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How to Use 5 Different Lighting Scenarios to Create Expert Studio Portraits [video]

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 08:00

The post How to Use 5 Different Lighting Scenarios to Create Expert Studio Portraits [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this week’s video from COOPH Master Chrissie White, you’ll learn how to use five lighting scenarios to create expert studio portraits.

Here are the 5 tips: 1. Natural Light and Reflector

Place your model next to window and place reflector on the opposite side of the face to create balanced light. For even light, shoot when the light isn’t coming directly through the window.

2. Side lighting

Side lighting creates a moody atmosphere for your image.

Place one light on to one side of the model and black card on the opposite side. This casts a shadow on one side of your models face so the light is split down the middle. if you don’t want it too moody, place a white card on the opposite side instead. That way the models face won’t be in complete shadow.

3. Butterfly lighting

Butterfly Lighting is commonly used for beauty lighting. It is an even light on the model. Place the light in front of the model and above them. You can also use a reflector underneath their face to even out the light.

4. Split lighting

This lighting is dramatic and flashy. Great for shooting athletes and fashion models. Place 2 lights approx 45 degrees behind the model. To soften and make less dramatic, add a butterfly light to the front of the model.

5. Backlighting

Place your light source behind the model to create a hair or rim light. Place another light in front of model or a white card to add some fill to remove the shadow from the face.

Add colored gels to the light to add color and drama. Use cellophane or gels. Be careful of hot lights though.

TIP: Look in the eyes of models for ‘catch-lights’ to see what type of lighting a photographer used.


You may also find these articles helpful:

One Speedlight Portrait Lighting Tutorial

6 Portrait Lighting Patterns Evey Photographer Should Know

10 Ways to take Stunning Portraits

How to Pose and Angle the Body for Better Portraits

Create Beautiful Indoor Portraits Without Flash

How to Create Awesome Portrait Lighting with a Paper Bag an Elastic Band and a Chocolate Donut



The post How to Use 5 Different Lighting Scenarios to Create Expert Studio Portraits [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

9 Pioneering Women Who Shaped Photographic History

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 13:00

The post 9 Pioneering Women Who Shaped Photographic History appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

The history of women photographers dates back to the beginnings of photography itself. Yet while names like Ansel Adams and Man Ray have floated to the top of the photographic vernacular, the contribution of women in photography has been diluted or erased from history altogether. In this, photography is no less guilty than other forms of art. Yet there is no doubt that the omission of women, both unintentionally and intentionally, leaves a gaping hole in the narrative of photography.

In this article, I turn the spotlight on women who shaped photographic history. These 9 women (and many more) asserted their presence through both technical and artistic ingenuity. Here is a brief recount of their stories.

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815 – 1879)

A portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron. Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Julia Margaret Cameron received her first camera as a gift from her daughter in 1863. Cameron threw herself into photography, crafting portraits and staged scenes inspired by literature, mythology, and religion.

Cameron rejected the meticulous photo-reality sought after by her contemporaries. Instead, she favored a dreamlike softness saying “…when focusing and coming to something which, to my eye, was very beautiful, I stopped there instead of screwing on the lens to the more definite focus which all other photographers insist upon.”

The revolving door of luminaries in Cameron’s home provided her with ample opportunity to produce piercing character studies of some of the most famous people of the period. Her portraits represented some of the earliest examples of art meeting formal practice.

Cameron was a prolific photographer. Over 16 years, Cameron created more than 1,200 images – a staggering amount considering the laborious process involved to create each finished piece.

Mary Steen (1856 – 1939)

Mary Steen excelled at indoor photography. Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Mary Steen was a photographer and feminist from Denmark, Scandinavia. She excelled at indoor photography, a particularly difficult field due to the lack of electrically powered light sources available at the time.

In 1888, Stern became Denmark’s first female court photographer, a role that involved photographing both Danish and British royals. In 1891, she became the first woman on the board of the Danish Photographic Society.

Steen was also a member of the Board of Directors for the Danish Women’s Society. Together with Julie Laurberg, she photographed leading figures in the Danish women’s movement. In 1896, Steen started working as a photographer to Alexandra, Princess of Wales, the later Queen of England.

Steen encouraged other women to take up photography. She campaigned for better conditions at work, including eight day’s holiday and a half day off on Sundays. Leading by example, she treated her staff well, paying them fair wages.

Imogen Cunningham (1883 – 1976)

“Succulent” by Imogen Cunningham. Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Known for her botanical, nude and industrial photography, Imogen Cunningham was one of America’s first professional female photographers.

After studying photographic chemistry at university, Cunningham opened a studio in Seattle. Cunningham drew acclaim for her portraiture and pictorial work. Subsequently, she invited other women to join her, publishing an article in 1913 called “Photography as a Profession for Women.”

Cunningham never confined herself to a single genre or style of photography. In 1915 Cunningham’s then-husband, Roi Partridge posed for a series of nude photographs. The nudes achieved critical appraise, despite being a taboo subject for a female artist at the time.

A two-year study of botanical subjects resulted in Cunningham’s opulently lit magnolia flower. She also turned her lens toward industry and fashion.

It was Cunningham who said “which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.”

Gertrude Fehr (1895 – 1996)

An example of solarization, a darkroom technique used by the New Photography movement in Paris that can now be emulated in Photoshop

After studying at the Bavarian School of Photography, Gertrude Fehr apprenticed with Edward Wasow. In 1918, Fehr opened a studio for portraiture and theater photography.

During 1933, the political climate forced Fehr to leave Germany with Jules Fehr. Settling in Paris, the couple opened the Publi-phot school of photography. The school specialized in advertising photography, a pioneering program at the time.

Fehr participated in the New Photography movement in Paris. Exhibiting artists alongside Man Ray, Fehr explored the artistic boundaries of photography, producing photograms, photomontages, and solarized prints.

During the 1930s, Gertrude and Jules Fehr moved to Switzerland. There, they opened a photography school in Lausanne, now known as the Ecole Photographique de la Suisse Romande.

Fehr gave classes in portrait, fashion, advertising and journalistic photography at the school until 1960 when she dedicated herself to freelance portraiture. Both her teaching and photography paved the way for contemporary photographic art.

Trude Fleischmann (1895 – 1990)

Trude Fleischmann with her work. Image courtesy of Wikimedia

After studying art in Paris and Vienna, Trude Fleishmann apprenticed with Dora Kallmus and Hermann Schieberth.

Fleischmann opened a studio when she was 25. Working with glass plates and artificial light, Fleishmann created deftly diffused portraits of celebrities. Her studio quickly became a hub for Viennese cultural life.

In 1925, Fleishmann took a nude series of dancer Claire Bauroff. Displayed at a theater in Berlin, the images were confiscated by police, winning Fleischmann international fame.

The Anschluss forced Fleischmann to leave the country in 1938. After settling in New York in 1940, she established a new studio where she resumed photographing celebrities, dancers and intellectuals including Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt. Her introspective and atmospheric portraiture is viewed as art suffused with technical prowess.

Dorothea Lange (1895 – 1965)

Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother”. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Known for her work documenting the depression, American photographer Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” became a symbol of hardship and resilience in the face of economic collapse.

The majority of Lange’s early studio work centered around portraits of the social elite of San Francisco. With the commencement of the Great Depression, however, Lange transitioned from the studio to the streets.

Applying techniques she had developed for photographing portraits of wealthy clientele, Lange’s unapologetic studies led to her employment with the Farm Security Administration. There, she continued to document the suffering of victims of the depression. Soon, her powerful images became an icon of the era.

Described in her own words, Lange used the camera as “…an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera”. Her unflinching study of the human condition in the 20th century shaped photojournalism in a way that continues to resonate today.

Grete Stern (1904 – 1999)

A self-portrait by Grete Stern. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Originally a graphic designer, Grete Stern studied under Walter Peterhans in Berlin where she and Ellen Auerbach opened a well-regarded studio, ringl+pit.

Emigrating to England in 1933, Stern then traveled to Argentina with her husband, Horacio Coppola. They opened an exhibition literary magazine Sur hailed as “the first serious exhibition of photographic art in Buenos Aires.”

By the mid-1940s, Stern was well established in Buenos Aires. She worked with women’s magazine Idilio, illustrating reader-submitted dreams through photomontage. Stern incorporated feminist critiques into her pieces which became popular with readers.

In 1964, Stern traveled Northeast Argentina, producing over 800 photos of Aboriginals in the region. The body of work is considered to be the most significant Argentinian record of its time.

“Photography has given me great happiness,” said Stern in 1992. “I learned a lot and [said] things I wanted to say and show”.

Ylla (1911 – 1955)

Ylla photographing a toucan. Image courtesy of Wikipedia – ©Pryor Dodge at the English Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (]

Animal photographer, Ylla (Camilla Koffler) originally studied sculpture under Petar Palavicini at the Belgrade Academy of Fine Arts, moving to Paris to continue her studies in 1931.

Working as an assistant to photographer Ergy Landau, Ylla began photographing animals on holiday. Encouraged by Landau, Ylla started exhibiting, opening a studio dedicated to pet photography shortly after.

Ylla’s first major book, Petits et Grands was published in 1938. That same year she collaborated with British evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley for his book Animal Language.

During 1941 Ylla immigrated to the United States. She opened a new studio in New York, photographing a miscellany of animals from lions and tigers to birds and mice.

In 1955, Ylla fell from a jeep while photographing a bullock cart race in India. She was fatally wounded. Her New York Times obituary read that Ylla “…was generally considered the most proficient animal photographer in the world.”

Olive Cotton (1911 – 2003)

“Teacup Ballet” by Olive Cotton. Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Describing her process as “drawing with light”, Olive Cotton’s Teacup Ballet has become synonymous with her artful command over light and shadow.

After studying English and Mathematics at university, Cotton pursued photography by joining childhood-friend Max Dupain at his studio in Sydney.

Besides assisting Dupain, Cotton also perused her own work. Cotton and Dupain were married briefly and she ran the studio in his absence during the war. She was one of the few professional women photographers in Australia at the time.

In 1944, Cotton married Ross McInerney, moving to a property near Cowra, NSW. Cotton gave up work as a professional photographer until 1964 when she opened a small photographic studio.

In the early 1980s, Cotton reprinted negatives she had taken over the past forty years or more. The resulting retrospective exhibition in Sydney in 1985 earned her recognition as a key figure in the development of Australian photography.


It’s impossible to cover the sheer number of women that have embodied the tenacity and creativity of a photographer’s spirit in a single article. With this piece, however, I hope to have encapsulated some of the resolves of the generations of women who have shaped photographic history. And although we aren’t all the way to achieving equality yet, thanks to the female photographers of the past and present, we’re a lot closer than we used to be.


The post 9 Pioneering Women Who Shaped Photographic History appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

How to Customize Your Lightroom Workspace for Better Workflow

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 08:00

The post How to Customize Your Lightroom Workspace for Better Workflow appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Although it is sometimes overshadowed by its powerful cousin Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom is a robust post-processing program in its own right.

Lightroom is designed with simplicity in mind, however, it still offers a lot of options and can be confusing to new users.

This article assumes you have a basic familiarity with the appearance of the various panels in the Lightroom, and gives you some tips on how to customize your Lightroom workspace for better workflow and productivity.

The Lightroom Workspace in Grid View


Lightroom is organized into seven Modules: Library, Develop, Map, Book, Slideshow, Print, and Web.

You can find these modules in the uppermost right-hand corner of your screen. This panel or bar is called the Module Picker.

Each of these modules contains a set of tools that work specifically within that module.

For example, if you want to design and print contact sheets of select images from a shoot, you would navigate to the Print module, where you would find the required tools to do that.

You will find, however, that there are some modules that you rarely (or even never) use.

Most users of Lightroom spend the majority of their time in the Library and Develop Modules. Therefore, Lightroom gives you the option to hide these modules from view if you wish.

To set up which modules you would like to remain visible, right click on the module panel to bring up a pop-up menu:

The panels that are visible are noted with a checkmark. To make the module invisible, simply click on it to uncheck it in the menu.

For example, I never use the Book and Slideshow modules, so I have those checked off in my own Lightroom workspace.

The missing modules are still available under the Window menu; you can use keyboard shortcuts to open them.

Keep in mind that if you do this, Lightroom will automatically add the missing module back to the Module Picker.


In the above image, the following are noted:

A. Library Filter bar
B. Image Display area
C. Identity Plate area
D. Panels displaying photos
E. Filmstrip
F. Module Picker
G. Panels for working with metadata, keywords, adjustments
H. Toolbar

There are four panels in each of the Lightroom Modules. Only two panels – the Module panel and Filmstrip panel – appear in all of the different modules in Lightroom.

For example, the Library module has a top Module Panel, the Navigation panel is located on the left-hand side. The right-side panel is mostly for Metadata, while the bottom panel is where the Filmstrip appears.

Develop Module has Develop and Preset panels instead of Navigation and Metadata.

Tabs are small panels inside of panels.

Below are the various tabs in the Develop panel in the Develop Module in Lightroom:

You can customize your workspace to display only the panels you want.

  • To open or close all the panels in a group, hit -> Command-click (Mac) or Ctrl-click(Windows).
  • To open or close one panel at a time, simply Option-click (Mac) or Alt-click (Windows) on the panel header.
  • To show or hide both side panel groups choose Window ->Panel -> Toggle Side Panels, or press the Tab key.
  • To hide all of the panels, including the side panels, the Module Picker and the Filmstrip, choose Window -> Panels -> Toggle All Panels, or press Shift-Tab.

If you don’t use a panel often, you can hide it form view: Control-Click (Mac) or Right-Click (Windows) on any panel header in the group and choose the panel name.

Change the Screen Mode

You can also change the screen display to hide the title bar, menus, and panels.

Choose -> Window -> Screen Mode, and choose an option from the drop-down menu.

When in Normal, Full Screen with Menubar, or Full Screen Mode, press the F key to cycle through them.

If you’re on a Mac OS, note that Full Screen mode and Full Screen and Hide Panels mode both hide the Dock. If you don’t see the Minimize, Maximize, or Close buttons for the application, press the F key once or twice until they appear.

Press Shift-Tab and then the F key to display the panels and menu bar.

  • Command+Option+F (Mac) or Ctrl+Alt+F (Windows) to switch to Normal screen mode from Full Screen with Menubar or Full Screen Mode.
  • Shift+Command+F (Mac) or Shift-Ctrl+F (Windows) hides the title bar, menus, and panels.

To dim or hide the Lightroom Classic CC workspace, choose -> Window then -> Lights Out, then choose an option. Press the F key to cycle through the options.

Identity Plate

You can brand your Lightroom with the logo of your photography business through the Identity Plate Setup.

It’s not going to impact your workflow in any way, but this is a cool customization you can make to appear more professional when working with clients and utilizing tethered capture.

To access the Identity Plate Setup click on a Mac -> Lightroom and choose -> Identity Plate Setup from the drop-down menu. For Windows, go to -> Edit and choose -> Identity Plate Setup.

Under Identity Plate, choose -> Personalized and Custom.

Click on -> Use a Graphical Identity Plate and then -> Locate File to navigate to wherever you have your logo saved on your computer.

However, if you don’t have a logo, you can still customize the text that appears in Identity Plate by changing the font, size of the font, and the color of the module names.

To sum up

A customized workspace can help you improve your workflow and therefore efficiency when working in Lightroom.

Hopefully, some of these tips will help you navigate Lightroom a bit more easily and has given you some ideas on setting up the interface in the way that works for you.

The post How to Customize Your Lightroom Workspace for Better Workflow appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Why Carrying Less Camera Gear Will Make You a Better Photographer

Wed, 01/09/2019 - 13:00

The post Why Carrying Less Camera Gear Will Make You a Better Photographer appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

During travel photography workshops, we teach participants who often carry big, heavy camera bags. A lot of the time people do not use very much of what they are lugging around with them.

In this article, I want to encourage you to think about carrying less camera gear and how it can help you improve your photography.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Restrictions of weight

Walking around with less weight on your shoulder or back makes a huge difference to photography sessions. It’s no problem if you’re working in a studio or are going to be mostly in one location, but otherwise, it can wear you out quickly.

Going on a photo walk, or even when you go on location, carrying less weight in camera gear frees you up and gives you more energy. You can enjoy your photography for longer periods of time. This becomes more noticeable as you get older.

Well-designed camera bags make a difference with good weight distribution. Mostly though, bags designed to carry a lot of camera gear are backpack-style and I do not find these easy to use. They are either strapped on and secure, with a belt to help support the weight on your hips, or your gear is easily accessible but the weight is not so well distributed.

Carrying a heavy bag of equipment hanging off your shoulder is tiring. It can also lead to back problems if you frequently do it for long periods.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

The hassle of bulk

Bulky bags make moving around more difficult. Again, this is more pronounced as you get older. Getting down on the ground to capture a low angle view becomes difficult with a bulky backpack on. If you do not have the bulk and weight on you are far more likely to get down and potentially make a more interesting photo.

Markets and other busy locations are far easier to navigate if you are carrying less camera gear.

With less of a mass of gear, you are also more inconspicuous. This can be a great advantage and help you obtain more natural, candid photos.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Thinking differently about how you compose

I think the biggest advantage of carrying less camera equipment with you is that you are forced to be more alternative in your approach to composition.

You will need to be more imaginative if you have only one or two lenses with you. Zooming with your feet becomes more necessary. It does not take long to get used to.

Seeing in new ways that still allow you to take interesting photos becomes second nature if you practice often enough. You have to think more about taking photos with the lens you have on your camera. If you have limited options you have to focus on your composition rather than relying on the perspective a different lens gives you.

Of course, this all means you need to plan more in advance. Packing the right gear for a particular situation is important. Before you head out with minimal gear, carefully consider the demands you are facing and which lenses will be most appropriate. If you are like me and prefer not to use zoom lenses, your options are more limited and carrying less gear is more challenging.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

What gear should I pack?

Ask yourself how much of your gear you really use each time to go out. When you stop to think about it you will probably find that you use certain lenses and other equipment more often and other gear hardly at all.

Check your metadata in Lightroom to see which lenses you use the most. Open a catalog of the favorite photos you’ve taken over the last twelve months or so. In Grid View in Lightroom click on the Metadata option in the top bar. Now you will see lists of cameras and lenses you have used. Analyzing your best photos based on lens and focal length may help you decide which lenses you use the most to take the photos you are most satisfied with.

Maybe you will choose to take one or two lenses with you more often, based on this information. Don’t always pack the lens you use the most. Push yourself by sometimes only packing a lens you tend not to use so much. This helps you become more comfortable using these lenses and to master them.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan


You may need to buy a new bag, or consider not taking a camera bag with you. If you are only taking one or two lenses out you may not even need to take a camera bag at all.

Don’t aim to travel too light when you have to produce a set of photos for a customer or specific purpose. Limiting yourself in terms of gear options can be detrimental in these situations. If you have a job to do, you need to be sure to do it well.

Challenge yourself to use minimal camera equipment for a month or two. Create a new body of work. When you reach the set period of time you have made yourself, look back over your photos and think about the difference this exercise has made to your photography.

Do you limit your photography gear? Let us know in the comments below.

The post Why Carrying Less Camera Gear Will Make You a Better Photographer appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

5 Tips for Photographing Festivals

Wed, 01/09/2019 - 08:00

The post 5 Tips for Photographing Festivals appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Goroka Show, Papa New Guinea. © Jeremy Flint

The performance, color and wonderful crowds that are the signature features of festivals make them an excellent subject for photography. Festivals are great organized events worth attending and can occur anywhere at any time.

A festival is defined as ‘a day or time of the year when people have a holiday from work and celebrate some special event.’ Festivals could be a day or period set aside for celebration to commemorate an anniversary or other significant events. A festival may also occur for feasting, such as religious events or for performances of music, theatre, and dance.

These special events are usually held periodically and are designed to entertain, providing a fantastic opportunity to capture some interesting images.

Consider if there is a festival or event you have always wanted to attend? Whether it’s at home or abroad, it will be sure to offer an array of colorful and compelling subjects and scenes.

Here are five 5 tips for photographing festivals:

1. Shoot local festivals

© Jeremy Flint

You don’t have to travel long distances to visit festivals. Find an event that is going on near you and head out with your camera to capture it. Often festivals are seasonal, so time your visit to a festival that takes place during your favorite time of the year such as summer or winter. Arrive early for the chance to get your bearings and find a suitable place to see and photograph the event.

Remember festivals in towns and cities can cause built up traffic, and road closures may restrict access. Allow extra time to get to the event and be observant to ensure your gear stays safe in crowded situations.

© Jeremy Flint

2. Shoot festivals around the world

If you are traveling abroad, consider visiting a festival during your vacation. Some incredible festivals are celebrated around the world including the Holi festival in India, the Rio Carnival, the Goroka and Mount Hagen shows of Papa New Guinea and Oktoberfest in Germany. They offer the chance to see a unique and varied side to the people of the place you’re visiting.

Goroka Show, Papa New Guinea © Jeremy Flint

There is generally a great atmosphere during these events, and the costume-clad festival participants are dressed to impress and hopefully won’t mind having their photograph taken.

Festivals involving cultures, such as those in Papa New Guinea and parts of Asia, brilliantly combine local culture with exciting tribal traditions. I photographed this image at the Goroka show in Papa New Guinea where local groups demonstrate their unique song and dance.

Goroka Show, Papa New Guinea © Jeremy Flint

Try and get a bit closer to the action and capture the variety of activities taking place. Alternatively, if you are with friends and family and prefer to remain in one place, wait for the action to come to you.

3. Add color

Festivals such as carnivals, street parties, and fetes create endless opportunities for lively, colorful images. Since everyone taking part in the celebrations are enjoying the occasion, they are happier than usual to have their picture taken. You can take advantage of this by capturing interesting poses and joyous people.

Be sure to look out for vibrant individuals in which to point your lens. Take portraits of cheerful revelers and capture the participants in their colorful clothing.

© Jeremy Flint

4. Capture action

© Jeremy Flint

At festivals, things happen fast. With parades and processions, attendees move quickly, so be ready to capture the action. With this in mind, I recommend you use a fast shutter speed to capture any aspects you find interesting. Try experimenting with different shutter speeds of 1/100th of a second and above.

A guy falling off a horse, Llanthony Show, Brecon Beacons, Wales © Jeremy Flint

5. Relax and enjoy it

Don’t get hung up on getting the perfect shot. Take time out from the photography, and you can enjoy it more. Spend time soaking up the atmosphere and see the activities with your own eyes. Similarly, immerse yourself in the event and enjoy the spirit of the festivities and the kaleidoscope of color.

Join in the festivities and dance or walk with the participants if they are marching.

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the event, you will have a much more memorable experience.


In summary, festivals offer a wonderful chance to create pictures with color, impact, and action. Most importantly, relax, enjoy it and don’t get too engrossed in taking the perfect shot. When photographing festivals remember these tips to help you improve your images. Therefore, get out there and capture a festival near you and share your photos below!


The post 5 Tips for Photographing Festivals appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Secret Camera Settings that Supercharge your JPEG Photos

Tue, 01/08/2019 - 13:00

The post Secret Camera Settings that Supercharge your JPEG Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Shooting pictures in RAW definitely has its advantages, but there are plenty of good reasons you might want to shoot using the JPEG format as well. It really comes down to personal preference, and both types of file formats have their pros and cons.

One of the biggest assets of the RAW format is that you can adjust your images as much as you want in programs like Lightroom or Luminar. Whereas the lossy compression algorithms used to create JPEG files leave much less room for post-processing flexibility. For this reason, to get the most out of your JPEG files, there are some important settings in your camera you should learn and customize to get your photos looking their best.

When you use RAW, you have access to the full data readout from your camera’s sensor. None of the data used to create your image was tossed out by your camera to compress the image and save memory card space. When shooting JPEG, your camera makes a series of determinations on the fly. It calculates what it thinks are the best values for various settings to get a pleasing photo almost like following a recipe to bake a cake. You can tweak that recipe to get the final output to be more customized to your taste. Doing so can be extremely helpful in many different photography settings.

White Balance

White balance is perhaps the most critical setting for JPEG shooters to understand. Getting this right can have a massive impact on how your images look. If you notice your images looking slightly yellow or blue, it’s likely due to the white balance not being calibrated correctly. Most people only use the Auto White Balance option which leaves the heavy lifting up to the digital brain inside your camera.

However, it’s straightforward to set the white balance by yourself and get much better results, particularly in tricky lighting situations. Especially indoors.

Setting the white balance at this cat show was really tricky due to the old fluorescent lights at the venue. Several of my auto white balance shots had a yellow tint, so I set the proper white balance in my camera and was able to achieve much better results.

It only takes a few seconds to set the white balance when shooting JPG and it can save you a lot of hassle in the long run. All DSLR and Mirrorless cameras, as well as most point-and-shoots, come with a variety of white balance settings. You can specify these if you know a little bit about the lighting conditions in which you are shooting. Many cameras have options such as Sunlight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Shade, even different types of fluorescent lighting. These can be selected to help make your photos look as good as possible.

The Overcast white balance setting gave me just the right look I was aiming for in this shot.

In my experience, the Auto white balance setting works great outdoors. However, when shooting inside, even the latest cameras can get tripped up by the many different types of artificial light. If you’re at a school, office, sporting event or another indoor setting with fluorescent lights, just choosing that option in your White Balance menu can make a huge difference to how your photos turn out. Try different settings and see what you like. Chances are, one of the pre-selected settings can help a great deal if you notice your photos looking a little blue or orange.

The picture I wanted to take was not what I ended up with. I missed a good opportunity largely due to improper white balance settings. A richer, more natural tone was what I wanted, but the image came out much cooler than I intended because I did not take a few seconds to set a proper white balance.

Finally, you can go all out and set a white balance of your own, which isn’t as big of a deal as it might sound. Every camera has its way of doing this. As long as you have a mostly white surface to point your camera at you should be all set (ideally it works if the surface is just slightly gray). Once again, the actual procedure is going to be different on every camera, and if you’re unsure do an internet search of your camera model and “custom white balance.” You should find the information you need.


While you adjust White Balance for various photography situations, Sharpening is a setting that you fine-tune to your taste and leave as-is. Of course, each photographer is different, but I’ve found I like a certain level of sharpening on all my JPG photos. This is because I have a particular type of look that I’m trying to achieve. Sharpening can’t fix an out-of-focus image. However, it can give your photos a certain level of pizzazz or clarity that you might have seen in other pictures but aren’t quite sure how to achieve on your own.

I ramped up the in-camera sharpening to get a clean, crisp image of these crayons. The foreground and background are just slightly out of focus due to shallow depth of field, but the middle is tack sharp.

Be careful not to set the sharpening too high though. Over-sharpening can lead to images that look fake and over-processed. However, you might find that with a few tweaks to the sharpening setting you can get your images to look much better.


Adjusting the contrast slider can make dull images come to life and punch-up an otherwise boring image. Either you or your camera, depending on your shooting mode, makes decisions about how bright or dark your images are based on the exposure settings. The contrast becomes the overall difference between the brightest and darkest portions of your pictures. Dialing up the contrast makes bright parts brighter and dark parts darker, whereas lowering the value will have the opposite effect.

Adjusting the contrast value helped me get the shot I was aiming for.

Contrast may seem like such a simple thing and, for the most part, it is. But it’s something that often gets overlooked by casual photographers. They may want to have nice JPEG shots straight out of their cameras and not worry about fussing with all the technical details. You might find that you prefer your photos to have a little contrast lending an interesting dynamic element to them. Or, perhaps you want your images to be a bit more subdued. Try adjusting the contrast slider, and you might realize that it does the sort of thing you have always been trying to achieve but never quite knew how to get.


If you have ever played around with filters on apps like Instagram you probably noticed that some of them make your colors pop and stand out while others have more subdued, muted tones. This effect is due in large (but not exclusive) part to saturation adjustments. You can fine-tune this on your camera to customize the look of your images. Some photographers prefer an over-saturated look – especially when taking nature or landscape pictures. It also works well for certain types of portraits too.

Adjusting your saturation after you take a picture can work, but it’s best to get it right in camera if possible.

Some photographers like a softer touch and prefer their JPEG files to be less saturated for a calm, timeless look. It’s all based on personal preference of the photographer. It can be useful and time-saving to change the saturation in-camera instead of in an image editing program. Adjusting the saturation is as simple as increasing or decreasing the value in your camera. You may find, after several test shots, that you prefer your images to be somewhat over or under-saturated. Either way, it’s worth giving it a try to see what you end up liking.

Other settings

Most cameras have additional custom settings you can change in addition to the basic ones covered so far. They can include things like film simulations, grain effects, highlight/shadow adjustments, and noise reduction, which can be very handy when shooting at higher ISO levels. If you have never explored these settings before, it’s a good idea to dive into your camera menus and do some experimenting.

If you dig into your camera menus you will find many other settings you can change to get just the right look you are going for.

Change some numbers, take some test shots, and see how the results compare to your normal shooting mode. It’s a good bet that you’ll end up with some appealing results. At the very least, you may learn more about your camera than you did before.

Custom Banks

A feature offered by many cameras is the ability to save banks of custom settings you can activate at will. Even my old Nikon D200, which came out in 2006, had this ability. The same is also true for every camera I own today. You can save specific values of most of your image adjustments such as Saturation and Contrast to a bank that you can recall at will. Using these custom settings means you don’t have to change individual values every time you want to shoot with a specific style.

This Fuji X100F has seven custom banks where you can save a huge variety of settings. You can switch between each bank with the touch of a button.

Think of this method as creating custom presets in Lightroom that you can apply to your camera with the touch of a button. If you’re shooting outdoors, you may have an in-camera preset with greater saturation and contrast. Perhaps you find yourself shooting school basketball games, so you create a preset with custom white balance and sharpening levels. If your camera does offer this feature, you can find it in the menus, or you can search online for your camera as well as the phrase “custom setting bank.”

Wrap up

I know not everyone shoots in JPEG, but if you do, some of these custom settings can come in handy and save you a lot of time. However, be aware that it’s difficult to undo them afterward. Unlike RAW, your JPEG files contain much less wiggle room and if you crank up the saturation and contrast in your camera, it’s challenging to undo these changes on your computer. Still, if you pay attention to what you are doing and make your adjustments carefully, you might be surprised at how useful these settings can be.

The post Secret Camera Settings that Supercharge your JPEG Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

10 Tips to Make Lightroom Classic CC Run Faster

Tue, 01/08/2019 - 08:00

The post 10 Tips to Make Lightroom Classic CC Run Faster appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Lightroom is an excellent program editing and managing your image files. When it comes to organizing and developing your photos, Lightroom can’t be beaten. However, there are times when it slows down; like when it renders previews. To address this, here are ten tips that will make Lightroom Classic CC run faster.

Update Lightroom regularly

Let’s start with the simplest tip: update Lightroom regularly.

Word is that Adobe has been working diligently behind the scenes on improving the performance of Lightroom, so it’s important to keep it updated.

To check for updates, click on -> Help in the top menu bar in Lightroom and then click on -> Updates to install them.

Optimize your Catalog

Lightroom continually updates the catalog file, but eventually, the data structure can become less optimal.

Lightroom has an “optimize catalog” option you can enable to improve performance.

To access this option, go to Lightroom -> Preferences and click on -> Performance.

Then click on -> Optimize Performance.

Set up Lightroom to back up on a regular schedule, and set it to optimize the catalog following the backup.

You can backup as often as you like. Ensure you always have the latest backup in case your Lightroom catalog becomes corrupt.

Be sure to discard previous backups to keep them from slowing down your computer.

More on this in a bit.


Store your Lightroom Catalog and Previews on your main hard drive

Lightroom stores your catalog and preview files on your main hard drive by default.

To check where the catalog and previews files are stored, go to Lightroom -> Catalog Setting (Mac) or -> Edit -> Catalog Settings (PC).

The Catalog name is an .lrcat file and its location can be found under the -> General tab.

The preview file is an .lrdata file and it is stored in the same location.

Check your hard drive space

If your computer’s main hard drive is running low on space, Lightroom will slow down, as will any other programs that you’re running simultaneously, like Photoshop.

Your main hard drive needs at least 20% free space for Lightroom to run optimally.

Keep in mind that Lightroom can actually be one of the reasons you’re running low on space!

If you have Lightroom set to back up your catalog every day or every time you close it down, that can result in a lot of space being taken up by backup files.

Delete all of these backup files except the last couple of backups you have made.

It’s important to have the latest backup in case your Lightroom catalog becomes corrupt, but that is all you really need.

Convert your images to DNG when importing into Lightroom

DNG is short for Digital Negative. It’s a RAW file format created by Adobe.

When you convert a file into DNG, Lightroom ads Fast Load Data to the file, which results in a partially processed preview that allows Lightroom to render faster previews in the Develop module.

Adobe claims that a DNG file with Fast Load Data can load up to eight times faster.

Another benefit of converting to DNG files is that they are smaller files than other RAW formats and take up 20% less space on your hard drive.

You must enable this Fast Load Data under your Lightroom Preferences tab.

Go to -> File Handling and check off Embed Fast Load Data. Make sure you have DNG selected as the file extension.

Edit your images using Adobe’s recommended Adjustment Steps

The panels in the Develop module are organized according to a suggested workflow.

Adobe also recommends that adjustments in Lightroom follow a certain order to maximize performance. They are as follows:

  1. Spot Healing
  2. Lens Correction
  3. Transformations
  4. Global Adjustments
  5. Local Adjustments
  6. Sharpening
  7. Noise Reduction

Whenever you make an edit, Lightroom applies it and calculates the previous adjustments that have been made. The more adjustments you apply, the more Lightroom slows down.

This helps keep track of your edits but slows down your system because Lightroom is calculating adjustments as you edit.

I personally stick to this order, except that I start by adjusting my white balance.

I also leave detailed edits for Photoshop. For example, as using the spot healing brush repeatedly can slow Lightroom down significantly. You are better off using this tool in Photoshop, which is also more precise.

Also, editing your images in the order they appear in your Lightroom filmstrip can have an impact on speed.

Lightroom caches images for faster performance in the Develop module.

It will automatically load the next and previous images in the filmstrip below your photos in the memory.

In the screenshot below, the active image is highlighted with a lighter grey background. The images on either side have also been loaded into memory for quick access.

Build standard  previews on Import

Lightroom offers several preview settings for your images.

Although there are differing opinions as to which is the optimal preview setting, I suggest building standard previews on import.

This will slow down the import process, but it will make the Library module more responsive when you review the imported images. Lightroom renders the previews from your SSD, rather than building them from the RAW files.

Make sure your previews are set close to the width of your screen.

For example, I work on a 27-inch iMac with a 5120 x 2880 built-in retina display. This means my display should be set at 5120 pixels.

To make this adjustment, go to the -> Catalog Settings and choose -> File Handling.

Choose the previews size under -> Standard Preview Size.

Make your Camera RAW cache larger

Lightroom has a Preview Cache, which is stored with your Catalog file and used in the Library view.

It also has a Camera RAW cache, which loads the image date when you’re in the Develop module.

The default size for this is 1GB, which slows down performance due to Lightroom swapping images in and out of its cache while you’re editing.

I suggest setting the Camera RAW cache to 20 or 30GB.

To set this option go to your Lightroom -> Preferences and click -> Performance.

Set your desired maximum size RAW cache Settings.


Disable XMP Writing

Lightroom keeps track of the edits you make in the Develop module in its catalog. If something happens to this catalog, you can lose all your data.

Lightroom can be configured to write the develop setting data into an XMP file. This a small file that contains the edit information and is written to your computer’s hard drive in the same place as your original RAW file.

The problem is that writing changes into this file can really slow your computer down.

I suggest disabling this feature and make sure that you always have a current backup instead.


Pause Address and Face Lookup features

Lightroom allows you to look up image address based on the GPS data, or the ability to search for faces.

However, allowing these options to run in the background can slow Lightroom down. So it’s best to pause them while you’re actually editing your photos.

You can start them up again if they’re relevant to your editing process.

For example, as a food photographer, I don’t use these features so I have mine set permanently on “pause”.

To access these features, go to where your name appears in the top left-hand corner of the Lightroom interface and click on the arrow beside it to access the drop-down menu. Choose -> Pause.

In Conclusion

When it comes to archiving, organizing and all-around management of your photos, Lightroom is an amazing program.

Hopefully, these tips help you get the most out of the program and speed up its performance so you can spend less time editing and more time shooting!


The post 10 Tips to Make Lightroom Classic CC Run Faster appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Expand Your Creativity by Taking Self-Portraits

Mon, 01/07/2019 - 13:00

The post Expand Your Creativity by Taking Self-Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Stacey Hill.

If someone asked me “what is the ONE thing you have done that improved your photography the most?” my answer would be Self Portraiture. No, not your average cell phone social media shot, but a fully-conceptualized project. One that is planned and executed down to the last detail, and then shot by the photographer who is also in front of the camera.

I don’t shoot people because they can be awkward and self-conscious in front of the camera. Often they have no idea how to pose, don’t listen and take direction, and can be impatient with the process. They can also be easily distracted, and you have to spend a lot of energy to keep them happy and engaged. For those who make a living shooting people/portraits, I salute you because it is hard work.

However, for those of us who don’t like to photograph other people, we are then left with a dilemma. Having a human in the shot helps us tell a more involved story, gives the viewer something to relate to, and helps us engage with the image. Therefore, using ourselves in the picture becomes a choice. Which leads us to the challenge; how do we plan out an entire image and shoot it, while being IN it at the same time?

Not only do we have to design and plan the whole shoot, which is enough of a challenge anyway, but we also have to put our self in front of the camera at the same time.

So we take something that is hard to do and make it even harder. Why would we do that? What are the benefits?

I had to come back and do this shoot a second time because all my first set of shots were not 100% in focus. I marked my focus point with a white stone this time

Creative Freedom

Using yourself as the model gives you enormous creative freedom. It allows you to try creative directions a paying client may not want to do.  You can be adventurous and take more risk with the shot style.

Some themes you could play with include:

  • 50’s pinup style shoots or burlesque or lingerie
  • Cosplay with lots of armor and weapons
  • Western-themed with a horse and a lasso
  • Fairytale redo of Cinderella or Red Riding Hood
  • A fantasy wedding theme
  • Pirates
  • Sport
  • 1920’s speakeasy
  • Zombie horror
  • Elaborate composited scenes not possible in reality like levitation and flying furniture and people


Sticky fake blood looks effective for this zombie-themed shot. It tells a story with just the hand and arm.

Thinking outside the box

There are so many more ways to create a self-portrait. You can use your whole body or only a part of it. Using the hands alone can tell stories in so many ways. Many people do not like having their face in the frame, and showing complex extreme emotion is a challenging concept for a lot of people.

Why are our portraits often of people smiling and being happy? Do we not also feel sadness, grief, anger, confusion, depression, anxiety, despair?  How can we explore the full human condition?

What are the other stories we can tell using the full range of emotions available to us? How else can we create powerful emotive imagery? What stories can we tell that encompass our vision and experiences?

Are there things we personally find challenging or interesting? What fascinates and drives us? Are there demons dwelling in our psyche to be uncovered and exposed in front of a lens? What is our story? Do we want to share a reality or instead craft an alternate fantasy world instead?

My mantra is “I want my images to evoke a response.” Any response is fine. Just so long as my images are SEEN, not just scrolled past on the phone. How can they stand out from the crowd of the millions of other images uploaded every minute online? I also want them to be uniquely mine by permitting myself to create what is necessary to get a specific shot.

My question to you is “how do you get someone to stop scrolling and see YOUR image, or to like or comment on it?” How do you innovate with your imagery to make it different, noticeable or more engaging?

Learn to take risks

For the record, there is nothing wrong with the traditional style of portrait/self-portrait images, but there are those of us who strive for something more. We strive for something different, something extreme or extraordinary. In which case, starting with yourself is an excellent way to experiment in a safe, controlled environment. An environment where it is okay if you make a mistake and take twice as long to do something because you are only using your time. Somewhere everything you try is a learning experience and often a valuable one.

However, putting yourself as the subject in a shot is a risk. Everyone suffers the same doubts. “Will I look OK?”
“Will people like this image of me?”
“I hate how my face looks when I smile” and so on.

Underneath we are all the same fragile creatures, so putting yourself front and center takes a lot of courage.

If you are choosing to do something more creative, then the risk may feel greater.
“Will I look like an idiot dressed as a pirate?”
“I’m afraid of doing a nude or lingerie shot.”

It is easy to worry about what people think.
It can also be hard to overcome the ingrained societal concepts of good or expected behavior. Society expects us to be smiling and happy in a portrait shot. Many people do not cope well when presented with your screaming face covered in blood!

You may feel concerned about going outside to shoot where other people can see you.
“What is this person in a strange costume doing making weird poses in front of the camera?”
Yes, that is a real thing.

My response to that is first of all, who cares what other people think? Second, if we want the shot of a particular place to tell a story, then we do what is necessary to get the shot. Are we risking embarrassment by doing this? Maybe, but I am also comfortable with the idea that no one has died of embarrassment.

Breaking through my comfort zones and pushing my boundaries is one of the most valuable things I have done to improve my photography. Self-portraiture has been a big part of that journey because it gave me the freedom to take risks and try something new. Because I am using myself as the model, if it doesn’t work, I can try again. I can try something different, or refine my process in a better way.

Think about how you could tell new or different stories if you had the time and made the opportunities to craft self-portrait images that tell your story!

Self-portrait secret weapons
  1. A Wireless Remote
  2. Shooting Tethered (either cabled or wireless with a trigger)
A wireless remote

Having a wireless remote is faster and more efficient. You can get yourself into position and shoot a whole range of different poses without having to dash back and forward between the camera and your position.

Shooting tethered

If you are in a studio or working close enough to the camera, shooting tethered makes the process even better. You can make sure your pose is within the frame, can see any issues and adjust them quickly. Shooting tethered allows you to fine tune everything while you are shooting the scene. You save time too, in case you cut your head off accidentally and need to reposition again and again.

Being able to see how the final image looks on a bigger screen is also very helpful for creative direction. Several of my shots I would not have conceptualized without the opportunity to see the potential of them on the laptop screen. Sometimes merely adjusting the tilt of the head or the angle of the chin completely changes the tone or feel of an image.

Slightly out of focus while I was trying out shooting tethered for the first time. Helped to position the fan in exactly the right place

Give yourself time to play

When you are the only set of hands and have to be in two places at once, it takes time to set the shot up. Give yourself plenty of time to shoot, so there is no rushing. That way you can deal with any issues and be relaxed about your time frame.

Also, allow yourself time to play and experiment while in front of the camera. By having time to play, you can spark up new concepts and ideas you didn’t initially have. Ideas that can turn out to be valuable. I have specifically scheduled time in my studio with a few props to experiment with a concept. With no specific intention for a shoot, just time to create visually in an unstructured manner. I can take small risks, try new things, move on to the next idea and experiment.

This exercise has taught me a great deal about posing, and how to move the body to get the best visual outcome. This exercise is invaluable for talking to portrait clients later, as you can empathize with how odd it feels, but explain why it matters too.

Planning a self-portrait image

Many elements go into creating an image. For example, subject, light, story, and mood. With a self-portrait image, you have to start from the beginning and build the entire picture. You must integrate all the necessary elements in such a way that allows you to create both behind the camera and in front of it simultaneously.

1. What

What is the concept or idea behind your image?

2. How

How are you going to execute it? What constraints or limitations are there? What are the technical or physical challenges and what lighting is needed?

3. Where

Where do you shoot it? Do you shoot inside or outside, or in a specific place? Is the background composited in later?

4. Theme

What styling or theme do you want the shot to have? Be as creative as you like or can afford.

5. Pose

How will you be posed? Is it a pose you can hold and adjust easily for a range of options? Is the pose comfortable and safe?

6. Props

What props are needed to tell the story? Do you require hair, makeup, clothing, or other accessories to tell the story?

7. Extras

Some other things you may need to consider are: site permissions, shooting fees, access, public audience, personal safety, weather conditions, and travel distance/time.

Other considerations

These are all the things you may need to account for if doing a shoot with a client or a model. You can go the safe route and do classic headshots, or outdoor portraits in a garden. It is a safe option when dealing with a client who may not want a more challenging style of image, may not have the time or budget to get dressed up in costume or isn’t interested.

Figuring out how to do this by yourself (assuming you don’t have any assistance) can take some practice. If you have an elaborate, complicated costume, can you get dressed in it by yourself? Can you do it in the back of your car if there isn’t anywhere else you can get changed? Can you wear it and drive at the same time?

How much gear are you carrying? Can you take it in one trip to the session site? Are you and your gear safe while working outside?

Everything becomes much more complicated. You need to take a normal approach to things and make it even simpler. Then you repeat until every stage is possible for one person to achieve.

The final edit from the original shot seen above


Using people in images helps tell an engaging visual story. However, not all photographers have the luxury of friends/family to pose for them or can afford a model. Some photographers may prefer not to deal with a stranger due to the complexity of the shoot, and the time required. So putting yourself in the frame may be the only option.

Putting yourself front and center can be intimidating. Some of us prefer to be behind the camera. However, we can dress in costume, wear wigs, elaborate makeup, masks or shoot in such a way that our identity is not apparent.

Masking your identity also forces you to be more creative with how you think about staging and shooting your image. It can be a challenge because everything takes longer and the complexity increases with the need to be both in front of the camera and composing the shot.

There are so many learning opportunities and experiences to be had by taking the time to play. When it is just you and a camera, there is great freedom involved to try random concepts and ideas. Things you may not have ever considered before.

Pinterest and Instagram are great places to find inspirational ideas. Start making yourself a board, gather props, take a deep breath and put yourself in the frame.

It will be tough going initially, but it is worth it. Even just for the learning experiences, you gain from making mistakes. However, don’t let that stop you. Go forth and create!

Share with us some of your images below.


The post Expand Your Creativity by Taking Self-Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Stacey Hill.

Senior Photo Tips for Better Senior Photography

Mon, 01/07/2019 - 08:00

The post Senior Photo Tips for Better Senior Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Photographing teens who are about to embark on a new phase of life is an honor as a photographer. However, it can be tricky to photograph teens who are both very self-aware and yet not a full adult yet. Read the following tips to get the most out of a senior photography session.

1. Pre-Consultation with both the teen and parent

It’s essential to schedule a pre-consultation with both the teen and the parent. This way, you can interview the teen and get a better idea of what they envision for their session. Senior portraits that include the input and ideas of the teen tend to go smoother as the teen is more excited to participate.

Having the parent at the pre-consultation can also help to get an idea of what he or she is looking for as far as wall prints, invitations, graduation announcements, etc. As they are the one paying, they can also choose which options best suit their needs and budget.

Include the teen in the process of choosing wardrobe and locations.

Sit down in a casual and comfortable setting so that you can develop a natural conversation with the teen. Bring samples to show them so that they can see and touch the products.

Giving them printed pricing sheets printed to take home. Doing so helps them to keep in mind the products they may want after they view the photos. In turn, helping you make a more significant sale after the session is complete.

Make and print out a small questionnaire for both the teen and parent to fill out. Ask questions like, ‘what background do you envision for your session: natural, urban, mixture?’ Or, ‘do you play any sports? If so, would you like to be photographed in your uniform?’

These questions help you to get a better understanding of what the senior photos represent for the family. Being able to see their likes, dislikes and hobbies narrows down the location, time of day, type of lighting, and even posing.

Some seniors may already have a clear idea as to what they are looking for as far as their photo session goes, making things easier. However, you may encounter many teens that don’t have a clue. This is where you can guide them. Show the teens previous senior sessions that you’ve photographed in different locations and styles. You’ll probably get an excellent idea as to what they don’t like, helping narrow down what they do want.

2. Play music during the session

Music can help the teen relax and feel less nervous during the session. Have them choose a playlist of music they like before or during the session.

Music can also fill in gaps while you are photographing them and can’t focus on a conversation.

Music can be a small detail that can easily get overlooked. However, music can be a game changer when you have a particularly shy teen who isn’t talkative. It can set the tone for the session and motivate the senior to pose a certain way and make particular expressions.

The client experience is what drives word of mouth and referrals from current clients. When you give the teen some control of their senior session, they feel heard and seen. A small decision in choosing which music to listen to can make the whole experience positive.

3. Props and accessories

Props can be a big help during sessions with a senior. There are many props you can use, however, the following are the most popular and specific to senior portraits:

  • Musical instruments
  • Sports props like balls, uniforms, backgrounds
  • The teen’s car
  • Their hobbies, like a camera for photography, art supplies or an easel for painting
  • A prop that is descriptive of the teen’s personality
  • The cap and gown for their school
  • Ballons with the graduation year
  • A sign

Adding props can add more variety and add a more personal touch to the photos.

Props also help the teen to be more relaxed posing with something that they like. It also gives the session a fun, playful feel while providing the senior with a better overall experience. For example, if the senior loves to ride horses, you can go where they keep their horse and take a few photos.

Or if a teen is really into djing, they can bring their favorite vinyl records to the shoot. Props help to give the session a little more personality.

4. Posing

Posing can be tricky with senior photography. You have to keep poses teenage appropriate while also being mindful that they are young adults on the verge of entering the real world.

Choose poses that offer variety. For girls, this can mean crossing their feet as they stand with their arms at their hips or interlocked hanging freely. For boys, have them stand against a column or wall and prop up a leg or keep it casual with both feet relaxed.

Sitting on steps also creates nice solid portraits. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different lenses to get different looks during the session.

For example, a lens at 35mm may be an interesting shot in an urban area, giving the portrait more space around the senior. A more compressed, longer lens can give beautiful bokeh and isolate the teen’s face for a beautiful mid-length portrait.

Playing with props and giving their hands an action to do can help calm nerves. Be mindful of idol hands because they can look out of place within the portrait if they are hanging at the sides.

Use their hands to hold jackets, give the elbow a bit of bend to create more shape, put them in pockets, play with hair or props, have them fix their shirt or dress. Giving their hands something to do can also help relax the teen while they are in front of the camera.

Stairs are a great place to sit seniors and take both full-length and close-up photos.

Check out some inspirational photos and save them to your phone. Sometimes a little inspiration can help you create something different when the session feels a bit stagnant.

The great thing about teen and senior photography is that they are perfect opportunities for you to experiment. After you’ve achieved the sure photographs that both they and their parents will love, offer to do something more experimental. Go for different lighting if that is something you’ve wanted to try. Doing this can help you offer a different feel to the session and final images.

5. Inviting more seniors to the session

Having the opportunity to photograph more than one senior at the same session can be a fun experience for all involved. If this is the case, ensure you are charging per person, or you have given the main client a group quote. Also, determine how many seniors you can photograph effectively in the amount of time you have for the session.

Photograph the group together in three to four setups. Then take turns taking 5 or more solid portraits of each senior. If they are all members of the same sports team or club, ask them to bring props. Props could include their uniform or other items that represent the activity in which they participate.

Give each teen time to change out of the group photo wardrobe so that they can also experience their own time with you. This makes them feel like they have their own mini-session within the big group photos. The more photos you include of each teen, the more opportunities you have to sell prints and products as well.

Try and take candid photos of the group too. Getting natural reactions while they are just hanging out and talking can also be as meaningful as the posed photos.

In conclusion

Senior photography is much more than the classic graduation portrait that parents used to look for. They are about inclusion and having the teen actively participate in order to capture their true personality before embarking on their next adventure in life.

Keeping it light and fun, as well as experimenting with different lighting and poses, can help make the senior session much more interactive and exciting.

The post Senior Photo Tips for Better Senior Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

20 Ways to Improve Your Photography by Improving Yourself

Sun, 01/06/2019 - 13:00

The post 20 Ways to Improve Your Photography by Improving Yourself appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

Photo: Guillermo Sánchez

Sometimes what holds us back in photography is not a lack of “know how” or new gear, but not growing anymore as people. Before you try to improve your photography with a new camera or lens, try working on some weak part of your personality. Once you’ve improved yourself as a person, you’ll make much better use of that new camera or lens!

Whether you’re an amateur or professional, here are 20 personality problems to tackle that can help you grow as a photographer.

Imagine if adults kept growing at the rate toddlers do. One day they’re watching the big kids play, and then suddenly they’ve figured it out for themselves.

1. Stop being lazy – accomplish something big

If you always have a nagging feeling that you should be accomplishing more, then now is the time to do it. Instead of letting half-baked ideas and almost-finished projects pile up, get something completed.

It’s so easy to be lazy. That’s the danger. Accomplishing great things takes work, but being lazy doesn’t.

You can spend hours scrolling through photos that other photographers have taken, always lusting over their projects. Or, you can get off the couch to finish one of your own projects.

Before long, you’ll look back and see a trail of finished work.

2. Don’t work so hard

Maybe you’re the opposite of lazy. Maybe you can’t stop working. Suppose you run a photography business and feel a lot of guilt about missing so much family time. You must stop working a bit and pay attention to the other important things in your life.

When you make more time for friends and family and a little bit of downtime, you’ll grow in your creativity and do greater things when you get back to work.

Expand your relationships and life experiences and you’ll bring a much deeper version of yourself to your work.

Cut back on the hours you work by eliminating tasks that are not essential to your projects or business.

Workaholics could schedule some time into their week to relax with a book. Expand yourself with a thrilling novel or good “how to” book.

3. Get organized

Begin to de-clutter and simplify your life. For example, do you just dump all your photos onto a hard drive or leave them floating around the cloud? You need to get those photos organized.

Get all your photos into one place and get them sorted out.

If you’re a project photographer, them sort them by year and by the project.

If you take a lot of photos every day or every week, I highly recommend sorting them by date.

The system I use is simple.

  • All photos go into a monthly folder
  • The monthly folders go into a yearly folder
  • All yearly folders go into one main folder labeled Photos

When your photos are organized you can begin to sift through them, print them, and enjoy them.

When your photos are in one place it is easy to back them up and know they’re safe.

4. Embrace a little chaos

Perhaps you are so orderly in life that you can’t stand any chaos.

Maybe you’re a photographer who can’t stand dealing with toddlers or people with strong personalities. You need to get out of your comfort zone and embrace a little chaos. Let the toddlers run wild a bit, maybe you’ll notice some great candid moments when you’re not asserting so much control.

Instead of meticulously planning every detail of your life, leave some things to chance. Allow for surprising spontaneity and see where it takes you.

Those white pants were so clean when we left the house! Toddlers are agents of chaos. But they’re exploring their world and learning so much.

5. Be more kind

Does your mouth lack a filter? Do you boast that you don’t care about people’s feelings? Are you always annoyed with your clients and don’t mind telling them so?

I recommend you work on being more polite. It’s going to be difficult, but try biting your tongue once in a while.

Don’t be a troll, leaving nasty comments on photography websites. When you say things kindly, your words might help somebody to improve themselves.

Practice saying one thing to every client or photographer in your life that would build them up. When you learn to help others grow, you grow deeply too.

6. Don’t let people walk all over you

Don’t misunderstand the nature of kindness by letting people take advantage of you.

If you’re a photographer in business, you must make people respect your talent, time and prices. Your work is worth something (perhaps more than you think).

Sure, you’ve got a heart of gold. But wake up and see that letting people take advantage of you does nothing to help them.

When the kids get sick it always throws a wrench into our plans. But sometimes those sick days are gateways to something new. We discover something more of their personality or spend the day reading books or listening to stories together. Sometimes, when something ruins our plans it leads to something better.

7. Volunteer

If you know that compassion is a weak point for you, then you should volunteer your photography skills. Go out and work for free, blessing a family or charity who would be thrilled by your offer to help. You might even enjoy the experience!

8. Compassion has some limits

Many photographers suffer burnout in their photography business. One of the main reasons is that they charge too little for their services. When you charge too little, you have to work too much to make a decent living. You will burn out.

Charge a price that is fair to you and your client, not just fair for them. Don’t feel like you have to give everyone discounts. And don’t listen to those few people who will tell you your prices are too high.

Balance good business and your own photography pursuits with some compassion for those who are truly in need.

Toddlers always put their shoes on the wrong feet!

9. Learn to accept stress without snapping

Do you find yourself constantly snapping in anger or wanting to cry about stress?

You need to learn to accept difficult things more gracefully. It might not be easy. When everything in you wants to snap, restraint takes strength.

Begin by understanding that not everything is worth freaking out over, even though you may feel like it. Often, your initial feelings tell you how to act, and snapping has become a habit.

When you feel volatile feelings rising up, stop and think about them. Is this the best response?

Walk away from dramatic situations and wait to respond when you are at peace.

You’ll find it much easier to deal with criticism of your photography, difficult clients and unruly subjects.

10. Recognize that sometimes your emotions deceive you

Do you feel like crying or throwing up when you think a client has ripped you off or somebody says they hate their photos?

It’s tough to get bad news. But what if you could receive that news without the flood of overwhelming negative emotions? You can make peace with those clients more easily when your emotions are not raging. Sometimes the situation isn’t even half as bad as your emotions are telling you.

Make yourself calm down before you talk with clients or people who upset you. You can overcome overwhelming emotions.

Drawn to the camera in a game of peekaboo.

11. Go out and meet people

Being introverted is not a bad thing, but being very withdrawn is. Spending time on your own is fine, but hating to be around people isn’t a good thing.

You can’t make the most of life on your own. You’ll grow as a photographer when you spend more time with people.

If you’re awkward around people, try acting like an extrovert. Just pretend you love people. Strike up conversations and take an interest in those around you. Before you know it, you’ll be more confident and less withdrawn.

Even if you’re a landscape or wildlife photographer, you’ll benefit from friendships and relationships with other photographers. You can even expand your photography by including people in your landscape and wildlife photos.

12. Most people are not thinking bad things about you

If you’re always worried about what people think about you, you should know this; they’re not thinking about you!

Most people don’t think bad things about you and most people don’t spend much time thinking of you at all.

Resist whatever thoughts you have that scare you about people.

If street photography is your thing, don’t be afraid to actually approach people on the street for a portrait. You’ll be nervous, but your imagination is probably playing tricks on you.

13. Be more assertive

If you’re too afraid to take control of your portrait sessions then you need to grow in your assertiveness. Perhaps you love waiting for candid moments, but maybe you’re more afraid to step in and tell people what to do.

People like a certain amount of assertiveness. Most people prefer that you take some control.

14. Don’t be a control freak

Being assertive is a great quality unless you overdo it! You can be so assertive that you don’t let other people be themselves. Your portrait clients like knowing that you’re confident and in control, but they don’t like it when you won’t listen to them and work with their ideas.

He thinks he’s so funny stealing my seat every time I get up!

15. Cheer up!

You will go through periods when you just don’t feel the love toward photography that you used to. That’s okay. But the best way to get out of that slump is to act like you love it. Go through the motions of loving it. Don’t act like your photography work is drudgery.

16. Don’t jump on every opportunity!

You can be way too enthusiastic about photography, jumping on every opportunity that comes along.

You can buy every piece of gear, accept every job, and take on every project. But committing to everything will be committing to too much.

Slow down and only commit to what you’re best at or what you want to learn about most.

Dropping fistfuls of sand on himself, he hasn’t got a care in the world.

17. Go explore

Do you feel so insecure about things that you avoid new situations? If you haven’t experienced anything new in a while, you need to go and explore.

Find new landscapes. Meet new people. Try a different art form.

18. Reflect on what you’ve explored

If you’re constantly exploring and discovering new things it might be time that you stop and do some reflecting. What are you discovering through all this exploration? What are you learning about yourself, other people and the world around you? How has your photography improved? How might you improve more?

19. Read a book about a photographer

Maybe you know everything about every photography technique out there, but nothing about the heart of photography. Maybe you know little about the deeply human part of photography.

Go to the library and grab a biography of some photographer to read. Learn about the life experiences that led to their work and techniques.

20. Flesh out your ideas in a photo

If you love ideas and are constantly reading, try bringing some of those ideas to life through photos.

Sometimes I’m not just capturing moments. I’m trying to capture moments that express something about my subject. What’s the nature of a toddler? What are the ideas about toddler-hood that could be captured in a photo?

Choose 2-3 ways to improve yourself as a photographer

You’ve just read 20 ways to improve yourself that will also help you grow as a photographer. Choose 1 of these things to work on over the next few weeks or 2-3 things that you can work on over the year. As you grow as a person, you’ll grow as a photographer too.

The post 20 Ways to Improve Your Photography by Improving Yourself appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

Gear: Leica C-Lux Camera Review

Sun, 01/06/2019 - 08:00

The post Gear: Leica C-Lux Camera Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kunal Malhotra.

One of the latest offerings by Leica is the C-Lux compact camera which features 20-Megapixel, 1-inch CMOS sensor. With the focal length range of 8.8-132mm (24-320mm as per 35mm format), this is a multi-purpose camera. You can shoot photos of multiple genres like street, portraits, landscape, wildlife, and events using the 15x zoom range on this camera by Leica.

Talking about a few key highlighting features, the Leica C-Lux allows you to shoot 4K video, shoot images at 10fps burst rate and has a sensitivity range up to ISO 25600.

Build quality and ergonomics

The moment you hold the Leica C-Lux in your hand, you get mesmerized by its looks and ergonomics. This camera looks and feels premium from the very first second you use it.

The grip on this camera allows you to use it for hours without sweat or pain in your fingers. The thumb support at the back of the camera allowed me to make a strong grip while clicking both photos and videos.

I like how Leica has made this compact camera ‘compact’ – making sure it is fully-loaded with the latest features. While the built quality feels sturdy, the camera weight is not very heavy.

Physical features

My favorite physical feature on this camera has to be the customizable ring on the lens. By default, the role of the ring is to adjust the focal length of the lens. However, you can customize it to control either the manual focus or aperture value. So if you frequently focus manually or shoot in aperture priority, you are going to love this feature. I shoot in aperture priority in most situations, and the ring helped me save time and effort switching between aperture values.

On the back side of the C-Lux camera sits the 3.0“ TFT LCD touchscreen and 0.21“ LCD viewfinder with diopter adjustment from -4 to +3 diopters. The touchscreen is responsive and you can touch-and-focus while shooting photos and videos. However, the viewfinder is something that did not impress me. It felt like there was light leakage from the sides which distracted my view.

There is a pop-up flash hidden on the top center of the camera, which can be used by merely sliding a physical key. The back panel also features three custom function buttons which can be used as per the user convenience.

Image quality

While this camera has a focal length range from 24mm to 360mm, you may want to know its performance at both ends. I found the images to be sharp and crisp between 24mm and 200mm, and it gets a bit soft beyond 200mm focal length. Nevertheless, while shooting in daylight, it gives incredible results even at 360mm. However, as the light reduces, the crispness becomes a bit average.

If you are someone who shoots more in daylight and you want a longer focal length range in your compact camera, this could be a great choice for you. The optics in this camera lens enables you to capture images with good color reproduction.

Low-light performance

The real test of a camera is when it gets used in low light conditions. I took this camera for a run at night and clicked some street photos. The ISO performance up to 1600 ISO is excellent considering it features a 1-inch sensor. But beyond 1600 ISO you will start noticing grain in your images.

I was shocked to see this camera perform brilliantly in low light conditions while shooting video. I expected high grain at ISO 800, but this camera worked like a charm even at ISO 1600. This camera is equipped to shoot 4K video at 30fps and 1080p video at 60 fps.

Monochrome mode

Leica is known to have one of the best sensors for monochrome photography. But is it any good in this, one of the most affordable cameras? I fell in love with monochrome photography the day I started using this camera. The monochrome images felt entirely different coming out of this camera; perhaps because it is my first Leica camera. This camera captures amazing contrast and dynamic range, as you can see in the image below.

Autofocus performance

Most of the time I used the touch-to-focus feature, and there is a reason behind that. Ideally, I use manual focus point selection, but after a few shots I could trust the C-Lux touch focus accuracy. The focus speed also feels quite fast without much focus hunting, even in low-light conditions. But when you are beyond 200-250mm in low light conditions, the focusing becomes slower, and the focus hunting begins.


There are some useful features in this camera including Focus Stacking and Exposure Stacking modes. One of the benefits of using a small sensor camera is that you get to use some fantastic features. These two modes allow you to capture multiple photos and give you a final image using either the focus point of your choice to focus stack or combine multiple exposures to achieve a high dynamic range (HDR) image.

Moreover, if you are social media enthusiast, the C-Lux camera allows you to instantly transfer images and videos via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth with the help of the ‘Leica C-Lux’ app.

Final thoughts

Amidst so many options, why would you choose the US$1050, 20 Megapixel, 1-inch sensor Leica C-Lux compact camera? If you are a frequent traveler and wish to carry a camera that does most of the job for you, this may be an ideal choice. Also, if you want the ‘Leica’ branding and love clicking in monochrome, you may fall for this little camera. With features including 4k photos at 30fps, focus and exposure stacking, 4k video and that smooth custom ring, I would recommend this Leica camera.

What are your views about this compact camera from Leica? Would you go for it?

The post Gear: Leica C-Lux Camera Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kunal Malhotra.

So You Want to Make a Website? Part 2: How to Create a Website

Sat, 01/05/2019 - 13:00

The post So You Want to Make a Website? Part 2: How to Create a Website appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

In Part 1 of the So You Want to Make a Website? Series, we looked at which platform was best for your needs. In Part 2, we delve into the setup process. There may be small differences with WordPress (depending on who you choose for your hosting), however, things will be very similar whoever you choose. 

1. Squarespace

Choose a template and off you go. Whilst not as expansive in choice as WordPress. Squarespace offer some very stylish templates.

With Squarespace, setting up your website is as easy as going to, choosing a design and clicking ‘start with this theme.’ Squarespace is a great platform that allows you to try before you buy. You get a 14-day free trial of the platform without the need for a credit card, allowing you to take the platform for a test drive.

When you go on the site, start with the template section and look for one you like. Squarespace has a search option to help you choose a theme that’s relevant to what you want your website to do. Once you find a theme you like the look of, you can preview it across multiple platforms at the click of a button. There are also links to real life websites that have been built using the theme you are previewing. That way you can test its functionality.

Once you have chosen your theme, click ‘start with this design’ and Squarespace creates your website. After a simple login and hello, you can get down to business.

Starting your build

In Squarespace, you work with seven tabs. Each is clearly labeled and easy enough to get your site design started intuitively. By default, all pages get set as demos. To create your unique pages, click on it and Squarespace creates a working page for your site.

From here, you can add text and photos. You can also style the page as you desire. It is an intuitive platform, but if you get stuck, there are some great tutorials to help you. Squarespace also has a dedicated support team you can contact.

The Styles Editor is the main menu where you can tweak several options of your site. These include options such as fonts, color, and text size. These options enable you to personalize your site and make it match your style or brand. Switching templates is easy if you find you aren’t happy with the one you started with. Again, this is a simple, hassle-free process.


Within the styles menu you can change your site styles, complete with realtime previews.

Domain names and Email

Finally, in the settings page, you can register your free domain and access a free year of Google’s G-Suite email. You can set up your domain name and personal email address ([email protected]) quickly and with minimum hassle. As a paying customer, domain registration (your web address) is free and becomes automatically linked to your account. I recommend this option when you start because it keeps things simple from a setup point of view.

Extending your trial

Once your Squarespace trial is up, you can extend it for a further two weeks if you need to. However, if you like the platform, pay for your chosen plan, and your site can be live within minutes. If, after your trial, you think the platform is too restrictive (some do), you have lost nothing.  You won’t even have the annoyance of canceling your credit card.

Finally, there are several vouchers out there for 10% off your first purchase. Make sure you take advantage of one when you purchase your site.

2. WordPress


This looks daunting, but it is simpler than you think.

While this may seem a like a more complicated option – it isn’t. WordPress installation is quite simple, as most hosting companies have a one-click install option.

In regards to hosting companies, there are many, and they vary in price, speed and customer support. Some are better than others, so do your research. A quick Google search will help you out immensely here. The main three things to look out for are security, support, and speed. Site loading time is a factor Google takes into account when ranking sites, so speedy hosting helps. Having security is essential so that your site doesn’t get hacked. Support comes in handy when you get stuck with any issues in regards to your site being offline. Similar to Squarespace, you can register your domain name with your hosting company (usually for a small fee). Doing this makes the setup process more straightforward.

Creating an Email address

Creating an email is incredibly easy using your hosting CPanel. Just click on the email button, choose your email address and password and click ‘OK’. It really is that simple.

Fill in this field and you will have a personalized email. It really is that simple.

Installing WordPress

With your hosting purchased, you now need to access your control panel (CPanel) to install WordPress. CPanel is daunting on first look, but you soon get used to it. This area is where good support from your hosting company can be useful. I can’t give specifics as this varies by company, but all good hosting companies will have guides to help you. Once you have WordPress installed. It is time to start creating your website.

Building your site

Once you are set up, you need to login to your admin area (AKA backend). In the Admin area, you’ll find the tools you need to create your site. Once you are logged in, you have access to all the tools to control your website.

The three main options you will use day to day are posts, pages, and media. When setting up your site, you may also need to use a couple of other options — appearance (where you choose your theme of the website) and Plugins, where you can add plugins for specific things such as SEO. There are a lot of different options with WordPress, but like everything, using it becomes more comfortable over time.

It may look a little daunting, but it isn’t as scary as you think.

Installing a theme

Once you have installed WordPress, it is time to choose your theme/template. There are thousands of fully-customizable WordPress themes that range from free to $$$. Check out the free themes first, but these often have less functionality and features than the paid ones. Free themes can be prone to things such as poor coding (meaning your site will not load as fast) or may be outdated. Lastly, free templates generally will not offer great support. I am not saying there aren’t some great free ones available, but it takes more to find a good one. However, you do get what you pay for.

On the other hand, paid themes tend to be more feature-rich. They also tend to have better support, which can be invaluable if you run into a problem. Updates also tend to occur more frequently and are less prone to bugs and errors (this does not mean they do not suffer from these problems though). I can guarantee there is a WordPress theme you will love. The hardest part may be choosing.

Installing a theme is just as simple. Go to the Appearance tab and upload the theme you have purchased. Alternatively, choose directly from the themes offered. Depending on the template, things vary from here. Work with the support team on your particular theme to get the best from it.

Now that you have your theme installed, it is time to start to create your content. You’ll learn how in Part 3 of the series.

You may also find the articles helpful:

So You Want to Make a Website? Part 1: Squarespace versus WordPress

How to Find the Right Website Platform that Works For You

Free Versus Paid Photography Portfolio Websites – Which is Best for You?

The post So You Want to Make a Website? Part 2: How to Create a Website appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

How to Edit Landscape and Nature Photos with the Lightroom Gradient Tool and Range Mask Features

Sat, 01/05/2019 - 08:00

The post How to Edit Landscape and Nature Photos with the Lightroom Gradient Tool and Range Mask Features appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Lightroom has always had a rich set of tools to allow photographers to get the most out of their images. However, until recently the ability to edit landscape and nature photos was a bit lacking.

While, global adjustments, like changing white balance and exposure have always worked great in Lightroom, fine-tuning edits can be problematic. Recent updates have seen incredible improvements to the Filter tools in Lightroom. An added tweak called Range Mask makes all the difference for photographers who need complete control over the precise implementation of their edits.

Lightroom Gradient Tool and Range Mask

The three most common ways to edit specific parts of an image in Lightroom are through the use of the Graduated Filter, Radial Filter, and Adjustment Brush. If you want to smooth the skin on your portraits, increase the saturation of your skies, or change the color cast of your clouds these tools can be just the ticket. But what if you have a tree that sticks up into the sky or an uneven horizon dotted with buildings and power lines?

The usefulness of the filter tools is somewhat restricting when you want to limit your edits to particular sub-parts of a picture. Until recently the Auto-Mask option was the best way to confine your edits to certain colors or locations within an image. Landscape and nature photos are especially tricky because of the uneven edges and jagged borders that exist between sections of the photo that need editing. However, the Range Mask option solves almost all of these issues with ease.

How it works

To illustrate this, I’m going to walk you through the editing process of the following image. My brother Andy took it while he was on a tour of the swamps in Louisiana, USA, with his family last summer. The initial image has a nice composition but feels dull and uninteresting, which is a far cry from the real experience.

Adjusting White Balance with a Graduated Filter

One change to punch things up is altering the white balance of the sky to bring out the bright blues and make the image more vibrant.

The first step is to click over to the Graduated Filter panel. Dial in a white balance that skews more towards the cooler end of the spectrum and reduce the exposure just a bit. Next, click and drag from top to bottom on the image to put the filter in place.

The sky is now a rich blue, however, a big problem becomes evident: the color cast of the trees has changed too. This result is not what I want. Clicking the Show Selected Mask Overlay button in the bottom left corner under your image reveals that the graduated filter has been applied to everything including the trees as well as the sky.

Fine-tuning the Graduated Filter using the Range Mask

Fine-tuning a tool such as the Graduated Filter, used to involve a series of steps. These steps included brushing out the mask in places you didn’t want it in combination with the auto-mask feature. It worked, but results were often a little sketchy. They also required a great deal of tweaking and fine-tuning. That’s not to say the brush option is useless-far from it! I have an example later in this article that shows how useful it can be.

However, all this has changed in recent versions of Lightroom. You can now use the Range Mask to apply any of the three filter tools to specific parts of an image based on lightness or color similarity.

The default value for Range Mask is Off, but with one of your Filter adjustments selected you can then choose to enable Range Mask for Color, Luminance or Depth.

  • Color applies the filter to specific parts of the image based on how similar they are to color values that you select.
  • Luminance applies the filter to specific parts of the image based on how light or dark those parts are.
  • Depth works only with cameras that record depth information and applies the filter to specific parts of the image based on how close or how far away they are. Some mobile phones have this feature but most traditional cameras do not, so Depth will often be disabled unless you are editing images taken with certain mobile phones.
Range Mask – Color

For this image, I’m going to use the Color option, though Luminance works great in many nature and landscape photos as well.

With Color selected, you can either click and drag on your image to select a range of colors or can click multiple points by shift+clicking. This selection is where the mask gets applied. I find that shift+clicking generally works better, although your mileage may vary depending on your editing goals and the type of picture you are working with.

You can click up to five spots on the image to refine your color selection. Use the slider in the Range Mask panel to fine-tune things further. This slider hones the edges of your Range Mask. If you find that the border between the edited and unedited portions of your image is a bit stark, adjusting the Amount slider will help mitigate this issue.

The result of this one Gradient Filter, along with the Range Mask, is an image that is already much improved from the original.

Looking at a 100% crop of a portion of the image reveals just how precisely the Gradient Filter has been applied thanks to the Range Mask. Here is a portion from the top-right of the original unedited image.

Here is the same portion with the Gradient Filter applied, using the Range Mask to apply the Filter to only selected color ranges. In this case, the color of the sky.

Notice how precisely the edits were applied, and how intricate the edges around the tree leaves are. This illustrates why the Range Mask option is so useful for landscape and nature photos. There are many tricky edges and small parts of the image that can take a very long time to fix without it.

Range Mask – Luminance

Another way to use the Range Mask is with the Luminance option. This option only applies the mask to the brightest or the darkest portions of the Gradient, or other Filter, that’s applied.

The overall idea here is the same, but the implementation is a tad different. Instead of selecting colors where you want the Range Mask applied, you use the Range sliders to concentrate the mask on the lightest, darkest or mid-range parts. One of the most useful things here is the Show Luminance Mask box which gives you a real-time preview of where your mask application. This helps you as you are adjusting the sliders.

Here’s an image I shot while hiking in the mountains near Seattle. It’s not bad, but a few edits would help improve the picture. Edits may help it look a little closer to how it appeared when my wife and I were tromping around in the wilderness that day with my cousin.

I want to bring out the color in the foreground trees in this image. A Graduated Filter with Luminance Range Mask is perfect in this scenario because the edits can be applied just to the darker portions of the image. With the filter in place and the mask tweaked to be applied only to the darker parts, I can ensure my edits are going to show up just where I want them to by checking the Show Luminance Mask option.

Fine-tuning using Brush

As demonstrated above, the Range Mask is extremely useful for nature and landscape photographers. It applies the Graduated Filter to just the right portions of the image and not the entire picture evenly. If you want to customize your Graduated Filter further, click the Brush option (not the Brush Adjustment Tool) and proceed to add to, or erase, the Filter wherever you want.

In this case, I’d like to remove the Graduated Filter from the lake in the foreground. Even though I can tell from my Luminance Mask overlay that it’s not being applied too heavily to that area, removing all traces of it with the brush will help me get the exact picture I want.

The end result is a photo with much warmer green tones in the trees and a lake that reflects the blue sky above, which is just the look I was aiming for.


Hopefully, these examples give you an idea of how powerful the combination of Graduated Filters and Range Masks are for nature and landscape photographers. I’m always eager to hear from the DPS community. Have you found this particular tool useful? Are there any other tips you’d like to share about using the Lightroom Gradient Tool and Range Mask? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

The post How to Edit Landscape and Nature Photos with the Lightroom Gradient Tool and Range Mask Features appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Unusual Objects

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 13:00

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

This week’s Weekly Photography Challenge – Unusual Objects!

This challenge can cover a broad range of objects, big or small. They can be indoors or outdoors. You can shoot them using macro, zoom, or with prime lenses. They can be color, black and white or anything you like.

I can’t wait to see them!

Check out these images for insta inspiration.



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Pavel Andreievich Chekov (@where_chekov_boldly_goes) on Dec 27, 2018 at 2:56am PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by markus (@dehellmark) on Dec 25, 2018 at 11:10am PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Petite Surface (@petite_surface) on Dec 27, 2018 at 12:09pm PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Tracy Glover Studio (@tracygloverstudio) on Dec 27, 2018 at 10:07am PST


The following articles may be helpful for the challenge:

How to do Extreme Close-Up Photography with a Macro Bellows

Creative Macro Photography – A Guide to Freelensing

How to Make Funky Colorful Images of Ordinary Plastic Objects Using a Polarizing Filter

Making the Mundane Magnificent: Finding Inspiration in Everyday Objects

26 Imaginative Images of Inanimate Objects


Weekly Photography Challenge – Unusual Objects

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 #DPSUnusual_Objects 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 – Unusual Objects appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

13 Creative Exercises for Photographers [video]

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 08:00

The post 13 Creative Exercises for Photographers [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this great video by B&H Photo & Video, photographer David Flores, along with the help of B&H’s Todd Vorenkamp, discuss 13 ways you can get your creative photography juices flowing.

In the video, David outlines the following 13 creative exercises for photographers.

13 creative exercises for photographers 1. 2 Dozen

Find a spot and stand in it. Take 24 photos while in that spot.

2. Ten of One

Take 10 photos of one small object. You may need to use close-up or macro.

3. Four Corners

Choose one subject and place it in each for corners of your frame.

4. Set artificial restrictions

Set yourself restrictions of using one of only the following: Color, black and white, photographing while lying down, shadows, only one location, one lens, over-exposing, under-exposing, filling the frame, or negative space. You may think of others you can use too.

5. Use Film

Buy a roll of film so you have to limit your max shooting number to 24 or 36.

6. 12 abstracts

Pick one single common object, take 12 photos.

7. A portable subject

Find something to carry with you and work it into your subject.

8. The Unselfie-selfie

Put yourself into the frame. Use a tripod and set up some nicely framed compositions.

9. The Mixing Bowl

Lot’s of exercises in one. Write a bunch of different exercises down onto a piece of paper and cut them into strips. Place them into a bowl/hat and pick one out. That is the exercise you focus on.

10. The Change-Up

Try a different genre of photography.

11. 9 elements

Include the 9 elements of art. Light, Shadow, line, shape, form, texture, color, size, depth. Add focus, tonality, quality of light, negative space. Take only one image per element.

12. Steps

Go somewhere you have always wanted to photograph. Pick a number of steps to take before stopping to take a photograph. Use this number over a few blocks and see what you end up photographing.

13. Two Trips

Go to a space without your camera and then go back with your camera afterward and photograph the things you had noticed.


You may also find the following articles helpful in finding photographic inspiration.

The post 13 Creative Exercises for Photographers [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

These Inspiring Landscape Photographers will Make You Want to Take Better Photos

Thu, 01/03/2019 - 13:00

The post These Inspiring Landscape Photographers will Make You Want to Take Better Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Mark Harpur

These landscape photographers are taking some inspirational photos.

We thought we’d share these with you to get you inspired to go out and take some fantastic landscape images. They are in no particular order.

1. Rach Stewart


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A post shared by Rach Stewart (@rachstewartnz) on May 24, 2018 at 12:44am PDT


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A post shared by Rach Stewart (@rachstewartnz) on Sep 30, 2018 at 12:47am PDT


2. Daniel Greenwood


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A post shared by Daniel Greenwood (@danielgreenwoodphotography) on May 14, 2018 at 12:15pm PDT


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A post shared by Daniel Greenwood (@danielgreenwoodphotography) on Dec 3, 2018 at 12:06pm PST


3. Jacob Moon


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A post shared by Jacob Moon (@moonmountainman) on Apr 15, 2018 at 7:51am PDT



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A post shared by Jacob Moon (@moonmountainman) on Dec 13, 2018 at 9:54pm PST


4. Daniel Tran


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A post shared by Daniel Tran (@_danieltran_) on Jul 15, 2018 at 1:24am PDT


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A post shared by Daniel Tran (@_danieltran_) on Jan 4, 2018 at 12:23am PST


5. Jay Vulture


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A post shared by Jay Vulture (@vulture_labs) on May 8, 2018 at 6:48am PDT


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A post shared by Jay Vulture (@vulture_labs) on Dec 4, 2018 at 2:14pm PST


6. Warren Keelan


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A post shared by Warren Keelan (@warrenkeelan) on Dec 19, 2018 at 11:37am PST


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A post shared by Warren Keelan (@warrenkeelan) on Dec 11, 2018 at 12:54pm PST


7. Gergo Rugli


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A post shared by Gergo Rugli (@rugligeri) on Dec 3, 2018 at 11:43pm PST


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A post shared by Gergo Rugli (@rugligeri) on Dec 6, 2018 at 12:38am PST


8. Mads Peter Iversen


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A post shared by Mads Peter Iversen Photography (@madspeteriversen_photography) on Oct 31, 2018 at 4:09am PDT


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A post shared by Mads Peter Iversen Photography (@madspeteriversen_photography) on Dec 17, 2018 at 7:57am PST


9. John Weatherby


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A post shared by John Weatherby (@whereisweatherby) on Dec 8, 2018 at 10:33am PST


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A post shared by John Weatherby (@whereisweatherby) on Nov 17, 2018 at 8:42am PST


10. Tony Hewitt


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A post shared by Tony Hewitt (@tony.hewitt) on Feb 6, 2018 at 7:39pm PST


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A post shared by Tony Hewitt (@tony.hewitt) on Oct 21, 2017 at 7:02am PDT

Who inspires you? Let us know in the comments below.

The post These Inspiring Landscape Photographers will Make You Want to Take Better Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

4 Tips to Get You Out of Your Comfort Zone for Photographic Inspiration

Thu, 01/03/2019 - 08:00

The post 4 Tips to Get You Out of Your Comfort Zone for Photographic Inspiration appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Are you feeling uninspired? Perhaps you’re stuck in your photography practice and feel like you’ve reached the best of your abilities? Don’t worry, we all feel like that sometimes. In most cases, all you need is to get out of your comfort zone to find new and exciting challenges. Here are some tips to get you out of your comfort zone for photographic inspiration.

1. Change your focal length.

All of us have a preferred focal length either because it’s the only lens we have, or because it’s the fittest for the kind of photography that we do. So the problem is not that you have it, it is that it impacts a lot of your photographic behaviors as well. You might think it’s not a big deal, but it’s vastly different working with a fixed focal length than a zoom lens, or shooting with a wide angle lens than a telephoto lens.

The focal length you use affects the physical distance you need between you and your subject. With a telephoto lens, you can be further away and still get close detail. A wide-angle lens allows you to fit in a bigger scene even if you are closer to your subject. Making this change means you walk around your subject to get the shot, which helps you find new perspectives and points of view. Sometimes you can’t get closer or further away as you may need, forcing you to reframe and rethink your entire image.

Another thing that changes when you modify the distance between your camera and subject is the Depth of Field. Depth of Field depends on the Aperture (f/stop). If you take two images with the same aperture but one of them is with a wide-angle lens, and the other is with a telephoto, the latter will have a shallower depth of field. If you’d like to understand this concept in more depth, I recommend you read my article How to Use Still-Life to Understand Focal Lengths. In any case, the results of your images may be different to what you are used to, and this inevitably pushes you out of your comfort zone.

2. Change the type of photography you do

One of the beauties about photography is how versatile it can be. You can photograph practically anything. I don’t mean that any photographer can do every kind of photography. Each one needs its own set of skills, and that’s why I recommend this exercise.

You can be a wedding photographer, a landscape photographer, or a food photographer – it doesn’t matter. There is always another type of photography you can try. For example, if you’re a portrait photographer, used to dealing with people, go and shoot some architecture photography or any subject you can’t move or control. If you usually do macro or abstract details, go wider and try to compose a scene from urban photography. You’ll be amazed at how changing what you see also changes the way you think. It opens your mind to new possibilities.

As a photographer, no matter what your specialty, you are working with light. However, it most certainly different working with studio lights doing a still life than natural light while shooting a landscape. One is not better than the other, nor is it easier. They are just different and as a result, require different skills. Studio lighting means learning to set everything from scratch. You create the amount and type of light you want.

However, natural light means learning what time of the day is best, dealing with weather conditions and so on. It also means having the right equipment. I’m not suggesting that you go and spend a lot of money on something you may not use much as there’s always a way to adapt and improvise. This is also part of going out of the comfort zone.

3. A small change can go a long way

Expanding your creativity can be done by changing a small thing from your photographic routine. Change the time of the day that you go out to shoot, go back to a place you visited in a different season, or walk the opposite way when you go out the door. New conditions or new places spark new ideas.

4. Change equipment

I already mentioned focal length, but the lens is not the only thing you can change to challenge yourself. Try a different camera. I’m not suggesting that you go out and buy an extra camera. You can try renting for a day or exchange cameras with a friend. You can switch from your camera to your phone and vice-versa. The composition is different when shooting full-frame and crop-sensor. It’s challenging to photograph a maximum amount of photos with a film camera instead of the (almost) limitless and immediate result of digital. However, it doesn’t matter what you use (more or less professional than your regular equipment), what matters is that it’s different.


There are many ways to push your photography and creativity further. Try some of these tips or come up with some of your own. See where it takes you. One last piece of advice: don’t be afraid of doing bad photos. There is a reason why your comfort zone IS your comfort zone. You’ve mastered it, you like it, and you create great images. Expect that you won’t achieve the same results when you change photographic genres – that’s all the more reason to try it!

The post 4 Tips to Get You Out of Your Comfort Zone for Photographic Inspiration appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

What to do When the Light’s Down Low

Wed, 01/02/2019 - 13:00

The post What to do When the Light’s Down Low appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Cameras create images using reflected light. When there’s not much light reflecting off your subject, the camera is challenged. You need to learn the methods of controlling your camera when you are photographing in low light situations.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Our cameras and our eyes ‘see’ in different ways. When the light is low, our eyes often do not see color so vividly. When we are photographing in low light we can make adjustments to our camera exposure settings. This enables them to make photos our eyes never see naturally.

Light streaks from passing vehicle lights or blurred movement of flames in a fire are never things our eyes see naturally. These are only the result of using a slow shutter speed on your camera.

Opening up your lens aperture will produce a shallow depth of field beyond what your eyes will see. Doing this allows more light to affect the sensor and can produce some surreal results in low light.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Setting your ISO very high, especially on newer cameras, makes it possible to take photographs in near darkness.

Visualize the look you want

Starting out with an idea in your mind about with the look and feel you want your photo to have makes it easier to achieve. This will lead to more creative development in your photography.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Starting out this may be a challenge for some, but it is a great thing to learn as it pushes you to learn how to use your camera more flexibly.

Consider if you want a sharp image, or if you want to embrace the blur of slow shutter speed if there’s movement in your subject. Think about how a wide aperture setting will affect how much of your photo is in focus. Is this the look you want?

How do I know which settings to adjust?

I can give you some guidelines but you will only truly know through experimenting with the settings yourself. I can’t tell you the precise settings to use because every situation you will photograph contains many variables.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

You could set your camera to Program Mode on Auto ISO and let the camera make choices for you. Alternatively, choose one of the night scene modes your camera may have.

Both these options are very helpful when you first begin to experiment with low light photography. Both, however, will produce rather generic looking results.

Automatic settings are best when you use them to get you started and then analyze the EXIF data they contain. Having in mind the way you want your photo to look means you can then study the aperture, shutter speed and ISO information contained in the EXIF.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Once you have done this, switch your camera to Manual Mode using the same three exposure settings. Now adjust the ones you think will begin to give your desired effect. Continue to make small adjustments, one at a time, tweaking them until you are happy with what you see.

As you practice this and become more familiar with your camera settings and lighting conditions you will no longer need to use an auto mode to help get you started.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

In this photo I was aiming to have my subjects relatively sharp. The lens I used on my Nikon D800 was the 35mm f1.4. The ISO was set to 4000, aperture to f/1.4 and the shutter speed was for 1/10th of a second. I did not use a flash.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

An 8 second exposure time was used in this photo to allow for some motion blur in the people and the fire. My ISO was set at 1600 and my aperture was f/7.1

The varying amount of light from the flames meant I had to carefully watch my exposure settings and adjust them as necessary.

Adding an external light

Flash and LED light added to a scene when the light is low will influence your photograph. You need to control these lights carefully to be able to obtain the most natural looking results.

Too much extra light will cause unsightly shadows and possibly harsh highlights. With not enough additional light, you may not be able to see the effect at all. Again, when you are first starting out, experimentation is the key.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Test the various flash settings to determine which one will give you the best look. Try TTL or auto settings first. Depending on your camera and flash these settings in any situation the results will be better or worse.

If you are not satisfied, switch your flash to Manual Mode. Start with the power set to half and take a photo. Adjust the setting higher or lower and gradually taking a series of photos until you are happy with the result you see on your monitor.

Create RAW files and post process them

Low light being challenging, you will obtain the best results only after some post-processing. Camera technology continues to improve, but is not yet ideal, especially when the light is low.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Making RAW images allows you greater flexibility to post process and retain a higher quality. Most commonly you will want to reduce the amount of digital noise which occurs at higher ISO settings.

Color and contrast can both become flat and dull at higher ISO settings. Boosting contrast and saturation will make your photo look crisper.

Keep focused

Many cameras will struggle to autofocus in low light conditions. The lens may search for some time before it finds a focus point. Even then, it may not choose the point you want it to focus on if your camera is set to multi-point focus. In more extreme circumstances it may not be able to focus at all.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Manually focusing may be the best option. But this is also more challenging in low light. Using an external light source, like a flashlight, aimed at the area of your composition you wish to focus on can help. Once your lens is focused turn your flashlight off if you do not want it to affect your exposure.


Practice and experimentation will lead to the best results. The more you photograph in low light the more familiar you will become with the variables different settings will produce.

Start with easy subjects when you have ample time. Learning to take great photos in low light is not something that will happen overnight.

The post What to do When the Light’s Down Low appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

25 Practical Photography Projects for the New Year

Wed, 01/02/2019 - 08:00

The post 25 Practical Photography Projects for the New Year appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

So many photographers become stale in their pursuit of photography. Perhaps your hard drive overflows with tens of thousands of photos, yet somehow your photography seems to have become stagnant?

A new year is upon you and with this fresh beginning comes a chance to renew your love of photography. Perhaps there is no better way to do this than with practical photography projects.

Here are 25 practical photography projects to get you started!

I use Lightroom to bring the chaos of my overflowing hard drives under control. Photos are sorted into folders waiting to be flagged, tagged, starred, and colored! Once this is done, projects become much easier to accomplish.

Projects based on photos you’ve already taken

Many projects can be accomplished based on photos you have already taken. Photography isn’t merely about snapping more and more photos. Therefore, it’s important to look back at our earlier work and draw it together in some sort of coherent project.

1. Study your old photos

You might be surprised by what you find when you sift through your old photos. It’s the perfect way to measure your improvement and growth as a photographer. Take as long as you wish to work on this project.

When you focus on your current difficulties or look ahead at all the skills you’re struggling to learn, it can seem like you’re never going to get there. But when you look back on where you’ve come from you can see how much you’ve truly grown.

Set goals for the future, but always look back to see how you’ve grown.

2. Create a collection

As you study your old work, you may notice patterns in all those photos. Perhaps you’ll see enough of a pattern to create a collection of photos. As you sort through your old photos, try to create collections based on subjects, themes, people or locations.

Sifting back through old pictures, I noticed I had quite a collection of photos of my kids playing in the window and curtains.

3. Print your collection

Studying your old work and creating collections are big projects in themselves. Once you’ve completed them, your next project should be taking time to appreciate your work by printing it.

4. Hang your collection

Raise your hand if you’ve already got stacks of photos stored away in albums and boxes? A perfect project for you is to find a place in your home or studio to display your printed collection. Maybe you know a small business owner or hotel manager who would appreciate displaying your collection for a while.

5. Invite other photographers to join you

All of these projects become ten times better when you work on them with other photographers.

Help each other narrow down your collections. Gain insight from others as to what should be printed and why.

You could even host a gallery evening together. Invite other photographers and friends to come and enjoy your photos along with some coffee or wine. Why not approach a local cafe or winery to host your event?

I volunteer as a photographer for Habitat for Humanity. I follow the house build from the first shovel going into the ground to the keys of the finished house being handed to the family. In the midst of running my photography business, I have this exciting photography project throughout the year.

Photos you’ve always dreamed of

So much for all those photos you’ve already taken, how about the photos you’ve always dreamed of taking? Let’s look at 20 more projects that will keep you busy exploring new things.

6. A childhood project you never completed

Maybe you had dreams and ideas for photos when you first got your camera but didn’t have the know-how to pull them off. Now that you’ve developed your creativity and skill, you should tackle one of those old ideas.

7. A half-finished project that needs completion

Look around for a half-finished project. There is nothing more discouraging than half-finished work reminding you how incapable you are. Even if you’ve lost your inspiration for that project; get it done! Sometimes tackling a project and finishing it off will inspire you to something bigger.

8. Learn a new skill

Perhaps your project won’t be a collection of photos or a new body of work but learning a new skill. DPS has plenty of books, courses and tips to help you learn something new. You can even document your learning journey through photos on social media or your website.

Many of the volunteers with Habitat for Humanity do not know how to build houses. But by the end of the day, they’ve learned some new skill and feel happy with their accomplishments.

Projects that take all year

It’s worth considering how long you would like your project to be. You may even wish to tackle a number of smaller projects that feed into one larger project over the year. Here are several more projects that can last a week, month, or year!

9. Start a photography website

Whether you want a place to display your photos, write tutorials, or document your journey as a photographer, a website is a great place to get started. Find something with nice templates if you don’t want to fuss over the details, or use a highly customizable website if you want to stretch your creativity.

10. Something uncomfortable

When we talk about getting better as a photographer we often mean learning about technology or refining our technique. Those are important, and why not add growing as a person?

Try a type of photography that will take you out of your comfort zone. If you’re uncomfortable with people then try portrait or street photography. If you’re lazy, get out hiking and try landscape photography.

As a person who is very introverted, I try to take on photography projects that involve people. This helps me break out of my shell and be more social. My wife notices that I’m far less withdrawn than I was a couple of years ago. Photography isn’t just about expanding your portfolio, it’s also about growing as a person.

11. 365 project

A 365 project usually means taking a picture a day for a whole year. You can use it as a way to document your life, explore a theme, or follow a subject.

  • The first 365 days of your child’s life
  • 365 days in the life of your dog/cat
  • 365 unique plant types
  • 365 landscapes, documenting the seasons
  • 365 streets in a big city like New York

Don’t become anxious if you miss a day. The spirit of this project is to establish a collection over the course of a year. 300 photos, or even 100, is better than 0.

12. 52-week project

If the 365 project sounds too much for you, try a less intense version. Take 52 weekly photos over the course of a year.

  • 52 portraits of strangers
  • 52 food dishes
  • 52 photos of roses
  • 52 pasta dishes
13. A theme

Explore a theme on your own time and on your own terms.

It could be something warm and positive such as childhood or love.

It could be something confrontational such as violence or pollution.

This project is perfect for inquisitive explorer types.

Expressing a theme in a photograph can be difficult. In this photo, I wanted to capture the idea of the difficult and messy work that volunteers do. I captured the muddy boots climbing up the scaffolding with people working in the background.

14. The seasons

Document the seasons throughout the year. You may consider traveling for this project. Hop on a plane 4 times a year to photograph the seasons in a climate different to yours. This project is perfect for people who travel a lot anyhow.

15. A person a day/week

Photograph a person (family, friend, stranger) daily or weekly. This might mean photographing one person over and over throughout the year or finding a new person each day or week. A perfect project for the social butterfly!

When I photograph a group of people over a long period of time, I try to mix things up every time I photograph them. Sometimes I’ll limit myself to certain angles, like this low angle photo.

Projects that take a month 16. 30-day project

Similar to the 365 or 52-week project, but this one only lasts a month.

17. A color

Choose a color to photograph for one month. Then choose another color each month and make this project last the whole year.

18. Document a charity

Find a charity that you can volunteer to photograph. You’ll expand your experience, build your portfolio and help them with their photography needs.

I began with a desire to photograph a house build. Then I discovered a charity who I could volunteer with. When you volunteer your time as a photographer, make sure it’s something you’re excited to get involved in and a worthy cause.

19. One camera, one lens

Choose one camera body and one lens to use for a month. Don’t touch anything else. Constraints like this can really help your creativity and photography to grow.

20. Camera phone

Perhaps that one camera/one lens is your phone! Treat your phone as a serious camera and you can take great photos with it. Through practice, you can learn to be just as creative with your phone as you are with your DSLR and 70-200mm lens.

21. Black and white for a month

Limit yourself to black and white photography in order to grow your vision and creativity. Set your digital camera to photograph in black and white in order to help train your eye.

In my mind, some moments are made for black and white. I know when I lift the camera to my eye that the photo will be black and white.

22. One subject

Find one subject to photograph for a month. Push yourself to take a different sort of photo than you did the day before. This will exercise your creativity and leave you craving the next month’s project.

23. Teach photography to a newbie

Your own understanding and ability grow when you teach what you know (or think you know) to somebody else. Your ideas and techniques become more deeply ingrained in yourself when you can learn to explain them simply to another person.

You’ll both grow as photographers. They may even push you to learn new things just so that you can explain it to them!

Projects that take a day 24. Day in the life of…

Photograph a person, place or thing for a whole day. Maybe your kids, the sun, your dog or a garden.

25. Self-portraits

Break out beyond the selfie and take some interesting portraits of yourself.

  • Street photographers can photograph their reflection in buildings
  • Portrait photographer can experience themselves as the subject
  • Landscape photographers can work themselves into the photo

Choose one

Pick one of these projects that suits where you are on your photography journey. You can easily choose a variety of shorter projects that you can weave together into a larger project over the course of the year.

Please share with me which photography project you plan to work on this year.

The post 25 Practical Photography Projects for the New Year appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

Gear Review: Lensbaby Sol 45 Field Test

Tue, 01/01/2019 - 08:00

The post Gear Review: Lensbaby Sol 45 Field Test appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Lensbaby has always been a niche company, offering lenses that help photographers put a creative, untraditional spin on their images. This year, the Portland, Oregon based company released the Lensbaby Sol 45. At $200, this is their least expensive lens yet, making it an attractive way for photographers to enter the creative effects world of Lensbaby. We got to test out this new lens and found it to be great for unlocking new creative angles. Read on for more thoughts on the lens and our ultimate recommendation.

Lens specs Design

Announced on August 7, the Lensbaby Sol 45 is a fixed 45mm f/3.5 lens with an unusual lens design. Relatively compact at just 5 ounces, this lens looks normal until you twist the front to unlock it. When in the unlocked position, this lens can bend in just about every direction. It does this via its “bokeh blades” that rest on the lens hinges. When unlocked, these blades can be moved around to alter the quality of bokeh or image blur.  The result is an image with textured bokeh and custom edge blurs that can’t be achieved with “normal” lenses. It’s a very specific creative look that may or may not appeal to you.


Despite being one of Lensbaby’s cheapest lens, Sol 45 feels very well built. The exterior is mostly metal and has a solid feel in your hands. Perhaps the only thing to note is that the lens’ moving parts could potentially get stuck or broken, so it’s important to keep the lens in a locked position.


The Lensbaby Sol 45 is a full-frame lens, but it can also work on crop-sensor cameras. Currently, the lens is available for Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony A and Sony E, Pentax K, and Fujifilm X mounts. For Micro Four Thirds cameras, the Sol 22 is available with an equivalent focal length of 45mm. For this article, Sol 45 was used with the full-frame Sony A7rIII.

The shooting experience

Besides its unusual design, Lensbaby Sol 45 is also a manual focus lens (as are all other Lensbaby products). This means that in addition to manually altering the bokeh blades, you also have to manually set your focus point. Depending on your subject, getting a tack sharp image can be challenging. If your camera has manual focus peaking, this can greatly help with correctly setting your focus, so take advantage of it!

Fun for closeup shots

The lens has a minimum focusing distance of about 1.1 feet. This means you can get pretty close to a photo subject and isolate it with a nice bokeh background. Even though most photographers likely use this lens for still photos, it also made for creative video shots.

Lots of moving parts

I used the Lensbaby Sol 45 on a Sony A7rIII. As someone who rarely uses manual focus, shooting with this lens took some getting used to. For one, it’s a process just to set the bokeh blades since you have a wide range of positions to lock them in. After setting the bokeh, you then have to tinker with the front element of the lens to set your focus point. With focus peaking enabled, it was a breeze to shoot with this lens. But if I didn’t have focus peaking, I could see this shooting experience getting frustrating very quickly. In general, this lens isn’t the best choice if you’re shooting a moving subject or need to capture your shot quickly.

Should you get this lens?

The Lensbaby effect is a specific, very unique look that won’t suit every taste. It also shouldn’t necessarily be applied to every photo, so it’s very much a specialty lens. But what’s great about having a unique look is that it may appeal to you in surprising ways. Although it took a while to get used to handling the lens, I eventually found it to be a delight for viewing the world from a very different perspective. It became a novelty that unlocked a creative side of my brain that I hadn’t used before. Sometimes, this is what creatives need if they’re stuck in a rut or simply need a new form of inspiration.

Bottom line

If you’ve been curious about Lensbaby products, Sol 45 is a great lens to get started with. It has a low price point, and the lens itself is very compact and easy to travel with. While untraditional in many ways, this lens is great for offering you a new perspective on photo subjects if that’s something you’re seeking.


Have you used the Lansbay Sol 45? If so we’d love to hear your thoughts and see you images in the comments below.

The post Gear Review: Lensbaby Sol 45 Field Test appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.