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How Journal Writing Improves Your Photography

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 15:00

The post How Journal Writing Improves Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

The obvious way to improve your photography is to study photography. But once you’ve had some success with the main principals of photography, you’ll be eager to go deeper and learning more photography principals won’t get you there. Rather than piling on more and more knowledge, you first need to go deeper with what you’ve already got.

Use journal writing to pull yourself out of a rut as a photographer.

Journal writing is the best way to go deeper with your photography. Through journal writing you discover what you’re actually struggling with, hone your creative vision, and measure your growth over time.

Great minds throughout history have kept a journal of some sort. A journal is like a laboratory where you can get messy with your thoughts, vision, and creativity. You can work things out in the pages of your journal and bring them to life in the real world.

Journal writing will take you into a deeper creative mindset, helping you do far more with those photography skills you’ve learned. The problem is that many photographers aren’t sure what to write in their journal.

Here are several ways to use your journal to achieve deeper creativity with photography:

1. Don’t worry about writing well

Allow your journal writing to be a complete wreck.

If writing well comes easily for you, then go ahead and write well in your journal. But if writing doesn’t come easily for you, do not try to write well.

You’re not writing for the sake of writing well, you’re writing to stir up your creativity and improve your photography.

“There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen to write.” – William Makepeace Thackeray

2. Write to get out of ruts

As photographers, we find ourselves in a rut every now and then. We become dissatisfied with our photography, our photos don’t excite us anymore, and we begin to hate picking up the camera. If this hasn’t hit you yet, be ready. It seems to come out of nowhere, and can be devastating.

Ruts will cause you to quit unless you figure out how to get out of them. Your journal is the perfect place to do that.

At first, it will be difficult to be honest with yourself as you write. You’re always hiding what you really think from other people, and it’s rare that you actually go deep into your own thought process. But you need to be honest in order to get yourself out of a rut.

I hit a rut a couple of years ago and discovered these things about myself through journal writing:

  • I have no vision
  • Photos I love the most feel raw
  • I wish I could be a kid with a camera again
  • The idea behind a photo is more interesting than the photo itself
  • I’m so awkward when it comes to people
  • Chaotic photo sessions are my favorite
  • Unless I’m working, I don’t pick up my camera anymore
  • The things that used to excite me don’t
  • I don’t know what to say about my photos
  • Do I hate photography?

As negative as many of those thoughts sound, I learned a lot from them.

I learned that I love to explore the world with my camera. There is joy in finding a chaotic scene, looking for patterns, and then bringing some order or beauty to the scene through my photos.

Sometimes you have negative feelings for different reasons than you think. I didn’t actually hate photography, I just had blocks that I didn’t know how to get past. Once I got things out on paper, I could see what was standing in my way.

In the middle of my photography rut, I took a camping trip with friends. I decided to just follow the kids around and join in the play with my camera. Being able to do whatever I want, even exploring crazy ideas, seemed to make all that frustration and hatred of photography melt away.

To me, simple things like kids eating dirt are a joy to photograph. I included the whole door of the trailer to make him look smaller.


I came in close to see that he is covered in mud.


Finally, I pulled back and dropped to a lower angle to make the shoe mat part of the scene.

If there is something that really bugs you about your photography, or you have a vague sense of disappointment in your work, writing in your journal will help you identify your specific frustrations.

3. Track your improvement

If you don’t track your improvement, you will have no idea how you’re doing.

When you’re tracking a goal, it’s better to measure how far you’ve come rather than how far you have left to go. It can be discouraging to look ahead at how far you still have to go, but encouraging to see how far you’ve already come.

Tracking your improvement will help you to understand how far you’ve come on your journey. Many people are discouraged simply because they have no way of seeing how far they’ve come. Write it down so that you can see.

I felt stagnant with my family photo sessions so I began tracking how I felt, what went well, what went wrong and ideas that I had toward improving.

I had in mind Robert Capa’s idea, “if your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” I got as close as I could to that teeter-totter.

4. Clarify your vision

“Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.” – Jonathan Swift

Vision is an aspect of photography that very few people work to develop.

We can see with our eyes and organize our photo according to the rule of thirds, but how do you see things that are invisible? How do you put invisible things in your photo?

Writing in my journal helped me to see the invisible things that I already love to photograph.

Spontaneity, chaos and awkwardness are not things that you can see, though they can be expressed visually. It’s in the fleeting expression that a portrait subject gives, the unpredictable nature of toddlers, even in the ability to push through and photograph a bridezilla well.

Prior to journaling, I had no vision – after journaling (for a few months) I could finally see. My vision is about bringing order and beauty to raw, chaotic scenarios through my photography

You can take your photography to new places and new levels once you have vision. You will gain vision when you write about invisible things and can see them in front of you.

I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to photograph moments like this. But “accidentally falling into the water” is just the sort of awkward moment I’m after. Anything to get out of a rut.


Keep a list of your favourite photography quotes, they’re likely a clue to who you are as a photographer.

On improvement

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“If your pictures are not good enough, you are not close enough.” – Robert Capa

“The eye should learn to listen before it looks.” – Robert Frank

“I don’t just look at the thing itself or at the reality itself; I look around the edges for those little askew moments – kind of like what makes up our lives – those slightly awkward, lovely moments.” – Keith Carter

On portraits

“The most difficult thing for me is a portrait. You have to try and put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!” – Ted Grant

On the camera

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” – Dorothea Lange

“For me, the camera is a sketchbook, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“The camera is an excuse to be someplace you otherwise don’t belong.” – Susan Meiselas

“Don’t pack up your camera until you’ve left the location.” – Joe McNally

On the nature of photography

“I tend to think of the act of photographing, generally speaking, as an adventure. My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been.” – Diane Arbus

“Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies.” – Diane Arbus

“The mission of photography is to explain man to man and each man to himself.” – Edward Steichen

“I realize more and more what it takes to be a really good photographer. You go in over your head, not just up to your neck.” – Dorothea Lange

Your favorite quotes are a clue to who you are as a photographer, and they’ll help you see that you’re not alone in your approach to photography.

A lovely moment.


A slightly awkward, lovely moments.

6. Dream up the future

Dream big in the pages of your journal. While you’re at it, dream too big. After a little while of dreaming too big, you’ll be far more capable of doing those big things you never thought you could before.

You’re already working through frustrations and tracking your progress toward goals. This means that you’re learning to create the process that helps you achieve those (too) big dreams.

Maybe you’ve got this wild idea of taking a long trip and documenting your journey. You’ve got yourself fired up within the pages of your journal. But is it realistic in real life? Probably not. Can you afford it? Can you handle it? Not likely.

Go ahead and feel the frustration of dreaming too big, and having that dream start to fade away. Feel it until you realize it as a deep frustration. Now work through that frustration in your journal. Fight your way to make it real.

Thanks to my journal, I almost signed the lease on an expensive studio space. But backed out at the last minute. I had dreamed a little too big.

However, I’ve grown a lot as a photographer since then. I kept working through my frustrations and weak points. One of the problems was that I didn’t have a proper vision for the studio. So I’ve been refining my vision and building a community of amateurs and professionals whom I will share my studio with. I’m building something now that will already be alive and ready for a studio.

I dreamed too big. But now I’m quickly growing into that dream thanks to my journal.

7. Don’t write at all

Your journal isn’t only for words – put sketches in it too. Even if you can’t do it well, a basic sketch can help capture an idea you have for a photo. Don’t be concerned about buying proper pencils and a sketch pad. Just cram everything in your journal.

You might even consider printing your “sketch photos” to put in your journal. Sketch photos are the photos you take on the way to capturing your final image. Sketch photos are a way of photographing a scene in a variety of ways, making subtle changes until you get your photo just right. Sometimes the process takes a few minutes, but it could take months or years.

The perfect journal

Many people will avoid writing until they find the perfect journal. They’re waiting to find a journal that inspires them to write. Perhaps a hand-crafted, leather-bound journal with beautifully textured paper. After purchasing such an exquisite journal, they’re still not able to write. Don’t let this be you. You don’t need a nice journal, you just need to get your thoughts out (get the nice journal later on).

You don’t need to feel good to journal. In fact, journaling when you feel miserable may be more helpful. Get it out and written down. Confront it, and begin to grow as a photographer.

The perfect journal is messy, full, and always in use. And it will help you to become a better photographer.

The post How Journal Writing Improves Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

What is the Purpose of Your Photography?

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 10:00

The post What is the Purpose of Your Photography? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

What is the purpose of your photography? Having a good answer to that question, a predetermined purpose, and can help you improve your photography.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

For professional photographers, hopefully the answer will be straight forward. Whether the focus is on commercial, wedding, editorial or any other genre of photography. To provide your clients with the best images you can should be the ideal.

Hobbyists and part-time photographers may find it more difficult to answer the question. Having a clear idea in mind as to why you take photographs helps you develop your skills more succinctly. If the ‘why’ drives you, your photos will be more impactful and memorable to those who see them.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

How having purpose can help you improve

Concentrate on a goal, and you are more likely to get somewhere. Taking photos and having no real purpose for them can lead to discouragement or, at best, very slow growth.

Setting yourself goals to attain, and even a time frame to work in, will stimulate your imagination. When you have an objective, you will think differently about what you now want to achieve. Ambling along will no longer be so satisfying.

Learning will become more a part of your photography experience unless you’ve set your sights too low. Endeavoring to reach your goals should not be too easy. Pushing beyond what you are used to doing will mean you have to pick up some new skills.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Stock photography challenge

Once you know where you are headed, you will discover what you most need to learn to get you there. If, for instance, you decide to sign up with a stock photo agency as a contributor, you’ll need to learn:

  • Which agencies are worth signing up for
  • The agency requirements for photos
  • What style of photos each agency wants
  • How the best contributors make a living from their photography
  • Post-processing skills to meet the quality level

These things may not seem directly related to learning or growing as a photographer. Ask any number of successful stock photographers, and many will tell you they learned so much more of their craft after signing up. Also, good agencies have standards way higher than most casual photographers attain. Learning to reach these standards is a practical way to improve your photography.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Social media attention

Maybe you just want your images to stand out more on Pinterest or Instagram. Whatever your preferred social media platform is, there’s tons of competition. Being motivated to gain more likes and shares is not a bad thing. Especially when it means you have to up your photography skills to do it.

Learning from those who are already high achievers can help. Find some whose photos you admire and study them. You need a concentrated focus on what you want to achieve.  Without it, you can become easily overwhelmed by all the good, (and not so good) photos in your social media feeds.

Set yourself goals. Be realistic about the numbers you want to attain. Focus your attention on discovering what you need to do to accomplish what you want. What camera skills need upgrades to make your photos more attractive?

For example, if your main subject is food or still life learn more about:

  • Simple lighting setups
  • Graphic design within photos
  • Color combinations that work well
  • Lens choice and how it affects your subject

If you photograph people, learn to draw out more interesting responses from them. This is not a camera related skill, but it’s mandatory in taking great portraits.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Part timer – weddings, portraits, etc.

Is your focus is on making some money by selling your services to others? Keep your client’s needs in mind. Don’t be so full of your own ego that you don’t provide them with a service they want.

Have a clear direction you want to head in. This is healthy, but it must include your clients’ requirements first. After all, you are offering them a service, and what good will it be to them if it’s not what they’d hoped for?

You may need to improve your communication skills. Learn to make yourself clearly understood. This is as important as listening carefully to your potential clients.

Again, these are not camera skills, but learning them well will certainly make you a better photographer. Your goal should be to make photos you are happy with and your clients will love. It’s no good just to satisfy yourself.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Photographs for your own enjoyment

Of course, you may enjoy taking photographs for your own pleasure. If you’re not interested in making a little extra cash or sharing on social, having a purpose will still help you.

Setting yourself short, medium, and long term goals will help you grow and achieve more. Even if you’re not willing to share your photos with anyone else, having something to aim for in your picture taking will help build your skills.

Self assignments are a practical means of helping you grow and reach your objectives. Choose a topic that you love or want to learn more about. Pick anything that will hold your interest over a longer period of time.

Plan how long you will make the project and what results you want from it. Remain flexible to lengthen it if you are really enjoying the process and experiencing growth because of it.

As you work on your project, make sure to edit your photos as well. Don’t keep everything. Choose the best and place them in a separate folder. This way you are not looking through all your images, just the ones you like the most.

Study them. Ask yourself why you find these ones better than the others. Compare them. Think about how you can make improvements to your photos and go back to take them again if you can.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan


Build some structure and have purpose for the photographs. Doing this will increase your satisfaction levels. You will experience more steady learning of new skills and improvement of existing ones. You will enjoy using your camera more because you will be taking better photos.

Which of these ideas can you implement to help you have more purpose for the photographs you are making?


The post What is the Purpose of Your Photography? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Gear: AFIDUS ATL-200 Time-Lapse Camera Introduction

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 15:00

The post Gear: AFIDUS ATL-200 Time-Lapse Camera Introduction appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

I don’t know how many of you have looked into long-term time lapse before now, but I’m renovating my house and I scoured the web for a solution that was simple to setup and use, and more economical than the ones I found.

Skip forward a few months and this is something we spotted at NAB this year!

An amazing little time lapse camera that is very big on features, but remains very economical on price – The AFIDUS ATL-200.

I wanted to write up an overview of this product for any of you that might be interested. A Macro Time Lapse of a plant growing, or your house being renovated, the possibilities are mostly limitless…


The camera was pointed out to me by my friend and filmmaker buddy, Lee Herbet. And then it went and won itself NAB Product of the Year! (Congrats!) To me, as a photographer first, what makes this little camera so appealing is its feature set.

Specifications at a glance
  • Full HD Sony Sensor 1080p
  • Optical zoom equiv. of a 16-35mm lens
  • Wifi App controlled
  • IP65 weather resistant
  • System timer
  • Motion Detection
  • Pinch Zoom
  • MP4 Video output
  • Macro function
  • One Touch Autofocus
  • Wild battery life – weeks to months!

(Full spec here)

Features at a glance
  • The lens has a macro capture feature. With the camera inches away from your subject, you can fill the frame with perfect clarity.
  • Sony Exmor IMX sensor with HDR. Select the HDR amount within the app for great contrasts between bright and dark areas of your scene.
  • Built-in PIR motion detection. This is a great feature. Capture animals, traffic, pedestrian movement and more.
  • One tap autofocus with manual tap precision. If focus is off, manual saves the day and there is a focus calibration feature in the app.
  • 16-35mm DSLR equivalent, optical zoom lens. Yes, the lens zoom actually moves within the camera.
  • Full Wi-Fi app control. Press the camera button, connect to it with the Wi-fi signal on your phone and open the app. In seconds, you have complete control of your camera on your phone. IP65, which means dust protected and water splashing will have no effect on the camera. There is no need to purchase an optional housing with the ATL-200.

I was looking around for a solution to capture my home renovation a few months back. While there are a handful of different systems on the market, for me, they were quite cost restrictive. Whereas, the ATL-200 comes in at $389.00, which is much easier on the bank account.

There are a couple of the system’s features that really appeal to me. One is the system timer, which means you can set it up so that it captures your time lapse during the day while the workmen are on-site. It doesn’t fill your card with all the overnight photos where nothing is happening.

The ATL200 has a macro mode, too. So it can do some really creative things (I’m thinking of things like watching little critters in a garden). Also, it’s weather resistant, so just sit it in the dirt and off you go! Alternatively, capture a plant growing, or that sort of thing!

One of the real highlights is that the camera takes regular batteries. A set of four AA batteries will last you 45 Days at the 1-minute interval, 80 days at the 5-minute interval (8 hours a day). This is really quite amazing and great for long term time lapse. No special batteries required, and you can use rechargeable batteries, of course.

Here are a couple of example videos:

While we don’t have our own video made in-house just yet, we’re looking forward to trying the ATL-200 camera on a project very soon! For such a feature set at this price, this could be a really great addition to your content creation toolbox.

Find out the full tech spec and details here.


The post Gear: AFIDUS ATL-200 Time-Lapse Camera Introduction appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

Are Your Photos Safe in the Cloud? The Real Cost of Using these Services

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 10:00

The post Are Your Photos Safe in the Cloud? The Real Cost of Using these Services appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

From professionals to amateurs and hobbyists, to kids just getting started with their first camera, one issue remains constant: how to store photos. If you shoot with your mobile phone, you’ve likely encountered a “Low on storage space” error message at least once. If you use a desktop computer or laptop, there’s a good chance you’ve had to deal with ever-shrinking hard drive space due to an increasing abundance of photos. One option that seems ideal is to use the cloud-based options that have become so prevalent in recent years.

However, if you value data privacy, you might want to think twice before uploading your images to popular online services.

Some are free, but the hidden costs could far outweigh the benefits.

It’s difficult to come up with a perfect answer to the question of whether or not your photos are safe in the cloud because there are so many variables to consider.

I’m going to examine some of the more popular options for photographers. I’ll dive into their Privacy Statements and Terms of Service documents to see what they really do with your pictures.

Hopefully, this will give you the information you need to make an informed decision about where to store your photos.

Cloud storage can be a great option for your images, but make sure you know what you’re agreeing to when you upload your photos.

1. Google Photos

Originally part of the Google+ social platform, Google decoupled this service to operate as a standalone offering in May 2015. Some of its greatest benefits, which also help make it one of the most popular options for photographers, involve storage limits – or lack thereof.

Anyone with a Google account can upload unlimited JPEG files up to 16-megapixels in size, and unlimited videos up to 1080p in resolution.

Google automatically analyzes your photos for people, objects, and locations that you can search for. There are also options such as shared albums and access from a variety of devices that make the service even more attractive. Indeed, Google Photos seems like a no-brainer, and there is a lot to like about it no matter what type of photographer you are. It’s also the default option on most Android phones, so you might be using it unawares.

Google’s algorithms can automatically recognize people, objects, and even pets.

Things start to get a little murky when you dig deeper, though. Google’s Terms of Service is lengthy, but one tidbit that’s worth pondering has to do with the rights you grant to Google when you upload images to Google Photos or store any other data in your Google account:

You give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones.

This means that Google can use any pictures you upload to Google Photos for, among other things, promoting their services and developing new ones.

Google goes on to say that their software analyzes your data, including photos and email, to provide you “tailored advertising” in addition to checking files for viruses and scanning emails for spam.

Don’t be surprised if you upload pictures like this to Google Photos and then start seeing ads for pet stores online.

This gives me pause as a photographer. On the one hand, it’s nice knowing that all my images are automatically scanned and analyzed by Google’s artificial intelligence algorithms. It makes it easier to organize, sort, and search for pictures. But all that information is also being used to tweak the ads I see in my daily online browsing. By providing photographers with free photo storage, Google is also providing itself with billions of data points to help send advertisements to everyone who is using their storage.

Should you be worried?

Google is serious about privacy, and it works hard to limit the ways in which your data is shared with other companies. Its Privacy Policy is pretty clear on how they protect your data from bad actors, but rest assured Google is definitely getting plenty of data from your photos that they use internally. And don’t be surprised if you take photos of your new sneakers, upload them to Google Photos, and then start seeing ads for Nike and Reebok when you surf the web. If that’s fine with you, then go ahead and use Google Photos and enjoy the benefits that come with it.

The sharing options in Google Photos make it easy to share pictures with family and friends.

2. Apple Photos

While not exactly known for social sharing, Apple Photos is used by so many people simply because it’s the default option on most Apple devices, including iPhones. Many people store at least some of their photo library using Apple’s cloud-based offering, even if it’s just to sync with their other devices and not store permanently. In terms of data-mining and analysis, Apple takes a much more locked-down approach than Google, which they explain in their Privacy Policy as well as their Approach to Privacy.

Apple Photos is great for storing snapshots from your iPhone and can be used for DSLR images too.

Apple doesn’t make money from advertising, and all the analysis of your photos is performed on your phone and not in the Cloud, so Apple doesn’t really know what’s in your photos at all.

Whether you’re taking a photo, asking Siri a question, or getting directions, you can do it knowing that Apple doesn’t gather your personal information to sell to advertisers or other organizations.

The Memories and Sharing Suggestions features in the Photos app use on-device intelligence to scan your photos and organize them by faces and places. This photo data is shared between your devices with iCloud Photos enabled.

The downside of Apple Photos is that, unlike Google and other vendors, the free storage option is so minimal it’s almost nonexistent. Everyone with an iCloud account, which you need to use most Apple devices, gets 5GB of storage space for everything, including photos, documents, and other data. That’s not much, and it fills up quickly! Additional storage options are cheap, such as 99 cents/month for 50GB, but that’s a far cry from Google’s unlimited free option.

Apple Photos is convenient and secure, but you’ll run out of room real fast on the free tier.

Should you be worried?

Like Google, Apple is serious about the privacy of your data, but they go a step further in that Apple doesn’t even know what’s in your photo library. They don’t scan or analyze your images in the Cloud, especially not for training their Artificial Intelligence algorithms or selling advertising. However, the tradeoff is that you will run out of room really fast unless you don’t mind spending money on storage space.

3. Amazon Prime Photos

If you pay for Amazon Prime, you automatically have access to unlimited storage of full-resolution photos, plus 5GB of video storage. This can be a huge benefit to photographers of all stripes who want a secure place to store their pictures without worrying about intrusive advertising and data analytics. Amazon also has apps available for desktop and mobile that let you automatically upload your pictures.

If you pay for Amazon Prime, you have unlimited secure storage for photos.

When you upload photos to your Amazon account, they are automatically analyzed for faces, locations, and objects. This can be disabled, but Amazon clearly states that this data is only used for organizing your photos and not given to third parties.

Amazon doesn’t share your photos or any of the data derived from our image recognition features. Labels and data are only used to help you better organize and find photos in your collection.

There are other benefits to using Amazon Prime Photos as well, such as easy-to-use methods of ordering prints and creating albums that can be shared with others. However, as a photographer, you need to know that the Terms of Use specifically forbid you from using Amazon Prime Photos in a commercial capacity:

You may not use the Services to store, transfer, or distribute content of or on behalf of third parties, to operate your own file storage application or service, to operate a photography business or other commercial service, or to resell any part of the Services.

Amazon Prime Photos offers unlimited storage space, but their Terms of Use contains some notable restrictions.

Should you be worried?

Amazon doesn’t make any money off your photos or the metadata contained in your photos, and the security of Amazon’s data centers is as good as anything. If you already pay for Amazon Prime, this option is certainly worth exploring. However, you might want to investigate some of the automatic analysis options to make sure it’s not scanning your images in a way you don’t want.

4. Facebook and Instagram

Facebook owns Instagram and applies the same data policies to both platforms, so what applies to one also applies to the other. It’s so common to take photos and upload them to Facebook and Instagram that, for many people, these have become their de facto storage option for images. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Facebook lets you easily share your pictures and also analyzes them for people and places that can be useful when sorting through your images.

Facebook and Instagram are great for sharing photos. However, any data that can possibly be gleaned from them will likely be used for advertising purposes.

Since these platforms are free, and used by so many people around the world, it can be hugely beneficial for photographers or casual shooters to store their photos in Mark Zuckerberg’s cloud. Things start to get a little hazy when you start to dig through Facebook’s Data Policy.

We collect the content, communications and other information you provide when you use our Products, including when you sign up for an account, create or share content, and message or communicate with others. This can include…the location of a photo or the date a file was created. Our systems automatically process content and communications you and others provide to analyze context and what’s in them.

That’s just the beginning.

The full Data Policy describes dozens of ways in which Facebook scrapes through your photos and the rest of your data. The company makes money from advertising, and it’s clear that they will analyze and evaluate every possible data point in your photos as much as it can to benefit itself.

Facebook won’t share your personal information with advertisers, but upload photos like this and you’ll likely start seeing ads for baby products.

This information is primarily used for advertising and helps Facebook customize the ads and other content you see across its services. However, the degree to which Facebook lets third-parties have access to your information is uncertain. Many recent scandals, such as the Cambridge Analytica data breach, have shown that Facebook clearly has some issues regarding data privacy. However, in recent months, the company has taken a much more aggressive stance on privacy – at least publicly.

Should you be worried?

If privacy and security are your main concerns, I would recommend staying away from Facebook for a lot of photo storage. While things might change in the future, for now, it’s best to assume that your photos are not going to have the same level of privacy as other platforms. You also need to double-check your account settings to make sure that only the people you want to see your photos can view them.

5. Flickr

With its recent acquisition by SmugMug, Flickr has seen a resurgence among photographers. Despite having a limit of 1000 photos for the free tier, it can be a good option if you value quality over quantity. The site has a freemium business model, which means that you can use the basic version for free but pay for more features if you want them. The free tier is supported in part by those who pay for the Pro version, but like a lot of other sites, advertising supports it.

Flickr collects a great deal of information about you and your photos, and its Privacy Policy is certainly worth a look if you want to use the site. They log and store information that you provide them when you sign up for an account, but also a great deal of information in the background too.

We collect information about the computer or mobile device you use to access our Services, including the hardware model, operating system and version, screen resolution, color and depth, device identifiers and mobile network information.

When you upload a photo with geographical data (i.e. from a mobile device) or manually geotag your photo, we collect the location of that photo. With your consent, we collect information about your location if you take a photo within the Flickr mobile application to add to your photo’s metadata.

Like other platforms, Flickr will automatically analyze your photos using its own artificial intelligence.

Flickr also stores and analyzes EXIF data in your pictures such as camera model, focal length, shutter speed, and more. Like Google, they also use image-recognition technology to automatically analyze and tag your photos. This helps in searching through your images, but it can feel a little Orwellian too.

Advertisers get a lot of data from Flickr, and there’s not much you can do to control it. Flickr suggests that you use on-device options such as “Limit Ad Tracking” features on your mobile phone, but that has nothing to do with the wealth of information the company is getting from your photos. Whether you like it or not, your images on Flickr are being used to help Flickr maintain and grow its business.

One interesting element of Flickr that most other platforms don’t have is the ability to change the license on your photos. While this won’t affect privacy or data security settings, it is a good way to help make sure others use your images in a way that you want.

Should you be worried?

Flickr has a better track record compared to Facebook, but just know that your photos will certainly be analyzed for advertising purposes.

Flickr is more widely used for artistic and creative photos as opposed to family, child, and friend photos.

6. Dropbox

As one of the pioneers in mass storage solutions for consumers, Dropbox has become a good option for photographers who want to store and even share their images. Their free option only gives you 2GB of storage, but that’s enough for hundreds or even thousands of photos, depending on the resolution and size. They make money from selling a service, not from advertising, and as a result, your images are about as close to secure and private as you will ever find.

Dropbox offers a range of benefits for privacy-focused photographers.

Their Privacy Policy states that Dropbox collects some basic information such as file size, time/date stamps, and device information but not much more. They don’t really care what files you store on Dropbox so long as they’re not illegal. (And like other services, they have to comply with court orders to hand over files when necessary.)

We collect and use the personal data described above in order to provide you with the Services in a reliable and secure manner. We also collect and use personal data for our legitimate business needs. To the extent we process your personal data for other purposes, we ask for your consent in advance or require that our partners obtain such consent.

We may share information as discussed below, but we won’t sell it to advertisers or other third parties. Dropbox uses certain trusted third parties (for example, providers of customer support and IT services) to help us provide, improve, protect, and promote our Services. These third parties will access your information only to perform tasks on our behalf in compliance with this Privacy Policy, and we’ll remain responsible for their handling of your information per our instructions.

Should you be worried?

Nope. When it comes to data security, Dropbox is one of the best in the business. You can rest assured that nothing in, or about, your photos will be analyzed, tracked, or given to advertisers or other third-parties. You have to pay to move beyond the 2GB free tier, but it’s money well spent if you value data privacy and security.

Dropbox comes with a price if you want more than 2GB, but it can be well worth it depending on your needs.


There’s never going to be a one-size-fits-all option when it comes to cloud storage. Whatever option you choose, if you do want to store your images online, it’s a good idea to read through the relevant privacy and data policies to make sure your images aren’t being used in a way that you don’t want. There are plenty of options I didn’t even touch on here, and if you have a bit of time and technical acumen, you can even create your own cloud storage options using computer hardware at home.

All cloud-based services have benefits and drawbacks. Make sure you find one that fits what you need.

Make sure to do your due diligence when choosing a cloud service provider. If a free option catches your eye, you might want to dig a little deeper to find out just why it’s free and what they are doing with your photos. Also, if you value security and privacy, it might be worth it to spend some money on a solution that really does work for you.


The post Are Your Photos Safe in the Cloud? The Real Cost of Using these Services appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

How to do Abstract Watercolor Photography

Mon, 06/03/2019 - 15:00

The post How to do Abstract Watercolor Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

Less about what it is, more about how it makes you feel is this “watercolors” shot, “Visual Jazz.” © Rick Ohnsman

When you’re ready to make the transition from “snapshooter” to a serious photographer, make photographs rather than simply take pictures, then you’re also ready to begin thinking like an artist.  No longer should you snap a photo to simply record a representation of what you saw.  You will want to begin to think about how to craft your image so that it tells a story, captures the emotion, and involves the viewer in a way that communicates to them.  While the subject and the location still matter, it is also important to consider “how does my image make the viewer feel?”

A Wikipedia article on the famous photographer, Minor White, (July 9, 1908 – June 24, 1976) describes him this way – “An American photographer, theoretician, critic, and educator. He combined an intense interest in how people viewed and understood photographs with a personal vision that was guided by a variety of spiritual and intellectual philosophies.”

I especially like this quote from White –

“One should not only photograph things for what they are but for what else they are.” – Minor White

Water ripple reflections are sometimes distorted, making interesting abstracts. © Rick Ohnsman

Photographing “Watercolors”

The use of the term watercolors in this article is not to describe how you might photograph a watercolor painting nor is it about how to use digital tools and techniques to emulate a watercolor look with your photograph.  Instead, we explore how you can learn to see, and then photograph the interplay of light and water to make interesting, and often abstract, images.  Such images will require you to look harder, quietly observe, study and then decide how you will use your camera to capture the image.  You will want to think about how the scene makes you feel and how you will communicate that to your viewer.

A real benefit of making these kinds of photos is – unlike joining the dozens of photographers who might line up at sunrise at that iconic location and all snap away, essentially all making the same shot – these kinds of images will be uniquely yours.

Every image will be different.  In most cases, you couldn’t replicate the shot even if you tried.

There’s much satisfaction in crafting something that is uniquely your vision and creation.

The qualities of light and water

Yes, it’s a wave, but this photo is all about the patterns, colors, and reflections in the sea and surf. © Rick Ohnsman

You may have heard the origin of the word “photography,” based on the Greek words “phos” for light and “graphé” meaning drawing.  Thus, photography is ‘”drawing with light.”

The light that enters our camera lens is either direct (emitted from a source like the sun, or an artificial light source), or reflected (light bouncing off an object and into our lens).  We study the effect of light, and it’s absence, and use it to define the objects we photograph.

Now add water into the scene.  Water can also reflect the light (and the various colors comprising it).  It can also refract the light – bending, altering, and even splitting it into its component colors.

Light waves are changed as they pass from a less-dense material like air to a more-dense medium like water.  Understanding the physics behind how this works isn’t important.  What you as a photographer, a trained observer, and an artist, want to do is learn how to watch for and then capture the interplay of light and water.

Water exists in all three forms in this shot; liquid, solid, and gas. © Rick Ohnsman

The three properties of water

Okay, hang on, just a little more physics here.

Water exists in three states:

  1. liquid,
  2. solid (ice and snow), and
  3. gas (steam, fog, clouds, mist).

How light behaves when it is reflected off the water in these states or refracted through them will become part of your observation training as photographer and artist.

A long exposure blurs the liquid water, but the ice on the rocks is still, a way to display the static and dynamic qualities of water. © Rick Ohnsman


A long exposure blurs the water of Avalanche Falls in the Flume Gorge of New Hampshire. © Rick Ohnsman

There are always photos to be taken as this cellphone shot of water cascading down the windshield during a trip through the carwash demonstrates. © Rick Ohnsman

Capturing motion

Include the duck for a touch of reality, use the reflection only, or catch a rippled reflection for an abstract, there are many creative possibilities. © Rick Ohnsman

Water dripping down the wall of a building makes for a “realistic-abstract.” © Rick Ohnsman

Something else water can do is move.  From massive ocean waves, flowing rivers, erupting geysers, human-made fountains, tiny dripping drops, swirling fog and mist, snow and rain, in many forms water moves.

Our cameras can freeze that motion with high shutter speeds or flash or blur it with long exposures.  Water and how it behaves gives us tremendous opportunities for creativity with our cameras.

Combining still objects in the photo which don’t move, (think a rocky coastline), with water that does (like the waves) in a long exposure, and you create an exciting image that displays both static and dynamic elements.

There’s the realism of the water lily, but over in the corner of the shot… © Rick Ohnsman

Realistic or abstract?

There are no rules when it comes to how you choose to depict water in your photo.  It might be quite literal like an image of a waterfall.  It could play a “supporting role,” adding story and color to an image.  Or it could be about how the light interacts with the water; liquid, solid, or gas.  Alternatively, maybe it’s totally abstract – all about the shape, form, line, and color with no concern whatsoever to what the subject might be.

The objective here is to become a “student of light,” observing how light and water interact to create interesting scenes to photograph.

… a complete abstract. © Rick Ohnsman

Learning by observing

The rest of this article will be about the photos.  Study how I made each one and the way water, in its various forms, is used in combination with the light to make the image.  I have captioned the photos with additional information about them.  See what you can learn and then go make your own unique images.

Water vapor, or what we call fog, create effects with the light. © Rick Ohnsman

Ice is water in solid form. It reflects, refracts, and alters the light while taking on fantastic forms. © Rick Ohnsman

Reflections on the wet sand make great watercolors. © Rick Ohnsman

It might come in a bottle, but sparkling water is a great way to add bubbles to your watercolors. © Rick Ohnsman

Even where watercolors may not be the main subject, they can play a strong supporting role. © Rick Ohnsman


The post How to do Abstract Watercolor Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

How to Use a Photography Ring Light in Unconventional Ways

Mon, 06/03/2019 - 10:00

The post How to Use a Photography Ring Light in Unconventional Ways appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

With a ton of options on the market, adding a ring light to your kit has never been cheaper.

Continuous photography ring lights seem to be everywhere nowadays. There are dozens of offerings from dozens of companies that you can choose from, and they are popular with photographers, make-up artists, and videographers. The main use of a ring light is on-axis lighting for an even, somewhat flat exposure.

However, what do you do if you don’t like that effect or the distinctive ring-shaped catchlight for that matter? Because these lights are continuous, and because of their size, they have more uses than ring flashes of the past. If you don’t like the straight-on effect, you don’t have to use a ring light in that way.

In normal use, you would place the light directly in front of your subject and shoot through the aperture of the light.

This article demonstrates six uses of a continuous ring light that isn’t their intended use. It will also (hopefully) show you that these relatively cheap and effective lights are useful to have for any photographer in the studio.

Normal use

While not to the taste of many photographers, ring lights can be used to create bold and vibrant images.

If you’re unfamiliar, a ring light is a circular, ring-shaped light with a large aperture designed to be placed directly in front of a subject. You then take your images by positioning your camera through the aperture of the ring.

Traditional ring flashes had the light attached to the camera. This front (on-axis) lighting provides an evenly lit image. This is one of those things that you either love or hate, but photographers who love it tend to really love it.


With the continuous versions of these lights, you have a wealth of options with how to use a ring light. Because the light is always on, you can position it anywhere you want. With a lot of the options on the market, this gives you a high-powered, lightweight and versatile continuous light for around $100.

Because of the brightness of a continuous ring light, your subject’s pupils will be constricted, allowing you to see more of the color in their eyes.

Here’s a bonus if you’ve never used continuous lights before. Because the output is constant, your portrait subject’s pupils get constricted. This means you will see more of the color of their eyes in your photos.


Below are five examples of ways you can use a continuous ring light to great effect without ever using it as a ring light.

1. As a normal light

Placed at a 45-degree angle and angled downwards, these ring lights work well as normal light source.

Despite its circular shape, ring lights are great when used as a normal light. Raise the light and angle it towards your subject to distort the effect the shape of the light has, and you can use it as a small softbox. You’re not limited to how you can light your subject this way, but I’ve found that all of the basic lighting patterns work well.

You are not limited to the shape of the ring. Use flags to block off portions of the light to shape it however you want.

If you have more than one ring light, you can use them together to create just about any two-light setup that you can imagine. If the ones you have have an adjustable output, managing your key to fill ratios should be pretty easy.

2. As a prop

Having your subject pose with the light itself can create some interesting and fun portraits. It can also help to lighten the mood during a session.

If you have an LED ring light, they don’t get very hot. Feel free to have your subject pose with the light itself for some very different images. The results will vary with ring lights of different sizes, and you have to worry about the plug and the cables, but it’s still a fun technique. Though you probably won’t use it very often thanks to its tendency towards uplighting.

3. As ambient fill

Modern ring lights are getting quite powerful and it is more than possible to use them as fill lighting in conjunction with studio flash.

You can mix any continuous light with studio flashes for some interesting effects. By using a strobe as your key light, you can then bring a ring light in for some gentle fill.

A couple of things that you will want to keep in mind is that your strobes are probably way more powerful than your ring light, so set the power accordingly. Also, you will probably want to have a ring light with an adjustable color temperature if you are going to be mixing light sources.

You could also reverse this and use the ring light as key and flash as fill. As before, make sure the power on your strobes goes down that far before committing to this.

4. As a compositional device

Putting the light behind your subject creates an interesting tool for composition. Also, it may just be me, but I love that rim light that it is producing.

In its normal use, I am a fan of creating a composition with the actual ring light framing the subject. I just like it for whatever reason. However, you are not limited to that. You can place the ring light anywhere in your frame for some cool effects. Try placing one behind your subject for a halo effect, or placing one at an angle just inside your frame for a curved band of light running through the composition.

5. Dragging the shutter

When you’re mixing a ring light with studio flash, it opens the door to some interesting techniques like dragging the shutter. Here, flash is acting as fill and the shutter speed is set to 1/15th of a second.

This is similar to using the ring light as ambient fill, but if you use your strobe normally, you can expose for the high-powered strobe and the low-powered ring light by dragging the shutter.

This technique is not for everyone, but it can produce some interesting results.

A little warning: if you’re a technically-minded photographer, you’re probably going to hate this technique, as the results tend to be a little soft. However, it can be used for some striking results. If you do like it, you still have to be careful with controlling the movement of your camera.

You do have to manage any movement in your camera while using this technique. If in doubt, use a tripod.

Because the power output on your flash is not in any way controlled by shutter speed, you can set your shutter speed as slow as you need to make this work. However, you may want to use a tripod for really slow shutter speeds. This technique can provide some cool effects in its own right, but no two attempts are going to be the same.

That’s it

There you have it. That’s six ways that you can use a continuous ring light without ever having to use it as a ring light. Considering how cheap these things are, they are a very useful tool for any photographer who wants to get into off-camera lighting but for some reason is put off by flash.

Do you have other ways that you use a ring light? Please share with us in the comments below.


The post How to Use a Photography Ring Light in Unconventional Ways appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.