll stick with my Fuji!

So who is this camera for? At the price of around $1200, it’s not for everyone. Perhaps it’s good as a backup to their DSLR for pros, or for bloggers (and vloggers) who do video and want something portable. The zoom range certainly is attractive and it does a nice job on video for sure. But would you spend this much on a compact camera?

Note: currently the Sony RX100 VI is only available for pre-order from Amazon and other retailers.

Let’s discuss in the comments section below.

The post Hands-On with the new Sony RX100 VI Compact Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Edit Food Photography Images Using Lightroom

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 15:00

To edit food photography it requires a bit of a different approach than you might take with other types of photography, like portrait or landscape. The objective is to keep the food looking as fresh and appetizing as possible, which can take a subtle but considered hand.

Before and after a subtle edit of a food photo.

Although there is always room for style and artistry, the more real your subjects look, the better. Lightroom is the program of choice for most food photographers. It’s intuitive and relatively easy to use and offers most of the tools required to make great food photos.

For this article, I will walk you through how I make global adjustments to a food image in Lightroom’s Develop module. Workflow is something that is individual to each photographer. This is how I approach editing my food photography, however, you may opt to do things differently. Hopefully, you will find some takeaways that will help you edit your own images.

I’ll be editing this image of an apple pie. This is the shot straight out of the camera. Like all RAW images, it lacks contrast and needs a bit of pizzaz.


Final image.

The Histogram

It’s important to have a basic understanding of the histogram in order to make adjustments to the exposure and tones in your image. The histogram is one of the key tools available for analyzing your image. It provides a graph of the density values of a given image. The histogram shows the relative quantity of pixels at each density value.

The far left point of the histogram is pure black and the densest, and the far right point is pure white with no density. A big peak in any of these regions means that the image has a lot of pixels at that particular density. An open gap in the histogram means that there are no pixels at that density.

The distribution of these tones will tell you about the overall exposure of the image. Most images look best if they contain both dark and light values. Generally, without some dark and light values, the image may lack contrast and look flat.

If you have a strong peak at the black or white end of the histogram, your image could be under or overexposed. However, it really depends on the individual image and the desired aesthetic. For example, blown out whites has become a “thing” in recent years. A dark and moody shot will have a lot of pixel density at the dark end of the spectrum.


Before you can start making global adjustments to your image, it makes sense to crop and straighten it first. One tip is to shoot a bit wider than what you want for your end result so you can tweak your composition in post-production. You also may want to crop it to a certain aspect ratio – say 4×5 or square for Instagram.

First,  make sure that your horizon line is straight.

My horizon line in the apple pie image was already pretty straight. I used the crop tool to check it and also brought the crop in slightly on the left-hand side to cut off a little bit more of the pie. To access the Crop Tool in Lightroom, click on the grid symbol under the Histogram in the top panel (or just hit R, the keyboard shortcut). This will allow you to crop your image by bringing in the corners with your cursor.

While this tool is activated you can click “O” for the shortcut to bring up several compositional overlays like the Phi Grid or Golden Spiral to help you get the most out of your composition.

Lens Corrections

The Lens Corrections options fix optical distortion caused by the position of your subject in the frame, or where your camera is positioned relative to your scene. Lightroom supports a variety of lenses to automatically calibrate with this function.

I always check off Enable Profile Corrections before I start making adjustments to my image. Checking this box automatically brings up the camera profile for the lens used to create the image, in this case, the Canon EF 24-70mm.

White Balance

I recommend setting your White Balance in-camera or shooting with a gray card and adjusting it in post-processing. This removes incorrect color casts and ensures that your whites and colors render accurately.

You can correct your White Balance in Lightroom by taking the eyedropper tool (circled in red below) and clicking on an area in the image which appears neutral. This will the adjust the color temperature in the whole image, and you can tweak afterward if it’s not quite as you desire. It’s not as precise as the other options but can work well for food your food images.

Also, in food photography, White Balance can be used creatively, depending on your image. I tend to favor a cooler approach to my food photography. Cool colors give a crisp and fresh feeling to the image, which means I tend to edit more towards the blue or cyan.

Using the white balance eyedropper tool in Lightroom to color correct

Keep in mind that the goal is to make the food look as fresh and appetizing as possible, so you don’t want the food to look blue. Food photography looks best when there is a balance of tones. I keep my surfaces and props on the cool or neutral side and work with my food subjects individually to keep it as realistic looking as possible.

When composing my apple pie image, I chose a vivid blue background to complement the golden tones of the pie. Not only does this create a balance of tones, blue and yellow are opposite on the color wheel and are a great combination of colors for food photography.

After White Balance color corrections.

Exposure and Contrast

The next slider is Exposure, which affects the brightness of the range of tones in your image. To see bright or dark details, pull the Exposure slider to the left, or the Blacks slider to the right. If the bright areas look muddy, or the shadows still need more light, move the sliders to points where the image looks good overall.

I often make this adjustment initially and then may scale it back once I have made some other adjustments.

Contrast can be boosted in the Basic Panel or in the Tone Curve panel, which I will get to in a moment. It’s important to add some contrast, as RAW digital files are flat by nature.

After slight Exposure and Contrast adjustments.

Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks Sliders

This panel is where you may end up doing a lot of tweaking before you settle on a look that you’re satisfied with. It will give you a more precise balancing of tones than simply relying on the Exposure slider.

In my shot of the apple pie, the highlights were too bright, and the shadows too light for the look I was aiming for, which was a darker mood. My style tends to be dark and moody with bright food.  I brought the highlights down and boosted the whites, while also bringing down the shadows and blacks to create the ideal balance for the aesthetic I was going for.

After Highlights and Shadows were tweaked.

Clarity, Vibrance, and Saturation

Clarity is a most important slider in Lightroom when editing food photography. Clarity gives your image contrast in the mid-tones (edge details more specifically) and adds detail. You probably wouldn’t edit a portrait with +50 clarity, but you can easily do so with food photos. Keep in mind that overdoing the clarity can make food look dry and unappetizing. For this edit, I put my clarity at +42.

Vibrance is also an important slider in food photography post-processing. It’s a better tool for your edits than saturation because it’s is more subtle. It tends to adjust the less saturated colors without intensifying the ones that are already saturated.

The difference between Vibrance and Saturation is that it affects the intensity of the colors. Red becomes redder, green becomes greener, and so on. Vibrance will first boost the saturation of the muted colors and then the other colors. It adjusts the less saturated tones without over-saturating the ones that are already saturated. Whether you use Saturation depends on the image and the look you are going for, but in general, a conservative approach is what works best when editing food photography.

Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation adjusted.

It’s easy to quickly overdo the Saturation and make your image look ugly. If I use the slider at all, I might only nudge it up a tad to about +5 or +6. You’ll notice that I actually brought down the Saturation slightly in this image, so the blue looks a little less intense.

Tone Curve

The Tone Curve is often challenging to new users, but it’s one of the most powerful tools that Lightroom has to offer. Getting in-depth with it is beyond the scope of this article, but let’s look at the basics.

The Tone Curve is a graph that maps out where the tones in your images lie. The bottom axis of the Tone Curve starts with Shadows at the far left side and ends with Highlights on the far right end. The mid-tones fall in the middle, in a range from darker to lighter. The tones get darker as you move lower, and brighter as you move up the axis.

Assess the mid-tones in your image. Are they bright already? If not, click on the middle of the tone curve and bring the point up. If they are already bright or too bright, bring the curve down slightly. Move on to the rest of your image. Typically you will find that your curve looks somewhat like a soft S (see screenshot below).

You can control the lightness and darkness of your tones by adjusting the Point Curve itself or by Region Curve. The Region has sliders for each part of the tonal range. As you drag each slider, the curve and the image both change.

To make adjustments with the Point Curve, click on the area you want to affect to create an anchor point at which to control the tone. Dragging the point up lightens that tone; dragging it down darkens the tone.

After Curves.

You will also notice that there is an RGB option in the lower-right portion of the point curve. This helps you to individually edit the Red, Green, and Blue channels. It performs the same types of adjustments to brightness and darkness, but on each separate color. This can be utilized if you want to edit a color individually, or give your image a certain type of color overall.

To choose tones directly from the image, there is a handy tool called the Targeted Adjustment Tool. This is located in the top left of the Tone Curve.

Click on it and move the cursor over the image. The tool shows you the tones under the crosshairs. If you click and drag it up and down the image, you will affect the tones like those under the crosshairs. For example, if you drag vertically on an area with light pixels, all of your image’s highlights will be adjusted.

If you’re getting started with learning the Tone Curve, play around with the Region sliders and take note of how the various sliders affect the curve. Whichever approach you choose, be sure to watch the histogram as you make changes, to ensure that you are not losing important detail.

HSL Adjustments

HSL stands for Hue, Saturation, and Luminance. This is where you balance the colors in Lightroom. However, color adjustments are usually more subjective than tonal adjustments, as color gives a photograph a sense of mood.

There are two ways to make color adjustments in this panel; you can adjust them all at once under HSL/All, or each color individually under the Color tab at the top of the panel.

The Hue tab or section is where you choose how warm or cool you want each color in your image to be. For example, I find that greens almost always look off, so I slide the greens slightly more towards the left or right to get them looking more realistic. To add more warmth, that is, more yellow to your greens, slide it to the right. For a cooler hue, sliding it to the right will add more blue.

Whereas the Saturation slider in the basic panel adjusts the color of the whole image, the saturation sliders here adjust each color individually.

If you adjust a color to be more saturated, then it will affect the saturation of that particular color throughout the whole photo. Whether you’re working in the basic panel or the HSL panel, saturation requires a light hand.

In the image of the apple pie, I thought that the blue looked a bit more on the magenta side, so I slid it towards the left. This hue gave me a blue that worked better with the orange tones in my picture.

Lastly, Luminance affects the brightness of the color. I find these sliders more valuable than the saturation sliders and work with these first.

After HSL adjustments have been applied.

Working in Lightroom is all about balance, and the same goes when working with the Hue, Saturation, and Luminance adjustments.


Noise is the grain that can appear throughout an image. It’s not often a problem when you are shooting with artificial lights, but when working with natural light, grain can appear in your images if you are shooting at a higher ISO or you didn’t get enough light onto your sensor.

Working with the Noise slider in Lightroom will minimize the grain and give your image a smoother look. But, be careful not to push the slider too high, as it can result in a plastic look. For the apple pie, I set the Noise at +20, as it was shot in studio with a strobe.

Post-Crop Vignetting and Dehaze

If you are editing a darker, moodier image, Post-crop Vignette is a must. By darkening the outer corners of the frame, you draw the viewer’s eye towards the center of the image and your subject.

To darken, move your slider to the left. The midpoint slider controls how far in the dark edges get to the center of your photo. Feather controls how soft or hard your vignette will look. A softer vignette looks more appealing than a hard, “spotlight” effect.

Vignette applied.


Sharpening should be the last editing step. It adds contrast between pixels and edges, thereby adding definition and creating a more refined look.

NOTE: It’s not meant to make a blurry image look sharp!

Also, sharpening should not be applied to the whole image. In food photography, there is not much of a point in sharpening the props and the background, etc. The focus is on the food, therefore, this is what we sharpen.

To do this in Lightroom, mask out the image to select the areas of the image you want to sharpen rather than sharpening the whole image. You do this by holding down the Alt/Option key (it will show you where the sharpening is being applied, the white areas) while clicking on Masking in the Sharpening panel. Slide it to the right. The farther right you go, the less of the image it will sharpen. For my image, I left it at +76.

Also read: How to Make Your Photos Shine Using Clarity, Sharpening, and Dehaze in Lightroom

In Conclusion

So here is the final image! Not drastically different than what I began with, but overall a more balanced and refined looking photo and consistent with my style of food photography.

Before and after editing. Note how subtle the differences are here.

When it comes to post-processing your food photography, the best advice I can give is that whatever your style, strive for a natural look for your subject. Ask yourself this question, “Looking at this image, do I want to eat that food?”

The answer should unequivocally be yes! If so, you’ve done a good job.

The post How to Edit Food Photography Images Using Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Tips for Using Color in Your Photography

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 10:00

Color is one of those things that you easily take for granted because it is everywhere. Even though you see it every day, not much thought is given to how (or why) it affects your perception or mood. While it is a common part of your life, you can still pay attention to how it affects your images.

Since color or the absence thereof plays an important part in your final product (others include light, shape, form, and texture), give it some more thought. Are you conscious of how you are using color in your photos?

1. The Basics

There are three primary colors – red, blue and yellow. Secondary colors are produced when you combine these: green (combination of blue and yellow), purple (red and blue) and orange (red and yellow). If you further combine, you get the next level/tertiary colors.

By The original uploader was Sakurambo at English Wikipedia. [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The color wheel is a diagram that shows how different colors relate to each other. They exist along a continuum with each color transitioning into the one next to it. So why are these basics important?

Color Harmony

Color harmonies are combinations that are visually appealing to the human eye. A color harmony is when you have two or more different colors that complement each other. This is a key tool used by both artists and photographers to communicate with their viewers, as it is used to evoke a mood or emotion. There are a few types of color harmonies that you can use.

Monochromatic versus Analogous

While these two color harmonies are similar, analogous offers subtle differences that set it apart. A monochromatic color scheme or harmony uses variation in the lightness and saturation of a single color. An analogous color harmony is composed of colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel. There is still one dominant color, but the second color enhances the overall look.

Example of using color in a monochromatic way.

Both of these color harmonies are easy to create and are very easy on the eyes. Monochromatic color schemes are sometimes used to establish a mood because of their visual appeal and balance.

Example of an analogous color scheme with blue and green being next to each other on the wheel.

Analogous colors flow into each other, creating a more soothing look in your image. When you are outdoors, you are exposed to all the various color harmonies including these two. Think about a lush forest with its varying shades of green or the variances of oranges and red in an autumn scene. These tones are likely appealing to you, now you have a little idea as to why.

Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are directly opposite each other on the color wheel. Thus the color complement of a primary color is a secondary color (as shown on the color wheel) e.g., red and green complementary colors work well together since they are highly contrasting. They can be quite dramatic when used at full saturation, as each color makes the other appear more active.

Orange and blue are complementary colors, which makes sunsets and other scenes with these colors so appealing to us visually.

2. The Key or Dominant Color

The key color is the main color in an image. Often, the key color in an image is that which is the most dominant. Allowing one color to dominate can lead to a powerful image. This is stronger when a primary color (red, blue or yellow) is the dominant color.

Colors with greater intensity will draw (and hold) your viewer’s attention. Keep that in mind, in relation to how it affects your subject.

Red is the dominant color in this image, clearly.

3. Advancing or Receding Colors

Advancing colors are the gamut of colors on the warmer end of the spectrum. These include red, red-violet, yellow, yellow-orange and orange. When advancing colors are dominant, they appear as though those objects are closer to the eye, as if coming towards you. Red is one of those colors that dominates and jumps right at you. Think about a scene that has only a hint of red (e.g., a red mailbox) and yet the red dominates.

Advancing colors can work well in an image or on the other hand, can disrupt your scene by taking away the attention from your subject.

Receding colors are the opposite and take on a more background characteristic. Think about what blues and greens (the cooler colors) add to a landscape. They fall into the distance, add a feeling of depth, and help balance the stronger colors.

4. Feelings and Color

Color provokes various emotional responses in people. So much so, that we use color to describe different emotions, for example: feeling blue, seeing red, tickled pink, or green with envy.

We connect to the warm colors of a sunset differently than we do to a cool blue morning. Color in everyday life is used as a powerful psychological tool, the same applies when using color in your photographic compositions.

Remember that color is subjective – the same color can make one person happy but irritate another. Also of note, one color can evoke different emotions, if you change its hue and saturation or change the color you combine it with. Orange for example, can create excitement when it leans towards red and be more calming when it is more on the yellow side.


It is fun to learn how colors work with each other and how we react to different combinations. When creating an image, organize color in a way that is easy and pleasing to the eye. Use strong, bold colors to create impact or generate an emotional response. Do you want to grab your viewer’s attention immediately or prefer if their eyes wander around your image?

While people see the world in their own way, experiment with color and try to understand what reaches your audience. When creating images with impact, you can use color and make them feel what you want. Share your colorful world with us in the comment area below.

The post Tips for Using Color in Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

A Beginner’s Guide to Photographing Flowers

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 15:00

Photographing flowers is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding types of photography around. Yet it can be surprisingly difficult, even for more seasoned photographers. Getting strong flower images often requires new settings, new lighting, and new gear, not to mention a new approach to your subjects.

In this article, you will learn the ins-and-outs of flower photography. Starting off with a discussion of flower photography gear and camera settings. Then moving into flower photography lighting, focusing primarily on the best types of natural light. Finally, you’ll get few guidelines for strong flower photography compositions.


There are a few types of flower photography gear to think about: cameras, lenses, and accessories (such as flashes and tripods).

1 – Cameras

My camera recommendation is straightforward: the best cameras for photographing flowers are DSLRs. They offer great flexibility in terms of settings and have a huge array of excellent lenses available.

Which DSLR camera should you use? Especially if you are a beginner, it matters little. Most DSLRs allow for outstanding quality images, whether marketed for professionals or consumers.

Mirrorless cameras are another option. However, the macro lens line-up is still fairly limited. So at least for the time being, I’d go with a DSLR.

I took this clematis photograph using a DSLR and a dedicated macro lens.

2 – Lenses

First, take note: It is possible to get good images of flowers using any lens, macro or non-macro, wide-angle or telephoto. I have taken some of my best flower images using a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens.

I took this poppy image with my Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens.

On the other hand, the higher your lens’s magnification capabilities, the more opportunities you’ll have. You can make intimate and detailed images of flowers. You can also experiment with more abstract photography techniques.

This is why I generally recommend a dedicated macro lens for flower photography. Such a lens usually offers life-size magnification, pin-sharp images, and excellent bokeh. Some of these are available for a decent price, and I have written previously about choosing the perfect macro lens.

This image was taken using a dedicated macro lens.

Another option is to use a regular lens (often a telephoto lens) plus extension tubes. Extension tubes are a cheap way of reducing your lens’s minimum focusing distance, therefore allowing for you to shoot at higher magnifications. The primary downside to extension tubes is flexibility.

When mounted between your camera and lens, extension tubes greatly decrease your maximum focusing distance, preventing you from quickly changing your point of focus. That is, with extension tubes mounted, you cannot take images of distant objects; you are restricted to only subjects within a few feet.

A third way of doing inexpensive flower photography is to freelens. By detaching the lens and placing it in front of the camera body, you can increase magnification (while also generating some interesting effects). I often do this with my Canon 50mm lens and backup body, because there is a risk of getting dust in the sensor.

I used freelensing to photograph this coneflower.

3 – Artificial Lighting

Flower photographers often like to use artificial lighting (e.g., flashes or ringlights). These can be both bulky and costly. I prefer natural lighting, but a flash can be especially useful in situations when the natural light isn’t ideal; for instance, bright, midday sun.

4 – Tripods

Flower photographers rarely leave home without a tripod. This is where I’m going to break with the prevailing opinion and say – you don’t need a tripod.

Let me qualify that statement. You don’t necessarily need a tripod for photographing flowers. You can shoot all kinds of pleasing flower images while handholding your camera. But there are certain techniques that do require a tripod. I will discuss those below.

I photographed these aster flowers without a tripod.

Camera Settings

Flower photographers generally aim for one of two looks: sharp throughout the frame or shallow focus.

Sharp throughout the frame requires a very narrow aperture, especially at higher magnifications, often at f/16 or beyond. This is where a tripod is necessary, as this is difficult to do without one. It may also require special techniques (i.e., focus stacking) in order to prevent the diffraction that comes from higher apertures.

An example of a “sharp throughout the frame” look.

However, my personal preference is shallow-focus macro photography. This requires no extra equipment, no flashes, and no tripod. Instead, you use a wide aperture (in the f/2.8-f/7.1 range) to render a small portion of the flower in focus.

The rest of the image is blown out of focus which can produce unique and stunning effects.

This daisy photograph is an example of my preferred type of flower photography with only a small part of the subject in focus.

In both cases, it is the aperture that is important. The shutter speed and ISO should be adjusted in response to the aperture (though I wouldn’t recommend dropping your shutter speed below 1/160th or so unless you have very steady hands or some form of image stabilization).


I am going to primarily discuss natural light for photographing flowers. This is not because artificial light in flower photography is useless, but because I think it’s much more enjoyable to experiment with the light that’s available.

My first piece of lighting advice is to shoot on overcast days. When the sky is cloudy, the light becomes diffused. The flower will be evenly lit, and the soft light makes colorful petals pop.

This tulip abstract was taken on an overcast day, which produced deeply saturated colors.

My second piece of lighting advice is to shoot in the morning or evening when the sunlight is golden. This prevents strong sunlight from falling on the flower and can generate some outstanding images.

This image was taken in the evening when the light was soft and golden.

I also like to shoot in the shade with the sun behind me, so that the bright sunlight is falling behind the flower (but not on it directly). One way to ensure this lighting is to find a flower that is in the shadow of a tree. Another is to cast the shadow yourself, by using your head, arm, or even your camera bag.

I cast a shadow over this grape hyacinth, in order to avoid the direct light of the sun.


A final aspect of flower photography to consider is the composition. This may seem daunting for the beginner, but there are a few simple compositional guidelines that will help you take better flower photographs instantly.

Fill the frame with your subject

In flower photography, you rarely want to have a lot of empty space in your frame. More empty space means more opportunities for distraction, for confusion, and for loss of impact. So instead of leaving space around the flower, move in closer to fill the frame as much as you can.

The more colorful, the better

When photographing flowers, you often have a whole palette of colors right in front of you. Use it to your advantage!

Put color in the background by placing another flower behind your main subject. Add color to the foreground by shooting through several other flowers.

Keep things clean

In flower photography (or any type of photography, really), it’s important to have a point of emphasis (or a focal point). This can be the edge of a petal, the flower itself, the flower plus its environment, but regardless, you must ensure that the viewer’s eye is drawn to this spot.

One of the easiest ways to guarantee a strong point of focus is simply to have little else but that point of focus. I hope this sounds simple because it is. Hence, before taking a photograph, rid your potential composition of all distracting elements. This includes out-of-focus stems, as well as bright colors or dark spots in the background that don’t fit the image as a whole.

Think simplify.

The eye immediately focuses on this rose stamen.


By following this guide, you should be on your way to becoming an excellent flower photographer. While there are a number of elements to consider—gear, settings, lighting, and composition—I feel confident that you’ll be taking strong flower photographs in no time.

Any questions about photographing flowers? Let’s discuss them in the comments!

The post A Beginner’s Guide to Photographing Flowers appeared first on Digital Photography School.

The Best Way to Improve Your Photography is to Forget About Your Camera

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 10:00

Are you confident using your camera to take photographs in every situation in which you want to shoot? Do you experience anxiety when you think about reaching for your camera? Would you like to feel sure that when you do head out for a photography session you will return more than satisfied with your results? So what is the best way to improve your photography?

If you are anxious or lacking confidence in using your camera you will most likely not be so happy with your photographs. As photographers, most of us like to be improving our pictures each time we use our cameras. I don’t know of a photographer who is not interested in continuing to create better photos than they have previously.

Photography is so much more than having the most up to date equipment and knowing which dials to turn and buttons to push to make it work. The best way to improve your photography is to forget about your camera.

Photography is More Popular Than Ever

Photography is currently more popular than it has ever been. People are taking more photos every day than ever before in history. Why? Because they can and because it is easy. And because everyone always has a camera with them.

Mobile phone cameras have made photography more popular than ever. This photo was taken with my phone camera.

It is easier and more convenient than ever to be able to take and share your photographs. Most people can take a photo with their phone very easily and without much knowledge of photography technique. Most phone camera users are not concerned with their shutter speed or their ISO setting. But you don’t have to search much to find some outstanding photographs made with phone cameras.

When people take photos with their phone they are most often concentrating on the moment, not the mechanics of how to work the camera. The more you can learn to do this when you are using your DSLR, mirrorless or any other camera the more you will improve your photography.

Make Time to Learn

Make time to study how your camera works. If you are just starting out, begin with the essentials. Become familiar with the settings for obtaining a good exposure and well-focused photos.

In any situation you find yourself wanting to photograph, you need to be confident in adjusting your settings well without losing concentration on your subject.

For more advanced photographers, don’t neglect to keep learning more about your camera. Learn to use more of the functions and become proficient at them. If you can do this you will be well prepared whenever you want to head out for a photography session.

If you are constantly trying to figure out how to use your camera at the times when you want to make great photos, you will not be as successful.

Know your camera functions and settings well, so you can use it as quickly and easily as your phone camera. You’ll be able to pay more attention to the moment if you do so.

Be Prepared

When you are in a situation where you want to take photographs, be prepared. Have everything with you that you need. Do you need another lens? Will you need flash? How about your tripod? As well, be mindful of whether or not you will need anything other than your camera and one or two lenses. If not, don’t carry it with you. It will only hinder you.

Always try to anticipate the situation ahead of time. Be well set up with the right lens and any other accessories you need. If you can do this in advance you will be able to concentrate more on making great photos.

Being prepared means you will not miss any opportunities to make great photos.

Review and Critique

Always take a good look at your photos, including the ones you are not satisfied with. Hopefully, you are not deleting any of your photos from your cards before reviewing them on your computer. Aside from this being poor technical practice, you can learn a lot from your dud photos.

Studying your photos for composition, exposure, timing, subject choice, etc., will help you improve. If you are reviewing photos you are not so happy with, this will help you avoid making the same mistakes in future.

Having someone else look at your photos and offer critique can be very valuable. Even if it’s a friend or family member who has little or no photography experience it can help keep you on track, (so long as they are honest and positive.)

Sharing your photos for critique with an experienced photographer can help your growth. They will be able to point out things you may not have noticed. By seeking feedback you will learn directly from your own images.

Art and Science

Photography is very much a whole brain experience. The left hemisphere of your brain engages to manage the technical aspects. Your right hemisphere is more attentive to the creative aspects. There must be a cohesion and a balance.

If you are too focused on the technical aspects of photography you will not produce such creative pictures. If your right brain takes over you may not get well-exposed or focused images because of not paying attention to your camera.

Knowing your equipment, whatever camera you are using, will help you improve your photography. A photo that was taken with my camera phone.

Being confident to use your camera, whichever one you choose to use, will help you be more successful. Understand how to use it and to adjust the settings to get the photos you want easily. This takes some study, commitment, and practice, but it’s well worth it to be able to achieve consistently better results.

The post The Best Way to Improve Your Photography is to Forget About Your Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 15:00

There is a big distinction to be made when it comes to night sky photography, which is whether or not you plan on photographing the stars in the night sky. If you do not plan on including stars in your shots, things are a lot simpler for you. That is true in a lot of ways, in that you don’t need to worry as much about the clouds and weather, the impact of the moon, or light pollution.

When it comes to lens selection, it means that you can pretty much use whatever lens you want. Therefore, if that is the type of night photography you plan to do, continue using whatever is your favorite lens at present.

Issues doing Night Sky Photography

On the other hand, if you plan on shooting the night sky and capturing the stars, things get trickier. This stems from two facts. The first is that starlight is extremely dim. It is only a tiny, tiny fraction of what you have at sunset (let alone the middle of the day). Even moonlight is many times more powerful.

The second issue is that the stars are moving across the sky (or, rather, that the earth is spinning, but it appears as though the stars are moving to your camera). This is happening more quickly than you might realize.

As a result, you need to do everything possible to maximize exposure, and you need for that to happen quickly. In other words, the dim light means that you need a lot of exposure. Exposure stems from a combination of three things: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.

In other types of photography, you might simply open up the shutter for a long time. In night sky photography, however, you don’t have that luxury since the stars are moving. That means your shutter speed is going to be capped somewhere between 15 and 30 seconds. If you expose any longer, the camera will pick up that movement and it will show up as tails or blur in your pictures. That won’t work.

That means you’ll have to look at the other two exposure options – ISO and aperture. To deal with the dim light, you will have to crank up your ISO to at least 3200 and in many cases 6400. At present, that’s about as high as you should go. Even if your camera goes up to something like ISO 25,600, as many cameras do these days if you use an ISO that high you risk noise completely taking over your picture.

Use a Fast Lens

Because of these caps on shutter speed and ISO, the only remaining exposure control is aperture. To maximize exposure and still successfully capture the night sky, you will need a fast lens. How fast?

A lens that opens up to f/2.8 or wider is ideal. A lens with a maximum aperture of f/4.0 is acceptable. Anything less than that (meaning a higher f-number) probably won’t work. This is one situation where your kit lens might serve you well. Most kit lenses open up to f/3.5 at their widest focal length, which is actually 1/3 stop brighter than your typical f/4.0 lens.

As a side-note, you might be worried about depth of field when using these large apertures. You need not worry about that though. You will always set your focus at infinity and everything in your scene will be on that plane of focus. Even if there are objects in the foreground, at wide angles things quickly go to infinity on your lens. Unless something is very close to you (say, within 10 feet or so), it will be on the same plane of focus and depth of field will not be an issue. If you want to include anything closer than that, you’ll likely need to focus stack.

Shoot with a Wide-Angle Lens

You may be familiar with something called the Reciprocal Rule. It will help you make sense of why you need a wide angle lens for night sky photography. That rule states that the slowest shutter speed (exposure time) you can use when shooting handheld and still avoid blur in your pictures is the reciprocal of your focal length. So, for example, if you are using a 100mm lens, your minimum shutter speed should be 1/100th of a second.

This rule shows that there is always a direct correlation between focal length and the longest shutter speed you can use to avoid blur. That also holds true when it comes to photographing the stars. When you photograph the night sky, the wider the lens you use, the longer you can open up the shutter.

How wide of a lens do you need? There is no clear answer. If you are familiar with photographing the stars or the Milky Way, you may have heard of certain rules of thumb where you divide a number by the focal length of your lens to get a maximum exposure time (such as the Rule of 600, 500, or even 400) before the stars start to arch and blur.

For example, using the Rule of 500, a 24mm lens would allow you to use a shutter speed up to 20 seconds (500 divided by 24 mm is 20.8 seconds). But if you use a 16mm lens instead, you can expose up to 30 seconds (500 divided by 16 is 31.25). As you can see, wider is better. Here is how it works out for the widest focal lengths.

Before moving on, let me point out two things about this standard. First of all, it is not absolute, and there are those who advocate for a stricter standard (meaning that you should use even shorter shutter speeds for these focal lengths). Be sure to test out different speeds and see what works best for you.

Second, if you use a crop factor camera, be sure to adjust these numbers to the Effective Focal Length, which is based on a full-frame or 35mm format (i.e. 20mm on a 1.5x crop factor camera is effectively a 30mm, so the maximum exposure then is only 16.7 seconds before the stars arch).

Measuring Sharpness

It goes without saying that you want a sharp lens. But how do you determine what is a sharp lens and what isn’t? The best way, of course, is to try them out for yourself. It may not be practical to test out a whole series of lenses though.

We all rely on lens reviews. I’m certainly no expert on optics, so I definitely do. These are usually extremely helpful, but sometimes it is difficult to get an apples to apples comparison of different lenses. To do that, there is an extremely helpful resource called DXO Mark.

The reason DXO Mark is so helpful is that they score all lenses in the exact same manner. For example, they give scores for sharpness, distortion, and vignetting (as well as other criteria, and an overall score) and grade each lens the same way. That lets you look at numbers very quickly, rather than comparing images from different lenses and attempting to quantify the differences. If nothing else, it gives you a good place to start.

Of course, sharpness isn’t the only thing you need to consider. Lenses all have different amounts of distortion as well. One type of distortion that is important in night photography is called coma distortion. It adds little wings to points of light, which in the case of photographing stars is not ideal. Unfortunately, this is not something that is often included in lens tests, so you’ll have to check for this with whatever lens you are considering.

Narrowing Your Choices Down

We have now established the three most important criteria for picking a lens for your night sky photography. Your lens needs to be wide, fast, and sharp. In terms of how wide, how fast, and how sharp, that is up to you. But you can use your own criteria to create a list of available lenses.

For example, you might decide to only consider lenses that are 20mm or wider, open up to f/2.8, and are at least moderately sharp.

Once you narrow the list down to your particular brand of camera, you will probably find that the list is not very long. There may actually only be a few models from which to choose.

The Top Picks

Once you start looking at the widest, fastest lenses made, the list quickly gets pretty short. Once you add in the reviews and ratings, some pretty clear choices emerge. Of the Big Three manufacturers, I think you would have to strongly consider the following lenses (if you can afford them, as they are quite pricey):

  1. Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 III
  2. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
  3. Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM

That’s not to say you necessarily need to rush out and purchase one of these lenses. The point of this article is really to help you establish the criteria for picking your own lenses. At the same time, I don’t want to be coy about these obviously great lenses, as they fit the criteria for night sky photography very well.

A Sleeper

When you start putting price limitations on lenses, the list gets short real quick! Most lenses in this range cost well over $1000, and many approach $2000. You may be looking for something more affordable, as I was. Once I looked at the list further, the Tokina 16-28 mm f/2.8 jumped out at me.

It is under $700 in most places and meets all three criteria of being wide (16 mm), fast (f/2.8), and sharp (scoring a 22 on my camera per DXO Mark). I picked one up and like the results. It works great, although there is definitely some coma distortion going on. Still, for the price, it is a great option. This lens is available for both Canon and Nikon cameras.

A Wildcard

There is another affordable option if you don’t mind manual controls – Rokinon lenses. They have several wide angle options to choose from, ranging from 12-24mm. They are prime lenses and are very fast. All have maximum apertures of at least f/2.8. These are all manual lenses though, which means that you will need to focus manually. It also means that you will set the aperture with a ring on the lens, rather than with your camera.

Still, that should not be a problem with night sky photography. You just set the lens at its widest aperture and set the focus at infinity. You might never change it. Because of these manual controls, you can often pick up these lenses for well under $400 (check out the Rokinon 14mm). Again, this is just another good option if you don’t mind manual control lenses.

Note: Rokinon also has 12mm and 8mm fish-eye lenses available with mounts for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, and Micro 4/3 cameras if you want to go really wide. 

The Lens for You

Just remember that if you are considering a lens for night sky photography, you’ll want to limit the lens selection to wide-angle lenses (generally 24mm or wider). You can get away with longer focal lengths, but you’ll need them to be extremely fast (probably f/2.0 or greater).

Once you have narrowed down your selection in this fashion, look at fast lenses. Try to get one that opens up to f/2.8 or better. That usually means you are looking at fairly expensive lenses, but as mentioned above there are some affordable options that will get the job done. After that, be sure to check the DXO Mark ratings. But don’t stop there – a simple Google search for the lens(es) you are considering will likely yield a lot of reviews. I am partial to The Digital Picture and DP Review as well.

Hopefully, this article has gotten you familiar with the criteria you need from a lens for night sky photography and has spurred a few ideas. It isn’t meant to limit your alternatives, so if there are other lens options I’ve missed, please let me know in the comment area below.

The post How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to do Creative Editing with Layers in ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 10:00

In my first article on ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018, I covered all the elements of the program that a beginner would need to know about. This article covers editing in more detail, starting with processing your RAW file in Develop Mode and then doing some creative editing using Layers in Edit Mode.

Layers are a critical part of editing your images. Either in doing your RAW process and then tidying up areas that need it with curves, levels, and other adjustments. Or if you want to add more creativity to your images, with textures, decorative flourishes, fancy text embellishments. Finally, you can go all the way up to compositing, and using layers is the best way to achieve that.

Let’s look at what ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 has to offer for editing a RAW file. Then we’ll add a creative edit with texture layers, embellishment layers, and using masks to create a vintage grunge effect.

I am going to assume that you have a basic understanding of RAW editing and using layers and masks and not detail absolutely every step worked through in this process. If you need more help, go back and read: ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2018 Guide for Beginners first.

Editing a Raw File in Develop Mode

First, open up Manage mode and find the right folder to select an image. For this exercise, I liked the Gerbera Still Life image and decided that the final version should have a grungy vintage look added at the end.

This is the selected image of three crimson gerbera flowers, with a pair of pointe ballet shoes and some sheet music. It’s a bit dark and dull and needs some tweaking which we will do in the Develop mode of ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018.

Original unedited RAW file

After some basic editing, the image is brighter and the colors are better balanced.

However my final vision for this image is more of a vintage look, and the colors are too bright and rich. So, further editing to bring the saturation down and darken the crimson was applied. This now provides the basis for the layers and creative elements, so it’s saved and then we move into Edit mode.

Creative Editing Using Layers

Switching to Edit Mode by clicking on EDIT with the edited RAW file open will change your workspace. Now the Layers palette is laid out on the right. As there is only the one image open, it shows up as Layer 1.

At the bottom of the Layers palette are the different layer options – hover over each one to find the one you need and click to activate it. For this exercise, we are going to bring in some grunge textures and additional elements to make it look vintage, old, and more artistic.


I use a lot of textures from 2LilOwls, The Daily Texture, and Distressed Textures. If you are patient you can also make your own but there are plenty of places to acquire them online. The ones used in this article were from 2LilOwls.

My preferred option to add extra layers is to use a second monitor, open up Windows Explorer to the desired folder, find a texture I like and then drag across to my image. Note, when using ACDSee, you have to drag it into the Layers Palette (rather than onto the image directly).

The other option is to click on the “Add A File As A Layer” button which allows you to search for a file within your directory and add it. This was a useful feature which I used several times.

By default, the texture is applied in Normal mode which means only the top layer is visible, which is the texture in this instance. In the Layer Palette it is visible as Layer 2.

The first texture layer has been added – it’s showing in Normal mode so you can only see this layer and not the one below (the image of the flowers).

Blend Mode

Next, change the blend mode of the layer to something that suits the image – either Overlay or Soft Light are good choices to start with. Also, dial down the layer opacity to soften the effect and make it look more pleasing.

Masking parts of the layer

This texture has some heavy vignetting around the edges that is a bit too dark. So to solve that, add a Layer Mask and select a large soft brush at around 30% opacity. Dab the brush in the darker edges and corners to reduce the effect.

The Layer mask is white and it shows up the areas you brush in grey (or black) – you can see where it has been applied in the corners.

Image with texture and layer mask applied with softer tones in the dark corners now

Add more grunge

It needs more grunge so let’s apply a second texture layer. This one has lots of cracks and scratches for a nice vintage effect. It is also a bit lighter around the edges so should balance out the first texture nicely.

The texture file is a different size than the original image but you can drag it out to fit by clicking on the yellow squares on the outside edges and corners.

This layer also had the blend mode changed and the opacity adjusted to suit. The crack effect was quite strong on the flowers so a mask was applied with a soft brush at low opacity that was brushed over the flowers.

More embellishments

The top left and right corners felt a bit empty so I added some decorative embellishments. On the left, is a butterfly with some fancy handwriting and another textural element was added on the right. Both are PNG files that are blended in with low opacity and Soft Light blend mode.

Each element goes onto a separate layer for full control.  Masks are applied to remove the effect from the flowers.  These become Layers 6 and 7.

Finally, a Photo Effect (Somber) was applied to add a bit more contrast and punch.

Before and after images

Here we have the RAW file after it was edited in Develop mode and some creative adjustments for Saturation and Vibrance applied.

Here we have the final image after the texture layers, embellishments, Photo Effect and masks have been applied.

Additional Notes

As an advanced Photoshop user, I was comfortable using all the layer tools and functions available in ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018. Most of the usual tools were available and functioned as expected.

The one major issue I found was the inability to change the brush shape. It does not appear possible to import .abr files to add creative brush shapes. The only options for changing the brush are blend mode, size, and opacity and the only shape is round.

You can change the size, hardness, and opacity of the brush but not the actual shape of it. This limits the creative choices available. Some of my brush files were present as PNG images so I was able to import them as individual layers.

Additionally, there were several extra features that were new to me which I found useful. The “Add A File As A Layer” button was extremely helpful and I used that on several occasions. There is also a button for “Adding a Blank Layer”, “Duplicating a Layer” and “Deleting a Layer”. All things that happen frequently and usually require a right mouse click, then a selection and second click. ACDSee made these steps much quicker with a single click.

There were extra adjustment layer functions, in particular, “Photo Effect” that offer a range of predesigned creative effects you can apply as a separate layer, to blend and edit as desired. A Vignette option (similar to Lightroom) was also available to quickly add a vignette.


If you are a beginner to using layers and masks then it can be a bit complicated to get your head around. The good news is that with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 everything that you would expect to be able to do and use to work with layers is all present and accounted for. It looks and functions very similar to Photoshop, so is comfortable for anyone transitioning over.

Except for the ability to change your brush shape, everything necessary to do a basic layer edit was easily recognizable and usable with pretty much no additional learning curve. That is a real bonus for anyone coming across from other programs.

There are also some nice new features that added extra value and made the experience better – in particular, “Add A File As A Layer” is something that I could easily get used to using. For anyone only using one monitor (like on a laptop) that makes adding another image as a layer so much easier. The Move function in Photoshop is really not user-friendly. This is a definite bonus if you are like me and add lots of extra files to your layers when editing.

Working in Edit mode and making a layered image with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 was not difficult and the additional features added real value in unexpected places.

Disclaimer: ACDSee is a dPS advertising partner.

The post How to do Creative Editing with Layers in ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Create Silky Smooth Water Effects

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 15:00

You might have seen photos in nature magazines or websites with silky-smooth water effects cascading over rocks, branches, and trees. Have you also wondered how in the world the photographer was able to capture such beautiful images?

For years I thought these types of images were the purview of professional photographers armed with an arsenal of digital tricks and camera tweaks that I would never be able to learn. But in reality, it’s quite simple to make images like these.

You don’t need any computational wizardry or mystical skills, and once you pick up a few basics you can start creating beautiful smooth-water photographs in no time at all.

Limiting the Light

To start with, the goal here is somewhat counterintuitive compared to a lot of other types of photography. Instead of letting in as much light as possible, the goal with smooth-water pictures is to let in the smallest amount of light in order to allow your shutter to remain open as long as it can. This requires a couple of settings on your camera as well as, in most cases, a very inexpensive piece of gear.

When you take a picture at a high shutter speed of 1/125th or 1/500th of a second it’s fast enough to freeze motion and allow you to get a blur-free picture of your subject. This is usually a good thing except when cascading water is involved, as freezing the motion is the opposite of what you are trying to do. Limiting the light allows the water to create motion trails and also adds an entirely different tone to the image, often one of peace and tranquility.

The following two images illustrate what I mean. This first one was taken at 1/60th of a second.

1/60th of a second. Some motion trails are present but the image doesn’t feel calm, and also lacks a focal point.

The next one was taken with a much slower shutter speed and feels like an entirely different picture.

What you need to do

In order to cut down on the incoming light and also make sure you are getting the best images you will need to do the following:

  • Shoot in Manual Mode so you can force your camera to do what you want, not what it thinks you want. Using Auto or semi-auto modes (P, Av, Tv, A, or S) will usually not work for these types of shots.
  • Shoot in RAW so you can tweak your image afterward. It’s difficult to get smooth-water photos just right straight out of the camera and it’s nice to be able to tweak things to your liking.
  • Use a small aperture. Not necessarily the smallest aperture your lens allows, because this can sometimes cause image quality to deteriorate due to light diffraction, but a value of around f/11 or f/16 should be fine.
  • Use the lowest native ISO value for your camera. This will let you use slower shutter speeds while also giving you the cleanest, sharpest image possible.
  • Use the slowest shutter speed possible without overexposing the image too much. If you’re using RAW you can probably overexpose by one stop and recover things in post-production. But much more than that and you’re going to blow out all your highlights.
  • Put your camera on a tripod to minimize any shake or wobble from your hands. My favorite is the Joby Gorillapod since it lets me position my camera using just about any available surface, and allows me to get nice and close to the water as well.
Neutral Density Filters

Even with all this, it’s difficult to get a slow enough shutter speed to really create some good smoothing effects, and the solution is to use a Neutral Density filter. This is an inexpensive attachment that screws on to the front of your lens and cuts down the incoming light.

I like to think of it as putting sunglasses on your camera. This is the secret to getting the type of silky smooth water effects you have always admired but never knew how to create on your own.

Here, a long exposure of 1-second not only smoothed the water in the fountain but evened out the surface of the pond as well.

There are many different kinds of ND filters that block varying levels of light, but my recommendation for smooth-water images is one that blocks 3 or 6 stops of light. Others are available but they block so much light that it’s difficult to get your exposure settings right.

You can find ND filters at any camera retailer but the key is to get one that fits your lens. Look on your lens cap to find the thread size. It will usually be the Greek letter phi followed by a number, such as 53mm or 58mm.

ND filters often come in packs of two or three. While these cheaper ones aren’t going to produce the absolutely highest-quality results they are a fantastic and inexpensive way to get started.

Getting the Shot

I enjoy creating silky smooth water images on cloudy days since it means even more light is blocked – almost like nature’s own ND filter. Morning and evening are good times to shoot as well. But any time of day will work as long as you can get slow shutter speeds using a small aperture, low ISO, and an ND filter.

2 seconds. The long exposure time really helped create a sense of motion in the background while the leaf in the foreground serves as a focal point for the viewer.

Use Live View

I like to use Live View when preparing my shot since I can adjust the exposure parameters and see the image lighten or darken in real-time. But if you are using an optical viewfinder just pay attention to your light meter and you should be fine.

When your camera is ready and you have your shot composed, use your camera’s self-timer so you don’t add any shakiness to the image with your fingers when you press the shutter.

This method can also be used for adding a layer of gloss to moving waters, which is a fun way to add a bit of a creative element to pictures taken at the beach. The difference is that instead of trying to get pictures that show the motion of water, you are trying to make the water as smooth as possible.

At 1/90th of a second, the water is full of ripples and small waves.

Limiting the amount of incoming light by using the techniques above (small aperture, low ISO, and ND filters) I was able to virtually eliminate the appearance of imperfections on the surface of the water.

6 seconds. In addition to the surface being smooth, a host of large and small rocks are now visible which creates an additional almost otherworldly feeling.


Creating these types of images can be addicting! Once you get the hang of it, you may want to spend all day seeing what you can create with your camera. It doesn’t take much, but it opens up a whole new photography frontier that can be extraordinarily enjoyable and highly rewarding.

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Rekindling the Romance of Black and White Photography

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 10:00

There is a renewed interest in the romance of black and white photography for several good reasons. First, hyped color is becoming boringly predictable. Second, automated software presets and templates deliver a predictable variety of pre-digested looks that can be applied to any image and deliver similar results.

Just as Hollywood movies have fallen into the same predictable themes and plots, color digital photography has lost some of its originality to over-processing. As you noticed, the common theme here is predictability. Serious photographers want to do unique and serious work and that all points to a resurgence of black and white images.

In the Beginning

There was a certain warmth and personality to black and white prints in the days of film and darkrooms. Photographers got involved with this medium for more than a technical exercise, it became a conduit for personal expression and emotional input. It was a way for the photographer to be involved in every aspect of the process.

Black and white prints were produced in a more personal way than color prints. While color prints were cranked-out mechanically by drugstore photo labs, black and white prints were produced one at a time by photo-artisans, many times in makeshift darkrooms.

These darkrooms didn’t have to be state-of-the-art facilities; any room large enough to house a small enlarger, four 8×10 trays, and a clothesline would do. Many times bathrooms were taken over for the evening simply because they had running water, a countertop, and electricity; the three necessities of a well-equipped darkroom.

Taping off the small window with a bath towel and duct tape was simple, and a hand towel stuffed under the door sealed the deal. A nightlight wrapped in Rubylith made a perfect safelight.

You can make a stronger statement with black and white than you can with color. Nothing “pops” like good black and white.

Black and white was a labor of love

The lure of black and white was personal expression more than technical achievement. The drugstore produced stacks of little glossy snapshots in an envelope, but YOU were creating one-of-a-kind masterpieces worthy of wall placement. The wannabe artists weren’t really in a bathroom, they were in a custom photo lab.

Creativity was the mystical elixir that compelled us all to work in hot, cramped little rooms without proper ventilation, dipping and dripping various chemicals on clothing, tables, and floors. The acidic smell of stop bath and fixer lingered in the air and on hands and clothing for hours.

The RGB image above provided over 4 billion colors that could be pushed and shaped. This monochrome shot provided only 256 tones to do the same job. With film, this would be nearly impossible but with digital…

Sometimes entire 25-sheet packs of photo paper were needed to produce a single perfect print. But all the expense and inconvenience was willingly paid for the sake of the prize and the pride of the print. In the end, the masterpiece was paraded around for all to appreciate.

This original RGB capture of the lava pools in Hawaii presented a challenge. How to capture and delineate detail in the extreme shadows and highlights. Tough enough for color but almost impossible for monochrome.

Those were indeed magical escapades, but ones that can still be replicated (to some extent) today in the digital world. The stifling air, low light, and acrid aroma may be a thing of the past, but the personal expression and purity of purpose are all waiting to be relived.

The Romance

Black and white photography quietly transports your mind into a playground of creative thought; a semi-guided tour into your imagination. Black and white photography doesn’t enclose your mind inside the bookends of a specific color scheme. It sets your imagination free to discover a place filled with emotion and open to interpretation. Black and white photos deliver moods, not just pictures.

Color can totally capture your mind, but not always in a good way. Here’s what I mean. Once you see a color picture, mental blinders close the deal. You can no longer imagine the scene your way. Before you know it, you find yourself subconsciously critiquing the color rather than interpreting the subject. Color captivates your mind but black and white enables you to dream.

The Reality

Both film and digital cameras capture color information and transpose that color into black and white images. But there’s a significant difference in the way it’s done. Black and white film in the hands of an old-school darkroom artist can produce a print that captures the imagination, though a straight RGB-to-B/W conversion from even a good color photo can deliver ho-hum results. Here’s why.

Black and white film is composed of silver-halide particles that are uniquely sensitive to specific colors but this spectral fingerprint doesn’t automatically carry over to digital image sensors. A scene’s colors captured with panchromatic film will produce different values than the same scene captured by digital sensors.

This means that YOU must get involved shaping the luminance (brightness/contrast) values, and adjusting the chrominance (spectral / color) values of the RGB image. Color frequencies influence the tonal values when converted from color to black and white. Fortunately, both the chrominance and the luminance are controlled in virtually all RAW Interpreter software.

Digital cameras follow a purely statistical recording process and thus, don’t emphasize the strength of one color over another. Different film manufacturers (Agfa, Kodak, Ilford, and others) parsed these color values slightly differently. The photosites in your digital camera’s image sensor simply count photons (the atomic level of light measurement) and use electrical current to set the gray levels.

These values vary based on the camera’s current ISO, white balance, and color mode settings. Just as both black and white and color images captured with film cameras were influenced by various colored filters, these color settings affect both color and tonality values in digital captures.

This is the original RGB image shot in San Juan Puerto Rico.

The Problem

When a digital image is captured in monochrome (Black and White) mode in JPEG format, the camera discards all RGB information and retains only a very sparse number of gray tones. While this sounds like a logical way to arrive at black and white values, it’s not!

Monochrome negates the nuances of spectrally-weighted color transformation. Quite simply, the process removes the emotion and personality of the image. Each camera’s engineering team determines the way each color is parsed as a gray value, and we know how emotional engineers are. There’s a reason we tend to avoid guys with pocket protectors at parties.

This is a simple conversion from RGB to B/W with no adjustments, as your camera would do.

When you capture images in black and white (Monochrome) mode, you are literally at the mercy of the engineers who wrote your camera’s algorithms. But while some very interesting color/monochrome translations are provided by camera manufacturers, you are still locked into someone else’s interpretation. So what to do?

This is the conversion from RGB to Grayscale using Camera Raw’s HSL Grayscale tools. The intensity and saturation of eight different colors determine the internal contrast of the gray tones.

The Solution

There are several ways to address this problem.

  1. Record all images in both B/W JPEG and RAW formats.
  2. Investigate the interesting results that can be achieved when monochrome images are captured in one of your camera’s “scene” presets. Experiment with your camera’s settings to get a fair sampling.
  3. When digital images are captured in RAW format, all spectral (color) information can be accessed (see below) and used to influence the tonal values.

To add a little sparkle to your monochrome, try the Colorize option in Photoshop’s Hue/Saturation dialog box.

The Two-Stage RAW Approach

When these controls (provided by Camera Raw and a number of other RAW Interpreter software apps) are involved in shaping the spectral information into B/W, some absolutely magical results take place.

Remember, both the luminance and the chrominance need to be optimized for the best results in RGB-to-Monochrome conversions. I suggest that the chrominance be addressed first and the luminance second. This combination of controls provides all the tools you’ll need to take total control of your black and white images.

The chrominance settings reside in the Black & White Mix panel.

The luminance is adjusted in the Basic – Black & White panel.

In Camera Raw, toggle back and forth between the original RGB image and the current settings using the P-key, noting the colors in the original and the influence that each color slider has on the final product.

When either of these processes is put to work, you become creatively involved in converting colors into gray tones and the magic of silver halide interpretation gets replicated in the digital process. And here’s the kicker… using digital controls, you can surpass the mile markers established by the black and white masters of the past.

This is scary good stuff, and Ansel would have loved it.

The post Rekindling the Romance of Black and White Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

This Photography Training is Guaranteed to Improve Your Photography [48 Hours Only]

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 00:12

Are you looking to give your photography a boost?

If so – for the next 48 hours we’ve got a bundle of training resources that you’ll want to snap up.

It’s the Ultimate Photography Bundle and it’s back for 2 days only.

The Short Story:

Here’s what you need to know about this bundle of photography training:

  • It contains 26 eBooks, 21 courses, 1 membership and 10 amazing tools
  • It is valued at just over $5000 USD
  • It is currently 98% off and yours for $97 USD
  • This offer disappears forever in less than 48 hours
  • There’s no risk – buy it today and if you’re not 100% satisfied Ultimate Bundles will refund the purchase

There’s so much covered in this bundle. There’s training on travel photography, landscape photography, black and white, portraits, post production, making money from photography and so much more.

Check out what’s included here but don’t delay because it’ll be gone in a snap.

Here’s how long is left:

The Longer Story:

Earlier this year our friends at Ultimate Bundles released this Ultimate Photography Bundle and when we saw it we were quite amazed by what they’d included.

For example one of our writers – Gina Milicia – has her best selling ‘How to Direct and Pose Like a Pro‘ Course in the bundle. This is definitely one of the highlights of this bundle and one we’re very excited about because Gina is an accomplished photographer and brilliant teacher.

Gina’s course is normally priced at $297 – 3 times what you’ll pay for the full bundle which also gets you over 50 other resources including:

  • Light & Airy Lightroom Presets by Cole’s Classroom ($67)
  • The Essentials of Street Photography and Street Photography Conversations eBooks by James Maher ($19.95)
  • Colour Portrait Tools by Gavin Gough ($59)
  • Photoshop for Portrait Photographers by David Molnar ($197)
  • Easy Way Photography Photoshop Essentials Workflow by Adam Williams ($200)
  • Food Photography Behind the Scenes: Bright Food, Dark Shadows by Nicole Branan ($20)
  • Lighting 101: Foundation & Light Shaping by Pye Jirsa ($99)
  • Intentional Documentary: The Session Workflow for Documentary Family Photographers by Marie Masse ($149)
  • The Winning Creative’s Way by Christina Scalera ($997)
  • Our own dPS Essential Guide to Black and White Photography eBook ($19)

Everything I’ve mentioned already normally cost $2104 and we’re just scratching the surface of what’s included – see the full list of what you get here.

Don’t Miss It This Time

Many dPS readers picked up this bundle when it was first offered in February but we heard from quite a few of you that you missed out.

Thankfully Ultimate Bundles have brought it back one last time for a quick 48 hour flash sale.

This is the last time it’ll be offered so don’t miss out.

30 Day Happiness Guarantee

As I mention above – this bundle is covered by a 30 day happiness guarantee – so you can snap it up today before it’s gone and rest easy that if you don’t find it quite fits your need that the team at Ultimate Bundles is happy to refund your purchase price any time within 30 days of purchase.

dPS is proud to be involved in this Ultimate Photography Bundle as an affiliate and partner because we know it will help you to improve your photography.

Secure this bundle of great training here now before time runs out.

The post This Photography Training is Guaranteed to Improve Your Photography [48 Hours Only] appeared first on Digital Photography School.

21 Tips to Help You Create Better Panoramas

Sun, 06/17/2018 - 15:00

Panoramas are a great way to approach photographing landscapes. By allowing you to capture a larger amount of the scene in front of you, it is easier to portray what you actually saw with your eyes in your photographs. Software has made it stupidly easy to stitch your photos into panoramas; however, there are still some considerations you can take to get the most out of your landscapes and make better panoramas.

This article presumes you already know how the basics of capturing a sequence of images and to how to stitch them together as panoramas in Lightroom or another dedicated software package.

Part 1 – Gear

Such a specialized technique may seem like it requires a lot of specialist gear to get right, but that’s not the case. Of the three items listed below, only two are absolutely necessary and as someone interested in landscapes, you probably already have the most important one.

1) Tripod

A tripod is an absolute necessity if you want to create better panoramas.

This first one is probably obvious, but it’s the most important when it comes to creating better panoramas. All of the images in your sequence need to line up perfectly and the only way to ensure that is with a good, sturdy tripod. The tiniest of movements between your photographs can cause Lightroom to fail when stitching your photos together.

You never know when an image might not get through the stitching software. Do your best to get it absolutely right in camera to avoid situations like this one (notice the disconnected railing).

Disheartened may be the feeling you get when you see the words “Unable to merge the photos. Please cancel and review the selection.” So, please, for your own sanity, use a tripod when shooting panoramas.

2) Panoramic tripod head

If you have a tripod head that can turn in measured increments like this one, attach your lens to the tripod if you can (using a tripod collar), rather than your camera body.

This is an optional piece of kit, but I promise you, if you plan on doing panoramas often, make sure you have a panoramic head on your tripod. These heads rotate on the center axis of your camera and help minimize distortion in your final image.

Panoramic heads are also marked with numbers from 0 to 360 degrees so you can make your camera movements with absolute accuracy. There are a lot of good panoramic tripod heads available and you will be able to find one in the same price range as other styles of heads.

Now, to be absolutely clear, I’m talking about the cheap kind that you can find in a normal price range. There are panoramic heads with motorized components made for the explicit purpose of stitching together photos. I’m not talking about those. If you can afford one, by all means, go for it, but unless you specialize in panoramas, it’s unlikely that you would ever need to even consider one.

3) Spirit level

Spirit levels will help you guarantee that all of your shots line up in the stitching software.

While you can still achieve good results without one, using a spirit level will help you make sure that your panoramic sequence stitches together with a minimal amount of distortion. This is important when you have compositional elements at the edges of your frame. If those elements get distorted too much, they will wind up (either partially or fully) outside of your crop.

You may already have one or more built into your tripod, but if not, you can buy one that fits your cameras hotshoe for a reasonable price.

Part 2 – Capture

Camera craft is easily the most important aspect of capturing better panoramic images. From getting a correctly aligned sequence of images, to focus and exposure, there are a lot of elements that you need to get right in camera to ensure that your images come out well.

4) Practice your movements

To be fast, you should be able to operate your camera and your tripod without thinking about them. In fact, these movements should be ingrained as muscle memory. How do you do this? Practice, lots of practice.

Practice your camera and tripod movements when it doesn’t count. For example, I had an hour of down time in a hotel, so I took a few sequences through the window.

One of the best ways to go about getting that practice is to make some time to set up in a low-value environment. So when your practice images are (inevitably) bad, you won’t have missed any images that were worth taking. It can be as simple as going into your backyard and setting up there for an hour.

Once you’re set up, go through the motions of taking a panorama in slow, deliberate steps. Make sure that every action from focussing through to the actual camera movements is perfectly executed. Go through the motions a few times and when you are sure that you have it down, speed up a little. Again, repeat this until you’re satisfied that you have it down. Then speed up again.

Keep practicing like this until you’re performing all the actions without even thinking about them. Doing this for just an hour will reduce your chances of a mistake when you are standing at the edge of a lake in that once in a lifetime perfect light.

If you really want to hammer it down, don’t just practice like this once. If you have some downtime, try using that time to reinforce these skills instead of, say, scrolling through your phone.

5) Take notes

Notes don’t have to be complicated, they just need to be clear enough that you understand them without much effort.

Taking notes will ensure that you are an organizational genius. It doesn’t matter how you take your notes, whether it be on a notepad, your phone, or in voice recording app such as Evernote. As long as you can annotate the file numbers where each of your panoramas starts and stops, you’re on to a winner.

Editor’s tip: You can also take a shot of your hand in front of the lens before and after your pano shots so you can mark the beginning and end of the series that way as well. 

6) Longer lenses

Instead of using your wide-angle lenses, use longer focal lengths when making panoramas. 35mm, 50mm and 85mm are all good choices depending on the scene in front of you. The longer focal lengths allow a different perspective by bringing everything forward in the frame, unlike wide-angle lenses that push everything back.

Because you are both shooting in portrait orientation and stitching together multiple images, you will still get a wide view of your scene with the sky and foreground intact.

Long lenses are great for panormas. The images for this panorama were shot at 200mm. However, 50mm, 85mm and any focal length above that, will help to bring your subject forward in the frame.

7) Manual exposure

For the best results, set your camera to Manual mode for the duration of your sequence. If your exposures don’t match from frame to frame, then the software may not be able to merge your panorama.

If your scene is simple and has relatively few elements in it, you may get away with Aperture Priority mode. However, if one half of your image has a mountain or a building and the other half a clear sky, the difference in exposures will result in unusable images for the panorama merge.

8) Small aperture to help with stitching

Another way to make sure the stitching software performs well is to use a small aperture to keep everything in the frame as sharp as possible. Using apertures like f/11 and f/16 will go a long way in helping you to get sharp panoramas.

You can use larger apertures if you’d prefer, but just be aware that it might result in the software being unable to merge your panorama.

9) Focus somewhere inside your frame

In this image, I focused two-thirds of the way down the path, set the lens to manual focus, and then reframed the camera to start at the left.

When focusing, it seems easy enough to set your focus somewhere in the first frame of your sequence. If you’re focusing to infinity, that’s fine, but if you’re focusing on a point closer to you, your focal point may not wind up in your final crop.

It takes longer and requires you to be careful not to jar the camera, but consider setting the focus on your main focal point of the image. Then switch to manual focus and recompose the camera to your starting position.

This does create an extra chance for things to go wrong. However, you have to ask yourself whether it’s better to have an out of focus image because of a mistake or an out of focus image because you didn’t bother to take the necessary steps in the first place?

10) Portrait orientation

When shooting panoramas, you have access to all the information in the horizontal aspects of a scene. Maximize your information in the verticals by shooting in portrait orientation.

Because you will be creating one big image out of many smaller images, it’s a good idea to maximize the amount of real estate you have to create the final photo. Instead of keeping your camera in landscape (horizontal) orientation, put it into portrait (vertical) orientation so that you get as much information as possible on the vertical axis of your scene.

As far as the horizontal, you can always take more photos at either end of the sequence to make sure you get the most information, but this isn’t the case with the vertical.

11) Excessive overlap

In this sequence of three images, you can see just how much overlap there is. With the left and right images lined up, the middle image is barely visible. Overkill? Maybe, but it’s worth it for peace of mind.

When you are taking the images that you will stitch together, be overly generous with the amount you leave as overlap from one image to the next. Yes, this will result in you needing more frames for a complete sequence and it will require more processing power as well. But it also gives you more leeway in the stitching process and it will result in better final images.

12) Overshoot

Taking more images than you need for your final panoramas will provide you with a wealth of options for composition once you’re back at the computer.

When creating panoramas, there’s only one hard and fast rule (apart from the tripod) that I adhere to. That is to take more images in a sequence than I think I need. For example, if you’re trying to create an image of a church and you get all the images you think you need in five frames, shoot five more.

If you allow yourself excess on either edge frame, you will have far more compositional choices later. On top of that, you will also negate any potential distortion that may cause your focal point to be cropped during merging. Trust me, the wiggle room this provides is well worth the tiny bit of extra time and space on your memory card.

13) Be fast

Because you are taking multiple images for each panorama, there is a chance that elements in your scene may be moving. Water and clouds can prove to be a huge headache in the stitching process. You can alleviate this to a degree by being fast. Once your first shot is created, your hands should be already moving to change the camera to its next position.

14) Bracket for HDR

Merging to HDR and stitching panoramas in Lightroom works really well. Merge each individual frame to HDR first, then stitch them together as a panorama.

Should you find yourself in a high contrast scenario, feel free to bracket your exposures for HDR blending. I have had good results in Lightroom with blending each frame (from a bracketed set of exposures) into HDR individually and then merging them all together as a panorama.

If you try this, make sure you don’t use the Auto Tone function in Lightroom’s Merge to HDR dialogue box. It will treat each image as an individual and will make it next to impossible to stitch your images together as a panorama. Instead, wait until your panorama is merged and then make your adjustments manually.

15) Use your GND filters

When creating panoramas, use your GND filters to your heart’s content.

Likewise, you can use graduated neutral density filters to your heart’s content. If you have a tricky horizon line, such as a mountain range, just move your filter into the appropriate place between taking the images. As long as you are careful to not move your camera, this will work just fine.

Part three – Post processing

Because you are stitching together your images in software, the post-production stage of creating panoramas cannot be ignored.

16) Create a system to differentiate sequences in Lightroom

After a heavy session of shooting images for panoramas, you may find yourself inside Lightroom utterly confused. Triple that confusion if you were shooting HDRs and panoramas together. With so many similar images, it can difficult to figure out what starts and stops where.

An easy way to deal with this at the time of shooting is to devise a way for you to know when a sequence starts and when it ends.

All I do is wave my hand in front of the lens for the first image, then I take the first frame again having removed my hand. At the end, if I’m starting another panoramic sequence, I do it again. Inside Lightroom, all you have to do is look for the images that fall between the shots of your hands.

It doesn’t matter how you differentiate your sequences, but you definitely need to do something. It will save you hours of frustration and confusion.

I also use the color label system in Lightroom. After identifying a panoramic sequence, I select them all and right click and select “Set Color Label > Blue” from the menu.

Other options include taking a photo with the lens cap on or holding a piece of paper in front of the lens. You could do anything for this as long as it helps you figure out where things begin and end.

If you combine this with taking notes, then you should never find yourself in a state of confusion.

17) Do Lens Corrections and Chromatic Aberration removal first

An important step to take before you start the stitching process is to apply any Lens Corrections and removal of Chromatic Aberrations before you stitch the images together. Any vignetting or distortion caused by your lens can have drastic effects on your panoramas and it’s best to deal with them before they have a chance to become a problem.

18) Use boundary warp

Using boundary warp in LR Merge to Panorama can help ensure that you get everything you intended in your frame.

The Auto Crop function often works well to get rid of the white space around a stitched panorama, but sometimes elements in your scene (foreground elements most of the time) can wind up cropped out of the composition. You can use the boundary warp slider in the Merge to Panorama dialogue box to adjust how your image is cropped.

It doesn’t always work, but if you are unhappy with how things appear, remember to try the boundary slider as it may fix your problem.

19) Crop

If you’re at all like me, then cropping is a bit of a dirty word. You know, get it right in camera and don’t sacrifice the resolution and all that jazz. In terms of panoramas, throw that out of the window. Not only should you crop to your heart’s content, but you should revel in it.

If you have overshot a scene, you probably have a really wide image. The thing is, those really wide panoramas often aren’t very pleasing. Go in with the crop tool, and find a strong composition inside of your stitched frame.

Try to think about it like this – your image, straight out of the stitching software is what you saw at the scene. Instead of composing your image while behind your camera, you’re now composing it with the crop tool. Because you (hopefully) took more images than you needed and you have far too much information to best present your subject. Just get rid of the excess and leave only what needs to be there.

20) Consider standard crop ratios

Here is the original panorama straight out of the stitching software. While cool, the format is a bit wide for most uses.

As mentioned, ultra-wide panoramas are a hard sell. They are cool from a technical standpoint, but in terms of composition, they tend to fall short. Instead, consider using crop ratios already associated with panoramic images. These include 16:9, 16:10, 1:3, 6:17, 1:2.

The first two of these are already crop presets in Lightroom. The last three are all aspect ratios native to dedicated panoramic cameras. In order, they are the Hasselblad Xpan, the Fuji GX617, and the Lomography BelAir.

16:9 Ratio

16:10 Ratio

1:3 Ratio

6:17 Ratio

1:2 Ratio

As you can see, there are plenty of options for established crop ratios.

Bonus round 21) Shoot panoramas of normal scenes for bigger files

Not every scene needs to be shot as a panorama. In fact, there is more than enough for you to accomplish as a photographer if you never so much as touch the technique.

However, panoramic stitching offers you another tool that may not be as obvious.

Shot normally, the resulting PSD file is about 35mb.

If you approach a normal scene (let’s say in a 2:3 ratio) and shoot it in a panoramic sequence, the extra information you capture in the vertical means that your final image size will be quite a bit larger than just a straight shot from your camera.

If, for example, you suspect that you will want to make a huge print of a particular image, this technique will give you some extra resolution to work with.

Cropping in from the panoramic sequence gave me a PSD file of 55mb, nearly twice the size of the original.


That’s a long list, but it’s not exhaustive. If you’ve stuck with me this long, you’re probably pretty serious about getting the most out of your panoramas.

If you’re just starting out with this technique, remember not to be too hard on yourself if you forget to use every one of these tips. Take it slow and before you know it, you’ll find that all of this becomes second nature with only a little bit of effort and practice.

The post 21 Tips to Help You Create Better Panoramas appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

Sun, 06/17/2018 - 10:00

Every photographer’s kit needs to include both a wide and ultra-wide lens. These lenses provide the flexibility to shoot a variety of subjects such as portraits, landscapes, astrophotography, and food. Wide lenses provide a unique and fresh way to portray subjects and are a great way to shoot contextual scenes that emphasize foreground elements. New to the market in 2018 is the Sigma 14-24mm f2.8 DG Art Series Lens.

It provides a constant fast f/2.8 aperture and a zoom that transforms your field of view from wide (84.1 degrees) to ultra-wide (114.2 degrees).  I took this lens for a test-drive to give you a glimpse of its performance.

I will save my very positive overall numerical rating for the end. So let’s get into some of the nitty-gritty findings of this functional and flexible piece of glass.

Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG Art lens on a Nikon D800.

First Impressions

There’s always a thrill the first time you unroll a lens from its packaging and lift it from the box. I immediately noticed the weight of the lens (officially ~40oz; 1,150g) giving it a quality feel. The metal construction of this lens is on display and the only plastic parts are the lens cover and lens hood.

I was struck by the large size of the lens – it is much larger than my Sigma 24mm f/1.4. However, this makes sense as the extra size is necessary to accommodate the zoom from 14-24 mm. Overall my first impressions on the look and feel of this lens were excellent.

I tested the Sigma 14-24mm f2.8 on a Nikon D800 and Nikon 810 body. It fit that body well and has a good feel on the full frame body.

Build Quality

Sigma did not cut any corners when constructing this lens. The all-metal build gives it a sturdy feel and results in the weight I eluded to in my first impressions.

The metal construction includes the rear mount to give the lens longevity and life. The zoom ring and focus ring are textured for a solid grip and operate very smoothly. I was happy to note that the construction of this lens is dust and splash resistant which are valuable traits to me as a landscape and nature photographer.

The lens cap has a snug fit and amply covers the aspherical lens.

The outer element of the Sigma 14-24mm f2.8 lens has a aspherical, dome-shaped glass.

The lens is large (5.3 inches long) and well built. Texturing on the focus and zoom rings provide a good grip.

Metal mounts will provide longevity for this lens. A large rear element helps with light collection .

Image Quality In the Lab

To conduct sharpness tests, I took the lens into a variety of conditions both indoors and outdoors.

Let’s first take a look at the results of a traditional test using the pages of a book to determine sharpness and chromatic aberration. For that test, I adjusted the camera to Aperture priority mode and adjusted the aperture throughout its range (f/2.8 – f/22). All images were shot with a tripod with the exact same lighting in a lightbox.

Individual results for each setting are available below showing a 1:1 ratio crop of the same numbers at the edge of the lens. I found the lens too soft when wide open at f/2.8. That is an expected result, but the softness was very noticeable. It was very sharp all the way to the edge of the image at f/8 and f/16. Sharpness declined at f/22. Image sharpness was maintained to the edge of the lens – impressive for an ultra-wide lens.

I found there to be a limited chromatic aberration that is easily correctable in Lightroom. Particularly in the corners of the image there was distortion at 14mm, but that is a common result in ultra-wide lenses.

Here is a test of the lens for sharpness at f/2.8 at the edge of the image. You can see blurring along the edges of the numbers which is expected at the edge of an ultra-wide lens when shot wide open.

The lens became much sharper at f/8. You can see clear, crisp lines out to the edge of the image.

At f/16 I found this lens to be even sharper than f/8. Very crisp lines out to the edge of the image.

At f/22 the lens lost some of its sharpness. This is not unexpected with a lens fully stopped down.

In the Field

Similar to the lab test results above, I cropped images at 1:1 taken in natural lighting conditions to look at the sharpness of this lens. The results showcase sharp images even when taking hand-held photographs.

In particular, you can see the lens is extremely sharp in the middle and how the stars become distorted at the edge of a crop after a long exposure.

Stars shot with the Sigma 14-24mm. This is a crop at the edge of the lens and you can see due to the long exposure that some star trails are seen. This is due to the distortion that occurs to the image’s edge at 14mm

This 1:1 crop is at the center of the lens and shows off how sharp this lens is in the middle.

This 1:1 crop of an eagle passing overhead shows good sharpness in the wing edges – even at the edge of the image.

Focus, Accuracy and Speed

As is my experience with other Sigma Art Series lenses, the autofocus is fast, accurate, and does not produce much (if any) noise. This lens integrates a hyper sonic motor (HSM) to pull off the noiseless focus.

A huge benefit of the lens is the small minimum focusing distance of 10 inches. That gives you, the photographer, unlimited options on what foreground element to leave in focus. In low-contrast situations such as a cloudy day the autofocus did not hunt for the subject, and focusing from 10 inches to infinity was very fast.

Shots from the Field

The images below are meant to show off the flexibility of this lens ranging from 14-24mm, the shallow depth of field you can achieve with an open aperture, and its usefulness for different subjects. I’ve featured some landscapes, people, and food that I was able to photograph.

I was really happy to have the maximum f/22 aperture to create brilliant starbursts. This is a nice creative technique for landscapes, and the ability to stop down to f/22 gives flexibility for shooting flowing water as well.

The ultra-wide angle and close minimum focusing distance allow you to put foreground elements in perspective.

This tree is nearly 50 feet (15m) tall and I needed a wide angle to capture the whole thing. The ultra-wide lens tilted the tree creating a slight distortion which is characteristic of ultra-wide lenses.

Using the wide-angle to capture a whole scene along the beach. I took this image at 14mm and stopped down to give sharpness to the logs and distant mountains.

A ship, sunset, eagle, and beach house captured in a single frame thanks to the wide-angle lens.

The wide aperture helped me shoot this shot in low light during a local dance.

The minimum focusing distance is helpful for food photography and the shallow depth of field can draw your eye to foreground elements.

Increasing the f-stop can capture the depth of an entire scene. I found this useful in this food scene to emphasize the food and show off some Alaskan Brewery products, too.

This image was captured at 14mm. The next image was captured at 24mm with the camera mounted in the same position. These images give you insight into the field of view at a wide and ultra-wide focal length.

This image was captured at 24mm to compare to the 14mm image above.

Pros and Cons of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Lens Pros:
  1. Close minimum focal distance – I found the 10″ focus distance to be very helpful in creating interesting landscapes and in scenes where a foreground element needed to be emphasized and placed in context with its surroundings.
  2. Fast and accurate autofocus – A solid autofocus system can be a photographer’s best friend!
  3. Flexibility – The 14-24mm zoom range gives you the flexibility to transition between a wide and ultra-wide lens. Effectively replacing two lenses is a huge benefit.
  1. Large size – I was pretty surprised at how big the lens is, and it’s worth noting that it will take up quite a bit of space in your kit as well. Fortunately, it can replace an ultrawide and wide lens perhaps saving you space in the longrun.
  2. Lack of sharpness at wide open apertures – The weakest part of this lens is the softness at open apertures. Fortunately, it is a very sharp lens when stopped down.
  3. Aspherical glass – As a landscape photographer I like to use neutral density filters and polarizers to make the most of a scene. The aspherical dome of glass requires carrying a separate filter set.
Final Rating and Product Value

Overall Rating : 9 out of 10 – this lens provides some excellent features, great build, and overall quality. Sharpness in the center of the image is excellent and the edges maintain sharpness as well.

My main reason for pulling this lens down to a 9 is the size of it. Those looking for a concise and smaller kit may benefit from a prime ultra-wide to decrease the lens bulk in their kit.

The value of this lens on Sigma’s website is $1,199 USD (check here for pricing on Amazon). Although that figure seems a bit high, the build quality warrants the price. You also have peace of mind knowing that the lens is effectively replacing the value of two other lenses in your kit.

The post Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School.

What Makes Great Photos? 5 Factors That Can Take Your Images From Good to Great

Sat, 06/16/2018 - 15:00

Have you ever heard the phrase “light is everything” or perhaps “composition is everything”? I know I have many times. But they can’t both be everything, that’s not possible. So what is really going on? Obviously, there is at least a grain of truth to both expressions. But are there other factors that make great photos?

As it turns out, there are and things are not quite as simple.

A photo with very poor composition will fall apart and it will never be a great photo. But a decent composition capturing the most fantastic light can be a good photo, if not a great one. On the other hand, a great composition in poor light can make a dull photo.

Creating a photo almost always includes some sort of compromise. Either the light is not great, the timing is not perfect, or it is not possible to get to the ideal location, because you can’t walk in thin air or on water. Or maybe the prime elements in the scene are not arranged perfectly.

There are so many factors that have to come together at the exact same time, that it seems impossible to make a perfect photo. And that is part of your life, as a photographer, but knowing what counts, can make your success rate of making great photos higher.

What makes great photos?

It is a number of things that make a great photo and composition and light are obviously on that list, but what is the rest?

I find that there a five important factors that combine to make great photos. If you can maximize all five you will have a perfect photo. However, creating such a photo is really rare even for the very best photographers.

Let us have a look at them and then discuss in more detail.

5 factors that help make great photos


You don’t have to maximize all five to make a great photo. A decent composition with fantastic light and timing, with fantastic post-processing, can make a great photo. The same goes for an outstanding composition. You will be able to make up for the lack of light to some extent. So you just have to balance the five factors without dropping any completely.

If one of the factors is somewhat lower, it can be compensated by one or more of the others if they score high. You could see it as the sum of the five pillars, that gives an indication of how great a photo is, as long as you don’t have any hitting the bottom.

They all work together

A completely failed composition, bad light, completely missed timing, non-existent story and poor image processing will tear a photo into pieces.

The factors are very often interconnected. For instance, the composition is often connected to the timing of capturing a moving object. And the light is connected to the timing, in the case of the natural light. The composition can also be connected to the light, a shadow or some light beam or another light source.

They are all dependent on each other, which increases the complexity. No wonder it is hard to create great photos! And no wonder some types of photographers, like those who do commercial studio and model photography, try to control some of the factors – namely the light – to be able to get a larger success rate on their photos.

Factor #1 – Composition

The composition is something that comes naturally to some people while others have to learn it. It is a fundamental skill to master as a photographer. If it doesn’t come naturally to you, try to copy other compositions you like, in your own way at different locations. That will quickly improve your skills.

Factor #2 – Light

The light can be many different things. There’s hard light, soft light, defused light, warm light, cold light, studio flash, the natural light just to mention some of the most commonly known types. Light is a big topic and it requires some research to get the full understanding. But that is not required to create great photos.

If you are into landscape photography, you will increase the quality of your photos by avoiding a blue sky in the middle of the day. Instead, go for sunrise and sunset times. The time after sunrise and before sunset is called the Golden Hour. Blue Hour also provides excellent light for landscape photography.

If you are into flash photography you would do well by experimenting with an off-camera flash, rather than on-camera. As well try high-speed sync flash which opens doors for creative flash photography.

My advice is to learn about the type of light that is relevant to the kind of photography you enjoy doing.

Factor #3 – Timing

The timing, depending on the type of photography you do, can be a matter of capturing that instant of a second that makes a difference. You have to capture a moment – the magic moment.

The moment of a fleeting kiss, the instant a football player kicks the ball, the moment the wave crash onto a rocky shore with a huge splash. Or as in this case, the instant four people put the same foot on the ground while walking at the same distance.

Other moments are more slow, like a sunrise. Nevertheless, it is still about timing.

You have to get up early, very early sometimes, to get to the location. That is timing. Or as in this case, getting a photo without any people, at the central station at blue hour is about timing too.

Empty Central Station in Copenhagen.

Factor #4 – The Story

The story of a photo can be anything ranging from “what delicious crumbles sitting on top of that cupcake”, to “what a fantastic round boulder on that beach” to a “touching relation between people”. A story can be somewhat abstract, yet there has to be a purpose of why you choose to include what you do in the photo.

Sometimes a story is complex and deep, while at other times it is simple “that is a nice boulder sitting in a beautiful landscape“.

You may not be equally good at telling all kind of stories, through your photos. This is perfectly alright and it is fine to stick to what you do best.

I find that story and timing can be very tightly connected as in this case of the image below. Capturing a gondola on a super busy Canal Grande in Venice, and making it seem like a peaceful romantic moment is not as easy as it may sound.

If you can get a spot, you can literally stand on the Rialto bridge for hours, while you enjoy the view. The view is full of activity and happy people.

Factor #5 – Image Processing

The last and fifth factor could raise some discussion. One that I do not want to get into here. And if you are a strong believer in Straight Out Of Camera (SOOC) photos, this point will not be relevant to you.

If you believe in photo editing, you may also know that it is often the thing that transforms a photo from flat to an image that pops. In some cases, that is what makes or breaks a photo.

Image editing or post-processing is by no means easy and there are a lot of opinions out there. But even simple things like, adjusting white balance, exposure and contrast can be the difference that makes a photo pop.

If you are into documentary photography, there are certain things you are not allowed to do. You do not meddle with reality. But if you don’t do that kind of photography, it is in the post-processing phase that you can make your artistic interpretation.

Before and After. A creative interpretation.

What to look out for

Image editing is a race car without a seatbelt. There are a number of things that can totally ruin your image and if you are not careful. Some of the classic problems from over-processing include halos, too contrasty and over-saturation, but there are many others.

This wedding photo of Alexander and Mia was shot in the worst possible light of midday with a blue sky. In post-processing, I have created a softer and warmer feeling to compensate.

A reason to build up your skills in image processing is that you can compensate to some degree for the other factors. You can enhance the good bits, and hide the less desired parts. Remove unwanted objects to present your photo is the best possible way, from what you captured in your camera.

A great side effect of upping your editing skills and paying some real attention to your photos is that you will get a better understanding of what make great photos. You will find things that degrade your photo (why did I include that dustbin?) and learn to avoid them next time you are on location shooting.

You learn by making mistakes and trying to fix them. The more times you fail, the better photographer you will end up being.

Final remarks

In photography, there are no absolutes. Not two people have the same opinion. We do not all like the same, things so what some people would deem a perfect photo, others may not deem perfect. Yet, there are some tendencies and you could do worse, than paying attention to what people like and don’t like if you want to create successful photos.

Any critique is an opportunity to learn something new.

The post What Makes Great Photos? 5 Factors That Can Take Your Images From Good to Great appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Easily Make a LUT in Photoshop

Sat, 06/16/2018 - 10:00

If you’ve ever done any video editing then you’re probably familiar with a little something called “color look-up tables”. These look-up tables are lovingly referred to in the industry as a “LUT”.

At the basic level, a LUT is a preset that performs color grading and various other visual effects. Each is based on a blindingly complex set of mathematical sorcery that luckily for you (and me) doesn’t need to be explained in this article.

But wait…this is Digital Photography School, not Digital Video School. So, why are we talking about LUTs if they only help us when editing video?

Well, with Adobe’s recent release of Lightroom Classic v7.3 and Adobe Camera RAW 10.3 we now have the ability to use the awesome new Creative Profiles feature which, you guessed it, makes LUTs usable in our photo editing. It’s safe to say more and more photographers will be incorporating custom-made LUTs into their own Creative Profiles. For more information on making Creative Profiles check out this excellent tutorial by Spyros Heniadis.

So how can you make your own LUTs? There are a number of ways and most of them require purchasing software exclusively engineered for creating a LUT. But what if I told you that Photoshop is capable of exporting LUTs if you don’t want to spend any extra money on new software? And what’s more, making basic LUTs in Photoshop is insanely simple.

In this article, I’m going to show you just how easy it is to make and export your very own LUTs right inside Photoshop.

Create Your Edits

To get started you need an image file. This image can be either RAW or JPEG. If you’re planning on using your LUT in video processing then it’s a good idea to use a screen capture from your video file. For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll be using a previously processed JPEG.

Starting image already processed.

Once your photo is opened in Photoshop you can begin to make the edits that will be exported as a LUT. You’ll have the power of all the options located in the adjustments panel at your fingertips.

While you change the fill and opacity of the adjustment layers you won’t be able to add in any masking or more advanced filters. This is somewhat of a bummer, but given the fact that we’re doing all of this in Photoshop it’s a limitation we’ll have to live with for now. For this image, I’ve added three adjustment layers: Color Balance, Curves and Black and White.

With all of the edits applied, it’s time to actually export the adjustments in the form of a LUT which can then be used for creating profiles to play around with inside v7.3 Lightroom Classic or ACR 10.3 and a host of other awesome uses.

Exporting the LUT

You’ll be happy to know that exporting the adjustments as a LUT is ridiculously easy. Under the main menu at the top click File  > Export > Color Lookup Tables…

This brings up the export dialog and you now find yourself faced with a few options before you can export the LUT. First, you have the choice to name the LUT. Make it something descriptive.

If you want, you can bypass this step as you will give the LUT its own filename in just a moment. Personally, I don’t always name the LUT at this time. You can enter in any copyright information you choose.

The last two options are the most important. Choosing the quality of the LUT and its file format is essential to be able to efficiently apply the LUT later in whatever application you might be using. Leave the quality set to Medium which will give a good balance between load times and quality.

The file format you choose will depend on what you’ll be doing with the LUT. For example, if you will be using your LUT to make profiles for Lightroom be sure to save it as a CUBE file. When you’re finished, click OK.

This brings you to the final step of the LUT manufacturing process. All that’s left to do is to choose where you’ll save the LUT.

You’ll notice that you now have the opportunity to again name your LUT. It’s here where you’ll want to make sure you give it a name that is easy to find. Once you’ve decided on file name and destination just click Save to store your brand new LUT!

Final Thoughts….

If you need a quick and easy way to make your own color lookup tables then you needn’t venture any further than your old friend Adobe Photoshop. While there are a few limitations when compared to dedicated color grading programs the ability to create LUTs directly from Photoshop can save you time and money.

If you’re like me and do a lot of work on the road, knowing how to make your own LUTs on the go will come in handy and make your life a LUT (haha) easier.

The post How to Easily Make a LUT in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Photography Challenge – Street Photography

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 15:00

Street photography is a fun and popular genre of photography that anybody can do. But it’s not as easy as it looks to get really good, storytelling images.

I shot this in Retiro, Colombia a little town not far from Medellin. It had a very old-world feel so I processed this image to match that style.

For this week’s photography challenge you’ll need to hit the streets and show us your best. If you need some tips, here are some ideas:

Weekly Photography Challenge – Street Photography

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge. Sometimes it takes a while for an image to appear so be patient and try not to post the same image twice.

Get some people in your street photography.

Try panning for something different.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

You can also share your images in the dPS Facebook group as the challenge is posted there each week as well.

The post Photography Challenge – Street Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

3 Misunderstood But Important Buttons on Your Camera Explained

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 10:00

Today’s modern DSLR cameras have so many functions, buttons, and menus that it can be confusing and overwhelming to learn how to use properly. In this article, you’ll learn about three commonly misunderstood, but extremely important buttons on your camera. See what they each do, and when to use them.

#1 – The Depth of Field Preview Button

This is one that is not often used but it really handy once you know what it’s for, the depth of field preview button. Let’s have a look.


#2 – The Exposure Compensation Button

Next up is the Exposure Compensation button or dial. I use this one a lot with my Fuji X-T1 and X100F cameras when I’m shooting in Aperture Priority mode, which is most of the time. See where to find on your camera and how to apply it here.

#3 – Auto Exposure Lock (AEL)

Finally, the last button you should learn about is the AEL or Auto Exposure Lock button. It’s very handy when you want to lock your exposure, or your focus, or both and take multiple images of the same scene, with different compositions.


Can you confidently say you are familiar with and comfortable using all these buttons on your camera? If not, make it a habit to learn one new thing about your camera every day. Get to know all the buttons and dials. If you can’t figure it out, consult your camera user manual. Or search for your camera and model number on YouTube to find some good tutorials specific to your setup.

Know your camera inside and out. Then, and only then can you decide if it’s time to upgrade or not. But that’s another topic for another day!

The post 3 Misunderstood But Important Buttons on Your Camera Explained appeared first on Digital Photography School.

7 Reasons Why a Tripod is Must for Outdoor Photographers

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 15:00

Ask any photographer what their favorite accessory is, and most will be quick to reply with “tripod”. It’s with good reason that a tripod is considered such a must-have accessory by photographers. Even if they are inconvenient, heavy to carry, and they tend to draw attention to you as a photographer, it is a price that is worth paying considering the benefits it can bring to your photos. Here are 7 reasons why a tripod is a must for all outdoor photographers.

1. Low Light Saviour

One of the best bits of advice I was ever given when I was starting out was this “The majority of the time, if I want to capture the best possible photo at the best possible time, then a tripod is an absolute must”. This is, of course, referring to the time of the day when the light is softer and there is less of it, in other words, the golden and blue hours.

Low light conditions mean that you have two options for being able to capture a photograph at these times. Set a high ISO on your camera – which comes with the downside of noise in the photo and as a result less sharpness. Or use a tripod. You simply will not be able to handhold a camera steady enough for anything slower than 1/60th of a second where even the slightest movement can mean camera shake.

So if you are planning to photograph in low light conditions and a tripod is allowed, make sure you use one.

2. To Show Movement

One of the biggest advantages that a tripod can give you is that it allows you the flexibility to control the amount of movement that you want to show in your photos. That might be moving water like a waterfall, or it might be clouds in the sky. It can even be objects and people.

To be able to show movement in a photo you require some parts of the image to be sharp so that there is a contrast to the moving parts of the image. If the whole image is slightly blurred through camera shake, then the image will fail to show that movement. So, if you want to capture movement in your photos, then make sure that you are using a tripod.

3. Put Yourself in the Shot

On some occasions, you will arrive at a scene and after examining and framing your shot, you will quickly come to realize that there is something missing. This usually points towards a point of interest in your composition that will help capture the viewer’s attention.

You might be lucky enough to have other people around that can be your models. But sometimes you are all by yourself and there is no other way than to put yourself in the photo.

This is where the tripod can act as your photographer. Simply set your camera up, frame your shot and set the self-timer for the length of time you need to get into position. Not only does this help you capture photos that can tell a story or show an experience, but it also means you have a photo that is model released.

4. Different Angles

Most photographers are guilty of capturing too many photos at the usual eye level view. But let’s be honest, how many people want to be on the ground in the cold and wet? A tripod is a great way to capture photos at slightly different elevations whether that is higher up or even close to the ground.

There are also times when a tripod can be put in places that people can’t go like over a fence, on a precarious ledge on a mountain or even in the water where you wouldn’t want to get your shoes and clothes wet.

For example, for the photo below, I was faced with a high wall with no ledge to allow me to stand on to capture this photo. As this was an old stone wall standing on it wasn’t an option as I would have probably damaged it. But I was able to position my tripod on the wall to capture this shot.

5. Light Stand

Even if you are not going to be using your tripod for your camera, there might be occasions where a tripod becomes a handy light stand where you can mount your flash. This is especially useful when you are outdoors by yourself and need to light something from a different position than where you are standing.

Unless you have someone there to hold the flash, the only way to light the subject the way you want is to use a tripod.

I needed to light up this woman’s face so that it wasn’t too dark. I was able to place my tripod behind the pillar on the left to light up her face slightly.

6. Better Composition

Sometimes one of the main benefits of using a tripod is that it makes you slow down and become more analytical in your approach to taking a photo.

By being able to put your camera down and take a step back you sometimes end up slowing down and that usually means an improvement in the photo. Once you have taken a shot you can evaluate and make the necessary adjustments to make any improvements to your composition.

7. Take the Weight

You’ve just reached your chosen location after several hours of walking. The last thing you want to do now is to have to spend the next few hours also holding up a heavy camera and telephoto lens.

A tripod not only helps you capture great photos, but it can also sometimes give you respite from having to actually hold the camera. It is a welcome relief and will mean you can actually focus on capturing a great photo instead.


A tripod can truly be a photographer’s best friend and will give you so much more flexibility when photographing something. You can control your shutter speed, depth of field, and even the way you frame your shot in a much more considered approach.

Most people forego using a tripod for the simple reason that it is cumbersome to carry around. But ask yourself if that little bit of inconvenience outweighs the improvement you will have in your photos? There will usually only be one answer.

The post 7 Reasons Why a Tripod is Must for Outdoor Photographers appeared first on Digital Photography School.