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10 Ways to Use the Beauty and Complexity of Reflections in Photography

Wed, 03/27/2019 - 09:00

The post 10 Ways to Use the Beauty and Complexity of Reflections in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anthony Epes.

I’m a huge fan of simple ideas that will create immediate effects for your photography.

Photography is a vast subject and learning all the intricacies of your camera, shooting on manual, as well as processing can seem overwhelming.

But there are so many ways to take wonderful photos, using simple ideas you can play with, that will create compelling photos for you right now.

When you take great photos, it inspires you to keep learning and pushing yourself on this intensely fulfilling creative journey.

In this article, you’ll learn how the simple idea of reflections can bring a wonderful complexity, beauty, and depth to your images.

The fantastic thing is reflections are everywhere! In the puddles you pass on your way to work, on shop windows, and on the sun-soaked sea of your holidays. They are on shiny cars, floors, walls, rivers, and streams. They are, of course, wherever you can find a reflective surface.

Reflections are fun to play with – bringing humor, abstraction, and patterns into your images. Here I’ll suggest many different ways to use them in your photography and give you tips to use right now, to create new effects and new looks in your images.

And, by focusing on one technique or one concept and really learning how to use that, you will become incredibly strong in that area.

By picking up one technique at a time, you can build a toolbox of skills that will help you feel confident and able to create magnificent photos.

Let’s get started. Let’s look at all the different aspects of capturing reflections in photography.

1. Reflections create depth

A reflection can create a feeling of depth within an image.

In the photo above taken in the early morning in Venice, the subtle reflection in the puddle on the street creates an image with a strong midground, background, and foreground – so the image isn’t so flat.

Here is another image from Venice, where the rain on the streets creates long reflections from the street lamps. They enhance the journey down the street and help draw you into the scene.

Tip: To get a smoother look for your reflection, use a long exposure, like in the photo above.

2. Reflections create eye-pleasing patterns

The eye finds symmetry and patterns very pleasing. In the photo below, I needed absolutely perfect positioning.

Tip: Finding the best angle for your shot is incredibly important. Many people get so awed by their subject they just start shooting instead of working out where the very best angle for that subject is.

So go up somewhere high, or lie on the ground. Move around until you find the perfect angle for your composition.

Try capturing patterns in the world around you, that when photographed as reflections, become an intriguing abstract image:

3. Reflections can create humor

As well as wicked patterns, reflections can be used to enhance or create humor.

I am not a particular ‘humor’-driven photographer – but occasionally I find something funny I want to capture.

Tip: There are two focal points in most reflections: the surface and the subject of the reflection. Shoot reflections using different shutter speeds and this will blend the colors. This sounds tricky, but with practice, you can nail it.

4. Reflections can create mystery and abstraction

“In photography, there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.” – Alfred Stieglitz

I have taken a lot of photos of reflections in shop windows. I love to play with the different shapes you can create, superimposing the outside reflection onto the items in the shop window.

Of course, don’t include yourself in the image – unless you want to! I sometimes do for added interest, but generally, I keep out of my photos.

The photo below has a very intriguing reflection. What is it? Where is it? I know, of course, but I sometimes like to create mystery. To remove reality from reality and play with shapes, textures, color, and reflections.

When I am wandering around, I look everywhere. I look up, look around – and then my favorite – I look down.

I think we get so used to our environments we often don’t look all around us – particularly upwards or downwards. Think of a street you walk down every day. Do you look at the tops of the buildings, the roofs, the upper floors? It’s the same with the world at our feet. There is so much going on down there that we don’t notice.

Colorful, strong light reflecting off the wet pavement.

5. Reflections create texture

In the photo below, whilst walking past a canal, I noticed some strong yellow light that, with the texture of the water, created a sensual reflection and a lovely pattern.

When you see a reflection it’s not always obvious where it is coming from, look for the source, seek the light!

6. Reflections to enhance your photo

I often like to use reflections in quite subtle ways in my photography. It doesn’t have to be a big obvious reflection to be engaging.

One question I always ask my students on my workshops is, what is the light doing here in this situation?

We are all able to see the apparent sources of light, but what about the more subtle ways that the sunlight is bouncing off the glass and into the puddle on the floor?

In the photo above you have reflections in the water which are quite subtle but add a nice complexity and depth to the image.

In the image below the scene is made intriguing by the reflected light of sunrise in the windows of the buildings. Without it, the scene would be flat and boring.

The glint of golden light on a dark morning brings beautiful color as well as a hint of magic and mystery. The scene has turned into something quite compelling.

Tip: Always be looking to see what the light is doing, and how it’s affecting everything around you.

7. Reflections are beautiful, passing moments

I feel that reflections are little pretty moments, bringing an appreciation of the present moment of lovely light:

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” – Aaron Siskind

In the photo above of some birds in Istanbul on a foggy day, the reflections are subtle but create some depth to the photo. I think the movement of the birds is brought to life by the reflections.

8. Reflections create an alternative reality

Wherever I have beautiful light and reflective surfaces I am looking for reflections. In the photo above I like that the water is moving just enough to make what would be quite a bland photo a little surreal.

Tip: As you often have a lot of different and contrasting light sources in a reflection, expose for the brightest part of your photo.

9. Reflections of light create exuberance

Here is a simple photo with the sunrise reflected in the sea. Warm, beautiful sunshine is a wonderful thing to photograph. Sometimes it’s the simplest elements in your image that create the most impact.

In the photo below it’s also the sea, but this time the reflection of the moonlight:

What a gorgeous scene, right? And to show the wash of reflected moonlight makes the image stunning.

10. The sheer joy of light reflected on water

Water is involved in so many of my reflection photos. Here we have gorgeous light reflecting off the moody sea with the clouds reflecting the light around them.

I find clouds endlessly fascinating to photograph – they create wonderful texture within an image.

Last, but not least, I love having fun taking my own portrait using reflections. I mean, why not?

I hope this lesson has helped you with new ideas and ways to capture the complexity and beauty of reflections in photography.

What I love about photography is how much it helps us see the world in new, fresh ways. So keep going on your photography journey. There is always more to capture, more to see and more to learn. It’s a wonderfully enriching life pursuit.

“Through this photographic eye you will be able to look out on a new light-world, a world for the most part uncharted and unexplored, a world that lies waiting to be discovered and revealed.” – Edward Weston

I’d love to know what you thought of these ideas – let me know in the comments below.

The post 10 Ways to Use the Beauty and Complexity of Reflections in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anthony Epes.

What You Need to Know About Using Manual Mode on Your External Flash

Tue, 03/26/2019 - 14:00

The post What You Need to Know About Using Manual Mode on Your External Flash appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

When you’re getting started in flash photography, it can seem like your flash has a mind of its own. You’ll be surprised to know that in a way it does. However, switching to manual mode can give you the control you really want.

Using flash in manual mode lets you set the amount of light that you want to fire from your flash to light your subject.

What is manual mode?

External flashes are default set to the ETTL setting. This setting lets the flash meter the light and then give what it thinks is the correct output of light. ETTL is rather inconvenient since each photo you take will have a different output because the flash is constantly metering before each frame, causing a lot of inconsistency from photo to photo.

Refer to your manual to find out how to change your flash from ETTL to Manual. On Canon, you push the MODE button until you cycle through to M which is manual.

Manual mode is where you take control of the power output of the flash and therefore get more consistently lit photos. For example, if you are in one spot photographing a portrait and don’t need to adjust for ambient light changes constantly, then you can set your flash at 1/4 power and leave it there until you move or want something different.

When competing with the sun, full power or half power is your best bet.

In manual mode, you override the flash’s metering and have full control. It also allows you to control taking photos at shutter speeds of more than 1/200th of a second, which is the fastest shutter speed in ETTL.

On this particular flash, hitting the button with the “H” on it will allow you to use a shutter speed faster than 1/200 of a second. Refer to your flash manual to find this option.

You can use manual mode in both outdoor and indoor settings. Practicing using your flash in manual gets easier over time, and eventually, you’ll be able to select the correct output for the ambient light or the effect that you want to achieve.

Manual mode is also really helpful when you ‘slave’ more than one flash. Slaving is when you sync more than one flash so that they go off at the same time. In manual mode, each flash can be set to a different power output so you can choose which is your key light and which is your fill – giving your photos more depth and contrast.

For these photos, two flashes were used to light the couple and keep the ambient in the background.

Metering output for flash in manual mode

Your camera meters ambient light, however, it does not do the same for flash output. Don’t worry though, with practice and a bit of trial and error, you will get to know your flash and when to use full power or half power, for example.

Now you’re probably wondering what full power even means. An external flash has power output levels which are read in fractions. Full power output means that the flash is giving everything it has got and this is transcribed as 1/1. From there it can go to 1/64 of its power output.

There is no right way to begin practicing, however, it’s best to meter for the ambient light that you want to achieve in-camera. For example, if you’re photographing a family during sunset, meter for the sunset. Once you have that settled, put your flash in manual mode and begin with a power output of 1/4 power.

No flash was used for this portrait.


Same family, location, ambient light and used flash at 1/8 power.

From there, adjust the power of the flash until you get the desired result. This way, you’re guaranteed to have the ambient light metered correctly and use the flash to fill in the light where you want it – in this case, on the family.

You can use your flash on your camera or off-camera in manual mode. Using it off-camera will give you a more angled direction of light and may inspire some creative lighting. On camera, be careful of the power output and angle you have your flash. Outdoors, you’ll probably want to point the flash at your subjects. Indoors, however, you might want to bounce the light off of a ceiling or adjacent wall.

If you’re using a modifier like a flash diffuser, be aware that the light output will be different than using the flash without a diffuser. The power needed to light your subject also depends on the distance at which the flash is from your subject. When your flash is closer to your subject, it requires less power because the light is closer.

If you are at a distance, then you’ll need to up the power on the flash in order for it to reach your subject at all. This can be especially tricky outdoors so make sure you are checking your photos after taking some test shots.

When to use your flash in manual mode

You should strive at getting comfortable using your flash in manual mode every time you need to use flash. This can really help you to get consistent photos when you’re not moving around or when the ambient light isn’t changing.

The left photo is with flash and the right is without flash. Note the blue of the ocean and the sky with the flash versus without flash.

The best times to use flash are when you want to pop some light onto your subject when you’re competing with the sun outdoors, or when you want to control and create light in a studio, to fill in shadows, during sunset or low light, and for indoor settings.

For example, when you are photographing family portrait sessions outdoors with the sunset, you may need to use the flash to fill in light so that you can get the beautiful sunset and not have your subjects in the dark.

Left without flash and right with flash.

Another example is when you are in an indoor setting, like a bride getting ready and you can bounce your flash off the ceiling to add some light into the room.

Using your flash in a studio setting can be a little more tricky since flashes don’t come with modeling lights. If you’re photographing in a dark room, using a flashlight to focus your camera first can be a big help. Some flashes have a fluttering effect to help with focusing, check your manual to turn this function on.

One flash used for both photos. The left has the flash in front of the couple and the second has the flash behind the couple.

Using more than one flash at different power output levels can also create stunning photos with lots of depth, much like real studio strobe flashes but with more portability and less expensive.

To do this, you’ll need transmitters or some flashes also come with built-in sync transmitters. This means that when one flash sees another go off, it also goes off.

Other important factors when shooting with flash in manual mode

A few things to keep in mind when you’re photographing subjects with flash in manual mode include the batteries, shutter speed, ambient light metering, and high-speed sync.

Using flash to fill the couple in and capture the sunset.

When you’re photographing at 1/4 power or more, you’ll go through batteries much quicker. A battery pack especially made for flash and professional cameras can come in handy especially if you’re going to be using flash for a long period of time. It can also make recycling the flash much faster.

What is flash recycling? It’s the amount of time that it takes the flash to recycle and be ready to flash again. The more power you set the flash at, the more time it takes to recycle. For example, a flash at 1/2 power takes longer to get ready to fire again than a flash powered at 1/16.

Using flash at an angle to light your subject creatively.

The flash also takes much longer to recycle when the batteries begin to drain and lose charge. Have at least three or more sets of batteries at the ready in case this begins to happen.

When you’re using a flash in ETTL, the fastest shutter speed that you can use is 1/200th, on some, it can go up to 1/250th of a second. This isn’t too fast if you’re photographing in outdoor light or competing with the sun. Many flashes have the ability for high sync speeds when you’re using the flash in manual mode.

Using flash indoors bounced off the ceiling at about 1/16 power.

The distance of the flash to your subject can also affect where to set the power on your flash in manual mode. The further away your flash is from your subject, the more power you’ll need in order for the light to reach your subject. The closer you are, the less power you’ll need. Of course, this depends on where you are photographing your subject and if ambient light is a factor.

Practice makes perfect

Using flash can seem really intimidating. However, controlling your flash by using it in manual mode can be just the right move for you to get comfortable using a flash. Practice makes perfect and the more you practice with your flash, the more you’ll understand how to power it in certain lighting situations.

Flash used at 1/16 power to fill in light and get catchlights in eyes.

Unfortunately, cameras don’t record flash settings in the metadata of your images. It only records if the flash fired or not. This isn’t helpful when you’re trying to practice flash in manual mode.

Carry around a small notebook and record your settings in your camera for each image that you take. This way, you can remember what your flash settings were in that particular set up and light for future reference.

Using flash at a 45-degree angle toward the subject off camera helps fill in the light.

As time goes on, you’ll be more comfortable setting, testing, and using your flash in manual mode.

In conclusion

Using flash at 1/2 power indoors off-camera, on a flash pole high and pointed directly at the subject. This imitates the light of the sun for these indoor photos.

If you feel like using your flash sometimes gives your images an inconsistent look, try using your flash in manual mode. Manual mode lets you be in full control of how much light you want the flash to fire giving you more consistent exposures and taking out the guesswork of the flash itself.

Try it out and let us know if these tips helped you out!

The post What You Need to Know About Using Manual Mode on Your External Flash appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Using Color Temperature in Black and White Conversions

Tue, 03/26/2019 - 09:00

The post Using Color Temperature in Black and White Conversions appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Digital photography has opened up enormous possibilities for black and white photography. The ability to first shoot in color and then convert the image to black and white offers photographers a way to express themselves in ways that reach beyond the influence of color. Well, for the most part.

You see, advanced black and white conversions take advantage of the different luminance values present in our RAW files so that we can individually manipulate those values after we have converted the color image to black and white. Usually, this is done via the HSL (BW) Panel in Lightroom or other processing software.

But there is one ingredient of the black and white pie that gets constantly overlooked during the average photographers (let’s pretend) black and white conversion process; color temperature. I know, the operative word here is COLOR and black and white photos…you know…don’t really have a lot of color.

In this article, we’re going to take a cruise aimed at getting a little closer to understanding how much of a role color temperature plays in our digital black and white conversions. We’ll look at how we can leverage this constantly neglected aspect of digital black and white photography so that we have many more opportunities to make even more impressive monochromatic images.

I also intend to make at least one black and white related pun before the end.

Let’s get started!

A quick refresher on color temperature

When we talk about color temperature, we are referring to the hue-based Kelvin scale (there’s a temperature-based one too) which measures the hue of color and thus relates to white balance; which is the theoretical absence of color cast within an image. More blue or “cool” colors have a higher Kelvin number, and more red or “warmer” colors have a lower Kelvin number.

“Adam…but wait! Most image processing software shows lower Kelvin color temperatures as blue and warmer colors as red!”

Yes, you are precisely correct. You paid excellent attention in science class!

In short, the color temperature sliders in most photo editors are in fact reversed from the true Kelvin scale. From what I’ve gathered, this inversion is due to the approach that white balance adjustments in digital photography are based on “compensation” rather than direct cooling or warming of colors. This means that if a photo is “cool” out of the camera, we will tell the software to “warm it up” by increasing the Kelvin value to bring the white balance closer to the original scene. Thereby, making the photo perceptibly warmer.

Yeah, it’s confusing.

Luckily, we don’t have to worry about any of that.

For our purposes, we are just concerned with how the cool or warm the colors are within the image regardless of actual numeric Kelvin temperature.

Thank goodness for that.

How color temperature affects black and white photos

The remainder of this article assumes that you are shooting in RAW format or at the very least in color JPEG.

We need the color information from the image file to exploit the impact of color temperature on luminance values after the black and white conversion. This means it is imperative that you do not shoot in a dedicated monochromatic mode.

Got it? Good.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way it’s time to experiment.

Let’s first convert an image to black and white in Lightroom Classic CC and see what happens when we begin to adjust the color temperature. I just happen to have a photo ready to go right here. It is a RAW file with a relatively well-balanced color temperature that I converted to black and white.

Color temperature slider set to 5050K in Lightroom

First, let’s slide the color temperature slider entirely to the left and “cool” the image.

Color temperature slider at 2000K in Lightroom

Next, we’ll move the color temperature slider all the way to the right to “warm” the image.

Color temperature slider set to 50000K in Lightroom

From this, we can see that there are some readily apparent changes in contrast based solely on the adjustments in color temperature.

So, what exactly is happening here?

Let me show you.

Have a look at the original histogram with conventional white balance:

HIstogram with normal white balance

Now with a much cooler color temperature…

Histogram at 2000K

And lastly, with warmer color temperature.

Histogram at 50000K

When we cool down the image we are causing the colors to become more blue, purple and magenta in hue; hence the shift in the histogram and resulting contrast change. The same is true for the warmer color temperature where the photo becomes more red, orange and yellow.

What we are doing is setting a bias towards certain colors which in turn augments their luminosity when converted to black and white. The benefit here is that these drastic changes in color temperature allow us to make some impressive adjustments to the luminance values beyond what might usually be possible once you have converted it to black and white.

Practical applications

Advanced digital black and white conversions rely heavily on specific adjustments in luminance values based on color information contained within the image file. If we increase the amount of a particular color within an image, we then have more latitude in manipulating the brightness values of that color in relation to the other colors within the photo.

Here are three separate versions of the Golden Gate Bridge photo from earlier. The first photo was processed using the HSL/BW Panel to brighten the bridge and darken the sky.

Next, I went to work on the 2000K version from earlier. Seeing as the blue tones had skyrocketed, I was able to achieve some interesting results.

Last but not least is the warm-toned version which clocked in at 50000K. Which if you recall, would make the photo cooler instead of warmer if we were operating in the world. However, we’re not. This is photography.

These extreme swings in color temperature are useful almost exclusively in the domain of black and white digital photography. Outside of that, the only result will be gruesomely unappealing white balance.

I mean really unappealing (caption)

Just look at it…terrible.

Ok, I’ll admit that maybe I low-key like that last one.

Final thoughts on color temperature and black and white photos

We can get caught up with the idea that there are certain “rules” which must always be adhered to when we process our photos.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

While it’s true that color temperature plays an important role in rendering colors within your image accurately, we must remember that we are still allowed to paint outside the lines whenever we choose. Perhaps the benefit of this free-thinking mentality is no more apparent than when it comes to working with our black and white photos.

Making drastic changes to the white balance of your black and white images is not only allowed, but it can make for some exciting outcomes and boost your creative thinking.

Even though your mind may not immediately jump to color when you think of black and white photography, the fact remains that even though we may not see color within a photo, the inherent color information remains (as long as you shoot RAW) and that information is still wholly adjustable, including white balance. The role color temperature plays in processing your photographs is never black and white. See, I told you I would work that pun in there somewhere.

Experimenting with some interesting black and white conversions using color temperature? As always, we’d love to see what you’ve been up to, so feel free to post your photos in the comments below!

The post Using Color Temperature in Black and White Conversions appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

DIY Photography Backlighting for Beginners

Mon, 03/25/2019 - 14:00

The post DIY Photography Backlighting for Beginners appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Have you ever noticed how the subject stands out in professional portraits? How about the beautiful contours of bottles and glass objects in advertising photography? Do you wonder how they do it? You can achieve these and many more effects with backlighting.

Keep reading to learn what it is and how to DIY your way into it.

Backlighting means that there is a source of light coming from behind your subject and pointing directly (or almost) at your camera. This can be used as the only light source or as a supplement, and it can create depth in the image.

For example, in the above photo, I used backlighting to highlight the feathers and clearly separate the subject from the background. This is often used in portrait photography to highlight the hair of the model.

1. Wider light sources

The sun can be an excellent source for backlighting even if you are indoors. Just by placing your subject in front of the window, you are already using this technique. Although, more often than not, it will need some form of manipulation. For example, if the view from the window is not the best backdrop for your subject or the sun is coming in too bright, you can add a diffuser.

A cheap and easy solution is to tape some oven paper, tracing paper or a thin white fabric to the window to soften the light.

The photo on the left doesn’t use a diffuser. The sun was so incredibly bright that I couldn’t blur the background with a shallow depth of field. The shadows were also very dark and distracting.

In the image on the right, I had a white, even background to showcase the subject, which also worked as a diffuser to soften the shadows.

This kind of lighting works well for transparent objects. However, you can always complement with another light, or you can put a reflective surface in front to bounce the light if your subject (or part of it) is opaque.

To show you how it looks, I used the same setting for this bottle but placed a hand mirror in front of it next to the camera.

Most locations are bound to have windows unless you find yourself inside a dark room or something with a specific use where daylight is not wanted. However, if you find yourself in one of these places, you can always use the screen of your computer or tablet. You can look for a nice booked photo, or just open a blank document to create a white background.

2. Narrow light sources

Narrow light sources such as small spotlights create a very bright center diffusing towards the edges, and it’s usually a hard light, so it creates strong shadows. To create this effect, you can use a lightbulb, a candle, a torch or even the LED light from your smartphone. Add a creative element into it, by putting some color in it, like this example:

To create the silhouette of this little coyote, I placed the figurine in front of the background, which in this case was a red semi-transparent folder.

Remember we are getting creative here. If you don’t have a folder like this, you can use other things as long as they are thin enough or transparent enough to let the light pass through.

After this, as backlighting technique dictates, I placed a smartphone which was my light source directly behind the red background pointing directly at the figurine and the camera. Also, I used clothes pins to hold everything in place and for standing them up.

Keep in mind that the closer you put the light, the smaller the light spot will be. So move the phone (torch or whatever you’re using) back and forward to achieve different results.

These DIY hacks don’t substitute professional lighting equipment. However, they certainly allow you to get some creative images, practice your photographic skills and keep your budget intact. And, the most important thing is to keep practicing.

Have fun and let us know any other tricks you come up with in the comments.

The post DIY Photography Backlighting for Beginners appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

3 Creative Ingredients for Every Photo You Take

Mon, 03/25/2019 - 09:00

The post 3 Creative Ingredients for Every Photo You Take appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

We all look at our photos at times and think, “these just aren’t that great.” New photographers who aren’t sure what to do feel this way all the time. But so do seasoned photographers.

Sometimes, looking at the most basic elements of your photo can help you a lot.

I have a mental checklist that I use to help me take the best photo I can. When I review my photos I use this checklist to ask what I could have done better.

Whether you’re a new photographer trying to develop your style or a seasoned photographer wanting to revive a stagnant style, you can use these 3 ingredients to make dramatic changes to your photos.

  • Moment
  • Composition
  • Light

All three of these ingredients are present in every photo you take, it’s just a question of what you do with them. Begin by understanding the moment you’re photographing and then build your composition and play with light.

We’ll look at moment, composition and light separately, but I’ll identify all three in each photo as we move along.

Moment: candid, action
Composition: high angle
Light: soft, backlight
When I first began using an old iPhone to take pictures I knew I couldn’t rely on camera settings to make my photos look good. Instead, I would have to focus on other elements such as gesture, angles, and light.


Most people would agree that the moment is the most important part of any photo. We won’t even notice the shortcomings in your photo if the moment is strong enough.

First, begin by considering what sort of moment you’re about to photograph. The first question to ask is whether the moment is one that you’ve set up (still life, food photography or posed portraits) or is it happening naturally (candid moments, photojournalism, lifestyle or street photography)?

Moment: posed
Composition: face to face angle
Light: soft, side light

Moment: candid
Composition: high angle
Light: soft side light
After photographing thousands of the same pose over and over, this candid moment was a breath of fresh air.

Whether it’s a natural or posed moment, there are further questions to ask. That moment may be packed with action (sports), or emotion (events) or mystery (portraits).

Moment: action
Composition: slightly higher angle
Light: soft, side light

Moment: candid moment combing two emotions; a loving embrace and a crying infant
Composition: face to face
Light: backlight

You can go even deeper into the moment. When the environment or background plays a role, the moment may be a season, a time of day, or a sudden storm.

Moment: a childhood moment at golden hour
Composition: face to face
Light: warm, soft, backlight

Types of moments to look for:
  • Natural
  • Posed
  • Action
  • Emotion
  • Mystery
  • Stage of life
  • Time of day
  • Season
  • Weather

The type of moment that you’re photographing will influence your decision about composition and light too.

Composition – especially angles

Composition refers to everything your photo is composed of. Which means no matter what part of the photo you’re discussing, it’s all composition. However, photographers often use the term composition to refer to a specific type of element such as angle, background, framing, symmetry, lines, centering, rule of thirds, etc. So even though moment and light are technically part of the photo’s composition, they often stand on their own.

We’ll take a close look at angles because you must use an angle in every photo, whereas other elements such as lines, symmetry, or rule of thirds may not be possible or desirable in every photo.

Angles are easy to learn and fun to use. To change the angle you simply need to get your camera higher or lower or rotate horizontally from left to right.

There are five vertical angles to choose from, and each one changes the look and feel of the photo. You should choose your angle based on the type of moment you’re photographing.

  • Bird’s eye view – when you get up high and look straight down (candid and still life moments).
  • High angle – like a grown-up looking down at their kids (posed or emotional moments).
  • Eye level – at the same level as the thing you’re photographing (emotional or action moments).
  • Low angle – like a child looking up at the world of grown-ups (action moments).
  • Bug’s eye view – looking straight up from down on the ground. (dramatic moments).

Experiment with angles and you will soon learn what works best for you.

Moment: setup, “posed”
Composition: bird’s eye view. Great for food photography because it mimics the angle that you use to look down at your food.
Light: soft, side light

Moment: posed
Composition: low angle
Light: soft, side light
Climbing a mound of dirt with your Tonka trucks is pretty epic for a little kid. So photographing it from a lower angle helps to exaggerate the size and how the moment feels.

Use angles and the other elements of composition to bring out the nature or essence of your moment.

Choose your angle well and then fill out your composition with other elements to draw the eye. Try negative space (also with portraits), centering, black and white, silhouettes, lines, framing and other unique approaches.

“One doesn’t stop seeing. One doesn’t stop framing. It doesn’t turn off and turn on. It’s on all the time.” – Annie Leibovitz


There will be all sorts of moments that you have either orchestrated (posed) or discovered (candid). You respond to that moment with your composition, bringing out the meaning of the moment. Finally, you do your best with light to make the moment look better.

Sometimes you can control the light (strobes, off camera flash, or window light). In most other cases you can’t control the light. But no matter what light you’re given, you can always modify it with scrims and reflectors.

There are a few aspects of light to keep in mind since they dramatically affect your photo.


Most light has a color to it. Perhaps it’s clean white light, or maybe it’s being reflected off a colored surface. Consider the temperature of the light. Is it warm or cool?

Moment: season, night
Composition: lower angle
Light: cool, backlight

Moment: posed
Composition: face to face angle, framed by the branches
Light: warm, backlight


When it comes to the quality of light, remember that a larger light source will produce softer light while a smaller light source produces harsh light.

So a large window is a source of soft light, while a bare light bulb produces harsh light. Photographers use umbrellas and softboxes to make the light source larger and produce a softer light.

An overcast sky is a source of soft light, while the sun is a source of harsh light.

Moment: posed
Angle: face to face
Light: harsh, side light

Moment: perfectly still, but not posed
Composition: bird’s eye view angle
Light: soft, side light produced by a window

Moment: posed
Composition: face-to-face angle, symmetrical composition
Light: soft light was produced by an overcast sky.
The orderliness of the photo is broken by the silly expression on her face.


Whatever the color and quality of light, it will always be coming from a particular direction. The direction of light changes the feel of your photo.

Moment: candid
Composition: low angle
Light: green, harsh, front light

Composition: high angle, centered
Light: harsh, side light

Moment: action
Angle: low angle
Light: backlight from the setting sun, producing texture in the sand

There is a lot to learn about light, but keep in mind these three big elements:

  • Temperature, color
  • Quality (large and soft, or small and harsh)
  • Direction
Every creator uses ingredients

Photographers are no different.

None of the three main ingredients are optional, they’re going to be in every photo. The question is what you do with them and how they affect your photo.

There is going to be a moment, but did you think it through and capture it the way you hoped?

There will always be an angle (and many other elements of composition), but did you choose one that made the moment stand out better?

And, there will always be light, but did you use it in such a way as to make the moment look it’s best?

The post 3 Creative Ingredients for Every Photo You Take appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

The Importance of Shadows in Portrait Photography

Sun, 03/24/2019 - 14:00

The post The Importance of Shadows in Portrait Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

When you’re starting out with learning how to light your photography, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of blasting your subjects with light from all angles. The results are often bright images without a hint of a shadow anywhere. Sometimes that’s exactly what the job calls for: bright, cleanly lit images with very little contrast. However, obliterating the shadows in your images can have a negative impact.

The difference between heavily lit images and those with the shadows maintained can be astounding.

Deliberate and effective use of shadows in your images can help to create a natural contrast and depth, convey drama and emotion, and provide you with powerful compositional elements in your photography.

This article will discuss these reasons why it’s not only important to retain the shadows in your imagery, but to keep them in primary consideration while you are still planning your images. There is also an outline of a simple exercise you can do to help you to start better seeing shadows, and how they affect your images, that you can use to improve your understanding of light.

Not just low-key

Obviously, low-key images rely heavily on shadows, but shadows are important in all styles of photography.

It is important to clarify one thing here. This concept doesn’t just apply to low-key images where the vast majority of the space in the frame is dominated by shadow tones. In fact, shadows are just as important to brightly lit images as they help to define the shape and features of your subject.

Why shadows are important

Retaining the shadows in your images can do a lot of things for you, especially in terms of image design. Listed below are a few of these for you to consider.

Depth and contrast

Retaining shadows in your images can help give you a natural contrast and add depth to your images.

Contrast, in terms of this article, is the tonal difference between dark and light. This contrast is how we see things in three dimensions and it’s exactly how you can create the appearance of three dimensions in your two-dimensional imagery. The thing is, it’s hard to do this without shadows. (It’s also difficult to do it without specular highlights, but that’s a different discussion for a different day.)

For example, to illustrate the three-dimensional nature of a nose, you need a highlight that graduates into mid-tones. The highlight indicates the closest point of the nose to the light. Assuming the light is above your subject, shadows will fall underneath the nose. This provides a visual indicator that the nose is protruding from the face. Without the shadows, there will be little, if any, differentiation between the nose and the rest of the subject’s face. This results in a flat, unsettling image. Even if your viewers cannot figure out what they’re looking at, they will still be aware that something seems wrong.

Ensuring that you have shadows in your images will help to have pleasing, natural-looking images in any type of lighting.

Add drama and evoke mood

Shadows are a fantastic tool when you are trying to create images that evoke mood and emotion.

Generous use of shadow tones in your images is one of the quickest and most effective ways to evoke a sense of mood and helps you to create images with bags of drama.

You can do this in a number of ways including:

Backlighting and short lighting

Short lighting is a great tool to help you place shadows where they have the most impact.

Lighting your subject from behind will render most of the foreground of your frame as shadow tones, with only certain aspects of your subjects rendered with highlights.

To control the strength of your shadows, you can change the size and shape of your light source, change the distance between the light source and your subject, or fill the shadows with a secondary light source.

Lighting choice

Making a deliberate lighting choice (like the 2’x2′ softbox used here) to emphasize your shadows is one of the easiest ways to take control of the shadows in your imagery.

If you use a small(ish) light source in close to your subject, you can make use of the faster rate of light fall off to help introduce shadows into your images.

For an even better grasp of this, pick a few movies or television shows (especially dramas) and study the lighting choices during dramatic scenes with a lot of dialogue. In a lot of cases, you will find that there was a conscious choice to light the actors in a way that highlights specific features while throwing most of the rest of the actor in shadow.

Compositional elements

Shadows are a great way to help compose your images and can help you to draw attention to your focal point.

Shadows can be used to wonderful effect in crafting compositional devices within your images. Using darker tones to frame your subject, or to lead your viewer’s eye to what you want them to see can help to make more dynamic and interesting images.


Shadows don’t have to be dark. Even filled in with additional lights, you can still use shadows for contrast and depth.

When you’re talking about shadows, that doesn’t mean you have to stick to ultra dark tones with little or no visible detail. By using fill lights, you can still light every single part of your image while retaining shadow tone. If you expose your fill light two or three stops below your key light, you will still have the appearance of contrast in your images, but you will retain all the finer details that would be missing if you hadn’t used fill.

An exercise in shadows

To get the grips with this concept, try this simple exercise with a lot of different subjects.

First, choose a subject. Any subject will do, but you might want to start with something static.

Take a good, critical look at what you’ve picked to photograph and start thinking about the lighting. However, instead of thinking about the highlights, try to focus only on where you want to place your shadows.

With that decided, pick a light source (a desk lamp will do) and light your subject so that you have the desired effect.

If you want to take this further, once you have your shadows in place, you can further modify and manipulate your light so that the highlights behave in a way that compliments the shadows.

That’s it

While this is a simple concept, it can seem counterintuitive. When you’re approaching lighting, of course it makes sense to think about the highlights first; however, incorporating some extra thought about your shadows can help take your lighting skills to a new level. Try the exercise above with a few different subjects, and evaluate if and how you can make shadows work for you in your photography.

The post The Importance of Shadows in Portrait Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

Portrait Photographers: Do You Really Need a 70-200mm Lens?

Sun, 03/24/2019 - 09:00

The post Portrait Photographers: Do You Really Need a 70-200mm Lens? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

For many portrait photographers, the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is considered the key to great results. This lens seems like it covers all the bases that any portrait photographer would want: wide aperture, a range of good focal lengths, and excellent build quality. It’s the cornerstone of many portrait photography workflows – and with good reason too – but it also comes with a hefty price tag (nikon, canon, sony). The question, then, for many amateur and semi-professional portrait photographers becomes: do you really need a lens like this to get good portraits? The answer might surprise you.

Nikon D7100, 50mm f/1.8 lens. Shot at f/2.4, 1/3000th second.

Whenever you are thinking about buying new gear, it’s wise to perform a needs assessment. This can help you figure out exactly what you can do with your current camera equipment, what you want to do, and whether a new purchase is required to bridge that gap. You can do this using a variety of methods, but a good way to start is to ask yourself some simple questions such as:

  • What camera lenses do I currently have?
  • What kind of portraits do I want to take?
  • Do I know how to use my lenses to get those portraits?
  • If not, can I learn to use my lenses differently instead of buying new gear?
  • In what ways are my current lenses limiting my portraits?
  • What lens would be best for the portraits I would like to be able to take?

Nikon D7100, 35mm f/1.8 lens. Shot at f/3.3, 1/90th second.

Perhaps your current lenses are lacking in specific areas such as the ability to shoot in lower light, overall sharpness, or autofocus speed. In that case, it might be a good idea to look at upgrading your gear. However, it is also entirely possible that the lenses you have are just fine for portraits and you don’t need new lenses at all.

If you do decide to drop some cash on a new lens, you might think that a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is the be-all, end-all, ultimate goal to start saving for. Also, in many respects, you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. However, you can get outstanding results with other lenses too and save a massive amount of money in the process. Here are some other lenses worth considering that produce excellent portraits for a lot less money.

Note: While I mostly mention Nikon and Canon lenses throughout this article, you can also get the same types of lenses for other systems like Sony, Olympus, Fuji, Panasonic, Pentax, and more.

The Power of the 50mm Prime

One of the most amazing lenses you can get for portraits is a humble 50mm f/1.8. The Nikon version is around $200 and the Canon retails for about $125, and there are plenty of third-party options available as well.

These little workhorses, sometimes called the Nifty Fifty or Fantastic Plastic due to the nature of their construction, can produce absolutely breathtaking results. In some ways, they are actually better than a two-thousand-dollar 70-200mm f/2.8 pro-grade lens. A 50mm f/1.8 lens has more light-gathering ability which means lower ISO values or faster shutter speeds in low light, as well as shallow depth of field.

Autofocus speed on these lenses isn’t going to win any awards, nor are they designed to take a beating or function in the rain and snow. However, they shoot great images in low light, and their wide apertures let you get the type of creamy bokeh you might have always wondered about but never been able to achieve with your kit lens.

Nikon D200, 50mm f/1.8 lens. Shot at f/1.8, 1/250th second.

If you’re the type of person who delights in pixel-peeping or poring over MTF charts, you might turn up your nose at an inexpensive 50mm f/1.8 lens. That’s not the point of a lens like this though, and what they lack in technical specs they more than make up for with sheer results. Also, at less than one-tenth the cost of a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, their price-to-performance ratio is almost impossible to beat.

Nikon D7100, 50mm f/1.8 lens. Shot at f/4, 1/350 second.

The Mighty 85

One downside to shooting with a 50mm lens is that you won’t get much background compression. Your subjects won’t appear any closer to the background elements in the shot. While you can use an f/1.8 aperture to make the background blurry, it won’t zoom in much which is one advantage of a lens with a longer focal length. If that’s what you’re looking for, then an 85mm lens might fit the bill quite nicely.

Nikon D7100, 85mm f/1.8 lens. Shot at f/2.8, 1/350th second.

An 85mm f/1.8 lens is going to cost about two to three times what you would pay for a 50mm f/1.8 – around the $400 mark for both the Nikon and Canon.

In exchange, you’re going to get a hefty piece of equipment that is a little sharper, a little faster to focus, and will give you a bit more flexibility in terms of your portraiture. Its longer focal length will make it seem like backgrounds are just a bit closer to your subject.

In addition to their ability to get super blurry backgrounds when shooting at wide apertures, this could be the answer you are seeking.

Nikon D7100, 85mm f/1.8 lens. Shot at f/2.8, 1/750th second.

The 85mm focal length is ideal for many portraiture situations. I know professional photographers who choose to shoot with an 85mm lens instead of a 70-200 f/2.8 lens. 85mm lenses are smaller, lighter, and often just as capable as their big brothers.

Moreover, when you shoot at f/1.8, you can blur the background even more than a more expensive f/2.8 lens when shooting at similar focal lengths. While it’s true that the f/1.8 versions aren’t going to be as tack-sharp as their f/1.4 or f/1.2 counterparts, it’s hard to beat the value you get for your money.

Go wide with a 35

While many people tend to think of longer focal lengths as being best suited for portraits, you can get good results with a wider lens too. The 35mm focal length is close to what our human eyes see and can help you capture in-the-moment shots that are highly sought after by many people who want portraits. You can get up close and personal with a 35mm lens, shoot in low light conditions, and even achieve the buttery-smooth bokeh that you have always been craving.

Nikon D7100, 35mm f/1.8 lens. Shot at f/1.8, 1/1000th second.

Best of all, 35mm lenses are so cheap that you’re never going to break the bank with the Nikon coming in at around $200. Canon doesn’t offer a first-party 35mm lens but the excellent 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens is almost the same and even less expensive at about $175. My favorite part about a 35mm lens is that you can use it to get intimate images the likes of what a 70-200 f/2.8 could only dream of.

Nikon D750, 35mm f/1.8 lens. Shot at f/4, 1/90th second.

For years I shot almost exclusively with a 35mm lens on my full-frame camera. It was a constant companion of mine on everything from formal portraits to casual everyday shots. In fact, one of the biggest reasons I now use a Fuji X100F for almost all of my photos is because it’s basically the same as using a 35mm lens on a full-frame camera but in a much smaller package.

I wouldn’t go so far as to do entire portrait sessions with only a 35mm lens, but if you’re considering a way to upgrade your kit you might be surprised at how much mileage you can get out of this lens. I would even go so far as to say that you’d be wise to have it even if you do opt for a 70-200mm f/2.8, simply because it’s nice to have the flexibility of shooting at a wider angle when you really need it.

Nikon D7100, 35mm f/1.8 lens. Shot at f/4, 1/45th second with an external flash.

The main takeaway here, before I get to an examination of the 70-200mm f/2.8, is that you can do a lot with other lenses. Whether it’s one of these less-expensive primes or a more professional-grade lens like the Canon 85mm f/1.2 or the Nikon 105mm f/1.4 or any number of other lenses especially from third parties like Sigma and Tamron, the point is you don’t always need the heft and focal range of a 70-200mm f/2.8.

But sometimes you do.

70-200mm f/2.8: The Jack-of-all-trades

It’s impossible for me to say whether any individual photographer needs one of these lenses, but I can say that they are extremely useful in a variety of situations. They are professional-grade lenses designed to meet the demands of a variety of situations, especially for portrait photographers. If you really can’t get your work done with the gear you have, and if one of the other lenses I’ve already discussed isn’t going to meet your needs, then a 70-200mm f/2.8 might fit the bill quite nicely.

Nikon D750, 70-200 f/2.8 lens. Shot at 200mm, f/3.3, 1/250th second.

There are many times in which these lenses can outperform a lot of other options.

If you find yourself in situations like this, then a 70-200mm f/2.8 could be just what you’re after.

They are great for things like:

  • Fast-moving subjects who just won’t sit still. In other words…when you are photographing portraits of kids outdoors.
  • Full-body portraits where you want a nice blurry background
  • Subjects that are far away and you need to zoom in to see them
  • Group photos where you want to see the whole family but still have a nice blurry background
  • People moving towards the camera, either by themselves or as a group. You can stay in one place and adjust your focal length to zoom out while they get closer.
  • Action-style portraits of adults or kids while they are playing sports
  • Photographers who need a lot of versatility in their lenses, without wanting to change lenses or carry multiple camera bodies.

Nikon D750, 70-200 f/2.8 lens. Shot at 140mm, f/4, 1/250th second.

A 70-200mm f/2.8 lens isn’t always a necessity, but it can make a big difference if your needs aren’t met by other gear. They’re heavy and expensive, but the results can be worth it as long as you know why you want one and what you plan on using it for. You should also note that you might not need the sheer light-gathering capability of an f/2.8 aperture. In many cases, you would be well-served with a 70-200 f/4 lens which is going to cost significantly less and still produce good results.

Nikon D750, 70-200 f/2.8 lens. Shot at 200mm, f/4, 1/180th second.

Third-party options are a good choice too. You will often find 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses from Sigma, Tamron, and others available for about 50-75% of what you would pay for a first-party lens. These might not have the snappiest autofocus or same level of build quality, but for most portrait photographers they would work just fine.


Hopefully, this information, along with some of these pictures, helps you get a better sense of what different lenses can do. Of course, a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is great, but if you examine your situation and think about your needs and goals, you might find that a different lens would suffice quite nicely. The point is to find something that works for you, no matter what it is and no matter what other people might use. As long as your gear helps you get the photos you want to take, then that’s all that matters.

The post Portrait Photographers: Do You Really Need a 70-200mm Lens? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

A Beginners Guide to Taking Portraits of Elderly Clients: Part 2 – Lighting and Posing

Sat, 03/23/2019 - 14:00

The post A Beginners Guide to Taking Portraits of Elderly Clients: Part 2 – Lighting and Posing appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Clinton Moore.

Welcome to part two in our series on photographing older clients. In part one, we looked at rapport building and the practical aspects of preparing for your shoot. In this article, you’ll learn about lighting and posing techniques to enhance your photos of elderly subjects.

Lighting older clients utilizes most of the same lighting principles that you apply to younger clients, but there are a few extra tricks that will ensure a stress-free and flattering shoot.

Lighting practicalities

For this article, we’re going to assume that you are shooting at the subject’s home – often a requirement when shooting older clients. This means that you won’t have access to a full studio setup and will have to improvise based on space.

Lost in space

If you’re lucky, your older client may still be in the old family home with beautiful high ceilings so you can set up and bounce light to your heart’s content. Unfortunately, many will have downsized and are often in smaller apartments. Others may be in nursing homes with less space than your average bathroom and have everything they own crammed within this space.

In tight spaces, the best bet is to try and get outside. However, this is not always possible for less mobile clients.

Also remember, if you’re doing a shoot in a nursing or retirement home, you’ll possibly need to gain permission from the village manager. There’s a lot of protection around older residents (and rightfully so), which means the home is not likely to take kindly to a stranger turning up unannounced and taking photos of vulnerable people.

This is not one of those situations where it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission first!

Flash versus continuous lighting

As a photographer, flash is probably your go-to for artificial lighting when outside the studio, but take a moment to consider continuous lighting. While a strobe is more portable and powerful than most affordable continuous lights, they can be quite disorienting for older clients – particularly those with dementia. The last thing you want is to distress the person you’re hoping to make a smile.

With the affordable price of LED lighting these days, continuous lighting is now incredibly accessible and has the added benefit of remaining cool for your client as opposed to older lights. Advances in chip-on-board LED technology also means you don’t have to worry about heavy and expensive HMI lights when you want that classic Fresnel look.

Soft versus hard light

The aim of the shoot will determine your lighting style.

It’s going to be rare to hear an older person say “please make me look old and grizzled,” so your aim is likely to create a flattering image of your subject by leaning towards soft, highly-diffused light. You can achieve this by using light from large light sources such as softboxes and umbrellas. The bigger the source, the better! You want that light to wrap around their face.

Unless it’s the desired look, contrast is your enemy when photographing elderly people as it accentuates their wrinkles and any other parts that are sagging. This might be great for gritty street photography, but it’s unlikely an older person wants you to portray them like that in a paid portrait.

Think less George Hurrell, more Anne Geddes (but leave the flower pot at home).

Of course, the final decision should always come from a mixture of trying to convey your client’s personality and meeting the brief agreed upon in your pre-shoot consultation.

Lighting setups

We’ll look at two classic lighting setups which aim to create a flattering portrait. While there are limitless portrait lighting options, not all will work with older clients due to wrinkles, sagging, and posture issues.

3-point lighting

The classic three-point lighting setup provides you with a huge amount of flexibility to sculpt the subject’s face in a flattering light.

For older clients, aim to have your key light only a little stronger than your fill light. This reduces contrast and provide a more flattering light that wraps around the face. Fill light is your friend when it comes to older clients.

Short lighting (left) generally provides a more flattering photo for an elderly subject than broad lighting (right).

Although you’ll be using more fill than normal, it’s still important to be aware of the effects of short and broad lighting, as aging isn’t always kind to the face shape. You can use short lighting to make a wide face appear more slender. This is usually the more flattering option for older faces.

Broad lighting can add some width to a skinnier face, but it tends also add more emphasis on wrinkles.

For older clients, it can also pay to lower your lights a little more than you might with a young client. The shadows cast by higher lights emphasize wrinkles and sagging skin.

Placing the lights higher as you might do with a younger client can create shadows that highlight features such as wrinkles and crow’s feet.

By lowering the lights, the face softens, and you can fill in the eyes which tend to sink with age. It never hurts to throw a reflector under the subject’s chin to lift the shadows.

Dropping your key light by just a small amount can have a dramatic difference to the final image.

You will then get a final shot that creates a warm and inviting portrait.

Combining all the changes and tossing in a reflector under the subject’s chin creates a final image that presents them in favorable light.

Clamshell lighting

Clamshell lighting can create a very dramatic look, but with large diffused light sources it can also light an older face in a flattering way while still providing a dynamic effect.

In this setup, we have a large softbox angled at 45-degrees acting as the key and an umbrella as the fill. You may also want to experiment with a beauty dish as the key light for a more striking look.

The clamshell is a simple setup and can be achieved with just one key light and a reflector to act as fill if need be.

While exposing correctly is a no-brainer no matter how you’re lighting, it goes double for a clamshell setup as excessive underlighting creates a ghoulish look like something out of a horror movie. A safe way to avoid this can be to use a simple reflector or bounce board as your fill if you’re not comfortable with setting exposure on artificial lights.

Failing to set your fill light correctly will result in underlighting that creates a scary look unlikely to be desired by your client.

As you can see, by reducing the fill light to a little more than half the exposure of the key light, you get a more balanced look.

Ensuring that you have your fill light set lower than your key light will create the classic clamshell look.

Combined with good posing, this lighting setup can provide a great option for taking a square-on image of an older person. The resulting shot can convey an introspective, but intimate feel.

By exposing correctly and positioning your client beautifully you will get a final shot that has a great introspective feel.


Elderly portrait idiosyncrasies

Although having a couple of basic lighting setups will get you 80% of the way to photographing elderly clients, there are still a few little hurdles to be aware of that may otherwise cause chaos on your shoot.

Glasses and reflections

Glasses are the bane of your existence when working with elderly clients. A pair of spectacles loves nothing more than to capture the reflection of your lights. And God help you if you’re dealing with bifocals!

Glasses! Guaranteed to destroy any portrait without some planning.

You can always ask your subject to remove their glasses completely, but many will feel that they look wrong without their glasses after having worn them for so many years.

Managing glasses always requires a bit of compromise to bring your client’s eyes back into the image, but three of the best options are:

1. Tilt Down – Ask you subject to tilt their glasses down just a little. This can be combined with tilting their head down as well. Don’t go overboard with this unless you want them to look like Santa or a librarian.

You will largely remove the reflections by asking your subject to lower their chin and tilt their glasses down. However, be careful not to overdo it!

2. Raise Your Lights – Raising your lights a little higher reduces the chance of picking up a reflection. Of course, the trade-off here is that you will get more shadows. It can help to balance the change with a reflector.

Raising the lights resolves the reflections issue, but creates a new dilemma due to the heavy shadows that now appear.

3. Lensless Glasses – Possibly the best solution. Bring along a pair of glasses with the lenses removed. Hey presto, no more reflections to worry about. The issue here, of course, is that they may not be the style of glasses that work with your subject’s face.

Managing baldness

Sure it happens to younger folks as well, but if you’re photographing older clients, you’re going to encounter a lot of bald heads. The issue here is that a bald head will act like a big reflective surface and create a hot spot.

To resolve this:

1. Lower Your Lights – by lowering the height of your lights you reduce the reflections on their head. Of course, the problem here becomes the balancing act that has to take place if your subject also happens to be wearing glasses!

2. Remove Rim Lights – When dealing with baldness it’s worth considering doing away with your rim light entirely. Find alternate ways to separate your subject from the background.

3. Powder – Having some neutral powder on hand is always handy to reduce the shine of a bald head. If you’ve got a particularly proud male that won’t wear “makeup,” take a photo without any powder applied and show them the attention drawn to their head.

Exposing hair

Jumping back to the 3-point lighting setup, this all comes down to the rim light. As mentioned above, the rim light is the enemy of the bald head. However, it also wreaks havoc with grey hair. Be extra careful not to overexpose with grey hair as you will quickly blow the highlights much more easily than you would with colored hair.

Posing older clients

Posing older clients is tricky because, as we discussed in part one, there is a range of what constitutes being “elderly.” People around 65 years of age will probably be able to do many of your standard poses with great results. However, significantly older clients may have restricted mobility and health issues that prevent them from standing for long periods.

Stools are for fools

Assuming you are working with a client over the age of 80, it’s best to consider basing your shoot around them sitting down. The first thing to do is turf that stool that you use with your younger clients.

Older clients need the back support of a chair and could fall off something as unstable as a stool. They also may not have the core strength to support themselves on a stool leading to some very bad slumping.

Clients over the age of 80 with mobility issues are also likely to have recliner style chairs that they can easily disappear into.

Shooting front-on with your client in a large chair or recliner will tend to make them look small and wider if they are allowed to sink back.

Shooting this image, particularly front-on, will make the client appear small and can have an unflattering effect on their thighs (which will spread when seated in this manner).

To remedy this issue prop your client up with some pillows to create a better posture. If the client is quite frail, ask a family member to do this so that you don’t cause any harm.

Place pillows behind the client or ask them to sit towards the edge of the chair to shift their posture.

By bringing the client forward and focusing on the head and shoulders framing, the resulting image is more flattering.

By moving the client forward they will be less likely to slump resulting in a more flattering image.

Safe and secured gear

One of the major causes of injury in elderly people is falling over. Often they will be very used to everything being set up in their home a particular way. As such, moving furniture around and bringing in big gear can pose problems.

Firstly, only move furniture with their permission and, of course, put it back when you’re done! Ensure that you’ve left a clear path to the front door and the toilet in case of emergencies.

Secondly, secure your gear! At the very least put sandbags on your light stands and tripod. If you’re using anything that has cords, pull out that gaffer tape and stick it down.

Sandbag those lights and gaffer those cords so that you don’t end up responsible for a trip to the E.R.

An uninjured client is a happy client, so take those extra few minutes to make sure the area is safe.

Flattering posing angles

Great, you’ve got everything setup safely, now it’s time to pose your client.

Again, assuming you are dealing with a client who is older than 75, posing is about compromises.

Few people look great square-on, so start by asking your client to turn their body slightly away from the camera. Next, ask the client to turn their head back to the camera with their body facing the key light.

It’s often best to avoid having older clients tilt their head as this can cause bunching of the skin under the neck. Instead, keep the head perpendicular to the body and focus on asking them to push their jaw slightly forward to stretch their neck.

If your client is really concerned about their neck wrinkles, it will be best to shoot from slightly above the client and ask them to angle their chin down. Similarly, if a male client is worried about baldness, shooting from slightly lower than eye level reduces the focus on their head.

For clients who are unable to shift their neck or body due to age, a front-on shot can still be flattering, but you will want to try and shift the weight forward.

Move your subject as close to the edge of the chair as is safe while supporting their back. Clients who struggle to support their weight may benefit from placing their hands on their thighs

Prop the client up with pillows behind their back and ask if they are able to place their hands on their knees to support their weight while leaning forward a tad. Experiment with placement on the knees and thighs to find the position that allows for the most natural shoulder alignment.


Photographing elderly clients is a great way to bring together all of your basic lighting and posing principles with a few extra challenges thrown in to boot!

Experimentation is always key as you will have to work with the physical restrictions of your client’s age and the practical limitations of their home. By having a clear idea of your client’s expectations, the two of you can find a way to achieve an image that makes everyone happy.

Moreover, remember that sometimes they’ve earned those wrinkles and are damn proud of it!

The post A Beginners Guide to Taking Portraits of Elderly Clients: Part 2 – Lighting and Posing appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Clinton Moore.

How to Create Simulated Light Leaks Using Lightroom

Sat, 03/23/2019 - 09:00

The post How to Create Simulated Light Leaks Using Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Recently, we discussed how easy (and cool) it can be to reproduce the basic looks of vintage film stocks with our digital photographs. Sure, this style is not for everyone, but it’s undeniable that the “film look” has made a resurgence in recent years. There’s an especially organic feel to a photograph that has muted tones and funky contrasts which carries an inherent interest that makes people look twice. To go a step further, if you truly want to push the envelope of your digital vintage film simulations, you can go as far as to introduce something which is generally considered to be the sworn enemy of photographers everywhere: light leaks. I know, I know…the horror, right?

Light leaks

Light leaks are less of a problem in digital photography and seldom occur. Still, it can happen. Unwanted light rays can weasel their way into your photos through damaged camera bodies or poor lens fitment in digital and analog cameras alike.

However, when shooting with film the incidence of light leaks skyrocket. Causes range from accidental openings of the camera back to damaged film canisters and general mishandling of the film either before or during processing.

Why make an intentional mistake?

Now, you might be wondering ‘why, oh why, might we want to simulate light leaks in our digital photographs if they are so loathed and avoided in general photography?’ The answer to that lies in the very nature of light leaks themselves; they add uniqueness.

While technically flawed, light leaks can impart a vibe of beautiful realism to a photograph. Because the chances of light leaks increase with the age of a film, it makes perfect sense to learn how to introduce them alongside your digital vintage film simulations in Adobe Lightroom Classic CC.

Don’t get me wrong; light leaks are not practical or even warranted for every one of your vintage film simulations. That said, a judicially placed light leak on the right photo can boost it’s aesthetic appeal tremendously. What’s more, being able to create digital light leaks at will is a handy skill to have in your mental post-processing tool kit.

How to make a Light Leak

The cause of light leaks is the intrusion of light of various intensities interacting with the film. To reproduce this effect digitally in Lightroom we’ll make use of some cleverly simple local adjustments. The graduated and radial filters are the primary local adjustment tools we’ll use for our light leak simulations.

We’ll also use the local adjustment brush – but not in the way you might think. I’ll show you what I mean in just a second.

To get started, we’ll use a photo I have already processed using some of my vintage film presets. It has a faded vibe and a mellow tone. This should work well with our light leak simulations. It’s always a good practice to add your light leaks AFTER you have completed processing your photo.

1. Deciding where to place your light leaks

There are no rules when it comes to creating your light leak simulations but if you’re going for realism remember that your light leaks should look as if they are – well – caused by light leaking onto the film.

Consider where the light might be intruding from when determining where they appear. Is there a crack in the camera housing? Was there a pinhole in the film canister? Perhaps the dark slide accidentally slid back just a tiny bit in the film holder?

For our particular example, we’ll be going for a sort of “first frame” light leak. This simulates a 35mm frame having been exposed to light on one of the first sections of the film while being loaded into the camera. Virtually all 35mm cameras wind the film from the spool to the spindle from left to right, so the light leak will always appear at the right side of the frame. So, that’s exactly where we’re going to put our digital light leak simulation.

2. The Graduated Filter

We’ll use a single graduated filter to produce the light leak. Create the filter and make it wide enough to rotate easily.

It doesn’t matter where it is created on the photo because we will re-position it after we’ve added the adjustments.

For most photos, the core effect is caused but the Exposure and Whites sliders. Begin by increasing the Exposure slider considerably until you lose detail in the highlight areas of the image.

Depending on the overall brightness of your photo even +100 exposure increase might not be adequate. If this is the case, make use of the Whites slider to increase the intensity of the leak. We can always dial back the brightness after the next step.

3. Placing and feathering the Graduated Filter

Now it’s time to re-position the graduated filter and compress it to the appropriate feathering.

Grab the center point and pull the filter to the right of the photo. A good rule of thumb is to place the far edge of the filter even with the edge of the frame.

Next, click and drag the left side of the filter to reduce the feathering. This is when the light leak will begin to really look like a light leak.

The feathering is important in reproducing the circumstances of the particular light leak effect you’re after.

In our case, the light would have interacted with our film up to the point where it was shielded by the film canister. Modern 35mm canisters feature felt lining on the mouth of the canister where the film enters. This will produce a very slight feathering effect in the light leak. So we will reflect this minute amount of feathering with our simulation.

4. Adding fine adjustments

With our light leak placed we can now go to work applying some fine adjustments. Anything is possible! Adjust the intensity of the leak by increasing or decreasing the Exposure and Whites sliders or amplify the color (or take it away) using the Saturation slider. You can even add in custom colors using the color swatch selector. For our example, we’ll add in some yellow.

What a beautiful mistake we’ve made! But we’re not finished yet.

5. The Adjustment Brush

You’ll recall earlier I mentioned we would use the adjustment brush tool but not actually to create the leaks. Instead, we will make use of the Adjustment Brush to ERASE areas of our light leaks. That way, we can selectively control how they appear with more precision.

In our example, we’ll dial back the light in the area of the sky to make it flow more naturally with the rest of the adjustment.

Now that we’ve placed our primary light leak let’s kick things up a notch by adding in some additional ones. Remember that less is usually more when it comes to light leaks. But since we’re having fun, let’s pretend our camera was having a terrible day.

6. Adding extra light leaks with the Radial Filter

Our next light leak will simulate an intrusion at one of the ends of our film canister. Leaks of this type generally manifest themselves at the edges of the film around the sprocket holes. Depending on the severity, the leak bleeds down towards the midline of the film. We’ll pull off this effect using the radial filter tool with the same slider adjustments we used earlier. Again, create the filter anywhere you please in the beginning and then re-position.

Drag the center point of the filter to the top edge of the photo being careful to leave the point itself within reach for easier re-positioning. Once you roughly position the filter, pull the bottom of it downward (or upward depending on position) until it reaches the desired location.

Since this type of leak usually occurs very close to the film, they will exhibit more clearly defined edges which means we’ll use less feathering of the filter.

Of course, this is entirely a judgment call so feel free to adjust the feathering to suit your taste. Add in more radial filters to complete the effect by right-clicking the center point and selecting ‘Duplicate.’

Congratulations! We’re finished making our light leak simulations and we did it all right inside of Lightroom Classic CC using a few simple tools that anyone can use.

But wait, there’s more….

Saving your light leaks as Local Adjustment Presets

As you’ve seen, most light leaks are incredibly easy to make once you understand the basic concepts involved with the effect. Still, it’s a good idea to save yourself some time by saving your favorite light leak simulations as Local Adjustment Presets. That way, you don’t need to create each one anew every time you’re feeling like adding in a leak or two.

Saving your light leaks as presets is as simple as a couple of mouse clicks.

First, select the control point of the filter you wish to save as a preset. Once the filter is active, click the ‘Custom’ drop-down arrow at the top of the filter adjustment section.

Next, select ‘Save Current Settings as New Preset’ from the bottom of the menu.

It’s a good idea to name your preset something that will help you know exactly what effect it produces. In our case, I’ll name this one “Tina”.

Just kidding.

We’ll go with “35mm Canister Leak-Yellow”.

Your new light leak preset will then be available from the local adjustment presets list.

Final thoughts on Leaking Light…

When you think about it, introducing simulated light leaks to your photos is a very funny thing to do. We are purposefully introducing problems to a photograph. With that being said, sometimes beauty can in fact lie within the very flaws we might otherwise avoid. Depending on the type of photograph and the final aesthetic you’re going for, adding in some judicious light leak simulations to your digital photographs can go a long way to enhance their “vintage feel”.

Have you tried your hand at simulating your own light leaks? Feel free to share your work in the comments!

And if you want to learn more about how to add a vintage film look to your photos be sure to check out my other article The Basics of Simulating Vintage Film in Lightroom.

The post How to Create Simulated Light Leaks Using Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Autumn

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 14:00

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is AUTUMN (fall)!

Bright, Victoria, Australia in autumn © Caz Nowaczyk

Your photos can include anything includes anything that is autumn/fall. It can be motion-blurred, cropped, minimalist, color-based, use nature, objects or anything really! It doesn’t have to have autumn leaves – it could just use autumn colors! They can be color, black and white, moody or bright. You get the picture! Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Mount Wilson, Australia in Autumn © Caz Nowaczyk

Some Inst-piration from some Instagrammers:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by ? Esma ? (@esma.23) on Mar 13, 2019 at 2:58am PDT


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A post shared by Turkey Traveling (@turkey_traveling) on Mar 13, 2019 at 8:44am PDT


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Ela Kurek-Szczepa?ska (@rockingintheclouds) on Mar 13, 2019 at 3:29am PDT


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by ? ? ? ?? ? ???????? ? (@_.beetle._.daisy._.rose._) on Mar 6, 2019 at 6:06pm PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Christina Malmström (@christina.malmstrom) on Mar 13, 2019 at 12:15am PDT


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Drone Photo Community (@dronemperors) on Mar 13, 2019 at 9:39am PDT


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Sergio R. (@sergiano93) on Oct 10, 2018 at 6:16am PDT


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

Tips for Shooting AUTUMN/FALL

4 Tips for Capturing Autumn Colors

3 Tips to Help You Take Better Autumn Photos

7 Ways to Take Advantage of Autumn in Your Portrait Photography

Autumn (Fall) Photography – Capturing Colours

Photographing Autumn Leaves – DIY Studio

8 Tips for Fall Landscape Photography

Photographing Autumn Leaves – Panning Technique

Add Motion to Your Fall Photography to Help it Stand Out






Weekly Photography Challenge – AUTUMN/FALL

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

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

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

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

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

3 Simple Tips to Help You Master Photography Composition [video]

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 09:00

The post 3 Simple Tips to Help You Master Photography Composition [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this video, Nigel Danson shares three simple photography tips to help you master photography composition. He uses seascape photography to illustrate his tips.


Here are the Three simple tips to help you master photography composition that Nigel covers in his video:

1. Tell the story

You are trying to portray the story of the place you are photographing in your image. Look for things that might make a difference to your shot. With seascape photography, look for things like rocks, and waves, and where the light is coming from. Is it windy? How can you show that? Do you want to capture the isolation, or busyness of the location? Is there a significant landmark you want to capture?

2. Be mindful of the foreground

One of the most important things in landscape composition can be getting the foreground right. Something that is really simple, perhaps with repeating patterns can work really well.

Use leading lines to draw the viewer into your image. A beach or seaside location is a great place to do that.  Use the shoreline as your leading lines towards rocks or other parts of the landscape that may be significant.

Danson says four things are important in achieving a good photograph: Timing, subject, composition, and light.

Try to include secondary compositions within your main composition to better tell the story.

Shutter speed is also important – do you want soft water and movement in the clouds? Or do you want them sharp and crisp?

3. Try different focal lengths

Explore different focal lengths. Try macro, go super-wide, or use long-lenses to bring backgrounds closer in an image.

You may also want to try intentional camera movement (ICM) for interesting effects.


You may also find the following articles helpful:

Composition Tips for Drawing the Viewer’s Eye Through Your Photographs

4 of the Most Common Composition Mistakes In Photography

Divine Composition With Fibonacci’s Ratio (The Rule of Thirds on Steroids)

Four Rules of Photographic Composition

Composition Checklist for Beginners


The post 3 Simple Tips to Help You Master Photography Composition [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Seven Steps for Post-Processing a Pure White Background

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 14:00

The post Seven Steps for Post-Processing a Pure White Background appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Photographs with clean, white backgrounds are extremely popular with

  • Stock agencies
  • Amazon
  • Graphic Designers
  • Magazines and websites

The original background with a white border around it to clearly illustrate the contrast between pure white and off white

Producing pure white backgrounds is imperative. A background that’s not quite white looks terrible on a white page.

In this article, I will walk you through one method of post-processing I use to isolate subjects and give them a white background.

Choosing your photos carefully

Some photos are far more difficult to work with than others when you want a white background.

Any subject that’s fuzzy or hairy will be problematic. As will any blurred subject. Whether it’s focus or motion blur, you will have difficulty in obtaining a good clean transition with the background.

Smooth, clean edges are the easiest to work with. So if you want to sell wigs on Amazon, you are in for a tough time. It’s better to make sure you have a pure white background that requires no post processing with such subjects.


Step # 1

Choose your subject and photograph it against a clean, contrasting background. If the background is too busy, it will make isolating on white more difficult.

Keep your subject a good distance from the background. Use an aperture setting that keeps all your subject in focus, but the background is out of focus.

If your subject happens to be moving, make sure to choose a fast enough shutter speed to stop the motion. Making sure your subject is sharp will make post-processing much more straightforward.

Step # 2

Open your file in Photoshop. Make sure it’s the highest resolution jpeg file it can be. Working with low-resolution images is more challenging, but larger ones will slow your computer down.

You need to find a balance here. If you start working through these post-processing steps and find your computer is not handling it, downsize your photo and start again.

Choose the Select and Mask tool. You’ll find this in the Select Menu at the top of your window. Change the View Mode to an option that allows you to see your changes easily. I prefer the Overlay Mode.

Choose the Select and Mask option from the drop-down menu.

Step # 3

With the Quick Selection tool, draw around the inside of your subject. Do this slowly, so Photoshop has time to render your action.

Pay careful attention to the areas you are selecting. You do not want to have any part of the background selected. If parts of the background are selected, paint over them with the Refine Edge brush.

Zoom in so you can see what you’re working on more clearly.

Step # 4

When you’re all done and are satisfied your subject is masked, it’s time to output again to the main window in Photoshop.

Select New Layer with Layer Mask from the Output options and click OK.

Step # 5

Add a white background by clicking on the New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel. Choose Solid Color and set it to pure white.

Step # 6

Check around the edges of your subject. Can you see any of the old background?

If you can, select the mask on your main layer in the Layers Panel. Choose the Brush tool and make the color Black.

Make sure the mask is selected.

Paint carefully over the areas where you can still see the old background. You may need to lower the opacity of the brush and adjust the feathering to achieve the best results.

If you have not done this before it can be challenging. However, don’t worry, if you erase parts of your subject, switch the brush color to white and paint back over them. They will re-appear.

There are various other methods and tools for erasing unwanted backgrounds. This is the best way I have found for images which are not too complicated.

Step # 7

Crop out any extra white space and save your new photo with your subject isolated on white.



This is one way to achieve a white background. As with most post-processing procedures, there is more than one sequence of steps which will provide an acceptable result.

Practice and experiment to find the workflow which works best for you.

Are you experienced in creating clean white backgrounds using other methods? Do you have any tips to share? Please share them in the comments section below.

The post Seven Steps for Post-Processing a Pure White Background appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

8 Pieces of Architecture Photography Equipment You Need

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 09:00

The post 8 Pieces of Architecture Photography Equipment You Need appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

A great subject for photography is Architecture. Whether you’re a commercial photographer, or you enjoy photographing interesting buildings for fun, this is a great area of photography to explore. In this article, you’ll learn about some of the essential equipment you’ll need. Through using this equipment, you’ll be able to get great results each time you photograph. So read on and find out what architecture photography equipment should be in your camera bag.

A tripod combined with a decent wide-angle lens. This is a great architecture photography equipment combination.

1. Tripod

The tripod is a great piece of gear to have, and that’s certainly true for architecture photography. If you’re photographing indoors, or as it’s getting dark, it’s essential you have this. Even when the light is good, using a tripod will improve your results. The following are the main reason you’ll want to bring a tripod with you.

  • Interior photography – The lower light levels for interior photography mean using a tripod is necessary. You’ll need to use slower shutter speeds while keeping the aperture at around f/8.
  • Manual focus – The best way to gain the sharpest focus is to use live view, and then manual focus. This is easiest to achieve with the camera on a tripod.
  • Bracketing – There are many occasions you’ll need to take bracketed photos to balance the light across the scene. When photographing towards the light, or if there is a bright light source such as a window, you’ll need a range of exposure to use in post-processing to balance the scene. In this case, you will need a tripod.
  • Blue hour – A great time for exterior architecture photography is Blue Hour. During this time you’ll need to take long exposure photos from a tripod.
Bracket and clamp

An alternative piece of architecture photography equipment is the bracket and clamp. This can be used as an alternative to the tripod, and you can use it to secure the camera to a structure such as a metal railing. There are locations where a tripod won’t be allowed, and in some cases having a bracket and clamp instead, will allow you to secure the tripod for your needs.

2. Wide-angle lens

The next most widely used piece of architecture photography equipment is the wide-angle lens. This will almost certainly be needed for interior work and is often needed for exterior work as well. Those photos taken in a room, where you need to capture the entire room, will need a wide-angle lens of at least 17mm on a full-frame camera. A lot of architecture is often large in scale, so a wide-angle lens is needed to capture the full size of the architecture you’re photographing. The exception comes when you are some distance from the subject you’re photographing, in this case, a longer focal length would then be required.

The interior of the grand mosque in Abu Dhabi. This requires a wide-angle lens to capture how impressive it is.

Which wide angle lens?

Here is a selection of some of the best wide-angle lenses you can use. Depending on the system you have, you may go for a different lens from this list.

  • Canon 17-40mm f/4L – A great lens at a budget-friendly price. This lens is wide enough for most situations.
  • Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art – Great quality lens, made to fit numerous camera manufacturers. Great focal length – and if you need it – a large aperture.
  • Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED – An excellent lens for those using Nikon cameras. Once again, very wide at 14mm.
3. Bubble level

Getting a bubble level is a good idea to ensure your camera is completely lined up. You’ll find that with a wide-angle lens the distortions they produce can make it difficult to see if the camera is truly level. Using a bubble level, which can easily attach to the hot shoe, you’ll have a quick and easy visual reference. In some cases, you may have a bubble level built into your tripod head. This is a great alternative to a separate bubble level.

4. Strobes

The use of strobes is not just for portraits, you can use them in architecture photography as well.

Strobes are excellent at close quarters, but perhaps not for outdoor use with a larger structure.

You’ll get the best use out of these when you’re doing interior photography.

They’ll come in handy when you have a bright window, and a dark room. You can now use the strobes to light up the room, by bouncing light off the ceilings or walls. This will balance the light across the photo, and can either supplement or replace the need to bracket your photos.

Take care when bouncing the light off a surface that isn’t white, as the light from the flash could potentially color cast the room, in the color the strobe has bounced off.

5. Tilt-shift lens

You’ll be photographing your architecture at a wide angle, and it’s likely you’ll be aiming up from street level. This causes problems for architecture photography due to lens barrel distortion. The result is you’ll have buildings that bow inwards towards the center of your image. This is a problem that can be solved using a tilt-shift lens. It’s also possible to correct this distortion in post-processing, so the tilt-shift lens is not strictly needed. It’s best to get your photo as correct as possible in camera though, so using a tilt-shift lens is best.

This photo has not been adjusted for barrel distortion since the minarets lead the eye into the center of the image. It is an example of where a tilt-shift lens could be applied, as this would fix this distortion.

6. Cable release

You’ll want to get the sharpest results possible for architecture photography. You will take the majority of your photos from a tripod to achieve increased sharpness.

However, when you press the shutter, you’ll move the camera a little. To avoid this, you’ll need a cable release cord or a remote control shutter release. Using these tools ensures your camera will be completely steady when you expose.

Those using DSLR cameras should remember to lock up their mirrors ahead of exposure. If you were using live view to compose and focus your photo, then the mirror will already be locked up.

A cable release is a great piece of architecture photography equipment to have.

7. Post-processing

Post-processing is an important part of architecture photography. Post-processing software might not be physical gear, but it’s easily as important. To get successful architecture photos you’ll need to learn how to sharpen your image in the right area, and how to apply noise reduction software. One of the most useful post-processing techniques you can learn is digital blending, this is essentially manual HDR photography. A correctly blended image will have a lot more impact with certain areas of the photo made brighter and distracting highlights such as window light reduced in brightness. So which software is worth having?

  • Photoshop – The Goliath of the post-processing world, a package widely used by the best photographers and with good reason. You’ll need this for digital blending, and through Adobe Camera Raw you’ll be able to do some sharpening and noise reduction work.
  • Nik collection – A really great set of programs that can be used to polish your photo in post-processing. A combination of Nik color EFEX, Dfine, and Pro sharpener can lead to great results.
  • Raya pro – You’ll need Photoshop to use this, but this excellent tool will make digital blending much easier, and there are guides that go with this program to help improve your work.

Learn to use Photoshop effectively. Your photographs will improve.

8. Filters

A good set of filters are great pieces of architecture photography equipment. It could be argued the need for filters is diminished due to the advance of post-processing. Those that are best at post-processing will tell you to use filters though because it makes life a lot easier once you get the photos onto your computer. The two main filters worth having in your bag are a circular polarizing filter, and a graduated neutral density filter.

  • Circular polarizing filter – This is great for adding vibrancy to your scene, especially useful for outdoor architecture photography. This can be used to enhance or reduce the amount of reflection in your photo.
  • Graduated neutral density filter – Used to balance the light across the scene, these are primarily used by landscape photographers. In architecture photography, you can use the dark portion of this filter to balance the light across the scene. A window will often be too bright in your photo, so you can position this filter on your lens, to reduce the brightness in a portion of your photo.

There are many types of filters, these can all help your photography.

Which architecture photography equipment do you use?

There is a wealth of good camera equipment available for you to use. Which pieces of architecture photography equipment do you find best? Do you have experience of using some of the items in this list? What other items are in your photography bag, and why would you recommend them?

At digital photography school we’d love to see your images of architecture photography, so please share them in the comments section.

The post 8 Pieces of Architecture Photography Equipment You Need appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

Mastering Color Series – The Pschology and Evolution of the Color RED and it’s use in Photography

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 14:00

The post Mastering Color Series – The Pschology and Evolution of the Color RED and it’s use in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Photography was invented in 1839 as a black and white medium. Finicky and cumbersome, most proponents of photography were more concerned with perfecting the photographic process without the added complexity of color. Some pioneers endured, creating new methods to convey the colored photographic image. But it was only in the 1930’s, when companies like Kodak and Agfa began introducing consumer-based color film that color photography started to become widely available and relatively affordable.

With color photography, photographers could create imagery with the emotional charge of colour

The invention and widespread use of color film had a significant impact on photography. Modern photographers could now depict a more realistic rendition of a scene, conveying the world in colors similar to that seen through the average human eye. But color photography had another purpose too. Photographers could now couple imagery with the emotional charge of color a lot more readily.

Over the course of history, humans have forged strong associations with colors. And while some associations are experiential, others speak to our evolution and the history of visual arts. In this series of articles, we’ll take a look at the history of different colors, how they have shaped our way of seeing and what it means for your photography.

The psychology of red

Color has a significant impact on our perceptions, emotions and physicality. Our earliest ancestors drew associations between red and the color of our blood, cultivating a strong visual link between red and danger, violence, and life. Humans evolved to prioritize red as a color of immediacy, warning and opportunity. For example, the appearance of fire links red to warmth and light, but also to destruction.

Associated with warmth and fire, red appeals to our emotions and our physicality

Because it commands our attention, red brings text and subjects to the foreground of an image. Red is also the international standard for stop signs and traffic lights. In nature, red Autumn leaves and vibrant sunsets appeal to our sense of time and season. Perhaps tied to the color of red roses – a flower traditionally associated with romance – red symbolizes passion, love and sex. Red appeals to our taste buds too, with foods like strawberries, apples, cherries, tomatoes and peppers all colored by forms of carotenoids – vibrant red pigments that assist photosynthesis.

Red has different associations in different cultures and beliefs. In some parts of Africa, red is a color of mourning, representing death. Traditionally worn at funerals, weddings and New Year festivities, red symbolizes good luck, happiness and prosperity in China. In Thai tradition, red is the color for Sunday, associated with Surya, a solar god. In the Indian subcontinent, red signifies purity, fertility, wealth, beauty and the goddess Lakshmi. And in Japan, red is the traditional color of heroism.

Informed by the enduring presence of red in visual arts, these inherent associations (and more) sculpt the way a viewer reads an image.

Evolution of the color red

Despite its numerous forms, red has held a constant place of significance throughout history. From Ocher to Cadmium Red, the evolution of red stems from our ancient reverence for the commanding hue.


Ocher is a naturally occurring pigment that ranges in color from yellow to deep orange or brown. When combined with hematite, ochre takes on a red tone. Dated around 36,000 years old, the red bison on the cave walls of Altamira in Spain are among some of the oldest examples of red being used in visual arts.

Red bison on the cave walls of Altamira in Spain. Image credit: By Museo de Altamira y D. Rodríguez, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link


Cinnabar, a natural mercuric sulfide, ranges in hue from deep brick to scarlet. Though highly toxic, Romans lorded over the brilliance of the red pigment, using it extensively in decoration. Cinnabar features prominently in the murals of upper-class villas in Pompeii. Starting with the Song dynasty, the Chinese employed cinnabar in elaborately carved lacquerware.


Ancient writers used the term vermilion to describe the pigment made from grinding up cinnabar. But vermilion also refers to a synthetic version of the color, invented in China. Renaissance paintings feature the latter regularly. Renowned renaissance artist Titian is known for his luxuriant vermilion accents.

Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin with vermilion accents. Credit: Titian [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Romans made minium, also known as red lead, by heating white lead to extremely high temperatures. Contrasting well against gold and marble, the Romans used minium mainly for inscriptions. Medieval illustrators made use of the pigment in their illuminated manuscripts but it was particularly popular with the Mugal artists from India and Persia in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Vincent van Gogh was an ardent user of minium. However, it has since been discovered that minium whitens under light, and some of van Gogh’s works have had their red accents fade as a consequence.


During their conquest of Mexico in the early 16th century, Spanish conquistadors were taken aback by the vibrant fabrics and face paint of the Aztecs. Derived from cochineal bugs, the Spanish soon started shipping large quantities of ‘Spanish Red’ to Europe. Artists quickly adopted carmine to adorn their elaborate dramas. However, like minium, carmine also had a tendency to fade, especially in sunlight. Cosmetics and red food coloring continue to employ carmine today.

Cadmium red

In 1817, a German chemist discovered a new element, cadmium, which became the basis for shades of yellow and orange paint. However, it took another 93 years before cadmium red became available commercially in 1910. Intense and lightfast, Henri Matisse was one of the first prominent users of the pigment. Other artists who adopted cadmium red include Edvard Munch, Francis Bacon and Clyfford Still.

Since the invention of cadmium red, technological advances have created a broad range of synthetic pigments and chemical processes for producing red pigment. Easier preparation and application, better archival qualities and a wide variety in shades have all become standard for red in paint, dyes and inks today.

The Red Room by Henri Matisse. Credit: JD Lasica via Flickr

Red in visual arts

Because of its continuous presence in art history, the concept of red has evolved over time, encompassing new significance and meaning. We can’t be entirely sure what significance red held for our ancient ancestors. However, we can assume that at the very least that the use of red elevated the drawing from the rock, making the image appear more dimensional.

Medieval artists associated red with Pentecost, the holy spirit and the blood of Christian martyrs. In renaissance painting, red exploited the gaze of the viewer, cloaking Christ, the Virgin Mary or other substantial figures.

Baroque art saw deep and luminous reds conveyed in spectacular drama. Later, pre-raphaelite artists used shades of red and orange to paint the flowing locks of women and to draw attention to the symbolism nested within their artworks.

Lady Lilith by pre-raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Image credit: By Dante Gabriel Rossetti – Delaware Art Museum, Public Domain, Link

Impressionist and post-impressionist artists used reds to convey light or accent detail. Fauvists however, crammed abundantly vibrant reds into scenes and portraits with almost violent tenacity. Only a few years later, abstract art abandoned objective subject matter. Used to punctuate, irritate and philosophate, abstract artists energized the viewer or engulfed them altogether in fields of ravenous red.

Abstract expressionist Mark Rothko painted in deep reds. Credit: G. Starke via Flickr

Red in photography

With the advent of color photography, the creative possibilities for photographers flourished. The radical medium allowed photographers to depict color close to as it was in the field. Furthermore, inherent color associations carried over to color photography. Red’s enduring qualities allowed photographers to communicate visual cues based in evolution and in art.

As an early pioneer in color photography, Marie Cosindas‘ dispersal of reds throughout her still lifes and portraits resembles the technique of baroque still lifes. William Eggleston‘s famous photograph, The Red Ceiling, uses red as a stark undercurrent to a seemingly ordinary setting. In Saul Leiter’s dynamic renderings, red adds drama to the theater of the urban landscape.  Images like Dust Storm and Red Boy and Holi Festival by Steve McCurry document the history and materiality of red in art and culture. McCurry’s most well-known photograph, Afghan Girl depicts a young girl whose piercing eyes are further accentuated by the striking red scarf framing her face.

Nan Goldin’s use of red conveys atmospheric tension, as if the air itself were dense with color. Richard Mosse’s series Infra depicts the Congo in infra-red, rendering the green landscape in shades of pink and red, re-framing the nature of photojournalism.

The use of red isn’t limited to color photography either. Red filters (applied on/in-camera or in post production) absorb blue and green light, enhancing contrast. Famous landscape photographer Ansel Adams used red filters to dramatic effect, darkening the blue skies featured in his abundant vistas.

Ansel Adams used red filters to enhance the contrast of the sky in his photographs. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons


Faber Birren, an American author and consultant on color theory once said “red is the passionate and ardent hue of the spectrum, marking the saint and the sinner, patriotism and anarchy, love and hatred, compassion and war.” Red has been regularly utilized throughout history to denote concepts and experiences. Status, physicality, anger, warmth, love and danger are all aspects that have been characterized as having associations with red.

With the invention of color photography, red carried over to film and then digital media. And while it has different meanings in different cultures, red’s prominence throughout art history is a testament to its emotional and visual impact today.



The post Mastering Color Series – The Pschology and Evolution of the Color RED and it’s use in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

What to Write on Your Photography Website (So That People Will Hire You)

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 09:00

The post What to Write on Your Photography Website (So That People Will Hire You) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

If you want to sell your prints or get hired as a photographer, you can’t just put your photos on display. You’re going to have to use words too.

Many photographers struggle to come up with words about their photography. At one point, that was my biggest challenge to grow as a photographer.

I’ll show you how to come up with words for your photography website. We’ll start with a blank screen and finish with a finished web page.

If I post a photo of a baby or toddler on social media, I will get a lot of “likes.” All this means is that people like cuteness. But if I tell a story about a photo, it gets people thinking and talking. Nobody will know why we’re showing our photos if we don’t say something about them.

Why words?

If you’re showing your portfolio on your website or social media, you need to understand a hard truth: Your photos probably don’t stand out to people.

Your photos may be beautiful, but there are many photographers with beautiful photos. People are overwhelmed with thousands of images all day long and you’re just throwing more images into the mix.

Don’t assume that people will see and understand what is unique about you as a photographer, or appreciate the beauty in your photos unless you tell them. Your words help people understand what to think when they see your photos. Your words can draw them in to hire you or buy your prints.

I heard a rumor that my old public school was going to be torn down. That meant that my son would never have a chance to attend the school I did as a kid. So I took him for a photo shoot. We ran through the fall leaves, climbed on the monkey bars and retraced the steps of my childhood. Maybe the reason it was so meaningful is that the chance would soon be gone forever.

How to write about your photos so that people will hire you as a photographer

Let’s start from scratch and write words for a photography business website. You don’t have to follow my entire approach. Just take the parts that will help you where you’re struggling.

Let’s pretend we’re going to launch a toddler photography business. However, keep in mind that you can use this approach for any sort of photography business including fine art prints. Keep these ideas in mind as you write for your blog too.

1. Create a list of words and ideas

At this point, there is no pressure. The first step is to simply come up with a list of keywords and ideas. Then we’ll turn those ideas into the actual words on our website.

Give yourself at least 30 minutes for this. My suggestion is to turn off your phone, go somewhere you enjoy, and take a pen and some paper with you.

Consider who or what your subject is and then come up with a list of words and ideas that can inspire your writing. Your subject is whatever the main focus of your photography work is. Your subject could be CEO’s, landscape prints, weddings or seafood.

Our portrait business is about toddlers, so here is a list of words and ideas that I’ve come up with:

  • Strong willed
  • Explorer (little explorers)
  • Chaotic (agents of chaos)
  • Emotional (emotional roller coasters)
  • Unique
  • Growing
  • Impressive
  • Achievement
  • Funny
  • Silly
  • Showmanship
  • Performance
  • Giggles
  • Messy
  • Curls
  • Grins
  • Stinky feet
  • Tickling
  • Mud puddles
  • No shoes
  • Snacks
  • Lovable
  • Adorable

We could keep going, but that is a good list to start with. From this point on, whenever we have to write something, we have a list of words and ideas to pull from.

We’ll never have to sit down to a blank screen demanding us to fill it with the perfect words.

So far, we’ve only considered what our subject matter is, but we’ll also have to consider who we’re showing our picture to and who we are writing for. That means you need to consider who will be hiring you and write especially for them.

2. Who are you writing for?

Though our subject matter is toddlers, we’re writing for moms. They’re the most likely ones to be booking a photographer. Yes, dads and grandparents will look at your website too. However, don’t try to write for everyone. Choose one main person to write for.

3. What do they need?

Every good business solves a problem. What problem does your photography business solve?

Let’s consider two levels of the problem.

First, there is the immediate problem. Mom is on our website or social media page because she needs to find a photographer. Here are some things she has in mind:

  • Mom needs pictures
  • Has to find a photographer that specializes in toddlers
  • Wants the right style
  • Can handle her toddler
  • Can capture their unique personality

There is a deeper element to her problem too. Her little one is about to grow up. As much as she wants to, mom won’t be able to remember everything about this stage of life. These photos will preserve the toddler moments that are about to disappear forever.

Here are some ways the photos will help her:

  • Freeze time
  • Stop her toddler from growing up
  • Keep them small
  • Have something she can hold when they’re too big to hold
  • Have something to help with that desperate feeling that she is going to lose them when they grow up
  • Create photographs that provoke all the overwhelming feelings of motherhood, that will come rushing back to her even when she’s 80

How do you know that these are her problems? You listen. You listen to everything that moms say about their toddlers. Then you tell those moms (through the words on your website) that you understand, that you care, and that this is what you’re all about.

4. Explain how you will help them

You need to show the person looking at your website that you can help them solve their problem.

Let them know that you understand their problem and are the perfect person to help. This is where words may be more important than the photos you show.

Let’s get writing!

We have a lot of ideas about our photos and the people we’re writing for, so let’s start writing our web page.

Keep these 4 things in mind as you write:

  1. Draw from your list of words and ideas
  2. Remember who you are writing for
  3. Show that you understand what they need
  4. Explain how you can help them

People need to know very quickly that your website is just what they’re looking for. If somebody is searching for a toddler photography session, they need to know they’ve found the right place.

The first thing you should do is make some sort of statement regarding what your website is about. It should come right before or after your first image.

I photograph the toddler years because they’re some of the most wonderful times of development in your little one’s life. They’re also the years that go by the quickest.

This makes it clear what I offer and why I’m offering it.

That opening image and statement is followed by a more extensive gallery. After the gallery, I like to add some sort of story that digs into the deeper reasons that a mom would want a toddler photo session.

“We tend to love the things that are most scarce. The less there is of something, the more we value it. But far too often, we didn’t realize it’s value until it was gone. One day our babies outgrew the constraints of infancy. They learned to crawl and then pulled themselves up by whatever they could. They mastered our language – or their version of it! And now they think they’re going to keep growing right up! But not before we document them as toddlers. So that you’ll have photographs that make all those overwhelming feelings of motherhood and fatherhood come rushing back.”

While people are looking at your website, there are going to be many distractions. They get constant social media notifications, their minds wander, and their toddlers interrupt them! So write words that will keep them engaged. Being brief but powerful is good.

The “About Me” section reinforces why I offer this sort of photography session and why I’m the right photographer for the job.

“My favorite thing to photograph? Toddlers, without a doubt. Because they hold nothing back. Just watch how they explore the world. Their imaginations soar. And they don’t fake their emotions. My littlest guy is a toddler. I’m always racing to grab my camera because he’s almost not a toddler anymore. I can’t wait to see him grow up, but I’m going to miss the toddler him.”

My concern in the about section is to connect with my reader. I want them to know how much I love the toddler years too.

The final words are about packages, pricing, and contact information. It’s important to reinforce exactly what you’re offering. Remember, you’re not just offering photos.

You might be selling fine art prints, but they’re not just prints. They’re a source of beauty and inspiration in an otherwise dull living room.

You might be selling a photo session, but it’s not merely a session. It’s a way of remembering those precious moments that are about to slip away forever. It’s easy to forget this in the midst of a chaotic life. Let your words remind them.

When their toddler years have long passed, you’ll have frozen time. And when you replay their video or hold their photos in your hands, all those feelings of motherhood and fatherhood will come rushing back.


Some people write quite quickly, others take a long time to get the words out. I worked on the toddler page for about six hours spread out over three days. That’s a lot of time invested in a small amount of writing, however, I’m happy with what I’ve come up with. Along the way, I sifted through photos, reminisced about my own childhood and thought about many of the conversations I’ve had with other parents.

In the end, this was all for practice since I don’t actually run a toddler photography business. Practice is the key to getting comfortable with writing about your photos.

To fill out the rest of the website I would add a blog with several articles. Topics would include:

  • Photos and stories from sessions
  • Articles that explore the nature of toddlers
  • Reminiscing about my toddler memories
  • Funny quotes by or about toddlers
  • How I work well with difficult toddlers

These articles are there to engage interested parents, show them that I truly do understand toddlers, and settle their curiosity about whether a session like this is worth it.

When I sit down to write these articles, I’ll follow a similar approach:

  • Build a list of words and ideas based on the topic and point of the article
  • Keep in mind who I’m writing for
  • Show them that I understand and care
  • Solve the problem they have
Be yourself

What I’ve given you is a simple formula for getting to the heart of what you want to say about your photos, especially if you would like people to hire you.

These basic principals hold true in all sorts of photography writing contexts. What sort of problem are you solving with your photography blog?

Perhaps your readers are new to photography and your writing offers a window into the photographer’s life.

Maybe your readers are bewildered by all the technology choices and your writing simplifies things for them.

Over time you’ll discover many interesting ways to write about your photos.

It won’t be long until people respond more to what you said about your photos than the photos themselves.

This doesn’t make your photos any less important. If anything, it will make them all the more memorable in a sea of endless images.

The post What to Write on Your Photography Website (So That People Will Hire You) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

The Best Fujifilm X-Series Kits for Travel Photography

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 14:00

The post The Best Fujifilm X-Series Kits for Travel Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Matt Murray.

Travel has always been my first love. In 1994 I bought my first camera – a Pentax Zoom 90 WR point and shoot – because I was going to Europe for a two-year working holiday. The only way to share photos with family back then was to have the film developed and post the prints home!

While photography (and technology) has changed remarkably in the last 25 years, what you should look for in a camera for travel photography is much the same: small, light, capable of great results and preferably weather resistant.

I’ve used all sorts of camera brands over the years. However, for me, Fujifilm X-Series cameras and lenses are the perfect travel companions. Whether it’s a trip to the Australian outback, visiting remote Buddhist temples in the Javanese jungle, photographing puffins in the Faroe Islands or capturing traffic trails in Taiwan, my X-Series cameras have always produced stunning results. Here are my recommended Fujifilm X-Series kits for your next big adventure.

Best minimalist kit

Camera: Fujifilm X100F
Lens: Fixed F2 Fujinon lens
Weight: 469 grams

The best minimalist kit choice was easily the stunning Fujifilm X100F. This is the best compact digital camera ever made. Yes, it really is that good!

Many photographers – including diehard users of other brands – use this as their “take everywhere” shooter. The X100F is small and quiet, and the fast f/2 Fujinon lens creates beautiful images. It may be small, but it boasts an impressive array of features including a leaf shutter and built-in neutral density filter.

Like all the cameras I feature in this article, the X100F can shoot RAW alongside Fujifilm’s array of stunning JPG film simulations, that replicate the look of classic films such as Provia and Velvia. Fujifilm cameras produce the best JPGs I’ve seen straight out of the camera.

This choice is a little unusual as it has a fixed lens. That’s right. You can’t take it off and swap it for another lens. If the 23mm focal length (35mm in full-frame terms) isn’t your preferred choice, the system also has wide-angle conversion and telephoto converter lenses. However, these do add extra weight to your kit. One of the few downsides to the X100F is that it’s not weather resistant. But, at least it’s small enough to fit in your pocket during a downpour.

One body plus one lens kit

Camera body: X-T30
Lens: XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS lens
Approximate weight: 693 grams

If you only have space to take one body and one lens on a trip, I would recommend the brand new Fujifilm X-T30 with the XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 R LM OIS lens. I’ve been using this line of cameras since buying the X-T10 as a second body back up to my X-T1, and I’ve also used the X-T20. The X-T cameras with a “0” after them are lighter, cheaper, non-weather resistant versions of the flagship models, but usually feature much of the same technology. For example, the X-T30 has the same 26.1MP X-Trans 4 CMOS sensor as the X-T3.

Alternatives for the camera body would be the X-T20 and the X-E3. The X-T20 gives you a screen that tilts up and down for overhead and low to the ground shots. Whereas, the X-E3 is the more minimalist choice, and features a joystick that controls where the focus point is in the frame. The X-T30 and the X-T3 have both of these features.

My choice of lens for this kit is the XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 R LM OIS. Not only is it one of my favorite Fujifilm lenses, but it’s also the lens that I’ve used the most over the last three years.

Often sold with camera bodies, many newcomers to the X-Series remark that the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS lens is “surprisingly good for a kit lens.” In no way is this lens like the subpar beginner kit lenses produced by other manufacturers. The XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 R LM OIS is a stunningly sharp lens in its own right and has produced some of my favorite images ever.

It may not be weather resistant, but it does feature OIS (optical image stabilization) to ensure your shots are as sharp as possible at lower shutter speeds. It’s a variable aperture zoom lens, meaning that the maximum aperture changes as you zoom through the range. However, you can still shoot at f/2.8 at the 18mm focal length, and f/4 at the 55mm end. It’s a top lens for landscape, cityscape, and portraits.

Best kit under 1kg

Camera body: X-T30
Lenses: XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 R LM OIS + XF 35mm f/1.4 R
Approximate weight: 880 grams

My picks for the best kit weighing under 1kg include the same choices as the ‘One body plus one lens’ kit above, with the addition of the XF 35mm f/1.4 R. The first time I used this lens, I was blown away by its sharpness and stunning bokeh. It’s a top lens for portraits, still life subjects and even street shooting.

It did have a reputation of being slow to focus, but with Fujifilm’s ongoing firmware updates to both lenses and camera bodies, this has greatly improved. I wouldn’t hesitate to use it in any situation. This lens has a fast maximum aperture of f/1.4 that enables you to shoot images handheld at night without raising the ISO too high or lowering the shutter speed too low.

One zoom, two fast primes kit

Camera bodies: X-T30
Lenses: XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS + XF 35 1.4 R + XF 60mm f2.4 R Macro
Approximate weight: 1.095kg

For a lightweight travel kit weighing just over 1kg and featuring two fast prime lenses, add the XF 60mm f/2.4 R Macro to the kit above. This is another option often overlooked by newer lenses on the block, but it offers superb image quality for portraits and macro shots.

Although it’s not a true macro lens (it offers 1:2 magnification rather than the standard 1:1 magnification for a true macro lens), it is an incredibly light option for close up shots. It weighs less than a third of the weight of Fujifilm’s XF 80mm F/2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro lens.

Best weather resistant kit

Camera bodies: X-T3
Lenses: XF 16mm F1.4 R WR, 23f2, XF 50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR.
Approximate weight: 2.6 kg check

The best weather resistant kit features Fujifilm’s newest X-Series flagship camera. The X-T3 has won high praise from users and critics alike since its release in mid-2018. It is an impressive performer, having the fastest autofocus in the X-Series lineup and a continuous shooting rate of up to 20 frames per second. I’ve really enjoyed using this camera alongside my X-T2, which is still an excellent camera.

The newcomer to this kit is the XF 16 f/1.4 WR lens – often praised as the best lens in the X-Series lineup. Weather resistant, the lens is optically stunning, and a solid performer for landscape, cityscape, and low light shots. With a close focusing distance of 15cm, the XF 16 f1.4 WR lens is highly versatile. I’ve loved using it for food photography.

Best travel kit with zoom lenses

Camera bodies: X-T3 and X-T30
Lenses: XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 R LM OIS and XF 50-140mm F/2.8 R LM OIS WR.
Weight: 1.8kg

This kit gives you the best of both worlds: the light X-T30 with the XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 R LM OIS lens, and a weather resistant combo of the X-T3 with the stunning XF 50-140mm F/2.8 R LM OIS WR lens.

Weighing in at 995 grams, you might actually question why I would choose this lens as part of a travel kit? I’ve even been laughed at when I’ve suggested this lens for travel. Although it’s heavy, this lens is a must-have in my travel photography kit.

Like an equivalent focal range 70-200mm, the lens has a constant maximum aperture of f/2.8, meaning that you can shoot with a shallow depth of field throughout the zoom range. This is particularly helpful during low light situations, or to achieve shallow depth of field at any time.

This XF 50-140mm F/2.8 R LM OIS WR lens also features OIS (optical image stabilization) and has a pleasing bokeh. I’ve used this lens for landscape, cityscape, and portraits. If I could only pick one lens for travel, I’d have to flip a coin to choose between the two amazing zooms in this kit.

If you have different weight or budget considerations, you could substitute the excellent XF 55-200mm F/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS lens in this kit. I’ve never regretted taking this lens along with me on trips, but if you plan on shooting in low light at the far range of the zoom, you will be shooting at a maximum aperture of f/4.8, which may slow down shutter speeds. Thankfully, this is another lens with OIS (optical image stabilization).

My favorite kit

Camera bodies: X-T3 and X-T2
Lenses: XF 16mm F/1.4 R WR + XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 R LM OIS + XF 35mm f/1.4 R + XF 50-140mm F/2.8 R LM OIS WR
Approximate weight: 2.9 kg

This is my favorite kit. It may be the heaviest listed in this list, but this is what I would typically take on my travel adventures. It pairs two weather resistant camera bodies with my two favorite zooms and two favorite primes. This kit has a reach from 16-140mm (24-210 in full-frame terms) and covers many shooting situations. The XF 50-140mm F/2.8 R LM OIS WR lens may not be the longest in the X-Series lineup, but it’s still capable of capturing stunning wildlife images.

X-Series options I don’t recommend for travel kits X-T100

In 2018, Fujifilm released the entry-level X-T100. Although this attractive looking camera looks very much like the rest of the X-Series line-up, its autofocus can’t match the cameras I’ve featured above.

18-135mm lens

The XF18-135mm lens is often on the list of recommended lenses for Fujifilm travel photography. Having owned and used one, it doesn’t make my list. For a slower, all-in-one travel zoom, I don’t think it has enough reach.

27mm lens

The 27mm F/2.8 pancake lens is sharp, and you can often buy them at a bargain price. It’s a firm favorite amongst many Fujifilm photographers, but it doesn’t make my list as it’s the only lens in the lineup not to have a ring on the lens to change aperture.



The Fujifilm X-Series range is perfect for travel photographers for so many reasons.

With an impressive lineup of prime and zoom lenses for all budgets, the X-Series has you covered for a wide range of situations including low light photography and adverse weather conditions. The camera bodies feature retro charm and excellent ergonomics, and no other system can match the beauty of Fujifilm’s straight out of camera JPGs.

Whether it’s a day trip near home or the trip of a lifetime, Fujifilm X-Series is my number one recommendation for travel photography.

Do you use Fujifilm Cameras for your travel photography? Let us know what you use in the comments below.

The post The Best Fujifilm X-Series Kits for Travel Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Matt Murray.

How to Use Textures to Create Compelling Photographs

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 09:00

The post How to Use Textures to Create Compelling Photographs appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

Adding textures to photos is a fun way of creating new pictures. In some respects, it’s not very different to printing your photos onto textured paper or choosing frames for them (or both), except the images needn’t leave your computer. You can do this with photos you’ve already taken, though often it’s best to create them with this treatment in mind.

Cracked earth photo in the background.

Choosing your photos

You can add textures to almost any type of picture, but this method works well with simple photos where there isn’t a lot of fussy detail. Ideally, you need a sizeable single-tone area that allows the background to come through. Otherwise, you can use a simple texture with a complex photo – the important thing is that the two photos do not fight.

A harmless subject, despite appearances.

You can apply this treatment to portraits, landscapes, still lifes, or just about any genre. With still life, you’re at a particular advantage because you can take very simple pictures of subjects against plain backgrounds and then attempt to create something interesting later with a textured background.

Melding photos together is not a purist’s approach to photography, but you need only ask yourself one question: do you like the result? Adding a texture to a background is like putting two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together. Do the two parts suit each other? A beneficial side effect of creating these pictures is that you’ll start noticing and shooting all kinds of textures to use with your photos.

Splodges of paint in the background.

Finding and photographing textures

You can create your own backgrounds quite easily by photographing textures around the home. For instance, try capturing textured paper, sandpaper, fences, walls, wood grain, baking trays, tiles, canvas, painted surfaces, rusting surfaces or concrete. Mid-tone textures with contrasting colors or details tend to work better than monotonous dark or bright surfaces.

Silhouetted trees against a blue painted background.

Try screwing up pieces of paper and then flattening them out for backgrounds. You can even use a scanner for paper backgrounds, which has the advantage of holding them flat while still recording the folds and creases.

The same silhouetted trees against brown paper. I wanted to avoid distracting contrast in the paper, so the processing holds off on highlights.

If you want to try this technique and don’t have any texture photographs in your library, you can always grab some to practice with from free photo websites (e.g.

A French WW1 Croix de Guerre medal, originally shot against a white card background.

Another possibility is to use the in-built textures offered within image editing programs. Photoshop CC has this to a limited extent. There’s also a good textures section in ON1 Effects (standalone or filter plugin) that offers a lot of choice.

In Photoshop CC you can reveal the “Texture” filter under preferences. It only works on 8-bit images. This is the Canvas texture.

Photoshop Technique (or similar)

To blend textures into backgrounds, you need an editing program that has layers and blending modes. The second usually comes with the first. In brief, you just need to drag one photo on top of the other and adjust the blending mode between the layers to suit. Sometimes you might need to tweak opacity.

Here’s a more precise workflow:

  1. Open the two images you intend to merge (i.e. subject and textured background).
  2. Ensure that the texture image is the same size as the main photo or slightly larger. If it is much larger (e.g. a full-sized file layered onto a web image), it will appear less sharp.
  3. Using the move tool in Photoshop, drag the texture image onto the main photo. This automatically creates a second layer (“Layer 1”).
  4. Try the various layer blending modes in your layers palette until you find one that suits the image. “Overlay” is one that often works well.
  5. Adjust opacity to taste. If you want to strengthen the effect rather than fade it, you can duplicate Layer 1.
  6. Merge the layers (Ctrl + E) or Flatten Image.

You can do this the other way round and drag the main image onto the texture, but then the opacity slider becomes less useful. You ideally want to be able to fade the texture effect rather than the main photo. Also, if the texture file is larger, having that one on top avoids the need to crop the image afterwards.

Using the Brush Tool

Another thing you can do with your textures is to selectively paint parts of the effect out of or into the picture. You might do this if, for instance, you want to create the illusion that an object within the photo is resting on a textured background without being part of it.

Using a ON1 Effects texture I’ve created henna-type markings on the hand and used the brush tool to remove the same pattern from the watch.

To do this, you need to create a layer mask on “Layer 1” (your texture photo). Then, making sure the brush foreground color is black – visible in the tools palette – you use the brush tool at 100% opacity to selectively paint the texture out. Hitting “X” lets you paint detail back in again if you get clumsy.

Alternatively, you can do the opposite and create a black layer mask, painting texture into the picture with a white brush.


I mentioned earlier choosing textures and photos that suit each other. So, what might that mean? Ultimately, you get to decide what goes well with what, but some textures intrinsically suit some subjects. For instance, old books generally go better with leather, paper or card textures than they do with a brick wall. Metallic objects might go well with rust or oxidation.

Another ON1 Effects texture (rice paper).

With human subjects, you might want to infer something else altogether, like cracks for old age or the passing of time. Be careful who you use that on! The bolder the texture is, generally the more limited it is in its potential. You can use paper and canvas textures on almost anything because of their photographic and artistic connection and their unobtrusiveness.

Express yourself

Any picture you produce on a computer rather than in camera will likely attract a degree of cynicism. That’s just the way photography is. But it’s not always healthy to be confined by your chosen craft and feel like you’re not doing anything new. Blending photos in Photoshop is creative, fun and even a little beneficial, since an eye for juxtaposition is a valid photographic skill.

Antique Vaseline pots against an old baking tray surface.

Get ready for the strange looks you’ll receive when you begin photographing plain walls and fences. Use a tripod for extra eccentricity ….

Feel free to share your creations in the comments section below.

The post How to Use Textures to Create Compelling Photographs appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

9 Creative Architecture Photography Techniques for Amazing Photos!

Mon, 03/18/2019 - 14:00

The post 9 Creative Architecture Photography Techniques for Amazing Photos! appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

It’s great to get a technically sound photo, and architecture photos demand this. Getting the technical side of your photo correct should be your first priority, but beyond that, it’s worth experimenting. In this article, you’ll learn about some creative photography techniques, and how you can apply these to your architecture photography. Whether you adopt any of these for your work will be at your discretion, but having extra options for your photography is never a bad idea. So read on to find out which creative architecture photography techniques you could apply.

This photo of the Tokyo metropolitan government building has used a worm’s eye view, and a wide-angle lens.

1. A different perspective

Many architecture photos are taken at eye level. In other words, a standing composition from street level or an elevation that brings you level with the building if that’s available. This is far from the only way to photograph architecture though. Using extreme perspectives like worms eye or birds eye views can give dramatic results.

  • Worms eye view – This is likely to be the easiest perspective to achieve and works best when photographing taller structures. You can use this to emphasize interesting ceiling features or to take photos of skyscrapers from the base of the building. If you happen to be surrounded by tall buildings that are close to each other, you can use this perspective to fill the sky.
  • Birds eye view – To get this type of angle, you’ll first need to find a way of getting above the structure you’re photographing. With the advent of drone photography, this has now become a lot easier to achieve. No drone? No problem. You can always find a tall building to photograph from or, if you’re lucky, a hot air balloon ride!
2. Infrared photography

You can change the nature of your creative architecture photography, without needing to use extreme perspectives. One of the best ways to do this is by using infrared photography. This will change your image into more of a dreamscape. This style of photography works much better outdoors, and in places where there is some vegetation. Through some post-processing, you’ll create an image where photosynthesizing plants are white, and the sky is dark. Architecture then forms a powerful focal point within your infrared photo. There are some excellent guides on this style of photography. You have three main choices when it comes to carrying out this style. You can convert your camera for infrared, use an infrared filter, or you can produce this effect through post-processing.

Infrared photography is a great technique to experiment with.

3. Light painting

One of the most creative photography techniques out there is light painting. Through the use of light painting techniques and styles, you can customize the way you photograph architecture. The trick is knowing where and how to apply this to your photograph because not all architecture lends itself to every technique. Perhaps it’s impossible to gain access to the area of the structure in which you’d like to light paint? Perhaps light painting will be too big a distraction and detract from the architecture itself. When you can use light painting to form a leading line to the architecture, or perhaps to frame the architecture, you’ll be on the right lines. There are various tools you can use. Below is a selection.

  • A torch – The simplest of light painting tools. This can be used to create patterns in front of the camera, or perhaps to light up a section of the architecture you wish to photograph.
  • A light source on a string – Repeating patterns work well in photography, and spinning a light source on a string will provide this repetition. You could also use this to create a light orb, and strategically place the orb in front of your architecture.
  • LED light sticks – In recent years products like the pixelstick and the magilight have really revolutionized light painting. These excellent tools can be used to create bespoke light paintings in front of the architecture you’re photographing.

In this photo a pixelstick has been used to light paint around the pagoda.

4. Kinetic light painting

Light paintings’ cousin is kinetic light painting. The technique also requires a tripod, but this time you move the camera rather than the light source. Once again, this can be quite experimental, and not all locations are well served by this photography style. The two main types of kinetic light painting are the zoom burst and camera rotation.

  • Zoom burst – This technique works well with tall buildings, from a distance, and where they’re lit up with lots of interior building lights. You’ll need to set the camera on a tripod, with a lens that can zoom. A kit lens works very well for this, or perhaps a 24-70mm lens. You begin the photograph at the longer focal length, and then zoom out. You can read more about this technique here.
  • Camera rotation – This time you rotate your camera around a tripod head. It works well with tall buildings, where you have a worms eye view. Once again, you can read more about how to do this by reading this guide.

This is a single photo of the Tokyo Skytree. It’s straight out of the camera, and has used kinetic light painting.

5. Refraction photography

You can also use refraction photography with a crystal ball for creative architecture photography. That’s because the fisheye-like properties of the glass ball will capture the entire piece of architecture you intend to photograph. There are tricky aspects you need to handle including the upside-down image within the ball, and centering the architecture within the ball. Providing you can find a good place to position the ball, you’ll be able to use this technique to produce a unique photo of a building or sculpture.

This location is a popular place to photograph St Paul’s cathedral in London. The addition of a crystal ball gives this image another perspective.

6. Detail photos

The main focus of architectural photography is to capture the whole scene. That’s not always needed though, and you can find great detail photos by using lenses of longer focal length. These photos might not work on their own but would certainly add to a selection of photos of one particular piece of architecture. You’ll need to look out for details in the roofing, lines of repeating architecture like arches in a church, or ornate decorations on a wall. Then look to focus in on this particular area. Look to light the detail photo well by either choosing the correct time of day for the sun or using an external flash.

Detail photos of architecture are always worth taking.

7. Digital blending

A process known as digital blending allows you to get perfect pictures. The technique is great for getting technically perfect photos, but you can push beyond that and get more creative. One of the main advantages of this is the ability to photograph towards a sunset sky, and then to balance light across the scene so your architecture doesn’t become too silhouetted. The technique requires you to use a tripod for best results and to take a set of bracketed images. You’ll then need to use luminosity masks to blend the bracketed images in post-processing.

In this photo digital blending is used to ensure the roof windows aren’t blown out.

8. Contrast

Contrast is a broad term, and can be interpreted in several ways. You can use any of these interpretations for more creative architecture photography. Let’s look at some of the ways contrast can be applied.

  • Light and shadows – The most obvious when it comes to photography is to use the light in your photo. You can use this to accentuate areas of interest on the architecture, by using shadows to show detail points.
  • Colors – In some cases, you can play colors off against each other. Obviously, you can’t move architecture, so you’ll need to be creative about how you add opposite colors that contrast with it.
  • Old and new – Old architecture surrounded by new can make an effective photo. Think of a church or temple surrounded by modern skyscrapers.

Framing is a potent photographic technique, which draws the eye to the main subject.

9. Framing

Look to frame the architecture you’re photographing. An arched doorway is a great way to frame your main subject. You could introduce the framing yourself, by holding something in front of the camera. You can use gaps in a fence as a way of framing your photo.

Which creative architecture photography technique will you use?

There are many ways to add creativity to your photography. You’ve now learned about some of the best creative architecture photography techniques. Are any of these techniques you’ve tried before? Which of these ideas will you try? We’d love to see the results of your photography from the past, and anything you might take in the future. As always please share your thoughts and photos in the comments section of this article.

The post 9 Creative Architecture Photography Techniques for Amazing Photos! appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

How Mark Rothko’s Paintings Can Inspire Your Photography

Mon, 03/18/2019 - 09:00

The post How Mark Rothko’s Paintings Can Inspire Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

I first encountered a painting by Mark Rothko when I was a uni student, perusing the National Gallery of Australia. Seeking the wisdom of abstract expressionists like Lee KrasnerClyfford Still and Hans Hofmann, I was somehow completely unaware of Rothko’s renowned canvases. So when I came across #20,1957 I was instantly mesmerized. In the reverent light of the gallery, the cells of the painting seemed to shift under my gaze, bleeding and retracting at once. And when I looked away, the after-image formed a striking hollow into the gallery surrounds.

I felt meditation and calm, but I also felt something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The ineffable. #20,1957 was like nothing I’d ever come across before.

My reaction to the Rothko painting wasn’t unique. Audiences around the world have reported a deep emotional experience when viewing Rothko’s work. Rothko hoped that in viewing his paintings, others would be drawn into a deep meditative state, a state of vulnerability and receptivity that he himself entered into while creating his artworks.

Today, Rothko’s motivations and techniques continue to inform not only painting but visual arts as a whole.

Mark Rothko

Born in Dvinsk, Russia (now Daugavpils, Latvia) on September 25, 1903, Mark Rothko (born Marcus Rothkowitz) immigrated to the USA with his family in his youth. Inspired to take up art in the autumn of 1923, he began his artistic career painting urban life, portraits, nudes and landscapes. His portrayal of architectural space leaned on abstract compositional techniques, exploring the relationship between the painting and the viewer, an aspect that would play a critical role in his future works.

In the early 1940’s, Rothko shifted from painting the figurative to the symbolic, exploring themes such as prophecy, ancient myths, archaic ritual and the unconscious. Inspired by the surrealist method of automatic drawing, Rothko began to delve into more abstracted imagery, graduating almost entirely to abstraction by the late 1940’s. Unimpeded by the figurative or symbolic, Rothko stained the canvas with diluted oil paint, rendering shapes and forms with soft, indistinct edges, some outlined by luminous white halos.

No. 3 No.13, 1949 photo credit: Sharon Mollerus on Flickr

Rothko’s arrived at his signature style in the 1950’s. His expanses of graduated tones and ethereal light seemed to suspend vibratious squares and rectangles upon active planes of color. Toward the end of the 1950’s, Rothko began to paint in an increasingly darker, more restricted pallet.

No. 9 (Dark over Light Earth/Violet and Yellow in Rose), 1954 photo credit: G. Starke on Flickr

In 1964, Rothko received a commission for a series of paintings for a non-denominational chapel in Huston, Texas – a space that was ideal for immersion in his stark, contemplative canvases. Unveiled in 1971, the paintings took 6 years to complete. However, sadly, Rothko never saw the culmination of the space. He committed suicide in his studio on February 25, 1970. He was 66.

Black on Dark Sienna on Purple, 1960 photo credit: G. Starke  on Flickr

Making photos inspired by the art of Mark Rothko

Painting and photography are two different mediums, I know. There is a significant separation between the paintbrush and the camera (although there are some commonalities too). Creating photographic work inspired by Rothko’s paintings isn’t about mimicry, it’s about trying out different styles and techniques. While this article discusses ways to approach photography that reflects Rothko’s paintings, you don’t have to end up with an exact copy of Black on Dark Sienna on Purple, 1960 (I sure didn’t!).

Through the elements and principals of art and design, Rothko created work that communicates beyond seeing. Using the same principals, photographers can create work inspired by Rothko that challenges the viewer and plays with the concept of photography and visual arts.

Using color

When described solely as a colorist Rothko said, “if you are only moved by color relationships, you are missing the point.” Rothko used color as a path to realizing the unseen. Looking beyond the event of color as an optical phenomenon, Rothko constructed oscillating visions driven by our innate conceptions of color.

Like Rothko, photographers use color as a tool to convey an image beyond seeing. Our associations with color stem from experience and instinct. Emphasizing color over literal subject matter doesn’t just convey color relationships; it communicates emotion and ineffability.

Capturing photography imbued with color is simple enough, but may require a little exploration. Look for flat planes of solid or graduated color. Seemingly dull urban surfaces like doors, walls or panels come to life within the camera frame. Try to include as little objective evidence as possible, articulating the emotional charge of color without the disturbance of other visual detritus.

The color in this image breaks up space, conveying meaning through our inherent associations

Unfocused photography

Another way to exemplify color is through unfocused photography. Rothko created a visual vibration within his paintings by blurring the edges of his colors and forms. This effect can be re-imagined by unfocusing your camera lens (turn off Auto Focus first) before taking a photograph. Unfocused photography creates a painterly quality that emphasizes color over subject matter. Rather than taking pin-sharp photos, unfocused photography frees the edges of the components that make up a scene, creating a unique movement throughout the image.

Unfocused photography emphasizes color, creating a unique movement throughout the image

Rothko’s abstract expressionism

Although Rothko himself shrugged off classifications, his work is generally categorized as abstract expressionist. Developed in New York in the 1940’s, abstract expressionism refers to a movement of predominantly non-representative painters. Neither completely abstract nor completely expressionist, abstract expressionism encompassed a wide variety of styles and techniques. Overall however, the practitioners of abstract expressionism stood united in their desire to reinvent the nature of painting.

Abstract expressionism is understood today to be divided into two camps – the action painters and the color field painters. Considered a member of the latter, Rothko prioritized austere beds of color over the wild, diacritic mark. Rothko’s serene blocks generate an emotional aura predominately through shape, form, color and line. It’s these basic precepts that have translated into abstract photography.

Like abstract painting, abstract photography operates independently from depicting the objective. As a result, abstract photographers emphasize the non-objective, peeling back the literal to expose the bare bones of an image. Beyond language, abstraction investigates the visual, discards the literal and charges an image with potentiality.

Aerial photography cultivates abstraction through distance. Abstract macro photography closes in on a subject to reveal often unseen planes. Like Rothko’s paintings, what you exclude from a photograph is just as important as what you include. Turning your lens to strong shapes, forms, colors, textures and lines cultivates imagery that cuts through to the essence of visual language.

Abstract photography operates independently from depicting the objective


Through extensive layering, blending and blurring, Rothko manipulated hard-edged structures of color into stark, yet softly transcendent forms.

Intentional camera movement (ICM) uses the same principals of movement within a photograph. Through motion, ICM reduces a subject to shape, form, color, and line, creating an abstracted study of movement and light. Similar to painting, ICM involves the physical movement of the camera during an exposure. Also, like Rothko’s actions documented in the strokes of a brush, ICM creates an artwork that is visibly, inextricably linked to the experience of the photographer.

To take an ICM photograph, first, turn off autofocus and, if you have it, image stabilization. Set your camera to Shutter Priority, adjust your exposure time to around 1/2 of a second and turn your ISO down to the lowest setting on your camera. The longer your shutter speed, the more a subject will blur.

Point your camera at a subject, depress the shutter and physically move the camera. Once the shutter closes, review the result on your LCD screen. Your movement will register as blurred lines within the image.

The nature of ICM is that it is both simple and experimental – it takes some adjustment to perfect. Explore different combinations of subject matter, time of day, focus, shutter speed, aperture, and movement to create an image you’re happy with. Moreover, don’t forget to wear your camera strap!


Saying once that “the most interesting painting is one that expresses more of what one thinks than of what one sees,” Rothko shifted the way art is made and observed. Now, with the advent of digital photography, we have new ways to communicate visually.

However, Rothko’s reflections on the human spirit continue to resonate as a vital pause amongst visual loudness. Through his use of color, abstract expressionism and movement, Rothko’s work transcend artistic mediums, informing and inspiring contemporary practice today.

The post How Mark Rothko’s Paintings Can Inspire Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

How to Improve Your Photography by Changing Perspective

Sun, 03/17/2019 - 14:00

The post How to Improve Your Photography by Changing Perspective appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Sometimes I find myself stuck in a bit of a photographic rut, and it seems like no matter what I do I just can’t quite find interesting subjects to take pictures of or compelling scenes to capture. Even worse, when I do think I’ve stumbled across something that would make a good picture, I’ll start clicking away only to be disappointed with the results.

One trick I’ve learned over the years to dig myself out of these pits is to change my perspective. By looking at familiar subjects from a different angle, or under a different light, I often find myself seeing it almost for the first time. It’s a fun exercise and doesn’t involve much effort. It can transform even the most boring scene or bland subject into something worth photographing and framing.

There is any number of ways you can change your perspective on things to get a good photo. I’m going to examine four of my favorite techniques and show you an example of each one. Hopefully, this gives you some ideas to try out on your own and start turning the mundane into something magical.

Look at the lighting

Not long ago I was walking around a pond near my work with my Fuji X100F when I stumbled across the following scene. As you can see, it really wasn’t much to look at whatsoever. I noticed two brown leaves among a sea of dull green leaves, but nothing stood out to me as photo-worthy.

A few minutes later the sun poked out from behind the clouds. I decided to take a look at this same scene from a slightly different perspective, and with a bit of a change in lighting as well.

Instead of shooting from above with the sun behind me, I shot from below with the sun behind my subject.

That simple change made a massive difference.

The result is one of my favorite leaf photos I have ever taken.

One morning in May, I used the same technique to get this shot of a butterfly.

I put myself in such a position that the sun would be behind this particular butterfly. It not only gave an incredible glow to its wings but made the dew on the grass glow and sparkle in a way that makes the scene seem almost magical.

Normally, I incline to take pictures like this with the sun behind me, not behind my subject. However, this was a good reminder that sometimes creative lighting choices yield amazing results.

You cannot overstate the effect that lighting has on your photos. Even the word photograph itself means to draw with light. Even so, I often think of lighting in terms of formal portraits or other contrived situations. It doesn’t immediately cross my mind to alter the lighting when I’m trying to capture casual shots in an interesting manner.

The next time you feel a bit of a slump coming on, try looking at everyday items and situations from a different perspective. A perspective where the light is altered, and see how it changes everything right before your eyes.

Another tip is to try creating your own lighting, like in the shot below. It is nothing more than a jar of pasta in my kitchen that I set on top of a flashlight. However, the result was something interesting and unexpected that brought a big smile to my face.

On a similar note, this purple vortex was shot using pretty much the same principle. It might look like something out of a movie or painting, but it’s just a plastic bottle with some purple water that I lit with a flashlight.

The original setup is far less dramatic and quite boring – not the type of scene that seems ideal for an interesting photo. However, with a bit of light manipulation, even scenes like this can result in a magical picture.

Get closer

When I first started taking pictures, I didn’t realize how much I could change the impact of my images by moving myself around a bit. Sometimes I would end up moving to shoot a subject or a scene from a different angle. However, the proverbial light bulb really lit up when I realized how moving closer to my subjects could have resulted in such a dramatically different outcome. This has come in to play when taking pictures for clients – such as this one that I shot at 190mm with an aperture of f/4.

The picture is fine on its own. However, when I moved closer, I found the resulting image more intimate and personal. It was almost like I had caught the two in a bit of a private moment. I shot this image at 150mm with an f/4 aperture. While the focal length was shorter, the image feels more comfortable and natural because I was physically closer to the couple.

I didn’t zoom in to get this shot – I zoomed out. But, I moved a lot closer to them. Not only did this give me a more personal picture, but it also helped the couple feel more comfortable with me. Instead of being remote and distant, I was now able to talk and joke with them. This enabled them to let down their guard and smile a bit more naturally.

Of course, the converse of this is true as well. Sometimes you might find that moving farther away can give you a better shot. The point is that a simple change in perspective can profoundly impact your pictures. Also, if you are working with people, it can change the entire mood and tone of the photo session as well.

Re-frame your subject

When you don’t want to move back and forth but you want to kick your pictures up a notch or two, try moving your subject around. Such that they are in a slightly different spot with slightly different surroundings. Take this photo from a maternity session as an example. The expectant mother is in a garden leaning against a brick outcropping.

Like the couple in the earlier example, this picture is fine on its own, but it feels like it’s missing something. By moving my subject to a nearby flower bed and shooting a similar photo, we were able to add an entirely different dimension to the photo. As a result, I captured an image that feels much more personal and intimate despite a similar pose and expression.

A simple re-framing of the subject, and even adding foreground and background elements, can have a huge impact on the resulting images and the story you want to tell or emotions you are trying to convey. This works with more than just people too, such as this image of the moon. It’s not bad. The subject is sharp and in focus. However, the picture isn’t all that compelling. It’s just a big white circle against a black background. As a result, the image is somewhat lifeless and uninteresting.

Now contrast that image with another one that I captured months later just after sunset. This time I composed my shot so there would be some tree branches in the foreground. This simple compositional decision made the final image far more compelling than just a shot of the moon in the sky with nothing else around it.

Above and below

There is one final tip that can help make your pictures a lot more interesting (or just more fun to look at). Examine your subject or the scene from a vantage point that’s either much higher or lower than you might be accustomed. That may involve climbing up on a ladder or crouching down to the ground. The more creative you can get, the more compelling your results can be.

These two shots are the same sleeping infant. However, I took one from a very low angle and the other from directly above. Neither one is better or worse than the other, and that’s not the point. Instead, both pictures showcase the same subject in different ways. Thus, they convey different meanings to the viewer.

The same scene from a different angle feels more personal and intimate, even though almost nothing about the baby has changed.

On a similar note, I did a family photo session for some clients recently where they wanted a picture of all their hands together. After discussing some ways to accomplish this, we decided to shoot the hands from above. It involved a tall ladder, and all the family members crowded around a tree stump. They were thrilled with the result.

It all came about because I shifted my vantage point to directly above instead of my normal inclination to take photographs from my eye level.

Finally, one more example involves nothing more than a washing machine that my father had rigged to run with the lid open. I held my camera directly above to get this picture of the spin cycle in action.

While it may not be as special as an infant or three generations of hands together, it’s an interesting image of a familiar situation made possible by shifting perspectives.

Hopefully, these images give you a sense of what’s possible by changing a few simple things with your photography. You don’t need expensive gear or fancy studio setups to accomplish some interesting results. Often you just need to adjust your viewpoint or find ways to use the light differently.

I’d love to see some of your examples and read your tips on this same idea. If you have any thoughts or images about this, please share them in the comments below!

The post How to Improve Your Photography by Changing Perspective appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.