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Updated: 1 hour 56 min ago

Photo Finishing – Challenge Yourself to Reveal the Personality in Every Image You Capture

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 13:00

The post Photo Finishing – Challenge Yourself to Reveal the Personality in Every Image You Capture appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

Many folks think that photography takes place in the camera, but that’s not the whole truth. Photography is a two-part process that involves 1) capturing the light from a scene, and 2) shaping that captured light into a form that matches what your mind saw when you took the picture. The capture process does happen inside the camera, but the shaping part happens on your computer.

The Capture, or Photo Process

We give the camera credit for things that it doesn’t actually do. Don’t get me wrong, capturing all the light in a scene is a monumental undertaking. Keeping track of millions of points of light is a very critical and specialized responsibility. However, the camera is not so much an artistic tool as it is a capture device with a single purpose – to accurately record the light from the surfaces of objects in a scene. While that purpose can get complicated with lighting challenges, the camera is still just box with a round glass eye and a single function: to record light.

When the light of a scene enters the camera lens, it gets dispersed over the surface of the camera’s image sensor, a postage-size electrical circuit containing millions of individual light receptors. Each receptor measures the strength of the light striking it in a metric called “lumens.” Each receptor on this sensor records its light value as a color pixel.

The camera’s image processor reads the color and intensity of the light striking each photoreceptor and maps each image from those initial values, producing a reasonable facsimile of the original scene. When this bitmap of pixels gets viewed from a distance, the eye perceives the composite as a digital image.

The real magic happens after the storing of light on the memory card. The image that first appears when you open the file is the image processor’s initial attempt at interpreting the data recorded by the camera’s image processor. Most times, the initial (JPEG) image interpretation of this data is an acceptable record of the original scene, though not always.


Your camera provides several pre-set programs that adjust the three settings in the camera that affect exposure: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

Three main controls determine your exposure: the shutter speed, the aperture, and the ISO. The camera presets (A, S, and M) allow you to determine the depth of field and/or speed with which the camera captures the light.

The A (aperture priority) mode allows you to set the size of the lens opening (f-stop) while the camera automatically sets the shutter speed. The S (shutter priority) mode lets you set the duration of the lens opening (shutter speed) while the camera adjusts the size of the lens opening. The letter P (program mode) allows you to determine the best mix of aperture and shutter speed while your camera retains the correct balance of light for the exposure. The letter M (manual mode) gives you complete control over all settings but requires to balance the overall exposure.

Your camera’s variable ISO (International Standards Organization) setting adjusts the light sensitivity of the camera’s image sensor, allowing you to capture scenes in dim or bright light; the higher the number, the more sensitive the light receptors become, allowing you to capture images in lower levels of light.

The Histogram

Your camera provides a small graph that roughly indicates how well the camera is set to correctly capture the light in the current scene.

This graph displays the range of light coming through the lens and approximates the current light distribution that captured under the current settings. By adjusting the three settings mentioned above, you can shift and somewhat distribute this range of light to best record the full range of light.

Color balancing the light

Every scene’s color cast is influenced by the temperature of the light illuminating that scene. When the scene is captured outside, the Sun’s position in the sky and the influence of cloud cover alters the color of the light. Your camera offers at least two ways to compensate for the differences in color temperature (Auto White Balance and Pre-set Color Balance).

Auto White Balance

The Auto White Balance (AWB) sensor in your camera seeks any prominent white or neutral subject in the scene and shifts the entire color balance of the scene in an effort to neutralize that element. But there is an assumption with AWB that you desire the current lighting to be perfectly neutral in color.

Any clouds interfering with the sunlight will have a slight influence on the neutrality of 6500° (natural sunlight) lighting. AWB takes that slight shift out of the equation. Most of the time, this is a great idea. However, to record early morning or late afternoon (golden hour) lighting accurately, AWB will neutralize those warm colors and completely lose that “warm” mood.

Pre-Set White Balance Settings

Your camera offers several pre-sets to offset any known color casts caused by specific lighting situations. These settings appear in every digital camera “Settings” display and may appear in a slightly different order or wording. Daylight sets the camera to record scenes under typical mid-day outdoor lighting. Cloudy/Overcast shifts the colors toward orange to compensate for the bluish cast caused by light filtering through nominal cloud cover.

Shade offers a stronger orange shift to compensate for completely overcast (stormy) skies. Flash provides a very similar color temperature lighting as Daylight and is intended to prepare the image sensor for artificial daylight or “Speed light” type flash devices.

Tungsten/Incandescent shifts the colors toward the blue end of the color range to compensate for the warmer shift of incandescent lights. Fluorescent attempts to compensate for the greenish cast of gas-charged fluorescent lights.

Kelvin/Custom permits the user to set a custom color balance setting, essentially teaching the camera what “neutral” gray color looks like. All of these pre-sets attempt to correct non-neutral lighting conditions.

The Sculpting, or Finishing Process

While the camera does capture the full range of reflected light in a scene, it has no way of knowing the best tonal curve to apply to each image. Many times the five tonal ranges (highlight, quarter, middle, three-quarter, and shadow) need to be reshaped to best interpret the light captured at the scene. This tonal contouring process is the magic of sculpting the light into a meaningful visual image.

This little fella perched outside my front door and caught me off guard. I didn’t have time to fiddle with the controls to optimize the lighting situation. My first click got his attention and the second got this expression. Fortunately, I capture my images in both jpg and RAW formats simultaneously. Doing so allowed me to post-process the tones and display to you what I actually saw that morning.

I use the term “sculpting” when talking about image editing because it best describes the rearranging of tones in a digital image. Only ideal lighting balance looks great when rendered as a “stock” JPEG camera image.

This sculpting or finishing process amounts to the clarification of tones and colors in a digital image; making the image appear in final form the way the human mind perceived it in the original scene. While the color balancing aspect of this process is a bit more obvious, the tonal recovery is actually more critical to the final presentation.

The digital camera cannot capture all of the dynamics of the visible spectrum on a sunny day, nor can it determine the best balance of those tones. The camera’s image sensor simply captures all the light possible and presents the data to the camera’s image processor to sort out. Under perfectly balanced lighting, this works out just fine, but occasionally detail hides in the shadows and gets lost in the highlights, requiring help from the photographer/editor to balance out the tones.

This is where the individual tone-zones come into play, and the sliders available in RAW processing software (Camera Raw, Lightroom, On1 Camera Raw, Exposure X4) are invaluable. The internal contrast of every image (Whites, Highlights, Middle tones, Shadows, Blacks) can be pushed around and adjusted in a very non-linear manner (in no particular order) to reveal detail that otherwise remains hidden.


Photo finishing isn’t complete until both color and tones are correctly adjusted for maximum effect, matching the emotion of the original scene. Only then is your image ready for viewing. Challenge yourself to squeeze the detail and reveal the potential personality out of every image you capture. It’s well worth the extra effort.

The post Photo Finishing – Challenge Yourself to Reveal the Personality in Every Image You Capture appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

How to Set Your Photography Goals (and NOT Fail)

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 08:00

The post How to Set Your Photography Goals (and NOT Fail) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

You can spend many years as a stagnant photographer simply because you didn’t set any goals.

But if you set goals, and work toward accomplishing them, you can grow more than you ever imagined.

Photographers encounter two problems when setting goals. The first is not knowing how to set a goal. The second is not knowing how to accomplish it.

Let’s look at how to set a goal and then be sure that you can accomplish it.

If you need inspiration toward growth and learning as a photographer, look to the toddler. They develop more over 2 years than most adults develop over 2 decades.

How to set your photography goals

I’ll share my photography goals with you and explain how to set your own goals.

  1. Define my creative vision (no more copying other photographers)
  2. Accomplish a photography project I started as an unskilled kid
  3. Learn about light from painters
  4. Study toddler psychology
  5. Help 15 students achieve their photography goals

Five goals seem like a lot, but I accomplished all my major goals last year, so I’m eager to accomplish these goals too.

Toddlers are at one of the crossroads of life. They’re exploding in their abilities but need to have their potential guided by grown-ups and older kids.

You should set your goals based on these 2 questions:
  1. What will I have accomplished when I finish this goal?
  2. How will this goal help me grow as a photographer?

Accomplishment: When I complete goals 2 and 5, I will have fulfilled a childhood ambition and helped other photographers to grow.

Growth: Goals 1,3 and 5 will help clarify my vision and deepen my understanding of light and toddlers.

Set goals that are meaningful to you. Make them small enough to be achievable but large enough to challenge you.

When you first start setting goals, you should set and focus on one at a time. Once you know what you’re capable of you can set multiple goals that cover an extended period of time.

A toddler with a marker, colors on everything without thought. We can be just as directionless in our photography, snapping photos of anything that grabs our attention. Or, we can be purposeful and move toward intentional accomplishment.

Setting a goal is easy, but how do you accomplish it?

After deciding on your goals, use this method to accomplish it:

  1. Describe how life will look when you’ve achieved your goal
  2. Understand the consequence of not completing it
  3. Plot out the steps toward achieving your goal
  4. Create an environment that makes the goal happen by default (so failure isn’t an option)

I’ll use my toddler psychology goal as an example.

How will life look once I’ve achieved this goal? I’ll better understand toddlers, better connect with them during sessions and take more creative photos.

If I don’t complete this goal then I will not have expanded myself as a photographer and I’ll continue to experience the same frustrations during sessions.

The main steps toward achieving this goal will be:

  • Finding reliable sources that explain toddler psychology
  • Reflecting on my experience as a father and photographer
  • Use what I’ve learned to take better photos of toddlers
  • Write about what I’ve learned (for myself and others)

Many people fail to reach their goals because their environment works against them.

How can I create an environment that will make this goal achievable?

It’s busy running a photography business and I’m likely to forget my goals. But, I’ve written it on my list of goals so that it won’t be forgotten. I came up with a quick list of sources to begin my research. Research time has been scheduled into my calendar.

Creating your environment to make your goals achievable

This is one of the most important steps. If you set a goal and then have the proper space and time to work on it, you’ll be able to achieve it.

Let’s suppose your goal is to learn how to use your camera off Auto Mode. But 30 days after setting your goal you’ve hardly practiced at all. Your life is hectic and your environment will keep you distracted unless you make it work for you.

You need to set aside a block of time every day that is devoted to using your camera. Write it in a day planner or set an alert. Better yet, carry your camera with you all day. It’s hard to avoid learning when you’ve committed to taking a camera with you everywhere you go.

Rubber boots are a passport to adventure for toddlers. With their boots on they can go anywhere and do anything.

Maybe you’re taking a trip this year and hope to take a lot of great photos. But hoping isn’t the same as setting a goal and plotting out the steps to achieve it. Most trips have a very rushed itinerary which is one way that your environment will work against you. Have you set aside time for photography?

Maybe you want a more efficient post-processing workflow. Is your environment filled with distractions that eat up your time? Turn off the WIFI, your phone, and any other digital distractions. Isolate yourself for a block of time or until the work is finished. Banish everything that distracts your focus.

Your goal should be challenging to achieve, but don’t make it worse by having your environment work against you.

Peeking through the bedroom door.

Tell me YOUR goals

One of the best ways to get started on a goal is to tell somebody what you plan to do.

I would love to hear your photography goal. Leave a comment letting me know what your goals are.

The post How to Set Your Photography Goals (and NOT Fail) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

What Your Camera Can’t See

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 13:00

The post What Your Camera Can’t See appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

For all the incredible technology packed into cameras, there is one missing element that will remain missing perhaps forever. The missing element? The combination of human eyesight and the brain’s image processor called the Visual Cortex.

The Visual Cortex

The Visual Cortex is located in the lower rear of your brain. It is here the real color perception magic happens – magic that goes way beyond the analysis capabilities of any camera on the planet. As you understand this human version of the camera’s image processor, your understanding of the photo process will come into clearer focus.

Medical experts tell us that more than 80% of what we experience enters our brain through our vision. Your eyes capture light’s amazing array of colors as the eye’s lens focuses light beams onto the panoramic viewing screen in the back of your eyeball called the retina.

Your brain is very forgiving. It focuses light entering through your eyes, and automatically color corrects almost every lighting condition and color cast en route to the Visual Cortex. Within seconds, your eyes and brain adjust to a wide range of lighting intensities and color influences and deliver very believable images to your mind. And it all happens without you even realizing it. No white balance to set, no color shifts to neutralize. Your brain’s magic intuition and forgiving nature do a crazy-good job of color correction for you.

Your camera records colors a bit more objectively. However, even when shooting RAW files, decisions about color still have to be made in the editing process. Your camera simply doesn’t have cognitive or reasoning skills and thus must be tutored to interpret what it “sees” accurately. You might say that your camera sees, but it doesn’t observe.

White balance and memory colors

When you visually observe a white sheet of paper in a daylight lighting (preferably outside, in natural light), the paper looks… white. Even when you observe that same white paper indoors under tungsten light, your brain recognizes that the paper is really white. This is because the human brain possesses what we call “memory colors;” a basic set of colors that are so familiar that even lighting variances cannot confuse.

Your camera cannot remember what color white is when it is captured under different types of lighting. It must be told every time. What your camera calls “memory” isn’t the same “memory” that your human brain possesses.

When you set your camera’s White Balance to Daylight and take a picture of the white paper outside, it indeed appears white. That is merely the way the camera’s image sensor is biased to record light under daylight (6500° Kelvin) color conditions. However, when you move inside and shoot the same white paper under tungsten lighting (using the same Daylight WB), the paper appears to the camera to be somewhat yellow.

Auto White Balance (left) and Tungsten (right)

Changing the camera’s WB setting to Auto White Balance (AWB) and shooting the paper under a typical table lamp light, the picture still appears slightly yellow.  Even when you set the camera’s WB to Tungsten, the paper still fails to appear perfectly neutral white, though it appears much closer to white.

The truth is, there are colors in the visual spectrum that digital cameras record differently than film cameras did in the past. And neither technology captures and records the exact colors that the human eye sees or the mind perceives. This is why most captured images, for all their beauty, still lack the full sense of authenticity and depth that the human mind experiences from light observed in every scene.

Technically (and spectrally), in each case, the camera is telling the truth, just not the “truth” that we perceive with our eyes. This is, of course, a good example of why we shoot in raw format. When captured in raw format, all regimented color categories get ignored. Any color shifts can be corrected and lighting variances addressed in the post-processing stage.

As mentioned earlier, the can’t the camera see the white paper as white (the way our eyes do) regardless of the lighting situation because the camera doesn’t have an onboard reference registry of “memory colors” the way our brains do.

The brain automatically remaps each scene’s color cast to your brain’s “memory colors.” Think of these memory colors as preference presets in your brain’s color interpreter. These memory colors automatically compensate for variable lighting situations. The infinite Look Up Table (LUT) variables that would be needed for a camera to replicate this basic, natural brain function would have to be both immense and incredibly complex. No matter how smart digital devices become, they’ll never replace the magic of human interpretation.


So what have we learned? Your camera, for all its sophistication, cannot automatically correct color casts. It simply isn’t human. That means that your camera ultimately benefits from and makes use of your understanding of the behavior of light and color. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll produce images that more closely replicate color as your mind perceived it. Photography is a two-part process that requires the camera to do its job and for you to do yours. What is defined by the clinical term as “post-processing” is merely finishing the job that your camera started.

Moreover, this is a good thing. Your judgment and interpretation of the colors your mind saw when you captured the image can guide you as you tweak and make minor adjustments to your images. Don’t think of this as a burden. Recognize this as a gift. You, the photographer, are the producer of the image. Your camera is merely a tool that provides all the “raw” materials you’ll need to share what your mind observed when you captured the scene.

This is why photography is an art, and why this art requires an artist. You are that artist.

Celebrate the partnership you have with your camera. Together, you produce visual beauty.

The post What Your Camera Can’t See appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

How to Move Your Lightroom Library to an External Drive

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 08:00

The post How to Move Your Lightroom Library to an External Drive appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Many photographers put their pictures on their computer’s internal hard drive. This can be a great solution since even laptops now have fairly generous storage options compared to their counterparts in days gone by. It may take you a while to fill up a 1TB or larger internal drive even if you shoot in RAW, but at some point, you’re going to run out of space, and you’ll have to address this problem. Cloud storage is a good solution but often involves a monthly or yearly fee, and upgrading your internal drive can be expensive and time-consuming. One perfect solution is to migrate your entire Lightroom library to an external drive. While this might sound difficult and intimidating, it’s quite simple and is something that anyone can easily do.

Choosing your storage

Storage space is fairly inexpensive, but not infinite. There are always going to be physical limitations when it comes to how many images you can store on a single piece of media. This is true whether it’s a traditional hard drive, a solid-state drive, or a mix of both such as Apple’s Fusion Drives.

Thankfully, external drives can offer vast amounts of storage space for relatively little money. With the fast transfer speeds of USB-3, which is common on most computers today, you won’t lose anything in terms of editing efficiency by having your pictures stored externally.

The first step in migrating your pictures to an external drive is to buy an external drive, and you have several options:

Traditional hard drive made with spinning platters. If you take this route, I recommend one with a transfer rate of 150mb/sec (megabytes per second) and an RPM speed of 7200. As I write this in early 2019, a four-terabyte drive, which can hold around 200,000 RAW files or half a million JPG files without breaking a sweat, can be found for US$100 to US$150.

Storage is inexpensive and prices are falling all the time. This 4 terabyte hard drive was only $90 when I bought it in the spring of 2019. (Guitar pick shown for scale.)

Solid-state drive with no moving parts. These aren’t as cheap as traditional drives, and they don’t hold quite as much data. However, with prices falling all the time, it won’t be long until solid-state drives are the norm and traditional spinning platters become redundant. Transfer rates on these drives are going to be plenty fast enough for any photo editing.

RAID array or Drobo. These are much more expensive than traditional storage options but offer redundancy in case of data failures, but they might be overkill for non-professional photographers. Besides, no matter what external storage solution you use, you should always have at least one off-site backup even if you do use a RAID array.

For most people, I recommend a simple USB-3 external drive, as it’s the most cost-effective solution and easy to backup onto another drive as well.

Once you have an external drive, there are two methods for getting your photos in Lightroom copied over to it. I’ll walk you through each of these methods as well as the positive and negative aspects of each so you can decide which is right for you.

Method 1: Use Lightroom

This process works well if you don’t have a large photo library. It doesn’t involve a lot of heavy lifting on your part because you can do everything within Lightroom. If you have a lot of images (a few thousand or more), I’d recommend against this because I’ve read reports that it can become a little unreliable when working with that many files. Your mileage may vary though, but know that you ought to proceed with a bit of caution when using this method.

First, locate your Folders pane on the left side of the Library module of Lightroom. Then click the + button in the top-right corner and choose “Add Folder…” This is going to let you create a new folder for storing your images. In this case, navigate to your external drive and create a new folder at that location.

Navigate to your external drive and create a folder on it that you can use to store your pictures. In the screenshot below my external drive is called “Untitled” and my folder is called “Lightroom Pictures.”

Once done, you should see the new folder show up in Lightroom, but it will be empty. This action also creates a new folder on your external drive, which you can see if you navigate to the external drive using Finder or Windows Explorer.

The final step in moving your images from the internal drive to an external drive is to drag-and-drop them from Lightroom. From the Folders panel, click on a folder that you want to put on the external drive and drag it from your internal drive to the new folder you just created.

Click the Move button and Lightroom transfers everything over to the external drive, with no extra effort required on your part. If you have thousands of pictures, this could take a while. So be patient. In the end, your images will be on the external drive and also removed from your internal drive.

Method 2: Copy files manually

If you don’t mind doing a little bit of work yourself using Windows File Explorer or the Macintosh Finder, this is the option I generally recommend. That’s because it not only gives you the most control over the copying operation but helps you understand exactly where to locate your pictures. This method also lets you decide when to delete the original images on your internal drive because you copy them to your external drive instead of moving them. The first thing you need to do is navigate to your Library module within Lightroom and look for the Folders pane. This module tells you where to locate your image files on your computer.

I’ve got images in Lightroom going back to 2013, and each year’s pictures are stored in a separate folder on my hard drive.

Right-click, or control-click on a Mac, on the name of one of the folders in your Folders pane and choose the option that says “Show in Finder.” If you are using Windows, this says “Show in Explorer.” This takes you to the location on your computer where your images are stored.

If you have multiple folders with images in them, do this operation one at a time for each folder. In this example, I started with the 2013 folder in Lightroom, and selected “Show in Finder.” Then it brought up the actual folder on my computer labeled 2013 that contains my images from that year.

When you get to this step, right-click (or control-click) the folder and choose Copy. Then navigate to your external drive and choose Paste. This makes an exact duplicate of the folder on your external drive which might seem redundant, but this is only temporary. A bit later in the process, you can delete the original folder on your internal hard drive once you are sure that everything worked with the copy operation.

Repeat this copy/paste process for every folder listed in your Lightroom Folders pane. After you are finished copying everything to your external drive, rename the original folders by giving them a suffix such as “2013-Original” or “2013-Old.” Again, this is only temporary, and you end up just deleting these folders entirely. But for now, you don’t want to get ahead of yourself and start deleting folders before you are confident that everything has worked properly.

Locating your missing folders

After you rename the original folders, Lightroom may have a bit of a fit because it suddenly won’t be able to locate all your images! With the folder names changed, it won’t know where to look for your pictures even though they are all still intact. The next step is to tell Lightroom where to find your images on the external hard drive instead of looking on your original internal hard drive. As soon as you rename the original folder, the icon in Lightroom changes to a question mark since it no longer knows where to locate your pictures.

Right-click on the folder with a question mark and choose “Find Missing Folder” to rectify the situation.

In the screen that pops up next, navigate to the folder on your external hard drive where your pictures are. This is the folder you copied over at the start of this whole process, and its name should be unchanged. Select it, to make it show up in Lightroom. All your photos should be fully intact.

Repeat this process with all your folders. When finished, your images will have successfully migrated to the external drive. You can verify this by scrolling through your Lightroom library and looking for any images with a question mark. If you don’t see any, then everything is fine. If you do, then Lightroom is having trouble locating the original image, and you might need to double check that all your pictures have copied to the external drive successfully.

When you are satisfied that you have completed the operation without error, you are free to delete the original images on your internal drive. However, I’d recommend keeping a backup of them just in case. When it comes to photos, you can never have too many backups!

Catalog vs. Photos

It’s important to know that your Lightroom pictures are not the same as your Lightroom Catalog. The latter is a reference file which keeps track of all your edits to your pictures, leaving the originals fully intact and unchanged. I recommend keeping your Catalog on your internal hard drive since Lightroom uses this for all your editing operations and internal drives are likely to be faster than external drives. However, it’s up to you. If you’re not sure what to do, just don’t even think about it, since moving your Catalog to an external drive is an entirely separate operation altogether.

The Catalog stores all the changes to your images and only takes up a few gigabytes of space. Your actual images can take up hundreds or even thousands of gigabytes.

Remember to Backup

A final step in moving your pictures to an external drive is to make sure you have a good backup plan in place. If you are on a Mac and have your computer backed up via Time Machine, it will not automatically back up your external hard drives, and you might also find yourself quickly running out of space on your Time Machine backup drive. I recommend keeping a separate backup of your external hard drive and using a program like Carbon Copy Cloner to make sure you sync everything correctly.

Windows has options available as well, but the bottom line here is that you can never be too safe when it comes to backing up your images. Hopefully, this tutorial helps you understand how to go about reclaiming some of the space on your internal drive and setting yourself up for success in the long run when it comes to external storage options. However, all will be for naught if your images aren’t properly backed up and your computer fails.

Once you have all these pieces in place, it’s time to get off your computer, start shooting photos, and know that you’ve got plenty of storage space for years to come!

The post How to Move Your Lightroom Library to an External Drive appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

How to Quote Commercial Photography Jobs: A Few Important Line Items to Consider

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 13:00

The post How to Quote Commercial Photography Jobs: A Few Important Line Items to Consider appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

There are a variety of ways to quote on a commercial photography job. Every photographer has their own approach.

If you’re new to working with clients, or even if you’ve been at it for a little while, putting together a formal estimate can be a daunting process. The bigger the scope, the more variables there are to consider.

Here are some line items to consider.

Creative fee

When you’re putting together an estimate for a commercial photography job, I recommend charging a Creative Fee for your labor. This creative fee is the time you spend shooting, but it can also include some post-processing.

Some photographers charge a day rate or a half-day rate. I don’t advise charging by the hours, but I determine how many hours you think you may need to execute a job and multiply it by the hourly rate you would like to receive for it. You may want to top that up by up to 25%, as you’ll find most jobs take longer than you think they will.

As a new photographer, I tried a variety of ways of estimating jobs. When I charged a half-day rate, I often found that there was no such thing. By the time I set up, did all the project management to pull the shoot together and hire the help I needed, it was a full day of work and then some.

Think about how much work you have to do behind the scenes and factor that into your creative fee as well.

One thing I don’t recommend is lumping all your expenses together and presenting it to the client. Giving them one big total can lead to sticker shock and confuse your potential client. They won’t know what they’re paying for exactly.

Breaking it down for them is a good business practice and helps the less experienced clients – say, those with a small business – understand all the work that goes into producing a commercial photo shoot.


Some photographers like to have their own equipment they bring to photo shoots. This not only means a couple of cameras and Speedlites, but it can also mean monoheads, stands, and a variety of other gear.

You may have everything you need to bring to smaller shoots, but on bigger productions, you may need to rent extra gear, like several lights and lighting modifiers. You should not absorb this cost. It goes into the estimate.

Therefore, you need to get all the pertinent information up front about what the shot entails, so you know what to take. Make sure you get a shot list and ask all the necessary questions up front.

If you do have your own gear, you can include it in your creative fee and mention it as a footnote on the estimate that it’s included. Alternatively, you may decide to separate it.

You should charge at least a nominal fee for the use of your equipment. This way you can put money aside for any replacements and upgrades you need to do over time.

If a client were to go to a rental house and rent the equipment needed to pull off a commercial production, they would pay hundreds of dollars. And that is just for the tools. What about the skill of the person to handle those tools?

Don’t be afraid to charge appropriately for your services.

Studio rental

Photo shoots can take place in a variety of locations, but if you need to shoot in a studio, make sure that you put a cost for the studio rental in your estimate.

Be familiar with at least three studios in your area that can be rented out and what they charge per hour or day. If at the time that you write your estimate you’re not sure which one you’d be shooting in, put the most expensive one as the cost.

Once you get the go-ahead you can see what is available on the date you’ll be shooting and book the available studio.

Editing & post-production

When working on a commercial level, you may not be the person responsible for editing the photos. If you’re working with an ad agency or sometimes even a magazine, they may have someone in-house to do editing according to specific parameters.

Alternatively, you may be expected to do the basic editing, but someone else may be responsible for further refinement. Be clear on the outset about the expectations around post-production.

The Photoshop required may be complex and require the expertise of a professional retoucher. In this case, you must get a quote from a retoucher and put that as a line item in your estimate.

Archiving fee

Some photographers charge an archiving fee as part of their post-production process.

There is the time associated with uploading and storing images and the process required to back them up. Since you should be charging for all the time you spend on a project, it makes sense to include it in the scope. You can have it as a line item or include it in your creative fee.

Digital Imaging Technician

Depending on the genre of photography you shoot and the nature of the production, you might want to hire a Digital Imaging Technician. Also known as a DIT, they are responsible for backing up everything as you shoot, and for doing quick color treatments or composites on set.

For example, as a food and still life photographer, I always shoot tethered to my computer so I can see a large, more accurate rendition of my image than I can get on the back of my LCD screen. I also sometimes have to work with overlays if I’m doing product packaging, so I can see how the image fits with any text or artwork. A DIT can help with this process.

Photo assistant

I have used a photo assistant since the day I started shooting professionally.

A good photo assistant is indispensable and worth every penny. A photo assistant can help you carry all your gear, work your lighting and run out on errands. Having one on hand saves you time, which in the end is saving you money.

There are professional photo assistants whose sole work is assisting other photographers. However, there are plenty of photography school grads that start their careers assisting and have a lot to offer in terms of technical knowledge and eagerness to gain experience.

Many of them are not even that expensive, so if you can’t get the extra expense approved, I suggest taking a cut for yourself to have one help you out.

Stylists and makeup artists

Depending on the niche you’re shooting in, you may need a stylist. This may be a wardrobe or fashion stylist, or a food stylist.

Food stylists are responsible for shopping for the food and ingredients required for any food shoot and preparing it for the set. Food styling requires particular skills and are an essential part of any team producing food photography. It is not the photographer’s job, as it’s a different occupation and should be treated as such.

Food stylists usually charge by the hour or a day rate, as well as for prep, and often have their own assistants.

Similarly, wardrobe stylists are responsible for the clothing and related props on fashion shoots.

Makeup artists are required for fashion shoots as well, and sometimes on commercial portrait shoots.

Image usage

Image usage is the trickiest part of a photography estimate.

There is no right or wrong answer for how much you should be charging for usage.

When you are hired to shoot for a brand, you still own the copyright to those images. The client does not own them. The creative fee is for the labor to execute the commission, the usage fee is a license that allows them to use the image in a defined way for a specific time period.

How much you should charge is dependent on your market, the visibility of the brand, and how they want to use them.

The Getty Pricing Calculator is a free tool that can give you some idea of what to charge for usage.

However, I have found that there is what photographers should charge, and then there is reality. There is no point in charging a client hundreds of dollars per image if the client is small and cannot pay that.

I always recommend separating image usage from the creative fee. However, often you need to educate the client up front about copyright and what usage refers to. This can be tough if you’re dealing with a small business owner who thinks they own the images because they hired you to shoot them.

Give them an agreement that outlines the usage and make sure they are clear on how and where they can use the images.

In Conclusion

If you’ve been struggling with how to price your photographic services, hopefully, you now have a better idea of the types of things you can charge for.

The post How to Quote Commercial Photography Jobs: A Few Important Line Items to Consider appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

How to Photograph Destination Weddings Successfully

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 08:00

The post How to Photograph Destination Weddings Successfully appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

So you’ve booked your first destination wedding, now what? Don’t worry, photographing a destination wedding is not much different from photographing a local wedding. Check out how to photograph destination weddings and make sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible.

1. Logistics and planning

It’s incredibly exciting getting the chance to travel to photograph a couple’s wedding. With that, however, comes the logistics and effective planning, so you aren’t scrambling or getting delayed by a flight.

First things first, make all the flight purchases and itineraries yourself. You should arrive at the destination at least one full day before the event.

For example, if the wedding is on a Friday, you need to arrive early Thursday morning at the latest. The best would be to arrive on Wednesday anytime. This way, if a flight gets delayed or canceled, you have time to figure out your next move. Never plan to arrive on the same day as the event.

If you are not extending your stay, make sure to leave the destination the next day or next night. The reason for this is because, after a full day of photographing a wedding, you won’t want to worry about packing, airport shuttles, and all that goes into traveling back home.

Get your rest, eat a good breakfast and then be on your way. Make sure to say goodbye to your clients before leaving if they are still on the property.

It is entirely up to you if you wish to extend the stay and turn the opportunity into a vacation. However, make sure that you separate the costs of work and vacation so that your clients aren’t paying for your vacation and you can relax knowing that you can enjoy your vacation.

Having said that, it is acceptable to extend the stay and travel a bit on your own. Destination weddings are perfect for this type of traveling, however, always be careful of your equipment when traveling.

2. Research the location of the wedding

Since you’ll most likely be traveling to a new place, you won’t be familiar with the location. Research online as much as possible so that you can find possible shoot locations and get an idea of what you’ll be working with.

Googling the location and adding “weddings” can also bring up other photographer websites who have photographed there. It can give you ideas of where to photograph or how the light looks.

Reach out to the planner or coordinator of the wedding and touch base with them before you arrive. It’s also nice to introduce yourself to them via email before arriving. Ask them in-depth questions about things such as the weather, the location, travel, and access.

All of these logistical and location questions are important so that you know whether to rent a car or if it’s easily accessible to the nearest town.

Getting all of this information can help you make an itinerary with the couple and they will be impressed that you went the extra mile to find out all of the details not only the wedding, but of the actual location.

3. Make the most of your time before the event

It can seem pretty enticing to take a dip in the pool after traveling to the destination of the wedding, however, it’s best to make the most of your time before the event.

Take the time to walk the grounds and get the lay of the land. This can help you get an idea of possible locations that aren’t too far from any of the important events of the wedding day. Ask the coordinator or planner to give you a quick tour of where the ceremony and the reception are taking place.

This is also a great time to check out the town if the couple has opted for photos there. Go and take a look and take the time to make a list of possible locations for portraits, family portraits, creative bridal party locations, etc.

In order to capture this shot, we had to wake up for sunrise at 6:30. Doing research on the location will help you determine the best time for photos.

Also, take a short break to say hi to the couple. Reassure them that you have arrived and have been checking out the location for the best possible photo spots.

Upon arriving, also check your gear. Check that everything is in working order after traveling and that your batteries are charged. If you find you need something, it’s best to find it during this time rather than finding out you needed extra double aa batteries during the ceremony.

Preparing yourself, the photo locations, and your gear allows you to fully relax knowing that you have everything ready to go for the event. Then you can take that dip in the pool without any worries.

4. Gear

Flying with gear can be stressful. Never check-in your gear. Whenever possible, put it in a carry-on case so that it is with you at all times – at least the most important gear. Light stands and tripods are not as crucial as a flash and your favorite portrait lens.

Keeping your lens within arm’s length always ensures nothing gets thrown or broken in the course of the trip. Also, you’ll be able to take photos as you travel on the plane, in the airport, and anywhere.

Before traveling, make sure to speak to an insurance agent about getting your gear insured while you travel. Some insurance agencies only cover your gear in the country you live in. Be sure to call around and have your gear covered as you travel.

Also, ask if your gear is covered in transit. That means that while you’re on your way to where your event is taking place. Transit means in the car on the way to the airport, to the resort, or on the plane.

Having your gear insured while you are traveling makes you feel more at ease in the event something were to happen. Something like a broken lens, a faulty flash, having your camera fall in the water or having your gear stolen.

No one would want this to happen, however, being insured against these things helps keep repair and replacing costs lower than if you didn’t have your gear insured.

Now that you’re insured make sure you bring a backup camera and lens that helps you to cover the wedding in case your main camera stops working for any reason. This is pretty basic for any wedding event – local or destination. However, overseas or far from your local camera shop, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to rent anything if something does go wrong.

5. Tell a story

Most destination weddings take place in places that tell part of the couples’ story or is meaningful to them in some way. Take a photo of the dress where the resort is shown off. For example, a couple from Washington has their wedding in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. An excellent photo to showcase the beach would be to take a photo of the wedding dress outside where you see the reflection of the ocean in the sliding door windows.

You can also strategically place the details of the wedding day, such as the shoes, bouquet, or the family formals so that some part of the location tells the story. Including these details in the photos makes for a beautiful wedding album and tells the story of the entire day. It has more meaning than a photo of the bride’s shoes in a location that could have been local.

Destination weddings tend to have a smaller guest list, and therefore, most of the guests are very close to the couple. This means that toasts and first dances may be emotionally driven.

Photograph from a more journalistic point of view during these emotional moments, that way, you can capture the mother with tears of joy during the ceremony, or a meaningful hug from a best friend after the first kiss. All of these moments are important during destination weddings.

The bride’s father is the officiant and her sister is behind them.

Take lots of portraits of the bride and groom with their guests, either candid or posed. As the guest list is small, every person is essential, and you should photograph each of them. If the wedding is tiny, say less than 20 people, take a group photo of everyone who attended.

Capture all moments. This man was telling the bride that she was the most beautiful bride he had ever seen during the bride and groom portraits. A funny and sweet moment to remember!

It’s sure to be a favorite among all the guests, and the bride and groom will appreciate you took the time to get a group photo of everyone who made their day special.

6. Get vendor information

Destination weddings are perfect for publications and lots of blogs. You’ll want to get the full list of vendors so that you can also share the images with them and across social media sites.

Tagging a vendor in your photos always creates more buzz and can help you to book more destination weddings in the future. This is especially helpful if you would like to keep photographing weddings at that particular destination.

Send the coordinator/planner a thank you email along with the link to selected photos of the event so that they too can share the images and tag you. Include any hashtags that you’d like for them to use on social media.

Doing this can create a positive rapport with the vendors and give you another opportunity to photograph more weddings at the same location. It also helps your future clients if they need referrals to vendors that you have personally worked with before.

In conclusion

There is not much difference between a local wedding and a destination wedding. With these tips, you’ll be more than prepared to photograph your destination wedding. With the right planning, you’ll do the very best for your clients, and you might even get to enjoy a vacation while you’re at it.

Have you photographed destination weddings? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.

The post How to Photograph Destination Weddings Successfully appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

How to Push Past Fear in Photography: A Retrospect

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 13:00

The post How to Push Past Fear in Photography: A Retrospect appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Five years. It doesn’t seem like so long ago that I first sat down to write an article which I hoped would help other photographers overcome some of the fears that we all face at one time or another. So much can change in five years. As I sit here and read back through that piece, “How to Overcome Fear in Photography,” I feel uniquely placed to add some insightful commentary on the things I’ve learned over the years about combating the oddly universal apprehensions that we all have to overcome from time to time as photographers. At the very least, I hope it lends a measure of solidarity to you no matter what stage you happen to find yourself at on your journey on the path of photography.

Fear #1: My work isn’t good enough

Ah, yes. I can personally guarantee that no matter how experienced or accomplished you may become in making photographs there is always concealed within yourself a secret doubt about whether or not your photos are good enough. The idea that we somehow fall short in our efforts is something that is forever in the back of your mind to one degree or another. Good photographers consistently are their own worst critics.

How to beat it:

Like all facts of life, the remedy to this lies not in solving the problem but rather in controlling our reaction. The recognition that we all strive towards an unattainable perfection with our work should not be a source of anxiety but instead should fill us with a sense that there are always new ways to improve. An assurance that we can do better gives us something to aspire to and through our aspirations lies creative growth.

Fear #2: I’ll never “make it” as a photographer

When you think about it, the idea of relying on photography to pay all of your bills is a scary thing. Let’s face it, going “all-in” on any endeavor drags us through all sorts of anxiety and fear. This is especially true if you happen to be leaving an established career which lies outside of photography as I did. Confounding the problem further is if you do decide to make a go of it as a photographer, you may be met with quiet disbelief and polite warnings of caution from your coworkers, your friends, and even your family.

I never saw myself as being anything resembling a teacher…yet here we are.

How to beat it:

Alright, let’s get one thing out of the way first: no one can tell you if you’re ready to be a full-time photographer except for you. However, the point I want to get across to you is that you CAN make it happen if you are willing to put in the work, accept failures with renewed vigor and never give up if it’s something you truly want to accomplish.

I’ll also let you in on another secret: photographers today seldom “make it” solely on income from their photographs alone, although some do. Many lead photography workshops and teach courses, sell books, produce editing presets and otherwise diversify themselves in many creative ways to keep the ball rolling. Sure, carving out a career in photography today is more competitive than ever.

The key to overcoming the fear of not being able to survive is by realizing that being a skilled photographer is not enough. You need to be flexible, persistent and resourceful in creating different sources of income based on your love of photography.

Fear #3: “I don’t know how to do…”

Closely related to that nagging fear of your work not being on par with other photographers lies the dreaded idea that you don’t possess a particular photographic skill which you’re convinced you need to master to take your work to the next level. Whether it’s working with strobes or filters, posing people for portraits, working with particular post-processing software, or simply learning what all those buttons do on your new camera; we all feel a little outmatched at times by our own ignorance.

How to beat it:

Luckily, of all the fears we’ve talked about, this one is the easiest to push past. It’s also the one which requires the highest level of tough love in order to overcome. Here goes…*clears throat*. The only thing standing in the way of you learning a new photographic technique or skill is you. Now, I know that’s a hard pill to swallow but stay with me. We live in a world today which offers arguably infinite knowledge right at our fingertips. The internet, eBooks, YouTube videos, online discussion groups, and photography courses have enabled us to learn virtually anything in the privacy of our homes.

Furthermore, the majority of this enormous wealth of knowledge is available for free!  There is virtually no excuse for us to be worried about not knowing how to do something. Knowledge truly is power.

Fear #4: The great unknown

If there’s one all-encompassing fear that eats at both new and established photographers, it is the fear of uncertainty. I remember back when Instagram changed its algorithm a couple of years ago. Many people, photographers and otherwise, suddenly realized that one of their primary sources of client exposure (and income) could be taken from them overnight. The fear crept in.

The same was true when YouTube reorganized it’s video monetization guidelines for creators causing widespread panic for those who depended on the outlet for a large slice of their work. I make and sell a large number of develop presets for Lightroom. When Adobe changed their file formats for develop presets a couple of years ago, there was a brief moment when I thought that all of the presets I had made thus far would no longer work with the new versions of Lightroom. Do you think that scared me? Absolutely it did. The harsh and inevitable reality of situations occurring which are wholly beyond our control can terrify us.

How to beat it:

There are two ways we can deal with the fear of the unknown. The first is that we can curl up into a ball and hope that nothing negative happens. I don’t recommend that option. Alternatively, we can accept that there are always things that can happen to us that we don’t see coming which spark fear and apprehension in our hearts. For example, your camera battery may die just as the sun breaks over that mountain top. Alternatively, your lens may malfunction just as the bride and groom kiss, or three clients might cancel their engagement sessions in one month.

Moreover, Instagram could change the algorithm for the 100th time, and your connecting flight for that incredibly expensive photo workshop in Patagonia may get delayed. Any number of a trillion problems may arise at any given time. We can’t control everything, especially when it comes to photography. Whatever happens, the only weapons we have to combat the fear of the unknown is preparation and acceptance. Prepare yourself for as many scenarios as you can and then just let go. “Be the ball” as Ty Webb might say. If you continuously operate under the notion that the future holds nothing but bad things not only will your photography suffer but so will you.

Pushing Past the Fear

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. As photographers, we base much of our learning on experience and experimentation. Trial and error is often our best teacher. We grow and evolve in our work as much through failure as we do by our success. The idea that there can be a day when you walk out with your camera without a doubt in your mind and feeling completely free of any degrees of photographic angst may likely never happen. You gain confidence through constant practice. You make gains, take losses and learn new skills by making mistakes. At times the future may hold much uncertainty, but being able to push past your fears is the key to reaching your potential in photography.

The hope I had five years ago when I wrote the first article on overcoming fear in photography is the same hope I carry now. I hope you now know that whatever fear you might be facing with your photography is likely shared by others. Moreover, it is entirely beatable. Push past your fears and allow yourself to be the photographer you know you can be.


The post How to Push Past Fear in Photography: A Retrospect appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

5 Great Android Apps for Taking Creative Selfies

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 08:00

The post 5 Great Android Apps for Taking Creative Selfies appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Erin Fitzgibbon.

Selfies with a Creative Twist

Last year I wrote an article about pushing beyond the selfie. I wrote about trying to make self-portraits that spoke more deeply about who you are as a person; that we should all try to make a portrait that portrays more than just a smiling face. I still believe strongly in that premise. I’m not the type to shoot endless selfies and post them on Instagram. I want to show off the amazing energy and rich personalities of the people I photograph.

Using another app called Photo Lab I created this image in just a few quick minutes. The free version requires the Photo Lab logo.

Peer pressure

But the problem is I have friends who love taking selfies. Everywhere we go they want to make sure we capture the moment. You know the quick shots that commemorate a place and time and how much fun you’re having there. The creative in me wants to do more than just put a hand on my hip and smile. I want to do more. So as a tribute to my friends and salute to those of who you crave creative options I’ve compiled a list of Selfie and Photo Apps that can help you to take great images but also allow you some creative opportunities.

App #1

Sweet Camera – I love this app. If I’m taking a selfie (mostly for my gaming avatar) I use this app. It’s quick and easy to use, and I’ll admit it’s fun. There are a ton of free filters to download and if you want you can add endless combos of ears, sparkly fake earrings, etc. The app works nicely on Android and links quickly through the share option to all my social media accounts. My friends love this one for all the fun little options they can use. One of their favorites is the ability to change their hair color.

I created this image in just a few minutes using a large window for lighting and the Sweet Camera app.


Pip Camera – Photo Editor Pro – this one is really about the different filters you can use. Pip camera allows you to take your photos and insert them into fun frames. Take a full length shot then insert yourself into a glass bottle. The effect is a lot of fun. There are also options to use polaroid frames. You can even take your photo and edit it, so it looks like the front page of a magazine. This app is about easily using options to make creative images. It’s more than just a selfie app that hides skin blemishes.

I used the bottle effect to take this photo of my friend. It’s the typical joyful jumping shot with a little adjustment.


Retrica – Yes, Instagram has many filters you can use for your selfies, but Retrica is probably one of the most comprehensive apps. Its got hundreds of different filters you can play around with and use for free. The editing power for managing blemishes and smoothing skin isn’t as powerful as other apps, but there’s a lot you can do with Retrica.

The filters on Retrica are a lot of fun to use in experiments.


Photo Overlays – this has lots of backgrounds that you can use to create interesting overlays. For those of you who use Photoshop, it’s really about blending layers. For those of you who know nothing about Photoshop, it’s plain fun to insert you and your friend’s face into the moon. Give it a try. Just be prepared to deal with advertisements. There are lots of opportunities for creativity with this app.

Photo Overlays lets you play around with layers in a really simplified manner.


VSCO– VSCO is more of a photo editor than a selfie app with lots of options for creativity. VSCO also works as a social media sharing platform in and of itself. It comes with lots of preset options as well as some pretty comprehensive editing tools. This app is more of an editing program for your mobile device than a quick and simple selfie app. However, it’s fun to use if you’re the type that wants to do more than add some fun stickers. VSCO lets you get creative with your mobile photos.


Processed with VSCO with b1 preset

Be creative!

So basically, the sky is the limit for all of those out there who want to tweak their selfies. You don’t have to stick to the simple little stickers and filters you find in your Instagram toolbox. There are a lot more options out there. Give some of these a try and show us what you create. The world of mobile photography is always expanding. The really cool part about it is that it is accessible to all. Some may turn down their noses at the idea of using these apps and filters but for the average user its a lot of fun to experiment. For me, these apps can never replace Photoshop and Lightroom – I love the creative flexibility of those programs too much to give up on them. I’m still a huge advocate for creating more than the quick and simple selfie, however, if you’re less inclined to take time to shoot something a little more original perhaps these options can fulfill your creative needs.

So now it’s time to see your creative endeavors. I’ll leave you with a few more fun experiments, but I know the rest of you are a lot better at this than me. I’m not the selfie type. So it’s your turn show me what you can do in the comments below.


The post 5 Great Android Apps for Taking Creative Selfies appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Erin Fitzgibbon.

Get Low and Aim High – How to Use Low-Angle Photography to Great Effect

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 13:00

The post Get Low and Aim High – How to Use Low-Angle Photography to Great Effect appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

One way you can make photos stand out is to compose them from an unusually low viewpoint. But why is low-angle photography so effective?

Good photography is hard to define, not least because there is always an element of subjectivity in judging it. Even when you have firm ideas about what great photos look like, there is no guarantee you’ll create them frequently. In fact, the more honed your tastes become, the less easily your own photos are likely to satisfy you.

Shooting this Prague gate from below gave it more visual impact and a cleaner composition.

Is there any secret to taking eye-catching pictures? If so, I wish I could harness it. There’s one idea I try to bear in mind: show people things in your pictures they don’t see in their day-to-day lives. That means looking closely and seeing details, noticing the unusual, emphasizing the point of interest, keeping things simple, and knowing what to exclude. What is it you have seen and want to convey?

Statues shot from below often work well when the subject looks down at the camera.

Used creatively, low-angle photography meets the criteria of being unusual and will often make viewers look twice. However, it needs a bit more thought than just pointing the camera upwards.

Getting low, aiming high

Of course, low-angle photography isn’t a radical idea in the context of photographing architecture or statues, because they will often rise above you anyway. Unless you photograph these subjects from distance, you’ll always be pointing the lens upwards. But even with these subjects, you need to get the angle of the shot right and consider what qualities you’re aiming to accentuate.

In this slightly eerie photo, the street name at the right adds extra interest and gives the picture scale.

If you’re photographing less lofty subjects such as people, animals or plants, you’ll have to get very low to make the perspective unusual. This, of course, could draw attention to you as a photographer, so you might have to shake off any inhibitions. Concentrate on the shot and you’ll soon forget about what other people think.

Architecture & statues

In the case of architecture, more ornate buildings (e.g. Gothic) aren’t always best shot from directly beneath, because all their detail becomes obscured or lost. You could photograph them that way and pick out a detail such as a gargoyle using shallow depth of field. The same can be done with statues on occasion, whereby you focus on an interesting part of the statue from below and isolate it.

Three buildings add to the enclosed feeling of this photo, while the carefully positioned clock lends it some scale.

Modern buildings like office skyscrapers often have the benefit of windows and lines, which narrow and converge if you photograph them from immediately below. This is an effective way of directing the eye towards the top of the building. Use of diagonals is an old trick for leading the eye into the picture, but you might need something else to make the shot a great one: perhaps a dramatic sky or cloud above the building.

Using a shallow depth of field, I isolated the eyeglass in the hand of famous suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, London.

Camera angle

There is no obligation when standing under a building or any other subject to keep it central or horizontal in the frame. By rotating the camera, often you’ll find an angle that increases the slightly giddy impression of towering height. This effect should not be underestimated. It’s a useful trick in low-angle shooting to make the viewer feel slightly disorientated.

Left: Silhouette of Rouen Cathedral. Right: One Canada Square – the tallest building in the UK when I shot it. The presence of a second building adds to the giddying effect.

When pointing a camera upwards inside a church or cathedral, I avoid including small sections of detail at the edge of the frame. Instead, I rotate the camera until everything in the picture looks intentional and not something I didn’t notice.

This is an obvious shot to take of the Crossing Tower in Rouen Cathedral. The main trick lies in composition and finding an effective angle.


Photographing people from a low angle produces some interesting effects. If you look at old “film noir” movie stills, you’ll see a lot of shots where the camera is pointing upwards. This gives portraits a moody feel and empowers the subject because he/she towers above the photographer and, ultimately, the viewer. The downside of shooting from below is that it can be unflattering, often making subjects look broader in the body and fatter in the face.

A somewhat moody low-angle portrait. You’ll see a lot of low angles as well as low-key lighting in old film noir movies.

You can shoot from low angles in street photography, too, whether from the hip or the ground. Be careful when shooting from the ground that you’re not invading anyone’s privacy by pointing the camera upwards—stay aware of your surroundings and watch who is entering the frame and how they are dressed.

This shot at the Venice Carnival was taken from ground level. Without any prompting, the lady in the middle obligingly leaned over towards the camera.

The mere act of taking street photos from a low level may not, in itself, create a successful photo (if only it were that easy). You still need to have seen something interesting or out of the ordinary and the composition must be right. You might notice a detail at ground level and juxtapose it with the people above it.

Animals & pets

Many people photograph their pets from above, but if you get down to their level you can almost humanize them. That is to say, you’ll often capture their character better than from above. Like human subjects, photographing a pet from floor level gives it more power. An example of this might be if you photograph a cat preparing to pounce—you’ll put yourself in the position of the cat’s prey.

Cats often take on that regal, aloof look when photographed from below.


Sometimes you’ll get good results when shooting flowers from a low angle. One benefit in good weather is that you might get a plain blue sky as a background. Blue goes well with red and yellow – the three together form a triadic color scheme. It also blends well with orange (e.g. California Poppies), since blue and orange are complementary colors.

This low-angle shot from many years ago was completely unsighted. I was aiming to contrast life (flowers and bumblebee) with the WW1 gravestone and tragedy of war. I don’t know that I succeeded, but the idea still resonates.

Of course, it may not be color that inspires you to photograph flowers from below. You might want to emphasize a long stem or capture the translucent qualities of a flower’s petals against a bright sky. You might go for the dramatic effect of many flowers looming over the lens—a bit like a miniaturized forest.

These flower shots from below aim to show the sunlit semi-opaque petals as well as color and shape. The fact that they are tall flowers makes this treatment easy even with a bulky SLR.


Trees are a prime candidate for low-angle shooting, either individually or collectively. Like buildings, you need to stand immediately below them to make the shot even slightly unconventional and maximize the effect. Such photos aren’t always striking unless there is an interesting branch formation or pattern above, so you should take care in picking a subject. Colorful foliage is an obvious thing to look out for, too, especially during fall.

I shot this mainly for its bark pattern and texture, using the blue sky as a pleasing backdrop. Interesting branch formations or foliage colors might also prompt you to take such pictures.


You don’t need any special equipment to shoot from low angles, but obviously a flip-out LCD screen is a useful thing to have. If you don’t have that, at least digital photography costs nothing to experiment with, so you can shoot blind until you get what you want. This was how I first took low-angle photos—with repeated unsighted exposures. A wide-angle lens might help you accentuate height sometimes with its sweeping view of the world, but this is not a necessity.

I hope this article inspires you to shoot some great low-angle photos, whatever the subject. Good luck, and please share with us in the comments below!

The post Get Low and Aim High – How to Use Low-Angle Photography to Great Effect appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

Enhance Your Images with Creative Photo Editing

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 08:00

The post Enhance Your Images with Creative Photo Editing appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Stacey Hill.

Much effort goes into creating an image; you have to buy the camera gear, learn how to use it, and then get out there and take interesting photos. However, once they are taken and downloaded on our computers, many images never see daylight.  Perhaps we take too many shots and can’t choose the best ones? Maybe our editing skills are not where we would like them, and we are frustrated?  It could be that we find editing boring?

While there is a school of thought that minimal or no editing is a preferred choice, the other end of the scale is all about luminosity masks, HDR and Photoshop layers by the dozen.  In between, there is a middle ground where many of us fall.

Here, we’d like to edit our images better but don’t necessarily understand the capabilities within the software we have. We may be uncertain how much editing is too much (or conversely, not enough).  Perhaps we don’t know what all the tools and sliders do and get confused and frustrated as a result.

One of the most powerful things that had a positive impact on my editing was choosing to play and experiment freely – to go in completely different directions.  Many of the outcomes were unexpected and gave me results that I really liked.

Note for this article I work with Lightroom and Photoshop.

Beyond the basics

Let us assume you’ve completed the following steps with your image editing:

– you’ve uploaded your image to your computer
– its loaded into your software program of choice
– you’ve completed basic edits – exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, etc
– you have applied any cropping, lens corrections, and other adjustments

So what is left?  You have a nice shot, that is well composed. The exposure etc is all right.  However, it may still feel lacking in some way?  Perhaps you feel you could do more to the image if only you knew how?

Let’s look at what else makes up your image and how you can work further with that to achieve a stronger picture.


Most likely your image is in color, and color has a significant impact on people’s brains.  A lot of the way we process and relate to color is instinctive and emotional. Our culture, society and personal experiences also contribute to how we relate to color.  Color psychology is a fascinating area to research.

As an example, in the Western world, white is the color of purity and innocence. However, in Eastern cultures, it is the color of mourning.

All colors have different emotional contexts associated with them, and people react differently as a result.  So the people viewing your images, (especially online around the world), may relate differently to the color in your work. How often do you consciously think about the color in your image from this point of view?


Contrast can be several different things within your image. It can relate most directly to the tonal range, i.e. the contrast between the light and the dark areas.  However, it can also relate the different colors and how they interact together.  How your subject matter relates to the rest of the image can be part of the contrast too.  Does your subject stand out in a particular way?

Can you somehow use these different contrast ideas to process your image in an alternative way?

For example, using a spot of color in a black and white scene can provide a point of interest and color contrast and change the way the viewer sees the image.

Tonal Range

While the tonal range of the scene is part of the image as you shoot it, with some careful editing you can change it.  How can this be impactful?  Visualize very high-key fashion or wedding photography images where its all white and bright, and the tonal range can be quite restrained.  Professional images may be purposefully lit and shot that way, but we can still achieve a similar look via editing on the right image too.  This can completely change the mood of your image as well.


Adding textures to images has become relatively popular, especially in still life and flower photography.  Its also being used with portraits and landscapes. Imagine if you had a beautiful subject with a great pose and an awful background? What if you could remove the background and make it awesome instead?

Alternatively, add some extra depth and interest, elevating your image above the average approach?


Sometimes a hard crop is called for to bring out the best in an image.  Alternatively, an abstract approach could make a big difference.

Some before and after examples Color

For me, color is the most versatile and flexible option to work with.  By changing the color, you can instantly change the whole mood and feel of your image.

BEFORE – This image had basic edits done and a black and white process – this was originally shot to be a black and white image.  Nice depth of field, a bit of tweaking on the vignette to bring focus to the center, but it feels cold and unwelcoming.

AFTER – the addition of a sepia tone makes the skin tones more inviting and adds warmth to the image. Sepia invokes a feeling of nostalgia. Perhaps a reminder of careless childhood days where adventures were had?


There are two types of contrast used in this image.  There is much contrast between the bright background and the heavy dark marble of the headstone.  Also, the pale stone behind the words offers tonal contrast as well.

This image was originally shot to be a black and white image, and as such, it looks quite good.  However, when I read the words on the headstone, I saw that a whole family was buried here over 200 years ago. Still, there was a bunch of flowers carefully poked into the corner of the headstone base. Who left the flowers and why?

BEFORE – unedited RAW


AFTER – I wanted to bring attention to the flowers, so I brought the color back into the final black and white image. The flowers were only a small part of the overall image, yet enough to catch the eye. My intention here was to ensure the flowers were part of the overall story.

Tonal range

Radically altering the tonal range is one of the tools that offer the most excitement in my editing process.  Being brave and going way up or down the histogram has resulted in some very creative and exciting results.

BEFORE – this is shot with my Lensbaby Velvet 56 which gives much softness when it is wide open.  This shows the unedited RAW file.

AFTER – This histogram has been pushed way to the right. Doing this overexposed the image. It removed most of the blacks and shadows, giving it more of a high-key tonality. The mood of this image now comes across as light, airy, floral, delicate and fragile. The original image was heavy and spiky and didn’t feel like a flower at all.


BEFORE  – I spent ages taking shots while this gorgeous steam train puffed up. The dark coal smoke against the white clouds of steam was very atmospheric.  The background is pretty awful and doesn’t do it any justice at all. So time to get creative!

AFTER – this one went through a range of edits. First, I played a bit with color.  I did a straight black and white treatment. Secondly, I added a sepia tone with an old vintage newspaper frame to add more of that vintage feel to the image. This is a side by side image for comparison.

AFTER continued – the background was annoying me, so I very carefully extracted the train and all the smoke from the background and then had some fun playing. This one had a Scribble Action along with a replacement background added.

AFTER continued – still wasn’t happy, so I put a new replacement background on the image. However, it was quite heavily textured and didn’t fit, so I ran a Topaz Impression over the whole lot to apply a painterly effect. I also added a subtle framing texture.  Doing so, finally provided the outcome I wanted.


Sometimes a hard crop is what an image needs to bring the focus in or to tell the story that you want. People often seem afraid of a hard crop.  I let the image tell me its story and work from there. If it is only ever going to be a digital format, i.e. not printed, then a hard crop has little long term effect.

BEFORE – original unedited RAW file.  The flowers are pretty, and the focus is good, but the background ones are distracting.

AFTER a hard crop and a soft edit.  Now the focus is on the delicate veins in the petals, the water droplets and even the pollen grains on the anthers.


There are many things you can do in post-processing that can further enhance your images.  Any good RAW conversion program has reasonable editing capability included.  What you choose to do with it is really up to you.

Maybe one day you take a handful of images, forget the rules and play and see what you get?

I find presets are a great source of creative inspiration – where someone else has made up a recipe of settings. However, it can be a random lottery to what the outcome is.  Still, you can quickly click and get a very different result, cancel it and move on to the next one.  It might surprise you what you end up with.

What about the deliberate considerations you make when editing? Do you shoot with a specific outcome (like black and white) in mind?  Do you edit and then wonder what other possibilities there are and then dabble a bit until you find something you like?  Alternatively, maybe you have a definite outcome in mind and work hard to get there?

It is allowed and encouraged for you to color outside the lines!  Be brave!  Experiment!  No one ever needs to see it, but you might be surprised at what you can achieve, what you might learn and how much fun you can have.

Share your images with us in the comments below.

The post Enhance Your Images with Creative Photo Editing appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Stacey Hill.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Wrinkles

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 13:00

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Wrinkles appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

This week’s photography challenge topic is WRINKLES!

Linnea Sandbakk

Your photos can include anything has wrinkles. It could be wrinkles on an animal, aging lines on a face or hands, wrinkles in clothing or sheets, wrinkles in paper, etc. They can be color, black and white, moody or bright. You get the picture. Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Cristian Newman

Some Inst-piration from some Instagrammers:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Prime Pet Photography (@prime_pet_photography) on Feb 13, 2019 at 3:31pm PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Peter O’Doherty (@irishphotographer1) on Feb 7, 2019 at 8:07am PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Martin Covey (@goodbye.1979) on Feb 13, 2019 at 10:45am PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by B (@easy__britt) on Feb 13, 2019 at 4:58pm PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Freya Stockman (@shotsbyfreya) on Feb 13, 2019 at 2:58pm PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by hegde_photography (@photography_hegde) on Feb 13, 2019 at 4:40pm PST


Check out some of the articles below that give you tips on this week’s challenge.

Tips for Shooting WRINKLES

How To Easily Improve Your Street Photography Portraits

Tips for Creative Plant Photography

Tips for Better Forest Photography

26 Expressive Images of Hands

How to Pose Hands in Portraits

Five Tips for Creative Pet Photography

Tips for Great Lighting for Pet Photography


Weekly Photography Challenge – WRINKLES

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.

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.

If you tag your photos on Flickr, Instagram, Twitter or other sites – tag them as #DPSwrinkles to help others find them. Linking back to this page might also help others know what you’re doing so that they can share in the fun.

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Wrinkles appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

The Basics of Simulating Vintage Film in Lightroom

Thu, 02/14/2019 - 13:00

The post The Basics of Simulating Vintage Film in Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Like all forms of art, photography can be a complex and contradictory medium. It’s straightforward yet complicated; personal but at the same time wholly based in exhibitionism. In recent years perhaps the weirdest and paradoxical event to happen in the world of photography is the idea of simulating film photographs with our digital photography. Think about it for a second or two. We’ve moved (for the majority) from using physical photographic film to digital sensors, and still, we are searching for the feel and aesthetic quality of the very process we left behind.

A digital photo split toned for yellow in the shadows and blue in the highlights. Faded and then finally grain added to approximately simulate ISO 800 film.

We’ll leave the discussion of the currently popular “analog renaissance” for another day. For now, let’s talk about how you can go about simulating the look of a photographic film. More specifically, creating vintage or expired film looks using Adobe Lightroom. Adobe has made a couple of big updates to Lightroom lately that make working towards that “vintage film look” more effective and easier than ever before! Simulating the look of any film consists of four core dimensions: color, contrast, and grain. Before we get into the “how” of simulating film in Lightroom, let’s first briefly talk about some of the confusion surrounding film photography in general.

Film photography is full of variables

There’s a misconception that the look of film is set in stone; meaning that “XXX type of film always looks like this and XXXX type of film always looks like this.” Nothing could be further from the truth! There are all kinds of factors which play a roll (film humor) in how the final negative or print appears to the viewer.

A Nikon F3 35mm film camera. Shot with a digital camera…made to look like a vintage film. Ironic.

The age of the film, how it was stored, type and temperature of chemicals used in development, the duration of development, even how we agitate the chemicals around the film all play a major part in how the finished film appears. Also, when it comes to the final print, there are even more variables that can affect the look of the picture. The reason I’m saying all of this is to make sure you understand that simulating the look of vintage films has just as much to do with your creativity as it does with understanding the basics of how film works. There is no explicit right or wrong! So relax and let’s get to work learning how to simulate the look of vintage film in Lightroom.


Color is the most effective part of the simulation process and there are many routes we can take to manipulate the colors of our vintage film simulations. The “vintage look” comes about literally by the progression of time. As the light-sensitive emulsion of the film degrades, it produces all sorts of funky color tones and nuances. To simulate this effect of color aging, we will use the tried and true Split Toning Panel and also one of the biggest and newest features to come along for Lightroom: Creative Profiles.

Split Toning

Don’t worry, split toning can look a little intimidating but it’s really not! Split toning is just a way for us to add in specific color tones to the shadows and highlights within our photo.

To change the color tone of the highlights move the highlights color slider to the color tone you like or select it from the color palette.

You can also change the saturation of the highlight colors by using the saturation slider. The same goes for the color toning of the shadows as well.

The balance slider is just a way for us to control the bias of the split toning to favor either the highlights or the shadows. Moving the balance slider towards the left makes the shadow toning more prominent while sliding it to the right makes the highlight color stand out. There are limitless combinations of colors and saturation balances so feel free to experiment. Just remember that using complementary colors for the shadows and highlights (blue and orange, yellow and violet) are always a good choice when it comes to split toning. Also, color changes in an expired film are usually quite subtle so keep that in mind as well as your tone.

Creative Profiles

One of the coolest and most versatile new features to come along for Lightroom recently is the introduction of “Creative Profiles.” Profiles have long been a part of Lightroom, but now we have the option to apply our own custom profiles that we’ve either bought or made ourselves. To learn more about the full power of Adobe’s Creative Profiles check out another one of my articles here. For our purposes, Creative Profiles allow us to introduce color grading to our vintage film simulations.

The great things about creative profiles are that they apply themselves without disrupting any of your development settings. What’s more, you can dial in the strength of the profile using the density slider. Being able to use controllable color grading with creative profiles not only opens up a whole new world when it comes to simulating vintage film but in all areas of your post-processing workflow.


Unlike color, simulating the contrast of vintage film in Lightroom is more or less a straightforward idea. Generally, as the emulsion of a photographic film ages its contrast usually decreases. This is due to the breakdown of the light sensitivity of the film.

A 4×5 large format negative

The amount of contrast lost depends on a number of things such as the age of the film, the way it was stored, and the actual type of the film itself. The take away from this is that a good guideline for vintage film simulations is to essentially “fade” the image by decreasing its contrast. You can achieve this in a few ways. The most simple being to use the contrast slider to lessen the contrast. However, there’s a more precise and arguably more appealing way to fade the photo; by using the tone curve.

To decrease the contrast and ultimately simulate the fading of an image all we need to do is take the control point at the bottom left of the tone curve and move it directly upwards. This controls the luminance values of the darks in the photo and makes those areas appear lighter which in turn makes them less contrasted. In most cases, you’ll want to add at least one more control point to the right of the one you’re adjusting and pull the rest of the tone curve back down. Of course, this is completely subjective. Feel free to add other control points and play around with the tone curve to really control the way your fades appear within your photo. Remember, there is no correct amount of fading so experiment as much as you like!


The final facet of our vintage film simulation routine is to add in and control simulated grain to our photos. Not to be confused with digital noise, film grain is a direct result of the visibility of the individual silver crystals present in the films light-sensitive emulsion. The more/larger the crystals which present in the emulsion, the more sensitive the film to light and the higher it’s ISO rating. While the overall appearance of grain depends on a vast array of variables, a general rule is that the higher the ISO of the film the more pronounced the film grain becomes. So if you are attempting to make your simulations appear as a highly light-sensitive film such as ISO 1200 or ISO 3200, the more grain needs to be added to your simulations. If you are shooting for a lower ISO film for your vintage film simulation, say an ISO 80 or ISO 100 speed, you add less grain or even none at all. Here’s an image from a medium speed expired 35mm film, Kodak Tri-X 400. It was developed at a higher temperature and agitated quite a bit to bring out more of the grain.

To control the presence of the grain we add in Lightroom we are presented with three sliders: amount, roughness and size.

When you think about each of these sliders, it’s easy to visualize how they affect your image if you imagine them as physically controlling characteristics of the light-sensitive silver crystals of the film’s emulsion. The Amount slider would add in more or less crystals. Roughness is how raised or bumpy those crystals appear. Lastly, the Size slider controls how large or small those crystals seem. I know…that might still be a little confusing. So I’ve made up a quick guide for adding in your grain and given a couple of common real-world 35mm film stocks as reference points:

  • ISO 50-100(Kodak Ektar 100, Ilford FP4 Plus, Fujichrome Velvia 50)
    Amount: 15
    Size: 10
    Roughness: 10
  • ISO 200-400(Kodak Tri-X 400, Ilford HP5 Plus)
    Amount: 30
    Size: 10
    Roughness: 10
  • ISO 800-1600(Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 800, Fujifilm Superia 1600, Kodak Portra 800)
    Amount: 45
    Size: 40
    Roughness: 15
  • ISO 3200 and above(Kodak T-Max P3200, Ilford Delta 3200)
    Amount: 60
    Size: 40
    Roughness: 45

Lightroom automatically sets the “size” and “roughness” sliders to 25 and 50 respectively. If you add ANY amount of grain to your photo remember that those defaults are set out of the gate. Also, something to keep in mind, the amount of grain added largely depends on the original digital ISO of your photo. The values listed above are merely baseline approximations.

Vintage film simulations: Why?

Even as we steep in the digital waters of today’s modern photography world, I still have a love and lust for shooting film. Film, especially expired and vintage film, carries an aesthetic that goes beyond digitized image files of “1’s” and “0’s”. Speaking just for myself, the majority of my professional work consists of digital photography – not film. To that end, I’m sure that some of you are still thinking, “If you want the look of film, just shoot film.” Yes, I understand that even at its most basic applications, film photography isn’t for everyone. That’s why being able to approximate the looks of so many different types of film in Lightroom is such a wonderfully paradoxical thing. We can still enjoy the accessibility and convenience of digital photography without wholly sacrificing the “feel” of film. What’s more is that thanks to the recent advances of color profiles in Lightroom, we can now blend and mix our settings until we reach that perfect imperfectness which captures the organic unpredictability of vintage film. Which, when you think about it, should grant each of us the realization of how extremely fortunate we are to be living in such a cool time to be photographers.

Test out the ideas in this article and try some vintage film simulations of your own. Be sure to post your results in the comments. We’d love to see them!


You may also find these articles on vintage techniques helpful:

How to Add a Toy Camera Effect to Your Digital Images Using Photoshop

How to Mimic a Digital Cyanotype Using Photoshop with Ease

How to Create a Lithography Effect Using Photoshop

How To Mimic a Cross-Processing Effect in Photoshop

How to Mimic Lomography in Photoshop with Ease

The post The Basics of Simulating Vintage Film in Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Walking the Line – How Using Line in Photography Can Enhance Your Images

Thu, 02/14/2019 - 08:00

The post Walking the Line – How Using Line in Photography Can Enhance Your Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Defined in Wikipedia as the “marks that span a distance between two points,” lines on their own don’t sound particularly enthralling. But when you think about it, the very basis of visual arts centers on the use of line. Take painting for instance; many paintings start as line drawings. These lines intersect to form shapes. The shapes are then filled with tone and color and the process continues, building on the scaffold of line to create an image.

It’s no wonder that line is probably the most versatile of the elements of art. In photography, every photograph hinges upon the reproduction of a scene constructed by lines. Even the physical edges of a photograph are dictated by the lines of the photographic frame it is within.

By deliberately incorporating different types of line into an image, a photographer can take greater control over the way an image gets read. Here, we’ll look at the different types and characteristics of line and why you should prioritize them in your photography.

Why use line?

As one of the intrinsic elements of art, line appeals to our innate understanding of the visual landscape. Delineating shape and form, line constructs a narrative in an image, guiding a viewer’s eye around a photograph. The use of various forms of line set the emotional tone of an image while leading lines create an optical entry and exit point. By mindfully incorporating line into your photography you can take control of the viewer’s gaze, therefore, maximizing presence and impact.

Types of line

Trees, buildings, roads, or rivers – line takes on a new life depending on the environment. Focusing on specific types of line creates connections with a viewer and builds images that have depth and substance.


The horizon is the line that separates the sky from the earth. Derived from the Greek words for “separating circle,” “to divide” and “to separate,” the horizon dictates the way we orient ourselves. It marks the furthest distance the eye can see. If the horizon is obscured, the resulting junction of earth and sky is called the visible horizon. Nevertheless, the horizontal line is innately linked to nature.

Horizontal lines read as an organic presence in a photograph. Our associations with the gradual rise and fall of the sun over the horizon evokes a sense of time and rhythm. Because humans generally sleep horizontally, we associate horizontal lines with relaxation, rest and stability.

That said, the majority of travel functions on a horizontal trajectory, meaning that horizontal lines can also denote a sense of motion. In situations involving panning or slow shutter speed photography, the path of the horizontal line anchors the image to a readable axis, accentuating motion through motion-blur and adding a unique dynamism to an image.


The vertical line has come to be seen as a symbol of quiet endurance. Maintaining the integrity of a photograph through our visual associations with strength, vertical lines add vitality to a photograph.

As mentioned before, humans sleep horizontally and stand vertically, creating a visual association between energy and the act of being upright. The exclamation mark is another example of this. Its’ vertical stroke suspended above a full stop to communicate action and energy at the end of a sentence.

Though associated with steadfast urban structures, the vertical line can still hearken back to nature, delineating growth over the passage of time. The epigeal seed pushing through the earth follows a vertical path in the direction of the sun, cultivating a juxtaposition between the urban and natural environments.


As one of the first Western artists to focus entirely on non-representational forms of painting, Wassily Kandinsky experimented heavily with the geometrical elements that make up an artwork. Published in 1926, Kandinsky wrote extensively on the artistic attributes of line in his book Point and Line to Plane. In the book, he stated that “the third line is the diagonal which, in schematic form diverges from both [vertical and horizontal line]…at the same angle…a circumstance which determines its inner sound…diagonal line is the most concise form of the potentiality for endless…movement”.

A painting by Wassily Kandinsky courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Often diminishing from the foreground into the depths of a photograph as leading lines, diagonals lift an image off the page. When repeated in close conjunction or zig-zagged, diagonal lines create a vibration that plays with our vision like an optical illusion.

Free from the constraints of vertical/horizontal orientation, the diagonal line operates as a visual hive of activity. While solid horizontal and vertical lines imply stasis, the diagonal line teeters between the two, generating a palpable sense of kinetic energy.


From the event of the early human, curves have held a particular fascination in the visual arts. Simple to create, yet visually complex, the decorative use of curves has been discovered on countless examples of ancient art.

Megalithic art featuring curved demarcations courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Adopted as a traditional art concept in Ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, many figures were sculpted on the double-curvature of the S. This S curve was proclaimed as the “line of beauty” by 18th-century painter, satirist, and writer, William Hogarth. Hogarth said that the curve signified liveliness and activity, as opposed to “straight lines, parallel lines, or right-angled intersecting lines, which signify stasis, death, or inanimate objects.”

As a line, curves join point A to point B. The difference lies in the path the curved line takes, traveling in bends and dips before arriving at a destination. A curved river winding through a landscape may connect the foreground with the background, but it does so in its own time, imparting a sense of calm and ease.

Implied lines

Perhaps the most intriguing line of all, implied lines are implied by other visual components in an image. Gesticulations, points of interest, lines of sight, arrows, similarities and movement all create implied lines. These implied lines tow the viewer’s eye from one point to the next within a frame.

Without the strict use of a physical line, implied lines lend momentum and narrative to an image. Think of ancient astrologers joining up the stars with implied lines to create celestial beings. Or, the movement of a car in a particular direction, sweeping the viewer’s eye along with the subject. Neither example makes use of a dedicated line. However, each has the effect of composing a network of lines that make the image more interesting and readable.

Characteristics of line

Along with the different types of line, there are different characteristics of line. Thick, thin, soft, and hard. These characteristics govern the nature of a line, adding depth and interest to an image.


The width of a line refers to its thickness. Dictated by their real-life physicality, thicker lines are stronger and have a bolder presence. A thin line is easier to break and therefore has more delicate connotations. Width also refers to the tapering of a line. A line that disappears into the background of an image creates a visual illusion of depth. A line with an uneven or jerky width denotes a sense of playfulness, texture or unrest.


Length covers the overall length of a line. A short line indicates immediacy or action. Long lines denote a feeling of space and calm. Length also dictates the continuity of a line. A broken line gives the impression of movement, like the imprint of footsteps in the sand. Continuous lines, like those often found in landscapes, are more relaxed.


The feeling of a line dictates its visual tactility. Visual tactility is the way a viewer feels about a subject just by looking at it. Over a lifetime we compile a mental bank of the physical sensations we encounter. When stimulated visually to access this mental bank, we mentally experience sensation without actually touching a subject. For example, a picture of a line tapered to a sharp point can stimulate the impression of a pin-prick. By exploiting the tactile characteristics of line (such as roundness or roughness), a photographer can appeal to a viewer physically as well as visually.


As discussed above, line can sprout from any direction. Depending on the subject (and the orientation of the camera), line can be vertical, horizontal, diagonal or curved. The direction of the line dramatically alters the reading of an image, creating (or deconstructing) a scene. For example, a horizontal line evokes a sense of nature and time, whereas a diagonal line charges an image with energy.


The focus of a line is much like the measure of focus in a photograph. Some lines can be sharp, others blurry or fuzzy. The focus of a line illustrates how smoothly it blends into other segments of a photograph. A sharp line is an abrupt contrast, commanding attention. A blurry or faint line is more subtle, easing from one subject to the next, creating a gentle transition between subject matter.


A vast number of emotional associations are connected with color. Rooted in both cultural and universal experience, studies show that different colors have different influences on the brain. This means that a viewer will have a different visual experience based on the color make-up of a photograph.

The color of a line contributes significantly to the reading of a photograph. For example, a yellow line could signify energy or allude to danger. A blue line could signify calm or water. Connotations like these shape the outcome of an image, creating harmony (or disharmony) and adding impact.


Emotional connotations govern the experience of a viewer. For example, jagged lines foster an impression of energy and unrest whereas a serpentine S curve cultivates a more relaxed atmosphere.

From urban abstracts and landscapes to the human form, line appeals to our senses on a psychological level. Whether it be curvy, horizontal, jagged or diagonal, our innate associations make line a valuable tool to convey emotion.


As painter Jean-Michel Basquiat once said, “every line means something.” For an effective image, different components of composition must come together to form a cohesive body of information. As one of the most versatile elements of design, line speaks to our sense of the world. Through the mindful combination of the types and characteristics of line, you as a photographer can convey a unique experience to a viewer on both a conscious and subconscious level.

The post Walking the Line – How Using Line in Photography Can Enhance Your Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

How to Choose the Right Location for Your Photo Session

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 13:00

The post How to Choose the Right Location for Your Photo Session appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

It’s thought that clients are the ones who choose the location for their portraits, but more often than not, choosing the right location is left entirely up to the photographer. In this article, we’ll outline a simple formula to help you and your client settle on the perfect location for the session.

1. It’s not about location, it’s about the look and feel

When you talk to your client about possible locations, change the language you use. Instead of “have you thought of where you want your session to take place” with “what look and feel would you like your photos to have?”

That simple change in language will help your clients to visualize their final images. I’ve listed a few words that can help your client choose which look and feel they want for their final images. Thus, helping you to choose the best location for the session.

These two locations offer different “feelings”.

  • Ethereal: This can be an open field, nature park, or a bright location with little to no busyness in the background like buildings.
  • Nature/natural: Here you can offer a park with lots of green grass and tall trees. Giving them a more natural feel to the photos. You can also offer a field of wildflowers.
  • High fashion/urban: This is definitely in a busy neighborhood or downtown area with lots of big buildings, reflective windows, and metal accents. Giving lots of contrast to the photos and the look and feel of a busy city.
  • Vintage: This can mean either old architectural buildings with wooden doors and big arches or it can mean that they want a location where there are lots of vintage accents, like a neighborhood of restored or historical homes.
  • Warm/homey: These words are a little broad but they can mean that the session can happen at a nice warm location like a field or during sunset at the beach. Homey can mean that they want to feel comfortable and relaxed, which can mean a location they frequent or even their own home.
  • Beach: This one is pretty easy, you can offer the beach if you are near one as a location. The time of day will give you the look and feel. The morning will give you a more blue and pink hue whereas during sunset you’ll get the beautiful golden hour lighting. Make sure to explain both options to your client so you can choose the right time for the look and feel they are visualizing.
  • Meaningful location to the client: Yes, this is an option as well! Especially for engagement sessions because it can be really meaningful to have the photo session at a location where the couple met, or where they got engaged, or simply where they spend a lot of their time together. This is also important for clients celebrating anniversaries or a really important milestone, like graduating from high school or college.

Two different locations for the same maternity portrait session to offer variety.

2. Ask what their home decor looks like

Another way to set a location for the portrait session is to find out what kind of home decor, theme, or color scheme they already have. This way, when it comes time to hang beautiful photos in their home, you can be sure that it won’t clash with the rest of the home.

Your clients will appreciate that you took the time to find out what would look best in their home before even taking a single photo. This makes you look even more professional because you are going to choose the perfect location so that when they are ready to frame, they are reassured that the photos you took will match their home decor perfectly.

This can also help you to upsell items like albums because you’ll know the right album cover and color to choose for each one of your clients. It will make them see that you care more about how their photos will match their home rather than simply choosing an easy location for all of your photo sessions.

For example, choosing a black leather cover for an album can look great in a contemporary modern home whereas a fabric cover album would look better in a more country style home. Or another example would be if the home has brown, beige, and reds in the decor then a perfect location would be a field of flowers.

3. Time of the session

Time can be a huge factor in choosing the right location. Some families need to keep nap times and energy levels in mind when scheduling a session. For example, if your clients need to keep in mind a little one’s nap time at 2 pm, you can choose to have the session in the morning or in the evening when the child is at his best. Photographing in a park that is rich in trees and greenery can help shade you from afternoon light or keeping the sun off your clients.

Or, you could schedule the family during the golden hours at a nearby beach or lake so that the child can play and still have had his nap time earlier.

Sometimes the time is dictated by the location itself. For example, photographing in an urban setting where tall buildings can shade the sun during sunset means that you might have to photograph your client at an earlier time to have enough light.

Or, if you’re photographing in a field, sometimes the early morning hours are best when it’s cool and not so bright. Golden hour is also perfect for fields and beaches.

Midday sun at the beach may be a little harsh but it is still doable. Speak with your clients to choose the best time that works for their schedule.

Talk with your client to see if time will be the determining factor in choosing the right location.

4. Use your website to help choose the location

Chances are, your clients have already looked through your website and have fallen in love with your style! This is great because this can also help your clients to choose the perfect location for their portraits.

This photo is a common favorite on my website since most family sessions are on the beach and during sunset.

If your clients are having trouble visualizing what they want their photos to look like, have them go over to your website and point out a photo that they like the most.  The one that just jumps out at them and had them convinced they wanted you to photograph them.

If the location is nearby or accessible, offer that same location to your client! They loved the photo and it is what led them to contact and hire you, so why not photograph them there? It’s guaranteed that they’ll love the final photos.

5. When they leave it up to you

Even though you’ve gone through all the steps above, some clients don’t know what they want for their photos. They’ll look to you to offer up the best locations because what they want is to have the best photos possible so any location, look, and feel is okay with them.

When this happens, don’t be afraid to take charge. Choose a location that perhaps you’ve been wanting to photograph in for a while, or a location that you know has great golden hour lighting.

Sometimes, clients just need more of a visual to get an idea of what they are actually looking for. Send your clients links to two or three specific locations that you’ve chosen so that they can see with their own eyes what the images will look like. Blog posts and images from your website would be perfect examples.

This way, even though they don’t know what they’re going for, they can choose the one that seems more interesting to them. Giving them the final decision on where they would like the location for their session to take place.

6. More than one location

Depending on your portrait business model and what you have offered your client, and if you’re willing, you can do one session in multiple locations.

For example, if you are photographing an engagement session and they are going for a natural park look but got engaged in front of the downtown theater, then you could offer your clients to photograph in both locations for their session. Either on the same day or on different days.

Photographing in multiple locations offer your clients a variety in their photos so that they can showcase different photos in different rooms in their house as well!

Of course, sticking to one location where there is variety in looks can also be an option to add variety to the photos without having to go somewhere else.

In conclusion

Each session is different and each client is different, using the tips above will help you to determine the perfect location for all of your sessions. When you guide and help your client visualize the perfect location for their session, you will not only look more professional, you will be giving your clients a very personalized experience that they will appreciate. Resulting in more referrals and return clients!

The post How to Choose the Right Location for Your Photo Session appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

8 Ways to Use Water in Photography to Add Impact

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 08:00

The post 8 Ways to Use Water in Photography to Add Impact appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

Water is a fantastic natural resource that can be used to create great photographs to be proud of. If you are looking to improve your images, including water as an element in your photos can work wonders. Water comes in many forms and can be a visually pleasing addition to a landscape or nature scene. It could represent the main point of interest in your photos or be a key part of your composition. At first, I would recommend identifying a water source you would like to capture, consider how to capture it and then create an image with impact. How you interpret a scene that includes water is purely a personal choice and depends on the water source you choose as your main subject. Here are eight ways to use water in photography to add impact:

1. The Sea

© Jeremy Flint

Many origins make up our planet’s water supplies, each of which provides a unique and wonderful way to use water in your images.

Oceans make up a vast amount of the globe’s water and make a great feature in sunsets and coastal scenes. Seascapes are visually attractive and satisfying to capture. Depending on your approach to photographing seascapes, the sea can provide images with a sense of calm and flow or a snapshot of rapid activity. For example, photographing water using a slow shutter speed can lead to more fluid and interesting images where there is a representation of the water’s motion and movement. Alternatively, shorter shutter speeds can be used to create fast and dynamic images of seas in a static-looking fashion.

You may represent the sea as a prominent feature in your images blended into the surroundings. Alternatively, you may use it as an individual element like crashing waves or flowing around rocks.

2. Lakes and Rivers

© Jeremy Flint

Lakes, rivers, and streams can also add beauty to your images and can be found in cities and the countryside. These water sources provide a unique addition to a natural or urban landscape and are a great way to include water in your landscapes.

They can look great at different times of the year such as frozen rivers in the colder, winter months. Rivers, lakes and streams also provide reflections and symmetry when the conditions are still and calm. If you are heading out with your camera to photograph a lakeside or river bank, keep a look out for reflections that may be worth photographing.

© Jeremy Flint

3. Waterfalls

There is something about a waterfall that provides a universal appeal. Waterfalls are such an incredibly attractive subject to photograph that it is hard not to be in awe of their majestic beauty, especially at first sight.

© Jeremy Flint

Have you ever stood for a moment beside a waterfall and just admired its sight and sound? Observing the waterfalls flow and listening to the sound of the gushing water is a joy to behold. Also, witnessing the view and taking in its scenic splendor is a mesmerizing experience. How you choose to include a waterfall in your image is entirely your choice. You may find they look great individually or can be incorporated as part of their wider environment to show the surrounding nature.

4. Mist & Fog

© Jeremy Flint

The water vapor that makes up mist and fog is a beautiful and atmospheric way to include water in your photographs. They make a great dreamy photo where mist and fog can provide an ethereal and elegant quality to your photography. They are well worth the effort in capturing them.

© Jeremy Flint

Although their appearance is often unpredictable, these elements are well worth the effort in capturing and can be used to generate spectacular images when included in your shots. Be aware that mist and fog can move quickly and consistently with the ability to disappear in an instant.

5. Snow

© Jeremy Flint

Photographing snow is another wonderful way to add water to your images. As taking photos of falling snow could end up with your gear getting wet, I would recommend taking images of snow after it has settled.

In terms of subjects, you could capture anything from a gorgeous snowy vista to portraits of people or animals. A white winter wonderland will be sure to elevate your images.

6. Shooting in the rain

Have you ever considered rain as a great water source to include in your images? Most people tend to head straight indoors at the first sight of rain. Why not break this trend and head out to photograph in the rain. Rain provides an interesting element that can be used to transform familiar scenes into something more refreshing such as cityscapes.

7. Reflections in puddles

With heavy rains, the residue water can lead to great puddles forming that give the opportunity to capture reflections. Puddle reflections are captivating to photograph. Subjects and scenes reflected in water provide a unique way to photograph the world around us as the water acts as a mirror and gives a different perspective on something ordinary.

8. Underwater photography

Take your camera below the water to discover the delights of underwater photography. There is an entirely different world of coral and marine life beneath the surface of our oceans. Of course, you will either need a waterproof camera or waterproof housing to protect your camera from the elements.


Whether you choose to photograph the sea, lakes and rivers, waterfalls, mist and fog, snow, rain or reflections; using water in your pictures is a great way to make your images stand out. Find the water source you want to photograph, identify a composition you like, take a shot and share your images of what you capture with us below. What other fun ways would you like to suggest to include water in your photography?


The post 8 Ways to Use Water in Photography to Add Impact appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

Best Vlogging Cameras for 2019

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 13:00

The post Best Vlogging Cameras for 2019 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

What’s the best vlogging camera for 2019? That’s a tough question to answer given the wide variety of cameras on the market. In this article, I’ll talk about traditional vlogging camera rigs. I’ll also introduce three non-traditional cameras that also serve as modern vlogging options. Which is the best for you? Read on for some ideas, and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Traditional vlogging cameras

Before we go any further, let’s define vlogging as a video blog. The traditional way to film a vlog is to point the camera at oneself, while also inserting B-roll (supplemental footage). Thus, most modern vloggers need a camera that allows them to film themselves, and also gather alternative shots.

Popular vloggers such as Casey Neistat and Peter McKinnon use traditional vlogging tools: a DSLR camera with a wide angle lens and shotgun mic, all attached to a Gorilla Pod. This is a tried and true vlogging rig, but it can also be modernized or made simpler by switching out the camera. Mirrorless cameras such as the Panasonic GH5 and Sony a6400 offer a slightly smaller footprint while also giving you a flip screen to monitor yourself. Or you can opt for even smaller point and shoot cameras such as the ever-popular Canon G7X or Sony RX100.

Modern vlogging cameras

While the traditional vlogging cameras mentioned above are still ubiquitous among vloggers, there are newer, more modern cameras worth considering. Here are three fairly new cameras that might fit the role as best vlogging camera of 2019.

Contender #1: GoPro Hero 7 Black

GoPros are traditionally known as action cameras. However, many people use GoPros for everyday usage, including vlogging. This actually makes a lot of sense given GoPro’s tiny footprint, and its wide-angle lens that is perfect for capturing the first-person perspective. The brand new GoPro Hero 7 Black also adds several new features that work in a vlogger’s favor.

HyperSmooth and Timewarp

First, HyperSmooth. GoPro claims gimbal-like stabilization when HyperSmooth is in use, and it’s hard to argue. When shooting in HyperSmooth, bumpy footage is nearly completely eliminated. This means you can walk, run, drive, or perform just about any movement and get buttery smooth video. You can also shoot at up to 4K 60 frames-per-second with HyperSmooth enabled. Second, Timewarp. This is basically a timelapse video with HyperSmooth applied, resulting in a stabilized moving timelapse. It’s perfect for shooting B-roll and transitional scenes for a vlog or video.

Vastly Improved Sound

GoPros have always had atrocious sound quality. For a long time, this was due to the fact that GoPros had to be put into a plastic cage to become waterproof. All of this changed with the Hero 5, which was the first GoPro camera to be waterproof without the cage. The Hero 7 Black is also waterproof without a cage, and it adds much-improved sound. There are now 3 microphones dispersed throughout the camera, and they do a pretty good job at picking up voices. The Hero 7 Black is still without a built-in microphone jack, but if you really need one, GoPro sells a (rather ridiculous and expensive) mic jack adapter.

Contender #2: DJI Osmo Pocket

Brand new to the camera world is the DJI Osmo Pocket. Made by the same manufacturers of DJI drones, the Osmo Pocket employs nearly the same camera found on the Mavic Pro drone. The camera has just a 1/2.3-inch sensor with a f/2.0 aperture. It can shoot at up to 4K/60fps at 100 Mbps. It can even shoot 12-megapixel photos. Best of all, the camera comes mounted on a 3-axis gimbal so that you can record buttery smooth footage.

There are a host of other features worth mentioning about the Osmo Pocket. But two features in particular that relate to vlogging are FPV and Active Track. FPV allows you to quickly reorient the camera to face yourself, while Active Track is intelligent in-camera tracking. Both of these features are incredibly handy for vlogging. And just in case the Osmo Pocket screen is too small for you, you can also plug in your phone for a much bigger touchscreen interface.

Two Downsides

There are two major downsides to the Osmo Pocket as they relate to vlogging. The first is that the built-in sound quality is bad. No matter what side of the camera you’re on, it doesn’t pick up voices very well, especially if you’re filming in a noisy area. Currently, there are also no adapters or ways to install a microphone to enhance the sound. The second downside is the Osmo Pocket’s fixed 24mm camera lens. While 24mm is great for taking more cinematic footage without distortion, it’s not the best focal length for vlogging. You have to hold your arm out pretty far to get yourself in the frame, and even further if you have a buddy.

Contender #3: Modern Smartphone

A third camera to consider using to vlog is any modern day smartphone. Phones today are jam-packed with impressive camera specs with both front and rear-facing cameras. Many phones such as flagship Apple and Samsung phones also have in-camera stabilization, and the ability to shoot 4K video. They also have superior built-in sound since they are still phones, after all. You can also purchase a few accessories to take your smartphone photography and videography a step further. Investing in a smartphone gimbal gives you added stability, while Moment lenses increase image sharpness and offer wider angles.

The only real downside to using your phone to vlog is that you can’t use your phone to do other tasks while filming. Smartphone videos can also take up tremendous space on your phone, eating into your storage.

In Conclusion

So what is the best vlogging camera? It comes down to your shooting preferences. Personally, I find myself oscillating between the GoPro Hero 7 Black and my Samsung Galaxy S8 with a fisheye Moment Lens. These two cameras are so compact and easy to take anywhere, and they have been great for spontaneous vlogging.

If you’re looking for the best vlogging camera in 2019 and beyond, the good news is that you have lots of options. You can opt for tried and true DSLR or point-and-shoot rigs. Or you can look at modern, super compact options such as the GoPro Hero 7 Black or DJI Osmo Pocket. Or you can use the camera you have on you – a modern-day smartphone – and buy a few extra accessories to make your phone a pretty awesome vlogging rig. The choice is yours!



You may also find this articles helpful:

Essential Tools for Making Videos on Your Mirrorless Camera

Equipment List for Making Better Smartphone Videos

The post Best Vlogging Cameras for 2019 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Capture One Pro 12 Review – Whats New and Should You Upgrade?

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 08:00

The post Capture One Pro 12 Review – Whats New and Should You Upgrade? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Capture One have recently released version 12 of their image editing software. Capture One have made a name for their high quality imaging software that offers professional users the best control of their images. But does version 12 deliver this? And, more importantly, is it worth upgrading to from version 11?

What’s new?

Capture one say “Capture One 12 delivers better, faster, and more creative control. New features includes advanced masking functionality, an even more efficient and intuitive user experience, plug-in compatibility, and much more”

In any software, a speed increase is always welcome. In use, Capture One 12 is slightly quicker on my machine, which is nice. Is it enough on it’s own to make me upgrade? Probably not. However, there are lots of other features that make it much more appealing. These include an updated interface, new masking options, intelligent adjustments copying and much more. Let’s look at each of the updated features in more detail.

New updated interface

The menu system in Capture One Pro 12 is more customizable than before. The new icons have been upgraded, which does make it look fresh. I like the new design, but this is nothing to get excited about. There is a redesigned keyboard shortcuts panel though, which is useful for those who like to create their own. I’m not someone who delves deep into creating my own shortcuts, but I do appreciate the new design. If you are so inclined, you have the option to create more than 500 customizable commands.

The updated interface. Yes, it is a little nicer, but not a massive difference. V12 is on the left.

New masking options

New masking options are something to get excited about. The Luminosity masking allows you to create a mask based on the Luma Range of the file. This makes it really simple to create a mask to bring back only the darkest of shadows or add clarity to the lightest part of the image. It is a straightforward system that works well in practice.

Linear gradient masks have also been transformed to give more precise control, which many of us will really find useful. The addition of Radial Gradient Masks is another handy option for those who like to create custom vignettes on their images.

Luminosity masks are a great time saver and probably my favourite new feature in Capture One 12

Intelligent adjustments copying

I love this update. I use Capture One for about 80% of my editing. This includes minor skin retouching and cropping, etc. It used to be that when I copied the adjustments and pasted across to a batch of images, I then had to go in and undo the crop and remove the retouching on each image. Now, the copy-paste tool ignores options such as crop and spot healing by default, but if you want to add them, it is simple to do so. A great timesaver and a feature I love.

A small thing, but a massive timesaver. Copy/paste adjustments without adding the crop is huge for my workflow. What about yours?


Plugins are the one feature that I love from Lightroom. Finally, Capture One is allowing plug-ins to work with their system. With this being new the range is limited, but obviously, this will increase over time. A great time saver, I can’t wait to see the potential of this increase going forward.

At launch the plugins are limited, but this will grow and become a great time saver for many users.

Fuji Film simulations

I don’t currently shoot Fuji (I do lust over their Medium Format Cameras) but for those that do, Capture One have now developed (alongside FujiFilm) the different Film simulations available in their cameras. This means you can add the FujiFilm preset onto your images and use this as a starting point in your editing. Now if only I can get DPS to fund the rental of a a Medium Format Fuji, I can do an in depth test for you all (editor’s note: I wouldn’t mind one myself). Please comment below to help me out. In all seriousness though, this is awesome for all you Fuji Owners.

Mac OSX Mojave support

As a Mac user, this is my biggest pet peeve with Capture One. With the release of version 12, support for version 11 has now ended. This means that if you want to use Capture One with OsX Mojave, you need to upgrade to version 12. Obviously if you pay monthly this isn’t a big problem, but if you own the software outright, the upgrade price of £150 (US$195) feels a little steep just to use the latest version of an OS.

Whilst I understand it from a business point of view, it does feel like, as a Mac user, you are forced to upgrade every year. I love that you can purchase Capture One outright, but it does feel like they are slowly creeping towards the subscription model like everybody else. 

Should I upgrade?

The million dollar question. I have upgraded. The plugin support for JPEG mini and intelligent copy paste features will save me enough time to easily justify it. The added benefits of better masking is also great for the way I work. However, it is not that simple for a lot of people. If you are PC based, you may want to skip this version unless, like me, there are features that will help your workflow. However, if you use a Mac, this is more of a do you want to upgrade to Mojave. If the answer is yes, then you really do need to upgrade. There are many reports of version 11 working fine in Mojave, but as a professional, I cannot risk it. Capture One have also ceased their discount codes, which again seems to be a little harsh. You used to be able to easily find a 10% voucher, but since the end of 2018, Capture One seem to have cut them. Obviously I am not privy to why, but I am sure they have their reasons. 

Should I move from Lightroom?

If you are thinking of moving from Lightroom, I would say give it a go. Capture One have a generous 30 day trial of the software, which is time to get to grips with it and see what it can do. Give it a try, you have nothing to lose.

Do you use Capture One? If so, share your thoughts below.

The post Capture One Pro 12 Review – Whats New and Should You Upgrade? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

How To Make Amazing Photomontages. Part 3: Printing and Constructing Photomontages

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 13:00

The post How To Make Amazing Photomontages. Part 3: Printing and Constructing Photomontages appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

This is the third article in a series of three (part one, part two) with guidelines on how to make amazing photomontages in which you’ll learn about printing and constructing photomontages.

You may be quite content with your photomontage you see on your monitor. But there’s something special about getting all the images printed out and pasting them onto a board. Finishing a montage like this is even more fulfilling.

You can, of course, have your montage printed out as a regular photo, on a single piece of paper. However, I prefer getting individual prints made of each layer, positioning them and sticking them down.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Part 3: Printing and Constructing Photomontages 1. Have your photos printed

Importing the photos using the method I outlined in Part two of this series will mean each of your layers has retained the original file name. Now it’s time to go back to the folders with the photos you resized and collect up all of them that made it into your final composition.

Copy them into a new folder and have them printed.

2. Buy a board

You’ll need a sturdy piece of board to mount your photos on. I prefer to use foam core board as it’s strong but lightweight. It also does not warp. If you use cardboard it can buckle easily once you get many layers of photos stuck down.

Whatever you choose to use, make sure that it will be big enough to compile all your photos on.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

3. Prepare to adhere your photos

For many years I have used double-sided adhesive paper. It’s like a huge roll of double-sided tape. This method is the cleanest and easiest that I know of.

Pasting the photos up with glue is possible, but you need to be extremely careful you don’t get glue places you don’t want it.

Before I begin sticking the prints down, I use a black marker pen to blacken the edges of each print. White edges don’t look great when the photos are stuck down.

Photo by: Pansa Landwer-Johan

4. Lay out your prints

Open your montage file on your computer and turn off all the layers except the bottom one. Find the print of this image and position it on your board. Turn on the next layer and repeat the process of laying out your photos.

Prints will get knocked and move around during this process. Don’t be concerned, because as the montage takes shape the positions of prints will change. You may begin to see different relationships between the prints you may not have noticed on your computer monitor.

You can use masking tape to help keep the prints in position. Take care when you remove the tape that it does not damage your print.

I will often use post-it notes stuck alongside the photos. This helps me reposition them when they do get bumped.

Remain relaxed and fluid during this part of the process. Don’t stress if you cannot manage to line all the photos up as precisely as you lined up the layers in Photoshop.

Take a few steps back, or get up above the table you are working on. This will help you see the overall look of your composition. Do this a few times during your layout stage.

Photo by: Pansa Landwer-Johan

5. Stick it all down

You can spend forever tweaking the positioning of the prints, but eventually, you will want to stick them all down.

Start with a corner there’s a print with no others overlapping it. Position it carefully in relation to the edge of the board and stick it down.

Begin to work your way from this point, sticking down only prints that do not overlap above any other print. Whenever a print has another layer underneath, the bottom one must be stuck down first.

If you make a mistake, just consider alternatives to remedy the situation. You might have to get another print or two made so you can cover up the problem area. Other times you will be able to rearrange the way you stick the prints down and still make it look good.

Work slowly and carefully, trying as much as possible not to let the prints move around. Any fast movement or clumsiness at this stage can mean you have to start over and lay it all out again.

Photo by: Pansa Landwer-Johan


Once your photomontage is all adhered, you will notice a big difference. It’s much more dimensional than it appears on your computer monitor or as it would be printed on a single sheet of paper.

Taking your time and working carefully, yet remaining flexible, as you stick your prints down, will make it a more enjoyable process.

The overlapping layers and any unconformities that happen during paste-up give a montage some depth and texture. These used to bother me until I realized they actually add to the look and feel of these artworks.

Here’s another short video of me working on a montage for my ‘Fractured Dimensions’ exhibition in 2014.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short series on photomontages and I encourage you to experiment with the process yourself. Let us know how you get on in the comments below, and don’t forget to share your montages with us too.

Other articles in this series:

How to Make Amazing Photomontages. Part 1: Taking Your Photos

How To Make Amazing Photomontages. Part 2: Compiling Photomontage Photos


The post How To Make Amazing Photomontages. Part 3: Printing and Constructing Photomontages appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

You Are Your Own Best Teacher – Learning From Your Photography Mistakes

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 08:00

The post You Are Your Own Best Teacher – Learning From Your Photography Mistakes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

Personal experience is the very best teacher. Reading tutorials, studying the professionals, and mastering the fundamentals will certainly incrementally improve your photographic skills, but you’ll grow exponentially when learning from your photography mistakes. This is most true when you study your mistakes. You only learn when you make a mistake and know why.

James Baldwin

Learning from your photography mistakes

Conversely, if you don’t seriously study the shots that you captured from each outing (both good and bad), you’ll be more prone to make those mistakes again and again and never clearly understand why. Discovering how camera settings and scene lighting produced specific results can give you real insights that even a private tutor may not deliver. You are your own best teacher because this kind of lesson is concentrated on you alone and concerns you alone. You aren’t competing with anybody else, nor are you being judged by anyone else.

Metadata and EXIF Information

Metadata is the techno-term for the settings your camera uses to capture digital pictures; which includes File Properties and Exif (camera capture data). Every camera collects facts that describe just about everything your camera knows about the pictures it takes.

Metadata and Exif information accompanies every image captured and is disclosed by a variety of different software applications, and it is exhaustively disclosed in Adobe’s Bridge software. The illustrated examples in this article have were captured from Bridge. While Lightroom delivers a small subset of this information, Bridge lists virtually everything and acts as a “bridge” (clever name) between the files and other Adobe software to catalog and process the images.

Metadata reveals that this photo was set up in Auto mode with AWB (Auto White Balance) and Matrix metering which opened the Aperture to 3.5, evenly exposing the scene and allowing the camera to correctly balance the colors based on the neutral gray elements in the scene.

This shot illustrates the danger of setting the camera for full Manual operation but incorrectly selecting Tungsten lighting as the light source which biases the colors toward the cooler (blue) side of the spectrum. Tungsten setting expects the yellow cast of tungsten lights, however, the outdoor lighting was shaded sunlight. The Aperture was set manually to f/22 which did not allow enough light to expose the darkened scene.

Discover what works and what doesn’t

Get hard on yourself and discover what works and what doesn’t. Then try to repeat the results you received from your best shots. If you make this exercise a habit, and seriously analyze why some shots worked, and others didn’t, you’ll improve with every outing. Learn to appreciate the “keepers” but don’t view the rejects as failures… they are merely lessons from which to learn.

Note the difference that the time of day makes and the angles (and severity) of the shadows produced during different hours of the day. Take notes on why some shots are 5-star picks, and some others are rejects. Become a student of your work and watch your learning curve shorten.

This metadata also teaches you the limitations and restrictions of specific settings. Sometimes processes that fail are caused by equipment failure rather than judgment error. Here’s an example of the camera being set up for a flash image but encountering an entirely different lighting condition when the flash failed to fire. The ripple effect of a flash misfire caused a massive failure in the camera’s exposure, focus, and color.

The metadata reveals that this image was captured correctly. All processes functioned as expected, resulting in a color-correct, well-exposed picture.

The metadata in this file reveals why the image is overexposed, grossly discolored, and blurry. While the flash was instructed to fire, it failed (probably because the flash was fully charged and ready to fire). This resulted in an image that the camera’s settings (Aperture Priority and Auto exposure) forced the camera to compensate the lack of flash lighting with extremely slow shutter speed. The yellow cast was the result of tungsten lighting in the room while the image sensor’s color balance expected daylight (flash temperature) settings.

Develop a routine

Develop a routine and a personal discipline that forces you to shoot during the same time of day for a full week. Note that I said “force,” rather than try. Personal discipline is a wonderful trait and one that can improve your photographic skills very quickly. Who knows, it might actually affect other areas of your life that need improvement too.

If you only shoot occasionally, you’ll develop skills at a slower pace. Moreover, if you only critically review your work occasionally, you’ll learn at a snail’s pace. Make the review process a regular exercise, and it becomes habit… a good one. I once had a professor who stated in almost every class, “repetition is the exercise of your mental muscle.” The advice sounded strange back then, but it makes perfect sense now.

Every session you shoot produces winners and losers. Make it a habit to examine all metadata from your session to deduce what went right and what didn’t. More importantly, you’ll learn why. Take ownership of your mistakes, especially errors in judgment. You only grow when you recognize a mistake and work to overcome it. While you’ll always be very proud of the great shots you take, you’ll learn more from the shots that didn’t work!

The metering used in this shot was Pattern or Matrix, which averages light readings from the entire frame to influence the shutter speed. The average exposure was based on middle-tone (18%) gray. The sunlight reflecting from the sand on the ground and the black feathers in the bird’s wings established the outer parameters of the exposure, producing an unacceptably dark overall exposure. Had I chosen Spot metering, the picture would have considered only the tones in the middle of the frame, thus lightening the overall exposure.

More often than not, this examination shows you how your camera reacts to specific lighting in a scene. It sometimes produces profound shifts in exposure from small differences in the framing of a scene. Weird but true. While cameras are thought to have “intelligence,” in reality they have no intelligence or no judgment capabilities of their own. They’re merely algorithms that affect settings based on the lighting observed in the scene.

The camera angle was shifted to reduce the amount of sunlight reflection in the frame which, in turn, changed the lighting ratio and lightened the resulting exposure. Reviewing this result taught me to carefully evaluate a scene for content before choosing a metering system.

There are many ways to learn

There are many ways to learn. Taking courses online, reading tutorials and technique books, and tips and tricks columns all teach us a little something more. Years ago I decided to learn how to play the game of golf. After shooting some very embarrassing and humbling rounds, I realized that I desperately needed help. I bought many golf magazines and tried to mimic the stance and swings pictured in the exercises. I watched a large number of video tutorials and listened to advise from everybody, but my game remained poor.

Nothing improved and I only became discouraged. It was when I practiced the disciplines on a regular basis and took serious notes on what worked and why that my game began to improve. I continued to fail simply because I didn’t analyze (and learn from) my mistakes. You learn a lot when you expose yourself to the valuable experience of others, but you’ll only truly grow in your photography skills after you study your own results. So here’s an exercise:

An exercise to help you learn

Open any of the excellent software packages that display both the Metadata (aperture, metering type, ISO, color mode, and shutter speed) and Camera Data, or Exif information (exposure mode, white balance, focal length, lens used, light source, flash behavior, etc.) from both RAW and formatted photos.

Set the View in the software so that you can observe the images in browser or catalog mode, allowing you to see thumbnail views of the files in each session. Also, set the window to display the settings for each image as you step from one image to another.

Whether you shoot in Manual, Aperture or Shutter priority, or even Auto mode, the software lists the individual camera settings exhaustively for each image.

Next: note the variations in lighting between the images and recognize what changes in the camera settings cause the small shifts in the results. Each variation gets linked to one or more of the camera settings; sometimes just a small shift in ISO.

If you allow Auto to control any aspect of your shots, the camera makes subtle changes to shutter speed, ISO, or aperture. Using Auto can be very beneficial in this learning stage because you’ll see how each of these controls affects the appearance.

Make a short columned note card and enter the basic settings for the keepers. Add the weather and lighting conditions that existed at the time of the shot.

Keep this note card in your camera bag and try to replicate the results from the keepers.

Repeat this exercise regularly and watch your results, judgment, and predictability improve.


You are your best teacher and your camera’s metadata and EXIF information recorded automatically with every shot is the notebook recording detailed information about every shot. Your confidence and efficiency should improve along with your photography when you study your notes. Who knows, this could be the shot-in-the-arm that pushes you forward.

Share with us how you have learned from your own mistakes in the comments below.

The post You Are Your Own Best Teacher – Learning From Your Photography Mistakes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

So You Want to Build a Website? Part 5: SEO

Sun, 02/10/2019 - 13:00

The post So You Want to Build a Website? Part 5: SEO appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Well, this is it. We have gone all the way from choosing your platform through to generating content (see article links at the bottom of the article). Hopefully, this series of articles has persuaded a few of you to update your website and even more of you to create one.

The final step in the series is to optimize your website for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Doing SEO is the hardest part – it can even give many web professionals nightmares sometimes! Constant Google changes, and advice that seemingly contradicts other advice, can make it a mine field. This article is not the complete solution to your SEO and doing these things does not guarantee to get to page one on Google. It will, however, start you on the right path. These tips are simple, easy to follow tips that to help you optimize your site and aide your user experience. With that said, let’s get started.

1. Register with Google Search Consoles

You want to rank well in Google. The first step is to make sure you get your site registered for Google Search Console. This is an essential set of tools to tell you how your site is performing, how people are searching for you, and any issues that Google detects when going through your site.

Search Console (like SEO in general) can be daunting but bear with it. Do some reading and utilize what you find. Search Console is the number one tool for helping your website rank better. To add Search Console to your website, you need to register your website and then verify it using a code snippet on your site. It is simple to do. WordPress folks, if you have Yoast installed (if you haven’t – stop what you are doing and go and install it), they have tools to help with this.

The first step when registered is to submit your sitemap. This is normally located at When you submit this you are basically showing Google how your site is laid out and showing them how to crawl it. 

Once you have Search Console installed, you will be able to see how people are coming to your site, what they are searching for and any issues that may be affecting your ranking in Google. 

It is simple to see how your site is performing direct from the source. Google Search Console is the number one must do.

2. Optimize your images

Speed is king. People like fast-loading websites and Google likes websites that load fast too. With photography websites, the best way to help with this is to properly size and compress your images. This is a simple thing to do, but if your site already has hundreds of images, it can take time. You need to check your website for image sizes and then make sure that you export images at that exact size. The reason for this is smaller images equal smaller file size, which equals quicker loading.

Regarding compression when exporting from image software, make sure you reduce it to around 70% or so. You can compress images further using specific software such as JPEG Mini, but this does come with a cost. You can also use a free online tool such as Squoosh or Bulk Image Resize, but this takes a little longer to do. It is amazing how much smaller you can make the size of a webpage by doing this.

If you want further checks on how fast your site is, and what you can do to improve it, Google has a tool called Page Speed Insights. This free tool shows you how your site loads and what you can do to improve it.

Using a free app like Squoosh really can make a difference to your image sizes. Every little bit adds up when it comes to website speed.

3. Build backlinks

To get yourself higher up in the rankings, one of the best resources is backlinks. Getting a link to your website from other sites shows Google that your website has the respect of others. Getting links can be hard, especially those that help to boost your ranking. The links you want to try to get are those that are for popular websites in the specific field. It used to be that you could pay and your website would have links from lots of websites and boost your ranking. However, Google got smart to this very quickly, and this practice now may actually make your site going down in rank, not up.

Genuine, quality backlinks are what you should aim to achieve. The more domain authority a website has (how well Google rates it), the more valuable the link.

As a wedding photographer, I have weddings featured on blogs. The links to my website from these blogs do two things: Firstly, potential customers may read this blog and click. Secondly, Google sees that well-respected wedding sites are linking to my site. So when people search for wedding photography in my area, Google knows that high-quality wedding blogs link to me, so my site must contain quality and relevant content.

How do you get them? You approach people. Flat out asking can lead to refusal, but offering value can work wonders. Asking a blog if you can write a guest post or asking a local business if you can exchange backlinks (so you both benefit) is an excellent way of getting some links (and building relationships).

3. Make it mobile friendly

We live in an age where most web browsing happens on a mobile device. Therefore you need to make sure that your website runs well on mobile devices. For those of you who are creating new websites, this is pretty simple. Pretty much every template is now optimized for mobile browsing. For those of you with older sites, you may want to check. Google ranks mobile first, and therefore you must make your site mobile friendly.

Tools such as such as AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) helps here. Again, setting this up depends on your platform and theme. In Squarespace, it is simple to turn on AMP in settings. In WordPress there are plugins that get AMP up and running on your site.

I’m up to here… 4. Create quality content

Content is also king. Google has advanced and continues to advance. It used to be constantly cramming your keyword into your written content would mean you ranked well, however, that has all changed. As Google makes advances in machine learning, they now read websites more as a human would. Google love content that is helpful for the person searching. So if the user is searching for tips on how to take better photos, Google knows what they are looking for and shows the user sites that answer that question well.

The best way to do this on a continual basis is through a blog. A blog keeps your website fresh, helps Google see your website is updated regularly, and it gives you a place to offer content that is useful for people.

There is so much to blog about in every type of photography, from recent shoots and the latest equipment you have bought, through to how you got a great shot. Having new content gives people a reason to revisit your website and is a way to get new readers to your site. Continual blogging can be tough, but like anything the more you do it, the easier it gets.

5. Turn on SSL

Google likes websites to be secure when using the web. Having a secure website using SSL (Secure Socket Layer) is an easy way for you to help protect people who visit your website.  Having an SSL on your website is essential in 2019. It is super simple. Check with your host if you are using self-hosted WordPress. On Squarespace, it is as easy as turning it on. This is the simplest tip on this list. Just go and do it.

6. Bonus tip: Keep going – it’s a long game

Ranking well in Google takes time and effort. Don’t expect to see the fruits of your labour after a couple of weeks. To rank well can take months. Just remember the golden rules:

  • Keep your images correctly formatted.
  • Work on getting backlinks. Not only does it help your SEO, it helps people see your content.
  • Start as you mean to go on with things like title tags, etc. Going back when you decide you need to do it is a real pain. Start with good habits. 

Well, that’s it. Our website series is finished. I hope you enjoyed it. I’m hoping it got some of you to build your first site. For those with websites, I hope it gave you some ideas to make your sites better or something new you could try. As always, let’s see your sites below. 

Other tutorials in this series:

Part 1: Squarespace versus WordPress

Part 2: How to Create a Website

Part 3: Creating Your Portfolio

Part 4: Adding Website Content


The post So You Want to Build a Website? Part 5: SEO appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.