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10 Tips to Create Emotive Portraits

Tue, 08/13/2019 - 08:30

The post 10 Tips to Create Emotive Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

Portraiture is as vast a genre of photography as it is rewarding. There are a lot of ways to go about creating portraits with a lot of visual interest, but one of the most satisfying ways to do this (to me anyway) is to create emotive portraits. Being able to capture your subjects showing emotion (whether that be positive or negative) not only allows you to show your viewer a more human aspect of your subject, but it can also help create compelling and arresting imagery. This article provides you ten tips to help you with your create emotive portraits. Some of these tips are technical, but most of them, perhaps unsurprisingly, focus on how you interact with your subjects.

1. Concentrate on the gesture

When you’re photographing emotion, it will be helpful to consider what information you need in your frame. If your subject is smiling, crop in close on the head and leave all other information out. The space in your frame is valuable, and you want to ensure that you get your message across clearly. Unneeded information (such as things in the background or body parts that are not involved in the gesture) serve only to detract from the focus of the image.

By cropping in closer, the emphasis of the composition is placed on the gesture of the expression, leaving nothing to distract from it.

That said, pay attention to your subject’s body language. If they are gesticulating with their arms as part of the expression, be sure to include that in your frame as it will help to complete the expression.

2. Keep the lighting simple

Basic lighting techniques work well when trying to capture emotion. A lot of the time, you don’t need more than one light and a reflector.

Just like in a lot of other walks of life, less can definitely be more in emotive portraiture. By keeping your lighting simple, you are controlling how much information is in the frame. Just like the first tip, this is about ensuring that your viewer’s attention is placed squarely where you want it to be.

The lighting pattern that you choose will likely depend on what emotion you are trying to convey. For bright, happy emotions, you may opt for something like butterfly lighting. You also might choose to use a lot of fill light. For darker emotions, like sadness, more dramatic light such as that provided by short lighting is a fantastic tool that provides many shadows and can add tons of mood to your images.

3. Communicate clearly

Before you even start a shoot, explain to your subject as clearly as possible what you want from them. If you need to, show them examples.

Assuming you are staging your portrait session rather than taking candids, you will want to very clearly communicate with your subject exactly what it is that you are trying to achieve. Be specific and avoid vagueness. If you tell someone to be happy, you might get that generic smile that everybody gives a camera. Instead of happy, try saying something along the lines of: “I’m looking for genuine expressions of joy. I want you to imagine that you’ve just got a new puppy.” You’ll find this kind of thing works well very often as you almost always evoke genuine emotion from someone.

If the puppy doesn’t work, feel free to substitute it with anything that might. Kitten, baby, chinchilla, motorcycle; it doesn’t matter as long as it works.

4. Genuine rapport

Having a good rapport with your subject will often give you more subtle and genuine expressions.

To get the very best and most authentic expressions out of your subjects, you will want to build a genuine rapport with them. Be nice, be polite, let them talk about themselves, show them the back of the camera, joke around (appropriately) and develop a light-hearted banter (if warranted, not everyone appreciates it).

Also, try to keep the session relaxed and stress-free. You, as the photographer, might be worried about the lighting and all of the technical things, but I think it’s vital for you to worry about your role in your head and keep your subject’s focus on their role.

5. Make your subject an actor

Instructing your subjects to act out various scenarios can give you a range of images from which to choose the most natural and evocative images.

An approach that can help to elicit good expressions is to tell your subject to act rather than to pose. Still images and video are very different things, and people change their behavior accordingly. If you suggest that they should treat the session and the scenarios you give them as if you were filming, or as if they were acting on stage, you can get much more natural expressions. Better yet; book an actor if you want the very best results, and it suits your project.

6. Look away from the camera

One of the easiest ways to get emotion into your photos is to have your subject look away from the camera.

One of the simplest ways to help convey real expression is to make sure your subject isn’t looking directly at the camera. Instead, pick a point for them to look at and direct them to do so. Where you pick isn’t important as long as you can capture and clearly convey the emotion that you are after.

This is very useful for the more somber emotions. Sadness, longing, and thoughtfulness can all be more easily portrayed with your subject looking off into the distance. This isn’t a rule, so please don’t shoot every single shot this way unless the situation calls for it.

7. Give permission to be ridiculous

Tell your subjects they can be as ridiculous as they want. It can help to loosen them up and act more natural later. Sure, there will be unusable frames, but you might just hit gold.

Many people (including those with much experience) tend to go rigid in front of a camera. Let them know that they can act ridiculous. Moreover, encourage them to act as ridiculous and exaggerated as possible. This will help them to loosen up, and it will also help to lighten the mood of the session. Having your subject’s pull funny faces is a good way of cutting through the seriousness of a photoshoot.

Another trick that I sometimes use (it doesn’t work on everyone) is to get someone to fill their cheeks with air and then blow out as hard as possible.

If they’re open to it, it almost always results in fits of laughter.

8. Have a set of techniques that provoke reactions

Blurting out random words and photographing the reactions can lead to fantastic results.

There are a lot of tips on how to provoke reactions from people. My favorite is to blurt out random words and photograph the reactions. To do this, just say a different word in-between frames. It could go something like alpaca, cheeseburger, dunce cap, or giant mushroom. Feel free to adjust your words based on the person you are working with.

Again, it doesn’t work on everyone, and you may have to switch to another technique.

If you know your subject well enough, you could always show them some funny pictures or memes on your phone. Just be sure that whatever you show them matches their sense of humor or you might ruin the rest of your shoot.

9. Give food for thought

Try giving your subject a specific scenario to think about for a few frames. This works well across the board, no matter how happy or sad you want them to act.

Instead of strings of random words, you can give your subject a specific thing to think about. This works well for all manner of emotions, whether that be happy or sad. I recently worked with an actor, and she introduced me to the sentence, “Imagine a badger eating spaghetti.” For laughter, I don’t think I’ve come across anything that works better.

For sadder emotions, I suggest (from experience) avoiding being too specific. If you say something along the lines “Imagine the loss of a pet” and they recently lost a pet, it’s really not going to go down well.

Instead, ask them to imagine feeling a loss and let them think about whatever it is that comes to mind. Remember, when trying to capture negative emotions, you will generally have no idea what’s going on in your subject’s life. While you want to capture an emotion, it’s not usually a good idea to put your subject through unnecessary emotional turmoil. Please try to be respectful of that and the people you work with.

I know of a lot of wonderful photo projects that exist to document the rawest emotions in people (Sam Taylor Wood’s “Crying Men” is easily the best photography exhibit I have ever seen). I am not saying “don’t do that” if that’s your goal. However, do be explicit with your intentions to your subjects, and do ask them if there’s anything they would rather you not touch on.

10. Outtakes

Don’t forget to take a look at your outtakes from any given shoot. They are usually the most spontaneous and natural shots of all.

During a normal portrait session, outtakes can often be seen as a fun extra. However, when you’re creating emotive portraits, it’s the outtakes where you might find the most genuine expressions. Don’t forget to give them a look through once you have the photos on the computer. You may find that a spontaneous outtake has given you exactly what you were after.

Seriously, the world needs more outtakes.

That’s it

Sometimes getting your subjects to react the way you want and then to convey those emotions well in your photographs can be a challenge. With these ten tips, you hopefully have a few more tools in your belt to make that process easier. These are just a handful of things that can help; however, and there are plenty of other techniques out there.

If you have tried and tested methods, or things that you say to subjects to provoke expression, please add it to the comments below.


The post 10 Tips to Create Emotive Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

Ways to Modify Your Flash for More Controlled Lighting

Tue, 08/13/2019 - 06:00

The post Ways to Modify Your Flash for More Controlled Lighting appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Flash can be a confusing addition for many new photographers. But there’s really only one way to gain experience. Learning to use your flash well takes practice.

Using your flash without modifying its output often produces unsatisfactory results. These can be very discouraging. With little modification, you can achieve more acceptable results pretty easily. Controlling the output of your flash based on the style of light you want for your photos is not hard to do.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Your unmodified flash is a small light source

The smaller your light source is in relation to your subject, the harder the light will be. An unmodified flash produces strong light and high contrast for most subjects. This creates a hard-edged shadow which is often undesirable. The only difference is with macro photography because the light source will be larger than the subject.

Modifying the output of your flash by using a diffuser softens the light which falls on your subject.

Using a diffuser does a couple of things. It subdues the output, so less light hits your subject. It also spreads the light, effectively making the active light source larger. The light falling on your subject will be softer. So will the shadows they create.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

The benefits of using modified flash

Diffusing the light from your flash will produce more flattering results when taking portraits. Soft light falling on the skin reduces the appearance of texture and gives it a more even tone. There are a number of techniques and accessories you can employ to diffuse the light from your flash. I will discuss some of these in the next section.

Hard light from an unmodified flash is more likely to show up skin blemishes. It also produces unsightly hot spots.

These bright patches occur with all but the most light absorbent surfaces when using an undiffused light. The more reflective the surface, the more light from a small light source will reflect.

Using some method of scattering the light from your flash will help end these problems.

Another option to modify your flash is to do the opposite of spreading the light. Narrowing the dispersion of the light produces a completely different look. You can better control what area of your composition the light from your flash will affect. This is usually achieved by the use of a snoot or honeycomb grid.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

How to control your flash using modifiers

The most simple way to alter the light from your flash is to turn your flash head so it’s not pointing where your lens is focused. Indoors you can point it up to the ceiling. The light will reflect off the ceiling and scatter. You can alternatively point your flash towards a wall beside or behind you.

Ceilings are often white or light neutral colors, so your photo is not likely to be affected by an odd toning. Bouncing your flash off a colored wall or other surfaces can cause that color to affect the light.

Depending on how close your flash is to the surface you’re bouncing it off will determine how much it is diffused. The closer you are to the surface, the less diffusion there will be.

When you turn your flash head to bounce it off another surface, the light and shadows it creates will be softer. Shadows may still be evident. You need to be careful of shadows under people’s chins and around their eyes when you bounce your flash off a ceiling.

Using a piece of whiteboard, plastic or a fold-out reflector to bounce your flash off will give you more control. You can move your reflector further away or closer and determine the best position for it.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Clip-on hard diffuser

Most flash units come with a clip-on hard plastic diffuser. This is a small attachment that fits over the front of the flash head. It scatters and softens the light when the flash is fired.

Because this attachment is small, about the same size as your flash lens, it will not do a lot to soften the light. It is often better than nothing if you have not other option and it is small and convenient.

Flash with a clip-on diffuser © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Bounce cards and other compact modifiers

A white piece of cardboard about 20cm (8 in) square with a tab on one edge and a couple of good strong elastic bands. This was a standard kit for photographers when I worked in newspapers. It was back before the proliferation of flash modifiers were available to buy.

Adding a bounce card to a flash pointed at a ceiling or wall spreads and softens the light even more. This will help further reduce the strength of the shadows.

Nowadays there are so many types of bounce cards and other diffusers available. They’re all designed to modify your flash in slightly different ways. Kits of modifiers can include:

Flash with a bounce card © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Snoots and grids

Most accessories which modify flash output are designed to soften the light. Snoots and honeycomb grids are two pieces of kit which can help you control the direction of the light.

Each works to narrow the spread of light from your flash. This allows you to control which part of your composition is most affected.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Gobos and colored gels

Two more accessories which modify flash output are gobos and gels.

A gobo is a stencil or template placed in front of your flash head to create a shadow of a shape or pattern.

Any color gel can be used to affect the color of light which emits from your flash. This can be used for creative effect or to balance your flash with the ambient light.

Electric light sources often emit a colored light that is not as white as the light from your flash. Tungsten light is a warm tone. Fluorescent is often quite cool. Using the correct color gel can produce the right color to balance with an existing light source.

Small flash softbox

Small Softbox © Kevin Landwer-Johan

My favorite flash modifier is a small softbox. It’s not the smallest or most convenient, but it produces a soft, pleasant light.

Mine’s about 60cm (2 ft) square and has a bracket to mount the flash at the back. The biggest drawback in using it is that you need to place it on a stand or have someone hold it for you.

I find I like the results best when using it as a fill light.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Controlling the amount of light

Whichever method you use to you modify the light from your flash there will always be a reduced output. You must compensate for this.

Using the TTL setting your camera and flash should calculate the correct amount of light. This should also be true with the auto settings.

In some circumstances, you may notice not enough light from your flash is illuminating your subject. At these times, you must adjust your compensation. This can be done by opening your aperture more or increasing your ISO.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan


Unmodified flash is not often the best light source. Modification allows you to control its output to suit the style of photograph you are making.

Experimentation and practice are required to master the type of lighting you want.

A practical exercise to help you understand and see what you can achieve is worth spending some time with. Set up a still life composition or find a willing model to work with. In the same setting, take a series of photos using various modifiers so you can compare the way the light looks with each one.


The post Ways to Modify Your Flash for More Controlled Lighting appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

How to Use Multi-flash to Capture Compelling Action Photos

Mon, 08/12/2019 - 08:30

The post How to Use Multi-flash to Capture Compelling Action Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

Have you ever been to a disco, performance, or another place where they used a strobe light? If so, you saw the interesting effect the rapid flashing creates. Smooth movement gets broken into a series of frozen-stepped motion, not unlike the frames of an old-time movie. Now, what if you could do that with your still camera? Create a series of images all within one frame? If you have a portable flash or studio strobe capable of generating the stroboscopic effect, there’s a good chance you can do this. You can create images that are a great way of analyzing and showing motion. This article will show you how.

How many times did the flash fire during this sequence? Count the number of steps.

Different flash manufacturers may use different names for this capability.

Canon, GoDox, and Yongnuo call it the Multi-Mode, while Nikon calls it the Repeating Flash Function. Whatever you call it, it’s the capability to have multiple, rapid-fire flashes during one camera exposure.

The best way to see if your flash is capable of this effect is to read your flash manual. If it has the capability, a photo illustration will often accompany it, showing the kind of images possible.

If your flash unit supports it, there will be three constants you can control regardless of the make or model of your flash unit. They are:

1. Power output

This controls the intensity of the light output.  Typically, output runs from 1/1 – (Full power), down in fractions of that, often like 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, 1/64, 1/128.  The smaller the fraction, the less intense the flash output.

There are two other things to remember about the flash output:

  1. The higher the output, the more battery power used and the longer it will take to recycle the flash before its ready for another burst.
  2. The duration of the flash is shorter as the output power gets lower.  As a result, lower power/shorter durations have more “stopping power” when it comes to freezing motion.

The chart below shows approximate flash durations for various power settings on a Canon 580EX Speedlight.

Flash Output Setting Flash Duration 1/1 1/250 of a second 1/2 1/919 of a second 1/4 1/2,066 of a second 1/8 1/3,759 of a second 1/16 1/6,024 of a second 1/32 1/9,470 of a second 1/64 1/14,000 of a second 1/128 1/20,000 of a second 2. Number of flashes

This one is easy and is exactly what it says – the number of times the flash will fire during the exposure.

Set it for however many times you want the flash to fire in your image. That’s how many “steps” of the moving object you will see.

3. Frequency

This one can sometimes throw the new user as it uses a term not always familiar to everyone – Hertz. In very simple terms, hertz refers to the number of cycles in one second. So, 1Hz = 1 flash per second, 10 Hz = 10 flashes per second, etc.

The three settings you can control are – Power Output, Number of Flashes, Frequency (Flashes per second or Hertz). This is a Canon 550EX Flash.

The Formula

Here’s how you put it all together.

Figure out how much power output you need and set that. Your distance from the flash to the subject will help you determine that. So will how fast and how many flashes you expect to fire and how much “freezing action” you need.

Then think about the speed of the action you intend to capture and its duration. Finally, determine how many steps you want to see freezing the action.

The formula looks like this: # Flashes/Hz = Shutter Speed

Let’s use an example. You want to take a strobed shot of a hammer swinging down and striking a nail. You can put the flash close to the action and so 1/32 power might be enough. If you use a slow swing, you can complete the action in one second. You’d like 6 steps of action in the shot.

Plug those numbers into the formula:

6 Flashes/6 Hz (6 flashes-per-second) = 1 Second

Now say you want to capture something faster like a club hitting a golf ball off a tee. You can still get the flash close enough to use 1/32 power. You want 15 steps in your sequence and guess the action will take just 1/30th of a second to complete.

Here’s how the formula looks for that:

15 Flashes/199Hz = ~1/15th Second

The formula is right, but perhaps the Speedlight you’re using, (in my case a Canon 550EX), is only capable of 199Hz maximum. Even at that, the shutter speed would have to be about 1/15th of a second, not the 1/30th you wanted. Could you live with just 8 steps in your shot?

8 Flashes/150Hz = ~1/20th Second.

Closer. If you slow down your swing, it just might work.

You will find that at the higher hertz rates the flash strobes so fast that it seems like just one burst. However, when you check your shot, a fast-moving subject done with a high flash-per-second (hertz) rate should show the individual steps.

A bright object on a dark background will help a lot when using this technique.

Adjusting Exposure

You’ve used the formula to determine what numbers you want to enter into the flash, and that’s determined your minimum shutter speed. Here, however, the flash is firing within the scope of the shutter duration, and shutter speed isn’t really a factor in setting exposure.

Here’s what is:

Ambient light

You want the flash doing the work here. Also, you will typically be shooting at longer shutter speeds to capture the duration of the action.

Ambient light is not your friend here as it will begin to force settings you may not want. You will also want to eliminate distractions in the shot as the steps of the object in motion will create a busy enough image already. Your best bet is to work in a darkened room and use a black or very dark background.

Do your setup with a work light on and then before making the shot, switch it off, so the flash is the only source of illumination.

That leaves a few things you can do to adjust exposure:


ISO adjustment can be helpful here as it allows you to have the aperture and shutter speed where you want them and adjust this third leg of the exposure triangle to get the exposure where you need it.  As always, to limit noise try to keep ISO as low as possible, but also remember modern cameras have become far less noisy in recent times.  Know what your camera can do and at what point you will get too much noise.


You will want to adjust your aperture as much as anything by the depth of field you need for your particular shot. Also, keep in mind that most lens “sweet spots” where they perform best are between f/8 and f/16 so try to be in that range if you can. After that, adjust your aperture for exposure if you need to. However, use ISO first and this next setting next:

Flash Power

Remember, this is one of the settings you enter into the flash. The flash output will very much control your exposure. The best rule of thumb here is to only use as much as you need.

We spoke earlier about these, but to recap, these are the advantages of lower flash power settings:

  • Uses fewer battery resources  – (If you have an external power source for your flash, use it.  Stroboscopic flash work drains batteries fast.)
  • Flash will recycle faster
  • Lower power = shorter flash duration = more “motion-stopping capability”

Increase the flash output if you need to, but also consider an ISO increase.

You may also find the flash will limit what you can input, especially with higher power settings. To allow sufficient time to recycle between flashes, and also to prevent the flash from overheating, it may not allow many flashes or a higher hertz setting at higher power settings.

For example, my Canon 550EX can shoot 70 continuous flashes at 10Hz if the power is turned down to 1/128 power. However, it can only shoot 2 consecutive flashes at that same 10Hz rate if the flash power is turned up to 1/4 power.

The Multi-Mode on this Canon flash will not work at all if the flash power is set at anything higher than 1/4 power. Full or 1/2 power in Multi-Mode on the 500EX? No can do.

The flash manual has a chart showing how many sequential flashes are possible at various power and hertz settings. Also, the flash programming will not allow settings to be input that exceeds the flashes capabilities.

Canon also warns:

To prevent overheating and deterioration of the flash head, do not use stroboscopic flash for more than 10 frames in rapid succession. After 10 frames, allow the 550EX to cool for at least 10 minutes.

So, whether using a Canon Speedlight or another make/model, know that stroboscopic flash works your unit hard and be aware of its limitations.

One more thing

Here’s one more thing to think about when inputting the three parameters into the flash and calculating the shutter speed. When you click the shutter, the flash will immediately begin it’s strobed sequence.

If you input, say, 1/32 power, 6 flashes at 6hz, per the formula, it will take 1 second for the flash to complete the programmed cycle.  However, there’s no reason that the shutter speed couldn’t be longer, especially since in low ambient light conditions little if any additional light will add to the exposure once the flash cycle completes.

So to amend the formula just slightly:

# Flashes/Hz = Minimum Shutter Speed

With no additional flashes after the sequence completes, further action is not likely to be seen in the shot. So, overestimating the shutter speed is usually not a problem. Underestimating the shutter speed, however, won’t allow the flash sequence to complete before the shutter closes.

These are the settings for the golf club shots below. Count the steps in the photo and you’ll see it corresponds to the setting here – 12 flashes. At 80hz, the flash was firing 80-times-per second or another way to put it, every 1/80th of a second.

Determining the exposure

We’ve covered how to determine shutter speed, but how about aperture, ISO and flash output power?  There’s a couple of ways to approach this:

  • Use an external light meter.  Fire the flash and take a reading as you normally would with an external meter. Use that to determine your camera setting at the predetermined shutter speed.  Adjust ISO, aperture, and/or flash output power to get proper exposure.  If you are familiar with using an external flash meter, you will know how to do this.  But maybe you don’t have an external light meter.  If not you could try…
  • Looking up the Guide Number of your flash, determine the distance to your subject and, using the formulas in your flash manual, calculate your settings.  Uh, yeah, that can work. But if math is not your forte, you could always try Option Three…
  • The “Trial and Error Chimping Method.” Okay, that’s my name for it. But it simply involves starting at say an ISO of 100, an f/stop of about f/8, and flash output power of 1/32nd power. Set the number of flashes and Frequency (Hertz) where you think best. Shoot, “chimp” the shot, (that means take a look at the LCD playback), and if the image is too dark, increase the flash power or open the aperture. Test, chimp, and repeat as needed until you get it dialed in. Digital film is cheap, and once you figure out your settings, unless you change the flash-to-subject distance, you should be set for the session.
Other considerations Colors/brightness of objects

You will very quickly find that because each step of the sequence in a shot only gets a portion of the total light during the entire exposure, darker objects in motion may not show up well during the exposure. Also, because static objects in the shot will get the full sum of the light, they will be brighter.

You can learn from your mistakes, but why not learn from mine instead?

A patterned background too close to the subject and a golf club with a black shaft and head made this less than it could have been.

In the shot above, I used a dark, patterned photographers popup background. I should have used a solid black background. Also, the background was too close to the subject. Finally, the golf club used had a dark head and shaft, and so while the white ball, golf tee, and reflective chrome parts of the club showed up reasonably well, other parts of the club disappeared. Finally, the patterned background got too much light such that the pattern interfered with the shot.

Here’s the lesson you can learn:

  • Use a black, plain background and place it as far from the subject as you can such that little if any light illuminates it.
  • Pick bright objects to use so that even while in motion, they reflect the light as much as possible so the steps in your sequence show up well.

Above, the bright orange color of the bell pepper and a dark black background worked much better.

A re-do of the golf shot incorporating those principals resulted in a much better shot.

Adding some reflective tape to the shaft of the golf club helped it show up better.

Remote trigger

Unless you have an assistant (or maybe three hands), trying to control the camera, perform whatever action you’re trying to capture, and then get the timing right is perhaps not impossible, but adds an additional degree of difficulty. A remote trigger allowing you to fire the camera as you start the action sequence can be a huge help. If you are mounting your flash off-camera, a means of triggering the flash will also be necessary. Use either a wired connection, wireless radio trigger, or infrared camera/flash system.

Another level of sophistication, if you want to add it, would be a flash trigger, perhaps activated by sound, breaking a laser beam or other activation method.

I have used the MIOPS Smart Trigger on other photo projects with success. A real advantage it adds is precision and repeatability of a shot – something that you will otherwise leave up to luck and timing.

In a dark environment, use bulb mode. Open the shutter, and when the action activates the flash trigger, (i.e., breaking the laser beam or creating a sound) the flash fires its strobe sequence.

Good flash triggers aren’t cheap. However, if you do a lot of this kind of work, they significantly speed up the work and the permit repeatability of a shot saving a lot of time and effort.

Practice makes perfect

Like any photography, practice will improve your results with stroboscopic flash work. You will better learn how the three flash settings; Flash Power, Number of Flashes, and Flashes-per-Second (Hertz) work together to craft a shot.

You will also learn what kinds of action sequences make good shots and how to tune your composition, camera settings, and finally edit your photo for the best results. You will also find that making lots of shots, checking your work, fine-tuning and repeating is key to getting that one really great keeper.

I hope you will take the time to try and learn this new flash trick and then share your results in the comments. If you have questions or other comments, please share those too.

I’m excited to hear how it went and see some of your images. Best wishes!


You may also find the following helpful:


The post How to Use Multi-flash to Capture Compelling Action Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System Review

Mon, 08/12/2019 - 06:00

The post Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

I don’t know about you…but I like getting creative with my photography. Anything that helps make my work stand out against the myriad of photographers in the world (let alone in my very saturated city) is a must-have. However, what I enjoy the least is having to let my imagination soar solely in the editing room. If there is a practical way to do something unique, I’ll take that method.

Luckily, there is a company called Lensbaby that understands this on a deeper level. Home to some of the most unique lenses in the world (fondly called “art” lenses), Lensbaby pride themselves on developing equipment that gives you a slew of unusual in-camera effects.

Their lenses range from distortions like the ‘Burnside’ that swirls your bokeh and darkens the edges, to the more subtle ‘Velvet’ lens that simply softens the edge of the frame. Unfortunately, this comes at the price of relinquishing autofocus in their built-in-effects lens product arsenal.

But now, instead of having to rely on purchasing new lenses, Lensbaby has launched a product to help you turn the glass that you currently own into an effects lens. Best part? No more dealing with manual focus! Say hello to the OMNI Creative Filter System.

So… What is the OMNI Creative Filter System really? 

Shoot through crystals and other objects specifically engineered by Lensbaby to create professional and compelling in-camera effects. Designed to work with your existing lenses, OMNI offers control and repeatability without having to change your gear. The system comes with unique Effect Wands that attach magnetically and distort the light as it enters the lens – creating a myriad of magical in-camera effects.” writes Lensbaby. 

The Omni Creative Filter System is a ring that holds various effect wands in front of the glass to produce an effect. These effect wands come in the form of crystals, panels, and other doohickeys that open a world of possibility when used. The awesome thing about this product is that you can sort-of ‘make a Lensbaby’ out of any existing lens that you own.

The Pain Pack

The main filter system comes with the filter ring and various step up and step down rings, three Effect Wands, a long arm to hold the Effect Wand, a short arm to hold the Effect Wand, two magnetic mounts (each mount holds up to two Effect Wands), and a small carrying case to tie it all together. OMNI is available in Small and Large versions and includes step-up and step-down rings to fit a range of filter thread sizes.

The three effects wands are known as the “Crystal Seahorse,” “Stretch Glass,” and “Rainbow Film.”

Crystal Seahorse uses its edge scallops to aid in producing complex flares, light redirection, and radiant reflections.

The Stretch Glass can mimic a light flare by creating streaks and reflections.

The Rainbow Film, one of my personal favorites in the set, is a diffraction panel that creates beaming reflective rainbows offset from any bright light source.

The Expansion Pack

If those three wands aren’t already enough, Lensbaby has an expansion pack that adds three more crystals to the mix. The new additions are titled “Crystal Spear,” “Triangular Prism,” and the “Scalloped Window.” 

The Crystal Spear reminds me of a kaleidoscope and can create dream-like flares similar to such. The Triangular Prism mimics what some creative photographers are currently doing when holding up prisms to their glass (except, in this case, you don’t have to sacrifice a hand to hold it up!). The Scalloped Window is similar to the Seahorse of the main pack, but with a larger surface area that allows you to shoot directly through the center.

How to use the OMNI System 

Whether or not you care to look at the instruction manual, the filter system is pretty self-explanatory in terms of use. There is a large-ringed, donut-shaped disc that holds the magnetic arms that in turn hold the effects wands. This disc, depending on your lens filter thread, can either be screwed on directly or use a step-down/step-up ring to attach to your lenses’ glass element.

It is key to note that when using the 82mm step-down ring, vignetting will occur at focal lengths wider than 50mm. I personally like vignetting, but some do not.

I was actually able to attach the OMNI Creative Filter System on to both my variable ND filter from Tiffen (to see if I could) as well as any old regular glass filter you may have in place to protect the glass. So for the record, filter stacking is totally possible here (but as to whether or not it’s recommended…that’s at your discretion).

The OMNI Creative Filter System is designed to fit most prime and zoom lenses on the market. But in my usage experience, the wider view lenses bring about the most prominent effect. That said, my 85mm lens did some really cool stuff with a few of the wands.

Build quality? 

Sturdy, sturdy, sturdy – and did I mention sturdy? Nothing about this system feels flimsy. For the price point, it definitely needs to feel solid and inspire confidence. All of which it definitely does. 

How much weight and size does it add to the lens? 

My immediate first worry was how much weight and size the system would add to my equipment. I hold my gear for very significant amounts of time. Many of the types of shoots I do run well into the 6-hour range without much pause. As well as this, some of my shooting conditions tend to be tumultuous and take place in tight spaces. As such, the amount of bulk or discomfort something may add to my current kit is a pretty big deal.

Lucky for me (and for us all, I’d say), the OMNI isn’t such a nuisance. The system is lightweight, and I very seldom noticed a difference with the filter on my lens than with it off. The only lens I felt a difference on was my $100 cheap 50mm much-around-lens whose weight is equivalent to that of a feather (metaphorically speaking, of course), but on all of my L glass and G-Master lenses, a difference in weight was difficult to notice.

The system does add minor bulk and thickness to the front lens element, as the disc does protrude a wee bit, but it wasn’t a big deal. It didn’t impede my workday or any of the photo sessions!

The effect wands do stick out. However, in situations where I needed a flatter system (such as a live concert setting), I simply pushed the wands down.

But is it comfortable? 

Drumroll, please…


I found the system very comfortable to use. Depending on how dextrous your fingers are, I was actually able to consistently shift the effect wands and their magnetic arms into position without ever taking my hand off of the lens itself.

Once you get a grasp on the actual distance between the front of the lens and the filter, you can easily make necessary adjustments without needing to take your eyes off of the viewfinder.

Though the magnets are very sturdy and keep the wands from flying off, the metal balls are still easy to spin and maneuver around. So much so, that just the use of one finger was honestly fine for me.

Review in practical use

“That looks a bit like a steampunk contraption,” said one of my clients when I first attached the OMNI to my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. On the first impression, all those individuals that I began using the creative filter system on were very intrigued. Client intrigue can open fun and useful dialogue – an unintentional benefit.

Attaching the system is quick and simple, and takes very little time. I enjoyed the fact that it didn’t look like I was fumbling or struggling in front of a client. That’s always a good sign. If anything, the more wands I pulled out, the more interested I noticed my subjects were.

It did take me a few minutes of finagling and experimenting to get the most out of each wand. So I would suggest everyone who purchases the system take a day to become very familiar with each effect. Even then, I still find myself discovering new uses for each wand with every photoshoot I use them on! A very exciting thing, indeed.

There is a very significant difference between using the effect wands in a controlled indoor situation and using them outdoors. When paired with studio lighting inside, most of the wands brought out very bright and striking results. They often pulled colors I didn’t even know were present! When used outside in natural light, the effects became a bit more muted and more natural in nature.

This is a great difference depending on the look you are going for.

You should really experiment with this equipment to see what works best for you. However, I found that the trick to getting the most out of the system is to shoot at a wider millimeter lens and a wider aperture.

The wide frame allows the effect to really bleed into the image while the shallow depth of field produced by the wide aperture helps blend the effect.

I took my OMNI kit to both easy-peasy, no-fuss photoshoots and chaotic and intense situations. The simple sessions were flawless, as expected, but the spontaneous and more chaotic shoots were where the real test was.

When taking the system on tour with me working with a band, I did run into the issue of the system not being sturdy enough in a live concert setting. Granted, if the venue has a photo pit and the band does not encourage crowd-surfing, the system can work brilliantly. However, in my situation, I was shooting in dive bars with no photograph barricade, and the music definitely brought about more than one crowd surfer. Alas, this system was a no-go on that front.

However, this is a very specific and niche issue to have, so I don’t fault the system whatsoever on that front!

The Omni is very much a “what you see, is what you get” product. In practical use, this is simple and easy. Just the way we like it.  


  • Turn any lens into a practical-effects system! Step-down rings are included.
  • Well-built and lightweight.
  • Very simple to customize.
  • Easy to use, ready right out of the box.
  • A good variety of effect wands to create all sorts of interesting looks.
  • The ability to create repeatable and consistent effects.
  • Comes with a carry case that helps keep everything very neatly organized.

  • You need to disassemble and reassemble for most camera cases and packing situations.
  • There may be some vignetting with the step-down rings.



Yes, it is possible to achieve similar effects by simply holding up a prism or other such geometric crystal to your lens, but that can be a nuisance. Instead, why not have something that simply attaches and holds firm?

As such, the OMNI Creative Filter System is a worthwhile and lasting product. It helps give the equipment you currently have an extra edge (without any permanent modification).

Have you tried the OMNI Creative Filter System? Let me know your thoughts (or any questions) in the comments!


The post Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

6 Scenarios to Try for More Interesting Beach Photography

Sun, 08/11/2019 - 08:30

The post 6 Scenarios to Try for More Interesting Beach Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

Coastal adventures are a spectacular way to explore with your camera and to soak in the sea views and fresh sea air. There are so many amazing beaches and miles upon miles of coastline around the world or closer to home to entice photographers to the sea. Beautiful seascapes can vary from wide open clifftop vistas to picturesque harbors, tranquil ocean views, secluded coves, and even fishing villages. Here are 6 scenarios to try for more interesting beach photography:

1. Monumental views

Sailing boat at sea

Firstly, take in the bigger picture when capturing your seascapes.

Seek out and find those great sweeping ocean views that cover a wide expanse of sea. Be sure to use a wide-angle lens to photograph the scene too. By photographing the sea and sky, you can add another element to the scene to improve your photos.

An interesting sky also adds texture and atmosphere to the sea view and creates interesting beach photography.

2. Interesting patterns

Cornwall, England

During your adventures at the coast, look for interesting patterns and textures to photograph. You will find many details such as shells, patterns in the sand, and interesting rocks. Rockpools can be great subjects to focus your camera on to make dramatic beach photos.

Consider how your image may be affected by the tide and decide what you most want to achieve with the look of your photos. Shooting at high tide or low tide can alter the appearance of your image. At high tide, for example, some attractive rocks may look even better with the swell of the ocean circling them as opposed to when the tide is out, and the rocks separate from the sea. Try to time your visit to coincide with your photo objective. Alternatively, visit a location and plan a return visit when the tide levels are suitable.

3. Secluded coves

Cornwall, England

Finding and photographing a secluded cove is a great way to spend your adventures capturing coastal scenes.

When photographing these wonderful locations, find a suitable vantage point from higher up, such as on a ledge or from beach level. Take care when photographing the sea and be careful when standing near cliff edges or moving over slippery rocks – they can be treacherous.

Another thing to be aware of is the tide times, which are very important for your own safety. If you can coincide your visit when the tides are receding this is usually a favorable time to prevent being trapped by the incoming seas or being caught out by a rogue wave.

4. Find hidden gems

Cornwall, England

Think beyond the familiar landmarks when photographing the coast. There are endless opportunities and locations for you to discover.

One of the best ways to find new places is to explore the coast on foot. Instead of heading for the nearest beach, venture out for a long walk along the coastal paths. You never know what you might see. Behind every turn and headland, there are often hidden gems to discover. These may include secret beaches that have seen few visitors. Perhaps you will find sea caves lying beneath the clifftops which have been formed by the sea eroding the land over time.

5. Coastal shores

Cornwall, England

Coastal shores can offer some of the most dramatic and best photo opportunities for seascapes. Crashing waves and moody skies after a storm can be great for your coastal photos.

How you capture your coastal adventures depends on the type of image and mood you want to evoke.

The coast can look very different throughout the day. You could either go there in the late afternoon to capture the suns rays striking the cliffs or visit during the day when the beach is busier and more active with people.

Visiting at different times of the day will give you the chance to capture a wide variety of shots to include in your collection.

6. Sunsets

Land’s End, Cornwall, England

Photographing Sunsets by the sea are one of the most popular things to capture – and for a good reason. The coastline often looks its best at this time of day when the colorful glow is spectacular. Views of the sea get transformed into wonderful vistas with great light. Sand dunes and rock ledges can look great with the sunset light shining on them.

Shooting into the sun is another great way to capture the sunset during your coastal adventures.


Use these tips to capture more interesting beach photography and seascape images. Next time you are visiting the coast remember to look out for great ocean views, interesting details, secluded coves, hidden beaches, coastal vistas, and dramatic sunsets and share your images with us below.

What do you enjoy about beach photography?


The post 6 Scenarios to Try for More Interesting Beach Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

5 Nature Photography Editing Tips to Create Stunning Images in Seconds

Sun, 08/11/2019 - 06:00

The post 5 Nature Photography Editing Tips to Create Stunning Images in Seconds appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Do you ever feel like your nature photos are just a bit…bleh? Like they could use something more?

It’s a common problem. Because while you can be a master of light, composition, and camera settings, there’s still one thing you need for amazing nature photography:


You see, editing is how you make your nature photos shine. It’s how you add a final touch to your images. It’s how you take a slightly bland image, and make it into something truly stunning.

In this article, I’m going to share with you nature photography editing tips so you know exactly how you can create amazing nature photography edits.

And you’ll come away with the ability to enhance every single one of your nature photos.

Sound good?

Let’s get started.

1. Straighten and crop to emphasize your main subject

First things first:

If your nature photo is crooked…

…then it just won’t work. No matter how amazing the content.

(This is especially a problem for landscape photos, where crooked horizons are extremely obvious.)

You see, a crooked photo is just disorienting. It causes the viewer to get caught up in being imbalanced and makes them forget all about the subject.

So the first thing you should do to enhance your nature photos:

Check to make sure your photo is straight. And if it isn’t, straighten it! Pretty much every photo editing program offers straightening tools, so make use of them.

I handheld this swan photo, and so it required a bit of straightening:

Once you’ve straightened your photo, it’s time to think about cropping.

Now, if you’ve composed carefully in-camera, you won’t necessarily need to crop. But it’s easy to miss something small while looking through the viewfinder. Maybe there are some leaves dangling in the corner of the frame!

In which case:


By removing distractions, you’ll make your photo stronger overall. You should also crop to improve your composition. For instance, you might crop slightly to place your main subject on a rule of thirds gridline.

Or you might crop to place a symmetrical subject smack-dab in the middle of the frame, like this:

Basically, just think of cropping as a second, more measured chance at composing.

Use it to nail the perfect final composition. But don’t think that you need to crop each time a photo comes up. And try to get the composition right in-camera.

After all, crops automatically reduce resolution!

2. Drop the blacks and up the whites to add interest

If you think that your nature photos are looking a little flat, then you might be suffering from a common problem:

Low contrast.

Low-contrast photos generally lack interest. There’s not a clear difference between the subject and the background, so the whole shot just seems to blend together.

Fortunately, this can be fixed pretty easily with a bit of post-processing!

First, basically, every photo editing program offers a contrast slider. For a quick-and-dirty edit, go ahead and boost up this slider.

However, I’d go for something a bit more controlled.

In Lightroom, for instance, I like to use the adjustment sliders to drop the blacks and increase the whites, like I did for this photo:

You can also use the tone curve function to create a nice s-shape, which will give you the same effect.

If my image is fairly low contrast to start with, I’ll add a touch of contrast and then leave things be.

But if my image already has a lot of light and dark tones, I like to push the contrast further. This is especially the case if I’m taking photos in black and white.

Therefore, I’ll add to the blacks until the deepest shadows are close to losing detail. And I’ll increase the whites until the brightest parts of the photo are almost clipped.

3. Clean up your subject with a bit of Healing or Cloning

Now it’s time for some careful adjustments.

You see, many subjects in nature photography could use a bit of cleaning up. Because they tend to have dirt or blemishes that interfere with the overall look of the photo.

For instance, I often clean up my flower photos. Insects chew holes in the petals, or the tips of the flowers start to wither. And if I were to leave these elements in, they would simply distract from the overall shot.

If you’re a bird photographer, think about cleaning up the bird’s surroundings. There are often stray branches in photos of woodland birds. There is often dirty sand and distracting shells in photos of shorebirds.

On the other hand, I would not advocate making extensive modifications to your subject. I like to portray nature as close to reality as possible. And that means holding myself back from altering my subject in any deep way.

I generally use Lightroom’s excellent healing tool to remove these blemishes. But any clone tool will do the job. It’ll just require a bit more work.

4. Simplify the palette with Color Adjustments

In nature photography, I advocate simplicity:

Simpler shots are generally best.

But that doesn’t just go for composition. It’s also true for color.

In other words, for a stunning photo, you should try to limit the number of colors you include. One color works just fine. Two is nice. Three is good. Four is reaching the upper edge.

After that, the colors contribute a sense of chaos to the scene, which is exactly what you don’t want.

Fortunately, you can work on simplifying your color palette after you’ve taken your shots.

All you have to do is use the color adjustment sliders. In Lightroom, these are the hue, saturation, and luminance (HSL) adjustments.

Here’s a couple of ways you can simplify your colors:

First, you can desaturate any colors that you want to deemphasize, and saturate any colors you’d like to bring out.

Second, you can change the hues of several colors to look more similar. For instance, you might make greens slightly bluer and blues slightly greener, so that everything leans toward a balanced middle color.

Third, you can darken any problematic spots of color. If you have a splash of orange in the background that you just don’t like, you can dial it back by simply darkening the oranges.

Unfortunately, there’s no set formula for working with color adjustments. But I always recommend you keep a final goal for the photo in mind: simplicity.

And I should note: It’s easy to overdo color adjustments so that you end up with a garish, oversaturated scene. I suggest that you always check your color edits the day after you’ve finished, and make sure that the edits still seem to make sense.

That way, you can be sure that you haven’t taken things overboard.

5. Use a subtle Split Tone to give a polished look

Here’s your final piece of advice for nature photography post-processing:

Use (subtle) split toning!

Now, split toning is a bit complex:

It allows you to choose a color to add to the shadows of the image, and a color to add to the highlights of your image.

For instance, you can add a yellow to the highlights, and make the whites of the image look very warm:

Then you can add a blue to the shadows, and make the dark parts of the image look very cold:

In fact, yellow/blue split toning is extremely common in cinema, because the warm/cold contrast makes the visuals more compelling.

Now, in nature photography, you don’t want to split tone to the extent they do in cinema. The point of a nature photography split-tone is to subtly enhance the colors.

So here’s what you should do:

Once you’ve finished your main editing, head over to the split-toning options in your editing software. This isn’t an edit offered by every post-processing package, so check to see if it’s something you can do.

Then simply play around with the split toning options. Be careful to keep things pretty minimal. You don’t want to grossly alter the colors of the photo. You want something subtle.

The yellow-highlights, blue-shadows split-tone is one that works pretty consistently, so it’s something that I suggest you try.

But feel free to experiment with many split-tone options.

And pick the one you like best for a wonderful finishing touch!

5 nature photography editing tips to create stunning images in seconds: next steps

Nature photography editing is just the thing you need to add a bit of punch to your photos.

So I suggest you have a consistent post-processing workflow, one which allows you to take your pictures to their full potential.

That’s how you’ll really create a polished nature photography portfolio.

Which nature photography editing step do you think is most useful? Let me know in the comments right now!


The post 5 Nature Photography Editing Tips to Create Stunning Images in Seconds appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

The Easiest Way to Achieve Rich Skin Tones in Photoshop!

Sat, 08/10/2019 - 06:00

The post The Easiest Way to Achieve Rich Skin Tones in Photoshop! appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this video by PiXimperfect, you’ll learn the easiest way to achieve rich and beautiful skin tones in Photoshop.


In this tutorial, advanced Photoshop masking tools are used to target only the skin tones in the image. After selecting the skin tones, adjustment layers are used to add color to it.

The easiest way to achieve rich skin tones in Photoshop:
  1. Open your image in Photoshop.
  2. To begin your selection of the skin, go to Menu->Select->Color Range.
  3. To select the skin correctly, be sure to select “Sample Colors” (not “Skin Tones” because this feature doesn’t capture the skin tones with accuracy).
  4. Firstly, decrease the Fuzziness value to around 15, and then select the first Eyedropper tool. Using the eyedropper tool, click on one part of the skin in your image. To see what your selection is, ensure that you mark Selection in the Color Range window.
  5. Now select the second Eyedropper with the + symbol to extend the selection of the skin range. To do this, click and drag your Eyedropper tool across all skin tones until you have selected them all. Make sure no area is left out.
  6. You don’t want to keep the selection harsh, so go to the Fuzziness Slider and change it to around 55, and then click OK.
  7. Now that you have a selection of your skin tones, or colors similar to your skin tones, click on the Adjustment Layer icon in the Layers Palette. Choose “Solid Color.” This opens up the color palette window. In the RGB section, put in the following numbers – R: 255, G: 46, B: 1, and click OK.
  8. Change the Blend Mode in your Layers Palette from “Normal” to “Linear Light.” Rather than lower the Layer opacity, you are going to lower the “Fill” to around 5-10%.
  9. Take a look at your image and see if any areas have turned out too harsh with the blend. If so, choose your mask, then select the Paintbrush tool and paint those areas (with your brush color set to White) to soften the transition. You can decrease your brush flow if you want to.

That’s it!

Do you have any other tips you’d like to share with us? Do so in the comments section!

You may also find the following helpful:

Basic Skin Smoothing in Photoshop

Understanding Masking in Photoshop

How to Blend in Adjustments Using Layer Masking in Photoshop

How to Use the Clone Stamp Tool in Photoshop to Make Clear Skin

How to Correct Skin Blemishes Using the Patch Tool in Photoshop

How to Replace Colors in Your Images Using Photoshop

How to Enhance Colors Using Photoshop’s Color Range Tool


The post The Easiest Way to Achieve Rich Skin Tones in Photoshop! appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Long Exposure

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 15:00

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is LONG EXPOSURE!

Image by Christian Hoiberg

Image by Simon Bond

Go out and capture absolutely anything that includes long exposure. You can photograph beach landscapes, waterfalls, cityscapes, lightning, Milkyway, light painting, etc. They can be color, black and white, moody or bright. Just so long as they are long exposure photography! You get the picture! Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Image by Simon Ringsmuth

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

Tips for Shooting LONG EXPOSURE


Step-by-step Guide to Long Exposure Photography

10 Common Mistakes in Long Exposure photography

5 Tips for Getting Sharper Images When Doing Long Exposures

Easy Beginners Tips for Long Exposure Photography

How to Shoot Long Exposure Seascape Photography

Essential Equipment for Long Exposure Photography

6 Tips for Shooting Long Exposure Night Photographs

How to Make the Most of Creative Shutter Speed in Photography


Weekly Photography Challenge – LONG EXPOSURE

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 #DPSlongexposure 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 – Long Exposure appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Texture and Clarity Sliders in Lightroom Classic CC: What’s the difference?

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 08:30

The post Texture and Clarity Sliders in Lightroom Classic CC: What’s the difference? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Throughout the last couple of years, Adobe has released an absolute tsunami of updates for their photo editing platforms. Adobe Lightroom Classic went through a plethora of upgrades and changes, with new (and sometimes major) add-on’s seemingly incorporated with each new build. One of these sizable fresh additions to the Lightroom Classic toolkit came in May of 2019 with the release of v8.3. It’s called the Texture slider.

Yep, that little guy right there.

You’ll find the texture slider nestled comfortably in the Presence section of the basic panel alongside the now veteran Clarity and Dehaze adjustments. These Presence sliders are extremely interesting in their effects and how they each accomplish their separate actions. Clarity, Dehaze, and now Texture, all perform similar adjustments. They each tweak contrast within our photos to varying degrees with wholly different results.

Texture and Clarity are particularly interesting. Both perform quite similarly, while at the same, remaining their own animals…if that makes any sense? In this article, we’re going to have a closer look at the Clarity and Texture sliders.

I’ll explain how they work and show the different effects each of these powerful sliders can have on your photos.

Texture vs Clarity

All right, so what’s the difference between Clarity and Texture?

We’ve already surmised they are similar in that they function to bring out detail within a photo. However, you’ll notice some very obvious differences as soon as you view the effects of each slider side by side. Have a look at this. Here’s the original photo:

And now a side-by-side comparison of some Clarity and Texture Slider adjustments.

In the photo on the left, I’ve increased the Clarity slider to +100. I’ve applied +100 Texture to the photo on the right. The difference is apparent, but what exactly is happening here? First, let me remind you what our beloved Clarity slider actually does.

A refresher on Clarity

In short, Clarity interacts with our photos by increasing or decreasing the contrast between midtone luminance values. This essentially gives the illusion of our image becoming clearer. However, in reality, all that is happening is the application of more or less contrast to the light and dark areas which fall as midtones (between highlights and shadow).

You’ll also notice that the photo is perceptively brighter and that the color saturation diminishes slightly when increasing Clarity. On the other end of the spectrum, decreasing clarity adds in a soft-focus effect. This can sometimes work extremely well, depending on your subject. For a little more of a breakdown on Clarity check out my other article, How to Make Your Photos Shine Using Clarity, Sharpening, and Dehaze in Lightroom. You’ll also learn some great tips on using Clarity along with the Sharpening and Dehaze sliders.

What is Texture?

Now let’s talk about the new kid on the block, the Texture slider.

Ironically enough, the idea for the Texture slider was born not from the goal of increasing the textures (positive) within an image but rather decreasing them (negative) thereby essentially smoothing out a photo. The Texture slider was initially named the “Smoothing slider” in the early stages of its development.

The team at Adobe were aiming to migrate into Lightroom (at least to some extent) the skin retouching capabilities of Photoshop. Their goal was to offer a feature that packed a less drastic punch than the Clarity slider. All while still being able to increase (or decrease) the apparent contrasts in the photo to give the illusion of enhanced textures within the images.*

+69 texture added globally

The Texture slider lands somewhere between Clarity and Sharpening in Lightroom. A good way to think about Texture is that it is much less harsh than Clarity and offers more subtle results without affecting absolute brightness or color saturation.

Texture focuses it’s smoothing or clearing effects on areas of a photo which possess “mid-frequency” features. You can think of these as medium detail areas. For reference, a cloudless sky would be considered a low-frequency feature while a cluster of trees would be considered a high-frequency feature.

It is also worth mentioning that like many of the tools found in Lightroom Classic, you can apply the texture effect both globally (the entire photo) and locally to specific areas. Local negative texture adjustments work wonders for smoothing out skin wrinkles and blemishes in your portraits.

Before localized skin smoothing

After some retouching using a negative texture with Lightroom’s adjustment brush. Now I only look nominally haggard…

*Note: This is an extremely basic explanation of the Texture slider. If you’re feeling truly adventurous and want to learn more about the technical makeup of the Texture slider, I highly recommend this post over on the Adobe Blog.

Should I use Clarity or Texture Slider?

The looming question is, “When should I use Texture, and when should I use Clarity?” Unlike most commentary I offer on the absolutes of post-processing, which often borders on a Zen-like existentialist approach of “it all depends on the image,” there are some relatively straightforward things to look for when deciding which adjustment will work best for your particular photo.

Try the Clarity slider if:

  • Your image consists of high-frequency features
  • The effect is needed on a more global scale
  • Your image is a landscape
  • The image is black and white

Try the Texture slider if:

  • Your image has large areas of mid to low-frequency features
  • A more subtle enhancement is needed
  • The image is a portrait
  • Your image has extreme color contrasts/saturation

Of course, these are just guidelines, and I hope you experiment with both the Clarity and Texture sliders.

Also, nothing is stopping you from using a combination of the two – especially when you are applying them using local adjustment tools.

Closing thoughts on Texture and Clarity Sliders

You’ve heard me say time and time again that less is generally more when it comes to applying adjustments in post-processing. Just because a tool is available doesn’t always mean you have to use it to its full strength.

Perhaps this is no truer than when it comes to using the tools found in the Presence section of Lightroom, in this case, the Texture and Clarity sliders. These nifty little adjustments can yield amazing results for your photos.

In fact, I use both local and global Clarity and Texture slider adjustments in virtually all of my photos to one extent or another.

With that said, it’s a good practice not to over-process your images. Some judicious use of negative Texture can shave years off your clients face. However, go too far, and they might end up looking like a wax doll.

Adding positive Texture can bring out the subtle beauty of tree bark, however, use too much, and you’ll end up with…well, you get the idea.

What are your thoughts on the new Texture slider in Lightroom Classic CC? Is it a feature you will use regularly? Sound off in the comments below!


The post Texture and Clarity Sliders in Lightroom Classic CC: What’s the difference? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

SEO For Photographers – How to Bring More Business to Your Site

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 06:00

The post SEO For Photographers – How to Bring More Business to Your Site appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

In today’s digital world, there is so much to learn on the technology side. As a photographer, Search Engine Optimization may be far down on your list of what you give your time to.

However, good SEO is vital to your success, as it can help your website rank higher in searches on major search engines such as Google.

It may come as no surprise that studies show up to 80% of click traffic goes to the top three search results. People are more likely to refine a search than go on to the second page if they don’t immediately find what they’re looking for.

Strong SEO translates into ranking high in organic searches, which means more potential clients for your photography business.

Here are some best practices of SEO for photographers to get you started.

A screenshot of a Google Analytics Dashboard. Analytics is great for monitoring visitor traffic and how different pages on your site are performing.

How search engines work

Search engines contain a huge database of all the content that they have discovered on the Internet called an “Index”. An estimated 35 trillion web pages across the Internet worldwide are indexed by Google alone. Google is the preferred search engine for about 90% of users.

Search engines scour the Internet for content, looking over the code and content for each URL found. It then stores and organizes the content found during this crawling process.

Once a page is in the index, it is available for display as a result. Finally, it “ranks” the pieces of content that will best answer a searcher’s query, and orders them from most relevant to least relevant. Different search engines use different algorithms, such as showing results in a different order. 

Search engines also pay attention to a lot of other “signals,” such as how often a domain is updated. There are more than 200 signals that can influence where your webpage shows up in any given search. No particular signal is likely to significantly affect your SEO on its own. There are “on-page” factors to SEO like URL structure, and “off-page” factors, such as social media presence.

While you can improve on-page factors right away, off-page factors are less tangible and take time to build. This is why marketing needs to be a big part of your overall SEO strategy.

How to improve your photography site’s SEO Make sure your website is mobile-optimized

The first thing you need to do to improve your SEO is to make sure that your site is mobile-friendly. Not only are a far greater number of searches now taking place on mobile devices, but Google also gives preferential results toward websites optimized for mobile viewing. This means that your site must be responsive – that your webpage design is based on the device used to view the content.

Your site may rank number one for a search term from a desktop computer, but it won’t necessarily be number one in the same search on a phone or iPad.

Use relevant Keywords

Like hashtags used in social media, keywords are an important way to boost your SEO and ensure that your website comes up in search results. However, also like hashtags, you can’t use them willy-nilly and expect great results. Keywords must be relevant to your audience and your content. In other words, they must be researched and chosen with care. 

In order to do this, you have to have an understanding of who your clients are and what they’re looking for. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, is your potential client looking for a destination wedding? Where are they located? Are they looking for someone locally or internationally?

Ask yourself what terms and questions your potential client might be entering in their preferred search engine. How is your audience searching for the service you provide?

To help you, try using a keyword research tool like Moz or Wordstream. These applications can help you discover and export keywords and performance data for improved searches.

Have an understanding of what your potential client may search for when trying to find a photographer.

Update your content frequently

It’s very common for photographers to spend a lot of time developing their initial portfolio for their site and then neglect to update it. I’ve seen photography websites where even the copyright notation hasn’t been updated since 2015.

As a photographer, you want to appear working and busy. You may in fact be incredibly busy, but if you’re not updating your content you won’t seem to be. From an SEO perspective, you should know that Google will often factor in new content when ranking search results.

This is one more reason to make sure to regularly add content to your website to make sure you stay relevant in search results. 

Use Social Media

Love it or hate it, social media is incredibly relevant to photographers, or anyone with an online presence. As mentioned earlier, social media is one of those on-page factors that act as a signal to drive SEO. Search engines look at social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram as a sign of what is influential on the Internet.

Social media is an important marketing tool and engaging in is will positively affect how you rank in search engine results.

Photography is a service-driven business. Relationships are the foundation. Customers are more likely to buy from you if they feel a rapport with you and feel like they can trust you. Social media is very helpful in putting your face to your business.

A social media presence is important to ranking well in search engines like Google.

Write a blog

Most photographers I know are very visual people and don’t consider themselves good at writing. However, you don’t need to be the next Ernest Hemingway to write a photography blog. In fact, using simple language and short posts of around 300 words or so (though longer can be better too) can really help you in your SEO-boosting efforts.

You can post a series of images on your blog from a portrait shoot, or post some behind-the-scenes snaps of a commercial product shoot you executed with a team of people.

A bit of a description or your thoughts on the shoot or the process will suffice. Give readers an idea of what it will be like to work with you.

This is great from a marketing perspective, but having a blog linked to your photography website allows you to build good textual content and backlinks. On the other hand, having links to only your homepage will have limited effect.

In particular, having a WordPress site attached to your portfolio site can be incredible in helping you rank higher in search results. 

Just be aware that when you do blog, be sure you post high-quality content. Search engines can penalize your domain for duplicate content or broken external links too.

Get others to link to you

Having other sites or blogs to link to you is a great way to boost your SEO. When your work is featured on a popular site, it creates a cascade of links from other sites. Links from other websites to yours are called backlinks and they’re important for good SEO. 

Apply to have your work featured on relevant industry websites or published in magazines. Also, consider writing guest posts on other blogs where you’re not a direct competitor of the blog owner. 

Getting featured in popular feeds on Instagram can lead to new followers on your own feed and potential, interested visitors to your site.

Create a free Google Business Listing

Creating a free Google Business listing will help increase your chances to be found in search results. It allows your company information to be output with high visibility in a variety of ways by Google.

A large percentage of searches are geography-specific, like “Vancouver food photographer.”

When Google returns results that have a geographic component, Google Maps pack prioritizes them over standard results. This is a set of results plotted on a clickable map as per the example below.

When Google returns results that have a geographic component, Google Maps pack prioritizes them over standard results and they are plotted on a clickable map.

When you set up your business listing, you’ll also have access to Google My Business Insights. This provides you with detailed information on how and where consumers are searching for your business. Along with your website’s Google Analytics data, it creates an overview of how people find your website and business listing and the actions they take. 

Note that to create a Google Business Listing, you need to be comfortable providing a physical address to your business, which may be your home address, if you don’t have a studio.

To sum up

As you may have gathered, success with SEO for photographers is a long-game. There are a variety of factors that are important in building good SEO for photographers, and they require consistency and analysis.

Be sure to sign up with Google Analytics to track your results. Information is power, and knowing how visitors are using your site will help you tweak your approach and get noticed in search results.

Do you have any other tips you’d like to share with us? Please do so in the comments section below.


The post SEO For Photographers – How to Bring More Business to Your Site appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Trump’s New Tariffs Could Drive Up the Prices of Cameras and Lenses

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 08:30

The post Trump’s New Tariffs Could Drive Up the Prices of Cameras and Lenses appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

President Donald Trump made waves last week when he announced new tariffs on Chinese goods via Twitter.

Trump writes:

“Our representatives have just returned from China where they had constructive talks having to do with a future Trade Deal…Trade talks are continuing.”

Trump goes on to explain that “the US will start, on September 1st, putting a small additional Tariff of 10% on the remaining 300 Billion Dollars of goods and products coming from China into our Country.”

…during the talks the U.S. will start, on September 1st, putting a small additional Tariff of 10% on the remaining 300 Billion Dollars of goods and products coming from China into our Country. This does not include the 250 Billion Dollars already Tariffed at 25%…

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 1 August 2019

In other words, certain goods will be taxed before arriving in the US.

For photographers, this is an especially painful blow.

Up to this point, photography equipment had largely managed to avoid any import taxes. But the new 10% tariff will be largely levied on electronics, including computers, phones, and camera gear. And it may cause serious consequences for American consumers of photo equipment.

lucas Favre

You see, prices of camera products exist in a delicate balance. When the cost to import the gear goes up, prices go up with it, in order to offset the cost paid by resellers. This cost is often felt by consumers.

While companies like Canon, Nikon, and Sony are based in Japan, a significant number of their imaging products are made in China. It’s these products that will be hit by the tariffs, and it’s these products consumers should be worried about.

Trump does promise that his administration will work toward a trade deal with China. However, you should note that these new tariffs follow on the heels of previous tariffs, which left camera gear largely untouched. If the trend continues, things are likely to get worse before they get better.

Of course, this news is only relevant to American readers. Prices in countries other than the US will remain unaffected. But for photography-lovers in America, you may want to purchase any China-made camera gear now, while you can still get it for cheap.

President Trump’s tweet indicates that the new tariffs will come into effect on September 1st.

So pretty soon, prices will be on the rise.

What do you think about the tariffs? Will they stop you buying new camera gear? Let me know in the comments!

The post Trump’s New Tariffs Could Drive Up the Prices of Cameras and Lenses appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

How to Shoot Abstract Flower Photography using Close-Up Filters

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 06:00

The post How to Shoot Abstract Flower Photography using Close-Up Filters appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Shooting flowers is a passion for many photographers. Time spent out in the garden with your camera can become almost a form of meditative practice as you compose images surrounded by nature. It’s no wonder that so many photographers long to shoot beautiful flower images. But shooting close-up images of flowers can be an expensive business. Many tutorials will tell you that you need specialist macro lenses, proprietary macro extension tubes, or converters to reverse a lens that you already own. However, using close-up filters are a great alternative.

Close-up filters are an option for macro photography that rarely makes it into the tutorial list. Many will tell you that they degrade the final image too much; they cause distortion and focus issues. However, in this article, I’m going to make the case that these filters can enable you to think in a more abstract way as you embrace their unique and imperfect properties!

What are close-up filters?

Close-up filters can also be called close-up lenses or macro filters. They are essentially a magnifying glass that screws into the filter thread on the front of your lens.

When you buy a set of close-up filters, you need to know what lens you’re going to use them on. This is because you buy them according to the filter size of that lens. I suggest picking either a standard zoom or a prime lens in the 50mm to 100mm range and purchasing your filters for the thread size of that particular lens.

Close-up filters differ to budget extension tubes in one key way – you don’t lose electronic control of your lens. That means the autofocus will (just about) still work, and the aperture control in your camera settings will still work. Because budget extension tubes do not carry an electronic signal between your camera and your lens, you have to use it manually. For that reason I prefer close up filters – it makes changing your settings on the fly much easier!

The image on the left was shot with just the Fujifilm 35mm f1.4 lens. The image on the right had a +10 close-up filter screwed onto the front of the lens.

The last thing to know about close up filters is that they have different magnification strengths – just like buying a magnifying glass. The higher the number, the more you will magnify your subject and the closer you can get. All of the images in this article have been shot using a +10 close-up filter on a Fujifilm 35mm f1.4 lens (roughly equivalent to a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera).

Why shoot abstract photos?

Abstract photos can really help to free you up from the common “rules” of photography. You can start to think outside of the box without wondering if an image is sharp enough all over, or if the colors are perfectly rendered.

That’s not to say that abstract photography is a way to “save” a bad photograph. As much thought and consideration should go into an abstract as it would a more traditional image.

Once you’ve learned to let go of the rules you might find that expressing yourself through color, shape, and texture can be relaxing. Experimenting with abstract photography can bring a whole new dimension to your work. It can even make you think about other kinds of photography differently. You’ll be much more careful when placing colors and lines in images in the future if you spend some time creating abstract compositions.

Tips for photographing flowers

Once you’ve got your close-up filter screwed to the front of your lens, head outside for a play. You won’t need a tripod at first – bump up your ISO and try handholding some close-up shots on a day with bright but overcast light (or shoot in the shade, of course).

Get the shot in focus

I recommend turning your autofocus off. We’re going to be working with some really shallow depth of field and that means your camera will often lock the focus on to something you don’t want it to.

Instead, you can use your body to move the subject in and out of focus. Carefully lean a fraction closer or further away, and you’ll see different parts of the images go in and out of focus. It takes some practice to get the hang of, but after a while, it’ll feel really natural.

If you’re a little unsteady and struggle to get the right part of the image in focus, try shooting a burst of three or five images and select the best one later. You can also use a tripod if you want to (if it is a very still day with no wind). However, I find that a tripod can often hinder creativity when you’re trying to think fast and look for new and fascinating angles and compositions.

Select an aperture

The aperture setting that you choose can change the whole feeling of an image. When you’re working this close to a subject, the depth of field can be as thin as a few millimeters.

By using a very shallow depth of field, you can draw attention to just one part of a scene and throw the background and foreground completely out of focus. However, when shooting close up, it does mean that the whole flower or object might not be all in focus. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing – just picking a small part of the flower to be in focus can be a stylistic choice.

What can be interesting though is the way that the close-up filters interact with a wide-open lens. You begin to get these hazy, dreamy images that are somewhat unpredictable. It’s almost like a Lensbaby Velvet in some respects – or possibly a bit like smearing vaseline on your lens!

Composition is key

Since abstract photography often takes a subject and then makes it unrecognizable, all you have left is the composition and colors. That means you need to start thinking about how to mix shape, lines, form, textures, and colors to express emotions or tell stories. You cannot rely on recognizable and familiar objects anymore.

There are many compositional rules out there to study and put into practice. I have always found it helpful to spend as much time as possible looking at other peoples art (both in galleries and online) and trying to understand what makes a composition pleasing. You don’t have to know all of the rules of composition by name. But having a sense of how the position of elements in the frame and the color wheel work together to create interesting compositions can be a huge help when shooting abstracts.

If you are shooting digital, don’t be afraid to shoot multiple images of the same scene and resist subjects. Try placing the main focus on different parts of the image, (including blurry foreground elements), and seeing how different aperture settings look.

You can also think about editing your photographs afterward to change the colors in the image. A slight shift in color, some noise added, or a touch of contrast on the focal point can really change the mood of the shot.

So for a very small investment (certainly compared to the rest of your camera gear), you can open up a new world of artistic abstract photography by using close-up filters. Also, better than that, it can happen entirely in your front garden!

Let us know if you shoot any images inspired by this article – post the results in the comments below!


The post How to Shoot Abstract Flower Photography using Close-Up Filters appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

10 Cheap Photography Accessories that will Make Your Life Easier

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 08:30

The post 10 Cheap Photography Accessories that will Make Your Life Easier appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Camera gear is notoriously expensive, but there are some cheap photography accessories out there. Here are 10 affordable gadgets that you should seriously consider adding to your camera bag, no matter what kind of photography you do. They can help make your photoshoots run smoother and your workflow more effective.

1. Camera cleaning supplies

No matter how careful you are with your camera gear, it is bound to get dirty. Thus, it is essential to always have your camera and lens cleaning supplies on hand. Luckily, these items are pretty cheap, so there’s no excuse for not having them around. Here are a few cleaning tools in particular:

  • Lens cloth: microfiber cleaning cloths remove dust and smudges from filters and the front of your lens.
  • Rocket blower: also known as a bulb blower, use this rubber device to blow the dust off your camera sensor and the front of your lens. If using it on your camera sensor, be sure to point your camera downward so the dust will fall to the ground.
  • Lens pen: these have a similar function to lens cloths, but they are easier to keep clean and target problem areas.
  • Lens cleaning liquid: when a lens cloth or pen isn’t doing the trick, cleaning liquid will often give you the best results.
2. Rain sleeve

Even though many cameras and lenses are touted as weather-resistant, it’s still a good idea to carry rain gear with you. This is helpful not only for downpours but for shooting in other wet conditions such as riding on a boat or sitting in the first row at Sea World.

There are all kinds of rain cover options out there, including regular plastic shopping bags and Ziplock bags.

If you have a relatively small camera, a DIY home version might be just fine. But for those with larger cameras and lenses, it’s best to invest in dedicated camera rain sleeves, such as these made by OP/TECH. They are pretty cheap and reusable, and they have custom sizes to better fit your camera setup than what a regular plastic shopping bag can offer.

3. Foldable reflector

No matter what kind of photography you do, you should own a reflector. These flexible devices are great for adding a kiss of light to any scene. Reflectors come in many sizes and shapes.

The most versatile ones are 5-in-1, offering white, silver, gold, black, and translucent surfaces.

The latter surface is one that I use often to filter light and make it softer. This is where the LED flashlight can come into play if you filter its light via the translucent part of the reflector. Size-wise, reflectors can be pocket-sized, or human-sized. Get the size that makes the most sense to you or stock up on multiple ones.

4. Bubble leveler

Although many cameras have built-in digital levelers, sometimes it is easier to have a physical bubble leveler that you can always refer to. These cheap bubble levelers fit on the cold shoe mount of your camera and help you get a straight and level shot.

As an added bonus, you can also use these to level other items such as prints of your pictures when mounting them to a wall.

5. Battery holder

Most photographers have several spare batteries for their cameras. But do you have a method for keeping your batteries organized? If not, you need a battery holder. Think Tank makes battery holders for different capacities, such as 4 spare batteries or 2. They even have one for AA batteries. When I use these battery holders, I put them in facing the same way and replace them upside down as they drain and need to be recharged. That way, I know not only where all of my batteries are, but which ones need to be charged.

6. Memory card wallet

Similar to battery holders, it’s also a good idea to have a memory card wallet.

When I first started out in photography, I was a staunch believer in having as few memory cards as possible so that I didn’t accidentally misplace them. While this might be an okay practice for some, the truth is that camera file sizes keep getting larger. That means you’ll likely need to carry more memory cards.

If you use more than one memory card, you should have a system for keeping them organized. That’s where a memory card wallet is helpful. Use them not only to keep track of your cards, but also to know which ones are empty, and which are full (i.e. by turning them upside down when full).

7. Silver Sharpie

Have you ever noticed that a lot of camera gear tends to be black in color? Everything from batteries and memory cards, to camera bodies and lenses, they all seem to be the same color. This can make it tricky for labeling them with your name or indicators to tell them apart. Enter the silver Sharpie.

This is one of those tools I never knew I needed until I started using it. The main thing I use it for is to write my name and a unique number on each of my memory cards. I have 13 of them, so I need a way to tell them apart. I do the same for my camera batteries, external hard drives, and all kinds of items.

8. LED flashlight

This is an item that is so small and easy to slip in your camera bag that you might as well carry one. Portable light sources have a variety of uses, namely helping you find gear in your camera bag in dark lighting scenarios. Flashlights can also help you make a creative image via light painting, or adding a bit of extra light to a scene, especially when paired with the next item on the list.

9. External battery pack

These last two items might be arguable in terms of their “cheapness,” but they have a relatively low investment price considering how long they can last. An external battery pack is especially helpful today since many modern cameras can be charged via USB input.

You can also juice up your cell phone on the go, which is probably very helpful for photography since there are many smartphone camera apps out there to help you take better photos.

I’m a fan of Anker battery packs, such as the Anker PowerCore 10000, which goes for about $30.00 USD. I’ve owned the previous version of this battery pack for over 5 years, and it is still going strong.

10. Joby Gorillapod

These flexible tripods have been around forever and they are still incredibly useful. Think of those awkward places where a regular tripod won’t quite fit, and the Gorillapod is your answer for anchoring your camera to grab those unique shots.

Admittedly, Gorillapods aren’t the cheapest accessories out there, but it does depend on which size you buy. Smaller Gorillapods (for smaller cameras) can go for under $30 USD, but the larger ones will go for upwards of $40 USD. This may seem cheap to you, or it may seem expensive.

Either way, know that these Gorillapods are built to last. I have one that is over 7 years old and it still holds up both my Canon DSLRs and Fujifilm mirrorless cameras just fine.

Over To You

There you have it – 10 (relatively) cheap camera accessories that all photographers should have.

Would you add any items to this list? Let me know in the comments below!



The post 10 Cheap Photography Accessories that will Make Your Life Easier appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

How to Change a Background in Photoshop for Still Life or Food Photography

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 06:00

The post How to Change a Background in Photoshop for Still Life or Food Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Food photography is all about communicating an ambiance or mood. Plating, styling, and props will help, and using the right backdrop can go a long way to tie everything together. Learn how to use Photoshop to change the background without having to buy new ones.

To have the right background for every shot means having a lot of tabletops, pieces of wood, linen, etc. These things cost and take a lot of space. If you don’t have the budget or storage capacity for it, this article can help you out. By doing a good selection and using layers, I’ll show you how to change your background in Photoshop.

A precise selection is key to change your background

First, you need to be able to work separately on your background, for this, you have to select it. There are many selection tools in Photoshop, feel free to choose the one you want. However, I recommend the pen tool for more advanced selections. If you need some help with it check out: Why Learning the Pen Tool in Photoshop is Worth the Effort.

Use Photoshop selection tools to change your backdrop without affecting your subject

Once you’re satisfied you can duplicate the layer by going to Menu-> Layer->Duplicate layer.

Now add a mask by clicking on the Create Mask button from the bottom of the panel. Because you had your subject already selected, it will create the mask with that shape.

From now on, your changes will only be seen on the background that you had selected.

If you would like to understand masks better, check out Photoshop Masks 101.

Photoshop layers mask help you change the appearance of your background for food photography

Modify the colors to simulate a different background

Now you can freely modify the backdrop using any adjustment layers that control color, brightness, hue, saturation etc.

Just click on the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer button from the bottom of the Layers panel to see all the choices.

Since you are working on separate layers, your original remains untouched and you can always go back to it if you do something you are not happy with.

Photoshop have many adjustment layers to choose how you want to change your backdrop in food photography

You can add as many layers as you want. For example, I modified the hue and saturation, then added a warming photo filter. Just be sure to always apply the mask to the layer (not the background) or the adjustments will show in the entire image.

A white background is easier to change

For this option, you need to have a texture ready before you start. You can buy them on stock photography websites, or you can make your own. I find it useful to photograph fabrics, wood, stones or anything I can use later so that I have many options available. For inspiration and details, you can read How to Create Your Own Unique Textures and Apply Them To Your Photography.

A white background allows you to incorporate textures and change the background of your food photography

Select the background like in the other example, only this time it might be easier because of the contrast created by the white background.

Easy to use selection tools like Quick Selection or Color Range can save you a lot of time, just pay attention to the edges and details.

Always zoom in to fine-tune your selection. Then save it by going to the menu Selection->Save Selection.

A good selection helps you change only the backdrop with Photoshop tools

Apply your texture as the new backdrop

Now add the texture you chose for your new background. You can do this by going to Edit->Place if you want it as a Smart Object. However, if you don’t plan to modify it then just paste it on top. Either way, it will create a new layer on top that will cover your original image.

To give visibility to your subject, load the selection you saved by going to the menu Selection->Load Selection. Then click the Add Mask button like in the first example.

Integrate your new background

Now you can see the cherries but they look a bit fake. To improve this, change the layer blending mode. I find Multiply does a very good job for this.

If you want to know more about blending layers watch this Comprehensive Guide to Photoshop Blend Modes.

Once you have done that, you can also adjust the opacity. The shadows now make the photo feel natural.

And you’re done.

It’s that easy to change your background in Photoshop!

If you want you can keep on working on it to make it more dramatic or moody. Make use of adjustment layers, filters, and even more textures until you get the effect that you want.

Photoshop allows you to use layers, filters and textures to create special moods in food photography

I hope you liked these ideas and found inspiration to keep on trying different things.

Go out and give it a try, and share your images with us in the comments section!

And to further improve your food photography, I’ll leave you here a list with some great articles.

Recommended readings


The post How to Change a Background in Photoshop for Still Life or Food Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

How to Photograph Wedding Receptions with Great Success

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 08:30

The post How to Photograph Wedding Receptions with Great Success appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Wedding receptions are often referred to as the most boring part of the day since the most exciting part are the bride and groom portraits. However, it would be wrong to treat receptions as such since receptions hold many of the meaningful details of an actual wedding celebration. So here are some tips on how to photograph wedding receptions with great success.

1. Schedule the reception with a time buffer

Weddings are high paced and often begin on time, but as the day progresses, it can be easy to fall behind schedule. When you’re creating the wedding day itinerary for your clients, add in an extra 15-minute buffer to any travel or transition time before the reception.

The reason for this is because you’ll want to grab a snack and hydrate before getting into the last leg of the wedding day. You’ll also want to test out your gear, change batteries, or memory cards. Some photographers take this time to do the same-day slideshow.

This extra buffer means no rushing to the reception but instead preparing your gear and yourself for the last few hours of the day so that you’re not running on empty.

It also will allow you to get to the reception early, which is my next point.

2. Photograph the reception alone

Getting to the reception area those extra few minutes early also allows you to photograph all the details without any guests in the background. This makes for really nice wide shots and closeup shots of the entire set up.

You can then create real depth to your photos and zone in on particular details like the seating chart, place cards, centerpieces, and the sweetheart table. You can capture them without drinks, purses, or other guest items.

If at all possible, have the bride and groom enter the reception area and photograph them alone in the middle of the set up as part of their wedding portraits. It can add a little more emotion and tie the narrative of the event together.

3. Make a list of all the must-have photos

Most wedding receptions are much the same in terms of what you should photograph for the bride and groom. While they can vary in time of day, location, or style, these are the main details that you should be sure to photograph:

  • Entrance details: Do they have a sign? Are there photos from their engagement session? Is there a sign-in guest book, meaningful mementos like wood blocks to sign and write notes on? All of these are important to photograph as a whole and each detail individually or a group of details.
  • Wide photo of the space as a whole. Photographing the entire space gives the reception and final wedding photos a nice transition in the narrative or album. Take a few photos from different perspectives so that you can choose the best one for the final gallery of images.
  • Centerpieces: If there is only one style, photograph it both horizontally and vertically as well as taking a close up detail photo of it. If there are different styles on each table, take photos of each style. If, for example, they have placed a different photograph on each table, you don’t have to photograph each table. Instead, find one or two that you like and photograph two or three different tables.
  • Table seating/ seating cards: Table seating and table cards are how guests know where to sit during receptions. These may present in various and creative ways. You should photograph a wide shot of the setup and then a detailed photo of the seating. Choose a name that sounds familiar to you (perhaps a family member or member of the bridal party) to focus on for the detail photo.
  • Dinnerware set up: If you notice that the dinnerware and stemware have been chosen with a little more intention, photograph the setup. Get different perspectives and angles.
  • Florals: This is most likely to be found as part of the centerpiece; however, some weddings have beautiful florals decorating different parts of the space.
  • Desert table/candy bar
  • Cake
  • Lounge or seating area
  • Any other detail that you feel the couple put lots of effort, time, or money into.

3. Staging

A big mistake that many new wedding photographers make is failing to stage photos. Staging the photos will help you get the perfect photo of the detail while still keeping the main aesthetic that the bride and groom have chosen.

Staging and moving things around can help the final photo.

This means, moving salt and pepper shakers out of the way, lighting the votive candles if necessary, turning a table number to face the camera, or even moving a chair so you can get the whole table in one photo.

After getting your shots, make sure to place everything back to where it belongs. That way, when the guests arrive, they see the complete look and aren’t missing their water glass or chairs.

4. Lighting

If you are photographing a reception in a salon or closed venue, the lighting may not be ideal for photos. If the ceiling is white, you can use it to bounce light from your flash back down onto the table and reception details. This will give you more even lighting and a pretty straightforward light in your photos.

At left the flash is pointed to the side. At right, the flash is bouncing from the ceiling. You can see the difference in both.

In addition, using an external flash attached to your camera, point the flash to the side so that you can get more side lit photos. These add more depth to your detail photos and adds shadow. For example, this type of lighting makes for great depth to cake photos and also centerpieces.

You can also use an external LED video light or small light to help you light the reception details. This also gives you a lot more flexibility in getting different lighting that is immediately obvious. As for flash, you have to take test shots first to see how the light looks.

Having an external flash can help you get really nicely lit photos. Use the flash in manual mode to control the output.

If you don’t have any external lighting then you can use the ambient light for the details. Just make sure that your camera is stable enough to photograph by using a tripod. Having a fast lens can also help you capture ambient light.

Be aware of the color temperature of the ambient light as well. This can change the color of florals, table linens, seating cards, etc. if you’re photographing with ambient light.

As a good resource, you can also use your cell phone flashlight to help light or fill in light on the details that you’re photographing.

5. Events of the reception

During the reception there will most likely be some, if not all, of the following events:

  • Grand entrance
  • First dance
  • Mother/Son and Father/ Daughter dance
  • Toasts
  • Cake cutting
  • Bouquet toss/Garter toss
  • Money or Honeymoon dance
  • DJ-led games or trivia
  • Dancing

All of these usually get coordinated by the wedding planner, bride, or DJ himself. Look to them to know what is next after dinner has begun. Never leave your camera and always be ready to photograph anything and everything that you feel is important or fun.

Dancing is always fun. If you can make sure to photograph the key players, like the mother of the bride, bridal party, children dancing, or the best man, these all make for meaningful and fun photos later.

It’s really important to photograph the bride and groom dancing with their guests as well.

Don’t be afraid to get creative when you feel like you have photographed all of the most important events. Slow your shutter to get interesting lighting effects. Use multiple flashes to light the dance floor evenly. Even get a different perspective of the party.

The main thing is to enjoy yourself while taking photos!

6. Before you leave the wedding

Before you leave the wedding reception, make sure to thank your clients and ask this one important question: Is there anything you’d like for me to capture before I leave?

This allows them to get last-minute photos that they may have forgotten to ask for earlier in the day. They may want a quick one with their grandmother or a photograph of them with their best friends from college.

Do this about 10 minutes before you are set to leave. That way, you can have time to photograph all of those last-minute requests before you pack it up and head out.

It’s also a great way to say goodbye to the couple for the night.

In Conclusion

Photographing wedding receptions can be really fun even though they usually happen at the end of a really long day.

Give yourself some time to get into the mindset and get creative during the reception.

Do you have any great tips on how to photograph wedding receptions? Feel free to share with us in the comments below.


The post How to Photograph Wedding Receptions with Great Success appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

How to use Monochromatic Color to Convey more Emotion in your Photography

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 06:00

The post How to use Monochromatic Color to Convey more Emotion in your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

Monochromatic photography is often associated with black and white photography, but it is certainly not limited to just that. As the name implies, monochromatic is about one color. Thus an image that contains tones and variations of a specific color is termed monochromatic.

Why use monochromatic color? 1. Convey Emotion

Both color and the absence of color are viable options to convey emotion. Your choice of which to use depends on the story you are trying to tell. You may prefer black and white imagery for moodier scenes and to convey more intense emotions. Similarly, a single color used throughout your image can enhance or evoke different feelings. For example, red is commonly used to denote passion, love, and even anger, while blues invoke cooler, calmer and more subdued sensibilities.

It is important to note that different tones, tints or shades of a hue/color also change the intended emotion or its intensity, so consider the “feeling” of color. Tints and shades are a result of combining a single color with varying amounts of white (tint) or black (shade).

Sometimes, the use of too many colors simultaneously provokes different feelings and can leave your viewer confused. When faced with such a dilemma, why not try a singular color to see if it achieves a stronger connection?

2. Simplify cluttered scenes

Monochromatic color has the ability to simplify a scene by helping to diminish visual distractions. Again, a familiar thought processes used when processing black and white photography. Absence of color becomes a great way to highlight other compositional elements in the frame, such as texture, shape and form. Thus making monochromatic color another creative choice to explore.

How to achieve monochromatic images? 1. Shoot

In our vibrant world, is it really possible to shoot a monochromatic scene? Interestingly enough, once you start looking for monochromatic color, it presents itself. So yes, it is everywhere around you, especially in urban landscapes, building interiors and even in nature. While the first two examples are more intentional, the latter is also quite common. In nature, look for scenes that embrace tints, shades, and tones of a singular color. Naturally occurring monochromatic scenes have the potential to be strong and interesting images.

If you are just starting out and have not yet grasped working with color harmonies, using the variance of a single color in your frame is a great way to start. The way light interprets and changes a singular color in a scene can be mesmerizing. This calculated option goes a long way in helping you pay closer attention to (and learning about) color.

2. Process

While naturally occurring monochromatic scenes are more realistic, post-processing is often used to achieve this finish. Processing monochromatic images has existed since the days of film and is certainly not a new creative spin. In the earlier eras of photography, both warmer tones (such as sepia) and cooler tones (cyanotype) were due to specific chemicals used while developing the film.

Interesting fact: Sepia processing back then brought more than warmth to a photo. The chemicals involved in that process slowed down the aging of a photograph thereby enhancing its archival quality.

These days, achieving monochromatic color is much easier. The step-by-step process varies depending on the software that you use, but the principles are almost the same. In summary, the easiest way is to tone an image. This loosely translates to converting a color image to black and white/grayscale and then replacing the black with another color (also called tinting).

You can further adjust your contrasts to make your light areas lighter and your dark areas darker for that added punch.

Monochromatic Color evokes a different emotion

Check out this link on several ways to achieve this type of processing in Photoshop and here for doing so in Lightroom.


While black and white is the most obvious type of monochrome photography, monochromatic color is the use of any singular color throughout an image. It lends itself to emotional connections and simplifying your scene. Monochromatic color occurs in the natural world or can be achieved with post-processing. It is often a more minimalist approach that has the potential to create strong images.

Is monochromatic color something that you personally connect with? If yes, share some of your favorites in the comments below.


The post How to use Monochromatic Color to Convey more Emotion in your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

How to Understand Light and Color to Improve your Photography

Mon, 08/05/2019 - 08:30

The post How to Understand Light and Color to Improve your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

The morning sun shone through my kitchen window, catching the vase with a rose in it on the window sill.  A low cross-light highlighted the texture on the rose, while the purple glass vase cast a pattern of colored light across the counter.  The photographer in me studied the light, saw the potential for a photo, and went to get the camera.

From observing the sun shining through a vase on the window sill to the finished image, this idea started with simply seeing the light.

A simple observation of light.  That’s how a photo can start – learning to really see the light. Understanding its properties, knowing how to control and shape it – those are the things that will take you from a casual snapshooter to a creative photographer. It’s a matter of crafting photographs rather than simply taking snapshots.

George Eastman helped bring photography to the masses with his development of roll film, simple cameras, and readily available processing.  You’ve certainly heard of the company he founded – The Eastman Kodak Company.  Eastman understood the importance of seeing the light.

He put it like this:

“Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” – George Eastman

The vase set-up led to experiments with glasses, colored water, and more exploration of light.

Harnessing the light The rest of the photo session explored the interplay of light, color, shadow, texture, shape, and pattern.  From shots of the glass vase and rose, I switched to glasses and vases filled with water dyed with food coloring.  I experimented with different camera angles, positioning of the subjects, and different background objects. I shaped the light with cardboard “flags” and the Venetian blinds through which the sun was streaming to allow different looks. The low angle of light also provided ways to cast shadows and projections of color.

In this case, the light source was simply the early morning sun.  I could have created other effects had I used artificial lights, say a snooted Speedlight to cast a beam of light right where I wanted it.

Studio photographers become masters of light manipulation by using their knowledge and a variety of lights and light modifiers.  Their skills draw upon understanding the properties of light and how to harness it.

Landscape photographers may not be able to create their own light, but they also understand its properties. They know when, where, and how to make the most of the light presented to create the look they seek.

Light Physics – the properties of light You need not become a physicist to be a photographer, but a little understanding of the properties of light can be beneficial to your work.  So, a little science knowledge can help your art.  Left-brain, right-brain – good photographers use both sides. What is light?

Light is photons of energy.  It has both wave and particle properties.

Electromagnetic spectrum

Human eyes can only see a very tiny portion of what is called the Electromagnetic Spectrum.  Some photographers use Infrared photography to go a little further past the red end of the visible spectrum, and ultraviolet light sources can take us a bit further past the violet end.  Specialized cameras can also capture X-rays.

Human eyes see only a tiny portion of the Electromagnetic Spectrum, that portion we call Visible Light.

(transferred by Penubag (talk · contribs) on 05:04, 15 May 2008 [CC BY-SA 2.5 (] Properties of light

When speaking of light, we often refer to its properties.  These are:

Quantity – (Also called Intensity or “Brightness”)

Quality – Photographers will use the terms “Hard” or “Soft” light.

Technically, these refer to the shadows cast, not the light itself.  The hard or softness of a shadow (a place where the light is blocked), depends on the size of the light source relative to the subject.  Thus the sun, which is, in reality, huge, can cast harsh shadows (hard light). This is because as a pinpoint of light in the sky, its relative size to the subject is small.

On an overcast day, the whole sky may be the light source – nature’s giant softbox – and the shadows are soft or non-existent.

Direction – Light waves travel in straight lines.  They can be redirected however through Reflection or Refraction. Reflection – Light hitting an object can bounce off that object.  In fact, anything we see is a result of light bouncing off that object.  The apparent Color of an object is due to what colors (wavelengths) are absorbed versus those reflecting.  A red apple is that color because it absorbs all other colors in the spectrum and reflects only the red wavelengths. With highly reflective objects, the angle the light hits an object will be the same angle it is reflected. The angle of incidence = the angle of reflection.

Refraction – Light can pass through some objects and be refracted or redirected.  Put a pencil in a half-full glass of water, and you will see how the light is refracted differently as it passes through the air versus the water and the glass. Camera lenses shape light through refraction. The image projected on the camera sensor is actually inverted. It is the same as it was when view-camera photographers threw a cape over their heads to see the image on a ground glass before making their photo.

Dewdrops act as tiny lenses refracting the light passing through them.

Light waves can:

Pass through transparent or translucent objects.

Transparent objects – little if any light is scattered as the light waves pass through – i.e window glass.

Translucent objects – Some light passes through the object but waves are scattered and objects on the far side are not clearly visible.

Reflect or bounce off an object  – We call highly reflective objects “shiny.”  They will often produce Specular highlights.  Objects which break up and bounce light in many directions have a matte quality and Diffuse the light.

Be scattered – Light waves are bounced in different directions

Be absorbed – As discussed, objects have color because they absorb some (colors) wavelengths and reflect others.  Because light has energy, the more light energy an object absorbs the warmer it will be.  This is the reason black, (which absorbs most of the light energy), warms faster than does white, which reflects most of the light.

Be refracted (bent) as light passes through.  Denser objects refract light more (pencil in a glass of water shows example air vs water vs glass).  Diamonds have a very high “index of refraction” and thus are sparkly.

Shadows – Shadows are formed where light is blocked.  Photographers seeking to understand light can learn much by studying shadows as they will give clues to the other qualities of the light.

This abstract image is all about the light and shadows

Dispersion – Visible light can be separated into its component colors due to different degrees of refraction through an object. (This is how prisms work and how rainbows are formed)

A rainbow is an example of white visible light being split into its component colors when the raindrops refract the light and disperse it.

The Speed of Light – Light travels faster than sound at approximately 186,000 miles per second (300,000 km/s).  Sunlight takes 8 minutes, 20 seconds to reach us.  From the next nearest star, Alpha Centauri, light takes 4 years to reach us.  At night we see the light from stars that took hundreds of thousands of years to reach us.  Currently, the most distant star observed by astronomers is over 9 billion light-years away.

Photography and light We know that without light there is no photography.  Building on the basics of light physics, we photographers have further ways to define light and how we use it. Photography and color General photography works within the visible light spectrum.  We use the Kelvin temperature scale to describe the color of light.  For example, a candle’s flame is 1,200K, which is towards the red-orange end of the scale, and a cloudless day is 10,000K, which is at the blue end. White balance

The human brain is good at correcting colors under different light so that we usually see “correct” colors. Cameras need some help.  Using White Balance, we can index the color we want to be white or neutral in color, and all other colors in the scene will use that as a reference and adjust accordingly.  Thus images shot in daylight, with flash, or under tungsten or fluorescent lights can all be adjusted for “correct” color.

A huge advantage of saving images in the Raw format is you can correct this later when editing. Unfortunately, .jpg images lock the white balance in during the capture.

The color of old tungsten light is quite warm, about 3200K on the Kelvin scale. This could have been white-balanced to be more neutral, but for this image, the warm light added to the antique look desired.

With light, all colors combined equal white. With ink, all colors combined equal black.

Color models RGB

Your camera can interpret the world of color and reproduce it on a color monitor, but in reality, it really only “sees” three colors, Red, Green, and Blue (RGB).  All other colors are created from these three.  Use a magnifying glass to see the pixels on your monitor, and those are the only colors you will see.

Your camera sensor can also only capture those three colors.

If all three of those colors or light combine at full intensity, the result would be pure white.  Because colors record by adding one to another, the term “Additive” is used.

Any of over 16 million colors can be defined using the RGB model, which has 255 steps of each color.  So, white would be 255, 255, 255.  Black is no light and therefore has an RGB value of 0, 0, 0.  Pure red would be 255, 0, 0.  A mixed color like pure yellow is 255, 255, 0, and something like a deep purple shade might be 113, 58, 210.

Pure Red is a primary color in the RGB (Light) model with an RGB value of 255,0,0 but in the CMYK (Ink) model it’s a mixture of Yellow and Magenta.


The RGB model works fine in cameras and monitors where we add light to the blackness to create color.  When printing, however, we are starting with a white piece of paper and subtracting from that white to create color.

Instead of red, green, and blue being the primary colors, printers use Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black  (CMYK)  to create all other colors.  (“K” is used for Black because it is the last letter of the word and not used by any other color, i.e. (B)lue).  To save costs on ink, and to produce deeper black tones, unsaturated and dark colors are produced by adding black ink instead of just the combination of cyan, magenta, and yellow. So, while in the RGB model, pure red is defined as 255, 0, 0 the same exact color in the ink printing world of CMYK is something like 0, 100, 100, 0.

So as not to make your head hurt any further, I will not get into the complexities of color spaces, printer profiles, gamut and how we can be sure what we saw is what the camera captures and finally appears on a print.  That’s a whole other and a quite complex subject.  For now, know it is a lot of science and a perhaps a touch of magic.

Instead, you can read more about those topics here:


How photographers control light

As photographers, especially in studio photo work, we have the tools and the means to control the light.

Here are the basic things we can do:

Transmit – Using lights of various kinds we can transmit light onto our subjects.  We control the quantity, direction, and color of the light source.  By changing the relative size of the light source to the subject, we can also control the hardness/softness of shadows.

Reflect – All objects reflect light to varying degrees (which is why we and the camera can see them).  How that reflected light plays off of objects, or how we might use other objects, (reflectors) to bounce light into a scene is one way we shape and control the light.

Many of the principles of light discussed in this article are present in this shot. Can you identify them?

Diffuse –We can cause the light emitting from the source to scatter to varying degrees, (diffused), by shining it through translucent materials.  This how softboxes and other light modifiers work.

Block – As light travels in a straight line, anything between the source and the subject blocks the light and creates a shadow.  How and where we create shadows is as important as where we allow light to cast.  Photographers use things like Flags, Gobos, and Cookies to cast and control shadows.  An example, a “barn door” on a lighting instrument is a type of flag.

This image is all about the light. The backlit leaves are translucent and pass a portion of the light striking them, filtering out some colors and passing the golden parts of the spectrum through them.

When nature lights the scene – Landscapes Landscape photographers and those using only natural light sources don’t have the same controls over the light, but they still need to understand it to become master photographers.

Learning how light works, how direct sun, diffuse light, time of day, season, angle, diffusing factors like fog, smoke, rain, and other “atmospherics” affect the image are all a huge part of becoming a student of light.  A skilled studio photographer can create light.  A skilled landscape photographer knows when and where to be and then very often, simply “waits for the light.”

A smoky sky filters out many of the colors of the light and passes the warm yellow and red tones. The side of the wheat facing the camera receives no light and so is silhouetted against the sun. Learning to see the light is key to becoming a good photographer.

Becoming a student of light

Sure, you can just get out some glassware, fill it with colored water, place it in the sun and make some pretty pictures.  I encourage you to do that. It’s fun and you will likely make some nice images.  You need not know the physics and terminology to make nice photos.  But I encourage you to take it a step further.  Use it as an exercise to further your understanding and become a trained observer of light because I really believe George Eastman had it right –

Know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.


The post How to Understand Light and Color to Improve your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

The Sony 100-400mm Lens Thoughts and Field Test

Mon, 08/05/2019 - 06:00

The post The Sony 100-400mm Lens Thoughts and Field Test appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

The Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens was announced in 2017 along with the Sony A9. Both the camera and lens were highly anticipated by many professional photographers because they offer features that were long lacking in the Sony E-mount lineup. In particular, this lens with its far-reaching focal length appeals to sports and wildlife photographers. But with a price tag of just $2,500, this lens is pretty accessible to amateur and hobby photographers as well. In this post, I’ll give an overview of specs for this lens plus my thoughts after using it to photograph birds.

Lens Specs

The Sony 100-400mm lens is a variable aperture lens for Sony full-frame cameras. You can use it on Sony crop-sensor cameras, but its physical size might make it awkward to shoot with, especially if used on a tiny camera like the Sony a6000. There is optical image stabilization (OIS) that provides a degree of stability when shooting handheld photos and videos with this lens.

Size-wise, it has a diameter of 3.7 inches and a length of 8.07 inches. The lens weighs approximately 49.2 ounces or 1395 grams. If those numbers don’t mean much to you, the 100-400mm is a very similar size and weight to the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8. Some might consider this lens to be big and bulky, but for the focal range, I think its size is reasonable and comparable to similar lenses made by other manufacturers.

One thing is for sure: you’ll get the best quality if you use a monopod with this lens.

In terms of physical buttons, there are two that are particularly helpful. One button is a focus range limiter that restricts the range of distances the camera will attempt to lock focus on. This boosts the speed of focus as well as focus accuracy, preventing focus hunting. The other feature is the ability to adjust zoom smoothness to prevent the lens from sliding out when carried.

Best uses

With a variable aperture of f/4.5-5.6, this isn’t a particularly fast lens, so it is best used in ample lighting conditions. Think broad daylight scenarios such as sports, nature, and wildlife. Portraiture may even work well with this lens, although most swear by the 70-200mm f/2.8 for people shots.

For the field test, I paired the 100-400mm with the Sony A7rIII. Using a camera with more resolution (42.4 megapixels) is especially beneficial as the extra megapixels allow you to crop in. You can also take advantage of shooting in APS-C mode on the camera, which effectively doubles your focal range. The A7RIII can also shoot at up to 10 frames per second, and has the newly added animal eye autofocus tracking, making this camera very ideal for wildlife photography. Both the camera and lens have weather sealing. However, I did not test this feature on this shoot.

Size comparison of the Sony 100-400mm to the Fujifilm 100-400mm.

Lens alternatives

If you plan to shoot in low lighting, the Sony 300mm f/2.8 or 400mm f/2.8 lens will be more appropriate. However, those lenses are $5,800 and $12,000 respectively, so you’ll need deep pockets. Considering these prices, $2,500 for the 100-400mm is quite reasonable. You may even want to consider the newly announced 200mm-600mm f/5.6-6.3 lens, which is just $2,000, but considerably larger in size.

So how was it?

I took the 100-400mm on a weekend trip to go birding in Eastern Washington.

Birds were aplenty, and this lens excelled at shooting them in daylight conditions at every focal length. Its size and weight made it possible to shoot handheld. But for extended periods of time and for optimal performance, it was best used when mounted on a monopod.

Performance-wise, autofocus was fast and accurate. Animal eye autofocus (new to the Sony A7RIII and several other camera bodies) was hit or miss for birds, but I’ve heard that it currently works best on dogs and cats.

Would I buy this lens?

If I was an avid wildlife and birding photographer, I absolutely would. The price of $2,500 is more than reasonable for a lens with this focal range. Although, third-party lens makers such as Sigma and Tamron are producing some stellar pieces of glass lately and I would love to see them make a version of this lens for Sony E-mount.

Sample images

1/1000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 320 at 400mm (in 35mm: 600mm)

1/1000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 400 at 400mm (in 35mm: 600mm)

1/1000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 400 at 400mm (in 35mm: 600mm)

1/160 sec, f/6.3, ISO 800 at 139mm (in 35mm: 208mm)

1/250 sec, f/7.1, ISO 500 at 400mm (in 35mm: 600mm)

1/2500 sec, f/5.6, ISO 320 at 100mm

Have you used this lens? If so, what are your thoughts? Please share with us in the comments below.


The post The Sony 100-400mm Lens Thoughts and Field Test appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Learn These 5 Elements to Capture Interesting Architectural Photography

Sun, 08/04/2019 - 08:30

The post Learn These 5 Elements to Capture Interesting Architectural Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

Architectural photography is an enjoyable genre of photography to shoot. It encourages you to visit and capture urban structures and environments, whether it be towns or cities, or whilst taking in views of majestic buildings, bridges, or interiors. Architecture can be present in many different forms from ancient to modern and both internal and external. If you have you ever wondered what steps to consider when shooting interesting architectural photography, this article will help you to identify some key elements to contemplate during the process.

Brasov, Romania

1. Choose a subject

The first fundamental aspect to consider when capturing interesting architectural photography is the subject. Your choice of subject can be anything from a streetscape to a city scene or famous landmark. Once you’ve found an object or theme to visit and photograph, think about what appeals to you about it. Think about what you want to photograph, such as the entire structure or just part of it.

Whatever you decide to photograph, be happy with your decision and take some pictures.

You can choose to focus on capturing wide shots and detail shots. A scenario where you may choose to shoot wide may include a prominent sky that adds beauty to the composition or a street scene that portrays many interesting buildings together. On the other hand, you may choose detail shots when there is a particularly striking facade or object on a building. For example, a statue makes a great feature on its own.

Bran Castle, Romania

2. Select your camera settings

The next thing you will want to do is set up your camera and choose your settings. In terms of architecture photography, you will need to select an appropriate aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. The aperture you choose depends on what you are trying to achieve with your photos.

If you are trying to achieve a narrower focus and render the front or back elements of the image out of focus, you will want to select a wider aperture (smaller f/number) from anything between f/2.8 to f/5.6. A scenario where you may choose to use a narrow depth of field is when you want to isolate an object from the background such as a doorframe. Alternatively, another scenario may be when shooting a single point of interest such as a statue.   

However, if you aim to make everything in your image sharper, I recommend selecting an aperture between f/8 to f/22. A scenario where you may want a wide depth of field may include stunning cityscape scenes. Here, you may want everything in focus within the frame. A cityscape can include some monumental buildings and the night sky or people walking within a street scene.

Cluj-Napoca, Romania

A lower ISO is important to reduce noise in the final image, so I suggest an ISO of 100-400.

The shutter speed you choose depends on the overall look and feel you want to achieve in your image. A faster shutter speed of 100th of a second or more will help to keep moving objects sharp such as cars or people. In contrast, a slower shutter speed of one second or more will let more light into your frame and start to blur moving subjects.

3. Decide on a composition

Sibiu, Romania

One important step in capturing architecture is the composition.

Composition simply refers to how you arrange the elements in a frame.

When looking at pictures of famous icons such as the Taj Mahal, Houses of Parliament or Big Ben, you’ll notice these structures often photographed in similar ways. One thing I would encourage is to find new angles of familiar landmarks when doing architectural photography – something that stands out from the others. You can achieve this by changing your viewpoint or angle.

4. Shooting interior architecture

Sibiu, Romania

When shooting interior architecture photography and exteriors, there are a few fundamental differences to consider, notably the light and composition. You will need to take into account the fact there is usually less light when shooting indoors, so change your settings to accommodate. Due to low light, use a tripod and slower shutter speeds to allow more light into your image. This helps you to manage different types of light, including candles, lamps, and outside light projecting internally. You will also need to balance mixed artificial and natural lighting.

The other major difference is the composition.

You may find more restriction photographing indoors than outdoors. Restrictions such as limited space, internal structures or part of the building’s architecture that may restrict or limit your view and composition. As a solution, use a wide-angle lens or try to take a step back (if you can) to get more of your chosen subject into your frame.

Alternatively, zoom your lens in further to eliminate distracting elements.

Structures often provide interesting internal features which can vary depending on the type of architecture and the country you are in. Church interiors, cathedrals, and even modern and historic buildings can all house hidden gems from altars to pillars, delightful structures, and stained glass windows.

The best lenses for shooting small or large spaces are usually a 24-70mm lens or a wide-angle lens such as a 16-35mm.

5. Shooting exterior architecture

Shooting exteriors is one of the most popular and fun subjects in architectural photography. You will often see pictures of the exteriors of the most famous buildings around the world and in your local area in publications. If you choose to shoot exteriors, you may decide to focus on the whole structure, the roof or a particular aspect of the external building that is interesting.

Peles Castle, Romania

Photographing exteriors can be challenging especially in changing light and high contrast conditions but can result in some great images.


In conclusion, remember these important steps when shooting architecture including choosing a subject, selecting your camera settings, deciding on composition and choosing whether to photograph interior or exterior architecture.

Share any additional steps you have for interesting architectural photography and your images with us below.


The post Learn These 5 Elements to Capture Interesting Architectural Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

Four Lightroom Tips to Enhance Your Landscape Photos

Sun, 08/04/2019 - 06:00

The post Four Lightroom Tips to Enhance Your Landscape Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Lightroom has a vast array of buttons, sliders, and selection boxes that can improve just about any photo, but sometimes the options are so overwhelming you don’t even know where to start! It’s impossible to say what specific adjustments will work for any given photo, partly because there are infinite possibilities and every photographer is unique. However, there are a few Lightroom tips you can use with certain types of images, such as landscapes, that improve them with just a few clicks. If you have ever wanted to punch up your landscapes quickly and easily, there are four options that you can use right away to make any landscape look amazing.

If you import a landscape picture into Lightroom but find yourself staring dazed and confused at the array of editing options, try focusing on the four items below. I use these on most of my landscapes, and you might be surprised at how well they work for you too.

Of course, you can always continue tweaking and adjusting with as many options as you want, but these are great to start with.

  • Basic tone
  • Texture
  • Sharpening
  • Graduated Filter

Learning to use these four adjustments goes a long way towards improving not just your landscapes, but many other types of pictures too.

As you gain more editing experience, you will start to figure out what your editing preferences are and learn to adjust the options accordingly. Maybe you like a little more tonal contrast or a little less saturation? Perhaps you prefer your images to have a little less sharpness? Experimenting with these options helps you understand what you prefer. It helps you develop your skills as an editor to get the results you like.

Basic tone

There’s a reason that the Develop module in Lightroom has a panel called Basic. This contains the most popular adjustments that most photographers use right away. They are especially useful for landscapes too. The following are what I recommend as a starting point for these types of images.

Highlights: Drag this slider to the left to make the brightest portions of your landscape a little darker.

Shadows: Drag this slider to the right to make the darkest portions of your landscape a little brighter.

Whites: Drag this slider to the right to make the white portions whiter

Blacks: Drag this to the left to make the black portions blacker.

To show you how much of an effect these simple adjustments can have on a landscape, here’s an image without any adjustments straight from my camera.

Shot at the National Tallgrass Prairie Reserve in Kansas. An unedited picture straight from the camera.

The picture is dull, lifeless, and not all that interesting. 15 seconds of adjusting those four sliders in the Basic panel does wonders and transforms it into a whole new picture.

Highlights -43, Shadows +26, Whites +70, Blacks -51. No other adjustments were made.

The resulting image is vibrant, lively, and exciting to look at, especially when compared to the original. It doesn’t take much work at all to use those four simple sliders when editing a landscape photo, and the results can be breathtaking.


The effect of the Texture tool isn’t quite as pronounced and may not take your breath away in the same way. However, Adobe’s latest addition to Lightroom can produce impressive results. While Texture is particularly useful when editing portraits, it can also bring out detail in grass and rocks, and other areas of a landscape image that has a great deal of natural texture.

Many landscape photographers are already familiar with the Clarity tool, which can have a similar effect as Texture. But, the former can often lead to images that appear over-processed and artificial. Texture is really designed to enhance the look and feel of textured surfaces. If you have not tried it, you may be surprised by the results.

I took the picture below in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, and while I did some basic Highlight/Shadow/White/Black editing, I really want to bring out the details in the evergreen trees.

I shot this while hiking near Seattle, Washington.

Increasing the value of the Texture slider helps the trees to stand out. They come to life while leaving the clouds and sky virtually untouched. Adobe designed the Texture option to look specifically for textured surfaces. It applies the effect only where it’s really useful instead of across the entire image as a whole.

Same image, with a value of Texture +90.

When viewed at full resolution, the result is remarkable, but even on a small screen, you can see that the trees have become more pronounced. The background trees are clearer and more discernible as well.

This new option in Lightroom is not yet as popular and well-known as Clarity, but it’s a boon for landscape photographers who want to spice up their images without going overboard.


The Sharpening tool has been an integral part of Lightroom for years, but might be overlooked by new landscape photographers who feel overwhelmed with all the features in front of them when editing their images. In contrast to Clarity and Texture, the Sharpening tool helps you emphasize the edges of everything in your pictures while also giving you the power to specify precisely how you want to apply the sharpening.

As with the Texture tool, your results aren’t going to be as immediately impactful as other edits, such as the Basic panel. However, careful adjustments to Sharpening can add a level of resonance to your landscapes and bring to life the small details.

Shot at just outside a small town in north-central Kansas. Some basic edits applied, but no sharpening.

The Sharpening adjustment, which sits in the Detail panel, has four parameters: Amount, Radius, Detail, and Masking. While these are all important, the ones I recommend you focus on are Amount and Masking. Move the Amount slider to the right to make your picture appear sharper and add a sense of crispness. After that, use the Masking slider to tell Lightroom where to apply the actual sharpening.

You can hold down the Alt or Option key (on a Mac) to see how this works and adjust as necessary. The black-and-white preview updates in realtime. As you hold down the modifier key and drag the slider, it shows you just where the sharpening will be applied.

Adjusting the Masking parameter while holding down the Alt or Option key (on a Mac) shows a live preview of where the sharpening will be added.

Use of the Sharpening tool is a great way to enhance your landscapes, especially when combined with some of the other editing options.

Sharpening added with the following values: Amount 114, Radius 1.0, Detail 25, and Masking 85.

Graduated filter

If you have never used the Graduated Filter on your landscape photos, you’re in for a real treat.

This tool allows you to apply graduated adjustments to part of the image, and even edit the adjustments using selective masking and brushing. It’s a great way to bring out the rich blue of a sky, the subtle greens of grass and foliage, or implement other edits to part of your picture without affecting the whole thing.

To demonstrate how the Graduated Filter works, I have a picture shot in southeastern Nebraska without any edits except for removing some spots of dust on the lens. The foreground is dark, and I’d like to change the color of the sky to reflect what I actually saw. However, global edits like the Basic panel just don’t work.

Shot in rural Nebraska on a chilly February evening.

As a point of comparison, here’s the same picture with some simple adjustments, like in my very first example. The Basic adjustments help but don’t produce the results I’m after.

Highlights -18, Shadows +100, Whites +34, Blacks -7.

It’s an improvement but still a long way from what I want. Fortunately, the Graduated Filter is here to help! By applying this type of edit, I can alter the lower portion without affecting the upper portion. Also, the edit is applied gradually, so it appears more natural as the foreground recedes to the horizon.

No edits from the original except for a single graduated filter applied to the foreground. Temp 76, Exposure 2.16, Shadows 21, Blacks -13, Texture 50, Sharpness 20.

You can go one step further and add additional graduated filters, which is especially useful when working with landscapes. In this image, I’d like to bring out the rich deep colors in the sky without affecting the field in the foreground.

A graduated filter is the perfect tool for the job.

Second graduated filter applied to the sky. Temp -73, Exposure -.50, Highlights -45, Dehaze 10, Saturation 16.

I listed the Graduated Filter last because it’s the most complicated of these four adjustments you can apply to your landscape, but it’s also, in my opinion, the most powerful. There are lots of options for customizing your graduated filters, and it’s going to be worth your time to explore more. However, the example above should be enough to get you started.

There’s so much more you can do with landscape photos in Lightroom beyond what I demonstrated here. These basics should be enough to get you started and help you bring out a lot of the color, detail, and vibrancy that your landscape photos may be missing.

After learning these, I hope you start exploring the other options Lightroom has to offer.

I’d love to see examples of your landscape photos in the comments below!


The post Four Lightroom Tips to Enhance Your Landscape Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.