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Updated: 10 hours 35 min ago

Lightroom Texture Slider vs. Skin Smoothing

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 10:00

The post Lightroom Texture Slider vs. Skin Smoothing appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

One of Adobe’s recent feature updates to Lightroom has profound implications for photographers who retouch their portraits. While in-depth alterations are best handled in an app like Photoshop or Affinity Photo, Lightroom’s brush tool has been a good choice for basic retouching for many years. Users can dial in specific settings to help skin appear softer and smoother, or select a preset defined by Adobe. However, these retouches have typically employed the Clarity slider, which is great for a lot of situations but not exactly ideal for portraits. Thankfully, the new Lightroom Texture Slider option aims to solve this and a whole lot more.

Before I get too deep into the Texture option, it’s important to know that it’s not just for tweaking headshots. It is specifically designed to either increase or decrease the detail on textured surfaces. These can be cloth, rocks, plants, skin, or anything that has a non-uniform appearance.

If you want to smooth the texture to make a surface appear more glassy, slide the Texture option to the left. By contrast, if you want to enhance the look of any textured object, just slide the tool to the right.

Texture vs. Clarity vs. Sharpening

Texture is fundamentally different from other tools such as Clarity or Sharpening, each of which has long been a staple in many portrait photographers’ workflows. Clarity works by increasing or decreasing contrast specifically along edges, or areas of already-high contrast. It primarily affects mid-tones and not the lightest and darkest portions of an image. Sharpening makes the edges of objects and surfaces much more vivid. It has some additional parameters like Radius and Amount that can be fine-tuned to get you just the right balance.

Each of these tools has a specific purpose, and they can be used alone or together to create specific results. If you usually do basic portrait retouching by using the Brush tool and selecting the Soften Skin option, you may have noticed that it’s merely a combination of Clarity and Sharpness. Texture, on the other hand, is specifically designed by Adobe to alter the appearance of textured surfaces.

If you have traditionally done some basic retouching using Clarity and Sharpening, you might be surprised at how effective the Texture option is.

The Soften Skin brush preset in Lightroom is just a combination of -100 Clarity and +25 Sharpening.

Retouching with Texture

While you can apply texture globally by using the option in the Basic panel of Lightroom’s Develop module, portrait photographers will appreciate that it can be applied selectively using the Brush tool. Select the Brush option and then look for the Texture slider, which is right above Clarity, Dehaze, and Saturation. You can also configure parameters like Size, Feather, Flow, and Auto Mask though I would recommend leaving the latter turned off if you are editing portraits.

Click on your photograph and brush in the Texture adjustment the same you would with any other adjustment. Be careful to stay in the facial region and not brush into hair, clothing, or other parts of the image. You certainly can apply the texture brush to other elements of your picture later on, but to start with stay focused on the face.

Original image with no brush adjustments applied.

As you brush in the Texture adjustment, you will see rough areas of the skin become smooth. I recommend starting with a value between -25 and -50. This retains most of the original look of the portrait while smoothing things out just a bit.

If you have never worked with the Adjustment Brush tool, you might take a minute and look over these five tips that could speed things up or make your work a lot more efficient.

Texture -50 adjustment brush applied to the cheeks, chin, and nose.

The resulting portrait has a smoother, softer appearance where the Texture adjustment was applied. Details such as pores and wrinkles remain, and color gradients and shifting tones are also preserved.

This is much different than the results typically produced by using the Skin Smoothing option, which employs a mix of negative Clarity and positive Sharpening.

Image with Soften Skin adjustment applied to the same areas.

This third image looks as though petroleum jelly has been smeared over the camera lens. The woman’s cheeks are missing the subtle color variations from the original image. While the skin is certainly smoother, it also looks more artificial.

To show how these images look in direct relation to one another, here is a graphic that shows all three versions for three seconds at a time. First is the original, then the Texture adjustment, then the original again, and finally the Soften Skin adjustment.

You can create your own Adjustment Brush preset if you don’t want to rely on the Soften Skin preset. But if you have traditionally used the Clarity option, you may find it pleasantly surprising how vastly improved your results are by using Texture instead.

Comparison two

For another comparison, here are three more images to help you see the difference between Texture and other methods of softening skin.

The original image with no skin softening adjustments applied.

Applying a Texture -50 Adjustment leaves the pores, stubble, and small wrinkles intact but smooths them out just a bit. It’s a subtle change that doesn’t alter the original too much or make the face appear artificially smooth.

Texture -50 applied to the cheeks, chin, nose, and forehead.

A custom skin smoothing adjustment of Clarity -75 and Sharpness +15 makes the young man’s forehead and cheeks appear fake and plastic. It’s not a great look for a portrait.

Clarity -75 and Sharpness +15 applied to the same areas.

Looking at the three images sequentially shows the effect in a more pronounced fashion. The Texture adjustment gives a much more natural result while the final image seems over-processed and fake.


There’s a lot more you can do with the Lightroom Texture slider, and it’s useful for a wide variety of images aside from portraits. Some photographers like to reduce texture in the face and increase texture on hair and clothing for a punchier look.

My recommendation is to open up some of your images, especially portraits or headshots, and try it out for yourself. You might be surprised at how well it works.

Have you used the Lightroom Texture slider? What are your thoughts? Please share your thoughts (and images) with us in the comments section.


The post Lightroom Texture Slider vs. Skin Smoothing appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Four Signs it’s NOT Time to Upgrade Your Camera

Mon, 07/08/2019 - 15:00

The post Four Signs it’s NOT Time to Upgrade Your Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

I’m reminded about a conversation between Ansel Adams and Ernest Hemingway that went something like this:

Hemingway: You take the most amazing photographs I’ve ever seen! What sort of camera do you use?

Adams: You write the most amazing stories. What sort of typewriter do you use?

Even though I know this chance encounter between two of my favorite Masters never actually occurred (though I secretly hope it did), the weighty implications of this fictional exchange are obvious.

The power of a photograph is no more coupled to the superiority of one’s camera than are the words of a good story which move us to emotion. While it’s true that cameras are indeed the tools of our trade, and those tools vary in terms of capability, there seems today to be a sort of “cart before the horse” mentality. It looms heavy over the majority of the photographic community; a mentality which implies that if your photographs aren’t up to your expectations, the quickest remedy is to buy a better camera.

Upgrade, upgrade, UPGRADE! That’s the song often heard. Upgrading your camera is a natural facet of the evolution of any photographer. I’m not in disagreement with that notion. However, what if I told you that getting a new (or new to you) camera should be more of a last resort than a first idea?

Today, we’re going to talk about four signs that it’s NOT time to upgrade your camera.

You’re still “figuring out” what you want to do with your photography

About 300 years ago (it seems), when digital cameras were becoming relatively cost-effective for the average shooter, I began thinking about switching from my film SLR to a DSLR. I searched around and was advised on a camera that would be “magic” for the work I was trying to do. The problem was that I had no real idea of what that work actually would be.

Much like a certain popular character from a certain popular TV show…”I knew nothing.” I went with the camera others told me I should have and went after the sort of photography jobs (wedding, portraits, events) that were available in my area. I had upgraded my camera – not for any true physical or technical need – but rather because I thought that a new camera was necessary for the task at hand.

In fact, I hadn’t stopped to think about what I wanted to do and how I should go about doing it before I took the plunge. It was like buying brushes before knowing how to paint.

If you’re still wondering what kind of photography is “right” for you, a good starting point would be to continue working with whatever camera you have right now. Shoot everything and anything with it: people, events, landscapes, nature, street, and still life.

Only after you see yourself leaning to one side should you begin thinking about upgrading the tools you need to accomplish a better outcome.

You’re stilling using the “kit lens” that came with your camera

Your brain is an amazingly complex, incredibly capable bio-computer which we’ve only begun to understand. Yet without input and feedback from our senses, the brain is just – well – a brain. It only knows it’s environment based on the information allowed to pass along to its consciousness.

The same is true for our cameras.

A digital camera can sport the most beautifully huge sensor that somehow produces no noise even at 4 billion ISO. Or, has enough megapixels to make enlargements larger than the Earth and still it would be reliant on the information passed to it by its lens. In the end, it is the lens that dictates the quality of the raw informational light the camera will use to build an image.

So why do so many of us put more emphasis on the camera instead of the lens?

Especially today, the lenses which come with bundled camera kits are generally much sharper and faster than previous packages offered ten or fifteen years ago. This is likely due to the higher expectations of the “average photographer” – if there is such a thing.

Still, if the reason you’re considering upgrading your camera is wholly due to a lack of sharpness or low-light performance, then I urge you to first invest in a higher quality lens. Please note that higher-quality does not translate into high prices. Many prime (non-zoom) lenses with maximum apertures of f/2.8 and larger offer excellent optics for under $300 with slightly used models going for even less.

Always remember that an inferior camera with a superior lens will almost always perform better than a superior camera with an inferior lens. To that end, consider upgrading your lens before the camera body.

You’ve never gone fully manual

The functional operations of producing a photograph are surprisingly simple. In terms of image-making settings for our camera/lens, there are only three things we can directly control, which determine the overall outcome of our exposures; shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. These are essentially all we have to select to produce a digital image.

However, choosing those three parameters can instantly fill us with terror. Instead of taking full control of our photographs, we often choose to rely on aperture or shutter priority modes (which are usually quite good these days). Alternatively, we release the reigns entirely and allow our cameras to make the big decisions for our exposures by choosing Auto Mode.

I’ll admit this subject is a slippery slope. I’ve said many modern cameras perform beautifully when operating in these semi-automated shooting modes. Still, without the conscious and deliberate control of the user, a camera is, well, just a camera.

For whatever reason, if you find yourself never determining the “big three” settings of your camera and notice your photos lacking in their technical or creative merits, I urge you to begin shooting in manual mode.  Entirely new doors will open up to you when you begin to understand the relationships between motion and shutter speed, or depth of field and aperture. Not to mention the brilliant nuances of working with ISO settings. Once you’ve discovered these possibilities, it will likely become clear that it doesn’t make sense to upgrade your camera in the hopes for a better automatic shooting experience.

First, try to assume a more dynamic role in determining the technical aspects of your photographic experience. Then decide if it truly is time to upgrade your camera.

You think your photography isn’t as good as someone else

This is the big one. It is the number one reason why you shouldn’t run out and upgrade your camera without first doing some serious self-inventory. You’ve seen someone else’s body of work, and instantly it registers in your mind “if only I had the camera they use,” or “no wonder their pictures are so good, look at that camera!”

In this situation, I default back to that epic fictional meeting between Ansel and Ernest. The obviously secondary nature of the tool of choice becomes readily apparent next to the prowess of its owner. I doubt few of us could pen another “The Old Man and the Sea” if supplied with the stationary and typewriter of Hemingway. It’s unlikely we might reproduce “Moon over Hernandez” if gifted the same camera and film as Ansel Adams used on that fateful evening in New Mexico.

The point is that it’s not the camera that makes the photograph. A camera is merely a conduit for the expression of skill and emotion of the user.

If you find yourself in pure envy of a certain photograph, an easy misstep is to wonder what type of camera or lens they used. The more difficult aspect to understand is that a person made the image; a person who was feeling a certain way at the time of capture – someone who was empowered by their knowledge and skill to produce a photograph.

The camera may have been the method to transform light into a photograph, but the power and the emotion conveyed through that photograph was born elsewhere.

I can assure you, upgrading your camera will not instantly make you a better photographer; only learning can do that. A camera doesn’t make a photograph; only a person can do that.

Some final words on cameras…

We’ve dipped into some heavy ideas in this article when it comes to all the reasons you should think twice before upgrading your camera. However, with anything that involves “art” and self-expression, these ideas are far from being absolutes.

In the end, only you can decide whether or not a new or different camera will nudge you along the path to fulfilling your potential as a photographer. It’s not a process you should enter into lightly or without solid reasoning.

Socrates said, “Know thyself.” That’s good wisdom.

If you find yourself looking at your current camera with a growing sense of disgust, ask yourself whether the performance you find lacking stems from the tool or the craftsman? In both cases, you can remedy the problem easily. You can obtain new cameras and acquire new knowledge. The trick is knowing which one you need more.


The post Four Signs it’s NOT Time to Upgrade Your Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Get Moving – Four Ways to Create Abstract Light Trail Photography

Mon, 07/08/2019 - 10:00

The post Get Moving – Four Ways to Create Abstract Light Trail Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Light trail photography is a unique facet of photography. By combining slow shutter speeds with light and camera movement, fascinating abstract photography can be made. Here are four abstract light trail photography techniques to experiment with in your own photographic practice.

What is abstraction?

Before we get started, let’s talk about abstraction. Abstract photography (often called non-objective, experimental or conceptual photography) is photography that does not have an immediate association with the visual world. Instead, abstract photography uses aspects like color, light, texture, shape, and form to evoke an emotional response from a viewer.

Often, in light trail photography, light trails complement a scene or subject. However, in abstract light trail photography, it’s the light trails themselves that are the sole conveyor of meaning. By erasing any other context, the viewer relies solely on the nature of light and photography to read a photograph. This creates intriguing photography that captures and holds the attention of the viewer as they visually unpack the image before them.

When to make abstract light trails

Although it can be done in daylight, abstract light trail photography is best carried out in the evening, at night, or in a dark room indoors. This is to minimize distraction and enhance the efficacy of our chosen light source/s.

What to photograph for abstract light trails

Traffic lights, building lights, car lights, phone light, glow sticks, torches, neon signage… there is an abundance of light sources available to photograph at night. With the right camera settings and technique, almost any point of light can be used to create an interesting light trail.

Camera tossing

Abstract light trail photography rests on the nature of the light source/s (brightness, movement, color etc) and the behavior of the camera (exposure settings, camera movement etc). For example, during a long enough exposure, a set of car lights will leave a trail as they pass by, whereas a stationary light source requires camera movement to activate an abstract light trail. Camera tossing predominantly involves the latter, physically moving the camera to achieve interesting abstract light trail results.

Taken over two seconds at f/4 and ISO 100, this tangle of lights demonstrates the path of the camera as it is tossed in the air.

A disclaimer…

Camera-tossed abstract light trails involve the tossing of a camera into the air during an exposure. Purists argue that a true camera toss means that the camera is tossed without the use of a guiding hand or camera strap. This is why for this method, I strongly advise you to use an old, cheap camera. A compact camera works well. You can even use a phone with a durable case.

I wouldn’t recommend taking your DSLR out for some air-time (although I must admit I did use my 5D MKII with a 50mm lens for some camera tossing sessions). If you aren’t keen on risking your camera, (which is totally understandable) skip forward to camera swinging and keep an eye out for old tossable cameras on sale or in local charity shops.

How to camera toss

The first step to camera tossing is to find somewhere safe to toss. Camera tossing in a quiet location, over grass or carpet is a good idea.

Once you’ve found a good spot with an interesting light source or two, it’s time to organize your camera settings. I went with a shutter speed of one or two seconds to allow the camera movement to really gain traction. I then set my aperture to f/4 and my ISO to 100.

Set your focus to manual. Aim your camera lens at the light source/s and adjust your focus. You can aim for the sharp rendering of the light source/s, or take intentionally unfocused shots for softer light trails.

Depress the shutter button and quickly toss the camera in the air (10-30 cm is high enough, though you can go higher if you’re game). Catch the camera as gently as possible and have a look at your results. Make any amendments to your exposure and have another go.

When you are happy with your exposure and focus, start introducing different throwing methods. Try spinning the camera as you flick it into the air, or throwing it carefully so that the lens is orientated at a particular angle for the duration of the exposure. The results between different throwing techniques can be quite pronounced, so take some time to experiment a little.

Taken at f/8 at 1/4th of a second, I left my lens unfocused to introduce a soft quality to the resulting photograph.

Camera swinging

A variation on camera tossing, camera swinging involves swinging your camera by your (firmly secured) camera strap.

Find a light source and take a few photographs to determine exposure and focus. Just like camera tossing, you want a longer shutter speed to give the camera movement time to take shape. For camera swinging, I started with an exposure of two seconds at f/4 with an ISO of 100.

Once you’ve settled on an exposure, make certain that your camera strap is fastened to your camera. Double-knot, even triple-knot your strap to hold it in place. You really don’t want your camera to go flying once you start swinging.

Two examples of camera swinging. Different light sources make varying light trails.

When you’re ready, depress the shutter button and have a go at gently swinging your camera back and forward like a pendulum. When the exposure finishes, check your results and make adjustments to your camera settings or technique as required.

The possibilities for camera-swung imagery are endless. Each swing creates unrepeatable paths of light from one image to the next, so again, don’t be afraid to experiment a little. Try jumping while swinging your camera or spinning around in a circle with your camera fastened to your wrist.

Moving your body

Not all abstract light trail photography is based around swinging and tossing your camera. Light trails can also be created by moving your body with a camera in hand.

Locate an interesting light source and figure out your exposure with a few test shots. I found that the combination of a one-second exposure at f/4 with an ISO of 100 was a good starting point.

Depress the shutter button and start moving. Ever seen those inflatable tube men, dancing around in the wind? Well, you don’t have to go THAT crazy, but shifting your arms up and down, twirling around, doing a little dance or moving from a sitting position to a standing position are great examples of camera-body movement.

As long as the shutter is open, and the lens is pointed toward a light source, the movements you make will be recorded in the image, creating kinetic abstract imagery.

Moving subjects

As an alternative to moving yourself around, photographing a moving light source can create dynamic light trail imagery too.

Star trail photography is the photography of stars as they appear to transit the night sky. Though it is us that is rotating on earth, the star trails illustrate our perception of the celestial sphere as a moving body.

Car trail photography records the movement of car lights in darkness, revealing trails that trace the routes of traffic in a given setting. For a more abstracted image, isolate the car trails from the surrounding landscape.

Physiography is a method of light painting that can be done in your darkened living room. Suspend a light source on a string and let it swing over your camera during a long exposure. The results are often surprising and intricate, documenting the path of the light source as it swings through the air with diminishing momentum.

This physiogram traces the path a moving light source has taken while suspended over a camera

Burning steel wool photography is another form of recording light trails. Though it can be a little hazardous, the results are quite spectacular.

Burning steel wool leaves golden trails of light not dissimilar to this example of camera movement.


When the day turns to night, many pack up their photography gear and head home. But night time doesn’t necessarily mean that photography is over for the day.

Creating abstract imagery with light is an intriguing aspect of photography. Through the use of camera and/or subject movement you can create fascinating imagery that engages and intrigues an audience.

Go out and try these techniques for yourself, and share your abstract light trail photography with us in the comments below.


The post Get Moving – Four Ways to Create Abstract Light Trail Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Generalist vs Specialist Photography – What Best Describes You?

Sun, 07/07/2019 - 15:00

The post Generalist vs Specialist Photography – What Best Describes You? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

Are you a photographer who drills deep and specializes in one area, or a generalist who casts a wide net and photographs everything?

From these two worlds come specialists such as Ansel Adams (black and white landscapes) and Yousuf Karsh (portraits), as well as generalists such as Joe McNally and Steve McCurry.

Sometimes specialists and generalists have a hard time understanding each other’s approach. To the generalist, you’re too narrow, and to the specialist, you need to settle down and find your niche.

There are arguments (many of them coming down to skill level or money) as to why you should be one or the other. But I think that being a generalist or a specialist is connected with your nature as a person. If you’re a generalist at heart, try as you may, you’ll likely never specialize. If you’re a specialist, you’ll never see the sense of photographing such a wide variety of subject matter. And that’s okay. You can love what you do either way, and you can make a living with it either way.

Let’s look at the nature of specialist and generalist photography and discover the value of each. Understanding what you were built for will give you the confidence to stop doubting your approach and move forward with purpose. You’ll also better appreciate what other photographers are up to, even if you feel like the opposite of them.


A specialist digs deep into one area of photography and masters a constantly growing number of details. Things are often more predictable for the specialist, they know all the ins and outs of their branch and style of photography.

It may be the same subject matter over and over but the variety is in the details. This may sound rather monotonous to the generalists, but there is great joy in digging deep for the specialist.

As a result, specialists have a clear niche. It’s never in question, it’s never difficult to explain what they do.

Waterscapes are not what I’m best at, but I pay attention to everything I’ve learned and those who specialize in waterscapes so that I’m able to take a nice photo when there is a chance.

Specialist photographers are organized and excellent at managing their shoots because they’ve done it the same way so many times. They notice the tiniest details that the generalist easily overlooks (and perhaps doesn’t see the importance of). There is often more concern about the details of this one branch of photography than the big picture of photography in general.

As a specialist, you may photograph the same thing for your whole life or career. It’s not that you never try anything new, it’s that you have drilled deeply into one thing and know it well. You are also well-known for it. As a specialist you can say, this is what I’m good at, this is what I do.

Among DPS writers, Darina Kopcok (food photography), and John McIntire (portraiture) are good examples of specialists. We might also think of:

  • Richard Avedon – fashion and portrait photography
  • Diane Arbus – B&W portraits of people on the fringes of society
  • Ansel Adams – B&W landscape photography


Generalists work with many different types of photography. If you’re a generalist, you’re happy to learn from all the specialists, but can’t narrow it down to one thing yourself. You can’t help but photograph whatever ends up in front of your lens. Photography is unpredictable, and spontaneous for generalists. You never know what the day is going to look like. Newborns, landscapes or sports cars could be your next project!

Generalists love road trips and exploring new places. They take what they’ve learned from the specialists and explore the world with it.

There is a good chance that your specialist photographer friends will find your approach a little too chaotic or whimsical. On the other hand, they may envy you a bit as you seem so free to explore. Perhaps the same way you envy them for their deep technical skills in areas that you tend to skim over.

Generalists are a little more comfortable with the chaos and unpredictability of pursuing different types of photography. There is a great joy in the variety of discovery for the generalist.

Inspired by those who specialize in travel photography, I had in mind all those interesting situations and colors you see in travel photos. The colors pop against the neutral background and there is an awkward sense of balance (or is it imbalance?) to the photo.

As a generalist, you should certainly stick with one thing until you get good at it. But it definitely be will more about learning the principles of photography and then applying them broadly, rather than digging in as deep as you can. You’re more “big picture” than detail-oriented.

You’re often exploring, experimenting, and consolidating what you’ve learned, then repeating the process until a distinct body of work begins to appear over time.

You can’t stick to one thing because so many things excite you. But look for the common link in your work. For me, it’s awkward, candid, gritty, real human nature. Even a landscape has got to have character.

I couldn’t resist the reds and the shadow.

As a generalist, you will shoot your own style across many types of photography. You accept the joy and challenge of applying techniques to new unexpected situations. Even if you feel overwhelmed, leap in, and figure it out.

Among DPS writers, have a look at Andrew Gibson. Then lookup:

  • Steve McCurry
  • Joe McNally
  • Jay Maisel

As we walked down the street in a small town, I noticed this man repainting a house. I thought that’s the sort of thing a street photographer might photograph. So I did likewise.

Is one way the right way?

Sometimes generalists feel inferior because they don’t have an obvious specialty. They are often referred to as a “Jack of all trades, but master of none.”

The specialist can confidently say, “I shoot stylized, strobe-lit weddings.” While the generalist says, “I do weddings too… and newborns and sports cars and landscapes and, and, and.”

But here is what they have in common. They have both studied light, moment, color and gesture among other things. But one applies that knowledge deeply in one specific scenario, while the other applies it broadly in many scenarios.

So the generalist is not so much a “Jack of all trades” but someone who has ‘mastered’ light (as has the specialist) and applies the knowledge more broadly.

Whether you’re a generalist or specialist, there is always going to be more to see and more to learn. When I hit slumps in my photography, I stop and ask what I’m missing. What interesting things are right in front of me that I’m not noticing?

It’s not that either approach is right or wrong. They are different paths. They are different ways to explore, learn and apply.

Being a generalist doesn’t mean that people can’t point to anything specific about your work. And being a specialist doesn’t mean that you never try anything different. But you can find a home in either approach and visit the other every now and then.

So which are you; a generalist or a specialist?


The post Generalist vs Specialist Photography – What Best Describes You? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

Godox SL60W Review – A Light for Those that Don’t Like Flash

Sun, 07/07/2019 - 10:00

The post Godox SL60W Review – A Light for Those that Don’t Like Flash appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sean McCormack.

The SL60W is a monobloc-style LED continuous light from Godox. Godox is probably more well known for its excellent flash systems, which incorporates everything from small Speedlites to 600W battery flashes. We’ll see if they can also match this excellence in continuous light with the Godox SL60W.

About the light

While taking the look of a monobloc, the Godox SL60W is actually smaller than a typical studio flash head. It still weighs in at a hefty 1.6kg. First impressions of this light in the box were that it was a little smaller than I expected and that although it looked plastic, it looked well made.

Removing the light hood revealed the LED itself and the aluminum heatsink. It gave the light an immediate hi-tech look – instantly increasing the perceived build of the lamp. The heatsink, combined with the internal fan, keeps the LED chip cool.

As the LED lamp is a combined controller chip and LED, it means the light has a high CRI, translating to accurate and consistent color in use. Rated at 5600k ±300, this is daylight balanced, which matches your midday light and any flashes you may have.

In the box are a long IEC cable, a Bowens mount reflector and remote control. The remote needs AAA batteries (not included). The remote can be set to 16 channels with 4 groups, the same as the light. This allows for a large number of lights to be controlled remotely. While the remote does appear to allow temperature changes, this light is white light only. You can dim the light from 100-10%. A single pushes give 1% changes while holding down the + or – buttons speeds this up. You can also turn the LED off from the remote, while the light remains powered up.

As well as the remote, you can dim the light from the dial on the back, and power on and off.

The included reflector has a pop-out hole that allows an umbrella shaft to run through, for better on-axis light modification.


The Godox SL60W has the following specifications:

  • AC Power Supply: AC 100~240V 50/60Hz
  • Channels: 16
  • Groups: 6 Groups (A-F)
  • Power: 60W
  • Color Temperature: 5600k ± 200K
  • 100% Illuminance (LUX): 4100 (1M)
  • 100% Luminous Flux: 4500
  • Color Rendering Index: >93
  • TLCI (Qa): >95
  • R9: >80
  • Light Brightness Range: 10%-100%
  • Operation Temperature: 10-50ºC
  • Safe Temperature: <70ºC
  • Dimension: 23X24X14cm (without lamp cover)
  • Net Weight: 1.61kg approx

The key things to note are that the light can be used worldwide and has high color accuracy.

Why continuous light?

Despite having years of experience with flash, I get that it takes time to learn. You’re effectively guessing what the light will look like, every time. With continuous light, there is no guessing. You turn it on and modify it as you see fit. Every change you make is there before your eyes. You can immediately see if it’s bright enough, and whether or not moving the light will improve the shot.

The first and foremost thought about using the SL60W is that what you see is quite literally what you get. No guessing or external metering required. Your in-camera meter will give an accurate reading and those on mirrorless with preview simulation on will see the shot in-camera before shooting (same for Live View users with Exposure Simulation on).

You’re reading this article at a photography site, but it’s worth mentioning that this light is perfect for basic lighting applications for video such as YouTube channels. Yes, it has a fan, but the light position behind camera mixed with directional mics should minimize this during recording.

Changing the look

You may be considering this light for food or product photography, so here’s how you can change the look of the light to get a variety of photo options. There are a few ways of getting modifiers onto the light. The most basic is the umbrella slot in the stand mount, coupled with the standard reflector. You can use either bounce or shoot-through umbrellas for this.

Further options open up with the Bowens mount. Any modifier than can fit a studio light with a Bowens  S-type mount will work. As most studio lights have modeling bulbs that heat up inside the modifier, it should work no bother with the SL60W.

Hard light

With just the included reflector you get a crisp hard light. Placing the edge of the light roughly 2-feet from the side of the plate gives you an in-camera reading of 1/400sec ISO200 at f/2.4. (My Fuji has a default ISO of 200).

By bringing in a white foamcore card from the opposite side, it fills in the shadows. While the hard shadows from the reflector are still visible, the bounced light softened the overall look.

Soft light

By placing a shoothru umbrella on the light, you’ll get a softer light, but at the expense of lower power. This is because you tend to lose about two-stops of light when using any kind of diffuser modifier.

I’m using a Westcott double fold with the black back removed. The umbrella edge is also about 6-inches closer to the plate than the reflector, giving you a reading of 1/160 ISO200 at f/2.4. Not quite a full two-stop drop, but close. Notice how much softer the shadows are, even without a bounce card.


Adding your card again makes a difference. You could increase the shutter speed to compensate, but this sample hasn’t changed to show the increased light in the scene

Lighting product

With photographing products, it’s similar. Here’s the hard light scene on some colorful products. The high CRI means that you know you have good color accuracy here.

First, the reflector.

Using the white reflector card:

And the umbrella:

Finally, here’s how the umbrella looks with the foamcore card.


If you’re shooting for e-commerce, or even like this situation where you need to create product shots for reviews or tutorials, the SL60W makes it remarkably easy.

Here are a few random shots in this vein.

I’ve started making camera wrist straps and bracelets, so this light makes it easy to capture shots of my work.


Again, the “what you see is what you get” factor is great. Using Fuji’s iOS app, I could pose myself easily for this self-portrait. Here I’ve used a Neewer 26″ Octagonal Softbox. This is now my go-to YouTube video setup.


The Godox SL60W is a keenly-priced continuous light with accurate color, good remote control, and more than adequate output for most of your indoor lighting applications. As well as photo applications, you’ll find it’s also usable for video – something more and more photographers are involved in.

If you need more light, the Godox SL200W is a higher-powered option.

I can’t speak to the long term reliability of the product yet, but I do own quite a few Godox products – some for quite a few years – and they still function perfectly.


The post Godox SL60W Review – A Light for Those that Don’t Like Flash appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sean McCormack.

How to Control Depth of Field in Your Photography

Sat, 07/06/2019 - 15:00

The post How to Control Depth of Field in Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

It’s a common misconception that the f-stop you use will control depth of field (DOF). Aperture setting certainly has an influence, but there are other factors to consider.

DOF is the area in a photograph which is acceptably sharp. Lenses can only focus at a single point. There is always a certain amount in front and behind the focus point which is acceptably sharp.

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 85mm, Settings: f2, 1/250 sec, ISO 200 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

This varies depending on:

  • Aperture setting
  • Lens focal length
  • Camera distance to the subject
  • Sensor size.

The transition between what’s sharp and what’s not is gradual. It’s important to learn how to manage the variables to create the look you want in your photographs.

How sensor size affects DOF

The physical dimension of the sensor in your camera affects DOF. Unlike the other variables, it’s not possible for you to change, unless you use a different camera.

Small sensors, such as in phones and compact cameras, give you the most DOF. This is one main reason people upgrade from a phone to a camera. Because they are not able to achieve a shallow depth of field with their phone.

Phone manufacturers are trying to mimic shallow DOF in various ways. But as yet it appears to be little more than a poor gimmick. There is no substitute for size.

Basically, cameras with smaller sensors make photos with more DOF at the same aperture and distance settings. To make comparisons of DOF from different-sized sensors, you must calculate the same effective focal length and aperture settings.

Larger sensors in DSLR and mirrorless cameras have made them popular with video producers. This is because of their capacity for shallow DOF. Traditional video cameras contain small sensors so therefore generally have deeper DOF.

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 105mm, Settings: f3.2, 1/400 sec, ISO 500 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

How camera to subject distance affects DOF

The closer you are to your subject, the less DOF you will have at any given aperture setting, with any lens on every camera. Move further back, and your DOF increases.

This is why it can be challenging when taking close-up photos to have enough DOF. Being very close to your subject may mean you do not get it all in focus. Using macro lenses and close up attachments amplifies this problem.

So if you are still only using your kit lens, you’ll need to move in close to achieve a shallow DOF. This is because these lenses do not have a very wide maximum aperture or long focal length.

Remember that from the point you are focused on 1/3rd of the DOF will be closer to you and 2/3rds of it will be further away. Knowing this can help you choose your point of focus to control you DOF more precisely.

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 105mm, Settings: f3, 1/100 sec, ISO 400 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

How lens focal length affects (apparent) DOF

The longer focal length lens you use the shallower the DOF appears. But it doesn’t actually change.

If you take photos of the same subject with two different focal length lenses, the images made with the wider lens appear to have a deeper DOF. The aperture should remain constant. When you crop the image made with the wider field of view, so the elements in the images are the same size, you will see no real difference.

The idea that longer focal lengths produce a shallower DOF is a myth. Peter West Carey has already written an article for DPS about this based on Matt Brandon’s experimentation. Matt’s images prove the point clearly. It can be a difficult concept to comprehend. Especially if you are predisposed to the popular idea that focal length affects DOF.

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 85mm, Settings: f2, 1/1000 sec, ISO 400 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

How aperture affects DOF

The aperture is an adjustable opening within a lens. The primary function is one of the controls used to control the amount of light entering the camera. A narrow aperture setting lets in less light than a wider setting. The settings are measured in f-stops.

Adjusting the aperture setting, (changing the f-stop value,) not only controls the amount of light entering, but also the DOF. Changing the aperture is the most common way photographers choose to control DOF. The wider aperture the shallower the DOF. So the lower f-stop number you choose (eg. f/1.4), the less of your image will be acceptably sharp. Choosing a narrower aperture, a higher f-stop number (eg. f/22), will render more of your photo in focus.

Lenses are made with differing maximum apertures. Typically a kit lens will have a widest aperture value of f/3.5 when the lens is zoomed to its widest focal length. This value changes the more you zoom in. So the widest f-stop at the longest focal length may only be f/6.3. For information please read the article ‘What The Numbers On Your Lens Mean.’

Prime lenses usually have a wider maximum aperture. This is why they are often favored by photographers who like creating photos with a shallower DOF. Popular 50mm lenses have f-stop settings of f/1.8, f/1.4 or even wider. For more information about zooms and prime lenses please read ‘Primes Versus Zoom Lenses: Which Lens to Use and Why?’

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 85mm, Settings: f2.8, 1/1000 sec, ISO 400 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

How can you see the DOF when composing a photo?

Cameras with digital viewfinders or monitors will display the DOF as it will appear in the photo. Because of the small size, it can be difficult to see clearly unless you zoom in.

Cameras such as DSLRs with optical viewfinders will not allow you to see the effect of the DOF unless you use the DOF preview button. This is because the aperture is automatically set to the widest possible. It is adjusted to the f-stop you’ve chosen as you press the shutter release button. If the f-stop were able to be altered while composing, at narrow apertures, the image would appear dark in your viewfinder. You can see this when you use the DOF preview.

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 85mm, Settings: f4, 1/640 sec, ISO 400 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Manage your DOF well

Keeping all these variables balanced may seem complicated. But it’s important to know how each of them affects DOF so you can manage it well in your photos.

To help you learn how each aspect of DOF works try setting up a few photos and experimenting with them. Not for the sake of making great pictures, but to understand how changing each one affects the look of your images. It will be good to set your camera on a tripod or stable surface for this exercise.

Line up a few objects in your frame which are at different distances from your camera. Set your aperture to its widest – the lowest f-stop number (eg. f/1.4). Get as close to the first object as you can so that your lens will focus on it.

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 55mm, Settings: f4, 1/30 sec, ISO 400 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Take a photo of it, then focus on another object further away from you and take another photo. Repeat this with each object further away from you as you have in your frame.

Now repeat this process with a middle range aperture setting and then the narrowest your lens has. Try this with different focal lengths as well.

Then move back and make another series of photos the same way. Repeat this process as you move further back from your subject.

Compare the photos side by side on your computer and take note of the differences in DOF between them. Look at the EXIF data so you can see what your aperture and zoom settings were.

Working through an exercise like this will help you learn to control depth of field. As you can see the effects in your photos it will become less complicated.

Let me know in the comments below how you get on.


The post How to Control Depth of Field in Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

How to Recover Deleted Photos from an SD Card

Sat, 07/06/2019 - 10:00

The post How to Recover Deleted Photos from an SD Card appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Theodomentis Lucia.

A while back, all the photos stored on my Sony camera’s SD card were wiped off entirely. Needless to say, it was a nightmare as the SD card had pictures of my last vacation. This got me digging into data recovery for SD cards – as I was not ready to let go of my precious memories under any circumstances.

Thankfully, after some unsuccessful attempts, I was able to get back my lost photos.

I took the assistance of a reliable data recovery tool and followed a stepwise process to recover my lost photos from the convenience of my home.

Is it possible to recover data from SD cards?

Before we get into the details, it is important to answer this million-dollar question.

In a nutshell – yes, you can get back your lost data from an SD card, hard drive, or any other data source.

This is because when you delete data from a source, it isn’t wiped away entirely. Instead, the address allocated to it becomes accessible to be overwritten by something else.

This is where a data recovery tool comes to the rescue. It can help you extract this inaccessible content before it gets overwritten by any other operation.

How to recover deleted photos from SD sards

To get back your lost or deleted data from an SD card, consider using a reliable data recovery tool. Personally, I encountered a few gimmicks and imposters on the web that didn’t yield expected results. Overall, I found Recoverit to be a very good data recovery tool out there. Since it was pretty easy to use Recoverit 8.0, I didn’t have to seek the help of a professional. I downloaded its Windows version. However, you can also get the Mac recovery application as well.

Here’s how I got back my lost photos from my SD card using Recoverit: Step 1: Download Recoverit on your system

Needless to say, you need to start by downloading the data recovery tool on your computer. Just download Recoverit data recovery software on your Mac or Windows. You can get the free basic version if you wish. Although, to enjoy its unlimited features, you can purchase the pro or ultimate subscriptions too.

Step 2: Install and launch Recoverit

When the setup file is downloaded, simply open it and click on the “Install” button to get things started. Follow a basic click-through process to complete the installation and launch Recoverit on your computer.

Step 3: Connect your SD card

Carefully, unmount your SD card from your digital camera or camcorder and connect it to your system. If your computer doesn’t have an inbuilt card reader, then use a dedicated card reader unit to connect it. As soon as it is detected, you will be notified by the system.

Step 4: Select your SD card as a source location

Once you launch the Recoverit data recovery application on your computer, you can view different location options on its home page. This includes internal drives, partitions, and even connected external devices. You can select the drive of your SD card (under external devices) or browse to a specific folder to scan as well.

Step 5: Start the scan

After selecting the SD card as a source location, click on the “Start” button to initiate the data recovery process.

Step 6: Wait for the scan to be over

Sit back and wait for a few minutes as Recoverit Data Recovery scans the connected SD card in an extensive manner. Since it might take a while, make sure that your SD card stays connected to the system during the entire process. There is an on-screen indicator to depict the progress of the scan.

Step 7: Preview the extracted data

Upon the completion of the recovery process, the extracted content gets displayed under different categories. Here, you preview your photos, videos, documents, etc., and select the files you wish to save. The search option allows you to look for specific files in no time.

Step 8: Recover and Save your photos

On the native interface of Recoverit, you can select multiple files as per your convenience. In the end, just click on the “Recover” button to save the selected files. A browser window will open, letting you save these files to a secure location of your choice.


Tips for getting better recovery results
  • Recover the extracted content to a trusted location. Preferably, it should not be your SD card from where you have just recovered your lost photos.
  • After losing your photos, stop using your SD card or digital camera right away. If you restart it a few times, or use it for other reasons, then it might overwrite your old photos. This will make the chances of getting your photos back pretty bleak.
  • If there is no inbuilt card reader slot in your system, consider using a dedicated third-party unit to attach your SD card.
  • Don’t format the SD card or change its file system, hoping to get better results. Simply use a reliable recovery tool as soon as you can get positive results.

That’s it! By following this simple drill, I was able to get back my lost data from my SD card in no time. You can also try the same and perform an SD card recovery from the convenience of your home.

If you have also gone through a similar situation to recover deleted photos and would like to share your experience, feel free to let us know in the comments below.

Download Recoverit Free Version


Recoverit is a dPS paid partner

The post How to Recover Deleted Photos from an SD Card appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Theodomentis Lucia.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Contrast

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 15:00

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is CONTRAST!

Cody Davis

Go out and capture absolutely anything from still life to street photography, landscapes, and portraits. They can be color, black and white, moody or bright. Just so long as there is strong contrast! You get the picture! Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Nicholas Green


Greg Jeanneau


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

Tips for Shooting CONTRAST

How to Make Your Photos Stand Out Using Color Contrast

How to Use Shadow and Contrast to Create Dramatic Images

Add Contrast to Your Images by Using Complementary Colors

How to Improve Your Composition Using Juxtaposition and Contrast

Creating a Black and White High Contrast Portrait Edit in Lightroom

Improving Composition with Tonal Contrast

Getting Better Contrast In Your Photography


Weekly Photography Challenge – CONTRAST

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

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

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

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

Behind the Shot: Fireworks and Lightning

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 11:00

The post Behind the Shot: Fireworks and Lightning appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

31 Days Student photo: Lynn Wernsmann

31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer student, Lynn Wernsmann, captured this amazing fireworks and lightning photograph. To capture this spectacular photo, Lyn used the following camera settings:

I used my Fujifilm XT2 and the 50-230mm lens.

The settings for this shot were f/10, 5sec, ISO 100, 135mm.

I had my camera set on Interval Timer, and I was shooting 20 shots at a time which works well for things like the fireworks.

I was watching the Erie, Colorado fireworks show. It was a last-minute decision to watch this one which is near my home, instead of driving for 30-minutes to watch the fireworks that were happening in Denver.

I started playing with cameras about 15 years ago – the camera I used then was basically a point and shoot. Over the years, I have upgraded slowly to the camera I use now. I have taken classes online and watched a lot of YouTube videos.

My favorite type of pictures are landscapes, sunrises & sunsets, flowers, and macros.

I need to work more on people pictures.

What prompted her to join the class

I wanted to take a class that isn’t a beginning class, but that would refresh some of what I already know, but to also give me some fresh perspective.

One major thing that I want to learn is how to use Flash and some beginning info for Photoshop. This class touched on both of those.

I took Jim’s Nighttime class and found a lot of good information in that one.


31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer is opening its doors again this month. Check it out here and make sure you get the alert when registrations open.

The post Behind the Shot: Fireworks and Lightning appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Do Larger Camera Sensors Create Different Looking Images? [video]

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 10:00

The post Do Larger Camera Sensors Create Different Looking Images? [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this video from fstoppers, they show you whether large sensors create different-looking images to smaller sensors in cameras.


In the video, Lee Morris photographs his friend Keith Bradshaw with four different cameras each with different sensor sizes.

Lee uses the following cameras and settings:

FujiFilm GFX 50R/ x 32.9mm sensor/ 64mm lens f/8

Canon 6D/ 35mm ff sensor/ 50mm f5.6

FujiFilm XT-3/ 23.6mm x 15.6mm sensor/ 35mm f4

Panasonic GH5/ Micro 4/3 sensor/ 25mm f2.8

He shot each image in RAW and only changed the white balance. he also cropped in on all images to hide the 4/3 aspect ratio of the GH5 and GFX.

You may be surprised by the results (or perhaps you already knew this).

Check it out.

You may also find the following helpful:


The post Do Larger Camera Sensors Create Different Looking Images? [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

How to Edit Fireworks Photos Creatively

Thu, 07/04/2019 - 15:00

The post How to Edit Fireworks Photos Creatively appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

I hope you had a chance to read my previous article, “Eight Tips for Better Fireworks Photos” before going out to make your fireworks images and found that helpful.  If so, you should have some good shots to work with here.  If not, these techniques will still work for you if you have some other good fireworks photos.  Either way, let’s see if I can teach you how to do the basic editing on your fireworks images. Then, how to creatively composite your shots and take the “wow factor” up another notch.

You shot in Raw, yes?

I realize that beginning photographers may be making their images with their camera set to save only the .jpg file, perhaps not having the editing tools or having learned to edit a Raw file.  While that’s not a deal-breaker, you will find doing so causes the camera to do much of the editing itself, using the camera’s built-in .jpg algorithm to “cook” the final image for you.  Perhaps while you are still a novice image editor, (cook), editing raw files can seem intimidating, and you may feel the camera is a better cook than you are.

The trouble is, with something like your fireworks photos, you will want as much latitude for creative editing as possible as well as much file information as the camera originally captured.  Letting the camera create a .jpg image lets it make the creative decisions and also throws away information you might have needed.

You will still be able to use the steps outlined here to edit a .jpg file.  Just understand things might not work as well.  One final plug for shooting Raw files before moving on – Almost all pros do, and that’s the level of work you want to create, right?  ‘Nuff said.

This effect is what I call the “boom-zoom-bloom.” You’ll have to read Part One of this series if you missed how to create it.

Editing tools

The workflow described here assumes you will be using the editing programs I use for working with my images; Adobe Lightroom Classic and Photoshop.  Other editing programs may work equally well such as Photoshop Elements or another favorite of mine, Corel Paintshop Pro.  Use what you have and know; just understand the steps here are using the Adobe programs.  I will also sometimes use plug-in filters such as those in the Nik suite, Topaz Labs or Aurora.

Basic editing of a fireworks photo with Lightroom

This is my workflow with an image in Lightroom.  Much of the work simply involves moving each adjustment slider up and down to see what you like.  Playing is encouraged.

  • White Balance – You shot in Raw, right? Good, because if so, you can take the white balance wherever you like. Play with the Temperature and Tint sliders and get the colors you like.  Because fireworks have no “correct” color your viewer expects, you can pretty much adjust white balance however you like.  Although, if you’ve included foreground objects, you may want to use those as a reference in determining what is realistic.
  • Basic Controls – Play with the Exposure, Contrast, and other sliders to bring the image to your liking. If your highlights are a little bright, (but still not blown out), you can bring them back with the Highlights slider. You might also want to bring down the Blacks if the sky needs darkening
  • Adjust colors with the HSL/Color sliders. You can play with the Hue, Saturation, and Luminance sliders to tweak colors to your liking. Don’t forget to try the Targeted Adjustment Tool to pick and adjust specific colors in your image.
  • Dehaze – The Dehaze tool could be your friend and help reduce smoke in the shot if it became a problem.
  • Clarity and Texture  – These controls can give your fireworks images extra sharpness and pop.  Also, try sliding these controls toward the left for different looks.
  • Vibrance and Saturation – With standard photography, these two are typically used conservatively, particularly Saturation which is a bit of a sledgehammer. With firework images, however, often you are going for “pow,” so go ahead and play… it’s your shot.  Oversaturation will blow out details.  Watch each histogram RGB channel.  A histogram off the right edge means you’ve oversaturated that color.
  • Detail – Some sharpening can be good. The two best tools in this group for fireworks images are the Masking Tool and Noise Reduction/Luminance. Sharpen your image as desired.  Then, hold down the Alt key, (Option on Mac), and drag the Masking slider to the right.  What appears white will be sharpened, what is black will not.  The idea to allow the fireworks to be sharpened, but not the dark sky. As for Noise Reduction, if you shot at a low ISO you probably won’t need much. Use as little as needed here.
  • Consider saving settings as a Preset.  If you’ve used the sliders to get your image just right, you might want to apply the same settings to some of your other fireworks photos.  Saving the settings as a preset will allow you to apply the same look with a single click.
Other tools

I mentioned using plugins as options in your editing.  The sky really is the limit here.  Here are a few I have and sometimes find useful with fireworks photos:

Nik – Color Efex Pro, Viveza

Topaz Labs – Adjust, Denoise, (probably others too, I just I don’t have them).

Aurora HDR – You can work with a single image here not needing multiple shots as with traditional HDR work and can get some interesting looks.

Compositing for drama

Sometimes the best fireworks photo is a composite of several photos.  You can layer multiple images and create your own grand finale.  You can also put fireworks over places where they weren’t, but to your thinking should have been.

Confession time.

The image of the Boise (Idaho) Depot I used in the previous article, (and repeated above), is a composite.

They do have fireworks shows over this iconic landmark in our city; I’ve just never been there for a show.  I did, however, have nice nighttime images of the depot and also fireworks photos from another time and place.  With compositing, I created the image I wished I could have captured live but wasn’t there for.  What can I say, creative license, right?

So, you have a great fireworks photo.  You have a great night shot of a landmark or scene where you’d have liked to have captured a fireworks show.  Here’s how you make those come together.

Time for layers

If you only edit with Lightroom, this will be the end of the road for you.  Lightroom doesn’t do layers and they are a must for this technique.  Photoshop does layers, as does Photoshop Elements, Corel Paintshop Pro, and probably a few other editing programs.  Layers capabilities are a must for compositing. So, your editing tool of choice must have them.

Compositing images is a pretty advanced technique in some cases. However, because the background of your fireworks photo is likely to be black or very dark, things become much easier.  Learning compositing using fireworks images can be a great way to begin learning about layers, masks, and compositing in general.

Step-by-step compositing
  1. Open your fireworks image in Photoshop (or your editing program of choice).  You can open Photoshop first and then open the image or send it from Lightroom – (Photo/Edit In/Edit in Adobe Photoshop)

    How to send an image from Lightroom to Photoshop for editing. You can also send multiple images as layers in Photoshop, useful when doing the “Grand Finale” composites described later in this article.

  2. Open your other location photo, also in Photoshop.  You will have the fireworks photo and the scene photo each on separate tabs at this point. Just a note when selecting the scene photo: Select one that has a logical view, angle, and lighting that it will seem consistent with having fireworks in the shot.  Obviously, a daytime image or an image without much sky is just going to look weird.
  3. Go to the image of the fireworks.  Crop it to include just the fireworks section you want if you didn’t do this in Lightroom first.  Then Select All (Ctrl-A, Cmd-A on a Mac), Copy (Ctrl/Cmd-C)
  4. Go to the other tab with the Scene and hit Ctrl/Cmd-V for Paste.  The firework image will be placed as a layer on top of the scene image.
  5. With the fireworks layer selected, select the Screen blending mode.  The dark parts of the sky will become transparent and the fireworks will be superimposed over the underlying Scene image.

    Use the Screen blending mode and the black in the fireworks photo will become transparent showing the underlying image.

  6. You will need to place and size the fireworks where you want them over the Scene shot.  Use Free Transform for that.  With the fireworks layer still the one selected, Ctrl/Cmd-T.  Then hold down Shift and drag from a corner handle to resize while maintaining the aspect ratio of the fireworks image.  Click, hold and drag in the middle of the shot to move the overlying fireworks where you like.  Don’t worry about some of the fireworks perhaps appearing in front of things.  You’ll handle that in the next step.

    The fireworks moved and sized to put them where desired. Note: leaving a little overlap will add depth and make the composite look more realistic. You’ll clean-up in the next step.

  7. To touch up areas where the fireworks might overlap an area they should be behind, (note the fireworks overlapping the tower in my shot and the roof at the bottom), you will create a Layer Mask. Click the icon that looks like a rectangle with the dark circle in the center  A mask will be added to your fireworks layer.
  8.  With Black selected as your foreground color and the mask selected, use the brush tool to paint out areas where the fireworks overlap the foreground.  You want the fireworks to look like they are behind any foreground objects.
  9.  You may find areas in the fireworks layer weren’t black enough that the Screen blending mode eliminated them.  This might work for you –  With the fireworks layer selected, (not the mask, the layer itself), open the Camera Raw Filter (Ctrl-Shift-A).  Just the fireworks layer will appear in Camera Raw.  Take the Blacks slider down (left) to see if you can darken the problem areas.  Also, try the Shadows and Exposure sliders, but pay attention to how the fireworks are affected.  When you click OK, you will be returned to the Photoshop main window.  See if the problem is gone.  If not, use the brush on the mask as you did in step 8 to clean up any remaining areas.

This grand finale was captured in one 6-second shot and is not a composite.

The Grand Finale

The most exciting part of a fireworks show is when they shoot off a flurry of fireworks in rapid-fire fashion.  It can also be one of the harder parts of the show to photograph.  Sometimes the intensity of so many fireworks bursting in the air can result in a blown-out, overexposed mess with the settings used for most of the show not right now.

What to do?  How about creating your own finale with the compositing technique we just explored but this time, layering several fireworks images to build-up your finale shot.

When things really got crazy during the grand finale, the same 6-seconds was too much and the image was blown out. Look at the histogram. There’s no recovering highlights when they are pushed off the right side of the histogram. Way too overexposed!

Use the same steps as with the composite image we just covered. Stack up several layers of fireworks shots each on its own Photoshop layer.  Then turn on the Screen blending mode on all layers but the bottom one.  Use the technique as before, blending and masking as necessary.

Here’s what that might look like.

Position and clean each layer with a mask as before where necessary.  Voila!  Your own grand finale.

Fun even when the smoke clears

For most spectators, the fun of a fireworks show is over when the last boom is heard, and the smoke clears. As a photographer with editing skills, however, you can continue to create all kinds of exciting images with the fireworks shots you captured.  Using the editing and compositing techniques here will not only help you produce some great fireworks images but grow your editing skills in general.

Now, go have a “blast.”

Feel free to share your fireworks images with us in the comments below.



The post How to Edit Fireworks Photos Creatively appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

Canon’s Newest Camera Will Be Funded by…Indiegogo?

Wed, 07/03/2019 - 20:46

The post Canon’s Newest Camera Will Be Funded by…Indiegogo? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Just this week, Canon began promoting its newest product, the IVY REC: a tiny camera that clips onto a keychain, a necklace, and basically anything else you can think of.

The IVY REC is billed as “shockproof” and “waterproof,” which makes it a convenient piece of kit for adventure-type shooting. It features a 13-megapixel camera that shoots both stills and video up to 60 frames-per-second at 1080p. And it includes wireless and Bluetooth connectivity, so you can easily transfer your media from camera to computer.

It’s an unusual piece of kit for a company like Canon, which specializes in higher-end imaging equipment, rather than this type of “go anywhere” camera.

But the most unusual aspect of this new camera is the funding method:

The IVY REC is set to launch on Indiegogo.

Indiegogo is one of the most popular crowdfunding sites out there, and it generally aims to give start-ups a chance to make big products without spending lots of cash upfront.

On a website with “indie” in its name, a giant such as Canon seems rather out of place.

Which begs the question:

What is the point of this new method of funding? Canon undoubtedly has the money to push the IVY REC through to production.

One possibility is that Canon is testing the waters with this camera, and wishes to do so while spending as little money as possible. If Canon doesn’t know how the IVY REC will be received, perhaps it’s being crowdfunded in a referendum of sorts: If the camera gets funded, then it’s a good idea, one worth pursuing. And if the camera fails in its funding, then it shouldn’t have been produced in the first place.

Of course, this strategy goes beyond marketing research. If the IVY REC is successfully funded, Canon ends up with a bonus: a nice pot of cash with which to build and promote the product.

Another possibility is a bit more unsettling: Canon is using Indiegogo for free publicity, in an attempt to promote a camera that Canon would have otherwise been willing to spend its own dollars on.

Either way, I’m not entirely comfortable with this move by Canon. Sites like Indiegogo help solo entrepreneurs and small startups turn their dreams into reality. Canon’s presence on the site will likely take money away from those who genuinely need the cash.

But I’d like to hear your thoughts:

Why do you think Canon has turned to crowdfunding for this camera? How do you feel about this strategy?

Also, would you fund (or buy) the IVY REC?

Let me know in the comments!

The post Canon’s Newest Camera Will Be Funded by…Indiegogo? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Nikon Dropping 1/3rd of Its DSLR Lineup in Move to Mirrorless

Wed, 07/03/2019 - 20:37

The post Nikon Dropping 1/3rd of Its DSLR Lineup in Move to Mirrorless appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

As of July 2019, Nikon has eight active DSLR models.

And of these eight models, three of them are rumored to be the end of their camera lineup. In other words, there will be no replacement for these bodies; they’ll be the last of their kind.

Now, Nikon will come out with followup models for the Nikon D5, the Nikon D850, the Nikon D750, and the Nikon D7500.

But for the Nikon D3500, the Nikon D5600, and the Nikon D500, it’s the end of the line. According to Nikon Rumors, these camera models will “likely be replaced by mirrorless models.”

(There is no information on the Nikon Df, which came out in 2013 and hasn’t seen an update since.)

Is this a surprise? Or is it what we’ve come to expect in an increasingly mirrorless world?

As for the mirrorless replacements, we know of two new Nikon mirrorless bodies in the works: a 900 dollar mirrorless body and a D5 equivalent. It’s unlikely that the D5 equivalent will be replacing any DSLR, but is instead meant to expand the appeal of Nikon mirrorless cameras to professional photographers. Whether the 900-dollar mirrorless body is a replacement for the D3500, the D5600, or the D500 remains to be seen.

Notice that two of the three DSLRs slated to be dropped are entry-level – in fact, the D5600 and the D3500 are Nikon’s only entry-level DSLR lines.

What does it say that Nikon plans to end both of them?

Clearly, Nikon wants to keep their advanced and professional-level DSLRs going for at least a few more years. This suits serious photographers who are attached to their DSLR kit and plan to hang on for a while longer.

But beginner photographers won’t have much of a choice, as far as Nikon is concerned. Either they can choose what quickly becomes outdated technology, or they can go mirrorless. And if Nikon’s making this move, Canon may not be far behind.

So for beginner photographers, mirrorless cameras are coming for you…

…whether you like it or not.

Now, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you’re a beginner or enthusiast photographer, how do you feel about this move to mirrorless?

And if you’re an advanced photographer or a professional, how will you (or other photographers in your field) handle this shift? Is this the end of DSLRs?

Let me know in the comments right now!

The post Nikon Dropping 1/3rd of Its DSLR Lineup in Move to Mirrorless appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

7 Techniques for Original (and Stunning) Nature Photos

Wed, 07/03/2019 - 15:00

The post 7 Techniques for Original (and Stunning) Nature Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Do you want to capture original nature photos?

The kind of photos that are both stunning and unique?

You can.

While capturing original nature photography might seem hard, it doesn’t have to be.

Because there are a few simple tricks that you can use…

…which will help you create original photos, consistently.

And it’s not about finding new locations.

It’s not even about finding new subjects.

Instead, it’s about looking at the subjects you have in a completely different light.

Let’s get started.

1. Use unusual lighting for surprisingly dramatic shots

For a long time, I felt like my images were frustratingly similar. I couldn’t find any new compositions. I couldn’t create the kind of magic I wanted. I felt like I had hit a wall.

Until I discovered the power of directional lighting.

Now, directional lighting is something that most photographers are familiar with. You get directional lighting when the sun is low in the sky – so that the light hits your subject from a particular direction.

If the light hits your subject from the front, it’s frontlight. If your light hits your subject from the side, it’s called sidelight.

But while frontlight and sidelight are nice enough, they pale in comparison to the power of backlight.

(Which is the type of light that completely changed my photography.)

Backlight comes from behind your subject. If you want a backlit photo, you should make sure that your subject sits between you and the sun – and then point your lens at your subject.

What’s so great about backlight?

Backlight allows you to capture intense, dramatic light. It allows you to create a contrast-heavy photo, one with a beautiful background and a detailed subject.

However, you want to be careful not to create a silhouette. If you underexpose the photo too much, the subject will lose all its detail, leaving you with nothing but a bright backdrop.

So here’s what I recommend:

Point your camera at your subject. And then crouch down so that the sun moves behind the bulk of your subject. If you can block the sun, you’ll reduce the background brightness. And you’ll be able to capture some nice detail in your subject while giving the overall shot some gorgeous background light.

One more tip:

It can be useful to let the sun fall through a background object. If there’s a tree in the background, angle yourself so the sunlight falls through the tree. This will create some spectacular bokeh.

And it’ll take your nature photos to a whole new level.

2. Shoot from strange angles for a completely new perspective

Shooting from new angles is a classic method for capturing original photos.

That’s because it works. Really, really well.

Of course, you don’t want to use the same new angles, over and over again. That will just cause you to fall into a cycle of creating similar photos once again!

Instead, try to find a new angle for every subject you photograph.

I’m a fan of getting down low, and I recommend you try it, too. Crouching, crawling, or even lying on the ground is a great way of opening up more intimate perspectives.

And more intimate perspectives can make for stunningly original images.

Another tip is to make yourself feel disoriented. Try lying on the ground, looking up at your subject. Or try climbing high above your subject, so that you’re shooting straight down.

These particular angles are just starting points. Take them and make them your own. Experiment as much as possible.

That’s how you’ll capture original photos.

3. Apply creative techniques for unique takes on a subject

Another easy way to produce original nature photos is to add something new to your photography arsenal. Something you’ve never tried before.

One way to find these techniques is to look at photographers in other genres. What are they doing that you like? What’s creative about their work? Is there something that you can take from their photos and apply to yours?

I’ll mention just a few creative techniques here. These will give you a sense of the possibilities of nature photography. And they’ll also open up new shots for you, right now.

First, one of my favorite creative techniques is freelensing. This involves detaching the lens from your camera and tilting it in different directions for a tilt-shift style image.

Freelensing will give you some striking images filled with shallow depth of field, gorgeous bokeh, and stunning light leaks.

Second, I recommend trying intentional camera movement photos (or ICM). ICM photos are beautifully abstract and impressionistic.

To capture amazing ICM photos, simply set your shutter speed to something low (in the 1/2s to 1/20s range). Then experiment with moving your camera when you take the photo.

If you persevere, you’ll soon be taking some amazing images!

Third, you should try the ‘shooting through’ technique, also known as ‘cramming.’

Find a subject – then change your angle so that you’re shooting through something in the foreground. This is generally vegetation, but it doesn’t have to be.

If you can create a shallow depth of field, you’ll blow the foreground into a beautiful wash of color. And you’ll capture some highly-unusual nature photos.

4. Create abstracts of your subjects for something impressively different

One thing I love about abstract photography?

It forces you to see your subject in a whole new light.

And that’s why abstract photography is perfect for creating fresh perspectives of a subject.

But this leads to the question:

How do you actually create stunning abstracts?

I have a few tips:

First, get close. For abstract photos, closer is almost always better.

Two, try to think in terms of shapes and lines, rather than subjects. Compose while keeping these geometric elements in mind.

Third, be careful not to underexpose your photos. It’s easy to do this with close-up abstract photography because you lose light as your lens focuses closer. So make sure to compensate for this possibility.

Finally, use your viewfinder a lot. Move your camera, and watch as the composition changes.

And when things start to look really good…

…take your shot!

5. Switch lenses for a fresh focal length (and fresh feel)

Sometimes, all we need to do for a fresh perspective…

…is switch lenses.

After all, you probably use the same lens for your nature photography pretty often. I know that I have a few lenses in my kit that I use regularly.

And this can cause you to get comfortable with your photography. You might struggle to find new images.

So switch lenses. And make the switch as big as possible.

If you’ve been shooting flowers with a long lens, try using something very short. If you’ve been shooting landscapes with a short lens, try to go for something long. And if you’ve been shooting birds with an ultra-telephoto, why not try something that shows far more of the environment?

Whenever I try this technique, it works wonders. The completely new perspective feels wonderfully fresh – and I get photos that I really love.

6. Find a photo you like and take something different

This technique is a tricky one.

If you can do it correctly, you’ll capture stunning original images. But if you approach it without much motivation, you’ll end up creating something boring and derivative.

Here’s how it works:

Start by finding some nature photos you like, but that were taken by other photographers.

Then recreate those photos. Recreate the setup, the composition, everything.

Finally, make three major changes to the shot.

The changes can be anything: settings, lighting, composition, and more. The point is to create a shot that’s radically different from the original, but that still captures the magic that the original possessed.

You can even use some of the techniques from elsewhere in this article. Add in a bit of ICM. Use a wildly different angle.

You’ll ultimately capture an original image. An image you can be proud of.

7. Shoot until you can’t shoot anymore, then keep shooting

Here’s one final technique for original nature photos:

Find a subject. Then photograph that subject as you normally would, taking all the obvious photos.

But then, once you’ve run out of easy ideas…

Keep going.

Keep taking photos.

And keep trying to innovate. Keep trying to find new nature images.

At first, you’ll struggle. You’ll think there’s nothing more that can be done.

But then you’ll start to have new ideas. Your mind will open up.

And that’s when you’ll get some of your most original photos!

Techniques for original (stunning) nature photos: next steps

Capturing original nature photos can be really, really tough.

Or, at least, it might seem that way.

But the truth is:

Anyone can take original nature photos! As long as they know a few simple tricks.

So as long as you follow the techniques laid out in this article…

…your nature photography will be gorgeous, stunning, and – above all – original!

Got any more tricks for original nature photos? Be sure to share them in the comments!


The post 7 Techniques for Original (and Stunning) Nature Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Don’t Lose Your Photos – How to Store Photos While Traveling

Wed, 07/03/2019 - 10:00

The post Don’t Lose Your Photos – How to Store Photos While Traveling appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Travel photography is one of the most fun and rewarding things to do while away from home. But whether you’re a hobbyist or pro, it’s important to have a solid backup plan for your photos. After all, it’s all fun and games until someone loses a memory card; or has a camera stolen; or accidentally formats a card. Catch my drift? There are countless ways to lose your images while traveling. In some cases, there’s a chance for data recovery, and in other cases, it’s pretty much hopeless. So it’s best to plan ahead for the worst case scenario with a backup plan.

Having just returned from several international trips that involved both travel photography and videography, I have a workflow that has kept my data safe. In this post, I’ll share how to store photos with my travel photography workflow.

It’s worth noting that I was traveling for a paid job that lasted three weeks, and I used four different cameras, so my workflow may seem like overkill to some.

However, consider this: there are a plethora of camera devices out there, such as drones, smartphones, mirrorless cameras, and waterproof point-and-shoots. Thus, I don’t think it’s unreasonable that some of you might also travel with multiple recording devices, even if just for a vacation.

What I bring with me Memory cards

You can never have too many memory cards. Some photographers advocate for bringing one memory card for each day that you are traveling, but that can be tough if you’re away for more than 2 weeks. My rule of thumb, especially if I’m recording 4K video, is to bring enough cards to fill my memory card wallet. In my case, I use a Pelican 0915 case that holds a total of 12 SD cards, so I bring 12. When one card is filled, I have the label facing inwards so I know not to use it. If I can help it, I never format or delete a memory card when I’m on the road. Thus, my memory cards are one layer of data protection.

Two portable hard drives

I also bring at least two portable hard drives with me. One is a 1TB Samsung SSD hard drive, which I consider my secondary backup. It’s a bit pricey as far as hard drives go, but considering that it is a compact SSD hard drive, it is fantastic for doing photo and video editing on. I also bring a 4TB LaCie rugged hard drive. Its high capacity storage means I should never run out of space while on a trip. Also, in the case of both the SSD and rugged drives, they can take a bit of a beating, which is also important for travel. Don’t skimp on quality and bring a non-rugged hard drive with you. All it takes is a light blow to destroy them.

Laptop computer

Try as I may, I can’t find a viable travel photography workflow that doesn’t involve bringing a laptop computer, especially if I’m shooting for a client. It’s too important to be able to carefully review all of my work each night and sometimes churn out quick edits on the go. However, if you’re dealing with smaller files or simply lower volumes of media, an iPad could work for you, as long as you can connect your hard drives and memory cards.

Why multiple hard drives?

The thing about hard drives is that they will inevitably crash on you. Sometimes, it’s for an obvious reason (ie. dropping it), and other times it will happen for seemingly no reason at all. Plus, there’s also the danger of losing a hard drive or having it stolen from you. Thus, you want to have at least two hard drives, each with a copy of your photos and videos on it. When traveling, put the hard drives in different bags. That way, you’ll still have a copy if a bag goes missing.

My travel photography backup workflow Before shooting

I almost always use multiple cameras these days including my primary Fujifilm X-T3, DJI Osmo Pocket, GoPro Hero 7 Black, and Samsung Galaxy S10. All four of these devices are capable of capturing high-resolution photos and videos, which is both a blessing and a curse. They all take the same type of memory card (SD card, or microSD with SD card adapter), so the first thing I do is label each memory card with a silver sharpie. I write my last name and a number so I can tell each memory card apart.

I also go into each camera device and make sure the date and time are accurate and synced across all devices. This is especially important if you are on a long trip and are shooting with multiple cameras. If my camera allows for it, I also customize the folder name where the media is recorded to. This helps for distinguishing what media comes from which camera at the end of the day.

After shooting

At the end of each day, I sit down with my laptop and review the day’s media from each camera. I create folders on both hard drives and name the folders based on the date of the shoot, what camera the media is coming from, and how many total items there are (ie. 30 May_Fujifilm XT3_130 Items). Folder name structure is again very important if you’re shooting with multiple cameras on multiple days. It helps you keep your media organized and easy to find.

Going over this process is helpful not only for feeling more inspired to keep shooting, but also to ensure that my gear is clean and working properly. You can only see so much detail from a camera’s LCD preview screen. I make sure that if one memory card is full, I place it label facing down in my memory card wallet so I don’t delete it.

What about cloud backups?

I know some of you will wonder about backing up your photos to a cloud service, and this is certainly a possibility. However, this is highly dependent on two things: 1) what format are you shooting in and how large your files are, and 2) how fast is your Internet upload speed? Personally, cloud backups are not reliable for me mainly because I shoot RAW photos and 4K video. Each is too large to upload to the cloud unless I happen to have ultra-fast Internet speed. However, in a perfect world (i.e., my Gigabit Internet that I have at home), I do cloud backups of my photos and videos on both Google Photos and SmugMug.

In Conclusion

The key to the best photography workflow is to have one in place and do what works for you. Mine is based on my particular needs and shooting style, but it doesn’t have to be what you choose. What’s most important is to recognize that things do go wrong and it’s incredibly easy to lose your photos or videos.

So make sure you have a backup plan in place both on the road and when at home.

What does your photography workflow look like? Let me know in the comments below!


The post Don’t Lose Your Photos – How to Store Photos While Traveling appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

What Size Beauty Dish is Right For Your Portrait Photography?

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 15:00

The post What Size Beauty Dish is Right For Your Portrait Photography? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

Beauty dishes are common and well-loved lighting modifiers. They are particularly useful for portraits (beauty is in the name after all). They also tend to be a lot cheaper than decent sized softboxes. Years ago, your choice of beauty dish was quite limited. Nowadays, if you try searching for beauty dishes, you will be presented with a multitude of options that greatly vary in size and even how they set up.

Although the numbers don’t seem to be that different, the actual sizes of these beauty dishes vary greatly, and they all have a distinct effect on the light in your images.

What do you do when faced with this kind of choice and how do you know what size beauty dish you should buy? This article discusses three common sizes of beauty dishes and shows you what effect they have on your images. All of the beauty dishes discussed here are silver, and none of them are collapsible. As long as they are of decent quality, the fact that a beauty dish is collapsible should have no impact on your images.

What is a beauty dish?

Three different size beauty dishes. Left: 16″ Middle: 20″ Right: 27″

Beauty dishes are bowl-shaped modifiers that are known for the contrasty light they provide. The quality of light is usually somewhere between hard and soft (when brought in close to your subject). This sets them apart from other modifiers, like umbrellas and softboxes, where the goal is to achieve the softest light possible. This allows you to achieve well-defined edges and shadows, but still retain a flattering light on your subject.

This image shows an unmodified beauty dish on the left. A gridded beauty dish in the middle, and a beauty dish fitted with a diffusion sock on the right.

Often, you will find that beauty dishes come with grids and diffusion socks to help modify them further. Grids alter and increase the directionality of the light, while diffusion socks diffuse the light further, softening it a bit and altering the shape.

What sizes are there?

Any search for a beauty dish should reveal a huge amount of results these days. You can find tiny beauty dishes that are only a few inches across that are designed for flashguns and you can find massive beauty dishes that would be ideal for lighting groups of people. This article compares three sizes that fall more into the normal sized category. These are a 27″, 20″ and 16″.

All three beauty dishes were positioned the same distance from the subject to clearly demonstrate the differences in the effect they provide.

1. 27″

At 27-inch in diameter, this beauty dish is at the upper reaches of what you can expect to find in terms of size. When it’s in close, the light it provides is really soft and is comparable to a medium-sized softbox, but with a bit more contrast to it. It also provides large catchlights in your subject’s eyes.

Because of its size, it’s easy to bring the light further away from your subject to achieve a similar effect to that of smaller beauty dishes, while giving you more room to work. This beauty dish would also be great for lighting multiple people, whereas smaller dishes might struggle.

The 27″ beauty dish provides really soft light when placed in close. Pay attention to the shadow and highlight transitions as well as to how the light wraps around the subject.

There are a couple of disadvantages to a beauty dish this big. The bigger the light source is in relation to your subject, the less bright your subject’s eyes are going to be. If you want bright, clear eyes, a smaller beauty dish may be the way to go. It is also harder to control the light fall off (without a grid) as the bigger source will cast more light behind your subject.

2. 20″

The second beauty dish we’re going to discuss comes in at 20 inches. This is pretty close to what may be considered a standard size for a beauty dish (if there is such a thing). Placed a few feet (1-4) away from your subject, the qualities of light it produces are great for all sorts of portraiture and for a wide variety of subjects.

It is great for male and female subjects, though for flattering portraits of older people you may want to consider not using a beauty dish. Instead, opt for large softboxes and umbrellas. As the beauty dish isn’t a great deal bigger than your average subject’s head (from an appropriate distance), you also have good control over the light fall off, and you have even more control when you introduce a grid.

The 20″ beauty dish also provides good, soft light but the edges of the transitions from shadow to highlight are more defined. You’ll also note the light wraps around the subject less and results in darker shadows toward the back of the subject’s head.

3. 16″

This last beauty dish is 16-inches in diameter. This is the size that I have used the most ever since I bought it well over a decade ago. You can see in the images just how battered and well-used it is.

Because it is quite small, it is easy to control and great to bring in really close to your subject. This beauty dish clearly lights and defines your subject’s eyes. The harder light source also provides clearly defined edges between shadows and highlights but in a flattering manner.

If you want to reduce light fall off as much as possible, this size is definitely the way to go. However, if you want to increase it, you are better off with a larger modifier. This is because moving this beauty dish any distance from your subject will result in really hard light that you might find unflattering to most subjects.

The 16″ beauty dish also provides excellent light. Here you can see the transitions from shadow to highlight are clearly defined. Also, the rapid light fall off means the areas towards the back of the subject’s head are more in shadow.

In terms of portability, this size beauty dish is great. It doesn’t weigh very much at all and just carrying it in your hand takes minimum effort.

When used as something other than a key light, this size beauty dish is really effective. Its small size makes it unobtrusive and easy to position anywhere you need, whether that’s for use as a hair light or fill.

What size should you get?

Left: 16″ Middle: 20″ Right: 27″

Some of the differences between these three modifiers can be subtle and hard to spot if you’re new to lighting. If you’re still wondering which you should opt for, my best advice (which is by no means gospel) would be to evaluate what you need it for.

Do you need portability? Get a small one or consider a collapsible one.

Will you be shooting groups of people often? Go for the largest one you can.

Are you shooting in a small space? Go for the small one again.

Are you shooting in a large space where you can’t get the lights very close to your subject? Again, go for the biggest one possible.

Whichever you choose, make sure that it comes with both a grid and a diffusion sock for the most control possible.

No matter which way you choose to go, you are going to find yourself with a versatile and useful modifier that will last you for years.

Have you used these modifiers? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.


The post What Size Beauty Dish is Right For Your Portrait Photography? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

3 Photo Keywording Tools for Little or No Cost

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 10:00

The post 3 Photo Keywording Tools for Little or No Cost appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

Most dictionaries don’t recognize “keyword” as a verb, yet keywording is seen as an arduous task by many photographers. Despite the mundanity, if you want to find specific photos amid a large collection, it helps to keyword them. This article looks at three keywording tools that will hasten the work for little or no cost.

Manual vs automated

The main benefit of laboriously keywording every image yourself is accuracy. You know every word you enter applies to that photo. Or, you have a good-faith belief that it does. Good keywording often involves research, especially if you’re keywording with the aim of selling or licensing photos.


One way to speed up keywording is with the quick keyword lists you find in all software with built-in DAM (digital asset management). Such lists normally need building first, but they cut out typing and thinking time once installed. A similar system is used in paid-for keyword tools.

An ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate quick keyword list, which you can expand if necessary to include many keywords. I also have an organized keyword list under construction.


An even faster way to keyword is by using image recognition software. This populates keyword fields quickly. The main drawback is having to remove a few words from most photos. That’s not a bad trade-off when it works well, since deleting words is less taxing than adding them. You’ll still need to add a few keywords yourself, because software like this tends to identify subjects generically.

Three keyword tools for little or no cost

Keyword software ranges from expensive to free. It can be standalone, plugin, SaaS or web-based without charge. You’re unlikely to want to pay for keywording unless there’s a chance of return on investment. Below are three keywording tools that have little or no effect on your bank balance but which might save you time.

Any Vision Lightroom Plugin

The Any Vision Lightroom Plugin uses Google Cloud Vision technology to recognize the content of photos and populate the LR keyword field accordingly. It’s clever stuff. You can try the same technology out here on image files under 4 MB in size. Google Cloud Vision is the engine behind Google image search. The plugin is available on trial for the first 50 images, after which you must buy a license for whatever price you can afford or deem suitable.

Does it work? I’ve found it to be useful for everyday photos, and it even recognizes a few iconic buildings (e.g. Flatiron building). Yes, I have to cut out a few keywords, but I keep more than I delete. It’s not so good with plant portraits, as it tends to fill the keyword field with the names of various lookalike flowers. But once you know its weak spots, it’s good to have on board.

Any Vision impressed me by identifying the location of this photo (Lyons-la-Forêt), though I’ll still need to add and subtract a few words.

To get Any Vision working after the trial, you must obtain a Google Cloud Key. That’s linked to your Google billing account, but unless you keyword over 1,000 photos a month, you won’t be charged a thing. Bear in mind you won’t need to analyze every image (i.e. you can copy and paste).

IMS Keyworder

The online IMS Keyworder tool is simple to use. Just enter one or two keywords that best sum up the content of your picture, hit enter and click on relevant photos to create more keywords. The keywords that appear are ranked for their popularity with microstock searchers – customers that look for and download photos. This gives you a clue as to how vital a keyword is to your image.

IMS Keyworder shows you how popular search terms with microstock buyers. You can also see how often each keyword appears among your selection.

Other handy IMS features include the ability to bring up a list of synonyms and create templates. You can also embed keywords, descriptions, and captions directly into JPEGs on your PC. This online software is free with the option of making a voluntary payment to the developer.

Xpiks Keyworder

Xpiks is a good open-source program that, like IMS, draws its keyword suggestions from microstock photo libraries. You still need the Internet to use it, but the software exists on your hard drive. And that makes it more versatile since you can add keywords to bigger file formats in the absence of bandwidth restrictions.

Among the useful features of Xpiks are XMP/IPTC/EXIF metadata editing, translation, autocomplete, search facility, spellcheck and, of course, keyword suggestions. If you happen to contribute to microstock libraries, you can also upload photos straight from Xpiks.

A photo of Mont Blanc in Xpiks with 30+ keywords sourced from several similar microstock photos.

Other keywording tools

Among the other third-party keywording tools I’m aware of (free or not) are the following:

  • Akiwi – online drag and drop image recognition, free
  • Excire – Lightroom plugin with AI technology that lets you search without keywords, 99€ one-time cost
  • fotoKeyword Harvester – by Cradoc fotosoftware, long-established company, not free
  • Keyword Perfect – by, responsive developer, not free
  • Keywords Ready – online image recognition technology with 50-image monthly limit, free
  • Microstock Keyword Tool – online tool that harvests keywords from microstock photos, free
  • MyKeyworder – image recognition Lightroom & WordPress plugin, small donation to remove restrictions

Akiwi has a cleanly designed webpage that is simple to use. Image recognition helps you find a maximum of 15 keywords per image.

Keywording tips

If you break keyword lists up into categories and sub-categories, you’ll have the basis of a methodical keywording system. The problem with adding words randomly without any system is one of consistency: you’ll rarely end up with the same set of words twice. And that may force you into trying multiple search terms later when it comes to finding pictures. Even if you use keywording tools to help you, it’s handy to have your own lists of words to add on top.

Excire recognizes content but adds keywords sparingly. It’s a paid-for Lightroom add-on that can search your library to some extent without keywords.

The number of keywords you should add is open to debate, especially if you’re licensing photos for publication. You don’t want to waste picture researchers’ time with loosely related words, but you also don’t want to make photos invisible through minimalism. The same applies for your own purposes. About 10-25 keywords often suffices. Some photos might need more. It’s wise to stick to common words where possible. Long or formal words are less likely to be used in search terms.

The 50-image limit of Keywords Ready is limiting for prolific photographers, but this is free software. It gave me a good selection of words for this photo, save for one or two exceptions (I wouldn’t add “material property”).

Final say

I hope this article has led you to some useful keywording tools. If you get to the stage where you have thousands of untagged pictures, modern AI software will help you narrow down a search. Paid-for keywording software tends to be more methodical than the free stuff. It usually includes a large lexicon of categorized words. But free or inexpensive programs will help you get the work done and make your library searchable.

Have you used any of these? What are your thoughts? Or do you use other keywording tools? Share with us in the comments below.


The post 3 Photo Keywording Tools for Little or No Cost appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

8 Tips for Better Fireworks Photos

Mon, 07/01/2019 - 15:00

The post 8 Tips for Better Fireworks Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

If you’ve been to a great aerial fireworks display, I’m sure you’ve heard the “oohs” and “ahhs” of the crowd, captivated by the colorful spectacle. Here in the United States, the Independence Day holiday is when many of us try our hand at fireworks photography.  I’m sure if you live in other places in the world, you also have holidays celebrated with fireworks.  So how can you capture those moments in a photo and elicit those same “oohs” and “ahhs” from your viewers and achieve better fireworks photos?

Include a landmark, city skyline, or something in your fireworks photo to add interest, place, and story. This is a show over the Boise, Idaho Depot.

Great fireworks photos aren’t difficult, but you will not get them in Auto mode.  You will need to put a little thought into this and learn to take charge of your camera controls.  Try these simple tips, however, and I’ll bet you’ll come back with images that elicit “oohs,” “ahhs,” some likes, and maybe even “wows” from your viewers.

Here are the things we’ll cover for better fireworks photos:

  1. Location
  2. Equipment
  3. Camera settings
  4. Shutter speed choices
  5. Using Bulb mode
  6. Shooting technique
  7. Boom Zoom Bloom FX
  8. The “Black Hat trick”

After you’ve read this article, and made your fireworks photos, be sure to read Part Two – Creatively Editing your Fireworks Photos.

1. Location

You can make good fireworks photos with just an image of the colorful bursts in the sky. But great fireworks photos need something more – an interesting setting or foreground.

Think of displays you have seen taken with fireworks over the Statue of Liberty, the Sydney Harbour, the Chicago city skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge, or Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong.  What makes those shots over the top?  A couple of things;  iconic city skylines and landmarks, and most often, water.

Not only are there interesting things in the shot besides the fireworks themselves, but often with water in the shot, there’s the benefit of colorful reflections.

If you are lucky, the spot where you plan to photograph your fireworks display will also have interesting foreground features and perhaps a body of water.  If so, scout the area ahead of time so you can find a location to best capture those things.

You can pretty much count on a crowd at a fireworks show. Get there early to stake out your spot. Then consider including the location in some of your shots.

You can count on a crowd when you go to a fireworks show.  Plan on getting to your spot early so you can “stake your turf.” Perhaps put out a blanket to ensure an unobstructed view of the show.  Then, if you have no other foreground elements, consider the possibility of making the crowd your foreground, their heads silhouetted against the sky and fireworks.

Another possibility might be to find a less obvious location, not right where the fireworks will be launched.  Perhaps there is a landmark, a tree-line, a high vantage point, or some other spot that will create an interesting foreground that while still including the fireworks, will give context, place, and “story” to your photos.  Doing some scouting long before the night of the show is a good idea.

The first few fireworks of the show will be in clearer sky conditions. As the show continues, smoke may be more of an issue and the sky won’t be as dark with the fireworks lighting the smoke.

2. Equipment

What will you need to make good fireworks photos? Let’s break down the basic equipment needs:


You can make fireworks photos with a cellphone camera if that’s all you have. However, the techniques will be different and the results likely not as impressive.

We won’t get into that here, so let’s assume you have a better DSLR or mirrorless camera with the option for manual control. Be sure to have a good-sized storage card, as well as a spare battery or two, as you’ll usually take lots of shots at a fireworks show.


Fireworks photography will require a steady camera as you’ll be shooting in low light and taking longer exposures. Consider a tripod pretty much mandatory for this kind of work.  An L-bracket on your camera or at least a tripod that will easily allow going from landscape to portrait mode easily is a good thing too. Often you will shoot in both aspects.

Lens Selection

Lens choice largely depends on how close you will be to the fireworks launch location.  If you are really close, you may need a wide-angle to keep the larger bursts in the frame. If, however, you are a long distance from the show or want to compress the apparent distance between your foreground object and the sky bursts, a telephoto might be in order.

I typically use my go-to lens; a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS as it covers a good range. You don’t need a particularly fast lens as you will be working with mid to small apertures and longer shutter speeds. Still, a sharp lens is always a good thing.

Cable Release/Remote trigger

The technique for photographing fireworks will be discussed in a minute, but trust that having a way to remotely trigger your camera will be a real help. One reason is you are presumably going to a fireworks show to enjoy the show.  Having your eye to the viewfinder and your finger on the shutter button the entire time will lessen  the enjoyment of “being there.” It will also introduce camera shake, something you don’t want.

A very basic remote release can be had for under $10.00 US. This is a great item to always have in your bag for many purposes.

The tree line at the bottom of the frame adds some additional interest.

3. Camera settings

If you’ve always worked in Program or one of the Auto modes with your camera, or even if you use Aperture (Av/A) or Shutter (Tv/S) mode, this will be the time to be brave and go to full Manual mode.

Here’s how you want to set up your camera for fireworks photography:

Raw Mode

Real photographers shoot in Raw mode. There are many articles why. If you never have done so before, here’s your chance to try it. You can work in Raw + Jpg if that makes you feel more secure. However, I’m betting you won’t use the .jpg versions.

Full Manual

As described. Be brave. You can do this.

White Balance

As you’re using Raw mode, (you are, yes?), white balance can be tweaked later so it doesn’t matter much what you set for shooting. I tend to leave my white balance in Faithful mode almost all the time.

Sometimes it’s fun to zoom in tighter and get the flurry of action.


Working in low light with dark or black backgrounds and long exposures will tend to introduce noise in your shots. Fortunately, the fireworks are bright, so higher ISO settings won’t be needed.  Instead, use the minimum (ISO 100 on many cameras), and you’ll be fine.

Noise Reduction Off

Many modern cameras have a noise reduction feature, which after the first exposure, takes a second “black frame” exposure, detecting the noise and then subtracting that from the initial exposure. It can work well, but…

The second exposure takes as long as the first, and if you’re making multi-second exposures (for example, that 6-second exposure now takes 12 seconds to finish), your camera will be busy working, and you’ll be missing subsequent fireworks.

Turn it off.  You’ll be using a low ISO with minimal noise anyway, and the delay in being able to make more shots isn’t worth it.


There are two things to consider here:

  1. How much depth-of-field do you need?
  2. What is the “sweet-spot” of your lens?

First, because the fireworks will be a good distance from your camera, you will be focusing on something further away and likely have a pretty good depth of field. Working at wider focal lengths helps too. Plan on being at your location well before the show starts and have an idea where you’ll need to focus and how much depth of field you need.

Secondly, most lenses are at their sharpest between f/8 and f/16.  Learn where your lens performs best, the so-called “sweet spot,” and use that aperture if you can.

Most of the photos in this article were taken at the same show. Also, most were very close in their exposure settings such as this one at ISO 100, 10-seconds at f/8.

4. Making shutter speed choices

Your choice of shutter speed will be important in capturing good fireworks photos. You know when you hear the boom of the launched fireworks from its mortar that it trails up into the sky, explodes, and a beautiful shower of colorful sparks radiates out and trails down.

Often multiple fireworks are launched close together, each doing the same thing. What you’re after is to capture the entire event which can sometimes take several seconds.

You could pick a fixed shutter speed of, say, four seconds, but would that be too short? Too long? Of course, it depends on the individual firework duration or sequence you want to capture, and that will vary during the show.

So how do you choose?

The answer is, you don’t have to because there’s a better way.

Using bulb mode you will be able to hold the shutter open and capture multiple fireworks bursts, closing it when you like.  Note this shot is in portrait orientation.

5. Use Bulb mode

If you’ve seen pictures of early photographers with their view cameras, you might have noticed them holding a rubber “bulb” which when they squeezed, forced air through a rubber tube and tripped the shutter. As long as the photographer kept the bulb squeezed, the shutter stayed open, ending when they released it.

These were the first shutter remotes, and it was that rubber bulb that gave the mode its name.

Today we have wired, and sometimes wireless triggers that can do the same thing. Putting the camera in Bulb mode allows a variable shutter speed. As long as we press and hold the button, the shutter stays open.  Let it go, and the shutter closes, ending the exposure.

This is just the ticket for fireworks photography, a variable shutter speed.

So, let’s review our basic camera settings:

  • Camera on tripod
  • Raw Capture
  • Manual Mode
  • Noise Reduction Off
  • Auto Focus Off – Focus on the anticipated fireworks spot and lock focus there
  • Lens Vibration Reduction (VR/IS) Off
  • ISO 100
  • Approx. f/8 – f/16  (Use aperture and ISO to adjust if images are too bright or dark).
  • Bulb mode
  • No flash – I forgot to mention this one.  Rarely, (unless perhaps to light a foreground object), will you ever need to use flash when making fireworks photos.  Also, consider whether others are nearby watching the show.  Using flash is guaranteed to make you less-than-popular with other fireworks spectators.  Unless you are alone and have a good reason to use flash, (in which case I will assume you know what you’re doing), just don’t use it.

Set up like this, you’re good to go. Remember, once the show starts, you will be busy. If you are fooling with camera settings, you’ll be missing shots. You will want to try some variations, but you don’t want to have to struggle and miss the show.

Be ready, think it through beforehand, and when the show starts, start clicking.

6. Shooting Technique

You’ve set your camera up on a tripod, figured out where to point it, made sure to pre-focus on a distant spot and locked the focus by putting it in Manual Focus (MF) mode.

If you leave your camera’s Autofocus on it’s almost guaranteed to give you images that are a bust rather than a boom. Against the dark sky and the moving fireworks the focus will hunt, fail, and… it’ll just be bad. Don’t do it.

Often the best images can be made right when the show starts as later, smoke from the previous fireworks becomes thicker, and the fireworks more obscured. So, when you hear that boom of the first firework going up, click and hold the button on the remote. You’ll be in bulb mode so hold it open while the firework goes up, explodes, and radiates out.  Then release the trigger.

Now, quickly check your shot. Is it in focus and framed properly? Is it exposed correctly? If it’s too dark, increase the ISO a click or perhaps open the aperture a stop. Too light? Do the opposite.

Try not to spend too much time doing this as, of course, the show will continue without you.

If you’re in the ballpark, the ability to edit in raw gives you the tweaking room you need. The two unrecoverable mistakes you might make would be to have things out of focus or have the highlights so blown out as to be unrecoverable. Editing won’t save you if you do those things, so be sure the focus is good and if you’re not sure with exposure, underexpose a bit. Some fireworks will be much brighter than others – especially a multi-burst or the finale. So quickly check your histogram and be sure you’ve not clipped the right (highlights) side.

Make any tweaks you need and then keep clicking. Vary the zoom if you need to, but if anything, frame a little “loose.” You can always crop in tighter later. However, if that really big and spectacular burst is so big it goes out of the frame, you’ll have missed it. Try both some portrait and landscape orientation shots. Perhaps reframe to get different things in the shot, especially if you are including foreground elements.

If things are going well, it’s going to be a fairly long show.

And if you’re feeling frisky, you might be ready for some more advanced techniques.

Note how the bright pink burst appears here, thicker streaks at the base of each trail growing thinner at the tip. This uses what I describe as the “Boom Zoom Bloom” technique described.

7. “Boom Zoom Bloom” FX

You may have seen those photos where the bursting fireworks look more like a flower, fat blurry trails with sharp points.  How is that done?

Here’s the technique, which you can vary for different results.

Know this takes practice, and luck plays a big part. So decide if you have already got enough necessary shots before you try it and whether the show will last long enough for some experimentation.

If you’re game, here’s how you do it:

  • You will need your hands free for this, and you’ll want to look through the viewfinder or perhaps use Live View, so using the remote release probably isn’t going to work. Instead, set your shutter speed for about 8-10 seconds, leaving all the other camera settings where they were.
  • With your hand on the focus ring, remember your hand position there. Then turn the ring so things are out of focus.
  • Just as the firework explodes, click the shutter and smoothly turn the focus right back to the focus point you memorized.  You have the time of the preset shutter speed to accomplish this.  If you finish early, that’s okay.

Two other images using the defocus-to-focus technique. Also note how some of the bursts, captured after the focus was performed but before the shutter closed, don’t show the same look combining two looks in one photo.

Now, try different things with subsequent shots. Go from focused to unfocused, zoom in or out during the exposure, or maybe take the camera off the tripod and move it during the exposure to make light trails. Play and see what you like.

Just remember, the duration of the show is limited, so try some experiments but also be sure you have some solid “keepers.”

8. The Black Hat Trick

I have to confess, I’ve not personally tried this but the concept is sound and could be fun. (I’ve always wanted to do a “hat trick.”)

Here’s how it’s supposed to work:

  • Have a hat, a black one or preferably of something dark enough to be opaque. You will also need to be working in an area that is quite dark.
  • Put the hat over the front of the lens.
  • Have the camera in Bulb Mode and just before the firework launches, click open the shutter locking it open with the remote.
  • Quickly, but gently so as not to bump the camera, remove the hat while the firework explodes.
  • Leave the shutter open and carefully replace the hat. Repeat, removing and replacing the hat for multiple fireworks bursts. (You may need to have a smaller aperture or lower ISO to do this as you will be building up exposure brightness with each additional firework added).
  • Unlock the remote and close the shutter when you’ve done all you want.

What you’re doing is making a multiple-exposure image in-camera. This should work. Of course, there’s also a way to do it in post-processing.  For that, and some other tips on how best to process you fireworks photo, come back for Part Two – Creatively Editing your Fireworks Photos.

There may be a frenzy of fireworks at the show finale. Keep the shutter open and capture it all if you can without overexposing.

Light the fuse

I hope you’ve decided that good fireworks photography is easy and go and have fun with it.  It’s one more way to enhance your camera skills and make some exciting images.

If there’s anything that’s a problem it’s that good aerial fireworks displays are seasonal in most places and if you really catch the bug, you may find there are not enough opportunities to practice.

So, find out when and where the shows will be near you, mark your calendar, do some scouting for the best locations, “light the fuse” and have fun!

Post your best shots as images in the comments – we’d love to see them.


The post 8 Tips for Better Fireworks Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

How to Get Started With Your Photography Promotions

Mon, 07/01/2019 - 10:00

The post How to Get Started With Your Photography Promotions appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

When it comes to the world of commercial photography, print is not dead. Although the Internet and your website are great tools to promote your photography, to really get noticed by agencies and other buyers of photography, you need to make printed promotional pieces, known in the industry as “promos.”

You can get really creative with promos, like sending them out with branded gifts, but this article will focus on printed promos.

Here are some tips on creating your photography promotions and sending them out into the world.

Create a marketing plan

Before you can send out promos, you need to know whom you’re sending them to.

This necessitates doing your research and coming up a list of targeted clients that you wish to work with.

If you haven’t already done this, know that this should be an ongoing process in your efforts to attract work. You must narrow down whom you want to work with and pursue those clients to get them to notice you. Printed promos are one way of doing this.

Find out the names and contact information for the people you want to send a promo to. Keep track of them in a spreadsheet or a client management tool aimed at creatives, like Nutshell or Dubsado.

This will help you stay organized and remind you of when you last contacted them and what the outcome was.

Decide on how many promos you want to send out. Fifty is a good number to start with. You may choose more or less, depending on your niche and target market and the realities of your budget.

Come up with a concept

Before you can design your promo, you’ll need to decide what form your promo will take. Will it be a magazine? A newspaper? A poster or postcard?

I generally don’t recommend postcard promotions because they often get thrown away. However, they can be used to augment your promotions, or you can send them to smaller clients that you would be open to working with.

Printing a promo can be a costly undertaking, so you don’t want to send them to leads that are not likely to pay off.

For example, as a food photographer, I might send a promo to high-end restaurants or restaurant chains that have a marketing person or PR agency because this signals that they have the budget to hire a good photographer. I can reserve the postcards to send to smaller restaurants, such as family-run businesses who might want to hire a photographer and are more likely to keep a postcard than an art director at an advertising agency.

Browse a few websites that print promos for photographers to see what the options are and how they might best represent your photography.

You can choose someone local in the city you live. Alternatively, search nationally or even internationally, depending on what you’re looking and the value provided.

For example, as a Canadian, I have some good choices in the city where I live. However, I also regularly seek out US Sites that can give me good results for a similar price, despite postage and exchange rates. Some good options are Paperchase Press, Next Day Flyers, and Newspaper Club.

What the promo should include

A promo is a visual calling card. It should include a bio or artist’s statement, your logo and contact information.

Depending on the niche, some photographers give their images titles or captions. If you’re an assignment photographer who is submitting collected images from a trip or assignment, you might want to preface the promo with a bit of a backstory.

A food photographer may include a short recipe with one of the images.

If you choose to include text, keep it brief. The point of the promo is to focus on your photography.

Get a great printer

Don’t make the mistake of taking the time and effort to design a great promo and then hire the wrong printer in order to save money. Your efforts will be wasted.

A promo is meant to showcase your work in the best possible light. A poorly printed piece degrades the quality of your photography.

If you’re in the commercial photography world, then promos should be an important part of your marketing strategy and require investment. There is no getting around investing in marketing to grow your business and appear as a professional.

Successful and established photographers with a regular client list still send out promos.

Research printers and their offerings as you would a potential client. You may want to seek out recommendations in forums or from other photographers you know and trust before you make your decision.

In Conclusion

Promos pay off, but sometimes it can take a bit of time. We live in a world saturated with information, so it can take a few attempts on your part to get the right people to notice you.

Be sure to send out a new promo 3-4 times a year to your contacts, and don’t overlook your current clientele. They should also know what you’ve been up to. Regular promos will keep you looking fresh and relevant and busy with other clients, which always reflects well on you and your photography business.

To see samples of a variety of promos, check out @photoeditor on Instagram by Rob Haggert, a former Director of Photography for Men’s Journal whose feed is dedicated to showcasing the various promos sent to him from photographers around the world.

Do you do promotions? Share any ideas with us in the comments below.


The post How to Get Started With Your Photography Promotions appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Tips for Using Negative Space in Photography to Create Stunning Images

Sun, 06/30/2019 - 15:00

The post Tips for Using Negative Space in Photography to Create Stunning Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sandra Roussy.

“I’m filling in all the negative spaces with positively everything.”
– Edie Brickell

Negative space may tend to suggest something that is not good. But negative space in photography is also often referred to as white space or minimalism photography. There’s nothing bad about it. It’s truly a unique technique to try out in your photography practice.

We sometimes tend to fill our compositions with lots of objects and color. When we talk about negative space, it’s the opposite that rules. The final image is mostly composed of blank or neutral space, and a small portion of the composition has an actual object in it.

This type of composition emphasizes the subject in the photo and also adds a unique value to it. This type of composition is powerful and, when done correctly, can take your photography from ordinary to truly impressive.

It can be a little daunting at first when you begin to do negative space photography. Not all attempts will be successful. There are opportunities to create negative space photography practically everywhere around you. You have to know how to observe and apply a few techniques to achieve amazing negative space masterpieces.

Positive and negative space explained Positive space

This is the area in the photo that attracts the viewer’s eye. It’s the main subject that commands attention in the composition. This is usually where the eye goes first.

Negative space

This is the space in the composition that is typically the background. It usually doesn’t attract very much attention and is, in most cases, the intention of the photographer. It is used to define or contour the positive space.

In negative space photography, the photographer uses the space that is usually not the primary focus and uses it to fill in most of the composition. The negative space commands more attention than the positive space and creates a unique perspective. It also adds definition and can create strong emotions.

Negative space and emotions

Negative space photography can evoke a sense of wonder, mysteriousness, and peacefulness. The viewer will have a greater connection to the object if the photo has no clutter, visual distractions, and a multitude of colors.

You may be presented with opportunities to create negative space photography more times than you think. It’s all in how you visualize or train your eye to look at things.

For example, a few years ago, I stood at a popular lookout overlooking an iconic rock sitting in the Atlantic Ocean in Eastern Canada. It was early morning, and some fog had rolled in, covering most of the impressive structure. The woman standing next to me at the lookout observing the same landscape turned to me and said, “It’s so sad, we’re driving by today, and I wanted to get a photo of the Percé Rock, but it seems like it won’t be possible.”

She left disappointed that she didn’t get her shot.

I stood there for a long time afterward examining the fog and the way it draped the rock like a heavy blanket. I thought that this was one of the most amazing things to happen that day. I felt so lucky to be there at that exact moment to capture the wonder unfolding.

Sometimes a small shift in perspective can make a huge difference.

Balancing the shot

Negative space is absolutely not blank space. If you think of it this way, you will have difficulty seeing the opportunities that you will be presented with. You want the negative space to be the main focus of your photograph, and it will hopefully evoke strong feelings.

We are trained to follow some basic composition rules, like the rule of thirds, for example. However, with negative space photography, these rules mostly don’t apply. Your imagination is what rules the composition in negative space photography.

© José Velasco

However, there are a few things to remember and consider if you want to achieve this type of photography.

Less is more

Fill your composition with the negative space. Try to put minimal distracting objects in your composition. Texture or solid colors are great elements to use in negative space photography. Use the texture or color to fill in most of the composition.


The object should be secondary and placed somewhere that is usually not primarily capturing the eye of the viewer. Placing the subject somewhere in the corner of your frame will frequently provide you with a good result. Try to balance the negative space with the white space so that it flows.

Twice the amount

A good rule of thumb is to put twice as much negative space than positive space in the composition.


Try to avoid shallow depth of field when doing negative space photography. This is so that neither the object nor the negative space in the photograph is blurry.

Go out and explore the possibilities

When you look at things differently and step outside of the traditional rules, you will find many great opportunities to create some unique shots. Look at a scene and try to create your own story.

© José Velasco

Negative space photography is an excellent way to expand your skills and your photographic eye. So remember, less is sometimes more.

Have any negative space photographs that you are proud of? Don’t hesitate to show us in the comments section below.

The post Tips for Using Negative Space in Photography to Create Stunning Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sandra Roussy.