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Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color YELLOW and its use in Photography

Wed, 04/03/2019 - 14:00

The post Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color YELLOW and its use in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

In her diary, Frida Kahlo once wrote, “Yellow: madness, sickness, fear (part of the sun and of joy).” As one of the oldest pigments used by humans, the spectrum of attributes associated with yellow makes it an enduring presence in art and design. In this article, we’ll look at the evolution and artistic impact of yellow from prehistoric to contemporary visual arts.

The psychology of yellow

As one of yellow’s oldest embodiments, the sun and yellow are inextricably linked, the qualities of the sun (warmth, energy, and radiance) reflected in human perceptions of the color yellow. Throughout history, the sun came to be viewed by many cultures as a figure of heavenly might. As a result, yellow has also inherited connotations of power, knowledge, imperishability, and status.

Many associations attributed to yellow originate in nature. For example, sunlight shifting the darkness of night has forged a relationship between yellow and joy. Spring-blooming flowers like daffodils, dandelions, wattle, and forsythia draw connections between yellow, rebirth and renewal. The yellowing of Autumnal leaves cultivates associations of change, balance, and age. Vibrant hues of lemons, bananas, and corn characterize yellow as a color of nourishment.

And in some cases, dangerous plants, insects and animals, exhibit yellow as a sign of warning.

Yellow has strong historical and cultural significance in China, where it is the color of glory, royalty, happiness, and wisdom. However, in many Latin American cultures, yellow is associated with death, sorrow, and mourning. Similarly, yellow is seen as a color of mourning in some parts of the Middle East.

In Japanese culture, yellow signifies courage, refinement and wealth. In Africa, yellow is worn to signify high-ranking members of a community. Saffron, a bright orange-yellow is considered sacred in India, representing selflessness and courage.

Yellow’s high visibility sees extensive use in safety equipment and signage. Due to its reflective properties, however, yellow can also lead to visual fatigue. Yellow’s associations with energy can be related to impulsivity and egotism. A close relative of gold, yellow is associated with money, wealth and sometimes greed. To be called yellow-bellied is to be called a coward.

The evolution of the color yellow Yellow ochre

A natural clay earth pigment, yellow ocher’s availability and versatility saw wide-spread use from the prehistoric period. Gavin Evans, writer of The Story of Colour: an Exploration of the Hidden Messages of the Spectrum, states that “in the Bomvu Ridge area of Swaziland, archaeologists have found 40,000-year-old mines used to dig out red and yellow ochre, thought to be used for body paint.”

Ancient cave paintings made with yellow ochre pigments have been found at Pech Merle in France, Lascaux cave and at the cave of Altamira in Spain. The Aboriginals of Australia have painted with yellow ochres for over 40,000 years.

Today, artists continue to use yellow ochre in traditional forms and in modern paints.


Borrowing its name from the Latin word auripigmentum (aurum meaning gold and pigmentum meaning pigment), orpiment is found in volcanic fumaroles and hydro-thermal veins and hot springs. A richly colored orange-yellow arsenic sulfide, orpiment’s striking color captured the interest of both Chinese and Western alchemists looking for ways to create gold. Although highly toxic, orpiment saw use in Egypt, Persia, Asia, and Rome.

Indian yellow

Indian yellow was widely used in Indian watercolor and tempera-like paints. Noted for its use in Rajput-Mughal paintings from the 16th to the 19th century, Indian yellow was also used throughout Europe from the 17th to the 19th century.

Indian yellow pigments were said to have been produced in rural India from the urine of cattle fed solely on water and mango leaves. Today, a synthetic Indian yellow hue is manufactured using a mixture of nickel aso, arylide yellow, and quinacridone burnt orange.

Lead-tin yellow

Lead-tin yellow takes on two different forms. According to ColourLex, “the first and more frequently used is called Lead-tin-yellow type I and is a mixed oxide of both elements tin and lead… Lead-tin-yellow type II possibly contains traces of silica and also pure tin oxide.” The earliest occurrence of lead-tin yellow dates back to the 1300s. It was most frequently used in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. Johannes Vermeer, Titian and Anthony van Dyck all made use of lead-tin yellow in their paintings.

Chrome yellow

When chromium was discovered in 1797 by French chemist Louis Vauquelin, lead chromate was synthesized and used as a pigment. In use by the second decade of the nineteenth century, chrome yellow’s toxicity and it’s inherent tendency to oxidize over time and darken on exposure to oxygen meant it was largely replaced by cadmium yellow.

Joseph Mallord William Turner made use of chrome yellow for highlights in his dramatic Romantic paintings. In aviation, the well-loved Piper J-3 Cub adopted chrome yellow as its standard color. Because of this, chrome yellow and similar equivalents are known as Cub yellow in aviation circles.

Cadmium yellow

Much of the cadmium produced worldwide is used in rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries. However, a portion of cadmium goes to the manufacture of cadmium pigments, a family of vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges. First discovered in 1817, good permanence and tinting properties mean cadmium yellow has remained in use since it began production in 1840. Claude Monet’s Wheatstacks (Sunset Snow Effect) and Still Life with Apples and Grapes are two examples of cadmium yellow’s application in art.

Arylide yellow

Arylide yellow (also known as Hansa yellow and Monoazo yellow) are a family of organic compounds used as industrial colorants for plastics, building paints, inks, oil paints, acrylics, and watercolors. Discovered in 1909 by Hermann Wagner in Germany, arylide yellow became commercially available around 1925 and has been used predominantly as a replacement for cadmium yellow since 1950. Alexander Calder and Jackson Pollock employed arylide yellow in their artworks.

Yellow in visual arts

Yellow’s propensity to capture attention makes it a commanding presence in visual art. Ancient Egyptians used yellow ocher to paint women’s skin tones and depict deities. Yellow ochre was also a staple on the palettes of Roman artists, who used it to lay down backgrounds and paint flesh-tones.

During the Medieval period, Judas Iscariot came to be depicted in yellow. The exact reasons for this are unclear. Nevertheless, Judas’ portrayal quickly garnered associations between yellow and jealousy, unease, tension, and betrayal. Despite its negative associations, however, artists continued to draw on yellow as a color of life and abundance. As one of the first artists to use commercially manufactured paints, Vincent van Gogh’s famous fascination with yellow culminated in numerous artworks including A Field Of Yellow FlowersDunes and his study of Sunflowers.

Painted during his Golden Period, Gustav Klimt’s, The Kiss is structured around luxuriant yellows and gold leaf. Pier Mondrian included yellow within his bold compositions of color and line. Artists like Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning also used yellow to foster lightness and movement within their paintings and Andy Warhol used vibrant shades of yellow to add a blocky, surrealistic tone to his images of pop culture icons and everyday objects.

With the arrival of the 21st century came the rise of new artistic materials and technologies. Olafur Eliasson’s The Weather Project generates an atmosphere suffused with the breathtaking light of an artificial yellow sun. Yayoi Kusama’s infinity rooms, seemingly endless fields of yellow pumpkins dotted with black polka dots, play with the nature and psychology of seeing. And James Turrell harnesses the changeable quality of light through his Skyspaces, which hem the yellow light of the morning and evening each day.

Yellow in Photography

The evocative nature of yellow and its associations with treachery, betrayal, joy, warning, and nature remain just as poignant within the frame of the photograph. Street photographer Saul Leiter incorporated swaths of yellow into his street scenes, adding a palpable rhythm to his work. Mark Cohens’ image of a blond boy brashly smoking into the camera lens is punctuated by the boy’s bright yellow skivvy. Gregory Crewdson often incorporates yellow light emanating from lamps or house windows, juxtaposing homeliness with palpable unrest. Frans Lanting’s depiction of a leopard stalking in grass explores yellow in the natural environment. Kyle Jeffers uses yellow to accent architectural landscapes and Annette Horn’s yellow images trace the energetic properties of yellow on the 2-dimensional photographic plane.

Yellow can also be applied as a creative tool in photography. Golden hour, the period of daylight that occurs just after sunrise and just before sunset, has a distinctively yellow hue. During this window, daylight is at its softest and warmest, creating opportunities for dynamic portraiture and landscape photography. Generally the most subtle of colored filters, yellow filters are used in black and white photography to darken skies slightly, and boost the contrast of green foliage. In portraiture, yellow filters also deliver warmer skin tones.


Yellow’s vibrancy has resonated with artists and viewers for thousands of years. As the most vivid color on the visible spectrum, yellow reflects the dynamics of life. Charged with associations of joy, rebirth, renewal, change and energy, yellow’s use in art has also communicated portrayals of jealousy, betrayal, and greed. Yellow’s vibrancy, versatility, and accessibility connects to audiences through associations drawn from both visual arts and the world around us.

Do you use the color yellow in your photography? Feel free to share your images and thoughts in the comments below.

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Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color RED and its use in Photography



The post Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color YELLOW and its use in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

How to Make Well Exposed Photos Every Time. Part 1 – Seeing the Light

Wed, 04/03/2019 - 09:00

The post How to Make Well Exposed Photos Every Time. Part 1 – Seeing the Light appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Part One – Seeing the Light

Opinions about what a correctly exposed photograph is must be about as numerous as what people choose to take pictures of. Some opinions are more common than others.

‘Every photograph must contain an even range of tone with no details lost in the highlight or shadow areas.’ This is the one I encounter most frequently. It’s probably been learned from technical books and academics.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Performing a quick Google search on this topic brings up the Canon Australia website with this:

“The act of having ‘correct’ exposure means your combination of settings between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO speed have produced a perfectly exposed image. When nothing is blown out (highlights) or lost in shadow in an image, it has achieved correct exposure.”

I’m not including this quote to get at Canon users or Aussies, (even though I am a Nikon user and a Kiwi,) but because it represents a purely technical approach to exposure choice.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

How can creative expression be judged as correct?

Photography, at its best, is a creative expression of how we perceive what we see. Our world view is unique. Each of us has the ability to interpret and convey our experience through the photographs we capture.

Freedom to expose our photos so some parts of our compositions have no recorded detail is a natural part of this art form. If our minds are boxed in by technical restraints such as are expressed on the Canon Australia website, our expression is inhibited.

I’m not suggesting we disregard technical quality – this would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I am recommending you reach beyond purely technical restraints to expose your photos so that they are more expressive of what they are about, not just what they are of.

Conforming to the opinion that photographs are best when no details get lost due to exposure choice can provide documentation of what you are photographing. This approach to taking pictures will not often infuse your photographs with much life, emotion, or energy, apart from what your subject may naturally provide.

Histogram bells taste like Vanilla ice cream

Vanilla ice cream – enjoyable sometimes – but plain nonetheless. You are likely to get bored with it if that’s all you eat. It’s not the most exciting flavor at the ice cream parlor.

A bell-shaped histogram indicates your camera has recorded a lot of mid-range tones and little or no extreme dark or light ones.

Striving for a bell-shaped histogram is not going to produce the most flavorsome photographs. At times you’ll make a great image that’s got a bell-shaped histogram, but not often.

I believe it’s a common myth that the ideal histogram is bell-shaped.


You can see that the histogram for this image is reasonably balanced. There are no spikes to the left or right. This indicates we will see detail in the darkest and brightest parts of the composition.

I took the photo mid-afternoon on an overcast day. Because the light was soft and even, and the tones in my composition are all fairly neutral, I have obtained a ‘correct’ exposure.

Subscribing to the ideal of the bell shape, you might look at this histogram and think the photo is extremely underexposed. You might even consider deleting such an image based on this information alone.

It is the same statue photographed on a sunny day in the mid-afternoon. It’s a much more appealing photograph than the one made on the overcast afternoon.

It was my intention to lose shadow detail. I wanted to isolate the statue from the dull background and add some drama.

Exposure choices are as personal as ice cream preferences

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Seeking to only create photos with an even exposure throughout the tone range is like choosing to eat just vanilla ice cream and always ignoring all the other flavors.

Great photographs express what the photographer sees and experiences. Sometimes they are technically correct, many times they aren’t. It all comes back to the intent of the photographer.

Choosing to let most of your composition fall into darkness is your choice. If you want to use the shadow areas to enhance your subject, then do it. If light streaming into your lens from behind your subject creates softness and depth of feeling, let it happen.

Don’t just focus on the technical details. You will usually end up with photos containing little or no feeling.

Before you bring your camera up to your eye, you need to see the light. Consider the brightest parts of a scene. Are they important? Do you need to show detail in them to convey what you want to with your photo?

Likewise for the dark areas of your photo – if there are a lot of distracting elements in the shadow areas – let them be buried in the darkness.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Behind the woman and elephant was a large, open building casting a helpful shadow over its messy interior. By positioning myself so I could only see the shaded area behind my subjects, I knew I could isolate them. I set my exposure for the woman’s face, as it’s the most important part of my composition.

The fact that the background is dark and contains no detail helps make my photo stronger.

Understanding light and tone will help you make more interesting exposures. Knowing how your camera evaluates and records light and tone is equally as important. How to manage your exposure is the topic of the next article in this series.

What’s the most important element in your composition?

Recognizing your key subject is an important early decision in taking a photo. Most often it will be your first.

This will be what you focus on and what you want to expose well, (usually). If your subject has a wide tonal range – say a bride in a white dress and a groom in a black suit – be careful. Your camera will not be able to render detail both in the dress and the suit because the tones are extremely different.

Likewise, if part of your subject is in bright sun and part is in the shade, you will need to choose your exposure carefully. The contrast created by sunlight and shade is also extreme.

Discerning your primary subject helps you compose everything in your frame around it. Exposing it well helps make it the center of attention in your photograph.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

What mood do you want to capture or create?

To me, the answer to this question is more important to focus on than trying to obtain a full tonal range in my photographs.

The type of light you’re photographing in will influence the feeling in your photographs. So will your exposure choice. Is the light bright and hard, or soft and gentle? Should you set your exposure so you can see all the detail in the shadows or chose to let them become very dark and contain little or no detail?

Letting your camera make these choices for you, by not controlling your exposure, your photos may become flat and somewhat lifeless. By taking control and exposing your main subject well you can infuse story, drama, and imagination.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

I have a mantra of sorts. Look. Think. Click.

Look at what you want to photograph. See what is before you. Your subject, it’s surroundings and the background. The light.

Think about how you want to portray your subject. What is your intention?

How much or how little do you want to include? What will fill your frame?

What quality is the light and how will it affect your photo?

Where will you stand or position yourself?

When will be the best time to take your photo?

Which exposure settings will you choose to best suit your intention?

Click. This should only happen once you have thought these things through.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

It may seem a whole lot to do before taking a photograph, but this is what makes the difference between a snapshot and an image you may want to have framed and hang on your wall.

In the next article in this series, I will cover how to manage your camera settings to match your intent.

The post How to Make Well Exposed Photos Every Time. Part 1 – Seeing the Light appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Review

Tue, 04/02/2019 - 14:00

The post Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kunal Malhotra.

The 24-70mm is undoubtedly one of the most desired lenses because of obvious reasons. The focal length range in a single lens enables you to capture multiple genres of photography such as street, landscape, portraits, and travel.

Recently, I got my hands on the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens, and I have been using it for more than a month now. I also made a comparison with the Canon variant, which I talk about at the end along with sample images.

This lens is available in both Canon and Nikon mounts designed for FX and EF format cameras. It can also be mounted on DX/EF-S bodies.

Build quality and ergonomics

Talking about the construction of the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2, it consists of 17 elements in 12 groups and 9 rounded diaphragm blades. This lens has moisture-resistant construction, and the front element has fluorine coating which protects against dust, dirt, and smearing.

The moment I held the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2, my first impression was that this lens feels premium. With the new SP series, Tamron has revised the design of their professional lenses and made them more sturdy. The AF/MF and VC ON/OFF switches are of superior quality, and the rubber grips for focus and focal length adjustment feel comfortable.

One thing that impresses me on this Tamron lens is the placement of the focal length ring. I have been used to the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens which features the focal length ring placed near to the camera. Whereas, the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 lens has it placed near to the front element. After using both the lenses, I feel that the focal length ring placement is much more user-friendly on the Tamron lens.

In regards to technology advancements, the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 lens is compatible with TAP-in Console (to be purchased separately) for fine-tuning focus adjustments and also to update the lens firmware.

Focus speed and accuracy

The lens features an Ultrasonic Silent Drive auto-focus motor which is designed to provide quick and accurate focusing performance. After using the lens for a month, I feel the focus is precise and swift, even with fast moving subjects. As a street and travel photographer, my priority is to nail the focus, and this lens compliments my camera very well.

I also took the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 lens for a spin in low light conditions, and I was happy to see how fast it locked the focus. Even in continuous focus mode, it hardly hunted for focus. Overall, this lens is a charmer in the focus speed and accuracy department.

After using the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens for almost 3 years, the Tamron lens did not make me feel that I was using a slower lens. It was almost the same experience for me. With the closest focusing distance of 1.25ft or 15inches (same as the Canon variant), I was also able to shoot some close up shots.

Sharpness and Image Quality

There is one highlighting feature in this Tamron zoom lens which the Canon variant is missing, and that is VC (Vibration Compensation) or Image Stabilization. VC helps in minimizing the camera shake by up to 5 stops, which can be effective in low light conditions.

The VC on this lens helped me shoot at slower shutter speeds such as 1/10th -1/15th sec and lower ISO values without introducing shake in the images. Practically, I was able to achieve 3.5-4 stops of Image Stabilization performance with this lens, which I could not from my Canon variant.

Canon vs Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8

From f/2.8 to f/4 the Canon is slightly sharper at the center and has better contrast performance. But as I tested, these lenses at f/4 and narrower, both started generating similar results in terms of sharpness and contrast.

Overall, the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens scores better in terms of image quality. Whereas, for me, the Tamron is a winner considering its price-to-quality ratio and the build quality.

LEFT: Shot at 1/15th sec with VC OFF. RIGHT: Shot at 1/15th sec with VC ON


At a good price point, the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens seems like a great choice for travel, street, wedding, and even landscape photography. The image quality is superior, and the focus speed and accuracy is spot on. If you are looking for a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens which is slightly cheaper than the Canon//Nikon variant but still performs very well, this could be an ideal choice.

The post Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kunal Malhotra.

How to Use the Lightroom Transform Tool

Tue, 04/02/2019 - 09:00

The post How to Use the Lightroom Transform Tool appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Erin Fitzgibbon.

Lightroom has so many great tools we all use to edit our photographs. No wonder it’s an essential editing program for just about every photographer. Let’s take a look at the Transform Tool.

The Transform Tool can be used to adjust the perspective in your images. Most know that the tool is useful for straightening horizons or fixing those pesky leaning buildings, but it can do a lot more than that. The Transform Tool can help you to adjust other types of photographs. It has a convenient application, but it can also be used to edit your images to create more dramatic looks. You can also use it to help you create interesting artistic interpretations of your shots.

I used the transform tool to help me edit this image. I made several small adjustments to align the perspective with my creative vision.

Let’s start with the individual components of the transform tool before progressing to using them in more creative ways towards the end of the article.

The Auto Function

The Transform Tool comes with an automatic option. In this case, it’s pretty simple. Push the Auto button and let Lightroom make all the adjustments to your image. For those who are unfamiliar with how to use the other features of the Transform Tool this may be the simplest option. The problem is that Auto doesn’t always do the best job of adjusting your images. I find that if the adjustment is straightforward like straightening a horizon, then auto works well. However, it has difficulty adjusting the more complex perspective issues. This is meant to be a quick and dirty type of adjustment for minor perspective issues.

Here’s an example of the Auto tool in use on Tintern Abbey.

Vertical adjustments

The Vertical Tool automatically analyzes and then adjusts the vertical lines within your photograph. This type of adjustment is particularly useful if you’re trying to fix a leaning building or leaning trees in your landscape because you’re using a wide-angle lens. At the same time, you will find that automatic fixes don’t always work correctly and that Lightroom may over-adjust the verticals and give you something that doesn’t look quite right. So this may not be your best option for using the Transform tool.

In this case, the vertical tool didn’t do a very good job of adjusting the perspective.

Level Adjustments

The Level Tool automatically adjusts your horizontal lines. This tool seems to work reasonably well for most landscape shots. Issues with the Level Tool may arise when you are working with a horizon line along with diagonal lines. Sometimes this combination of lines fools the software. Lightroom may choose to adjust the diagonal lines and skew the rest of the image. Keep this in mind when using the automatic adjustment.

I find the level tool works great for landscape images but in this case, it needs manual adjustments.

Full Adjustments

The Full Adjustment option takes into account all vertical and horizontal lines plus the features of the auto option. This particular tool doesn’t adjust my images well. It tends to overcompensate. This tool rarely creates a look I want to use for my photographs. That doesn’t mean it won’t work for you; however, be aware that it tends to be aggressive.

Some may like the adjustments that a full perspective tool creates. If you do, remember to leave a lot of room around your subject. As you can see here, the crop that needs to occur is quite severe.

The Guided Adjustment option

The Guided Tool is probably the best way to adjust perspective within your images. The problem with the other options is that Lightroom chooses which vertical and horizontal lines it uses to adjust perspective. The reality is that these may not be the lines that need adjusting. This is where the Guided Tool comes into practice. As the editor of your work, you know which lines need straightening so you can guide Lightroom to adjust the proper verticals or horizontals. It’s still a quick and easy tool to use. You are guiding Lightroom by telling it where to focus its efforts.

The tool is straightforward to use. Just choose the line you wish to adjust and then use your mouse to define the line for Lightroom. Once two lines have been selected, Lightroom automatically adjusts your image based on your guidelines.

In this case, the Guided Tool straightens the lines I highlight but the required crop is rather extreme.

The guided tool worked really well with this simple adjustment.

Using the sliders

You can always adjust your images using the Manual Sliders located below the automatic options. Sometimes it works very well to use the Guided tool and then to make minor manual adjustments to the image as well.

Just move the sliders to adjust your work for the desired look. Each slider will adjust a different aspect of the image.

Level – tilts the image and creates an angle of sorts

Vertical – adjusts the image by tilting either forwards or to the back
Rotate – twists the image on an access point (adjusting horizon lines for the most part)
Aspect – stretches the image horizontally or compresses it horizontally
Scale – allows you to zoom in closer or further out on an image
X offset – moves the image on the x-axis to the left or right.
Y offset – move the image on the y-axis up or down.

Used on their own you may find that these sliders do not achieve much. However, when used in combination and subtle amounts, you can easily adjust the sliders to obtain the perspective you see in your mind’s eye.

In this screenshot, you can see how the aspect slider works to adjust an image.

Using the Transform Tool creatively

You can use the Transform Tool to help you adjust perspective to create more drama within an image. You can also use it to completely change the perspective of an image for a creative interpretation of the subject you originally photographed.

In the case of the following image, I made the adjustments to create something that highlighted the foreground more, thus drawing the viewers eyes towards that area.

I used the vertical slider to adjust the image so the foreground plays a bigger role in the image.

Here’s the completed photograph exported from Lightroom:

Compare this to the original perspective of the shot.

In the image below the foreground plays a less important role in the image. You can use the Transform Tool to help you make creative decisions about your photographs.

This is the unedited jpeg of the file above. Consider how the change of perspective affects the visual nature of the image.

It’s a versatile tool

You can use the Transform Tool in very subtle ways to adjust perspective. It can either be used to make an image seem more realistic and more accurate to our understanding of the way the landscape looks in reality or can be used to make some more open to interpretation. Remember, there are lots of options out there when editing work.

Be creative. Give the transform tool a whirl and see what you can do with it. You may surprise yourself and create something extraordinary.

I’ve included a few more photos edited using the Transform Tool to illustrate how you can use it both functionally and creatively.

The goal was to make the foreground more important in this photograph.

My goal was to capture my friend as she took photos of the incoming waves on the beach in Borth, Wales.

The post How to Use the Lightroom Transform Tool appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Erin Fitzgibbon.

Making the Shot: Your Guide to Creating Stunning High-Speed Splash Photos Without Flash

Mon, 04/01/2019 - 14:00

The post Making the Shot: Your Guide to Creating Stunning High-Speed Splash Photos Without Flash appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

The making of one of my most successful shots started with a little photo play on a hot summer day, and a try at some high-speed splash photography.

The image above, “Red Bell Splashdown,” went on to win first place in the Corel International Food Photography Contest.

Let’s take a look at the “making of” methods used to create the shot so that you too can have fun with this quite simple technique.

Freezing motion

There are essentially two ways to freeze motion with a camera:

  1. Use a Fast Shutter Speed such that the “sliver of time” you are capturing is very short and the object being captured moves very little, if at all, during the extremely short duration the shutter is open, or
  2. Use the very Short Duration of a Flash so that the object you are photographing gets illuminated for a very small sliver of time. The duration time of an electronic flash can be extremely short. For example, a Speedlight like the Canon 580EXII at 1/128 power is less than 1/19,000th of a second!

I’ve used the flash method, and indeed it can produce some dramatic results. I will perhaps show that process and the results in a future article. For my splash photos, however, I wanted to keep it simple and do it outdoors where water splashes wouldn’t require any clean-up or endanger my photo gear. When I did these shots, I was using my Canon 50D which has a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000th of a second. I figured this should be enough to get the job done.

Let the sun shine in

Obviously, getting a proper exposure with a very high shutter speed would involve several possibilities:

  1. Use a fast lens with a wide aperture – I was shooting with a Canon 50mm f/1.8 prime lens, so a wide aperture was possible. However, I still needed a decent depth of field, so opening it up all the way wasn’t a good option.
  2. Use a high ISO – Cranking up the ISO can aid in getting a fast shutter speed but at the penalty of more image noise. I didn’t want that if I could avoid it.
  3. Shoot in very bright light. Normally, shooting under mid-day summer sun would not be something a photographer would do, but in this case, blazing sunlight (and lots of it) was the perfect solution.

The set-up

I wanted to use colorful subjects for the shoot. Bell peppers – easily found at the supermarket in red, yellow and green – seemed a good choice. I also picked up some other colorful fruits – strawberries and limes. To accommodate the size of the objects and also give me a flat glass “window” to shoot through, a 10-gallon aquarium was just right.

Wanting to get light not just from above but from below as well, I put a large 5-in-1 reflector on the table where I wanted to shoot, silver side up. I placed the aquarium on top of that out in the bright noon sun. I filled the tank with water about halfway and allowed the bubbles to settle out while I set up the rest of the equipment.

I put a pepper in the water and let it float while I took a look through the camera to frame the shot. I could see I would need a plain and preferably dark background, so I put a piece of black paper behind the tank. The paper was still too bright with the direct sun on it, so I used another reflector, black side down, at the back to the tank to shade the paper backdrop. I had my camera on a tripod and moved it to get as much of the front of the tank in the frame as I could, being sure I could focus that close.

To be able to drop my subjects into the tank and also trigger the shutter, I rigged up a Youngnuo RF-602C radio trigger so that I’d be able to fire the camera remotely. A wired remote with a long enough cord could have also worked.

Camera settings

I put the camera in Manual Mode. To get a good combination of the fast shutter speed needed, decent depth of field, and not too high an ISO, I found that shooting at ISO 400, F/6.3 and the key – fast shutter speeds between 1/2000 and 1/3200th of a second was about right. Letting a pepper float in the tank where I anticipated it to be when dropped, I set the focus and then locked it in manual. I also put the shutter in high-speed continuous mode so for each drop I’d get a burst of about 5 shots.


So, good to go, I dropped the peppers, strawberries, and limes, trying to fire the bursts in synchronization with my drops. My wife Kathy came out to join in the fun and did some of the drops. We quickly found it was necessary to squeegee and wipe the front of the glass between shots to clean the drops off the front of the glass from the previous shot. So it went: drop, shoot, squeegee and repeat. For each drop, one frame of the 5-shot burst might be good, but often not. Timing is crucial. With practice, while we gained some skill, luck was still a huge element. There was lots of shooting to get the keepers. We tried it with the peppers and fruits in different combinations too. I easily made over 200 shots that afternoon.

Cleaning up your act!

Straight out of the camera, the raw shots were less than impressive. Of course, Raw files look flat, and so I knew they’d improve greatly with a basic Raw edit. There were also more drops, splashes, bubbles and other particles in the water than I wanted. However, the important thing – the action – was properly frozen and sharp!

My Red Bell Splashdown image used settings of ISO 400, f/4.0, 1/3200th sec. The rest was using editing tools to adjust the exposure, get good rich color and deep blacks, and eliminate distractions. My editing tool of choice is usually Adobe Lightroom. With the Adjustment Brush and the Spot Removal Tool, I was able to clean up the image to create the impact I was after.

Other considerations and possibilities

With any photo shoot, it’s always a good idea to critique your work and consider, “What might I have done better? Differently? What variations might I want to try?”

Seeing I had used a shutter speed of 1/3200th for my splash shots, I was curious how much difference there might be at the maximum shutter speed of my Canon 50D which is 1/8000th. I didn’t want to set up the fish tank and all of that for this second experiment, so I tried something simpler.

This time, I poured liquid into glasses in the bright summer sun. This process was simple enough. I clamped the glasses in a stand, put up a black backdrop behind them, set up the camera in a similar fashion to the previous splash shots, and did the pours. This time my settings were ISO 400, f/3.5, 1/8000th of a second.

When checking the shots afterward, it was apparent that the freezing effect was even more pronounced. However, at such a wide aperture, my depth of field was much more shallow.

What might I try next time?

I’d like to give different color backgrounds a try. Using black made editing much easier, and when cleaning up the shots, it was simple to “black out” any distracting elements. I’m not so sure that would be as easily achieved with a color background. Trying it with a white background for a high-key look might also look interesting.

Of course, using different objects for the splash photos is also fun. In fact, we did do that when during the splash photo session my Mini-Schnauzer, Schatzi, wanted to play and decided to bring us her favorite ball. Looking at the “face” on the ball, I thought it might be fun to try it in a splash drop as we’d done with the peppers. When seeing the result – which looked like the “creature” was exhaling bubbles during a dive – it made me laugh.

So, give this high-speed shutter technique a try. Take it outside in the bright sun, crank up the shutter speed as high as you can and have some fun. It’s a great way to improve your camera skills, learn the relationships between ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed, and then test your editing skills when tuning up your shots. I’m confident you’ll get some images of which you’ll be proud.

The post Making the Shot: Your Guide to Creating Stunning High-Speed Splash Photos Without Flash appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

So You Have No Model? Here are Ways to Practice Your Portrait Lighting With Toys

Mon, 04/01/2019 - 09:00

The post So You Have No Model? Here are Ways to Practice Your Portrait Lighting With Toys appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

Portrait lighting can be tricky to learn.

After reading articles and watching tutorials about light, you’ll excitedly look for a person to practice on. Although, once you finally have a person in front of your camera your mind goes blank and nothing is as easy as those tutorials made it seem. You forget all that information you’ve been overloaded with and feel foolish in front of your ‘model.’ Worst case scenario, you’ll become discouraged and give up.

Superman was always my favorite.

But there is a way to practice basic portrait lighting techniques and build your confidence before photographing people. You can practice portrait lighting with toys until you feel comfortable enough to experiment with people.

You’ll learn how to position your subject and light source without the stress of working with a real person.

Once you understand the basic principles of portrait lighting your confidence will grow and you can keep learning new techniques and refining your skills.

Also, who doesn’t want an excuse to play with toys again?

Choosing the right toy

Choose a toy with a human figure so that what you learn can transfer easily when you photograph real people. Try to find one with pronounced facial features so that there will be realistic shadows created.

Your toy should have some texture too. This is important because it helps you to see how the light affects your subject. As light skims across a textured surface, it will create highlights and shadows, which will help your portrait to pop. Everybody who sits in front of your camera will be textured (hair, skin, and clothes).

This Superman toy has lots of texture and muscular looking features. His face has pronounced features that mimic a real person’s face.

Using a flashlight (hard light source)

Quality of light refers to the hardness or softness of the light.

A general rule is that the smaller the light source, the harder the light will be. This means that there will be deep, crisp shadows. The larger the light source, the softer the light will be. The difference between the shadows and highlights will be much less intense.

I’ll begin by using a flashlight as a hard light source. The basic lighting patterns will be easier to see with hard light.

In each of these sample photos, we’ll focus on the direction of light and what happens as we move the light around.

  • Front
  • Rembrandt
  • Side/split
  • Edge
  • Back/silhouette
  • Uplighting

I kept my Superman figure in one place and simply moved the light around it.

The first image is the lighting set up and the second image is the portrait.

Front light

The light is placed directly in front of your subject. It’s a little higher than his eye level.

You can see that he is evenly lit with a crisp shadow under his neck created by his jawline.

Rembrandt light

This is a classic lighting pattern named after the painter, Rembrandt. Reposition the light so that it hits your subject on a 45-degree angle. It’s still a little above eye level.

The left side of his face becomes shadowy, but there is a triangle of light under his eye.

Side light/Split light

The light has now been positioned directly beside him.

The light now only illuminates one side of him. His face is split between shadow and highlight.

Edge light

Swing the light around so that it shines over his shoulder.

The only light that we can see now is the edge of his face, shoulder, and arm.


Put the light right behind your subject.

This is similar to the edge light effect except that the light is directly behind him now. If the light source were larger (perhaps a sunset sky) there would be more of a silhouette effect. But the dark background has created a very mysterious look for this low key portrait.

This is the exact same lighting situation except that I increased my ISO to make a brighter exposure.


To achieve this dramatic looking portrait I placed the light at his feet and shone it up toward his face. Uplighting is sometimes referred to as ‘monster lighting.’

Using a window (soft light source)

Now that we’ve seen how light can be used with a harsh source, let’s look at the same techniques with more subtle soft lighting.

In this case, we can’t move our light source, so we’ll have to move the subject in relation to the window.

We’ll cover:

  • Front
  • Rembrandt
  • Side/split
  • Edge
  • Back/silhouette
Front light

The window is right behind me, shining directly on Superman.

Rembrandt light

The window is beside him, but notice that I place him back from the window a bit.

The right side of his face becomes shadowy except for that triangular patch of light under his eye.

Side light

I’ve now moved him forward so that the window is directly beside him.

The light splits his face and body into a highlight on one side and shadow on the other.

Edge light

You can see the window behind him on the left side of the photo. It’s behind him but off to the side so that it illuminates the edge of his head, shoulder, and arm.


The window is directly behind him. Because it is such a large, bright light source the portrait has become a silhouette.


Because I wasn’t working with a real person, I felt comfortable experimenting with some creative lighting. The more I relaxed and the longer I practiced, the more I began to notice interesting lighting situations.

The glare on the table acted as a backlight source, creating a silhouette. The light from the window became an edge light source, tracing his upper body and making it stand out from the dark background.

This is the window edge light photo from above. I cropped the window out and used a radial filter in Lightroom to make that subtle burst of warm light in the top left corner of the photo.

Two light sources

Let’s look at a three-step progression from one light to two.

The glare on the desk is from a window in the background. It’s a backlight source that has created a silhouette.

I decided to set up my flashlight again to add some light on his face.

Finally, I turned his body more toward the flashlight to illuminate his chest but turned his face back toward the camera to create a split light effect across his face.

More advanced

The leap from practicing with toys to photographing real people may still be a little uncomfortable, but at least you’ll have some success behind you. Just focus on one thing at a time. Use a window to make a soft Rembrandt light portrait of a friend. Or try a dramatic split light photo using off-camera flash.

Once you feel comfortable with the basic lighting techniques we’ve covered you can practice these more advanced techniques using real people:

And when you’re seriously ready to go pro with your lighting you’ll need to read, How to Create Awesome Portrait Lighting with a Paper Bag an Elastic Band and a Chocolate Donut.


The post So You Have No Model? Here are Ways to Practice Your Portrait Lighting With Toys appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

5 Different Approaches to Taking Photos of Strangers

Sun, 03/31/2019 - 14:00

The post 5 Different Approaches to Taking Photos of Strangers appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nils Heininger.

As travel photographers, documentary photographers or photojournalists, we all share the same unique challenge: Building up a relationship with our subjects from scratch. Commercial and wedding photographers also need to create closeness to their subjects, but they usually have a foundation that connects them. Models are usually paid to cooperate. Customers of wedding photographers want good images themselves. This is a foundation on which photographers can build their relationships. Our challenge is different – we enter a new environment and have nothing but our camera and ourselves.

When we find ourselves in a special environment in a different culture and amongst strangers, we have to find strategies to approach them. A great portrait exists not only through light and composition but also the emotional connection between the photographer and photographed.

If as a photographer you don’t feel comfortable shooting a situation, it influences the quality of your images negatively. Also considering moral aspects, it is always better to connect with people and be sure they appreciate (or at least tolerate) you taking their pictures.

We (almost) all struggle with approaching strangers. Even Steve McCurry admitted he is often shy and feels awkward when he takes pictures. However, the good news is, there are strategies to make the best out of the situation and subsequently create more possibilities for good images. Here, I share my best strategies to get closer to people and come home with more good portraits.

1. Ask and shoot

The first strategy is quite simple, yet often a challenge – just go and ask. How many times did you not have the courage to approach a stranger and ask for taking an image? And how many times did you regret it? If you are like me, then far too many. The more you approach people, the more you will realize most of them are happy to have their picure taken and might even see it as a compliment.

But, what if they say no? What does it matter if they reject you? So what? There are billions of other people out there. Fear is generally one of the biggest barriers to getting good pictures.

You have to overcome it.

One of the best ways to do so is to go out and practice. You will be surprised how many people pose for you if you approach them the right way.

Stay confident, do your thing and do it well.

The challenge with this strategy is to stay calm. When I started out, I found my images composed weakly or a little soft because I tried to get it done as quickly as possible. My hand was perhaps too shaky, and I rushed through the process without considering the right camera settings.

Later, I realized it is not necessary to be in such a hurry. Yes, you should not take too much time from people. However, if you become too nervous and ruin the moment, all the time is spent for nothing.

Be aware of what you do and how you do it. Stay calm and confident then you will succeed more easily. People appreciate it most if they see that you act professional and portray them in a good light.

2. Be patient and drink tea

As I find myself mostly in South Asia, drinking tea is an activity to socialize and get into contact with people. In other areas, you might replace it with coffee, maté or beer. Be mindful to the fact that taking pictures of people is not just hitting the shutter button. If it were that easy, we would not have all those amazing professionals who still stand out with their images of people. Each of these pictures involved much work behind or beside the camera.

Most of the photographers who accurately capture the culture and atmosphere of a place through a local person have spent a lot of time choosing the person and building a relationship. While you can run through the streets and click away thousands of images of everyone, you may want to spend your time more efficiently. Stay calm and invest some time into building a network. Go to places where the people you want to take portraits of hang out. Socialize and take your camera out when it is time to do so.

3. Find a fixer

If you have found the right people and still could not get into contact, sometimes it is useful to find a fixer. Fixers are people who arrange access to a story for a photographer, videographer or journalist. Mostly, they belong to the area and act as a mediator between the professional and the people.

Fixers can also help with translating, and they know a lot about the covered issue themselves and have an idea of what you are looking for. While fixers usually get paid in the case of professional journalism, you can also find guides, community members or other locals who can help you out. Sometimes this happens while you are drinking tea, sometimes it is enough to walk aimlessly through a street in a strange neighborhood.

Find the people, who look like they could help you. Often, locals are happy to share their stories. Introduce yourself and show that you don’t mean any harm.

For example, I wanted to cover the life of a fisherman in Puri, India but I did not know anyone at the place I was visiting. When I arrived, I quickly found a boy who could introduce me to the community while I was wandering around an area where you usually do not find too many tourists. The young man asked me what I was doing, and we talked. I did not even have to find someone who connected me. The person found me within a few minutes!

Even though he was not a fisherman himself, he was very helpful in giving me information about the community and connecting me to others. After a while, people got used to me. Even though the boy himself could not arrange a boat ride for me, I was able to connect to others. One morning, I finally found myself out on the sea with some fishermen.

4. Visit a festival or event

Special events or festivals are a great opportunity to capture the culture of a place and to get to know people. Festivals offer the opportunity to take pictures of important moments. Often, you will also be asked by people if you could send the images to them. Be helpful and share what you have. My experience is that everything you share will be paid back in multiple amounts. When I photographed the wild dances of the Dervishes at a Sufi Shrine in Pakistan, one of the performers asked me to send the images to him. As I became acquainted with him, I could stand in the first row during the next week’s event. Once connected to the people, they made sure that I could capture some great images.

Often, it might be tempting to push your limits for getting the image. Always be aware of what is allowed and appreciated during certain events. Some people might not want their images captured, or you might disturb a significant moment (DSLR users will know the curse of the loud shutter noise). I have a rule of thumb for these situations – when I have an awkward feeling in my tummy or get more attention than the actual event, I’d prefer to ask someone if I should step back.

Imagine a photographer placing his camera right in front of your face before the kiss at your wedding. You cannot even see the bride properly. That would totally kill the moment. At unknown events and rituals, you have to be aware of what is going on around you.

As a bad-mannered photographer, you can also ruin the name of a whole community of professionals and hobbyists. Always be kind and considerate. Others might also want to shoot wherever you have participated. If you behaved in a bad way, they may not get permission anymore. In the most extreme cases, you can even put yourself in danger if you unintendedly cross a line. Get your image but try to not focus the attention on yourself. For you, a certain event might be an opportunity for photographs. For others, it might be a very important day in their life.

5. Make a project and be open about it

Approach a community and openly tell them that you want to photograph their everyday life. On the first day leave your camera at home and introduce yourself to the people.

While this may be frustrating (because you will undoubtedly see opportunities you could capture), remain patient. Drink tea, talk and explain what you want to do and why. In this way, people get to know you and your intentions. You also get a better idea of what to capture and how.

When I took photos in a slum, people were suspicious because NGOs go in and out taking images of poverty. I explained that I want to take images of normal life and portray them as normal human beings, which I knew they were. The results were less staged images of their everyday life, which they appreciated.

In such a project, you can even give something back to people.

Print some images and hand them over to the community. You may be surprised at just how happy that makes people. Moreover, you may also find that people who did not want their photograph taken before will approach you to take their images too. It’s small gestures like these that keep you welcome in an area.

Long term projects may not cover a large variety of places and people, but they can cover a deeper insight into a community and connect the audience to the subject.

You don’t have to make your project too big. It all depends on your capabilities. There are many small ones which you can pursue within a week or even a day.

Developing a project does not only open gates for you but also gets you out and enhances your creativity. Shooting with a concept in mind can make you feel less awkward when out on the streets. It may also help you explain to people why you would love to take their image.

In a nutshell

Invest time in your photography as it is more than just hitting the shutter button.

Commercial and wedding photographers need to invest time to set up a team and develop ideas for clients, and landscape photographers have to hike, look for the weather and the sun. Photographing strangers also takes some preparation, even if it is just mental preparation to get over the fear of approach.

However, be patient and wait for the right moment. Do not get frustrated if you don’t get a five-star image every time. Make connections and enjoy the experience too.

What are your best ways to approach strangers? Do you have similar anxieties of just talking to them? How do you get over this? Sharing troubles and advice can help us support each other. Feel free to share your story in the comments.


The post 5 Different Approaches to Taking Photos of Strangers appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nils Heininger.

MIOPS Mobile RemotePlus Review – Taking Control of Your Camera in Ways a Cable Release Never Can

Sun, 03/31/2019 - 09:00

The post MIOPS Mobile RemotePlus Review – Taking Control of Your Camera in Ways a Cable Release Never Can appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

MIOPS Mobile RemotePlus is a handy device and app to help you take control of your camera in ways a simple cable release never can. Sleek and stylish, the unit sits on your camera’s hot shoe and can provide a variety of functions through the easy to configure app for iPhones or Android phones.

What is it?

The MIOPS Mobile RemotePlus has three main components:

  1. The remote trigger that sits on your camera’s hot shoe
  2. A release cable specific for your camera type
  3. The MIOPS Mobile app

The app works with the unit via Bluetooth, sending and receiving information constantly while in use. It is important to note that the unit can continue on its own, after being sent a command, if you close the app or you lose connection. So if you start a 500 image time-lapse, you can effectively let the unit continue working without babysitting it.

The RemotePlus will set your shutter speed for the various modes explained below, but you will still be in charge of ISO, Aperture, White Balance and any other setting you choose. Some RemotePlus modes work better with Manual mode on your camera while others, such as the Long Exposure Timelapse, will need Bulb mode.

Getting Started

After unpacking the RemotePlus, you’ll need to connect it to your camera’s remote port. This process is different for each camera. Hook the other end of the cable into the side port on the RemotePlus, which has both a receptacle to attach to a camera hot shoe and a standard tripod threaded hole.

The app can be downloaded from either Google Play or Apple Store.

The app has a demonstration mode if you want to download it before you buy the unit to see how easy it is to use.

You will need to register your device with MIOPS if you want to upgrade your firmware. After signing on, you will see a screen like this one:

Choosing the MobileRemote and the app will scan for nearby remotes:

Clicking on the only unit available brings up a full menu of options:

Whoa now! There’s a lot there to parse through, so let’s take them bit by bit.

What can it do? Cable Release Modes – 6 Varieties

Let’s start with the basics.

While connected to your camera and smartphone, the RemotePlus functions as a shutter release for your camera in six modes:

Cable Release

This mode is straightforward and perfect for those who don’t want to stand with their camera while taking a photo. Pressing the large button on the screen (see below) will trigger the shutter in whatever mode you have set on the camera. For instance, this mode is great for sitting at a campfire while your camera is set to take photos nearby.

Press & Hold

Press & Hold take things up a notch and is perfect to use when you are waiting for some action. It’s the same as pressing and holding the shutter release on your camera in Bulb mode. The longer you press, the longer the exposure.

Results will vary with duration and here is one simple example of eight seconds on a freeway overpass.

Press & Lock

Don’t want to bother holding the button on your screen while waiting? Press & Lock is where it’s at. Same as above, but now you have to tap the main button on the screen a second time to stop the exposure. There is a timer shown at the bottom of the screen for your convenience.

Timed Release

Going one step further, if you know you want a 10-minute exposure, Timed Release is the correct mode for you. Just enter in the appropriate shutter release time on the screen, set your camera to Bulb mode while adjusting the ISO and Aperture to your liking. Once you press start, it’s all taken care of for you.

On the display are places for hours, minutes, seconds and decimals of a second. In this example, I chose 12 seconds for another overpass shot.

Self Timer and Timed Release & Self Timer

The Self Timer mode is just like the self-timer on your camera, but you can set the delay, up to 99 hours in the future.

Lastly, the Timed Release & Self Timer combines the last two sections to allow for a delay and then a long exposure.

In each of these modes the command is sent from the app and then stored in the unit, so you don’t need to be present or within range for the unit to take action.

Timelapse – 4 Main Varieties

While the RemotePlus will not create the final video file for you, it will greatly simplify your ability to create fun and unique timelapses in a few different modes. More information on compiling the timelapse can be found here on DPS.

Basic Timelapse

The Basic Timelapse mode will take care of all your simple timelapse needs. It’s there for you to point, focus, and create with ease.

On the first screen you set the interval between photos, and on the second, you set the number of photos you want to take. It’s that easy! Press Start and away your camera goes.

The two screenshots above show the app screen while the camera shoots. The circle around the interval counts down until the next shot, while the current frame and remaining time display on the bottom. Up top are the overall settings.

The app has a nice feature to help reduce accidental stops; you have to press the lock button before you can click on STOP. It’s possible to still stop the app on accident, but the extra step helps.

It’s up to you to set your camera on your preferred mode. Manual Mode with the White Balance set often gives the best results for consistent image quality.

Long Exposure Timelapse

Long Exposure Timelapse is where things become more complex but also more exciting as far as the results. Here you will again set the interval between shots and the number of shots, but you will also set your camera to Bulb mode and set the shutter speed in the app.

After pressing Start the screen will change, as with the Basic Timelapse, but now two countdown circles will appear.

These circles will show you the amount of time left in each interval and exposure.

You can use the Long Exposure Timelapse for a variety of subjects. Below are two examples I shot of the same subject, but with slightly different settings for varied effects.

The first had settings of ISO 100, f/7.1 and 1/100th (Standard Timelapse Mode) while the second had settings of ISO 100, f/22 and 1/5th (Long Exposure Timelapse Mode). The difference is apparent in how blurred motion from the cars can impart more motion.

Here are three more tests at 1/10th second shutter speed, .6 seconds and 1.2 seconds. All timing set from the app in Bulb Mode.

Bulb Ramping Timelapse

Bulb ramping is a manner of shooting while the lighting changes. This is most often performed at sunrise or sunset and can cover an extended period, such as an hour. While the camera is in Bulb Mode, the shutter speed is gradually adjusted to keep the overall exposure consistent, so the timelapse does not change from very dark to very bright.

It’s important here to understand some limits and to plan for them with this mode.

Most cameras are limited to 1/30th of a second in Bulb mode with a cable release. Check with your owner’s manual to see what limits Bulb Mode and using a cable release may put on your photography.

This mode also requires planning ahead to know – or at least make a good guess – which exposure settings to use at the start and end of the ramp. The ramp is linear in its progression, so you will need to choose a time of gradually increasing or decreasing light. If the sun suddenly shines brightly on your scene once above the horizon, but then ducks behind some clouds, the effect might be rather jolting.

To use this mode:

The Bulb Ramping mode has four settings.

The first is the interval between shots. The example below shows 30 seconds.

The second screen sets the shutter speed of the first image. Because I am using a Canon, I set it to 1/30th of a second above (the fastest Bulb will handle, even though the screen shows a decimal of .01, or 1/100th of a second).

The next screen is the final shutter speed. This is where math, planning and scouting help. You will need to calculate how long you want your bulb ramp to run, from start to finish, and know what the lighting will be at the start and finish. In this case, I picked 20 seconds for an end shutter speed (left, below).

The last screen asks for the number of frames to shoot. Here, it will shoot 60 frames, one every 30 seconds.

That will make for a total time of 30 minutes from start to finish. It’s important to plan ahead to make sure these shutter speeds will work for the given lighting. While you can adjust aperture and ISO to help compensate, if the end time of your timelapse is too long, your images will become blown out. Too short and you’ll be left in the dark.

Planning is crucial to this mode.

HDR Timelapse

An HDR Timelapse is the same as a normal timelapse, but the mode does all the shooting for you if your camera doesn’t have this ability built in. It can shoot a sequence of 3, 5 or 7 shots, for each step of the timelapse, but it does have the limitation mentioned in Bulb Ramping above; that you can not shoot faster than 1/30th of a second on most cameras. This does limit its abilities.

The brackets are set around a central time setting, such as one second (in the example below). Below that the exposure shift, in terms of EVs, is set, followed by the number of frames. The unit will keep you in check if you pick settings that won’t work with Bulb mode, such as choosing 1/15th of a second, seven frames and 2-stops of EV shift in each image.

Lastly, set the Interval between shots and the number of frames. If you don’t know the number of frames you want to shoot, simply pick the infinity setting and stop the sequence when you have enough.

More information on using bracketing can be found in this DPS article.

Road Lapse, A Special Kind Of Timelapse

Road Lapse is a fun tool to use, not only while driving but also on a train, boat, hot air balloon or anywhere else you have a GPS signal. The app uses that signal then asks you how often you want to take a photo, be it in feet or meters. You also set the number of photos or just set it to infinity which allows you to stop the Road Lapse when you are finished.

What’s different about this mode as compared to a standard timelapse is there is no perceived slowing and speeding, such as when a car comes to a stop sign. Because the mode is distance-based, a rough calculation can be made with regard to timelapse length when the driving distance is known.

For instance, one mile is 5280ft. If you set the device to shoot every 40ft, that will net you 132 images. At 30 frames-per-second, the timelapse would turn out to be 4.4 seconds long. It won’t matter if it takes you 60 seconds or 15 minutes to travel that distance, the video will be the same length.

It does make things appear sped up. In the examples below, the first shows a regular timelapse in a car at night. The second video shows the Road Lapse. In the second video I stopped at four different stoplights, but you don’t even notice them. I think each mode has its strengths and weaknesses and it matters what you want to create.

For a unique test, I set my camera up on a Washington State Ferry, shooting off the back with the distance set to 40ft.

HDR Bracketing

HDR shooting uses the same functionality as mentioned above with HDR Timelapse. You can take a series of shots, offset by specific stops and then combine them in the computer later for an image with more dynamic range than a single image.

It has the same limitations mentioned above.


The Sound Mode is triggered by sound and you can choose the threshold via the app.

You will set your camera’s exposure either on Manual or another mode of your choice and leave shutter release up to the MIOPS trigger. I made some attempts at dropping (fake) ice into a glass to catch the splash. You can stop any action that makes a loud enough noise in motion with this mode.

The mode can be set to take just one photo or continuous photos until the sound drops below the threshold. You can also input a delay. Activation of the shutter will happen from 10 milliseconds to 99 hours.

A better example can be seen in Erik Lindegren’s photo, highlighted on Miops’ Instagram feed.


Like Sound, Vibration relies on your phone to trigger the unit. And like Sound, you can set the sensitivity so small bumps won’t set off the unit, but large ones will.

Again, a delay can be set and continuous shooting can also be chosen.


Most lightning photos in the past were taken by leaving the shutter open for a length of time, maybe 30 seconds. The overall exposure was balanced for this and fingers were crossed, hoping for great bolts.

The problem with this method is shots during the day were difficult with long exposures without the use of a neutral density filter. Even then, a vast multitude of images had to be taken, and the frame had to be clear of other moving objects (trees, for instance) or they could blur.

The Lightning trigger simplifies capturing images and can offer better exposures of daylight and dusk images. Your camera will need to be in Manual Mode where you can set the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO to your liking. Compose the shot with anticipation of where the lightning will strike.

You will set the sensitivity, and that’s it. A higher sensitivity number means any small flash will trigger the unit, while a lower number means much more light (larger bolts) is needed.

Then press the “Go” button and sit back to enjoy the show while your camera does all the work.

As luck would have it, a thunderstorm rolled by in the distance while I had the unit for testing. The lightning was about 10-12 miles away, and I ended up using a 10-22mm lens, with some cropping for the final images. All images shot at ISO 800, f/5, 1.3 second and 22mm.

TIP: If you are curious about where the lightning is striking and which way a storm is moving, check out for real-time updates. While watching this storm, I found the delay from the time of strike to it showing up on the map was about 5 seconds. Often the map would update before the thunder made it to me.


Switching to Motion requires the use of your phone as the ultimate trigger. You can make the settings for your camera manually, or in any mode you desire, while the shutter will trigger when the view from your phone’s camera notices motion.

The advantage here is that the phone can be set up remotely from the camera (within Bluetooth range, however) and made to cover a specific area.

In this example, I set my camera on a tripod with a long lens to capture birds coming to my bird feeder. I prefocused on the feeder and then moved the field of view just off to the side. I then switched to manual focus to lock focus.

I set the camera with a fast shutter speed and the ISO with a shallow aperture so I could capture the fast movement of the birds (ISO 1250, f/7.1, 1/1250th). I then set up my phone with an adjustable, gripping tripod, on top of the feeder, looking down. The field of view of the phone would cover the side of the feeder, where my camera was focused.

That’s the view on the phone screen while setting up the shot. As you can see, much like other modes, you can set a delay after the app notices movement (handy if you put the phone somewhere on the approach to your camera) and the number of frames the camera will snap each time.

Below the screen is the Accuracy Rating. Moving it left means any little movement will set off the unit while moving it right requires a lot of movement before triggering.

The results, as you can see, were easy to capture while I sat inside enjoying the action.

If the rains hadn’t started, I would have captured more. While I could have taken the shots above manually, more birds showed up when I went inside and let the camera do its thing. For skittish subjects, the RemotePlus is a definite benefit.

You can use Motion in this manner for any number of moving subjects where their path is predictable. It will be a drain on your phone’s battery, though, as the camera and screen are on the whole time.


The Laser trigger mode is handy if you have a laser and expect the beam to be broken at a precise location. You will need a laser source, but just about any constant-on laser can be used, such as a presentation pointer or even a laser level.

Point the laser at the sensor on the front of the RemotePlus, and set your camera’s focus and mode accordingly. It’s similar to the motion feature above, but a bit more specialized for more precision.


This review was harder than I believed it would be because of the number of features packed into the small unit. Also, during the review, I had access to MIOPS staff for questions and found them not only responsive to feedback but updating the app as I wrote. In a company and product, I like to see that nimbleness and desire to improve.

After the testing I put the Miops Mobile RemotePlus through, I would purchase one for my own photography. While it had some room for improvement (the manual sometimes lags behind the quick pace of upgrades, and the Motion feature does have a limit when it comes to Bluetooth connectivity, but that is inherent in the protocol.), I do enjoy updates of the unit, both software and firmware, regularly.

The two big plusses for me are the timelapse features (including the HDR one in specific cases) which add timing capabilities that my current Canon intervalometer lacks, and the lightning shooting, especially for daytime shots.


Disclaimer: MIOPS is a paid partner of dPS

The post MIOPS Mobile RemotePlus Review – Taking Control of Your Camera in Ways a Cable Release Never Can appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

9 Tips for Better Environmental Portraits

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 14:00

The post 9 Tips for Better Environmental Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Good environmental portraits tell a story. At a glance you will know something about the person in the picture. The best environmental portraits will provide a lot of visual information.

Kebab chef entertaining passers-by with his constant banter. Istanbul, Turkey. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Here are 9 tips to help you create more illustrative pictures of people in their surroundings.

1. Do your research

Know your subject well. Not just who they are, but what they do. If you know who you’re going to be photographing, do some research and become informed about what they do.

At least have a conversation and show interest in them by asking questions. This will not only gain you insight, but your subject will appreciate you are showing interest in who they are.

Where they are located is important too. Know about the surroundings. If you’re not sure, ask questions. Hearing the answers, you may be surprised and learn things you didn’t know. Even if you are familiar with the area.

Copper Craftsman finishes a new piece as his father proudly looks on. Istanbul, Turkey. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

2. Be aware of the environment

Have all your senses working. Listen and watch what’s happening around. You may see things you want to include or that you don’t want in your pictures.

Move around and take photos from different places so you get alternative backgrounds.

Try to avoid any bright lights or other distractions within your composition. It’s important to fill the frame only with what is relevant to the story you are telling.

A vendor at Mandalay’s Ghost Train Market, Myanmar. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

3. Tell their story

Once you’ve chatted for a while, or at least observed keenly, tell their story.

Concentrate on what will communicate most visually about the person, where they are and what they are doing. This is the whole nature of environmental portraits.

Are they a quiet and reserved kind of person? Or are they a loud and boisterous character? Some people change when they get in front of a camera.

If they’ve been chatting away in an animated manner and freeze when you point your camera at them, it’s your job to help them relax. Frozen is not who they naturally are.

Tricycle taxis in Thailand are called Samlor, which translates as ‘three wheels. The riders enjoy the camaraderie the job brings. ©Kevin Landwer-Johan

4. Connect with your subject

I know this is difficult for many people. The more you can connect with your subject, the better photos you will get.

Pleasant conversation builds confidence in people you want to photograph. They will be more interested in what you are doing and compliant if you show interest in them.

Sometimes you’ll want to give your subject some instructions to help the composition. If you’ve already connected with them they will be more receptive to your ideas.

This Moken sea gypsy was telling us stories of how he lost part of his arm in a fishing accident in the south of Thailand. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

5. Know your camera

Your subject is likely to lose interest in what’s happening if all they see is the top of your head as you peer down at your camera.

Preset your camera so you know the settings will be right. Do this as soon as possible so you will have time to concentrate on communicating with your subject and other important things.

Check that you have the best lens for the job on your camera ready to go.

Hmong hill tribe man who is an amputee after having his leg blown off by a land mine on the Laos/Thailand border © Kevin Landwer-Johan

6. Make a deliberate choice of lens

Showing the surroundings is important. So is communicating with your subject while you are working.

If you have a telephoto lens on your camera, you’ll have to position yourself a long way from your subject to include enough of their environment.

With a medium to wide lens on you can be close enough and also include more of the setting. I love using my 35 mm f/1.4 lens on a full-frame body for environmental portraits. It allows me to be close enough to converse comfortably and still show a decent amount of background.

Be careful if you are using a lens much wider than 35mm as you will be at risk of distorting your subject.

Shan waitress poses for a portrait at the entrance to the small roadside restaurant she works in near Mandalay, Myanmar. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

7. Control your depth of field

Making sure there’s sufficient detail visible in the composition is important.

If you’re a fan of taking photos with your aperture wide open, you may not make the best environmental portraits. Blurring out the background too much will not help you convey information.

Choose an aperture which provides a balance between too blurred and too sharp and distracting. Avoid extremes. This will help keep the main focus on your subject and enhance the story with what else is around them.

Akha woman harvesting coffee in north Thailand. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

8. Make good use of props

There’s not always an opportunity to make use of props, but if you can they can make a big impact.

Having your subject hold something significant can add to the story.

This Lahu man is a fabulous subject on his own and I have photographed him many times during our workshops. He likes to smoke tobacco in his bong, which adds even more visual interest and tells us more about him.

Lahu Ethnic Minority man enjoys smoking tobacco in his bamboo bong near Chiang Mai, Thailand. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

9. Write good captions

A good caption will provide added detail that you may not be able to clearly convey in your photo. Informative captions help hold people’s interest by further stimulating their imaginations.

Offer a little more information about the person. This is another good reason to engage with them while you’re photographing them.

If you’re not clear on what to write, search the internet.

Recently I watched this documentary about the photographer Dorothea Lange. She is most well known for her work in the midwest USA during the Great Depression. The documentary emphasizes the need for the well-written captions she provided with her photographs.

Moken sea gypsy fisherman biding his time on the bow of his boat waiting for a catch. © Kevin Landwer-Johan


Not all of these tips may be relevant each time you make environmental portraits. Make use of as many of them as you can to enhance your photography experience.

Make yourself a checklist with these tips and any others you can think of. Consult your list as you prepare to make your next series of portraits. This will help you grow as a photographer.

If you have any other helpful tips to offer about taking great environmental portraits, please include them in the comments below.

The post 9 Tips for Better Environmental Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Create a Backup Today! Here is Why and How

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 09:00

The post Create a Backup Today! Here is Why and How appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ian Johnson.

Are your files protected?

Insurance policies. We deal in them every day – car, home, life, renters, medical and more. The list goes on and on, but what are you doing to ensure your photos are insured against loss? The loss comes in many ways entirely out of your control – hardware failure, theft, or calamity. This article is your wake up call to consistently backup your work.

I am writing it because 5 months ago when my house burned I had my wake-up call. Don’t worry, my wife and I are fine, and there was no loss of life – only property. Why am I telling you this very personal bit of my life? Simple. Catastrophe can come in any form and at any time. Learn from my mistakes and back up as soon as you complete this article.

This picture of my house burning is meant to convey reality. Calamity can happen at any time. Do you have a backup solution to protect your files in the face of disaster?

Let me take you back to six months ago because it is likely my backup strategy may reflect your own. I am a pretty serious photographer and create much content of professional and family-related photos.  I had a 24tb server backing up my files with redundancy. From the server, I kept an off-site backup of files by copying to a hard drive and then storing it. As I’ll highlight later, that way of doing a backup is adequate as long as you stay up on it.

Unfortunately, I had not completed an offsite backup for two years! Consequently, ALL of my professional work and memories during that time were vulnerable as my living room went up in flames and the water from fire hoses quenched them. One of the first things I thought when I arrived to see my house spurting 20-foot flames from the roof was, “what about my server?”

Your computer is fragile, but yet we trust them to hold a lot of incredibly important information. Whether its fire, theft, water, or failure, be sure your backup solution protects you. Establish one today!

Backup strategies

It may seem intimidating to back up your work, but thanks to the advances of high-capacity, affordable hard drives there has never been an easier time to do it! Once you have a system in place it becomes even easier. Digital Photography School has published several articles on the subject and most advocate for the “3-2-1” strategy.

This means :

3: Have three copies of your data.

2: Keep them in two separate places.

1: At least one must be offsite.

If this sounds like it is too hard, fear not, and do not tune out yet! I’ll outline three strategies to back up your work in easy to understand ways that serve both beginner and professional photographers. To help show off the strategies I’ve created some schematics (hopefully entertaining and fun ones) to show you how each system works.

Back up to a hard drive

Hard drives are cheap. A quick search shows you can purchase a 6TB (terabyte) hard drive for $125! Before you think to yourself “I can’t afford $125,” consider it is cheaper than any insurance policy you currently pay for, and if your photos are like my photos, it is an insurance policy protecting your memories and business.

Purchasing and rotating two hard drives consistently allows you to keep a backup of your work current. You may want to consult these guidelines for purchasing a hard drive.

Most major hard drive brands come with built-in software to automatically backup your files for you. This makes it incredibly convenient to back up your work. You can use two hard drives (“#1” and “#2) to  adhere to the 3-2-1 rule by:

  • keeping a copy of your files on your computer
  • using the hard drive’s software to back up to hard drive #1
  • taking #1 offsite to a place such as your office or your extended family’s house
  • setting up a new backup on #2
  • rotating hardrives #1 and #2 periodically. Your backup software will update the files each time you re-attach the hard drive. I recommend doing this at least every two weeks, but you can choose an interval that works for you. Once you choose an interval set up a repeating reminder for yourself on your phone.

Use these easy steps to establish a back-up system using two hard drives.

This solution is your cheapest option and requires the most work on your part. As long as you set up the backup using your hard drive’s software, it will automatically backup your files to hard drives #1 and #2 as you rotate them on and off-site. This system will FAIL if you do not adhere to rotating the hard drives consistently!

Backup to the cloud

Cloud services have become relatively cheap (about $100/year or less) and perform backups of your images with the caveat that you have a regular internet connection. Most cloud services can back up local files and files on attached external hard drives. You can adhere to the 3-2-1 rule by:

  • Keeping a local copy of files on your computer
  • Using the backup service provided by the hard drive to back up to a hard drive
  • Using a cloud service to back up the hard drive
  • Storing a hard drive off site

Use this simple system to backup your files to a hard drive and to the cloud.

This is a pretty good option depending on how much content you are creating. If you are generating hundreds of gigabytes of content regularly or if you live in an area of slow internet this may not be feasible for you. Cloud services work best if the file structure doesn’t change. Moving files to new folders create a duplicate and the need to upload more data to the cloud. This option is middle-of-the-road for the expense. It is necessary to pay for a hard drive (or two) and a cloud service for a total of ~$300 annually.

Maintain a server

Servers (refer to NAS Servers) are arrays of hard drive that give you redundancy in case of hard drive failure. Housing all of your images on a server and backing them up from there is a great way to establish a relatively low-maintenance backup of your files. To adhere to the 3-2-1 rule:

  • Have a copy of your images on a server
  • Backup the server to the cloud, a hard drive for off-site storage, or mirror the server to an offsite storage site.

Having a server may seem complex, but can be the backbone of the rest of your backup system. This is the system I advocate for your if you are able to afford it!

This is the most expensive solution, and will likely cost $1,000 or more to set up. However, that cost becomes distributed over several years since you no longer need to purchase several individual hard drives. This system is overall the most reliable and requires the least amount of work on your part once set up.

Backup now!

I hope my story of personal loss is compelling enough for you to start researching backup solutions immediately. Do you have a story of image loss you are comfortable sharing? Leave it below to add to the mounting evidence of the need for future readers. My story has a surprising ending because my server survived and I was able to recover the files. There is almost no chance I’ll ever be that lucky again. As I always say, “Pixels are cheap.” I say that at the end of all of my articles. However, just because they are cheap, doesn’t mean they are not emotionally or economically valuable. Please back your pixels up today!

The post Create a Backup Today! Here is Why and How appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ian Johnson.