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How to Make Friends and Collaborate in the Photography Industry

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 15:00

The post How to Make Friends and Collaborate in the Photography Industry appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Karthika Gupta.

Have you ever seen or been a part of a photography conference? Or even just walked into a camera store and spent some time observing people interacting in the store? It is as if we photographers speak another language, live in another world, or even belong to a cult. Of course, I mean this without any form of disrespect. Photographers and photography enthusiasts are a class apart. We all get excited about new lens and gear, talk in F-stops and ISO settings, and some of us save for years and years to buy a particular brand of camera or lens!

The photography industry is growing in leaps and bounds – not only in technology but also in the number of people who are aspiring photographers or even hobbyists. With easier access to gear and a wealth of free education around, photography is a career choice for almost any generation. However, it also means that many people are doing the same or similar things. Most photographers, at some point or another, think about industry competition to get ahead of the curve in the kind of money and work they think they need to get ahead.

I want to assure you that making a living is possible in this space. There is more than enough work to go around. Your peers and colleagues are not out to ‘get you’ or ‘steal work from you.’ Let go of that scarcity mindset and instead think of how you can collaborate with your competition in ways that can become a win-win for both of you.

Often times, the colleges and friends you make in the industry do more for you than you could imagine. They send their overflow work your way, and you make genuine friendships with people who speak the same language as you. You also get to collaborate on creative projects that improve your own skill as an artist.

There are several ways you can make friends and collaborate in the photography industry.

1. Attend conferences and photography related events

There is nothing quite like getting a bunch of photographers in a room to talk shop and discuss the latest and greatest gear and techniques. The energy and the learnings at such events are incredible. Most conferences and events get the best speakers and teachers, so this is a great way to increase your skill set and also meet some of your mentors and peers.

As someone who has started to speak and teach at conferences and events, I am just as nervous to get up on stage as you might be to come to an event! However, I am so happy to meet and mingle with my people – folks who love photography as much as I do.

So go with an open mind and be willing to put yourself out there to make genuine connections and friends.

I had the opportunity to attend a conference and took some food styling and food photography classes. While there, I made some amazing friends who, to date, have been very supportive of each other’s work.

2. Join local groups

If traveling for a conference or an event is not your thing, thanks to apps like Meetup and Eventbrite, there are plenty of local chapters and groups that are photography specific. Some groups routinely go out and photograph. Others have workshops and classes where members exchange ideas and knowledge. Find what works for you and be open to give as much or more than what you receive.

3. Connect with photographers who you admire

I have to admit; this one is one of my favorite ways to connect with others in the photography space. Most photographers are on social media because it is such a great visual tool to showcase your work. So I find it easy to find photographers whose work I admire on social and engage with them regularly. Sometimes it is a ‘like,’ other times it is a comment or a direct message (DM). Nothing crazy or weird, I just say hello and compliment them on something that I find enjoyable. This is not a place to ask favors or ask for work. Instead, this is a place to connect and be social. The more you engage, the more you become a familiar face. Then when the time comes to collaborate or work together, let that organically happen.

Don’t ask open-ended questions or ask to pick their brain. Instead, do your research and ask intelligent questions. Ask about their motivation or inspiration or an accomplishment that they are proud of. Perhaps you could ask how they get over a creative slump…anything that humanizes you and them.

I collaborated with another photographer who I met online. I stayed at her house for the weekend and created some amazing work that I am most proud of to date.

4. Be friendly and cordial

Always be friendly and cordial. No matter the stage of business you are at, always remember you too started at the bottom of the ladder too. Just because you have ‘achieved’ success doesn’t mean you have to be rude. On the flip side, to the person who is reaching out to other photographers, do the same. We are all in this together. You will make genuine friends when you are honest and genuine yourself. You will just put people off when you are insincere.

5. Offer something of value – no, it’s not always money

I am of the school of thought that money is not the ultimate form of success. Yes, we need money to survive – to put food on the table, pay the rent and other necessities like that – but there are many people out there who are motivated by something other than money.

Find your passion and find what feeds your soul. The money is sure to follow.

When working with others, offer something of value. When you are collaborating with other creatives, put your best foot forward so that the collaborative effort is worth its weight in gold. That way, it is a win for everyone included.

I conducted a styled shoot for new wedding photographers, and as a result, collaborated with many vendors who got photos in exchange for products and services – a win-win for all.

6. Pre and post follow through is important and essential

When collaborating with other creatives, communication about expectations and outcomes is critical. It is important everyone is on the same page so that each party knows what they need to put in and what they are going to get out of it.

Communication can be as formal or as informal as you all agree. Typically everyone pitches in or brings something of value (time, talent, props) to the table. After the collaboration, people share each other’s work, give critique and sometimes even share images for each other’s portfolios.

No matter what process you use, make sure everyone agrees.

It is also important to do a debrief on the collaboration. Figure out what worked and what didn’t. How can you all make it better next time? Make sure to address any issues so you can all walk away with a positive experience.

Collaboration isn’t just with other photographers. It can also include vendors and businesses in your area of specialty. You can make a trade of goods and services in exchange for photos. Here pre and post-follow-up are critical so that all expectations are met.

Collaborate with vendors and businesses not just other photographers.

Collaboration, when done properly, should be a mutually beneficial arrangement. By collaborating with others, you get to learn, improve yourself, and help others as well. It is a very healthy and creative way to inspire and be inspired while working on something atypical.

Have you collaborated on some great projects? Share your experiences with the dPS community in the comments below.


The post How to Make Friends and Collaborate in the Photography Industry appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Karthika Gupta.

When is the Best Time to Photograph the Moon?

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 10:00

The post When is the Best Time to Photograph the Moon? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

Moon phases are a key to understanding when you should be out taking photos. These days it’s easy to predict where and when you will see the moon for the type of photos you want to produce.

First let’s start with some tools you might want to look into, then options for different moon phase photos.


Astronomers have known the secrets of the moon’s phases and timing for eons. Ancient civilizations built monuments and shrines in regard to locations of the sun, moon and stars long before computers were invented. Our modern tools are a little easier to access.

Newspapers and Websites

Not into learning full astronomy? My first suggestion is to Google the phase you’re looking for. It’s that simple. One of the top sites that will appear in the results is Time & Date. You can find all the phases of the moon, based on the location of your Internet connection, right here. If the location isn’t correct, simply search for your city and the site will give you all you need to get started.

Another great option (that also has an app, but it is so much better on a large computer screen) is The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE). I wrote about using TPE here on DPS and they have a Web App available for those who don’t use phones and their apps.

The US Navy has a simple site that allows you to print out a year’s worth of times for any location on the planet.

Don’t have an Internet connection while you travel? Newspapers still print the information for the moon and sun phases (as well as setting and rising times).


Everyone loves a good app, and there are three that I keep loaded on my phone for photography purposes. All of these apps will show you the angle of the moon at any time, its phase, and some even help you calculate the best time to photograph the moon.

Full moon over Washington’s Cascade Mountains

My choices are:

Catching the Full Moon

The best time to photograph the full moon is the day before or after a full moon. Why’s this?

A full moon is marked at the height of its path across the heavens and this is often after midnight. Let’s say the moon reaches the height of its fullness at 12:26 am on July 2nd. This means the full moon actually rises on the day BEFORE that which is marked on the calendar. Throw in use of Daylight Saving Time and the timing can be wonky.

Full moon rising above Washington’s Cascade Mountains and Puget Sound

Going out the day before the moon is actually marked as full means you’re catching the moon rising just about at the same time as the sun is setting. So the sun is lighting the moon and often the foreground of your scene. This gives a nice, even lighting to your scene.

The same can be said for shooting the full moon setting the day it is marked on the calendar.

Late at night, you can still capture great images of the moon. However, you have to understand that the contrast difference between the moon (a giant reflector in space) and the black sky will be immense. This means you will lose detail in the moon if you attempt to hold the shutter open long enough to exposure the foreground. Some creative light painting can come in handy in this case.

Full moon and chorten with the Himalayas in the background. Mong La, Nepal

Half/Quarter Moons – Daytime wonders

Some people call them half-moons because half of the moon is illuminated. Some call them quarter because they are at the quarter phase of a full cycle. Either way, they look the same.

Half-moons will rise or set in the middle of the day. It matters on whether the moon is waxing or waning, meaning if it is getting closer to full or further away in its cycle. This is a good time to use an app or Astro calendar to plan ahead.

You’ll be best served by catching a half moon when it is rising or setting, just like with a full moon. Having it closer to the foreground subjects will help it appear larger. Let me give you an example.

Here’s the half moon rising in Canmore, Alberta, Canada just behind the Rocky Mountains.

Half moon and the Canadian Rockies

Nice and large when using a long lens and the moon is close to the ground. It is fairly high in the sky here as I am looking way up at the mountain.

Now, here are two examples with a nearly half moon over Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, and another of it over Seattle, Washington.

See the issue? It’s still a half moon, but later in its cycle, when it is far from foreground objects, it is relatively small and loses some grandeur.

Slivers or Crescents

Slivers, or crescents, are visible just before and after a new moon. Look for them a couple of days before and after the new moon and, just like full and half, try to find a time when they are low on the horizon.

Crescent moon setting over the Himalayas

You will also notice the sliver will seemingly rotate as it crosses the heavens and this may affect your composition choices. As with the half moon, you will have even more trouble giving the moon prominence in a mid-day shoot when it is high in the sky.

Lunar Eclipses

Lunar eclipses are all the fashion these days with this or that news source touting, “This will be the last blah, blah, blah for decades!”  But don’t let them fool you; lunar eclipses happen often enough – about once a year. However, their location can be the biggest issue. Let’s go back to Time & Date’s site for more info on upcoming lunar eclipses for the next 10 years. You’ll need to click on the “Lunar” tab once on the page.

Not all of those eclipses will happen in your neck of the woods, so you’ll have to click through and see where they will happen. As with solar eclipses, when the sun is blotted out by the moon, people will often travel far and wide for lunar eclipse shots.

A full lunar eclipse, at its height, means the moon will be completely in the shadow of the Earth. Because of the distance between the Earth and moon, some light still slips past the Earth, which causes it to have all colors except red stripped away. This is why lunar eclipses are sometimes called blood moons.

Again, having a foreground subject helps because the eclipse often happens high in the sky. The whole sequence of the moon moving into and then fully out of the Earth’s shadow can take a little over an hour, and you should plan accordingly. The colorful and best ‘action’ of the eclipse will span maybe 5-10 minutes.

More tips on capturing lunar (and solar) eclipses are found in this DPS article.

New Moon or No Moon – Photograph the Stars

When the moon’s not out, it’s a great time to photograph the stars. And my, oh, my, do we have a batch of great articles to help you with that!


Moon photography is a fun and challenging subject because the moon is constantly changing phases and its location in the sky. Thankfully, we have plenty of tools at our disposal to track and plan for great moon photos. While full moons are alluring, try your hand at the other phases, too.

Feel free to share your photos of the moon with the dPS community in the comments below.


The post When is the Best Time to Photograph the Moon? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

An Interesting Subject Does Not Make An Interesting Photograph

Sun, 06/09/2019 - 15:00

The post An Interesting Subject Does Not Make An Interesting Photograph appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Many beginner photographers, and some more experienced ones, fall into the trap of thinking a good subject will make a good photo. It’s not true. I’ve seen loads of terrible photos of fabulous subjects.

A good photographer makes good photos, no matter what the subject. I like how British photographer Martin Parr describes his work. He says his aim is to make the ordinary look extraordinary.

The late afternoon light makes this landscape more interesting. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

To make the best photo, whether or not your subject is impressive, you need to:

Achieving all these five aspects of interesting photographs in a single frame is challenging. It takes skill, practice, and patience.

Being mindful of these pillars of good photography will lead you away from the snapshot trap when you see something interesting. Learning to keep these things in mind, you will gradually improve and be able to make the most mundane object look great when you photograph it.

Without the interesting cloud formation, this landscape would be rather dull. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Master your camera technique

Confidence in managing your camera is essential. Using your camera without understanding much of how it works will frustrate your creative growth. Learning what each of the main settings does on your camera is not difficult.

Control of the exposure is made using the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings. Focus is either automatic or manual. None of these are hard to master when you put your mind to it and spend some time practicing. Figuring out what part of your composition needs to be exposed well and where the focus point needs to be are part of your creative choice.

Mastering the basic technical aspects of using your camera will free you up to become more creative with your photography.

Careful exposure makes this winter tree more interesting. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Press your shutter at the right time

Choose the optimum moment to take your photo. Consider the action happening in front of you. Look at the colors as they change when the sun is rising and setting. Watch a flower blooming in your garden. Each instance you take a photo, make sure it’s the optimum one.

What determines the decisive moment for when you take a photo depends on many things. Each circumstance is different, so it’s important for you to observe what’s happening carefully.

Sometimes you’ll need to respond quickly. Other times you’d best be patient and wait, or come back another time. This is so for landscape and architecture photography where the right light and weather conditions are so vital.

Anticipating when the best time is will help you nail it more often. Think about what will happen next. What is the sequence of events that will unfold? How are clouds moving in the sky? Will they cover the sun before it sets?

In situations where you have some control over your subject and the action, timing is not so difficult to predict. You can ask the model to flick her hair back on the count of three. You could ask your kids to run and jump over the sleeping dog and be ready for them.

Timing is one of the key elements which influence good photos. Each picture you take is a short moment in time. Making sure you capture the right moment can often make or break your photographs.

The day I took this photo it was raining – all day. The sun came out in the evening and it was worth waiting for. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Craft your compositions

Relying on your subject to make your photo interesting means you may not compose it well. Don’t just plonk it central in your viewfinder, focus and click. Everyone with a camera can do that.

Move around. Look for a better background without distractions. Take a little time to think through some rules of composition. Are there strong lines you could incorporate? Will using the rule of thirds make the photo stronger? What else is in the frame and is it relevant to your photo?

Use different focal length lenses to incorporate more or less background. With a wide lens, you’ll see more background. Using a longer lens will cut more of the background and help isolate your subject. Longer lenses also give the impression of compressed distance where wide lenses do the opposite.

Lots of the best street photography looks as if it’s been made in a hurry. People rushing past, glancing at the camera. Or absorbed in what they are doing. Mostly these photos are not snapshots. The photographer has planned well and anticipated the action. Then waited.

Action is more easily caught and composed well when patience and observation are applied.

The whole dam was interesting, but it was too hard to find an interesting angle for the whole structure, so I cropped in tight. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Lighting for feeling

Hard light or soft light will create different moods.

Strong contrast when you have hard light is more dramatic. If you want a softer, more romantic feeling, hard light is not the best. Even with an interesting subject, such as a newborn baby or a flower, harsh lighting will not provide a gentle feeling in your photograph.

Matching the lighting to the mood you wish to create in your photograph will make the photo feel right. There are no fixed rules. You must decide for yourself with each photo. This is part of your creative expression as a photographer.

Think about the direction the light’s coming from. It is hard or soft? How is it affecting your subject? Is there too much shadow or contrast for the mood you want?

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Connect with your subject

No matter what you choose to photograph, the more you connect with your subject the better photos you will make of it.

I always thought this applied only to people, and maybe animals. I’ve changed my perspective, and now think it can apply to anything you photograph.

I love flowers. My wife loves them more and loves to grow them. She takes much better photographs of flowers than I do because she has that passion. It shows in her pictures.

If you love the location you live in, or maybe where you grew up, you will photograph it more intimately than a stranger to it probably will.

How you connect with people you’re photographing will certainly make a huge difference in your photos.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan


Take your time. Be more observant. When you find your next alluring subject, consider how you can make the best photo of it. Don’t rely on its interest value alone.

Travel photography is prone to snap-shooting. When you travel, you always see new and interesting things to photograph. This is part of what makes travel so interesting. I often encourage people who take our photography workshops not to be travel snapshooters.

Ansel Adams said, “The most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.” Think about your subject and how you can treat it.

Remember, it’s the photographer who makes the picture interesting, not the subject.


The post An Interesting Subject Does Not Make An Interesting Photograph appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Landscape Photography Accessories You Need to Own

Sun, 06/09/2019 - 10:00

The post Landscape Photography Accessories You Need to Own appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

Every photo genre has its arsenal of accessories. Portrait photographers choose light modifiers; macro photographers have extension tubes and sports photographers walk with monopods to support heavy telephoto lenses out in the field. Similarly, landscape photographers pack a few accessories to help them work with the natural environment, time of day and elements to maximize their time. Here are a few key accessories that you will want to leave in your camera bag.

1. Filters (Polariser, ND, GND, UV)

Filters are a great way to shape your available natural light and there are many different kinds. The most common ones used for landscape are the polarizer and the graduated neutral density filters.

Polarizer / Circular Polarizing filter (CPL)

Some landscape photographers never leave home without this accessory. The major pros of CPLs include the way they enhance your colors (think blue skies) and also cut glare/reflection. In contrast, there are situations when you will not want to use a polarizer.

Adding a polarizer to the previous scene cuts the glare on the water and enhances the colors of the ocean

Neutral Density (ND)

This filter is basically a darkened piece of resin/glass that reduces the amount of light that enters your lens. Furthermore, in a proper ND filter, the color of the light is not affected (neutral). It is most useful in bright conditions, where you want to use a longer/lower shutter speed or wider aperture. ND filters come in different increments, which vary the amount of light that you block.

Graduated Neutral Density (GND)

Also known as a split neutral-density filter, GNDs selectively transmit light. Therefore it is essentially an ND where only part of the filter is darker, which allows you to reduce the brightness in part of your image. As a result, it is particularly useful in a contrasty scene with a bright sky.

A Graduated Neutral Density filter helps balance the sky

Ultraviolet (UV)/Haze/Clear

While these filters do little to affect your image, their main purpose is to protect the front element of the lens from dust and scratches. That being said, compromising on the quality of a UV filter may degrade the quality of your images. The best reason to add a UV filter would be for lenses that need a filter in place to complete its weather sealing.

2. Remote shutter/Intervalometer

So by now, you know that when capturing an image, minimizing vibrations goes a long way towards the eventual sharpness. It is one of the reasons that most cameras have a built-in delayed shutter function (usually 2 or 10 seconds). A remote shutter release gives you even more control over this functionality and comes in wireless/wired options. Some remote shutter releases (or cable releases) have basic or expanded options.

One of these options, available in advanced remote shutters, is interval timing. An interval timer (interval meter or intervalometer) gives you the option of automatically taking images at preset intervals for a defined period. Hence the intervals can be small (seconds) or long (hours). This feature allows you to capture light as it changes over a period of time and is more commonly known as time-lapse photography. Consequently, the lines between advanced remote shutter controls and intervalometers became blurred over the years, as each now has similar functions. Most of the recent ones are now easier to use as they are integrated into phone apps.

Fun with an Interval Timer

Some camera models come with built-in interval timers. If your camera already has this, you need an intervalometer only when the more advanced features are required. This includes setting the timer to wait more than 10 seconds before shooting or more time options before/between each image. Another good reason is if you want to tweak your settings between your images. When using the built-in function, the interval timer locks your camera for too long before you can make adjustments.

3. Rain protection

Even if you have a weather-sealed camera, large amounts of water can still damage it. As a landscape photographer, you have to be prepared for weather changes. Alternatively, it may be your choice to shoot in the rain or snow. If either is the case, you are better off playing it safe and protecting your camera body, lenses and any connected electronic accessories.

Protection can be a simple or expensive solution, which ranges from shower caps or plastic/garbage bags with holes cut out or a purchase option. Camera rain protection (ponchos, sleeves, jackets, raincoats) are all variations of customized plastic solutions, tailored for shooting easier in inclement weather. Therefore, they are usually heavy duty or thin enough to maintain access to your controls, but more durable than your everyday plastic bags.

A Neutral Density filter allows you to shoot longer exposures during the day.

Ponchos/Sleeves are thicker plastic capes that fit snugly over your camera and usually have a drawstring to securely cover the lens body. Jackets are made from a similar weatherproof material as raincoats, which are usually more breathable material. These have cinch straps for medium and larger sizes and slip on and off quite easily. Thus jackets and raincoats for your camera are more durable (and pricier) than ponchos and sleeves. Whichever solution works for you, most take up very little space and should own a place in your camera bag.

4. Flashlight

Considered an essential pack for night photographers, this small tool comes in handy when you least expect, so keep one in your bag. If you are a sunset chaser, a small reminder that night follows closely. A flashlight can be useful to do a quick sweep of the area to ensure you do not leave anything behind. Furthermore, if you are a night shooter, these come in handy to focus or light paint a subject in the dark.

Pro Tip: Choose a tough and lightweight flashlight and store it in an easy to reach outer pocket of your camera bag.

5. Tripod feet

Chances are you already know the importance of having a good tripod. In some conditions, such as mud, snow, uneven terrain or wet sand, adding tripod feet elevates your stability. Additionally, you can buy a one fit for all, although most of the top-rated tripods customize their tripod feet by terrain.


Some of the accessories you take with you can make the difference between a successful expedition and an average one. Choose what you pack wisely or customize it based on location. Either way, some accessories should just be part of your everyday bag, just in case.

Which accessories do you always have with you?

The post Landscape Photography Accessories You Need to Own appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

Food Photography – When to Use Natural Light (and When Not To)

Sat, 06/08/2019 - 15:00

The post Food Photography – When to Use Natural Light (and When Not To) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Food photographers, professionals and amateurs alike, know that natural lighting is among the best tools to take drool-worthy photos. However, there’s a time and a place to use natural lighting, and times when you won’t want to. In this article, we’ll discuss what natural lighting is and how it affects your photos – for better or for worse.

What is natural lighting?

Simply put, natural lighting is light produced by the sun. Another related term is ambient light, which refers to the available light in an environment. Ambient light could also be considered natural light if the photographer’s equipment is not producing it. In most parts of the world, natural light is abundant and can be used at no charge. This is one of many reasons why it is preferred by many photographers.

Two types of natural lighting

Generally speaking, there are two different kinds of natural lighting that you might want to utilize for photography. If you plan to utilize natural light for photography, it’s wise to learn about the different patterns of sunlight. Depending on where you live, you might have more of one than the other. You may have to adjust your style accordingly.

Direct light

Direct sunlight that results in a look with harsher shadows.

A cloudless environment with full sunlight in the middle of the day produces direct light. This light is very intense, resulting in high contrast and very sharp shadows. The color of the light will vary depending on the time of day. In midday, it will be a neutral white color and a warmer tone of gold in the late afternoon. Depending on your photography style, you may prefer direct light if you wish to emphasize dramatic shadows and high contrast.

Diffused light

In a cloudy or overcast environment, natural light will appear diffused. This results in a soft, low contrast look with little to no shadows. Most photographers tend to prefer this lighting as you can make just about anything look good with it. If you have lots of direct light, you can also turn it into diffused light by using something like a shoot-through reflector.

Natural sunlight that has been softened with a diffuser.

What about artificial lighting?

The opposite of natural lighting, artificial lighting is produced by gear such as speed lights or strobes. If the idea of flash photography intimidates you, consider this. Most forms of artificial lighting strive to recreate natural lighting. For example, a bare flash with no diffuser is akin to direct light, while a flash with a softbox results in diffused light. Even if you plan to use artificial light, it helps to understand natural light and how it affects your creative style.

Natural light or artificial light? This is natural…

…this is artificial light. It adds some dimension to the background but isn’t drastically different than the naturally lit image.

When to use natural light for food photography

Before determining what kind of lighting to use, consider your intended creative output. Do you want food photos with punchy colors and clearly defined shadows? If so, you want direct light and a cloudless, full-sun day is what you want. But if you want soft, diffused light for an evenly lit photo, a cloudy day will suit you best (or a sunny day with a reflector).

After you figure out your preferred creative style, take a look a the weather. You may have to plan your photo shoot around weather patterns if you want a particular quality of natural light. Alternatively, you’ll have to bring extra gear with you to compensate for it.

Food photographed in natural light during the daytime, when the light is neutral in color.

When you may not want to use natural light

There are two times of the day when natural lighting may not be your best friend. Those are the blue hour and golden hours of the day. These times of day are cherished by landscape photographers as they provide the most dramatic lighting in the sky. However, this may not be ideal for food photography. That’s because both blue and golden hours emit different colored light. A dish shot at blue hour may have more blue tinges to it, while the golden hour will cast it in a warmer tone. Some of this can be fixed in post-production, but most food photographers prefer shooting with neutral daylight so that the food retains its natural color.

Food photographed in natural light during blue hour, just after sunset. Natural light at this time of day distorts colors all around. Great for landscapes, not for food.

In Conclusion

Generally speaking, using natural light is the simplest solution for photographers. It’s rather straightforward to use natural lighting, although adding tools to your kit such as reflectors and diffusers will help you take it to the next level. Also helpful is a general knowledge of lighting patterns throughout the day so that you don’t end up planning a natural light shoot during golden or blue hours (unless you want that colored light!).

What do you think? Are you a natural light photographer, or do you prefer artificial light? Let me know in the comments below!

The post Food Photography – When to Use Natural Light (and When Not To) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year Disqualified Due to Image Manipulation

Sat, 06/08/2019 - 10:00

The post Wildlife Photographer of the Year Disqualified Due to Image Manipulation appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Africa Geographic announced its 2019 Photographer of the Year title, awarded for a dark, captivating close-up of an elephant.

Just days later, the image was disqualified and the Photographer of the Year title revoked.

In a statement that’s become more and more familiar in past years, Africa Geographic explained that “post-production work by the photographer resulted in certain tears in the ears of the elephant not being accurately reflected.” This violated one of the Photographer of the Year entry rules:

“Entries should be a faithful representation of the original scene. Localized adjustments should be used appropriately. The objective is to remain faithful to the original experience, and to never deceive the viewer or misrepresent the reality.”

Africa Geographic provided another, unedited version of the same elephant:

Note the holes and rips on the elephant’s left ear.

The CEO of Africa Geographic went on to say: “We are gutted to have missed this detail about the rips in [the elephant’s] ears…That said, we will take this on the chin and improve our systems going forward.”

When asked about the image, the winning photographer claimed that the violation was unintentional (that it accidentally occurred when he was “cleaning up the image,”) and the contest judges have accepted this explanation.

This brings to mind a few questions:

First, how unintentional was this violation? Looking at the disqualified photo, I have trouble believing that the photographer removed the holes and rips in the elephant’s ears by accident. Did the photographer not realize that such post-processing violated the contest rules?

What are your thoughts? Did the winning photographer know that they broke the rules?

And the second big question:

Should this type of editing be allowed? 

This is a much more difficult question, one that comes down to our values as photographers. Personally, I lean toward prohibiting this type of editing. There’s something important about showing an animal as it truly is, including all the hardships it’s faced, which I think the rips and tears in the elephant’s ears exemplify.

But I’d love to have your input:

What are your values when it comes to editing nature photography? What should be allowed in nature photography contests?

The post Wildlife Photographer of the Year Disqualified Due to Image Manipulation appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Fog

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 15:00

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is FOG!

Sydney Herron

Go out and capture open plains, forests, mountains, bridges, or animals. Just be sure there is a beautiful mist/fog around it! 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!

Lukas Neasi

Image by © Jaymes Dempsey

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

Tips for Shooting FOG

4 Tips for Photographing Fog to Create Mystical Images

Tips for How to Enhance the Mood in Your Foggy Photos

How to Make Use of Foggy Surfaces for Abstract Photography

How to Use a Black and White Filter to Improve Your Photos

4 Key Elements to Help You Create Stronger Landscape Photography


Weekly Photography Challenge – FOG

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 #DPSfog 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 – Fog appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

How to Make a DIY Photography Softbox [video]

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 10:00

The post How to Make a DIY Photography Softbox [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this video by DIY FixMan, you’ll learn a cool, easy way to make a DIY photography softbox!

Materials and tools

What you will need to make your own DIY Photography Softbox:

  • A lamp
  • A cardboard box
  • Knife
  • Hot glue
  • Aluminum foil
  • Spray Paint (optional)
  • an hour of your time
Steps to making your DIY Photography Softbox
  1. Cut out your cardboard to a size that will fit your lamp.
  2. Ensure you cut the angles of the sides so they are the same so that they will piece together.
  3. Get your foil and cut it to the size of your cardboard pieces (use your cardboard as a template to trace around.
  4. Attach your foil to the individual pieces of cardboard. Masking tape works fine for this.
  5. Attach one of the longest sides to a short side using the hot glue gun. Then attach the other sides – holding in place until set.
  6. Once set, take your lightbox frame to a well-ventilated area and use your spray paint to paint it.
  7. Once dry, fix in your long lamp.
  8. Attach to a stand using a bracket.

Editors Note: You could also cut a piece of white material and attach it to the front of the softbox with velcro so you can diffuse the light.


You may also find the following helpful:


The post How to Make a DIY Photography Softbox [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Your Guide to Studio Lighting Equipment

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 15:00

The post Your Guide to Studio Lighting Equipment appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

There’s a lot of studio equipment to get familiar with and with it, a lot of terms to learn.

If you’re new to studio lighting, it is easy to get intimidated by the amount of stuff you have to learn. The jargon alone is enough to make your head spin. Fortunately, none of the things you need to be successful in the studio are particularly complicated, there is just a lot of it. The purpose of this article is to serve as a primer to introduce you to some of the most basic studio lighting equipment, and terms you will need to navigate a photography studio.

This is not a comprehensive list, and with new tools and techniques being invented all the time, it could never be.

A little warning: Some of these terms are used differently by different photographers. Others get interchanged with one another. While it can be confusing at times, it’s not necessarily wrong. However, it is useful to know about when you hear someone refer to a flag as a gobo or refer to ambient light as continuous light.

Types of light

Strobe – A studio strobe is a dedicated flash unit. They can sometimes be referred to as a monobloc or monolight. Usually mains powered, more battery-powered offerings are being brought onto the market all the time. Power output between models can vary greatly, with cheaper strobes offering as much power as a cheap third-party flashgun.

Strobes are powerful flash units that pretty much dominate studio photography.

Continuous light/HotlightContinuous lights serve the same lighting functions as strobes, but they don’t flash. Instead, they are high-powered lamps that can usually be fitted with modifiers in the same way as strobes. While mostly associated with video, continuous lights still have their place in stills photography. There are a lot of LED lights coming onto the market at the moment, and many of them are viable options.

The hotlight moniker comes from the fact that they tend to get very hot. Be careful with modifiers that sit close to the bulb as they present a fire hazard. This does not apply to LED lights.

Flashgun/speedlightFlashguns are any small light with a hot shoe mount for placing on top of your camera. They are highly portable, and some come with reasonably high power outputs. Although their versatility is ultimately limited to their size and power output, they are still an extremely useful tool for any photographer interested in off-camera lighting.

Flashguns are small but competent light sources that are invaluable for portable studios.

Light functions

Key light – Your key light is the main light with which you are shaping your subject. This will usually be the brightest and most prominent light in your scene.

Fill Light – A fill light reduces the intensity of shadows created by your key light, thereby decreasing the overall contrast in your scene.

Rim light/backlightRim lights light your subject from behind to help separate them from the background. Often, rim lights are positioned so that only a sliver of light is visible on the sides of your subject.

Background light – As it says on the tin: background lights light the background.

Hair light – Hair lights are used to add emphasis to your subject’s hair. They can also be used to help bring up the exposure of your subject’s head if it is blending into the background.

Ambient light – This is any light that is present before the addition of any other lighting sources. This could be from lights in the room or daylight from a window or outside.


UmbrellasUmbrellas usually come in silver or white and can be attached to your strobe via a mount. By firing the strobe into the umbrella (which reflects the light back to your subject), you are creating a much larger light source which creates a softer light. Although mostly directional, umbrellas can have a lot of spill, and they aren’t the easiest modifier to control.

Umbrellas are your most basic modifier. They are good for soft, diffused light, but they are hard to control.

Translucent Umbrellas/Shoot-thru UmbrellasTranslucent umbrellas don’t reflect light, but are instead made of diffusion material which you aim the light through. This softens the light, much in the way of other modifiers, but without the benefit of directionality.

Translucent umbrellas also provide soft light, but they aren’t as directional as softboxes.

SoftboxesSoftboxes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Once attached to your light, a softbox acts to shape and soften the light so that it is more flattering. Softboxes also tend to be quite directional, and they are easy to control and further modify.

Softboxes are the workhorse of the photographic studio, and they come in all shapes and sizes.

Strip boxesStrip boxes are softboxes, but they are long narrow rectangles that produce a much narrower beam of light. These are great for lighting a subject from behind for a rim lighting effect.

Striplights are a useful type of softbox that offer very directional light.

Octaboxes – Also a type of softbox, an octabox is octagonal in shape. The rounder light source is useful for shaping the light for portraits. Octaboxes also tend to be quite large, making them an ideal modifier for portraits.

Reflectors (the modifier kind) – The reflector is a modifier that goes directly on your strobe. They channel the light in a specific angle for very directional light. They are also a very hard light source. Most are designed to take a variety of grids.

Reflectors, like this 110-degree reflector, provide a very directional and very hard light source.

Snoots – Snoots are modifiers that are designed to focus your light in a very narrow beam. They are great for both hair lights and background lights.

Snoots direct your light into a very tight and controlled beam.

Barn doors – Barn doors are fitted with two to four flaps for you to manually adjust the aperture the light is let through. These flaps can help you narrow the focus of your light on a specific aspect of your subject (such as their hair), or they can be used to flag the light from hitting a spot that you don’t want it to.

Beauty dishBeauty dishes are directional modifiers that are somewhere in between soft and hard light. They are great for beauty photography (hence the name) as well as fashion and portraiture altogether. They often come with grids and diffusion socks to give you even more options in how to use them.

Beauty dishes offer a contrasty light somewhere between hard and soft.

Grids/HoneycombsGrids are modifiers for your modifiers. Placed on a reflector, or softbox, or beauty dish, they narrow the beam of light further and help to ensure that the light is only falling on your subject (or where you want it to).

Grids help you to further modify the directionality of your light.

Gobo – A gobo is placed in front of a light source to change the shape of the light. This can be as simple as narrowing the beam and be as complicated as creating complex patterns. The easiest way to explain this is to imagine a Venetian blind with light streaming through. Now imagine the pattern on the wall. The blind is acting as an effective gobo and shaping the light.

CTO Gels – Color correction gels are used when you need to correct the color temperature of a given light. For example, if you have a gridded beauty dish that is particularly warm (like mine), and you want to use another light as a hair light, that second light might be very cool compared to your key light. By placing an orange CTO gel on your hair light, you can match and balance the color output of both lights.

Color Gels – You can also use gels towards a creative end. You can gel your lights to produce just about any color that you want to.

Reflectors (the reflective kind) – Reflectors are an important part of any studio kit. These allow you to reflect light from your key light back onto your subject. They are a means of creating a fill light without using a second dedicated light source. Reflectors come in many shapes and sizes, from the ubiquitous 5-in-1 reflectors to fancy tri-flectors sometimes used in beauty portraits.

Reflectors and diffusers are two vital tools when it comes to shaping and controlling your light in the studio. Also shown here is a reflector stand.

Diffuser/Scrim – A diffuser is a piece of translucent material that you place in front of a light source to alter the shape of the light or to reduce the intensity of the light. Some diffusers do both.

FlagsFlags are used to block (or flag) light from falling in your scene where you don’t want it to. You can use them to stop excess light falling on your background, or you can use them to reduce the exposure on the parts of your subject that aren’t the focal point. For example, sometimes, I like to use flags to help underexpose everything from the neck down in close portraits. This helps to ensure that the face is the main focus of the image.

Studio accessories

Light stands – Simply a stand to hold your light source. Ensure you have one that can hold the weight of your light. A high-powered, dedicated strobe requires a lot more support than a speedlight.

This image shows a boom arm attached to a lighting stand on a dolly. It’s a fantastic and versatile bit of kit.

Dolly – A light stand with wheels. Most useful.

Boom arm – A boom arm is a light stand that you can position at any angle between completely vertical and completely horizontal. These are useful to get your lights high up and also to place your light at angles a traditional light stand wouldn’t be able to manage. You can mount different varieties of boom arms to other light stands as well as permanent fixtures like walls.

Reflector Stand – A dedicated stand designed to hold a reflector in place.

Background/backdrop – A backdrop is any surface that you place your subject in front of. These range from paper and vinyl rolls to bare or decorated walls to pieces of painted canvas.

This image shows a painted canvas background. At the top of the frame, you can just see grey and white vinyl rolls on a motorized support system.

Background stand/support – Any support system designed to hold a backdrop in place. These can be free standing or wall mounted.

Clamps – Clamps and other fastening devices come in all shapes. You can (and should) use these to hold all manner of things in place. Backgrounds, flags, reflectors, gels, and many, many other things need to be held in place. For example, bulldog clips are indispensable for holding canvas backdrops up, whilst double-headed clamps can affix to a table and hold a flag or reflector.

This image shows a selection of clamps and clips that will you always find a use for in the studio. The double-headed clamp is holding up a piece of black foam core for use as a flag.

Rails – In bigger studios, you might see lights fixed to fittings on the walls and ceiling. These rails allow you to move your light relatively freely around a space without the hassle of a light stand.

They also help to keep cords out of the way of you and your subjects.


Quality of Light – Quality in this instance refers to the physical characteristics of light. These include shape, intensity, and color.

Lighting pattern – A lighting pattern is a specific technique in which a light is placed in a prescribed manner for predictable and established results. Examples of these include butterfly lighting, Rembrandt lighting, and split lighting.

PC Sync Socket/Cable – The PC sync is a means to connect your camera to a flash with a cable. You can use this option in lieu of triggers.

Triggers – Triggers are devices that allow a camera to communicate with your lights and ensure that your flashes fire while the shutter is open. These range from very basic models with just one function, to complex devices that allow for full control over the settings of multiple lights.

Triggers allow your camera to communicate with your flash so that they work in sync with one another.

Slave mode – In slave mode, a flash will detect the light from another flash via a sensor and fire. This is great in situations where you have multiple lights, but only one basic trigger.

Mount – A mount is the means in which a modifier is attached to a strobe. A lot of lighting manufacturers have their own proprietary mounts associated with their systems (Bowens, Profoto, Elinchrom, etc.) So you will need to ensure that any modifier that you buy will fit the system that you own.

This is the shape of the commonplace Bowens S-mount.

Modeling light – Many strobes come fitted with two bulbs. One is a flashbulb, where your strobe light comes from, and the other is a modeling bulb that is on whenever the strobe is not flashing. This makes it easy for you to see what the light is doing to your subject. As a bonus, if you’ve cut out all ambient light (like you should in a studio environment), modeling lights give you the ability to see.

That’s a start

While this list is not, and can never be, a complete list of studio lighting equipment, it should serve as a decent primer to get you started in the world of studio photography. If you feel that I’ve missed something important, please add it in the comments below.


The post Your Guide to Studio Lighting Equipment appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color PURPLE and its use in Photography

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 10:00

The post Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color PURPLE and its use in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Purple has had a long history in visual arts. From prehistoric to modern artworks, purple has come to represent aspects of religion, royalty and status. In this article, we’ll look back on the history of the color purple, its evolution and its impact in the context of modern visual art.

The psychology of purple

In the traditional color wheel used by artists, violet and purple are placed between red and blue. Purple takes up the space closer to red, between crimson and violet. Violet is positioned closer to blue.  Despite this, both violet and purple are often placed under the one heading of purple, sharing psychological associations.

As an intermediary between red and blue, purple tempers the extremes of both. Like blue, purple has a soothing effect, cultivating introspection and calm. Like red, purple also generates a visual vibration, stimulating creativity and passion. Lighter purples are considered light-hearted. Darker shades of purple are associated with wisdom and intellect.

Over history, the limited resources and arduous processes needed to obtain rich purples made it an expensive luxury. For this reason, the color purple came to be associated with status, royalty and wealth. Perhaps due to it’s uncommon and distinctive presence in nature, purple has also been attributed to exoticism, mystery, and magic.

In Christian tradition, purple is used during lent to signify mourning and majesty, anticipating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Hinduism associates purple with a oneness with God, peace, and wisdom. In China, purple represents spiritual awareness as well as physical and mental healing. Japanese cultures view purple as the color of privilege, wealth, and Japanese aristocracy. In Africa, purple is a symbol of status and wealth, whereas, in Brazil, purple can indicate mourning or death.

The evolution of the color purple Hematite and manganese

Used by Neolithic artists in the form of sticks, or ground and mixed with fat as a paint, hematite and manganese are the oldest pigments used for purple coloring in art. Dated between 16,000 and 25,000 BC, early artists used purple to draw and paint figures and the outlines of their hands on the walls of sites like Pech Merle cave in France. Manganese is still used today by some indigenous Australians as a traditional pigment for coloring the skin during rituals.

Han purple

Despite it’s name, Han purple has been found to occur well before the Han dynasty in China. Created by melting silica with copper and barium at high temperatures, Han purple first appeared on glass beads found at burial sites. The pigment was later used in wall paintings, ceramics, and sculptures, including the terracotta warriors in the tomb of Emperor Qin Shihuangdi in Xi’an. The use of Han purple peaked in the Qin and Han dynasties (221 BC to 220 AD), declining during the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD).

Han purple can fade and decompose over time, particularly when in contact with acids or heat. However, the unique light-absorbing and emitting properties of the pigment generates powerful rays of light in the near-infrared range when exposed to an LED flashlight. This means that even faint traces of the pigment (invisible to the naked eye) can be viewed by conservators and scientists evaluating Han purple and its properties and history.

Tyrian purple

Ranging from a reddish to bluish purple, Tyrian purple became the most renowned shade of purple in history. Citizens of Sidon and Tyre, two cities on the coast of Ancient Phoenicia, (present-day Lebanon), were producing purple dye sourced from the mucous secretions of certain sea snails by the 15th century BC. The process for extracting the color from the snails was both unfortunate for the snail and protracted for the dye-maker as more than 10,000 snails were needed to dye a single cloak.

According to an article in The New York Times, the extricated snails were “…boiled for days in giant lead vats, producing a terrible odor. The snails, though, aren’t purple to begin with. The craftsmen were harvesting chemical precursors from the snails that, through heat and light, were transformed into the valuable dye”.

Tyrian purple was extremely pricey, and purple-dyed textiles became the color of emperors, generals, nobles, politicians, priests and magistrates throughout the Mediterranean.

Although it was used predominantly for dying textiles, Tyrian purple was also used for painting. Tyrian purple has been chemically detected in the Saffron Gatherers, a late bronze age fresco in the Aegean Island of Santorini.

Purple in the middle ages

During the middle ages, artists created purple pigments by mixing red and blue mediums together. For blues, artists sourced blue azurite or lapis-lazuli. For reds, red ochres, cinnabar, madder or minium were used. Artists also mixed woad or indigo dye for blues and cochineal dye for reds. Different mixtures resulted in different intensities and shades. However, many of these materials were prone to fading and many paintings with purple have dulled or changed in color. Jan Gossaert’s painting of a young princess is an example of this – the pattern on the garments of the sitter, now seen as blue, were originally purple in color.


In 1856, 18-year-old British chemistry student, William Henry Perkin, was working on a cure for malaria. During his experiments, he encountered an intriguing residue, the first synthetic aniline dye. Perkin realized the compound could be used to dye fabrics. He soon patented the dye and manufactured it under the name aniline purple and (confusingly) Tyrian purple. The color’s name was later changed to mauve in 1859, reflecting the French name for the purple mallow flower. Chemists called the dye compound mauveine.

Mauve quickly became fashionable. Queen Victoria wore a silk gown dyed with mauveine to the Royal Exhibition of 1862. Perkin developed an industrial process, built a factory, and produced the dye in large quantities. His efforts made purple accessible to anyone, not just the wealthy. However, due to dye’s propensity to fade, the success of mauve faded too, replaced by other synthetic dyes by 1873.

Cobalt violet and manganese violet

The first truly violet pigment was cobalt violet, developed in 1859 by Salvetat. Ranging from deep to pale shades of violet with either a pink or blue hue, the first cobalt violets were composed of cobalt arsenate. The highly toxic compound is now rarely used, replaced today by cobalt ammonium phosphate, cobalt lithium phosphate, and cobalt phosphate.

The only truly lightfast violet pigment with relatively strong color saturation, all alternative light-stable violet pigments are duller in hue. Although in use today, the high price, weak coloring power and toxicity of cobalt violet have limited the pigment’s application.

Also known as permanent violet, Nuremberg violet or mineral violet, manganese violet is believed to have first been discovered by E. Leykauf in 1868. More affordable and less toxic than its predecessor, manganese violet became an economical alternative to cobalt violet in the 1890s and remains in use today.

Love Symbol #2

In 2017, the Pantone Color Institute announced a new shade of purple in honor of the singer Prince. The hue, dubbed Love Symbol #2, is a blue-based purple inspired by Prince’s adoption of the color throughout his career. Laurie Pressman, Vice President of the Pantone Color Institute said: “long associated with the purple family, Love Symbol #2 enables Prince’s unique purple shade to be consistently replicated [while maintaining] the same iconic status as the man himself”.

“Why this particular purple?” asks Pressman. “We are not sure of the exact reason, however, what we do know is that the language of this unique new purple, Love Symbol #2 conveys an aura of mystery, intrigue, and unconventionality, a color that stands apart from all others, something Prince, a performer of distinctive style, certainly did”.

Purple in visual arts Ancient art to realism

The use of manganese and hematite to create purple pigments dates back at to at least 25,000 years BC. Evidence of purple in art has been found at sites such as the remote East Kalimantan province of Borneo and Neolithic sites in France. Much later, during the early stages of the church, variations of purple garments marked the hierarchies of Christian officials (mirroring the practices of pagan traditions). In medieval art, pages of the bible and gospel manuscripts were written in gold lettering on parchment dyed Tyrian purple. In Byzantine-style painting, figures of importance were depicted in purple robes.

Renaissance art saw portrayals of angels and the Virgin Mary garbed in purple. Because Jesus was said to have been clothed in purple by Roman soldiers during the events leading up to his crucifixion, purple also signified suffering, sacrifice, and majesty. The Assumption of the Virgin by Palma Vecchio features Mary dressed in a long purple gown. In Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, God is dressed in a subtle lilac shift.

Purple featured in post-renaissance movements such as baroque and rococo art, academic art and realism. In 1789, French rococo artist, Antoine Callet, depicted Louis XVI in his royal costume, which included a luxuriant panel of purple material. Painted between 1880 and 1890, Wladyslaw Czachorski’s Lady in a Lilac Dress portrays a woman in an opulent lilac gown. The Shepherdess by academic artist William-Adolphe Bouguereau features a cool, purple backdrop, rhyming with the shepherdesses’ own garments. However, as seen in Jean Francois Millet’s The Angelus, realist artists broke away from the depiction of purple as a status symbol, instead using subtle variations of the hue to reflect the harshness of middle and lower class society.

Pre-raphaelite to abstract art

Combining cobalt blue with madder, pre-raphaelite artists like John William Waterhouse painted women in rich purple garb. As seen in Monet’s Grainstack (Sunset)Waterloo Bridge, Blurred Sun and Water Lilies (1919), impressionist painters used purple to delineate both shadow and detail. Purple also played a significant role in post-impressionist art, as seen in A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat.

The symbolism movement saw purple used in increasingly varied applications. In paintings such as Death and Life by Gustav Klimt and The Cyclops by Odilon Redon, purple is used to highlight detail and depth. Fauvism then pushed purple to shocking brilliance. Henri Matisse’s Woman with a Hat sees purple mashed together with a range of colors, creating life and vibrancy. In Woman in a Purple Coat, Matisse exploits purple as a bold separation of subject and environment. Mirroring impressionism, Andre Derain painted shadowy purples, as seen in Charing Cross Bridge, London. And Jean Puy used fluid purples to illustrate Strolling Through Pine Woods.

As seen in Puberty by expressionist Edvard Munch, purple was distorted or exaggerated in ways that matched expressionism’s often hostile or alienated depiction of the modern world. Examples of purple in cubist art include Picasso’s Bowl of Fruit, Violin and Bottle and Claude, Son of Picasso. Abstraction, devoid of recognizable figurative imagery, used degrees of purple to evoke emotional responses in the viewer. Composition 8 (1923) by Vasily Kandinsky, Untitled (1957) by Franz Kline, Black Iris VI by Georgia O’Keeffe and Purple, White and Red 1953 by Mark Rothko are examples of purple’s application in abstract art.

Purple in contemporary art

As color technology evolved, purple became increasingly available to artists. In contemporary art, purple signifies both modernity and history, reflecting the social and cultural connotations of the color through time. Vaporwave, both a musical genre and artistic movement, incorporated the use of purple heavily in its internet-based aesthetic. Constructed of neon and tar, Dan Alva’s You Zig I Zag has roots in pop culture.  Monira Al Qadiri’s sculpture of an iridescent blue and purple oil drill illustrates the industrial processes of the oil industry. And Lori Hersberger makes use of purple in his sculptures and installations, exploring light and the transformative properties of color.

Purple in photography

Although it’s less available than other colors in the urban and natural landscape, purple is a favorite for many photographers. Because of its historically rare beauty, purple is often used to convey the surreal, the modern and the artificial. David LaChapelle utilizes purple to create striking contrasts signaling commodification and modernity. Marilyn Mugot documents the neon-purple landscapes of urban China at night, while Maggie West utilizes the otherworldly properties of purple in her bodies of work. Purple also has a strong presence in the experimental photography of Ellen Carey and in the aura photography of Christina Lonsdale.

Interestingly, colour outside our visible spectrum can be explored photographically. Consisting of longer wavelengths than those of visible light, near-infrared (as opposed to far-infrared, which is in the thermal-imaging territory) is generally invisible to the human eye. However, with infrared film, an infrared filter or a converted camera, photographers can capture near-infrared wavelengths, which, when emitted from different types of foliage, are often rendered as ethereal purple tones. Near-infrared photography can be mimicked in post-production, creating beautifully alien landscapes out of earthly forms.

Purple can also manifest as unwanted purple fringing. Most visible as a purple-colored fringe in the dark edges of a subject adjacent to illumination, purple fringing is usually caused by axial chromatic aberration. Because axial chromatic aberration occurs at its most severe at shorter wavelengths, fringing is rendered in violet. Methods for reducing purple fringing include shooting with a UV filter, avoiding overexposing highlights and not shooting with a wide-open lens in high contrast situations. Purple fringing can also be corrected in post-production.


From its origins in ancient art to its use in contemporary visual practice, purple reflects the visual complexities of life. As a combination of blue and red, purple absorbs attributes from each, inspiring clashes of calm and passion, stillness and visual movement. Due to its rarity in nature, purple has been associated with mystery and exoticism.

Historically difficult to obtain, purple has become a symbol of status, wealth and majesty. Purple’s role in religion has been linked to spirituality and mysticism. And purple’s momentum is believed to inspire both creativity and reflection. With such a diversity in meaning and visual scope, purple’s versatility connects with a wide range of audiences. Evoking emotions based in art and life, purple is a color of intricacy and depth.

We’d love to see your images that make use of the color purple. Feel free to share them in the comments below.


The post Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color PURPLE and its use in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

How Journal Writing Improves Your Photography

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 15:00

The post How Journal Writing Improves Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

The obvious way to improve your photography is to study photography. But once you’ve had some success with the main principals of photography, you’ll be eager to go deeper and learning more photography principals won’t get you there. Rather than piling on more and more knowledge, you first need to go deeper with what you’ve already got.

Use journal writing to pull yourself out of a rut as a photographer.

Journal writing is the best way to go deeper with your photography. Through journal writing you discover what you’re actually struggling with, hone your creative vision, and measure your growth over time.

Great minds throughout history have kept a journal of some sort. A journal is like a laboratory where you can get messy with your thoughts, vision, and creativity. You can work things out in the pages of your journal and bring them to life in the real world.

Journal writing will take you into a deeper creative mindset, helping you do far more with those photography skills you’ve learned. The problem is that many photographers aren’t sure what to write in their journal.

Here are several ways to use your journal to achieve deeper creativity with photography:

1. Don’t worry about writing well

Allow your journal writing to be a complete wreck.

If writing well comes easily for you, then go ahead and write well in your journal. But if writing doesn’t come easily for you, do not try to write well.

You’re not writing for the sake of writing well, you’re writing to stir up your creativity and improve your photography.

“There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen to write.” – William Makepeace Thackeray

2. Write to get out of ruts

As photographers, we find ourselves in a rut every now and then. We become dissatisfied with our photography, our photos don’t excite us anymore, and we begin to hate picking up the camera. If this hasn’t hit you yet, be ready. It seems to come out of nowhere, and can be devastating.

Ruts will cause you to quit unless you figure out how to get out of them. Your journal is the perfect place to do that.

At first, it will be difficult to be honest with yourself as you write. You’re always hiding what you really think from other people, and it’s rare that you actually go deep into your own thought process. But you need to be honest in order to get yourself out of a rut.

I hit a rut a couple of years ago and discovered these things about myself through journal writing:

  • I have no vision
  • Photos I love the most feel raw
  • I wish I could be a kid with a camera again
  • The idea behind a photo is more interesting than the photo itself
  • I’m so awkward when it comes to people
  • Chaotic photo sessions are my favorite
  • Unless I’m working, I don’t pick up my camera anymore
  • The things that used to excite me don’t
  • I don’t know what to say about my photos
  • Do I hate photography?

As negative as many of those thoughts sound, I learned a lot from them.

I learned that I love to explore the world with my camera. There is joy in finding a chaotic scene, looking for patterns, and then bringing some order or beauty to the scene through my photos.

Sometimes you have negative feelings for different reasons than you think. I didn’t actually hate photography, I just had blocks that I didn’t know how to get past. Once I got things out on paper, I could see what was standing in my way.

In the middle of my photography rut, I took a camping trip with friends. I decided to just follow the kids around and join in the play with my camera. Being able to do whatever I want, even exploring crazy ideas, seemed to make all that frustration and hatred of photography melt away.

To me, simple things like kids eating dirt are a joy to photograph. I included the whole door of the trailer to make him look smaller.


I came in close to see that he is covered in mud.


Finally, I pulled back and dropped to a lower angle to make the shoe mat part of the scene.

If there is something that really bugs you about your photography, or you have a vague sense of disappointment in your work, writing in your journal will help you identify your specific frustrations.

3. Track your improvement

If you don’t track your improvement, you will have no idea how you’re doing.

When you’re tracking a goal, it’s better to measure how far you’ve come rather than how far you have left to go. It can be discouraging to look ahead at how far you still have to go, but encouraging to see how far you’ve already come.

Tracking your improvement will help you to understand how far you’ve come on your journey. Many people are discouraged simply because they have no way of seeing how far they’ve come. Write it down so that you can see.

I felt stagnant with my family photo sessions so I began tracking how I felt, what went well, what went wrong and ideas that I had toward improving.

I had in mind Robert Capa’s idea, “if your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” I got as close as I could to that teeter-totter.

4. Clarify your vision

“Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.” – Jonathan Swift

Vision is an aspect of photography that very few people work to develop.

We can see with our eyes and organize our photo according to the rule of thirds, but how do you see things that are invisible? How do you put invisible things in your photo?

Writing in my journal helped me to see the invisible things that I already love to photograph.

Spontaneity, chaos and awkwardness are not things that you can see, though they can be expressed visually. It’s in the fleeting expression that a portrait subject gives, the unpredictable nature of toddlers, even in the ability to push through and photograph a bridezilla well.

Prior to journaling, I had no vision – after journaling (for a few months) I could finally see. My vision is about bringing order and beauty to raw, chaotic scenarios through my photography

You can take your photography to new places and new levels once you have vision. You will gain vision when you write about invisible things and can see them in front of you.

I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to photograph moments like this. But “accidentally falling into the water” is just the sort of awkward moment I’m after. Anything to get out of a rut.


Keep a list of your favourite photography quotes, they’re likely a clue to who you are as a photographer.

On improvement

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“If your pictures are not good enough, you are not close enough.” – Robert Capa

“The eye should learn to listen before it looks.” – Robert Frank

“I don’t just look at the thing itself or at the reality itself; I look around the edges for those little askew moments – kind of like what makes up our lives – those slightly awkward, lovely moments.” – Keith Carter

On portraits

“The most difficult thing for me is a portrait. You have to try and put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!” – Ted Grant

On the camera

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” – Dorothea Lange

“For me, the camera is a sketchbook, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“The camera is an excuse to be someplace you otherwise don’t belong.” – Susan Meiselas

“Don’t pack up your camera until you’ve left the location.” – Joe McNally

On the nature of photography

“I tend to think of the act of photographing, generally speaking, as an adventure. My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been.” – Diane Arbus

“Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies.” – Diane Arbus

“The mission of photography is to explain man to man and each man to himself.” – Edward Steichen

“I realize more and more what it takes to be a really good photographer. You go in over your head, not just up to your neck.” – Dorothea Lange

Your favorite quotes are a clue to who you are as a photographer, and they’ll help you see that you’re not alone in your approach to photography.

A lovely moment.


A slightly awkward, lovely moments.

6. Dream up the future

Dream big in the pages of your journal. While you’re at it, dream too big. After a little while of dreaming too big, you’ll be far more capable of doing those big things you never thought you could before.

You’re already working through frustrations and tracking your progress toward goals. This means that you’re learning to create the process that helps you achieve those (too) big dreams.

Maybe you’ve got this wild idea of taking a long trip and documenting your journey. You’ve got yourself fired up within the pages of your journal. But is it realistic in real life? Probably not. Can you afford it? Can you handle it? Not likely.

Go ahead and feel the frustration of dreaming too big, and having that dream start to fade away. Feel it until you realize it as a deep frustration. Now work through that frustration in your journal. Fight your way to make it real.

Thanks to my journal, I almost signed the lease on an expensive studio space. But backed out at the last minute. I had dreamed a little too big.

However, I’ve grown a lot as a photographer since then. I kept working through my frustrations and weak points. One of the problems was that I didn’t have a proper vision for the studio. So I’ve been refining my vision and building a community of amateurs and professionals whom I will share my studio with. I’m building something now that will already be alive and ready for a studio.

I dreamed too big. But now I’m quickly growing into that dream thanks to my journal.

7. Don’t write at all

Your journal isn’t only for words – put sketches in it too. Even if you can’t do it well, a basic sketch can help capture an idea you have for a photo. Don’t be concerned about buying proper pencils and a sketch pad. Just cram everything in your journal.

You might even consider printing your “sketch photos” to put in your journal. Sketch photos are the photos you take on the way to capturing your final image. Sketch photos are a way of photographing a scene in a variety of ways, making subtle changes until you get your photo just right. Sometimes the process takes a few minutes, but it could take months or years.

The perfect journal

Many people will avoid writing until they find the perfect journal. They’re waiting to find a journal that inspires them to write. Perhaps a hand-crafted, leather-bound journal with beautifully textured paper. After purchasing such an exquisite journal, they’re still not able to write. Don’t let this be you. You don’t need a nice journal, you just need to get your thoughts out (get the nice journal later on).

You don’t need to feel good to journal. In fact, journaling when you feel miserable may be more helpful. Get it out and written down. Confront it, and begin to grow as a photographer.

The perfect journal is messy, full, and always in use. And it will help you to become a better photographer.

The post How Journal Writing Improves Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

What is the Purpose of Your Photography?

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 10:00

The post What is the Purpose of Your Photography? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

What is the purpose of your photography? Having a good answer to that question, a predetermined purpose, and can help you improve your photography.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

For professional photographers, hopefully the answer will be straight forward. Whether the focus is on commercial, wedding, editorial or any other genre of photography. To provide your clients with the best images you can should be the ideal.

Hobbyists and part-time photographers may find it more difficult to answer the question. Having a clear idea in mind as to why you take photographs helps you develop your skills more succinctly. If the ‘why’ drives you, your photos will be more impactful and memorable to those who see them.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

How having purpose can help you improve

Concentrate on a goal, and you are more likely to get somewhere. Taking photos and having no real purpose for them can lead to discouragement or, at best, very slow growth.

Setting yourself goals to attain, and even a time frame to work in, will stimulate your imagination. When you have an objective, you will think differently about what you now want to achieve. Ambling along will no longer be so satisfying.

Learning will become more a part of your photography experience unless you’ve set your sights too low. Endeavoring to reach your goals should not be too easy. Pushing beyond what you are used to doing will mean you have to pick up some new skills.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Stock photography challenge

Once you know where you are headed, you will discover what you most need to learn to get you there. If, for instance, you decide to sign up with a stock photo agency as a contributor, you’ll need to learn:

  • Which agencies are worth signing up for
  • The agency requirements for photos
  • What style of photos each agency wants
  • How the best contributors make a living from their photography
  • Post-processing skills to meet the quality level

These things may not seem directly related to learning or growing as a photographer. Ask any number of successful stock photographers, and many will tell you they learned so much more of their craft after signing up. Also, good agencies have standards way higher than most casual photographers attain. Learning to reach these standards is a practical way to improve your photography.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Social media attention

Maybe you just want your images to stand out more on Pinterest or Instagram. Whatever your preferred social media platform is, there’s tons of competition. Being motivated to gain more likes and shares is not a bad thing. Especially when it means you have to up your photography skills to do it.

Learning from those who are already high achievers can help. Find some whose photos you admire and study them. You need a concentrated focus on what you want to achieve.  Without it, you can become easily overwhelmed by all the good, (and not so good) photos in your social media feeds.

Set yourself goals. Be realistic about the numbers you want to attain. Focus your attention on discovering what you need to do to accomplish what you want. What camera skills need upgrades to make your photos more attractive?

For example, if your main subject is food or still life learn more about:

  • Simple lighting setups
  • Graphic design within photos
  • Color combinations that work well
  • Lens choice and how it affects your subject

If you photograph people, learn to draw out more interesting responses from them. This is not a camera related skill, but it’s mandatory in taking great portraits.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Part timer – weddings, portraits, etc.

Is your focus is on making some money by selling your services to others? Keep your client’s needs in mind. Don’t be so full of your own ego that you don’t provide them with a service they want.

Have a clear direction you want to head in. This is healthy, but it must include your clients’ requirements first. After all, you are offering them a service, and what good will it be to them if it’s not what they’d hoped for?

You may need to improve your communication skills. Learn to make yourself clearly understood. This is as important as listening carefully to your potential clients.

Again, these are not camera skills, but learning them well will certainly make you a better photographer. Your goal should be to make photos you are happy with and your clients will love. It’s no good just to satisfy yourself.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Photographs for your own enjoyment

Of course, you may enjoy taking photographs for your own pleasure. If you’re not interested in making a little extra cash or sharing on social, having a purpose will still help you.

Setting yourself short, medium, and long term goals will help you grow and achieve more. Even if you’re not willing to share your photos with anyone else, having something to aim for in your picture taking will help build your skills.

Self assignments are a practical means of helping you grow and reach your objectives. Choose a topic that you love or want to learn more about. Pick anything that will hold your interest over a longer period of time.

Plan how long you will make the project and what results you want from it. Remain flexible to lengthen it if you are really enjoying the process and experiencing growth because of it.

As you work on your project, make sure to edit your photos as well. Don’t keep everything. Choose the best and place them in a separate folder. This way you are not looking through all your images, just the ones you like the most.

Study them. Ask yourself why you find these ones better than the others. Compare them. Think about how you can make improvements to your photos and go back to take them again if you can.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan


Build some structure and have purpose for the photographs. Doing this will increase your satisfaction levels. You will experience more steady learning of new skills and improvement of existing ones. You will enjoy using your camera more because you will be taking better photos.

Which of these ideas can you implement to help you have more purpose for the photographs you are making?


The post What is the Purpose of Your Photography? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Gear: AFIDUS ATL-200 Time-Lapse Camera Introduction

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 15:00

The post Gear: AFIDUS ATL-200 Time-Lapse Camera Introduction appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

I don’t know how many of you have looked into long-term time lapse before now, but I’m renovating my house and I scoured the web for a solution that was simple to setup and use, and more economical than the ones I found.

Skip forward a few months and this is something we spotted at NAB this year!

An amazing little time lapse camera that is very big on features, but remains very economical on price – The AFIDUS ATL-200.

I wanted to write up an overview of this product for any of you that might be interested. A Macro Time Lapse of a plant growing, or your house being renovated, the possibilities are mostly limitless…


The camera was pointed out to me by my friend and filmmaker buddy, Lee Herbet. And then it went and won itself NAB Product of the Year! (Congrats!) To me, as a photographer first, what makes this little camera so appealing is its feature set.

Specifications at a glance
  • Full HD Sony Sensor 1080p
  • Optical zoom equiv. of a 16-35mm lens
  • Wifi App controlled
  • IP65 weather resistant
  • System timer
  • Motion Detection
  • Pinch Zoom
  • MP4 Video output
  • Macro function
  • One Touch Autofocus
  • Wild battery life – weeks to months!

(Full spec here)

Features at a glance
  • The lens has a macro capture feature. With the camera inches away from your subject, you can fill the frame with perfect clarity.
  • Sony Exmor IMX sensor with HDR. Select the HDR amount within the app for great contrasts between bright and dark areas of your scene.
  • Built-in PIR motion detection. This is a great feature. Capture animals, traffic, pedestrian movement and more.
  • One tap autofocus with manual tap precision. If focus is off, manual saves the day and there is a focus calibration feature in the app.
  • 16-35mm DSLR equivalent, optical zoom lens. Yes, the lens zoom actually moves within the camera.
  • Full Wi-Fi app control. Press the camera button, connect to it with the Wi-fi signal on your phone and open the app. In seconds, you have complete control of your camera on your phone. IP65, which means dust protected and water splashing will have no effect on the camera. There is no need to purchase an optional housing with the ATL-200.

I was looking around for a solution to capture my home renovation a few months back. While there are a handful of different systems on the market, for me, they were quite cost restrictive. Whereas, the ATL-200 comes in at $389.00, which is much easier on the bank account.

There are a couple of the system’s features that really appeal to me. One is the system timer, which means you can set it up so that it captures your time lapse during the day while the workmen are on-site. It doesn’t fill your card with all the overnight photos where nothing is happening.

The ATL200 has a macro mode, too. So it can do some really creative things (I’m thinking of things like watching little critters in a garden). Also, it’s weather resistant, so just sit it in the dirt and off you go! Alternatively, capture a plant growing, or that sort of thing!

One of the real highlights is that the camera takes regular batteries. A set of four AA batteries will last you 45 Days at the 1-minute interval, 80 days at the 5-minute interval (8 hours a day). This is really quite amazing and great for long term time lapse. No special batteries required, and you can use rechargeable batteries, of course.

Here are a couple of example videos:

While we don’t have our own video made in-house just yet, we’re looking forward to trying the ATL-200 camera on a project very soon! For such a feature set at this price, this could be a really great addition to your content creation toolbox.

Find out the full tech spec and details here.


The post Gear: AFIDUS ATL-200 Time-Lapse Camera Introduction appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

Are Your Photos Safe in the Cloud? The Real Cost of Using these Services

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 10:00

The post Are Your Photos Safe in the Cloud? The Real Cost of Using these Services appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

From professionals to amateurs and hobbyists, to kids just getting started with their first camera, one issue remains constant: how to store photos. If you shoot with your mobile phone, you’ve likely encountered a “Low on storage space” error message at least once. If you use a desktop computer or laptop, there’s a good chance you’ve had to deal with ever-shrinking hard drive space due to an increasing abundance of photos. One option that seems ideal is to use the cloud-based options that have become so prevalent in recent years.

However, if you value data privacy, you might want to think twice before uploading your images to popular online services.

Some are free, but the hidden costs could far outweigh the benefits.

It’s difficult to come up with a perfect answer to the question of whether or not your photos are safe in the cloud because there are so many variables to consider.

I’m going to examine some of the more popular options for photographers. I’ll dive into their Privacy Statements and Terms of Service documents to see what they really do with your pictures.

Hopefully, this will give you the information you need to make an informed decision about where to store your photos.

Cloud storage can be a great option for your images, but make sure you know what you’re agreeing to when you upload your photos.

1. Google Photos

Originally part of the Google+ social platform, Google decoupled this service to operate as a standalone offering in May 2015. Some of its greatest benefits, which also help make it one of the most popular options for photographers, involve storage limits – or lack thereof.

Anyone with a Google account can upload unlimited JPEG files up to 16-megapixels in size, and unlimited videos up to 1080p in resolution.

Google automatically analyzes your photos for people, objects, and locations that you can search for. There are also options such as shared albums and access from a variety of devices that make the service even more attractive. Indeed, Google Photos seems like a no-brainer, and there is a lot to like about it no matter what type of photographer you are. It’s also the default option on most Android phones, so you might be using it unawares.

Google’s algorithms can automatically recognize people, objects, and even pets.

Things start to get a little murky when you dig deeper, though. Google’s Terms of Service is lengthy, but one tidbit that’s worth pondering has to do with the rights you grant to Google when you upload images to Google Photos or store any other data in your Google account:

You give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones.

This means that Google can use any pictures you upload to Google Photos for, among other things, promoting their services and developing new ones.

Google goes on to say that their software analyzes your data, including photos and email, to provide you “tailored advertising” in addition to checking files for viruses and scanning emails for spam.

Don’t be surprised if you upload pictures like this to Google Photos and then start seeing ads for pet stores online.

This gives me pause as a photographer. On the one hand, it’s nice knowing that all my images are automatically scanned and analyzed by Google’s artificial intelligence algorithms. It makes it easier to organize, sort, and search for pictures. But all that information is also being used to tweak the ads I see in my daily online browsing. By providing photographers with free photo storage, Google is also providing itself with billions of data points to help send advertisements to everyone who is using their storage.

Should you be worried?

Google is serious about privacy, and it works hard to limit the ways in which your data is shared with other companies. Its Privacy Policy is pretty clear on how they protect your data from bad actors, but rest assured Google is definitely getting plenty of data from your photos that they use internally. And don’t be surprised if you take photos of your new sneakers, upload them to Google Photos, and then start seeing ads for Nike and Reebok when you surf the web. If that’s fine with you, then go ahead and use Google Photos and enjoy the benefits that come with it.

The sharing options in Google Photos make it easy to share pictures with family and friends.

2. Apple Photos

While not exactly known for social sharing, Apple Photos is used by so many people simply because it’s the default option on most Apple devices, including iPhones. Many people store at least some of their photo library using Apple’s cloud-based offering, even if it’s just to sync with their other devices and not store permanently. In terms of data-mining and analysis, Apple takes a much more locked-down approach than Google, which they explain in their Privacy Policy as well as their Approach to Privacy.

Apple Photos is great for storing snapshots from your iPhone and can be used for DSLR images too.

Apple doesn’t make money from advertising, and all the analysis of your photos is performed on your phone and not in the Cloud, so Apple doesn’t really know what’s in your photos at all.

Whether you’re taking a photo, asking Siri a question, or getting directions, you can do it knowing that Apple doesn’t gather your personal information to sell to advertisers or other organizations.

The Memories and Sharing Suggestions features in the Photos app use on-device intelligence to scan your photos and organize them by faces and places. This photo data is shared between your devices with iCloud Photos enabled.

The downside of Apple Photos is that, unlike Google and other vendors, the free storage option is so minimal it’s almost nonexistent. Everyone with an iCloud account, which you need to use most Apple devices, gets 5GB of storage space for everything, including photos, documents, and other data. That’s not much, and it fills up quickly! Additional storage options are cheap, such as 99 cents/month for 50GB, but that’s a far cry from Google’s unlimited free option.

Apple Photos is convenient and secure, but you’ll run out of room real fast on the free tier.

Should you be worried?

Like Google, Apple is serious about the privacy of your data, but they go a step further in that Apple doesn’t even know what’s in your photo library. They don’t scan or analyze your images in the Cloud, especially not for training their Artificial Intelligence algorithms or selling advertising. However, the tradeoff is that you will run out of room really fast unless you don’t mind spending money on storage space.

3. Amazon Prime Photos

If you pay for Amazon Prime, you automatically have access to unlimited storage of full-resolution photos, plus 5GB of video storage. This can be a huge benefit to photographers of all stripes who want a secure place to store their pictures without worrying about intrusive advertising and data analytics. Amazon also has apps available for desktop and mobile that let you automatically upload your pictures.

If you pay for Amazon Prime, you have unlimited secure storage for photos.

When you upload photos to your Amazon account, they are automatically analyzed for faces, locations, and objects. This can be disabled, but Amazon clearly states that this data is only used for organizing your photos and not given to third parties.

Amazon doesn’t share your photos or any of the data derived from our image recognition features. Labels and data are only used to help you better organize and find photos in your collection.

There are other benefits to using Amazon Prime Photos as well, such as easy-to-use methods of ordering prints and creating albums that can be shared with others. However, as a photographer, you need to know that the Terms of Use specifically forbid you from using Amazon Prime Photos in a commercial capacity:

You may not use the Services to store, transfer, or distribute content of or on behalf of third parties, to operate your own file storage application or service, to operate a photography business or other commercial service, or to resell any part of the Services.

Amazon Prime Photos offers unlimited storage space, but their Terms of Use contains some notable restrictions.

Should you be worried?

Amazon doesn’t make any money off your photos or the metadata contained in your photos, and the security of Amazon’s data centers is as good as anything. If you already pay for Amazon Prime, this option is certainly worth exploring. However, you might want to investigate some of the automatic analysis options to make sure it’s not scanning your images in a way you don’t want.

4. Facebook and Instagram

Facebook owns Instagram and applies the same data policies to both platforms, so what applies to one also applies to the other. It’s so common to take photos and upload them to Facebook and Instagram that, for many people, these have become their de facto storage option for images. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Facebook lets you easily share your pictures and also analyzes them for people and places that can be useful when sorting through your images.

Facebook and Instagram are great for sharing photos. However, any data that can possibly be gleaned from them will likely be used for advertising purposes.

Since these platforms are free, and used by so many people around the world, it can be hugely beneficial for photographers or casual shooters to store their photos in Mark Zuckerberg’s cloud. Things start to get a little hazy when you start to dig through Facebook’s Data Policy.

We collect the content, communications and other information you provide when you use our Products, including when you sign up for an account, create or share content, and message or communicate with others. This can include…the location of a photo or the date a file was created. Our systems automatically process content and communications you and others provide to analyze context and what’s in them.

That’s just the beginning.

The full Data Policy describes dozens of ways in which Facebook scrapes through your photos and the rest of your data. The company makes money from advertising, and it’s clear that they will analyze and evaluate every possible data point in your photos as much as it can to benefit itself.

Facebook won’t share your personal information with advertisers, but upload photos like this and you’ll likely start seeing ads for baby products.

This information is primarily used for advertising and helps Facebook customize the ads and other content you see across its services. However, the degree to which Facebook lets third-parties have access to your information is uncertain. Many recent scandals, such as the Cambridge Analytica data breach, have shown that Facebook clearly has some issues regarding data privacy. However, in recent months, the company has taken a much more aggressive stance on privacy – at least publicly.

Should you be worried?

If privacy and security are your main concerns, I would recommend staying away from Facebook for a lot of photo storage. While things might change in the future, for now, it’s best to assume that your photos are not going to have the same level of privacy as other platforms. You also need to double-check your account settings to make sure that only the people you want to see your photos can view them.

5. Flickr

With its recent acquisition by SmugMug, Flickr has seen a resurgence among photographers. Despite having a limit of 1000 photos for the free tier, it can be a good option if you value quality over quantity. The site has a freemium business model, which means that you can use the basic version for free but pay for more features if you want them. The free tier is supported in part by those who pay for the Pro version, but like a lot of other sites, advertising supports it.

Flickr collects a great deal of information about you and your photos, and its Privacy Policy is certainly worth a look if you want to use the site. They log and store information that you provide them when you sign up for an account, but also a great deal of information in the background too.

We collect information about the computer or mobile device you use to access our Services, including the hardware model, operating system and version, screen resolution, color and depth, device identifiers and mobile network information.

When you upload a photo with geographical data (i.e. from a mobile device) or manually geotag your photo, we collect the location of that photo. With your consent, we collect information about your location if you take a photo within the Flickr mobile application to add to your photo’s metadata.

Like other platforms, Flickr will automatically analyze your photos using its own artificial intelligence.

Flickr also stores and analyzes EXIF data in your pictures such as camera model, focal length, shutter speed, and more. Like Google, they also use image-recognition technology to automatically analyze and tag your photos. This helps in searching through your images, but it can feel a little Orwellian too.

Advertisers get a lot of data from Flickr, and there’s not much you can do to control it. Flickr suggests that you use on-device options such as “Limit Ad Tracking” features on your mobile phone, but that has nothing to do with the wealth of information the company is getting from your photos. Whether you like it or not, your images on Flickr are being used to help Flickr maintain and grow its business.

One interesting element of Flickr that most other platforms don’t have is the ability to change the license on your photos. While this won’t affect privacy or data security settings, it is a good way to help make sure others use your images in a way that you want.

Should you be worried?

Flickr has a better track record compared to Facebook, but just know that your photos will certainly be analyzed for advertising purposes.

Flickr is more widely used for artistic and creative photos as opposed to family, child, and friend photos.

6. Dropbox

As one of the pioneers in mass storage solutions for consumers, Dropbox has become a good option for photographers who want to store and even share their images. Their free option only gives you 2GB of storage, but that’s enough for hundreds or even thousands of photos, depending on the resolution and size. They make money from selling a service, not from advertising, and as a result, your images are about as close to secure and private as you will ever find.

Dropbox offers a range of benefits for privacy-focused photographers.

Their Privacy Policy states that Dropbox collects some basic information such as file size, time/date stamps, and device information but not much more. They don’t really care what files you store on Dropbox so long as they’re not illegal. (And like other services, they have to comply with court orders to hand over files when necessary.)

We collect and use the personal data described above in order to provide you with the Services in a reliable and secure manner. We also collect and use personal data for our legitimate business needs. To the extent we process your personal data for other purposes, we ask for your consent in advance or require that our partners obtain such consent.

We may share information as discussed below, but we won’t sell it to advertisers or other third parties. Dropbox uses certain trusted third parties (for example, providers of customer support and IT services) to help us provide, improve, protect, and promote our Services. These third parties will access your information only to perform tasks on our behalf in compliance with this Privacy Policy, and we’ll remain responsible for their handling of your information per our instructions.

Should you be worried?

Nope. When it comes to data security, Dropbox is one of the best in the business. You can rest assured that nothing in, or about, your photos will be analyzed, tracked, or given to advertisers or other third-parties. You have to pay to move beyond the 2GB free tier, but it’s money well spent if you value data privacy and security.

Dropbox comes with a price if you want more than 2GB, but it can be well worth it depending on your needs.


There’s never going to be a one-size-fits-all option when it comes to cloud storage. Whatever option you choose, if you do want to store your images online, it’s a good idea to read through the relevant privacy and data policies to make sure your images aren’t being used in a way that you don’t want. There are plenty of options I didn’t even touch on here, and if you have a bit of time and technical acumen, you can even create your own cloud storage options using computer hardware at home.

All cloud-based services have benefits and drawbacks. Make sure you find one that fits what you need.

Make sure to do your due diligence when choosing a cloud service provider. If a free option catches your eye, you might want to dig a little deeper to find out just why it’s free and what they are doing with your photos. Also, if you value security and privacy, it might be worth it to spend some money on a solution that really does work for you.


The post Are Your Photos Safe in the Cloud? The Real Cost of Using these Services appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

How to do Abstract Watercolor Photography

Mon, 06/03/2019 - 15:00

The post How to do Abstract Watercolor Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

Less about what it is, more about how it makes you feel is this “watercolors” shot, “Visual Jazz.” © Rick Ohnsman

When you’re ready to make the transition from “snapshooter” to a serious photographer, make photographs rather than simply take pictures, then you’re also ready to begin thinking like an artist.  No longer should you snap a photo to simply record a representation of what you saw.  You will want to begin to think about how to craft your image so that it tells a story, captures the emotion, and involves the viewer in a way that communicates to them.  While the subject and the location still matter, it is also important to consider “how does my image make the viewer feel?”

A Wikipedia article on the famous photographer, Minor White, (July 9, 1908 – June 24, 1976) describes him this way – “An American photographer, theoretician, critic, and educator. He combined an intense interest in how people viewed and understood photographs with a personal vision that was guided by a variety of spiritual and intellectual philosophies.”

I especially like this quote from White –

“One should not only photograph things for what they are but for what else they are.” – Minor White

Water ripple reflections are sometimes distorted, making interesting abstracts. © Rick Ohnsman

Photographing “Watercolors”

The use of the term watercolors in this article is not to describe how you might photograph a watercolor painting nor is it about how to use digital tools and techniques to emulate a watercolor look with your photograph.  Instead, we explore how you can learn to see, and then photograph the interplay of light and water to make interesting, and often abstract, images.  Such images will require you to look harder, quietly observe, study and then decide how you will use your camera to capture the image.  You will want to think about how the scene makes you feel and how you will communicate that to your viewer.

A real benefit of making these kinds of photos is – unlike joining the dozens of photographers who might line up at sunrise at that iconic location and all snap away, essentially all making the same shot – these kinds of images will be uniquely yours.

Every image will be different.  In most cases, you couldn’t replicate the shot even if you tried.

There’s much satisfaction in crafting something that is uniquely your vision and creation.

The qualities of light and water

Yes, it’s a wave, but this photo is all about the patterns, colors, and reflections in the sea and surf. © Rick Ohnsman

You may have heard the origin of the word “photography,” based on the Greek words “phos” for light and “graphé” meaning drawing.  Thus, photography is ‘”drawing with light.”

The light that enters our camera lens is either direct (emitted from a source like the sun, or an artificial light source), or reflected (light bouncing off an object and into our lens).  We study the effect of light, and it’s absence, and use it to define the objects we photograph.

Now add water into the scene.  Water can also reflect the light (and the various colors comprising it).  It can also refract the light – bending, altering, and even splitting it into its component colors.

Light waves are changed as they pass from a less-dense material like air to a more-dense medium like water.  Understanding the physics behind how this works isn’t important.  What you as a photographer, a trained observer, and an artist, want to do is learn how to watch for and then capture the interplay of light and water.

Water exists in all three forms in this shot; liquid, solid, and gas. © Rick Ohnsman

The three properties of water

Okay, hang on, just a little more physics here.

Water exists in three states:

  1. liquid,
  2. solid (ice and snow), and
  3. gas (steam, fog, clouds, mist).

How light behaves when it is reflected off the water in these states or refracted through them will become part of your observation training as photographer and artist.

A long exposure blurs the liquid water, but the ice on the rocks is still, a way to display the static and dynamic qualities of water. © Rick Ohnsman


A long exposure blurs the water of Avalanche Falls in the Flume Gorge of New Hampshire. © Rick Ohnsman

There are always photos to be taken as this cellphone shot of water cascading down the windshield during a trip through the carwash demonstrates. © Rick Ohnsman

Capturing motion

Include the duck for a touch of reality, use the reflection only, or catch a rippled reflection for an abstract, there are many creative possibilities. © Rick Ohnsman

Water dripping down the wall of a building makes for a “realistic-abstract.” © Rick Ohnsman

Something else water can do is move.  From massive ocean waves, flowing rivers, erupting geysers, human-made fountains, tiny dripping drops, swirling fog and mist, snow and rain, in many forms water moves.

Our cameras can freeze that motion with high shutter speeds or flash or blur it with long exposures.  Water and how it behaves gives us tremendous opportunities for creativity with our cameras.

Combining still objects in the photo which don’t move, (think a rocky coastline), with water that does (like the waves) in a long exposure, and you create an exciting image that displays both static and dynamic elements.

There’s the realism of the water lily, but over in the corner of the shot… © Rick Ohnsman

Realistic or abstract?

There are no rules when it comes to how you choose to depict water in your photo.  It might be quite literal like an image of a waterfall.  It could play a “supporting role,” adding story and color to an image.  Or it could be about how the light interacts with the water; liquid, solid, or gas.  Alternatively, maybe it’s totally abstract – all about the shape, form, line, and color with no concern whatsoever to what the subject might be.

The objective here is to become a “student of light,” observing how light and water interact to create interesting scenes to photograph.

… a complete abstract. © Rick Ohnsman

Learning by observing

The rest of this article will be about the photos.  Study how I made each one and the way water, in its various forms, is used in combination with the light to make the image.  I have captioned the photos with additional information about them.  See what you can learn and then go make your own unique images.

Water vapor, or what we call fog, create effects with the light. © Rick Ohnsman

Ice is water in solid form. It reflects, refracts, and alters the light while taking on fantastic forms. © Rick Ohnsman

Reflections on the wet sand make great watercolors. © Rick Ohnsman

It might come in a bottle, but sparkling water is a great way to add bubbles to your watercolors. © Rick Ohnsman

Even where watercolors may not be the main subject, they can play a strong supporting role. © Rick Ohnsman


The post How to do Abstract Watercolor Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

How to Use a Photography Ring Light in Unconventional Ways

Mon, 06/03/2019 - 10:00

The post How to Use a Photography Ring Light in Unconventional Ways appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

With a ton of options on the market, adding a ring light to your kit has never been cheaper.

Continuous photography ring lights seem to be everywhere nowadays. There are dozens of offerings from dozens of companies that you can choose from, and they are popular with photographers, make-up artists, and videographers. The main use of a ring light is on-axis lighting for an even, somewhat flat exposure.

However, what do you do if you don’t like that effect or the distinctive ring-shaped catchlight for that matter? Because these lights are continuous, and because of their size, they have more uses than ring flashes of the past. If you don’t like the straight-on effect, you don’t have to use a ring light in that way.

In normal use, you would place the light directly in front of your subject and shoot through the aperture of the light.

This article demonstrates six uses of a continuous ring light that isn’t their intended use. It will also (hopefully) show you that these relatively cheap and effective lights are useful to have for any photographer in the studio.

Normal use

While not to the taste of many photographers, ring lights can be used to create bold and vibrant images.

If you’re unfamiliar, a ring light is a circular, ring-shaped light with a large aperture designed to be placed directly in front of a subject. You then take your images by positioning your camera through the aperture of the ring.

Traditional ring flashes had the light attached to the camera. This front (on-axis) lighting provides an evenly lit image. This is one of those things that you either love or hate, but photographers who love it tend to really love it.


With the continuous versions of these lights, you have a wealth of options with how to use a ring light. Because the light is always on, you can position it anywhere you want. With a lot of the options on the market, this gives you a high-powered, lightweight and versatile continuous light for around $100.

Because of the brightness of a continuous ring light, your subject’s pupils will be constricted, allowing you to see more of the color in their eyes.

Here’s a bonus if you’ve never used continuous lights before. Because the output is constant, your portrait subject’s pupils get constricted. This means you will see more of the color of their eyes in your photos.


Below are five examples of ways you can use a continuous ring light to great effect without ever using it as a ring light.

1. As a normal light

Placed at a 45-degree angle and angled downwards, these ring lights work well as normal light source.

Despite its circular shape, ring lights are great when used as a normal light. Raise the light and angle it towards your subject to distort the effect the shape of the light has, and you can use it as a small softbox. You’re not limited to how you can light your subject this way, but I’ve found that all of the basic lighting patterns work well.

You are not limited to the shape of the ring. Use flags to block off portions of the light to shape it however you want.

If you have more than one ring light, you can use them together to create just about any two-light setup that you can imagine. If the ones you have have an adjustable output, managing your key to fill ratios should be pretty easy.

2. As a prop

Having your subject pose with the light itself can create some interesting and fun portraits. It can also help to lighten the mood during a session.

If you have an LED ring light, they don’t get very hot. Feel free to have your subject pose with the light itself for some very different images. The results will vary with ring lights of different sizes, and you have to worry about the plug and the cables, but it’s still a fun technique. Though you probably won’t use it very often thanks to its tendency towards uplighting.

3. As ambient fill

Modern ring lights are getting quite powerful and it is more than possible to use them as fill lighting in conjunction with studio flash.

You can mix any continuous light with studio flashes for some interesting effects. By using a strobe as your key light, you can then bring a ring light in for some gentle fill.

A couple of things that you will want to keep in mind is that your strobes are probably way more powerful than your ring light, so set the power accordingly. Also, you will probably want to have a ring light with an adjustable color temperature if you are going to be mixing light sources.

You could also reverse this and use the ring light as key and flash as fill. As before, make sure the power on your strobes goes down that far before committing to this.

4. As a compositional device

Putting the light behind your subject creates an interesting tool for composition. Also, it may just be me, but I love that rim light that it is producing.

In its normal use, I am a fan of creating a composition with the actual ring light framing the subject. I just like it for whatever reason. However, you are not limited to that. You can place the ring light anywhere in your frame for some cool effects. Try placing one behind your subject for a halo effect, or placing one at an angle just inside your frame for a curved band of light running through the composition.

5. Dragging the shutter

When you’re mixing a ring light with studio flash, it opens the door to some interesting techniques like dragging the shutter. Here, flash is acting as fill and the shutter speed is set to 1/15th of a second.

This is similar to using the ring light as ambient fill, but if you use your strobe normally, you can expose for the high-powered strobe and the low-powered ring light by dragging the shutter.

This technique is not for everyone, but it can produce some interesting results.

A little warning: if you’re a technically-minded photographer, you’re probably going to hate this technique, as the results tend to be a little soft. However, it can be used for some striking results. If you do like it, you still have to be careful with controlling the movement of your camera.

You do have to manage any movement in your camera while using this technique. If in doubt, use a tripod.

Because the power output on your flash is not in any way controlled by shutter speed, you can set your shutter speed as slow as you need to make this work. However, you may want to use a tripod for really slow shutter speeds. This technique can provide some cool effects in its own right, but no two attempts are going to be the same.

That’s it

There you have it. That’s six ways that you can use a continuous ring light without ever having to use it as a ring light. Considering how cheap these things are, they are a very useful tool for any photographer who wants to get into off-camera lighting but for some reason is put off by flash.

Do you have other ways that you use a ring light? Please share with us in the comments below.


The post How to Use a Photography Ring Light in Unconventional Ways appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

8 Rules for the Creative Life

Sun, 06/02/2019 - 15:00

The post 8 Rules for the Creative Life appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

The biggest stumbling block for many photographers is not knowing how to be creative. You have some natural talent but never seem to break out and become a satisfied creative person. Thankfully, some rules govern a happy and productive creative life. These rules help you to get control and live out your creativity – even with a busy work schedule, and without sacrificing valuable time with your family.

Here are eight of those rules that will help you thrive as a creative photographer.

Kids have creativity mastered. They may not be very good yet, but they do it all the time. Their life is ordered around exploration and little creative projects. Between the new skills they learn, and the volume of their output, their natural ability increases quickly.

1. Don’t rely on your natural talent

Maybe you’ve got a natural eye for photography, but that’s not enough. You’ll hit a wall some day and not know how to overcome it.

Even with a good eye already, you should keep learning more about what makes for a good photograph. Go ahead and put your own creative spin on what you’re learning. When you work hard and understand what makes your photography good, you’ll always have ideas and principles to pull from, even when you’re completely uninspired. At the very least, you’ll be able to keep working until truly creative ideas strike you.

Don’t rely on natural talent. Understand how photography works, and exercise your creativity so that you can turn it on whenever you need it. 

2. Successful creative people never stop

Successful creative people never stop working. They are not lazy. They rise to the top because of how hard they work.

But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t sleep or never step back from your creative endeavors. Successful creative people rest in order to recharge and come back to their work even stronger.

When you think about it, you’re always doing something with your time (even if it’s just scrolling social media). But the best creative people are intentional and constructive with their time. If you’re always doing something anyway, then why not prioritize something creative?

Many people think they lack time to devote to their photography. You have time, but you’re choosing to spend it on other things. Write down exactly what you do all day. You’ll be shocked at how much time you waste. Don’t waste your time, do photography instead.

Get up one hour earlier. Study and practice photography before your day even begins. You’ll be cheating time by using what you usually would have slept away.

Think about where you could be in a year if you devote one hour to photography every day. Henri Cartier-Bresson says that your first 10,000 photos are your worst. If that’s true, then hurry up and get them behind you. You only need to take about 28 pictures a day over a year.

But working hard does not mean that you need to neglect your family in the process. A workaholic career can destroy your family, and this is not healthy for them or you. Many traveling photographers abandon their families in the name of doing something meaningful with their work. However, what good is their work to the world if their own family suffers for it?

Work, work, work. Get up one hour earlier to do it, but guard your family from abuse of work.

I know this photo is grainy and a little soft. It’s okay with me because I’ve acquired a taste for imperfect black and white photos (and Rembrandt lighting).

3. Creativity generator

Exploration is a creativity generator. So explore your craft, other peoples craft, and the whole world around you.

If your craft is portraiture then you need to explore portraiture. But you should also explore other types of photography (photojournalism, macro, wildlife, etc.). You’ll discover interesting ways to improve your portraiture as you study other forms of photography.

Take your learning beyond photography. Study all sorts of creative disciplines (writing, painting, sculpting, or architecture). You don’t have to learn to do these things, just learn about them.

Read memoirs and biographies of creative people too. See what a successful creative life looks like. And learn from the mistakes of tragic lives.

Part of creativity is bringing familiar things together in new ways. The more you explore, the more you have to bring together.

Exploration leads to endless creative possibilities.

4. Capture your ideas before they disappear

As you learn, work and explore, you’re going to need a way to capture the creative ideas that keep coming into your mind. They light up brightly but disappear quickly. You need to capture those ideas like fireflies in a jar.

Rather than jumping from idea to idea without ever completing anything, carry a notepad or recording device to capture your ideas. Record your idea and then get back to the project you’re working on. Being single-minded is far better than scattering your mind across many half-finished projects. Those half-finished projects will likely become never-finished projects.

Sift through your ideas later when you need something new to work on. You’ll find that many of those ideas weren’t worth pursuing. Moreover, you’ll realize that there were some gems that you had completely forgotten about.

You’ll end up with a lot of ideas, let the best ones rise to the top over time.

While watching my son build Lego, I noticed the gesture expressed in his toes. Part of exploration is just watching what is going on around you.

5. Build bridges

Some people prefer to work as a team, others prefer to work on their own. Even if you prefer to pursue your craft on your own, you should still gather with other photographers.

You should especially gather with ones who photograph different subject matter than you. The friendship and feedback will encourage you and help you to avoid becoming narrow and stagnant.

It can get very lonely being the only creative person you know, especially if your spouse doesn’t share your drive for creativity. Before you know it, you’re like an isolated island.

Build bridges to the other creative people around you. 

6. One explosion can ruin everything

It’s better to build bridges than it is to burn them.

All it takes is one big emotional outburst to ruin your career as a creative person. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or work in a team, nobody wants to put up with your anger or dramatic outbursts. Treat everyone around you with respect. Even go as far as to treat them as more important than yourself. Everyone will love working with you.

If you do let your emotions get the best of you, be quick to make amends.

Excessive negative emotion stifles your creativity. Be kind to yourself as well and get help dealing with your stress.

In a world of difficult people, be the easy person to work with.

Gathering with other creative people.

7. Help other creative people be better than you

It would be natural to assume that if you’re generous with your talent, time and resources that people will just take advantage of you. That might happen. But soon enough your generosity will align with people who will be forever grateful for it.

I still remember those who went out of their way to help me when I first started out. They could have protected themselves from the new photographer, wishing that he would fail and disappear. Instead, they helped me. Now, I help other photographers, even if they seem like my direct competitors.

It seems counter-intuitive, but you’ll help yourself more when you help others first. At times, focusing on another person’s creativity may help you more than focusing on your own.

Be the first in a fellowship of creative people helping each other to get better, and better, and better.

My daughter wanted to make her own birthday cake. We let her.

8. Turn off your phone

You need to have periods of time when you are uninterrupted. The last thing you need when you’re brainstorming ways to complete a creative project is a phone constantly alerting you to something else.

Practice turning your phone off for a couple of hours at a time – maybe even a whole day. It’s liberating to think, play, and be creative without the distraction.

While I was driving back from a 3-hour creative session this morning, I saw a person checking their phone while they waited at a red light. I had a lot on my mind and couldn’t fathom adding a phone to the mix. Now I know that looking at my phone means that whatever creative ideas were on my mind will vanish. So I only look at it a couple of times a day.

We easily become addicted to our digital technology, and a “fear of missing out” keeps us constantly checking in. I’ve developed a greater satisfaction in my creativity and a greater fear of losing my creative drive in the moment. My phone is off most of the time.

You don’t want to trade your creativity for endless digital chatter. Phones, tablets, and computers are useful. But they have a way of talking over.

Turn your phone off and switch your creative mind on.

The creative life

When you follow these eight rules, your creativity will be able to thrive.

You’ll have distraction-free time to learn, work, and explore.

You’ll find yourself encouraged by the other creative people in your life.

Moreover, you’ll always be growing and so will your creativity.

Do you have other tips for your creative life? Please share them with us in the comments below.


The post 8 Rules for the Creative Life appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

How I Found Inspiration Using a Telezoom

Sun, 06/02/2019 - 10:00

The post How I Found Inspiration Using a Telezoom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Christian Hoiberg.

I’ll admit something to you – something that I haven’t really talked about with too many. Something that might sound strange coming from someone who makes a living from photography…

I’ve had close to zero inspiration for doing landscape photography for several months – despite being out in the field most of the winter season.

There are many reasons why I’ve lacked inspiration, but most of them come back to the urge to creating something different, which I keep asking myself is possible at all. Has it all been done already? Aren’t we all in one way or another influenced by the photographers we admire? For years, my work has focused on wide-angle landscape photography. While I still enjoy it, I’ve become more fascinated with the intimate views offered through the use of a telezoom. This is how my inspiration blossomed again.

Zooming in forces you to slow down

One of the great things about using ultra wide-angle lenses is that it’s relatively easy to get a decent shot. Find a foreground, get close to it, smack on a filter or two and, hello, nice image. It might not be portfolio-worthy right out of the box, but it will certainly impress your friends and family.

Working with a telezoom is quite different, though. Simply zooming in on something isn’t going to create an interesting shot. You need to find that special something hiding within the grand landscape. Also, you’re even more dependent on having the right light and weather conditions.

When I first picked up a telezoom many years ago, the fact that it forced me to slow down was one of the best benefits. It changed my approach to photography and the world in many ways. Prior to that moment, I’d go out photographing but not really do much observing.

That’s different now.

In fact, I often do more observing than photographing.

I quite often return home from outings without the camera leaving my backpack.

It’s not just about being out there taking as many images as possible. It’s about enjoying the time you spend out there. This is something that came back to me again when, late last year, I started playing more with my Fuji 100-400mm again.

Create more unique work

Well, I’m not sure if simply zooming in is going to help create more unique work, but I think that, in many cases, it’s possible to show well-known scenes in an entirely new light. Up until now, “trophy hunting” has typically taken place in wide-angle landscapes. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that the overall landscape doesn’t need to be stunning when working with a telezoom. You can get stunning images anywhere you look.

The type of images captured at a focal length of, for example, 400mm are often what I call “no-name landscapes.” What I mean by this is that it doesn’t matter exactly where you take that shot; it’s simply beautiful, and you can just enjoy the image.

Challenge your creativity

When I’m guiding photography workshops, I often notice that many of the participants tend to stick with one lens, regardless of what we’re photographing and what the weather is like. This is despite the fact that they often have a wide selection of lenses to choose from in their backpack.

Now, I’ve been there, and I’m willing to bet that you’ve been there too. The reason is that we tend to have a favorite lens and quickly forget about all the others. My go-to lens for many years was the Nikon 16-35mm. Looking back at it now, I know that I missed a lot of great shots because I had taught myself to view the world within that focal length.


Mixing it up and taking out the telezoom forces you to break that bad habit and view the world at an unfixed focal length. When I’m standing at a location today, I’m continually analyzing my surroundings looking for both wide-angle and telezoom images.

Maybe I’m just rambling and making no sense. I ultimately believe that any artist is free to do whatever they want with their work. Who am I to tell someone what to do or not to do? The only thing I know for sure is that focusing more on working with a long focal length gave me a much-needed boost of inspiration and has led to me now enjoying working on several new and interesting projects.

Have you been getting into taking photos with a telezoom? We’d love you to share them with the dPS community in the comments section below.

The post How I Found Inspiration Using a Telezoom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Christian Hoiberg.

An Easy Hack for Shooting into the Sun and Processing the Images

Sat, 06/01/2019 - 15:00

The post An Easy Hack for Shooting into the Sun and Processing the Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Whether you’re shooting landscapes, street photography, outdoor portraits, or just making a photo of your cat lounging in the window, a great many photos have one thing in common – sunlight. Yes, that big burning ball of fire in the sky can either ruin your photos or make them memorable. Some photographers enjoy the look of the sun shining brightly in the sky with radiant starbursts and flare while others do not. However you happen to feel about it, you will often find it necessary to shoot directly into bright sunlight.

I’m going to show you an easy way to deal with the invasive (yet often rewarding) circumstances of making a photograph when the sun is burning bright directly towards your camera. All this is done without the need for filters and is easily accomplished with some simple work in Photoshop.

Warning: Remember friends, the techniques shown here are intended to help you work in conditions faced when shooting into the sun as it relates to commonly encountered photographic conditions. Prolonged exposures aimed at the sun may damage your camera and purposefully staring directly into the sun will permanently damage your eyes. 

Shooting your images

First things first. You will need at least two photos of the same scene but shot with different exposures. Keep in mind that two photos are the MINIMUM required; one for the foreground elements and one for the desired brightness of the sun. Depending on the complexity and contrast of your scene, it is a good idea (as I’ve done here) to have additional exposures to help your final image look realistic.

If you prefer a prominent “starburst” effect for the sun, it’s a good idea to use a relatively small aperture (large f-number) for at least one of your images. Since we’ll be blending multiple photos together, it is crucial that each of them align as closely as possible. So, of course, using a stable tripod is integral to the outcome of your photograph. I know, I know…you’ve heard it a thousand times.

Try this cool trick

Before we move on to how to actually blend our images together, I want to tell you about an incredibly neat trick to help you reduce lens flare and get a much cleaner result when shooting directly towards the sun. You might have noticed one of my images has a big fat thumb right in the middle of the frame? This is not by accident.

What this allows us to do is block out the most direct light rays so that we have a good spot to blend in the sun from our drastically underexposed photo. Not only that, but it helps to greatly reduce (not always eliminate) the lens flare artifacts which commonly rear their head in these types of photos. It will all make sense in just a second.

Combining the images

As I’m sure you’ve already noticed, the actual acquisition of the photos you need is a very simple operation. The magic lies in how we handle those images in Photoshop. We can bring our images directly into Photoshop, or as I prefer, work with them first in Lightroom and then kick them over to Photoshop as layers. This saves time and makes things much easier, especially if working in Photoshop is new to you. Make sure you don’t crop any of the photos!

Open images as Layers in Photoshop

To open up your images as layers in Photoshop from Lightroom, make sure all of your photos are selected and then right-click on any images. Select ‘Edit In’ and then choose ‘Open as Layers in Photoshop.’

Once Photoshop launches, you will see all of your photos presented as layers in the Layers Panel.

Arrange the layers by dragging and dropping them into place. Sort the layers where the sun blocked with your thumb at the top. Proceed downward by order of decreased brightness with the darkest image at the very bottom.

Auto-Align Layers

Even though we’ve done our best to make sure all of our photos are composed identically, it’s a good practice to allow Photoshop to help out with aligning the layers. That way, they fit as closely as possible to avoid misalignment. Doing this is a snap (Photoshop humor) using ‘Auto-Align Layers.’ Make sure all of your layers are selected either by Ctl+click or Cmd+click (Mac).

If you have a large number of layers, a quicker way to select them all would be to highlight the top layer and then Shift+click the bottom layer (or vice versa). Once all your layers are selected, select ‘Edit’ and then ‘Auto-Align Layers.’

Leave the alignment projection set to ‘Auto.’

After Photoshop is finished cooking up those layers into better alignment, you might notice a small perimeter border around your image. This is due to Photoshop aligning the layers. Don’t worry; you can crop it out later.

Add Layer Masks

You’ll need to incorporate layer masks so that you can paint in and out our layers as you go. Select each layer and add a mask by clicking the layer mask icon. There’s no need to apply a mask to the bottom-most layer in the stack.

For a refresher course on working with layer masks check out this article by Jim Hamel.

Blend the Layers

Now that we have masks added to all of our layers, it’s time to start blending. We’ll start with the sky and remove the obvious digit from the photo. Since the layer mask is set to white, make sure you are painting with black. If you get confused, remember the old adage “black conceals, white reveals.”

Even working with this small number of layer masks can get somewhat unwieldy. I recommend you merge each layer with the next after you’ve finished blending each portion of your photo.

To merge your completed layers, simply highlight them and use keyboard shortcut Ctl+E (Cmd+E for Mac). This helps avoid any conflicts with your masking. Blend your layers as needed based on your particular photos.

After each layer merge, be sure to add a layer mask to the resulting layer.

Eventually, you should have two layers remaining.

It’s here where things can get a little tricky because you will likely be dealing with blending your starbursts with a darker surrounding sky. Just take your time. It’s a good idea to set your brush to a low flow rate of 10-15 and your opacity to around 15 to start. Then gradually build up the effect. A soft brush is definitely required here.

And ta-dah!

With just a little bit of blending, we’ve successfully combined our four images of the sunset. Before leaving Photoshop, I went ahead and removed those few flakes of dust as well as the remaining lens flare artifacts that managed to escape my thumb. After you save your changes and close Photoshop, the newly blended photo will be thrown back to Lightroom for cropping and some final tweaking.

Some final words on overcoming the sun…

There are multiple ways to work around shooting directly into the sun to get great photos. Most involve various filters and careful positioning.

With a little basic knowledge of Photoshop, you can forgo the extra equipment and achieve results which are arguably as good or better than more traditional photographic methods.

This is especially helpful if you happen to be using a camera that sports less than spectacular dynamic range. Sure, you shouldn’t view this technique as a replacement for practicing solid photography techniques, but instead, it provides a way for us to easily bring home the photo we want at the end of the day.

Not too comfortable with Photoshop? We’ve got you covered!

Make sure to check out some of the great resources here at Digital Photography School which will teach you all you could ever wish to know about working with layers, blend modes and masking in Photoshop.

We’d love to see the images you create from this tutorial. Please share with us and the dPS community in the comments below!


The post An Easy Hack for Shooting into the Sun and Processing the Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

No Filter? No Problem! 3 Simple Methods to Fix Your Sky in Post-Production

Sat, 06/01/2019 - 10:00

The post No Filter? No Problem! 3 Simple Methods to Fix Your Sky in Post-Production appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nils Heininger.

What you see is not what you get

Quite often, we look at an amazing scene, take out our camera, make a snap, and become disappointed. We are not able to capture what we saw. Sometimes it depends on the perspective and composition. Other times it is an issue of dynamic range. When we are working under a bright sky, the latter is a problem.

Dynamic range means the range of light, in which we can still see detail. It is everything between pitch-black and dazzling-white. The human eye has a very wide dynamic range. For us, it is not a problem to see all the detail in the sky, while also recognizing every rock on a mountain.

Our camera, however, has to find a compromise. It either gets the detail of the rocks and a blown-out (white) sky in the background, or it gets the detail in the sky, but just the dark silhouette of the mountain. Sometimes you want that effect, and sometimes it is merely disappointing.

If you are really into landscape photography, you might consider getting a graduated neutral-density filter. You can put the filter in front of your lens and darken part of the image while leaving the rest untouched. There are systems for square filters, which you fix on using an adapter in front of your lens. You can also get screw-on filters, which you fix directly onto your lens. Both have advantages and disadvantages, and there are many options for ND-grad filters.

If you are just occasionally shooting landscapes, or you don’t want to invest too much money at the moment, you can fix the images in post-production.

Here are three different ways you can fix your sky in Lightroom or Photoshop.

1. Graduated Filter in Lightroom

Fixing something in post-production does not mean that you can be lazy while shooting. When you take your image, you have to make sure that you get the necessary detail and find a good exposure. I always recommend shooting in RAW format as it saves far more detail than .jpg files do.

Lightroom’s graduated filter changes the exposure of a part of your image. It will never recover lost information. Shoot your image as balanced as possible. Find a compromise of getting some detail in the sky and some in your foreground.

Before you use the graduated filter, you should adjust the image in a way that the darker parts are well exposed, and the sky is blown out. In the example image, I pushed the shadows and the whites, to make the buildings pop. It all depends on your image. Just make everything except your sky look like you want it to be.

Then click on the little rectangle in your toolbox. This is the graduated filter.

Applying the graduated filter is easy. Just left-click somewhere in your image, hold the mouse button, and pull it in the direction you want the graduation to happen.

In landscapes, we usually pull it down, as we want graduation along the horizon.

The tool marks the borders where the filter will affect the image. You can also see the intensity of the filter, by pressing “O.” This marks the area in red to give you a visual of the graduation.

If the selected area of your image somehow gets pitch-black, white, blue, or looks weird in any other way – don’t panic! Just check if the filter adjustments on the right are already active. Reset the filter adjustments by double-clicking on the sliders and the image will look like it did before.

Now you can adjust the sky. Usually, this means that you have to make the highlights darker. Pull the Highlights-slider to the left. I also added a little blue in the white-balance and pushed the whites, to have a little dramatic contrast in the sky. If you are irritated by the filter-marks, press “H” to make them disappear.

Still, there is a big issue with the image. As there is no straight horizon, the graduated filter also affects the buildings. This is not always a problem in landscapes – especially when using images of the sea, where the horizon is straight. If objects are towering above the horizon, there is an easy way to deal with it.

Add the Range Mask

The Range Mask helps us to quickly deal with deselecting some parts of the applied filter. In this case, we click on Range Mask -> Luminance in the filter options on the right. Here we can select which parts of the graduated filter will be affected. It’s a filter in a filter!

Luminance means that we can make the filter affect a certain range of brightness within the selected area. In the example, we want the filter to only affect the brighter parts (i.e., the sky) and not the darker ones (i.e., the skyscrapers). Hence, we will push the left marker of the range-slider to the right until we exclude the buildings from our selection.

That’s it!

Pros and Cons of the graduated filter in Lightroom

The graduated filter in Lightroom basically does the same thing that an ND-grad filter in front of your lens does – it changes a part of the image and leaves the other untouched. In Lightroom, however, you can choose between many different adjustments, while the physical analog ND-graduated filter will just make the image darker. You can also individually set up the area you want to edit and decide about the softness of its edge.

The disadvantage of the digital graduated filter is its limitations. You can’t recreate the information that your sensor did not capture. A filter in front of your lens will influence what your camera captures on its sensor. The digital filter can only work with what you have. You cannot push everything as far as you want and usually, you will lose some detail.

Still, the graduated filter in Lightroom is often a decent way to make your sky pop.

2. Mix different exposures with HDR

HDR is the abbreviation for High-Dynamic-Range. HDR images artificially increase the dynamic range of our camera by summing up the information of different exposures. Hence, you have to plan an HDR-image in advance.

While you are shooting, you have to create different exposures of the same image.

I usually take three images:

  1. A “well-exposed-compromise-picture” like I would take for applying the graduated filter in Lightroom.
  2. A darker image (silhouette with great sky-detail), one or two stops below the first.
  3. A bright one (good detail in the foreground, blown out sky), one or two stops above the first.

Make sure, these shots show the same image, and you don’t move your camera. It’s best if you shoot using a tripod.

If you are not familiar with calculating stops, there is good news – most cameras can do it for you. Your camera will likely call it “bracketing.”

Somewhere in your menu, you can select the bracketing setting. My camera asks me how many different exposures I need and how many stops they should differ from each other. Then I hit the shutter three times and have my three exposures.

Don’t forget to reset the bracketing, because it is more than annoying to have different exposures when you don’t want them.

The next step is quite easy. Upload your three exposures into Lightroom and select them. Right-click on one of them. Choose Photo Merge -> HDR and wait until the calculation is done. This can take a little while, depending on the image size and your computer speed.

A fresh window of photoshop should pop up. I always check the boxes Auto Align and Auto Settings and mostly use medium Deghosting. Deghosting is the process Lightroom uses to deal with small dissimilarities in the three images (e.g., moving people, clouds, waves).
Then you hit the merge button and wait again. Here is your finished HDR-image.

Wasn’t that easy?

Mix methods!

Sometimes, you won’t be happy with the HDR-image. You can still adjust it! Even though the image above looks a little innocent, there is a lot of detail in there. Get it out by applying local adjustments like a grad-filter.

Nonetheless, you have to be careful. HDR is still just a computer calculation, that does not know what you saw on location. If you do hard editing, you will find artifacts on your image. Artifacts are disturbances caused by processing an image.

Look closely at the example below, and you will find a black shade around the top of the highest tower. Artifacts like this often occur around areas of high contrast.

Pros and Cons of HDR

HDR is a quick and effective tool to make your sky pop. While the graduate filter in Lightroom can only work with the available information, HDR increases this information. If you check the file size of the original image, you will also find that the HDR image is often three times as big as each single exposure. If your computer is a little slow in processing images, it will have more issues with HDR images.
Another disadvantage is the preparation involved on location. You will need extra equipment to get a similar composition under different exposures. Movement in the image, as well as high-contrast areas, can also create artifacts.

HDR has often been overused to create an “edgy effect.” Don’t over-do it here. There is an easy rule of thumb – if you see that it’s an HDR, it is too much.

3. Make a composite in Photoshop

Composite means cutting out parts of one image and putting it above another. There have been many debates about this issue in the past and present. Are composites fake?

In our example, I think it is fine to cut out the sky of a good exposure and put it on top of the same scene. At least the sky looked like this some few seconds before. It was there – the camera simply couldn’t capture it.

To make a composite in Photoshop, you should already have adjusted the images in Lightroom. Prepare one image with a great sky and another one with a good foreground. Select both images, right-click, and choose Edit In -> Open as Layers in Photoshop. A Photoshop project with two layers will pop up.

In this example, I chose to treat the image with the blown-out sky as the background and put the blue sky on top of it. That means that we have to arrange the layers accordingly. Photoshop will always display the upper layer of your project. Thus, we need to keep the sky as the upper layer, but make the buildings disappear, so the lower layer is visible.

The best method to do this is to create a Layer Mask. It allows us to hide a part of the lower image without deleting any information. To create a Layer Mask, we select the upper layer and click on the little square-symbol with the circle in it. A white rectangle appears next to your layer.

Every white part of the layer mask will be displayed. The black areas will be invisible, while everything grey will be partly visible. Now, we need to fill the areas we don’t want to see (i.e., the buildings) with black. This process is called masking.

Masking involves skill and experience. A proper guide to masking in photoshop can fill books. In our example, we try the basics. We want to see the sky and hide the buildings. Thus, you have to mark the buildings with the Quick Selection tool (Press “W” on your keyboard). We need to select everything except the sky. For hiding the selection, we choose the layer mask and fill the selected area with black color (Edit -> Fill or press Shift+F5).

Now, you have your first composite. It looks a bit weird and artificial in the example. Usually, you need to make some adjustments after masking. Work on the layer mask for the edges of the building. This can be done manually brushing the parts you do not want to see.

You can also make some adjustments to fit the look of the sky and buildings. By using adjustment layers and pulling the opacity of the sky a little back, you will create a more natural look.

Pros and Cons of Composites

The big advantage of a composite is that you take two independent images and blend them into each other. It does not matter if the clouds or cars in the image move. You can control every part that you want to see. The result is pretty much dependent on your skills.

However, a composite is a lot of work. It takes a while to understand all the options, tools, and shortcuts to edit a layer mask. The amount of works depends on the scene. Editing the horizon of a seascape is easy. A skyline can be challenging. Put a bush in front of it, and it is easy to mess it up. You don’t want your image to look like the one below.

Which technique to use?

There is no right or wrong here. It differs from case to case. How much energy do you want to invest? Are your skills advanced? Did you prepare more than one exposure?

You can also mix methods or even manually create an HDR-image in Photoshop.

One day, I will get myself a bunch of ND-grad filters and work things out on location. Until then, I will continue using HDR or – if possible – get along with the graduated filter in Lightroom. So far, it has worked fine for me.

What do you think?

Is there a method you prefer? Do you work with ND-grad filters, or have another method of dealing with the issues of dynamic range? I would be glad if you share your own experiences and images in the comments below.


The post No Filter? No Problem! 3 Simple Methods to Fix Your Sky in Post-Production appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nils Heininger.