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How Failure Can Improve Your Photography

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 08:00

The post How Failure Can Improve Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

Failure is an indication that you’re not good at something, but it’s not a sign that you should give up.

Many people let failure stop them from moving forward. But you should use it as a guide to growth. If the taste of failure has convinced you to give up in the past, let me show you how to use it for your benefit.

Failure in photography can be defined in a number of ways, so let’s look at how failure can help you improve your photography.

You tried photography but you totally sucked at it

Maybe you wish you were a ‘natural’ and capable of taking amazing photos without lots of practice and disappointment. But I think it’s better that you have to struggle to get good.

Yes, some people seem to have a knack for picking up a camera for the first time and taking gorgeous photos without even knowing what they’re doing. But because people who are naturals don’t really know what they’re doing, they’re going to hit their limits pretty quick. Their photos may all look the same and they won’t know how to improve. But because you had to struggle to get good, learning tough new things will be comfortable and normal for you.

I started out as a kid with a film camera and almost all of my photos were terrible. I made very little progress over the years until I found people to teach me.

If you’re terrible at photography then you need a teacher. You can find teachers online or in person. Usually, a combination of online and in person learning works well.

Failure should lead you to learn more.

This was my first attempt at a formal portrait of my son. I had no idea how to work my camera or how light effects a photo.

With the help of Lightroom, I was able to salvage the photo to some degree. It’s not quite the emotion I was going for, but that’s what he and I were feeling in the moment. At that point, I never wanted to take another formal portrait again. Little did I know, I just needed to learn.

You fail to accomplish something simple

It can be so humiliating to fail at something simple! You might feel dumb or completely incompetent, but don’t give up.

When you fail at something you thought would be simple, you probably just underestimated how difficult it would be. You found out it would be tougher than you thought and you have a little more to learn.

As long as you understand what made you fail at something simple, you can learn how to improve.

Thinking that a quick head and shoulder portrait of my son would be easy to accomplish, this was the best shot I could get! I tried for half an hour but failed to get that simple photo. What I learned was that toddlers have no intention of sitting still for a photo. So I learned to work with toddlers and to embrace unexpected candid moments like the one in this photo.

You fail to achieve your vision

Maybe you have good photography skills, but you always seem to fall short of your vision.

That is perfectly normal. Nobody who aims high achieves their goals or vision easily. Most of your journey will be learning failure, but it will be so sweet when you do achieve it.

Having learned about light and the nature of toddlers, I decided to create a portrait that I envisioned based on a Charlie Brown Christmas movie. Working with a toddler, I knew that I would only have a minute or two to capture the image.

Even though I failed to work well with toddlers at first, learning how to do it helped me to hone my vision under pressure.

Follow failure until it leads you to success.

You lose competitions

Perhaps you pour your heart and soul into your photography only to lose competition after competition.

I actually recommend that at first, don’t enter competitions to win, but enter for the valuable feedback from the judges. Put your photos up against photographers who are better than you and listen to the feedback you receive. Learn to express your unique vision in a way that pleases viewers with high standards. In this way failure will be your guide, telling you exactly how to improve.

I had a “second runner up” photo that might have won first place, but one of the judges brought my score down a lot. He said the light was bad in my photo. At first, I was hurt by his comments. But to be honest, I hadn’t even thought about light when I took the photo. Light was the very next thing I learned about.

Invite failure to be part of your journey and you won’t mind it so much.

There are technical imperfections in your photos

If you find it difficult to live with technical imperfections then there are two things you should do.

The first is to relax your attitude toward standards a bit. At the very least don’t expect every photo to be perfect. Most photographers are thrilled if 10% of their photos turn out. But perhaps only 1% will be worth keeping. If you keep having the same technical problem then you should learn how to fix it.

The second is to occasionally embrace imperfections as part of your photo. Perhaps extreme conditions (light, weather, etc.) will inevitably lead to imperfect photos. Is that so bad?

Change your attitude toward technical failure.

I love walking into a chaotic scene and making a portrait from it. This picture has some technical errors though. It is quite grainy and a little misfocused. To me, that expresses the chaos of the moment all the more.

“Don’t like the high-ISO noise? Make a photograph that’s so good, so captivating, that no one notices it! If noise is what people notice, noise is not your biggest problem.” – David DuChemin

Your photos fail to move you

I’ve gone through long periods of boredom with photography and my photos. At times it has become a mechanical process. In those times I’ve plunged deeper into why I even take photos to begin with. I’ve come to realize that for me photography is an exploration of human nature – explaining man to man and each to himself, as Edward Steichen puts it.

Wrestling with why your photography fails to move you may actually take you deeper into your pursuit of photography. It may help you to understand what excites you about photography and get you back on track.

Inspired by a friend’s struggle with anxiety, I envisioned a candid portrait session on the theme “A Glorious Mess.” I didn’t allow any posing. I could only capture candid moments that happened naturally. This is one of the photos that I felt best expressed the theme.

Your photos fail to move others

My wife paid a lot of money to surprise me with a mentoring session with a famous Canadian photographer. He told me that my photos are technically fine but they don’t move him. He referred to them as saccharine (super sweet fake sugar).

Imagine putting it all there and paying big money to have a person tell you how terrible they think your photos are! He didn’t say it to be mean, he was just being honest.

This is a good example of photos I take that fail to move other photographers. It’s the same old golden light and cute toddler smile that they see everywhere. Though this photo may fail to move fellow photographers, It does move the families that hire me. That’s worth it for me.

If other photographers aren’t interested in your photos or editors reject them for publication, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a photographer. Your photos just didn’t interest them or weren’t useful to them. But listening to their critique or advice might help you to take photos that are more universally pleasing.

When others think you have failed, try to learn something from their perspective.

Failure should lead to refinement.

If you never grow – this is true failure

Perhaps you’re stuck because you need a teacher, or you’re stuck because you’re afraid to fail, or haven’t bounced back from failure.

Each type of failure has the potential to make you throw up your hands and quit. You’re more likely to quit when you believe that failure is a sign that you lack natural talent.

But failure also has the potential to help you grow, perhaps in ways you wouldn’t have grown without the failure.

Failure isn’t a reason to give up but a reason to go deeper.


Feature image: pixabay

The post How Failure Can Improve Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

How to Choose the Right Photography Backdrop

Sun, 01/20/2019 - 13:00

The post How to Choose the Right Photography Backdrop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

So, you’ve picked up some strobes to help light your subjects and are in the process of setting up your studio. This is a very exciting time: so much to photograph, total control of the lighting, what an opportunity…. but how to choose the right photography backdrop? How you shoot and what you shoot will affect your decision, as will your budget.

Model with a black seamless paper backdrop

Photography backdrops make your photographs pop

If you haven’t figured it out already – you soon will – most photographers realize that one of the essential features of a good photograph is the thing that nobody notices: the background. When it works, people “oohh” and “aahh”. However, if it doesn’t work, people can’t figure out why they don’t like your image. One of the secrets of any successful photographer is paying attention to what’s behind your subject. This applies to any photograph, not just those taken in the studio. You might want to consider purchasing commercial backdrops that can significantly improve the quality of your shots.

Model with a white seamless paper backdrop

Beyond lighting

Assuming you already know what’s involved in lighting a studio (if not check this out), the next question is what to use as a backdrop. There are multiple types and sizes with pros and cons for each. Backdrop mounting and portability are also necessary.

It is one thing to have a backdrop for use in your studio, but what if you are asked to set up somewhere else? How do you make your backdrop portable? What goes best with the subject? If you are shooting a white subject, you probably don’t want a white backdrop because the white may disappear into the background (same with black on black). The color doesn’t need to be complementary (although it helps if it is) but should provide contrast. Lighting tricks can alleviate some of this, but sometimes it’s just easier to use a contrasting backdrop.

Model with a white seamless paper backdrop


There are multiple types of backdrops but they all function similarly. They all tend to be relatively thin and only intended as backgrounds (not designed for subjects to interact with). Then can be constructed of seamless paper, muslin, hand-painted canvas or vinyl. The most expensive, least flexible, and the fanciest backdrop is the cyclorama or cyc studio.

Seamless paper

Seamless paper is a versatile and inexpensive backdrop and is a staple for many studios. They are available in many colors, with the most common being black or white. You can produce gray from white backdrops by altering your lighting setup, so a dedicated gray backdrop isn’t necessary. You can also modify white backgrounds with gelled lighting to created colored backgrounds.

Product photo on a seamless white paper backdrop

There are pros of using seamless paper: the look is clean, you can modify the background colors with lighting, and the images can be cut out for background replacement. The cons of using seamless paper are: the rolls can be awkward to transport if a wide size (even just from the store to the studio), the paper can be easily damaged, and the backgrounds have no texture. In addition, if you have colored paper, the background colors can seep into the edges of your subject.

Seamless paper provides flooring as well as the backdrop without a visible interface between the floor and the background. This makes it ideal for product photography as well as studio shots. The lack of a seam makes the image appear to float with an infinite background.


Muslin backdrops are constructed from a cotton fabric. They come in various weights and sizes and can be dyed in a single color, have color splotches, or be hand painted. Because muslin backdrops have been in use for a long time, some photographers don’t pay much attention to them. They are, however, very portable and generally look good. Another great feature is that you can easily wash them if soiled. However, you may need to clean larger sizes in a commercial machine. Muslin backdrops can look modern or retro, depending upon the style of lighting. They are a great addition to every photographer’s arsenal of backdrops.

Model in front of dyed muslin backdrop

Similar to paper, you can use longer muslin as flooring for the subject. Solid colors function much like seamless paper, but you need to be cautious about folds in the muslin as they can be distracting from the subject. Muslin backdrops produce many of the same effects as a seamless paper but are much easier to transport.

Dog in front of muslin backdrop showing flooring

There are a few downsides to muslin backdrops. Depending upon how you light them, you may see folds in the fabric behind your subject. As your subject moves, the backdrop may also move, disrupting your background. People may even trip over the material as they walk across the muslin. If you are not careful, solid colored muslins will wrinkle, detracting from the appearance of the background. Because muslins were popular for so many years, certain styles appear particularly old or dated. Photographers need to take care in choosing the style of the muslin backdrops.

Dog in front of muslin backdrop

Hand-painted canvas

If you have ever flipped through a copy of Vanity Fair or seen images from Annie Leibovitz, you know the look of a hand-painted canvas backdrop. They look amazing. These studio backdrops are hand painted onto large sheets of canvas. The paint is done in multiple layers to give the perception of depth and texture. The ones used in many of the fashion or movie-star photoshoots tend to be specialty canvases that are custom made. The effort to paint the backdrops, and the large space required to create them, tends to make these expensive.

Cat in front of hand-painted canvas backdrop

Hand-painted canvas backdrops provide a vibrant appearance. A lighting change does not generate this richness, but purely because of the reflective surfaces on the backdrop. The paint adds texture, and the various layers of the paint add depth and tonality you cannot achieve with seamless paper. Because they are hand-painted, each canvas tends to be unique.

Hand-painted canvas backdrop

The downsides of hand-painted canvas backdrops are cost and care in handling. You don’t want people stepping on your canvas backdrops because they are easily damaged and difficult to clean. That said, the visual effect of a hand-painted canvas backdrop can be stunning.


Vinyl backdrops consist of large images printed on pliable vinyl. Many images are suitable for a vinyl backdrop, but this form is limited to the vertical surface in the background. Flooring is separate. You can purchase separate vinyl sheets for flooring to simulate flooring (such as hardwood floors).

Unimpressed dog in front of a vinyl backdrop

Vinyl backdrops can feature unusual or creative backgrounds. They are great for children, parties or events and are washable, so they work for different types of cake smash, food fight or spray images (be careful about the rest of your studio). Also, they are quite pliable so they can be moved about without much difficulty. Finally, they can feature images that appear three dimensional (like a bookcase).

On the other hand, vinyl backdrops are a little reflective, so you need to be cautious about how your lights are set up. You also need to be aware that the backgrounds are two dimensional even though they can appear to be three dimensional.

Cycloramas or Cyc Studios

A cyclorama or cyc studio is a fixed (built in place) backdrop consisting of two intersecting wall sections that have been curved seamlessly into one another and the floor so that there are no visible corners. By curving the corners, the background flows from wall to wall to floor.  A cyclorama is a practical and durable backdrop. However, it is also the least flexible (it won’t move) and is only one color (usually white). It makes the subject appear to be floating with an infinite background and is a great way to create cut outs to modify your background.

This type of backdrop takes a lot of space, time and effort, but makes for great photographs.

Sizes and handling

Seamless paper doesn’t usually have any texture. It comes in large rolls of varying widths, with 53 inches and 107 inches being the two most common sizes. Seamless paper also provides the flooring in front of the background without a corner edge. Because it is paper, you need to be aware of dirty or wet footwear because they leave marks and can damage the paper. When the paper is too damaged, you roll out more paper and discard the dirty or damaged section. The rolls generally have lots of paper, somewhere in the range of 9-12 yards (27-36 feet). White seamless paper is often ideal for a studio set up when you want to cut out the background and replace it with something else.

Santa in front of black muslin backdrop

Muslin backdrops come in different styles: standard, washed, crumpled and hand-painted. Standard sizes are 10 feet wide by 12 or 24 feet long. They can be challenging to manage but cover a wide area. Ideally, they come sewn with a pocket at the top that allows you to run it on a rod. Folds in the backdrop can evoke an older photographic style, so most contemporary photographers try to flatten out the muslin. Wrinkle elimination sometimes requires a steamer.

Model with a large muslin backdrop

Because canvas is a much heavier material, these backdrops typically come on rolls. If you don’t manage them as rolls, they can be difficult to handle. Standard sizes are about 6 feet wide by 8 feet tall. Most suppliers have a range of sizes. Canvas tends to hang in stretched out to avoid any folds. If you are doing full-length photographs, you will need to consider what you are using for the floor.

Vinyl backdrops vary in size. Similar to canvas, you need to stretch them to eliminate folds. Some vinyl backdrops come with printed flooring (such as hardwood floors) and can be used together, provided you deal with the interface. Stretching the vinyl on the mounting allows for the image to present well. When shooting with vinyl, you need to ensure that the lighting does not reflect into the camera lens. If you’ve used a backdrop with a three-dimensional image, a reflection will make it clear that the background is not real.


There are a few options for mounting backdrops. The determining factor tends to be the size and type of backdrop you are using, as well as the frequency with which you plan on changing them. In general, you want some ability to change and mix up the backgrounds.

The basic options for mounting are fixed bars or portable stands. If you have a permanent studio and never plan on taking any of your backgrounds on the road, fixed bars or rollers are ideal. You mount them on the ceiling or wall so that they are suitably high, and allow the paper or fabric to roll off. Mounting on the ceiling means the backdrop will be high enough for your tallest subjects. Framing can be done merely with conduit and small size piping. There are also large electrically controlled rollers available. The costs can range from very cheap to very expensive.

Stands, allow for flexibility of the configuration. Some stands are intended for backdrops and often come as a set with clamps included. With portable backdrops, clamps play an integral role in making the background smooth and even. It is particularly the case with muslin or canvas backdrops, but seamless paper also benefits from strategic use of clamps to ensure that it does not keep unspooling as you hang the rolls.

There are also pop-up stands that you can use for canvas or vinyl backgrounds. You simply clamp the background to the edges of a springy stand. There are multiple systems for this, and many come with their own backgrounds as a complete set.


Regardless of your backdrop choice, keep the subject at least 3 feet away from it to avoid casting shadows onto the backdrop. This all ties to the strategic use of lighting setups. Your goal is to have the backdrop disappear behind the subject, making it the center of attention.

Some backdrops, particularly white seamless paper, may need to be lit separately. If you don’t light the backdrop you may have uneven colors behind the subject that detract from the image or prevent the easy masking of the backdrop.

Dog in front of muslin backdrop

In general, keeping backdrops clean can be a challenge. Some are easier to clean than others. However, hand-painted canvas and paper backdrops can’t be cleaned without damaging the surfaces, while muslin and vinyl backdrops are easier to clean. You may need to wash large muslins commercially. It is also important that any washing gets done in such a way that the fabrics don’t become altered or damaged.


Choosing the right studio backdrop can affect the mood and overall feel of your images. My personal favorite is hand-painted canvas, but I have used them all (except a cyclorama) effectively. The use of backdrops work hand in glove with your chosen lighting setup, and you should consider both together. If used well, you can make your images pop by having the backdrops pull focus onto your subjects.


The post How to Choose the Right Photography Backdrop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

So You Want to Build a Website? Part 4: Adding Website Content

Sun, 01/20/2019 - 13:00

The post So You Want to Build a Website? Part 4: Adding Website Content appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Patrick Fore

If you’ve been following along with this series (part one, part two, part three), you should now have a great portfolio to proudly display on your website. Next comes to what many think is the hardest part – writing about yourself and your photography. Whilst it may seem hard, there are some tips and tricks for adding website content.

Write for your audience

I cannot stress this enough. You need to know who you are talking to with your website. Are you talking to newly engaged couples looking for a wedding photographer? Are you talking to art directors who are looking for a photographer to shoot their next advertising campaign? Or, are you talking to family & friends, showing them your photography? You will speak to all of the people in these examples differently, therefore your website text must do the same. When you know who you are talking to, you know how to talk to them. Therefore, make sure you have an audience in mind before you start to write.

The fab five

The main pages on almost all websites are; the Home page, your Portfolio, an About page, a Contact page and a Blog. We’ve already covered the portfolio in a previous post, therefore if you’ve not read that, do it first. The Contact page is super easy, simply let people know how to get in touch with you, that’s all there is to it. However, the Home, About and Blog pages are a little more complicated. Let’s have a look at these in a little more detail.

The home page

A website you all know well. Straight away you see a relevant image and a call to action.

The home page is the introduction to you and your work and it is the first thing people see. For those of you who are art/commercial photographers, it is standard to lead with your portfolio. Therefore, if this is the field you are aiming for, it is best to stick with this format. Also, if your website is currently aimed at showcasing your work to family and friends, a portfolio is also a good option for your home page.

However, if you are setting up a website for selling photography services, things are slightly different. The main aim of your home page is to answer the three basic questions any potential customer will have within five seconds. Who are you? What do you do? Where are you based? If these questions can’t be answered in their first few seconds on a website, people will generally click back and look somewhere else. We live in a world where attention spans are shrinking all the time. You need to make sure that your website is geared toward this.

Your home page still needs to feature images to draw attention, therefore starting with a hero shot is the best idea. This is the main image for the page and can usually take up all/most of the screen when first viewed, therefore it is essential that this image should be your best work and relevant to your audience. This image will make the right people explore your site further and the wrong ones exit. Remember, you are not looking to please everyone. You need to attract your tribe. 

Adding a good headline can grab your readers attention and get them to further explore your site. Write it for your audience. Photography is a service industry. People come to you with a problem (they need photos) and you provide the service to help them fix their problem (you take their photos). Explain how can you help them. What can you do to make their life better? Make it short, snappy and always tell them the benefits of using you.

This homepage passes the test. It shows the name, what they do & where they are based quickly. Also note the call to action.

The main text should be light in tone and friendly. It should tell the viewer about you, your site and services. Keep it focussed on your audience and include a Call to Action. A call to action tells visitors what you want them to do (for example, a click to contact button). You should try to have multiple calls to action on your page and preferably one that the user can do without scrolling down the page. Making it easy for the visitor to know what to do next is key. 

Lastly, add a couple of testimonials for happy past clients. Not only past clients but awards and competitions you have won. This shows viewers you are able to deliver great photos and can be trusted. Think about it, how many people check a hotel on Trip Advisor before booking? Social proof shows you mean business!

The About Page

This is where you get to show the real you. A list of facts will not interest anyone, neither will a simple list of how wonderful you are. This is the chance to showcase who you really are and what you believe in. This isn’t the place to brag about what cameras you own, this is the place to explain why you love photography. 

You can tell the story of your photography journey. How did you get into it? What do you love about your work? Again make it interesting and try to avoid listing facts. Show your passion. 

The about page is also a great place to add social proof. List any publications you have featured in, and showcase more reviews from happy customers. Remember, people want to know you can be trusted and social proof is the best way to show this on your site.

You should always write in the same way you speak on your about page. If your website speaks to people in a certain way, but when they meet you there is a disconnect it is never good. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Be you! Now, whether you write in first or third person is down to personal preference, but know your audience (and yourself) and write accordingly.

Lastly, you need a photo of you. A well-shot photo where people can see and connect with you is always worthwhile.

An example of an about page aimed at Art Directors. Short sweet and shows who I have worked with

The blog

I’ve saved the most important (and most daunting) until last. No matter what type of photography you do, your blog will be the reason people come back to your site. Think of your blog as a magazine for your audience. It shows your latest work (and progress) as well as letting you explain your thoughts behind your photography. 

I know some of you reading this now will be filled with dread. Not only do I have to write a load of stuff for my website, now you’re asking me to write all the time? However, like taking photos, writing becomes easier over time. 

Some examples of good blog posts include “Why I like this image”. Talk about a photo you love and then explain why you love it and possibly the technical stuff behind it. A blog about each photo shoot you do. Again, explain your thought process and how you approached the shoot. Another post idea could be showing your personality. Talk about films or records you love. The choice is endless, but the important thing is to write them. One other thing to remember is to aim for at least 350 words as this works great with SEO (search engine optimization). 

There are few better examples of a blog than Digital Photography School. Constant content that keeps us all coming back.

Get feedback

As with creating your portfolio, get others to give their opinion. When you have written your content, it is particularly important to check it thoroughly and get a couple of people to proofread your work before you go live. It is so simple to misread your work (trust me I do it often) and nothing gives off the impression of an amateur like spelling mistakes. 

For example, my wonderful wife proofs all my work. Just remember, if you do spot a spelling or grammar mistake in my articles, it is her not me! (dPS editor’s note: or me!)

On that point (and whilst my wife shouts at me for that last comment), it is time for you to take these tips and begin to craft your own website copy. In the final installment of this series, you’ll learn top tips to help your site rank well in Google. Until then, get writing your copy and let’s see the fruits of your labor in the comment section. 

The post So You Want to Build a Website? Part 4: Adding Website Content appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

7 Easy Ways to be More Creative Every Day

Sat, 01/19/2019 - 13:00

The post 7 Easy Ways to be More Creative Every Day appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anthony Epes.

I have been a photographer for as long as I can remember. As a visual person, I get excited when I see beautiful light and love to explore the world with my camera and create interesting images from this vast, magnificent world.

I suspect you are the same.

There is something about taking photos that is so enriching to our lives. Connecting us more closely to our surroundings, showing us how to observe the world in a deep and meaningful way.

And yet, it is so easy to be pulled away from the things that we love to do, and which are most likely listed in our minds as ‘not essential.’

Our explorations with our cameras aren’t our jobs, nor is looking after our children or cleaning our houses.

As a father to two young kids and running a more than full-time photography business, it can feel almost decadent to spend an afternoon on my own just wandering around, exploring and taking photos. After all, there are always more important things to do, right?

But I counter that, actually, taking photos is essential for our lives. It is what we are called to do.

Making something, whatever it is that you are passionate about, is what we are alive for, surely?

So with our busy lives, how do we become more creative?

Here are 7 Easy Ways to be More Creative Every Day 1. At any moment we can refine our ability to see the world around us

Taking photos isn’t just about taking photos – it’s about taking all of the experiences we have on a daily basis and turning them into an expression of how we think and feel about the world.

As photographers, we want to observe the world by looking at the moments of life. Even if it’s just for that one moment. After all, if we are not seeing the moments of our lives, you could say we are not seeing our lives at all.

When we wake early in the morning and see the light eagerly streaming into our room, between all the little gaps between the curtains and the wall, we stop and we watch. We pay attention, we don’t always rush off.

And when are driving home late from work. The night is so dark, so enveloping, as we meander through the city, with bursts of light and activity every now and again, around stop lights, or rows of shops or outside restaurants.

Beyond that, it’s just meditative darkness, with tiny flares of soft light along the road. The darkness is closing us into our car.

We don’t allow our minds to race off into thoughts of the day. We pay attention. Looking at the darkness, we feel it. We notice.

These are all sensations in our daily life that we can pay attention to. This all helps with the art of seeing, or as it could also be called, the art of paying attention to our environment.

It sounds very strange to say this, but unless you are consciously cultivating being present – or are naturally good at it – then it’s likely you spend most of your day totally lost in busyness.

There is nothing wrong with that. However, in order to create something you need to carve out time and space.

Don’t just wait until you have time. Because either it won’t come – there are always more things to do – or when you get time, the pressure to instantly create will be too great.

Spend time every day developing a practice of being present, of looking around you, of seeing what is really there. Then, when you actually pick up your camera, it will be easier to cultivate the mood within you of a creative, relaxed, present flow state.

2. Reject perfectionism

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.” Anne Lamott

One of the major barriers to being creative is the most insidious, painful and stressful emotion – perfectionism.

I call it an emotion because it envelops and paralyzes us when getting started with a project. It’s very hard to get up, push past perfectionism and get out the door.

For me, perfectionism can take many forms that seem logical, until I consciously pierce a hole in the flimsy argument. It used to be that I would become obsessed with having new gear. I couldn’t start a project until I had a new camera or lens, or the help of an assistant.

Then I realized this was the ultimate in procrastination. Either I did the project with the kit I had, or if that didn’t work, I found another project. I don’t mind buying new kit, in fact, I love it. However, I never buy a new kit because I am in a fit of perfectionism anymore.

Now perfectionism often comes to me in the form of: I have nothing unique to say about this place I want to photograph. It has been photographed so many times before by better photographers. What can I say that is new?

When I get emails from my students they often say: I don’t know enough about my camera/composition/ technique to take any good photos!

Even with very experienced amateurs, I see people who don’t believe in their skills and abilities with photography. They want just that little bit more advice or feedback. When really, they just need to keep taking photos.

As humans, we seem to have an innate ability not to recognize what we are doing well, and instead focus attention on the negative aspects of our skills.

Well, focusing on the negative is not going to get you very far. Like the writer, Anne Lamott says in the quote above, it will keep you oppressed your whole life.

It’s time to throw off the shackles of all that you are not and instead try to live with the ideas of imperfection instead.

If we are not trying to be perfect, we can just get started and not worry about being amazing.

We can go out and have some fun with our photography. We won’t worry if our shots are great – we’ll just practice, shoot, and have a good time.

The new mantra here is accepting imperfection. Celebrate it even. We are all on a journey, are all developing, and will never arrive at total perfection. It doesn’t exist.

So unhook yourself from the idea of perfection and do what every major artist, entrepreneur and anyone who creates anything for a living says: just go create.

3. Lower your expectations

Think about nurturing your photography as it needs to be nurtured. Think about your creativity as a journey, one in which you will keep persevering, weaving it into your life for as long as it engages you.

And if you’re like me, that’s probably your whole life.

We take so many photos now with digital that I think our expectations of the number of fantastic photos we should be getting is way higher than if we were shooting film.

When Ansel Adams said, “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop” he was talking obviously in the time of film when we were so much more careful with our shots. Making sure that we didn’t waste them unnecessarily.

The idea of expecting a small number of excellent shots is both realistic and freeing.

I spend a lot of time editing down hundreds, and sometimes thousands of photos after a shoot. To make sure that I get the few that are my very, very best.

When you lower your expectations about how many shots you should be getting, it means you can experiment and do things you might not normally do because the end result is unknown.

You can chase that strange light and see what your camera does with it. You can try lots of different subjects and shoot people/things/places that totally fascinate you – without thinking just about results.

It means you can practice perfecting your technique. Remember, when you are improving your technique – starting to shoot on manual for example – it is vitally important to constantly practice.

Practice takes time. Practice is about making mistakes and missing shots. But the more you do it, the better your understanding of your camera will get.

4. Use the power of silence

We all know the spiel that technology is ruining our lives, right? Well, I don’t totally agree. Technology has brought incredible things to my life. It has allowed my wife and me to become digital nomads. It has made photography truly accessible – no longer do you need a $3000 camera to get you started in photography.

Like everything fun and absorbing. However, moderation is key. When we check our emails 134 times per day (a statistic I read recently) instead of enjoying a beautiful sunrise, a great concert or a beautiful moment with our child, we rush to capture it instead of being in the moment. In that case, technology has become out of hand in our lives.

The downside to so much tech activity is you start to get lost in the constant stimulation of the world. You are so busy thinking and responding to that world that you leave your brain no space to…create anything new.

You will continue with the same habits, the same thoughts, and routines unless you consciously create space in your life.

Focusing on bringing more silence into your life is a beautiful way to allow new ideas in. It also helps to ‘clear the clutter’ of excessive thoughts in your mind. It cleanses your thinking a little, so you can turn your attention away from doing to creating.

What I like to ask my students sometimes is when they last listened to, and were totally absorbed, by silence.

And when I say absorbed, I mean totally aware and present for the silence. They weren’t thinking about what they were making for dinner, or their annoying work colleague or how much money they spent last night.

So it’s not just being surrounded by silence – it’s being actively absorbed by it. Listen to it and feel how the absence of noise affects your body.

For me, taking photographs is a total sensory experience. It’s not just about what I see, because all of my senses are heightened. Entering into silence is a way to connect more with my senses.

It’s feeling the different way that silence stimulates your senses, such as the feeling of melancholy on an empty high street on a grey winter’s day. Or the comforting nostalgia of a clear, cold autumn evening, with the smell of wood smoke wafting in the air.

Or the heady beauty of a spring morning full of the opulent perfume of flowers and the feeling of scorching, rich sunshine on your skin.

I know that it’s hard to pull your mind away from its busy thinking and doing. I get that being human means that thoughts endlessly appear in our mind, taking our attention and energy.

When this happens and you become conscious of it happening, take your attention gently back to the moment. Wrestle control from the thoughts and bring your mind back to what’s here in front of you. I like to say to myself – I’ll think about that later.

That way you can actually appreciate the life that you have in the moment, and you will develop seeing and awareness in your photography, regardless of where you are. Whether it be on your way to work, at the playground with your kids or even doing your shopping.

This awareness is a powerful catalyst for your creativity and will find you reaching for your camera more and more often because you have learned to listen to the silence and connect to the world around you.

5. Fear

Fear is certainly in the category of things that inhibit creativity in our lives. But if you can learn to work with fear, then you’ll automatically feel more inspired and confident to create and take photos.

There are two major fears I see in photographers at my workshops.

Firstly, fear of photographing their subject. This applies to street photography a lot. You very much want to take a photo of that magnetic looking stranger, or that strange event unfolding before your eyes, but you are gripped by fear.

You know you want to bring your camera up, you want to move closer to your subject but something stops you. You end up walking away without the shot and feel annoyed with yourself.

The second type of fear response I see in my students is a deep self-consciousness about shooting for too long in front of strangers.

Think about this scenario. You are walking along a busy city street on a rainy day when all of sudden a ray of golden sunshine bursts through the grey clouds, creating stunning reflections and patterns around you.

It’s mesmerizing! You want to shoot everything that this beautiful light is reflecting off. You start to shoot, but after a few minutes, you are hit by a wave of self-consciousness.

There are people everywhere. People shopping, coming home from work, tourists chatting, kids running. And here you are crouching down on the ground photographing puddles!

I’ve noticed that when this wave of self-consciousness hits, most people stop shooting and move on because it feels weird to be doing something that no one else is.

Now fear is normal in these situations. I think most photographers experience fear in certain situations. We know that our bodies produce a chemical response to new situations, which can make us want to run away.

Instead, we need to examine how to deal with this situation so that fear doesn’t overpower us. So how can I dispel my fear and get those great shots?

First, accept that like clouds, fear comes and goes. You will never live a life where fear disappears. You wouldn’t be human otherwise.

Even if you are a super-experienced photographer, there will always be times when you will be dogged by fear.

Secondly – allow it! This might seem counterintuitive, but I have found that if I try to run away from fear, or suppress or ignore it, it starts to get bigger and bigger until I am almost paralyzed by dread.

So I allow the fear. I just say – Ok, here is some fear. Welcome. OK, I don’t say welcome. I’m not that zen. But you get what I mean? I don’t fight it.

Carry on taking the photograph – and just let the fear be there. Eventually, like a cloud in the sky, it will leave. Fear always leaves! Maybe it will take a few seconds or a few minutes. Maybe longer.

Yet, the more you allow fear to be there, the quicker it seems to evaporate.

The good thing to understand is that the more you practice being in such situations as photographers, the more you will get used to these fear responses. They won’t overpower you and stop you from shooting.

If you suffer greatly from fear, then I suggest you practice getting comfortable being with your camera, so you can focus on the actual photography!

6. Stop consuming and start making

I don’t know why, but a day spent creating is a day that feels much more satisfying to me than a day spent consuming.

When I think about consuming, it’s not just buying things – it’s the endless stream of social media, checking Facebook, 24/7 news, and endless discussions about the politics of the day.

When we are just consuming, we definitely aren’t making anything.

To stop mindlessly consuming was an important realization for me to make in my life. Instead, I think to myself – what can I accomplish today?

7. Get started

With something as enjoyable and satisfying as taking photos, you should never be in a state of I should be doing my photography!

You don’t want to create a situation where photography is one of many things you should be doing – like going to the gym or eating less of your kids’ candy.

And yet, sometimes we need a push to get us out the door. We are all responsible humans beings and we are all keeping various plates spinning. And so taking time out can induce guilt.

But think about it: every single day of our lives is a day we will never experience again. And in every single day of our lives, we are given a choice of how to spend our time. We do the things we have to do but then we weave in the time to do the things we are passionate about.

If we don’t do it now, then when?

Taking time to cultivate our photography practice pays dividends across our lives too. Great by-products of a strong photo practice are that we are more present when we are in other spheres of our lives, we are more engaged and excited in life because of our inspirational photo practices.

I have to say I am a more interesting, inspired and happier person to be around when I have taken time out to do my personal photography. And in that, everyone in my life benefits!

I really hope you enjoyed those ideas about how to be more creative every day. They are ideas I feel passionate about and hope that you will too. I would love to know if these ideas have helped you, so do let me know in the comment box below.

The post 7 Easy Ways to be More Creative Every Day appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anthony Epes.

How to Use the Lightroom Graduated Filter

Sat, 01/19/2019 - 08:00

The post How to Use the Lightroom Graduated Filter appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Christian Hoiberg.

Adobe Photoshop has always been my software of choice when it comes to landscape photography and post-processing. However, Adobe Lightroom is constantly getting better and I’m able to do a lot of the things I could only do in Photoshop several years ago.

The Lightroom Graduated Filter isn’t a new feature but it’s one that I’ve begun to use more and more during the last years. It’s a tool that can make a huge difference to an image and it’s fairly easy to use. The big benefit is that you can add several graduated filters to one single image. You don’t have to only use one. This gives you more flexibility.

Let me show you how to use the Lightroom Graduated Filter.

Soft transitions vs. hard transitions

The very first thing you need to know about how I use the Graduated Filter is that I never use a hard transition. That means that I don’t drag the filter down and include the top part of the transition. (If you’re not familiar with this tool, any adjustment you make is visible at a 100-50 percent opacity transitioning from the top to middle line and 50-0 percent from the middle to the bottom line)

You don’t want there to be a hard, visible transition that obviously shows the adjustment made to a particular area. Instead, you want a long and smooth transition.

This is done by dragging the graduated filter from top to bottom, then moving it up so that the middle line is at the upper edge of the frame. You can then click and drag the lower line up or down depending on how much of the image you want to affect.

Keep in mind that when you’re using an adjustment as smooth as this, you’ll need to increase the values of the adjustments you’re making. For example, instead of exposure -0.2 you might need an exposure of -1.0 to darken an area.

Darkening the sky

The main purpose of Graduated Neutral Density filters is to darken the sky in order to capture a well-balanced exposure. This is also the most common use of Lightroom’s Graduated Filter.

I tend to darken the sky a lot in my photography. This helps me guide the viewers’ eyes towards the important part of the image and strengthens the composition. This is quite easy to do and by using soft graduation such as explained above, it can be applied even when there are mountains or other subjects projecting the horizon, without looking strange.

Click and drag the graduated filter such as explained above, and place the middle transition line at the top of the frame. Adjust the bottom line in such a way that the adjustment is added only to the parts you want. Then lower the exposure. Since the transition is so smooth, I often lower the exposure down to -4.0 without it being too dark. Of course, this depends on how dark the original file is; you don’t want it to be completely black afterward.

Add a cold tone to foreground and sky

Color is an important part of the composition and that’s something that many tend to forget. Our eyes are naturally drawn towards the warmer tones but, unfortunately, nature doesn’t always let us capture that in the file. So to further enhance the main subject, I often add a cold tone and desaturate certain areas of the image. These areas quite often include the lower and upper part of the frame.

Using the graduated filter the opposite way works quite similar. The only difference is that you drag from the bottom up instead of top down. Then, just as before, adjust the filter to your likings. I tend to only desaturate and add a cold tone to the very bottom of the frame.

Sharpen & increase Clarity

The fourth and final feature is sharpening and increasing the clarity by using the graduated tool. This could be done either to bring out details in a nice cloudy sky or to increase clarity in a vibrant foreground.

I’m generally not a big fan of the Clarity slider so even though I’m still using a soft transition I gently increase the slider; I don’t want to add +100 clarity regardless of how soft the transition is. Increase the clarity gradually by clicking on the number next to the slider and holding shift plus tapping the up arrow until you’re satisfied with the result.

Last words

There are many ways to use Lightroom’s Graduated Tool. The examples above are just a handful of ideas what you can use it for.

Truth be told, I use several Graduated Tools at the same time. It’s not uncommon that I use one or two for the sky, another couple for the foreground and perhaps a few more to create a small vignette. In the end, it depends on what you want to do with the image!

The post How to Use the Lightroom Graduated Filter appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Christian Hoiberg.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Chaos

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 13:00

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is CHAOS!

Photo: Kimson Doan

Your photos can include anything that evokes a feeling of chaos. It can be busy, messy, crowded, or without order. Or alternatively, it can look chaotic but still have beauty and order in a weird way. Interiors, exteriors, people, wildlife, objects etc. Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Some Inst-piration from some Instagrammers:



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by BCPA (@thebcpa) on Jan 3, 2019 at 6:31pm PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Marieke (@mriek89) on Jan 3, 2019 at 7:14pm PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Maria João Silva (@mjayish) on Jan 3, 2019 at 6:47pm PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Christian Schoenig (@bigmetaltrout) on Jan 1, 2019 at 9:59am PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Geanne (@ge_an_ne) on May 15, 2018 at 12:02am PDT


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by buildingswow (@buildingswow) on Jan 3, 2019 at 7:21am PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by JT (@thomasjason101) on Jan 3, 2019 at 9:11pm PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Truc (@trucle157) on Dec 29, 2018 at 5:47am PST


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

Tips for Shooting CHAOS

Tips for Getting Started in Street Photography

4 Tips to Help People Photographers Shoot Interior Spaces

Tips for Doing City Photography from Above

10 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can do at Home with Everyday Objects

A Guide to Photographing Birds and Wildlife in a Wetland Area

21 Images of Birds of Feather Flocking Together


Weekly Photography Challenge – CHAOS

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 #DPSCHAOS 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 – Chaos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Easy to Create Fake Underwater Photography Hack [video]

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 08:00

The post Easy to Create Fake Underwater Photography Hack [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this handy tutorial by Raj K Photo, you’ll learn to take impressive underwater-style photos without the need to get underwater! And, even better, this DIY hack costs less than 50pounds.


What you will need:
  • Clear Acrylic Sheet
  • Wood
  • Woodscrews
  • Duct Tape
  • Multi-Purpose Sealant

You can make it to whatever size you want.

What to do:
  1. Cut wood to size.
  2. Screw in the ends but be sure to drill some holes first to stop the wood splitting.
  3. Draw an outline of the frame onto the acrylic.
  4. Place the acrylic onto the top of the wood frame, lining the outline you just drew up with the frame. It acts as a guide so you know where to put the screws.
  5. Use a drill bit to make pilot holes in the acrylic along each side. Use around 6 screws, evenly placed apart. Screw the screws in but be sure not to screw too quickly or hard so as to not split your acrylic.
  6. Flip the frame over and peel off the protective film.
  7. Take your sealant and seal all the gaps between your wood and the acrylic surface.
  8. Leave to dry for 24hrs.
  9. As a further layer of protection, add duct tape around the sealed areas.
  10. Remove any remaining protective film and clean surface.
Photographing your model using your new underwater hack
  1. Find a place to prop it up so that you can lay it face down with water inside. Ensure that it is secure.
  2. Lay your model underneath.
  3. Set an LED light above so that it is shining through the water onto your model. That way you can get an idea of how the shot will look.
  4. Place the flash units (one with a blue gel to look like water) in position above the model.
  5. use a reflector to bounce some light back to your model.
  6. Wet your model’s hair and have the model keep their head slightly off the background to make it look like it is floating.
  7. Take your photos!
You may also find the following articles useful:

5 Tips for Underwater Photography Without Spending a Fortune

5 Tips for Underwater Photography with a GoPro

Surreal Underwater Shipwreck Photo Shoot

Introduction to Taking Great Underwater Photos

The post Easy to Create Fake Underwater Photography Hack [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Lessons from the Masters: Morley Baer

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 13:00

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

Portrait of Morley Baer

Each time I find myself cruising down Highway 1 in California between Big Sur and San Francisco, the urge to make photographs instantly strikes me. It’s an easy feeling to encounter. The rocky beaches and rolling hills tend to beg for a lens. Accompanying this sense of photographic wanderlust is a recognition of walking in the footsteps of some of the greatest American photographers that the twentieth century ever produced. Names like Weston, Adams, and Cunningham all seem to linger in this area of the country. However, there’s another name connected to the deep photographic past of the west coast that you might not know quite so well but should: Morley Baer. In this installment of “Lessons from the Masters,” we’re going to take a closer look at the prolific work of Morley Baer and learn some valuable lessons about how he went about the business of photography that you can use to improve your images.

Morley Baer

Morley Baer came into this world on April 5th, 1916 in Toledo, Ohio. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a BA in English and an MA in Theatre Arts, he briefly worked in advertising in Chicago until fate pressed him into his life’s work. After seeing an exhibition of Edward Weston’s work, Baer became captivated by the medium of photography. He left his position with the advertising firm he worked to educate himself in the art of photography. After working in commercial photography briefly, he soon made the journey to Carmel, California to track down Edward Weston.

After serving in the Navy as war photographer from 1941 to 1946, Morley and his now wife Frances (also an artist and photographer) embarked on a decades-long exploration into photography in and around the Bay Area of California until finally settling in their home/studio near Garrapata Beach. Baer became one of the most desirable architectural photographers of his time. His landscape and seascape works are also still widely regarded as some of the finest photographic representations of the west coast of California ever to be recorded on film.

Here are some, but certainly not all, of the lessons you can’t learn from Morley Baer.

Total proficiency with the tools you use

For the main body of his landscape and architectural studies, Baer used one camera and one camera only; the Ansco 8x10S view camera. In our modern day photography jungle, we are constantly harangued by the marketing mentality that if our cameras are not the newest, then they are somehow lacking. Of course, that’s just an opinion.

In any case, Morley was an expert operator of his Ansco to the point when it became almost an appendage and an extension of his physicality. Similar in practice to Ed Weston, the fact that Baer became so monogamous with his singular 8×10 view camera speaks volumes to us today.

Portrait of Morley Baer and his Ansco by David Fullagar

Whatever your camera or tools, make yourself so familiar with their functions that you can control them without hesitation. The adage “the best camera is the one you have with you” is not enough. We must strive to become absolute masters of the tools we use to make our photographs. The tool is secondary to the ability of the user. No matter what gear you happen to be using it is essential that you understand how to use it and use it well.

Find what works best for you

Not only was Baer’s proficiency of his 8×10 camera finely tuned in, but he was also quite fixed in the way he presented his photographs. Morley was a darkroom master printer, and he virtually always printed his photographs using the contact method and seldom used an enlarger. This meant the negative was exposed directly in contact with the paper resulting in an image the same size as the negative. Contact printing remains one of the most simple and pure forms of printing even today. Regardless of its merits or limitations, this was the vehicle Baer found worked best for him and his creative expression.

By Morley Baer

While we should all continue to learn and grow with our photography, there must also be a conscious recognition of the methods and techniques that tend to produce the best results time and time again. Hone in on the processes that allow you to reach your fullest potential and pay no mind to whether or not they are popular or follow certain “rules.” When it comes to photography the so-called “rules” are there to guide us, not limit our flight.

Healthy competition can help you grow

Every so often I get an email or a Facebook message from someone asking whether or not they should enter a particular photography contest. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the idea of grading one photograph against another. This is because I feel it causes us to miss the purpose of photography altogether. At the same time, a photograph is a visual medium, and as photographers possess an inescapably inherent narcissism; we want our work seen by others.

By Adam Welch

I mentioned earlier that Baer’s wife, Frances, was also a camera jockey. Not only did she make photographs herself, but she was also remarkably accomplished in her own right to the point where Morley and Frances were essentially domestic competitors with their photography. There is a famous tale of them reaching an agreement for rights to photograph scenes when they were on road trips. The agreement they reached thereby declared that everything on the left side of the road belonged to the driver while everything on the right belonged to the passenger.

It’s important for us to reach a certain level of catharsis with our photography so that we produce work that is representative of our vision. At the same time, healthy (and I do stress the “healthy” part) competition with other photographers not only keeps our creative juices flowing but also serves to engage us with our fellow shooters. We learn and better ourselves through interaction with the work we love and respect. With the correct perspective, competition with our peers promotes dynamic artistic growth.

Parting words on Morley Baer

As with all esteemed photographers, seeing the work in person brings about a level of appreciation that cannot be obtained by merely viewing a photograph on a computer screen. I’ve recently been fortunate enough to visit select galleries in and around the areas where Morley Baer lived and operated. As usual, it’s easy to look and see the beauty of Baer’s photographs, but as perpetual students of photography, we should always seek to find what we can learn from those whose work we admire.

The lessons listed here are just a few to glean from Morley. Digest them and put them into practice with your own work. However, don’t stop there. Learn all you can, when you can and where you can. Never stop exploring the incredible world of photography.


You may also find the following articles interesting:

Lessons you can learn from master photographers – Minor White, Ansel Adams, and Syl Arena

More Lessons from the Masters of Photography: Edward Weston

Lessons from the Masters: Robert Capa and Jerry Uelsmann

More Lessons from the Photography Masters: David Burnett and Vivian Maier

Cartier-Bresson and Stieglitz – Study the Masters of Photography to Become a Better Photographer

Masters of Photography: Bruce Davidson, Master of the Subway

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

The Secret to Sharing Photos with Lightroom CC

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 08:00

The post The Secret to Sharing Photos with Lightroom CC appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

After years of resisting the urge to sign up for one of Adobe’s Creative Cloud plans, I finally gave in. I purchased a subscription to the Photography bundle which includes Lightroom and Photoshop. While initially, I didn’t see a whole lot of benefits to this, I continue to discover all sorts of perks included in the Creative Cloud that I didn’t even think about before I jumped on the train.

One of the best, and also one of the least-talked-about, features has been the ability to share photos publicly right from Lightroom. This feature has been a total game-changer for me and it could re-shape the way you go about getting your work seen by others.

Traditional Lightroom sharing

With all previous versions of Lightroom, sharing images involved a few steps and some hoops to jump through. Mostly, this involved exporting images to your computer and then uploading them to social media sites, online photo platforms, or even email them to friends, family, and clients. Unfortunately, this also meant some hassles. Such as having duplicate copies of your shared images (one in your Lightroom catalog and one that you exported for sharing) and having to re-export and share images after you made any changes. The process could also be time-consuming, especially if exporting a large batch of images.

Some social sites like Flickr and Facebook created plugins for Lightroom, but in my experience, those have been somewhat unreliable, and I have used some that were ultimately abandoned by their developers. This meant that relying on these plugins was an exercise in frustration and, more often than not, futility.

Psst…have you heard about Lightroom’s photo-sharing capabilities?

Before I jumped to Creative Cloud, I had several presets that I created to export images for different groups of people. I had a hierarchy of folders in my cloud storage service that I used for sharing, and a headache if I needed to re-share images after further edits. After switching to the Creative Cloud Photography plan, that includes both Lightroom Classic CC and Lightroom CC, I have replaced all of that with a simple click of the mouse or tap of my iPad.

Using the sharing features of Adobe Creative Cloud, you can instantly make individual photos or even entire albums public. Then you get a link to share with anyone you want. You can further customize these features. You can specify whether people with the link can download photos, access picture metadata, and see only pictures that have a particular Flag or Star Rating. The images you share can have comments and likes from viewers, and you can get information on this activity as well.

Sharing doesn’t use your Cloud Storage

My favorite part about this type of sharing is that none of your shared images count against your Creative Cloud storage quota. Even if you have the Photography plan with only 20GB of storage, you can share as many photos to the web as you want without using any of that 20GB allotment. This feature does not use your allocated space because Adobe doesn’t share full resolution images with this feature.

You probably wouldn’t want to do this with clients who need high-resolution downloads for printing, but it’s great for getting your pictures seen by many people without any real effort on your part.

Sharing with Lightroom Classic CC

If your workflow is dependent on the more traditional Lightroom Classic CC as opposed to the cloud-focused Lightroom CC, you still have access to most of the cloud-based sharing features. You will, however, need to launch Lightroom CC at some point if you want to fine-tune your sharing options. The first step in sharing is to enable syncing. You achieve that by clicking on your name in the top-left corner of the application and choose “Start” under the option to Sync with Lightroom CC.

No need to panic at this point – nothing is going to happen to your photos, and no images are going to be suddenly shared to the cloud or anywhere else. All this does is give you the option to sync photo albums with Lightroom CC so you can edit your images using that program on your desktop or mobile device. It’s not even sharing the actual pictures, just low-resolution preview files. After you make any edits, those changes get automatically synced back to Lightroom Classic CC.

This feature also gives you the option of making your images available publicly on the internet for anyone to view. However, first, you must choose individual albums that you want to sync with Lightroom CC. Right-click on a collection in your Library and select Sync with Lightroom CC.

Doing so doesn’t share the photos publicly, but makes them available to Lightroom CC while also giving you the option to share them with others if you wish. (Note that this feature is only available for traditional photo collections in Lightroom and will not work with Smart Collections.)

After you have synced a Collection with Lightroom CC, you will see a small two-way arrow icon next to its name, and you will have access to additional features when you right-click on it with the Lightroom CC Links option. You can now make the album Public. Once you have completed that step, you can view the photos on the web or get a public link to send out to family and friends.

It is as simple as that! With one click you can get a link to an entire photo Collection, and Lightroom does all the heavy lifting of uploading them and putting them in a clean gallery format. For more options, open up Lightroom CC on your desktop or mobile device.

Sharing with Lightroom CC

Because Lightroom CC is built from the ground up to live and breathe in the cloud, it has a more robust suite of tools available for sharing (even though the basics are relatively similar to its desktop counterpart). Whether you have your original images stored in Lightroom CC (or stored in your Adobe Creative Cloud account) or synced from Lightroom Classic CC, the process of sharing them is the same.

To get started, navigate to one of your albums on the left side of the Lightroom CC interface. Right-click on the name of the one you want to share to the internet via a public link. Then choose the option that says Share to Web…

As the saying goes, here’s where the fun begins. After choosing this option, you get presented with a dialog box giving you several options to customize how your photos get shared online. What I like about this is you can specify different parameters for each shared album. See the screenshot below.

In this example, I opted to show only photos with a Pick status that are rated three stars or higher. I’m not allowing any location data to be visible either. The link can be copied and shared with anyone you want, or posted on social media sites. Any changes made to the album are automatically reflected in the shared link as well. So, if you add more images to the album, or change the Flag status or Star Rating, anyone with the link can automatically see the revised images.

If at any point you want to stop sharing the album, you can right-click on the name of the album and choose the Stop Sharing option. If you re-share it in the future, a new link gets generated for you to re-send to friends, family, and clients.

When visitors click on the link to your shared album, they will see a grid with all your images that they can scroll through and click. Icons in the top right corner can be used to play a slideshow or download a ZIP archive of the photos in the gallery if you have that option enabled.

When viewers click on an individual image, they have the option to leave comments or click a Like button. This information automatically syncs with Lightroom Classic CC so you can see it on your desktop.

When you view the link of one of your shared albums, you can also see any user comments and delete ones you don’t want. The one catch with this is that anyone who wants to leave a Like or Comment will need an Adobe ID. It’s a bit of extra effort but helps cut down on spam and other unwanted input from random internet users.

When people leave comments on publicly-shared photos, you can see a yellow icon appear by the Collection name in Lightroom Classic CC. Click the Collection to review the comments.

Finally, you can share any individual picture from an album on the web using its own unique link. Right-click on a single photo to get a unique link for that one image as well as the same sharing options that you have for full albums.

Sharing is a great way to get feedback from clients and see what photos they really like.

User control and privacy

The advantages of Lightroom’s built-in photo sharing system are enormous. Not the least of which has to do with user control and privacy.

When you share pictures on social media sites, your images and personal data get mined and used for advertising. However, no such activity takes place when using Lightroom shared albums. You control exactly what you share, and can remove images at any time. Deleting your images from the internet is as simple as clicking the Stop Sharing button.

Where sharing is beneficial

Here are a few scenarios to help you see where photo sharing may be beneficial:

  • After returning from a trip, create an album with your favorite images and share the link instantly with family and friends.
  • Create an album with pictures of your kids or other loved ones in your life and share the link. As you add more pictures to the album, anyone with the link can automatically see the new images.
  • Share a preview album with clients after a photo session, and ask them to click Like on their favorites. Then you can see the results and know which ones they appreciate. This can help you if you are assembling a physical album for them.

I took a lot of photos at a Petting Zoo birthday party my kids were invited to. Instead of uploading them to social media, I just shared a link to the album with parents and enabled downloads.

The more I use these sharing features, the more I have come to appreciate them. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to my old workflow again. Moreover, I hope this is useful for you and would love to hear any thoughts you may want to share in the comments below.

The post The Secret to Sharing Photos with Lightroom CC appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

3 Tips for Photographing Mixed Lighting in Interiors

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 13:00

The post 3 Tips for Photographing Mixed Lighting in Interiors appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

For many photographers, photographing mixed lighting scenarios can be painful. At weddings, for example, several lighting sources provide constantly changing colors such as DJ lighting, candles, fairy lights and up-lighters in the venue. It’s not too dissimilar in your home. Say you have your indoor tungsten and incandescent lights on in your lounge while the bright natural daylight streams through the windows. You get two different light sources with different color temperatures, which is a mixed lighting scenario.

Mixed lighting scenarios

This scenario is the reason why, for interiors, the general advice is to turn all artificial lights off and stick to one light source – natural light. I am aware that some photographers use flash for interiors, and in most of those cases, they make sure they are using daylight color temperature for their bulbs to match the ambient light.

Natural light, even if there is very little of it, can still be perfectly fine for interiors. As long as you can mitigate the amount of available light by using a slow shutter speed with your camera mounted on a tripod because nothing in the picture moves. It is more difficult to achieve when you are photographing portraits because you have subjects – people – who are living, breathing and cannot hold still for an extended length of time.

This is why artificial lighting such as strobes and electronics flashes get used as primary lighting for portraits to provide a light source with a color temperature you can control.

However, sometimes, you want to break the rules and photograph for fun or to capture what the eye sees regardless of the types of lighting in the scene. Sometimes, it is appropriate to embrace it all, just like what I have done in the photo above! When you decide to do this, here are my tips for you!

1. Ensure there is even lighting

My easy tip is matching light with light such as this photo on the below-left, where these fairy-light-lit Christmas tree with other string lights are all placed in a very bright space. The same could work with dark as in the photo on the right. A lot of dim lighting to even out the room lighting.

If you have a room that has a very dark corner and a very light corner, you will inadvertently overexpose the light section to expose the dark area correctly. Also, vice versa.

Photographers get around this problem by doing a composite where they put two properly exposed photographs of each corner together in Photoshop to create a perfect scene. This method is commonplace in a backlighting scenario where you are facing a very bright window and not using flash.

However, if you don’t have or want to use Photoshop, instead of putting your artificial lighting, such as a neon light or a lampshade, in a dark corner, put it in a light corner. Doing so evens out the lighting in a space.

For example, when placing neon in a dark corner, to correctly expose the darkness surrounding it, the neon lights are overexposed. Conversely, underexposing the neon light means losing the details of the dark area such as in the shot above. However, if you have to, ensure there are other lights to illuminate the dark area as well. That way, the neon is not acting as the sole illuminator in the dark area. Balancing the amount of light makes it easier to photograph a space.

2. Shoot deep using a small aperture and slower shutter speed

Use an aperture upwards of f/5.6. My preference is f/8 and if need be f/11. These apertures help you get all the details in focus. However, if you are aiming for background bokeh as shown in the photo below if using standard lenses, you need to use either a wide aperture. Moreover, if you are using macro/micro lenses both wide and small apertures should be applied. Play it safe by shooting with at least an f/5.6 opening. These shots below were taken with a 24-70mm lens at f/2.8.

Shooting with a small aperture helps alleviate the problem of overexposing a bright source in a very dark corner especially if it’s the only light source. You can see an example of this in the below-left photo, with the living room corner illuminated by the incandescent bulb lampshade. Just to the right of the image, you can see the daylight seeping through from a different room. It looks so much colder and whiter compared to the warm yellow light in the left corner.

3. Ditch the rules and embrace all the fun

The above kitchen photo contains all sorts of lighting: natural daylight from the windows, warm lamp lights on the floating shelves (the darkest part of the entire space), red fairy lights on the foreground left and more warm tungsten on the top-left. This scenario is what one sees in real life so why change it to conform to the rules? Why not embrace it instead and aim to take an excellent realistic photo rather than change reality to fit the other people’s expectations!

I hope you found this little article helpful, albeit it’s not what’s expected and out of the ordinary! As always, comments and options welcome below. After all, we are all entitled to have our own!

The post 3 Tips for Photographing Mixed Lighting in Interiors appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

So You Want to Make a Website? Part 3: Creating Your Portfolio

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 08:00

The post So You Want to Make a Website? Part 3: Creating Your Portfolio appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.


So you’ve read part one & part two of the So You Want To Make A Website Series. You’ve set up an awesome website. Now it’s time to create amazing content to go with it. Obviously, for you photographers, the most important part of that process is curating your portfolio.

It is as simple as picking your best images and putting them together. However, a good portfolio takes time, effort and sometimes a good butt-kicking from somebody else. With that in mind, here are my…

Seven steps for creating a great portfolio for your website  1. Know your audience

The starting point for your portfolio is who will be viewing it and what will they be looking for? Are you making a website to show how your photography develops over time? Perhaps you’re sharing your passion with friends and family? You might be a wedding photographer wanting to get more beautiful couples in front of your lens. Is your goal to be seen by art directors at ad agencies?

For best results, when you know the audience, your portfolio will need to match it. For example, if you are a family photographer, parents looking for someone to photograph their child will not want to see your latest glamour photography. Similarly, an art director will not want to see images from the amazing wedding you shot. If you have multiple specialties, it is best to consider multiple websites. Give the audience what they want.

However, you can showcase different specialties with different portfolios within the same website. The process from here is the same for every portfolio, whether that be on the same website or multiple. Just make sure the galleries are related.

A Striking image to kick off your portfolio is essential.

2. Break it down

How do you want to break down your galleries? Do you want one for people and one for lifestyle photography? One for birds and one for land animals? Once you decide what galleries you want, it is now time to go through your archive and pick out images you might want to use. 

I always rate images I might want to use in my portfolio as five stars as I edit. That way, whenever I update my portfolio, I can open catalogs and simply pull up all five-star images and use these as a starting point. If you haven’t done something similar, start now. It saves a lot of time and gives you a great place to start. 

3. Watch the numbers. AKA be ruthless

I love both of these images, but as I begin to update my portfolio I know only one will make the cut. Which one is still to be determined.

Now is where the hard work begins – getting the numbers down

Have you ever been to a friends house and they show you their holiday photos? The photos that seem to go on and on and on… That is the feeling you want to avoid when people look at your portfolio. Like any good performance, they should be left wanting more.

A good first selection should end up at around forty to fifty images, with a final goal of around twenty. Finding the initial fifty is the hardest part. You just need to push yourself to find the best of the best. Are there two similar images? Choose just one. Is there an image that when looking through just doesn’t hold up to the rest. Remove it. Be harsh on your photos and try to look for the reasons why they should not be included rather than why they should. This approach isn’t always fun, but it works.

I suggest you make your initial selection of images to include, then walk away for a while. Grab a coffee, have a walk, just clear your head of the process. I tend to leave it until the next day to come back and look again. Fresh eyes always help.

Remember, a strong portfolio should contain around twenty images. If people want more than that, they can look to your blog.

4. Get some help

It is easy to listen to those around you tell you how great all your photos are, but sometimes you need some good old fashioned home truths. I will tell you in advance, sometimes it is hard to hear. However, you need to hear it. Critique of your work from peers or others in the field will not only help you get a better portfolio, but it will also help you become a better photographer. 

When looking for critique, you should have your image numbers down to around thirty or so. From here you can get others to help you make the final step. By culling your images to a respectable number, it also shows those you are asking for their help that you have done the groundwork. If someone approached me with fifty plus images for me to help them get a portfolio from, I would not be hugely impressed. 

Who should you ask? You can ask photographers in your local area whose opinion you value, or you can ask people you know through Facebook groups, etc. to critique your work. 

In my experience, it is better in person if you can. Whilst family members are great, they will generally not want to hurt your feelings, or not be experienced to offer critique. You need experienced eyes on your work and let them do their worst. Someone with no emotional attachment to your images can give honest feedback and will help you get rid of the images you love, but know are not your best work. Just remember, they are talking about the images, not you. It is easy to get upset when people rip your work to shreds, but take it in the spirit it is intended.

5. Listen to your heart

A friend who worked at a music publication told me to remove this from my portfolio. I wrestled with the idea, but I love it, so I keep it in.

Having said that you should get opinions of others, always remember it is your work. Critique from others is just another point of view. If there is an image you love, but others say isn’t your best work, listen to your gut. Maybe they’re right, maybe you need to let go. However, if after the critique you still think it deserves a place in your portfolio, put it in there. It’s your site and you need to be happy with it.

6. Get them in order

Now you have the final images, you need to get them in order. Start with your best and finish with your second best image. This is known as the primacy and recency effect. Put simply, we remember the things we see first and last the most. 

Getting the right order is key to really making your portfolio sing. Put the portfolio in order, then tweak it. Do you want to mix up portrait and landscape images? Do you want to mix in black and white images or have a part of the portfolio where they are grouped together? There is no specific answer as every portfolio is different, but try variations and then tweak until you’re happy. Unfortunately, there is no proven recipe. Instead, think of your portfolio like a great home cooked recipe, just keep tweaking things until it tastes just right. 

7. Update regularly

A portfolio will always evolve. I look back at some images that were in my initial wedding portfolio and cringe. I also have some images from that first ever wedding that I still have in my portfolio. Take the time to revisit your website portfolio regularly. Update it at least once every six months or so. Doing this is also a great way to show yourself how you are progressing as a photographer.

If you go to a course or meet with local photographers, why not have a portfolio critique session? Things like this help keep your portfolio fresh and identify gaps in your work that you can plan to shoot in the future. 

That’s it, you now have a portfolio.

In the next article of the series, we discuss the blogging and your written content.

Until then, have fun building your portfolio.

The post So You Want to Make a Website? Part 3: Creating Your Portfolio appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Moment Smartphone Lens Review for Photography and Videography

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 13:00

The post Moment Smartphone Lens Review for Photography and Videography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

It’s no secret that smartphone cameras are getting increasingly better with every new release. But did you know that you can enhance your smartphone photography even further with lenses? There are several smartphone lens manufacturers out there, but one of the most popular and premium choices out there comes from Moment. This Seattle-based company offers four lenses that can take your smartphone photography to the next level. I’ve long been curious about these lenses and was delighted to finally have a chance to try them out.


Currently, Moment has four smartphone lenses on hand: the Superfish (fisheye), Wide, Macro, and Tele Portrait. Each lens ranges in price from US$89.99 to US$99.99. The lenses are attached via a custom Moment smartphone Photo Case, so you’ll need one of them too. Presently, there are Photo Cases for Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy, and iPhone. Each case varies in design and price depending on your smartphone brand, but they’re in the US$30 or less range. This test and all resulting images were done with a Samsung Galaxy S8.

Build quality

Physically, each lens varies in presentation, which helps tell them apart at a quick glance. All lenses are made of metal and glass and have some nice heft to them. They also come with rubber lens caps that protect the front element. While there are no end caps to protect the back elements, at least they are small and relatively easy to keep clean and protected if using the included velvet lens drawstring bags.

Attaching the lens to your Smartphone

Lenses attach to your phone via the bayonet-style mount on Moment’s custom phone cases. You simply match up the lens mount to the phone case and twist the lens to lock it into place. It’s relatively easy to do with no added tools required. However, the lens mount is so small that it can take some trial and error to get it mounted. Once locked in place, these lenses are solidly attached to your phone case and it would take significant force for them to accidentally fall off.

Wide lens

Moment’s wide lens is equivalent to 18mm, which is significantly wider than my Samsung Galaxy S8’s 26mm (35mm equivalent) focal length. It’s a rather large lens with a curved, fisheye-like lens. However, there are zero fisheye effects in the resulting images. In fact, there’s no distortion, vignetting, or blurring around the edges.

Superfish lens

This 170-degree Superfish lens offers the widest field of view out of all Moment lenses. It’s rather compact with a flat front-facing lens. However, the resulting image generally takes on a fisheye appearance.

Macro lens

Moment’s macro lens is arguably the best-designed lens of the bunch. It’s also the flattest and most compact lens. Offering 10x magnification, the Moment macro lens comes with a plastic diffuser hood. This hood is very important for helping you determine how close the lens needs to be to a subject (hint: it’s VERY close), but the hood can also be removed. Design-wise, I love how detailed this lens is, particularly on the front element of the lens.

Telephoto lens

While I didn’t get to test the Moment telephoto lens, here’s a brief overview. This 60mm equivalent lens offers roughly double the focal length of most smartphones. Best of all, this lens gives you a telephoto effect without having to use your smartphone camera’s digital zoom, which often degrades the quality of your images.

If you can only buy one lens…

These lenses aren’t cheap, so it makes sense to invest in one or two initially, and then build up your collection from there. Personally, I found the Macro lens to be the most fun. It offers a unique perspective on just about anything and can be great entertainment for all ages. I’d pick the Superfish lens as my next favorite as it also offers a fun and different way to capture your surroundings.

Moment lens accessories

Straight out of the box, each Moment lens comes with a velvet drawstring bag. It’s a thin lens case that is better than having no protection at all, but it doesn’t offer the best padding. As a result, I highly recommend investing in the Moment Lens Pouch. This pocket-sized zippered pouch is nicely padded and has enough room to store two Moment lenses. If you need a bigger carrying case, the Moment Travel Case is a larger version of the Lens Pouch with room for 4 Moment lenses and extra accessories.

Bottom line

If you’re on the hunt for premium lenses to extend the capability of your smartphone camera, Moment offers the very best. Not only do their lenses look and feel professional, but the resulting images are noticeably sharper. Sure, there are much cheaper smartphone lenses out there, but they often compromise on physical quality. You won’t find any compromises if you go with Moment. The only catch is that you have to use one of the high-end smartphones that Moment makes a phone case for.

Moment lens sample photo gallery

Moment Lens Superfish Lens

Moment Lens Superfish Lens

Moment Lens Wide Angle Lens

Moment Lens Wide Angle Lens

Camera phone – before the next Macro lens shot.

Moment Lens Macro Lens – Seashell

Moment Lens Macro Lens – Coffee Beans

Moment Lens Macro Lens – Back of my hand.



The post Moment Smartphone Lens Review for Photography and Videography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

How to Replace Colors in Your Images Using Photoshop

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 08:00

The post How to Replace Colors in Your Images Using Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Have you ever taken a photograph and wondered what it would look like in a different color? Or perhaps you find a particular color distracting and want to swap it for a more subtle tone? Maybe you want to ramp up the impact, using more vibrant colors to make your image pop?

With the help of Photoshop, swapping the colors of different elements in a photograph is quick and easy. Here are two ways to switch the colors in your image to make them more dynamic.

Method one – Using the Replace Color Panel

The Replace Color panel is a simple tool designed to tweak color selections. When you select a specific color in the image, the Replace Color function grabs similar colors, allowing you to change them within the same action.

Step 1 – Preparing your image

First, open your image in Photoshop. To edit non-destructively we need to duplicate the layer. That way, we can go back to the original image at any time. Select your image in the Layers Pallet, then go to Layer -> Duplicate Layer. Alternatively, you can right-click on your image in the layers panel and click Duplicate Layer or drag your layer onto the New Layer icon.

Step 2 – Selecting a Color to Replace

With your duplicate layer selected in the Layers Pallet go to Image -> Adjustments -> Replace Color and the Replace Color panel will pop up. Check the Localized Color Clusters and Preview options. The cursor will automatically be converted to an eyedropper icon, so click on the color in the image that you want to replace. This highlights the color in white in the preview thumbnail, so you can see how much of the color is selected.

Go to Image -> Adjustments -> Replace Color to open the Replace Color panel


Click on the color in the image that you want to replace. This highlights the selection in white in the preview thumbnail

Step 3 – Adjusting the range

The next step is to add further shades of your chosen color to the selection so it looks more natural. With the Replace Color panel still open, hold down the shift key and click on more shades of your selected color in the image. This adds new shades of your selected color to the preview thumbnail.

If you accidentally select an area, hold down the alt key and click the area again to deselect the selection. You can adjust the edges of the selection with the Fuzziness slider, this dictates the sharpness of the edges in the selection.

Step 4 – Swapping the color

In the Replace Color panel, use the Replacement Hue slider to adjust the color of your selection. Once you’re happy with the color, use the Saturation slider to increase or decrease the intensity of the replacement color. You can also adjust the Lightness slider which tweaks the shade of the replacement color.

Use the Replacement Hue slider to adjust the color of your selection

To make sure the edges of the selection have adequate coverage, you may need to readjust the Fuzziness slider.

Once you’re happy with your results, click OK. Your adjustments will be applied to your image and you’re good to go!

Method two – Using the Color Replacement Tool

The Color Replacement Tool is an alternative to using the Replace Color panel. With the Color Replacement Tool, you can apply a replacement color to a more targeted area in the image.

Step 1- Preparing Your Image

Just like in the first method, we need to duplicate the original layer so we can return to the original image if required. Select your image in the Layers Palette then go to Layer -> Duplicate Layer or right click on the layer in the Layers Pallet and click Duplicate Layer.

Step 2 – Selecting the Color Replacement Tool

Accessing the Color Replacement Tool is a little tricky. Click and hold the cursor over the Brush Tool on the left toolbar and several brush options will appear. Select the Color Replacement Tool.

Step 3 – Setting your foreground color

With the Color Replacement Tool selected, set your foreground color to the color you want to replace your current color with. So if you want to change a red subject to blue, select blue as your foreground color.

Set your foreground color to the color you want to replace your current color with

Step 4 – Applying color with the Color Replacement Tool

With the Color Replacement Tool selected, brush over the area of color you want to replace. You can adjust the settings of the brush (size, shape, tolerance) in the top menu bar.

With the Color Replacement Tool selected, brush over the area of color you want to replace


Color is a wonderful and versatile element of composition. But sometimes the right color scheme is elusive. That’s where the Color Replacement tools come in handy. Now you’ve read the guide, why not give it a go? Post your results in the comments below!

The post How to Replace Colors in Your Images Using Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Finding Your Strength in Isolation – 3 Methods to Make Your Subject Pop!

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 13:00

The post Finding Your Strength in Isolation – 3 Methods to Make Your Subject Pop! appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Including extraneous details in your photographs dilutes attention. Or they distract the viewer’s attention away from your main subject.

Fill the frame! This was the only composition rule I had drummed into me when I started work in the newspaper photography department. Do not include anything that does not help tell the story better. If it’s irrelevant, remove it.

In this article, I share three of my favorite methods for isolating subjects.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

The balance of light

Finding a dark background is always pleasing. When your subject has more light on them than the background, you can often expose carefully so the background is very dark or even black. This was a great technique for newspaper photos when we were publishing in black and white. It often works particularly well for portraits.

Train your eye to look for the right situations where you can use this technique. Once you are aware of what to look for you will do it instinctively.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Look for large areas of shade where no light is turned on, and no sunlight affects the area directly. In this portrait of the fish vendor at the market, her open storefront is perfect. The room behind her has no windows and only one or two low-powered lights. The light on her is sunshine reflecting off the building opposite her shop. It is diffused and soft and does not affect the interior of her room.

Setting my camera to expose her face correctly means the interior of the room behind her is underexposed. Use a spot meter setting to only read the light from your main subject and not the darker background. If your camera’s meter is set to take a reading from the whole frame and average it, you won’t get a satisfactory result.

The key to this method is the balance of light and shade. If you take your exposure reading from the whole scene, the camera includes all the dark area and wants that to be exposed well too. The resulting image will have an overexposed subject and visible detail in the shadows.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

You can also use this same method with a background brighter than your subject. Doing this is often more complicated if the light is too strong or coming directly into your lens. The same principle applies when you have more light in the background than you do on your main subject. Make your exposure reading from your subject only, excluding light from the background. Your subject will be well exposed, and your background will be overexposed.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

I have developed an outdoor daylight portrait studio which incorporates this technique. In this studio, I have good control of the light and the background. Here, I use black and white fabric backdrops which mean I have an even exposure on the background creating a great contrast to my subject.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

The control of Focus and Depth-of-Field

The most popular methods used to isolate subjects is carefully controlled focus and a shallow depth-of-field. My very first lens was a 50mm f/1.4. So, naturally, I grew to love using the wide aperture capability to help me knock my backgrounds out of focus.

Using a wide aperture setting is central to this method. However, there is more to it than choosing your lowest f-stop number.

Relative distances have a significant impact on how much your background blurs. The closer you are to your subject, with any lens, the more the background will blur. Likewise, the further your subject is from the background, the softer the background appears.

Lens choice influences depth-of-field too. Using a telephoto lens, you can blur a background more with any aperture setting than if you use a wide-angle-lens.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Learn to control what you focus on, as well as the other settings that affect depth-of-field. Doing this well means you can include sufficient detail without compromising attention on your main subject. In this portrait of the tricycle taxi rider, I focused on him. I chose to have enough detail in the background, without it being sharp, because the background is relevant to this photo.

Compositional choices to isolate your subject

Point-of-view (the angle you choose to take your photo from), affects what you include and exclude from your frame. Often even just a small change in your camera position can have a significant impact on what’s in your frame and what’s left out.

Move around your subject and watch what happens with the background. Having a tree looking like it’s growing out of someone’s head is going to be distracting. Changing your angle of view a little your left or right eliminates this distraction. Selecting a higher or lower position helps if there’s a strong horizontal line in the background which dissects your subject.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Take your time. Pay attention to the background, not just your subject, when you are making your composition. After taking your initial photo, review it on your monitor. Study what’s in the background. Often this reveals distractions. Move around a little. One side or the other, up and down. Concentrate on the relationship between your subject and elements in the background.


Other methods of isolating your subject are many and varied. You can use contrasting colors, interrupted patterns, selective cropping and other techniques to help your chosen subject stand out.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Photographs are often stronger when your subject is clearly defined over everything else in the frame.

Experimenting with the methods I have outlined helps you build stronger compositions. Try them out. Try others. Find a few you like and this will help build up your individual photographic style as you begin to use them consistently.

The post Finding Your Strength in Isolation – 3 Methods to Make Your Subject Pop! appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Why You Should Always Have a Client Pre-Consultation

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 08:00

The post Why You Should Always Have a Client Pre-Consultation appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Mimi Thian

Any time you have a client paying you for a certain type of photography, it is essential to get all of the details laid out before any real planning or photography happens. Getting all of this squared away beforehand can make the whole process go quicker. Everyone stays satisfied, and all involved know what to expect for the final result.

What is a client pre-consultation?

A client pre-consultation is where you and your client meet to talk about the details of the session or project. You can meet at your studio, a coffee shop, or the client’s home or place of business.

Whether it’s a portrait client, a model, a commercial project, or a personal project that involves more people, a pre-consultation is important because you’re able to settle lots of questions and details that will make the session go smoothly.

A client pre-consultation can also take place via a video conference service like Skype or Facetime. The point is to get in front of your client and talk about your project or session.

Choose a location or method where you can give your undivided attention to your client. Having distractions or being in a place that isn’t suitable for a meeting can often keep you from staying focused on the details.

For example, a coffee shop may seem like the best choice, however, choose a spot within the place that is secluded and quiet. Choosing a very popular or loud location can make it difficult to talk or hear each other.

Be prepared for each type of pre-consultation

Even though you need a pre-consultation for all photography sessions or projects, preparing yourself for each with the right questions and information can help you to have a more focused pre-consultation.

Wedding pre-consultation

Even though the process of weddings tends to be the same, each wedding is unique. That is why pre-consultations are really important, especially if the pre-consultation happens before the couple books you for the event.

Meeting with the couple before the wedding can help them to determine the days’ timeline in terms of photography.

Prepare your contract with a cover sheet that you can fill in with all the important details. For example, names of the couple, date of the event, details of the ceremony and reception location, number of bridesmaids, start times for important events, and any other notes that relate to the event.

Have another sheet or notebook prepared for essential notes during the meeting. As much as we’d love to have photographic memories, the truth is, when we meet people for the first time, we can get lost in conversations and forget small but imperative details. So a meetings sheet can help you write down anything you think is important without having to write it on the contract.

Write down anything. From the color scheme, types of flowers they are having, first dance song, how they met, through to the more important details like the photography style they like and if they want a second photographer.

All of these details are equally important to the bride and groom, and so they should be important to you as well. For example, it can help you on the day of the event to remember that the flowers they chose are in remembrance of a passed grandmother.

Leave time for the couple to ask you any questions that they may have. It doesn’t matter if their questions or concerns are a bit unrealistic. Settling any doubt in a friendly way can mean the difference between them choosing you or another potential photographer they may be meeting.

Also be prepared to showcase your work with your clients at the time of the meeting. Take a portfolio, albums, prints, a laptop with your website and galleries open. Sometimes, clients contact photographers by referral without really checking out their work. So, this meeting is a great way to have them fall in love with your work. Taking albums can also open the door to upsell and add products to the wedding coverage.

These are items you should bring with you to every pre-wedding consultation:
  • Portfolio, laptop, slideshow to show your clients
  • Albums and products you wish to upsell your clients
  • Contract and info sheet
  • Meetings sheet or notebook to write down extra information about the wedding
  • Copy of your collections pricing as well as a product price sheet
  • The contract for clients to view terms and conditions

Remember that you are the professional and the couple is coming to you not only to meet you but to get as much information about photography, the wedding process, and any additional advice that could benefit them. Your expertise will always be appreciated, and your friendly attitude can get the wedding on your calendar.

Portrait sessions of any kind

For portrait sessions, you may think that a pre-consultation is a bit much. However, once you do have a pre-consultation you will be happy you did. Each portrait session, be it a family session, senior session, or individual are all unique and important.

Here a face-to-face meeting may not be as necessary and can sometimes be done through email or messages. However, it might become a long drawn out process if you do it that way. If possible, have a face-to-face meeting with your client – whether physically face-to-face or via a video conference service.

Things to go over during the meeting:

  • Location and ideal time for the session
  • Wardrobe ideas and what would fit the concept of the session
  • How many people are attending the session
  • If children are present, their ages so you can prepare ahead of time
  • The style of photography they like, candid, posed, a mixture

During the client pre-consultation, it’s also important to have a portrait contract and a list of prices for your packages. That way, you can go over the pricing and what each package includes from the start.

Doing this gives your client the opportunity to ask any questions regarding the session beforehand avoiding any miscommunication or misunderstandings after the session has been completed.

Commercial or editorial projects

Commercial/editorial projects usually require quick execution and only allow a limited amount of time for you to photograph the concept. Depending on what your client is hoping to have as a result, you may have to have more than one pre-consultation especially if it is a new client.

Meeting with the whole team can also help the project go off with fewer setbacks. Everyone will be on the same page as far as concept, lighting, location, and all of the essential details of the project.

A pre-consultation is also a great time to go over the payment details of the project. The pricing and payment schedule is vastly different from portraits or weddings. Here, the circulation count should get discussed. Circulation covers how often the client runs your photographs in their marketing, advertising, or promotional material.

Also, discuss copyright and licensing during the meeting. You may want to be able to showcase the photographs in your portfolio, or sometimes, the client wants exclusive rights. Go over model releases and contracts during this time as well.

For these types of projects, the more questions you ask to get a clearly defined idea of the project can help you to get a better estimate for your work. The more information you get, the better.

In Conclusion

Pre-consultations are very important in all types of photography projects where you are dealing with a client who is paying you for your services. These meetings help you get a clear idea of what your client is looking for and what they are expecting to receive as their final product.

It can eliminate any doubts, answer questions, and help your client with your advice and expertise so that the project happens without any setbacks.

The post Why You Should Always Have a Client Pre-Consultation appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Tips on How to Take Better Instagram Photos

Sun, 01/13/2019 - 13:00

The post Tips on How to Take Better Instagram Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

Instagram is a visual platform with millions of images vying for your attention. Styling with Instagram in mind is key! But first, know what your purpose is.

Know your purpose

You may be reading this because you have an interest in photography. You probably know that there is an array of lenses you can use but each lens has a specialty or a purpose. For example, the 85mm is great for portraits, the 14mm or 24mm for landscapes, macro/micro lenses for extreme close-ups, fast lenses for sports etc. In the same way, think of a style as your specific lens for a particular purpose, the purpose being your chosen genre on Instagram.


Before I offer tips, let’s look at a few genres: Portraits, Wedding, Interiors, Products, Flat-lays, Landscapes. But, as in business, the more niche you are, the stronger your account will look. So don’t just stop at these genres, niche deeper. For example, Black and White Portraits, Beach Weddings, Handmade Ceramics, Moody Landscapes.

If you like, you can go further: Black and White Wedding Photography, Fine Art Newborn Portraits, Beach Elopement Weddings, Handmade Ceramic Tableware, Moody Forest Landscapes, Dark Maximalist Eclectic Interiors…

Instagram followers tend to like consistency in what they see on your squares so be sure to leverage that. The more consistent your work is, the more you appear as an expert in what you are showing. Instagram gurus say that you can post 10% of other things. Particularly, those things that pertain to your personal life, which your followers may find interesting. However, keep the 90% consistent with the purpose of your account.

With that preamble out of the way, here are my tips on how to take better photos on Instagram for your chosen genre/niche. These are all my opinions so take what you find useful and leave the rest.

1. Interiors

I have found, from running an interiors page myself layered.home with a daily growing following, that photos which are taken further back at wide angles do well. The interiors audience is generally more interested in seeing a wider view of an entire room.

Not only that, wider views shot from a slightly angular position do better than those taken from a straight-on frontal view. Be mindful of your lighting too. Light coming from a window or one side is more appealing to the eye compared to bright, flat lighting where everything is evenly illuminated. So whenever you take photos, just remember side lighting.

If the side opposite the light source is too dark, you may want to add a reflector or a piece of white card to take the edge off the darkness. Of course, this will work easily with smaller spaces or objects but for entire rooms would it be more difficult. You would need to add an extra light if using artificial light or open more windows.

So they can take pictures at any time of day, some interior accounts use daylight-balanced continuous lighting. You just need to position them so that they look natural like window light. Turn off all lights and use only one type of light source, preferably natural light (this is where a tripod comes in handy) in order to avoid mixed lighting.

But this isn’t to say you can’t break the rules!

2. Portraits

It is better, as mentioned above, to stick to one type or style of portrait. For example, if you are after a brightly lit image with a very airy feel to it with a dreamy backdrop, try and keep that feel going in all your images. Don’t go bright one post and dark and moody the next.

If you photograph headshots, make sure your squares show a lot of headshots rather than a mixture of full body, super-close-up, half-length etc. Again you can have this variation but keep it to a minimum.

With one look at your nine squares, a follower should be able to already have an idea of your style and what type of photography your page is about. This goes with styling clothes too. You could go with a vintage touch for example, or a color palette kept to a minimum (usually up to four colors work). Unless your feed is all about rainbow colors or candy colors and in which case make that your purpose.

It is also important that your editing is consistent like your color treatment and tones. Stick to color and the same type of editing. From time to time, you could sneak in a black and white or a series. But again, only at a minimum.

3. Product

When it comes to product photography, you want to show the products close-up so the viewer can see the features and benefits of the product. There are tools you can use such as a small white lightbox (also known as a light tent) to illuminate your product evenly.

This is essential if you are after a white seamless background enveloping your product. Or you can go for naturally lit dramatic lighting by using side window light only from a 45-degree angle and creating more dramatic light and dark tone going on. You can also use a dark backdrop with window lighting from the front to direct total focus on your product.

4. Flatlays

This birds-eye-view style has become very popular especially when using intentionally-styled products within a context or a story. Technically, this is somewhat tricky because you lose the angles afforded by other points of view. To counteract this loss, add contrast to make your product stand out.

You need the flat lay image to grab attention. A symmetrical composition usually works here, where the product is in the middle (as shown in the photo above – taken with an iPhone) rather than using the Rule of Thirds. You can always use other minor elements around your main product to strengthen your composition with some asymmetrical touches without stealing the limelight.

A couple of very important general tips!

The photos above were taken with an iPhone

On editing: Please, please do NOT over edit

I often see this on some Instagram accounts and, to be honest, it makes me cringe. Over-edited images have a way of looking unnatural.

Look closely at the four photos above. The first photo is straight out of the phone camera. The second has very gentle editing applied. The blacks have been slightly enhanced to look richer, and the highlights have been reduced to balance the image. It may not be dramatic, but it is a real depiction of the space and the items within it.

The third photo has blown-out whites, so you can’t see any details. Half of the wallpaper is over-exposed and the sheepskin is bereft of details. You can’t even see the fairy lights on it. The third image is over-edited. Technically speaking, what was an okay image to start with has become a bad image.

The blacks are the ‘clipped’ on the 4th photo, which is also too dark. Clipping is a photography term that means the intensity falls out of the minimum or maximum range. You do not see any details. In this instance, the blacks reach a point where the shadows of the plant blend into the wall. The cushion also blends into the skin it’s sitting on, and the whites of the framed prints have become blue.

The key word in editing is “enhance,” not “kill.” Use just enough contrast or blacks otherwise your photos may look entirely out of this world, and that in the negative sense of the word. Be gentle when moving those contrast, structure, shadows and blacks sliders as they affect the dark areas. Avoid using the saturation slider. It is better to add warmth and vibrancy rather than touching that saturation slider which can make your colors join the neon spectrum.

Be careful when using filters. Don’t apply the filters at 100% strength. Play around with the sliders to see how the photo looks. Start at 50% and go from there on both ends. Filters should generally be used at about 35% to make your photos pop. This approximation is assuming the picture is an okay photo from the start.

White balance

Be mindful of color cast in your image. A color cast is a strong shift in the overall color of the image that usually comes from artificial light such as tungsten, which leaves a very yellow or orange cast. Similarly, fluorescent lighting which gives off a green cast especially on the areas of the photo that are meant to be white.

Looking at the photos above, which one do you think has good white balance? Where is the white still white and the fairy lights have a warm glow?

You want a white balance that looks natural. That is, where the whites look white, not yellow, pink, magenta or green. Neutral white with added warmth is good. It doesn’t need to be perfectly white – especially for Instagram posts – but at least it still looks white without unnatural color tints.


Take advantage of the carousel where you can post more images. Use it to hide what you want to post and show but do not want to be the front cover of your post. Doing so still makes your squares look consistently strong. However, you can deviate from your style and purpose behind the front image using this feature. For example, with interiors, you can add close-ups of the space or photos of products featured within the space.

With portraits, you can add other angles and viewpoints. You can use the “before and after” concept where your front page is the after and the carousel holds all the before or work-in-progress pictures. This feature is great for adding more content and value to your page without weakening your Instagram brand.

Instagram is a powerful visual social media platform. However, with millions of images competing against yours, it is vital that you use strong images to stop people on their scrolling tracks!

I hope you found some of these tips helpful to grow your Instagram account!

The post Tips on How to Take Better Instagram Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

Fujifilm X-T3 versus Fujifilm X-H1: The Best Mirrorless Camera for You?

Sun, 01/13/2019 - 08:00

The post Fujifilm X-T3 versus Fujifilm X-H1: The Best Mirrorless Camera for You? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Fujifilm was on a roll this year releasing a slew of gear including two very popular mirrorless cameras: the Fujifilm X-H1 and Fujifilm X-T3. Released a mere 7 months apart, these two cameras have amateurs and professionals alike wondering which is better suited for their needs.

Key Specs

Fujifilm X-T3

One of Fujifilm’s most popular cameras to date has been the X-T2, so it’s no surprise that many loyalists to the X-T line were awaiting the third generation. The Fujifilm X-T3 is the newest Fuji camera to date, using a brand new sensor and processor. As a result, it has quite a few advantages over all other Fujifilm cameras, including boosted battery life. It continues to enhance photography features with its larger sensor resolution (8% more pixels), 100 more focus points, faster continuous shooting (6 fps faster), and the inclusion of a flash sync port. Fujifilm also added a slew of video features such as 4K60p, higher bit rate (400mbps), and a headphone port. All in all, the X-T3 is made to entice today’s hybrid photo and video shooters.

  • Announced: September 2018
  • Fujifilm X-Mount
  • Comes in black or silver
  • 26MP – APS-C BSI-CMOS Sensor
  • No Anti-aliasing (AA) filter
  • ISO 160 – 12800
  • 3.2 Tilting Screen
  • 3690k dot Electronic viewfinder
  • 20.0 fps continuous shooting
  • 4096 x 2160 video resolution
  • Built-in Wireless
  • 539g. 133 x 93 x 59 mm
  • Weather Sealed Body

Fujifilm X-H1

Brand new to the Fujifilm X-Series lineup is the X-H1. It is the first X-Series camera to have in-body image stabilization (IBIS), which is essential for shooting more stable handheld video and lowlight photos. This is the main advantage that the X-H1 has over the X-T3.

  • Announced in February 2018
  • Fujifilm X-Mount
  • 24MP – APS-C CMOS Sensor
  • No Anti-aliasing (AA) filter
  • ISO 200 – 12800
  • Sensor-shift Image Stabilization
  • 3 Tilting Screen
  • 3690k dot Electronic viewfinder
  • 14.0 fps continuous shooting
  • 4096 x 2160 video resolution
  • Built-in Wireless
  • 673g. 140 x 97 x 86 mm
  • Weather Sealed Body
3 reasons to pick the X-H1 over the X-T3 1. Built-In Image Stabilization (IBIS)

As mentioned above, the X-H1 is the only Fujifilm camera to offer in-body stabilization. This means that even your lenses without Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) will be stabilized by the camera. With that said, if you use an OIS lens on the X-T3, you can still get a degree of stabilization even without IBIS.

2. Top LCD

The X-H1 physically resembles DSLRs in several ways, namely via its top LCD. This can be helpful for viewing and changing settings in the dark, and also for seeing your battery levels without turning the camera on.

3. Larger overall footprint.

Overall, the X-H1 is physically larger than the X-T3 and is closer in looks to the Fujifilm GFX camera line. The X-H1 is about 134 grams heavier and has a noticeably larger right-hand grip. While many people purchase mirrorless cameras with the idea of having a smaller, more compact camera, you may prefer the X-H1’s larger size if you have big hands or tend to use Fujifilm’s large red badge lenses.

4 reasons to pick the X-T3 over the X-H1 1. Enhanced Autofocus

Fujifilm made significant autofocus improvements to the X-T3, now offering 425 hybrid autofocus points. That’s 100 more autofocus points than both the X-T2 and the X-H1. Additionally, both face and eye detect have been enhanced and they are much more responsive and accurate on the X-T3 than on previous Fujifilm cameras. I will say, however, that Sony still leads the pack in terms of face and eye detect in particular.

2. Faster continuous shooting

The X-T3 also ups the ante in continuous shooting. Now able to shoot 11 frames-per-second (fps) with the mechanical shutter, 20 fps with the electronic shutter, and 30 fps in 1.25x crop mode with the electronic shutter. In comparison, the X-H1 also shoots 11 fps mechanical, but only 14 fps with electronic. If frames per second and continuous shooting are of importance to you, the X-T3 is your best bet.

3. Higher quality video settings

Despite the X-H1 being intended as Fujifilm’s video-oriented mirrorless camera, the X-T3 doesn’t skimp on video features. In fact, the X-T3 outperforms the X-H1 when it comes to bitrate (400mbps vs 200mbps), and its ability to shoot at 4K60p (compared to the X-H1’s 4K30p). Also, the X-T3 has a headphone jack to monitor audio–this is a feature you can only get on the X-H1 if you use the accompanying battery grip.

4. Lower price point

In addition to a new processor and sensor, the Fujifilm X-T3 also boasts a lower price point of $1499 versus $1899 for the camera body only. That’s a $400 difference that could be put towards a new lens or camera accessory.

Common ground – X-H1 and X-T3

Both the Fujifilm X-H1 and X-T3 have many features to make them viable competitors in today’s hot mirrorless camera market. Here’s what they have in common:

  • Wireless and Bluetooth connection
  • Smartphone camera control via an app
  • Articulating rear touchscreen LCD screens (but no selfie flip out screen)
  • Timelapse recording
  • 2 SD card slots
  • Ability to shoot in RAW and JPG (for stills) and f-log (for video)
  • Fujifilm’s famous film simulations, including the newest Eterna
  • Firmware updates that are actually helpful — Fujifilm is known for listening to its customer base and releasing significant firmware updates for cameras and lenses.
In Conclusion

As a newer camera with more photography and video features AND a lower price point, the Fujifilm X-T3 will probably be the camera of choice for most people. Even Fujifilm seems to have realized this as the X-H1 has dropped in price to be very competitive with the X-T3. However, if you’re a serious videographer who isn’t in a hurry to get a new camera, it is probably worth waiting to see what Fujifilm does with the next generation of the X-H1: the X-H2. Although nothing official about the X-H2 has been announced yet, Fujifilm is famous for taking customer feedback seriously and many Fuji enthusiasts believe the X-H2 will be the ultimate video camera. We’ll wait and see!

Video with sample images and footage

Most comparisons were done in video form, so please check out the video below to see X-H1 and X-T3 sample video and photos.


The post Fujifilm X-T3 versus Fujifilm X-H1: The Best Mirrorless Camera for You? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

How to Photograph Children Under Five with Little to No Meltdowns

Sat, 01/12/2019 - 13:00

The post How to Photograph Children Under Five with Little to No Meltdowns appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Photographing children under five can be really challenging. However, the most effective photographers are the ones who know how to avoid meltdowns that lead to children shutting down or simply, not wanting to participate at all. Read on to learn tips on how to photograph children without meltdowns!

Pose children with parents closeby can give them comfort and confidence during the session.

Choose the best time for the children

The best way to avoid a meltdown with children from newborn to five years of age is to choose the best time during the day that works best for them. That’s right, we’re working on the child’s schedule rather than the parents or even your photography calendar. This is because some children may be more alert after a good nap and others may be in a better mood after breakfast.

Catering to the child’s already existing schedule avoids any disruptions or over-tiredness. Having the session as part of the day’s activities also gets them excited to explore and play.

Bring snacks and toys

There is nothing more cranky than a hungry child. This goes for any child age 6-months and older. Kids need a snack or drink of some kind often. If your session is going to last from 45 minutes to more than an hour, it’s a good idea to have snacks and drinks on hand. Allowing children to have a snack during the session can also serve to give them a boost in energy and get them back into the session.

Ask the parents to bring the kids favorite snack and drink to the session as well as a snack that could be considered a reward or treat. These rewards/treats can help use bribery in order to get some smiles or to avoid a meltdown in the middle of the session.

Having parents interact and play with children can help relax them enough to get smiles.

Take breaks often to give the children a chance to snack and drink some water or juice. Take advantage that they are occupied to focus on the older children or on the parents.

Toys are a great way to keep children entertained and you can get a lot of real and authentic expressions out of the child when they are playing with their favorite toy. Sometimes, toys can bring comfort to children and help them to feel more relaxed around new strangers. Also, toys offer a distraction when you are photographing other members of the family all while keeping the smaller children from a tantrum or getting too bored.

Advise parents to avoid saying “no”

This is probably the one tip that will raise a few eyebrows among your clients, but it is really important to keep in mind. Children hear the word “no” over a hundred times a day, and sometimes this can bring about defiant behavior. Avoiding saying no can really help the child to feel more relaxed during the session.

Letting children play and have fun can make the session run smoother.

Not using the word “no” also gives them the freedom to explore, jump, play, run, and yes, even get dirty during the session. Giving children who are under 5 a great experience is really important. They will remember how much fun they had with you and your camera. The next time they see you for another portrait session, they won’t be so afraid or shy.

Let them get it all out of their system and have fun. The more they see this as a fun activity, the more willing they’ll be to cooperate. Of course, all within reason! If something is dangerous then a proper no is okay. For everything else, it’s a banned word for the whole session time.

This also gives you the opportunity to dictate how to say no without actually saying the word. For example, instead of having the parents say “no, don’t climb the tree” where the child will see this as their parents nagging again, you now have the lead to say instead, “hey bud, let’s go over here and see if we can find some sticks, that tree looks like it could have some ants on it.”

This makes you seem like the friend and keeps the parents from using a negative tone during the session. All together giving the child the impression that they are there to have fun and play. Giving you better expressions and eventually, they will listen when you ask them to look at the camera and smile.

Try posing other than smiling at the camera

Most children under five don’t have the patience to stand still for very long and smile at the camera. The most you’ll get from children of this age group is 30 minutes, with bribes! The best way to get them to participate longer is to capture them doing what children do best: play.

Children in this age group are learning so quickly and love to apply what they’ve learned or can identify all the time. This means that if they are at a park, they’ll want to pick up a stick and play. Show their parents and then jump around poking the dirt.

Which means, posed photos may not be what you expect with children so young. In order to capture the whole family together, for instance, is to pose all other members of the family in a way that when you join the smaller children, they are in direct contact with mom or dad. Either in their arms, next to one or the other, or on their laps. Laughing and telling jokes can help them to stay in place long enough for some good photos.

Having the family walk holding hands is also a great way to get the children more involved. You want them to play and explore but you also want them to participate in the more posed family photos as well.

Don’t be afraid to reschedule if necessary

Sometimes, you will get a child who isn’t willing and has multiple meltdowns that were simply unavoidable. If this does occur, offer the family to reschedule the session for another date and time that best suits the child’s schedule and mood.

This is the great thing about portrait sessions as they can be re-done in order to best suit the child who perhaps wasn’t in the mood for photos that day. Reassure your client that rescheduling is the best option and that it is completely okay and happens with children.

Sometimes you won’t get smiles out of children but it’s important to try and get a good solid portrait of them anyway.

Make sure that you exhaust all of the options before deciding that a reschedule is necessary. Sometimes, a child might just need a quick snack break or a break in general. Focus on taking photos of the parents or the other siblings to give them a rest. If all else fails, rescheduling could be the best solution.

Sometimes children open up toward the end of the session. Like this little girl. On the left was at the beginning and on the right, she was smiling toward the end of the session.

If you can’t reschedule, try and get as much as you can from the child before they completely shut down. Work quickly and let the child know that you know they are tired, hungry, or don’t like photos but if they do well they can get a prize. Here, allow the parents to say whichever prize they want to offer. This can sometimes get a few last smiles and give you enough photos.

In conclusion

Children under five years of age aren’t always easy going and willing to take portraits, however, using these tips can help get the most out of them before they burn out. Try and follow their lead and make sure that they have a fun time at the session. This will help them to feel more comfortable the next time they are in front of your camera.

The post How to Photograph Children Under Five with Little to No Meltdowns appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Create Powerful Black and White Photos with the Photoshop Gradient Map

Sat, 01/12/2019 - 08:00

The post Create Powerful Black and White Photos with the Photoshop Gradient Map appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

In this article, you will learn how to use the Photoshop Gradient Map tool to transform your “meh” color images into incredible black and whites that go “WOW.”

When you think about it, a black and white photograph doesn’t make sense. No, really. At it’s most basic level, black and white photography presents us with a version of our world that we know is not accurate. The colors we normally see get shown to us in values of white, black and gray. We know a black and white photo isn’t true-to-life and yet a strong black and white photograph can transcend the sum of its parts. It can transport us to visual spaces which provoke emotions that even the brightest color photograph cannot achieve.

Even though a black and white picture is called “black and white” seldom are they merely tones of gray. A strong black and white image often present subtle color tones in the shadows, highlights, mid-tones or sometimes all three. Moreover, when it comes to concocting a black and white photo from a digital color image file, the way in which you approach your conversions can make or break the entire photograph.

However, not all methods are created equal. I’m about to show you one of the best ways I know to effectively convert and tone a photo to black and white. We’ll do this using a quiet little tool in Photoshop called the Gradient Map. When it comes to taking a digital black and white photograph from “meh” to “WOW” the Photoshop Gradient Map will be your best friend.

What is the Gradient Map?

The Photoshop Gradient Map is essentially just what it sounds like; a way for you to map out and control the color tones of different luminance values within your photo.

Toning with the gradient map can be shockingly simple (as with this lesson) or as delightfully complex as you choose to make your adjustments. Ok, enough talk, let’s get started. Let’s take a RAW color photo and begin the process of converting it to black and white, followed by toning it with the gradient map in Photoshop.

Begin with basics

To begin, I highly recommend you use a RAW image file. Doing so offers you the greatest amount of wiggle room to adjust the values within the photo after you convert it to black and white.

I’ve started with a photo opened in Lightroom to complete some basic edits. However, you can complete the entire process right inside of Photoshop. Preferably, converting the image to black and white and toning with the gradient map should be one of the last steps in the process. Of course, editing can take on a life of its own, so don’t hesitate to dynamically adjust your photo at any stage. Here we have the RAW file after some core edits in Lightroom.

You may be asking “why not just convert to black and white right now?” I don’t recommend converting the photograph to black and white before opening it in Photoshop. The reason for this is because it completely robs you of the vital color information that allows adjustments of the individual color luminance values.

Next, I’ll kick the image over to Photoshop….

Now the real fun begins! Come on…it really is fun.

Conversion and Toning with the Gradient Map

After you open your image in Photoshop, convert it to black and white. To achieve this, add a black and white adjustment layer.

Although it’s not necessary to do so, feel free to name this layer something specific. At this point, you can adjust the individual color luminance values to your liking. See, I told you there was a reason to hold off on converting until this step.

Now that you have a nicely converted black and white photograph you can jump into the toning process by adding a Gradient Map adjustment layer. Click on the Gradient Map icon just as we did with the black and white adjustment layer.

Doesn’t that look magical!


There are a couple of things we need to do after we select the Gradient Map. Depending on your default Photoshop settings, your view could appear slightly different than mine. Don’t worry, though, the steps are the same.

To select your gradient, click on the gradient drop down:

Then click the Settings Wheel to open up your toning options and make sure that Photographic Toning is selected.

You’ll be prompted to confirm you want to change to a new gradient. Click OK because you absolutely do.

Each of those little boxes represents a color gradient scheme you can select to tone your image. Think of these as gradient presets. For this photo, I’m going with an old favorite of mine, Platinum.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and find the flavor that you like for your photo. Remember, everything here is non-destructive so simply click the “undo” button at the bottom of the gradient map window to start over.

At this point, we are nearly finished with the bulk of our toning using the gradient map! Yes, it is that easy. However, before we go, I want to show you how to customize the gradient should you choose to do so. A gradient map adds color across the tonal values of your image. You can control just how it applies this by clicking the gradient (and even create new ones). Doing so opens up the gradient adjustment panel.

From this panel, we can adjust the individual values of the gradient to change color density and contrast. There are limitless combinations and color schemes available. So again, allow yourself to tinker, tweak, test and otherwise go completely wild with your gradients to see how they affect your photo. I’m not joking; the possibilities are endless. Didn’t I tell you this was fun?

Last but not least, you can also adjust the layer blend mode and opacity of the gradient layer in the Layers Panel. Play with the percentage levels until you get the effect right.

Now you can further adjust your photo right here in Photoshop, or back in Lightroom. Or, if you are finished, you can save and export.

Final thoughts on Gradient Maps and Black and White

With just a few simple layers in Photoshop, we went from this…

to this…

to finally this…

Black and white photos are more than…well, just black and white. Think of some of your favorite black and white images. Are they merely two colors or are they something more? Whether it be film or digital, most “black and white” images that move us possess color tones that create a sense of mode or aesthetic comfort that touches us on a creative and emotional level. Using the Photoshop Gradient Map to tone your black and white photos is one of the easiest and most effective ways to create advanced black and white’s that stand out. Once you begin making use of the Photoshop Gradient Map, you may wonder how you ever managed without it in the first place!

Do you use the Photoshop Gradient Map? Share with us some of your images below.


The post Create Powerful Black and White Photos with the Photoshop Gradient Map appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Light Trails

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 13:00

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is light trails!

Tree Top Circus © Caz Nowaczyk

Your photos can include light trails from vehicles, light painting, or any other moving light source. Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Some Inst-piration from some Instagrammers:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Johan Weesie (@jowie_pictures) on Jan 3, 2019 at 4:34pm PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Carlos Bolivar (@photo_charles) on Dec 30, 2018 at 6:00pm PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Om Prakash Sethia (@om_prakash_sethia) on Dec 15, 2018 at 6:03am PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by RECYCLED PHOTOS (@recycleartz) on Nov 6, 2018 at 10:03pm PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Phutter Blog (@phutterblog) on Nov 7, 2018 at 10:19pm PST


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

Tips for Shooting Light Trails

How to do Long Exposure Photography and Light Trails at Night

Stacking Light Trails for Night Photography Special Effects

How to Create Dynamic Photos of Car Light Trails

How to Photograph Light Trails from the Back Seat of a Car

7 Tips for Shooting and Processing Star Trails

How to do Light Painting and Illuminate Your Photography

Long Exposure Photography 101 – How to Create the Shot


Weekly Photography Challenge – Light Trails

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 #DPSLighttrails 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.


Feature Photo by Alen Rojnic on Unsplash

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