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Makeup Essentials for Photographers Part I – The Tools

6 hours 7 min ago

The post Makeup Essentials for Photographers Part I – The Tools appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

Makeup! Before I took photographs (and as a guy), I rarely used or had to use makeup, so I had very limited personal experience with it. That being said, I have taken portrait photographs of beautiful women that have been professionally made up, and I can honestly say it really makes a difference through the lens of a camera.

The best makeup is always barely noticeable – you only focus on the subject. It is truly a skill to do makeup well. Getting a good makeup artist to help with your portraits will always make the images better. However, in many cases, a makeup artist is not available, so the next best thing is to do it yourself to help deal with specific issues and get better results.

Made up Model

Best results

For the best portrait shooting results, you want subjects that are well rested and healthy. You also want interesting locations, great lighting, and skill behind the camera.

Although the last three are things you have control over, you generally have limited control over your subjects.

Other than suggesting your subjects be well hydrated and rested, there is little you can do to change your given subjects. Makeup can help improve the overall appearance of your subject by balancing skin tones, correcting most skin imperfections and even change the perceived shape of a subject’s face.

Well-applied makeup will also boost the effects of good lighting and minimize retouching.

Same model different makeup

Nothing new

Fashion and glamour photographers have long known the benefits of makeup and often employ a makeup artist on their sets. Most portrait photographers don’t have the budget or benefit of a makeup artist on location particularly if you are only doing one or two portraits.

Usually, the portrait photographer is working with the makeup that the subject shows up with (or lack thereof).

Any corrections are often done in post-production to deal with shine, blotchy skin, and uneven skin tones.

However, with a few makeup items supplied and a bit of practice, any photographer can develop enough skill to apply basic makeup and improve a portrait straight out of the camera (SOOC).

All subjects benefit from a little makeup (female, male and other), as long as they are human.

Even males benefit from a little makeup

Basic requirements

Let’s consider the basics of a useful makeup kit, simple application techniques, and hygiene requirements.  Makeup artists will spend lots of money on equipping their kits, but you only need a few items to apply simple makeup before a portrait session.

There are, however, two important things you need to consider before putting together your own makeup kit.

Makeup will make many women feel special

First, poor quality products generate poor results. You don’t need to purchase the very best products but getting cosmetics from a reputable makeup store, a cosmetics counter at a department store or a pharmacy with a larger cosmetics section will produce better results. You can purchase online, but it is best if you know what you are getting.

As a male photographer purchasing cosmetics, be prepared for comments from some stores about getting stuff for your wife or girlfriend mostly because men buying makeup is less common.

Men will often be unaccustomed with makeup

Secondly, people are becoming more considerate of products that have fewer animal byproducts and are free of animal testing. Most people do not want weird stuff on their faces, and you will want to be respectful of people’s wishes.

Brushes and applicators

Ideally, you should have three brushes – a face brush, blush or powder brush, and a concealer brush. Brushes need to be soft durable and able to be easily cleaned. Generally, it is a good practice to purchase good quality synthetic brushes. Always ensure that the larger brushes are very soft and pliable.

Brushes and Applicators

The face brush is the largest and fluffiest of all the makeup brushes. They are often about 2 inches wide with bristles curves into a rounded shape.  The blush or powder brush is a medium-sized soft brush that is about 1 inch wide with curved edges. The third brush is a concealer or lip brush which is small, about 0.25 to 0.5 inches wide with tapered ends.

In addition to brushes, wedge-shaped disposable sponges are handy for all sorts of things. Cotton swabs are indispensable but buy a brand name because inexpensive bands tend to cause more of a mess than they clean up. Disposable hand towels (thicker than paper towels) are useful for cleaning up. Finally, blotting film or facial blotting paper is the last disposable item you need for a brush/applicator.

The cosmetics

Although there is a lot of makeup out there, this kit is not intended to replace a makeup artist, it is just to help you, so you can get away with a surprisingly small collection of cosmetics to pull it together. There may be additional things but start with the basics.


Translucent loose-setting powder will have a very light skin tone color in the jar but applies neutrally on almost all skin tones. These powders are often mineral based.

Concealer is an inexpensive staple for any makeup kit. You can get smaller collections, but often you can get a wheel or concealer palette that has multiple colors to adjust for skin tones.

Blush or bronzer is used to give the cheeks a little color and make you look a little suntanned as well.

Rice powder is a very fine, light, loose white or very pale powder use for absorbing excess oils and highlighting features. It should almost be invisible and is not expensive.

Lip gloss can be super simple and does not need to be a bold color. Just a simple stick of clear lip gloss or slightly tinted balms will do the job.

Great results straight out of the camera

Cleaning and sanitizing products

For non-makeup people, the importance of cleaning up hands, brushes, and cosmetics cannot be understated. You really need to keep everything clean, particularly if you intend to use the makeup for more than one person (but even then you need to clean up your brushes).

Key staples are hand sanitizer, a brush cleaner (baby shampoo will do), and a cosmetic sanitizer. Use unscented hand sanitizer to keep your hands clean before and after every makeup application.

The brush cleaner is essential to keep the brushes functional. Finally, the cosmetic sanitizer gets applied to the cosmetics after use. Isopropyl alcohol in a spray bottle works but tends to discolor the makeup with repeated use. It is best to get a proper sanitizing mister made especially for cosmetic products.

Makeup as an art

Applying makeup takes skill. To become skilled, you need to practice. Before you start applying makeup to a paying subject, you need to practice on someone who doesn’t mind you practicing on them. There is a reason why makeup artists are paid well for their work. It is hard, and they make it look easy.

Couples will enjoy it too

Conclusion of Part I

With all this equipment you are ready to help your clients look better for their portraits. In part 2, we cover the techniques and basic skills to apply makeup to your clients. The intent is not to make you a makeup artist, but to help smooth features and improve the look of your portraits straight out of the camera. That way, you don’t have to spend a lot of time post-processing your images.

It doesn’t replace a true makeup artist’s work


The post Makeup Essentials for Photographers Part I – The Tools appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

How Using Movies Can Inspire Your Photography

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 15:00

The post How Using Movies Can Inspire Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

One of the best ways to “improve” at photography is to look at a lot of pictures. Ask yourself why some photos work and others don’t. This is easy to do with the endless photo books and magazines available. You can also learn a lot from the world of cinema. Use movies to inspire your photography!

The bleach bypass effect originated from movies.

Many of the tricks and techniques used in movies are transferable to stills photography. It might be the lighting, the color contrast, the depth of field or the camera angle that gets your attention. Watch your favorite movies and see what you can learn, but also consider watching films you wouldn’t normally watch. Note the names of directors and observe their style.


Lighting is obviously an important part of cinematography, but it’s not always discussed in the same terms that photographers are used to. For instance, there is “motivated” and “unmotivated” lighting. The former uses a light source within the frame, whereas the source of unmotivated lighting is unknown to the viewer.

Photographers often leave artificial light sources out of frame. So not doing so and improvising with various lights (e.g., headlamps) makes your pictures instantly more movie-like.

A classic movie lighting technique is three-point lighting. By lighting the subject from the front, back, and side, cinematographers create modeling and separate their subjects from the background. The strongest light is the key light, while the other light sources are fill lights.

Stills photographers are familiar with the hardness and softness of light. Soft light generally comes from a large light source and hard light from a small one. Soft light is often more desirable, but the harsh shadows caused by hard lighting are useful in horror or film noir-style movies.

A small light source (e.g. table lamp) placed near the subject creates big, bold shadows – film noir-style.

Film Noir

Popular during the 1940s and 50s, and still a reference for today’s movie-makers, film noir uses low-key lighting and often a small light source to create long or bold shadows. You’ll see other tricks, too, like low camera angles to emphasize power in lead actors and instill fear in the viewer. Modern interpretations of film noir are “neo-noir” movies.

Almost film noir with the banister shadow cast onto the wall via an artificial light.


Cinematographers, like photographers, use various tricks to separate elements in the frame. One way to do this is by using complementary colors to create color contrast. A common example is the orange and teal grading seen in many movie and TV scenes.

Orange and teal grading, which can be achieved in numerous ways with varying degrees of subtlety. This is still very common in movies and on TV.

Orange and teal are opposite each other on a color wheel, like all complementary colors. These hues are useful for emphasizing skin tones against a dark background, but they also work well in beach scenes, sunsets and sometimes street views.

Color Contrast in Photoshop CC

The latest version of Photoshop CC includes the Adobe Color Themes extension, which can be used to find perfect complementary colors and paint them into photos. This technique works best in unfussy pictures, where you may want to create eye-catching color contrast between two main elements. You might paint a wall green, for instance, to complement a red subject in the foreground.

The Adobe Color Themes extension showing the complementary color for this Harley Davidson paintwork.

You can also create these color contrast effects at the raw stage using split toning or calibration sliders in Lightroom or ACR. The channels sliders in Photoshop are another possibility, as are gradient maps. Try creating a gradient map by dialing in your own choice of complementary colors!

Camera Angles

Even as beginners, photographers soon realize that camera angles are important. In tall buildings, a sloping camera angle emphasizes height and has a disorienting effect on the viewer. Look at stills from Spiderman movies to see this! Buildings are very often diagonal in the frame. Or there’ll be several converging buildings to create a dizzying effect.

The Dutch angle (or Dutch tilt)

In movie terms, slanting the camera to create a diagonal perspective is called a “Dutch tilt”. You’d use it for the reasons described above, although not only with buildings. It wrong-foots the viewer and creates a feeling of tension, uneasiness or instability. Sometimes it conveys a psychological malaise in the subject. The Dutch tilt is a feature of film noir movies, too, as another means of unsettling viewers.

The Dutch tilt.

Soft focus effect

In old movies, and not-so-old TV series, leading ladies were often shrouded with a soft-focus effect. Then we’d cut to the rugged leading man in sharp relief. Aside from its romantic quality, this effect has a smoothing effect that conceals skin blemishes and flatters the subject. The idea of routinely beautifying women for “the silver screen” is a little controversial today, but use of soft focus isn’t limited to portraits.

Marcel Proust can be my soft-focus model. Note how his bronze skin is smoother in the upper part of the photo. This is a simple Gaussian blur edit.

A subtle soft-focus effect can work quite well with scenery and it’s a useful way of remedying over-sharpening in web photos. Ideally, that shouldn’t happen, but sometimes resizing introduces a slight crunchiness in pictures (as does sharpening without your glasses on).

One easy Photoshop method for a soft-focus effect is to create a duplicate layer, apply Gaussian blur to that layer with a value of about 10 and then reduce opacity. For a dreamy look, you can use an opacity of about 30-50%, but a much lower value will take the edge off sharpening in a web image.

Evoke a film genre

Even if you’re not directly copying a movie technique, you can still try to capture the feel of a movie genre. For instance, a war movie might have somber colors and a grainy look, while you could use a strong vignette and cool or dark tones to suggest a horror movie. Vignettes force the viewer’s eye along a specific path, so they can evoke a nightmarish loss of control if the subject matter lends itself to that treatment.

Heavy vignetting and a somber tone get somewhere near a horror movie feel.

Choosing lenses

Cinematographers choose lenses for similar reasons to stills photographers: image quality, lens speed, practicality. They might use a fast telephoto zoom in less controllable situations (e.g. documentary shooting), but often they use prime lenses.

You can buy into the cinematic look with what used to be called a standard lens – the 50mm prime. These are relatively cheap, though the faster, more expensive models (e.g. f/1.4) sometimes have more pleasing bokeh. And you can close them down a stop or two for sharper results than cheaper lenses at the same aperture. Still, the affordable 50mm f/1.8 is always a great buy. It’s also less prone to focusing problems than ultra-fast lenses.

Shame the modern cars ruin the vintage feel of this photo. I took it with a Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens, which was well known for its creamy background “bokeh”. Any 50mm lens is useful.

Other prime lenses to consider include a wide-angle 28 or 35mm (or equivalent) and a fast “portrait” lens of between 80 and 105mm. The ability to use a wide aperture gives you more creative choice and helps isolate subjects, though clearly this is not always a cinematic aim.

Studying movies

You can learn a lot about photography just by closely studying movies. If you watch DVDs or Blu-ray discs, you might have the director’s commentary as an extra feature. This gives fascinating insight into the reasons scenes are shot the way they are. A director has the last say in framing and how a movie looks, although the cinematographer also has creative input (e.g. in lighting a scene).

10 Well-Shot Movies

Here are 10 movies from many that I admire for their photography:

  • Casablanca (1942)
  • Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  • Chinatown (1974)
  • Apocalypse Now (1979)
  • The Shining (1980)
  • Amélie (2001)
  • Children of Men (2006)
  • No Country for Old Men (2007)
  • The Tree of Life (2011)
  • Mr. Turner (2014)

A more extensive list is here. It helps if the subject matter appeals to you, but dedication can overcome this.

An unforgettable movie still and a brilliantly shot horror film: The Shining. I don’t tend to watch horror films, but I’ve seen this many times.

Closing shot

The aim of this article is just to get you thinking about movies and how you can use them to inspire your own photography. Look at the style of different directors, the way they frame pictures and the colors they use. Look for their patterns across several movies. Check out the lighting.

I was taking photos for years before I made a connection between stills photography and movies. I spent my formative years gazing at photo magazines without often reading the accompanying text. Since then, movies and their media have evolved. They’re more accessible.

Everything in life may influence our photography on some tangential level, but if you make a conscious effort to understand and repeat cinematic techniques, those that you admire will ingrain themselves in your pictures.

Has your photography been influenced by movies? Feel free to share some of your shots in the comments below.

The post How Using Movies Can Inspire Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

5 Tips for Shooting Fine Art Photography

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 10:00

The post 5 Tips for Shooting Fine Art Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

Fine-art photography is a term given to describe ‘photography created according to the vision of the artist as a photographer.’

In this context, photography is utilized as a way of bringing to life an image that only exists in the artist’s mind.

Rickshaw rider, Kathmandu, Nepal © Jeremy Flint

In essence, the goal of fine art is to express an idea, a message or an emotion rather than representational photography as found in photojournalism, documentary or commercial photography. Generally, it is more subjective than objective in nature.

With the concept of fine-art photography in mind, here are 5 tips to help you shoot fine art photography:

1. Check the weather

As simple as it may seem, one thing to do when shooting fine-art photography is to check the weather. You will find having good light can help to transform mundane scenes into remarkable images.

On occasion, you may turn up at a location and get lucky with the weather. However, particularly for fine-art landscape photography, weather forecasts help you to decide when the light is right to shoot on a certain day and when to avoid getting caught in heavy downpours.

2. Be creative

Being creative is one of the best ways to develop fine art photography. Putting your unique vision into your work helps you create fine art photos you can be proud of. For example, trying to show the landscapes you witness with the best impact and emotion is a proven method of developing fine art.

I recommend asking yourself what fine art do I want to capture and what do I want to convey in my images?

This is purely a personal choice where you can create an image that connects with how you are feeling at that moment in time or a unique and interesting way of embracing and documenting your chosen subject and showing this as an art form through your photos.

3. Choose a subject to stimulate the viewer

This brings me on to my next tip, choose a subject to enthuse the viewer. Finding a subject that connects with the audience can lift an image from ordinary to great. This could be anything from abstract details such as those found on rustic doors, textures of flowers or water droplets to interesting patterns.

It could also be something that can be challenging to recognize or is easily identifiable. Whatever you choose, select a topic that interests you.

4. Use colors or moods for fine art

The paintings you often see in exhibitions and galleries are considered to be forms of fine art and often demonstrate different themes and moods. Therefore, my next tip is to shoot photographs with a painterly approach using color or moods.

Color can be utilized to evoke emotion and is an excellent way of putting life into your fine art photography. Using colors such as blues and oranges can help evoke cooler or warmer tones, respectively. Bright and warm colors can add energy and an overall positive feeling, whilst cooler tones can be calming and relaxing.

You can achieve different feelings in fine art photography by capturing something dark and moody or bright and uplifting. Reducing your exposure compensation is a great way of making your images darker and more dramatic. Increasing exposure can evoke vitality. Using contrast is also a good way to create mood as it provides variety in tones.


5. Use motion blur

Being experimental with fine-art photography is a wonderful way to achieve great pictures, and one way to do this is through motion blur. You can practice this technique in several different ways; you can photograph moving subjects, or you can move your camera when you release your shutter.

Zebras, Tanzania

Capturing moving subject’s over a period of time can create motion in the image. This technique tends to work well where either the subject or background is still, and the other is moving, giving contrast.

You can also develop continuity in an image by physically moving your camera, either up, down or sideways as you press the shutter. You will find that even by zooming your lens in while you take a photograph can create movement in your images.

Hyena Pan, Tanzania


In conclusion, fine-art photography is a great way to express your own ideas and vision in an interesting and subjective way. It offers the opportunity to be creative and stimulate the viewer using themes, moods and motion blur.

With these tips, go out and take some pictures of what you perceive to be fine art and share your images with us below.

The post 5 Tips for Shooting Fine Art Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

ThinkTank Vision 15 Camera Bag Review

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 15:00

The post ThinkTank Vision 15 Camera Bag Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

ThinkTank’s Vision 15 camera bag is one in a line of stylish camera and computer shoulder bags built for photographers who want a functional bag that looks good walking down the street. It’s designed for someone who wants easy access to their gear and isn’t looking for a backpack.

Key features

The Vision 15 has a host of features that I enjoyed while testing. These include:

Fits a DSLR mounted on a long lens

I love my 28-300mm L lens (the same size as a 70-200mm f/2.8 or 100-400mm L lens) and this bag does a grand job of storing it while attached. ThinkTank, in their literature, mentions leaving the camera unattached, but I found the combination just barely fits, with easy, quick access.

Canon 6D mounted with 28-300mm L lens alongside Canon 10-22mm lens

Side view with padding removed

Great organization for extras

Inside the spacious main compartment is space enough for a few lenses and speedlights. There are both vertical and horizontal padded dividers to protect your shorter lens stacked one on the other.

All the dividers have velcro on each side, so they can be attached to either long side of the bag or to other dividers. I usually travel with a long lens attached and a wide angle lens stored. This means I have room for: smaller Sony RX-100 V, waterproof cover (included with bag), battery pack for phone and tablet, glasses case, power brick for laptop and DJI Osmo Pocket. And there is still more room in there.

It can handle a portable office

If your bag is not just for your camera, but for all the other items you want with you on a shoot or day out of the office, this bag can carry most of it.

The Vision 15 can manage a 15″ laptop and a 10″ tablet. The laptop sleeve is padded on the back and bottom while the tablet slot is found on the zippered front pocket.

That front pocket has a host of other slots to hold pens, business cards, large phones, cables, and keys (with a tether and clip so that don’t get lost). And it still has ample pocket space for books, batteries, chargers and all the other little things that join you on the road.

An added bit of security to the main compartment

While the generous top flap of the bag keeps the elements at bay, a secondary zippered flap will help keep prying hands away. The flap has velcro to help hold it in place, meaning it will open when the main flap opens and close when it closes. Or zip up the inner flap for an added sense of security. It can also be tucked under the main flap to keep it out of the way for quicker access.

Expandable bottle holder

This little design aesthetic impressed me when I wasn’t expecting it to. Velcro keeps the bottle holder closed when not in use, reducing the chance that it will get caught on something. Plus it looks more stylish this way.

But when you need to hold your coffee or water bottle, just expand the pocket to one of two sizes for a (nearly) custom fit.

Tough, coated bottom

While the bag’s fabric is stylish and does a good job of resisting stains and water, the bottom is made of beefed-up waterproof tarpaulin. This tough option makes for easy clean up when the bag is placed in anything but the most pristine locations. A quick wipe with a damp cloth keeps it clean and your contents dry.

Front and back book/papers pockets

On the back of the bag is a large pocket for books or notebooks. This is a great spot to place quick-at-hand items, and I use it for my calendar and main notebook.

On the front of the bag is a smaller pocket. While you could fit a book in there, it presses against the organizer pocket behind it. While is looks good in photos, it’s not useful for thick items.

Generously padded shoulder strap and carry handle

The bag comes with two main modes of transport: a padded shoulder strap and a carry handle on top. The padding on the shoulder strap is generous and the strap itself has a wide range of adjustment for a variety of torsos. However, the top carry handle only works when you remember to clip the top flap shut. Still, it is a secure way to get the bag in and out of your car for a quick grab.

It fits easily under a seat on a plane

I’ve tested the bag under economy coach seats on 737s and smaller planes with ease. There is ample room and the bag doesn’t scratch along the underside of the seat.

Not so artful tripod holder

On a bag like this, the tripod attachment goes in the only location it can; on the bottom. ThinkTank uses their attachment straps (which can be removed when not in use, as shown above) to allow for a variety of tripod sizes. There’s really no other place for a tripod to go and the clips do an adequate job.

Roller Bag Passthrough

For those who love their roller bags for airports, the back of the Vision 15 has a slot for your roller bag handle to pass through.


While this bag has a lot going for it, I find the pockets get full fast. Even just throwing a Mindshift card wallet into the front pocket will expand it enough to press on the other pockets. Toss in a charger and Miops cable release as pictured above and you quickly start puffing the bag up, unlike a backpack-style bag.

Vision 15 with rain cover attached

Don’t expect to comfortably carry a full-size tripod on the bottom of this bag. The length would make things unwieldy. Also, with the tripod attached, you suddenly don’t have an easy way to set down the bag.

In use

I tested the bag in use on my job for a month, which included travel on four different flights up an down the West Coast. Its smaller form factor (compared to my normal backpack) is welcome as it packs into my car trunk easily and was effortless to remove, thanks to its clean lines and lack of straps like a backpack.

Opening and accessing contents is straightforward and I left the velcro attachment connected on the inside lid most of the time. Yet, when I had to set the bag down a couple of times in less than ideal situations, that inner zipper was nice to employ. I never did use the rain cover but I am glad they shipped the bag with a black cover to keep it stylish.


The ThinkTank Vision 15 is a very useful shoulder bag. While it can’t quite hold all I like to carry (no space for a drone), it holds all you need on a day-to-day basis when away from the office all day. It easily holds a long lens as well as battery packs, chargers, cards, tablet and laptop. It can easily handle four lenses and a flash, while the padded shoulder strap makes carrying that load bearable.

While the Vision 15 is sized for a 15″ laptop, they have two other, smaller sizes (which cut out the space for a tablet) that might fit your particular setup better.


The post ThinkTank Vision 15 Camera Bag Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

A Short Introduction to Basic Photo Editing for Beginners

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 10:00

The post A Short Introduction to Basic Photo Editing for Beginners appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

If you’re a beginner, using editing software can be a daunting prospect. What if you can’t get a handle on the technology? What if it’s too complicated a process? What if it’s just too time-consuming? What if the images turn out horrible? So many what ifs! I get it; I’ve been there. In this article, I’m offering a very simple way of delving into editing if you’re a novice. These are basic principles that I hope will set you in good stead for more fancy editing in the future!

First things first.

You need to be able to see what is a good image and a bad image. The key is in your perception.

If you think heavily edited images are the perfect image, then your editing will lean that way and vice versa. If you think an overly-tinted image is perfect, then that would be your bar for perfection. We all have a bias towards something. However, for editing, I think we need to try and be as neutral as possible and leave our personal preferences for the moment.

To be able to see things objectively, we need to:

  1. See the differences between over-exposed and under-exposed images and decide as to what is the correct exposure
  2. Understand white balance where white looks white, as it should, and not yellow or blue or orange
  3. See the contrast between dark and light
  4. Decide on the noise

Once we have a basic grip of the above, then editing will be a breeze, and we can get more creative from a solid image base or what I’d like to call a clean edit.

But first, a word on shooting format. Shoot in RAW.

The images below are the original RAW images opened in Bridge without any edits applied.

You can see there is a choice of Adobe color profiles. See the difference between the standard profile below left and the color profile used on the image on the right.

You can choose which profile you prefer.

To successfully understand the above, and make the edits towards them, it is important that you shoot in RAW format. If you shoot in JPEG, you are allowing the camera to process the image, discard pixels the camera deems unnecessary, and accept the color adjustments the camera has made. With a JPEG image, you have less control, are working on a great loss and compression of pixels at the very start and an already compromised image color.

You can read more about RAW processing in Bridge here.

Having said that, someone who is a really good, seasoned, experienced photographer may well shoot JPEGS and achieve the desired image they want. I am not there yet!

Secondly, the type of camera you use affects the original images you get.

A full-frame camera gives you the 35mm sensor – wider, more space, more light hitting the camera sensor and more pixels. What you see through the lens is pretty much what you get. A crop-sensor, on the other hand, works in the opposite way. The lens only allows you to use a portion of the sensor so that a 35mm lens mounted on a crop-sensor camera will only give you the point of view of a 52mm lens equivalent – a more zoomed-in longer focal length. You are losing some width, some light and some pixels.

Let’s dive in!

1. Correct exposure

Correct exposure means getting the balance right between the 3 components of the exposure triangle. Namely: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Balancing all three correctly will give you a perfectly exposed image. That means no blown highlights or details are lost entirely in the shadow or darker areas of the image that should still be visible.

A most useful tool in determining whether your exposure is perfect is to look at the histogram when you are editing. Alternatively, you can view the histogram when you have just taken the photo as there is also a histogram on the LCD of many cameras these days. Simply put, a histogram is a representation of the tonal value distribution across your image in the form of a visual graph. Just by looking at a histogram (that graph on the top right corner of the image below), you can immediately tell whether there is an even spread of tonal values on the image judging from the troughs and crests on the graph or a stark contrast.

If the image you shot has incorrect exposure, then editing is your solution. You can move the sliders on your editing software to increase exposure if the photo is too dark or decrease your exposure if the photo’s too bright. You can usually recover some blown highlights in the case of overexposure.

Take a look at the image above. This is the RAW image opened in Bridge. You can see it’s a little bright with the histogram showing a tall mountain almost touching the right edge. When the histogram touches both left and right edges, this would indicate the dark and light parts of your images are clipped and therefore there is overexposure and underexposure in the image. This is an okay image as nothing touches the edges, but it is too bright for me.

The image on the left below shows an overexposed image with the exposure turned up and the image on the right shows an underexposed image with the exposure turned down. See what the histogram is doing in these images.

2. White balance

Simply put, white balance is the adjustment on your camera that reads the color temperature of the light you are shooting in in relation to neutral white. A perfect white balance should show white to be white as perceived in reality and there are no color casts that distorts the whiteness of white. You can, however, go for a warm white or a cool white by adjusting the white balance sliders. Generally speaking, what you don’t want is for white to look too yellow or orange or too cold like with a strong blue cast. Compare both photos below: too cool on the left and too warm on the right.

3. Contrast

There is nothing rocket science about contrast in my opinion. It is simply to do with the strength of the blacks on the photo. After the adjustments above, our photo is still looking very flat. All that’s needed is a fiddle on the blacks, shadows, highlights and light areas. Just remember not to clip your blacks or whites or if you want a bit more contrast, not too much clipping. You can also use the curves tab (the one that shows a grid with a curvy line) for contrast adjustments.

I also played with the other sliders to get the result I wanted on the images above. Just do so gently – a touch here and there rather than extreme adjustments.

Remember, you are only after a clean edit at this stage. The images above show the same edits on the standard and color profiles. The results are different so deciding on your color profile matters.

4. Noise and Sharpening

If you click on to the third tab which shows two black triangles, you get to the panel where you can adjust noise and sharpening. Again, gentle adjustments are needed here.

It is vital to view your photo at 100% so you can see what the adjustments are doing to the image.

Luminance has to do with the smoothness of the pixels. You don’t want to go too much, or you lose definition.

Color has to do with how much the RGB pixels show up and extreme adjustments will either strip your image of color or make the pixels appear too saturated.


Now I have a clean edit, there is still so much I can do to this photo. The eyes are a tad soft so I will need to adjust that. I could add vignettes or change the appearance of the background. I could add sunflares or textures. The possibilities are endless. But most of that has to happen in Photoshop.

I hope this has helped you understand the basics of editing.

Please share your comments below or if you have any questions!

The post A Short Introduction to Basic Photo Editing for Beginners appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

Guidelines for Creating Your Photography Contract

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 15:00

The post Guidelines for Creating Your Photography Contract appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

If you’re any level of a photographer working with clients, you need to have a contract.

When photo jobs go awry, it’s often due to a lack of communication.

A contract protects not only you but also your client in the event of any unmet expectations.

Here are some inclusions you may want to consider.

Who is the agreement between?

First of all, you need to state clearly who the contract is between and identify each party. You can identify yourself as “the Company”, and your client as “the Client.” The photo shoot itself can be referred to as “the Event.”

Note that the agreement supersedes any prior agreements between the parties, and that the only way to add to the agreement is to do so in writing, and that this amendment must be signed by both parties.

In short, if anything changes between the signing of the agreement and shoot day, you’ll need another contract.

What are the reservations?

You should have a section on your contract about the Reservations.

This means you note the date the shoot is scheduled for, and your policies about rescheduling, postponement and cancellation.

Make sure the client is very clear on the consequences of any of these changes.

For example, many photographers require a 50% non-refundable deposit in case of cancellation, so they don’t miss out on potential work that could have been booked that day.


I recommend having a section that notes that you as the photographer/company have the right to terminate coverage and leave the location if you experience inappropriate, threatening, hostile or offensive behaviour from a person at the event that calls your safety into question. This may be a rare occurrence, but it’s worth putting into your contract so you can assert your rights in case you’re a victim in an unsafe situation.

This could be relevant to a female wedding photographer being harassed by drunken guests, for example.

Shooting time and additions

Note that shooting time commences at the scheduled start time and ends at the scheduled time, regardless of when the client shows up. If a client is very late, then the shoot goes to the agreed upon time and no later.

I also highly recommend that if you’re a commercial photographer, that you state clearly that the client or a representative from their company must attend the shoot to provide creative direction and approve the final images.

You’re not responsible for the final aesthetic if they are not there to provide feedback and approval.

Furthermore, reserve the right to cancel the shoot and retain the deposit if the client or their representative does not attend.

Seriously. This happens.

Expenses incurred

This is where you might note that there could be additional expenses incurred that may not be part of the original quote, such as parking, props on a fashion or product shoot, or groceries on a food shoot.

These kinds of expenses are usually TBD (to be determined) and not part of the initial estimate. This should be made clear up-front so you don’t end up taking a cut from your earnings to cover these things.


You are responsible for a lot on a shoot, but certain things are unforeseen and out of your control. Things such as obtrusive staff, lateness of the client and staff, the weather, schedule complications, incorrect addresses provided by the client, or restrictions of the chosen location.

Venue and Location Limits

Unless you’re shooting at your studio or a rental, the client is usually responsible for providing an appropriate place for the photographic work to take place.

If the venue is found to be limited in space or otherwise hinders you from carrying out your work in a safe manner (or one that doesn’t allow you to produce the desired result), reserve the right to request moving to another location or cancel the shoot without penalty.


Who is responsible for securing permits?

The second you put a tripod down in a public place, you can very likely get asked to move along by a police officer or other type of city official. This can be disastrous on a commercial shoot where the location has been scouted and is essential to the storyboard or narrative of the final images.

Permits can take some time to secure, so keep this in mind if this job falls on you.

Film & copyright

The photography you produce for a client still belongs to you, as the creator of those images. A lot of clients think the images belong to them because they are paying you money to produce them. They need to be educated on copyright.

In the commercial world, clients commission you to produce photos that align with their brand. They then pay you a separate fee to license those images for a specific use and time frame.

You should have a separate Usage Agreement in addition to your contract that outlines usage parameters.

Limit of liability

In the unlikely event that you are not able to perform to the guidelines laid out in the contract due to injury, illness, an “act of God,” or another event outside of your control, you should not be held responsible.

You should, however, make every effort to reschedule the shoot. If this isn’t possible, then ordinarily all payment received for the event should be returned.

If digital files are lost, stolen, or destroyed beyond your control, including but not limited to hard drive or equipment malfunction, your liability is to return all payments.

The limit liability for a partial loss of originals should be a prorated amount of exposures lost based on the percentages of the total number of originals.

Capture and delivery

You are not liable to deliver every image taken at an event or shoot.

The number of final files to be delivered is up to the photographers discretion or is based on an agreement made between the photographer and client before the signing of the contract.

In this section, you can make a note of when you’ll be delivering the files by and how they will be delivered, such as JPG or TIFF files.

Post-production and editing

The final post-production and editing styles, effects, and overall aesthetic of the image are at your discretion unless you’re working on a specific type of job where the editing will be done in-house, say by a magazine or ad agency.

Nothing is worse than working hard on editing and then having clients put crazy Instagram filters on your images. Prohibit any alteration to your photographs unless there is an agreement with the client as to what those alterations will be, like putting text on a photo.

Payment schedule

If you’re asking for a deposit (and I hope you are), make sure to put that in your contract.

How you manage payment for the remainder is up to you. Many photographers allow thirty days for receipt, however, any late payment after that is subject to interest – usually 15-18%.

Also, note a policy around any NSF charges and if there are any consequences the client needs to be aware of in terms of not paying on time.

For example, you can state in your contract that non-payment after three months is subject to legal action.


At the end of the agreement, I suggest that you lay out the agreed upon pricing.

If you don’t have a separate usage agreement, you can include the usage terms here.

For my commercial work, I typically don’t give my clients a usage agreement until the images have been paid for in full and prohibit the use of my images until then.

I find this works well for me. Clients should not be using your images publicly unless they have paid for them, or it is a violation of your copyright.

I even state this term on my invoices and draw their attention to this in my email communication upon sending it.

Some clients can take a long time to pay you unless you draw specific boundaries around payment and the use of your images.

Signature field

There should be an area where both you and the client can sign and date the contract.

It’s best if you use electronic signature software such as Hello Sign so that clients don’t have to spend their time physically downloading and scanning a signed contract back to you. Everyone is busy, right?

If you use a CRM software, it may already offer such a feature. For example, I use Dubsado, which is a CRM system for creatives. I can send clients emails and contracts directly from within the user interface.

I have all the other features of a client management system for around the same price I would have to pay for signature software alone.

In Conclusion

Hopefully, this has given you some idea of what you can put in your contract.

Be sure that your contracts are dated and signed before you consider a job booked.

Go over them with the client and make sure the terms and conditions are understood. A lot of people don’t bother to read stuff before they sign it and you don’t want to deal with any surprises.

Please note that this post is for educational purposes only and doesn’t constitute legal advice, as I am not a lawyer and cannot advise in that capacity.

To make sure that any or your contract or written agreements are legally binding, and will cover you in an event of a discrepancy, please contact an attorney.

The post Guidelines for Creating Your Photography Contract appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

7 Steps to Perfect White Portrait Backgrounds in the Studio

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 10:00

The post 7 Steps to Perfect White Portrait Backgrounds in the Studio appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

Photographing subjects on a white background is one of those things that looks easy from the outside. However, once you start digging into the details, it turns out it’s not quite as simple as it seemed at first glance.

Unfortunately, being able to shoot on a white background is one of the most useful skills for you to have in all sorts of photography including portraits and still life. Even if you hate it stylistically, you will eventually have plenty of people ask you for a pure white background.

When you get the technique right, there are a whole host of things you can easily do with your photos, such as cutting your subjects out for composites. Even when your technique isn’t perfect, there are a host of post-processing options to get you, and your images, there in the end.

However, this article outlines a process to help you get perfect results straight out of the camera every time. If you’re handling a high volume of images – whether that be portraits or products – this may save you countless hours in post-production.

What you need

You will need a few lights for this technique. In this example, there are three lights and a reflector.

To get started with shooting on a white backdrop in a studio, you will need a few things.

  • At least two studio strobes with modifiers or flashguns (three or four would be preferable and will make your life easier). Softboxes are the easiest option for your background lights.
  • A light-colored backdrop. White is preferable, but this technique will work easily with anything up to mid-grey. It is more than possible to do it with darker backdrops but to avoid complications, stay light when you can.
  • Space. You will need space to get the best results. As described below, you will need to keep enough room between your subject and the background to help prevent spill from the background lights falling on your subject. For portraits, this could easily take ten to fifteen feet of space in addition to the distance you are from the subject. For smaller subjects, space is much less of an issue.
  • (Optional) A light meter. Because we’re dealing with moderately precise ratios, a light meter will help you here. You can get by without one, but it does make it easier.
Step One – Choose your aperture

Before you do anything with your lights or your subject, the first step in this process is to choose the aperture you want to shoot at. This choice is going to be the basis for everything else you do in this process. Anything from f/8 to f/4 is a good bet for studio portraits, but you can choose anything you like. Your only real limitation here is the power output of your lights.

If you choose f/11, then your backgrounds lights will need to be set at least two stops brighter, which would be f/22. You may struggle to achieve that with low-powered strobes. If that’s the case, then you will have to choose a larger aperture for your final image.

For the remainder of this article, the chosen aperture will be f/5.6.

Step Two – Light your background

When lighting your background, take the time to ensure that it is evenly lit. This will ensure that all of your background is white with no darker tones creeping into the sides and corners.

Once you know your aperture, the next step is to set up your background light(s). If you can, use large, directional modifiers like softboxes. This will help prevent excess light spilling where you don’t want it. It will also help to ensure that the background is evenly lit from top to bottom, preventing any inconsistencies in exposure in your final images.

Place your lights on either side of your backdrop and pointed towards it at a forty-five-degree angle. Try to position them so that you get even coverage.

Step three – Set the exposure for your background lights

The easiest way to find the exposure for you background is to use a light meter. Don’t worry if you don’t have one, you can still chimp the histogram to make sure it’s overexposed.

With your lights positioned, all you have to do is set the power so that the camera will record your background as pure white. Your background needs to be at least two or three stops brighter than your subject. Because the hypothetical aperture we’re using is f/5.6, that means the backgrounds lights should be at f/16 for three stops of exposure difference.

If you’re using a meter, be sure to check the exposure at the top and bottom of the background and not just the middle.

Step four – Place your subject for a test

On the left, the subject is too close to the background and the light is wrapping around her and lighting her front. Placed a few feet further away, the subject is rendered as a silhouette. (The detail in the darker image is from the overhead fluorescent that I hadn’t turned off yet.)

To figure out where your subject needs to stand, or be placed, put them in front of the background and take a test shot with only the background lights on. If they are far enough away from the background, your subject should be in perfect silhouette, and there should be no light falling on them or wrapping around them in any way.

Where there is light falling on your subject, just move them further away from the backdrop until you achieve that perfect silhouette.

If your exposure is right, you should have no details in your background and no details in your subject.

Because you are lighting a white (therefore reflective) surface, your background is effectively a light source and acts like one. The light from your backgrounds will fall off at a rate governed by the inverse square law. What you are trying to do is to place your subject in a place where the light level drops enough that it has no effect on your subject at your desired aperture.

Step four (part 2) – Flag your background lights

To ensure light isn’t going where you don’t want it, flag your background lights. Here, I’ve used black fabric and covered all but the section of background that will be in the photos.

It may be that you can’t achieve a perfect silhouette of your subject for some reason. This issue can arise from not having enough space to work in, or it could be that your modifiers are producing too much spill. One way to combat this is to flag your lights.

Flagging simply means to block light from where you don’t want it. You can do this in any way that you want. V-flats and black curtains (as in the example images) are both cheap and effective ways to flag your light.

Simply place your preferred flags in a manner that blocks excess light from coming back towards the camera, but doesn’t interfere with the part of the background that will wind up in your composition.

Step 5 – Place your key light

Once the background lights are done, you can light your subject in any way you want.

Now that your background is lit and you know where your subject needs to be, you just need to light your subject. All you have to do is place your light any way that you desire (any lighting pattern will work), and set the power to your desired aperture (f/5.6 in the examples).

Unlike the background lights, you don’t have to worry about what any excess light from your key light is doing. Because you are so far away from the background with a light set to a much lower power, it will have little to no effect on the final exposure of the background. However, do pay attention to what the light is doing off to the sides. If it’s firing into a nearby white wall or another light-colored surface, then that surface will act as a reflector in your images.

Step 6 – Add fill (optional)

Use fill lighting to reduce the impact of heavy shadows in your images. You can use another light if you wish, or a reflector as shown here.

If you want to add a fill light to your set-up, you can now do that as normal. You can fill with another strobe, or you can use a reflector as shown in the example images. The main thing to remember about fill light is that it should be at least one stop lower in power than your key light.

Step 7 – Check your final exposure

With everything set-up, you should have a perfect white background straight out of the camera.

With everything in place, take a test shot at your desired aperture. If your key and fill lights are in your desired position, everything should be spot on and you should now have an image with a perfectly white background straight out of the camera.

That’s it

This isn’t a hard technique, but it does require a fair few steps and a lot of attention to detail. Don’t be put off by any of that. Once you’ve set it up a few times, it will become second nature very quickly. You will also be able to learn how to set it up in a few minutes, potentially saving you a ridiculous amount of time post-processing backgrounds that aren’t perfectly white.

The post 7 Steps to Perfect White Portrait Backgrounds in the Studio appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

How to Stay Inspired with your Photography

Sun, 04/21/2019 - 15:00

The post How to Stay Inspired with your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

How do you keep creating when you feel uninspired? This is one of those questions that plagues photographers at all levels, at some point in their lives. Here are a few tried and true tips that have prevented some from giving up.

1. Start a project

At some stage in your shooting life, a photography project is highly recommended. When stuck in a creative rut, setting yourself a clear and defined focus or theme helps. Projects require a commitment out of you and are a great way to push yourself.

Depending on the magnitude of your project you can either set a timeline or forego it. Some timelines are built into a project, for example: a 365 project with a common theme or a 52-week portrait challenge. Other projects can be life long, such as shooting long exposure beaches in different countries or a specific location over a number of years.

The best part is that your project can be as small or big as you want – ranging from strange and faraway places to the comforts of your back yard. There are endless possibilities.

During the course of your project, do not forget to challenge yourself often. If you find your project is getting routine or mundane, this is an indication that your progress/learning has stopped or is slowing down. If this happens you could very well end up back in your previous uninspired state. Make your project challenge you, while keeping it fun and celebrate your skill and knowledge progression.

2. Do something outside your comfort zone/genre

One of the greatest things about photography is that there are so many genres, with different skills to explore. Landscape photographers and studio portrait photographers have distinctive skill sets. Street photography versus macro photography, each comes with their unique challenges.

When you love capturing moments in time, traversing an area outside of your norm can help you see things anew. Even within the same genre, each photo experience can be diverse. In landscape photography, for example, you have sub-categories such as long exposure, astrophotography, nightscapes and seascapes to name a few.

If you have hit a creative wall in your genre, try learning something new to you. Creating new work encompasses shooting outside of your comfort zone or even editing differently.

As a creative, you can even try another artistic avenue other photography! It may sound unrelated, but doing something else like painting or drawing can give you a whole new appreciation for light (or maybe it will just remind you why you shoot and not draw or paint).

3. Consume less, do more

Inspiration is everywhere. Looking at other people’s work in person (exhibitions) or online (photography websites, social media) is a great way to probe yourself. Asking questions like, “how can I do a version of that?” or “what will it take to recreate that lighting?” Save anything that inspires you with purpose. Images that get you excited about creating or planning a future shoot. Browsing other people’s work can be a double-edge sword though.

On the plus side, you can use it to gauge either how far you have come or what is left for you to learn. It can inspire you to try something new and challenge your skill level. The recommendation is to do this in spurts and not too often for too long, as you can start comparing yourself to the point of getting discouraged. Consume enough so that you are inspired, move to the planning stage and execute. More doing/creating is what will actually move you to a better place mentally.

Once inspiration starts to overwhelm you, take a step back. Reference the images that you want to learn from and actually attempt it. In this case, failure is an option as it shows you that you need to read, research and try again until you get the final output that you desire.

Important note: while you can learn from your attempts, do not set yourself up for failure. Too often trying to recreate the entire image can be senseless. A better approach may be to determine what about the image inspires you (lighting, subject, processing). Choose one or two elements you want to experiment with and make it your own.

4. Get constructive feedback

Posting your images on social media might seem like the best place to get feedback – it is not. While it may be a great way to share your image (and boost your ego), it is not the place where you will learn what you can do to improve. If you are feeling uninspired, constructive/positive feedback will do you good. Keep in mind that in order to improve, you have to also be willing to deal with critique.

On most photography forums known for good feedback, you will find that the other members here know how to give feedback in a non-offensive, positive way since they also seek feedback for themselves. Additionally, you can also streamline what you ask for. Is it the lighting? The composition? Exposure techniques? These questions will help your viewers hone in on the area you are having the challenge with.


If you find yourself at a plateau with your creative work, there is no right time to try to come out of it. Make the effort to break out of that uninspired space by committing to do something different. Challenge yourself outside your comfort zone or start a project.

Looking at your peer’s work can definitely be inspirational, but more than that, do something today and get feedback on it. These are great ways to push through the mental blocks.

Share with us something that has worked for you on your photography journey in the comments below.

The post How to Stay Inspired with your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

Review: Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens

Sun, 04/21/2019 - 10:00

The post Review: Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Sigma occupies an interesting and somewhat unique space in the photography industry. They are most widely known for their lineup of third-party lenses for Nikon, Canon, and Sony cameras. Sigma also manufactures other gear such as flashes, filters, and even their own digital camera bodies using their home-grown Foveon image sensor.

While Sigma lenses have always been quite well regarded by amateur and professional photographers, their recent series of Art lenses have really given first-party manufacturers a run for their money. With optical performance that meets, and in many cases, exceeds lenses made by most mainstream camera companies, Sigma has really started to make significant inroads in professional imaging products.

The latest example of this is their outstanding 40mm f/1.4 Art lens.

Sigma 40mm f/1.4: 1/180th second, f/1.4, ISO 720.

The story of this particular lens actually begins a few years ago with Sigma’s 18-35mm f/1.8 Art lens for APS-C cameras. That was the first iteration of what what has become a very successful strategy for Sigma: producing lenses with superior optical performance, even if it means selling them at a higher price than consumers are used to for a third-party company.

Sigma have since fleshed out their Art series of lenses with a variety of focal lengths, in both primes and zooms. Many photographers and videographers have started to take notice, and Sigma has since branched off into a line of Cine lenses specifically designed to meet the demands and challenges of video.

This lens is so big several people thought I was using a zoom.

Enter the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens (Nikon, Canon, Sony) – designed with features photographers want and videographers demand.

Its optical path and lens elements fit the mold of what their other Art lenses offer, while its all-metal construction and gear-based focusing make it well suited for video. While I’m no videographer and can’t speak to how this lens functions in that regard, I can say for sure that it is one of the most astonishing photography lenses I have ever used.

The price tag is a bit high, but the tradeoff is a lens with supreme sharpness – even at its widest aperture – and virtually none of the problems that plague so many other lenses.

Nikon D750, 40mm, 1/500th second, f/1.4, ISO 100.

As I was using this lens I thought back to my first lens, the humble Nikon 50mm f/1.8. When I got that diminutive piece of glass I remember shooting almost everything at f/1.8 because it looked so cool to have my subject in focus with the rest of the shot was filled with beautiful blurry bokeh. However, I soon realized that these types of shots were a bit problematic, mostly due to all sorts of optical issues like lack of overall sharpness, vignetting, and really bad chromatic aberration.

I soon got used to shooting my 50mm lens stopped down a bit. It’s the same with other lenses that I’ve acquired over the years. While they most definitely work while wide open, there’s usually some tradeoff.

The Sigma 40mm f/1.4 is a whole different beast entirely. Using it is an absolute joy because you can basically shoot whatever you want, any way you want, with total impunity.

100% crop of the image above. The sharpness of this lens at f/1.4 is incredible.

I should point out, before getting too far into this review, that the performance of this lens does not come cheap. At nearly $1400 this lens is almost ten times as expensive as an entry-level 50mm f/1.8.

However, this lens isn’t exactly aimed at entry-level photographers. It’s designed for people who want (as near as I can tell from using it extensively) no compromises in terms of optical performance. As a result, the lens is big, heavy, expensive, and not exactly the sort that you would take out as a casual go-anywhere addition to your camera kit. Although, if you prioritize outstanding image quality above all else, then this may be the lens you are looking for.


I don’t want the substance of this review to get lost in hyperbole or vain platitudes, but in some way, this Sigma 40mm f/1.4 lens really does operate at a whole other level in terms of sharpness. I’ve used sharp lenses before, but nothing quite like this – especially when shooting wide open.

I took this to an equestrian show with my family and just for fun. Then I shot almost exclusively at f/1.4 just to see what this lens could do.

I was consistently impressed by the results.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/2000th second, ISO 100.

In the image above, I focused on the horse’s eye, which was a little tricky since it was constantly moving its head up and down. The resulting images were much sharper than I imagined they would be. The f/1.4 aperture also gives a pleasing foreground and background blur, especially on the man’s plaid shirt. The 40mm focal length offers a field of view that’s wide enough to get plenty of elements in the frame.

To further illustrate the sharpness, the following is a 100% crop from the original. You can clearly distinguish individual hairs and eyelashes.

100% crop of original image.

Of course, this type of result really isn’t all that special. Plenty of lenses are quite sharp in the center, but what about the rest of the frame? I was curious to see how the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 performed in a variety of conditions, so I shot scenes like the one below to see how this lens would handle trickier situations.

Normally in a shot like this, the trees in the center would be sharp while the outer edges would be significantly less so. They would also have significant chromatic aberration issues on the branches around the perimeter.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/250th second, ISO 100.

Investigating a 100% crop shows that image quality is tightly controlled even around the edges. Individual branches are tack-sharp and clearly distinguishable, with no green or purple fringing whatsoever.

Granted this wasn’t shot in broad daylight, but I found results like this to be consistent in a variety of shooting conditions.

100% crop of above image.

Overall, I was highly impressed with the sharpness of this lens, especially at f/1.4. But then again, this is a $1400 lens. When you spend this much on a lens like this, you might naturally expect these results. If you want to save over a thousand dollars on a wide-aperture 40mm lens you could always opt for the Canon 40mm f/2.8 Pancake, which is a great lens and certainly worth looking at. However, in terms of sheer optical performance, the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 is a whole other ballgame entirely. It is well worth considering if you prioritize features like sharpness and overall performance above all else.

Foreground/background blur

Some qualities of camera gear can be measured objectively, while others are difficult to fully explain or describe without delving into a more qualitative realm.

You could put the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 lens up against similar lenses in a lab and come away with charts and diagrams that illustrate various optical properties of each one.

However, at the end of the day, there’s something about some particular lenses that either grabs me or pushes me away. I don’t know exactly what it is about this particular lens, but the out-of-focus foreground and backgrounds just look, as the saying goes, smooth as butter.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/180th second, ISO 1000

The way the bricks in the background slowly fade away while the clean mortar lines remain visible, and the smooth transition across the frame from in-focus to blurry, is far beyond what I’m used to on my usual gear. I don’t know if I quite know how to describe this and I don’t want to sound like a shill for Sigma (they did not pay me for doing this review, and I have no relationship with them whatsoever) but I really, really like the photos I was getting out of this lens.

Throw in some lights in the background, and you start to see even more to like with the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/400th second, ISO 1250

The clean, clear spots of light behind this bronze statue are nice and blurry without any of the onion-ring artifacts that are so common on a lot of other lenses. It’s part of what makes this lens so fun to use – especially knowing that when you take shots wide open, you aren’t losing anything (at least, nothing that I could notice) in the way of sharpness or overall handling of chromatic aberration.

Of course, there is some vignetting at f/1.4 but nothing that I would consider out of the ordinary, and well worth the tradeoff compared with shooting at smaller apertures. For example, here’s another picture of a purple magnolia flower that I shot at f/2.8.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/2.8, 1/180th second, ISO 1800

This isn’t a bad photo, and the flower in the center is bright and sharp, which I always like to see on any lens. The 40mm focal length let me fill the frame with branches, buds, and other elements that add a sense of context. However, the scene is transformed into something almost otherworldly when shot at f/1.4.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/180th second, ISO 400

The corners are darker due to vignetting at such a wide aperture, but the rest of the image is almost entirely obscured in beautiful bokeh. The out-of-focus areas are blurry without being muddy. While the flower in the center is now a beacon of color amidst brown and yellow. I don’t quite know how to describe just what it is about the rendition of foreground and background elements that I find so pleasing on this lens. But it’s certainly something to behold and a lot of fun to have available at your fingertips.


If there is one area where this lens didn’t impress me all that much it was autofocus. It’s not that it’s bad, but it’s not exactly superlative either. I suppose I could best describe it by saying it simply gets the job done most of the time. I found that it couldn’t quite keep up with my own two kids when they were running around outside, but for most normal shooting conditions it works pretty well. Autofocus is quick and silent – so quiet that I had to hold my ear up to the lens to hear the gears turning – but if you’re used to the speed of a sports-oriented lens like the 70-200 f/2.8, you might find this is lacking too much for your taste.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/180th second, ISO 360.

I shot several dozen images similar to the one above, and the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 lens performed just fine. Most shots were nice and sharp, however, the movements of the horse were a trot – not a gallop – and in a mostly predictable straight line. My go-to gear for most daily shooting is a Fuji X100F and this Sigma lens is certainly faster and more reliable than that camera.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/180th second, ISO 800. Autofocus kept up fairly well with this remote-control helicopter.

Perhaps the best thing I can say about the autofocus on this lens is that it works about how you would expect. It’s not going to break any records for speed, but it’s reliable, predictable, and effective.


Similar to autofocus, the overall handling of this lens is something that I can describe in terms of how it feels, but I don’t know if I can accurately quantify it with numbers and hard data. Simply put, this lens is a beast. It’s big, thick, heavy, and feels like it could withstand a beating. Sigma claims it is dust and splash-proof. While I didn’t test this personally, given the overall build quality, I would certainly expect this lens to be able to withstand being out in the elements.

Manual focusing happens with gears, not electronics, so you always have a smooth tactile experience when turning the focus ring. There are no hard stops as you turn the focus ring, but after about 160° of travel, there is a soft click indicating you have reached the nearest or farthest focusing limit. There’s a single switch on the side that alternates between Autofocus and Manual focus, which I found to be simple and effective in regular use.

Image stabilization is nonexistent. However, I didn’t miss it much. With such good image quality at f/1.4, I could use fast shutter speeds without the need for stabilization. Video shooters may have this lens mounted firmly on a tripod, so the lack of image stabilization may not be a mark against it.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/2000 second, ISO 100.

Despite being such a heavy lens, I didn’t find it difficult to carry around for general shooting. At 1300 grams, it’s almost as heavy as my 70-200 f/2.8 which clocks in at 1540 grams. The Sigma 40mm f/1.4 packs all that heft in a much smaller package. Because of this, I didn’t feel the weight as much as I thought I would, but it’s the type of lens that will certainly strain your arm over time. I really liked shooting with a battery grip on my camera to help balance things out a bit.


My thoughts on this lens can perhaps be best summed up with this photo:

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/1500 second, ISO 100.

I don’t think I could have gotten this shot with any other lens, and it’s a testament to the quality and engineering that went into this Sigma 40mm f/1.4.

I focused on the flower just to the left of the sun as it peeked over the horizon and it’s sharp as a tack. Zooming in to 100% reveals a level of sharpness and detail, as well as an almost complete absence of chromatic aberration.

That was highly impressive.

100% crop of above image.

This is one of the best lenses I have ever used, and well worth the price if you value image quality above all else. It’s big, heavy, and not exactly easy on the wallet. But what you get for the price is a lens that is sturdy, reliable, and exquisitely sharp at all apertures – especially wide open.

If you’re looking for a lens that offers outstanding optical performance first and foremost and is designed to meet the needs of demanding photographers and videographers, then I don’t think I can recommend the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 Art highly enough.

The post Review: Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Time Management Tips for Photographers

Sat, 04/20/2019 - 15:00

The post Time Management Tips for Photographers appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Photographers these days need to wear many hats. Not only do you have to shoot and edit your images, but you also need to spend time on social media, market to clients, and keep up with all of the day-to-day administrative tasks of running a business. It’s enough to give even the most organized person a headache. To top it off, time management can be something that creative people often struggle with.

As a creative person, who prided myself on my productivity until I started my own business, it’s taken me a lot of trial and error to figure out how to get the most out of my day without a ton of stress and overwhelm.

If you’re tired of feeling busy but not productive, here are some helpful tips.

Choose three priorities for your day

Most people don’t have a great sense of how long a given task will take them. They overload their calendar with to-do’s and then feel inadequate or frustrated when they don’t check them all off at the end of the day.

Of course, this tip will depend on what you need to get done. You may have a shoot day or need to spend the whole day editing, and therefore will be focused on one task. However, you’ll also likely have a couple of small things you need to complete in a day, like send an invoice and return a few emails or phone calls.

The point is that you should focus on three priorities a day, and tackle them in order of importance.

This tip is also known as The Rule-of-Three from the book Getting Results the Agile Way, and it’s meant to prevent you from running from task-to-task without a clearly defined outcome.

In the Rule-of-Three, you define three tasks to do in a day, three tasks for your week, and also three tasks for your month, and your year.

Start each day by defining the three things you will focus on and make sure to check in with yourself about staying on track. Pay attention to how long it takes you, and notice any patterns that emerge in working on certain tasks. That will give you more information to refine your time management strategies.

Track your time

When you get started with trying out different time management techniques, be sure to track your time.

For the first year-and-a-half of running my photography business, I wrote down everything I did in a day in a small notebook, as well as how long it took me.

If this sounds like a super time-consuming and anal thing to do, it’s actually not. It really takes a second to check your watch and make a note consisting of two or three words describing your task.

Even better, you can use a time-tracking app like Hours Tracker.

The  information you get from tracking your time is gold.

If you find that you’re spending a lot of time on certain tasks that are not completely necessary, you can take steps to reduce the time you spend on them, or cut them out altogether.

For example, if you think you’re only spending a half an hour a day surfing the web, you might find you’re constantly going down the rabbit hole and that it’s closer to two hours.

Use an online calendar to schedule time blocks

One of the most effective ways to increase your productivity is to work in time blocks and schedule them into an online calendar like Google.

Organizing your schedule instead of working off a to-do list helps to apply discipline and order to your tasks.

You dedicate specific time windows to your tasks, thus making them a priority and the only focus during that time. It helps to minimize distractions and the mental burden of switching tasks.

Use an online calendar to schedule your tasks as non-negotiable events. If you’ve been doing things the analog way – writing out to-do lists or keeping a paper journal – you might find using an online calendar much more effective.

An online calendar can help you schedule meetings and send out notices to invitees. You can create recurring events in your online calendar, set up reminders, and you can access the calendar from multiple devices.

Make sure you schedule breaks into your calendar. It’s a really bad idea to sit in front of your computer screen all day without getting up regularly to stretch, eat a proper meal, or just take a few minutes for some R&R.

Use a CRM System

There are so many apps and productivity tools to help people manage their time, projects and life better. You may even be using some of these already.

However, if you’re not already using a CRM (client relationship management) system, you can be missing out on a massively helpful tool that can cut out the necessity of having several apps for several different uses.

A CRM system is a client management and relationship building tool that will help you keep track of your clients and projects. You can do things like record the dates you last communicated with a client and set a reminder for follow up.

However, most CRM’s offer so much more, including accounting tools and contract writing capabilities.

I use and recommend Dubsado, which is a CRM system for creatives. You can create branded contracts you can send out for electronic signature, send an email directly from the user interface, and keep track of all your prospects and clients in a visually pleasing and easy-to-navigate system. It even integrates with your Google calendar.

If you’re using contract signature software like Hello Sign or Adobe, you can get the same function in Dubsado with all the other benefits for a similar price tag.

Other options are Nutshell and Insightly.

Nix Multi-Tasking

The research is in: multi-tasking is way overrated.

Multi-tasking tends to be viewed positively, but the latest research shows that it is detrimental to your productivity and quality of work.

High-quality work is dependent on how much time you spend on a task and the intensity of your focus. If you can increase your focus, you can get done more done in less time.

Working on several tasks at a time overloads the brain. When you work on several things at once, you’re switching mental functions, which ends up being counterproductive.

According to Gloria Mark, researcher and author of Multi-Tasking in The Digital Age, the average knowledge worker switches tasks every three minutes. Once distracted, it can take nearly half an hour to resume the original task. That is 30 wasted minutes because you checked your email and responded to a message.

No wonder the average worker works for three hours out of a typical eight hour work day – even if they’re not constantly looking at Instagram or Facebook.

Put away your devices

So as you can see, one of the biggest ways to ruin your productivity is to constantly check your email and social media throughout the day. Those seconds or minutes can add up to huge amounts of time wasted and ruin your focus on the tasks on hand.

Put away your phone, close the browser window with your open inbox, and concentrate on the task that is in front of you.

Decide on a couple of times a day when you will check and respond to emails and Instagram posts and stick to it.

When I combined this with blocking my time, I was astonished by the result. I literally accomplished three times more in a day than I did when simply floating from task to task, responding to each text and email as I received it.

Try the Pomodoro Method

The Pomodoro Technique is a hugely popular time management tool designed to keep you as productive as possible.

In this method of time management, you choose a task you would like to get done and set a timer for 25 minutes to work focused and without interruption.

You can do this for 25 minutes, right?

When the timer rings, take a short break that is non-work related, like stretching or having a snack.

Once you have done four “pomodoros,” you can take a longer break, like 20 or 30 minutes. Your brain will take this time to assimilate new information.

Set one day aside for errands and admin

This is another productivity hack that works wonders for some people. Have one day set aside in the week where you will attend to all of your personal errands or business admin or a combination of both.

There may be things that you do on a weekly basis, like meal prep or laundry, that can all be relegated to one day, allowing you to focus on business tasks for the rest of the week.

You may want to have one day of the week put aside when you schedule all your meetings or medical appointments. Alternatively, you can do all of your admin like invoicing, accounting or even scheduling your social media.

To sum up

There are a lot of time management techniques and tools out there that can help you boost your productivity and reduce stress and burnout.

No all of them will work for you, but these are some of the more popular ones that you might want to try.

Whether you’re a hobbyist photographer or a pro, chances are you have a ton going on every day.

Finding ways to be more efficient can end up adding hours to your day and even help you sleep better.

The post Time Management Tips for Photographers appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

How to Prepare Images For Publication – Part Two

Sat, 04/20/2019 - 10:00

The post How to Prepare Images For Publication – Part Two appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

In part one of this series, I presented the reasons why images printed in magazines and publications can appear lackluster, dark, and dull rather than detailed and vibrant as when printed on an inkjet printer. In this follow-up article, I address the unique requirements and limitations of printing presses and some ways to produce rich and detailed images in print.

Fine Tuning the Process for Print Paper surfaces

The depth and detail that a press can reproduce in the darkest (shadow) portions of an image are limited by several print-related factors, with the paper grade (quality) being the biggest factor. Printing papers come in various grades, textures, and shades of white.

White is a relative term, and newspapers are a prime example. Newsprint isn’t actually pure white and the ink printed on it never appears black.

Printing inks

Newspaper inks are nearly in a liquid state as opposed to other forms of print. The tack level (stickiness) of these inks must remain very low since the newsprint paper composition is quite soft. Full-bodied inks printed at high speed would tear the paper apart. Instead of appearing as black ink on white paper, newspapers appear more like charcoal colored ink on light gray paper. This factor alone dismisses the visual contrast in pictures. Newsprint absorbs ink like a paper towel, which is why pictures in the newspaper lack contrast, punch and depth.

Magazine paper surfaces

Publication (magazine) presses fair much better. However, they still have limitations. Paper grades for publications are still lower quality than those of brochures and coffee table books because of the economy of the project. Most publication stocks are made from recycled papers in which many of the whitening agents and glossy coatings used in higher grade papers are absent. This results in less reflective surfaces and varying shades of off-white colors. While the recycled paper is good news for the environment, it’s bad news for print quality.

The challenge

High-speed presses must also reduce the tack level of their inks to keep these papers flowing through the presses. When the tack level goes down, so does the opacity of the inks, and when the tack level of translucent inks is reduced, the contrast in the images (and image detail) is also reduced. You can see where this is headed…

The creative solution

Thus the challenge is to maintain as much apparent contrast in each image as possible under less than ideal circumstances. Here is where the creative magic of contrast “compensation” enters the picture. Prior to the era of digital editing, this creative level of tonal manipulation was simply out of reach. While adjusting the overall contrast (white, middle, and black points) of printed images has always been possible, serious contour shaping was not. But within current digital image editing software, the entire internal range of tones can be tuned and cajoled with great precision. Success simply takes a clear understanding of the limitations and a good knowledge of the tools in the digital tool chest.

The Sun backlit the subjects in this photo causing the darker areas to hide significant detail. If sent to press without compensating adjustments, the printed results would have looked even darker and important detail would have been lost.

Pictured here are the settings that produced the civil war reenactment photo above. Information contained in the middle tones and shadow tones was recovered by powerful tonal adjustments available in each of the four software applications. Very similar settings produced very similar results. The panels (from left to right) include Adobe Camera Raw, Adobe Lightroom, On1 Photo RAW, and Alien Skin X4.5. Camera Raw and Lightroom produced identical results from identical settings for obvious reasons, while the development engineers from On1 and Alien Skin used unique routines and algorithms in their software to affect very similar results.


The secret to success in adjusting the internal contrast of an image is in developing a distinct visual difference between the whites and highlights and the shadows and black tones. This is best addressed within the six major tonal sliders provided by most RAW editing software (Lightroom, Camera Raw, On1 Photo RAW and Alien Skin’s Xposure X4.5) best address this.

Don’t let the term RAW scare you away. These editors can open and process just about all image file types (RAW, JPEG, TIFF, etc.). Each of these packages provides very similar tonal area adjustments (Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks) though each maintains a slightly different range for each. Additional controls to fine tune the tonal values include the Tone Curve adjustments of Highlights, Lights, Darks, and Shadows.

The beauty of all these controls is the fact that they are nonlinear, meaning they can be adjusted in any order and at any time during (and during follow-up) editing sessions. Using these editing packages, truly non-non-destructive image editing can be made to RAW, TIFF and JPEG image files.

Backlighting and a black cat provided a serious challenge in this image. These adjustments were needed even if the picture was not going to press.

Three aspects of tonal controls

Familiarize yourself with these three general aspects of tonal controls to prepare your photos specifically for the printing press.


Since camera image sensors capture very little shadow detail, digital images require significant internal contrast adjustments to the lower portion of the tonal scale.

Shadow tones of each image are the most challenging areas to print cleanly on press. Therefore, you must create a sharp distinction between the darkest darks (Black slider) and the three-quarter tones (Shadow slider).

Use the Exposure slider in conjunction with the Blacks slider to bring out all the detail in the darkest portion of the image. Reference the histogram to gauge the actual pixels that will print darkest.


Lighten the middle tones and accent the difference between the quarter tones and the highlights.

Use the Curves tool to affect the middle tones while adjusting the Shadows slider and Highlight Slider to define the middle tones further.


Reference the histogram again to monitor the lightest tones (White slider). White is a misnomer in the labeling of this slider as its influence is on the extreme highlight tones. Draw a distinction between the light tones and absolute white by using the Highlights slider and the White slider.

The Exposure slider and the Contrast slider play an important part in this tonal ballet. Choreograph these controls to achieve the best balance of internal tones and check your progress by occasionally tapping the “P” key to preview the composite effects of all your adjustments against the original image.

Seemingly lost detail in the darker areas was completely recovered by some severe adjustments to individual tonal areas throughout the tonal range. The image was recovered with only the use of the sliders shown. No further editing (dodging, burning, etc.) was required.

This article is hardly an exhaustive explanation of how to prepare images for publication inasmuch as it does not address the critical issues of color, sharpening, resolution, etc. But it will get you started on the most critical issues of tone sculpturing images for reproduction. In every example shown, ONLY global adjustments to the seven sliders was required to bring full life back into lackluster photos. The most critical aspect of post-production involves an image’s internal tonality.

Shape each image’s internal contrast specifically for the press and paper being printed. If you don’t, the printed image will probably hide shadow detail, lose their “snap” in the highlights, and produce muddy middle tones. Slight but deliberate accenting of the tone curve will produce significantly better images in print.

Working on images in these RAW Interpreter software applications provides amazing latitude in recovering both shadow and highlight detail. This example shows how On1 Photo RAW found significant detail in what appeared to be blown out highlights of a JPEG image.

Chasing light

At the core of the issue is light.

Everything about photography concerns light, and that includes viewing photos in print.

The reason images appear more vibrant and colorful on a monitor is because the background “white” is projected light, not paper. Images printed on paper will ALWAYS appear less vibrant. Paper is only as white as the light reflecting from it. The darker the paper and the dimmer the reflecting light, the less bright the picture appears. Images in print will never look as good as images on your monitor simply because reflected light cannot compete with projected light.


Preparing images to print correctly is a serious challenge, but one that delivers an amazing result. If you want to test your image editing skills, it doesn’t get more challenging than this. The reward for all your print-editing efforts will last a whole lot longer than a post on the Internet and will be seen by thousands (if not millions) more than a print hanging in a gallery. People collect well-produced publications and display them for others to see.

Virtually all images deserve thoughtful preparation before presentation. The camera can’t evaluate tonality balance by human standards. Learning the reproduction habits and limitations of different devices and understanding how to best compensate for each will pay serious visual dividends.

Of course, the final challenge in preparing images for publication is converting the color mode from RGB to CMYK. Check with your publication about this matter before you arbitrarily choose CMYK from the Image/Mode menu. There are a number of workflows that publications use to produce their final files for the printer. I suggest you leave the color conversion decision up to the magazine’s production staff. The conversion process is a complex issue that deserves much more attention than I’m addressing in this series.

Please feel free to comment and question what you’ve just read. Life is a collaborative effort, and we’re all learning.

The post How to Prepare Images For Publication – Part Two appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Chimney

Fri, 04/19/2019 - 15:00

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is the fabulous CHIMNEY!

Mahir Uysal

Your photos can be anything that includes a chimney. They can be color, black and white, moody or bright, landscape, architecture or industrial. You get the picture! Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Pierre Châtel-Innocenti


Some Inst-piration from some Instagrammers:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by In The Blink Of An Eye (@intheblinkofaneyeo) on Apr 9, 2019 at 11:54pm PDT


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Guy Davies (@guydaviesphotographer) on Feb 9, 2019 at 1:15pm PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Maurice Robinson (@mauricearobinson) on Feb 8, 2019 at 5:17am PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jonny Mendelsson (@jonnymendelsson) on Oct 27, 2018 at 4:46am PDT


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by JHT (@memofromturner) on Sep 24, 2018 at 11:36am PDT



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

Tips for Shooting a CHIMNEY

How to Tell Stories with Architecture Photography

9 Creative Architecture Photography Techniques for Amazing Photos!

How to Enhance your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

Urban Exploration Photography – Urbex

How to Create Powerful Silhouettes by Telling a Story

5 Tips for Better Winter Landscape Photography


Weekly Photography Challenge – CHIMNEY

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 #DPSchimney 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 – Chimney appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Review of the Nikon Z6 Mirrorless Camera [video]

Fri, 04/19/2019 - 10:00

The post Review of the Nikon Z6 Mirrorless Camera [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this review of the Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera, Tony and Chelsea Northrup test out this camera in different scenarios to see how it performs.

It has a few issues that you may want to know about, but are they serious enough to steer away from this camera?

  • Ergonomically, it feels good to hold.
  • Autofocus is an issue. While shooting wildlife, the camera hunted for focus and caused many missed shots. Even during a portrait shoot, the Z6 sometimes narrowly missed focus. As a result, they had to over-shoot to ensure they got at least one shot in focus.
  • Autofocus also failed in backlit scenarios, so manual focus was used.
  • The camera advertises shooting at 11 frames per second, but when shooting moving objects such as birds, you will need to drop that down to around 5 frames per second.
  • Because the sensor doesn’t close when changing lenses, there is more possibility of getting dust on the sensor (an issue with mirroless cameras in general).
  • There are no native lenses for the Z mount so you need an adapter.
  • White balance is the worst they have seen in any camera, and it had to be set manually.
  • Exposure compensation had to be constantly adjusted to get the right exposure. The camera would often underexposure backlit portraits – often by a number of stops.

If you are a photographer, you may be better off buying a used Nikon D750 with the same lenses, with no need for an adapter. You’ll get the same image quality, without the focusing issues, plus two card slots.

  • When using video, rolling shutter is prevalent.
  • The image stabilization isn’t good when shooting video, so often needed to be switched off. It was jarring when walking, which is problematic due to the native lenses not having image stabilization either.
  • Focusing points go all the way to the edge of the frame.
  • While the Z6 doesn’t have eye detection focus, Nikon has promised it in a future Firmware upgrade.
  • While the Z6 has the best video autofocusing of any Nikon camera, they are still way behind other competitors.
  • The video looks great when shooting in low-light scenarios. So much so that it outperforms it’s competitors in this area, including the Canon EOS R, Nikon Z7, Nikon D850, and Sony A7R III. This makes it one of the best low-light video performance cameras ever made.
  • Auto White balance can be very problematic and often required setting it manually.
  • No flip screen for filming yourself.

If you already own the Nikon D750 or D850, you already have the best Nikon cameras, so save your money and stick to those.

If you must go mirrorless, perhaps try competitor brands such as Sony and Fuji.


You may also find the following articles helpful:


The post Review of the Nikon Z6 Mirrorless Camera [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

The Real Reason You Need to Print Your Photos

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 15:00

The post The Real Reason You Need to Print Your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

Each creative pursuit has its own fulfillment. It is that moment when we can stop and see that our finished creation. A play is written and performed – a score is composed and played by musicians – poems written and then read out loud. The fulfillment of our creative pursuit as photographers is a printed photograph.

When you print a photograph, it becomes physical. A print is the embodiment of the digital file. As a print, it becomes part of our daily physical existence. As a constant part of our life the print comes to play a role in our life, perhaps effecting us in ways we didn’t expect.

A few prints that I stumbled across from my childhood. Each time I come across these memories, I’m reminded of my place in my family as a son, a grandson, and now a father myself.

Coming to life

When something lives in the digital world, it is easily scrolled past, or swiped away and forgotten forever. Digital photos live a ghostly existence.

We experience digital photos like a dream. Just as a dream vanishes when we wake up, a digital photo vanishes as we scroll past it or close the file. But as a print, your photograph becomes part of the real world and a part of your life.

One day I saw one of my digital images – a headshot – on a huge billboard. I was so surprised I had to circle the block just to see it again! I had seen that same image on the internet many times, but to see it in the real world brought on emotions that had never arisen when viewing the photo online.

Yes, “an image is an image” whether it is digital or printed. But a printed image has a different existence – a bodily existence – and becomes part of your world as something physical rather than ghostly or dreamlike.

Before setting out for the East Coast, I knew that I wanted to make a photo book after the trip. Part of the fun was anticipating the project, then living the adventure as we traveled. But the creative experience was not complete until I had finished the book. A lot of the fun was selecting the paper, the lay-flat style and the dimensions.

Daily life

Consider the difference in the way we normally experience digital and print photographs.

A print is displayed somewhere and might remain for a very long time. However, a digital photo is at your mercy – only viewed on your whim and dismissed almost immediately. If you do not wish to see them, they are gone. A digital photo is not ever-present as a print is. Digital photos count on you to come looking for them.

A digital photo is given a physical existence when printed. When it is displayed at home or in our studio, it becomes part of our daily life.

Most people are quite tactile – collecting books, rocks, and small keepsakes. Our family often brings home a jar of dirt from the new lands we visit.

Inspired and called

When printed, our photographs are ever-present reminders of what is important in life.

Unlike the fleeting excitement that digital photos bring as we scroll past them, the inspiration of a printed photograph is always there to view.

When you’re bored of the flow of digital photos, you shut them off. However, you don’t turn off a print; it is there whether or not you wish to see it at that moment. This is important because when we choose our prints carefully, they can be sources of encouragement when we need it most.

An ever-changing sea of digital images is part of your daily landscape. Images pound you like waves, only to disappear once they’ve made contact. They exhaust you as they hit all day long. You live in a chaotic world where you are most likely to forget what is important in life.

You should print photos that inspire you and call you to a good life. The portraits you hang can remind you of who is important in life. Even the landscape you print can calm and inspire you in tough moments.

In my son’s room, there is a picture of him and my grandmother together. It has been there for years. It’s also on my computer. I can tell you the exact folder it’s in, but I haven’t seen the digital file since I made the print. I made the print for my grandmother and received it back when she died. It once reminded her of the joy of her great grandchildren and now it reminds me of the joy of my grandparents.

A stronger experience

While I can hardly recall any of the images I just scrolled through online, I can still remember some of the images in the photography magazines I read as a kid.

When I knew a new issue of Photo Life was due out, I’d check the mailbox every day until it came. I knew the feel of it when I reached into the mailbox. The cover photo would strike me first, then the smell of the brand new magazine. I suppose I did all but taste those photographs!

Imagine the life of those photos. The photographers would conceive their ideas and work away until they had their collection of images. The photographs were developed, culled, and selected by an editor. Once printed, the magazine was shipped around the world. Finally, it would get carried by post for photography lovers to grab from the mailbox or snatch from a newsstand. We’d carry them with us, reread them, and add them to our collection of back issues.

You can close a photo book and put it away, much like swiping away a photo. But a book is placed on the shelf, while a digital photo is swiped away and obliterated into 1’s and 0’s.

The digital world is a gift

Digital photos are important – just as imagination, thoughts and dreams are. But dreams disappear, thoughts are forgotten, and imagination begs to come to life in the real world.

There are many gifts that the digital world has given us. Perhaps most of all the digital world gives us a place to play and experiment before we decide which photos to make real. We have transcended many of the limits of film (although many of those limits may have been healthy for our creativity).

Even though our creative activity is not complete until we have made a print, we don’t need to print all of our digital photos – only the ones that deserve to rise up and become worthy of embodiment.

Create something that becomes real

While there is joy in taking photos and viewing them digitally, our satisfaction is not properly realized until we have printed our photos. A photo that isn’t printed is like a script that is never performed, or a musical composition that is never played. There is still value in the digital photo, just as there is value in a script or musical composition. But the value is mainly the hope that one day the digital photo will be printed and share a bodily life with us – to inspire us, cheer us, and remind us.

The post The Real Reason You Need to Print Your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to Food Photography

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 10:00

The post The dPS Ultimate Guide to Food Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

What was once a weird little niche in photography is now a worldwide phenomenon. Food photography is only growing in popularity if the 32 million posts currently on Instagram are anything to go by.

Food photography is here to stay, but it’s not an easy genre to master.

Our guide gives you some of the top tips and tricks to help you get mouth-watering results.

Equipment Cameras

The first thing to think about when you’re on the hunt for a new camera body is the size of the sensor.

Whether you decide to buy a camera with a cropped sensor or invest in a full-frame, your budget will likely determine your choice.

The important thing to know is that your camera and lenses behave differently when they have a cropped sensor than a full-frame.

Every camera has a crop factor. This is a number used to describe how much the camera is cropping your image in relation to the standard 35mm.

A full-frame camera matches the 35mm cropped standard of a traditional film camera. It has a sensor size of 24mm x 36mm. A cropped sensor is smaller than this and is therefore cheaper for camera manufacturers to make. It doesn’t match a lot of lenses and the final images look different.

The Canon Rebel, for example, has a crop factor of 1.6. This means that you multiply 1.6 times the focal length of your lens to get the actual focal length that it will look like your pictures were taken at.

On a full-frame camera, a 50mm lens behaves like a 50mm. Put that same lens on a camera with a cropped sensor, it behaves more like an 80mm.


Lenses are where you should spend the most significant part of your budget. You should look at them as a long-term investment in your craft.

Here are the factors to consider:


Your biggest concern when shopping for a lens is sharpness.

Prime lenses are preferred when shooting food because they are sharper than zoom lenses.

Zoom lenses have more moving parts that enable the zoom to function. This tends to result in lower image quality and sharpness.

Prime lenses are usually ‘faster’. They have a larger maximum aperture, which enables quicker shutter speeds.

They also give you a much tighter depth of field, enabling you to isolate your subject and get that really nice blurred background we all love in food photography.

The 50mm Lens

The 50mm can also be a useful lens, especially if you don’t have a zoom. This lens is good for overhead shots and tablescapes. However, it can give you some distortion when taking a portrait-style shot. In food photography, the 50mm is actually considered a wide-angle lens.

The 50mm f/1.8 is often referred to as the “nifty-fifty” because it gives you decent results for a very low price. If you’re just starting out and your budget is tight, get this one.

The 24-70mm Lens

Although primes are ideal, it’s actually very useful to have one zoom lens in your kit, such as a 24-70mm.

It’s very sharp for a zoom lens, and really versatile. Many food photographers consider this a staple in their kit.

The 60mm Macro

If you’re shooting with a cropped sensor, then a 60mm macro is a great choice.

On a cropped sensor, it’s more like having a 100mm. If you upgrade to full-frame, you can use it like you would a 50mm.

This lens allows you to get 3/4-angle view shots of your subject with a nice bokeh on a cropped sensor.

You also won’t get the distortion at this angle that you would when shooting with a wider focal length, like a 50mm.

The 100mm Macro

An excellent lens to have in your kit is a 100mm macro lens. This lens is not only for macro or close up shots, although it’s great at these, too.

By pulling further away from your set, you can get very nice portrait-style shots as well. The focal length will give you a great blurred background.

If you go for the 100mm/105mm macro lens on a cropped sensor you will be shooting at a focal length of 150mm.

This will be a very tight crop, which can be a problem if space is an issue.


A tripod is a must for food photography. It helps you create consistent images and frees up your hands to style according to what you see through your camera.

The biggest requirement in a tripod is stability. A tripod needs to be able to handle the weight of your camera and lens.

When shopping for a tripod, look for one with both adjustable height and orientation. This is where you have a center column that you can move.

Make sure that it has rubber feet to avoid slippage, and that it has a high payload.

Payload refers to the amount of weight the tripod is able to withstand. It needs to bear the weight of your camera, lens, and any other additions such as a bracket or extension arm.

Food Styling

The objective of food styling is to make food look it’s very best. Most food needs a bit of doctoring to make it look presentable for the camera.

Here are some things to consider when approaching food styling:

Use the freshest food possible

The food you shoot needs to be as fresh as possible so that it looks appealing in your images. When shopping for your ingredients, take care to buy the freshest and best-looking items available.

Always have your scene, lighting, and camera ready before placing your food on set.

When you’re adjusting with your lighting and camera settings, use a substitute in a similar color and shape as your food as a stand-in. Replace it with your “hero” (your main food subject) at the last moment, so that it looks as fresh and appetizing as possible.

Buy more than you need

When shopping for groceries, be sure to buy more than you think you’ll need for the shoot. Food dries out, melts, goes brown, or otherwise begins to look unappealing within a short time frame.
It needs to be replaced with fresher items.

Depending on the food, you may also need a lot of the items to fill the frame.


The most important factor when choosing the dishes on which you will present your food is the size.

Objects can look very different to the camera than to the eye and often look bigger than we expect. For this reason, it’s a good idea to choose smaller dishes than you would ordinarily use.

Present your subjects on salad plates or smaller dinner plates. Large plates can dwarf the main subject and dominate the frame.


Herbs and spices, and items such as croutons, can enhance your food shots.

Sprigs of various herbs like rosemary can be tied together with kitchen string to make little bouquets you can use to add context to your food story.

You can enhance a plain bowl of soup with a drizzle of cream and a sprinkling of chopped chives.

The key is that your garnishes should make sense within the wider context of your scene. If you’re shooting salmon with a lemon dill sauce, then don’t garnish it with basil.

When using herbs, use the freshest possible and replace them as you shoot. They wilt or oxidize quickly. Cut herbs can be kept fresh in the refrigerator much longer when wrapped in some wet paper towel.


You need to have a collection of food photography props.

A prop is any item you use on set to enhance the image. In food photography, this is typically kitchenware, like plates and flatware, serving bowls and utensils, and linens.

When selecting your props, think about your food photography style and what types of props would complement it.

If your style is really clean and elegant, or more refined, such props would not make much sense and you’d be better off with more delicate pieces.

In general, stay away from very bright colors and bold patterns, as they distract from the food. Colorful pieces can add a point of interest, but they need to work with the overall composition and feel of the photo.

Don’t use a lot of props. A couple of the right props can have a lot of impact in telling a visual story, but too many will distract the viewer and dominate the image.

When selecting your props, start with one or two pieces, perhaps a neutral salad plate and a vintage knife or spoon. If in doubt, keep it simple.


You’ll need a variety of interesting backgrounds on which to place your food.

Use a variety of items for your backgrounds, like fabric, craft paper, or large floor tiles. You can also get creative and make your own.

Buy sheets of wood and paint or stain them yourself. There are also some great online resources for buying professional food photography backgrounds and they ship worldwide.

When shooting food, neutral or cool-toned backgrounds like blue generally work best.

Lighting Lighting modifiers

Whether you use natural or artificial light, you’ll need to modify your light source.

One important item in your kit is a diffuser. This is a panel of sheer white material that you place at the edge of your table to soften the light that hits your scene.

You’ll also need some simple tools to bounce and absorb the light. You can buy a professional 8-in-1 reflector kit, with foldable discs in a variety of materials to use in your shoots, as pictured below.

The silver reflector, for example, can brighten your food, while the gold reflector will add warmth. It usually comes with a diffuser as well.

For a DIY version, you can also use simple black or white cardboard purchased from a craft or dollar store. White brightens your scene, while the black absorbs the light.

Lighting styles

You should have an idea of what you want your final image to look like before you pick up your camera. Do you want the light to look soft and dimensional, or are you looking for striking contrast?

The greater the contrast between light and dark, the more dramatic your image will be. Often, your subject will dictate the light you choose.

The next time you shoot, photograph your subject in both soft and hard light and note the difference. How does each approach affect the final result? Many photographers tend to gravitate to one or the other as part of their style.

Side lighting

This is when your light is coming from directly beside the food.

Side lighting is a good approach for a lot of your food photography. It works for most set-ups and is easy to use.

Place a reflector or bounce card on the opposite side to the light. Depending on how much shadow you want on the side of your food, move it closer or farther away, or use a smaller or larger reflector.

When shooting white and airy scenes, you still want some shadow to add dimension.


Backlighting is when you position your light behind your food.

If you imagine the face of a clock, it’s at 12 o’clock. This is an ideal position for beverages or soups, as it adds a sheen and highlights the liquid properties of food.

In general, backlighting is very flattering to food. It makes it gleam and brings out its texture.

However, it can be tricky to work with because it can cause your image to be too bright at the back, and too dark at the front. Too much contrast means the back of the photo will be blown out, with a loss of detail blurring into the main subject. Not enough contrast will result in a blown out photo or one that looks washed out, which is what happens when you shoot with too much light.

Side backlighting

Side backlighting is a combination of the first two types of lighting. It’s the best of both worlds and the easiest to work with. Here, our light is placed between 10 and 11 o’clock.

With this lighting style, you get the surface shine provided by backlighting without the risk of overexposure. You also don’t have to reflect as much light onto the front of the food because the light is coming at more of an angle.

When using side backlighting, you’ll have to play around with the height of your light relative to your scene, depending on how you want the shadows to fall.

The closer your light source is to your set, the softer the fall-off will be.

Camera Angles

Camera angle can have a powerful effect on your final image.

Before you pick up your camera, you need to think about what kind of food or dish you are shooting and which camera angle will help bring out its best features.

There are three main camera angles used when photographing food: overhead, 3/4 angle, or straight-on.

The 3/4 Angle

The 3/4 angle is when your camera is placed anywhere from 25 to 75 degrees in relation to your subject.

The 3/4 angle is a popular angle because it’s so versatile. You can usually show the front and surface of the dish, as well as the sides.

You see this angle a lot in commercial food photography.

The Overhead Angle

The overhead angle is the 90-degree angle. This has become a very popular angle lately due to Instagram.

This angle definitely has several positives. It’s good for fitting several elements into a scene, like in a tablescape. This also makes it a great storytelling angle. You can see a variety of props, ingredients, or dishes of food in the frame when you shoot from overhead. It is also often easier to compose your shot using this angle than a 3/4 angle or straight-on.

However, the overhead angle doesn’t work for every type of food shot. It eliminates depth, which gives a more graphic pop to an image but is not suitable for every type of food.

With the overhead angle, what you most emphasize is the shape of the food and various elements of the scene.

The Straight-On Angle

This straight-on camera angle is most suitable for “tall” foods, like burgers or stacks of brownies or pancakes. It emphasizes the height of a dish.

When you’re shooting burgers and sandwiches, the bun or the top piece of bread hides what is inside, so taking the shot from anywhere above the food doesn’t make sense.

Remember, the objective is always to focus on the best features of the food.


Compositional tools can help us make better photographs, however, not each tool will work for each image.

Before you begin to shoot, know the goal of your image. What is the mood?  What is it that you want to convey? What is the purpose of your shot and how will it be used?

Good food photography evokes the viewer’s emotions. Composition is one of the main tools that help us do this.


Line is the most basic element in visual composition. Lines lead the eye through a photograph to key focal points and elements and keep the viewer’s eye focused on the image.

There are a couple of things to be aware of when working with lines. When using lines to direct the viewer’s eye, they should point to the main subject, or into the frame.

Lines should also never point outside of the frame, as the eyes will be forced to leave the image. This weakens the image and can cause the viewer to lose interest.

Rule of Odds

The rule-of-odds states that when photographing a group of objects, having an odd number of elements in the frame is much more visually interesting than having an even number of elements.

Odd numbers create a sense of balance and harmony and provide a resting point for our eyes, whereas even numbers of objects can divide our attention and compete with each other.

When there are more than five elements in an image, it becomes difficult for the mind to register the higher number. For this reason, it’s a good idea to compose many elements into groups of odd numbers whenever possible.

Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is intended to help you place the main elements and focal point within the composition.

Think of an imaginary grid that divides the image into nine equal parts, like a tic-tac-toe grid. The ratio is 1:1 per rectangle.

Rule of Thirds is a great place to start. It helps add harmony to your images and helps you take the first steps in composition as a new photographer. In fact, it can work for many images, particularly landscapes.

When it comes to food photography, however, this rule can be limiting. You can end up making images that are unbalanced and awkward.

The Phi Grid is a similar concept that is more powerful than the Rule of Thirds. Both grids look almost the same, but the centre lines of the Phi Grid are closer together.

The Phi Grid

Phi Grid

The Phi Grid is an expression of the Golden Ratio. It helps you create a balanced and naturally pleasing image.

The Phi Grid follows the ratio of 1:1.618, a ratio that is a constant in nature and one we automatically gravitate toward.

It appears throughout the natural world, from a nautilus shell to the number of petals in a flower.

You can find the golden ratio everywhere in the world around us, though no one can explain exactly why it exists this way.

You can use this knowledge in your photography. Thinking about how the eye moves through an image and incorporating some expression of the golden ratio will help you create images that the brain will recognize as aesthetically attractive and harmonious.

Negative Space

Positive space is the space taken up by your main subject. Negative space is an area where your eyes can rest. It provides balance, a bit of breathing room, and emphasizes the subject.

Negative space can portray movement and give context to an image. It may also give the viewer the idea that there is a story beyond what the eye is seeing.

In food photography, there is a tendency to shoot with a lot of negative space due to text placement, particularly when it comes to magazine work, product packaging, or advertisements.

When an image doesn’t make use of negative space, it can feel a bit claustrophobic and cluttered. Also, when there is too much going on in an image, the viewer is unsure of where to look.


Repeating elements also add interest to an image. Repetition can occur spontaneously in the subject or can be created by added elements such as props and supporting ingredients.

Sometimes patterns can become monotonous, so breaking up a pattern can create a stronger photograph.

There are various ways to create a break in pattern, such as with a break in color, shape, size, or texture. Where you place this break is crucial; you want to place it in one of your focal points or along intersecting lines.


Color is an important part of a composition. It evokes emotions and creates a sense of mood within an image.

Cool and dark colors such as navy blue and black recede, while light or warm colors like yellow bring objects forward.

Backgrounds and surface colors that are too bright can detract from our subject; they should be chosen according to the mood you want to create, as well as in harmony with your chosen elements.

Color combinations can be monochromatic when they are tonal variations within a single hue. This approach has its place, but utilizing complementary colors is a great technique to apply to food photography.

Complementary colors appear directly opposite each other on the color wheel, such as red and green, or blue and orange.

The color scheme you choose to work with will, in part, be dictated by the food you are shooting.

Your colors should also be balanced in terms of not having too many colors in a frame, which will appear chaotic.


One of the best ways to add interest to your photographs is with texture. It adds contrast and detail and enhances food subjects.

Texture occurs naturally in food, but can also be used effectively in backgrounds and surfaces, and your props and linens, as long as it’s not overdone.

Lots of texture in the food, linens, and backgrounds composed together can look too busy and overwhelm the viewer.

Editing Your Images

Adobe’s Lightroom is an excellent post-processing program. It’s more intuitive and easier to learn than Photoshop.

I recommend using Lightroom to do your global adjustments and then to fine tune your image in Photoshop if need be. For example, if you need to work on specific areas of the image.

Let’s look at the most important tools:

The Histogram


It’s important to have a basic understanding of the histogram to make the proper adjustments to the exposure and tones in your image.

A histogram maps out the tonal range of an image. Brightness is graphed on a grayscale. Every pixel in the image is assigned to a value.

Black is on the left, while white is on the right. You can find the shades of grey in between.

The distribution of the tones in the histogram will tell you about the overall exposure of the image.

A big peak in any of these regions means that the image has a lot of pixels at that particular density. An open gap in the histogram means that there are no pixels at that density.

Check if you have a strong peak at the black or white end of the histogram. If you do, your image could be underexposed or overexposed.

Generally, most images look best if they contain both dark and light values. Otherwise, they may lack contrast and look flat.


It’s a good idea to crop and straighten your image before you start making global adjustments.

To straighten an image, start in the Transform panel and click on -> Auto.

If this doesn’t work, you can try one of the other settings, or do it manually under the Crop Tool.

To access the Crop Tool in Lightroom, click on the grid symbol under the Histogram in the top panel. Or hit R for the keyboard shortcut. This will allow you to crop your image by bringing in the corners with your cursor.

Note that when the lock is closed on the lock symbol, the tool will crop each side of the image evenly.

If you would like to freeform crop, simply click on it to unlock it.

White Balance

White Balance in a very important aspect of post-processing your food pictures.

I recommend shooting with a grey card and adjusting your white balance in post-processing. This removes incorrect color casts and ensures that your whites are truly white.

A grey card is a piece of grey plastic you can buy at a camera supply store. It is exactly 18% grey, which is what your camera looks for when metering a scene.

Take a picture with your grey card in the scene. In Lightroom, take the White Balance eyedropper and click on the grey card. It will automatically read the proper white balance.

The Basic Panel

This panel is where you may end up doing a lot of tweaking before you settle on a final look.

Exposure affects the brightness of the range of tones in your image, however, playing with your shadows and highlights, and your whites and blacks will give you a more precise balancing of tones than simply relying on the Exposure slider.

Check if the bright areas look muddy, or the shadows still need more light. Move the sliders to points where the image looks good overall.

You will likely need to go back and readjust your exposure slider once you have made edits with the other sliders.

Vibrance & Saturation

Vibrance is also an important slider in editing food photography.

It’s a better editing tool than Saturation because it’s more subtle. It adjusts the less saturated colors without intensifying the already saturated ones.

Vibrance will first boost the saturation of the muted colors and then the other colors.

Whether you actually use the saturation slider depends on the image. In general, a conservative approach is what works best when editing food photography.

If you decide to use this slider the slider, nudge it up a tad, to about +5 or +6.

Tone Curve

New users often find the Tone Curve challenging,  but it’s one of the most powerful tools found in Lightroom.

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

You can control the lightness and darkness of your tones. Adjust the Point Curve itself or the Region Curve.

The Region has sliders for each part of the tonal range. As you drag each slider, the curve, and the image both change.

To make adjustments with the Point Curve, click on the area you want to affect. This will create an anchor point at which to control the tone.

Dragging the point up lightens that tone; dragging it down darkens it.

Assess the mid-tones in your image to see if they are already bright.  If not, click on the middle of the tone curve and bring the point up.

If they are too bright, bring the curve down. Check the other parts of your image.

If you’re just getting started with learning the Tone Curve, play around with the Region sliders first. Take note of how the various sliders affect the curve.

Whichever approach you choose, be sure to watch the histogram as you make changes. This way you’ll make sure that you are not losing important detail.


HSL stands for HueSaturation, and Luminance. This is where you balance the colors in Lightroom.

Color adjustments are usually more subjective than tonal adjustments. This is because color gives a photograph a sense of mood.

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

The Hue tab or section at the top of the panel is where you choose how warm or cool you want each color in your image to be.

For example, I find that greens almost always look off. I slide the greens slightly more towards the left or right to get them looking more realistic.

To add more warmth – meaning more yellow – to your greens, slide it to the left. For a cooler hue, sliding it to the right adds more blue.

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

If you adjust a color to be more saturated, this will affect the saturation of that particular color throughout the whole photo.

Whether you’re working in the basic panel or the HSL panel, saturation requires a light hand.

Lastly, Luminance affects the brightness of the color. These sliders are more valuable than the saturation sliders, so work with these first.

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


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

However, you don’t need to apply sharpening to the whole image because, in food photography, there is not much point in sharpening the props and the background.

The focus is on the food, so that is what you sharpen.

To do this in Lightroom, mask out the image to select the areas of the image you want to sharpen. Hold down the Alt/Option key while clicking on Masking in the Sharpening panel.

Lightroom will show you where the sharpening is being applied in white. Your image will look like an x-ray.

Slide it to the right. The further right you go, the less the image will be sharpened.

You will find that you will be in the +70-80 range for sharpening for food photography.

In Conclusion

There is a lot to learn when it comes to shooting food, but hopefully, this guide has given you an overview of what’s involved and some ideas about how you can improve your images.

The more information you have, the more empowered you can be in your creative decisions.

Above all, lots of practice is what is going to take you to the next level in your food photography.

The post The dPS Ultimate Guide to Food Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Before and After: Students Becoming Better Photographers After 31 Days Course

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 22:02

The post Before and After: Students Becoming Better Photographers After 31 Days Course appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

Remember when you first started taking photos? Feelings of excitement and hope being replaced by disappointment and confusion when you couldn’t figure out why you and your camera didn’t seem to be seeing the same thing? Or maybe that’s you right now?

We just had to share these ‘before and after’ photos taken by students of our course, 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer, just to remind you of where we all start, and what is possible. If you’re a seasoned photographer, please jump in the comments and give these photographers the encouragement they deserve to continue their photography journey.

If you’re a beginner, take some inspiration by what is possible with the right support and guidance. We’re very proud of all of our students and thank the few below who have allowed us to share their progress with you.

Current course intake coming to a close soon

We open the doors to our most popular course just a few times a year so that instructor Jim Hamel can focus on his students and guide them through the course. He is the most attentive mentor we’ve seen, and our students love him. Doors close for the current class midnight (PDT) on the 18th of April so be quick and check out the details here.

Our students’ before and after photos

A big shoutout to our students below for letting us share these photos of their progress, and to all of our students who have taken up this course. We’re very proud of how far you’ve come!

Rebecca Garnett

Rebecca says, “I enjoy taking photos at the beach and was not happy with the way my photos were turning out.” The before photo was taken in 2017 at Pismo Beach when she had taken the camera off auto and used aperture and shutter speed priority.

Rebecca Garnett’s beach photo before taking 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer Course


Rebecca Garnett’s beach photo after taking the 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer Course.

The after photo was taken in December 2018 at the same place but shot in Manual Mode.

“I never thought I would ever use manual mode as it was too confusing, until Jim’s course. The course was awesome! It helped me get to know more about my camera and improved the way I take photos and editing. The class was enjoyable, and it was great interacting with the other classmates on Facebook. Well worth it!!”

~ Rebecca Garnett

George Conant

George shares, “Before taking this course, I appreciated really good photos from others but found most of mine weren’t that good. This course improved my photography a lot.”

George Conant’s landscape photo before taking Jim’s course

“This photo was taken (I think) in auto mode. Although the clouds look good there is no major point of focus, nor rule of thirds. I had no thought at the time of working on focus. The result is that the distance is not in focus, and the in-focus foreground is not very interesting,” says George.

George’a landscape after taking the 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer course.

In addition to the huge improvement in his photo, George’s commentary on his ‘after’ photo clearly demonstrates what he has learned from the course.

“This photo was better than the last for several reasons.

  1. There is a leading line with the road.
  2. The sun is at an angle coming from the left.
  3. There is interesting color contrast, particularly with the red in the bushes to the side of the road.
  4. While the foreground is not in great focus, much of the photo is from a point part way down the road, extending to the mountain.
  5. The composition is more interesting with the bushes forming a bit of a V with the mountain in the distance.”

“Jim is an excellent teacher. He provides both really good videos and documents that include what he discussed in the videos as well as providing homework for each day. He motivated us class members to post our ongoing work in a Facebook group for our class, where he and other class members provided praise as well as constructive criticism. He was very good at answering posted questions. Finally, even though the course I took finished in early 2018, Jim still participates in our group. I don’t know of any other course this good for people like me.”

Lorayne Hudson

“Prior to this course I took few photographs and when I did, the camera was always on Auto. My main issues were with my landscapes never looking like they’re in focus, and not being able to get close to flowers,” says Lorayne.

Check out her before and after photos which illustrate her continued improvement.

Lorayne Hudson’s ‘before’ photo was taken in 2010 at Fingle’s Glen, Dartmoor with no post-processing as she didn’t know it was possible.


Lorayne’s ‘after’ photo was taken this year one early morning whilst out for a walk. The sun was just coming up and there was a light mist on the ground.


Lorayne Hudson’s photo of a flower before taking the course

“This is a standard photo of a flower that I have very many of… it’s flat with no light. Taken in Auto, I had no idea about depth of field, but was quite impressed with the blur but didn’t think much further. I now strive for similar effects knowing how it’s done,” explains Lorayne.

Now Lorayne’s flower photos look like this, with minor adjustments to the highlights, shadows and clarity in Lightroom.

Lorayne shares what she has learned from the course:

  1. To use my camera with confidence and not be afraid of it or the subject.
  2. The right light can make such a difference to the subject.
  3. Rules are made to be broken.
  4. Don’t just stand, move around, up and down, change your perspective.
  5. Using post-processing tools is not cheating – they are your friend.
  6. Having a good group of like-minded people to share your photographic achievements – and woes with – makes photography more enjoyable.
Bob Truran

An example of Bob Truran’s beach photos before the course


Bob Truran’s beach photos after the course

Bob is pleased with the many compliments he has received for his ‘after’ photo.

“I have seen a marked improvement in my photography and have even received many new followers on Instagram as well as added comments from my friends on Facebook. This course is great for beginners as well as those that may require a brush-up.”

Marie Costanza

Marie gets the unofficial dPS prize for best ‘duck transformation’!

Marie Constanza’s ‘before’ photo of a duck


Marie’s photo of a duck after taking 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer Course

“When I began the course, I was a novice photographer who used Auto mode for all my images. I occasionally tried Aperture Priority, but I was totally intimidated by Manual. A year later, thanks to this course, I completely use and understand how to use Manual, but more importantly, I understand several techniques for composing an effective image.

Thanks to Jim’s excellent teaching style, and the effective resources that he provides, I now feel like a competent photographer. I have actually won several competitions, was asked to display an image in a local photography gallery and have been asked to show 8 images in an upcoming gallery show. A year ago, I never would have believed that I could do all of this. The pace of Jim’s course, his calm teaching style, the practice assignments, and the regular feedback provided by Jim make this the most effective photography course I have ever taken.”

~ Marie Costanza

Rick Willingham

Meet the once overwhelmed Rick – “How in the heck am I supposed to figure out how to use this thing?” His first ‘selfie’ image was taken in 2012 from his then brand new Canon T3i.

Rick Willingham’s Selfie on his new camera, before taking the course.

Rick’s ‘selfie’ after taking the 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer course – ISO 100 or 100 proof?

The latter was shot almost one year after purchasing the 31-days course, with a Canon T3i and a nifty-fifty EF 50mm f/1.8 lens.

Rick’s before shot of the ocean in 2012

Rick’s ‘after’ beach photo shot shot with a recently purchased refurbished Canon 6D and 24-105 f/4L II lens.

So, what does Rick see as changes or improvements to his photography?
  1. Shooting earlier/later in the day
  2. Using post-processing to get the visual “mood” I want
  3. Getting lower to get the shot
  4. Using lighting to my advantage
  5. Composing shots more carefully than before
  6. Controlling the depth of field to match the composition
  7. Conscientiously selecting the shooting position and focal length to match the desired composition
Shaun Bentley

Shaun Bentley’s river photo before he took the course


Shaun Bentley went back to the river to take this shot using what he had learned from the course

The first photo was taken back in 2017 as a standard jpg. Shaun returned earlier this year and got a similar shot but this time applied the camera and post techniques he learned from Jim Hamel.

Of the course he says, “Simple yet comprehensive instructional videos combined with sharing and learning groups made the course easy and enjoyable. I now have the knowledge and confidence to take my photography further.”

Kay Koufalakis

Kay says, “Apart from post processing, the biggest improvement I have made is looking at things from a different perspective and planning – when to go to get the best shots, for example. I still have a way to go, but I can see progress and it is getting easier.”

Kay Koufalakis’ waterfall before the course

Whilst she captured the water the way she wanted in this photo, she really wanted sky too and left side of the waterfall is overblown.

“I’ve learned that this is a difficult shot to get in one and now know how to take it bracketed,” says Kay. The following ‘after’ shot of a waterfall demonstrates her understanding of taking a different perspective. “Same waterfall, different perspective. I climbed higher which negated the overblown and shadows problem,” explains Kay.

Same waterfall, different perspective!

Can you become a better photographer in 31 days?

Well, these students have proven that, yes, you can make some amazing progress in a short time. But the teaching (and learning) doesn’t just stop after 31 days! Access to the class Facebook group is for 3 months and many of our students then transfer to our Graduates group. Here they continue to learn and support each other with challenges and constructive feedback, and the instructor Jim Hamel still pops in to see how they’re all doing.

If you’d like to be in our next graduate group with your own before and after photos to share, sign up today before you miss the cutoff!

The post Before and After: Students Becoming Better Photographers After 31 Days Course appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

5 Tips for Photographing Portfolio-Worthy Costume Portraits

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 15:00

The post 5 Tips for Photographing Portfolio-Worthy Costume Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

There’s been an explosion of interest in photographing costume portraits over the last few years. From movie cosplays to historically-inspired portraits – there’s no end to the kind of costumes that could make their way into your portrait portfolio.

Shooting someone who is playing a role can bring a whole new dimension to your images. It can add depth and vibrancy to your portfolio. People often lose their inhibitions about being in front of the camera if they are pretending to be someone else!

With that in mind, here are my top five tips for creating portfolio-worthy costume portraits.

1. Be inspired by history

Fabulous costume portraits have been created throughout history, both in photography and in other kinds of art. Julia Margaret Cameron, for example, was a British photographer born in 1815 who used to shoot people dressed up as characters from Shakespeare. Her contemporary, David Wilkie Wynfield, would photograph his friends wearing fancy dress in the style of the great 16th-Century Venetian artist, Titian.

And don’t just stop at taking inspiration from photographer either – there are thousands of years of portraits to take inspiration from. In the portrait above, I took inspiration from a painting called La belle ferronnière by Leonardo da Vinci. Other times I’ve been inspired by different historical artists – Rembrandt lighting is a popular technique amongst photographers too and a great place to start!

Never be afraid to try self-portraiture when you’re experimenting with different lighting and looks inspired by historical portraits. It can take a bit of practice to get it right, and you will almost certainly be your most patient model! The shot above is the result of an hour locked in my studio experimenting with light and self-portraiture. I cannot recommend the Fujifilm camera system and app highly enough for shooting self portraits. You can focus and shoot at the touch of your phone screen!

Costume portraits are a great excuse to step away from the kind of lighting that you would usually use and try something different. If you always use studio lights then how about trying some available light? That’s how artists would have mostly worked in the past, and if it worked for them then it must be worth trying! Equally, if you usually work with available light then perhaps this is an excellent opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and try something tight and controlled with studio lights?

2. Check the costume faithfulness

I’m not suggesting for one moment that you should become a victim to historical or film accuracy in your costume portraits. But it does pay to just think through all of the elements that your subject is wearing or surrounded by.

In a costume portrait, even more so than a regular portrait, every aspect of the costume and any props contribute to the story being told by the final image. Ideally, nothing should appear in the final image that wasn’t intentionally put there to be a part of the story.

So if you are shooting a portrait inspired by a period of history, or perhaps inspired by a film or comic book, just take a little time to research your inspiration before scheduling a shoot. Check that your costume, accessories, and props aren’t going to be jarring to the story you are trying to tell.

This is where it might be worthwhile working with costume designers if you are new to styling costume portraits. Their expertise and advice on putting together and styling different kinds of costumes could save you an awful lot of time and heartache in the long run! Of course, there are always opportunities to hire costumes from theatres too – it can be a surprisingly cost-effective option.

3. Set the scene

Think about the scene that you want your character to inhabit. Are they royalty sitting atop a beautiful throne, or are they a post-apocalyptic warrior tracking danger through the forest? Scouting out a location and sourcing props to suit can be half of the fun when it comes to staging a costume portrait!

You can find great locations in the most surprising places. I have shot in front of huge roller shutter doors on industrial estates, in a scrubby bit of forest that looked like a dreamy estate in the final images, and against an old stone wall in my back garden. With the right lighting, lens selection, framing choices, and post-processing the most unexpected locations can look great in portraits.

But, of course, there’s always the option to head into the studio! Taking a subject into the studio and placing them against a plain backdrop can serve to really highlight the story you are telling through their costume and appearance. It puts the focus squarely onto the subject. This style of studio shooting can be a double-edged sword. There’s less room for mistakes in this kind of controlled studio portrait, but the payoff can be more than worth it when it comes to portfolio-worthy images.

4. Give your subject a character

When people usually sit for portraits they are playing themselves. So when you have someone sit for a costume portrait, it is helpful if you can have them play a role. It can help them to get into character more quickly and easily.

Before you do the shoot – while you’re pulling together your styling and location – think about the character that you’re looking to capture and write down a few thoughts as part of a shoot plan.

Are they a brooding young Victorian poet who lost their love? Perhaps they’re an underground rebel trying to uncover a government conspiracy four decades in the future? This is the driving force behind the entire shoot, so gear everything towards bringing this character to life.

Once you have your subject dressed up and with makeup done, equipped with props, and in the location you have chosen, all these elements should come together to help them portray the character. It’s their portrayal of the character that will shine through, tell the story, and truly make your shots portfolio-worthy.

5. Don’t forget the post-processing

You’ve styled an amazing shoot in a fantastically atmospheric location with a great team, and you’ve collaboratively told a compelling story. So what is next? Post-processing – that’s what.

The choices you make on the computer or in the darkroom after the shoot really help you focus the storytelling. Good post-processing can help elevate a portrait to something extraordinary.

You can make stylistic choices in post-processing that you may not otherwise make if you were shooting regular headshots or family portraits. For instance, when I shoot images with an apocalyptic theme, I tend to add lots of layers over the top to create a grungy look to the piece. If I am shooting something inspired by a sci-fi movie, then I often choose to push the colors quite hard to resemble the film grading used by cinematographers. Moreover, if I shoot something medieval- or viking-ish, I usually dull all the colors down and make the finished shots look “dusty” and worn.

With practice, you’ll find your style for post-processing costume portraits. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and do something different from your usual approach. Everything about these images is already completely different from how most people would approach a regular portrait. It’s a chance to experiment!

Now that you’re armed with my top tips for shooting costume portraits, it’s time to try it out yourself! Remember to create a character, set the scene, and think about every element that you’re placing in the image. That way, you’ll tell a compelling and consistent story that shines through in the final image.

I’d love to see your attempts at shooting costume portraits. Post an image in the comments for everyone to see!

The post 5 Tips for Photographing Portfolio-Worthy Costume Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

12 Photography Errors You’ll Make When You’re New to Photography

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 10:00

The post 12 Photography Errors You’ll Make When You’re New to Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

It’s a universal truth that everyone has to start somewhere. It’s also true that when you start something new, you’ll make mistakes. All the expert writers on this site will have gone through this process – myself included. In this article, you’ll learn about 12 common photography errors that are typically made, and how you can quickly correct those mistakes. So read on if you want to avoid some of the pitfalls of photography, and fast forward to creating amazing photos!

To demonstrate that everyone has to start somewhere, the photos used here are among my earliest photos. Taken with an SLR camera, and of course in the days of film. There are plenty of mistakes in the set of images in this article. At this point, I certainly knew my way around an SLR camera, but clearly there were still things for me to learn.

1. Crop in the wrong place in pursuit of minimalism

You’ll have heard photography is the art of subtraction. That is, removing unwanted elements from your frame will give you better photos. You’ve arrived at a popular location to take photos, only to find crowds of people there. The solution is to begin your photo, where the head of the tallest person in that crowd ends.

In other words, crop your photo halfway up the side of a building. While this does remove that unwanted element, it leads to a poorly composed photo in the pursuit of minimalism. This could arise from other objects like parked cars, or wires in the wrong place in your image. So what can you do instead of this overly tight composition?

  • Arrive early – One of the best ways to avoid crowds of people or cars is to arrive early. Wake up for sunrise, and get that great angle before the crowds get in the way of it.
  • Multiple photos – Set you camera up on a tripod, and take a sequence of photos of the same scene. Ensure people are moving around. Then stack the photos in Photoshop, and use the median function to remove people from the photo.
  • Cloning – You can use clone stamping to remove elements in the photo you don’t wish to be there. This requires some skill, but can be used to remove wires, people and sometimes larger objects.

This is a photo that would benefit from more foreground being visible. There is too much dead space at the top of the image.

2. Photograph into the light

Not taking the time to plan when you’ll visit a location will lead to this mistake. Perhaps you’re on a walking tour, and your next location is a famous landmark. It just happens to have the sun behind it, with all the interesting detail of the object obscured by bad light. The same is also true when you photograph a person towards the light, unless you’re reflecting light back onto them or using external flash then the portrait is likely to be lacking. So what solutions are there for this problem?

  • Know the light – Do your research on the location you’re visiting, and make sure to arrive when the sun is in the right direction. You can use suncalc for this purpose, it shows the direction of the sun in relation to time of day and geographic location.
  • Change sides – In some cases, you can move to the other side of a building, where you’ll be able to photograph a person from the other direction. This is a relatively simple solution that can improve your results.
  • Light modifiers – The use of reflector discs and or off-camera flash can make portrait photography towards the light possible.
  • Digital blending – Photographing towards the light, when the main subject is larger than you’d be able to light with external flash? You can instead bracket your photos, and use digital blending with your image. This is an effective solution when you want to photograph towards a sunset.

A photo that’s reasonably composed but that would have benefited from being taken at another time of the day. This type of photo would work well during blue hour.

3. Never change your point of view

If all your photos are taken from a standing position, or perhaps seated position when you’re eating, then you’re missing a trick. A change in perspective is a great way to produce much more interesting photos.

That’s not to say there aren’t great photos to be taken in a standing position. A lot of street photography and portrait photography uses this perspective to great effect. There are plenty of other angles to use though, and adding variety to your photography through these angles is a great idea.

Changing your angle might be as simple as kneeling down, or as challenging as finding access to a high vantage point from a nearby building. The worm’s eye view and bird’s eye views can be used to great effect.

You don’t need to photograph straight up or straight down though. Photographing from lower down might emphasize a leading line on the road that much more, or allow plants and flowers to become a more important element within your frame.

Clearly the focus of the image is the roof tiling and the eagles. Area’s to the top and bottom of this image are not needed, and different framing should have been used.

4. Over reliance on post-processing

One of the common photography errors you can make is an over-reliance on post-processing. The aim as much as possible should be to get your result in-camera.

Your camera is, after all, an incredibly powerful creative tool. Of course, it’s important to learn post-processing. If you don’t do so, you’ll be at a disadvantage. It’s a good idea to learn how to use your camera and post-processing in conjunction with each other.

What can happen if you allow your skill in post-processing to outstrip your knowledge of the camera?

  • Fix the photo – Instead of getting the photo right in camera, the idea is to correct mistakes in post-processing. This will stall your progression as a photographer, and it makes you a lazy photographer.
  • New photography techniques – Post-processing can add that “x factor” to your image. So much so, that you may progress more slowly in learning new camera techniques.
  • Transformations – It’s possible to make some quite radical changes to your photo. Compositing images is certainly something you should learn. It’s also possible to just change the sky in a landscape scene to something more dramatic. In doing this, are you as motivated to return to a location many times, until you get a dramatic sky in real life?
  • Filters – Post-processing is all about subtle changes. Overcooking your photo by using a filter at too strong a strength might make your photo stand out, but perhaps not in a good way.

This photo needed to be taken at another time of the day when the sun lights up the building. The lamp to the left also adds nothing and should be removed by changing the angle.

5. Not learning your camera settings

Your camera is fulling of settings that affect your image. A lot of these settings are connected to one another as well. The relationship between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO is fundamental to photography. You need to take the time to learn each of these settings on their own, and how changing one of them can impact another setting. The first and most important thing to do here is to stop using your camera on automatic.

One setting at a time

You won’t learn everything at once, but you want to get to the point that you subconsciously know the correct settings to use. It’s a good idea to spend time getting to know one particular camera setting at a time and what it does.

A good setting to focus on is aperture.

Learn how aperture can be used to control the depth of field, blur the background, and perhaps produce a starburst in your photos. Having learnt how this setting works, move onto a new setting and learn that one.

This detail photo would have been improved by using a larger aperture. At the time this sort of lens wasn’t available to me.

6. Not using selective focus

Getting sharp images is an important part of photography. To get the sharpest images you’ll need to learn how to use the focus settings on your camera correctly. One of the most important of these settings is selective auto-focus.

Another of the common photography errors is to let your camera decide where to focus for you.

Instead, you should be in control of this process.

It’s not always the case that you’ll want to have your focus point in the center of the image. Use selective focus, so your camera focuses where you want it to focus. Your camera will have a grid array that can be seen through the viewfinder. Use your camera’s direction controls to move the focus point to the appropriate position, and you’ll be ready to photograph.

The photo uses the rule of thirds, so composition is okay. The tree on the left is somewhat distracting though.

7. Going it alone

Photography is a great past time to practice on your own. It dovetails very well with nice long walks by yourself in the country or city. Indeed you can learn a lot about your craft through self-exploration, and perhaps reading articles on sites such as this one. To only do this would be a mistake though. There are a lot of good reasons to seek out and befriend other photographers. Here are a few things you’ll gain from teaming up with other people.

  • Feedback – One of the best ways to improve as a photographer is feedback. Some of the best feedback you’ll receive is from fellow photographers.
  • Collaborations – Not all photography is easy to achieve on your own. Once you start using off-camera flash to photograph models, working as a team makes sense.
  • Learning – Tapping into the knowledge base of other photographers is invaluable. Different people learn about different things in photography, so being able to share that knowledge helps a lot.

The horizon line isn’t straight, showing this photo was taken too quickly. Another indicator of this is not waiting for the man to move out-of-frame. A rushed photo, and a poor result.

8. Not developing your own style

This is true not just in photography, but in many art forms. It’s easy to look to famous photographers, or perhaps local established ones, and look to emulate their photography. It’s a good idea to learn about how photographers take their images on a technical level. Once you know how other photographers work though, it’s then time to interpret these techniques in your own way.

There are, as mentioned, many benefits to joining a group of photographers, but one potential pitfall is developing their style of photography. Learn what makes their photography work, then spend a bit of time of your own developing a style that suits your work.

A photo that is spoiled by the wire at the top of the frame. Simply moving forward and using the same composition would have removed this wire from the photo.

9. Not learning new techniques

As you progress and become comfortable in your skin, you’ll come to one of the next big photography errors. You’ve developed a style, but then stopped progressing. It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially if you’re getting attention for the photography you’re now producing.

Photography is always evolving and to stay at the vanguard of the field you need to be learning new techniques. They might not necessarily become your signature style, but learning new ideas allows you to freshen up those styles that are your signature techniques. This might lead to you combining two photography techniques. You might learn a different way of post-processing your images that allows you to improve all the photos you take in the future.

This was once a photo I liked. Today, I know that it really needed a graduated neutral density filter for the sky. This aspect of photography was something I’d not learnt at this point.

10. No main subject

How do you elevate a good photograph into a great one? To do that you’ll need a narrative to your photo, and that means a main subject.

It’s possible to take nice photos of a landscape or abstract detail photos that are very eye-catching. A silhouetted person on the brow of a hill instantly adds more story to your scene, making it a stronger composition. A detail photo with one part of the image that’s different? Now you have a photo with a subject.

Sometimes the main subject will be readily available, like a single tree in a landscape scene. At other times you may need to wait patiently for a person to walk into your scene, thereby giving your scene its subject.

This is an awkward photo that lacks a main subject, and leaves a lot of dead space on the right.

11. Too many distracting elements

In photography, you want to keep it simple. Once you’ve settled on a strong main subject, you need to frame it correctly.

Another regular in the photography errors list is a busy photo. This is often because the background has too many elements, but distracting elements can also extend to the foreground. How can you eliminate extra elements from your scene such as unwanted wires? It’s true that you could use post-processing. On the other hand, you can develop your photographer’s craft. So what options are there?

  • Angle – That means changing the angle, perhaps as dramatically as walking to the other side of your main subject.
  • Focal length – You can also use different focal lengths, longer focal lengths will compress your scene which might allow you to remove things you don’t want from the frame.
  • Aperture – Get stuck on automatic mode and you won’t learn about this. A great way of removing a busy background is to blur it out. You can do this by using a large aperture, the resultant shallow depth of field will blur the background but keep your main subject sharp.
  • Closer – Walking closer to your subject, when that’s possible, means you’ll remove elements from your frame. They’ll now be behind you, but you might need to use a wider focal length to take the photo.

The water makes some nice patterns, but the photo lacks interest. In addition to this, the bottom is overexpose. A well-placed GND filter could have fixed that problem.

12. Bad composition

There are some basic rules of composition, and it’s worth knowing what they are. These are things like the rule of thirds, leading lines, and framing. It’s also true that not every photo benefits by doggedly sticking to the rule of thirds, those photos that use minimalism for instance might not work so well. It is a good idea to know what composition techniques work though, and to look at how you can apply them to your photography. When you don’t do this you’ll begin your photographic journey with awkward composition mistakes.

Chloe, I miss you. This is quite a nice photo of this dog. The foot should not have been cut off though, and the angle is clearly from a standing position. Kneeling down might have worked better here.

Cut down on your photography errors!

As you’ll see, there are lots of photography errors you can make. Are there any on this list you’ve made? Perhaps there are other photography errors you’ve made while learning, and you can share them with the community here? As we all know, making mistakes is a part of the learning process.

So now it’s time to pick up the camera, and having read this article, hopefully you’ll know more of the photography errors to avoid!


The post 12 Photography Errors You’ll Make When You’re New to Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

Aerial Time Lapse Basics with DJI Mavic Pro 2 Drone Specific Examples

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 15:00

The post Aerial Time Lapse Basics with DJI Mavic Pro 2 Drone Specific Examples appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

Drones can capture images and footage you might have only dreamed of in the past. Now that ability is easily extended to time lapse photography.

I prefer to refer to my drone as a flying camera. While there is certainly some fun to be had in the simple joy of flying around and looking at stuff from high up, I use my drone primarily to create images and footage with an eye toward cinematic appeal. Time lapse imagery can convey a sense of place that still images and videos lack.

The Basics

This post is written based on experience with the latest model DJI Mavic 2 Pro. While manufacturers differ how they handle time-lapse creation, the tips below are meant to introduce you to what’s available. Some tips will be specific for this model but I will also offer more tips for aerial time-lapse creation in general.

Some drone manufacturers will compile the time lapse video for you while others simply record each individual photo, allowing you to compile the video yourself.

It’s important to note that all experimentation and practice should be done in an open space, away from people, buildings, pets and in accordance with all laws and regulations for your location. I practiced over land many, many times before I felt confident using the automatic modes for time lapses over water.

Tips Before Getting Started Check exposure and anticipate

Changing exposure during a timelapse shoot, be it on land or in the air, is often a tricky endeavor. I suggest, when getting started, to anticipate your lighting situation and not attempt to change exposure during a timelapse shoot if your drone allows it.

It can be difficult to make exposure adjustments depending on your brand of drone (and some don’t allow it at all) – it’s hard enough to safely fly a drone while shooting. Try not to add too much complexity on top of that.

Try different interval timings and drone speed, 2 seconds is a lot different than 10 seconds

The speed of your drone, distance to objects and the length of your interval will have a large impact on your time lapse. There’s a reason DJI limits the speed of the drone in certain modes (explained below) to 4.5MPH. Anything faster than that and the video shows way too much motion to be palatable.

But if you’re flying slow, a 10-second interval might be ideal for helping show the movement of slow-moving clouds or shadows.

Let me show you the difference between a 2-second interval (at 1.6MPH) and a 5-second interval (at 4.5MPH) while a drone circles me.

It’s going to take some experimenting to get it right.

Look at your total time to create 

DPS writer, Ryan Chylinski, explains the importance of shoot length in this helpful post. When flying a drone, it’s even more important to make sure you don’t run out of card space and that you judge the movement of your drone compared to the total time it will take to shoot your time lapse.

Will you cover too much ground? Will your drone still be in line-of-sight (which most countries require as part of drone flying regulations)? What obstacles might your drone encounter when flying that long?

Plan ahead to avoid simple mistakes.

Point one way, film another

Facing one direction while flying another can offer a dynamic look to your video, rather than simply flying straight ahead. You can use a backward facing drone to get a typical pull-back shot or point slightly off of perpendicular for a dolly shot, such as the sunrise below.

Leave yourself time to return home

Do you have enough battery to shoot and return?

This is one of the most important question to ask. Some drones will warn you, but some won’t.

I had a frightening experience when I misjudged distance and return time while shooting a time lapse over water and nearly lost my drone (and polluted the environment). Midway through the flight I aborted the shoot and returned with a safe margin of battery, but I lost the shot.

Work altitude shifts into your scene

Altitude shifts are a like using a typical slider, but on steroids. You’re not limited to the four or 10 feet of a ground-based slider so the changes can be over a much larger distance. You also don’t need to stay moving parallel to the ground the whole time.

Here’s a simple example of a pullback that covered about 1000ft over land/water while steadily climbing 140ft in altitude.

Fly smooth

Using a pre-built, computer-controlled mode, like the ones mentioned below, help ensure smooth flight and operation. If you are controlling your drone manually while shooting a time lapse, ensure that your movements are slow and steady, allowing for your camera to shoot enough photos for a smooth video.

Here’s an example of what happens when I panned down then up too fast while shooting.

Result: Ruined video. Also, to my liking, the pan left and right are too fast.

DJI’s different methods – What do they mean?

DJI fits all of their time lapse modes into a section it calls Hyperlapse. Hyperlapse is just a cool sounding phrase meaning a moving time lapse. The Hyperlapse modes will all shoot and compile the video for you, typically in 1080p and 25 frames per second. You can also choose to save the individual RAW files if you wish to use your own time lapse software.

Safety Note: While the drone uses its side, front, rear, top and bottom sensors to detect objects, it still requires your attention at all times. If it finds an object in its path, it will stop shooting. It is very important to remain in control of the drone and ready to intervene. In Course Lock and Waypoints modes, if you make any adjustment to the controls of the drone, it will exit those modes and stop shooting.

Course lock

Course lock is the mode I use most often and it’s the one I’m going to start with. It allows you to aim the drone in one direction for flight and then either point the camera any way you like, or choose a subject to be tracked.

You start by setting course and then the interval, video length and speed. Each item is set by first tapping it and then moving the slider accordingly.

Setting the course is as simple as pointing the drone in the direction you wish to go and tapping the lock icon next to interval, video length and speed. In this case, I pointed the drone directly at the sun. The little image of a lock means my course is locked.

Next, you’ll want to point the drone’s camera in the direction you want to film. Then adjust the shooting settings.

In this example, I left the interval at 2 seconds but then set the video length to 15 seconds.

With that change to video length and interval, the app shows me how many photos it will take and the length of shooting.

After that I set the speed to 3.4MPH.

All that is left is to hit GO and watch the scene unfold! (Notice the course lock section still shows the drone’s intended direction toward the sun.)


Free Mode is straight forward and gives you the most control. After setting the shooting interval and video length as you would in Course Lock Mode, you are free to fly any which way you please. Up, down, backward, forward, left and right.

But be warned: fast course changes or high speeds will cause your video to be anything less than smooth.

At any time you can press the C1 button (on the underside of the controller) to lock course and speed.

As Free Mode can be used while the drone is on the ground, you can actually use it as a still camera for time lapse.


As you saw in the videos up top, choosing your speed and interval is important for Circle Mode.

Start by setting the distance from your subject for your drone. Ensure the circle your drone will subscribe in the sky does not encounter any obstacles. If need be, adjust your drone’s height or distance from your subject to achieve the framing you desire.

Next, select Circle Mode from the Hyperlapse options.

Now set your interval, video length and speed as described in the Course Lock Mode. Then select the direction your drone will fly; either clockwise or counterclockwise.

Above these settings, the program will tell you how long the shoot will take and how many frames will be shot. In the example, that will be 5 minutes and 48 seconds to take 175 frames.

Most importantly, choose your subject! You do this by drawing a box on the screen by pressing and dragging until it highlights your subject.

Press GO and your drone will start snapping and moving. When it is finished, you will see a screen as the drone creates (synthesizes in DJI speak) the video.

In the example above, you will notice the path the drone took, which is a very pretty circle (with my initial flight path to get the drone in place mixed in). All Hyperlapse modes require this video synthesizing and the length of time depends on the number of shots. Until video creation is complete, you cannot take any photos or video, but you can fly the drone as normal.


Waypoints Mode is a bit trickier to work than the others, but offers a lot of control and unique results.

After selecting Waypoints Mode you will set your interval and video length as the other modes. You will then set the waypoints your drone will fly. You can set up to five waypoints and a minimum of two.

To do this, fly to the first waypoint, orient your view as you like and press the + symbol in the Hyperlapse tray at the bottom of the screen to lock that waypoint. Continue this method, flying to each waypoint and pressing +.

In this example, I have set two of my five waypoints and will continue adding until all five are set. The map on the left side shows each waypoint with a number and the direction the camera will face.

When you are finished plotting each waypoint, you have the choice to fly the waypoints in order marked or in reverse. If you choose “In Order”, the drone will fly itself to the first waypoint and begin. Otherwise, the drone will begin at the last waypoint selected and fly backwards (but will pay attention to your selected camera orientation for each waypoint).

While the drone flies, you will see the waypoints on the map along with a timer showing how long the drone has been flying and the total time it will fly the route. Next to that is the number of images taken followed by the total images to be shot.

More Examples Course Lock while facing perpendicular to flight path

Course Lock while flying backward

Course Lock while flying backward with an upward pan for clouds



Time Lapse videos from a drone offer a unique and sometimes challenging option. They take planning not only to consider the subject matter and lighting, but also for the safe operation of your drone while it is taking photos.

Each mode offers different options and it’s best to play with them in a safe environment to get the hang of what you can accomplish.

Have fun and post some examples as you try out this technique. I’d love to see them!

The post Aerial Time Lapse Basics with DJI Mavic Pro 2 Drone Specific Examples appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

RAW vs JPEG Format Editing in Lightroom

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 10:00

The post RAW vs JPEG Format Editing in Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kunal Malhotra.

As a photographer, you have most likely heard or read discussions about RAW vs JPEG file formats. It is said that a RAW file consists of a lot more data and details as compared to a JPEG file. How about we conduct a few experiments and talk about why one file format is better than the other?

If you are someone who mostly edits in Lightroom CC, get ready to know some shocking reasons why you must avoid using JPEG files. Going forward in this article I am sharing a few experiments that I conducted using the JPEG and RAW files of the same shot. I am sure that by the end you will be convinced to always edit using the RAW file format.

Experiment 1 Adjusting Highlights and Whites

The left image shows the jpeg file, while the right image shows the RAW file.

In this first experiment, I am going to import a JPEG file as well as a RAW version of the same frame in Lightroom. You can see these in the image above. You will notice that the sky in this frame is overexposed and the details are not visible because I exposed for the foreground. In this test, I am going to bring down the highlights as well as the whites all the way to -100 and see what happens with both JPEG and RAW files.

The left jpeg image has struggled to retrieve the highlights, while the RAW file on the right has retrieved the highlights well.

Surprising, isn’t it? If you look at the sky in both the JPEG and RAW files, you can see the difference quite clearly.

The details of the clouds in the JPEG (left) file become ruined when I reduced the highlights and whites to recover the details. Whereas, the RAW file (right) does an excellent job in recovering the details in the sky – even though it was completely overexposed.

This experiment concludes that if you wish to recover the highlights in a photo, RAW files achieve much better results. The JPEG file would fail at recovering details from highlights and whites.

Experiment 2 Detail and Sharpness

The JPEG image on the left is soft, while the RAW file on the right is sharp.

In this experiment, for reference purposes, I again placed the JPEG file on the left and the RAW file on the right. In the image above, I have a 1:1 zoom in Lightroom CC to show you something very interesting. Look at the difference in the sharpness and details on the face of the person. The difference is quite shocking. One would conclude that these are two different shots, with the left one being softer. However, that is not the case here. This is the same shot but just in different file formats.

Next time if you are shooting portraits or events, you know that shooting in RAW can help you preserve far more details than the JPEG file. I usually shoot in RAW and JPEG. Then I use the RAW file to edit my photos while using the JPEG files for reference or shortlisting purposes only.

Experiment 3 White Balance Adjustment

Experimenting with White Balance, I moved the slider to the warmer end of the White Balance scale. The JPEG image on the left, has lost detail and is flat, while the RAW file on the right, is far more usable.

In this last experiment, I wanted to check if adjusting the white balance does make any difference. You may have heard that a RAW file allows you to later adjust the white balance as per your desire? But how different is it from JPEG? Let’s find out in this experiment.

Here I moved the temperature slider all the way to the warmer side in both the RAW and the JPEG files. Interestingly, the JPEG file (left in the image above) was almost unusable for me. At this stage, the sky was almost flat and lacked contrast. Whereas, the RAW file with the same exposure had so much information stored that at this stage the elements in the frame had details and contrast.


The above experiments demonstrated a few key reasons why I always prefer using a RAW file in Lightroom to ensure my final image has maximum details. My advice here would be to shoot in RAW and JPEG to be on the safe side. If you wish to make a quick edit or directly use the image for social media, go with JPEGs. If you wish to edit the same image seriously, use the RAW file.

I hope next time you import an image to Lightroom, these experiments will encourage you to shoot and edit in RAW format.

Feel free to share your views in the comment section.

The post RAW vs JPEG Format Editing in Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kunal Malhotra.