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Review: Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 lens for Canon – At just US$50 could this be the most affordable “nifty fifty”?

Sun, 03/17/2019 - 09:00

The post Review: Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 lens for Canon – At just US$50 could this be the most affordable “nifty fifty”? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kunal Malhotra.

The 50mm f/1.8 lens, or as we call it, the ‘Nifty Fifty,’ is one of the most widely used lenses in the market. This is usually the first lens a modern digital camera owner desires to purchase after the kit lenses.

The reasons why this is the most popular lens are fairly simple – the first being affordability, and the second, the ability to produce pleasing bokeh.

In terms of affordability, the Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 lens is ideally the cheapest Nifty Fifty. Priced at less than US$50, this is less than half of the Canon variant and works on APS-C as well as full-frame cameras.

However, the Yongnuo lens for Nikon costs around US$70 as it includes the focus motor. I recently bought one for my Canon 5D Mark iii, so I thought of sharing my views about this lens.

Build quality and ergonomics

The Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 lens looks exactly like the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens (discontinued version). The plastic used in the Yongnuo lens feels a bit cheaper though. Surprisingly, the rubber grip is smooth, and the ‘AF and MF’ switch is similar to Canon.

The construction of the lens consists of 6 elements in 5 groups and has 7 diaphragm blades – the same as the Canon variant. This Yongnuo lens is light to carry as it weighs only 120g – 40g lighter than its competitor. Overall the lens looks and feels good at this price point.

Focus speed and accuracy

I have been using this for almost a month now, during the day as well as night time. The focus speed is a bit slow as the lens hunts for focus, especially in low light conditions. If you are shooting stationary subjects, then it is fine, but if you want to nail the focus swiftly, then you might be disappointed.

Though the focus speed is not that fast, the accuracy is fairly good. It takes time to focus but when it does the focus is accurate. I would not recommend this lens for video shooters as it messes a lot with the focus. However, if you are a hobbyist and casually shoot portraits or still objects, this lens can do the job.

Sharpness and Image Quality

Before clicking photos using the Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8, I had much less expectation from this lens. To my surprise, this lens produced amazing sharpness and image quality. I did not compare it side by side with its competitor lens, but I am sure it is on par with it.

The few image samples that you see are all shot at an event during the sunset/evening time. The images are tad sharp, and the colors also look natural. I had done a test on vignetting performance, and at f/4 it was almost gone. This lens worked for me when I was shooting stationary subjects as well as when shooting performing artists at an event.

For me, the bokeh shape was a bit unpleasant at f/1.8, and I’m not sure exactly why. I used this lens at f/2.8 and achieved sharp and crisp images with minimum vignetting and shallow depth of field effect.


This lens by Yongnuo is for someone who has just started with photography or has a tight budget but still wants to achieve the f/1.8 look at 50mm. The focus speed is something that might irritate you, but once it focuses the image quality is quite impressive. I would suggest this lens to someone who shoots still subjects or portraits without much movement. If you are a wedding, event or a professional portrait photographer, you might be disappointed.

Have you used this lens? What are your thoughts?

The post Review: Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 lens for Canon – At just US$50 could this be the most affordable “nifty fifty”? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kunal Malhotra.

A Beginners Guide to Taking Portraits of Elderly Clients: Part 1 – Preparation and Rapport

Sat, 03/16/2019 - 14:00

The post A Beginners Guide to Taking Portraits of Elderly Clients: Part 1 – Preparation and Rapport appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Clinton Moore.

You often hear it said that outstanding photography is about storytelling. An image may not have perfect lighting ratios or razor sharpness, but if it connects with you that can be all that matters.

Working with elderly clients can be the ultimate storytelling journey as these folks have experience in spades!

In this first of a two-part series on working with elderly clients, we’ll explore the practical and rapport building aspects of creating a story through the click of a shutter. Part two focuses on lighting and posing techniques.

How old is old?

Remember that there is a spectrum of seniors. Most do not think of themselves as frail or grizzled. Get to know your stereotypes and your subject.

One place where your point of view can get in the way of a great image is generalizations around age. You’ve fallen into this trap the minute you conceptualize your client as “old” or “elderly.”

They tend to hate these terms. Can you blame them?

It’s important to step back and remember that there is a spectrum of the elderly. A 65-year-old is probably going to be at a different place in their life, both physically and mentally, to a 90-year-old. This includes everything from their health and mobility to their attitude about what they desire in a portrait.

Just try getting a 90-year-old to go for a brisk walk down the beach at dusk as you do in your standard family portraits.

Step back and remember that you need to get to know where your client is at before you even pick up your camera. After all, age is a state of mind.

Rapport building

Older clients tend to take a bit more time to photograph. They’ve been around the block a few times, and they want to get to know you a bit first. Also, they’re generally not trained models looking for a glamour shot for their Instagram feed.

For them, a photograph is an event, not an addiction.

Older generations may only have had one formal photograph in their lives. Don’t assume they will be comfortable around the camera just because they’re there.

Communicate their way

You may be used to connecting through a world of emails and social media, but this isn’t always the case for older clients. For many older clients, their first instinct will be to pick up the phone (and we’re not even talking about a cell/mobile half the time!).

So be sure to place your phone number prominently on your website and any other form of marketing. This creates a sense of trust that you’re not going to just run off with their money.

Of course, many older clients do have email but may likely hold you to a higher standard of communication than you are used to on social media. Make sure you address them formally (i.e. “Dear John”), don’t use modern abbreviations or slang, and please check your spelling and grammar!

Creating comfort

When shooting a portrait, comfort should be your number one priority regardless of your client’s age. However, for older clients, you may have to do a little more than just making bad jokes from behind the lens.

Take the time to meet with your client before the shooting date. Sit down with them and be willing to share a bit of your personal story. This means more than just your shooting style. Tell them about where you come from, your family, or your interests.

This old school type of business approach might seem a little strange if you’re used to more modern online interactions. However, for older clients, it builds trust.

Try to keep in mind that older generations didn’t grow up with cameras being thrust in their face every second of the day. So your first job is really to make them feel safe. It’s entirely possible that the photo shoot was the idea of their children, and the client themselves may not be entirely on board.

So be sure to make them feel comfortable. Communicate your process and timeline clearly, and then stick to it!

Sitting down with your client can be the most interesting part of the whole process. Take the time to do it right.

Understand their goal

Who paid for the shoot? One of the tough parts about working with older people is that they may not actually be the client!

If their children are footing the bill, understand what they want from the session in addition to the older persons desired outcomes. Often this is going to be a case of compromise. This highlights the importance of communication and preparation.

Now assuming the older person is your client, the first step is to determine how they want to be portrayed. While this should be standard practice regardless of age, there are a few areas here that can trip you up.

If they’re quite old, this portrait could be the photo destined for the tombstone. No one will say it out loud, but people may be thinking it. As such, family members might have differing, but strong opinions about how things should look.

Keep in mind that some clients might want to be photoshopped back into their 20s, whereas others may proudly want their wrinkles on display. As always communication is vital!

Be careful about imposing your ideas of old age photography onto the session. Try to avoid the cliché shots of the serious or delirious old person. Instead, let their personality shine.

Avoid the clichéd shots and post-processing that portray older subjects as worn or child-like. Let their personality lead your images.

Get out of their face

Want to make an 80+-year-old client feel immediately uncomfortable? Get right up in their face with a lens. Aside from the fact that it’s probably not going to give a very flattering look, it can feel intimidating.

They may also not be over the moon about being surrounded by multiple light stands, softboxes, flags, and reflectors.

During your initial consultation, find out what level of gear will allow them to feel comfortable. If that means just the natural light through a window, then work with that.

Posed versus candid photographs

One of the most important initial questions pre-shoot is whether the client wants posed or candid shots.

While the client’s wishes should mostly steer this decision, you need to take a few factors into account.

Client’s who are experiencing dementia, particularly frontal dementia, may struggle with a posed photo shoot. Frontal dementia affects a person’s ability to plan and organize. So your usually simple instructions such as “open your eyes and smile on the count of three,” may quickly descend into chaos.

That said, if you’re doing a family shoot, a little bit of this chaos (provided no one gets too embarrassed) can be a great natural ice-breaker.

When in doubt ask yourself what style of shoot will best allow the client’s personality to shine through. A shot of grandpa tinkering away in his workshop might be infinitely more valuable than a stale headshot for the family.

Sometimes the best photograph won’t be the perfectly lit, composed and exposed image. A family snapshot can be infinitely more iconic if it captures your subject’s personality.

Length of sessions

When shooting significantly older clients, keep sessions as short as possible.

The process of having to concentrate on a range of different instructions can be quite fatiguing. There’s also a good chance that their preparation for the shoot started well before you arrived.

As mentioned before, clients suffering with dementia can also experience a phenomenon called “sundowning” which is a tendency to become more confused towards the end of the day.

See again the importance of making sure you know your client before you organize anything?

Jot down everything you can during your pre-consultation to create a fleshed-out idea of your client and their needs.

Mobility and location of sessions

Although a 60-year-old client can probably go anywhere you can think of; a 90-year-old client can’t. Something as small as a flight of stairs can pose a massive hurdle to a significantly older client.

Plan where you are going beforehand and give your client plenty of time to get there.

Asking them to cross a park to get to a beautiful spot you usually take your clients could end up taking more time than you had intended for the entire shoot.

As you can see, the minute you leave the client’s home, things get a bit more complicated. However, don’t let that discourage you from venturing outdoors. Just do the groundwork beforehand and make sure everyone involved is on the same page.

Be realistic about the areas an older person can access. A few steps may as well be a mountain for some. It never hurts to send your assistant to check it out first.


Working with older clients is a delightful experience. Their sincerity is hard to miss. To ensure you have the best chance at a successful shoot, take the time to prepare more than just your lighting diagrams. Focus on understanding the client’s goals and personality. Collaborate with the family where necessary, and make their comfort your number one priority.

Next time we’ll be looking at some ideas around lighting and posing older clients.

Do you have any other tips you’d like to share? If so, please do so in the comments section.

The post A Beginners Guide to Taking Portraits of Elderly Clients: Part 1 – Preparation and Rapport appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Clinton Moore.

How to Edit and Retouch Images Using Capture One Pro

Sat, 03/16/2019 - 09:00

The post How to Edit and Retouch Images Using Capture One Pro appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Whilst we all flock to Photoshop for our retouching, Capture One now has a lot of great tools. But is it possible to do a full image edit including retouching? More so, if it is, should you do it and avoid Photoshop altogether?

To find out, I closed Photoshop and settled myself down for a full edit using only Capture One Pro. Lets go through the process and see what I learnt.


Capture One’s built-in annotation tools make it easy to plan your retouching for your images. A variety of colors can easily be added to the image should you wish. I really like this tool. It allows you to make simple notes on screen. While it may look like I am practicing my abstract expressionism, I am actually highlighting what I want to improve. In this case, the red is for retouching and yellow is for exposure issues. I love this tool! So far so good.

The annotate tool is great for making notes before you start the edit.

Colour balance

When the image comes into Capture One, the first thing is to get a good neutral color balance. I always start by letting Capture One get me into the ballpark via the Auto tool in White Balance. While not perfect, it gives a good starting point.  I then tweak the color to taste. In most cases, it is only a small tweak from the auto white balance to get a starting point I am happy with.


Continuing with the basics, next up is exposure. It always pays to get as close as you can in-camera, and this case required very little. For this image, I pushed up the exposure just under 0.5 stops and added a slight amount of contrast and saturation to my taste. All that was left was a slight highlight recovery to take away the worst of the hot spots. The worst highlights will be taken care of in the next step (and first layer) Luma masking.

Layer One: Luma Mask

New in Capture One 12 is Luma masking. I love this tool! It is such a great time saver for masking highlights. I use it here to mask out the highest highlights in the image and then use the High Dynamic Range sliders to pull back the highlights. Subtly is the key here. I only want to take the harshness out of the bright spots.

Possibly my favourite tool in Capture One 12. The Luma mask

Layer two (and three and four): Blemish Retouching

Trying to do any amount of blemish retouching in Capture One soon tells you that it wasn’t designed for this task. The system is clunky. You sample using the alt key (the same way as Photoshop); however, you cannot resample a different area on the same layer. Instead, you need to create a new layer and a new sample. I ended up using 3 layers merely to do basic spot removal (and this wasn’t even going as far as I would in Photoshop). Capture One isn’t effective for any serious blemish removal. I tried this process out on another image to see if it fared better, but it was worse. It got to the point where I just gave up. Yes, it works for simple items, but in the future, blemishes will be worked on in Photoshop only.

Layer five: Skin smoothing

The Skin Smoothing tool is a super-great way to improve skin with a simple mask and a couple of sliders. I use this tool all the time when editing wedding photography. It gives a great effect with such little effort.

The first step is to create a mask using a new layer and the Brush tool. Make sure you leave out areas of detail, such as the eyes and lips. You can then refine the mask to get it more accurate. I tend to use a number between 100-150 for most situations. After this, I go back in with the brush and erase tools until I am happy with the mask. A little tip here is to change the mask color from the default of red when working with people. It just makes the mask stand out more against the skin.

Next, the special sauce. A.K.A The Clarity tool. Just go to the clarity section, choose Natural as the clarity type and slide the numbers into the negatives. I generally find the sweet spot for this technique to be between -60 to -70. Much more than this and it can become a little fake. It comes down to the image you are working on. Simply adjust the sliders until you are happy with the result.

This on its own has a massive difference on the image, but when you add in the Color Editor tool, it takes this to another level.

Layer five continued: Skin Colour

The ability to work with color so precisely is one of Capture One’s greatest strengths. Editing skin tone is a great way to make your model’s skin glow. You can find this tool located in the Color Editor section. To start, click the icon and sample a skin tone. Next, you work with the two sections of this tool, Amount and Uniformity. The amount sliders are to get a skin tone that you are happy with. You then move onto the uniformity sliders to even out the skin tone through the whole face. As with much retouching, it is easy to go over the top. My tip for this is to do the edit, then take a break for a couple of minutes and come back. You instantly see if the image is over done and you can dial back accordingly.

We now have an even, soft skin tone through the image. This layer has made a huge difference to our image. It’s now time to finesse the details.

As you can see, the combination of the clarity slider and the Skin colour editor has really made a difference. The blue mask, maybe not so flattering.

Layer six: Teeth

The teeth need to be slightly whitened. This is as simple as a mask, followed by reducing the saturation. Again, don’t take it down to zero – it will look weird. Take it down just enough so that the teeth look naturally white. In this image, the sweet spot was -51. I then pushed the exposure just slightly to give a whiter smile. But again, as with all retouching, less is more.

Layer seven: Eyes

You sense a theme yet? I created another mask for the eyes. This time I added a very slight bump in exposure and some clarity to give them a subtle pop that was missing before.

Layer eight: The top

The red top the model wore in this shoot was just too bright. Using a combination of a mask and the color editor, I was able to easily reduce the red tone to something less overpowering.

Toning down the red top means it is not quite as powerful in the image.

Layers nine and ten: The Hair

As the old saying goes; in for a penny, in for a pound. Having worked on the heal and clone layers for basic spot removal, this was going to be something that I was unsure would work. However, with a lot of trial and error, I produced something that was okay. Would I do it again? No. But, I did manage to improve the hair significantly from the previous state.

I ended up using a clone layer for one side of the hair and a heal layer for the other. Again, editing like this shows the limitations of Capture One for high-end retouching. However, after some trial and error, it did an okay job.

Layer eleven: Colour Grade

I generally don’t color grade images heavily – if at all. I usually prefer a natural look. But for this tutorial, I added a color grade. To do this, you add a new fill layer and add your grading there. This also allows you to reduce the effect by opacity or simply turn it on or off quickly to give different looks.

For this image, I decided to use Capture One’s excellent film grain emulations to add some soft grain. Next, I spent some time with the Color Balance tools pulling the shadows into the blues and highlights slightly into the orange. Finally, I used the levels to give a slightly faded look to the final color grade. That’s it. It’s done!

The final edit.

What did I learn?

Well, it is possible to do a full retouch in Capture One. However, in reality, it is clunky and nowhere near as powerful as Photoshop.

The worst part of this was the blemish removals. It was painful to use for more than a couple of blemishes in an image. Also when trying this on another image to remove an eyelash, it was impossible to get it to give a pleasing result.

The standout of this edit is a process I use all the time: the Skin Smoothing and Skin Color combination. These two tools can quickly take care of many skin problems you may see. As a wedding photographer, this is a powerful tool. I can make a bride’s skin look glowing, quickly and easily without the need to round trip to Photoshop. To give you an example, check out this before and after using only this combination. You can achieve quick, simple and powerful results in just a couple of minutes.

Such a vast improvement only using two tools.


In general, the color tools in Capture One are amazing, and as well as working well on the skin, they were great for color grading the final image. My regular workflow for an image like this would be a trip to Photoshop for the skin, then back into Capture One for color grading.

Overall, Capture One did give a good final result, but at the cost of time and with some frustration.

Can Capture One Pro do a full edit with retouching? It can – kind of.

Would I recommend it? No.

It’s just not quite precise enough to be able to use regularly for this type of edit. That skin trick though is gold!

Do you use Capture One for your retouching? What are your experiences?


The post How to Edit and Retouch Images Using Capture One Pro appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Arches

Fri, 03/15/2019 - 14:00

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is ARCHES!

Ryan Johnston

Your photos can include anything includes anything that has arches. It can be architecture, human, objects, nature, motion-blurred, cropped, minimalist, color-based or anything really! They can be color, black and white, moody or bright. You get the picture! Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Holger Link


Some Inst-piration from some Instagrammers:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Evan Demas (@evandemas_art) on Mar 12, 2019 at 7:28am PDT


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Quima Montlló Sol (@laquima) on Mar 13, 2019 at 5:41am PDT


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Mohammad Ramezani (@mdri_dante) on Mar 13, 2019 at 3:27am PDT


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Vadim Sherbakov (@madebyvadim) on Mar 13, 2019 at 8:31am PDT

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

Tips for Shooting ARCHES

How to Tell Stories with Architecture Photography

6 Ways to Do Architecture Photography That Stands Out

4 Beginner Tips for Doing Architecture Photography

The dPS Top Landscape Photography Tips of 2018

7 Landscape Photography Tips You’ll Wish You Knew Earlier


Weekly Photography Challenge – ARCHES

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 #DPSarches 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 – Arches appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Lightroom Shortcuts Every Photographer Needs to Know [video]

Fri, 03/15/2019 - 09:00

The post Lightroom Shortcuts Every Photographer Needs to Know [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this awesome video by Lucy Martin, you’ll learn Lightroom shortcuts every photographer needs to know to make their editing workflow faster and more efficient.



The Lightroom shortcuts every photographer needs to know

Help make your editing process be more efficient and fast-paced so you can deliver your photos much quicker by knowing these shortcuts:

G – Grid view
E –  Loupeview
L –  Lights Out – (isolates your image against a black background for previewing)
P –  Pick (Flag)
x –  Reject
Caps Lock –  auto next
Cmd+Delete –  delete rejected
D –  Go to Develop
\ –  Before/After
Y –  Before/After Side by Side Comparison
V –  Black and White
R –  Resize and Rotate
Q –  Spot Removal Tool
H –  Hide adjustment Pins
Cmd+Z –  Undo last action
Cmd+C –  Copy Settings
Cmd+P –  Paste Settings
Cmd+/ –  Show all shortcuts

You may also find the following helpful:

Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC Keyboard Shortcut Cheat Sheets

How to Use Lightroom Star Ratings to Improve Your Editing Workflow

How to Customize Your Lightroom Workspace for Better Workflow

10 Tips to Make Lightroom Classic CC Run Faster

5 Adobe Lightroom Plugins That Will Make Your Life Easier

How to Find Your Photos in the Lightroom Catalog Using Filters


The post Lightroom Shortcuts Every Photographer Needs to Know [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Polarr Online Photo Editor Review

Thu, 03/14/2019 - 14:00

The post Polarr Online Photo Editor Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

It’s hard to evaluate photo-editing software without comparing it to Photoshop. You tend to have preconceptions about what it should be capable of and how it should behave – even how it should look. In terms of functionality, many programs will struggle to compete against Adobe. In this Polarr online photo editor review, you’ll find out what you can get for free. Or not much more than free.

The colorful interface of Polarr. You can create specific effects under “Toning” by setting the hues of shadows and highlights.

Online photo editors work in your browser. They can be sophisticated, but the days of some of them (namely, flash-based programs) are numbered. Adobe will stop supporting flash in 2020, so anything that runs off it is likely to vanish or wither away.

Modern online editors are written in HTML5 code. They load quickly, but they also tend to be more basic than flash-based equivalents. Polarr is different. You can use Polarr online in a browser, or you can download it for offline use. There’s also an app for your phone.

Good first impressions

One of the best things about Polarr is its design. It doesn’t try to be Photoshop, and it’s intuitive to use. With filters on the left and most of the tonal and color tools on the right, there are shades of Lightroom about it, but it has a look of its own. You open Polarr, and you want to use it – or at least I did.

A favorite Polarr feature of mine is its histogram. It’s neater than any other I’ve seen in online editors. It shows a colors histogram by default, which you can expand into separate RGB histograms. In the absence of a clipping display, it’s useful to see what your edits are doing to the image. You can drag the semi-opaque histogram wherever you want in the frame.

Not-so-good things about Polarr

Like most browser editors I know of, you can’t open hefty 16-bit files in Polarr. You’re limited to editing 8-bit JPEGs. This isn’t bad as long as the quality of the JPEG is high and it hasn’t been saved many times before. However, theoretically, you must submit to a lower-quality workflow.

A more limiting aspect of Polarr is that it exports everything in an sRGB color space. This might be a constraint of its coding, but it’s less than ideal if you want to print your files on an inkjet. For the web and online photo labs, it’s fine. In mitigation, it does embed a profile when saving, which some rival products neglect to do. You do know where you stand with it.

Who’s it for?

Polarr has one or two shortcomings, but it’s still a program with a lot of depth. Who would use it? Anyone looking for the following:

  • A free or cheap alternative to Photoshop and other costly pixel editors
  • Includes built-in special effects and retouching tools so you don’t have to learn complex editing methods or buy plug-ins
  • Auto image enhancer often a good quick fix for eye-catching web pictures
  • Intuitive to use, especially if you are familiar with sliders in other programs
  • No big downloads required and quick startup
  • Aesthetically pleasing user interface
  • Ideal for editing images for web or online labs
  • Backed up by an extensive library of online tutorials at Polarr Wiki
  • Option for more complex edits with the Pro version (subscription based, but low cost).

The Polarr Wiki website has had a lot of work put into it and includes many written and video tutorials.

Editing with Polarr

Polarr is nice to look at – clean and colorful – but how is it in use? I set out to learn what it could do. If I couldn’t do things the same way I can in Photoshop, what workarounds could I find? Polarr is sophisticated, so I was confident I could perform the most basic processing tasks and more.

Auto Enhance

I never shy away from hitting “auto” or “auto enhance” buttons in editing programs, because sometimes they give you a better starting point. In Polarr, Auto Enhance is aggressive with the Dehaze slider, and that tends to block shadows. You can tweak the result, of course, with the shadows, blacks and contrast sliders for instance. Auto-enhance does work well with flat, hazy images and can create eye-catching results in a single click.

This was a flat-toned file that has been made quite dramatic by Polarr’s auto enhance feature. The shadows have started to clip, but not anywhere important in this case.

Color and Tone Adjustments in Polarr

Leaving the auto settings and moving onto manual adjustments, Polarr offers Lightroom-style color and tonal controls (the latter called “Light”). It has Temp and Tint sliders for white balance, but no auto-white-balance tool to outrank your eyesight. A Vibrance slider boosts color without clipping.

When adjusting tone, Polarr offers highlights, shadows, whites and blacks sliders, which you move to achieve a full tonal range while watching the histogram(s). This replace a levels adjustment. Whites and blacks adjust large areas on either side of mid-tones. Highlights and shadows adjust only the brightest or darkest parts of the image.

Some basic editing in Polarr (original shown in inset – not part of software). Balancing the exposure a little, warming the color temp and adding some vibrance.

Again, the controls in Polarr are neatly laid out and colored according to their function. The controls haven’t been arbitrarily renamed, so you quickly know what things do if you’ve used other editors. Being mildly obsessive about detail, I miss the clipping display and being able to correct color by numbers (which is what auto-white-balance tools basically do). However, Polarr still has much to offer.

Polarr Curves

Polarr’s curves are modishly minimalistic, and they’re useful for some basic color correction. You have a composite RGB curve for adding contrast, and then there are the separate red, green, and blue (RGB) curves.

Not the finished result, but you can see how the color neutralizes as the histograms align. The left-hand picture is typical of artificial lighting. A blue histogram leaning to the left indicates yellow.

Used in conjunction with the RGB histograms, you can use RGB curves to remove color casts. You do this by adjusting any necessary curves so that the histograms roughly align with each other.

You can place a point in the middle of the curve and pull it up or down, or for shadows and highlights, place a point in the bottom or top corner and pull it along the outer axis. Polarr gives you the input and output RGB values while you work.

Sharpening in Polarr

Sharpening always strikes me as a bit of a dark art in that; whatever method you use, there’ll always be experts out there espousing a better way. In Polarr, you get a clarity slider that sharpens mid-tones and generally adds punch to images (easy to overdo) and a very basic sharpening slider with no radius control. The sharpening might be smarter than I’m giving it credit for, but there aren’t numerous fancy ways to sharpen in Polarr. I’m doubtful that that matters.

Other features and effects

Other useful features I haven’t yet mentioned include an elegant crop tool, a spot-removal tool with heal and clone modes, and distortion correction. Spot removal was a bit frustrating at first with my laggy browser, but it works.

I made the inset darker so you can just about see the original dust spot, which has been cloned over by the right-hand circle.

Polarr also includes film filters, a text tool with various graphics, and a face retouch tool with skin smoothing for flattering portraits. Plus, you’ll find grain, diffuse, pixelate and fringing effects. You can also add frames to your pictures.

One of Polarr’s film filters (M5) looks suspiciously like the teal-orange “movie” effect, which you either love or hate. Once I latched onto that, I started seeing it everywhere (Outlander, recently). Therapy is ongoing.

Pro Version

The Pro version of Polarr is subscription based, but it’s at a price you may not balk at. The Pro features are cleverly integrated into the free version, except you can’t save a photo that includes Pro edits. A pop-up appears asking if you want to upgrade or try the feature. What are the features?


The chief advantage of Polarr Pro is the inclusion of masks for localized adjustments. They include radial, gradient, color, brush, depth and luminance masking tools. These are all ways to select specific parts of the image for editing, and they work well.

Masking a bronze equestrian statue for some localized editing. Overlapping edges can be tidied up later.

You can use the brush tool if you want to manually select an area for better control. This includes an optional “Edge Aware” aid that, if used carefully, helps avoid overlapping edges when you’re painting areas in for selection. Brush size, compare, hardness, flow, feathering, erase, view mask and invert options are also present with masks.

In this picture, I’ve brought detail out in a near-silhouetted statue. Of course, I can alter shadows without masking, but other edits like clarity, contrast, exposure and saturation are usually universal.


Whether with a mask or separately, you have the option of inserting an overlay effect. That might be your own added background or one of the many included ones (e.g., clouds, sky, weather, backdrops). This is all good stuff for people that like to experiment and create digital composites. A choice of blending modes helps you achieve the effect you’re after.

The sky in this photo was a little washed out, so I’ve dropped one of the more subtle Polarr skies in as an overlay.

Noise reduction

In Polarr, you can’t mask off sharpening in large single-tone areas. So, if your images are noisy and you think the noise will show in the final result, the Pro version offers color and luminance Denoise sliders. These are universal edits that don’t currently combine with masks.

The denoise tool is part of the Polarr Pro offering. Here you can see a before and after with quite a lot of luminance noise reduction applied to the right.


Aside from the sRGB constraint and occasional lag (perhaps my sluggish PC), I enjoyed Polarr. The sRGB thing may be universal among browser editors, and if you think of Polarr as a way of prepping photos for online labs or the web, it’d be hard to beat. Polarr is uncommonly pretty, which seems superficial, but the attention paid to aesthetics invites use. I’d love to know what you think!

The post Polarr Online Photo Editor Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

Your Guide to Photography User Agreements

Thu, 03/14/2019 - 09:00

The post Your Guide to Photography User Agreements appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Copyright and image usage can be a complex and confusing arena even for experienced photographers.

When you shoot for a client, you not only need a contract outlining the deliverables, but you also need a user or licensing agreement. You also need a user agreement if a brand or organization comes across one of your images on the Internet and wants to use it in some way.

So what exactly is a user agreement and why do you need one?

A user agreement is a type of contract in which you as the photographer grant specific usage rights to a client or collaborator. They may only use the image within the bounds of this agreement.

Under most copyright laws, photography is as protected as any other artwork. In photography, you’re not “selling” your image or giving up your copyright. You’re giving someone a license to use the images for a specific purpose and time frame. In effect, you’re the “lender,” and they are the “borrower.” This is basically what happens when someone purchases stock photography.

The two types of licenses

There are two types of licenses: exclusive and non-exclusive.

An exclusive license does not allow the photographer to license the image or images to other third parties during the duration of the agreement.

A non-exclusive license allows the photographer to license the same image to other third parties under separate agreements during the same time frame.

Clients often want an exclusive license to ensure the images created for their brand don’t appear elsewhere. In some cases, so they don’t end up being used by their competitors.

However, be aware that they should be required to pay a premium for this exclusivity. This is why usage rates can go very high, depending on the client and their visibility in the marketplace.

When you give exclusivity to a client, it prohibits you from earning more income from your images by licensing it to other third parties, or through stock photography.

For example, I license my images through Offset, a division of Shutterstock. They offer high-quality stock photography for a much higher price point than microstock agencies.

I make a decent side income from being a contributor with them, without having the thousands of images required by other agencies to make stock photography worthwhile. Since most of my commissioned clients want exclusive usage, I don’t submit the images I license to them to stock also. Instead, I submit non-similar rejects from the shoot and even shoot specifically for my stock portfolio.

What should go in the user agreement?

When you’re writing up a user agreement and setting your price, it’s crucial you consider the end use of the image and the visibility of the brand using it.

Licensing an image to a nationwide restaurant chain should have a different price and terms than the mom-and-pop taco joint down the street.

One example of how the details of a user agreement can become critical is when you’re dealing with a start-up or a growing small business.

If you provide licensing for several years or in perpetuity (forever ongoing), what happens if that business suddenly takes off and gains extensive exposure? Your image will become worth a lot more, but you won’t see an extra penny if you’ve given perpetual usage away.

The rule for user agreements is the wider the audience for the image, the more the image is worth to the brand.

When faced with a client who has good prospects to grow, keep your licensing period shorter and track when it expires via a spreadsheet.

The user agreement should also specify whether the license is exclusive or non-exclusive, and describe its intended use.

I don’t recommend granting unlimited use for an image; otherwise, a brand can use it across every conceivable platform – in advertising, on billboards and for product licensing.

Be very specific about how they can use your images. More and more clients are asking for universal and unlimited rights. If this is the case, they should be prepared to pay for it.

Specify the time frame in which the licensee is allowed to use the image. If they want to use the image beyond this time frame, they will have to purchase another license from you.

Another important tip is don’t provide a user agreement until the images have been paid for in full. Let the client know this policy and state on your invoice that the images cannot be used publicly until you have received payment in full.

Educate your clients

As with other types of contracts, a user agreement protects you as the creator of an image. It also prevents misunderstandings between you and a client that can lead to bad feelings and legal hassles if someone feels their expectations haven’t been met.

Unless a client has worked with photographers before, they may not understand the ins-and-outs of copyright law or why they need to sign a user agreement. Educating the client is vital.

If someone is questioning your contracts, they likely are not understanding the process.  A local small business or startup brand may need your help in understanding the transaction.


When negotiating a user agreement, it’s important to communicate with self-confidence and to recognize your work has value to your clients.

At the same time, remaining respectful and professional can lead to building a mutually beneficial relationship – with more opportunities and income down the line.

If you have any other licensing and user agreement info you’d like to share, please do so in the comments section.

The post Your Guide to Photography User Agreements appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

How to Tell Stories with Architecture Photography

Wed, 03/13/2019 - 14:00

The post How to Tell Stories with Architecture Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

At first glance, it might seem like architecture photography is all about prestige projects, glittering corporate headquarters, and well-paid specialist photography gigs. However, there can be much more to architectural photography if you look a little deeper.

The Radcliffe Science Library, Oxford © Charlie Moss

Architecture is a vast and diverse field. It basically means the design and construction of buildings or the style in which a building is built. Styles vastly differ from country to country, even from town to town. Very local architecture that is heavily inspired by the local conditions and traditions is known as “vernacular architecture” – and that is the kind of built environment that inspires me most in my architectural photography.

On weekends, it is quite common to find me out and about with a camera in The Cotswolds – the beautiful area of England that is on my doorstep. There I seek out beautiful examples of buildings crafted from Cotswold Stone – the local building material. The stone itself varies in color from beautiful honey to a rich golden hue, and it’s these variations that tell you where you are!

Head a little further south, and you’re in the city of Oxford, famous for its prestigious university. The story of the city and the university is told through its architecture and is a vernacular architectural photographer’s dream. It’s here in Oxford that I’ve based this article on architectural photography, but hopefully, you’ll find it full of tips and tricks for shooting any of your surroundings or those you visit on a trip.

1. Do some research

Schools Quadrangle, Oxford, and a door on Parks Road, Oxford. © Charlie Moss

Before you grab your camera bag and walk out of the door, the first thing you’re going to want to do is a little research. See if you can read up on the most important buildings in the place you’re heading out to. Then see if you can work out why they’re considered the most important.

Look at images of the place that other people have already taken and see if you can pick out any themes. Other photographers might have had some smart ideas for locations – no harm in making a note to check them out while you’re there too. Is there a predominant style of architecture? A set of repeating motifs? Or perhaps a common building material? If there does seem to be patterns in the buildings, ask yourself why that might be and see if you can get to the bottom of what they could perhaps mean.

In Oxford, there is a long-running fight over which architecture styles best reflect buildings dedicated to learning and research. Are the Roman and Greek inspired Classical style buildings the most appropriate because of their obvious connection to ancient civilization? Alternatively, are the tall, soaring, pointed towers of Gothic architecture better for a university because it seems to be reaching ambitiously skywards towards God? The designers and patrons of the city have argued this backward and forwards for many centuries now, so it is the perfect place to tell stories about the architecture!

If nothing else, think of some themes that you might like to shoot while you’re out with your camera. I can never seem to resist a good photograph of a door, and nor can many other people judging from the subject’s popularity on Instagram.

2. Look for contrast

The Radcliffe Science Library, Oxford © Charlie Moss

Images that juxtapose different but related buildings or themes can be very powerful when you’re photographing architecture. Well-considered juxtapositions of images can show both positives and negatives about architecture. In the first image above of the Radcliffe Science Library, I’ve tried to capture the contrast between the ancient Headington Stone used in the original Victorian library building, and the modern glass extension.

Both materials express different ideas about what it means to study science, and so together they tell the story of what science has become over the last two hundred years. The reflection of the tree brings the two together – reminding us that science is all around us and not just found in libraries and laboratories.

If you can capture scenes like this all in the same image then that is great, but do not be afraid to place two or more images next to each other as I did above in the images of Keble College.

3. Plan to shoot a series

Keble College Chapel reflected in the Beecroft Building, Oxford, and Keble College, Oxford © Charlie Moss

Creating diptychs and triptychs in photography is as old as the medium itself. Setting out to specifically capturing two or three images that work together (and could perhaps be mounted together as prints) is a fantastic way to tell a story.

It might be that you plan these images specifically to be a series while doing your research, but often you might make connections while you’re out and about. The best tip I can give to you is to write down the connections that you’ve made while shooting in a notebook; otherwise, you’re bound to forget them while editing!

The two images above were a happy accident. I didn’t realize that there was a brand new physics building constructed in the last twelve months, and it perfectly reflects the chapel of the college across the road. This juxtaposition of science and religion is quite powerful, but also I enjoyed the way that the facade of the new building draws inspiration from the old. The tall rectangular windows of the new Beecroft building seem almost to be a modern version of the tall rectangular windows in Keble College built around a hundred and fifty years ago.

If you see an interesting image that wasn’t on your original itinerary, then stop and take a few minutes to photograph it. Don’t be so focused on your research that you miss unexpected gems – they might turn out to be some of the best photographs of your trip.

4. Bring the architecture to life

Bikes in Oxford. © Charlie Moss

Regardless of how spectacular the buildings themselves might be, it is how the inhabitants of the city use the architecture that’s important. In Oxford, the primary mode of transport is the bicycle. There simply isn’t enough room in this medieval city for cars, and so pedal-power is far more efficient.

Every street and building has space for parking bikes – and if it doesn’t – the cyclists soon find somewhere to put them! To photograph the city of Oxford without photographing the bikes would be to miss out on a large part of what makes the place come alive.

Think of how you can show the life that lives alongside the architecture in your images. It could be something as iconic as a bright yellow taxi in front of the iconic Flatiron building in New York. Alternatively, it might be as simple as a reflection of a busy city street in a brilliant local coffee shop.

Try to capture what makes the place you’re photographing unique, both in the buildings and in what is happening around them.

5. Shoot the icons

The Radcliffe Camera, Oxford, with All Souls College, Oxford in the background. © Charlie Moss

While you’re focusing on the details and the hidden stories, don’t forget to tell the big stories too! Iconic architecture is iconic for a reason, so don’t keep it off your itinerary. The important thing is, once again, to find the story that you want to tell and try to capture that.

The above image shows the Classical versus Gothic war of architecture in Oxford in a single shot. The front building is the Radcliffe Camera, an historically significant library built in the English Palladian style inspired by the classical temples of the ancient Greeks. Behind its defensive wall is the soaring tower of All Souls College built in the Gothic style. You couldn’t get two more contrasting buildings in the same shot if you tried.

These contrasts and histories are the keys in photographing architecture. If you can seek out the interesting stories to tell, you’ll have no problem shooting great images.

The post How to Tell Stories with Architecture Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

A Beginner’s Guide to Stunning Close-Up Photography

Wed, 03/13/2019 - 09:00

The post A Beginner’s Guide to Stunning Close-Up Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Do you want to take incredible close-up photos?

Here’s the truth: Capturing incredible close-up photos doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it can be extremely easy – if you know what to do.

In this article, you’ll discover the secrets to gorgeous close-up photography. You’ll learn about the required gear (Hint: You probably have everything you need!). You’ll learn the tips and tricks for stunning images (and you’ll love trick number 3).

Bottom line? I’ll make sure that you leave with the know-how to take truly beautiful close-up images.

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Pick any camera and lens for close-up photography

First of all, the big question: Do you need expensive, specialized gear for close-up photography?

The short answer?


You can capture incredible close-up images with almost any camera & lens combination.

Because here’s what you need for stunning close-up photography:

A camera (any modern DSLR or mirrorless camera will do just fine). 

A lens that allows you to focus close to your subject (more on this in a moment). 

That’s it.

You don’t need a tripod. You don’t need a focusing rail. You just need a camera and a lens.

Now: What counts as a close-focusing lens?

First, for a technical answer (that you’re free to ignore): I like lenses that give the subject a magnification of (at least) 0.20-0.25.

But here’s the thing:

Most lenses will actually get you pretty close to your subject – if you give them the opportunity.

So don’t worry too much about your lens choice. Just use what you have.

If you want to make sure you’re getting as close as possible, I recommend you test out a few of your lenses. Then pick the one that focuses closest.

Now, for a brief aside:

If you want to get especially close to your subject, then you can invest in a macro lens.

A macro lens isn’t necessary for close-up photography. But it does let you focus extremely close.

A great inexpensive option is the Tokina 100mm macro (for Nikon and for Canon).

Once you have a good close-up photography set-up, it’s time for the next step…

Step 2: Start with flowers for some stunning close-up photos

Close-up photography is thrilling.

And there are tons of subjects out there, just waiting to be photographed.

But if you’re a beginner, I recommend you start with one particular subject…


Flowers are easy to get ahold of. They’re not a super challenging subject. And you can capture some stunning close-up flower photos.

You can shoot flowers indoors or outside.

But I recommend you start outside.

This is for two reasons:

First: Natural light is stronger than artificial light. Which means you’ll be able to get brighter, colorful photos without much difficulty.

Second: Being out in nature is a great part of the close-up photography experience.

But, if it’s winter where you live? Don’t despair.

You can still take some great close-up photos of flowers.

Just buy a bouquet of flowers at your local supermarket.

Then you’ll be ready to do some close-up photography.

Is there a particular flower that you should start with?

I’d suggest you start with some bright, colorful flowers. I’d also suggest you start with flowers that are large.

Roses are a great choice.

Tulips are another option.

Once you have your flowers, it’s time for the next step…

Step 3: Find the best light for stunning close-up photography

You need to be careful about your lighting choices.

Because amazing close-up photography requires good light.

What do I mean by good light?

You want to portray the colors of your subject. And you want to portray some beautiful details (e.g., the curves of the flower petals).

This gives you a few lighting options:

First, you could use cloudy light.

Cloudy light is soft and diffused. This means that it will capture nice, saturated colors. You’ll also be able to portray some nice detail.

Just try to shoot toward the middle of the day. Otherwise, the sky might get too dark. And you need a lot of light for close-up photography.

Second, you could shoot on a sunny day. This will give you plenty of light for stunning close-up photography.

But be careful: The light on a sunny day can be very harsh.

So if you do choose to shoot on a sunny day, take photos in the early morning or late afternoon. That’s when the light is soft and golden.

(These times are often referred to as the “golden hours.”)

If you’re shooting inside, I’d recommend you go with the same set of options. Shoot on a cloudy afternoon or on a sunny morning/evening.

But make sure you place your subject near a window. Otherwise, you won’t have enough light to capture gorgeous details!

Step 4: Follow these close-up photography secrets to get amazing photos

You know how to select the perfect gear. You know how to find the best subjects. And you know how to choose the best light.

It’s time for you to actually take some close-up photos.

But how do you get the best photos possible?

Here are a few tricks you can use…

Shoot on a level with your subject for the most compelling photos

In close-up photography, it’s important you choose a great angle.

You want to portray your subject in a way that shows off its shapes and colors. And you want to take an intimate portrait – one that brings the viewer into the subject’s world.

That’s why I recommend that you shoot on a level with your subject.

What do I mean by this?

Simply position your camera so that it’s ‘eye-to-eye’ with your subject. You want to feel like you’re looking straight at the subject.

Only then should you take the shot.

You’ll probably have to crouch down low to capture this angle. You might even have to lie on the ground.


…It’ll be worth it, in the end.

Shoot toward the sky for the best backgrounds

The best close-up photos have simple, uniform backgrounds.

Simple backgrounds don’t take away from the subject. Instead, they emphasize it.

So here’s a trick for some nice, simple backgrounds:

Get down low, so that you’re on the same level as your subject.

Look through your camera.

Then scoot around the subject, paying careful attention to the background.

Does the sky appear behind your subject?

If so, then that’s the photo you should take!

If not, you can try getting even lower. But don’t go too low – you want to remain as level with your subject as possible.

This works best on cloudy days. Your subject will have a nice, white background.

But you can use the sky as a background on sunny days, too. Just be careful not to shoot into the sun (because that will cause unwanted flare effects).

Use manual focus to portray the little details

Here’s your final close-up photography secret:

Use manual focus.

Why is this?

Manual focus allows for incredible precision when focusing.

And when you’re shooting at high magnifications, you need to focus as precisely as possible.

Here’s why:

In close-up photography, your depth of field is limited.

(The depth of field is the amount of the photo that’s actually in focus).

You can get the petal of a flower in focus, but then the stem will be blurry.

Or you can get the stem of the flower in focus, but then the stem will be blurry.

So you have to ask yourself:

What do I want to get in focus? What do I want to emphasize in this photo? 

And then make sure you focus on that.

Unfortunately, lenses don’t autofocus well at high magnifications.

So you need to use manual focus, instead.

Start by switching your lens from autofocus (A, AF, or M/A) to manual focus (M or MF). There will be a switch on your lens body.

Then carefully roll the focusing ring between your fingers.

When focusing manually, don’t try to rush. Slow down. Glide from focus point to focus point.

You’ll quickly get the hang of it.

And you’ll be taking incredible close-up photos in no time!

Taking stunning close-up photos: The next step…

If you’re looking to take stunning close-up photos, I have good news for you:

You’re almost there.

You have the gear.

You have the knowledge.

You know how to find good light.

You know how to find strong backgrounds.

And you know how to focus carefully.

All that’s left…

…is to get out there and start shooting.

Do you have any close-up photos that you’re proud of?

Share them in the comments!

The post A Beginner’s Guide to Stunning Close-Up Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

When and How Often Should You Upgrade Your Photography Equipment?

Tue, 03/12/2019 - 14:00

The post When and How Often Should You Upgrade Your Photography Equipment? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

We have all heard of the shiny object syndrome have we not? Perhaps you have even fallen victim to it? It’s an easy trap; especially when we are newbies. I have certainly been a victim of it when I first started and was always thinking that my photography would improve if only I had better gear. Right? Wrong! However, your photography will be better if you have the CORRECT gear.

From my experience of photographing professionally over a decade, I have realized a few things. One of which is that YOU control your gear – your gear does not control you. In other words, you can definitely produce mind-blowing images with the gear you currently have if you know how to use them correctly. Add a hint of creativity into it, and you are taking your images to the next level.

If you are a photographer, the very fundamental things you need to master would be understanding the exposure triangle, lighting (whether that be natural or artificial) and shooting in Manual mode. The first one underpins the last one. Without a solid understanding of the exposure triangle, you may struggle to shoot in Manual mode.

There is nothing wrong with shooting in semi-automatic modes like Aperture Priority or Speed Priority, but you get yourself in tricky scenarios if you rely entirely on shooting on Automatic mode. Your images will be inconsistent, and you will encounter problems in post-processing. Shooting in semi-manual mode still requires an understanding of what those modes do, so why not go the full haul and take the time to understand the exposure triangle.

With that preamble out of the way, I’d like to address the question “When and how often should you upgrade your equipment?” I offer my thoughts below which could greatly differ from other people’s opinions. That is all fine. It’s a free country, and we can exercise free speech.

Things to consider when buying equipment for the first time

1. Your budget

Sit down and think about how much you can afford without getting into debt. If you are buying gear to learn on, I would not suggest getting into debt to buy your first equipment. It is true that professional, full-frame cameras are better, but do you need them to learn how to shoot? Absolutely, not! Can you only produce good pictures with these top-of-the-range cameras and not with old second-hand models? Of course not.

2. Your subject

Think about what you want to shoot. Your lens choice depends on what subject you want to learn to shoot. For example, if you want to shoot landscapes, don’t buy a zoom lens. If you want to shoot portraits, don’t buy a super-wide-angle lens. If you want to learn both, explore your zoom options. This brings me to the issue of whether to buy the camera body and lens separately or buy a kit.

Brands often offer a kit bundle to save you money on them and have a variety of options to choose from. This isn’t necessarily a bad choice, but it could also be a big waste of money.

A bundle often has a camera, a wide to medium zoom and a longer zoom. These are fine if you want to shoot outdoors in ample light. However, you will quickly realize that if you want to do indoor portraits, these lenses perform below par. These kit lenses are generally the cheaper range with a variable aperture starting from f/3.5 going up to f/5.6 maximum aperture as you go longer on the focal length. These would be inadequate for very dim lighting or indoor ambient light without flash. Ideally, you would need apertures of f/2.8 and wider.

If you opt for buying a camera body separately, then you have more options, both new and second-hand. Just make sure you check the shutter count of the second-hand ones to ensure they have not exhausted the upper range of shutter click guaranteed by the manufacturer before the shutter mechanism starts deteriorating. Most second-hand sellers provide this information; if not, you must ask.

Buying the correct lens for your photography purpose will put you in good stead right off the bat. Why? Because if say you want to photograph portraits, buying the right lens will help you achieve beautiful portraits. Portraits I’m sure you have seen done by other people compared to if you were to shoot them with the wrong lens. You’d forever be wondering why you could not quite achieve the look you want.

3. Accessories

Don’t go all-out buying every accessory on the market. These can be quite tempting but will burn a hole in your pocket and use money up earmarked for your main equipment. You would be better off buying the best main camera and lens your budget can afford and one or two essential accessories than spreading out your budget and making compromises on everything.

If you want to be a landscape photographer, for instance, buying a tripod and a remote shutter is a must otherwise there is little point in even trying. If your interest lies in still life, get a reflector. You don’t always need a tripod for still life photography, but a reflector always comes in handy. If you want to photograph people indoors, I’d say get a flash gun, even if you only want to use natural light. There will come a time when you realize that relying solely on natural light gets you into a pickle eventually and is no longer enough.

However, you mustn’t forget to buy absolute essential accessories – no matter what you are shooting:

a. Memory cards – don’t skimp on these. You want decent ones that you would be able to entrust your images!

b. A padded bag – there’s no point in shelling out good money for equipment and not have the proper protective bag for them!

When should you upgrade your equipment? 1. Initial investment

This question kind of depends on your initial investment decisions. You see, brands often come out with new camera models every year or more to entice people to keep upgrading. However, while it is true that some of these new models have improved features, nowadays, things are being invented and improved at an alarmingly fast rate. So if you follow the trends, you’ll soon be out of pocket.

My advice would be to buy the best lens you can afford with your money and buy a camera with the remainder of the budget. New cameras keep coming out every year, but lenses stay the same for many many years! They hold their value more compared to camera bodies too. Not all good lenses are expensive. You can buy the 35mm f/1.8 (DX only) and the 50mm f/1.8, and they are excellent lenses for the money.

I have written an in-depth article on lenses which may help you decide when purchasing either as a first-time buy or an upgrade. See them here and here.

2. Upgrading

Upgrading is a good mentality to have but not to do often. Do have a plan for upgrading (which you may have to do eventually), but do not upgrade every time a new model is churned out.

Consider the following when upgrading:

  1. Have you used your camera for the purpose that you have bought it for?
  2. Is it now inadequate for your needs? Are you finding that you need better features now that you have mastered it? For example, you may want a camera with better noise-handling ability, silent mode or a swivel LCD to enable you to take high-up shots, or perhaps one with dual slots?
  3. Are you at a point when you require another camera so you can use your first one as a back-up?
  4. Is your current camera now broken or have broken parts? Then yes, now would be a good time to upgrade! However, if you really love it, you may want to opt for repair.

My first full-frame professional range camera is the Nikon D700. I have bought newer models since, but you know what? I still use the D700 for my own family photos; especially outdoors. I love the colors the sensor produces, and in my opinion, they have never been able to replicate it in the newer brands. The RAW images I get from that camera are the closest to that film-look that I love and the edits required are minimal. However, it’s poor in handling noise, it’s big and brick-heavy and only has one card slot. However, I won’t ever part with it and am happy to use it for personal shots until it breaks.


I hope these considerations help you in your purchasing and upgrading decisions! Comments and suggestions of more factors to consider are welcome below!

The post When and How Often Should You Upgrade Your Photography Equipment? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

How to Use Lightroom Star Ratings to Improve Your Editing Workflow

Tue, 03/12/2019 - 09:00

The post How to Use Lightroom Star Ratings to Improve Your Editing Workflow appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ian Johnson.

Editing photos is time-consuming! The rule of thumb that it takes an hour of editing for every hour of shooting is not an exaggeration. You may find that sorting and grading your photos right after a shoot is one of the most tedious parts of your entire workflow – I know I do. Whether you are coming in from a long weekend of shooting wildlife or a busy day shooting a wedding, it is no small task to determine which photos to keep, edit, and store for later from a batch of a 1000 or more. Adobe Lightroom has several tools allowing you to sort, grade, and attribute your work to help you efficiently edit and store a photo. I will walk you through how I use the star-rating system to sort images for my editing workflow and long term archival storage.

My basic workflow is to import my images, use stars to curate the collection, edit the collection based on their ratings, keyword the collection, and then archive it.

Hot key stars

If you are thinking of stars as those little icons you click under an image to set the rating, let me change your world! Each star rating of 1-5 you can assign directly from your keypad! These “hot keys” are what makes the star rating system so convenient.

Your first assignment:

Open up Lightroom and select an image in your catalog. Now hit the “1” key on your keyboard. Lightroom tells you the image has now been assigned a rating of 1. With values ranging from 1-5, you can assign each value to an image for different things. Below, I’ll provide examples of how you may use these different values.

As a side note, Lightroom has hotkeys for everything. Learning them speeds up your workflow significantly; no matter which set of tools you are using to develop or print.

Lightroom has a star rating system which can be accessed under the thumbnail of each image in Grid View (G hotkey) in your Lightrom Library. Each image can be assigned a star rating of 1-5 by simply pressing the corresponding number on your keyboard. Using hotkeys will help improve your speed and make editing large photo shoots easier and faster!

Sorting files for deletion and advancing images to editing

Whether you are shooting wildlife, weddings, sports, or portraits the most important question you have after your import is: what photos do I keep? When shooting wildlife, you may have dozens of the same subject in slightly different settings or poses. At a wedding, you have many of the dance, but only a select few are going to make the cut to show your client, friends, or family.

You can use the star rating system to assign images for deletion. Why I prefer this over the “rejection” flag system is you can simultaneously start choosing what files to edit and which to delete using the range of values from 1-5 rather than the binary “yes” and “no” of the flag system.

There’s a lot going on during a wedding. When the day is all said and done you need to import the photos and then choose which you’ll keep, which you’ll develop, and which you’ll delete. Lightroom Stars can help you there.

Using Lightroom Stars to sort your work is easy and efficient.

Here’s a hypothetical situation: you import your photos and determine that a value of “0” (i.e., no rating) as photos to delete. You then decide that images assigned “1” are saved, but are a low priority for editing – perhaps these are b-roll images for applying general presets. You determine images set to “2” are developed immediately and images set to “4” are your best images. This multiple tier system ensures you only have to go through the images once and ideally not more than twice. That’s a huge time saver when dealing with large quantities of images!

I would recommend you avoid using “5” in your workflow. Reserve this for only your very highest quality images (more on that in the “Archiving content/ creating smart collections” section below.)

Once you’ve assigned ratings to all of the images, you can filter the image using the “attributes” filter while in grid view. Filter for all images = 0 stars to delete the images you no longer want and filter all images = 2 to start developing your shots.

Once you’ve chosen which photos to keep (rating 4) you can filter for them using the attributes filter in the Lightroom Library. Simply click “Attribute” and then set the rating to the image set you’d like to view.

Separating image content for keywording

If you are a wildlife photographer, and in particular if you are a bird photographer, it is very typical to change subjects (species) throughout the day. This may occur as much as every other shot. Once you’ve imported those images, it can be daunting to go about keywording your work so you can find them later. The star rating system can help you sort through them quickly!

Assign each star to a species and use your hotkeys to assign the star rating to that species. Once you’ve finished coding the species with stars, filter them using the attributes filter in Grid View and complete your keywording. You can then remove the star rating by highlighting the images and pressing the “0” key. There are many photography scenarios where you can apply this!

The diversity of birds creates a diversity of shots. It is critical to keyword your collection if you ever hope to find the images again. I used the star ratings assigned to different species to help sort them and keyword them.


Once a star rating has been set for a species filter for it to see all images with that rating. In this case, Marbled Godwit were given a temporary rating of 4, keyworded, and then the stars were reset for the image.

Archiving Content / Creating Smart Collections

Undoubtedly, you will create images you are proud of and want to save for future reference, printing, or portfolio work. As I eluded to above, these images should be assigned a value of 5 in your collection. Only a small percentage of your shots should achieve a rating of 5.

You can compile a portfolio of your best shots by establishing a smart collection in Lightroom. The smart collection automatically compiles all images in your catalog with a given attribute.

To create a smart collection right click on “Smart Collections” in Lightroom. Select create a new smart collection and then add the criteria for your collection. You can create a collection set from any attribute you can assign in Lightroom (e.g., stars, flags, keywords, etc.). As you go through the years, your 5-star collection set will continue to grow and document your progress and story.

You can create a smart collection to house your best work for printing or display by giving only your best images a rating of 5.


To create a smart collection you need to right click on Smart Collections and select create a new smart collection. Assign the attribute to the collection that you’d like it to contain. Simple as that!

That is it! I hope you see the value in using Lightroom’s star rating system in your workflow.

I’ll end by saying these steps are what work for me, but what works for you? Leave your thoughts on workflows in the comments below so we can learn together.

As I always say, “pixels are cheap!”. Be sure to make lots of them and then sort through them using Lightroom Stars.

The post How to Use Lightroom Star Ratings to Improve Your Editing Workflow appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ian Johnson.

How to Photograph Frozen Bubbles in the Cold

Mon, 03/11/2019 - 14:00

The post How to Photograph Frozen Bubbles in the Cold appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

Bubbles in the Air

I live somewhere that gets pretty cold in the winter, and occasionally it gets super-cold. Alright, discussing cold is always a relative measure depending upon where you live, but I may be understating a bit to say it gets pretty cold, when actually, it gets freezing by pretty much anyone’s measure. Fortunately for my family and me, it only gets challenging for about a week or two in the depths of winter.

In the hardest times, temperatures reach around -30C (-22F). At these temperatures, there is very little moisture in the air, and it is just plain cold. Extra layers only help a little bit. Frostbite is a very significant risk for any exposed skin, particularly if there is any wind (times to freeze exposed skin are less than a couple of minutes).  Many people here wear the temperatures they endure almost as a badge of honor.

So cold we can freeze bubbles before they pop

It gets really cold here

At these temperatures, everything freezes here – even things you probably didn’t think could freeze. The large river that goes through my city freezes for the entire winter. Starting sometime in November until breakup in April, eyelashes and beards freeze, camera lenses freeze (aperture blades and shutters won’t move) and cars require block heaters to keep the oil in the crankcase warm enough so that you can start the engines.

There are colder places on earth, but not that many.  During our recent cold snap from the polar vortex (very cool name but I’m not sure its a real thing), people compared it to temperatures in Antarctica (it was slightly colder here than there).

It gets pretty cold here

So what, who cares?

Realistically, apart from complaining about the weather (a common national pastime for Canadians… look it up) you don’t want to spend much time outside at these freezing temperatures. So why tell you about crazy frigid temperatures? Because there is something that you can do at these temperatures that you can’t really do if it isn’t cold enough. You can blow bubbles and take pictures of them freezing before your eyes. The effect is remarkable, and it happens very fast. Frozen bubbles! If you can blow bubbles, you can watch them freeze before your eyes.

The process is pretty quick. The ideal temperature to do this is when temperatures dip below about -20C or -4F. At temperatures higher than that, the bubbles don’t freeze the same way. Blowing bubbles at these subzero temperatures can be challenging, but if you take the time, you can get some amazing results.

Bubbles on a bubble wand

The science of bubbles

Bubbles are common phenomena that kids love playing with. They seem very simple, but the science behind them is quite complicated. Bubbles are made up of two soap films – inside layer and outside layer – holding and trapping a layer of water between them to form the bubble. When you blow the bubbles through a wand or a straw, the air you introduce expands the inner film layer to create the bubble. As the water evaporates, the bubble eventually bursts. The bubbles stay together based upon the surface tension (the tendency to stick together) of the soap film, but the film is, in general, very thin.

In warm weather, soap and water are all you require for making lots of bubbles, but at colder temperatures, the soap film needs to be stronger. By adding glycerine or corn syrup, you make the bubbles stronger. By adding a small number of sugar crystals, the bubbles will show crystal patterns in the bubble walls as they freeze. The main ingredients you need access to are water, dish soap, glycerine, and some sugar.

Ingredients to make frozen bubble images

The 3 W’s and 1 H

In preparation for shooting bubbles, the key questions before you start are WHERE, WHAT, HOW and WHEN. Because the temperatures are so cold, you need to plan everything in advance because you can’t spend that much time in these temperatures trying to guess what you are going to do next. You need to pick a spot to set your bubble down (this is not a floating bubble exercise). This is the WHERE. Preferably it is someplace convenient, at a reasonable height and near a source of warmth (like somewhere near a door or running car to get you inside).

You then need to decide on the WHAT, is there a particular look you are going for? Is there an effect you are trying to achieve? (Night shot? Candles?)

Next, you need to think about HOW. How are you going to compose the shot? How are you going to blow the bubbles? What is the background like (this is a key aspect)? How are you going to manage both focusing, bubble making and shot taking? Are you going to need a tripod?

Finally, the WHEN is the last part to consider. You need to pick a time of day on a day that is cold enough to create the effect, that has great light and when there is little to no wind (this disrupts the bubbles). Wind will quickly destroy any efforts to blow bubbles in the cold.

Bubble frozen solid with corn syrup


So let’s consider the WHERE.

It will be cold, so you will need to scout a location that is easy to get to, at a reasonable height to photograph preferably from a tripod (to free up your hands) and is relatively near warmth.

These are normally close-up images, so it presents some similar challenges as macro photography. You really can be just about anywhere as long as you don’t have distracting shapes, colors or patterns in the background. Ideally, if you choose a reasonable aperture, the bokeh will have the background blurred but significant shapes, colors or patterns will be apparent.

I used the snowy railing on my back deck as a place I would set up for my shots because it was close to my house, at waist height and I can control the background.

Frozen bubble with a dark background


Regular bubbles don’t really work in super cold temperatures. The bubble mixtures that work in the summer struggle in super-cold temperatures and tend to just burst before freezing. In cold temperatures, bubbles can be more difficult to generate. Even if you do, they often just fall to the ground.

If you search the internet, you will get lots of clear advice but little in the way of explanation. I found and tried multiple recipes for bubbles and discovered that some of the recipes don’t work all that great. All generate bubbles, but some work better than others.

The general objective is to get bubbles with thicker films that tend to stay together. Also, by adding some sugar, you can get cool crystalline patterns as the bubbles freeze.

The recipe I settled on (as it worked fairly reliably) was 1 cup of water, 4 tablespoons of dish soap (not dishwasher soap), 3 tablespoons of glycerine and 2 tablespoons of sugar. I saw many recipes that used corn syrup, but they didn’t seem to work as well as the glycerine and made for sticky bubbles. However, corn syrup does work – just not as well. The glycerine strengthens the bubble, and the sugar helps with the crystalline patterns in the freezing bubbles.

To blow the bubbles, you will need a straw and some patience. Preferably you use a reusable straw (which I have a bunch of).

Regular Bubble solutions don’t really work for freezing bubbles


Once you have figured out your location, you need to compose your shot. Plan on a bubble being about 3 inches in diameter (could be bigger but probably won’t be smaller). Set your camera on a tripod, pick the spot where you are placing the bubble and set your focus manually.

You can set the bubble on snow, or if you use the bottom of a cup or glass, a small amount of solution on the base helps place the bubble easier and without it popping. It is also useful to have your camera set up to take multiple shots (slow burst) without recomposing or refocusing.

Bubble with focus on the back wall rather than front wall

Once set, use a straw in the solution and slowly blow the bubbles. You will need to keep the bubble on the straw, place the bubble and slowly extract the straw from the top of the bubble. This technique worked best for me. Remember it is cold, and blowing bubbles is not that easy when it very cold.


Okay, you are all set…but is it cold enough? You need -20C (-4F) or the bubbles don’t freeze properly. Ideally, you want it sunny as the light hitting the bubbles really makes them pop. The good news is that generally when it is really cold, there is so little moisture in the air that it is often sunny.

Finally, you want there to be as little wind as possible. The wind will cause the bubbles to move unpredictably and cause them to burst. Try to find a location sheltered from the wind.

Using a candle to illuminate a bubble at night

The Shoot

Once all the preparation is complete, and you are ready to go, you may realize that it is difficult to blow bubbles, wear gloves, stay warm and shoot at the same time. Once the bubbles start to freeze, they freeze fast. You will want to place the bubble and then watch for it to begin to freeze and then take multiple images in a short burst.

If you can have someone blow bubbles for you, this helps because getting the bubbles to form, place them and then hope they stay together long enough for the images to turn out can be a bit of a challenge. It is a little finicky to get the bubbles to stay where you want them but if all the stars align the results are great and fun.

Mostly frozen bubble

The Results

If you get everything working, you can get pretty amazing results.  Whether for still images or video, bubbles freezing are really interesting to see and photograph. If you plan out the images, you can get great results.

Not quite frozen bubble


The post How to Photograph Frozen Bubbles in the Cold appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

10 Common Photography Mistakes Every Beginner Should Avoid

Mon, 03/11/2019 - 09:00

The post 10 Common Photography Mistakes Every Beginner Should Avoid appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

You can capture incredible photos.

But there are a few common photography mistakes (often made by beginners).

And these mistakes might be holding you back.

Fortunately, they’re easy to fix.

And guess what?

Once you’ve fixed these mistakes, your photography will be better than ever.

So read on to discover the 10 common photography mistakes every beginner should avoid.

Starting with:

1. You’re not resetting your camera dials at the end of each shoot

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You’re doing an end-of-day photo shoot.

You crank your ISO up to 1600 (to deal with the low light).

Your shoot ends. You go to put away your camera.


…In all the excitement, you forget to drop your ISO back to 100.

This is such an easy mistake to make. Especially since it’s something you must remember at the end of each photo shoot –when you’re exhausted.


It’s something you can’t forget.


If you do, you’re jeopardizing your next photo shoot.

Because then you’re bound to shoot with your 1600 ISO.

And then you’ll get frustratingly grainy shots.

Which is exactly what you don’t want.

So here’s what you do:

At the end of each shoot, shift all settings back to a standard value. The particular number depends on your camera and your style of photography. But make sure you choose a median value – one that will serve you in a variety of situations.

Here’s what I do:

I dial my ISO down to 100.

I dial the aperture to f/5.6.

I dial the shutter speed to 1/500.

Doing this has saved me countless times.

It’ll save you, too.

2. You’re shooting JPEG photos (instead of RAW)

This mistake is a frustrating one.

Because there’s literally nothing you can do to fix it – after the fact.

Here’s the mistake:

You’re shooting JPEGs.

But you should be shooting in RAW.

Let me explain:

Cameras can shoot images using several file formats.

JPEG is a common file format and it’s the default format on a lot of cameras.

But here’s the issue with JPEGs:

They’re compressed files. That means that they lose information.

And a loss of information? That makes for lower-quality photos.

Not to mention another issue:

Each time you edit and resave a JPEG, you’re reducing the image quality.

Fortunately, you have another option:

You can shoot in RAW.

RAW is another file format – and it’s offered by most modern cameras.

It’s a lossless file format, which means that you can edit RAW files repeatedly without reducing the image quality.

And here’s a RAW bonus:

RAW files allow for you to do more substantial editing. Because the RAW format saves more information, you’re able to recover highlights, boost shadows, and alter colors – far more than what you can do with a JPEG file.

Bottom line?

Switch to RAW.

You’ll be thankful that you did.

3. You’re shooting during the harsh midday hours

One of the things that separates great photos from mediocre photos…

…is the quality of the light.

Good light can take a photo to the next level.

Bad light can hold back an otherwise strong image.

Which brings me to mistake number three:

Shooting during the harsh midday hours.

Around midday, the sun is harsh. It causes contrasty shadows.

It’s just all-around bad for photography.

Instead of shooting during midday, try shooting during the early morning or evening hours.

That’s when the light is soft and golden.

(In fact, these times are known as the golden hours.)

Shooting during the golden hours will give your subjects a wonderful glow.

It’ll give them some soft illumination.

And it’ll give your photos a huge boost.

4. You’re using Auto mode all the time

When you first start shooting, it can be tempting to put your camera in Auto mode.

But here’s the problem:

When you shoot in Auto mode, the camera chooses all the settings for you.

And the camera does a good job 80 percent of the time.

But the other 20 percent?

That’s when your camera will mess up.

And you’ve got to be able to correct it.

Otherwise, your images will suffer.

So here’s what I’d suggest:

Start by learning the ins and outs of Aperture Priority mode.

(That’s the mode where you select the aperture and your camera will select the shutter speed.)

Then, when you’re in a non-stressful shooting situation, switch it on.

Try to use it more and more.

Eventually, you’ll be shooting in Aperture Priority all the time. You’ll love the control it gives you.

And then?

If you want even more control over your camera, you can transition to Manual mode. But this isn’t a requirement – you can do a great job with just Aperture Priority.

So that’s your call.

Just make sure you move away from Auto mode.

5. You’re forgetting about the direction of the light

You already know about the importance of good-quality lighting.

But did you know that the direction of the light matters, too?

Depending on the direction of the light, your photos can be soft, dramatic, or striking. And it’s important that you carefully choose the direction of the light.

(Because different types of light suite different subjects and styles.)

Here’s a quick guide to light:

If the light comes from in front of your subject (i.e., frontlight), you’ll get an evenly illuminated photo.

If the light comes from behind your subject (i.e., backlight), you’ll get a striking photo. The light will create a golden halo around your subject.

And if the light comes from beside your subject (i.e., sidelight), you’ll get a dramatic photo. The subject will be only partially illuminated – and partially shrouded in shadow.

Now, all these types of light have a time and place.

But frontlight is generally a very safe option.

(When in doubt, use frontlight.)

Here’s the important thing:

Each time you go out to shoot…

…look for the light.

Taken note of the light.

And position yourself so that you get the shot that you want.

6. You’re not composing deliberately

If light is the number one most important part of photography…

…then composition is number two.

Because in order to capture great shots, you’ve got to create great compositions.

That is, you’ve got to arrange the elements of your photo in a pleasing way.

It’s so easy to forget about this.

But you should deliberately compose every photo you take.

Now, composing deliberately doesn’t have to be an ordeal.

Not every photo has to be a masterpiece.

Just think about each photo you take, if only for a second.

Here’s a tip:

Try positioning your main subject in a way that emphasizes its beauty.

You could put it a third of the way into the frame…

(Following the rule of thirds.)

Over time, your composition skills will improve. You just have to practice!

7. You’re not considering the background

When you’re doing photography, it’s easy to think about your subject.

But you’ve got to think about the background, too!

The background is what frames the subject.

It’s what makes the subject stand out.

Here’s a bit tip for a stunning background:

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

The simpler the background, the better.

Try finding a uniform background. A bright sky is a great choice. So is a dark wall.

(A uniform background really does make for a gorgeous photo.)

It’s okay to settle for a less-than-uniform backdrop.

But make sure that it enhances the subject. Make sure it doesn’t detract from the overall image.

8. You’re not practicing very often

Photography is a skill.

And to improve a skill, you’ve got to practice.

Which means that you should get out and shoot as often as you can.

I know that it’s hard.

But if you shoot for fifteen minutes every day, your photography will grow by leaps and bounds.

And if you shoot for an hour a day?

You’ll be astonished by how quickly you improve.

It’s important to note:

Practicing photography isn’t just about taking photos.

You should also make sure to review your images. Consider what you like about them. Consider what you can improve.

And apply these findings the next time you go out.

If you’re really serious about photography, you should also try reviewing other people’s images.

There are tons of great photography sites out there (including this one!). Try perusing them for fifteen minutes every day.

You’ll soon develop an enhanced sense of composition and color. And this, in turn, will enhance your photography.

9. You’re shooting from standing height

When you’re doing photography, do you shoot from a standing height?

That is, do you generally take the standard shot?

Or do you move around and look for a unique perspective?

The thing is, it’s easy to just shoot from a standing height.

But if you do this, your images will never be unique.

And they won’t be very original.

You want to show the viewer something they’ve never seen before. That’s how you’ll create a stunning photo.

So what do you do?

Instead of shooting from standing height…

Change your angle.

Start by getting down low. Crouch on your knees. Get your pants dirty.

Then try moving to the side. Get a shot that nobody would ever think to take.

Next, find a nice vantage point – one that lets you capture your subject from above. Take a few shots from that angle.

Do you see what I mean?

By changing up your position, you’ll capture unexpected, original, and compelling photos.

And that’s exactly what you want.

10. You’re not processing your photos

Let’s talk about one last common photography mistake:

Taking photos.

But not processing them.

Processing is a hugely important part of photography.


Because modern cameras account for processing.

In other words, if you’re shooting in RAW, it’s expected that you’ll process your photos.

So the camera gives you unprocessed photos – photos that need processing to look good.

The photos are under-sharpened.

The photos are undersaturated.

They’re just all-around in need of some editing.

Which is what you must do.

If you’re not a fan of post-processing, that’s okay. You can take a minimalist approach to your processing.

But you should process your photos, if only a little bit.

Because processing will give them that final touch…

…that will make the viewer say “Wow.”

Common photography mistakes: What do you do now?

Now you know 10 common photography mistakes.

And if you’re making any of these mistakes, you might feel discouraged.

Don’t be.

Everyone is going to make mistakes. Especially when starting out.

The real question is…

What are you going to do about it?

If you follow the advice I’ve given you, you’re going to be in great shape.

You’ll improve at lightning speed.

And you’ll be so proud of the photos you take.

Have any other common photography mistakes that I didn’t cover? Let me know in the comments!

You may also find the following articles helpful:

12 Common Newbie Photography Mistakes to Avoid

Common Photography Mistakes Newbies Make and How to Avoid Them

10 Common Photography Mistakes and How to Overcome Them


The post 10 Common Photography Mistakes Every Beginner Should Avoid appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Your Guide to the Best Poses for Engagement Photos

Sun, 03/10/2019 - 14:00

The post Your Guide to the Best Poses for Engagement Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Engagement sessions can be really fun, but it can get a little repetitive posing the couple together again and again throughout the session. Here are great poses that work for all couples during an engagement photo session.

Begin with foundation poses

A foundation pose is a pose where you set the couple in the exact spot facing a specific direction. Foundation poses are great to lead into different variations as you begin to build upon the poses. For example, you start with both people facing the camera. From this foundation pose, you can build so that the couple holds hands, look at each other, and in the end, you can capture them walking toward each other slowly.

From each foundation pose, you can get at least five different variations without having to move the couple all that much! This is helpful especially when you find yourself in tight spaces or pressed for time.

However, you don’t always have to stay in one spot. Depending on the location, feel free to move around and use all of the interesting nooks at the location of the session.

Posing facing each other

This is probably the most comfortable pose for all couples because it’s the most natural. Have the couple face each other, and with their arms furthest from the camera, have them wrap them around each other. This leaves the pose open from the front so that you can capture them looking at each other.

From here, have them hold hands loosely or play with their hands up with interlocking fingers. You can also have one person play with the other person’s hair while you get creative angles on the pose.

Have them give each other a good squeeze to help loosen nerves and get the most natural laughs and expressions out of the couple. Have them kiss if they’re comfortable with that.

You can also give them a little space so that they are directly facing each other. Here the couple can stand with their hands at their side and then hold hands. Have them lean in to kiss each other and let them move in closer if they need to.

From this pose, you can also ask that they get really close together – tummy to tummy – and have one person lay their heads on the other person’s shoulder/chest. This pose is romantic and sweet.

The “T” pose

The “T” pose is a variation on the prom pose and gives a more romantic feel to the photo. Have the taller person stand facing 45-degrees from the camera. Ask the other person to stand with their shoulder’s perpendicular to the other person. Have them get close and wrap their arms around each other.

This pose is great for all couples because it keeps the faces at an angle where the couple can look at one another, hug, kiss, and enjoy each other at close proximity.

Try photographing this pose with a wide-angle lens, like a 35mm, and place the couple in the center. This technique makes the pose much more interesting! Especially if you’re at a breathtaking or unique location.

When your clients are in this T pose, you can ask one person to look at the camera while the other closes their eyes or looks off into the distance. Get in close to take a beautiful portrait of the person looking at the camera.

This is also a perfect pose to get a nice ring shot while the couple’s arms are wrapped around each other. Try getting more of the couple’s bodies in the frame with the rings in focus and the rest out of focus.

Prom pose with variations

While the prom pose isn’t all that popular these days, you can still use the foundation pose to build on and get great photos of the couple. One variation is to get the shorter person to stand behind the taller. Here, they can hold onto the taller person’s arm and look at the photographer.

You can also have them loosely hold hands in this position and look off into the distance. The person in the front can look back or down while the person in the back can look at the camera. This is a romantic and sweet pose that can be taken full length or from a closer angle. Take both focal lengths to get more variety from the pose.

This pose can also stay in its original form where the shorter person stands in front and arms are wrapped around the waist. However, it’s best if you change it up a bit and have the hands of the person in front caress the face of the person behind. Here the pose becomes more romantic and has more connection rather than staying in its original form.

Ask the person in the back to wrap their arms up high around their beloved. Make sure that in this pose, the heads are not directly above one another. Move the front person to either side of the neck to avoid having the pose look stiff and disconnected.

From here, move around the couple and get different angles. Have the couple look off into the distance and enjoy the moment. Perhaps tell a joke to get them to laugh a bit.

To create a little bit more movement, from this pose, ask the couple to hold hands while the person in front moves towards the camera creating some distance from the other person. It will appear like they’re walking while holding hands. It’s a more creative take on the pose and adds beautiful movement.

Action poses

Action poses are fun and a great way to loosen nerves and get the couple more comfortable with being in front of the camera. These can include the couple walking, either holding hands or at a distance, climbing, dancing, or just talking with one another.

Starting with action poses can be more comfortable for a couple that is not necessarily big on kissing or being affectionate. If you’re in a location where there are activities, like an amusement park or coffee shop, have the couple do what they usually would if you weren’t around. This could be playing games, getting a coffee, enjoying some music together, walking, dancing, and talking.

You can also have the couple walk toward the camera while you’re out photographing the engagement session. Have them walk two or three times as you get different focal lengths and angles. Ask the couple to talk with each other or smile at one another because this looks more natural as they are walking.

Facing away from the camera

Having the couple face away from the camera can create more interesting photographs and keep the mood more romantic resulting in less posed and more natural looking photographs.

For one pose, have the couple stand at a distance facing away from the camera. Have the couple take one step forward and hold it as if they were walking. Have one person look back toward the camera and the other person looking down or to the side. You could have them do this as the couple is walking away from the camera. Just make sure that there is nothing in the way that could provoke a fall.

Another pose is having the couple face away from the camera but gets in close to each other. Here they can look at one another, hold hands, or kiss the forehead all while you are photographing from behind. Try getting the couple from a high angle, so it looks like you’re looking down at them.

Allow poses to develop naturally

While you set foundation poses and build different variations, allow the poses to develop into their own naturally. What I mean by this is that let the couple take charge in some of the poses with the kissing and getting close. Allowing for the couple to feel like they can move around within a pose can create more authentic and romantic expressions.

Couples feel most uncomfortable when they can’t be themselves, so during the session let them know that they are free to move and enjoy the moment. You are there to capture their love and excitement for their wedding day.

Once they have this liberty to move about in a pose, you’ll get real emotions and might even progress naturally through poses you may have thought of doing anyway!

Make sure to go with the vibe of the couple

Some couples aren’t romantic types and feel silly or uncomfortable doing lots of kissy or huggy shots. Try and get a feel for how the couple is. Are they playful? Active? Romantic? If after a few silly poses, you find that the couple is more on the romantic side, go for those types of poses.

Here are some ideas for each type of couple:

Romantic: Go with poses where the couple is close to each other. Either facing each other or hugging. Lots of closed eyes and enjoying the quiet moments of love between them. Try and photograph with a longer lens to give them space to be intimate with one another. Have them say something they love about one another while you photograph their reactions.

Fun/silly: Here you can get the couple talking and being overall silly. Try and get them to dance, tell jokes or play around at the location of the session. For example, having the couple make silly faces at one another or have one person tell a joke and get the reaction of the other person. Pose them with a little distance while holding hands to create a connection but not too close to where they feel uncomfortable having their photo taken so intimately.

Active: This couple will appreciate a good walk or even run! Have them jump, dance, climb, or even have one person piggy-back on the other! This couple is fun and needs to move around to keep them active by having them move around.

Not all of the poses have to be active if the couple is active, or romantic if the couple is the romantic type. Usually, after the first half hour, the couple has lost their nervousness and are more open to other poses. Just make sure that you keep an eye out for their natural personalities and go along with that vibe.

Being a little intuitive to the personality of the couple helps you create more authentic photos that they will love. An important note to remember is that some couples will be easy to pose, and others will need more direction.

In any case, let the couples know that they can move around and to not worry about holding poses for too long. Remind them to enjoy the moments and do what feels natural to them as a couple. This helps to calm nerves, and you’ll get much more real expressions than forced ones.

In conclusion

The best poses for engagement sessions are where you set a foundation pose and then build upon that depending on the vibe of your clients. Aim to give them a real and fun experience and document their personalities during the session. Pose them but let them feel free to move around and be themselves. They will have a great time and love their photos after!

The post Your Guide to the Best Poses for Engagement Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Are Canon and Nikon the New Kodak?

Sun, 03/10/2019 - 09:00

The post Are Canon and Nikon the New Kodak? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Selling? Yes. Boring? Also yes.

Kodak. Remember them? Back in the film days, never did we think they would be an afterthought in the photography industry. But a complete mishandling of the move to digital became their downfall. At one time a top five most valuable brand in the world, now reduced to a footnote in the photography world we live in today. But are Canon and Nikon beginning to edge the same way? Are they the lumbering giants, slow to move with the times? Or, are they playing the game to perfection?

The recent announcements from Canon and Nikon about profit from their camera divisions are not exactly encouraging, but are they still the brands to beat?


I’m sure you’ve heard the news. Canon and Nikon did not meet their revenue targets for 2018 and both are rapidly revising their numbers for 2019. Predictions are that interchangeable lens camera sales will continue to fall year on year. There was even a rumour from an internal document from a camera company predicting Canon and Nikon will lose 50% of market share in the next three years. This is serious!

But why? Well there are several factors here. Firstly, there is the rise of Sony, Fuji and others in the mirrorless market. Sony have been producing amazing cameras (although not [yet] sold in the same number as Canon and Nikon), which have carved a nice piece of the pie for themselves very quickly. Add in Fuji, Panasonic, Olympus et al and you have an ever increasing number of cameras to choose from – all with amazing features and image quality

However, the more major factor for the whole industry is the ever-increasing quality of the smart phone. Whilst those of us who read Digital Photography School are generally concerned with DSLR and Mirrorless cameras, many just want a decent photo with minimum fuss, and the phone camera does this amazingly well. For all camera companies, the development of amazing quality phone cameras mean the market for those wanting to get great a “proper” camera is shrinking all the time. The latest series of phone cameras are more than good enough for most people.

The big three

According to the latest data for the year of 2018, Canon continues to dominate the world of interchangeable lens cameras with a 49.1% market share (a growth of 3.9%). Nikon stay second with 24.9% (a decline of 0.6%) and Sony are in third with 13.3% (a growth of 2.9%). All other brands made up the remainder. 

Canon’s market share in photography has sat steady at around 40-50% for around the last ten years. The EOS R quickly became the best selling mirrorless camera in Japan on launch. Nikon’s Z series also stole a decent share of the market that has been dominated by Sony of late. The question is, are the people buying these existing Sony and Nikon cameras, heavily invested in a system? The answer for a large portion will no doubt be yes. It just makes financial sense.

As the market shifts and more people move to other systems such as Sony, Fuji and the L-Mount Alliance, will this continue? Existing customers are a large market, but people buying their first “Pro” camera have a choice that is now much wider than merely Canon or Nikon. You only need to look to YouTube for the number of people singing the praises of brands that are not Canon and Nikon to be able to see the beginnings of this shift.

The L-Mount Alliance is the newest kid on the block. How big will its impact be?

Canon’s video problems

I am a Canon shooter. I have been since my first SLR (I know, I’m old). But, their current business model sucks! In an age where the average photographer uses both stills and video, Canon have fallen behind in DSLRs for video. Evidence includes some questionable codecs (motion JPEG anyone?) and cropped 4K. Compared to Sony, it’s not even the same league. What happened Canon? You are the same Canon that released the classic 5D2! Remember that? A game changer that was so good that episodes of your favorite TV shows were filmed on it and Canon were hailed as heroes. Well, they dropped the ball.

Skip to 2019 and Canon release the EOS RP. A great price point of only £1300 (US$1299) and a decent sensor (basically taken from the 6D2). A great camera at a great price. Yes, you can argue the dynamic range of the sensor is not perfect, but it seemed like a great camera release by Canon. Then the news came that the camera was unable to shoot in 24fps in HD. Wait…what? Yep, the standard video frame rate for movies, the same one that was in the 5DMk2 over ten years ago is now absent.

I know what some of you are thinking. It’s the entry-level model; you can’t expect everything. Most people won’t care. However, to omit such a basic video feature is a sign of Canon seemingly making terrible decisions in their digital camera lineup.

Why are they doing this though? The answer seems to be in Canon’s product lines. Canon’s pro video line has a similar starting price to the EOS R. If they put full-frame 4K video, 120 frames per second at 1080P and more into their DSLR range, they would be basically killing off some of their pro video line customers in the process.

You have to question this as a business decision. Put simply, Canon’s current cameras are lagging behind Sony and Panasonic when it comes to video. Rather than move to their C-line of cameras for video though, most people are moving to Sony and the A7 III.

This move seems to be incredibly short-sighted by Canon. When I look to upgrade my trusty 5DMk4, I’m not sure Canon will be the top of my list. The video features on Sony are just too tempting. Sure, I don’t currently do much video work, but I can see my customers wanting more, and Sony cameras have better video features right now.

Canon brought DSLR video to the masses with the 5D2. A decade later and they don’t even include 24fps.


Two cards are better than one

Shouted about all over the internet, why oh why did Canon and Nikon choose to launch their first cameras in their brand new system with one card slot? This feature alone means that a large amount of working professional users will not purchase a camera with one card slot. There is no way I would risk shooting a wedding with one memory card in the camera. It is just not worth the risk.

Nikon has taken this one step further and only have on XQD card. A more expensive format right now and also a format that most existing camera owners will not own in any great amount.

If photography is a hobby rather than a way to earn your living, then it may not be so much of an issue. However, again, it just seems a little short-sighted.

Shooting without a backup is always fine until a card fails.

Where’s the excitement?

Who was honestly excited by the EOS RP? Or the EOS R for that matter? Who thought that Nikon Z6 & Z7 were ushering in a new dawn of quality? Pretty much nobody. They just seemed to be mirrorless hack jobs of the 5DMk4 and D850 respectively, albeit with limitations.

The recent products from Canon and Nikon seem boring. No style and no killer features. Just OK. Just safe. The initial move into mirrorless feels like products designed and launched quickly to try and compete with Sony. Look at the amazing video features of the Sony A7 III when compared with Canon and their disappearing histogram. Compare the autofocus on the Sony A6400 or Fuji X-T3 with the Nikon Z6. There is no contest (the Nikon may improve dramatically with the eye AF update). The question is, why are they not competing with the best in class at launch?

Are Canon and Nikon’s cameras good? Yes. Are they class leading or exciting camera releases? No.  

Fuji’s retro styling, mixed with cutting edge features make for a very exciting camera system.

The Cameras do not match the glass

Leading with your best glass is an obvious decision. Both Canon and Nikon’s glass for their new mirrorless systems looks great. But it makes Canon’s decision to release the EOS RP all the more strange. Simply put, there is no budget glass for their budget full-frame camera.

There is no glass that really matches the system. The lens offered as a kit lens for this system costs over £1000. A quick Google shows the price of the EOS RP body at £1399 ($US$1299), but the cheapest option with a lens (the 24-105 f4) is a staggering £2329 (US$2199). This is crazy! Especially when you can pick up a Sony A7 III with a 28-70mm  f/3.5-5.6 for £1999 (US$2298). The Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm is even more expensive still at £2514 (US$2596). Yes, you can use an adapter if you have other branded glass, but if you buy a new system, with a new mount, you surely want a native mount lens to play with.

I know the lens is not as good, but the Canon EOS RP is not in the same ballpark feature-wise as the Sony A7 III and you can have a camera and native lens for over £300 cheaper. There is no way I would spend extra to get a lesser camera. The fact that Canon has yet to release a cheaper lens seems crazy given they’re releasing more budget-friendly cameras. Maybe Nikon will launch a similar lens with the rumored upcoming EOS RP competitor?

Sony now have a great range of lenses built up. Canon and Nikon are, for the first time, playing catch up.

Where’s the flagship camera?

So why not a pro body to rival the Sony A9? With the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, my guess is that Canon and Nikon are working feverishly behind the scenes to get their new flagship cameras out for the opening ceremony. I’m sure Sony is doing the same.

Rumors are surfacing that Canon has begun testing the 1DX Mark III with a very limited number of photographers, so this prediction does seem likely.  Canon is a big Olympic sponsor, and it is also a home Olympics for them. It really does make sense for big product launches on the eve of the event. Whether the new flagships will be a DSLR or mirrorless is going to be interesting to see.

But what about the meantime? What’s next up for Canon or Nikon? The EOS RP was underwhelming for many, and the next in line from Nikon is meant to be a direct competitor to the EOS RP. I feel this camera will also be met with the collective sigh the EOS RP received.

What does the future hold?

In the end, it boils down to this; mirrorless is the future of photography. It took a while to get here, but the benefits are now easy to see. Canon and Nikon were late to the party, but they are working hard to claw back ground they have lost. They seem to have learned from Kodak and their lack of acknowledgment for the digital camera.

The fact that both Canon and Nikon have fully entered the market late is currently having an impact on the quality and excitement that greets their new products. So far they appear to be playing it safe with mirrorless, which might not be enough to keep them on top moving forward.

What would be in your dream camera? As a Canon shooter (and daydreamer), I have thought long and hard while writing this article. For me, it would be a mirrorless update to the Canon 5DMk4. A new sensor. Autofocus to rival that on the Sony A9 (or even 6400) and non-crippled video. Full sensor 4K and 120 frames-per-second at 1080P in C-Log and preferably without a histogram that disappears when you press record, or at least zebra stripes. Maybe IBIS would be nice too. Oh, and two card slots. Is that too much to ask? I also would like it under £3000.

Or maybe, I’m getting tempted to move. The Sony A7III keeps tempting me to rent it. The A9 with that new autofocus update is a beast of a camera for a shade over £3000. I also want to see how Panasonic’s latest offerings play out.

I’m heading to The Photography Show in Birmingham, UK in March for an annual look at what is out there. On top of my list of stands to visit are Sony, Panasonic, and Fuji. The fact the Canon and Nikon are not even on my radar says a lot about their current appeal.

What are you looking for from Canon or Nikon? Or, have you moved to another brand and never looked back? Let me know in the comments.

The post Are Canon and Nikon the New Kodak? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

4 Essential Things to Consider When Styling a Photoshoot

Sat, 03/09/2019 - 13:00

The post 4 Essential Things to Consider When Styling a Photoshoot appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

A successful photoshoot doesn’t just happen by itself. Perhaps there are times when everything lines up and an impromptu photoshoot happens. But that is often the exception. From my experience, much planning goes into a successful photoshoot. Whether you are doing a family, newborn, or portrait shoot, formal, informal, indoor or outdoors, styled or casual shoots, there are common factors that are crucial to its success. Here are some essential things to consider when styling a photoshoot.

1. Location Location dictates equipment

Deciding on your location beforehand is necessary as that dictates the equipment you’ll need. If shooting in a studio, you need to think of the lenses you would use for the amount of space available in your studio. If you have a small studio, you may only be able to use a 35mm or a 50mm lens for portraits. A 24-70mm would be ideal for a small space, but you need to consider any distortions if you’re shooting portraits at close range using a short focal length.

If you are relying on natural light indoors, then you would need to think of the time of day you are shooting and the available ambient and natural light at those time to give you ample light that you need for your shoot. It would also be a good idea to have a reflector handy for both shoot, but most especially for indoor shoots. Their are various types of reflectors, that create different effects.


Another thing to consider when shooting indoors is your background or backdrop. If it’s in a client’s home, you may need to ask them for photos of an idea of walls, windows, possible backdrops you can use if you haven’t been there before. If shooting in your own home or studio, then you have more control and can prepare the space beforehand. You can go for a light or dark backdrop, fabric or walls, wallpaper or painting, or just the available surfaces in the home. You may need to declutter a bit so unnecessary objects are in the shot.

Weather – Plan B

If shooting outdoors, you need a plan B in case the weather doesn’t cooperate on the day. A plan B could be a cafe nearby or a sheltered area such as a gazebo. Generally, when shooting outdoors during the day, the opposite problem occurs. There is often too much light. The first thing to decide on is the time of day to shoot. Will it be golden hour? Middle of the day? Early morning? Dusk? Evening? Understand the needs for these different times of the day.

Best times of day to shoot

Early and late and golden hour are great times to shoot because the light comes from an angle. Golden hour gives a nice warm glow to your images but light during early morning shoots are often quite cold. Midday light, when the sun is high up in the sky, gives harsh light. You need to mitigate this by using reflectors, so you don’t get dark shadows under the eyes. They can be a natural reflector like concrete paths, white walls, floors or the usual photography reflectors available.

Urban or country? Each has a very different vibe. If shooting in a busy city location where you have to walk around and have nowhere to park, you may need to pare down your equipment. If going to the country, then you can fill your car with equipment and props to your heart’s content and make a shoot logistically easier.

If shooting with artificial light either indoors or outdoors, you have more control over the amount of light available for your shoot and natural lighting is not so much a factor. However, this would require more equipment such as light stands, softboxes, electronic flashes, triggers and receivers, batteries, and diffusers.

You can read more about equipment you would need for a home or portable studio here.

2. Overall colour scheme

Details matter when it comes to the outcome. For an image to be pleasing and successful, it involves more than just lighting. It involves tones and color schemes. When planning your shoot, it may help to think of a theme like vintage, bold, contemporary, simple, maximal or busy. Also think of a seasonal feeling; summer, spring, autumnal, or winter. Considering these things helps you eliminate ideas that won’t be fitting and narrows them down to a few essentials.

You can then decide on the colors. Winter would call for cool white, grey and blue tones and you may decide on a pop of color. Spring may have a combination of pastel colors with dominant greens. Summer may be bursting with saturation and light, blue skies, and warmth. Autumn can have burnt orange, red, purples and verdant greens.

Feeling your shoot while mentally preparing for it helps in streamlining everything to achieve the desired outcome. You could go for a rainbow shoot where you want the colors to pop against a plain white or dark backdrop.

3. Props

Props are optional, but they are useful. My preference is minimal props, but I would suggest having them as tools during the shoot rather than items to be necessary in the shoot. Let me explain.

If I am photographing young children, I would often ask the parents to bring a bag of favorite toys without the knowledge of their children. During the shoot, I may need to use them to entertain, comfort, use during breaks and even to make them look at the camera. However, only one of those may make it into the shot, usually a soft comfort toy.

For engagement shoots, I’d ask the couple to choose one or two props they want to be in the shot but that these props must mean something to them. We’ve had picnic baskets, bikes, guitars, books and flowers amongst others. Sometimes, couples can’t think of props or don’t want any, and that is fine too. Often I’d say pick up a bunch of flowers just in case. Many couples, especially those who haven’t had a photoshoot yet may feel awkward and holding something like flowers helps.

A piece of outfit or accessory can be used as a prop too. A hat, bag or a special pair of shoes can work. This leads us nicely to the next factor…

4. Outfits

Even when you have your lighting and location all planned perfectly, sometimes your photoshoot can still get ruined. Okay, ruined may be a bit too harsh but there is still one thing that can make or break your shoot – It’s the outfit.

I give my clients a guide on what to wear before their photoshoot in the hope that they plan their outfits beforehand and, even better, share them with me so we can discuss them. Often they send me options to choose from, and together we agree on one or two final outfits.

I once had a couple whose location was in the most beautiful country setting – it was a totally dreamy scene. Unfortunately, their outfits were not in keeping with the location. Although they were happy with the images and the shots were beautiful, their shoot could potentially have been published in many places but were let down by the outfits.

Encourage your clients to treat the photoshoot as a special event that they plan and prepare for. If they can afford it, even buy new clothes for the shoot. With regards to matching outfits, like all white shorts and jeans, that’s down to personal preference. Mine is more towards classic complementary colors and patterns than matching or uniform outfits. Discussing this with your client is important. The one big no-no I always tell my clients is to avoid big logos, cartoon characters, numbers or letters, or anything that is trend-based that dates quickly.

I hope the above has helped with styling a photoshoot and what you can prepare in advance to ensure its success. If you have any more ideas, do share them here in the comments below.

The post 4 Essential Things to Consider When Styling a Photoshoot appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

Understanding Imaging Techniques: the Difference Between Retouching, Manipulating, and Optimizing Images

Sat, 03/09/2019 - 08:00

The post Understanding Imaging Techniques: the Difference Between Retouching, Manipulating, and Optimizing Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

Understanding Imaging Techniques

Three distinct post-production processes alter the appearance of digital photographs: Retouching, Manipulating, and Optimizing. These terms may sound similar enough to be synonymous at first glance, but they are entirely different operations. Once you understand the difference between these three processes, your image editing will take on new meaning, and your images will deliver powerful results.

Image retouching

Photo retouching is image alteration that intends to correct elements of the photograph that the photographer doesn’t want to appear in the final product. This includes removing clutter from the foreground or background and correcting the color of specific areas or items (clothing, skies, etc.). Retouching operations make full use of cloning and “healing” tools in an attempt to idealize real life. Unfortunately, most retouching becomes necessary because we don’t have (or take) the time to plan out our shots.

Our brain tends to dismiss glare from our eyes, but the camera sees it all. A slight change of elevation and a little forethought can save a lot of editing time.

Planning a shot in advance will alleviate much of these damage control measures but involves a certain amount of pre-viewing; scouting out the area and cleaning up items before the camera captures them. This includes “policing” of the area… cleaning mirrors and windows of fingerprints, dusting off surfaces, and general housekeeping chores. This also includes putting things away (or in place), previewing and arranging the lighting available and supplementing the lighting with flash units and reflectors where required, checking for reflections, etc.

Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” which pretty much sums up the cleanup chores. We also use the phrase “preventative maintenance;” fixing things before they break and need repair.

Admittedly, we don’t often have the luxury of time required to primp and polish a scene before we capture it, and retouching is our only option. However, sometimes all we need to do is evaluate the scene, move around and see the scene from another angle, or wait for the distraction to move out of the scene.

Sometimes a small reposition can lessen the amount of touchup and repair needed.

We can’t always avoid chaos, but we could limit the retouching chore with a little forethought. It takes just a fraction of a second to capture an image, but it can take minutes-to-hours to correct problems captured.

Image manipulation

Manipulation is a bit different, though it occasionally is a compounded chore with retouching. When we manipulate a photo, we truly step out of reality and into fantasyland. When we manipulate an image we override reality and get creative; moving, adding elements to a scene or changing the size and dimension. When we manipulate an image, we become a “creator” rather than simply an observer of a scene. This is quite appropriate when creating “art” from a captured image, and is ideal for illustrations but perhaps shouldn’t be used as a regular post-capture routine.

Photo-illustration is an excellent use of serious manipulation, and can be quite effective for conveying abstract concepts and illustrations.

Earlier in my career, I worked as a photoengraver in a large trade shop in Nashville Tennessee during the early days of digital image manipulation. The shop handled the pre-press chores for many national accounts and international publications. On one occasion in 1979, we were producing a cover for one of these magazines. On the cover was a picture of Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat set against one of the great pyramids. Unfortunately, the pyramid was in a position that interfered with the titles on the magazine’s cover.

While this is not the exact picture used in the magazine, you see the challenge.

The Art Director for the magazine sent instructions for us to shift the pyramid in the picture so that the titles would not interfere with it. Moving that thing was an amazing feat back then. Normal airbrushing would have left obvious evidence of visual trickery, but digital manipulation opened a whole new potential for near-perfect deception. We were amazed at the potential but a bit nervous about the moral implications of using this power.

This venture was accomplished (over a decade before Photoshop) on an editing machine called a SciTex Response, a workstation supported by a very powerful minicomputer. Nobody outside that small building knew that from Nashville, we pushed an Egyptian pyramid across the desert floor until revealed years later. Shortly thereafter, digitally altered images were prohibited from use as evidence in a court of law by the Supreme Court of the United States. Today, this level of manipulation lets you routinely alter reality and play god on a laptop, sitting on a park bench.

Manipulation is powerful stuff and should be used with serious restraint; not so much for legal reasons, but because of diminishing regard for nature and reality. Fantasyland is fun, but reality is where we live. We quite regularly mask skies and replace boring clouds with blue skies and dramatic clouds, and even sunsets – all without hesitation. We can move people around a scene and clone them with ease using popular photo editing software. Reality has become anything but reality. Photo contests prohibit photo manipulation in certain categories, though a skillful operator can cover their digital tracks and fool the general public. However, savvy judges can always tell the difference.

Typical manipulation consisting of a clouded sky to replay lost detail.

Personal recommendation: keep the tricks and photo optics to a minimum. Incorporating someone else’s pre-set formulas and interpretation into your photos usually compromises your personal artistic abilities. Don’t define your style by filtering your image through someone else’s interpretation. Be the artist, not the template. Take your images off the assembly line and deal with them individually.

Image optimization

Photo optimization is an entirely different kind of editing altogether and the one that I use in my professional career. I optimize photos for several City Magazines in South Florida. Preparing images for the printed page isn’t the same as preparing them for inkjet printing. Printing technology uses totally different inks, transfer systems, papers, and production speeds than inkjet printers. Each process requires a different distribution of tones and colors.

Since my early days in photoengraving, I’ve sought to squeeze every pixel for all the clarity and definition it can deliver. The first rule (of my personal discipline) is to perform only global tonal and color adjustments. Rarely should you have to rely on pixel editing to reveal the beauty and dynamic of a scene. Digital photography is all about light. Think of light as your paintbrush and the camera as nothing more than the canvas that your image is painted on. Learn to control light during the capture and your post-production chores will diminish significantly. Dodging, burning and other local editing should be required rarely, if at all.

Both internal contrast and color intensity (saturation) were adjusted to uncover lost detail.

Even the very best digital camera image sensors cannot discern what is “important” information within each image’s tonal range. The camera’s sensors capture an amazing range of light from the lightest and the darkest areas of an image, but all cameras lack the critical element of artistic judgment concerning the internal contrast of that light range.

If you capture your images in RAW format, all that amazing range packed into each 12-bit image (68,000,000,000 shade values between the darkest pixel and the lightest) can be interpreted, articulated, and distributed to unveil the critical detail hiding between the shadows and the highlights. I’ve edited tens of thousands of images over my career, and very few cannot reveal additional detail with just a little investigation. There are five distinct tonal zones (highlight, quarter-tones, middle-tones, three-quarter-tones, and shadows) in every image, and each can be individually pushed, pulled, and contorted to reveal the detail contained therein. While a printed image is always distilled down to 256 tones per color, this editing process lets you, the artist, decide how the image is interpreted.

Shadow (dark) tones quite easily lose their detail and print too dark if not lightened selectively by internal contrast adjustment. The Shadows slider (Camera Raw and Lightroom) was lightened.

The real artistry of editing images is not accomplished by the imagination, but rather by investigation and discernment. No amount of image embellishment can come close to the beauty that is revealed by merely uncovering reality. The reason most photos don’t show the full dynamic of natural light is that the human eye can interpret detail in a scene while the camera can only record the overall dynamic range. Only when we (photographers/editors/image-optimizers) take the time to uncover the power and beauty woven into each image can we come close to producing what our eyes and our brain’s visual cortex experience all day, every day.

Personal Challenge

Strive to extract the existing detail in your images more than you paint over and repair the initial appearance. There is usually amazing detail hiding there just below the surface. After you capture all the potential range with your camera capture (balancing your camera’s exposure between the navigational beacons of your camera’s histogram), you must then go on an expedition to explore everything that your camera has captured. Your job is to discover the detail, distribute the detail, and display that detail to the rest of us.

Happy hunting.

The post Understanding Imaging Techniques: the Difference Between Retouching, Manipulating, and Optimizing Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Abstract

Fri, 03/08/2019 - 13:00

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is ABSTRACT!

© Megan Kennedy

Your photos can include anything includes anything that is abstract. It can be motion-blurred, cropped, minimalist, color-based, use nature, objects or anything really! They can be color, black and white, moody or bright. You get the picture! Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

© Peter West Carey


Some Inst-piration from some Instagrammers:


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A post shared by Rachel Harris-Huffman (@rachharrhuff) on Feb 21, 2019 at 1:06pm PST


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

Tips for Shooting ABSTRACT

How to Create Abstract Photos with Oil and Water and a Little Dish Soap

4 Refraction Ideas to Use In Your Photography

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

How to Create Abstract Photos with Colored Paper

How to Make Use of Foggy Surfaces for Abstract Photography

How to Create a Kaleidoscope and Make Unique Abstract Images

Getting Started with Abstract Macro Photography

6 Tips on How to Create Abstract Photos



Weekly Photography Challenge – ABSTRACT

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 #DPSabstract 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 – Abstract appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

The New Panasonic Lumix S1 and S1R – Could these Full-frame Mirrorless Cameras be Cameras of the Year? [video]

Fri, 03/08/2019 - 08:00

The post The New Panasonic Lumix S1 and S1R – Could these Full-frame Mirrorless Cameras be Cameras of the Year? [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this video by Art of Photography, he gives us a first look at the testing of the new Panasonic Lumix S1 and S1R full-frame mirrorless cameras.

This is a preproduction look at the camera, so all images are jpegs coming straight out of the camera with no editing done at all. All noise reduction features were switched off in the camera to show how good the noise reduction features of these cameras are too.


S1: 24mp, S1R: 47mp big still images
If you are a fan of Panasonic Lumix cameras, you’ll feel at home using both these cameras. Dual IS

The video focuses on:

Image quality

outstanding. Color rendition and contrast are great. Worked well with portraits, still life, low light.


Autofocus is an area Panasonic has struggled with over the years, but this is one of their best autofocus systems. Uses contrast detection autofocus. Very usable in most situations. Additional processing layer for Autofocus. This is the technology that drives or defines what they call AI Autofocus. Defines object recognition, animal recognition, face recognition etc. detection. So while the Autofocus is not perfect, the way the technology works means that Panasonic can work on improving Autofocus and update them as Firmware.

Shooting video

Low light performance and Panasonic dual IS image stabilisation

Best image stabilisation used on any camera. Great for low light situations – Low light performance is one of the best features of this camera. It performs beautifully right up to 12800 ISO. Low noise even with the noise reduction features switched off.

Pixel Shifting

Pixel Shifting feature takes 8 images and shifts the sensor around so you end up with a really high resolution image of up to 180mp. In reality, this feature is only limited to still life shooting. If anything moves around in the image it doesn’t work well. So may not work well for landscapes where there is any wind or trees moving. This may be something that Panasonic can work on to fine-tune.


The cameras are quite large but very easy to use. They are lighter than the Leica SL. When using all day it does become heavy. This can work well when hand-holding for video because the camera doesn’t shake as much. If you are a photographer who wants to travel light, these cameras may not be for you.

It is a very quiet camera, even using the mechanical shutter.

Is this the perfect Panasonic camera?

While this camera is amazing it still has a couple of weak points, mainly the Autofocus system and the Pixel Shift technology.

Also, the fast continuous shooting mode uses 6K film shooting that you can then take stills from. This means you can only use jpegs, which for many photographers is not ideal.

However, overall, both the Panasonic Lumix S1 and S1R are are very exciting cameras.


Pixel Shift High Resolution images of the Panasonic S1R at work

In this video by Adorama, see the Pixel Shift technology of these cameras at work.


You may also find the following articles interesting:

Gear Review: The Lumix G9 Mirrorless Camera

Canon EOS RP Full-frame Camera – Why Some People Won’t be Buying this Camera

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

The 19 Most Popular Compact System and Mirrorless Cameras with Our Readers

Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera – Thoughts and Field Test

DSLR vs Mirrorless: Guide to help you decide which is right for you?

The (Almost) Perfect Autofocus of the Sony a7R III: a Hands-On Review

The post The New Panasonic Lumix S1 and S1R – Could these Full-frame Mirrorless Cameras be Cameras of the Year? [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

How to Develop Better Black and White Photos in Lightroom

Thu, 03/07/2019 - 13:00

The post How to Develop Better Black and White Photos in Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Achieving great looking black & white images in Lightroom is not about converting your colour images to grayscale with the click of your mouse and calling it a day.

Black & white photography is subtle, and it takes experience to see and understand its nuances. Lightroom has a fantastic set of tools to help you create stunning black & white images.

Here are some tips and some mistakes to avoid.

Converting to black and white

There are several ways to convert your color images to black & white in Lightroom.

You can use one of Lightroom’s presets or completely reduce the color saturation.

Or you can convert your color image to grayscale in Lightroom by simply hitting “V” on your keyboard, or clicking on Black & White under Color Treatment in the Basic panel.

Whatever you decide to do, know that you will have to make some tweaks in Lightroom to get the best possible result.

Using Black and White Mix

Once you  have converted your image, a panel called Black & White Mix will appear under the Tone Curve panel.

The sliders here give you control over the way colors are translated into grey tones in Lightroom. When you convert to grayscale, all the colors will be at zero.

Making some simple adjustments in this panel can make a dramatic difference in the quality of your photos.

For example, if you’re working on a landscape image, using the blue sliders will help you adjust the sky.

If you’re new to black and white processing in Lightroom, play around with the sliders to see how each of them affect your photo. With a bit of experimentation, you’ll get a feel for which sliders alter the various tones in your image in a way that helps you achieve the look you’re going for. You’ll also develop your signature black and white editing style.

Boost Tonal Contrast

In addition to tweaking the Black & White Mix sliders, you should make other manual adjustments in Lightroom to adjust the tonal contrast in your photograph.

Tonal contrast is the differences in brightness throughout your image. If there are stark differences between your tones – say, a very light subject against a dark background, then we would say the photo has a lot of tonal contrast.

One benefit of actually shooting in black & white is that you don’t have to ignore color and try to understand your scene in terms of light or dark tones. Shooting with your DSLR camera in Monochrome Mode will help you with your composition, especially if you’re new to black & white photography.

Boost texture in your images

A key way to enhance your black & white photographs in Lightroom is to boost texture. Bringing out the texture emphasizes the details in a photograph.

One of the easiest ways to enhance texture in your black & white images is with the Clarity slider.

Clarity increases the contrast in a photograph, but not as drastically as the Contrast slider does.

You have more leeway with clarity in black & white than you do with color.

In Lightroom, there are to ways to work with clarity. One is to use the Clarity slider in the Basic panel. This is a global adjustment that affects the entire photo. You can also selectively add Clarity with the Adjustment Brush.

You want to do this when it makes sense to boost the texture in a certain part of the photo.

If you have an image where the subject is in focus but the background is blurred out, there is no point in adding clarity to the whole image. Focus on the area that you want to enhance. This will increase sharpness. Since the eye tends to go to sharper areas first, it makes sense to boost sharpness selectively. Adding clarity is one way of doing that.

Mistakes to avoid

Common mistakes that photographers make are related to misuse of texture and contrast.

If you’re converting your color images to grayscale, you’ll notice that they look a little flat. You need to add some contrast, but the problem is that it’s easy to go too far and lose details in the highlights and shadows.

Look closely at your images. Are they too dark in the darker areas? Do they look muddy, or even “crunchy”–with angular rather than blurred edges?

This gives images an over-processed HDR look, which is not desirable in most cases.

Do add contrast and clarity, but fine the right balance for each particular image. The same goes for clarity.

Again, the amount you add will really depend on the photograph. For example, you may want to add clarity to a portrait of a male to bring out the textures in the skin and hair, but use negative clarity to smooth the skin in a female portrait. Clarity can bring out wrinkles and imperfections in the skin and make the subject look older if not applied with care.

Another mistake photographers make when editing their black & white photos is to over-sharpen them.

When sharpening, I recommend using the Sharpening Mask.

To do this, choose the sharpening level you desire in Lightroom. Hold down the Alt/Option key and slide the Masking slider. You’ll see the image change to look something like an x-ray. This is showing you where Lightroom is intelligently sharpening your photograph.

In most photographs, you don’t necessarily want every single bit of the image sharpened, the same way you don’t need texture in every part of the image. By using Sharpening Mask, you can apply the sharpening to the most important part of the photo. I often leave mine in the range of 70-90.


There are a host of plug-ins available for Lightroom that can really enhance your images and your editing process, such as Topaz Black & White, or Perfect B&W.

However, a lot of black & white photography photographers say the gold standard of plug-ins for black & white photography is Silver Efex Pro.

Silver Efex Pro has a tool called Structure, which works in a similar way to Clarity in Lightroom, but has four sliders that help you tweak your tones with a great deal of control. If you shoot a lot of black & white photography, or plan on doing so, this is definitely one plug-in I would recommend that you purchase.

In Conclusion

To achieve better black & white photos in Lightroom takes a subtle hand and training your eye to look at tones instead of color.

The good thing about Lightroom is that your files are non-destructible, so feel free to tweak your images to your heart’s content. Everything is undoable with the click of your mouse.

With a bit of practice and experimentation, you’ll be developing brilliant black and white images in no time.

If you have any other tips or black and white photos you’d like to share, please do so in the comments section.

The post How to Develop Better Black and White Photos in Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.