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Updated: 6 hours 36 min ago

Make Sure You Know all the Drone Regulations Before You Fly

Sun, 10/22/2017 - 14:00

Everywhere you look, it seems like everyone has their hands on a drone. YouTube is crawling with aerial drone footage, and you can buy one at just about any electronics store. But just because drones are everywhere doesn’t mean you can (legally) fly them anywhere.

Here at dPS, we dove into topics such as tips to get started with drone photography and how to get stunning aerial photos with your drone. One thing we haven’t covered that’s worth talking about is where you can and can’t fly your drone. Read on for some tips on things to consider before you fly a drone.

Why Are There Drone Regulations?

On the surface, drones may seem like fun toys or new tools to add to your photography or videography kit. After all, they’re marketed as such and most of the time, they don’t do any visible harm. However, drones can be dangerous from the perspective of privacy and physical safety.

No one likes the idea of a drone spying on them, or worse yet, a drone that comes crashing down and damages property or hurts someone. But these very plausible scenarios are exactly why drone regulations exist – to protect drone pilots and the general public from accidents.

Who Makes Drone Regulations?

So who comes up with drone rules and regulations? That depends entirely on where you live. Generally speaking, drones are considered unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and as such, they are regulated by the national aviation authority of each country. Thus, most countries will have their own rules, and often each state or city within the country might have further regulations.

So it’s important to do extensive research about where specifically you plan to fly your drone. Punishment for violating drone regulations can be hefty fines or even imprisonment, so it is very important to follow drone rules, especially in foreign countries.

What Kind of Drone Regulations Are There?

Drone rules vary in every country, but here a few common ones:

Register Your Drone

Today, drones vary from fitting in the palm of your hand to requiring a large backpack to transport them. Generally speaking, drones weighing any more than 0.55 pounds must be registered with your national aviation association before flying.

Get Licensed to Fly

Some countries require drone operators to pass an exam to get a license before flying a drone, so be sure to get licensed if it’s necessary.

Get Insurance for Your Drone

In some places, you must have insurance for your drone in order to fly. But drone insurance is something you should have any way to protect your investment.

Avoid Flying over People and Properties

Even the tiniest drone can be a hazard to someone or something if it comes crashing down from the sky or runs into an airplane. As a general rule, don’t fly your drone over crowds of people or near private or government property. You should also avoid flying near airports or helipads.

Sample Drone Regulations in the USA

In the United States, drones are considered unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). As such, they are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). There are two sets of regulations: one for those flying drones for fun, and one for those flying for commercial (professional) reasons. A summary of the FAA rules is below, with more details available here.

  • Flying drones for recreational or educational use is okay without a permit. Drones must be registered if they weigh over 0.55 lbs (250g). Drones cannot be flown within five miles of an airport or helipad without prior notification to the airport and air traffic control.
  • If flying for commercial use, the drone pilot must be over 16 years of age, have a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate, and pass TSA vetting. The drone must fly under 400 feet and at or below 100 miles per hour. Drones can only fly during the daytime, and must not fly over people.
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In Conclusion

If your head is spinning when you reach the end of this article, you’re not alone. There are many more drone rules and regulations than most people know about, which makes enforcement of them very patchy.

What’s more is that drone regulations are in a constant state of flux, so it’s hard to say exactly what rules exist and apply at a given time. But with that said, it’s better to know the rules and do your best to follow them, or risk getting arrested and potentially fined like this French tourist in Italy.

The post Make Sure You Know all the Drone Regulations Before You Fly by Suzi Pratt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Photograph Agility Events and Other Dog Sports

Sun, 10/22/2017 - 09:00

Humans and horses aren’t the only athletes to reach massive feats – dogs do too! From the athletic sighthounds to the driven border collies, dogs have been competing in a slew of sports on the world stage since before you were born. Some of the most popular athletic canine sports include agility, dock diving, frisbee, flyball, barn hunt, nose work, weight pulling, lure coursing, and herding.

Possibly the most well-recognized of these sports is agility, in which a dog has to race through obstacles (such as jumps, weave poles, tunnels, dog walks, A-frames, and teeters) with their handler. This fast-paced sport has been captivating dog photographers for years, but yet there remain so few agility photographers.

Some quit from frustration due to the degree of difficulty to photograph, while others find the long hours hard to manage. Whatever the reason, this article is here to make it easier for you! Many of these tips can be applied universally to all canine competitions, as most have these three things in common: action, speed, and unpredictability.

Let’s start with equipment. You can’t photograph if you don’ a have camera. Here are the ideal gear recommendations for doing photography of dog sports.

The Right Camera

As most of the dog sports listed involve speed, you’re going to need a fast camera. Similar to photographing human sporting events such as football and baseball, the speed of your camera will determine what moments you can capture.

You want to ensure that your shutter closes at the exact moment you want it to, or is able to capture an entire sequence of movement (which is what many competitors love to see from action photographers). The more frames per second your camera can shoot, the more sequence shots you can capture.

To anyone wanting to get very serious into this type of photography, I always recommend purchasing a DSLR that has a strong inclination towards action photography due to its frames-per-second, such as the Canon 7D (the 7D Mark II is the newest model – 10 frames per second), the Canon 1D-X Mark II (14 fps), the Nikon D5 (12 fps). I am sure there are additional Nikon (as well as other brands) equivalents with faster speeds, but I am versed in Canon so you’ll have to do your research.

Choose the Right Lens

The key to dog sports photography is to interfere as little as possible with the event going on. That means shooting from a distance so that your activity doesn’t distract the dogs from their task. As such, most (if not all) agility photographers will work with a telephoto or zoom lens. This allows you to be far enough away from the subject so as to not affect their performance while being able to zoom in tightly and capture some beautiful compositions.

My favorite lens for dog sports photography is the Canon 70-200mm F/2.8 L IS USM II. But I have seen many other photographers inclined toward the 300mm or 400mm range to get even closer to the dogs without needing to get in the way physically.

Finding a lens that has a maximum aperture of f/2.8, or around that range, is a great idea in order to isolate the dog from the rather cluttered frame. Since agility rings can make a photograph look chaotic due to a number of obstacles in close proximity to your subject, getting a lens that can shoot at f/2.8 will also all you to blur or soften some of the distracting elements in the background.

Camera Settings

Your settings will make a noticeable difference in your ease-of-shooting. Besides needing to shoot with a very fast shutter speed to freeze the action (1/1000th at a minimum but I personally like to shoot at 1/3000th and faster), there are a few other things you can do to get sharp images. Many new cameras have technological advancements that make action photography significantly easier than it has been in the past, such as new autofocus mechanisms. However, what the majority of new and old cameras have in common in regards to settings are the focus mode and burst (drive mode).

First, change your focus mode to Continuous Focus Mode (AI Servo for Canon users or AF-C for Nikon users). This mode allows your camera to lock onto your subject and follow the dog around as it moves, preventing you from consistently needing to refocus. Where new technology comes into play are the additional customizations for your this mode.

Some new cameras allow you to either use the Continuous Focus Mode presets or make your own that pertain to what you are shooting. For example, on the Canon 7D Mark II, you can tell the camera how your subject moves and what obstacles may be present by adjusting the various levels of sporadic movement, obstacle interference, and more.

There are even presets for erratically moving subjects and following the subject despite obstacles getting in the subject’s way. I usually tell the camera that my subjects are moving erratically in multiple directions and that there are many obstacles in the way when photographing agility. In cameras that do not have this feature, your AI Servo (AF-C) is still a good focusing mode choice.

Next, take advantage of the frames-per-second your camera offers by using burst mode (high-speed drive mode). You can ensure that you get the right shot by setting your camera to burst mode (where you take multiple photographs in a row while pressing down on the shutter) and shooting with a fast shutter speed to freeze the action. Like I mentioned previously, competitors love sequence shots. The only way to get these cool sequences is by shooting in burst mode!

Shooting Technique

Partnered with your gear and your camera settings, your shooting technique will make or break your results. The most common technique that I see used for dog sports photography is to pre-focus on an obstacle and wait for the dog to get there. But I believe you miss a lot of key moments when you do that, especially since dogs can be unpredictable (and even though the obstacle is a part of the course, that doesn’t mean the dog will comply).

Be prepared to practice the art of panning. Panning is moving your camera horizontally with the subject’s movement. You synchronize your camera movement with that of the subject moving parallel to you. I find it easiest to focus on the dog while it is waiting to be released by the owner and then follow the dog throughout the course.

In agility, the course is preset and the handler must memorize it, and then lead the dog through. This makes panning much easier because, by the second or third dog, you will know the course by heart. With other sports where the movement is more unpredictable, like frisbee (where the dog has to catch frisbees before they touch the ground), just use your best judgment on where you think the dog is going to go. This takes practice, but nothing comes without practice!

Alongside panning, another tip to get the most dynamic actions shots is to photograph from the subject’s eye level. Be prepared to spend a lot of time on your knees as the dogs go through the obstacle course. This allows viewers to relate to the subject (as is the psychological nature of photography) and gives them an idea of the height the dog is jumping which aids in how dramatic the photograph appears.

In agility, depending on the type of organization that is governing that sporting trial, you may or may not have to shoot through a fence. If there is a fence, it is often full of large gaping holes that you can photograph through.

Now that you have our gear set, before running off to excitedly photography some cool dogs, there are several important rules and considerations to keep in mind while photographing these canine superstars. Please follow them to respect the owners and for the dog’s safety.

Ask for Permission before Photographing Events

Always ask for permission before photographing any dog sporting events. You do not want to tarnish your reputation by being asked to leave (even if you are only photographing for your portfolio, experience, or fun).

Some clubs (such as a few that I work with) have an official photographer and do not allow outside photography to take place. Other clubs may have a vending fee and request liability insurance for all photographers wishing to make a profit from photographing the event. A few clubs do not even allow photographers in the first place. Always ask for permission. Asking also opens up the door to developing a great relationship with the people putting on the event.

Do Not Distract the Dogs

As tempting as it is to cheer when a cute dog does an obstacle well, or to make noises to have the dog look at you, please don’t. These dogs are there doing a very important job – showing off their skills! Agility trials and other competitive events are expensive for the handler to enter, the dogs train for many hours to compete, and they want to have just as much fun as you are having.

As such, we must all be respectful of each other. Much like you wouldn’t want someone trying to distract you while you work, these dogs don’t want that either. Make sure you aren’t photographing too loudly or too close to the obstacles, and try not to make any noise that could thwart a dog’s attention away from their handler.

If a Dog Comes Up to You, Ignore the Dog

Not all dogs have iron-clad self-control, especially the novice dogs that are still learning the ropes in the trialing world. If a dog happens to notice you while in the ring, turn your head, body, and camera away from the dog. If a dog runs up to you while in the ring, ignore the dog. Turn away, and do not pet or talk to the dog. The best way to help the dog focus back on their handler is to not pay the dog any mind.

Be Considerate of the Competitor’s Wishes

If a competitor comes up to you and asks you not to photograph their dog, please be respectful of their request. As much as you want to photograph all of the dogs that come through, some owners may not want you to (and that’s okay). There are a hundred different reasons why someone might not want their dog photographed while the dog is competing.

Do Not Pet a Dog without Asking, Even at a Dog Sport Event

As much as this should be common sense, many people forget that even at dog events, you should still not pet a dog without consulting with their owner. Though many dogs are beautifully trained at dog sporting events, not all are friendly with people. As this is not a conformation dog show where a judge has to touch and handle a dog, not all of the dogs at an agility trial, herding event, or other sports like being petted by people (and the owners are not obligated to teach their dog to tolerate strangers petting them).

Do Not Set-Up Inside the Competition Ring without Consent

Some organizations that govern dog sporting events require a fence to be placed around the competition course. Though you may sometimes be able to set-up inside the boundary rather than outside of it, do not do so without consulting the competition judge or the trial secretary. Setting up inside the boundary can be a safety hazard for both you and the competitors. So if you are granted permission, listen to where the judge tells you to stay.

Don’t Set-Up Too Close to the Weave Poles and Tunnels

This is a lesser-known consideration that does not apply to all, but I have seen it applied to many in my career as a dog sports photographer. Some dogs get spooked or distracted if a photographer sets up in front of the exit of a tunnel, as the dog cannot see you until it leaves the tunnel. Likewise, some dogs get terribly distracted from doing their weaves if they see you at the weave pole entrance of exit.

These two obstacles tend to be a bit more difficult for some dogs than jumps or dog walks, and you want to ensure that you don’t add extra stress for them Instead, set up further away and use your zoom lens to capture the dog speeding out of the tunnel!

Don’t Eat Near the Competition Ring While Dogs are Running

Another common-sense piece of advice that goes ignored far too often is to not eat near the ring while the dogs are competing. The smell of a delicious hot dog could encourage even the most driven dog to forget what they’re doing and come ask for some food.

Now that you’re an expert, here are some tips and tricks to help you out:

Pay Attention to the Course

The easiest way to photograph a sporting event is to know where your subjects are going to go! For agility, there is a 15-minute walkthrough before a course begins in which the competitors learn the course. Watch them, or even participate in the walkthrough yourself, and learn about the route. For sports that don’t have walkthroughs, try and figure out what the course set-up is using logical reasoning.

Listen to the Briefing

Before a trial begins, most events will have a competitor briefing. Participate in the briefing to learn valuable information about the event that is about to take place. As well, the briefing is a great time to introduce yourself to the competitors.

Don’t Stress About Photographing All of the Obstacles at Once

This took me years to figure out. You do not need to worry about photographing every single obstacle in every single course. The courses get changed several times throughout the day, the sun will move every hour, and nearly all of the dogs will run at least three more times before they leave the event.

It saves a lot of time, energy, and stress to only focus on a few obstacles that you know you can photograph well (whether it be due to the lighting and/or the obstacle’s proximity to you) per course. If you come in the morning and stay until the end in the later afternoon, you will most definitely photograph everyone’s dog doing every single obstacle.

When Organizing, Sort Photos by Class or Jump Height

The real challenge comes after the photo shoot: how to make sure the competitors can find their dog (or you can find their dog). I find that organizing your images by class (every dog sports event has different classes, often named for their difficulty level) helps immensely.

For dog agility, sometimes photographing by jump height can be just as beneficial. Do keep in mind that height changes per organization that governs the agility trial. There are three organizations in the US that set the rules for their agility trials: The American Kennel Club, the United States Dog Agility Association, and the North American Dog Agility Council. Each of these has their own jump heights and class names.

Ask for the Run Order

It’s completely acceptable to ask for the run order from the trial secretary or someone higher up in order to help you organize the dog photographs. Do keep in mind that the run order may change throughout the competition, so listen to the announcements and keep notes on what changes are being made.

Knee Pads are Your Best Friend

Since you ideally want to photograph from the dog’s eye level, you will spend hours on your knees. Skating knee pads are a great idea to reduce the amount of bruising and pressure to your knees. Trust me, you’re going to want to do this after several trials of black and blue knees.

Stay Hydrated

Dog sporting events are long, tiresome, and depending on your location, can be very hot. Make sure that you stay hydrated and take care of yourself, even when you’re wrapped up in the shoot. Bring a cooler with plenty of water, and a backpack with snacks or food that you can eat during your breaks. Fruit is a great snack, it’s healthy and will give you a bit of an energy boost from the sugar.

That being said, I often break my no-junk-food routine at dog sporting events because the sweets and fast food are quick, easy, filling, and can help keep me going!

Don’t Forget to Photograph the Novice Dogs

Don’t leave out the new guys! Many of the advanced competitors have hundreds of photographs of their canine athletes over the years, but the novice dogs are brand new and probably don’t have any at all. So be sure to capture photographs of the new kids on the block. They will thank you immensely for them.

It Is Possible to Photograph More Than One Ring at a Time

This takes a bit of practice and stamina, but it is absolutely possible to photograph more than one ring at a time. In agility and some other sports, two different rings can be running simultaneously. Often, the rings will be very close to each other. If you position yourself between the two rings, and time the obstacles correctly, you will have enough time to turn from one ring to the other and photograph both. This is how I get photographs of both the novice dogs and the advanced dogs while they are running at the same time.

Most Importantly, Have Fun

Don’t lose sight of why you are there – to have fun! These events are long, tiresome, and chaotic, but are so rewarding. The photography is challenging and addicting. But don’t forget to have fun!

The post How to Photograph Agility Events and Other Dog Sports by Anabel DFlux appeared first on Digital Photography School.

6 Simple Tips to Capture More Expressive Images of Your Children

Sat, 10/21/2017 - 14:00

Images of your children are probably THE most important images you will ever make, even if it doesn’t feel like it. But for the longest time what I did was make very superficial images of my kids, until I started applying a few of the tips below. Follow along to get more intimate and expressive images of your children too.

1 – Ditch your portrait lens

The first thing to do, weirdly enough, if you have a go-to portrait lens that you use to photograph your family – is to ditch it. The reason is simple. Most of the time when we think of images of our children, we immediately think portraits.

I have nothing against portraits (there are a few on this page), but there’s more to your child than their portraits. At the end of the day, it’s really not about portraits, posing, making them pretty/handsome in the image, it’s about capturing snippets your child’s life as a whole.

2 – Have a camera with you always

Life goes on whether you are ready to shoot it or not. One of the things I recommend is to get a small pocket camera that goes everywhere with you. Photographs present themselves

Photographs present themselves whether you have one with you or not, so having a small camera makes you ready for any situation. And let’s face it when you have enough bags (diapers, snacks, etc.) as-is you REALLY don’t want to be lugging around your DSLR.

Great images can be made while going to the grocery store, at the wee hours of the morning, or just going to the park. In other words, when you least expect them. Like one time we had to call 911, my camera was with me. That is one of the times when you NEED your camera, it allows you to be present in the moment and yet detached enough not to lose your mind.

But besides those stressful times, the best images of my kids have been made when I least expected them.

3 – Think in terms of LIFE

In order to make more intimate photographs of your kids, you need a mindset for it. Here is the question to ask yourself: “What are the images that only I could make?”

Imagine you just hired someone for a family shoot, what are the types of images that the hired photographer can’t get? If you think about it, these are the most intimate moments. Ones that can only be made in the process of living life itself.

Photos of the kids sleeping peacefully, or that time where one was crying their eyeballs out…or when they finally scored a goal. It’s all about trying to find the majesty in the mundane parts of life when there are no special vacations planned, just plain old LIFE. Here are a few ideas to get your mind working:

  • Kids while playing
  • Kids recovering from sickness
  • When they are sad
  • When they are happy
  • While they are sleeping
  • What they look like right after waking up
  • Unwrapping a toy
  • Them being amazed at something

It’s all about photographing them while they are living their life. Capturing moments of intimacy that only YOU could capture because no one else is capable of getting that close to them.

The other part of the equation is to photograph your kids in this way as if you are doing a fine art project. That will help your mind find images that are not only intimate to you but also have inherent artistic value to them. Make art out of your family images.

Why? Because between you and me, great photography outside of the home starts inside the home. So give your family photography the star treatment, and trust me, at the end of the day these images will have more value and be more meaningful to you than any other photographs you have created.

I would know, I once completely lost my hard drive. I was on the bed, tripped on the wire and BAM! Lost everything. I believed my best images were those of my street photography, that simply was not the case. I didn’t care at all about those images, all I wanted was to get my son’s birth pictures back. The hard drive is somewhere in storage, but I don’t know if I can ever recover the images.

4 – Shoot for your eyes only

One way to make more personal images of your kids is to make photos that you will never show anyone. Images of their first shower, on the potty by themselves, you get the point. Of course, you will NEVER show them to anyone else ever, but it starts training your mind that not every image needs to be shared or have external thumbs up to be meaningful to you.

So start making the kinds of images you know will never be seen by any other set of eyes, maybe theirs when they grow up. If they are nice that is!

5 – How to get them to be REAL

Let’s face it, when you deal with kids and children, they have already been spoiled rotten by the camera. You just point your camera towards them and you will hear “chhhhhheeeeeeese” with a fake smile to boot. That will only lead to uncomfortable looking kids in your images. So what do you do? Simple – you fake it.

Kids are themselves right before and right after you take the photo. So you either have to be quick and take the image BEFORE they start putting on their picture face. Or you have to do so after.

If your camera makes a CLICK sound, just wait for it, and say “Okay, done!” and about half a second later take another image. That one is always better because that’s when the kids let their guard down.

Also sometimes it’s better to do two images, one for you and one more for them. For example, I like dark, moody, pensive images. My first son is all about smiles, fun, and giggles.

So sometimes what I do is direct him to make the image I have in my mind. Then once I have done that, I just tell him to do whatever he wants, and I usually end up with a grimace and shoot that. The first image would be more of a reflection of me and the second is more of a reflection of him. It’s win-win in my book.

6 – Give them the greatest gift ever

Imagine this: Your son (or daughter) is getting married. It’s your turn to make a speech. You can’t contain your emotions, and you want to cry. Yet you muster up the courage to give the speech and all of a sudden you take hold of the remote control and start a slideshow for everyone to see. It’s your son, his baby pictures, that time he was 6 and lost his tooth, times of sadness, happiness, and more.

Make a photo project out of your children’s lives. And when it’s time…give them a book with the best images you’ve ever made of them. I think the greatest gift you can give them – besides the basics, like character – is an album of their life.

How important is this? Very! I can’t show my kids any photos of myself growing up. All of those images were lost to an earthquake that happened in Haiti a few years back. I can’t show them when I was sleeping with some spaghetti in my mouth, or my first tooth falling out.

I think it makes it easier for our kids to relate to us when we can show them we were kids too. My kids? I’ll make sure each one gets an album of their life when the time is right…if they don’t make me lose my mind first that is!


Your most important work as a photographer is family work. It may not feel like it now, but don’t wait until a hard drive crash to figure it out. Always have your camera at the ready and photograph their life as it happens.

When it’s time you will have a collection of impactful images you can give them and they, in turn, can share with their family. Be yourself, stay focused and keep on shooting.

The post 6 Simple Tips to Capture More Expressive Images of Your Children by Olivier Duong appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to do Pixel Stretching in Photoshop

Sat, 10/21/2017 - 09:00

As photographers, we’re all too aware of the abundance of ways to edit a photograph in post-production. And as technology progresses, so will the potential for image making. Pixel stretching is one way to investigate the construction of a digital image through creative means.

Compared to other glitch-style editing techniques, pixel stretching is pretty straight-forward. The process involves selecting a single row or column of pixels and stretching them out over an image to create a warped, surrealistic visual effect. The results highlight the nuances of a digital image and explore the action of altering photographs through non-traditional means.

Getting started

First, open an image in Photoshop. It doesn’t have to be anything special, just an image with a few varying tones or colors. I’m using this photograph of blossoms because its colorful and I’m excited that it’s finally spring, here in Australia.

Duplicate your original image, which will be labeled as Background in the Layers panel. Right-click on the Background layer and select Duplicate Layer. It’s important that you don’t apply the pixel stretching technique directly to the original image in case you need to revert back to earlier stages of the project.

To preserve layers, photographers use Adjustment Layers to apply adjustments to an image without altering it directly. This process is called non-destructive editing. Pixel stretching, however, is by nature a destructive technique. The process applies an effect directly to the layer you have selected. This means that if your history is so stretched that you can’t return to a certain spot during editing, there’s no going back.

The process

On the Photoshop tools pallet, select the Single Marquee Tool. You may have to click and hold down the mouse over the Rectangular or Elliptical Marquee Tool until it reveals a small menu.

The Marquee Tool panel will reveal a choice between the Single Row Marquee Tool and the Single Column Marquee Tool. I’m going to use the Single Row Marquee Tool, but you can easily come back and experiment further once you get the hang of the technique.

With the Single Row Marquee Tool selected, click on an area in your image that you think is interesting. A dotted line stretching across your image will appear. This outlines the row of selected pixels that line up with the point you clicked on.

Once you have your pixels selected, click on Edit in the menu bar and select Free Transform. You can also select Free Transform by right-clicking on the dotted line of the Marquee Tool.

After you click on the Free Transform option, the cursor will appear as two opposing arrows when you hover over the Marquee Tool line. Click on the line where the opposing arrows appear and slowly drag the cursor down over the image.

You’ll see that whole row of pixels will stretch as far as you drag the mouse. When you’ve finished stretching the selection, press enter and there you go. Looks kind of neat, right?

Shaping the area of pixels to stretch

The next step is to fit our stretched pixels into the landscape of the image. This time, open a photograph featuring straight, hard lines. Bridges and streets are good subjects to start with.

Select the Single Column or Single Row Marquee Tool and align the Single Marquee Tool with a hard line in your image. Again, I’m using the Single Row Marquee Tool but feel free to experiment with the Single Column Marquee Tool instead.

Once you have your Single Marquee Tool lined up, select the Rectangular Marquee Tool from the Photoshop toolbar. You’ll need to depress the cursor over the Marquee Tool icon to reveal the Rectangular Marquee Tool.

With the Rectangular Marquee Tool selected, click on the Subtract option just below the menu bar (big red arrow below). The Subtract mode of the Rectangle Marquee Tool means that any portion of the selected line of pixels within the perimeter of the rectangle will be deleted. Drag the Rectangle Marquee Tool over an area of the Single Marquee Tool line and release the mouse.

Rectangular marquee in subtract mode on the left of the image.

You’ll notice that a section of the Single Marquee Tool line will be deleted. This means that only the remaining Single Marquee Tool line will be available for stretching pixels later. For the image below, I deleted the lines that intruded outside the perimeter of the staircase. It’s hard to see, but the remaining dotted line is still aligned with the top of the green staircase.

Now that you have a smaller portion of pixels selected, right click on the remaining dotted line and select Free Transform. This time when you drag the selected line of pixels up or down the image, only the remaining pixels selected by the Single Marquee Tool line will be stretched.

Pixels stretched up but only within the staircase area.


Now that you know the basics of pixel stretching, it’s time to experiment. This simple process has some distinctive painterly characteristics that alter the perspective of an image. The nature of digital photography often yields predictable, formulaic results…But be careful, you never know exactly how a pixel stretched image will turn out – which makes it quite addictive!

I would love to see your creations in the comments below. Happy pixel stretching!

The post How to do Pixel Stretching in Photoshop by Megan Kennedy appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Black and White Landscape

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 14:00

Landscape photography is a popular genre, but it can be hard to do it really well.

If you want to take your landscape images to the next level – try shooting some in black and white! There is some help here if you need it: Video Tutorial – Tips for Making Dramatic Black and White Landscape Photos. 

Photo by Yuriy Garnaev on Unsplash

Weekly Photography Challenge – Black and White Landscape

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 – Black and White Landscape by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Video Tutorial – Tips for Making Dramatic Black and White Landscape Photos

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 09:00

Shooting for black and white requires you to see a scene and think a little differently. You’re looking for a contrast of tones, not color, and it can be hard to “see” in black and white if you’re new to shooting in monochrome.

Here is a short video with some practical tips you can apply to create more dramatic black and white landscape photos.

If you want more help with your black and white here are a few more dPS articles on the topic:

The post Video Tutorial – Tips for Making Dramatic Black and White Landscape Photos by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

3 Times it’s Okay to Consider Offering Free Sessions

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 14:00

If you’ve made the transition from a hobbyist photographer to a part-time or full-time professional photographer, chances are that you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about your pricing. You’ve likely looked over your cost of doing business and the cost of goods sold. You’ve probably had to have some difficult conversations with friends and family members establishing that you can’t work for free.

These are all really important parts of starting (and maintaining) a photography business. However, it’s also just as important to sit down and identify some instances in which you would consider donating your services. In this article, we’ll talk about three times you might consider offering free sessions or options at a reduced rate.

1. New Technique or Gear

If you’ve always wanted to try newborn photography, it might make sense to offer reduced rate or free sessions. This will help you build your portfolio while perfecting your technique at the same time. Let’s be clear–offering free sessions shouldn’t replace classes and workshops designed to teach you proper technique and safety. Instead, you should consider offering free or discounted sessions after taking a class or workshop in order to implement the new techniques you’ve learned.

Similarly, if you want to break into wedding photography, it might make sense to offer to assist a local wedding photographer for free. You’ll learn a lot by watching the primary photographer manage the flow of the day and seeing how they interact with the bride, groom, and guests. Additionally, depending on your contract, you may even end up with images that you can use as part of your own portfolio.

Likewise, if you’ve just upgraded from a crop sensor to a full frame camera, you’ll probably want to take that equipment for a test drive before using it with a paying client. It may very well be that you can get your bearings photographing your kids in your own backyard. However, depending on the genre of photography you specialize in, it might make more sense to put out a model call on social media and offer a mini session that will allow you to put your new gear to the test in a low stakes environment.

2. For a Creative Photography Project

I spend most of my time photographing newborns, children, and families. As a young mom myself, I really love that genre of photography and feel passionate about helping families preserve their memories.

That said, because I spend so much time photographing people, I make a concerted effort to take on a creative photography project that doesn’t involve people at least once a year. Sometimes, that may mean begging a winery to let me come photograph their grapes after hours in exchange for allowing them to use the images on social media.

Other times, it has meant asking a local photographer for half an hour to pick his brain about astrophotography in exchange for snapping a photo of his family for their annual Christmas card. For me, the point isn’t to actually become an astrophotographer. Lord knows this image isn’t winning any astrophotography awards anytime soon, and it feels really uncomfortable to share something publicly that isn’t perfect.

But the point isn’t to be perfect with a creative project. The point is to stretch yourself in ways that you normally don’t, realizing that sometimes the journey is more important than the final destination.

Ideas for your project

Perhaps you are already an award-winning astrophotographer, and you’d really like to stretch yourself by doing some child or family photography. Consider asking a friend if they’ll meet you at a park to try photographing them and their children. Try snapping a few images at your nephew’s next soccer game. Ask a friend that loves to bake if you could photograph the next cheesecake he or she makes. The point is that you’ll never grow as a photographer if you don’t take risks. Similarly, it can feel easier to take risks and do something new if you’re not being paid–there’s really nothing to lose.

The point is that you’ll never grow as a photographer if you don’t take risks. Similarly, it can feel easier to take risks and do something new if you’re not being paid–there’s really nothing to lose.

3. Partner With a Non-profit You Care About

You’ve probably already been asked to donate a photo session to a non-profit’s fundraiser or auction. This is a great way to give back to the community, and it’s not my intention to discourage you from doing so. However, more and more frequently I’m finding that donating my services directly to the non-profits that I care about is an even more rewarding way to stretch my creative ability and become involved in my community at the same time. Perhaps, instead of donating a session gift certificate, offer to come photograph the office staff, an event the non-profit is holding, or the population that the non-profit serves.

Perhaps, instead of donating a session gift certificate, offer to come photograph the office staff, an event the non-profit is holding, or the population that the organization serves.

In doing so, you will likely learn more about the organization itself, their mission, and the community as a whole. Your local humane society would probably love images of the animals in their care. A nearby NICU may be completely blown away by the offer to come photograph the families and babies they serve. Your child’s school may love abstract photography of kids that they could hang on their walls or use as reminder postcards. If you’re religious, your church would probably love photos of their upcoming baptisms or other special religious ceremonies.

Serve your community

This sort of partnership isn’t about parlaying the non-profit organizations into future clients. Rather, it is about using your time and talent to bless others in your community. There are opportunities to use your gifts and talents to make the world better–use them.

Sometimes the things that a non-profit may ask for may be completely outside of your normal wheelhouse. You may have to tell them that you don’t think you’d be the best person for the job they have in mind. Other times, you may feel comfortable telling them that though their idea is outside your normal wheelhouse, you’d be happy to give it a try. Both responses are absolutely okay, but I’ve never regretted trying an unusual request that a non-profit has given me!


Have you identified instances in which you will consider offering reduced rate or free sessions? Do you partner with any local non-profits in order to give back? Chime in below and tell us about your experiences.

The post 3 Times it’s Okay to Consider Offering Free Sessions by Meredith Clark appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Use Soft Light Blend Mode in Photoshop to Improve Exposure and Contrast

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 09:00

Do you have an overexposed sunny side and an underexposed shadow on the other side of your image? Or maybe a well-exposed photo that needs more vibrancy? There’s a tool so versatile that can help you fix any of these problems and more: the Soft Light Blend Mode.

What are Layers?

Imagine your photo as a printed one. Then you take a sheet of acetate and draw on it. Then you take another sheet and you put it on top of the others and obscure a part of it; and so on, and so forward. Each acetate sheet is a layer and you can make as many alterations as you want on top of your original this way.

To create layers in Photoshop you need to go to Menu > Layers > New. A pop-up window will appear where you can name your layer, choose the color, the blending mode and the opacity. When you click OK the new layer will appear on the Layers panel window on top of the background, which is the original image.

What is the Blend Mode?

The default setting of a new layer is normal blending mode. This covers the background or the layer underneath. However, Photoshop gives you the option of choosing a different Blend Mode, which changes the way your edit affects the pixels. You can change it in the pop-up window of the new layer.

In the case of the Soft Light blending mode it is similar to using the dodge or burn tool. In other words, every color that is lighter than 50% grey will get even lighter, like it would if you shine a soft spotlight to it. In the same way, every color darker than 50% grey will get even darker. However it will never reach pure black.

So, why not use dodge and burn instead?

First of all, when you work in layers you don’t lose any information. You can always discard the layer and start over because there is no damage to the original image.

With layers, you can change the opacity or transparency of each one, which allows you to control how evident your edit is in the final image. You will find the opacity tool on the Layers panel with a slider that goes from 0 to 100 %.

Note that there is another slider next to it called Fill. There are 8 blending modes in which these two sliders make a difference, however, Soft Light is not part of these “special 8” so the Fill opacity and Standard opacity have the same result when using this Blend Mode.

Another advantage is that you can change the blending mode of each of the layers. In this article, we are exploring the use of Soft Blend, however, each mode offers different possibilities. One blending mode can have different uses, here are three of them.

3 ways to use Soft Light Blending Mode 1. Add punch to your image

Increase the contrast and saturation to have more vivid colors and give a punch to your image. You can do this by duplicating the background layer: Menu > Layer > Duplicate Layer and changing the blending mode from normal to Soft Light. Finally adjust the opacity until you are happy with the result.

2. Gradient tool to balance the lighting

If you have an image that is underexposed on one side and overexposed in the other you can easily even it out with a Soft Light blend layer. First go to Menu > Layer > New Layer. Pick the Gradient tool and draw a line from the brightest side to the darkest one. The gradient will look like this:

Then change the layer blending mode to Soft Light and lower the opacity to find the best results.

Before gradient

After gradient

3. Dodging and burning with a Soft Light layer

The past workflows altered the entire image, however, if you need to do a more precise job you can also do that using Soft Light. First, add a new layer with Soft Light blending mode like you did in the previous procedure. Only this time instead of the gradient tool, you are going to use the brush tool. When you select it you can choose the size of the brush on the top menu and the color on the bottom.

If you paint with black you will darken the image:

Painting with white will lighten certain areas, and with different shades of grey, you can also control tones of your image.

Keep going until you are happy with the contrast and exposure of your image.


Now you know that blending modes have a lot of potential, so keep exploring. How do you use Soft Light Blend Mode? Please share your ideas and tips in the comments below.

The post How to Use Soft Light Blend Mode in Photoshop to Improve Exposure and Contrast by Ana Mireles appeared first on Digital Photography School.

7 Photography Myths Exposed

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 14:00

Photographers, of all people, should know that the world is not black and white. There are many shades of grey between black and white, between good and bad, and between right and wrong. It’s all a matter of perspective and circumstance. Yet photography is full of blanket statements about what you should and shouldn’t do. In this article, I expose (pun intended!) a few of the most common photography myths every photographer should know.

1. Full frame cameras are better

A full frame camera has a larger sensor than a crop sensor camera. That means you might get more megapixels or you might get larger megapixels or even both. But there are many more important factors to consider when choosing a camera than megapixels.

First, crop sensor cameras are generally smaller, lighter and much less expensive. Second, if you like to shoot wildlife, you’ll get extra reach with your telephoto lens on a crop sensor camera. A 400mm lens on a full frame camera is equivalent to over 600mm on a crop sensor camera. Also, if you like to photograph wildlife, a more important factor to consider above megapixels is frames per second.

A few years ago I went to Africa to photograph wildlife and took two cameras: a full frame Canon 6D and a crop sensor Canon 7D. I learned that the 7D was much better for my purposes because of the frames per second rate it was capable of shooting. The 6D (at the time) did 4.5 fps and the 7D did 8. That was a huge difference in the field.

2. Always use a tripod

A tripod is an essential piece of gear for any photographer and usually, you will notice a huge improvement in image quality when you start using one. However, “always” is one of those blanket statements that doesn’t always make sense (see what I did there?). I often notice photographers arrive on a scene, set up their tripod, and then try to find a composition they like. That tends to limit their possibilities since they are already stuck on the tripod.

A better approach is to go free hand until you find your composition. Then, when you find it, try to make your tripod fit in the exact position necessary. Sometimes you’ll find it won’t fit. Either the angle is lower than your tripod will allow you to go, or the tripod is not tall enough, or the position isn’t stable. When that is the case, ditch the tripod in favor of getting the composition.

3. To make better photos, you need better gear

Undoubtedly, you will reach a point in time when you need better gear to carry out your vision for what you are trying to achieve with your photography. But the most important thing is to have that vision. Before getting new gear, make sure you exhaust your current gear. Use every single function and feature it has and know exactly what it is you need that your current gear doesn’t have before you move on. Blaming crappy gear is just a crutch. A really good photographer can make great images with pretty much any camera.

4. Never put your subject in the middle

Ah, the rule of thirds. The golden ratio. The fibonacci spiral. All good tools when it comes to learning composition. But don’t forget about the beauty to be found in simple symmetry.

When you think about a person’s face, the most beautiful face is the most symmetrical face. It’s all about balance, equality of proportion, and harmony. The key to making a compelling symmetrical composition is in the perfection of the symmetry. A composition that is almost symmetrical will seem off, but one that is perfect will seem awe inspiring.

5. Manual is the best shooting mode

It’s beneficial to all aspiring photographers to learn to shoot in manual mode so you have independent control over every factor in making your exposure including aperture, shutter speed and ISO. It’s no doubt that it’s one of the best ways to learn how your camera works. However, once you’ve learned how to use manual mode, why not let your camera do what it’s good at? Cameras these days are smart and the fewer things you have to do manually, the quicker you will be at responding to a changing scene.

When you are on a scene, decide which factors are important to you before you select your shooting mode. For example, if you are trying to intentionally blur a subject, shutter speed is important. You can use shutter priority mode and let the camera choose the aperture and ISO. That way when you want to shorten or lengthen the shutter speed, you only have one thing to change and the camera will figure out the rest. Similarly you might decide that depth of field is most important, and if you’re using a tripod, shutter speed might not matter at all. In that case, aperture priority mode is most convenient.

6. RAW format is better than JPEG

This refers to the image quality you select in your camera’s settings. You can choose to have your images saved as either RAW files, JPEGs, or both.

RAW is better than JPEG only if you are planning on post-processing your photos, which most people do. A RAW file contains more data and therefore you have more leeway in your post-processing. However, if you are just starting out and you haven’t gotten to the point where you’re processing your photos yet, it’s probably better to shoot JPEGs.

In JPEG mode, your camera will make some decisions for you when it comes to color and contrast and your photos will look better straight out of the camera. Ultimately you’ll likely come to the point where you want to make those decisions yourself. That’s when it is time to make the switch to RAW.

7. Good photography requires good light

All light is good light. The trick is to know what kind of images to make under the lighting conditions that are available. Do you have harsh (hard) light? Look for interesting shadows or photograph in the shade. Soft light? Perfect for macro shots. Looking into the sun? Find subjects with interesting shapes for silhouettes.


Remember, as an artist, you are free to go about making your art any way you like. You can use your tools any way you see fit. The most important thing is to have a vision and then use your tools and techniques to help you achieve it.

Do you know of any other photography myths you want to expose here? Please share in the comments below.

The post 7 Photography Myths Exposed by Anne McKinnell appeared first on Digital Photography School.

4 Tips for the Minimalist Photographer

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 09:09

I’ve photographed countless sessions in the past nine years. Weddings, families, children, newborns, seniors, huge extended family groups, community events, products for companies, bike races, fine art, birth stories. . . You name it, I have probably photographed it. Knowing that you might be a little bit surprised when I tell you what equipment I have in my bag:

  • Nikon D700 body
  • 50mm f/1.4G  lens
  • 85mm f/1.4D lens

That’s everything, besides two 8GB Compact Flash cards, two 4GB Compact Flash cards, three camera batteries, a couple of business cards, and some lip balm. All of this fits inside one Kelly Moore Westminster Camera Bag. I use Photoshop CS6 with Adobe Camera Raw to edit my photos on a 27″ iMac. That’s it!

I started nine years ago with a Nikon D90, the kit lens, and a 50mm f/1.8 lens. A couple of years later I upgraded to my full-frame body, better lenses, and haven’t felt a need for anything different, or anything more since that day. I’d say I’m very much a minimalist photographer, and it works well for me.

Could it also work well for you? Is it possible to have so few pieces of equipment and be satisfied? I’d like to share some thoughts with you, and maybe you’ll find that it’s a system that could work for you. You also might think I’m just insane, and add an additional lens to your collection just to spite me. Don’t worry! I won’t judge you harshly either way.

#1 – Let Go of Keeping Up

All too often in life, we get caught up in what everyone around us has, and what they are doing. We feel that in order to be good enough, we have to have and do all of that stuff too. Photography is no different.

Your best photographer friends are telling you about the latest and greatest lens they just purchased. Your photography competition just switched to a different brand and bought entirely new everything. The blogger you follow online just ordered the most life-changing new camera bag and is urging you to buy it too. You are surrounded by it every day, but you don’t have to keep up. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing to be your best self. Likewise, you don’t need to have everything they have to compete.

If it’s hard for you to see what others have and be satisfied with your own life, then stop looking at what they have. Stay away from social media for awhile, and quit looking at the blogs that are trying to sell you things. Get out and photograph something real with the equipment you have, and you might just forget that other photographers even exist. Eventually, you will be able to congratulate a friend on a new acquisition without feeling even a bit of jealousy.

#2 – Quit Thinking “Stuff” Will Change Everything

Have you ever told yourself that if only you had a certain camera, if only you had a few more lenses, you would be an amazing photographer? While equipment does make a difference, it doesn’t make the photographer. Great photographers can make beautiful photos with anything they have, and a not-so-great photographer could have the highest-end equipment with every lens imaginable and still come up with nothing.

That said, it’s great to work towards purchasing quality equipment because if you’re only going to have very few things, you might as well make sure they’re very nice. You can get a nicer camera body and lens if you know that you’re going to use it all the time, and you won’t be spending your money on a lot of other “stuff”.

Practicing your photography, getting out there and actually taking photos, reading articles and books from the library about photography, and talking with other photographers will help you become a better photographer. And those things don’t cost you anything. Work on yourself instead of your stuff.

#3 – Try Before You Buy

At some point in your life, I’m betting that you thought you had to have something, you got it, then realized that it wasn’t what you really needed or wanted after all. I’m pretty sure it’s happened to you, because I know it’s happened to me, more than once.

So before you buy another piece of photography equipment, see if you can borrow it from someone (or rent it), or at least watch it in action before you take the plunge and put down your hard-earned money for it. I’m very careful about what I purchase, but even I have had a few misses throughout the years.

I bought a reflector that I’ve used exactly two times in my entire career. UV lens protectors were purchased for peace of mind, then I decided that I liked my photos better without them, and I am a cautious person. I trust myself, so I don’t need them. A camera bag that sounded great in theory but lifting a flap every time I wanted to get my camera didn’t work for me. I bought a lens cleaner that the cap never stayed on. These are little purchases, but they’re just money and space wasters to me.

Test Drive

I heard so often that Lightroom was amazing, and that there were so many things that you could do with it, and that I needed it along with Photoshop. I sat down one day with a sweet photographer friend and asked her to show me everything she loved about it, and why I needed it. Every single thing that she showed me could be done with Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop. I felt content with my workflow, and I went home satisfied that I didn’t need to buy another program.

The great thing about trying something out, or watching it in action, is that you can see if it will truly work for you or not. You can read or listen to lots of other photographer’s opinions, but they aren’t you. The things that are important to them may not be important to you. You ultimately have to make that decision if it’s something you truly need and if it’s a good fit for you.

#4 – Let Your Limited Resources Expand Your Abilities

It’s strange to me that someone like me, with such limited equipment, could be so much more content than the photographer who owns suitcases full of equipment and still wants more. Some types of photography truly require more than what I have, and more equipment could be necessary, but you’d be surprised how innovative you can be when you need to make do with what you have.

There is a certain freedom that comes when you have everything you need in your hands and in your head. You don’t need to carry around rolling luggage full to the brim with equipment because you use everything available to you to create something beautiful. If you can’t shoot something that comes to mind because you don’t have the right lens, you either find another way to shoot it, or you find something else to shoot. That something else might be even better than the first thing that came to mind.

You won’t be wasting time, or risking dust and dirt in your sensor, by changing lenses constantly. You won’t be weighed down by multiple camera bodies swinging from your neck. No more worrying about where you put that third bag full of your lighting equipment. Your mind is freer to capture real life.

Decide What Works for YOU

Please don’t read this article as a criticism of photographers who own a lot of equipment. I like things simple in my life, inside and outside of photography. I don’t like to have more than I need, and an excess of anything makes me feel uncomfortable. Being a minimalist photographer works for me, and whether your reasons are that you like simplicity too, or your budget requires simplicity, you might find a few things to think about after reading this.

Are there other photographers out there like me? I’d love to know what equipment you find most essential. And, for all of you who have everything, I’d love to know if you had to cut your equipment down to five or fewer items, what would you keep? What could you give up?

The post 4 Tips for the Minimalist Photographer by Melinda Smith appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Review: Struman Lenses for Mobile Phones

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 14:00

As the use of mobile phones as cameras become more popular people want to get the best possible images with them. In some ways, they are very limited in how you can take photos. There are many companies now making lenses for mobile phones to help you get much better images.

Some are better than others with most requiring a magnetic ring to attach them to your phone, over the camera lens. They can have varying degrees success. Some have good lenses, but the rings don’t work, while others are designed for a particular camera and aren’t good on other models.

The Struman Optics case, the clip, and three phone lenses.

Struman Optics has come up with a set of lenses that consider all aspects of using them along with different phone products. Through phone cases for the most popular brands, or a special clip for the others, you can now use their lenses (the macro, fisheye, wide-angle and telephoto) with any phone.

Phone cases

Unlike many other lenses for mobile phones, the Struman Optics ones have covers for the top two brands – both iPhone and Samsung. The phone covers have a section where the camera is that allows you to screw in the lens so it is aligned perfectly with the camera.

The case makes taking photos a lot easier as you can hold your phone in any manner, and not worry about the lens coming off. It makes the whole system much sturdier.

The phone case with a lens screwed into it ready to be used.


If you have one of the lesser known phone brands or models, the lenses come with a clip that allows you to put them over the phone. They come with a spongy surface that sits against the screen so it won’t scratch. This takes a little more mucking around to get the lens correctly aligned, but once it’s done you can take your photos.

You can put the empty clip to help you work out where it should go. You can then screw in the lens that you want to use and take your images. If you decide you want to change to another lens, it isn’t a problem as they are easy to swap out.

The clip on the phone with a lens in it.

The Lenses

There are two kits available. The first includes a macro, wide-angle and fish-eye lens. The second is a telephoto lens that also has a holder for your phone and small tripod that you can use to help you steady the camera.

Macro Lens

Trying to get really close to objects for macro photography with your phone seems to be something that so many of us try to achieve. Some phones do it well, while others struggle. My current phone has trouble getting close and it can be frustrating. I do like macro photography, so having a lens I can put on my phone is great.

The Struman Optics macro lens is incredible. It will allow you to get a lot closer to your object than your phone can. It gives you a great amount of detail and is very sharp. When you go to take an image you can get as close as a couple of centimeters or an inch away from the subject.

This photo was taken with my phone and the macro lens screwed into the phone case.

Perhaps the one negative thing about this is that you don’t have a lot of choices, you only get the one focal range. All images have to be taken from the same distance, which is really close. However, if your intention is to get as near as possible, then you will love this lens.

This is as close as you can get with just my phone and no added lens.

When you screw in the Struman macro lens, you can get a whole lot closer and capture a lot more detail.

If you decide you want to get a little further away the wide-angle lens is what you need.

Wide-Angle Macro Lens

The wide-angle lens will let you take photos at any distance. You can get a wider angle than what your phone will take. If you have a subject that is hard to photograph because you can’t quite get it into the frame, then this lens will allow you to get a wider angle of view.

Compare the images below. The first image shows you the lighthouse taken with the phone and no lens. It is a tight image, and to get more distance I would have to move farther back. But as there was a cliff behind me so that was not an option.

The lighthouse taken with the phone and no lens attached.

The Struman wide-angle lens was attached to the phone and now you can see that there is a lot more room around the lighthouse. This made it a better image.

Same Lighthouse, but with the wide-angle lens attached.

The lens also has macro capabilities. If you find that you don’t want to get as close as you have to with the macro lens, put the wide-angle on and you can get that distance. It is good for photographing the whole flower or getting more than one in the shot. It is a great lens to go with the macro.

Fish-eye Lens

The fish-eye lens is a lot of fun. When you use one for the first time it is addictive to see what you take with it. This lens is similar to other fish-eye lenses for phones in that the image is a circle. If you give your subject enough space you can crop it so it is square or rectangle. However, if you do that you are reducing the size of the file.

Fish-eye lens used to photograph the lighthouse and then cropped to make a normal rectangular image.

Like the wide-angle lens, the fish-eye can also do macro. It can be used when you want to highlight an object in particular. It creates a bokeh effect with everything around it.

Some shelves with an assortment of things, taken with the fish-eye lens.

Carry Case

The above three lenses and the clip all come in a little case that fits in your bag or your pocket. It makes it very easy to carry them around. There is a little pocket that has some instructions and a cleaning cloth for the lenses. The case is not soft and is quite solid, so it keeps everything inside safe.

Telephoto Lens

As stated earlier, Struman Optics also makes a telephoto lens which you can purchase in a kit with a stand and a holder for the phone. This also fits into the phone cover case or the clip to help hold it still. You do really need the stand and phone holder as it’s a large lens. It is hard to hand-hold it to take photos.

When you find a subject you want to photograph, you have to be a certain distance from the object, a meter or a yard away. You do have to focus it manually, so if you find it is too hard to focus that could your subject is either too close or too far away.

Out of all the Struman lenses, this is the hardest to use. You do need to use the stand, or a stand with the phone holder. It does mean you have to carry a bit more equipment with you if you want to use this lens.

The telephoto lens in the phone case, with the phone secured by the holder and kept up-right on the stand.

Stand and Phone Holder

The stand is basic and not very big, though it is easy enough to carry around. You do need to have a surface to put it on and that isn’t always possible.

The phone holder screws onto the top of the stand and you put your phone in it. It is easy to use, though it can be a bit stiff to mount your phone. The holder will also fit on other tripods or Gorillapods. That allows you to use it with your other gear if you decide to throw the holder and lens in your kit when you go out.

This flower image was taken with the wide-angle lens, shot very close to the flower.

In Practice

When I went away recently I put the cover on my phone so I could use the lenses anytime I wanted. I didn’t take the telephoto lens with me, but I most definitely packed the other three. They were always with me, either in my bag, or my pocket.

They are the best mobile phone lenses I’ve seen yet. The images are amazing and the detail you can get in your images is so sharp. If you love using your phone for photography and want to get more out of it, then here are the lenses that may be perfect for you. Struman Optics is an Australian company, but they ship all over the world.

I would give these lenses 9 out of 10, I love them.

The post Review: Struman Lenses for Mobile Phones by Leanne Cole appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Video Tutorial: How to Make Realistic Images Faster with Aurora HDR 2018

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 09:00

As a landscape photographer who relies heavily on HDR to pull off much of my work, I’m always keen to learn about better ways of doing what I do. Most of the time my art tends to run towards natural looking images in contrast to the wild and crazy stuff of HDR’s reputation. The HDR software I use matters when I’m going for a more natural looking photo in my post-processing.

Going natural with Aurora HDR 2018

You can see several examples of the natural-looking results I’m getting in from Aurora HDR in the accompanying video and the several before and after images included here in the article.

Aurora HDR 2018 delivers, even more, natural-looking photos than before

The latest version of Aurora HDR is fresh out of the factory and I’ve been in a tire-kicking session with it for a few days making several photos. As expected, it’s a worthy upgrade. Do you want to see what’s new and how it helps when you want to keep the look of your HDR photos on the natural side?


After processing with Aurora HDR 2018.

Under the Hood of Aurora HDR 2018

The Macphun engineers have been very busy for many months re-building Aurora HDR from scratch. It’s like Walter White always says in Breaking Bad, “It had to be done.” In order to create a cross-platform Windows/Mac application, all new code was required. Big job.

The resulting product is something they can be proud of. The new HDR algorithm in Aurora HDR 2018 churns out very natural looking HDR images when it’s used correctly and with natural HDR being the goal. Of course, Aurora HDR 2018 is a perfect fit for my landscape photography work. It uses the most modern tone-mapping technology and an advanced image-processing engine, which makes very clean images, as you’ll notice in my examples.


After processing with Aurora HDR.


Video tutorial: Keeping it natural and real in Aurora HDR 2018

All the new features, just added to Aurora HDR 2018 in this release, bring it ever closer to becoming the only app you’ll need to process your HDR images and keep them as natural looking as you want. When you watch the video you’ll see how I use some of the new major features packed into Aurora HDR 2018 when creating my natural looking HDR landscapes. Watch the demo video:

Embracing the faster workflow using Aurora HDR 2018

You probably love photography as much as I do. Getting new tools that really help me get to my intended vision faster, or easier, or just better in any aspect, are quite welcome. They make it even easier to love what I do.

Kudos to the completely rewritten HDR algorithm and the advanced image-processing engine in Aurora HDR 2018. I’m finding that it’s speeding up my workflow significantly. That’s because of how good my photos usually look immediately after tone mapping even without even doing anything else in Aurora.

If I were brand new to photography, I’d be totally happy leaving my photos in that initial tone-mapped state with no further processing. They are that clean!



Back in the day (before Aurora HDR), it could take me up to a couple of hours to finish an HDR photo. Even then, it wasn’t all that natural looking much of the time. Thankfully, things are always evolving in exciting ways.

Ever since my foray into HDR photography eight years ago, my skills have improved. But I honestly have to credit the improvements in software, like Aurora HDR 2018, for dramatically reducing the time it takes me to finish a photo to just a few minutes while getting better, more realistic, results.


My intention is keeping my post-processing time to five minutes per image and striving for consistently higher quality photography. Aurora HDR 2018 is a big piece in my HDR workflow making that happen so it’s now a permanent tool in my HDR arsenal.

Be sure to watch the video, then I invite you to check out more Aurora HDR images in my SmugMug gallery.

Disclaimer: Macphun is a paid partner of dPS.

The post Video Tutorial: How to Make Realistic Images Faster with Aurora HDR 2018 by Keith Cuddeback appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Supercharge Your Photography with Highlight-Weighted Metering

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 14:00

Modern digital cameras have a variety of metering modes that they use to evaluate the light coming through the lens and help you choose your exposure settings. Each one is different and designed to fit a specific need. As you gain experience with them you will start to know which metering mode to use for any given scene you are shooting.

If you’re shooting portraits you might want to use Spot or Center-weighted metering, while landscape shooters may prefer the versatility of matrix or evaluative mode. Knowing which mode to use often comes with time and practice. But what if I told you there was a metering mode built-in to some cameras that could basically guarantee your shots would come out properly exposed every single time? Well, if you believe that then I’ve got a bridge in New York I’d like to sell you.

Highlight-Weighted Metering Mode

However, if your camera has Highlight-Weighted metering it will certainly help you get better results from your photos. While I can’t guarantee your pics will be perfect every single time, it can really come in handy if you’re not sure how to meter your scene and want a solution that you know you can rely on.

Different metering modes for different situations

The reason photographers use specific metering modes when shooting various scenes is that they want to make sure the right thing is properly exposed. For example, if you’re shooting a portrait it’s important to make sure your subject’s face is neither too bright nor too dark, even is it means some background elements will end up bright white or pitch black.

Center-weighted metering can solve this problem by helping you arrive at an exposure setting such that whatever is in the middle of the frame (i.e. your subject’s face) is exposed just right. Other metering modes such as Spot, Matrix/Evaluative, and Partial Metering all perform similar functions in that they help you make sure you have just the right camera settings to get precisely the important part of your composition properly exposed.

Highlight-weighted metering tosses all that out the window. In the process, it could also dramatically alter your approach not only to metering a scene but to photography as a whole.

I used Center-weighted metering here to make sure this couple was exposed just right, even though the background is a bit too bright. I cared more about the couple looking good than the tree leaves behind them.

Enter Highlight-Weighted Metering for Select Nikon Cameras

Available on only a few Nikon cameras, (D5, D850, D810, D750, D500, and D7500 as of the time of this writing) Highlight-weighted metering utilizes the incredible dynamic range of modern image sensors to give you a massive degree of control over your photos. Provided you don’t mind doing a bit of legwork in Lightroom, Photoshop, Luminar, or other post-processing software.

It works by looking at the brightest elements of a scene (instead of specific areas like the center or the focus point) and using those as the basis for taking an exposure reading. On the surface, this might seem like a terrible idea because doing so would obviously mean a great deal of your photo could, as a result, be much too dark and underexposed to be usable.

Accessing Highlight-Weighted Metering

I’ve talked to some photographers who own cameras that can do Highlight-Weighted metering, and some of them aren’t even aware that their cameras have this capability. It’s not that surprising since Nikon doesn’t seem to go out of its way to advertise the feature, and even if you know about it you still may not know how to enable it.

To access this feature, press the metering button on your camera and then turn the control dial until you see an icon that looks the same as spot metering, with the exception of an asterisk in the top-right corner.

You will see the same icon if you look at the rear LCD screen of your camera, and as soon as it appears you’re good to go. However, figuring out how to enable Highlight-Weighted metering is one thing but understanding how it works, when to use it, and how to get the most out of it is another matter entirely.

Exposing for the Highlights

Before I get too deep into what this all means, it’s important to understand that Highlight-Weighted metering isn’t really the best solution to use for everyday shooting. It’s designed to make sure the brightest portions of your composition are not overexposed, which means a great deal of the photo is going to be shrouded in darkness.

You also won’t really see the advantages of using it unless you shoot RAW because it’s designed to give you an image that is extremely flexible due to the amount of data you have to work with during the post-production phase. Since JPEG files toss out such a huge amount of image data, they’re not much use with Highlight-Weighted metering because you simply don’t have much room to edit your photos when developing them in Lightroom.

Metering Mode Comparison

As an illustration of how Highlight-Weighted metering works, consider this series of three images. I took the following shot using Matrix metering mode, which tries to get a good overall balance between highlights and shadows. It’s a mode that many people use by default since it helps you get properly-exposed images in most shooting situations.

Matrix metering resulted in a good overall exposure but the sky is so bright that it can’t be fixed in post-production.

You can see that the camera tried its best to balance out the highlights and shadows, and the resulting image is decent but there is a massive portion of the sky that is simply too bright and can’t be recovered in Lightroom, Photoshop, or any other post-processing software.

Using Highlight-Weighted metering meant that my camera helped me adjust the exposure settings such that the brightest parts (i.e. the sky) were not overexposed, which resulted in an image that seems unusable at first.

Highlight-weighted metering preserved the brightest portions of the image but left the rest vastly underexposed. This is the image as it came right out of the camera.

Fortunately, due to the incredible dynamic range in modern camera sensors, an image like this is perfectly usable. The key is that the highlights haven’t been lost or clipped, so the sky is exposed just fine while the dark portions of the image still contain so much data (because I shot in RAW) that it can still be transformed into a print-worthy photo with just a few clicks.

The sky was exposed properly, with plenty of shadow details still available for editing. This is the same image as above, after processing to pull detail out of the shadow areas.

Some Caveats

As you might expect, there are some caveats to using this approach as well as a few questions.

First of all, experienced photographers might wonder what the big deal is with this approach since similar results can be had by simply using exposure compensation. That is if you take a shot and see that the image is overexposed, just compensate by underexposing it a few stops. The problem with this approach is that it’s a multi-step solution which means a critical moment can sometimes pass you by while you are adjusting the exposure. However, using Highlight-Weighted metering ensures that the brightest parts of your image will never be clipped and therefore have plenty of data to use when editing.

It’s also worth pointing out that in order to get the benefits of Highlight-Weighted metering you need to be willing to edit your photos afterward in order to bring up the shadows and adjust your images accordingly. If you’re used to shooting JPG or doing minimal editing, it might not be worth the additional time that this solution adds to your workflow.

Finally, to get the most benefits you need to use low ISO values since the data from the sensor will be more usable. Sensor dynamic range drops off at higher ISO values so if you find yourself shooting at ISO 6400, 3200, or even 1600 you won’t be able to bring up the shadows nearly as well as you could with images shot at ISO 100 or 200.

Another example

For one more example, here’s a series of photos of a goose that illustrate this concept in action. This first image was taken using standard Matrix metering which did its job pretty well. Overall the scene is properly exposed, except for one glaring exception: the overexposed part right at the base of the bird’s neck.

Matrix metering, unedited RAW file.

After seeing my results I quickly switched to the Highlight-weighted metering mode. In doing so, my camera made sure that the brightest part of the image was properly exposed, which left the rest extraordinarily dark.

Highlight-weighted metering, unedited RAW file

Fortunately, there was plenty of color data to extract from the shadows, so a little finessing in Lightroom resulted in an image that I’d be happy to post to my Instagram feed.

Highlight-weighted metering, edited in Lightroom to pull out the shadow detail.

What if you don’t have a Highlight-weighted metering mode?

If you don’t have Highlight-weighted metering built into your camera you can approximate its effects by using Spot metering and the exposure lock button on your camera. This would allow you to set exposure values based on what you deem to be the brightest part of the composition, lock in your settings, and then recompose your shot before snapping the shutter. It’s not as simple or elegant as having the camera automatically meter the scene based on the brightest part of the composition, but it’s worth trying if your camera doesn’t have this function.


I like to think of Highlight-weighted metering as another useful arrow to have in my photography quiver, but not something I use all the time for every one of my shots. For most images, I tend to default to Matrix metering since it will usually give me a properly-exposed shot that I can tweak if I need to.

However, when I find myself in situations with extreme contrast between the lightest and darkest portions I will often switch over to Highlight-weighted metering so I can stop worrying about checking my settings and dialing in exposure compensation. That way I know that I’ll end up with images that I can edit however I need to in Lightroom because nothing will be overexposed.

The post How to Supercharge Your Photography with Highlight-Weighted Metering by Simon Ringsmuth appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Landscape Photography: It’s All About the Light

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 09:00

There are many tools that photographers use for creating compelling landscape photography, but some fail to realize that light is the most important element. We only shoot in those magic hours when the sun’s rays hit our subject at an angle to create a warm glow.

What many people don’t realize is that there are lots of different types of light that can affect the quality of your landscape images. How you approach this light will make a huge difference in the quality of your photographic portfolio. Let’s get started and talk about a few of our favorite examples of beautiful light.

That magic time for landscapes, of course, is sunrise and sunset, but specifically what other types of light will make or break your images?

Reflected Light

This picture was taken on one of our expeditions to Zion National Park in Utah. Part of the beauty and excitement of this trip is strapping on your water shoes, grabbing your hiking stick and wading through the river to get some amazing shots.

Reflected light, which can also be called bounced or diffused light occurs when there is direct sunlight reflected off an adjacent surface. The canyons in the Southwest are perfect for this type of light as the color of the canyon is bounced back and reflected giving a warm glow to the walls. The quality of this light is soft, even, and beautiful.

Overcast Light

Morro Bay on the Central Coast of California has many faces depending on the weather. It’s just as striking in the fog as it is on a beautiful sunny day.

This quality of light is found on overcast and foggy days and is very soft and bluish. The color of this light comes from the whole sky, which acts like one big softbox and in the right situation can be very dramatic.


This image was taken in Big Sur, one of our favorite shooting locations. It boasts incredible sunsets, especially in the winter.

A typical backlit picture will have a rim of the sun’s rays around the subject, or you will be able to see the sun as a bright spot in the photograph. If you are using a small aperture, you will be able to get a “sun star” or sun flare effect like this one.

Direct Light

Because of the reflection of light off the sand, White Sands, New Mexico is an unparalleled photography location.

Direct sunlight is usually found approximately one to two hours after sunrise and one to two hours before sunset. It can be hot and unforgiving while casting strong shadows. This light works great for black and white but can sometimes be overly intense for color photography.

Morning and Evening Horizontal Light

This light is warm and horizontal and is caught during sunrise and sunset. It is horizontal because the sun’s rays are cast at an angle as the sun is rising and setting. This is the prime light for photography due to its combination of low contrast and warm tones. Objects lit directly by this light may seem to glow, as if illuminated from within, with details emerging clearly. Learn to use this light on a regular basis and you will be amazed at the results.

The Canadian Rockies in the fall never fails to disappoint us. The crisp mountain air and the deciduous larch trees make this an amazing photographic location.

Open Shade

In landscape photography, open shade consists of areas not lit by direct sunlight. This is very soft light and is common in forested areas. The best part about this type of light is you can shoot all day and still have the benefit of this soft, dreamy light.

This redwood forest is one of our favorite stops on California’s Big Sur coast.

Combination Light – Direct and Diffused

Here is an example of combination light, both direct and diffused. This was shot on Mt. Whitney in the Eastern Sierra, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States. This image depicts a highly unusual phenomenon. There were rays of morning horizontal sunlight shining from behind us while we were shooting. Only a portion of the mountain was shaded or diffused by the clouds overhead creating a spotlight effect.

This shot was a result of several hours of “waiting for the light” and we were greatly surprised and rewarded for our efforts.

Manmade Light

You don’t really think of manmade light in landscape photography, but here is a great example!

This image was captured on the Big Sur coast at dusk. There were rows of cars waiting to get through a construction site. As the cars were let through, we captured the row of car lights with a long exposure and the camera mounted on a tripod.

Photography Exercise

Try shooting the same subject in the exact same location before sunrise and after sunset. Notice the differences in the light? Are the color and tone different? Do the details look different in the light areas and in the shadows? Comment below and let me know how you do. Enjoy!

The post Landscape Photography: It’s All About the Light by Holly Higbee-Jansen appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to do Abstract Nature Photography

Sun, 10/15/2017 - 14:00

Photography, especially nature photography, is the art of capturing a scene to represent a slice – in space and time – of reality. Right? Well, not exactly, not always. That’s definitely part of it, but from very early on in the history of the art, photographers have experimented with the possibilities and limits of technique and imagination to create abstract art. Art that aims not to be accurate, but to let the imagination run free to create an effect disconnected from the obvious.

So what exactly is abstract photography? And can nature photography be abstracted? Should it be?

What is abstract photography?

The word itself comes from the Latin abstractus, which means drawn away or detached, and is often used in opposition to concrete. In terms of art, the abstract is a space for impression and imagination, for the elusive, for fuzzy borders. That doesn’t mean abstract photography is blurry and dim – it can be bright, clear, and sharp. It just doesn’t aim at the common, concrete representation of the world that we’re used to. That’s why abstract nature photography is so intriguing.

By creating a distance from form, abstract art opens up a space to explore associations, feelings, and reactions. Because it lacks an anchor for your interpretation, there is room for an uninhibited association. Through detachment from the concrete, you’re allowed to create your own way.

Capturing nature with photography

In nature photography, most work tries to clearly capture an object, a scene, or a process – to the point where the photography might cross from artistic into scientific. Abstract nature photography is obviously different in that it doesn’t try to represent physical reality. Its potential is to create something ethereal from the ordinary, to find something unique in the mundane.

To create abstract nature photographs, you need to step beyond the obvious and try to capture a sensation, a mood, a movement – things that might not be part of physical reality, but are just as real to the artist and the viewer. Think of it as music, using very concrete instruments and elements to create a reaction beyond that of the individual notes and sounds.

Getting started

To create something abstract, you need to begin with something concrete. Painters create abstract art using concrete tools: their paints, their substrate, brushes or other painting tools, and their imagination.

Photographers use different tools, but a more significant difference is that the artist is inescapably aware of the reality from which the abstraction in the finished work stems. However, the viewer’s vantage point is the same, whether the piece of art is an abstract painting or an abstract photograph.

The camera and your imagination are the only limitations on how you create abstract art. Below I list some easy ideas to begin experimenting with because by now I hope you’re intrigued enough to try your hand at abstract nature photography. To be clear, all of these tips also work for abstract art that has nothing to do with nature photography, but they focus on abstract art rooted in nature photography.

1. Distance

Getting very close to something or far away from it are great ways to create abstractions. We don’t often get that view in our everyday life, so it’s easy to disconnect what’s captured from what’s immediately familiar.

Here is an example from the realm of macro photography:

And an abstract photograph taking advantage of an unusually distant perspective:

2. Focus

Just because something is abstract doesn’t mean it has to be blurry or unfocused, but playing with focus is certainly one way to make a scene abstract. This requires that you use manual focus.

By either squinting or defocusing your eyes, you can get an idea of what the scene might look like as an out-of-focus image. Use that to find an interesting scene – just because something is out of focus doesn’t mean it’s interesting! Play around, and also try combining it with movement (see next point).

3. Time

Time is always of the essence when it comes to photography, and abstract photography is no exception. By combining a chosen exposure time with some movement you can create some really interesting abstract art. Your exposure time can be anything from a tiny fraction of a second to several minutes (or even longer), and in terms of movement, it can either come from the subject moving (e.g., light painting), or from the camera moving (e.g., intentional camera movement).

A bonus for advanced (and daring) photographers

Early photographic attempts at abstract art were based on the medium itself: the metallic or glass plates or sensitized paper in combination with the necessary chemicals used to create photographs, and light (without a lens). This kind of extreme back-to-basics experimentation also works with a digital camera.

For instance, through something called refractography, where a naked sensor is exposed to light reflected from a refractive object. It’s both beyond the scope of this article and my photographic experience, so I won’t talk more about it, but I thought it was worth mentioning. A quick warning, though: removing your lens from your camera always exposes the sensor to dust, so doing photography without a lens is obviously not healthy for your sensor. You’ve been warned.


For photography newbies, trying your hand at abstract photography is a great way to get to know your camera and try out different photography techniques: using manual focus, light painting, intentional camera movement, and so much more. For more advanced photographers, it’s a fun way to explore and expand your art and to try something new.

What do you think of abstract nature photography? Have you tried it? Please share your photos and thoughts in the comments below.

The post How to do Abstract Nature Photography by Hannele Luhtasela-el Showk appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop

Sun, 10/15/2017 - 09:00

The drive to be creative is what focuses many people in photography. One variable you can alter to help you create photographs that really stand out is the lens. There are several different options for choosing creative lenses, depending on your taste.

In this article, you’ll see five very different kinds of lenses, and what they are capable of bringing to your photography. It’s always a good idea to have a lens that capable of something totally different, which will allow your photos to stand out from the crowd.

The fisheye lens is used in this photo has captured a wide scene. There is some distortion on the edge of the image, but with the lines all leading in, this works well.

1 – The fish-eye lens

This lens is always great fun to work with, it’s a versatile lens that can be used for both portraits and landscapes. A fish-eye lens has several great applications so let’s take a look at those:

  • Wide-angle lens – This can act as a super wide-angle lens, and if you decide not to carry a wide angle lens the fish-eye makes a decent alternative. The main constraint is the distortion, this means keeping the horizon line straight.
  • The Earth’s not flat! – You can prove the Earth is not flat with a fish-eye lens. Simply position the horizon line near the top or bottom of the frame, and let distortion do the rest.
  • Embrace the distortion – Using a fish-eye means working with the way lines get distorted. This has great application for portrait photos, as those lines lead up to your model.

The fish-eye is a great lens to play with, which is why it’s such a popular lens. It’s great for getting a lot of the scene in your frame, but is, therefore, challenging to use. Those who embrace the challenge of this lens will be reward with some amazing results, so go out and try one.

The fish-eye lens can be great for super wide landscape photos.

2 – The Lensbaby for something quirky

Lensbaby is a company that makes a range of lenses that are small, comparatively cheap, and not too heavy. The lenses they make have diversified over the years. The Lensbaby Composer was their original concept. The Composer lens allows the user to change the area in the frame that has the sharpest focus. It does this by allowing you to change the plane of focus using a swivel head.

  • Abstract bokeh – Shifting the angle of the composer lens will give you stretch bokeh. The best way to get this effect is to photograph some fairy lights, that are deliberately out of focus.
  • Portrait photos – Lensbaby lenses are excellent at drawing your eye to the model, by minimizing the background. Once again with the Composer, you can focus your sweet spot on the persons face, and surround them with bokeh!
  • Landscape photos – While not its strength, a Lensbaby can be used for interesting landscape photos. This works best when there is an out of focus area in the frame, which the Lensbaby Composer can further blur out into stretch bokeh. The effect is not dissimilar to a tilt-shift lens, and the subject of the photo should be sharp.

The Lensbaby Composer creates interesting bokeh around the subject.

3 – The 50mm f/1.2 is a creative lens

The nifty fifty is one of the first lenses that many photographers buy, with the less expensive f/1.8 version being a popular choice. There are a plethora of other prime lenses that can be used creatively like the 50mm f/1.2, though f/1.2 is at the extreme end of the large aperture scale. The comparison to make is a fish-eye lens to a wide angle, and here, an f/1.2 to an f/1.8 lens.

The 50mm f/1.2 is an excellent choice for those wanting to explore bokeh in their photographs. The depth of field is incredibly narrow, and getting sharp focus on your subject can be tricky. In the evening, positioning lights behind the subject, in the out of focus area will produce bokeh.

Want to get even more creative? Try creating different shaped bokeh, by placing a circular disk with a cut-out area in front of your lens.

At f/1.2 the bokeh is very smooth in this image, and the plane of focus is very narrow.

4 – Up close it’s a different world! Use a macro lens.

The world can look very different with just a little bit of magnification, and macro lenses are a good place to start. This form of photography is a niche all of its own, and there are many pieces to it. Those who wish to really excel at macro photography will need to invest in the correct lighting gear and a good tripod. There is plenty you can achieve with a macro lens to start you on the path of macro photography.

  • Flower photography – A good macro lens is often the starting point for flower photography. Now, of course, you can take photos without doing macro photography, but getting in closer allows for more dramatic results.
  • Water droplets – Combined with the correct off-camera flash there is a lot of photography you can do with water droplets.
  • Detail photos – Macro lenses are very good for focusing on one area, and bringing out the detail. Close up photos of money is one example of how this can be applied.

Food photography can be a good subject for your macro lens.

5 – Use a tilt-shift lens for more interesting landscapes

The tilt-shift lens has two main purposes, these are to correct the perspective of a photo, and to create a miniature world look. These lenses were originally designed with architectural photographers in mind, so that tall buildings didn’t bow inwards in the frame. The more creative use of these lenses is to create a miniature world. The lens can selectively focus the middle area of the frame, with the top and bottom blurred out. The lens is on the expensive end, and as the effect can be produced by

A tilt-shift lens can selectively focus the middle area of the frame, with the top and bottom blurred out. The lens is on the expensive end, and as the effect can be produced by post-processing you will need to consider whether or not you want to invest in this kind of creative lens.

The tilt-shift effect miniaturizes objects in the frame. This effect can be achieved both in camera and by post-processing.

Which creative lens will you choose?

There are many lenses available, so which of these creative lenses would you choose if you were to buy one? Have you already have a lens like this, how has your experience with it been?

Is there a project you’d like to work on, where you’d need a lens like one of those listed above? Do you use another creative lens, not mentioned here? As always we look forward to your comments and feedback.

The macro lens is great for exploring nature, be it flowers or insects.

The Lensbaby can be used to create abstract bokeh.

The 50mm f/1.2 lens can create shaped bokeh, this is done by covering the lens with a disc, and cutting the shape in the center of that disc.

The post Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop by Simon Bond appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Tips for Taking Documentary Style Travel Photos

Sat, 10/14/2017 - 14:00

Documentary style photography has long been of great fascination to me. The sheer act of photographing people and places to document spontaneous moments and the imperfections associated with it gives such photography, and the photographer, a sense of being authentic, real, and free to exercise his/her creative freedom.

Officially, documentary style photography has many technical definitions. As per Wikipedia, documentary style of photography is used to chronicle events and environments in a naturally occurring state very much like photojournalism. I like to think of a documentary style of photography as the letting go of my inhibitions and preconceived notions of perfection. That I’m documenting people and places in their natural environment – being or doing what they do on any given day.

This scene literally happened right in front of me in Jaipur, India – the classic story of the billy goats!

I find that by approaching travel photography in a documentary fashion, I am able to have a richer travel experience. Because I can relieve my mind of the pressures of photographing just like everyone else and also walk away with some unique frames that speak to my own experiences.

To that end, here are a few tips to keep in mind for a documentary style approach towards your travel photography.

#1 – Be present in the moment

Being present in every moment of every day is a life lesson we all can benefit from. It doesn’t just apply to travel photography. Great moments happen every day around us that are worth documenting not just for our clients but also for ourselves so that we can live a richer, fuller life.

People watching is a great exercise in training your eye to really catch that which is unusual and unique to a place – these boys in the market in Jaipur were observing me just as much as I was observing them!

By training your mind to really live life in the moment and not worry about all the other distractions will also help you really “see” what is around you. More often than not, you likely travel with a very tight agenda and timeline. No sooner than you get to your destination, you are already mentally prepared to move on to the next stop. Instead, try and plan a single excursion for a day and really focus on learning and experiencing that place or activity before moving on.

#2 – Be observant of your surroundings

Life is happening all around you all the time. People interacting with each other, people interacting with nature, nature putting on a grand show during sunrise, sunset, or even during a thunderstorm. But don’t wait for some preconceived notion of the perfect moment to take your camera out and take a photo.

At the same time, don’t see the world simply through your viewfinder. Observe the scene, anticipate the shot that you really want to get and be ready to take the shot. Don’t just fire away at every situation only to get home to realize that you completed missed the moment and hence missed the shot as well.

I once found myself in the middle of a village festival/ritual when I was traveling in India. I had no idea what was going on but knew I had to document this. Luckily a female photographer was somewhat of a rarity in this village and I was given a special seat in the middle of all the action (without a word spoken amongst me and these women)! It was fascinating to see and experience.

I later found out that these women were taking one of the female members of their family to each house to get blessings as she was supposed to be possessed by a female deity and have god-like powers…certainly an experience I will never forget!

#3 – Be real about your travel photography goals

A very famous travel quote says, “We travel not to escape life, but so that life does not escape us” really hits the nail on the head for me. Be real about why you travel and what you want to gain out of each travel experience. If you are traveling to a marketplace and want to get a true sense of local lifestyles and customs, then look for naturally occurring scenes. Don’t look for people that you can pose or stage to get your shot.

This is by no means a perfect shot but I love the fact that this angle shows just how crazy transportation choices can be in smaller villages and towns in some countries!

#4 – Be aware of your gear choices

Packing for any sort of travel is an art in itself, especially if you are going away for an extended period of time. Documentary style travel photography requires a slightly different mindset in terms of gear than say perhaps wildlife or portrait photography.

I find that for documentary style travel photography a zoom lens like the ultra-wide angle focal length like the Canon 16-35mm f/4 or one like the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 works well for me. While a fast lens is ideal, I don’t usually find myself photographing at an aperture lower than f/4 or f/5.6. More often than not, I have more than one subject in the scene and also want to capture some of the background in order to provide content to the shot.

I was in Rome for three days this past summer but couldn’t get the famous Spanish Steps without people no matter what time of the day I tried. So instead, I chose to embrace the crowds and showcase this famous monument as the tourist attraction it really is!

#5 – Be confident in your skills

Documentary style photography is generally quite fast paced. You are trying to capture a scene as it is playing out in front of you. You don’t really have the time or the opportunity to re-compose the shot and then click the shutter. However, this does not mean

However, this does not mean that you have to just fire away at the maximum fps (frames per second) that your camera can handle, then pick the best of the lot in post-processing. Instead, use your technical as well as artistic skills to read the scene, analyze the light, assess the right camera settings, imagine the outcome, anticipate the shot and then take the picture. Oh, by the way, bear in mind that you will not likely get a redo.

I had almost no time to really plan this shot out…I knew I wanted to try and get all three of the famous peaks of the Pacific Northwest in one frame while at about 35,000 feet in the air.


I hope these tips convey my love for documentary style photography and do not scare you away from it. This style of photography has its own charm. Even though it may appear to be highly unplanned and random, it is also a good mix of carefully anticipated planning and authenticity. Give it a try the next time you travel and let me know how it goes.

The post Tips for Taking Documentary Style Travel Photos by Karthika Gupta appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Use Puppet Warp in Photoshop

Sat, 10/14/2017 - 09:00

One of the most powerful distortion tools in Photoshop is the Puppet Warp command. First Introduced in Photoshop CS5, Puppet Warp is a handy command that allows you to easily bend and shape parts of your image as if it were a puppet. You can use this distortion tool on almost any photo, but in this tutorial, I am going to give you a crash-course on how to make the most out of Puppet Warp command when distorting people in your photos.

Puppet Warp provides a visual mesh that lets you drastically distort specific image areas while leaving other areas intact. Applications range from subtle adjustments to severe limb distortions. In most cases, you will keep your distortions subtle to keep them realistic.

However, in this tutorial, we will push the Puppet Warp Tool to the max and make drastic adjustments to completely reposition the arms and legs of the man in this composite.

Isolating Your Subject

The first step to using the Puppet Warp command is to isolate the person (or object) that you would like to distort. This often involves making a selection of the individual and masking-out the background.

In this example, the man jumping was extracted from his background via a Layer Mask and placed into a Smart Object. Smart Objects allow you to apply filters, commands, and distortions nondestructively; which means that you can always come back and adjust any changes that you’ve made.

Puppet Warp works even if you don’t extract the subject from the background, but the tool becomes less efficient and less intuitive.

Apply The Distortion Pins

The Puppet Warp command allows you to distort an image by clicking-and-dragging pins which distort the pixels to which they are attached.

After you isolate the person in your scene, you will need to add the distortion pins so that you can start manipulating the pixel in your image. Start by selecting the layer that contains your foreground element, in this case, the layer of the man jumping, and Go to Edit > Puppet Warp.

By Default, you will see a mesh around your layer. This mesh can be distracting; I encourage you to disable it by unchecking the “Show Mesh” checkbox from the Options Bar.

You can now click anywhere on your subject to create the pins that will allow you to move (or pin down) the pixels in the image. When working with people, create the pins near the joints such as the wrist, shoulders, knees, ankles, and in any other area where the body would normally bend. You can also create pins in areas that you want to keep pinned down.

Adjusting Pins and Distorting the Image

With your pins in place, click on a single pin to activate it, and drag it to a new location. You will see that the image will be distorted as you drag the pin. The distortions will become more extreme the further you drag it from its original location.

Rotating Pins

After making a distortion, you may find that the image does not look realistic because of how the pins bend the surrounding pixels. To help fix this issue, you can use the Rotate control in the Options Bar to rotate a single point and help correct some of the unrealistic distortions.

You can also select a pin and hover over it while holding Option/Alt to reveal a Rotate UI element that you can click-and-drag on to rotate the mesh.

This method is much more intuitive, and it allows you to rotate the pin much easier. But for more subtle and precise rotations, the Rotate control in the Options Bar will be the better option.

Pin Depth

In this example, you’ll notice that the model’s leg has been placed over his right leg. But if you would like for his right leg to be in front, then you can adjust the Pin Depth.

Select the pin that controls his right leg, and in the Options Bar, under Pin Depth, Click the Move Forward icon to push that pin forward.

After changing the Pin Depth, the model’s right leg will appear in front of his left leg.

You can do the same with any of the other pins in your image to change the depth of the corresponding body part.

Options Bar Settings

The Options bar also give you a few extra options that will determine how the mesh will behave and it will, of course, affect how the pixels are distorted.

  • The Mode option lets you decide how stretchable the mesh should be.
  • Density controls the spacing of the mesh’s points. Adding more points makes your edits a lot more accurate, but the processing time takes longer to complete.
  • Expansion allows you to expand or contract the outer edges of the mesh.

If you prefer to watch me do this and follow along by video, see below:

Remember that when using the Puppet Warp command, or any other distortion tool in Photoshop, you should do so with restraint. Small changes can have a significant impact and go unnoticed. However, extreme adjustments could quickly become unrealistic and distracting to the whole image.

The post How to Use Puppet Warp in Photoshop by Jesus Ramirez appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Light Painting

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 14:00

Earlier I rounded up a couple videos on how to do two very different styles of light painting. You can see them here. Below are two images of my own where you can see the two different techniques and the results.

In this image, I have light painted the building with a regular flashlight.

This shot is a combination of 3 people doing the light painting to make this happen. One on the building with a flashlight, another on the train tracks with an orange colored wand, and me on the wagon making the funky shape.

Note: the image above was done using some special tools. Read this for more info: Review: Light Painting Brushes – Tools for Creativity.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Light Painting

Before you give up before you even start, assuming this is too hard for you – wait!

Light painting does not have to be hard at all, and I’ll give you some articles to check out that can help you. But you can keep it simple and try a sparkler like this:

Or a cell phone which was used to light up the car in this shot.

If you need more help try these articles:

Share your images below:

Light painted train caboose.

This was created using gloves that glow different colors. My husband did the light painting, it’s the name of his favorite beer in Nicaragua.

The ultimate light painting is fire spinning.

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 – Light Painting by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Video Tips – Two Light Painting Techniques for you to Try

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 09:00

I personally love night photography and one of my favorite things to do at night is light painting. There are a few ways to do it depending on the look you want. Here are two completely different techniques for you to try out.

Make a Light Spiral

In this first video photographer Jason Rinehart shows us how to create a light painted spiral. So there is no subject you are adding light to, the light itself ends up being the subject. See how he does it here:

Light Paint an Old Barn

In this second video, you see a different approach where a flashlight is used to light paint the subject, in this case, an old barn in Ireland. There is a right and a wrong way to do this, and they give good examples of both.

Have you tried light painting before? Which of the two methods do you like better, or do you enjoy doing both styles? Tell us in the comments below.

The post Video Tips – Two Light Painting Techniques for you to Try by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.