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How to Prepare Images For Publication – Part One

Sat, 04/13/2019 - 10:00

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

It is a known fact that images viewed on computer monitors don’t always match what comes out of inkjet printers. This is because the color pixels captured by digital cameras are defined quite differently than the pixels portrayed on the computer monitor and the monitor’s pixels differ quite significantly from the ink patterns that are literally sprayed onto the paper.

But even though both inkjet printers and printing presses both use CMYK inks, the images printed on inkjet printers usually don’t produce the same appearance when printed in publications. This is quite true, but why?

Color images are displayed differently on each device because the technologies for each medium use different processes; monitors (left), inkjet (middle), and halftones (right).

The answer to this mystery eludes many of today’s magazine publishers and even many publication printers. This is a problem that the digital imaging community (photographers, image editors, and pre-press operators) have struggled with for decades. Color Management Professionals (CMPs) undergo rigorous color science studies to understand how to maintain the same look in color images that are reproduced on different substrates and a variety of printing processes. Since you may want to produce your images in print, we’ll look at a synopsis of what the challenges are and some surefire ways to produce the results you’re looking for.

First and foremost, cameras and monitors capture and project color images as RGB light but all ink-based printers must convert these RGB colors into CMYK colors behind the scene! Even though you send RGB files to your inkjet printer, the printer doesn’t rely on RGB inks to produce all the colors in the prints. RGB colors are for projecting colors while CMYK colors are used to print colors.

Projected colors are always viewed in RGB while printed colors are always produced from some formulation of CMYK inks. That’s simply how color science works. Printers don’t print the RGB colors directly. While you send RGB images to your inkjet printer, it converts those colors into some form of CMYK during the printing process. Even when you send an RGB file to your eight-color printer, the base CMYK colors are augmented by slight amounts of Photo Cyan, Photo Magenta, Red, and Green colors. However, there has been one printer (the Oce´ LightJet) that produced color prints from RGB, but it didn’t use printing inks… it was a photographic printer that exposed photographic paper and film using RGB light. This printer is no longer manufactured.

Each printing process utilizes a unique pattern to express the variable tones between solid and white.

Viva le difference

The inkjet printing process is completely different from the print reproduction process. As a matter of fact, the two systems are overtly dissimilar. If your images are headed for print and you are not sure of which printing process will be utilized, you might be headed for trouble. Here’s why.

The possible surfaces for inkjet printing vary wildly and include everything from paper to wood, from metal to fabric, and on virtually every surface and texture in-between. To accommodate this range of printing applications, inkjet “inks” are liquid rather than solid, so they can be applied to varied surfaces and substrates.

Dots versus spots. The peanut butter consistency of press inks and the well-defined shapes of the halftone dots used by the printing industry differ significantly from the liquid inks and less defined “micro-dot” dithering used by the inkjet printing process.

The color spots produced by inkjet printing systems may include more than a dozen colors and are liquid to accommodate almost any surface. Printing press dots are well-defined symmetrical shapes and are much thicker consistency to accommodate the high-speed transfer to paper. Both inks are translucent because they must blend to create other colors.

The extremely small inkjet droplets appear more like a mist than a defined pattern; each pixel value (0-255) creating a metered amount of microscopic spots so small that the human eye perceives them as continuous tones. Due to the smoothness of the tones and graduations of color, inkjet images require a bit of sharpening to deliver detail (detail remember is a product of contrast, and contrast is not a natural inkjet strength).

Dot structure of halftone images (left) and color dither pattern (right).

Both the inkjet and publication systems convert the RGB (red, green, and blue) values of each pixel into equivalent CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) values before printing those colors onto paper. However, after the color conversion, the two processes take decidedly different paths to deliver ink on paper.

While printing presses use grid-based, well-defined dots that are impressed into paper surfaces, inkjet printers utilize micro-dot patterns sprayed onto surfaces. The same image may appear in several different forms during the reproduction process. Original image (far left), digital pixel (near left), printed halftone (near right) and Inkjet dither (far right)

Publications use the geometric structure of halftone dots to interpret pixel values as tonal values on paper surfaces. Each pixel produces up to four overprinted color halftone dots. These halftones dots translate darker values of each color into large dots and lighter values into smaller dots. The full range of darkest-to-lightest tones produce dots that vary in size depending on the press and paper being printed.

To avoid the visually annoying conflict that occurs when geometric grids collide (called a moire pattern), each CMYK grid pattern is set on a very carefully calculated angle. The positive advantage that inkjet images have over halftone images is that the image resolution required for inkjet prints is significantly less than the resolution required by the halftone process employed by publication images.

However, the most important issues to address with print have to do with color fidelity and tonal reproduction. The difference in the way inkjet images and publication images are prepared makes a huge difference in the way the images appear when they come out the delivery end of the process.

Inkjet printers are like ballet dancers while printing presses are more like Sumo wrestlers; not unlike chamber music versus thunder roll. One is quiet, graceful and articulate, the other noisy, violent and powerful.

The biggest difference between the two processes can be seen in the highlight and shadow areas. Inkjet inks are sprayed onto substrates through a very controlled matrix of 720-1440 spots per inch using a slow and measured inches-per-minute process. Publication presses smash ink into the paper under extreme pressure, at speeds measured in images-per-minute, translating the entire tonal range into a limited geometric matrix of just 150 variable-size dots per inch. Publication presses are huge, high-speed, rotary rubber stamps.

Inkjet printers carefully step the paper through the machine in an extremely precise manner while the printing press shows no such restraint. Presses display an amazing ability to control the placement and transfer of images in spite of the blazing speed of the process.

You might be able to dress a Hippopotamus in a tutu, but you can’t expect it to pirouette. There are simply physical limitations. At production speeds, the shadow details suffer, delicate highlights tend to drop-off rather abruptly, and the middle tones print darker. The printing industry is aware of this dot gain issues and compensates for them with G7 process controls and compensation plate curves, but the beast remains a beast.

There’s a pretty good chance that both color and tonal detail will be unwittingly lost in the printing process if nominally prepared images are sent to press. Having spent many years of my career in both photo labs and the pressroom, I can assure you that detail in both the lightest portions and darkest areas (and placement of the middle tones) will need special attention to transfer all the detail on the press. Highlights get flattened, and shadows get closed more easily because of the high speeds and extreme pressures involved.

This means that images destined for print must exhibit more internal contrast in the quarter tones (between middle tones and highlights) and three-quarter tones (between middle tones and shadows as well as a slight adjustment to the middle tones to reproduce at their best. I’m sure I will hear some disagreement about this from some publishers, but as a former pressman, I know that images that do not get some special attention usually print somewhat flat.

The image on the left might look good as a print, but it would reproduce poorly on a press. The shadow areas would get even darker and lose all detail. The image on the right will darken slightly in the lower tones producing an excellent result in print. White balance is also critical in publication printing. Compensating for the unavoidable effects of the press always pays off.

There is a cardinal rule in printed publications that states that even areas of the whitest whites and darkest darks must contain dots. The only “paper white” should be specular (light reflecting from glass or chrome) and even pure black doesn’t print solid black; everything contains dots. Unlike inkjet printers, printing presses cannot hold (or print) dots smaller than 2-3% value (247). Dots smaller than this never make it onto the paper. This is why additional internal contrast is needed on both ends of the tonal range.

Photographers certainly know their way around cameras and software (Lightroom or Photoshop), and they understand color and tonality as it relates to mechanical prints. They are also accustomed to references to RGB (red, green, and blue) colors and may even understand how inkjet printers work, but very few are familiar with the behavior and limitations of huge printing presses. The analogy of ballet dancers versus Sumo wrestlers is an accurate one.

Photographers understand fine art prints and image editing software though few see their photos through the eyes of pressmen. But perhaps they should!

There is a significant difference between preparing photos for inkjet printers and preparing images for publication presses. The publication RGB-vs-CMYK conversion thing differs significantly from inkjet conversion in color gamut, image saturation, and tonal reproduction.

When an image is captured, it can potentially possess more than 4000 tones per (RGB) color. That’s a whole bunch of possible colors. But the sobering factor is that all printing processes reduce those possible 4000 tones down to a mere 256 tones per RGB color before any ink hits the paper. Obviously, the post-processing tone and color shaping of camera images are super-critical! Simply put, how the photographer shapes all that data before it is ready for print determines how much detail and clarity will get printed on the pages of the magazine.

Once again, the top picture would print great on an inkjet printer but would lose very critical detail on a press. Compensation for the unavoidable effects of the press is always advised. In Part 2 of this series, I’ll show you exactly what adjustments were made to this photo. Additional sharpening also helps compensate for the slight blurriness of the halftone process.

The old adage “start with the end in mind” comes clearly into focus here. No matter how much data is captured by the digital camera, the publication press is the ultimate arbiter of tones and colors, and deserves the loudest voice in the conversation. The color gamut of CMYK conversion is even more restricted than the basic sRGB gamut of Internet images, making this post-processing exercise perhaps the most precarious scenario of them all. If you ignore the special attention needed for magazine images, don’t expect the images to pop off the page. Ignore the press’s advice, and you’ll pay the price in both detail and color reproduction.

In the follow-up article entitled “Preparing Images for Publication Part 2,” I’ll reveal the literal “trade secrets” for producing great publication images.


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

Weekly Photography Challenge – Minimalism

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 15:00

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is MINIMALISM!

Katie Treadway

Your photos can include anything that is minimalist. It can be landscape, street, abstract, objects or anything really! They can be color, black and white, moody or bright. You get the picture! Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!


Some Inst-piration from some Instagrammers:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Hello!! (@esraatayel) on Apr 10, 2019 at 7:48pm PDT


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Glaycheong Matt (@glaycheong_visual_diary) on Feb 8, 2019 at 7:01am PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by ????? ???????? (@ceritanyapanjang_) on Apr 10, 2019 at 7:30pm PDT


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Alex Neaga (@alex_neaga) on Jul 16, 2018 at 6:53am PDT


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by hüseyinopruklu (@huseyinopruklu) on Nov 2, 2017 at 10:13pm PDT


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

Tips for Shooting MINIMALISM

The Minimalist Landscape Photographer: What do you really need?

Tips for Minimalist Photography in an Urban Environment

5 Guidelines of Minimalist Photography to Help Improve Your Work

Minimalism: Using Negative Space In Your Photographs

Minimalist Photography ~ 4 Tips To Keep It Simple With A Maximum Impact

Minimalism in Photography


Weekly Photography Challenge – MINIMALISM

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 #DPSminimalism 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 – Minimalism appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

How to Pose Women Who Aren’t Models [video]

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 10:00

The post How to Pose Women Who Aren’t Models [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this video by Anita Sadowska, you’ll learn how to pose people who are not models so they look more relaxed and natural in photos with a little help from photographer-turned-model for the video, Irene Rudnyk.


General tips
  • Always give the model encouragement.
  • Talk to them throughout the shoot to help them relax. If you like a pose they are making, tell them so.
  • Try to get your subject to laugh and smile to make them more comfortable in front of the camera. Tell jokes.
Standing poses
  • Get your model to stand on tip toes and move one leg forward, and shift hip forward.
  • When someone is shorter, shoot from lower to the ground, shooting upwards so the model looks taller.
  • Get the model to separate their arms to open up the body.
  • Don’t squash arms up against the body.
Sitting poses
  • Place one leg lower than the other. Bring one leg upward and turned inwards towards the body. Elongate the longer leg.
  • Keep the model using tip toes when seated too as it elongates the feet and legs.
  • Place arm outwards to lean on.
  • Sit more sideways to push the hip out a little more.
  • Also, place the chin up to elongate the body.
  • No crossed arms.
  • Lean backwards on the back arm, resting the front arm loosely on the front leg.
Facial positions
  • Push out the chin and then pull it down to create more definition.
  • Move their face around on different angles, tilting works well.
  • Try chin up and chin down. If using chin down, it is important to have strong eye contact.
  • Always ensure the model has good posture.
  • Move shoulders down, stand tall and suck in the tummy for a strong core.
  • Lean against something to feel more relaxed.
  • Accessorize. Using an accessory can give the model something to play with/hold.
  • If you don’t have accessories, you can get your model to play with their hair and have fun with it.


You may also find the following articles helpful:

The post How to Pose Women Who Aren’t Models [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

5 Steps for Photographing the Blue Hour

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 15:00

The post 5 Steps for Photographing the Blue Hour appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

Blue hour photography is an attractive subject to shoot. It’s great to be outdoors after dark, there are usually less people around, and it presents the opportunity to capture a familiar daytime scene in a new and different light.

Taking photos during the blue hour is considered to be the optimum time to document a cityscape as the artificial lights awaken and the daylight disappears.

Blue hour is one of the most popular times for photographers to take pictures. The blue hour refers to “the period of twilight in the morning or evening, during the civil and nautical stages, when the sun is at a significant depth below the horizon and residual, indirect sunlight takes on a predominantly blue shade.”

For the purpose of this article, I will focus on outlining the steps required for shooting during the blue hour:

1. Consider the time of day

Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford © Jeremy Flint

The time of day is an important factor when photographing the blue hour.

The blue hour is not just limited to the period after sunset. Similar light can be achieved in the morning (before sunrise) and evening (after sunset).

During the blue hour in cities, buildings are lit, and streetlights come on, making it an ideal time for urban and city photography with a perfect blend of natural and artificial light. The sky takes on a deep blue hue with cold tones and warmer colors from the illuminated buildings. A gradient of colors from blue to orange tinges the sky in place of the sunrise and sunset.

In the evening, the blue hour coincides with the end of the civil twilight, just after the golden hour. In the morning, it coincides with the initial part of the civil twilight, occurring just before the golden hour.

Try taking pictures after this time to see how your images differ. You will generally find that when capturing cities after the blue hour, the natural light will have faded away and your images will appear darker in the sky. This can still be a good time to take interesting pictures.

2. Consider your subject and viewpoint

When preparing to take pictures during the blue hour it is important to take on board a few considerations. What are you going to photograph and how will you frame your image?

© Jeremy Flint

My first suggestion is to decide on your subject and consider what you want to include in your image. You may want to frame your subject with an attractive background or foreground to make the image look more visually pleasing.

I chose to photograph this night scene of Tokyo with the Rainbow Bridge as my main subject with the neon-lit cityscape and towering skyscrapers beyond.

3. Consider the exposure, aperture and shutter speed

You will need to decide on the settings you want to use. If there is movement in the image, you may want to prioritize shooting in shutter speed priority. If not, then aperture mode can be used to achieve greater depth of field.

University Church of Saint Mary the Virgin viewpoint © Jeremy Flint

The correct exposure will automatically be set to let in the right amount of light when you capture your images. Both methods allow the use of longer exposures.

As my subjects were static, I opted for aperture priority to achieve more depth.

4. Try different shutter speeds

As the light fades, you may find that you want to increase your shutter speed to maintain a well-exposed shot. I would start at around a second and increase the exposure accordingly when darkness falls.

© Jeremy Flint

You can also use shutter speeds to creative effect. For example, capturing moving traffic trails during the blue hour can give pleasing results. Try anything over five seconds of exposure time to allow for some movement.

Long exposures are another great way to create amazing photographs. For example, they can be used to exaggerate cloud movement or traffic trails even further. Try anything over 30 seconds.

5. Use a tripod or something for support

Using a tripod or a stable surface such as a table or wall is of paramount importance when photographing the blue hour. They will help you to achieve sharper pictures by minimizing unwanted camera shake.

Skytree, Tokyo © Jeremy Flint

I achieved the photo attached by setting my camera up on a sturdy tripod to prevent any potential movement.


Blue hour is a magical time to take photographs in towns and cities. Follow the above steps and see if you can improve your photos captured during the blue hour.

Share your pictures with us below and feel free to add your tips to capturing the blue hour.


The post 5 Steps for Photographing the Blue Hour appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

Manfrotto Super Clamp: More than a Tripod Alternative

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 10:00

The post Manfrotto Super Clamp: More than a Tripod Alternative appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Joey J.

As a cityscape enthusiast photographer primarily shooting long exposures at blue hour (twilight and dusk), tripods are something I can’t live without. That said, we occasionally come across places where a full-size tripod is prohibited or there is no appropriate space to set one up.

In such situations, I used to rely on a mini tripod like Gorillapod (I own the “5K Stand”, their top end model with a load capacity of 5kg). However, mini tripods are a bit shaky and don’t always hold the camera weight too well. This is especially problematic when using it for long exposures, where the images end up with somewhat “soft” (i.e., not sharp enough).

How to set the Super Clamp up

LEFT: Plug a camera mounting platform adapter into a Super Clamp socket and secure it with a double-lock system. RIGHT: Mount a tripod head with the camera on the mounting platform adapter, just like you do with your regular tripod.

This is where a clamp tripod like Manfrotto Super Clamp comes in very handy. I own the Manfrotto 035 Super Clamp without the Stud and use it with the separately-sold Manfrotto 208HEX 3/8-Inch Camera Mounting Platform Adapter, as described below.

Avoid standard stud

By the way, Manfrotto also has a Super Clamp that comes with a so-called standard stud (Manfrotto 035RL Super Clamp with 2908 Standard Stud), but I recommend avoiding it because the standard stud is a bit too long. Thus, the tripod head sits about an inch out of the clamp, making the setup vulnerable for heavier camera/lens combos.

Besides, the standard stud only comes with 1/4″ screw. If your tripod head uses 3/8″ screw (most tripod heads do), you’ll need a screw adapter to convert 1/4″ screw into 3/8″ in order to screw your tripod head in.

LEFT: The Super Clamp with the standard stud inserted (a silver screw adapter is attached to convert the default 1/4″ screw into 3/8″). RIGHT: Due to the standard stud being too long, a tripod head doesn’t sit flush with the Super Clamp, leaving the camera setup rather unstable.

Reversible Short Stud

Therefore, I recommend photographers get the aforementioned Manfrotto 208HEX 3/8-Inch Camera Mounting Platform Adapter, or opt for Manfrotto 037 Reversible Short Stud (cheaper alternative). In fact, this reversible short stud is handy as it comes with both 1/4″ and 3/8″ screws. Like the mounting platform adapter, this short stud also allows a tripod head to sit flush with the Super Clamp, giving much better stability to mount a camera.

LEFT: The reversible short stud comes with both 3/8″ (top) and 1/4″ (bottom) screws. RIGHT: The reversible short stud fits perfectly into the Super Clamp (3/8″ screw on top).

With the short stud used, a tripod head sits flush with the Super Clamp. This setup can be as strong as the Super Clamp + Manfrotto 208HEX 3/8-Inch Camera Mounting Platform Adapter mentioned earlier.

Super Clamp in action

Note that a clamp tripod cannot be used anywhere you like, as it needs a rail or something similiar to be clamped onto. However, where possible, this setup is rock solid (with a load capacity of whopping 15kg), and the resulting long exposure photos are appreciably sharper than those photographed using a mini tripod or even a regular tripod.

Clamping onto a road railing.

Here we have clamping onto a thick tempered glass (clamping from the top).

You can also clamp onto things like a footbridge railing (by using short stud, instead of camera mounting platform adapter).

In addition, a clamp tripod also comes in handy at crowded photography spots that attract a lot of tourists. Setting a regular tripod up at such locations takes space on the ground and always has a risk of someone accidentally kicking tripod legs. It’ll be a catastrophe if that happens in the midst of a long exposure. With a clamp tripod that takes no space on the ground, there is no such worry.


I hope this post helps you consider a clamp tripod as a tripod alternative. Indeed, Super Clamp is like a game changer and more than just a mere alternative to a mini tripod, etc. Last but not least, be extra vigilant and tighten wherever must be tightened when using a clamp tripod somewhere high up. If the camera or any part is dropped, it could seriously injure people or break your gear.


The post Manfrotto Super Clamp: More than a Tripod Alternative appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Joey J.

How to Make Well Exposed Photos Every Time. Part Two: Managing Your Exposure

Wed, 04/10/2019 - 15:00

The post How to Make Well Exposed Photos Every Time. Part Two: Managing Your Exposure appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Part Two – Managing Your Exposure

This is the second article in a series of three discussing how to make well-exposed photographs. The first article covers subject choice, some common misconceptions about exposure and the photographer’s intention.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Having identified your subject, managing your exposure then matters most. These things will influence how your photograph is exposed:

  • Point of view
  • Lens choice
  • Timing
  • Reading the light
  • Exposure settings

You’ll notice that I’ve placed ‘Exposure settings’ at the bottom of this list. This is because it’s the most obvious aspect of managing your exposure. I want you to consider how the other items on the list affect your exposure setting choices.

Point of view

Where you choose to take your photo from can significantly affect your exposure. Is the light behind you? Behind your subject? To one side?

By changing your position you can manage what you see in the background and how it impacts the amount of light entering your lens.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

In this photo, the reflection off the water makes up a large portion of the background. Had I not been careful with my exposure my subject may have been underexposed. In this photo, I compensated for the bright background by adding some fill flash.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Changing my point of view so I no longer included the lake in the background meant I could expose my subject well. The reflected light off the water surface no longer affected my exposure. In this photo, I did not need to use my flash as there was no strong backlight to compensate for.

Lens choice

Composition is partly governed by your choice of lens. Using a telephoto lens will include less background. In doing this, you can restrict light sources and bright areas of your composition more easily. With a wider lens, you are more likely to include more sky or other bright areas which can have some effect on your exposure.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Had I used a wider lens for my photo of these rice fields I would have included the setting sun in my composition. This would definitely have a strong impact on my exposure and the whole look and feel of my photo.

I could have eliminated the effect of the sun altogether by using a lens focal length that was slightly longer. I could have also tilted my camera down slightly, but the foreground was unattractive, and I like the sunburst.


The time you choose to make your photograph can also influence your exposure. It may mean waiting until the sun is in a different place in the sky for a landscape photo. Or you may have to calculate when to press your shutter release to avoid bright headlights of a passing car. This was the case when I photographed the image below.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

The timing for blue hour photos is particularly important. You must wait for the ambient light to balance with any other light source you have in your frame. This amount of time will vary depending on your proximity to the equator.

In Chiang Mai, Thailand, we have about ten minutes each evening to capture a rich blue sky with the electric lights included in the composition.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Reading the light

To be able to set your exposure you must use an exposure meter or let your camera make the calculations and settings for you.

Leaving this choice completely up to your camera is rarely best as your camera does not know what you are photographing. Your photos will potentially lack creativity.

Your camera has amazing artificial intelligence built into it, but it cannot see the way you see and discern what your main subject is. By leaving your camera settings so the meter is set to take an averaged reading and is on any auto or semi-auto mode, your camera is in control. You can use exposure compensation or set your camera manually to take control of your exposure.

One of the easiest ways to read the light is by using live view and looking at your monitor. Some cameras do not have this capability, so you need to consult your manual and do some testing to discover if you can use this method.

Checking your exposure with live view works when you have your camera set to manual mode. It’s easy to watch the light values on your monitor changes as you alter your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Using this method in conjunction with your histogram is recommended so you can check if there’s any clipping happening.

Using your exposure meter set so it takes a reading from the entire frame and then calculates an average exposure is okay when the light and tone is even.

When there’s any amount of contrast in the scene it’s good to take a spot meter reading directly from your subject. This will provide you with the specific information about the light reflecting off the most important part of your composition.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

For this photograph, I took a spot meter reading from the Buddhist nun, as I wanted her exposed well. Had I left my meter on the averaging mode it would have included the bright light outside and the dark interior into its calculations. This would most likely indicate a setting which would have rendered my main subject underexposed.

Exposure settings

Once you have made your exposure reading and ascertained how the light is affecting your composition, you need to set your exposure.

You may decide your subject will be well exposed by setting your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO so the meter reads zero. You may prefer to have it read overexposed or underexposed, depending on the tone value of your subject and your creative expression.

When your subject is very dark or very light, you may want to alter your exposure settings to compensate. When you take a spot meter reading the camera is calibrated to see the thing as being middle gray. This means a black or a white subject will both appear gray in your photo if your meter is reading zero.

You must decide the tone you want your main subject to be. Do you want a clearly exposed subject? Will it look better if it appears brighter than it really is? Do you want a silhouette?

For this photo of pink orchid flowers, I chose to overexpose from the reading my spot meter was giving me. I did this to produce a softer feeling in the image.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Had I been making the photograph to document the flower and its color accurately, I would not have overexposed it. My intent was not to make a technically accurate representation of the flower.

If technical accuracy is what I wanted I would have changed my point of view to avoid the backlighting. I would have set my exposure so the color and tone rendered correctly to how the flower looked to my eyes.

Try it out and see for yourself

Find a white or black subject to photograph. Make a spot meter reading and set your exposure so that the meter is at zero. Take a photo.

Now, for a black subject, change your setting so the spot metering indicates it is two stops underexposed. For a white subject make your settings so it’s two stops overexposed.

Which photograph is most appealing? The ‘correctly’ exposed photo, or the under or overexposed photo?

© Kevin Landwer-Johan


Experimentation is always good when lighting and subject material are challenging. If you’re not 100% certain you have a perfect exposure, (I never am,) make a series of photos whenever you can.

Tweak your aperture and/or shutter speed settings between each exposure. Don’t make huge shifts in these settings, but just enough so you have a few options to look at when it comes to post-process them.

I’d love you to leave your comments below letting me know if this article has helped you understand exposure better.

The next article in this series will cover post-processing techniques which will enhance your exposure choices.

The post How to Make Well Exposed Photos Every Time. Part Two: Managing Your Exposure appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

A Beginners Guide to Auto ISO and other Camera Modes

Wed, 04/10/2019 - 10:00

The post A Beginners Guide to Auto ISO and other Camera Modes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

The What, When, Why, and How of Auto ISO

So, you understand how to interactively use Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO settings to achieve proper exposure. You know how to control things like depth-of-field and the freezing or blurring of motion. Perhaps you also understand the camera modes: Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, or Manual and know when using them which settings are fixed and which can fluctuate. But how often do you adjust ISO adjustment? The idea that you might let the ISO speed “float” with each shot is alien to many photographers. So what is Auto ISO? When and why might you want to use it, and how can you set it up to make better shots?

Fast action in changing light conditions is a good reason to use Auto ISO.

Back to basics – the Exposure Triangle

From the dawn of photography and the simplest pinhole camera to the most sophisticated modern DSLR, there have been three constants – Aperture, Shutter Speed and what we now measure with ISO – the Light Sensitivity of the media onto which the image gets recorded. All cameras are essentially boxes with a hole in them. The size of the hole (aperture), the length of time the hole is opened (shutter speed), and the sensitivity of the recording medium (ISO). When we allow light into the box to create an image on the sensitive media, we are making an “exposure.” It makes up the “Holy Trinity” of photography – The “Exposure Triangle.” Perhaps you knew all this? If so, feel free to skip ahead in the article, otherwise, keep reading.

From the simplest to the most complex camera, three things – Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO are the factors affecting Exposure.

A “correct” exposure

There are two basic things to consider when making an exposure:

  1. What is the correct amount of light to let into the “box” rendering all tones in the subject and capturing everything from the blackest shadows to the brightest highlights, and
  2. How can we use the three components of the triangle most creatively?

The first consideration is technical, the second creative.

A histogram shows us the 256 shades of gray for a given image. At the far right are the shadows, on the far left, the highlights. In theory, an image which stays “between the goalposts” such that none of the tones go off either edge is a “correct exposure.” In editing, we can redistribute the tones so long as they have not gone to “0” which is total black, or 255 which is total white. At those extremes there is no detail to recover; it is either totally black and “blocked up,” or totally white and “blown out.”

Learning how to interpret a histogram will greatly aid you in your growth as a photographer.

Creatively using the controls

How to use the elements of the exposure triangle creatively brings in some secondary considerations of how aperture, shutter speed, and ISO affect our image. Aperture is the hole in our “box” while the f/stop is the term we use to define the size of the hole. A good way to remember which is the “bigger hole” is is to think about any f-number as a fraction. If you like pie, would you rather have a ½ pie or a 1/16 slice?

Therefore, the bigger f/numbers like f/22 represent smaller apertures (holes), while the small f/numbers like f/2.8 or f/4 represent the larger apertures.

Creatively, we can use smaller f/stops to increase depth-of-field and larger ones to limit it. In a portrait, we might want an unfocused, simplified background with a limited depth-of-field, so a large aperture would be a good choice. In a landscape photo where we want front-to-back sharpness, a small aperture may be better.

The shutter speed you choose also offers creative possibilities. Remember, shutter speed is represented in whole or fractions of as second. A shutter speed of 1/2 second is a longer time the shutter remains open than 1/250th of a second. You might think of the shutter speed as the “slice of time” we expose the light-sensitive medium to light. Short (faster) shutter speeds will help us freeze motion by capturing a “thinner slice of time.” Longer (slower) shutter speeds can allow us to “stretch time” and cause moving objects to blur.

Adjustable ISO? What a concept !

Of the three components of the triangle, ISO choice has implications, but probably less so than the others. Like an audio amplifier, lower settings keep the background “noise” less while higher settings which amplify the signal also introduce more noise and distortion. ISO measures how sensitive we make the sensor in a digital camera. In the film days, film sensitivity was fixed. Put in a roll of ASA 64 film and that was what you lived with for the whole roll. It had less grain than did an ASA 400 roll, but it was also less light sensitive.

In the digital world, ISO can be changed whenever we like, even from shot to shot. Now making an exposure truly becomes a “three-ball juggling act.” We can change Aperture, Shutter Speed, or ISO with each shot if we like. We still must use those to make a “correct” exposure, but we can also better consider the creative implications of our choices. We can also choose which controls we want full control over and which we might relinquish to the camera. Auto ISO coupled with newer, better, and “less noisy” sensors has changed the ballgame. Let’s go back to our three-ball juggling analogy.

Which of the three “exposure balls” will you choose to “let float?”

Learning to juggle

Watch a video clip of a juggler throwing three balls, and you will see at any given time, one ball is in the air, and the other two are in each of his hands. He has “control” of two of them, and the third is in “float.”

Now, when you use Auto ISO, it becomes that “third ball,” the component you let be in “float.” Fortunately, ISO has the least creative potential, and with modern cameras, the least penalty of choice. So it often makes sense to let it be the “ball in float.”

Let’s bring this back to the practical. You’re shooting dancers on the stage in an auditorium. The stage lighting varies with each scene and even as the dancers move to different spots. They are not allowing flash here, so you must live with the lighting conditions.

You want a reasonably high shutter speed to freeze the motion and a moderately small aperture so you have sufficient depth of field. Which of the three “balls” makes the most sense to let “float?” Auto ISO to the rescue! Situations where lighting changes quickly and the action you’re capturing won’t wait while you manually adjust settings is perfect for using Auto ISO.

Setting things up

I shoot with a Canon 6D most of the time so I will use that as my point of reference and for the menu shots below. How, (or even if your camera supports Auto ISO at all) will vary between make and model so you will need to dig a bit deeper to learn that. You might even have to get out your camera manual! The method may differ with your camera, but if you can grasp the general concept, the rest is simply navigating your camera’s menus.

Setting up Auto ISO on a Canon 6D.

Usually, there will be a button or menu where you can set Auto ISO. If you go to the low end of the scale, past the lowest (smallest) numbers of ISO you will likely find “A” for Auto ISO. Set the camera there.

Now you will want to set some “boundaries” as to when and how Auto ISO will be implemented and how high you will allow it to go. You should know that the higher ISO settings may allow you to shoot in very low light but may also introduce more image noise. How much is too much noise and what settings are impractical will depend on your camera and you. Shoot some high ISO images and evaluate them, so you know how much is too much for your liking.

With this information, you will want to find the menu item where you can set the specifics for how Auto ISO behaves. On my Canon 6D, I tap the Menu button and then roll the small top dial to the third camera menu icon from the left. I then roll the larger Control dial down to the second item, ISO speed settings, and hit the Set button to get to the menu below.

Again, your camera may differ, but you will set several things here:

  • Confirm the camera is in Auto ISO – ISO Speed
  • Set the full ISO speed range the camera will use – ISO Speed Range
  • Choose the lower and upper limits of ISO you will allow – Auto ISO range (you will usually enter the lowest ISO as the minimum and the highest as that ISO you think will not have excessive noise). For my 6D, I typically enter 100-3200 here.
  • Choose the minimum shutter speed you will allow before Auto ISO changes the ISO setting – Min. shutter spd.

Setting limits on how Auto ISO operates.

For this last setting, whatever you enter here is the slowest shutter the camera will allow before jumping to a higher ISO setting.

You will note “Auto” is an option here. If you pick this, your camera will detect the focal length of your lens when the image is about to be made and use the formula 1/focal length to set the minimum.

The idea here is you should not shoot slower than this (especially if handholding your camera) if you want to prevent camera shake blur. For example, let’s say if you are shooting a 24-105mm zoom lens and are zoomed all the way in. If Min. Shutter Speed is set to Auto, your camera will start to increase the ISO if the required shutter speed drops below 1/100th.

How it works in each mode

So you have this all set up. Now how will it operate? It depends on what camera mode you are shooting in. Let’s look at each.

Full Auto (Green) Mode

What you Can Adjust – Nothing, in Full Auto Mode the camera adjusts Aperture, Shutter Speed, and is in Auto ISO.
What the Camera Adjusts – Everything. This is a true “Point-and-Shoot” Mode with the camera making all adjustments.
Exposure Compensation Possible? – No
Pros/Cons – You are letting the camera make all your exposure and creative decisions. You are in Auto ISO and perhaps didn’t know it!

Program (P) Mode

What you Can Adjust – Everything, but as you adjust one item, the others will change too depending on lighting.
What the Camera Adjusts – Everything. The camera will seek to maintain proper exposure.
Exposure Compensation Possible? – Yes
Pros/Cons – This can be confusing when used with Auto ISO. I don’t recommend it.

Aperture Priority (Av or A) Mode

What you Can Adjust – Aperture. Lock in your Aperture setting and Shutter speed will adjust to maintain exposure. If the required shutter speed is lower than your minimum, ISO will increase up to the maximum you have set.
What the Camera Adjusts – Shutter Speed and then ISO
Exposure Compensation Possible? – Yes
Pros/Cons – If control over depth of field is your priority, this is the best option. Used in combination with the minimum shutter speed setting, it allows you to lock in the Aperture, set a base for the shutter speed, and have the camera adjust ISO increase when light goes below the shutter speed minimum you set.

Shutter Priority (Tv or S) Mode

What you Can Adjust – Shutter Speed. Lock in your Shutter Speed setting and Aperture will adjust to maintain exposure. If the required aperture is more than the maximum for the lens used, ISO will increase up to the maximum you have set.
What the Camera Adjusts – Aperture and then ISO
Exposure Compensation Possible? – Yes
Pros/Cons – If control over shutter speed is your priority, this may be the best option. Used in combination with the minimum shutter speed setting, it allows you to lock in the Shutter speed. The camera will adjust the aperture as needed and call on an ISO increase when you reach the maximum aperture of the lens used.

Full Manual (M) Mode

What you Can Adjust – Shutter Speed and Aperture. Lock in both your Shutter Speed and Aperture settings and ISO will adjust to maintain exposure. The exposure display will stay centered and ISO increase or decrease as needed to maintain proper exposure. If the required ISO exceeds the minimum or maximum set, the indicator will move off center showing an under or overexposure.
What the Camera Adjusts – ISO
Exposure Compensation Possible? – Camera Dependent
Pros/Cons – This gives maximum creative control to set both shutter speed and aperture and thus control both freezing/blurring of motion and depth of field simultaneously. ISO will “float” to adjust exposure up to the limits set. With some cameras, no exposure compensation is possible in this mode. However, with newer cameras, the “center point” may be adjusted thus supporting compensation.

When to use Auto ISO

When you have time to be a bit more leisurely with your image making, you can slow down and think through each of your settings. What are your objectives? Freezing action? Increasing or limiting the depth of field? Is the light changing?

When time permits, and you have a good understanding of each element in the exposure triangle, use full manual and set your ISO to the lighting conditions, staying as low as possible to limit noise. For landscape, portrait, still life, architecture, or other kinds of work where time permits and lighting is reasonably constant, Auto ISO isn’t much additional help. Ditto if you’re doing long exposures on a tripod where shutter speeds will be longer.

Shooting these ballet dancers under frequently changing stage lighting without flash is a challenge. Auto ISO helps tremendously.

Where Auto ISO really shines is in conditions where the action is fast, the light is changing or particularly low, and you are blasting away without time to think through each setting.

In that case, Auto ISO may be the helping hand you need. If lighting permits and your camera supports exposure compensation in Full Manual, this could be the ideal method. Lock in both Shutter Speed and Aperture where you like and shoot, counting on Auto ISO to handle any fluctuating exposure conditions.

Sometimes Auto ISO in combination with Aperture Priority will be a good choice. I work part-time at an auto dealership photographing cars for the web. Set up like this, I can go from shooting the exterior of the car in bright sunlight to the much darker interior with no adjustments, letting Auto ISO kick up the speed for the darker interiors.

Being able to move from a bright outdoor shot to a much darker interior shot and letting Auto ISO adjust the exposure speeds up my work in this situation significantly. On the older Canon 50D I use, I’m in Aperture Priority, my f/stop is at 4.5, and Auto ISO handles the rest.

Sports and Action can be an excellent time to use Auto ISO, especially in changing lighting conditions. It was a mixed cloudy day, and the light on the river where these kayakers were running was changing. I wanted to be sure my shutter was fast to freeze the action. Shutter priority plus Auto ISO was the ticket.

A mixed-light day with the kayakers moving from sun to shade, and fast action. With the need for servo focus, and shooting with a long telephoto in continuous mode… it was a challenge! I let Auto ISO handle exposure allowing me to concentrate on following the action.

What if Auto ISO goes wild?

Some photographers, especially those trained with the mantra “Auto Anything is Bad,” have a hard time invoking Auto ISO. Good photographers control everything, right? What if the camera goes up to a crazy high setting and all my images are too noisy?!!

It could happen. But, then again, remember you can limit the upper end of the ISO setting.

Also, newer cameras have such good sensors that your “upper limit” may be much higher than you think. Finally, what if you shoot at too slow a shutter speed and get blurry shots or don’t get the depth of field you wanted? There are many good noise reduction programs, but no apps I know of to fix a blurry, out-of-focus, shot with insufficient depth of field. I’ll take a noisy image over an out-of-focus image any day!


If you’re an old film guy like me and Auto ISO feels funny, or you’re worried about what it will do, or just haven’t been able to fully get your head around it, I suggest you relax and give it a try. Take your camera out on a non-essential shoot, turn on Auto ISO and just play. I’m going to bet you might just come away with a new trick.

The post A Beginners Guide to Auto ISO and other Camera Modes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

Which Crop Sensor Sony a6000 Series Camera Should You Buy?

Tue, 04/09/2019 - 15:00

The post Which Crop Sensor Sony a6000 Series Camera Should You Buy? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

If you’re on the market for a high-quality compact camera, you can’t go wrong with the Sony a6000 series. Ever since the original a6000 debuted, this camera has topped multiple best-seller lists and remains popular among enthusiasts and professionals alike. With the recent release of the Sony a6400, there are now four cameras in this series to choose from. This article will explain some key differences between all camera models with recommendations on which camera is best for you.


Sony debuted its first high-end mirrorless camera in 2010. However, 2014 was the year that the Sony a6000 was introduced. This compact crop sensor mirrorless camera has been a hit among consumers and professionals alike. Over the last few years, Sony has released several updated versions of this camera that include features such as 4K video recording, IBIS (5-axis in-camera image stabilization), and better low light performance. Interestingly, Sony has not discontinued any previous models. So right now, as of early 2019, you can still buy any of these cameras brand new, directly from Sony.

What’s the same

Despite some key differences, these four generations of Sony crop-sensor mirrorless cameras have a lot in common. Namely, they have almost the exact same camera bodies. There are a few minor differences in size and weight, with the a6500 weighing the most at 16 ounces. All four cameras also come with a 3-inch LCD screen and a 1-centimeter OLED viewfinder. All cameras capture images of approximately 24-megapixels in size at 11 frames per second. Finally, battery life is also about the same, lasting about 300-350 shots.

Still photography differences

We start to see noticeable differences when looking at key photography specs such as:

ISO performance

With every new release, Sony ups the limit in terms of ISO range. The a6000 has the smallest range of ISO 100-25600, while the a6400’s high range ISO is the most at 102400. Both the a6300 and a6500 have the same ISO range of 100-51200.

Sony a6300 shot at ISO 3200

Autofocus Points

Another key difference is in the number of autofocus points. The a6000 sits at the bottom of the pack with 179 phase-detection AF points and 25 contrast-detection AF points. Both the a6300 and a6500 have 425 phase-detection AF points with 169 contrast-detection AF points. Finally, the a6400 offers the best autofocus with 425 phase-detection points and 425 contrast-detection points.

Silent Shooting

One of the biggest perks of shooting with mirrorless cameras is silent mode shooting that truly is silent. When enabled, silent shooting allows you to shoot stills in stealth mode without the telling snap of the shutter going off. It’s an ideal feature for shooting weddings or events that frown upon extraneous noise. Silent shooting is a feature lacking on the a6000. The a6300 and a6500 can shoot in silent mode at up to 3 frames per second (fps), while the a6400 is at 8 fps.

Video Features Which camera should you buy? Best for beginner photographers on a budget

If you’re a beginner photographer on a budget, the Sony a6000 is still a fantastic deal. For about $500 for the body-only or $600 with the kit lens included, you can get one of the most popular mirrorless cameras on the market. The main features you’ll be lacking are ultra fast and accurate autofocus, the very best low light photo performance, and key video features such as 4K video recording and in-body stabilization. However, you can still shoot up to 1080p video if you choose, and the still images are decently crisp. Bottom line: get this camera if you are a casual still photographer on a shoestring budget.

Best for intermediate photographers or budding videographers

If you happen to have the extra budget, consider the Sony a6300 as the ideal intermediate camera of the bunch. There are many improvements for both photography and videography. This camera got a major sensor upgrade with faster and more accurate autofocus including 425 phase detection points. Low light photos and videos are also vastly improved.

Video features also got a major boost with the ability to record in 4K, or 120 fps for 4x slow motion at 1080p. The a6300 also allows for shooting in S-Log, a flat video profile that allows for easier color grading in post-production.

Finally, the a6300 also debuted with a more solid, magnesium alloy camera body as opposed to the a6000’s mostly plastic build.

Bottom line: there are big autofocus and low light performance enhancements to make this a much improved still photography camera. But the biggest reason to buy this camera over the a6000 is if you’re in need of modern video features.

Best for intermediate photographers or advanced videographers

A few months after the a6300 came out, Sony pulled a strange move and released yet another camera: the a6500. This camera is essentially the a6300, but with 3 key new features. First, they added 5-axis in-body camera stabilization. Also known as IBIS, this feature stabilizes the a6500 so you can shoot steady handheld video or low-light photos no matter what lens you are using. In contrast, the other a6000 cameras offer only 2-axis stabilization when using a stabilized lens. Unfortunately, battery life shrinks when IBIS is on.

The a6500 also adds a touch screen rear LCD and slightly faster in-camera image processing.

Bottom line: If you absolutely need IBIS for video or ultra-fast image processing for say sports photography, get this camera. But if you don’t need either of those features (and most hobbyists or beginning photographers won’t), save the extra cost and put it towards a lens instead.

Best for Vloggers or pro videographers

This year, Sony pulled another strange move by releasing the a6400. It sits right in between the a6300 and a6500. This camera features a new image sensor and processor that work together to enhance autofocus performance and speed. There are also significant upgrades in video. The a6400 allows for high dynamic range capture, plus interval recording for time-lapse video. Also, Sony finally delivered a rear LCD screen that can flip up 180-degrees. This is ideal for vloggers or those who want to monitor footage while in front of the camera.

However, there are a couple of flaws with the a6400. First, the flip screen stands directly in the way of the hot-shoe mount. If you’re trying to use the flip screen with a light or microphone on the camera, forget it. Second, the a6400 omits 5-axis in-body camera stabilization (IBIS), offering only 2-axis stabilization if you use a stabilized lens.

Bottom line: The a6400 offers a new sensor, processor and other features. But these things are more important to professional photographers and videographers. Unless you need IBIS, a flip screen, or ultra fast camera performance, you’re better off with another camera in the a6000 line.

No matter which camera you choose…

Remember that any of these cameras can be purchased used or sold if you decide to upgrade in the future. If you take care of your camera gear, these cameras retain their value and are fairly easy to sell.

The post Which Crop Sensor Sony a6000 Series Camera Should You Buy? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

How to Post Photos to Instagram from your Computer using Bluestacks

Tue, 04/09/2019 - 10:00

The post How to Post Photos to Instagram from your Computer using Bluestacks appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ian Johnson.

Instagram. Ever heard of it? It is the ever-present, popular social media platform to show off your photography to over a billion users. Savvy users may rapidly spread the impact and influence of their images, message, and brand making it a preferred platform for many photographers. Sounds amazing right? So what is the catch? The catch with any social media is that it takes time to curate and post your work which takes time away from other photography tasks. Instagram can exacerbate that because its platform is proprietary to phones and mobile devices making it tedious to post your professionally-edited work from your computer. If you agree with that, I have great news! Bluestacks Android Emulator can access and post to Instagram from your computer.

I want to start this article by saying Bluestacks did not solicit or pay me in any way to do this. When researching for solutions to post to Instagram from your computer, I came across Bluestacks and have been using it for a year. I have written this article from my experience using their software. I review its usage for Instagram, some cons, and some pros.


One of my main concerns when initially installing Bluestacks was its security. You may be concerned about putting your passwords into it, or that Bluestacks may contain spyware. They guarantee that no spyware or malware is packaged with their software. After doing much searching online, I found the consensus was that Bluestacks was secure overall and that entering your password information for Instagram was no different than entering it into the Instagram app on your phone.

Usage Booting Up

You can follow the installation steps from Bluestacks to get started. In short :

  1. Download Bluestacks Emulator from and run the installer.
  2. Open up Bluestacks and sign in with your Google Account like you would on your cell phone.
  3. Open up the Google Play Store and install Instagram. You will be familiar with this as it is the same as your phone’s app store. Note: if you have two-step verification installed for Instagram you will have to temporarily disable it to sign into Instagram on Bluestacks. You can re-enable it once you have signed into Instagram.
Using Instagram

Using Instagram through Bluestacks is simple. Export your images from your editing software. Use Bluestacks’ “Media Manager” to import the image into Bluestacks. This will make the image available for use on Instagram.

Use Bluestacks’ media manager to import your exported image on your computer.

I like to store my exported images in a separate location than the RAW files. Bluestacks remembers this location to make it easy to access the images.

Open up Instagram to make your post. Assuming you already use Instagram, you will go through the same steps you use on your phone. You will appreciate being able to make the post using your keyboard!

To create a post open up Instagram in Bluestacks. Create the post using the same steps you would on your phone.

Thoughts and Review

I hope the steps above demonstrate how easy Bluestacks is to set up and use. After using Bluestacks for a year, I have appreciated the ease in creating posts and responding to users on Instagram. I like knowing I am using my time as efficiently as possible! I’ll break down the pros and cons of Bluestacks as I see them.


Bluestacks makes it efficient to post your edited photos to Instagram. In contrast to other solutions such as posting from Lightroom, you can interact with all of Instagram’s features and respond to comments and followers. I appreciate knowing I can spend more time photographing and editing with less time spent on social media. I also like using Instagram on a large screen and the ability to type using a keyboard.

One efficiency you should use is storing your common hashtags in a notepad document. You can simply copy and paste them into Instagram in Bluestacks. No more worries about mistyping or missing your most productive hashtags!

I keep a list of commonly used hashtags in a notepad file. This allows me to copy and paste them into my post on Instagram.


There are some cons to the Bluestacks software that I’ve encountered. First, it is a RAM and graphic-heavy software. You may get speed performance issues with Bluestacks if you have moderately low ram (e.g., 8Gb). This is prevalent when you have multiple programs open eating up lots of RAM on your computer.

Second, there have been some bugs in Bluestacks which I have found workarounds for. I already mentioned the two-step verification bug. Another bug I have encountered is Instagram closes after starting it and will not open again until you reboot the software. This is not common and I’m not sure what triggers it, but you simply need to be aware of it.

Last, Bluestacks is a third-party app. At this time I trust the software’s security and commitment to no malware in their software. However, those terms could change in the future and you should always be conscious of what is contained in software updates.

The Bottom Line

I hope you like the Bluestacks solution and start to use it to improve your social media efficiency so you can spend more time working on your photography! As I always say, “Pixels are cheap.” I hope you make more pixels and spend less time on Instagram thanks to Bluestacks’s efficiencies!

Do you have other solutions that you would like to share? If so, feel free to comment below.








The post How to Post Photos to Instagram from your Computer using Bluestacks appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ian Johnson.

5 Surprising Macro Photography Ideas to Jumpstart Your Creativity

Mon, 04/08/2019 - 15:00

The post 5 Surprising Macro Photography Ideas to Jumpstart Your Creativity appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Are you struggling to come up with amazing macro photography ideas?

Do you need a bit of a creativity jumpstart?

That’s okay! Because in this article, I’ll give you 5 macro photography ideas – all geared toward getting you out of that creative rut.

Are you ready to start taking stunning macro photos again?

Then let’s get started.

1. Find lights in the background for amazing bokeh

One of the best ways to do creative macro photography…

…is to capture gorgeous bokeh.

(That is, a beautiful, smooth, creamy background.)

And here’s how you do that:

First, find a subject that you really like. A flower, an insect, or some plant life will all work well.

Choose a wide aperture (one in the f/2.8 to f/5.6 range).

Then zoom in, until you’ve isolated just your subject.

Here comes the important part:

Slowly move around your subject, while looking through your camera’s viewfinder. The key is to find a ‘bokeh-generating’ background.

Now, bokeh-generating backgrounds involve light. The best bokeh often comes from bright lights and colors in the background.

More specifically, look for pinpricks of light and colorful reflections.

For instance, sun coming through trees creates amazing bokeh – because the trees break up the light.

Leaves in golden-hour light also create gorgeous bokeh. The golden light on the leaves reflects and makes a creamy, colorful backdrop.

Most scenes have at least a few bokeh options – so don’t settle for a subpar choice.

Instead, use the bokeh to create a masterpiece!

2. Shoot into the sun for gorgeous backlit macro photography

Nature photographers often shoot using frontlight – where the light comes from over the photographer’s shoulder, and lands on the subject.

This often works well. But it can get boring after a while.

If you want to get creative…

…try using backlight.

Backlight comes from behind your subject. It’s great for creating silhouettes – and it’s also great for producing creative lighting effects.

The light can pass through part of your subject, making it turn translucent.

And backlight can also create bright flares of light. When done right, this creates some stunning effects.

However, you should position the sun carefully.

If you get the naked sun in your frame, the whole shot will be ruined because the sun is simply too bright to be rendered by your camera.

Instead, put your macro photography subject in front of the sun. That way, the sun is blocked from view. But you still get some gorgeous effects.

In fact, I recommend experimenting with this. Try changing your angle slightly, so that the sun is placed behind different parts of your subject.

You’ll manage to capture some stunning shots – shots which you probably wouldn’t have initially imagined!

3. Shoot against a white sky for a gorgeous high-key look

Here’s a favorite macro photography idea of mine.

I use it all the time when I’m in a pinch!

Fortunately, it’s really simple:

Shoot against a white sky.

Let me explain:

One of the most important parts of a macro photo…

…is the background.

Without a beautiful background, your macro photos will often fall flat.

Now, the best backgrounds are simple and uniform.

And one of the great ways to create a uniform background?

Rely on the sky!

This works especially well on cloudy days. All you have to do is find a subject – then get down low. In fact, you often have to get lower than your subject.

Make sure that the background is completely covered by clouds.

Then photograph your subject and watch as it stands out against a gorgeous white backdrop!

(If the shot is slightly too dark, don’t worry. You can always lift the whites in post-processing.)

4. Freelens for stunning selective focus

Here’s another great macro photography idea for when you’re in a rut:


I’m a huge fan of this technique – because it gets striking, unique images.

Here’s how it works:

Turn on your camera, and make sure that your lens is focused to infinity.

Then turn your camera off, and detach the lens.

(I suggest you use a backup camera and backup lens for this because there is a risk of damaging your equipment.)

Now, the best lenses for macro freelensing are in the 50mm range. I’ve found that 50mm creates a nice balance of background blur and sharp focus.

Once you’ve detached the lens, turn your camera back on.



Note: With freelensing, you don’t focus by turning a focus ring. Instead, you focus by changing the position of the lens relative to the camera.

So keep the lens detached, and move it around at different angles.

Look for macro subjects, and see what happens when you shoot them with a freelensing setup. Also, notice how pulling the lens away from the camera increases the magnification of the lens. It also allows in more light – creating artistic light leaks!

Freelensing is a bit addictive. Once you’ve started, you’ll struggle to stop – because there are so many opportunities for gorgeous macro photos!

5. Shoot through a second subject for an incredible foreground

If you want an idea for especially creative macro photography…

…why not try ‘shooting through,’ or ‘cramming’?

First, find a macro subject. Flowers work especially well for this because they’re so colorful.

Get in close, and focus your lens on that subject. Choose a wide aperture, in the f/2.8 to f/5.6 range.

Then find a second subject. Place it in front of your lens. The second subject should be colorful – and ideally, similar to the first subject.


The second subject (which remains out of focus) will create a beautiful foreground wash. One that looks great in macro photography.

Now, you don’t want to completely cover your lens with the foreground subject. Instead, place it partially into the scene. That way, it will create a nice wash, without dominating the shot.

This may take a bit of experimentation. But if you’re patient, you’ll capture some gorgeous macro photos.

And your creative muscle will feel energized again!

Creative macro photography ideas: next steps

Hopefully, you’re now feeling excited about macro photography again.

After all, you have lots of ideas for original, creative shots!

The key is to use them. So get out and shoot!

Have any more macro photography ideas? Share them in the comments!

The post 5 Surprising Macro Photography Ideas to Jumpstart Your Creativity appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

How to Photograph Against the Sun for Stunning Images

Mon, 04/08/2019 - 10:00

The post How to Photograph Against the Sun for Stunning Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

As a beginner in photography, you’ll likely be taught to keep the sun behind you. That’s because you’ll have several problems when you photograph against the sun. These problems are related. They’re an overblown sky, and a poorly lit main subject. That’s a recipe for a poor quality photo. As you learn how to better use the light, you’ll learn there are plenty of times you want the sun in front of you. In this article, you’ll learn all about the techniques needed to make stunning images when you photograph against the sun.

This photo is taken towards the sun not long after sunrise. The sun is lighting up the muhly grass through flare.


One of the effects you may well see when photographing against the sun is flare. This is sometimes described as the effect seen when a plant such as a reed is lit up by the sun shining on the plant. In the case of a reed, they have a delicate head in the summer which picks up the sunlight. As the head is delicate, it won’t block the sun completely, but is instead brighter and also not silhouetted. In photography, there are a couple of other effects caused by flare that can be used by photographers.

Flare effect on a camera

Unless your photographing a sunset or sunrise, directly pointing your camera at the sun is something you’ll want to avoid. Instead, aim to use an object within the frame to obscure the sun. Alternatively, you can aim towards the sun, but keep the sun just out of frame.

Doing this will result in two effects: You’ll see that your whole frame has a sunlight “glow,” or it’s highly likely you’ll also see a rainbow-like line that consists of arcs of light progressing across your frame. Both of these effects can be used to your advantage to create a more artistic-looking photo. Should you wish to avoid this altogether, using a lens hood helps. You might also try holding your hand above the lens to block sunlight shining onto the lens.

There is a glow to this image caused by flare. You can see this coming into the frame from the top left.


The starburst effect is technically another aspect of lens flare. It’s a more desirable effect though, and you have more control over how this effect occurs.

To achieve a starburst effect:

  1. Compose your photo, and aim towards the sun. The time of day isn’t that important, but it’s easier to control this effect during golden hour and into sunset or from sunrise.
  2. You’ll want to obscure the majority of the sun, but allow just the edge of the sun to be shining through. Too little and the starburst won’t be noteworthy. Too much of the sun, and it will overpower your frame. Placing the sun behind the leaves of a tree is an ideal solution here.
  3. This effect is caused by your lens diaphragm. The number of sunburst spikes is determined by the number of arms your lens diaphragm has. You get one spike per diaphragm. If your lens has an odd number, the number of spikes will be doubled. That means you’ll want to choose your lens accordingly.
  4. This effect occurs when you close down the aperture of your lens. Apertures of f/11 and smaller should produce this effect.
  5. Photographing into the sun is likely to mean your photo produces silhouettes. If you wish to see details in the foreground, you will need to overexpose. The overexposure could be +2 or +3 exposure value.
  6. With a small aperture, and a high exposure value your shutter speed is likely to be low. Either use a tripod or compensate for this slow shutter speed by using a high ISO. The high ISO will increase the shutter speed. Choose a setting that allows you to take the photo handheld.

Closing down the aperture allowed the sun to appear as a starburst in this photo.


When you photograph against the sun you’ve always got a good chance of producing silhouettes. Getting the best silhouettes takes a little more nuance though. You need to plan your photo and choose the best angle to take that photo from.

  1. The first step is to decide which object you’ll silhouette. Is this a person, or an architectural structure? Perhaps it’s a lone tree in the field.
  2. Which direction will you photograph this object from? Will you need to arrive in the morning or the evening so that the sun is behind this object when you photograph it?
  3. Is there a clear line of sight to the horizon? Or is there a reflective surface behind the silhouette which can be used to photograph the silhouette against it? You’re looking for a bright background that you can silhouette the entire object against.
  4. If you’re silhouetting the object against the sky only, you’ll often need to kneel down to an angle. Getting close to the ground and photographing up towards your silhouette, will mean more of the silhouette is visible. Where the horizon line intersects the silhouette, it will often make the lower half of the object not visible as a silhouette.
  5. Look at the position of the sun in the sky. Is it too intense? Can you hide the sun behind an object? Is it possible to create a starburst effect from the sun?
  6. Silhouettes are black, so of course, the silhouetted portion of your image will be underexposed. Typically, you’ll expose to get the sky correctly exposed within your photo. As the sky is very bright, the rest of your image will be dark and silhouetted.

This was an ideal place to take a silhouette. The person is silhouetted against the sky, and the reflective surface of the water.

Sunsets and sunrises

Of all the things photographers photograph, sunsets, and sunrises are surely the most popular. This time of day fascinates photographers of all levels, and you certainly don’t need to be a photographer to appreciate those colors in the sky. This time of day is also the best time to photograph against the sun. Especially while the sun is close to the horizon, as it won’t overpower your photo with too much light.

So what are you looking for to get the best result?

  • Know the angle – The sun changes position in the sky from winter to summer. Uses resources like suncalc to find out how a change of angle through the course of the year will affect your photo.
  • Check the weather – Overcast days won’t produce a sunset or sunrise! Always check the forecast and try and head out for optimum conditions. You’re not looking for a totally clear day either, 30-50% cloud coverage is nice.
  • Scout the location – Knowing a great location to visit on the day a good sunrise arrives is good. Knowing exactly where the best angle to photograph from within this location is even better.
  • Focal point – Unless the sky is truly epic for your sunset or sunrise, you’ll need a focal point to give your photo interest. A lone tree or building structure is often a great subject. Likewise, a river that gives a reflective surface, and perhaps a leading line will also work well.
  • Filters – Landscape photography where you photograph against the sun often need graduated neutral density filters. Be careful that the sun doe not produce unattractive and unwanted flare when you use these.
  • Post-processing – Post-processing can enhance your images. The use of techniques like digital blending, and graduated filters are important tools.

Sunset and sunrise are always captivating times to take photos against the sun.


There are some useful pieces of equipment you can have when photographing against the sun. Depending on the type of photograph you take, you’ll need some or all of this:

  • Lens hood – This is needed to minimize or eliminate the effect of lens flare on your photo.
  • Filters – Using a circular polarizing filter is a good idea for photography in general. Photographing towards the sun means using graduated neutral density filters is also a good idea.
  • Strobes – Should you wish to light up a person or object, when you’re photographing against the sun, using strobes is necessary. Without these, you’ll have silhouetted people or objects. Should you wish to avoid this, additional light will be required.
  • Reflecting disc – This can be used to reflect and direct sunlight onto the person or object you’re photographing. They’re more often used for portraits, and can be used on their own or in conjunction with strobes.

In this photo, an external flash was used to light up the couple.

Digital blending

Digital blending is a post-processing technique that uses luminosity masks to control the light across your photo. This has led to an improvement in the quality of images produced by landscape photographers who photograph against the sun. This is a large topic, so to learn more you should read this article.

In order to get the best results from this technique, you’ll need a tripod and to bracket your images when you take a photo. You’ll then need to spend time learning how to blend so you can produce natural looking and professional results. Learning how to do this will significantly improve the final results of your photos. Keep in mind that there are occasions you won’t need to use this style, and using filters, or producing silhouettes is an alternative to this.

This image used digital blending. The rocks in the foreground were lightened, and the sky darkened.

Show some flare, photograph against the sun!

The sun provides photographers with their main source of light. Knowing how best to use it is vital for the best photos. In this article, you’ve learned how to photograph into the sunlight – a trickier proposition than photographing with the sun behind you.

Do you enjoy photographing towards the sun? Which techniques and ideas do you apply in your photography? Do you have example photos you can share with the community? At digital photography school we’d love to see your images both from the past, and perhaps your future images having read this article.

So now it’s time to get out into the sun, and photograph against the sun!


The post How to Photograph Against the Sun for Stunning Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

How to Turn Your Living Room into a Photo Studio

Sun, 04/07/2019 - 15:00

The post How to Turn Your Living Room into a Photo Studio appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Have you ever wished to have a studio space where you could bring clients in and photograph all types of portraits and ideas? You can! Your living room, or any room in your home for that matter, can be quickly converted so that you can photograph your studio ideas in your home!

Setting up backgrounds on a plain wall can help you take great portraits in your own living room.

Finding the right space

Your living room might be the room with the biggest space for you to get the best angles and set up your lights. As long as you have about 10 feet of blank wall space, you can use it for your at-home studio.

Choose a wall where you can mount backgrounds. Put up studio paper, or any background paper. Alternatively, use a painted wall for your photos. It doesn’t have to be anything special, and you could use the existing wall as the main background as well.

A bedroom with big windows can be used as a studio for portraits.

Why 10 feet? The wider your wall space, the more room you’ll have to the sides of your photos. This will enable you to photograph both horizontally and vertically. You will also have room for more than one person.

If you’re photographing headshots or only individuals, a smaller wall space would work. A wall with 5 feet would be sufficient enough for headshots and individuals.

Other spaces in your home that could work

The living room doesn’t have to be the only space that you can use. For example, if you don’t have studio lights, but want to create beautiful portraits with creative direction on backgrounds and don’t want to go on location, your home can still work!

You can photograph in a covered patio with lots of wall space, in your garage, in the bedroom, or on a balcony. All of these spaces work if you have the wall space to place your subject and space to photograph them from a distance.

This makes it much simpler to choose the right location for your at-home studio in the event that you don’t have studio lighting equipment or a special look to your photographs.

Creating the best set up for studio/flash  set up

You don’t necessarily need to use studio lights for your at-home studio, however, if that is what you’re going to use then let’s go through what you’ll need in the space for the best outcome.

Use flash bouncing off the ceiling to light portraits in your living room or in the space you want for your at home studio.

You’ll need to choose a wall space that is in a darker or not-so-brightly-lit room. You can also use shades or curtains to block out light so that your off-camera lighting can correctly light your scene.

Using a flash to light these portraits to simulate the sun. Plain wall background in the bedroom.

Living rooms offer the most space but make sure you can get it dark enough to set up the lights exactly where you want them.  You could also use external flashes to set up your at-home studio.

You can light portraits creatively when you have control of the space and lighting.

Have a lamp nearby so that you can use it as a modeling light. You can also use a light dimmer so that the light doesn’t affect the outcome or interfere with the white balance, exposure, or look and feel that you’re trying to achieve.

Best set up for natural light at-home studio

If your living room or any other room in your home has great natural light, you can definitely set up your studio there. The same tips apply as far as wall space so that you can pose your subject and have enough space in the frame in case cropping is necessary. It also gives you the option to photograph vertical or horizontal.

This was shot with all natural light using a silver reflector with a 3×3 grey background taped to the wall. Edited to bump up the contrast and desaturate the colors.

Choose a room that has great window light or light coming into the space. For example, a garage space with the garage door open is a good option. Another good option is a living room with big sliding doors where light floods the room. Make sure that the sunlight isn’t coming directly into the room or through the window where it casts weird shadows on your subject.

To diffuse the light, you can hang translucent curtains. This will help with harsh lighting, shadows, and the temperature of the room. Of course, you don’t necessarily need the window open unless it adds more light to your scene – if that is the look you’re going for.

If your home has textured walls, you can use them as backgrounds for the portraits as well!

Use a reflector and bounce cards to help bounce light in the direction you want. Black flags  (black boards that help darken the light) and are great for creating shadows and can help to give you more dramatic lighting.

Be aware of the floor

In your home, your floor is already installed and this can present a problem if you’re photographing full-length portraits. Take a look to see if the floor is what you’ll want for your photos. If it isn’t, you can use paper and place it from the wall all the way to the floor. This will create a seamless look to your photos like a real studio.

In the before photo, we covered the floor with a black sheet so we could photoshop the black background in and create a seamless look.

You can also get cheap wood floor-looking laminate flooring and create your portable floor. If the trim base to the floor isn’t distracting, you could even possibly photoshop that out to create a more seamless look with the wall and the floor.

Just be aware of your floor so you know what to do before you start photographing in your new home studio.

Backgrounds for in-home studios

There are a lot of great backgrounds that you can use for a home studio. Given that it’s completely your space and you can get really creative. The simplest one is the one you already have available! Use the existing wall color and texture to create interesting portraits.

You can use existing decor to create beautiful portraits or tape a paper background to the wall for a seamless background.

Other backgrounds you can use can be:

  • A sheet that covers the wall and onto the floor for a seamless fabric background.
  • Paper either rolled onto the floor for seamless or a piece of paper taped to the wall for up-close portraits
  • Any fabric or paper with a print on it
  • Different colored paper for headshots

Pretty much anything you can think of you can create as a background! You can get really creative with balloons, tissue paper, hanging strings, lights, paper flowers, artificial flowers, string or hanging garlands either made by you or already made newspaper or even plants.

The options and ideas are limitless and will give your photos a unique look no matter what your style is.

In conclusion

Your living room can be the perfect space for you to create beautiful studio work. You don’t need fancy equipment just nice wall space and the light you love to photograph with. Add in some music and you’ve got the perfect comfortable studio right in your home!

Do you have other suggestions to make a great living room studio? Share with us and our readers in the comments below.

The post How to Turn Your Living Room into a Photo Studio appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport Review

Sun, 04/07/2019 - 10:00

The post Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Sigma has made a significant name for itself via its famous ART line of lenses. But did you know Sigma also has a Sport line? Lesser known than the ART lenses, the Sport lenses are the incredible workhorses of the photography world (and deserve recognition). The Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport (Canon and Nikon Mount) is the newest addition to the Sport line, featuring a loved focal length. A big contender in the telephoto field, this lens may just be the top dog you didn’t see coming.

This lens focal length is so splendid, that the Digital Photography School even has an article on why you need a 70-200mm lens!

Lens build Weight

I have tried many different 70-200mm F/2.8 lenses in the past, and currently own the newest one from Canon’s L line. This version of a favorite millimeter stands out. Before we even get into the construction, I can tell you that this lens is not the heaviest by far as compared to other brands like Tamron, and Rokinon, and older versions of the Canon and Nikon. As someone who tends to shoot sporting events for a good 12 hours at a time, my back is bowing in thanks at the decreased weight. Weighing in at a teeny bit less than 4 pounds, this is by far a more useable weight. The lens size is customary for this focal range at 3.7 inches in diameter by 8.0 inches in length.


The body is constructed out of a clever mixture of a very durable form of plastic, metal, and a new compound known as TSC (short for Thermally Stable Composite). The lens feels durable, and I found it to be more shock resistant than many of my other lenses. The glass itself is a high-grade glass mixture – 24 Elements in 22 Groups. I like the tactile feel of the focus and zoom rings, and it is very comfortable to use.

Weather sealing

This lens is built to work, and as such, its weather sealing is incredible. I feel very confident taking this lens out for a spin in whatever situation I find myself in. With the recent rains and odd weather in Southern California, I was still able to take this lens out in ease at a local outdoor sporting event. The weather sealing is a testament to a highly effective dust and splash proof structure with special sealing at the mount connection, manual focus ring, zoom ring, and cover connection.

That said, do use your best judgment to determine whether the weather is good enough to go out and shoot or not… weather sealing is not equivalent to weatherproof! As for the glass, the forefront and rear lenses incorporate water and oil-repellent coating that allows water to be wiped away easily. It prevents oil and fat from sticking to the surface, even in challenging shooting conditions, making lens maintenance easy.

The only downside I find with the lens construction is that you cannot remove the customary tripod foot (that many 70-200mm lenses have). This lens is also still technically heavier than the latest Canon or Nikon versions, but I’d argue this is a fair trade for how shock resistant and durable it is.

Lens features

As is customary for the Sigma lenses, the Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport features a slew of unique and useful features. Before we even get into them, it is worth mentioning that at this time, this lens is available only in Sigma, Canon, and Nikon mount. Sigma does offer a mount conversion service in case you want your lens to fit onto a different camera brand.

Sigma has gone the extra step to make sure that the mechanics of their lenses work as well as Canon and Nikon native lenses. The Canon mount version is compatible with Canon’s internal chromatic aberration control, and the Nikon version works with Nikon’s electromagnetic diaphragm.

Focus range limiter switch

A nice added feature for any telephoto lens is the focus range limiter switch, which restricts the range of distance your lens can focus. I use this feature myself when I photograph dog agility shows to make sure that the lens doesn’t focus on any obstacles near me but remains locked on a running dog that is far away.

Hyper Sonic AF Motor (HSM)

As the name suggests, this lens uses HSM (Hyper Sonic AF Motor) for its focusing. HSM uses ultrasonic vibrations to drive the focusing group. This motor benefits an internal focusing system.

You can easily override the HSM for manual control via a finger switch on the lens. A feature that goes along with this aspect is the Manual Override (MO). With MO, a photographer can continue using autofocus as usual, before making any final manual adjustments using the focusing ring around the lens. The lens can focus as close as 1.2m away from the subject unless restricted by the focus limiter.

The lens comes with a locking lens hood, which is superb considering the number of times the hood on my other lenses go flying off because they get bumped! The lock is sturdy, but still very easy to use when you need to get the hood off in a flash.


With a sport and action lens like this one, strong autofocus is the key to success. I photograph a slew of canine athletes, and you’d be surprised how incredibly fast those small champion papillons are! Additionally, to ensure the dogs are not distracted by the sound of my camera or lens, quiet autofocus is pretty high up on my list of needs too.

Lucky for me – and anyone else interested in this telephoto model – the Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 checks all of these boxes. The HSM motor keeps the autofocus noise to a minimum or nonexistent, which allows me to get a wee bit closer to the dogs as they make their impressive jumps and leaps.

The autofocus is rather accurate – even on small moving subjects like an Italian greyhound dog, through to bigger canines such as the border collie. The lens allowed me to capture the agility competition with ease. The focus was very smooth too, with little focus hunting, even when the clouds took over and the location became quite dim. No manic focusing movements either, like I’ve experienced with Tamron’s equivalent of this lens last year at a tradeshow.

In comparison to my Canon 70-200mm F/2.8 L IS USM III lens, this one performed just as good, and I would certainly consider it as an additional.


Although zoom lenses may never be quite the same level of sharpness as fixed focal lengths, this one still performs brilliantly despite this fact. Sharpness and contrast are excellent, even when shooting wide-open, throughout the entire zoom range. Centre sharpness at 70mm is excellent and just fine at all other focal lengths. Corner sharpness is high at 70mm, but at 100mm and beyond, corner sharpness takes a significant downturn at larger apertures. If you want to get the entire frame sharp, you’ll probably have to switch over to F/11 or so. That said, this isn’t unusual for zoom lenses. The contrast it produces is also excellent.

Depth of field

The F/2.8 wide aperture gives a nice subject separation and bokeh (the out of focus areas in an image). The depth of field is creamy and smooth, and very pleasing to the eye. The 11 diaphragm blades help to keep bokeh looking natural.

There is some vignetting on the edges. Some people like this, others don’t. I enjoy the natural vignetting that is contrary to popular opinion, but for those that find it a nuisance, keep this in mind.

Image Stabilization

The image stabilization system in this particular 70-200mm is superb. This lens incorporates Intelligent OS, which is the latest algorithm to deliver image stabilization. The intelligent OS works horizontally, vertically, or diagonally – whatever direction your lens is being held or used. The mode can be adjusted by a switch on the side of the lens and has two modes from which to choose.

The optical stabilizer was effective up to four stops – fantastic for a telephoto lens. The panning stabilizer was equally impressive, allowing me to track my subjects with ease while handheld. I took this lens out for a swing at a local concert as well. The F/2.8 aperture paired with stabilization, allowed me to expose my shots quite well.

Flare resistance & chromatic aberration

The glass coating on this lens does a fine job decreasing flaring and ghosting – an annoying issue that plagues photographers when the light hits the lens at a bad angle. The chromatic aberration control is quite good as well, with the optical array comprising of 24 elements spread across 22 groups. This includes nine FLD pieces of glass and a single SLD lens, all of which are used to help control chromatic aberration.

The Canon mount versions of this lens also benefit from compatibility with a full set of in-camera corrections for lens aberrations (a big yippee for me as a Canon user).

Pros and Cons of the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG Sport Pros:
  • Durable, comfortable, solid lens build.
  • Superb weather sealing, as well as dust and moisture resistance.
  • Water and oil repellent coating on the glass.
  • The Canon mount version is compatible with Canon’s internal chromatic aberration control and the Nikon version is able to work with Nikon’s electromagnetic diaphragm.
  • Various switches built into the lens for professional use such as the focus limiter, modes, and image stabilization.
  • On the topic of image stabilization, the IS is superb.
  • HSM for quite and reliable autofocus.
  • The addition of an Manual Override mode for focus.
  • Locking lens hood.
  • Good flare and ghosting resistance.
  • Excellent chromatic aberration control.
  • Good center sharpness.
  • Very nice, creamy, natural bokeh.
  • Tripod foot cannot be removed.
  • Vignetting on the edges.
  • Sharpness suffers in the corners at 100mm and more.
  • Weight

At a price tag of US$1,500, while this may seem hefty to some, it’s actually much more affordable than equivalent lenses of this caliber. There is a lot of bang for your buck. Moreover, it’s a very worthwhile investment for those shooting outdoors or in questionable conditions, as this lens is built to be the perfect workhorse.

I genuinely loved this model. It was very easy to use for my athletic needs!

Have you used this lens? What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments below.

The post Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

When Do You Need to Obtain a Model or Property Release?

Sat, 04/06/2019 - 15:00

The post When Do You Need to Obtain a Model or Property Release? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Model and property releases are necessary when you want to use your photographs commercially. This also applies if you plan to upload your photos to a stock agency who will license them for commercial use. These rules apply only to photos that contain recognizable people or material which is copyrighted.

I have a model release for this photo so I can sell it commercially or on stock photography websites under a commercial license. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

If someone can recognize themselves in a photo, it needs a model release. Even if your photo of a person is a silhouette, it needs a model release for commercial use. Anything showing a company logo, branding, photograph or artwork needs to be accompanied by an appropriate property release if using it commercially.

Release requirements vary from country to country, even from state to state. You need to do due diligence to be sure. This article covers the broader issues of model and property releases and should not be considered in any way as legal advice.

What are model and property releases?

These documents are written, signed agreements between the photographer and the people or property in a photograph.

If you have a photograph of any group of recognizable people you want to upload to a stock photo website to sell commercially, every person in the photo must individually sign a model release.

This photo could be used commercially without a license because no one in the photo is recognizable. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Photographs of things like cars, storefronts, and even some buttons require the signature of the copyright owner or a property release to use them commercially. There are also many other situations where property releases are required.

France’s famous Eiffel Tower does not require a property release during the day. However, if you photograph this iconic landmark at night, a release to use it commercially is necessary. The lighting design that illuminates the tower at night is subject to copyright. Many other public structures are subject to copyright laws, as are any privately owned buildings. So do your homework before you embark on a commercial photography job.

A property release would be required to use this image commercially. ©Kevin Landwer-Johan

How can you know if you need a Property Release?

Research is easy these days. Jump online and do a quick, specific search and you will find your answer. It’s best to do this early on in your planning because if a release is required, this will have a significant impact.

Many times you will not be granted a property release. I can’t imagine any company would even pay attention to requests for general releases of their intellectual property.

In some situations, you’ll need permission even to photograph. When you are on public property, in most countries, there are no restrictions on what you can photograph. Restrictions only come into play if you want to publish your photos.

Photographing on private property, and in some public spaces such as museums and galleries, you need to seek consent.

Err on the side of caution. Commercial use of photos containing physical or intellectual property without an appropriate release can be very expensive if you get sued.

This photo can be sold commercially because there is no visible branding on the jet-ski. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Is it difficult to obtain a Model Release?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

When photographing friends, family or hired models, it can be quite easy to get them to sign a model release. Careful communication is essential, and it pays to obtain model releases before you start photographing.

I have model releases for the two recognizable people in this photo, so it can be sold commercially. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Explain to the people you are going to photograph what you plan to do with the photos and ask if they have any objections. If not, have them sign a release form there and then.

Many people are happy to comply. You can offer them something in return for their services. Many times digital copies of their photos are sufficient. If I am working with models, I always require them to sign a model release prior to commencing the photography session.

Minors cannot sign a release form themselves. If you’re photographing anyone under the age of 18, you must have a parent or legal guardian sign the release for them.

It would be impossible to use this photo commercially because there are so many people and so much company branding in it. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

At times when photographing groups of people, I have had one or two who do not wish to sign a release. This is problematic as it limits the whole photo session. I have ended up excluding these people from most of the photos because potential use of them is very limited.

If you frequently photograph the same models, it’s best practice to have them sign a new release form each time you work with them. Having a signed model release that’s months or even a few days old can cause problems. Most stock photo agencies require releases for photos made on different days.

A witness also needs to sign the model release at the time the person you are photographing adds their signature. Improperly filled out release forms will be rejected.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Once I even had a model release rejected by a stock agency because the form was in the wrong language. I had photographed this young woman in Thailand and had her fill out my standard model release form. She is a French citizen living in France. Because the address she gave showed that she lives in Paris, the release form had to be in the French language. Thankfully I was able to email her a copy in French which she signed, had someone witness and sent it back.


Obtaining model and property releases may seem like a big hassle if you are not used to the process. It is a necessary part of being a professional photographer, or even a keen amateur who wants to license photos for commercial usage.

You must be well organized. You need to communicate clearly your intentions and that you require a model release before you begin photographing. Don’t be lax and wait until later – later may be too late.

Property releases are generally much more difficult to come by unless you own the property.

Be bold. If you don’t ask, you won’t get it. Be methodical. Build release acquisition into your workflow. Keep good records, even photograph the person holding their signed release form. Once you have gathered a few signed releases the whole process will seem less daunting.

The post When Do You Need to Obtain a Model or Property Release? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Review: Photolemur 3 Photo Enhancer Software

Sat, 04/06/2019 - 09:00

The post Review: Photolemur 3 Photo Enhancer Software appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sandra Roussy.

There are many options out there when it comes to photo editing apps and software. From the simple one-click filter apps for smartphones to the elaborate software programs like Photoshop and Lightroom.

Technology is making it easier to do photo editing quicker and expertly without learning the complete nuts and bolts of complex and expensive software. Depending on your particular needs, some software on the market today can do a very professional job in a few easy clicks.

Let’s take a look at one of these programs that have emerged on the market that boasts advanced technology using algorithms and artificial intelligence to enhance photos automatically and effortlessly.

Photolemur 3 Photo Enhancer

Photolemur is relatively new on the market and prides itself on being a completely automatic photo enhancer. It uses algorithms and artificial intelligence to analyze photos and applies corrections and enhancements as necessary. The software is only available for computer use at the moment and is Mac and PC compatible. You can purchase a single license for US$35.00 or a family licenses of up to five users for US$55.00.

How it works – instant and quick results

It really is as easy as they say! You drop your photos or import them into the app, and the software gets to work immediately. It analyzes skies, colors, exposure, and faces to enhance your images and fix any problems it encounters.

You can batch import and apply the editing to all your photos at once, or edit them one by one. The software supports a variety of file formats – even RAW files.

After Photlemur finishes analyzing your images, it gives you a before and after view with a fun slider. You can see and compare the enhancements applied to your photos.

At the bottom, you can click on the paintbrush and gain access to a slider that lets you adjust the amount of enhancement that you want to apply. The software won’t let you adjust the changes individually. For example, you can’t edit the exposure only. It does a pretty decent job at making the skies pop and fixing any exposure issues automatically.

Photolemur 3 also features a face and skin enhancer that fix your portrait photos instantly by smoothing skin and imperfections, enhancing eyes, and whitening teeth.

On the left-hand side of the bottom slider, you will notice icons that let you turn on or off the “EYES ENLARGEMENT” and the “FACE ENHANCEMENT”.

I didn’t particularly like what happened to the hair of my model in this image. I would probably glide the slider a little to the left for portrait photos.

Applying filters

The software has integrated filters you can apply to your images. The filters are very similar to the ones you find on apps like Instagram. Click on the circle at the bottom and get access to all the filter options. If you’re a fan of filters, these do the trick pretty well. The mono filter transforms your photos to black and white with commendable results.

Exporting options

Once you’ve finished editing your photos, you can export them to your computer, upload them on various social media sites, or attach them directly to an email.

Standalone and Plug-in

You can use Photolemur 3 as a standalone app on your computer, and you can also add it as a plugin for Photoshop and Lightroom. Upon initial installation, you are prompted to add the plugin if you wish to do so.

Who it’s for

Photolemur 3 is a great tool for beginner or amateur photographers who want to easily and quickly enhance their photos. It does what it claims and has made photo enhancing stress-free. However, I don’t think that professional photographers will use this software on a regular basis because of its limitations.

It’s ideal for landscape photographers because of the sky enhancer and also for portrait photography. It’s super easy to set-up and get going. You can get your photos edited in a few minutes with a few simple clicks.

What it doesn’t do

If you have Photoshop or Lightroom knowledge and are accustomed to editing your photos manually, you will find Photolemur 3 restrictive. If you don’t like the way the software adjusted your exposure and colors, there is no way to go in deeper to adjust these results individually.

That said, it does a pretty good job automatically.

The program makes some sounds when it does certain actions that I’m not a fan of. Thankfully you can go to the settings drop-down menu and disable this feature.


I particularly like the way Photolemur 3 processes the skies to look better and how it corrects any exposure issues. However, I would go a little easy on the face enhancement features so that portraits don’t look over-edited.

You can give Photolemur 3 an unlimited free trial before you purchase it. Download the free limited version from their website and test it out for yourself. The free version adds a watermark and has other restrictions like no batch processing and limited export size.

This type of technology is the future of photo editing, and we will be seeing more algorithms and artificial intelligence applied to photography software and apps. I’m all for professional results done in a less time-consuming way. More time to have fun shooting!

Have you used Photolemur 3? What are your thoughts?

The post Review: Photolemur 3 Photo Enhancer Software appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sandra Roussy.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Bicycles

Fri, 04/05/2019 - 14:00

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is BICYCLES!

Flo Karr

Your photos can include anything that has bicycles. It can be motion-blurred, cropped, minimalist, color-based, use nature, objects or anything really! They can be color, black and white, moody or bright. You get the picture! Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Emily Levine


Some Inst-piration from some Instagrammers:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by RITIHK SANTHALIA | ?? (@the.speaking.lenses) on Mar 27, 2019 at 1:09pm PDT


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Locke Cheng (@lockelei) on Mar 27, 2019 at 6:29pm PDT


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Ventsislav K Valev (@ventsislavvalev) on Mar 24, 2019 at 8:27am PDT


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Andy | 16 (@andyvisualz) on Mar 27, 2019 at 7:34am PDT


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by ?? MD ?? (@daversa_marco) on Mar 26, 2019 at 11:13am PDT

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

Tips for Shooting BICYCLES

6 Tips to Master Panning Photography

The dPS Top Street Photography Tips of 2018

How to Avoid Distracting Backgrounds in Street Photography

Which Street Photography Lens is Right for You?

How to Tell a Story With Your Street Photography


Weekly Photography Challenge – BICYCLES

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 #DPSbicycles 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 – Bicycles appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

6 Methods to Create Dynamic in Your Photography [video]

Fri, 04/05/2019 - 09:00

The post 6 Methods to Create Dynamic in Your Photography [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this video from our friends over at Cooph, you’ll learn 6 methods to create dynamic in your photography.



The video covers these 6 tips: 1. Power of Color

Scout a vibrant location, and find your angle.

Look for color blocking opportunities. Look for vivid backgrounds that are perfect for graphic needs.

2. Black and White

Look for things like parking ramps as they provide great contrast and depth. Shoot roofs that cast interesting shadows.

3. Motion Blur

Create dynamic by panning. Pan subjects passing on the street. Rig your tripod up in the back of your vehicle and photograph long exposures for light trails and movement. (Be sure you and your gear are safe and secure here.)

Or frame the cockpit instead!

4. Zoom Blur

Zoom out and expose long for interesting effects.

Define a focal point of interest, shoot and zoom!

Shoot at night using long exposures and zooming effects. Shooting buildings with all their lights can make for great effects!

5. Rectangles

Use places like stairways that have long vanishing points. Here straight lines become dynamic! Coupled with light and shadow, you can get some really interesting shots! Also, look for sharp corners and lines that draw the viewer’s eye throughout your frame.

6. Perspective

Seek high buildings, get down low and angle your camera from a low angle, pointing upward for epic perspective!

Crawl under a grid (if you really want to, and can find one!) and shoot your subject standing on the grid above for a cool urban look.

Find a low, infrequently used tunnel. Get low and create lines in your images.


You may also find the following article helpful:

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

9 Creative Architecture Photography Techniques for Amazing Photos!

How to do Light Painting Photography Art with Endless Possibilities

5 Photography Hacks to Improve Your Creative Photography

The dPS Top Street Photography Tips of 2018

The post 6 Methods to Create Dynamic in Your Photography [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Lessons from the Masters: Imogen Cunningham

Thu, 04/04/2019 - 14:00

The post Lessons from the Masters: Imogen Cunningham appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

It’s easy enough to develop the illusion that the legendary names venerated throughout the history of photography were somehow so different from ourselves. While’s it’s certainly true that the photographic climate has changed, we still share the same passion for the art as those who clicked shutters fifty years or even a century ago. Many of them faced the same challenges, inspirations, successes and failures as we do. Perhaps that’s why I love learning more about the giants of photography and applying lessons from their work to my photos.

In this installment of “Lessons from the Masters,” we’re going to take a closer look at the work of the estimable Imogen Cunningham. Her determination and herculean achievements placed her working alongside other formative photographers of the 20th century. The contributions she made to photography as an art helped shape the photographic landscape we know today.

Imogen Cunningham

Self Portrait with Korona View, 1933 ©2019 Imogen Cunningham Trust

Named after the heroine of the Shakespearean play Cymbeline, Imogen Cunningham entered this world on April 12th, 1883. Born to rather paradoxical parents (her father a spiritualist and her mother Methodist) in Portland, Oregon she was a self-described “ill-tempered” child.

When she was 18 years old, she saved enough money to purchase (via mail order) her first camera in 1903, a 4×5 type, along with a box of glass plate negatives. She then began teaching herself how to make photographs. Cunningham knew photography would be her life’s work although her path would not be a direct one.

Following her graduation from the University of Washington with a degree in Chemistry in 1907, Imogen worked with Edward Curtis at his Seattle studio. There, she honed her skills in the darkroom while printing his iconic images of Native Americans and the American West.

Two years later, Cunningham received a $500 grant which enabled her to continue her studies abroad in Germany. During this time she developed theories on photographic chemistry still practiced today.

On her return to the west coast from Europe, Imogen made a familiar pilgrimage which other notable artists of the time often made and ventured to New York City for a meeting with the legendary Alfred Stieglitz at his “291” gallery. Stieglitz introduced her to Gertrude Käsebier who was the first professional female commercial photographer at that time.

After this influential meeting, Imogen committed her energy to photography. She opened a studio in Seattle, Washington and soon made a name for herself through portraits.

It was this studio where Imogen made her living while finding time to delve into more personal work before relocating to California in 1917. Unfortunately for us, she left the majority of her photographs and negatives behind, so there isn’t a large wealth of examples from that period of her career. In 1929, the Film und Foto Exhibition in Stuttgart, Germany, included a ten-piece selection of Cunningham’s work. The fabled Group f/64 would form a few years later to which Imogen was a founding member. Other founding members included her friend Edward Weston as well as Henry Swift, John Paul Edwards, Sonja Noskowiak, Ansel Adams and Willard Van Dyke. Over the years, Imogen Cunningham’s body of work would be as eclectic as it was groundbreaking.

Imogen photographing Ansel Adams…photographing Half Dome in 1953. ©2019 Imogen Cunningham Trust

After living an extraordinary life of photography, Imogen Cunningham passed away on June 23rd, 1976 in San Francisco, California at the age of 93.

Now that you know a little bit about the person, let’s dig a little deeper. We’ll look at a few of the many the lessons you can learn from the life, work, and attitude of Imogen Cunningham which can help to improve your photography.

Extend your range

Imogen Cunningham’s choice in subject matter was ‘diverse’ to say the least. From her earliest pictorial work to her self portraits and nudes, it’s safe to say that the idea of sticking to one subject or even one genre for that matter was not something that held back the creative spirit of Imogen Cunningham. She believed that photographs presented themselves to her organically.

She seldom went “looking for things to shoot,” instead preferring to allow the subject matter to appeal to her aesthetic awareness. I mean, come on, she was even one of the early practitioners of street photography before there was street photography!

Hashbury, 1967. ©2019 Imogen Cunningham Trust

Many of Imogen’s most iconic photographs gravitated towards the use of light and shadow to present common scenes in an extraordinary way by accentuating texture and shapes. She could look past what a subject was to see what it could be. This beautifully simplistic aesthetic is one of the reasons so many Cunningham prints carry a timeless appeal.

The Unmade Bed, 1957. ©2019 Imogen Cunningham Trust

Sometimes we find ourselves concentrating so vigorously on obtaining a particular photograph that we overlook other opportunities to produce great work. While it’s true that we can and should visualize how we want the final image to appear, the process is often helped along if we remain flexible.

One of my favorite photographs by Imogen Cunningham, “Callas” from around 1925. ©2019 Imogen Cunningham Trust

Don’t allow yourself to be mired down by one particular subject or location. This is especially true for us today while bombarded by social media accounts producing visually similar photos according to a theme rather than personal expression. This leads to an almost unconscious dulling down of creativity.

My own still life photo of lilies making use of light and texture to bring out the subtle elegance of a simple subject.

Photograph anything and everything that you please – even if might not fit with what you generally shoot.

Feel the fear…then do it anyway

One of my favorite quotes from Imogen Cunningham goes like this:

“…you can’t expect things to be smooth and easy and beautiful. You just have to work, find your way out, and do anything you can yourself.”

Without a doubt, Imogen was a strongly independent, capable and witty woman who pursued her work with an intensity of purpose. At the same time, she was human. She faced challenges, hardships, and fear just as we all do.

The key to overcoming your self-doubt is to keep moving forward. I think that’s what Cunningham was getting at here. It’s not that we should strive to be fearless but instead work to be tireless in the face of fear or our lack of confidence.

When it comes to photography, there will always be areas where we don’t feel as knowledgeable or proficient as we would like. However, that shouldn’t reduce you to thinking you will always feel that way. Take it from Imogen. Work hard and accept that you won’t always find yourself in easy situations. But never, never, never give up.

Interface with other photographers

Surrounded by other photographers, like many other defining artists of her time, Imogen loved discussing all aspects of photo work. As a founding member of Group f/64, she understood the value of sharing ideas and concepts with other photographers who approached the medium with the same zeal as she did. They learned from one another and worked to further the craft.

One of the most enlightening and enjoyable things I have ever done in this regard was to start the ongoing ITOW (In Their Own Words) Project. This project consists of interviewing other photographers that I either know personally or interact with on social media. The insights gained through these discussions continue to help deepen my own appreciation for the way other people see photography.

By Seth Doyle via Unsplash

Whenever possible, take the time to get to know other photographers and discuss photography openly and honestly. This doesn’t mean you have to strike up a conversation with anyone you see is carrying a camera, but it’s always interesting to examine how other people go about making their images and why.

Worldwide communication has never been more extensive or readily available. We have the capability of connecting with people whom we would have never known existed otherwise. One of the greatest assets we have for growth in our work is by interacting with other people who appreciate the value of photography.

Parting thoughts on Imogen Cunningham

Having been fortunate enough to view some of Imogen’s original prints, it’s easy for me to understand why she was, and still is, one of the most influential and accomplished photographers of all time. Along with other pioneering photographers, we owe a debt of gratitude to Imogen for helping advance photography to the incredible medium we know today.

The lessons we can learn from her work extend well beyond the photographic. She helped show that beauty is found in places and objects we see every day and that we can accomplish almost any goal – no matter how distant it may seem.

I urge you to learn more about Imogen Cunningham, her photographs and her wonderful example of living a full life.

Author’s Note: I would like to extend my immense appreciation to The Imogen Cunningham Trust for permitting the use of many of the photographs presented in this article. 


The post Lessons from the Masters: Imogen Cunningham appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Real Estate Photography: Artificial Light versus Natural Light

Thu, 04/04/2019 - 09:05

The post Real Estate Photography: Artificial Light versus Natural Light appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

Architecture: Michael Vail Design. Photo: © Sallie Moffatt.

This article is written by Nisha Ramroop and Ron Pepper.

Real estate interior photography can seem simple, but that impression can change when trying to capture a space that has big bright window views, and many areas of light and shadow inside. Often, it’s important to achieve balance amongst the bright and dark areas, whilst also capturing the view outside the window.

In this article, we’ll discuss shooting interiors using various lighting methods. These methods include using single and multiple Speedlight flashes, larger strobe lights, and using bracketed exposures for HDR.

Artificial lighting Speedlight flash

The term ‘Speedlight’ refers to the kind of flash that can be connected to the camera’s hot shoe. These battery-powered flash units are very versatile and relatively inexpensive (often available used) because they can also be used off-camera. Nikon uses this term for this kind of flash, Canon uses the very similar ‘Speedlite’ and others might say ‘on-camera flash’ or other terms.

Architecture: Michael Vail Design. Photo: © Sallie Moffatt.

Using only a single Speedlight flash with your camera to light a room can be a good way to capture interiors quickly with minimal equipment. This does require some practice and a powerful Speedlight.

Usually, you want to retain detail in the brightest part of your room (either the view through the window or in a light fixture) and build your flash lighting around that.

To achieve this, you need to establish a base shot which exposes for the window view. If the window is the brightest area in the room, the rest of the room gets underexposed. Thus you need to light the underexposed areas of your room with your flash. Experiment with your flash at different power levels to equalize the light in the room. You can also use a light meter to measure the light being thrown in a particular area. This helps you adjust the flash output deliberately.

Lighting equipment enables you to fill areas of shadow to capture details in those dark areas. A powerful technique is to “Bounce” your Speedlight flash off a wall or ceiling to fill your areas of shadow more evenly.

Note: While bouncing flash softens the light before it hits your subject and gives you non-directional light, you can use it to supplement any directional light, so that the shadows from your natural light source make sense.

Keep in mind the following technical details, when finding the perfect balance using flash:

  • Your shutter speed does not affect the flash settings – it only affects the ambient light in your room (ambient light refers to any continuous light sources in the room. For example, sun or lamps). If you slow your shutter speed, it raises all the ambient light levels, which means it also affects the view out of your window.
  • The aperture affects both the flash and ambient light because a smaller aperture reduces the amount of all light that passes through the lens.
  • ISO also affects both flash and ambient light. It does this by altering the camera’s sensitivity to light.
  • Image almost finished in-camera, very little post-processing
  • Enables you to have creative control over the final image
  • Allows you to choose your best angle/composition early in the process and light for that specifically
  • You don’t need a tripod
  • Less camera equipment needed
  • Depending on the room, you may need more than one flash/light
  • These smaller flashes produce more “hard” light when fired directly into the scene
  • Some expertise is required. If done incorrectly, you may end up with inconsistent shadows to your natural light source or appear unnatural/fake
  • Your exterior needs to be correctly metered to your camera’s flash sync speed
  • Cost and management of batteries

Note: Using only one speed light can be tricky to achieve balanced light when window sources are large with bright sunlight.

Using multiple Speedlights with a remote trigger

Using multiple Speedlights on stands with a remote trigger can be handy when shooting larger spaces with overbearing natural light sources coming through the window. In some cases, you may need between two and four Speedlights to allow for enough internal light to equalize strong external window light – especially if shooting with direct sun outside the window. Shooting with multiple flashes allows you to get the right shot with a single image, rather than having to use bracketed exposures.

Architecture: Michael Vail Design. Photo: © Sallie Moffatt.

  • Allows fine control over the interior lighting
  • It allows you to light more dark areas
  • You can set each individual flash unit’s exposure to your needs
  • No need for a tripod
  • Relatively complex set-up normally requiring an experienced photographer
  • Carrying needed equipment can be challenging
  • Multiple points of (battery) failure
  • Need to set flashes so they are not in the shot
  • While no tripod is needed, multiple light stands are needed
Strobe lights

Here a ‘strobe’ refers to larger, more powerful lights. Modern strobes are powered by batteries. In the past (and lower-end current strobes), strobes needed to be plugged into electrical power or large battery packs.

Architecture: Michael Vail Design. Photo: © Sallie Moffatt.

Strobe Lights can be great to use for interior real estate photography, particularly if there is a large window light source. The greater power brings flexibility. For instance, adding a light modifier makes the light softer, avoiding harsh shadows that happen with smaller flashes.

Set your strobe light/s for the darker areas of the room. Depending on your shooting angle, you could set the strobe behind your camera line and bounce flash off the wall or ceiling above or behind you to fill any shadows in front of you.

  • A larger light source means softer, more attractive light
  • Full control over lighting
  • Tripod optional
  • Light is white and clean
  • Can solve color cast
  • Equipment is heavy to carry
  • Expensive compared to Speedlights
  • Can be hard to set up in small spaces
  • May need to be plugged in if not a higher-end battery-powered strobe
Natural or available light

There is an alternative to using artificial lighting to capture a room with bright and dark areas. Perhaps using Speedlights or strobes isn’t possible because the photographer doesn’t have this equipment, doesn’t know how to use it, or simply prefers the technique below.

Architecture: Michael Vail Design. Photo: © Sallie Moffatt.

We face the same challenge that the camera can see either the bright area, or the dark area, but not both. This can be solved, not by adding light, but by adding more exposures from the camera.

High Dynamic Range (HDR)

When using natural light for real estate interiors, there is some level of post-processing involved. One of the most common processing techniques used is High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing. The HDR technique means that you’ll take bracketed exposures using the camera, then they are combined using HDR software.

Architecture: Michael Vail Design. Photo: © Sallie Moffatt.

1. Bracketing exposures

So where do you start to capture the dynamic range of your interior (what your eyes see)? Since you may be working with a scene of high contrast, start with a process called “Exposure Bracketing.”

Exposure Bracketing is where you take (a minimum) of three identically composed images at different exposures. The first image uses the settings recommended by the camera. Then one or more images are intentionally overexposed, and one or more get deliberately underexposed.

One of the challenges with getting that first image (where the camera recommends settings for as properly exposed) is that the camera can choose the shutter speed based on the bright window light. This selection can leave the rest of the image too underexposed. A good solution for this underexposure is to lock your exposure on an area that is neither too bright nor too dark and use that as your baseline shot. When taking bracketed images indoors, use a tripod. Keep your aperture constant, ISO low, and vary your shutter speeds to achieve your different exposures.

Most DSLR cameras now have built-in bracketing called “Automatic Exposure Bracketing” (AEB), making it an easy, one-click process. If you are unfamiliar with this term, your camera manual is an excellent source for learning about this cool feature, and videos showing how to set AEB on many popular cameras are here.

If you are familiar with AEB, go ahead and set the exposure compensation values to plus and minus 2 EV (+/-2EV) or the maximum exposure increment (EV spacing) your camera allows. Your camera display should now show three exposure markers: one underexposed by 2-stops (-2EV), one correctly exposed (0), and one overexposed by 2-stops (+2EV). These represent the three shots that the camera takes.

Important note: The example above is for a three-shot HDR image. If your camera is capable of taking more pictures for HDR merging (some take 5 or 7), you can use the maximum number of shots available to you.

Put your camera into its Continuous Shooting Mode, compose your image and take your shots. Minimizing shake is highly recommended, so use a remote shutter release or timer where possible. Your bracketed images are now ready for the next step.

2. HDR software

As expressed previously, combining these bracketed images ensures you get a properly exposed image. This method is especially useful when you have challenging lighting situations and is a popular processing method for real estate photographers. Photomatix Pro is one of the top software used by professionals for the merging process.

One of the unspoken rules of real estate photography is that the vertical lines must, well, be vertical. Also, the horizon must be level. This is easy to achieve by leveling the camera. However, if you find that the image isn’t quite level, The Finishing Touch Panel in Photomatix Pro allows you to correct perspective issues with ease.

Benefits of using this method:
  • Easy to learn shooting technique
  • Fast shooting with a little practice
  • Minimal equipment needed (camera/lens and tripod,)
  • Natural shadows
  • No heavy equipment to lug around/set up
  • Some flexibility with composition
  • Great for shooting virtually any space
  • Compact gear — photographer can pick up tripod/camera and put it down for next shot
  • Shooting angles may be limited, to avoid flare, etc.
  • Color cast happens more compared to using artificial light
  • Post-processing required
  • Memory needed to save the bracketed photos
  • A tripod is required

Architecture: Michael Vail Design. Photo: © Sallie Moffatt.


As noted, there are pros and cons to each lighting method when photographing real estate interiors. When deciding which method is best for you, consider the needs of the shoot you are undertaking.

If you are a beginner, it is also good practice to experiment first with natural light. Doing so helps you understand how light works before you move on to adding artificial light to your room.

If you are comfortable adding light, remember to keep it soft and be aware of your light direction at all times. If you are shooting with available light, master your processing techniques. Use HDR software such as Photomatix Pro to combine your Exposure Bracketed photos and achieve a nice exposure balance.

No matter what technique you use, some key things to remember are: show details, balance your well-lit areas against those in the shadows and show the space in the most flattering way – just as you see it as you walk in the room.

Disclaimer: HDR Soft is a paid partner of DPS.

The post Real Estate Photography: Artificial Light versus Natural Light appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

Thoughts and Field Test: DJI Osmo Pocket

Thu, 04/04/2019 - 09:00

The post Thoughts and Field Test: DJI Osmo Pocket appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

In December 2018, DJI released a revolutionary product: the Osmo Pocket.

DJI basically took the same camera sensor found in their popular Mavic Pro and Mavic Air drones and put it in the Osmo Pocket. The result is a tiny, pocket-sized camera that can capture high-quality 4K video and 12-megapixel still photos. Given the presence of the 3-axis gimbal, this camera is widely marketed as an ideal compact video camera. But how is it for still photography? Read on to learn more!

Video features

Standing at just about 4.8 inches (12.19 cm) tall and weighing 4 oz (113.4 g), the Osmo Pocket looks more like a toy than a camera. This makes it ultra stealthy. Despite its size, this camera comes packed with pro features. The tiny camera sits on a full 3-axis gimbal to give you stable video. You can shoot at up to 4K 60fps, remarkable for its 1/2.3-inch sensor. There are dual built-in microphones with noise canceling to capture high-quality audio.

The Osmo Pocket has many more video features including ActiveTrack to follow subjects, FaceTrack to automatically recognize faces, Slow Motion shooting, Timelapse and Motionlapse.

Photography features

Based on features alone, this is clearly a camera for those interested in shooting video. But there are notable features for still photography as well. The camera has a fixed lens of about 26mm (35mm format equivalent) and a fast f/2.0 aperture.

It also has panorama photo mode, which is brilliant on a camera with a built-in gimbal. When shooting a panorama, the camera automatically pans and shoots 4 images in sequence. This is much more accurate than precariously handholding your camera while panning or having to lug a tripod around. The only downside is that the camera won’t stitch the pan together automatically unless you shoot with a cell phone attached (more on this below).

Osmo Pocket LCD screen

A camera this tiny has its challenges, especially when it comes to seeing what you’re shooting. The built-in LCD screen is tiny and can be quite hard to see if you don’t have the best eyesight. I found it a challenge to not only compose my images but also to see if my shots were in focus. Luckily, DJI has a solution.

There’s a port next to the LCD to connect a smartphone via USB-C (or Lightning connector for iPhones). When using the free DJI Mimo app, a connected smartphone becomes an extension of the LCD screen.

This makes shooting with the Osmo Pocket an entirely different experience. It is much easier to compose your images and even unlock more photo and video features, such as stitching panoramas together automatically.

However, this makes the camera rig significantly bigger. It’s also much harder to shoot one-handed with a cell phone precariously attached to the Osmo Pocket via a USB-C connection.

Shooting with the Osmo Pocket

Using a camera this small is fun, but challenging. Its design is very different than cell phones or traditional cameras, so that can take some getting used to. When using the Osmo Pocket by itself, it is a one-handed device. There are just two buttons and a tiny touchscreen LCD that you swipe up and down to control the gimbal, and left and right to activate various features. Attaching the phone turns the Osmo Pocket into a two-handed camera, which can feel more ergonomic and natural.

When shooting with the smartphone, my instincts were to use the device as I would a smartphone camera. Instead, I had to use the DJI Mimo app, which has a very different interface than most smartphone apps. It also doesn’t let you zoom, and you instead have to physically move forward to zoom in.

Also, it was difficult to remember where my camera was. I usually shoot with my smartphone cameras on the left, and in this case, the Osmo Pocket camera is on the right since it is plugged into the phone’s USB-C port. This made composing images a challenge as I struggled to remember my main camera location.

Osmo Pocket photo quality

If you’ve shot photo or video with DJI drones, the photo quality that comes out of the Osmo Pocket is very similar. Colors are pretty natural, and the images are sharp (almost too sharp, depending on your taste). While the fixed lens is definitely not a macro, you can get reasonably close to your subject and capture photos with pretty good bokeh. Osmo Pocket is slow to focus (tap on the LCD to focus), which can be frustrating if you’re trying to shoot action.

Who’s this camera for?

Osmo Pocket isn’t aimed at a professional crowd, although it certainly could be used by a pro to capture B roll (supplemental footage). However, the size of this camera plus some of its limitations suggests that this is for casual camera users.

If you’re wanting to dabble in videography without investing in large and expensive camera stabilizers, the Osmo Pocket is a great option to consider. Keep in mind that it isn’t waterproof and definitely not a tough action camera like the GoPro; in fact, this camera is somewhat fragile given the loose nature of the gimbal.

DJI is slowly releasing accessories to add on to the Osmo Pocket such as 3.5mm external microphone adapter, mount, extension rod, and WiFi module. There are also polarizers and ND filters that you can get to mount to the front of the camera. These little accessories add to the cost of the already pricey camera and also point out some of the seemingly basic features that are missing from this camera.

Bottom line

If you want an ultra compact and stealthy camera for capturing smooth, high-quality video footage, the Osmo Pocket is a great option to consider. However, in most cases, this isn’t a do-all camera and is instead a supplemental device for capturing very specific footage.

Sample Photos


The post Thoughts and Field Test: DJI Osmo Pocket appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.