Back to Top

Corel AfterShot 2

Expert Tips & Techniques

Subscribe to Expert Tips & Techniques feed Expert Tips & Techniques
Digital Photography Tips and Tutorials
Updated: 11 hours 21 min ago

Weekly Photography Challenge – Red

Fri, 08/18/2017 - 15:00

Earlier I rounded up 19 images that use the color red – you can see them here.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Red

By rich_f28

By Tony

By Tim Green

By Lóránt Szabó

By Steve Snodgrass

Color is all around you – it’s your job this week to seek out and photograph anything red. Remember to follow good compositional guidelines to create impact in your images, and use lighting that is appropriate and enhances your subject.

Share your images below:

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

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

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

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Red by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

19 Vibrantly Colored Crimson Images

Fri, 08/18/2017 - 10:00

Here are 19 really vibrant images featuring the color red for your visual stimulation.

Hope you enjoy them.

By liz west

By Bernard Spragg. NZ

By theilr

By Ivan Bandura

By Harsha K R

By jimpg2_2015

By Bernard Spragg. NZ

By VaMedia

By jasleen_kaur

By aotaro

By d26b73

By Mike Beales

By sean_hickin


By Jim Lukach

By inthepotter’shands

By Sebastian Rieger

By Johan Neven

By coniferconifer

The post 19 Vibrantly Colored Crimson Images by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Use a Reflector to Improve Your Natural Light Portraits

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 15:00

Reflected light can add depth and a fresh dynamic to your natural light portraits. Sometimes naturally occurring reflected light can be used, but by far the easiest way is to use a reflector. The most important thing is to learn to see the light falling on your subject and then control the strength and quality of the reflected light you are adding. Here are some tips to help you learn to use a reflector.

Hmong woman drying skeins of hemp thread which are reflecting light back onto her face.

Naturally reflected light

When making candid portraits, I’m always looking to see if some reflected light is affecting my subject. At the right angle, any surface can bounce light back onto your subject. You can train your eye to see it.

It may be light bouncing off a nearby wall or pavement, an open newspaper or skeins of yarn (as in the photo above). With the strong sunlight behind the lady as she hangs out her skeins of washed thread, the light is reflecting softly back into her face.

A fish vendor at the fresh market with light reflecting onto her from an adjacent white wall.

Naturally reflecting light is easier to make use of if you are posing your subjects and have some control over where they are positioned. Finding a location where the sun is hitting a large light-toned neutral surface can provide you suitable reflected light for portraits.

In this photo of the fish vendor at the local fresh market, the light is reflecting off a white painted building behind me. Behind her is an open entrance to a room with no windows, providing a dark background to nicely isolate my subject.

Types of reflectors

Close up of a Kayan long neck girl with traditional face painting makeup.

When there’s no naturally occurring reflected light, a folding reflector is a fabulous accessory to have on hand. These reflectors are relatively inexpensive and come in various shapes, sizes, and colors. The most efficient are the ones which have multiple reflective surfaces.

Note: you can even DIY and build your own reflector.

These reflectors typically have a sleeve which covers a translucent fabric attached to the foldable frame. The sleeve is removable and reversible with four different surfaces (5-in-1 reflectors). Normally they are white, silver, gold, and black. Some even have more complex reflective surfaces. Learning to use this type of reflector well can take some practice, but it’s worth while for the fresh dynamic lighting it will bring to your portraits.

One of my models assisting me during a portrait session.

How to use a reflector

Having someone to hold the reflector is the best way to use it as the direction of light and angle of the reflector in relation to your subject is important. If the reflector is not at the best angle you will have too much or too little light bouncing onto your subject. You may need to coach whoever is assisting you and demonstrate the effect the reflector has, so they can hold it precisely right for the best lighting.

Careful choice of reflective surface for whatever light you are working in is important too. If you are making portraits outside in full sunshine the use of the white reflector surface may be best. It’s likely the silver or gold surfaces will reflect too much light back onto your subject. Don’t be afraid to experiment though, as that is a great way to learn.

Karen Woman Smoking Her Pipe against a black background.

Using a reflector in bright sunlight

In the bright sunshine, the person holding the reflector needs to be careful not to bounce strong light into your subject’s eyes as they are searching for the best angle to hold the reflector. That can be most uncomfortable for your subject. It’s a good idea to instruct your subject not to look directly at the reflector. If they have not seen a folding reflector before many people will look at it as it is unfolded.

With this photo of the two laughing ladies, my wife was using a medium sized gold surfaced reflector. She is an expert assistant and photographer so she knows how to get the optimal reflected light in most situations. My subjects were standing in the shade of a tree and the reflector was also in the shade, so it was not bouncing back full sunshine.

I find the gold surface works well with Asian skin tones. With the strong back light, the bounce light fills in the shadows nicely reducing the over all tonal range in the photo. Because the reflected light is stronger on the ladies faces, (where I was taking my light reading from,) it is more balanced with the light in the background. The bright sun reflecting off the light colored ground also adds nicely to this photo. If my wife had been standing so the gold reflector was in the full sunshine the light would have been too bright and harsh, blinding our models and creating hard shadows on them.

Reflecting light to balance with the ambient light can reduce shadows without eliminating them.

Using a reflector in soft light

On overcast days a silver reflector will bounce a clean, soft light onto your subject. If you can position your reflector so it balances with the ambient light, gently filling in shadows on the face but not completely eliminating them, you can obtain some very pleasing results.

Varying the angle of the reflector in relation to the light source and your subject will vary the amount of light affecting your subject. You do not need to always have the reflector blasting out the maximum amount of light as this can look very unnatural. Using the white surface rather than the silver side will also reduce the amount of reflected light.

With the sun behind the model, an overhead diffuser and reflector to my left and the ground also reflecting light.

Other uses for reflectors

Black or white surfaces of very large reflectors can make great backgrounds and the translucent inner part can be used as a screen to hold above your subject to block direct sunlight. In the past, I have used this method but now prefer to use my *portable daylight studio to provide a black or white background and filtered back lighting, (in principle it’s the same thing.) I then use my large folding reflector to help control the light on the front of my subjects.

Sunlight also reflects off the ground. Typically in a northern Thai village, the earth is a light color and creates a pleasing reflection. But if I have to work on grass we lay down some large sheets of white plastic to avoid having a green color cast in the images.

*Reading Irving Penn’s book “Worlds In A Small Room” was the inspiration for my portable studio which I have used in many locations in the mountains of northern Thailand and occasionally when teaching our workshops.

A careful balance of reflected and diffused light.


As you practice using a reflector you will learn to manipulate just the right amount of light onto your subject. At times you might prefer hard light and other times soft light will be more pleasing. Learning to see how light affects your subject and learning to control it will greatly improve your portraiture.

The post How to Use a Reflector to Improve Your Natural Light Portraits by Kevin Landwer-Johan appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 10:21

In this article, I’ll show you a fun way to make abstract photos using stuff you have in your house already – fruit and vegetables.

Produce and photography

They feature in renaissance paintings, religious symbolism, fine art photography and advertisements for your local supermarket. It’s your everyday fruit and veggies! Not only do they keep you full, fruits and vegetables have some remarkable detail, making for great photographic subjects.

As demonstrated by masters like Edward Weston, produce and photography work really well together. The matter that makes up organic material has a natural and sometimes surprising ingenuity. That’s why, with very little prep time, creating abstract photos with fruit and vegetables is a such a simple and fun project with surprisingly beautiful results.

As diverse as they are tasty, fruit and veggies make for some of the best subjects you can point a camera at!

Supplies you will need include:
  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • A selection of fruits and veggies
  • Hand towel or wipes (to remove any juice off of your hands)

I placed a clear glass sheet over the top of these strawberries and pressed down a little. The juice from the fruit started to spread, creating this liquid effect.

They can make you cry, but the intricate layers of onions can make beautiful abstract photographs.

Gathering your produce

So what fruit and veggies should you use? The answer is, any and all of them! One of the best things about abstract photography is the variety of subject matter available. Check your fridge, your fruit bowl, and failing that, check out your local grocer. All varieties of fruit and vegetables have their own artistic properties, let alone every individual piece. If you stick with produce, you’ll never be short on subject matter for abstract photos.

Personally, I enjoy focusing on the textures and layers that make up organic material. That’s why I often concentrate on photographing vegetables like leeks and onions. The intricate swirls you can see when you cut an onion in half are as unique as a thumbprint, so you will never photograph the same thing twice.  Fruits like strawberries and oranges that have a very distinct pattern are great for incorporating leading lines and pattern into your photography.

Opposite on the spectrum in terms of texture and softness, the curving lines in an onion peel and the texture of a rock melon’s skin are beautiful and intriguing at the same time. Just grab whatever catches your eye. If you decide you don’t want to photograph a fruit or vegetable later, just eat it instead!

Once you’ve selected a nice range of fruit and vegetables, it helps to pre-cut a few slices so they will be ready to photograph. Cut nice thin slices, making as level cuts as possible so they will sit square with the camera lens. Don’t cut all your fruit and vegetables up at once though, as they will brown when exposed to the air for too long.

Setting up

If you have your fruit and camera at the ready, you’re halfway there. To truly capture the detail in your fruit and veggies I recommend using a macro lens or extension tubes. For these images, I used my set of Kenko extension tubes with my EF 24-105mm Canon f/4 lens. Set up your tripod and camera near a good light source to illuminate your subjects. A window with natural light coming through should be plenty. Lay out your fruit on a plain, flat surface and arrange them how you like.

Start by focusing your camera on areas that appeal to you the most. The texture or the pattern on a potato might catch your eye, or you might want to focus on the delicate gradients of color in a peach. You’ll find that the more you investigate your produce, the more you’ll have to photograph. Training your eye to recognize these subtle intricacies will prove invaluable in developing your inner photographer’s compass.

The delicate colors and lines in this image of an onion and onion skin complement each other and highlight similarities and differences


One you begin to investigate the visual qualities of fruits and veggies, you’ll never look at the grocery store quite the same. And that’s great! Photography is about opening yourself up to new visual experiences. The more you explore, the more you’ll want to see. That’s what makes us photographers tick.

Not only will photographing fruits and vegetables broaden your critical eye for detail, it might broaden your pallet too, bon appetite!

The layers in a leek can be gently sprung open to reveal a shell-like structure.

The loose rings of a leek settle gently against a white backdrop. Photographing vegetables and fruits in new ways will draw a viewer’s attention to the unusual perspective.

Arranging vegetables and fruits in a pattern can bring out the intricacies and details often left unexplored.

Converting an image to black and white can isolate your subject, lending a surrealistic effect to the photograph.

The post How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies by Megan Kennedy appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Tips for Doing Concert Photography like a Pro

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 15:00

Imagine being a concert photographer and getting the chance to cover loads of concerts. Imagine standing just feet away from your favourite artists as you capture so many shots of them. Doesn’t that just sound like the best thing? As opposed to other genres of photography like portraiture, fashion, etc., we have little to no control over lighting, the artists, and tons of other factors in concert photography.

So what are some of the best settings and tricks to capture those perfect shots at concerts? Images which will make you proud, make the artists and the viewers sat “Wow that is indeed one brilliant capture.”?

Use a fast lens and shoot wide open

Using a fast lens is highly important and is a basic requirement for concert photography. Almost all concerts happen during evenings or night, or indoors under low lighting, which is why your camera sensor requires more light to enter through the lens opening. Moreover, the performers keep moving around the stage so you need to use faster shutter speeds to freeze their motion.

A fast lens is one which allows shooting at wider apertures such as f/2.8, f/1.8, etc. By using lenses like the 50mm f/1.8 or 135mm f/1.8 at the smallest aperture value, you can capture a well exposed shot by keeping the shutter speed fast enough. Another reason for using a fast lens is because usually the distance between the backdrop and the subject is minimal, so to create a shallow depth of field with a bokeh effect, a smaller aperture value would have to be used.

Shoot in Aperture Priority Mode

Using Aperture Priority Mode to shoot concerts allows for more stress-free shooting. You simply tell your camera the aperture you want to use and it automatically sets the corresponding shutter speed. For many newbies shooting their first few concerts and even for many pros, using aperture priority allows for hassle free shooting.

Also, since the your mind is not all occupied by technical settings, you have freedom to look around at the artists, the crowd, etc., and end up shooting something really creative.

Shoot in aperture priority, with your f-number set to the smallest available on your lens, usually f/1.8 or f/2.8.

Crank up the ISO

Concerts usually take place in low light settings and for many reasons, using a tripod is not possible. So you can resort to the one setting which you have control over and can easily use, the ISO.

Before the concert really gets going, fire off a series of test shots at different ISO values to judge after what point the noise becomes unacceptable. (Usually ISO 3200 or 6400). Some noise is actually okay and is far better than having a totally underexposed or blurry shot simply because you didn’t increase your ISO value.

The noise generated by the high ISO values can be used creatively to capture something unique. A monochrome shot with some noise would lend a really cool film grain effect to your shot. High noise can be fixed later on in post-processing too. So don’t think twice before cranking up that ISO, it’s far better than having no photo to show.

Avoid using your flash

MOST important- Avoid using your flash at concerts. It is looked down on and frowned upon a lot. Imagine that you are firing your flash towards the performer(s), and there are 10 others doing the very same. That is surely going to annoy the artists, not to mention almost blind them.

Another important aspect of concert photography is photographing the audience, and no photographer would like to distract the audience from the artist who is performing for them. Repeatedly firing the flash at their faces while capturing their photos can easily annoy audience members.

Also, if we are aiming to capture candid photos of either the artists or the crowd, then firing a flash at them surely is not the right way to do that. And yes, a majority of photos using the built-in pop-up flash simply aren’t worth it. They look flat and uninspiring.

Move around

You are not there to stand at one place and shoot the same picture 10 times. As a concert photographer it goes without saying that you will have to move around. Move with the artists, move as the lighting changes, etc., to capture those standout moments. (Note: unless, of course, the venue or artist has put restrictions on photographers moving around.)

If you find people blocking your view, you have to move. After all, they have paid to watch their favourite artists perform. If the lead singer moves to one side of the stage, then you have to follow him over there.

The lights too will change from time to time, and it is important to know when which area of the stage will be illuminated to capture the performers properly with adequate lighting.

Moving around will always get you some really creative shots. You could capture a shot of the lead guitarist under the spotlight, a shot of the lead singer standing isolated from everyone else, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Wait and anticipate

Waiting for that perfect moment is as important as learning to anticipate it. This is a habit which can be developed easily, and is only fine tuned over time. Observe the artists and you will notice certain habits of theirs.

Moments such as a guitarist bending backwards during a particularly intense moment, a DJ waving his arms in the air, a singer grabbing the mic in a particular manner, etc., are all moments which would make for a perfect shot. It is important to know when these moments are around the corner so that you are ready to fire your camera when they come.


These are just a few tips to help you do better concert photography. Please share any others you’ve learned as well as your concert photos, in the comments below.

The post Tips for Doing Concert Photography like a Pro by Kunal Malhotra appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How To Avoid 4 Photography Mistakes That Will Hinder Your Development

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 10:00

Teaching photography workshops has made me aware of four mistakes people make which hinder their development as photographers. If you can learn to avoid doing these four photography mistakes you will become a much more creative photographer and find more enjoyment in using your camera.

Mistake #1 – Always thinking your camera is not good enough

Most people who join our workshops come with DSLR or mirrorless cameras and have made a reasonable financial investment in this equipment. They have researched what to buy, carefully chosen and purchased a camera they decided will be right for them.

But many people still are stuck on the idea that if they upgrade their equipment their photography will improve dramatically. This can be true in some cases, but generally, it’s a mistake to be easily avoided. It’s most often a mistake to think like this because you are telling yourself you cannot improve unless you get new gear.

Changing your thinking about wanting new camera equipment is the best way to avoid getting stuck in a photographic rut. Sticking with the camera you have, getting to know it and love it will enable you to become a far better and more creative photographer. I’ve had my main camera now, (a Nikon D800,) for over five years – a long time for any digital hardware, and I am more than satisfied with it. I have come to know it well and therefore, use it easily. I’ve been using Nikon cameras for over 30 years so am pretty familiar with the way they work.

Sticking with the camera you have, and getting to know it well will enable you to concentrate more on composition, lighting, and timing. You will not be distracted trying to figure out which dials and buttons to use to set the camera the way you want. Making these settings will become second nature once you are intimate with your camera. By upgrading your camera too often you are not as likely to get to become truly familiar with it.

Mistake #2 – Not studying how to use your camera

Another mistake I find people often make is not learning how to use their camera. We had a customer recently who had studied photography in high school and also taken courses in photography at university, but they did not really know much about using their camera. I was shocked!

One of the easiest ways to avoid frustration and undoubtedly help improve your photography is to study your camera before you study anything else about photography. Learning how your camera functions and how to control it should be the first step you take in your photographic journey. Unless you are confident with your camera and can use it with ease, you will be distracted from the more creative aspects of photography.

Picking up most camera manuals it’s not difficult to understand why people so often do little more than skim a few pages before putting it down again, as they are notoriously challenging to make much sense of. There are other ways to learn about your camera settings.

Getting online and using Google and Youtube will typically result in an incredible amount of good information about most camera models. Many top brands have authors who write independently about their cameras and the information in those books is often far easier to digest.

By deciding to enjoy the camera you have and learning how to use it, you will be avoiding two of the biggest mistakes I find people make that hinder their growth as photographers.

Mistake #3 – Using your camera infrequently

Hopefully, if you are committed to avoiding the first two mistakes you will naturally avoid this third one I find many people make – not using your camera frequently enough.

If you only use your camera when you go on vacation, or for family gatherings or to photograph your kid’s soccer game, you are not using it enough to become a really proficient photographer. This is an easy mistake to avoid if you build a healthy habit of taking your camera everywhere, (and you don’t just leave it in your camera bag).

Using your camera frequently, every day preferably is the best way to integrate what you have learned about your camera into practical experience. Taking up what’s known as the 365-day challenge is a great way to help form a creative habit which will do more for your development as a photographer than any other method I know. Choosing to pick up your camera and take at least one photo a day, every day of the year, is a commitment destined to shape and speed your development as a photographer.

Mistake #4 – Relying on auto exposure

Most people who join our photography workshops have their camera’s set to one of the auto modes, typically aperture priority, at the start of the day. Before we are through the first hour, most have their cameras set to manual mode. I am very good at convincing people to make the switch to manual because I passionately believe it is a big mistake to allow your camera to make the creative choice of setting the exposure. Your camera is smart, the artificial intelligence in modern cameras is incredible, but your camera is not creative.

By taking control of your exposure using manual mode you are avoiding one of the biggest mistakes people make. Knowing how to use manual mode on your camera will empower you to become so much more creative, but you must first overcome the mindset that tells you it’s too difficult. It really isn’t, especially if you are avoiding the first three mistakes I’ve written about in this article.

Camera manufacturers love to promote all the new technology in their cameras and you never see much encouragement from them to use manual mode. I believe learning to use your camera in manual mode is a lot less complicated than learning all the auto settings. Learning to set your exposure manually you have control over the way your photographs will look and you will truly be able to develop your own unique photographic style.

Take creative control

By making the mistake of relying on the camera’s AI and using your camera on auto you are relinquishing creative control to a piece of equipment manufactured to return standardized results. If you want to avoid all your photos looking like most other people’s I would encourage you to switch to manual mode and take creative control of your photography.

This is a big step for many people and does require practice to learn the principles of exposure. We have had so many people leave us lovely reviews and thank us for encouraging them to make the switch to manual mode.


Even if you can avoid making one or two of these mistakes you will notice an improvement in your photography. Managing to avoid all of these photography mistakes will take some time and commitment, but to excel in any creative expression does not happen easily for most people.

The post How To Avoid 4 Photography Mistakes That Will Hinder Your Development by Kevin Landwer-Johan appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks for Your Photography

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 15:00

This article is about how I think you can use social media network sites for your best benefit. I am suggesting there is one single thing which you should concentrate on that you can get there with just five steps.

As I have already suggested, I do recommend photography-centric social media networking sites. The one I have used most is Flickr, but I am not endorsing that particular site. Search “social media networks photography” (or similar), and almost any of the sites found will do the job, in largely similar ways. Play around, you might find one which better suits your style, your way of thinking.

And much more!


This photograph has over 14,000 views and has been added as a favorite 600 times. It is my most viewed and most faved photograph on Flickr. How can that be? Really? What are its merits which cause it to be so lauded?

Girls of Bahrain.

The truth is that its photographic merits are VERY limited. I could give you an explanation of why this image has been such a success, but that is not important. What matters is that it helps make the point that “views” and “faves” and even casual comments such as “Great capture, cool shot” mostly mean very little whatsoever.

That is an extreme way of putting it but I’ll stick with it and avoid drawing it out and giving a long justification. However, I think those numbers below mean very little. Though it might have some interest, it is not what you would call a good photograph.


I have never properly thanked the person concerned, maybe the mention in this article will make up for that.

King of the souq.

I shared this photograph. The comment I received was:

“Another very “Richard Messenger”ish shot. Do all your subjects coincidentally make the same expression, or do you somehow force it out of them? Haha. His somewhat-there-but-still-flat-sort-of-smile looks very familiar to previous portraits you’ve taken.”

I think I knew the truth pretty much straight away, but it took a little while longer to fully accept it. At some point I linked the comment with Rick Sammon’s adage that “The camera points both ways” and realized why too many of my subjects did, indeed, have that same expression. They were simply reflecting my expression.

It is very difficult to make that sort of realization on your own. People pay thousands of dollars to gain such insights. I had received the comment, and great insight, from an honest person, with clearly good intentions, who expressed themselves kindly AND who happened to be right. What more can you ask? Good comments are priceless.

Comments please.

What I want, and what I think will move your photography forward too, is comments. Receiving AND making comments has certainly helped me. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that you can simply post your photographs, however stunning they may be, and expect people to start commenting. You will need to do a little work.


Do unto others.

The Golden Rule is among the values espoused by most religions and philosophies. Of the various versions, this seemed a good, simple way of expressing how to approach making comments.

“Try to treat others as you would want them to treat you.”

Or, on a perfect day, we could turn to Lou Reed.

“You’re going to reap just what you sow.”

However, you want to put it, in terms of religion, philosophy, or pop culture, it is a good principle to hold in mind when you are making comments.


Just look … think …

You might want to start on the nursery slopes for the first day or two, week or two even. There is a lot to be learned by looking at photographs and keeping the following in mind.

  • Why do you like a particular photograph?
  • How do you think it was taken?
  • What is it that appeals to you?
  • When was it taken?
  • Which equipment was used?
  • Why was it taken?
  • Where?
  • … and so on

Here’s the thing. I am not going to burden you with long paragraphs of explanation, give real world examples, or quote academic research. I am just going to tell you that the person making a comment often learns more than the one receiving the comment.

Will she? Won’t she?

When you are ready to abandon all buoyancy aids, this is where you jump into the swimming pool. You now begin to sow, so try to treat others as you would want them to treat you. Keeping in mind Kipling’s six mates, you now start to comment.

Just taking the example of Flickr, there are a massive number of groups, with all sorts of specialized interests. You will probably find it productive to browse around, join them, and start making comments within the different rules of each group. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

My personal rule is that I do not hang around. If a thought does not start to form very quickly in respect of a photograph, I move on. It is, of course, totally up to you, but I suggest that you do not spend too much time scratching your head.

What can I say?

As many a politician would testify, “no comment” is better than a rubbish comment.

Then, as a guideline, you might follow a Rule of Threes. Start off by simply trying to say three things (even just two) which you like about the photograph. Three positive comments stating what you think of the scene, how it makes you feel, what you think the story might be, and what compositional aspects you like. You may find it best to stick to only positive comments for a week or two. It is possible that you will start to get reciprocal responses, but you cannot guarantee it.

(To avoid all sorts of complications, but not without some mild embarrassment, I am commenting on my own photographs).

River bed scavenger.

  • An unusual and very appealing photograph.
  • I get the impression that the woman is almost lost in what is a much bigger space.
  • The texture is amazing, and the limited color palette really helps draw attention to that.
  • I really like the way the two patches of dry land balance and seem to point to the solitary figure.
  • It is one of those photographs where you immediately start to wonder what the story is and ask what she is doing.

Then the next step is to start making a comment or two on technical aspects that you think are good, and which you think contribute to the photograph.

Innocence captured.

  • This is a lovely picture of innocence.
  • The contrast between her smooth skin and the textures in the shot work well.
  • The muted colors enhance a mood of loneliness, maybe even sadness.
  • It is really effective to see how you have used the bars, and the shape of the doorway in the background to suggest a frame within a frame.
  • The depth of field seems to be perfect, throwing her face into the highlight, concentrating the viewer’s focus.
  • I would be really interested to know what you did in processing this shot.
  • The subject is central, but I think there is plenty happening around the frame to make the image dynamic enough.

Finally, you might tentatively start to suggest things that you might change, or which you think might be helpful. Remember – do unto others!

Hey, did you happen to see…?

  • I have never seen this view of the Taj Mahal before. It remains instantly recognizable even though it occupies a very small part of the frame. You did really well to find the shot.
  • Having seen your photographs before, I know you do limited manipulation in processing, so very well done on capturing the bird in just the right place.
  • Lovely evening (?) light, with good exposure keeping just the right amount of detail in the right places.
  • I cannot see the EXIF data and would be very interested to know what focal length you used. It looks like a wide angle to get the tree in the frame, yet the Taj Mahal seems quite close.
  • Any suggestions regarding such a good photograph will necessarily be tiny details. If you had just dipped your knees even an inch, I think it would have been even more perfect to have a gap between the top of the right-hand minaret and the tree branch.
  • I wonder of a small crop, perhaps a sixth off the top and the left side, may have concentrated the view.

You can always hint, or just ask directly, “Can you please comment on my photos?”. However, my experience is that once you have commented on their photographs, people tend to feel inclined to comment back. Again, this is my personal rule, but I would strongly argue that it is a good one. I try to always respond, or at least acknowledge any comment.

Admittedly, I have not always taken criticism well, but I think I’ve learned to give it more credence, to encourage it. One example of this is if the person commenting suggests something that I can change … a crop, a processing adjustment, changing to black and white … whatever, just do it and post the result. If there is a way of tagging the person, that is likely to help sustain the conversation.

Without being religious or philosophical, can I just give the same advice again, in a different, rather parental way, PLAY NICELY! and remember to say Please and Thank You.


There are a quite a lot of places which are specifically aimed at giving a critique of photographs. As you might have spotted, these include the Digital Photography School Facebook group.


The single thing you should concentrate on is making and receiving comments. Getting worthwhile comments is your aim. Take some gentle steps, apply The Golden Rule, and you might just develop a good community. You really can benefit hugely from making and receiving worthwhile comments when it comes to social media networks.

The post Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks for Your Photography by Richard Messsenger appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 10:00

Nobody likes a grainy photo, right? The majority of the time we want less graininess. In the digital world, we see grain as the enemy. But is it really? I’ll tell you now that grain isn’t always bad. I’ll go even further than that and say that grain can actually be something that adds to the strength of your photographs.

Film grain gets a bad rap because it’s often confused with digital noise. The two are, in fact, entirely different. In this article, I’ll talk about the difference between noise and grain. Then I am going to show you how to use Lightroom to purposefully ADD grain to a photo. Get ready. Be bold. Embrace the grain.

It’s grain…not noise

The difference between digital noise (sensor noise) and grain comes down to the light sensing properties of each. Digital sensors convert light into an electronic signal using an array of photosensitive diodes. These are the “pixels” or “picture elements” of the sensor. Digital sensors carry “noise” based on a number of things such as the size of the sensor, its temperature, and the ISO setting.

Digital noise at ISO 5000

Film, on the other hand, uses light sensitive silver crystals which are embedded in the emulsion of the film. The physical manifestation of these crystals is what we perceive as film grain. The higher the film’s ISO, the more crystals are present, hence more grain.

Agfa Vista Plus 200 ISO 800. A cropped section of an image by Akio Takemoto

Grain is an organic characteristic of the analog film process. It’s almost like a fingerprint exclusive to the type of film you’re using. Perhaps that’s why film grain is gaining a growing acceptance among new photographers in this digital age of imaging.

This notion hasn’t been lost on the developers at Adobe and they have given us a way to simulate the grain patterns present in film with our digital images. Depending on your photo, adding some creative film grain can impart a vintage feel of earthiness to your digital image. And you’re about to learn how to do it in Lightroom in…3…2…1….

I hope you enjoyed the dramatic countdown.

Adding Grain in the Effects Panel of Lightroom CC

You can find Grain in the Effects panel of the Develop module in Lightroom CC. It’s where you can do a number of things but for this occasion, we are going to focus on the grain section. You’ll notice there are three adjustment sliders; amount, size, and roughness.

This is how you will essentially replicate those light sensitive crystals found in film emulsion I mentioned earlier.

**Note, it’s wise to apply grain (like most effects) as the last part of your final steps in post-processing.

Amount of grain

The amount of grain is controlled by, you guessed it, the “Amount” slider. Think of this as the number of crystals you are adding to your image. The higher the amount, generally the higher ISO look the effect. Here’s a +40 grain amount on an image shot at ISO 640.

It is a good idea to use a large increase in the amount of grain while adjusting the next two sliders and then back it off from there until you reach the desired amount.

Size of grain

The size of the grain plays a big part in how apparent it will be in your final image. Larger crystals will be more noticeable even at low amounts. It’s virtually the same concept as high and low “grit” sandpaper. Now here’s a +40 boost in grain size from the last image.

Keep in mind that the further to the right you move the slider the larger each grain will become. This can diminish small details in your photo so use with caution.


Grain roughness is closely related to grain size. The difference is that the roughness slider controls how raised the grains appear to be from the image. Essentially how rough or smooth their surface appears. The next image shows the same +40 amount of grain with the size set back to the +25 default. This time I increased the roughness to +70.

Think back to the sandpaper analogy. The more raised the grain the rougher the overall texture and thus the texture of the final grain effect.

Here are a few more examples of using simulated grain in Lightroom. Black and white images have always loved grain.

Black and white image with Grain set to +50 Amount, +71 Size, +50 Roughness

Grain set to +30 Amount, +66 Size, 0 Roughness

Grain set to +60 Amount, +18 Size, 80 Roughness

Final thoughts on grain

Never forget that grain is completely different than noise. Grain is, in some ways, the signature of film. Adding it to your digital images can sometimes, not always, give your photos a non-mechanized flavor that hints back to the organic appeal of analog film.

You can control this effect easily in Lightroom by adjusting the amount, size, and roughness of the grain. The combinations are virtually limitless. Just remember, as with all processing effects, use them up to, but never past the point they were intended. That being said, never be afraid to experiment and “go against the grain”…sorry, I had to say it.

The post Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom by Adam Welch appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Tips for Using Off-Camera Flash at Weddings

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 15:00

Over the past eight years of shooting weddings, I have slowly evolved in how I work. I believe that’s normal for most photographers. Most will start as “natural light” photographers. I actually began a little ahead and was using one on-camera flash, bouncing it off of the ceiling. Next, I dabbled in some off-camera flash very lightly and steadily grew my skills over the years.

I will say, that life is so much easier for me now, and I can create so much more with off-camera flash than I could when I began. I’m not sure where you are in your journey, but I’m here to help you speed up the process. In this article, I’m going to share all of my different off-camera lighting setups for weddings.

Use flash when needed

Let me start off by saying that I don’t use off-camera flash the entire day. I still use natural light when I need to and I’ll use on-camera bounce flash when that’s appropriate. These on and off-camera flashes are just tools that I use to create, just like a painter uses different brushes and paints. I can’t necessarily tell you when to use them; that’s up to you and your personal preference. My suggestion would be to keep an open mind, practice these ideas, and see what works best for you.

Photographing details

I start using off-camera flash pretty early in the wedding day when I’m shooting details. For most situations, I try to keep it simple and use one flash at a 45-degree angle to the subject. To keep light from going everywhere and to create a more dramatic photo, I usually use a MagGrid from MagMod.

I’ll use this setup for ring shots, a few of the dress, flowers, possibly shoes, and other details. It works really well for the ring shot because I’m usually shooting at such a high aperture that I need a lot of light. I also make sure to take some with natural light or a bounce flash just in case the couple doesn’t like the dramatic look.

Off-camera flash for portraits

The newest way I’ve been using off-camera flash, and I just love it so much, is for creating portraits. If you really want to create something cool and different for your clients, this is the way to do it. There are many ways to do this (too many to mention here), but I’ll share some of my favorite setups.

Off-camera flash setups for wedding portraits

The groom usually doesn’t get much attention on the wedding day. He is just along for the ride. I try, though, to give him the spotlight and create something fun. This setup is basically the same as the detail shot. I’ll use one single flash with a MagGrid. The big difference is I lower the ambient light so the flash is really all that is seen.

One light dramatic setup for the groom.

To do this, start off without the flash. Adjust the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture until the photo is pretty dark. Then, bring in the flash. Try to position the off-camera flash at a 45 degree angle, in relatively close to the subject. The further away the light is the more it will spread. I try to keep most of the focus on his face.

Another fun trick is to do this with all the groomsmen and put it together later in Photoshop. I did this recently with a group that all had super hero shirts under their suits. It created a very dramatic, fun photo. All you have to do is move your flash to one person, take a photo, and then move to the next one. Either put the camera on a tripod or try to keep it in the same position and height. Then, later, you just line them all up and use layers to hide and reveal the parts you want.

The bride and her dress

The bride is the star of the show, so you need to make sure you create lots of photos of her and the dress. I will usually spend twice as much time with the bride as I do the groom. I also use a few different lighting patterns with her to give her more variety.

I don’t do it often, but you can actually use the same lighting setup that we did for the groom, with the bride. It’s going to create a dark portrait, but one thing I do differently is I make sure there aren’t any crazy shadows on her face.

Sometimes I have the bride turn her head toward the light or I rotate the flash more to light her entire face. It’s good to try this out occasionally, but make sure you give her some other options.

One flash dramatic lighting setup.

In most cases, I use a much softer light with the brides, to open up shadows instead of creating something dark. I use my small flashes for some situations, but when we are outside I usually go to my larger flash, the Xplor 600. This gives me more power and I can put a softbox or octabox on it to soften the light.

My go-to bride setup is to put the sun behind the bride and then light the front of her. A lot of wedding photographers will do it this way without adding the light to the front. This can work, but you are left with a blown out background and possibly deep shadows in the eyes.

With my lighting setup, you can have the background exposed correctly and remove those nasty shadows. I still place the flash at a 45 degree angle but there are a few other things that make the photo look completely different. One, using a softbox or Octabox softens the light and allows it to illuminate most of the subject while the MagGrid kept the light pretty hard and focused.

One flash off-camera balanced with natural light.


Also, the exposure is going to be different. Turn off the flash and get a proper exposure for the background instead of it being pitch black. Then, turn the flash back on to light your subject and adjust power as needed. As far as setting the background exposure, I prefer bumping up the shutter speed versus bumping up the aperture. You can only do this, though, if your flash can do high-speed sync.

Off-camera flash setups for group photos

Another tough situation to light is the family portrait setup. If we are outside that isn’t really a problem, but if we’re indoors, the light is usually pretty bad. To keep everyone in focus, I also use a smaller aperture, which just makes matters worse.

I’ve used a few different off-camera flash setups for family portraits, and honestly, I’m not sure which I prefer. If you only have one flash, I’d put it at about a 30-degree angle.

If you have two flashes, there are two different ways to set it up. You can put both flashes, at equal power, at opposite 45 degree angles. This will cover everything, but it can make some weird shadows. The other option is to keep one light at 45 degrees and bring the other closer to the camera and lower the power. This is the basic main light and fill light setup.

Family portrait lighting with two flashes.

The problem I’ve run into with this is that the people further away from the main light don’t get as much light. The last thing to consider is whether to bounce it or use direct flash. Bouncing is going to create a more even lighting, but it uses more power and doesn’t work if the ceilings are dark or if you’re outside. Direct flash takes less power, but the light tends to be harsher and create darker shadows.

Sometimes I will try one setup and then quickly switch to another if things aren’t working. You might find yourself doing this as well.

Off-camera flash at the wedding reception

Creating lighting for the dance is one of my favorite things to do. You really can create some amazing shots. My general setup is two off-camera flash, opposite each other, with MagGrids attached. This really creates a moody effect, but you can get some dark shadows.

Dance lighting setup, two flashes.

With this setup, I keep a flash on top of my camera, and sometimes I’ll use it to bounce some fill light into the scene. When I’m done with the first few dances and the big groups get out there, I remove the grids so the light will cover a larger area. As far as my position, you can move around with this light setup and get some really different looks. For the most part, I try to keep one light beside me at a 45-degree.

One quick warning: make sure your lights are secure and out of the way. People will run into them and knock them over, and you don’t want broken equipment and/or injuries and a potential lawsuit.

Off-camera flash for creative wedding portraits

The last scenario that I use off-camera flash at weddings is for doing creative portraits with the couple. I really enjoy taking them away from the action once it has gotten dark to create something special. These are more of a creative, artsy portrait, and they are often my favorite shots from the wedding day.

Two-light backlit setup with blue gel on the background.

The possibilities are pretty endless with this, so I’m just going to run through how I do it in general. The first thing I do is find an interesting background. This could be the front of the venue or some place with an interesting structure and hopefully some kind of lights. Next, I figure out where I want to place the couple. I like to have them be part of the environment, so I position them where I can do a full length shot and still capture the background.

Now we are ready to figure out the off-camera lighting setup. My go-to setup is a front light at 45 degrees with a grid and another flash behind the subject. With the backlight, I’ll either have the light aimed at the couple to give them a glow, or I’ll aim it at the background to show off the structure more. If you want to get a little funky or artsy, throw a colored gel on the backlight. After I’ve done that, I usually remove the front light and just aim the backlight at them and make a silhouette. If you know what you’re doing, you should be able to pull these shots off in less than 10 minutes and send the couple back to the party.

One light backlit setup.


I know that was a lot of information and you may be overwhelmed. If you are feeling confused, reread each section and look at the diagrams. If you’re still confused, feel free to comment, and I’ll help you out.

Also, don’t feel like you have to try all of these setups at once. Remember, weddings are a once in a lifetime event, so avoid going in there if you aren’t confident in what you are doing. Practice at home and start by trying one of these setups. Practice some more and then try out other setups. Do this for one year and at the end of that year, I bet you’ll be in a whole new level, and you’ll never go back to your old way of shooting weddings.

The post Tips for Using Off-Camera Flash at Weddings by Bryan Striegler appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Review of the Polaroid Pro Studio Digital Flash Umbrella Mount Kit

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 10:00

One of the biggest challenges for amateur photographers is getting comfortable with shooting with off-camera flash. Not only does the technique take much time to master, but lighting equipment is expensive! This is where Polaroid is aiming to help out. The new Polaroid Pro Studio Digital Flash Umbrella Mount Kit might be a mouthful to say, but it is exactly what it says: a portable umbrella lighting kit. What it doesn’t mention is that it is also very affordably priced for the amateur photographer (under $65!). Find out more details about the new Polaroid lighting kit below!

What’s Included

Altogether, this lighting kit weighs a total of 8.5 lbs and runs $64.99 USD. According to the product description, the “Polaroid Digital Flash Umbrella Mount Kit includes all of the essential lighting equipment you will need.” These items include:

1) Two Light Stands

These Polaroid brand light stands are three-sectioned twist locks AND they are air cushioned. They fold down to 26 inches and can extend as high as six feet and hold up to 15 lbs. The weight of the light stands isn’t stated, but they’re not heavy at all. This means they travel very easy, but you’ll have to compromise some stability and support.

2) Two Umbrellas

Umbrellas are one of the simplest, most compact ways to beautifully diffuse light. Polaroid smartly includes two white satin umbrellas with this lighting kit. Both umbrellas have a removable black backing, allowing you to use it as a bounce or shoot through umbrella. Best of all is the fact that the removable backing is stiffer, with sturdier end caps than competing (even higher-end) umbrella brands like Westcott. This makes it much easier to put the backing back on the umbrella.

These octagonal umbrellas are about 33 inches in diameter, which might be a miss for those who need a larger size. But based on the sturdiness of the light stands, you probably don’t want to stick overly large and heavy umbrellas on those stands anyway.

3) Two Cold-Shoe Mount Umbrella Adapters

The last components of this lighting kit are the cold-shoe mount adapters. These allow you to attach the umbrella to the light stand, and mount a speedlight flash. Polaroid’s own adapters each have a swivel, umbrella socket, and a cold-shoe mount that should fit most standard speedlight flashes. The adapters are adjustable, allowing you to shift the angle of the whole setup.

4) A Carrying Case

One of the best parts about the Polaroid Pro Lighting Kit is that all of the above items come delivered in a perfectly sized carrying case. The bag is about 29 inches long, 8 inches wide, and 7 inches high. It’s also very lightweight and holds all of the lighting kit components, with room to spare. The inclusion of the carrying case is a really nice touch, as many other lighting stand providers almost never include a case.

What’s Not Included

You may have noticed that a few critical lighting kit items were omitted: a camera, flash units, and flash triggers. Thus, this does not include all of your “essential lighting equipment you will need,” so note the need to purchase these additional items. On the bright side, there are some affordable flashes and triggers on the market that you can add to keep your overall lighting kit inexpensive.

Note: Flash unit and flash triggers are not included.

This kit is for you if…

If you’re just getting started with off-camera flash and studio lighting equipment, the Polaroid Pro Kit is a great way to start out. The kit is affordable while providing you what you need. It may not hold up in the long run, but at this price, buying a second kit doesn’t hurt. Also, if you’re a pro photographer needing a lightweight, portable lighting kit for on-the-go shoots, this may meet your needs as well.

For photographers needing extremely durable lighting stands or umbrellas bigger than 33 inches, this kit probably isn’t for you. It costs $64.99, and you get what you pay for. If you’re needing equipment for a pro studio for daily use, spend more money on heavier-duty gear.


After testing out the Polaroid Pro Studio Digital Flash Umbrella Mount Kit, I fell head over heels in love with it. The kit isn’t much different from my current setup (two Manfrotto 5001B Nano light stands with Westcott umbrellas). While my Manfrottos feel sturdier than the Polaroid light stands, the price of one Manfrotto stand is nearly equal that of the entire Polaroid Pro kit. Not so terrible.

I used this lighting kit on a couple of on-location food photography photo shoots and was pleased with the results, plus the kit’s extreme portability. Sample photos taken with the Polaroid Pro kit are shown below. All images were shot with a Canon 5D Mark III with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens and Canon 580 EXII Speedlight Flashes.

For simple professional jobs where I’d use a 33-inch umbrella, the Polaroid Pro kit is ace. However, if I were planning to work with bigger, heavier lighting units or modifiers, I’d definitely turn to a heavier duty option.

The post Review of the Polaroid Pro Studio Digital Flash Umbrella Mount Kit by Suzi Pratt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Blue

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 15:00

Color adds mood and feeling to an image. Cool colors like blue tend to have a calming feeling, like these 19 images with blue subjects.

By Christian Weidinger

Weekly Photography Challenge – Blue

This one should be pretty easy. Just go find something blue – OR even convert an image to black and white and add a blue tint to it!

Another option is to go out at dusk and photograph during the blue hour. Here are some tips to help you do that:

By Jeff S. PhotoArt at

By ~lzee~by~the~Sea~

By Fiona Shaw

By Thomas Hawk

Share your images below:

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

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

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

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Blue by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

19 Cool Images of Blue Subjects

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 10:00

A while back we took a look at images with the primary color of summer, green. Now let’s have a peek at the color of the night time – blue.

Of course, there are many other things which are blue as well, as you can see below.

By StudioTempura

By Albert Vuvu Konde

By O. R.G.

By Joao Clerigo

By Maarten Takens

By Bill Dickinson

By Roy Cheung

By nathan_gamble

By Mirai Takahashi

By Stanley Zimny (Thank You for 24 Million views)

By Neil Tackaberry

By Javier Díaz Barrera

By Neal Fowler

By Stanley Zimny (Thank You for 24 Million views)

By Maria Eklind

By Tom Roeleveld

By Michiel van Nimwegen

By Ivan Rigamonti

The post 19 Cool Images of Blue Subjects by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Let Go of Perfection in Photography

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 15:00

In the digital era, where perfection seems within our grasp through post-processing and limitless opportunities to reshoot, it’s easy to get hung up on perfectionism. In some genres, such as product photography, it’s a necessity. Your commercial client won’t appreciate blown-out highlights on a shampoo bottle or soft focus on the wheel of a prestige car.

But in many other areas of photography – especially when it comes to your personal projects – letting go of perfectionism can help unleash your creativity and ensure that you don’t miss important moments.

Beautifully imperfect.

My brush with perfectionism

Earlier this year, my firstborn turned 18 and I wanted to create a slideshow of photos from her birth to the present day. Since I was still shooting film for the first 10 years of her life, this involved trawling through printed photos.

What stood out to me was that among my favorite photos, very few were technically perfect. Some were poorly composed. Others were out-of-focus, underexposed, or badly lit. In fact – and I hate to admit this – if I’d shot these photos in the digital era, I’d have rejected many of them, or attempted to reshoot them to get them “right”. But they captured expressions that epitomize my daughter. They had caught candid moments between sisters, and snippets in time I’d forgotten, but want to remember.

Grainy, underexposed and soft, this photo of my children snuggled into an armchair reading books is priceless to me.

Embrace the imperfect

Almost everything about the black-and-white photo at the top of the page is imperfect from a technical stance. The subject is too centred; the sun has cast shadows over her eyes and highlighted her nose; the highlights are blown out, and the focus is soft on the eyes. To me, though, it is exquisite. The windswept hair, the tilt of her head and quirky smile capture her sweet nature, and the way she looks (to this very day) when she is daydreaming.

In all three photos above, there are technical faults. But the clumsy embrace, the dimples, those eyes and that cheeky pout could never be replaced by technical perfection.

While this article is not about film versus digital, it is hard to deny that the digital era has brought out the perfectionist in us all. Those of us who cut our photographic teeth in the film era will remember what it was like to accept imperfection. When you had a maximum of 36 frames on a roll of film, there was no room for rapid-fire shooting in the hope of getting one good shot. Unless you did your own printing, or were prepared to pay for custom printing, you were stuck with the composition you’d shot. There was no histogram to meddle with, no brushes to delete stray hairs, and no actions or presets to smooth everything out.

Perfectionism is the enemy of creativity

My youngest daughter is wildly artistic. She’s a keen photographer and has an eye for composition, lighting and quirky camera angles. To my frustration, she refuses to master some of the basics such as the exposure triangle and depth of field. While I think this has more to do with teen rebellion than creativity, I have learned something from her.

Technical skills are important, there’s no question, as we need to master the fundamentals of our craft. In photography, this means understanding light, how focal length and depth of field work, and the relationship between shutter speed, iso and aperture. We should be aware of the rules of composition even if we choose to veer from them.

But digital photography allows us to take our perfectionist tendencies to an extreme.

Would this photo be improved if it were straightened, and the white balance perfected?

Perfection is a myth

When you make perfection your goal, you’re often left with a sense of failure. Rather than enjoying your achievements, you waste time lamenting what you failed to achieve and what you could have done differently.

Creative minds are rarely tidy (neither are their workspaces – just ask the aforementioned daughter). Creation can be a messy business, yet making a mess is something that’s discouraged from an early age. Creativity is the explosion of paints and brushes across the table. It’s the random words smudged across school books that become poems and songs. It’s burnt saucepans, twisted ankles and spilt ink, and it’s weird composition, missed focus, and unwanted backgrounds. These messes can lead to wonderful things that you’ll miss if you are focused on reaching perfection.

It’s worth remembering that Penicillin, potato chips, Scotchguard and the pacemaker were all the result of mistakes.

I am no landscape photographer, but when I revisited my birth country I wanted to capture how the majority of South Africans live. The photos below were shot from a slow-moving vehicle, and a landscape photographer could point out their many imperfections. But I think I achieved what I set out to do, and that’s good enough for me.

Khyelitsha, a township on the outskirts of Cape Town, was established during the apartheid era as part of the Group Areas Act, and is now home to around 2.4 million people.

Tins roofs, uninsulated buildings and a riot of electrical wires overhead.

In the background, the mountain range for which Cape Town is famous. In the foreground, the outskirts of Khyelitsha.

Perfection is boring

There is a long list of famous songs which were recorded with mistakes, including Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, The Police’s Roxanne, and Radiohead’s Creep. It takes nothing away from our enjoyment of them – in fact, it enhances them. It reminds us that they were made by humans, who are fallible just like us.

I believe there is something in the human psyche that craves imperfection. In recent years, we have seen a resurgence of vinyl in the music industry. The trend in photo editing, especially for portraiture, has swung towards emulating film. And it is the millennials, raised in the digital era where everything sought to be perfect, who have led these trends. Lightroom presets such as Mastin Labs and VSCO are doing a roaring trade making digital photographs look like they were shot on film.

The flat tones in this photo were the result of underexposure. Now there’s a preset to emulate this look.

In this photo, the skin tones are too green, the central composition could be improved, and that red bucket draws too much attention, but contributes nothing to the story. Yet the photo reminds me of how much fun my children had on their first camping trip, and is evocative of my own childhood.

You’ll miss the important moments

Henri Cartier-Bresson, a master of candid photography said, “Sharpness is a bourgeois concept.” To him, photography was all about capturing the decisive moment, not getting hung up on technical perfection. Get too fixated on perfection, and you’ll miss the moments that take your breath away.

Your subjects can’t repeat a candid expression because you missed focus. An embrace is only spontaneous the first time. Spend too long worrying about shutter speed or depth of field, and you’ll miss it. If it’s restaged, it will show.

Discovering what my children had done when left unsupervised with craft paint in the backyard: priceless.

The photo below of a woman with her teenage daughter is an outtake from a family photo shoot, snapped in the break when they had dropped their guard. Because it is out of focus, I was tempted not to show it to them, but I was so drawn to their natural smiles and the warmth in their embrace that I changed my mind. It turned out to be one of their favourite photos. The outtakes are often the best photos, when people behave spontaneously.

This photo of my daughters was shot on 35mm film. Had I been shooting with a DSLR, I may have reshot it because the focus is soft. I’m so glad I didn’t. That split-second interaction sums up their relationship – the little one’s curiosity while her big sister asserts her superior status.

A moment is only candid the first time.

Progress over perfection

Candid photography and photojournalism are all about capturing the decisive moment, no matter how imperfect the conditions. You can’t reschedule the moment your baby takes his first steps until the light is right. And trust me, if those photos are blurry and the cat makes a guest appearance at the critical moment, they will still move you to tears when you look at them 18 years from now.

Regardless of what genre you like to photograph, keep shooting. Keep learning; read widely and take inspiration from anywhere you can. Learn from your mistakes and strive for improvement, but don’t get hung up on perfection. Enjoy your photos and, most importantly, the process of creating them.

The post How to Let Go of Perfection in Photography by Karen Quist appeared first on Digital Photography School.

6 of the Best Smartphone Apps for Travel and Landscape Photography

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 10:00

Ansel Adams, the godfather of landscape photography once said, “A great photograph is knowing where to stand.” Sadly, I stood in all the wrong places when I began. I watched in envy as seemingly everyone else was taking pictures of an epic sunrise, an arching Milky Way, or an ethereal cityscape blanketed in fog.

Landscape photography apps are essential tools that help you be in the right place at the right time, like this rooftop in Busan, South Korea. © Pete DeMarco

Eventually, I learned that compelling landscape images are created long before the shutter snaps. Like anything in life, having a plan or vision about what you would like to create will massively increase your chances of reaching your target. The same goes for photography.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely respect chance, or what some may call serendipity. But capturing spontaneous events takes a fair amount of planning. Even the man who coined the term “The Decisive Moment”, the great street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, would plan his frame and then wait for life to happen within his photographic stage.

When Preparation Meets Opportunity

Landscape photography is like going to the casino. You can’t control what cards you get, but by learning the game you can increase your odds of winning.

In photography terms, Smartphone apps are essential tools in the image creation process, right up there with your camera, lens, and tripod. You can literally make the stars align with them.

Knowing where to stand (and when) makes all the difference in landscape photography. © Pete DeMarco

Here are six Smartphone apps I use to plan out my landscape photo shoots. Use them well, and it won’t be long before you get comments on your photos like this, “You always seem to be in the right place at the right time.”

#1 – PhotoPills

PhotoPills is the best photography app on the market. Period. It’s the photographer’s Swiss Army knife. It does so many things. I use it to plan my astrophotography shoots. I can easily figure out the phase of the moon, the location of The Milky Way, where it will rise, how high, at what angle, and at what intensity. The best part is the 3D augmented reality for finding The Milky Way in the sky.

PhotoPills is an excellent app for astrophotography. I used it to plan this shoot in Penang, Malaysia.© Pete DeMarco

And that’s just the beginning. Whether you are doing timelapse photography, location planning, tracking the sun or the moon, or calculating your hyperfocal distance, this app has it all. The $9.99 price tag is well worth it considering all you get in return (available for iOS and Android).

#2 – The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE)

TPE used to be my go-to app before PhotoPills made it obsolete. The best thing is its simplicity. I mainly use it to track the sun and the moon. But since PhotoPills does that and so much more, I rarely use it now. I still included TPE on the list though because you can use it for free through their “web app”. Just go to their home page and click on TPE for Desktop.

You can’t control the light in landscape photography, but you can learn how to make the most out of what you’re given. © Pete DeMarco

It also has 3D topographical maps and can help with astrophotography shoots. Still though, PhotoPills offers far more at a lower price. Watch my short video tutorial on how I use this app to find where the sun will rise and set. (Price: $11.99 for iOS and Android; browser version FREE)

#3 – Sun Surveyor

Sun Surveyor is another helpful Smartphone app to plan the rise and fall of the sun. © Pete DeMarco

Another app similar to TPE is Sun Surveyor. It’s mainly just for tracking the sun, the moon, and how the light will fall. If English is not your first language, the app has been translated into a number of different languages like Korean, Chinese, Turkish, Czech and many others. With limited features though, I’d probably just use the free desktop version of TPE or buy PhotoPills instead. (Price: $9.99, iOS and Android)

#4 – Tide Charts Near Me

The land bridge in this photo is only visible at low tide. Apps like Tide Charts Near Me are helpful when photographing seascapes like this one. © Pete DeMarco

If you’re into seascape photography, knowing the level of the tide is essential. Some shots you can only get at low tide or high tide. Tide Charts Near Me is a super simple app with a great graphic interface for showing the height of the tide on any given day or time. There’s also a moon phase calendar included as well. (Price: Free for iOS & Android)

#5 –

The most important thing of all is being able to make it to and from your shoot location. Google Maps and Apple Maps are decent. But the problem is that you need to use data to access those maps, which can be costly if you’re traveling internationally.

Also, if you’re in an area with no cell phone service then your map app won’t work. Yes, you can use Google maps offline but you have to download each individual location first.

Finding your way around a big city or new country can be daunting. Offline map apps like not only save you roaming data fees, they get you where you need to be. © Pete DeMarco is a fantastic offline map app solution. It’s simple to use and does much more than just help you find your way. Once you install the app, all you do is download the country map for your destination.

Then you can locate the nearest ATM, restaurant, wifi connection, and more with ease, without using any data. It works with GPS, not wifi, so you can find your way anywhere in the world. However, if your device isn’t GPS enabled, like say an iPad or another tablet with only a wifi connection, then it won’t work. Check out the video for more details. (Price: Free for iOS and Android).

#6 – Wundergroud

Clouds can add drama to your landscape images. Weather apps that show the hourly forecast like Wunderground can give you a planning edge. © Pete DeMarco

Last but not least, knowing the weather forecast obviously makes a huge difference in photography. Almost any app will do for this. I prefer Wunderground because it gives a detailed weather forecast by the hour, not just the day (Price: Free for iOS and Android).

Beginner’s Guide To Landscape Photography

If you found this article helpful and would like to learn more, check out Pete’s course A Beginner’s Guide to Compelling Landscape Photography

The post 6 of the Best Smartphone Apps for Travel and Landscape Photography by Pete DeMarco appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Three Tips for Overcoming a Photographic Plateau

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 15:00

Let’s face it…growing up isn’t always easy. There are lots of hurdles to overcome during our journeys as photographers. At one time or another, we all hit rough spots with some aspect of photography. Take heart though, whether it’s a problem with technique, gear, or simply finding your own creative uniqueness, I can personally guarantee that someone else is struggling with that same problem.

But there’s one situation too often encountered by beginners and even pro photographers alike – the dreaded “plateau”. This is a stage that often happens when we feel like our photography has a reached a point where it is no longer improving. It’s a terrible feeling.

Fortunately, overcoming a photographic plateau is easy once you identify and diagram the source of the problem. It’s here where you can run into trouble because critiquing your own performance in order to self-diagnose why you have plateaued is an exercise in self-realization. Here are three common reasons why photographers plateau in their work and some solutions that can push you into a new phase of growth.

Here are three common reasons why photographers plateau in their work and some solutions that can push you into a new phase of growth.

You’ve stopped learning new techniques

I get it. I really do. There comes a time when you reach a level of confidence in your craft. You feel comfortable in the techniques you practice and more and more of your images turn out just as you imagined them in your head. In itself, confidence that you know what you’re doing is a huge accomplishment in itself. The problem arises, and thus the plateau happens when you stop looking for new things to learn.

How to overcome it

I used the word “comfortable” earlier. Becoming comfortable in your photography can be a creative death sentence. Simply put, don’t become overly comfortable to the point where you think there’s nothing else to learn. There are always advancements being made in the world of photography.

Someone is refining a new method of shooting with a filter. There are more things to learn in the digital darkroom during post-processing. There’s always something new to learn. Learning new techniques not only keeps your mind limber but also improves your craft and the potential of your photographs.

Ignoring needed gear upgrades

I’ll admit it, I love photo gear. There are few artistic mediums where technology advances more quickly than it does in photography. The way your gear facilitates your work is a careful balance between mechanical capability and your personal skill level.

The most expensive camera in the world will not make you a top notch photographer. At the same time, there may come a moment in your journey where your skill legitimately surpasses the capability of your gear. This can cause a plateau due to the fact that your lens will not become physically sharper and your camera’s maximum ISO rating of 6400 will never be able to shoot at 24,000.

How to overcome it

Learn what gear meets your current skill level and still leaves room to grow. However, the remedy for gear top out is not to automatically run out and buy the latest and greatest camera or lenses or anything else for that matter.

The very first thing you need to do if you’re a gear shopping photographer is to begin researching. Research and research some more. Read unbiased gear reviews and talk to other photographers who shoot with the same equipment you’re considering purchasing. The reason for this is so you know exactly what you need and you spend your money ONLY on those things and nothing more.

Shooting the same thing over and over

We all have certain things we love photographing. There are genres of photography which draw us in for one reason or another. For me, it is landscape and wilderness/adventure photography.

For others, street photography is their love, while still others thrive on doing portraits in the studio. Whatever your passion may be, there will likely be a point where you find yourself shooting the same thing over and over and over again. While this is not always a bad thing, it can cause you to hit a creative wall and ultimately, plateau.

How to overcome it

This problem perhaps has one of the most polarized solutions of all. Simply go photograph something that you normally wouldn’t consider shooting. I know, sounds easy, right? It practically is, but completely switching gears and branching out into new areas of photography can feel unnatural, awkward, and downright scary.

Still, shooting a few portraits here and there when you’re used to shooting only landscapes can be a great creative palette cleanser. Getting out into nature and slowing down can be a welcomed break for street photographers who generally shoot only in concrete jungles. Whatever change of pace you temporarily switch to, it will usually breathe new passion into your original modality and help you move past that plateau.

Some closing thoughts

Sooner or later, to some degree, we all will hit a plateau in our photography. How we handle that moment when it comes can make all the difference.

Usually, understanding the problem is a huge step in solving it and moving on with your photography. Try new things. Research and see if your work does, in fact, need that full frame camera sensor. Branch out and try a style of photography that you generally don’t practice. The key to overcoming a photographic plateau is the realization you need recharging once in a while. It’s a normal part of becoming a stronger and more capable photo maker.

The post Three Tips for Overcoming a Photographic Plateau by Adam Welch appeared first on Digital Photography School.

7 Common Mistakes That Every Photography Business Needs to Avoid

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 10:00

Everyone makes mistakes. When growing your photography business, you will make more mistakes over than the years than you can count – and some of them you will even look back on and cringe.

Mistakes are all part of the process. But also part of the job of being a photographer is figuring out how to minimize these mistakes, especially the ones that can set you back a long way. Learn from your peers so you can avoid their mistakes.

Here are some of the main pitfalls that plague photographers. Just fixing these alone can save you a lot of money, and even more importantly, a lot of time.

Mistake #1 – Not Charging Enough

When you are first building your portfolio, certainly you might have to do some jobs for free or at a reduced rate as you build your skill level. That part is fine, but once you have that portfolio and are a full fledged business, you do not want to sell yourself short.

Photography may seem to others like a passion job – that you just show up for an hour or two, take some photos, and send them over. But it is about so much more than that. It’s about building your skills, learning about light, composition, fixing mistakes on the fly, editing, and learning how to work with clients. It’s traveling to and from the location, paying your expenses, spending the time to market yourself to get the job, paying the bills to keep the lights on, and feeding your family. And it’s about having some time left over to enjoy yourself.

Create a spreadsheet and calculate these costs so you know what you have to make per job to survive and thrive. This will give you the confidence to ask for what you are worth. If you’re not able to cover all of these costs, then you’re not running a true full-time business, you won’t survive in the long run, and you’re lowering the value of the work itself.

Stay away from the cheap jobs and the cheap clients. They will just suck your time away and demand more and more. If the requirements for a client on a particular job suddenly change halfway through, ask for more money.

Sometimes you will want to do work for less than you are worth if it is the right type of job or the right type of client, but this should only be situational. There will be many points in your career where it will be more valuable to spend the time on your marketing and business development than on the job itself.

Mistake #2 – Not Reaching Out to People and Being Proactive with Marketing

Jobs are not going to come to you at first, no matter how good your work is. You will have to go out and find your clients, so create a list of your ideal client types and of the best ways to reach each of them.

Work within your personal network, canvas local businesses, attend events and offer your services to individuals. The more you put yourself out there, the more business will come to you. But at first, every job you receive will come as a direct result of you proactively contacting someone or figuring out a strategy to get your work in front of them.

Mistake #3 – Not Collaborating and Working With Other Photographers in Your Space (i.e. Your Competitors)

Other photographers can be one of the biggest helps to you along your journey. They’ve been there before, they have a lot in common with you, and they could become great friends. Learn from them and offer to help them.

Often you will get some of your first jobs from other photographers, whether it be assisting them or taking some of their overflow. Many established photographers still have a portion of their income come from helping out other photographers in their community.

In addition, accountability can be extremely important for your growth. Find a photographer in a similar place (level and business-wise) as you and work together. Have strategy sessions and share what is working and what is not. Having someone in your life like this can be integral to your success and for getting you through the hard times.

There will be a portion of photographers who see you as a competitor. They will not want to talk to or worth with you. That’s their problem, and the collaborations that you do with the willing photographers will help you both jump ahead of the ones who don’t.

Mistake #4 – Not Responding Quickly Enough

Why don’t photographers respond as quickly as possible to job inquiries? Either way, it makes things easier for us when the competition is slow to respond. I hear it all the time, how surprised people were by how quickly I responded to them, both at the beginning and throughout the entire job process. This shows a level of dependability, and in addition to helping people to want to work with you, it will also make them want to refer you. The more dependable you are, the more your clients will want to help you out however they can.

Even if it’s not a job inquiry, respond quickly. You never know when a casual conversation or advice that you give will turn into a job or reference. Often, it will turn into nothing, but when those one or two out of 10 turn into jobs, in the long run, those will add up.

Mistake #5 – Not Spelling Out the Terms of a Job from the Very Beginning

Being a skilled photographer is not just about creating beautiful pictures. A big aspect of the photography business is how you handle the job from start to finish, and often the most important part is the very beginning when you spell out the terms and requirements.

It is really tough to know exactly what a client is envisioning for the job, so it helps to ask a lot of questions. This will even help them figure out what they want, as many of them will not have any experience with hiring a professional photographer. It will also help you justify your price when you talk out the steps of a job with them.

Make sure they know that if the parameters of the job change (through their decisions), you will have to charge more for the extra work. Most clients will think it is not a big deal to add something that was not specified ahead of time, but this is just more work they are giving you that was not spelled out originally. It happens a lot of the time, so it’s very important for your photography business to learn how to handle it correctly.

Mistake #6 – Not Having a Contract

Similar to the last point, while you both need to come to an agreement on the scope of any photography project, you also need to spell out those terms in a contract. Without a contract, you can easily be screwed over, and many photographers learn this the hard way. Hire a lawyer to give you advice, and look into, which provides a variety of photographer contracts. These can save you a lot of time and money.

Read this on contracts: The Biggest Legal Mistake Photographers Make

The contract is important for setting the boundaries of the project. It will be easier to ask for more money if the scope of a job changes when you have a contract that spells out the exact requirements that were drafted.

Mistake #7 – Not Having an Efficient Workflow

Efficiency is one of the most important aspects of running a photography business, and unfortunately, speed is something that is learned over time. Create a speedy and organized system for how you work. Import a job, cull the selects, crop, do the post-production work (light, color, contrast, etc.), export, deliver, and invoice. The more efficient you are with this, the less you will procrastinate. There is nothing that will cause a photographer to procrastinate more than staring at a mountain of unedited images.

While this tip may sound simple, jobs that might take beginning photographers three hours to edit, can take an experienced photographer an hour. It took me much longer to edit a job when I started, and this organization and efficiency can give you so much more time to spend on everything else.

Also read: Photography Workflow Tips – From Memory Card to Computer and Beyond

Always tell a client that you will get a job to them a couple days later than you think you can. This will allow you time to screw something up and still get the work to them on time. Usually, you will get it to them early which will make you look even better (this is called under promise, over deliver).

Mistake #8 – Bonus Tip: Learn When to Say No

It’s hard to say no as a photographer, especially if you are growing your business and are under booked, but some jobs or some clients are just not worth it. If you are not being paid enough and the job is not good for your portfolio, if the client is tough to work with and overly demanding, save that aggravation and pass.

Some of these clients will prey upon young photographers to squeeze as much out of them before the photographer wises up. Just avoiding these jobs alone will save you so much time, and allow you to put it towards marketing and business development efforts that will set you much further ahead than by taking a less than desirable job.

Your time is very, very important, so don’t waste it. Saying no can be one of the best decisions you make.

If you have a photography business and have any other tips for newbies just getting started, please share in the comments below.

For even more business help – join the Focus Summit 2017 Online Business and Marketing Conference for Photographers on Sept 26-28th 2017. We will cover marketing, business development, law, SEO, branding, blogging, and much more. Use the code “DPS” for a $50 discount.


The post 7 Common Mistakes That Every Photography Business Needs to Avoid by James Maher appeared first on Digital Photography School.

7 Questions That Will Help You Decide Which Camera To Buy

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 15:00

People often ask me for advice on which camera to buy. Most often they expect me to say, “Buy a Nikon” because that’s what I use. But that is not what I tell them.

If you were to ask me which camera you should buy I would first ask you a series of questions. From the answers, you give me I would guide you towards either a compact camera, mirrorless, or DSLR. So if you aren’t sure which camera to get, ask yourself these seven questions before you go shopping.

1. Why do you want a camera?

Doesn’t your phone take good enough photos? I’m not joking, this is a serious question.

I know if you are asking questions about buying a new camera you’ve already given some thought to the decision and are reasonably serious about it. I’m looking for an answer telling me how your phone is failing you in your endeavors to make photos. I want to know what you are hoping a camera will do that your phone cannot. Your answer will help me guide you towarwd the type of camera that will best suit you and your needs.

2. How and when will you use your camera?

The answer to this question will help determine what size camera to buy. Recently I’ve had two friends who are embarking on a once in a lifetime traveling experience ask me about what camera to buy. Both were thinking of buying DSLRs, expecting that those big cameras would give them the best results. But, I encouraged them each not to buy a DSLR because they are big and heavy!

It’s often said that the best camera is the one you have with you. If your camera is reasonably small you are more likely to want to carry it everywhere with you while traveling. Read more on this subject here: Must Have Gear for Travel Photography Newbies.

If you want to mainly use a camera to photograph products for your online store or to take pics of your garden I would be more likely to suggest you look at DSLRs (depending on the answers you give to some of the following questions).

The size and weight of a camera must be seriously considered because it’s no good buying a camera you find too big and heavy to carry with you. You will not use it often and will be disappointed with your purchase.

3. What will you use the photos for?

Your answer to this question will ascertain the level of image quality you will need. These days most people want photos to share on social media. If this is you, then you will not need a camera with the maximum megapixels available! Most compact cameras these days will produce images of high enough pixel quality for social media posting.

Producing prints, photo books or photos to sell online will require a camera with a larger sensor. For people who enjoy time in front of their computers post-processing photos, more megapixels and a larger sensors in DSLR and mirrorless models will be an advantage. Which leads me to the next question.

4. Do you take time to post-process your photos?

If you enjoy taking the time to do some post-processing on your photos and want to maintain high technical results, this starts to narrow down your camera options. Generally, cameras with larger sensors will produce photos that hold up to more post-processing. For example, a full frame sensor (36mm X 24mm) containing 24 megapixels will allow more post-processing before the image starts to deteriorate than a smaller 24 megapixel micro four thirds sensor (17.3mm X 13mm.)

You want to have confidence that your image quality will remain intact as you apply some color balancing and filters or more advanced post-processing techniques.

5. How big are your hands?

Seriously! If you have small hands you will find it difficult to use a large camera. If you have big hands, you will find it more difficult to use a small camera. You will need to consider the layout of the buttons and dials on a camera so you are comfortable using it.

Some camera manufactures manage to design small cameras which have well configured layouts and are easy to use, others do not seem to do such a good job. Before you buy, go hold the cameras you have short listed in your hands and see how they feel.

6. What’s your budget?

This is an obvious consideration for most people, but you are best to consider it along with these other questions, not separately. Sometimes budget limits your choice considerably. Sometimes the answers to other questions will lead you to purchase a camera and spend less than you may have thought initially. I think both my friends who asked for travel camera advice found this to be the case.

You may find a high-end compact camera with a one-inch sensor will give you more pleasure and provide high enough quality photos than a DSLR … because it’s small and you will take it with you everywhere.

7. Do you have a preferred brand?

I do have a preferred brand of camera. But I will never push people to buy the brand I use just because I like it. If you are already familiar with a camera brand and are happy with it, that is a good reason to stick with it.

Camera manufacturers often configure their cameras to feel and function the same with each upgrade they produce. I like it when I purchase a new camera that has the same feel in my hand as the one from which I’m upgrading. It makes it quicker and easier to start using the camera intuitively.

If you do not have a preferred brand I encourage you to stick with one of the major brands that fit within your budget.


Doing some careful research will help you make a decision to be able to buy a camera you’ll be satisfied with, one that will hopefully last you a long time. Using your new camera frequently and enrolling in a course or taking a few workshops will help you up-skill more quickly and gain more enjoyment from your purchase.

What other questions might you ask yourself before making a decision on which camera to buy? Do you have any other tips or advice for photography newbies just starting out? Please share in the comments section below.

The post 7 Questions That Will Help You Decide Which Camera To Buy by Kevin Landwer-Johan appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Easily Add a New Element to Your Image Using Photoshop

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 10:00

This is an article for beginners in Photoshop. You will learn how to simply add an element to your photo and transform a daylight image into a nighttime one.

Open your selected images in Photoshop

First thing you want to do is select a photo of a mountain (in raw format). For that, open Photoshop then go to File > Open, it will open a window where you can select the photo that you want. Here we select raw file of the mountain:

Raw adjustments first

Because we opened a raw file it is going to pop up in Adobe Camera Raw and we are going to retouch it to make it look like night first. Let’s set the White Balance towards the blue, so move the Temp slider to 4150. Then you want your Exposure to be very low so it looks dark, try -1,90, lower your Highlights to -84, add some Contrast to +39, boost the Blacks to +28, and lower the Whites to -46. Basically bring down the bright parts and boost the darker parts to give the image a night mood.

Now click on the sentence under your photo: ProPhoto.. and select Open in Photoshop as a Smart Object.

Open the element you want to add

Once you have done that you can come back and open an image or element to add to the first image. We are going to select a moon that we want to add to this mountain. Go to File > Open and select one photo of a moon in jpg.

Arrange your workspace

You should have the photo of the moon and the mountain in tabs on the top of your Photoshop interface. If you don’t see that, you can go to Window > Arrange > Consolidate all tabs:

For this tutorial we need a workspace with two windows on the right, one is to show Layers and one is for Properties. For that you need to select “3D” from the pull-down menu for Workspace in the upper right corner.

Move the moon or element onto the mountain image

Go to your moon photo and grab the Move tool, it is the first icon on your left side (tools palette), the keyboard shortcut is V.

Using the Move tool you need to click on the moon, hold your mouse button, drag it over to the tab of the mountain and let go of the mouse to drop it.

Blending the images together

You can see that we have black around the moon still, so we are going to blend that out. In the layer window there are different options for Blending Modes, For this one we are going to use Screen. Pull it down and select Screen from the options.

That took most of the black out.

Resize and place the element

To make the moon even bigger, go to Edit > Free Transform.

Using the shift key to maintain its proportions, you can extend the moon by grabbing the corner and pulling it down.

You can also move the moon or your element around, and see where you want to put it. It looks pretty cool already but now we are going to get into masking. For this you will need to click on the Eye icon next to the moon layer number (to turn it off) and click on the layer of the mountain to select it.

You should see this now.

Select the Quick Select Tool (W on your keyboard) and drag your mouse over the sky to select it.

Turn the moon layer back on and click on the little square icon at the bottom to create a layer mask (shown in red below).

This is going to create a mask and because we have an active selection, a part of the moon is now hidden.

If you want to reposition the moon you just have to select the moon layer and click on the little chain on the side to unlink the image of the moon from the mask.

Side note: if you make a mistake you can select Cmd/Ctrl+Z to go back or undo the last step.

Fine adjustments

You can see that there is a difference of color around the moon because of the layer, so to fix grab the Brush tool. (hit B for brush on the keyboard) or the select the Brush on the tool palette).

Make sure that the opacity is at 100% and that black is your foreground color. Right-click and set the hardness to zero. This makes your brush very soft and you can brush over the white to remove it.

Side note: Click on the Control and Alt keys to make your brush or any tool in Photoshop smaller or bigger.

Here you can see where I painted on the mask.


There you go! You have added a moon to your landscape!

I hope you liked this article and you feel more comfortable using Photoshop so you can add the moon or another element into your landscapes and create this cool effect.

If you enjoyed this tutorial and want to learn more about how to use Photoshop, check out Serge’s course Photoshop for Photographers 2017. Use the special promotional code – DPS65 – to get 65% off as a dPS reader!

The post How to Easily Add a New Element to Your Image Using Photoshop by Serge Ramelli appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Photography Lessons I Learned Growing Up Around Ansel Adams

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 15:00

Ansel Adams was a young man of 14 when he first came to California‚ Yosemite National Park. The valley had a strong pull for him and he returned to work there in 1920 at the age of 18 to be the caretaker for the Sierra Club‚ LeConte Lodge.

Ansel became vigilant about protecting Yosemite and the Sierras from human impact while showing the world his view of this almost mystical place through his growing photography career. He met Virginia Best, the daughter of the gallery owner in Yosemite Valley. They married, and the gallery became a source of income for the young photographer and his wife. His complete works became the gallery best sellers. They continued to add products such as art books and other photographic services.

By 1940, his photographic workshops started as one of the first photographic education sources in the country. The workshops were usually a week long and for many, became a life changing experience.

Image by Holden Higbee used courtesy of the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite

That was the case for my father, Holden Higbee, who attended Ansel Adams’ photography workshop in 1965. He, along with my older sister (who was 12 at the time), attended a week long workshop of photographic bliss in beautiful Yosemite Valley with lectures by Ansel Adams himself. In 1965, Adams was a respected photographer, but not yet the photographic icon that he has become in the present day. At that point, his prints were selling for about $50 and he would gift his images to his favorite students. My sister received a copy of his “Mirror Lake” image for participating as a model in the workshop.

Image by Holden Higbee used courtesy of the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite

The Workshop with Ansel Adams

The workshop was held in the Wawona Big Trees area, the Yosemite Valley, and up into Tuolumne Meadows covering the basics of photography, Ansel’s Zone system, composition, and creativity. The students in Ansel’s classes were mostly young men, just honing their craft from the master, using their medium format and 35mm cameras. Their exuberance for learning photography was evident as they spread out to practice their lessons.

Image by Holden Higbee used courtesy of the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite

This class stuck with my father, as the photography gene runs long and deep in my family. Holden, as an avid photographer and college professor, would drive across the country to document the countryside for his geography and geology classes and stop every 50 miles to take a picture, much to our dismay. He always had two or three cameras around his neck so he didn’t have to change lenses and he could easily document “how man uses the land”.

The Zone System

Image by Holden Higbee used courtesy of the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite

My father was particularly interested in The Zone System and how that would affect his photography. For many years after, my father would practice with the grey cards to set up the zone system. I am now the proud owner of his signed set of books from Ansel Adams; The Camera, The Negative, and The Print.

Image by Holden Higbee

Visits with Ansel

On later visits to Yosemite Valley, we would see Ansel on a regular basis. I was a young girl but was impressed by his stature and his gray beard. In the evenings after dinner, we would all assemble in the lodge which had huge fireplaces, comfy 60s style couches, and tall vast windows with views of Yosemite Falls. My father and sister would play Backgammon, and watch the side door to see when Ansel would make his quiet entrance.

Our Dad would wave at Ansel and he would make his way over to our couch where the Backgammon board lay precariously on the cushions. Ansel would give my sister a tip or two on what her next move should be. Often he would sit awhile and watch them play before the Warren Miller Ski Film would start. Then Ansel would disappear as we became engrossed in the film.

Image by Holden Higbee used courtesy of the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite

As children, we had no idea the impact that this nice bearded man would have on the world of photography and our lives as creative artists. We thought he was just another photographer and friend of my father’s.

Image by Holden Higbee used courtesy of the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite

Respect Nature

Even though I didn’t attend the workshops, Ansel Adams greatly influenced my life, my love of landscape photography and nature, as he did for millions of others. At 6 years old, my father put a 35mm camera in my hands and I was off and running. After that week with Ansel Adams, we would talk about photography and composition frequently at dinner. “When you are shooting landscapes” he would say, “never move a leaf or a flower, respect nature for what it is. Learn to create a composition from what is naturally there.” From that point on, I never put the camera down, it has always been an extension of my life and my personality and landscape photography became my love.

After 50 years of traveling in Yosemite, it continues to take my breath away. We now return to Yosemite three times a year to teach photography workshops. We visit the park mid-week to avoid the tourists and also when there is the greatest chance of changing weather.

“Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.” – Ansel Adams

Full circle

Late last fall, we had the great fortune of spending three weeks teaching workshops in the valley as it turned from fall to winter. Every day the light would change and the photographic options would take our breath away, but we felt like we were in sync with the ever changing conditions. We got into the rhythm of life there and found it an easy and wonderful experience.

In January, we returned to the valley to do a private workshop and the forecast was for snow. As we drove into the park, the snow had started to come down and the roads were quite slushy. Little did we know, we were one of the last cars they would let into the valley for the next four days. As we arrived in the valley, it was covered in a thick coating of snow and was quickly adding up. I don’t know how many people were there that week in Yosemite, but it was a photographic wonderland.

We arrived and handed our client a pair of snow shoes and off we went on a winter photographic adventure. I would like to think that those few days of bliss might have been a bit like some days Ansel Adams experienced in Yosemite back in his day. An experience I won’t soon forget.

“A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.” – Ansel Adams


If you come to Yosemite, come in the off season when you can appreciate the beauty of the place without the throngs of tour buses and distracted selfie takers. Everyone that comes to the valley fancies themselves a photographer, so when you are in Yosemite, be sure to embrace the spirit of Ansel Adams.

Do you have any Ansel Adam’s stories to share? What lessons have you learned from his teachings? Please share in the comments below.

The post Photography Lessons I Learned Growing Up Around Ansel Adams by Holly Higbee-Jansen appeared first on Digital Photography School.

4 Lessons for Aspiring Family Portrait Photographers

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 10:00

Over the past four years as my wife and I have done more family photography we have learned quite a bit. Going through some of those early shots I’m sometimes amazed that anyone paid us money for them at all! Self-reflection is critical not just for photographers, but any artist and indeed anyone who wants to improve at a given skill over time. In thinking about what has worked and what hasn’t worked I repeatedly noticed four key elements that I wanted to share with you. Hopefully, these will be useful to you if you are just starting out as a family portrait photographer, and you won’t have to make the same mistakes I did as I was learning them!

1. Location, location, location

I live in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and there’s a spot in the middle of our town that a lot of people think is the ideal location for photography. It’s called Theta Pond and sits in the heart of the campus of our very own Oklahoma State University.

When you go there for an afternoon stroll it’s almost impossible not to be taken in by the beautiful flowers, towering trees, and flocks of waterfowl that dot the serene landscape. There are stone paths, wooden bridges, and several fountains sending water high into the air. They all combine to create a scene which practically screams “Do your family portrait photography here!” So a lot of people do just that, and it’s how I started out as well.

You might think a location like this would be ideal for family photos. But you’d be wrong.

Your town probably has a Theta Pond too; a park, garden, waterway, or another setting that seems like it has been tailor-made for capturing poster-size prints of happy families with cute kids. However, if your town is anything like mine, your Theta Pond is probably one of the last places you really want to shoot.

Great for a picnic, not always optimal for portrait sessions

While locations like these are ideal for getting out and enjoying nature, they are often plagued by a host of other issues that make it quite difficult for taking good pictures. There’s traffic whizzing by in the background, people walking around and getting in the way of your shots, and trash bins and informational signs scattered all about. And then there’s the matter of all those ducks and geese you’ll find at just about any pond, lake, or river. You might think they’re fun to have around but they leave some nasty messes behind that can stain jeans and ruin dresses if you ever want your clients to sit on the ground.

The kids look great in this photo, but there are way too many distractions in the background including a person walking through the frame between the boys. I actually gave this shot to a client and even though she liked it, I have since learned that I prefer to go to other locations for photo sessions.

When I started getting more serious with family portrait photography I began looking at other places besides just what was popular, and found that a whole new world of opportunities opened up for me. I found places off the beaten path that were much more convenient for me and my clients to meet, much less crowded, and often just as scenic and pretty.

Your subjects take priority over the background

Also, it’s important that you find locations which complement your subjects and don’t distract the viewers. The local botanical garden might seem like a great place for a photo session. But you may end up taking your viewers’ attention away from the people and putting it on the plants and flowers by accident. Nowadays I like simple groves of trees, empty fields, or old barns and farm settings that aren’t flashy but make for great photography. Wherever you shoot your photos, choose your locations intentionally such that they fit your photography and your subjects, not just because a friend thinks it would be pretty.

Wherever you shoot your family portrait photography, choose your locations intentionally such that they fit your style and your subjects, not just because a friend thinks it would be pretty.

This location may not be as flashy, fancy, or popular as a park with fountains, but that’s exactly why I like it so much for photography sessions.

2. There’s no substitute for good lighting

This second rule works in tandem with the first regarding location. Wherever you choose to do your photo sessions, you need to make sure to pay attention to lighting. Great photographers can wrest beautiful images from the most challenging lighting conditions. But for the rest of us mere mortals, it’s essential to stick to the fundamentals. For family sessions that usually comes down to two basic tips: be careful when shooting in broad daylight, and make sure your subjects are evenly lit.

Avoid direct sunlight

Bright sunlight is, contrary to what some beginning photographers may think, far from ideal in terms of taking good photos of people. The harsh overhead lighting often creates shadows, causes people to squint, and results in uneven lighting across the entire frame with some parts of a picture being very bright and others ending up quite dark. You don’t want Grandma looking perfect while Grandpa is squinting to keep the sun out of his eyes, or bright patches of light showing up on shirts and ruining haircuts.

Use even diffused light

Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to make sure your subjects are well-lit even if you are shooting at high noon, as long as you are aware of your surroundings and use the elements to your advantage. Look for buildings that cast nice long shadows, overhangs that you can stand beneath, or even trees that block out a lot of the sun and allow for nice even lighting.

I had this family sit in a park shelter to combat the harsh overhead sun. They’re evenly lit and properly exposed, which is what really mattered to me when taking the shot.

You can also use accessories like a diffusion panel to cast a pleasing shadow on your subjects which help mitigate the effects of harsh, bright sunlight.

These videographers are using a diffusion panel to make sure their subject is evenly lit, despite the harsh overhead sunlight. The background will be overexposed, but that’s fine because the person being filmed is going to look fantastic.

Shoot at golden hour

Another option is to forego the afternoon hours entirely and shoot photos during what’s known as the golden hour. This generally starts about an hour prior to sunset (or from sunrise to an hour after) but can vary depending on your exact location.

During this short window of time, the sun is low on the horizon and it bathes your scene in a rich, warm light that is amazing for portraits. You can have your subjects stand almost anywhere and face any direction, or ask them to face the sun which will make their eyes sparkle nice and bright. Everything looks so rich and beautiful during this time, but it passes quickly so make sure to use your time wisely and work efficiently to get the shots you want.

I shot this as the sun was setting which resulted in rich, deep colors. I also put these kids in the shadow of a tree to make sure they were evenly lit, which resulted in a pleasing picture overall.

The message that I hope I’m conveying here is that there’s just no substitute for good lighting. I didn’t touch on things like off-camera flash which can also be used to manipulate the light in a scene. But if you’re looking to get started with family, child, or senior portraits one of the best things you can do is use the tools you already have to make sure your subjects are evenly lit and properly exposed.

You can fix a lot of things in Lightroom and Photoshop afterward, but poor lighting isn’t really one of them.

3. Know your camera settings and how to change them

There’s an old Greek amorphism, gnothi seauton, which has been the basis for countless philosophical discussions over the ages. Roughly translated, it means know thyself and often functions as an exhortation for an individual to be intimately aware of who they are, what makes them tick, what their goals in life are, etc.

Even in the most controlled studio environment, things can change at a moment’s notice, and often there isn’t much you can do about it. So it’s important to know your camera settings and how to change them if you need to fast.

Your camera might have so many buttons and menu options that it seems overwhelming. It’s good to figure out how they work on your own time, not when you’re on location with clients.

It’s not enough to simply know about fundamentals like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO when you are doing formal photo sessions. You need to know how to control these parameters on your camera and when to change them if you need to in a hurry. The former comes from reading your manual, looking at articles online like the ones we have here at dPS, and a lot of experimentation. The latter often comes only from years of experience.

Get up to speed with your camera on your own time

I’m a big proponent of poring over your camera’s manual. But when you’re on location with clients that is not the time to try and figure out how to use your exposure compensation button or in which menu the auto-ISO setting is buried. You need to be intimately familiar with how to access and alter the settings on your camera in order to get the shots you want and deal with conditions as things change.

One of my favorite tricks to help learn the camera better is to do a practice session with a friend or family member. Go out to a location and make sure you know how to adjust various camera settings on the fly. Then tell your helper to try something you aren’t expecting which could require a faster shutter, higher ISO, etc. Practice changing your camera settings in this type of environment before you go out with clients, so when the unexpected happens you’re as ready as you can possibly be to deal with it in the moment.

Remember that Theta Pond example from earlier? When this moment came up during that same session I was able to think on my feet and quickly adjust my aperture and ISO to get this impromptu headshot which the boy’s mom really liked.

4. Make the experience memorable

One of the most important aspects of doing a photo session for clients is that it’s about much more than the end product. Wells, Valacich, and Hess (2011) found that the quality of a website is related to the perception of quality regarding the products being sold on the website. A higher-quality website, their data tended to show, meant that consumers perceived the things they were buying as being higher quality than the same products purchased from lower-quality websites.

The same holds true for photography, in that how your clients view the final photos you deliver to them is directly related to how they feel about the session itself. If you make the experience fun, enjoyable, and stress-free while engaging your clients in friendly conversation they will be more likely to enjoy, appreciate, and share the pictures when they receive them. Conversely, if your clients get top-notch pictures but you showed up for the session late, unprepared, and stressed-out, then they will likely have a lower opinion of the photographs.

This family’s dog wandered into the photo shoot totally uninvited. I’m not much of a dog person but I set that aside, went with the flow, and got some shots that the family really liked. It also helped put the kids at ease and so they enjoyed the rest of the session more.

The overall experience is important

To put this in a different context, let’s say you are looking to buy a new microwave. Two stores in town have the one you want at the exact same price. One store has a clean parking lot and interior, bright lights, neat shelves, and friendly employees. The other store has a dirty trash-filled parking lot, dim and flickering lights, haphazard shelves, and employees who will barely give you the time of day. From which store are you likely to purchase the appliance? If you’re like me you’ll go to the first store. Then if your friends are ever looking for a similar appliance you will probably recommend the same store with great enthusiasm. Budding family photographers would do well to remember this concept and apply it to their approach to dealing with clients.

Taking photos is not just about the end product but the whole photographic experience. Make it fun for your clients from the time you first interact with them to when you deliver the final products. Get to know them, and don’t be afraid to show your own personality too. Make the photo session fun and enjoyable, and if there are kids involved, make sure to spend time getting to know their names and finding a bit more about them. (This has a couple of bonus side effects too – parents are thrilled when photographers spend time getting to know their kids, and the children will be more likely to listen to you and follow directions during the session.)

Don’t underestimate the value of providing a good experience

The point is that if your clients enjoy the photo session, they are likely to assign a high perceived level of quality to the end product and will recommend you to their friends, coworkers, and especially their acquaintances on social media.

This couple invited me into their home for a rather emotional photo session due to a medical condition their daughter has. While I had a job to do as a photographer, that was only a small part of the whole experience.

It’s not your job to be your clients’ best friend, but it is your job to make the photo session something they will remember in a positive light. Do what you can to earn their trust and respect, as this can pay off in many ways long after you deliver the pictures.


One of my biggest weaknesses as a photographer, or even as a person, is that it’s difficult for me to go back and look through things I’ve done in years past. I often find it more than a little embarrassing to read things I’ve written, examine things I’ve built, and look at photographs I’ve taken because I think the work I’m doing now is so much better. Yet in five years I’ll probably dust off a few of the pictures I’m taking now and wonder what in the world I was thinking when I took them!

However, this type of self-reflection is essential for growth in any profession, hobby, or craft. It’s only by learning from our previous experiences and examining our mistakes as well as our successes that we can truly grow and refine our skills.

The four lessons I have detailed in this article are by no means comprehensive, but they are things that have turned out to be extremely important to me over the years and I hope they prove helpful for you also. I’m also curious to hear from you, especially those of you who have been doing family portrait photography for a long time. What are some of the important lessons you have learned over the years? Please share in the comments below and I look forward to reading them.

The post 4 Lessons for Aspiring Family Portrait Photographers by Simon Ringsmuth appeared first on Digital Photography School.