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Real-World Review of the Olympus OMD-EM1X

Wed, 07/24/2019 - 08:30

The post Real-World Review of the Olympus OMD-EM1X appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

I recently picked up the Olympus OMD-EM1X (it was a few months ago). I’ve had a chance to use it a lot during this time. It’s an interesting beast of a camera, and have a bunch of observations that I thought would help provide some perspective on this new camera. I put the Olympus OMD-EM1X camera through its paces for this unscientific, but real-world, review.

The EM1X the new professional-grade camera from Olympus

Full disclosure, I am not sponsored by Olympus, but I have been shooting with Olympus gear for several years now and have had several Olympus bodies (OMD EM1 Mark 1, EM1 Mark II and an EM5 Mark II). I also have a bunch of other gear (I shot some older Panasonic cameras I used before switching to Olympus), and prior to that, I was in the Canon system.

While I still have all my lenses, the camera bodies are now getting long in the tooth. I really liked my Canon gear but found that it was just too heavy for me because I tend to like to travel. However, I have lens options, and full-frame cameras use significantly larger lenses for similar focal length when compared to Micro 4/3rds.

Also, I tend to be a bit of a run-and-gun photographer, preferring to get to a position, compose my images, and move on. I don’t usually spend a great deal of time in one position, opting for more positions to work an image. Moreover, I don’t like having to pull out filters, switch lenses (if I can avoid it) or carry tripods (although I often have one with me somewhere).

Great and quick focus for macro photography

Lots of critics

When the EM1X first came out,  some critics were pretty negative about this camera before even seeing it. That’s because it’s an expensive camera based around a slightly older micro 4/3s sensor (same as the EM1 Mark II). While the features are all professional-grade (i.e., insane weather sealing, exceptional in-body image stabilization, speed, and unique computational photographic features, all based upon a 20 MP sensor), some critics felt it is too small.

Micro 4/3s size

Just as a reminder for those unfamiliar with micro 4/3rd sensors, a micro 4/3rd sensor is a sensor with a crop factor of 2. This means the sensor only covers about a quarter of the area of a full-frame (same size as a 35mm negative) sensor. Years ago, full-frame sensors were incredibly difficult to produce, and most sensors were crop sensors of one form or another. Now with advancing technology, full-frame sensors are more readily available, although they generally found in camera bodies with substantial price tags.

You can get blurred backgrounds with Micro 4/3rd lenses when you use faster primes

Costs vs. features

As an Olympus user, buying my own gear, I was a bit unsure of the cost (it is about $3,000 USD), which is about double the cost of the OMD EM1 Mark II ($1500 USD).  Now I have both.

I really liked my OMD EM1 Mark II, and it has been a workhorse for all my work. With very few complaints about it, the biggest thing I would like would be a bump in the continuous autofocus hit rate (it is already pretty good, but…).

I think all photographers chase better focus, especially now with the incredible autofocus systems on most cameras. The continuous autofocus on the EM1 Mark II was a huge improvement over the EM1 Mark I. It made it much easier to shoot moving subjects, but still wasn’t great for tracking.

In the new Olympus OMD-EM1X, on the surface, the other upgrades to the new body seemed more evolutionary than revolutionary (although I have since discovered that impression was not entirely correct).

In addition, the sensor seemed to be the same in the EM1 Mark II, so what was worth so much more?

Compared to the EM1 Mark II, the EM1X is only slightly bigger (the lens on the right is also a little bigger)

After I purchased the Olympus OMD-EM1X, I immediately realized that some of the cost differences between the models (EM1 Mark II and EM1X) were a little misleading. That’s because the EM1X comes with an integrated battery grip (you can purchase a non-integrated battery grip separately for the EM1 Mark II for US$250), an extra battery charger at US$59 and an extra battery which goes for US$54.  I have used the external battery grip (HLD-9) for my EM1 Mark II, and I’ve barely removed it since. This makes the overall cost difference a little less, but still, at about US$1,100 more, the 2 years newer EM1X is still the most expensive camera that Olympus sells.

Beyond the cost, I was initially a little reluctant to jump on the EM1X because of the slightly unusual marketing messaging on this product.

I am a professional photographer and need a solid, reliable camera that is quick to autofocus. Although this was clearly a premium model for the Olympus line and the most expensive camera they sell, Olympus seemed unwilling to state that it was their top model. They instead stated it had shared top billing with the Olympus EM1 Mark II. The EM1X seemed to be marketed only for wildlife and sports photography but is it more capable than just in those two areas?

Another big feature of the camera is the weather sealing. According to the advertising, you can expose this camera to a rainstorm and it will continue to work.

Portability of the system means you can get to more remote areas without carrying too much gear

The real-world results

In addition to some travel photography to Nevada and Madeira, I also took the Olympus OMD-EM1X backcountry camping for a few days.  While backcountry camping, it rained a great deal and I carried my EM1X for the entire time using a Peak Design capture clip on the outside of my backpack. I have also used the camera to photograph animals and some wildlife. The considerable differences are the weatherproofing, autofocus, in-body stabilization, field sensors, and some of the computational features.

The weather sealing of the camera and lens allowed me to clip it on the capture clip and didn’t require a separate bag

Weather resistance

It is a bit of an understatement to say that it is a weatherproof camera.  Lots of cameras claim to be weatherproofed, but in reality, you don’t want to get them wet.

With the Olympus OMD-EM1X, I was genuinely unconcerned when shooting even in a torrential downpour (except for how it would affect my composition).  I start focusing only on what I need to do to get the shot, not whether or not my camera will survive.

When you try to access the memory cards or the battery, there is no doubt that this camera is built to withstand the weather. I live in Northern Canada, and I have used the EM1 Mark II and the EM1X in bitterly cold conditions with lots of snow, and I can attest that neither is a problem for this camera.

Combined with the EM1X, the 12-100mm F4 has 7.5 stops of image stabilization and weather sealed goodness

While backcountry camping at Mount Robson in British Columbia, Canada, it rained most of the entire trip. At no time was I concerned about the EM1X, nor did I ever put it away to get it out of the rain.

This was not a concern shared by others. There were lots of other photographers with other camera brands around, and all had some type of weather shielding for their cameras (camera bags and plastic bags) even while shooting.

The biggest problem I encountered was trying to keep water off the front of the lens so I could take my images without big water drops in the image.

The EM1X got very wet but never showed any adverse consequences of the water. I never quite felt that confident with my EM1 Mark II, because of the battery grip attachment.


The EM1X is very solid, kind of like a tank. It feels great in hand, and it has key buttons in great locations. Unlike the EM1 Mark II that felt like the battery grip was always a little loose, the integrated battery grip significantly improves the overall ergonomics. In addition, by having both batteries in the same compartment, changing them out is trivial. With the EM1 Mark II, if one or both batteries depleted, getting the battery out of the main body required removal of the battery grip to get at the second battery compartment.

The use of locks for the battery grip and memory card slots give the EM1X a solid feel too.

New button layout

The new button layout has a real sense of purpose. With some cameras, it almost seems the designers couldn’t figure out where to put particular buttons, so they just put them anywhere. In this case, button placement is deliberate. The majority of buttons sit in the same position, regardless of whether the camera is in portrait or landscape orientation. This means there are two buttons for most functions.

I used back-button focus for many years on different cameras, and its placement has much improved for Olympus. The addition of the two-track pointers (both landscape and portrait) allow you to fine-tune your autofocus position while shooting.

Autofocus improvements

Continuous tracking is significantly better than the EM1 Mark II (firmware 2.3) with an ability to lock into a subject and stay on them even in a crowd. I was shooting my son’s lacrosse game and was amazed at how well the tracking held.

I know there are other makes of cameras with good tracking, but this one definitely ranks up there with the elite. It uses both phase and contrast detection and is super fast.

Autofocus allows for tracking of individuals during sports events

In-body image stabilization

It is claimed that the in-body image stabilization (IBIS) is up to 7.5 stops when used in combination with a stabilized lens. Most Olympus lenses don’t have stabilization; instead, they rely on in-camera stabilization. This means you can shoot handheld at times up to about 4-6 seconds and still get sharp photos.

Coming from Canon DSLRs that use only optical stabilization (same as Nikon), you need to pay attention to your shutter speed because of camera shake. This becomes a significant issue with higher megapixel images as the greater detail in the images means that camera shake is highly visible. The Olympus OMD-EM1X mostly eliminates this, and you can really use it to your advantage.

It is difficult to convey to someone how big a deal this is in practical shooting, particularly if you don’t have a tripod. It means you can leave your tripod behind (more often than you probably already do).

You can obtain high-resolution 50MP images handheld without the use of a tripod.

Field sensors

The field sensors provide a built-in GPS with all kinds of information about where you took the image. This includes altitude, temperature, and elevation. The information is baked into the metadata for the images so that it is there.

Prior Olympus cameras, in general, required communication with an app on your mobile phone to get this kind of data. This allows you to track the location of your images in applications such as Adobe Lightroom.

One word of caution, there are two options with how the field sensors activate. You can drain your battery quite fast (even if you are not using the camera) if you don’t use the battery conservation option.

In practical terms, it means that if you use the battery saver mode, you need to turn on the camera for a little while for the GPS to get the location. If you are too quick, it will be missing the GPS location data.

In real-world terms, when I was backcountry camping, the field sensors also showed elevation change and temperature.

High-Resolution Mode

For some time, Olympus has had a sensor-shift/high-resolution mode, where the camera takes a series of images to create a high-resolution image. It does so by moving the sensor 1/2 a pixel in each direction a total of eight times. This feature is not new and has been available on Olympus cameras for a few years.

It is also not the only camera manufacturer (there are only a few) that do this (implemented differently), but all require the use of a tripod.

On the Olympus EM1 Mark II, the resulting image is an 80 MP raw image. The EM1X has this same ability to do high-resolution images with a tripod and introduces the ability to do a high-resolution mode while handheld. To do this, the EM1X takes 16 images and combines them for a slightly smaller, but still high-resolution image (50 MP versus 80 MP).

The handheld, high-resolution mode works remarkably well.  The biggest problem for all of these implementations are moving subjects in the field of view. However, the high-resolution images still turn out quite well, with a noticeable bump in resolution.

Combining remote destinations and high-resolution captures can lead to great images

Simulated ND Filter

The EM1X has an ND mode, where you can simulate long exposure photography without the use of an ND filter.  This allows you to take daytime images of waterfalls, handheld, and without an ND filter.

The results are pretty good.  However, there are limits as to how it works, but the results are worth the effort.

In the end, you can achieve this using an actual ND filter – the results are similar. The ND Filter works well if you are a run-and-gun photographer.

Capturing a flowing stream during the day with normal settings

Using the ND filter allows for the blending of images and the simulation of using an ND filter but without a physical filter

Compact and customizable

If you look at the history of Olympus, you will realize that this is a company that has built its reputation on photographic cameras based on concepts of compact but capable cameras, with a significant emphasis on “compact” (this is not new).

This has always been the case and has been part of the brand for the past 100 years. More recently, Olympus has focused on digital cameras that are very well built, with great optics, incredibly customizable and with a compact form factor.

I also think that Olympus regularly tries to push the leading edge of features that surround the sensor. Things like in-body image stabilization, pixel shift high-resolution mode, and other computational features.

Beyond the new tricks, how about the old tricks?

The Olympus OMD-EM1X is heavier, but not by a huge amount. The ergonomics are great, and the Micro 4/3rd lens selection is fantastic (Olympus and Panasonic). The image quality has never really been an issue for me and my work. Olympus and Panasonic both make very fast lenses, and if you are looking for shallow depth of field, they have lenses that provide great bokeh.

On the downside, the EM1X is not a discrete street photographer type of camera. It is big, pronounced, and screams serious image-taking. There are many smaller bodies for Micro 4/3rds, but this camera delivers big overall.

I am a fan and am convinced.

Without diving into the rabbit hole of full-frame versus crop-sensor debate (there are lots out there), when you consider image size and resolution, you can use most modern cameras micro 4/3rd’s and up for most genres of photography.

In reality, unless you are printing very large (10 feet wide), cropping like mad or need crazy shallow depth of field, sensor size is for pixel peepers to worry about, not the average photographer. You can even use micro 4/3rds for astrophotography, but you really have to work at it.

For those who want to argue the benefits of full-frame sensors over micro 4/3rds, you could argue that the current gold standard is no longer any full-frame camera. Instead, it’s something more like the Fujifilm GFX 100 – a mirrorless medium-format 100 MP camera. These have many of the features of full-frame cameras, including weather sealing, in-body image stabilization, and dual memory card slots.

The camera is quite versatile.

The verdict?

This camera does certain things particularly well. If you are serious about your images, want to travel light, go into locations with harsh weather conditions and want to limit the use of additional gear (tripods and filters), this is the camera for you.

Most modern cameras can take great images in the right hands. The differences become features and suitability to the task.

Based on my real-world experiences, for most photographic imaging, the Olympus OMD-EM1X is up for it. It can do things other cameras can’t including durable weather sealing, handheld, high-resolution mode, ND filter simulation, very fast shooting (60fps without autofocus and 18fps with continuous autofocus) and crazy in-body image stabilization.

The post Real-World Review of the Olympus OMD-EM1X appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

Basic Photo Retouching in GIMP

Wed, 07/24/2019 - 06:00

The post Basic Photo Retouching in GIMP appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Do you feel your photos are good but not great? Do you think something is missing in your images? You may just need a little post-production to give your images the punch they need to become eye-catching. Keep reading to learn some basic photo retouching in GIMP – a free software – that will make your photos pop.

GIMP is an image manipulation software you can download for free. If you’re not familiar with it, check my previous article, A Brief Introduction to GIMP. There are many things you can do with it. To start you up, I decided to do a quick overview of the most common adjustments for photo editing.


Most times you take a photograph without a tripod, you’re bound to have the horizon line leaning towards one side. You can easily fix this common problem by using the rotation tool. First, you may want to turn on the visibility of the grid. For this go to View -> Show Grid. If you want to make it wider or narrower, go to Image -> Configure Grid.

Now, to straighten the image, click on the rotation button from the toolbox to open the tool’s setting window. Then you can either drag the slider or type the degree of the angle you want. The last two options are there to re-position the rotation center point if you want. You can also do this by dragging the image itself.


After the rotation or other transforming methods like perspective, some parts of the canvas remain empty, and you need to crop them out. For this, click the Crop tool from the toolbox and drag around the part you want to keep. The part that will be cropped out becomes shaded. To fine-tune the selection click, and drag the edges. When you’re satisfied click on the image to apply the crop.

To keep an eye on the composition while cropping, you can put some guides to use as points of reference. For example, to play with symmetry put a guideline at 50%. Alternatively, put one at 33% and another at 66% if you want to follow the rule of thirds. You can do this by right-clicking the image window to open the main menu. From there, you need to go to Image -> Guides -> New Guide by percent.


For retouching, it’s always best to work on layers. That way, you can always go back if you don’t like how things are going. First, make sure the layers dock is visible. If it’s not, open it from Windows -> Dockables.

From there you can add a new empty layer from the blank page icon. Duplicate the current layer with the symbol of 2 squares, or delete it by dragging it into the paper shredder one.

By the way, if you don’t want to cancel the entire process you’ve done on a layer, you can go to the tab, Undo, and do it step by step. The Undo tab keeps a history dialogue allocated as a dock containing your latest actions. If the dock is not there, you can open it from Windows -> Dockables.

Color Adjustments

If your image is not well exposed, you can find the Adjustment tools to fix it in the Color menu. To access it, right-click on the image window and choose Colors. Then choose the tool that best suits the adjustment you need to do. To see these options more in-depth check the article Make your Photos Sparkle with GIMP. For now, I’ll just show you the Levels tool, which I find to be one of the most versatile.


With Levels, you can fix the color balance and tonal range of your image. GIMP gives you different choices to modify the Levels from the same window. You can move the sliders, enter the values underneath, use the eyedroppers to set the brightest, darkest and middle tones, and even use the auto-mode. They all make similar changes, but they can be more or less precise.

Remember to have the preview box checked so you can see the changes take effect before you apply them.


You can also apply a great variety of filters; from correcting ones like sharpening an image, to special ones like coffee stains. You can find all these options in the Main Menu -> Filters.

Feel free to experiment with them.

Finally, you can switch to the Multiple Windows Mode (in case you weren’t using it) by going to the menu Windows -> Single Window Mode and uncheck it. Then open the original file and a second window will open with the image so you can compare the side-by-side before and after images.

I hope you learned some useful tips to fix or boost your images.

If you’re interested in doing some more in-depth work on GIMP Check out the tutorials:

Have you used GIMP? What are your thoughts? Do you have any other tips to share in the comments? We’d love to hear from you.


The post Basic Photo Retouching in GIMP appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Why You Shouldn’t Delete Your Images Too Quickly

Tue, 07/23/2019 - 08:10

The post Why You Shouldn’t Delete Your Images Too Quickly appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nils Heininger.

There are many reasons why you might want to delete images: They show the same subject, again and again, they are technically inferior, or you simply do not like them. However, don’t hit the delete button right away!

Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t delete your images too quickly

Isn’t it hard to stay organized? Since the age of digital photography, it is quite easy to get “just one more shot” of your subject. These few shots quickly add up to hundreds, even thousands. Considering the huge file sizes of modern cameras, that’s a lot of memory. Not only is your hard-drive full of bytes, but you also have to keep an overview – a few stars here, a few flags there and a red label for your beloved ones. It’s often hard to avoid the data mess.

At first, I rated this image with one star. Recently, I rediscovered it and was happy that I did not delete it

Sometimes, I feel like deleting all the images I assume I will not use anymore. Why should I keep images that I don’t sell, show to my friends and family or use in any other way? It’s the same subject, just from another perspective.

I have five images from a nicer angle, in a better light and with fewer people in it.

Here is my hint:

Wait a little while, and stay organized. Don’t delete everything in the first place. There are some reasons why you might want to keep your images.

A picture I rejected because it was a byproduct of a hike to shoot the Milkyway over a river bend.

Your client wants a specific picture

If you are documenting something, or you do travel photography, you should be careful what you delete. Never get rid of any image before completing the job. You may think the light in the image of person XY was not too nice or the photograph is not perfect, but maybe it tells a story.

Your client or editor might ask you, “Is there an image of this person XY, while he looks a bit sad?” or “Is there an image of a person wearing this weird hat, which is so typical for people working in this area?”

You may remember that person XY wore that hat. Then you look it up and realize that you deleted the image because you did not find the light appropriate. My friend, you missed a chance to satisfy an editor.

Even after delivering a project, it is smart to keep all of your images. You may want to sell some of them to someone else. People could approach you to ask if you have an image of this one shop because they make a follow-up story on yours. We never know what the future brings. Don’t delete what others might ask for. Demands of editors can be unpredictable.

I shot this image as a byproduct of covering a desert safari in India. It was useless for this topic, but it might be useful for another project about the desert region.

Blindness for the beauty

Sometimes, while you are working on a project, you get used to the beauty that you create. You are completely sucked into a breathtaking work environment, and every shot amazes you.

Later, you look at your images and search for the best ones (which you should do) but ignore the second-best ones. Make sure you do not delete them.

When I was in the Indian Himalayas on a motorbike tour, every mountain peak was worth shooting. The light was appealing, and the blue sky was full of little cottonwool clouds. I shot away hundreds of images during the daytime and edited the best in the evening. I recently looked at the old folders and found some amazing images that I rated with two stars just because the others outshined them.

This picture almost ended up in the bin. Luckily, I checked the folder after a few years.

Maybe you want something specific at one point in time, and you simply cannot see other forms of beauty then. The image may be surrounded by too many other nice ones that distract you at that moment.

When you open your old folders a few years later, you may be happy that you kept them all. Don’t delete what you might value later.

Did you think about stock?

If you worked on commission, you might have a deal that your client takes a bunch of images out of your primary selection. You probably shot far more pictures than needed (you should!). What can you do with the rest? Did you ever think about uploading them on a stock photography platform? You may be able to get a little money from all those images that your client rejected or that you didn’t even send to them because there were better ones of the same subject.

I chose an image of me sitting under the stars for an article about the desert. This “dismissed” one of me standing on the dune might work well in stock.

Always give your clients the best quality and the best compositions. If your contract does not stop you from using the other images, why would you want to waste them? When you make three images of subject A, but just one is good enough for your client, maybe the other two might be good enough for stock. Don’t delete what you might use afterward.

An image contains memories

Maybe the best reason to keep your images is the simplest – for yourself.

When I look back at any image, it triggers my memory.

These rivers are meeting in the Himalayas. It’s not the best image because it’s too dark, with bad light. Yet, they make me remember the feeling I had when I stopped to take the image. They remind me of the taste of the air, the feeling of empty solitude and the discovery of my dire sunburn where my scarf did not cover my neck.

Technically, a bad image, yet, the broken bridge reminded me of the struggle to get up this mountain and shoot better images. I laughed out loud when I rediscovered it.

Little details in images make you remember big stories. They evoke feelings. You can smell the flowers again, which you see in the frame of that horribly composed landscape-image. You remember the way that tea vendor smiled, even though the image is a little soft or blurry because you had to shoot with one hand while balancing your teacup in the other. Don’t delete what your older self might love to see.

It is very hard to compose with one hand while reaching for tea with the other.


You never know what will happen and how you will look at your images at a later point in time. If you have completely identical pictures, well, hit that Del-Button.

If they differ, mark them differently.

You can check your old files after a few years and decide what you want to delete for good.

Maybe you will find something useful even if it is just for a blog post about why you should not delete images. All the images in this article were once ready for deletion.

I resisted, and today, I am happy about it.

Be careful what you delete. One day, you might regret it.

What about you?

Did you ever have any regret after deleting images? Do you find pleasure in it? Is there a method, which helps you to avoid deleting the wrong pictures? And when did you last review your old images? I would love to hear your stories in the comments below.


The post Why You Shouldn’t Delete Your Images Too Quickly appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nils Heininger.

5 Tips to Improve your Seascapes

Tue, 07/23/2019 - 06:00

The post 5 Tips to Improve your Seascapes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

The term seascape is used to describe a sub-genre of landscape photography, where the subject is (or is composed with) the sea, beach or ocean. Similar to landscape shooting, there is a certain amount of planning that goes into having a good day “at sea”.

Here are a few tips to help you on your next salty excursion.

1. Angles and perspectives

So how do you want to tell your seascape story?

There is the obvious option of shooting at sea level. You should include foreground elements to give your scene some depth and interest.

If you have higher ground, use it for a different perspective.

When you shoot from above, you are able to capture coastline shapes to your advantage. These include the shoreline, cliff edges or other rocky outcrops, and the way the land and sea meet. The ocean works well as your foreground or middle ground in the frame. Use the textures around you as well at different angles.

Most seascapes are shot at wide angles to capture the entire scene. Waves also make interesting seascape images. You can do this using a telephoto lens or by getting in the water with your camera properly housed in an underwater case. The latter is not as easy because it requires a whole other skill level.

2. Shutter speed

Since seascapes are all about water or using the water element in your composition, shutter speed is an important consideration. In regular landscapes, your shutter speed affects mostly your sky, whereas, in seascape photography, you now introduce another major moving element. Thus learning to photograph water, and how shutter speed affects it, will go a long way towards your seascapes. You can freeze those crashing waves in time or shoot longer exposures for an end result of smooth, silky water. It all depends on your desired result.

3. Chasing tides

When you go out to shoot landscapes, most likely you check the weather forecast beforehand.

For seascapes, it is a good idea to also check the times for high and low tides. The tides may enhance interesting land features at your location. Some areas may work well with both high and low tides, while others may only be accessible during the low. This is a good reason why scouting a location helps with planning your outing.

Similarly, shooting the same area at different tidal times can also be an interesting photo project.

Tidal pools also make great foreground subjects, and as a bonus, it can be reflective as well.

4. How wet?

Sometimes you need to get your feet wet to fully capture the beauty of the ocean. Other times, you may even get in knee-deep. Saltwater is the natural enemy of electronics though, so keep your gear safe, and more importantly, yourself!

It is better to shoot crashing waves from a distance. If you venture close, choose a dry, safe position and have someone help you look out for rogue waves. Wet rocks can be slippery, so be careful walking on them.

Keeping your gear dry is also a challenge, especially the front lens from sea spray. Plastic bags or waterproof covers and microfiber cloths come in very handy!

Tripods in the ocean are a tricky thing to maneuver with the ebbs and flows of the waves, but once you get a sound footing, you are all set.

If you are shooting on the beach, use tripod feet, or implant the feet a couple of centimeters into the sand to increase stability.

When shooting in the sea, wash off your tripod with fresh water as soon as you can. Keep in mind that salt and sand can still get into the leg joints/extenders and affect slide and lock features.

Do you get in the water more often than not? Then a good recommendation is to get a cheap, sturdy tripod that is replaceable. If not, you will need to disassemble your tripod to clean it properly.

5. Let’s reflect

What could be better than an amazing sky? How about its reflection in a large body of water?

The magic of reflections is real, and an expanse of the ocean provides a fantastic opportunity to capture it. When you use other foreground elements such as rocks, keep an eye out for pools and puddles formed within them to add some extra interest.

Wet sand and rocks can also be reflective as waves recede or at low tide. All of these elements can come together to create an awesome composition. Wet rocks are yet another reason to go out shooting after it rains.


Seascapes are definitely worth the effort. The ocean is always changing, and you can get totally different captures at sunrise and sunset or between high and low tides.

Seascapes also work during the day when the sun is high and is enhancing those beautiful ocean blues and greens, at varying depths.

Plan in advance what you want to capture. What angles are interesting? Can you do something different than what has been done before?

When getting your feet wet, do so safely for both you and your gear. But most of all, have fun! Respect the ocean, and you can make amazing images while listening to its soundtrack.


The post 5 Tips to Improve your Seascapes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

Understanding Exposure Metering Modes

Mon, 07/22/2019 - 08:30

The post Understanding Exposure Metering Modes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Your camera’s metering modes vary the way it measures the light. This affects the way exposure information is provided. Every modern camera has a built-in exposure meter. Sometimes it’s also referred to as a light meter.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Understanding how to control the exposure metering modes on your camera allows you to take better photos. If what you are photographing contains very little contrast, your camera will make a good exposure in the default mode. When you compose an image with contrast, your camera may not make the exposure you want it to.

Selecting the best metering mode allows you to take more pleasing photographs.

There are three basic exposure metering modes on most cameras. These are:

  1. Averaged
  2. Spot
  3. Center-Weighted

Choosing the most appropriate mode is a matter of choosing your main subject and making the right settings accordingly.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

How do different exposure metering modes work? 1. Averaged

This mode is named differently depending on the brand of camera you use. Nikon calls it Matrix Metering. On Canon cameras, it’s called Evaluative Metering. Sony and Pentax use the term Multi-Segment Metering. Olympus calls it Digital ESP Metering. Each manufacturer has different algorithms to determine the outcome. Essentially they all do the same thing.

The camera partitions the viewfinder into zones and measures the light in each. It compares these light readings. Then it averages all the information to provide what it decides is the best exposure setting.

Most cameras have this mode as the default. This is how my camera is set most of the time. Using this mode will give you an overall idea of what your exposure settings need to be. When the light is fairly even, using this exposure meter mode works well.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

2. Spot

Using this mode, your exposure meter will measure the light from a small area – usually about 3.5% of the frame. You need to place the spot exactly where you want to take your reading from. This will most often be your main subject.

The position of the spot within your frame varies from camera to camera. In some cameras, the spot moves with the point of focus. On other cameras, it remains fixed in the center of the frame. It’s important you know where your spot is, otherwise your exposure can be incorrect. Consult your camera manual or do an online search to find how your camera’s spot meter is positioned.

3. Center-Weighted

This mode reads the light from an area in the center of your frame. The percentage of the area varies from camera to camera. It is typically around 60%. Some camera models allow you to vary the area it covers. This mode is good if you compose with your subject in the center. I rarely compose that way, so never use this mode.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

How to use the Exposure Meter

Half-pressing the shutter release button activates the exposure meter. It will turn off automatically after a time. So if you are not seeing the information it provides, it may have switched itself off.

In your viewfinder or on the monitor you’ll see the information displayed like this on most cameras.

Sony cameras use numbers and the + and – symbols to display the exposure information.

If you set your camera to manual exposure, you will see the information displayed when the meter is on. When in an auto mode this information may not be displayed. This is because the camera determines the exposure.

Using manual mode a ‘0’ in the display indicates when the exposure is correct. When the display shows a row of dots stretching towards the – symbol, your image will be underexposed. When the display shows a row of dots stretching towards the + symbol, your image will be overexposed.

Using this information, you can make the required adjustments to your aperture, shutter speed, and/or ISO.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Why are there different Exposure Meter Modes?

Photographs are captured by digital cameras recording reflected light. Light and the tone of your subjects is variable. You need to set your exposure according to how bright or dark your subject appears.

Making a composition with very little tonal variation when the light is flat, your camera will easily make a correct exposure. When there’s high contrast, particularly when the light is harsh, it can be more difficult to get a correct exposure.

In high contrast situations, it’s important to manage your exposure meter. You must read the light from the most important area of your composition. Choosing Averaged or Center-Weighted Metering can often result in poorly-exposed photographs.

Spot metering is most useful when you’re photographing a composition where there’s a lot of contrast. Taking a spot meter reading from the main part of your composition will allow you to expose it well.

Portrait photography is one example of when it’s helpful to switch your metering mode to spot. The face of the person is normally the most important part of your composition. You want the person’s skin tone to be exposed well.

By placing the spot meter on your subject’s face and taking a meter reading, you can adjust the exposure accordingly. If you are using an Auto Mode, your camera will make the setting adjustments for you.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Using spot metering on a camera when the spot is fixed in the center of the frame, you need to point it where you want to take the reading from. Using an Auto Mode when you recompose to frame your subject, you’ll need to hold the exposure lock button.  If you don’t lock the exposure, your camera will readjust the settings. In Manual Mode, the settings remain constant until you change them again.

Illustrative examples

Photographing a person against a dark or light background requires careful metering so their skin tone looks natural.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Here’s a portrait of Masu. She is a Kayan woman living with her family in Thailand. I positioned my spot meter to take a reading from her face. In this case, my exposure setting was 1/640th of a second at f/4 and my ISO was set to 400.

If I had used Averaged or Center-Weighted metering, my exposure would have been incorrect. The camera would have accounted for a large portion of the black background.

Placing the spot meter on her face was important. If I’d left the spot in the center of the frame my reading would have been incorrect. It would have read the light reflecting off the black. This would give a reading which would have led to an overexposed skin tone.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

With Masu standing against the white background, I made my exposure metering the same way. The settings are identical to the settings I used for the black background. This is because the light had not changed, only the background.


Choosing the right exposure metering mode helps you better control your exposures. It’s important to look at the light and tone in your composition. Then determine the most important area to expose for. The more contrast there is, the more important it is to meter well.



The post Understanding Exposure Metering Modes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Did You Score Any Gear From This Massive Amazon Prime Blooper? Need to Know How to Use It?

Mon, 07/22/2019 - 06:00

The post Did You Score Any Gear From This Massive Amazon Prime Blooper? Need to Know How to Use It? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

This week, people flocked to Amazon for some annual Prime Day deals.

But a select few got a bit more than they were expecting:

Gear that normally costs thousands of dollars…

…on sale for just $94.50 USD. 

It all began when an observant Amazon shopper saw that a Sony a6000 bundle was on sale for $94.50. They shared this bargain on Slickdeals, and other photographers immediately began to take notice.

Slickdeals users raced to grab the bargain, but it soon became apparent that the Sony a6000 bundle wasn’t the only thing on sale.

Consider the Canon 800mm f/5.6L, which normally comes for $13,000 USD. One Amazon customer reportedly managed to snap it up for just $94.50 USD.

The same story is true for a number of other pieces of camera kit: the Fujifilm X100F, the Sony a7III, and the Canon EOS R, all of which normally go for over $1000 USD, all marked down to $94.50.

This was a mistake on Amazon’s part. First, it’s highly unlikely they would offer these items at such laughably low prices. And the deals weren’t seen by all customers; only some folks were able to view the bargain prices.

Many have claimed that Amazon will cancel any orders made for these products. And this might make sense – if it weren’t for the fact that many items have already shipped. Some customers have even received their items.

(Though it remains to be seen whether Amazon will honor the slashed prices for backordered items.)

Unfortunately, this deal-of-a-lifetime is long gone. And only a few Amazon customers managed to grab professional-grade gear for under a hundred dollars.

Were you one of them?

And even if you weren’t able to lock in any of these accidental bargains, did you get any new photography equipment for Prime Day? Let me know in the comments!

Also, for those who did get their hands on some exciting new photography gear, I’d like to take a minute to mention our course, which is only open for a limited time:

31 Days to Become a Better Photographer.

In it, you’ll discover how to use your new gear – so you can take stunning photos, consistently!

Don’t miss out! Sign up here:

31 Days to Become a Better Photographer

The post Did You Score Any Gear From This Massive Amazon Prime Blooper? Need to Know How to Use It? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

How to Take the Perfect Macro Photo (Step-By-Step Guide)

Sun, 07/21/2019 - 08:30

The post How to Take the Perfect Macro Photo (Step-By-Step Guide) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

In this article, I’m going to show you exactly how you can take the perfect macro photo.

I’m talking about macro photos that are unbelievably good – the kind of photo that professionals strive for.

Because it turns out there are a few simple macro secrets. And if you use them regularly, you can practically guarantee some gorgeous macro images.

Are you ready for some step-by-step instructions that will take your macro images to the next level?

Let’s dive right in.

Step 1: Shoot during the right light (clouds or Golden-Hour!)

Macro photography starts with light.

And without good light?

Your photos just won’t work.

But what counts as good light for macro photography?

First of all, the golden hours are amazing for macro photography. If you shoot during the hour or two after sunrise and the hour or two before sunset, you’re guaranteed incredible light.

You do have to be careful about the light’s direction. During the golden hours, the sun is low in the sky. This means that the light hits your subject from an angle. And this angle will affect how your photos turn out.

In general, frontlight is the best type of light for macro photography.

(Frontlight refers to light that comes from over your shoulder, and hits the front of your subject.)

So if you stick to frontlight, you’ll do just fine.

If you struggle to find the best position for frontlight, try pointing your shadow at your subject. That way, you can be sure that your subject is always perfectly lit.

However, the golden hours aren’t the only type of good light for macro photography.

You can also shoot beautiful macro photos when the day is heavily overcast.

Because clouds diffuse the light, making it nice and soft.

With soft light, you don’t have to worry about the direction. Instead, focus on shooting subjects with color. The soft light will make the hues more vivid.

And speaking of subjects:

Step 2: Find a single stand-out subject

All perfect macro photos need a strong subject.

Something that stands out. Something that can act as a focal point for your photo. Something that anchors the shot.

There are dozens of possible macro photography subjects, including:

  • Flowers
  • Insects
  • Rocks
  • Feathers
  • Leaves

But here’s the thing:

The particular category of the subject isn’t important. You can take amazing macro photos of flowers or insects, rocks or feathers.

What’s important is that you choose the right flower, the right insect, the right rock.

Because you need to choose a subject that’s going to stand out from its surroundings. That is, you should aim for a subject that contrasts with the environment (ideally in multiple ways).

For instance, your subject can be sharp, while its surroundings are soft.

Your subject can be dark, while its surroundings are light.

Your subject can be red, while its surroundings are green.

The point is for your subject to stand out. If your subject blends in with the environment, the shot generally won’t work. Because almost every macro photo needs an anchor.

Note that this means your subject shouldn’t overlap chaotically with other, similar objects. For instance, you don’t want a flower that’s surrounding by other distracting flowers.

Bottom line:

Make sure your subject is powerful. That’s the first step to capturing the perfect macro photo.

Step 3: Find a simple background that enhances the subject

You know the importance of a stand-out subject.

But your background is important, too.

If you want to capture a stunning macro photo, you’ve got to make sure that your background is totally aligned with this goal.

What makes for the perfect macro background?

First, the perfect background is simple. It doesn’t have much going on. It doesn’t distract.

Second, the perfect background enhances the photo as a whole. That is, it adds a splash of color, or creates a pure white look for the subject to rest on.

In general, you can make your macro backgrounds simple by creating a deep blur. You do this two ways:

  1. Use a wide aperture (in the f/2.8 to f/5.6 range).
  2. Have a large subject-to-background distance. For this, make sure that your background is off in the distance.

To enhance the photo with your background is harder. I like to make backgrounds by using the sun-shade technique – where you make sure that your subject is in the shade, and your background is in golden sun.

That’s how I was able to capture backgrounds like this one:

If you can’t use the sun-shade technique, that’s okay. Try to find a background that includes a bit of color – such as a distant autumn tree.

Note that you can often find better backgrounds by simply walking around your subject and observing it from multiple angles. Try getting down low, shooting from up high, or getting on a level with your subject.

Step 4: Pick the perfect settings for a sharp, well-exposed macro photo

Once you’ve chosen a subject and a background, it’s time to choose your macro settings.

I’ll start by sharing my common settings, and then explain why I choose them and what I suggest you work with.

When I shoot macro photography, I use Manual mode, because I like tweaking both my shutter speed and aperture to try out different looks. However, it can also make sense to work in Aperture Priority mode if you’re not interested in playing with different shutter speeds for creative results.

I don’t recommend Shutter Priority mode, because this relinquishes control over your aperture – and aperture is something that you should absolutely choose yourself.

Speaking of aperture: I consistently use apertures between f/2.8 and f/5.6. This gives me the perfect blurry background – which, as I mentioned above, helps create a stand-out subject.

However, macro photographers sometimes prefer their subject to be sharp throughout. In this case, you’ll need an aperture in the area of f/16 and beyond, and you’ll need a tripod. In fact, if your subject is very three-dimensional, you’ll need to focus stack (a technique that’s beyond the scope of this article).

I tend to work handheld (because I like the flexibility). This means that I rarely let my shutter speed drop below 1/120th of a second. But if you use a tripod, you’re free to let your shutter speed drop far below this mark (if there’s absolutely no wind, that is!).

In general, I advocate using the lowest ISO you can get away with. You want to minimize noise as much as possible. So try to keep this down.

Finally, make sure that you switch from autofocus to manual focus, especially if you’re working at high magnifications. You simply can’t focus well with autofocus at macro magnifications, no matter how good your lens. So manual focus is key to getting the perfect shot.

And that’s it! Take your shot – and admire it! Because if you’ve followed the instructions above, it’s going to look really, really stunning.

How to take the perfect macro photo: next steps

You know how to take the perfect macro photo.

You know how to find the perfect light, the perfect subject, and the perfect background.

You even know the perfect macro photography settings.

So go out and take some perfect macro photos of your own!

Which step in capturing a perfect macro photo do you struggle with the most? Leave a comment right now letting me know – and I’ll see what I can do to help!


The post How to Take the Perfect Macro Photo (Step-By-Step Guide) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

How to Use the HDR Panorama Photo Merge in Lightroom Classic CC

Sun, 07/21/2019 - 06:00

The post How to Use the HDR Panorama Photo Merge in Lightroom Classic CC appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Not long ago I wrote about Four of the Latest Updates to Lightroom Classic CC. In it, we talked about some of the fresh features Adobe has recently added to Lightroom. One of those great new additions was the single-step HDR Panorama Photo Merge. That’s a mouthful of a name, but it’s an incredibly useful tool that allows us to combine multiple bracketed exposures into a seamless high dynamic range panoramic image in, as the name suggests, essentially a single step. In this article, we’re going to delve a little deeper into the new single-step step HDR Panorama Photo Merge (geez) feature and show you exactly how to capture and combine your images to make a beautifully executed panorama.

What is an HDR Panorama?

High dynamic range (HDR) photographs and panoramas are nothing new to the world of photography. In fact, neither are HDR panoramas.

HDR photos are simply images combining multiple exposures to form a final photo that exhibits tonal and/or focus ranges far beyond a single exposure. Along those same lines, panoramic photos are images stitched together that carry a visual perspective beyond what is obtainable from a single exposure (with a few exceptions).

As you may have guessed, an HDR panorama combines multiple photographs to produce a wide perspective composite image featuring high dynamic range.

Previous methods for merging multiple images to produce HDR panoramic photos were generally tedious and required venturing over into Photoshop. Luckily, with the new HDR Panoramic feature introduced in v8.0 of Lightroom Classic CC, you can now efficiently combine your images with just a few clicks of the mouse. Let me show you how I made the above HDR pano combining twelve separate bracketed photos right inside of Lightroom.

Obtaining your images for merging

The first and arguably most crucial part of creating your HDR panorama begins inside your camera.

Lightroom places some stringent criteria on the images you can combine using it’s single-step HDR Panorama function. ALL of these rules must be met by each one of your images prior to merging.

Here are the “rules” for images you plan to merge into an HDR pano directly from Adobe:

  • All the images in your selection must contain the exposure metadata – Exposure time, f-number, and ISO.
  • Each set of bracketed exposures in your selection must have the same number of images. For example, if you chose to bracket with three images, then all the sets in the selection must also use three images.
  • Every set of bracketed exposures in your selection must have the same exposure offsets. For example, if your first set has exposure offsets of (0, -1, +1), then all other sets in the selection must follow the exposure offset pattern. The image sets can have different exposure values; only the exposure offsets pattern must be consistent across all the sets.
  • Each set of bracketed exposures must be captured contiguously. For example, if you’ve considered a bracket size of three while capturing the images, then the first three images in the sequence become part of a bracket set. The next three images in the sequence become part of another bracket set, and so on.
  • Within a set of bracketed exposures, the images must not have the same exposure value.

While you can shoot your images in either a vertical or horizontal orientation, it is a good idea to use vertically orientated photos in you plan on displaying them digitally. This avoids extremely long, yet narrow images. Of course, this is entirely up to you.

Combining the images

Now that you’ve made it through the rather exacting process of actually obtaining your photos for merging, the rest of the operation is refreshingly easy to complete.


First things first. In the Library Module of Lightroom Classic CC select the images you want to use for the HDR pano. An easy trick to select all of your images at once is to select the photo at the beginning of the series and then hold down the shift key while clicking the last photo in the series. This automatically selects all your bracketed exposures at once. It also saves you quite a few mouse clicks if you are using a high number of photos.

Once you’ve got all of your photos selected, right-click on any of those images and choose Photo Merge, and then HDR Panorama.

It’s here where you learn for sure whether all of your images meet the requirements for merging. If not, you will receive the soul-crushing message ‘Unable To Detect HDR Exposure Bracket Size. Merge To Non-HDR Panorama Instead?’ That means Lightroom will merge the photos into a normal non-HDR pano if possible.

However, if you’ve done your duty, and you obtained all of your images correctly, your photo will appear as a preliminary smart preview. From here, it’s just a matter of controlling how you want Lightroom to handle the final merging of your images. You’ll have quite a few options that will affect the ultimate product.

Projection modes

Think of projections as the shape of the canvas on which Lightroom paints your finished HDR panorama. There are three different projection modes from which to choose based on the nature of the panorama you are creating:

  • Spherical: This aligns and transforms the images as if they were mapped to the inside of a sphere. This projection mode is great for ultra-wide or multi-row panoramas.

  • Cylindrical: This projects the panorama/HDR panorama as if it were mapped to the inside of a cylinder. This projection mode works well for wide panoramas, but it also keeps vertical lines straight.

  • Perspective: This projects the panorama/HDR panorama as if it were mapped to a flat surface. Since this mode keeps straight lines straight, it is great for architectural photography. Extremely wide panoramas may not work well with this mode due to excessive distortion near the edges of the resulting panorama.

Boundary Warp

The amount of Boundary Warp is a way to stretch your merged HDR pano so that it more or less fills the frame of the selected projection mode. With Boundary Warp, you have a slider that ranges from 0-100 that allows you to preserve any content of the photo that you may lose after cropping.

Experiment with different Boundary Warp settings until you reach a happy medium between distortion and content preservation.

Auto settings/crop

These settings work extremely well to save you some editing time at least on the front end. The auto-crop and auto-settings functions allow Lightroom to trim and process your finished HDR panorama automatically. While you, of course, can crop and process your image manually after merging, I’ve found the auto settings function gives consistently outstanding results.


Consider stacking as an afterthought of your post-panorama post-processing. It’s a way for you to keep all of your ducks in a row, so to speak, and is especially useful if you’ve used many photos to construct your HDR panorama. Choosing the stacking option literally stacks all of the images used for your HDR panorama merge into a group with the merged image placed on top. This aids in keeping your filmstrip tidy and saves physical space in the Library Module.

Once you have made all of your selections for the HDR pano merge, it’s time to click the ‘Merge’ button. This begins the process of combining the images into a single DNG file.

After the merge is complete, you will have an image which you are free to finish processing just as you could with any other digital RAW file. This includes adjusting the auto-cropping and, of course, the auto settings. This achieves the final image that we saw from earlier.

Final considerations

Remember that any HDR image is already by its very definition a composite photo. As such, it is a combination of many different exposures which, if pushed too far, can result in an incredibly fake-looking final product. Always keep your HDR images within the realm of passable reality unless you are intentionally going for a hyper-realistic appeal. Along those same lines, make sure the photos meet all the criteria for HDR panorama merging listed above.

Furthermore, attempt to previsualize the final merged photo in your mind and shoot your images according to the tonal range and perspective you wish to achieve. When in doubt, it’s always better to have too many images to work with than not enough.

Have some HDR Panorama photos you’ve created inside of Lightroom Classic CC? We’d love to see them! Feel free to share them in the comments.


The post How to Use the HDR Panorama Photo Merge in Lightroom Classic CC appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Opposites

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 08:30

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is OPPOSITES!

Anusha Barwa

Go out and capture absolutely anything from still life to pets, street photography, still life, landscape, and portraits. They can be color, black and white, moody or bright. Just so long as they have opposites! Opposing colors, opposing objects, light and shade, opposing shapes – You get the picture! Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Daniele Levis Pelusi


Fabio Rose

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

Tips for Shooting OPPOSITES

How to Make Your Photos Stand Out Using Color Contrast

How to Use Shadow and Contrast to Create Dramatic Images

Five Tips for Creative Pet Photography

The dPS Top Street Photography Tips of 2018

The dPS Top Landscape Photography Tips of 2018


Weekly Photography Challenge – OPPOSITES

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 #DPSopposites 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 – Opposites appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

How to Shoot Animal Portraits [video]

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 06:00

The post How to Shoot Animal Portraits [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this video from the crew over at Cooph, Vincent Lagrange, shows you how to shoot animal portraits that have style and tell the story behind the animal.


These are the key things Lagrange points out in the video:


Animals don’t need makeup or a stylist – they have their own unique look to photograph from the get-go.

  • Build a good relationship with the animal.
  • Create a soft light setting. Avoid flash so that the animal is as relaxed as possible.
  • Create a quiet atmosphere
  • Communicate with sound.
  • Only use food when the shoot is becoming difficult.

  • Don’t start directly photographing the animal. Spend some time with it first.
  • If the animal doesn’t want to be photographed, then don’t. Let it rest and then try again. It is not an object.
  • Have patience
  • For the larger portraits, Vincent uses the Leica S medium format camera.
  • When he is on the road, he uses the Leica M.
  • He always uses fixed lenses – never zooms.
  • He also never uses continuous shooting mode. He invests time in composing and doing single shots and keeping it quiet.

You may also find the following helpful:


The post How to Shoot Animal Portraits [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

A Brief introduction to GIMP Software

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 08:30

The post A Brief introduction to GIMP Software appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Whether you are looking for a free program to start learning photo editing or you want a lighter alternative to Photoshop, GIMP may be the software for you. You can create graphics, text, and manipulate photos, but first, you need to understand how it works. Keep reading for a brief introduction to GIMP software and how to use it.

What is GIMP?

GIMP is a completely free image editor. You can even use it for commercial purposes without having to pay. It is also open-source, which means that a lot of third-party developers have created free plug-ins for use with GIMP. Furthermore, if you know how to code, you can also modify it as you see fit. Finally, it is also available for many different operating systems. You can download GIMP from its site, and it will suggest the one for you.

It’s even possible to take it with you for other devices. You can find an instruction manual in the article How to Install GIMP on a Portable Device. In any case, on the main page of GIMP’s website, you’ll see a very enticing description, beautifully illustrated and promising high-quality image manipulation, original artwork creation, and graphic design elements.

It all sounds fantastic, right? But when you open the program, you may not know where to start. Well, let’s break it down for you to easily understand.

Multiple windows or just one?

Most programs open in one window that you can enlarge or squeeze, minimize or close, all in one go. Instead, GIMP, by default, opens in three windows. This is a bit puzzling, and I found it very off-putting the first time I used it.

The good news is that from version 2.8 of GIMP, you can change into a one-window view. I’ll tell you how to switch in just a moment.

First, I want to tell you what makes the multiple window choice worth trying. As each image opens as a new window, you can work with two or more images side by side. Even better, the same image can open in two windows so you can work on it as a side-by-side comparison.

Another perk of having separate windows is that you can gain more image space on your screen. You can individually minimize any window containing tools or labels that you’re not using. Now, if you’re not convinced with it, you can switch to the single-window mode by going to Menu -> Window -> Single-Window Mode. Whichever choice you make, it saves as a default for the next time you open GIMP.

What’s What?

Now that you have set up your workspace, it’s time to learn what each window contains. In the center, you’ll have the image window. Here you can see the image or canvas you’re working on. If you are on multiple windows, each image opens separately (as shown before), and if you are on the single-window mode, they open as tabs.

On the left side, you’ll have a window that holds your toolbox. In there, you can have a shortcut button for the tools you use most often. It comes with a default setup that you can personalize. To do it, go to GIMP -> Preferences -> Toolbox and choose the tools you want to add or delete from there.

Underneath you have the options available for each tool. Therefore, it’s not static content; it changes every time you select a different tool. You can drag and drop this dock to a different position if you prefer, however, I keep it on the right.

On the right side, you have a window that holds a series of tabs like History or Layers. This window behaves like a dock. If you want to open a tab that is not showing, you have to go to the menu Windows -> Dockable Dialogs, and chose it from the drop-down menu. It will automatically dock the tab. Then click on the arrow button on the right to open the settings and manage it from there.

If you are working with multiple-windows mode, you can still reach these tabs on the menu Windows -> Dockable Dialogs. In this case, you’ll find that some open as tabs and some open as separate windows that you can drag, minimize, or close individually.

Save or export?

Whether you did a small modification or an original artwork, you need to save it. If you go to the menu File -> Save as you would normally do, you can only use the GIMP extension .xcf.

If you want to use a universal format like .jpg or .tiff or even change it into Photoshop’s .psd, you have to go to the menu File -> Export. From there, you have a huge variety of file formats to choose from. If you aren’t sure about which one is best, check this article for Understanding all the Different Image File Formats.

I hope you found this article helpful overview to understand GIMP software and give it a try. If you are still not convinced with it, there are other free programs out there. For more information check out this article with Tips on choosing a Free Photo Editor for Post-Processing.

Have you used GIMP software? What are your thoughts? What are some other free post-processing software applications that you use? Please share with us in the comments section.


The post A Brief introduction to GIMP Software appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

4 Tips for Achieving Flattering Portraits

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 06:00

The post 4 Tips for Achieving Flattering Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

Flattering portraits rarely happen as a default. Some people are photogenic, yes, and look good at every angle. But often, we work hard to get flattering photos that the sitter loves. There is no one-trick as every person’s face, form, and shape are different. We have to tailor our angles to each portrait sitter. However, there are basic fundamental tools we can use that help us achieve flattering portraits.

1. Use the right lens

Having photographed people for a decade now, I have learned that there is no great all-around lens that can do the best job for everything. Sure there are good lenses that achieve good results, but I’d favor specialist lenses for specific purposes.

Let’s take portraits, for example. A basic kit lens that comes with a camera purchase is usually an 18mm – 55mm zoom. It is expected to be good for wide angles and normal-range views. Yes, it’s good for day-to-day standard snaps. But for portraits? A longer zoom, such as the 85mm, 105mm, and 200mm, are a much better choice for stunning portraits. These give a shallow depth of field, great compression to the background and produce flattering portraits. There is no distortion similar to what you would get when using wider lenses for portraits.

You can read more about choosing the best portrait lens on here.

2. Use the right angle for the person

Many women I have photographed do not like having their portrait taken. They are aware of various imperfections on their faces, angles they do not like, and features they are self-conscious about. This is normal and certainly rings true for me. I’m the worst portrait sitter.

In order to achieve portraits that women like, I usually shoot both sides and show them the first few photos I take on the LCD screen of the camera. They choose a preferred side, and we take a few more from that angle. The worst thoughts are usually just in their minds. When they see their photos, even on the back of the camera, they realize it’s not as bad as they thought and there is a better side. They usually relax more from then on.

Generally, I photograph at slightly higher than eye level for most women. This angle hides any unwanted necklines, slims down cheeks and tapers the face down a little for a more flattering portrait.

If I’m photographing from an even higher level than usual, I ask them to look up at me just ever so slightly, and that gives me a confident posture and stance too.

With men, it is usually quite the opposite. Most male portraits get taken within seconds. I find them less self-conscious with a “let’s get on with it, over and done with attitude” in a nice way. I ask them to stand as they usually do. If they slouch, I ask them to straighten their spines a bit, square their shoulders and look straight into the camera. Sometimes I get them to lean slightly against a wall. I generally photograph men at eye-level.

Children, on the other hand, I look best when photographed from waist high. That means I’m always a little lower than them – often sitting on the floor and looking up to them a bit. This means they don’t look too small, and they get a boost of confidence that they are being looked up at and not down to. Children often look down towards whatever they are holding or playing with. By shooting from a lower angle, I get to see their faces clearly too.

3. Use the right type of lighting

Simply put, short lighting is when the shadowed side of the face is closer to the camera. Being in the shadow, this side of the face is darker and therefore usually ‘shorter’ in terms of the span of the light hitting this side of the face. Broad lighting is the opposite when lit and the brighter side of the face is closer to the camera. Because it’s brighter, it appears much broader with more light reaching much of the area of the face.

Short lighting makes the face appear slimmer due to the shadows created on the face. This can also produce strong contrasts although you can soften the dark areas by using a reflector.

Broad lighting helps in making the face appear wider. Because this area is usually brightly lit compared to other areas, stronger contrast between dark and light is usually created.

Use these two lighting types to the advantage of the sitter for more flattering outcomes. You can read a more in-depth explanation of these two types of lighting on here.

4. Crop correctly

Because I always edit my photographs, I feel I can afford to change my composition in post-processing rather than always trying to get everything right in-camera. Don’t get me wrong, I strive to get my compositions right, but I have found I can always tweak it in post to improve it. I shoot fast and can’t always get the horizontals completely straight, so I correct this in post. This means I have to shoot a little wider than the final outcome.

I have no problems with cropping as long as it’s not too aggressive and there are ample pixels left in the image to produce great prints.

There are a few caveats in cropping though. For flattering portraits, never crop or compose your photos so that the edges and tangents are on body joints like elbows, knees, neck, wrist, shoulders and across the belly. These look odd and somewhat disturbing. Always crop in between or partway through the joints, so chest, arms, hips, leg, calves, forehead are acceptable. You can read more about tips on cropping to improve your image on here.

I have photographed many a woman who was very conscious of her body. For example, she was self-conscious of her arms, and yet she turns up in a sleeveless top. In those cases, I zoom in and crop the arms lengthways down so the photo only shows a third of the bare arm.

You can also crop to reposition your image and strengthen your composition as a result. I find using the rule of thirds as a very strong compositional tool and tend to lean towards it a lot. A symmetrical composition is also strong and effective. This is a good article on factors to consider when composing portraits.

I hope you found these four tips for flattering portraits helpful. If you have more tips to contribute, share them on here in the comments below.


The post 4 Tips for Achieving Flattering Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

Makeup Essentials for Photographers Part 2 – Application

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 08:30

The post Makeup Essentials for Photographers Part 2 – Application appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

A little makeup will help your images pop

In part 1, we explored the tools you need to be able to help your subjects. Once you have all those essentials for applying makeup, the next step is the hard one – application. Again, this overview is intended for photographers and not makeup artists. The approach should be about helping your portrait subjects look a little better in your images of them. However, it should not replace using an actual makeup artist if you have one available.

Makeup artists can do amazing work that takes a lot of time, effort and skill to become good at. You can’t become a makeup artist by simply reading one article. We are going to help you tweak what is already there rather than give tips on how to be a junior makeup artist.

Many models come to sessions with their own makeup

Virtual Makeup

Beyond makeup, there are lots of techniques for improving someone’s appearance in post-processing including adding virtual makeup. Virtual makeup programs and plug-ins have come a long way, but, as always, it is much easier to get the images correct in-camera and not rely on post-processing to fix everything.

Also, while it can be done, post-processing images can take a fair bit of time, so getting it right in-camera means very little post-processing. Little post-processing can end up saving you a tremendous amount of time, particularly if you are handling lots of images and tight timelines.

Virtual makeup can be virtually indistinguishable from regular makeup and is way better than excessive smoothing or reverse clarity.

Before applying makeup

In general, when you are applying makeup to an individual, there are a few factors to consider before applying makeup to them. First, you need to be aware if they are comfortable with makeup and with you applying it to their faces. Most women and few men are comfortable with makeup, however, there are both men and women who are not. Before you do anything to anyone, you need to ask for their consent. Also, ask how comfortable they are with letting you do anything regarding the application of makeup.

When you apply makeup to someone, you end up getting up close and personal (much like a haircut) and there are lots of people and cultures that frown on you entering their personal space. Your subjects need to feel beautiful or handsome but more importantly, they must feel comfortable.


Rule of thumb

The rule of thumb for photographers who are applying makeup to subjects is that you are looking for a very light touch of makeup (i.e. very little).

With women, just improve a little of what is already there (they may already have most of it down and may be way more skilled at it than you are).

For men, you are looking to remove the sheen and give them a light tan to look healthier. For all your subjects, think smoothing and getting rid of shine.

Making subjects relaxed is important

Approach for women

Lots of women wear makeup everyday. Many will show up for a portrait session with the makeup that they normally use and are comfortable with. That’s really great. For these women, you will need to carefully consider or assess what you want to achieve before applying or correcting your subject’s makeup. Ideally, your subject’s makeup is just fine with no need for any changes or only some minor touch-ups. Only add or repair what’s needed for these subjects. Do not make their makeup worse.

Alternatively, some women don’t wear any makeup. So for them, you will need to let them know you will only be doing a little to help them look better in front of the camera. You are really trying to make them look their best – you will not be trying to fix them or to try to make them look like a supermodel. Everyone has great features, and everybody wants to feel attractive. Great photography will bring out their inner beauty. You are just trying to enhance what they have, not to make them look like something they are not. Some women will joke and ask you to take 10 years off. The best thing to do is to reassure them that you will make them look good.

Makeup for men is just a really light touch.

Approach for men

Most men don’t wear makeup. This means that you need to make them relax having makeup on.  Depending upon how and who the person is, will affect your approach. The best approach you can take is to tell them you are just cleaning some stuff up and making them look great. It will be really important for most men to tell them that you will be putting very little makeup on them.

As with most subjects, you tend to be dealing with normal people. Here is a before makeup shot of a typical subject. Ensure your subject’s face is clean and moisturized before adding makeup.


If your subject arrives with no makeup, you may need to apply some very basic makeup. Ideally, their faces are at least clean before you start. If your subject’s face is not clean, recommend a splash of soap and water as well as cleaning with a clean applicator using an alcohol-free toner.

Beyond making people feel comfortable, you also need to be wary of any allergies. Before you start applying any makeup to anyone, make sure you know if they are allergic to any products. This ensures you don’t start applying some makeup only to have them feeling really bad and break out in hives.

Fair complexion individuals will benefit from a little bit of makeup by providing some definition.

Your first step is to use blotting paper to blot up any obvious oil spots. Simply press the blotting paper to the oily area, lift, and repeat as necessary, using a clean section of blotting paper each time. Never rub, just blot.


This is a critical stage of applying makeup. Done well, concealing transforms small skin irregularities and get things right straight out of the camera. This saves retouching later in post-processing.  Using your smallest brush (the lip or concealer brush), dab concealer onto blemishes, dark circles under the eyes, and in any other areas that need a bit of correction. Dab on a bit of concealer with your brush, wait a minute or so, then use a clean finger to lightly dab the concealer to begin blending.

Concealing involves targeting small imperfections to help people look more like themselves

As a photographer, you will be familiar with color theory. Now you need to think about it for makeup. Applying concealer normally requires you to think about color theory and shading. For example, apply green to red blotches; yellow to purple-blue under-eye circles on olive or tan skin, and light purple or pink to under-eye circles on fair skin.

Try to always use a flesh-toned concealer that is the same as, or slightly lighter than, your subject’s skin to allow the ability to even out the corrections.

Correcting or balancing foundation on women

With excess oil removed and any blemishes concealed, now you will need to look closely at your female subject’s foundation. Some women use too much foundation or don’t blend foundation enough along the jawline. If either applies to your subject, moisten a wedge sponge and use it to even out the foundation using light and gentle strokes. Pay particular attention to jawlines and hairlines. Ensure any makeup lines are smoothly blended out to make them invisible.

Alternatively, some women don’t apply enough foundation. If you find this to be the case with your subject, use your largest brush (the face brush) and brush on lightly-tinted setting powder. Powder will not provide deep coverage, but it will supplement a thin application of foundation.

Blush and contour for women

If you’ve never applied makeup to another person, this is the stage where you will initially feel particularly awkward using a brush and makeup. Even people with lots of practice on themselves can feel awkward doing it on someone else.  You may want to practice in advance by brushing makeup onto white sheets of paper, particularly textured paper like those used for watercolors.

A good application of foundation, blush and contour will make the subject’s face even

When you are ready to apply blush and contour to your subject, ask her to smile. Use a medium-sized brush to apply blush from the apex of her cheeks in a very slight curve down and then back up again, almost to her ears. Apply the blush in light strokes, brushing additional makeup in thin layers until you’ve achieved a look that is only slightly more dramatic than natural.

If you are feeling adventurous and confident, use your blush or powder brush with your bronzer to lightly contour the sunken area of her cheeks from about mid-cheek back to the hair line. A little contouring can go a long way. When you begin feeling more confident applying contour, consider applying it down the middle of a woman’s nose, at her temples, and on the tip of her chin. This application will make your subject’s face look a bit thinner.

Blending for women

For good makeup application, continued blending is key. Begin with a large face brush and lightly sweep in circles to begin to blend in the edges of the blush and contour you’ve applied. Finish blending by using the face brush to lightly brush on some flesh-colored translucent powder.

Highlight and manage shine

Setting powder can be used now to add some highlights to your subject’s face and to tone down any shiny areas. To add highlights, use a clean blush or face brush (be sure you’ve cleaned it of blush and contour). Dip the tip of the brush in some rice powder and gently touch the rice powder onto the areas you wish to highlight. Then use your face brush to blend.

Adding highlights to either side of the bridge of your subject’s nose, near the inside corners of her eyes, will brighten her eyes.

If your subject has some shiny areas (this may be all you need to correct for some clients), apply some rice powder on the shine using your face brush. Go easy on the application as you can overcorrect and end up with pale looking skin.

Smooth lips are never noticed, but rough ones always are. This is an easy thing to fix before taking a photo.


The last main step is to ensure your subject’s lips are smooth and moist looking. If your subject brought lipstick, use that. If not, or if her lips need a bit of moisture or shine, use a bit of lip gloss or balm. Apply the gloss or balm with a clean concealer or lip brush. Don’t use fingers or let your subject use her fingers as more lip gloss will end up on fingers than on lips.

A little bit of makeup can really bring out the individuals inner beauty

Final results coupled with good lighting can make for images people are proud to show others

Final assessment

Once complete, and at each intermediate stage, step back and assess what you have applied or corrected. Make sure it works. You can always layer on a bit more makeup where needed, but it’s much more difficult to remove too much makeup.

Applying makeup to men

Many men won’t refuse a bit of corrective makeup even if they feel awkward about it. Remember to limit makeup application for men to concealing and managing shine. You want them to look healthy, not made up.

For men just smoothing and a light touch are all that is necessary

Blot and conceal

As before with women, use blotting paper before applying any concealer. Men often produce more and heavier oil on their faces than women. If this oil is not blotted, the concealer will come off as you attempt to apply it. The same principles for applying concealer to women applies to men. You may only need to be a bit more diligent in blending concealer over shaved facial hair.  It may be trickier too with men who want that scruffy 5 o’clock shadow look or have a day’s growth of beard.

Managing shine

Rice powder works wonderfully to matte shine on a man’s face, especially on high foreheads and bald spots. Even if you are not able to completely matte shine in those areas, rice powder will bring the shine down enough that you will have texture to work with in those areas of the photograph when retouching.

As with women, apply rice powder to men lightly with a large face brush, blend well, and check to be sure you have not created pasty-white areas. If your client’s skin tone is dark and you are trying to matte significant shine, blend a little tinted translucent powder with the rice powder before applying.


Some men have dry or flaky lips, often from spending a lot of time outside. Ask if you can apply a small amount of clear lip balm. Rub the balm in well because you don’t want shiny traces on a man’s lips.

Before finishing up, take a close look at your client. Remove smudges, makeup flakes, or lint with a cotton swab. Use your face brush or a damp disposable sponge to blend any makeup that needs just a tiny bit more blending. And use a damp disposable sponge to remove stains or lint from clothing.

The judicial use of makeup can help people feel more confident for other types of posing.

Cleaning up

Finally, always clean your brushes and cosmetics after every use. You want to have sanitary makeup and brushes. Use a conditioning brush spray or isopropyl alcohol on your brushes. Use cosmetic sanitizer or isopropyl alcohol on your cosmetics so that you can use them for others. Throw away any disposable items you used. And always wash your hands with soap and running water or with sanitizer as soon as you are finished.

In the end, the desired result is for images people are proud of. To do that a little bit of makeup knowledge helps a photographer simplify his or her processes to get the best results

Practice, Practice, Practice

Applying makeup to another person does not come naturally. There is a reason why makeup artists are paid handsomely for their work. But with a few tools, a small bag of cosmetics, and practice, you will be able to address the worst of makeup or skin flaws before you capture your client’s portrait.

The post Makeup Essentials for Photographers Part 2 – Application appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

This Back-to-Basics Photography Exercise can Improve Your Photography

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 06:00

The post This Back-to-Basics Photography Exercise can Improve Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

The digital age has made photography easier, cheaper, and more accessible than ever before.  Even people who wouldn’t call themselves “photographers” now carry a camera in their pocket in the form of their cellphone.

However, has the ability to snap a picture without skill or knowledge made photography too easy? Even for you reading this article who’ve come to this site to learn more about making better photos – has the ease of making digital photos with modern cameras robbed you of learning the basics?

Perhaps. Presuming you really do want to learn more, give the following exercise a try with the intent of improving your skills.

I’ll bet back when this grocery store was operating you could buy black and white film here. Now, both are relics. I shot all of the mono photos in this article with a 50mm prime lens during a photo walk, while conducting the exercise outlined.

Back to the film days

Some of you remember the film days, but with digital photography catching hold in the early 2000s, we already have a generation of new photographers who may never have loaded a roll of film.  Others may never have had to manually focus a camera, calculate exposure without a meter, or made monochrome photos in the camera.

My first “real” camera – a 35mm Hanimex Praktica Nova 1B

As the risk of dating myself, here’s a little background:

Back in the “pre-digital days” (back in 1970 when dinosaurs roamed the earth), I was 16 and in high school. I bought my first real camera – a 35mm Hanimex Practica Nova 1B. It was an East German camera built in Dresden and imported to the U.S. The Oreston f/1.8 50mm Meyer Optik Görlitz lens was fast and sharp (though I didn’t know much about such things at the time).  It was typically loaded with Kodak Plus-X film (ISO 125, previously called ASA) or sometimes Kodak Tri-X (ISO 400).

I learned how to process the film and later make black and white prints in a little darkroom in the corner of the garage.  Working under the dim glow of a safelight, and watching the image magically appear as the photographic paper bathed in a tray of Dektol, is something young photographers today have likely not experienced.

The orange glow of a safelight and the smell of photo chemicals. Before Lightroom, there was the darkroom.

I can’t say I miss it.

Today’s cameras are far superior. Also, the ease of working at a computer using Lightroom, where you can dodge and burn with the click of a mouse instead of with physical tools, gives so much more creative freedom.  I also don’t have a wastebasket full of failed paper prints, and money spent trying to master the art.

These were things I learned the hard way with no electronic assistance from my camera. Let’s see what you can learn. Set up your camera and take a photo-walk emulating the way it used to be.

Learning to focus manually takes some skill. Note in this shot the very closest weed at the bottom of the frame is focused, but the other portions are soft. You’ll also better learn the relationship between depth-of-field and aperture when you work in manual mode.

Camera setup

We’re going to want to go fully manual for this, putting you in charge of setting the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. So put the dial in the “M” mode.  Turn autofocus off.  You will be focusing yourself.

If you have a 50mm prime lens, that will better emulate what most of us had on those old 35mm film cameras before we could afford to buy a zoom.  Composing with the “sneaker-zoom,” (that is, using your feet to move closer or further from your subject), is good practice, especially if you always rely on a zoom lens to compose.

Working with a prime lens will help teach you to compose without relying on a zoom.

Going Monochrome

Most beginning photographers, (and all of them in the pre-color era), shot black-and-white film. So to stick to the basics, we’ll be shooting monochrome as well.

Well, sort of.

The best option in a digital camera is to shoot in RAW mode, which will create a color image.  Later in editing, you’ll make a monochrome image from that color file.  Photographing for monochrome will also allow you to better concentrate on composition – another point of this exercise.

It is thought the term “chimping” originated from the “ooh, ooh” sounds photographers made when reviewing their photos on their LCD screens, (not necessarily as in this case, whether the photographer had a simian-like appearance  :-D.   For this exercise, you will NOT be chimping.  – Photo of/by Rick Ohnsman.

To chimp or not to chimp?

You’ve heard the term “chimping” which refers to the practice of some digital photographers to look at the playback on their LCD screen after each shot?  Some scoff at the practice.  Others, (count me in that camp), think the ability to immediately review a shot, check the histogram, make adjustments and reshoot is the best thing to ever happen to photography.  Instant feedback, (rather than waiting days, weeks, months, whatever it was to get back the photos and only then discover your mistake?) – what a concept!

I still bow to the wedding photographers who shot film.  Those photographers knew their cameras relying on skills and experience so they could trust they had the photo before ever seeing the results.

Many cameras will do this. This is a Canon 6D. Set your Picture style to Monochrome, but shoot Raw images. The Raw file will be in color but the LCD display, (both in playback and Live View) will be Monochrome.

So… a choice for you as you do this exercise –  You have two options:

Option 1: Shoot Raw, but set your camera so the image played back on the LCD (which is a .jpg thumbnail) is shown in monochrome

On a Canon camera, you will be using Picture Styles.  On a Nikon, Picture Controls is the term.  Look for Monochrome in the menu.  What you’ll be doing is taking a Raw color image but forcing the camera to playback a monochrome image on the LCD.

Check your camera manual for how to set this up.

The advantage is being able to see a monochrome image in playback rather than having to previsualize what it will look like.   Because your raw file will still be color, you will have more control in editing.  Should you decide you do prefer the color image, you can stick with it and not convert to black and white.

If you shoot .jpg only, your image will be monochrome with no going back.

Flexibility – it’s just one more of dozens of reasons to shoot raw images.

Or …

If you set your Image Review to “Off”, the photo will not be displayed in the LCD after you take it. Film photographers didn’t have the luxury of image review in the field and for this exercise, you won’t either.

Option 2 Turn off or tape over the LCD screen

If you really want to emulate shooting film, (and get the most from this exercise), you will not chimp at all.  There was no option to review your shots with film. The photographer had to trust their knowledge and instincts.

For those who’ve only made digital photos, (and even for those who may have used film but haven’t done so for a long time), this is harder than it might seem.  The reward, however, will be learning to analyze the scene better, make necessary camera adjustments, and trust your instincts.  You will make mistakes and not know about them until later, but lessons learned with a little “pain” attached will be those you’ll best remember.

I’m not suggesting you always work like this, instant LCD feedback is a beautiful thing. However, when practicing this exercise, see what it can teach you.  (Don’t forget to turn your LCD Review back on completion of the exercise!)

With the Picture Mode in Monochrome, both Live View and Image Playback on the LCD screen will be Monochrome even though the Raw file will still record in color.

When more isn’t better

Another great thing about digital photography is how many images you can fit on a storage card.  Depending on the camera and the card size that can easily be hundreds, even thousands in some cases.  You also don’t have to worry about each shot costing you more.  If you don’t like what you see, that’s what the delete button is for.

Cards are reusable. Once you buy one, you can use it over and over.

As the saying goes, “digital film is cheap.”

Monochrome will help you better compose and concentrate on line, shape, tone, and texture. Also, note how simulating a red filter when editing allowed the blue sky to render very dark.

Shooting film wasn’t cheap.  There was the cost of the film, the cost of film processing, and the cost of printing.  Nothing was reusable, and so all the shots, both the keepers and the junk, cost money.  With digital, we also need not print if we don’t like a shot.

It was hard to view a film negative and judge what you had.  Unless you were printing your own images, you’d almost always print everything and prints cost money.  Some of us shot transparencies (slides). These were a little cheaper since you’d typically not print them. However, you had to get it right in camera as there was no editing a slide.

Beginning film photographers could spend lots of money learning with little to show for it.

There was also the limitation of how many photos could be made on a roll of film. The capacity typically measured in dozens, not hundreds or thousands of images like digital media.  If you used 35mm film, you could typically get 12, 24, or 36-exposure rolls.  With limited exposures and to save money, photographers wanted to make each shot count.

The downsides were making fewer images, (and thus reducing the odds of getting a keeper), less experimentation with new techniques, and a longer learning curve for a new photographer who’d be making fewer photos.  The upside, however, (and this is a big factor), was photographers took more time to do it right – more time to think before pressing the shutter button.

Putting it all together

Are you ready to give this exercise a try?

I’d suggest not doing this in a session that’s important to you. If you are doing it right, you’re apt to make some mistakes.  That’s okay, those will be mistakes from which you can learn.

Here are your settings and steps:

Camera in “M” – Manual Mode – You will control ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed

Autofocus Off – Focus with the focus ring.  Learn to see and concentrate on what you’re focusing on.  A mistake I often see new photographers make when learning to use an autofocus digital camera is letting the camera select the default center focus point when that may not be the spot they wanted in focus. Manually focusing puts you in charge of what’s in focus.   Also, consider when you might need to use your aperture to increase or decrease your depth-of-field.

Determine your lighting conditions and chose a “film type” ISO – Choose ISO 125 for bright daylight (emulating Kodak Plus-X or Ilford FP4), ISO 400 (to emulate Kodak Tri-X or Ilford FP5). If you’ll be photographing in low light, try ISO 800 and emulate “pushed” film.  The point here is set it once and leave it there for the entire session.  It wasn’t possible to change ISO with film, you were stuck with your choice for the entire roll.

Use a prime lens if you have one – Learn to compose without a zoom.

Decide how many exposures you have – Pick 12, 24, or 36.  Sure, film photographers often carried multiple rolls, but this exercise is designed to help you make each shot count.  Once you hit your pre-determined number, you’re done.

Here’s what came in a box of Kodak Plus-X or Tri-X film. Can you use this to calculate exposure and not rely on your camera meter? Give it a try!

Calculate Exposure – By the 1960s, most 35mm film cameras had light meters, but they were primitive by today’s standard.  A “match-needle” system where a needle could be centered when dialing in exposure and shutter speed was what many displayed.  If you wanted to purposely over or under-expose a bit, you’d adjust until the needle was over or under as desired.

On cameras without meters, many relied on the chart typically found in a box of film.  Often, these calculations were based on what was called the “Sunny 16 Rule.”  It said that on a bright sunny day if you put the aperture at f/16, then the shutter speed should equal the ASA, (now ISO), film speed.

For example, with Kodak Plus-X ASA 125 film a setting of ASA 125, f/125 at f/16 would give you a well-exposed image.  If you wanted to shoot at a different shutter speed or aperture, you could calculate from there. For example, f/250 @ f/11 (assuming you had the same ASA 125 film in the camera) would be an equal exposure.

If it wasn’t a bright sunny day, you were in the shade, or light conditions were different, sometimes the little printed chart could help.  Mostly, it was the practice that taught a photographer what was “about right” for a given film and a given lighting condition.

That’s another purpose of this exercise; to help teach you what’s about right for a given lighting condition.  See how you do without relying on the meter. At least pay close attention to what the aperture and shutter speed is for a given set of conditions.

Slow down

If this exercise teaches you nothing else, learning to slow down will make it worthwhile.  With limited exposures available on a roll of film, the “spray-and-pray” style of photography was rare.  Typically it was only sports and fashion photographers who had motor-drives (the mechanical version of what we now do with continuous mode).

Photographers took the time to carefully think about their composition, and what they wanted to convey with the image. What shutter speed choice might be best to freeze or blur the action?  How much depth-of-field might you desire and what aperture choice would be best?  Should you roll in a little exposure compensation?

All of these factors were given thoughtful consideration.  Bracketing shots to be sure everything was right could be done but at the expense of more quickly eating up that roll of film.  The difficulty of fixing anything in the darkroom was much greater too, and photographers didn’t have the attitude that they’d “just fix it in Photoshop.”  Consequently, the concept of “getting it right in-camera” was the norm.

Getting it right in-camera is among the goals intended with this exercise.  If you know you only have a minimal number of exposures available to you, each one has to count.  You won’t have the luxury of shooting, chimping, adjusting, and re-shooting if you’re doing this exercise as intended.

So, slow down, take your time, think about each part of the process. And then make your best shot.

Later, you will have a real advantage film photographers didn’t have – the ability to review your images with attached exposure data.

In the film days, conscientious beginning photographers carried a notebook and wrote down their settings to recall later.  Now, your digital camera keeps the notes.  Chalk up one more plus for digital photography.

Why monochrome?

We briefly touched on why monochrome was the choice for this exercise.  One, of course, is that it replicates what early beginning film photographers used and we are simulating the limitations of that time.

The more significant reason is without color, monochrome images rely much more on shape, form, line, tone, and texture.  It is also much easier to concentrate on composition without the added distraction of color.

Working in monochrome can help a photographer better key in on those elements that make a strong image and practice those techniques.

If you’ve done much monochrome photography, you’ll likely already know this.  If you’ve pretty much only made color images in the past, this part of the exercise will also be part of the process of improving your skills.

Back in edit

Film photographers typically dropped their film off at the lab, mailed it in, or sometimes did their own processing.  (I love the smell of D-76 in the morning!  It smells like… Victory.  – Not!  Sorry for the flashback, let’s resume).

You will come back with a few, (you limited your exposures as instructed, right?), Raw images on your storage card.  They will be in color, but you’ll be converting them to monochrome.  I will not spend the time in this article outlining the best ways to convert color to monochrome.  You will find a nice collection of those tutorials here on DPS.  You will find there are great ways to manipulate the tones in your monochrome conversion to create distinctive looks.

To complete the goals of the exercise, what you’ll want to give the most attention to is, were you able to make well-focused, properly-exposed, and nicely composed images with the self-imposed restrictions of the exercise?  Without the electronic assistance of a modern digital camera (auto-focus, auto-exposure), what worked?  What didn’t?

If this really had been film, what would you do differently next time?

The takeaways

This is a great time to be a photographer.  The sophistication of our cameras and the ease with which we can do amazing things in editing is fantastic.  The point of this exercise, however, is to teach you to use your brain as a photographer, to take full control over your camera, and not rely on a microchip to do it for you.  I personally would never go back to film, have no desire to get back in a darkroom, and love every electronic aid my camera supplies.

The point is, I want those things to build on a solid foundation of photo ability and knowledge.  That is the reason for this exercise.

The path to becoming a better photographer lies in using your brain, not a camera microchip, to do the thinking. Slow down, pre-visualize the image, and then use the camera as a tool to capture that vision.

I sincerely hope you give this a try.  If you make great images, wonderful!  If you struggle and make mistakes, fine – you will have learned something.

Either way, you will grow as a photographer.

Drop me a line in the comments and let me know how you made out.  Best wishes.



The post This Back-to-Basics Photography Exercise can Improve Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

Sony Announces Incredible 61-Megapixel Full-Frame Camera: The A7R IV

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 01:00

The post Sony Announces Incredible 61-Megapixel Full-Frame Camera: The A7R IV appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Sony just recently announced its latest mirrorless camera:

The Sony A7R IV, which has already generated a massive amount of anticipation, excitement, and discussion.

Note that the A7R is the latest mirrorless body in Sony’s immensely popular A7 series, which includes the likes of the A7R III (which is no slouch when it comes to professional-quality shooting!). The A7R IV is also going up against several big competitors, including the Nikon Z7 and the Canon EOS R.

So what makes the Sony A7R IV so special?

While the A7R IV is clearly an excellent camera, there’s one thing that immediately captures attention:

The resolution.

The Sony A7R IV features an amazing 61-megapixel sensor, which will be the highest pixel count on a full-frame mirrorless camera that the world has ever seen. Note that this 61-megapixel offering is over a dozen megapixels more than the previous record-holder for full-frame resolution, the Panasonic S1R, at 47.3 MP. Also, this is nearly a 20 MP upgrade over the Sony A7R III.

What does this mean for photographers?

First and foremost, you’re going to capture high amounts of detail, and this leaves an amazing amount of room for work in post-processing, such as cropping.

(Note that the Sony A7R IV has a cropped-sensor mode, which still gives you 26 MP images.)

Now, the huge megapixel count results in huge file sizes, and it should have correspondingly slow frame rates and a very limited buffer. Except that Sony has pulled out all the stops so that the A7R will shoot at 10 frames-per-second for up to 7 seconds.

This means that this professional-level camera may appeal to both landscape and sports photographers, something that happens very rarely on high-end camera markets.

Autofocus is guaranteed to be strong, with 567 phase-detect autofocus points, plus Sony’s built-in eye-tracking.

Other features in the A7R IV include:

  • A 15-stop dynamic range, for photos that span the spectrum of tones
  • 4K movie, though only at 30p
  • 5-axis image stabilization, promising over 5 stops of increased sharpness
  • An improved electronic viewfinder
  • Dual card slots

If this isn’t a beast of a camera, I don’t know what is. It’ll come out in September; as expected, it’ll have a sizable price tag: $3500USD.

So, I’d love if you could tell me in the comments:

  • What do you think about the Sony A7R IV? Could you see yourself using it?
  • Would you like a 61 MP camera? Or would you prefer to stick to lower resolutions with smaller file sizes?
  • Is there anything missing from this camera?
Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

The post Sony Announces Incredible 61-Megapixel Full-Frame Camera: The A7R IV appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Steps For Better Product Photography in Natural Light

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 08:30

The post Steps For Better Product Photography in Natural Light appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

Taking photos of products can seem like a daunting task. If you look at a lot of advertising, you will find yourself inundated with a lot of high-end product photography that can seem (and probably is) out of reach for a novice. The thing is, not all product photography is equal. In many cases, a much simpler approach will do the job just fine.

This article will guide you through a process that can get you started taking product photos with minimal equipment. In these examples, you don’t even need a studio, just a backyard, and decent weather. You will also see that you can replace some dedicated kit (reflectors and diffusers in this case) with some basic and cheap substitutes.

What you need

With one optional exception, you will only need some basic kit to go through the process outlined here.

Camera – There’s not much to say about this one. You will need a camera.

Lenses – To get the best results you will want to choose a lens with a close focusing distance (if your products are relatively small) and a focal length that will give you the option to fill the frame.

If the products that you are photographing are quite small, you may want to opt for a macro lens. Fast lenses aren’t much of a concern here as you will want to choose an aperture that ensures complete focus on all parts of your subject.

Tripod – Because this is still-life photography, you absolutely should use a tripod. The reason should become clear as this tutorial progresses, but it will make your life so much easier.

An outdoor space – As for the where, all you need to get started with this tutorial is an open outdoor space. Even a small backyard will do. Anywhere that will lend you a decent, clean background will do.

Tissue paper – In lieu of a dedicated diffuser, you can use tissue paper. For ease of use, you can mount this in a frame of some description with clips or a bit of tape. This allows you to control and manipulate the natural light in your photos. I did use a dedicated diffuser in this tutorial, but tissue paper will work just as well.

White and black card (foamcore works well) – Use these as reflectors and flags respectively to give you further control over the manipulation of the light.

Backgrounds (optional) – Using the environment as a background will be fine a lot of the time, but sometimes you may need something different.

Don’t want to rely on what’s there? Bring your own backgrounds, such as these purpose-made boards or use plain colored paper. The choices are endless.

Color Management – Depending on what you are photographing and whom you are creating product photography for, color management may be optional, or it may be a legal requirement.

Tools like the ColorChecker Passport are indispensable for getting accurate colors in your images.

Even if it’s not necessary for your situation, it’s still a good idea.  The word ‘product’ implies that you are selling something. Even if you’re only creating an eBay or Facebook Marketplace listing, ensure an accurate representation of what you are selling. It is a means of treating the people you are selling to with respect. If you’re providing commercial services to a paying client, then that accurate representation of the product may be a legal requirement. Do your research and find that out before you get started.

Note: While you can use tissue paper and foamcore to great effect, I still believe you should buy a 5-in-1 reflector or two. These give you access to white and silver reflectors, diffusers and flags. Godox sells one for $15, so there’s no excuse. You can also use 5-in-1 reflectors as a background in a pinch.

Getting started

With your gear collected, this process is relatively straightforward.

Step 1: Find a space

Finding a space that gives you plenty of room to work and gives you a decent background may be the most important step in all of this.

As long as you are photographing small(ish) objects, where you choose to set up isn’t very important. Since the focus of your image is solely the product, other elements like the background won’t be taking up very much space in your frame in most cases. As long as you can find a space that gives you a clean background (or somewhere to place your own) and gives you plenty of room to work, you will be fine.

If you are working with small objects at a close distance to the camera, work with small apertures like f/16. If you want an out of focus background, you will want to ensure there is a good distance between your subject and the background.

Without going into the math, the closer your camera is to the subject, the shallower the depth of field becomes. When you are really close (especially with macro lenses), the focal plane reduces to a tiny sliver. To combat this, use small apertures.

In terms of lighting, as long as there is light, you will be fine. If you have all of the equipment listed at the top of this article, you will be able to manipulate the light in most situations.

Broad daylight? No problem. Shade? No problem. Any time of day will work except for the night where you would probably need to add an external light source of some description.

Step 2: Set up

As this spot was lit by direct sunlight, I put the diffuser up before doing anything else.

Now that you are in your space, pick where you want to set up and decide where you are going to photograph your product. Place your camera on a tripod and ensure that you have a good idea of how you are going to frame your product.

You can now evaluate your lighting. If you’re in open daylight, setup the tissue paper as a diffuser over where your product is going to be. You can fine-tune this later, but any diffusion you may be using should be in place before you start anything else. Diffusion material is going to affect the color of your images. Having it in place allows you to see the light as it’s going to appear in your photos while you are working on your composition.

Step 3 – Color Management

With the light diffused, take your steps towards color management. You want to do this before placing your subject to avoid moving it.

If you are opting to replicate accurate colors, do it now. Place your grey card (or whatever tool you’ve chosen) where your product will be under the exact lighting conditions that your final images will be created with. Take a photo of the card. If you’re setting the white balance in-camera, do it now. If you’re using a tool like the ColorChecker Passport shown in the example images, you can save it for the software later.

Step 4: Place your subject

Place your subject where you want it for your desired composition. Once that’s done, you can begin modifying the lighting. (This image is with the diffusion panel removed)

The next step is to place your product in situ for the composition that you want. Adjust the subject and the positioning of the camera until you have your desired effect. I find it is important to get this right at this stage. With this done, you are free to adjust everything else (such as the lighting) while being able to compare any test shots. It also allows you to blend multiple exposures later (providing it would be permissible to do so).

Step 5: Choose your aperture

Details are essential when you are selling something. The image on the left is shot at f/4 and you will see many of the details are concealed by depth of field. In the right-hand image, all details are present, but the background is less obscured.

With products, most of the time, you will want to choose an aperture that provides maximum focus on the whole of the subject. Since the depth of field is most affected by the distance of the camera from the subject, small objects close to the camera (particularly with a macro lens) will lead you to use much smaller apertures than you might typically use in other situations. If you need to, take a few test shots at various aperture settings. Review the results until you have the desired effect. Depending on your camera, you may find the depth of field preview button useful here as well.

Shooting tethered is also a great way to be able to see if there is enough depth of field in your images.

Step 6: Evaluate the lighting

Here, the subject is lit with unmodified light. You can see that the contrast is high and there is missing detail in both the shadows and highlights.

With everything in place, you’re just about ready to go. Here is where you can fine-tune your lighting to your heart’s content.

Adding the diffuser above the subject helped to even out the exposure between the background and the subject. All details are now present.


Use your white card(s) to fill in any shadows that may be providing too much contrast in your images. The beauty of using a card is you can cut it into any size and shape to match any need you have so that you are only reflecting where the extra light needs to be. For the most part, you are going to want to avoid heavy contrast in product photos, so feel free to use reflectors generously.

A bit of white mount board at camera left has filled in that side of the subject just a tiny amount. It makes the exposure evener.


In the event that there’s light falling on your subject where you don’t want it, use your black card as flags. For example, if the main source of light is coming from behind your subject, you can use a flag to shape that light so that it is only falling on your product where you want it. You can also use flags to darken areas around your subjects, such as the surface it is resting on, to put more emphasis on the product itself.

Introducing a flag to camera right has darkened that side of the subject. It has increased contrast just a bit and reduced the impact of the specular highlight on the droid’s head.

This step may seem optional, and to be fair, it pretty much is, but if you want your images to stand out, this is by far the most important step. The more attention to detail and effort you place into getting the lighting right, the better your photos are going to be.

It pains me to suggest that you could to move your camera at this point. However, as a last resort, if you’re having problems controlling the contrast in your images, you can set your camera to spot metering mode and evaluate where your reflectors need to be from there.

That said, if your light is suitably diffused, you shouldn’t have to resort to that. Alternatively, you could use a second body or a light meter if your subject is big enough.

Step 7: Final shot

The final image with minimal post-processing.

With all of the prep work done, you can now take your final shot. If all has gone well, you should have a well-lit, well-exposed image in the composition of your choice. Going through all of these steps should also mean there is very little to do in terms of post-processing.

That’s it

Is this the only way to take photos of products? Absolutely not. It’s not even close to the only way to do things outdoors. This is just one easy method to help you get results with minimal gear.

Hopefully, you’ve come to the conclusion that you don’t need a fully decked out studio and a myriad of specialist and obscure equipment to achieve better product photography results. Basic equipment, basic camera craft and attention to detail can take you a long way and get you results that will help you to sell whatever it is you are trying to sell.


The post Steps For Better Product Photography in Natural Light appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

6 Great Lightroom Tricks You Probably Didn’t Know About

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 06:00

The post 6 Great Lightroom Tricks You Probably Didn’t Know About appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kav Dadfar.

Adobe Lightroom is an essential tool for any photographer. Whether you are a professional or amateur, Lightroom can make your workflow faster and more efficient. But there are also a whole host of editing tools available. Some of which you may not even know existed. So here are 6 great lightroom tricks that you probably didn’t know about.

Crop overlay options

Cropping your photos can sometimes mean the difference between a good photo and a great one. You can access the Lightroom crop tool by pressing R on your keyboard in the Develop module. Perhaps you already knew that, but what you may not have known is that when your cropping tool is open, you can change the overlay that shows on your image.

By pressing “O,” you will be able to get a whole host of different overlays on the image to help you crop effectively. Everything from the “Rule of Thirds” to the “Fibonacci Rule” can be accessed to help turn an okay photo into a great one.

Lights Off Mode

Sometimes when you are editing a photo, it is easy to get distracted by all of the side panels and options available. A great way to really see your photo is by looking at it in the “Lights Out” mode. By pressing the “L” key once on your keyboard, everything dims except your image. Pressing it one more time, you will see just the image on a black background without the distracting side panels. Press it a third time to make the side panels re-appear.

Full-Screen Mode

Another useful trick, especially when working on smaller screens such as laptops, is to view your image at full screen. Because of the screen size, naturally the actual photo you are working on looks pretty small on a laptop screen.

To get a better view hit “F” on your keyboard and you’ll get to see the image as big as possible on the screen.

To come out of full-screen mode press Esc on your keyboard.

Know if your image is clipped

One of the key elements of taking a photo or post-processing it is to ensure that your highlights and shadows are not overexposed or underexposed to the point where there is no detail in those areas. This is a term that is known as clipping.

It can be difficult to judge by eye if any areas of your photo suffer from this. Thankfully, Lightroom’s clever tool can make it much easier to see where this occurs.

Click the little triangles on the corners of your histogram, and if there are clipped areas in your photo, they will show in red for highlights and blue for shadows. You can then tweak the different sliders to correct these issues. You can also access the clipping highlights by pressing “J” whilst in the Develop module.

Please note that on older versions of Lightroom these sliders might be different.

Pick and organise

I have over 100,000 photos in my collection. They are for a variety of assignments and clients, and they need organizing in a way that makes it easy for me to access them. One of the most useful aspects of Lightroom is being able to organize and flag your photos effectively. The three easy ways to organize your photos are 1) flagging them (i.e., putting a flag on the ones you want to), 2) adding 1 to 5 stars, 3) color-coding them in red, yellow, green, blue and purple.

You can access these by using the following shortcuts:

  • “P” flags a photo (to unflag a photo press “U”). You can also reject a photo by pressing “X”
  • Add stars by using the relevant number key between 1 – 5 (press zero to remove stars)
  • Color code your image by pressing 6 – 9

How you use these ultimately depends on your workflow. However, for example, you may decide to utilize the colors like a traffic light system (i.e., Green for the ones that you love, yellow for the okay ones and red for rejects). Alternatively, you may simply star the ones you really like with 5 stars. The choice is yours.

Speed up your editing

Often whenever you are at a location, you will take multiple photos. Sometimes you may even take a set of photos from the same scene. When it comes to editing them, it wouldn’t be very efficient to edit each one individually as the light and conditions won’t change much in a few seconds. Lightroom has a couple of great options to help.

Whilst in the Develop module, if you click on the “Previous” button (at the bottom of the right-hand panel), Lightroom pastes the same settings as the last image you were on to the selected image.

If you select multiple images on the film strip in the Develop module, you’ll notice that the “Previous” button changes to “Sync.” Press this and whichever image is selected will be used as a basis to paste the adjustment from to all images you’ve selected.

Once you have clicked on “Sync,” you’ll get a pop up where you can select which settings you want to add. This is a great option when, for example, you shot a scene in burst mode where all the conditions are similar from one photo to the next. You can always make further adjustments to a photo if needed.


These are just some of the simple yet effective editing tools that you may not have known about in Lightroom. There is so much more Lightroom can do. If you learn how to use it, it will become an invaluable software in your workflow.

Don’t forget to let us know your great Lightroom tricks below.


The post 6 Great Lightroom Tricks You Probably Didn’t Know About appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kav Dadfar.

Alternative Automotive Photography: Capturing the Details

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 15:00

The post Alternative Automotive Photography: Capturing the Details appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Cars and photography often seem to go hand in hand. Whether you’re a car owner with a camera or a photographer with a passion for the classics, the perfect automotive photo can often seem just out of reach.

Automotive photography can be both tricky and expensive. To get catalog-ready images of cars, the top commercial photographers often utilize huge specialist studios with large banks of powerful lights and massive pieces of equipment to block or reflect light. Each shot can take days to set up even with a team of assistants.

Realistically, most car enthusiasts don’t have this kind of space or equipment at their disposal. Instead, we seek out opportunities to photograph cars at racetracks or other gatherings. These events rarely offer “perfect” conditions to create flawless images of cars, so a bit of creative thinking is usually required!

The Rallye Monte Carlo Historique stops in Banbury every year so that enthusiasts can see these classic cars up close. But the backdrop is far from ideal for beautiful photos!

Car meets can often be busy affairs with cars parked close together, uninspiring backdrops, and lots of people milling around. Concentrating on the details is one way to get around some of these problems and still come away with shots that you love and can feel proud adding to a portfolio. Detail shots often do well on platforms like Instagram too where the small format allows close-up images to shine.

So with that in mind, here are some ideas for bagging great pictures of the cars you see on your travels if you can’t shoot them in a location of your choice.

Get up close… closer than you think!

By getting in close you eliminate many of the problems that would otherwise sneak into your picture; other cars in the background, or people in the corner of your shot. Focussing on just one small part of a car can remove all of those distractions.

Not having to take into consideration the background also frees you up to concentrate more on composition. No more worrying about if the backdrop will compliment the car, or what the sky is doing!

You can also use a shallow depth of field to blur out distracting elements in your photographs. Use just enough depth to highlight the detail that you’re photographing. Everything else will then melt away into the background, keeping your viewer looking just where you want them to.

Pick a theme

At some point over the years, I’ve picked up a habit of shooting the wing mirrors on cars. I don’t know which one was my first, but I soon started noticing the way that they were all different. Each mirror was only a small part of the car, but they pack a big punch when it comes to design! Now I can’t seem to walk past a classic car without taking a photograph of its mirrors!

By picking a theme, it will challenge you to go looking for shots that are different from what everyone else is shooting. Also, you’ll start to notice other details as you train your creativity. Before long, you will seek out creative and different images without even really having to think about it.

Shoot iconic details

Pick out just one detail to highlight and then try to take the perfect shot of just that part. Perhaps it’s a classic Cadillac fin or an elegant Rolls Royce grid that catches your eye. Whatever it is that you love most about a car, or is most iconic and well-known, use that as your starting point when you’re working out what pictures you want to take.

Cars are more than just machines that get us from A to B. The most iconic are beautiful and remarkable pieces of design that the original designer has spent hundreds of hours perfecting. Nothing on a great car is an accident; everything was designed to be exactly how you see it.

The good thing about iconic details is that they’re often instantly recognizable. It tells people what the photograph is of, even though it might be an abstracted close-up.

Portray the luxury

Beautiful cars are a luxury; there’s no debate to be had there. So challenge yourself to convey the luxury through your photographs.

Lifestyle photography with shallow depth of field, out of focus foregrounds, and toned colors are really in vogue right now for luxury brands. Now is the time to try this style out if you can get up close and personal with some top of the range machines!

Make sure that your focus is right on the nail if you’re attempting shots with a shallow depth of field. If you miss the focus even slightly, the shot won’t be worth keeping.

Stick to a neutral focal length

Extreme wide-angle photographs can look cool, there’s no doubt about it. And I know every car photographer has, at least once, got down at the front corner of a car with a wide-angle lens to try and make it look more imposing and dramatic.

But wide-angle focal lengths distort cars and change the carefully designed, and often iconic lines and features. Instead of grabbing the easy (and predictable) win when it comes to creating a dramatic image, try sticking to a neutral focal length and challenging yourself.

Keeping to a focal length like 50mm means shooting images that are much closer to how the human eye naturally sees the world. Using a focal length around 50mm means that you keep the cars much closer to the designer’s original vision when you photograph them.

This might mean that you have to work harder to look for different ways to produce impact with your photographs. However, it also means that you represent the cars in the way that they’re meant to be seen. It gives an element of authenticity to your images.

I’ve never been one for believing that photography is simply about recording the world around you exactly how it is. But when it comes to the design of cars, I’m pretty sure that the original designer knows more about how the car looks best than I do. So distorting it with wide-angle lenses is rarely high on my priority list!

Embrace reflections… and wear black

In ideal conditions, you’d be able to use black and white cards, and lights, to block and place reflections exactly where you want them on a car before you took a photograph. Realistically, though, you’re rarely going to get the opportunity to work with this kind of precision in the great outdoors.

Carry a 5-in-1 reflector in your kit by all means. Sometimes you just need to lift a shadow on a bit of paintwork or cut out a reflection in some chrome. But instead of trying to eliminate every reflection you dislike, try embracing them instead!

Reflections of the sky or foliage around you can make some interesting patterns when they reflect in the glass of a car. In the right conditions, with a well-polished car, they can even reflect in the bodywork. Use the reflections to add interest to your shots. They can focus the viewer’s attention exactly where you want them to look. Also, a well-placed reflection can blank out something messy that you don’t want to distract.

On that note, wear black when you go out with your camera to photograph cars! Too often have I ruined my own photographs by shooting the perfect image and then noticing afterward my own reflection while wearing a bright colored jacket. Wearing black won’t remove you from the image completely, but it will make you an awful lot less distracting when you do manage to capture yourself in a reflective surface.

Next time you head out to a car show to take some pictures, think smaller and capture the details for alternative automotive photography! And share them with us in the comments below.

Do you have any other tips you’d like to share?


The post Alternative Automotive Photography: Capturing the Details appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Kinetic Light Painting vs Light Painting

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 10:00

The post Kinetic Light Painting vs Light Painting appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

One of the most exciting techniques in photography is light painting. This is an area of photography that can be carried out in several ways. In this article, you’ll learn about both kinetic light painting and regular light painting, what the difference is, and the different techniques employed by these styles. So engage the hyperdrive and put your creativity up to light speed today!

What is light painting?

This photo has used camera rotation to add more interest to this photo of some skyscrapers.

Light painting happens when a source of light moves across the frame of a camera during a long exposure. You’ll almost certainly need a tripod to practice good light painting photography, though there are some abstract light paintings you can do handheld.

The exposure time is typically between two and thirty seconds in length, but some photos expose for much longer and use the bulb function.

The simplest light painting you can do is to use a torch to spell your name. The complexity of light paintings can then go up as different tools are used to produce increasingly complex and beautiful light patterns. Light painting has a cousin though, and that’s kinetic light painting. This works slightly differently.

How does kinetic light painting differ?

With regular light painting, your camera will stay completely still, while a light source in front of the camera gets moved. However, with kinetic light painting, the camera or elements of the camera are moved, while the light source stays completely still. The movement of the camera is the reason this is called kinetic light painting.

The two main methods available to move the camera are moving the lens or moving the camera body.

Light painting techniques

Let’s look at the different light painting techniques you can try. These almost certainly need a tripod to carry out correctly.

Light writing

This is often considered the simplest of the light painting techniques. A regular torch is all that’s needed, along with a camera and tripod. You don’t have to use a torch; a sparkler or the glowing embers at the end of a piece of wood work too.

You now need to write your word, or perhaps a shape in the sky. Make sure you use a long enough exposure to complete the light writing you’re going to attempt. Also note that you’ll need to write as a mirror image, so when you write the “S” or any other letter, make sure it’s backward.

In this photo, embers were used to spell the country name, India.

Lighting an object

Instead of aiming your light source at the camera, you’re going to aim it away from the camera so it can light up an object. It’s likely you’ll also be stood behind the camera when you’re lighting up an object, but in some cases, you will need to stand in front of the camera. When stood in front of the camera, ensure no part of the light source shines towards the camera; it’s likely to ruin the photo.

Now stroke over the object you wish to paint – literally – as if your light source was a brush. Ensure you get an even distribution of light. You can experiment with sidelight if you wish to bring out more textures in your object. This technique will likely involve longer exposures of ten or more seconds.

Light orbs

These are created by attaching a light source to a piece of string and then spinning it.

The typical light you’ll use for this is a torch, LED light, or fairy lights bunched together. In addition to spinning the light source, you’ll need to rotate around the central point of rotation. Imagine your hand is the central point. You need to orbit your hand while spinning the light source.

It can be tricky to create the perfect light orb, so you’ll need to practice this technique.

Light orbs look great in photos, they take a bit of practice to get right though.

Light Spirograph

This is similar to creating a light orb, and once again you’ll be placing a light source on the end of some string. This technique is carried out indoors. The string is attached to a hook, with the hook attached to the ceiling.

Place the camera directly below and in line with the light source. Turn the lights in the room out, and ensure no outside light is shining into the room from a window.

Now set the camera to expose for 10 or 15 seconds. Pull the string back, and allow the light source to spin in an elliptical shape. Now check your result, and repeat if needed.

This shows interesting patterns from a light Spirograph.

Created your own light trails

This is the area of light painting that’s perhaps the most fun. There are lots of tools out there you can use. Anything that lights up will work. This is where the patterns can get more complex, but the key to good light painting is to keep it simple.

Have a look at some of these tools, and see which one appeals to you.

  • Lightsaber – These don’t emit a strong point of light, but you will be able to use them to create smooth panels of light. As the light isn’t strong, it’s likely you’ll see the scene behind the light painted area, sometimes a desirable trait.
  • Glow stick – These work in a similar way to a lightsaber, and the amount of light they produce are low so you’ll need to use this in a dark place.
  • Wire wool – Pack some fine wire wool into a whisk, attached to some string. Now set the wire wool on fire and spin! Sparks will fly, but take care not to cause a fire or burn yourself.
  • Fairy lights – Use battery operated fairy lights for light painting. Use them to create a light orb, or attach them to a stick and make your own D.I.Y. light stick.
  • LED light stick – This is your all-in-one light painting mega tool. It’s expensive but you’ll be able to produce more or less any light painting effect. And you only need one device to do it.
  • Hula-hoop light – These are a little like the LED light sticks. Only instead of a stick, the programmable lights are now in a hula-hoop. They’re often used by dancers but also work very well in photography as well.

In this photo, you can see light patterns created using an LED light stick.

Light trails

You don’t always need to make your own light trails. There are plenty of opportunities to photograph moving lights created by others! You have no control over how these lights move, however, you can choose places with predictable light trails, and you can choose where to stand.

The following are examples of where you can photograph light trails.

  • Traffic trails – The most obvious and easiest light trail is formed by moving vehicles. It’s nice and predictable as well, as everything will move along a road network.
  • Boat lights – Boat light trails are a little more difficult to photograph. Choose a location with regular boat traffic, perhaps a river taxi area. Finally, be prepared to take several exposures, and merge them together in Photoshop. Boats move a lot slower than cars, so they won’t move through your frame in a single 30-second exposure.
  • Stars – Use a series of 30-second exposures and stack them together to form one photo. It’s best to aim at the north star or southern crux, this will lead to stars rotating across the sky.

Kinetic light painting techniques

While regular light painting often needs additional equipment, kinetic light painting only needs a camera, lens, and a tripod. The lens you’ll need is a factor; you’ll learn about that in a moment.

The following are the different ways you can move your camera to create light paintings.

Camera zoom

This is a technique that uses the movement of a zoom lens to produce a light painting. The idea is that you use a long exposure and that during the exposure, you move the focal length of the lens. With nighttime light painting, it’s best to zoom out, starting at the lenses longest focal length. The best lens to use here is a superzoom 18-300mm lens since this gives you more choice over the focal distance range you’ll use for the photo. If this lens isn’t available a wide or mid-range zoom lens is the next best option.

  • Abstract – To create this type of photo, zoom in on some lights. Now expose for two or three seconds, and continuously zoom out during the exposure.
  • Two-step – With this approach, you’re going to combine the abstract zoom burst described above with a regular photo. To do this, first pre-compose your photo at the final focal length you’ll finish your photo at, and focus in manual mode. Now zoom into the central area you’ll zoom out from. Take a 30-second exposure. The first 2-3 seconds will be the zoom burst, and the remaining exposure time will be the regular exposure.
  • Flash – You can combine zoom with flash photography as well. The flash will freeze your subject, usually a person, and then you can zoom out for the remaining part of the exposure. Use a shorter one-second exposure for this method.

This photo has used a zoom burst to create light patterns. The photo is cropped in so that the central zoom area is off-center.

Camera rotation

Another type of kinetic light painting is camera rotation.

This works best when rotating from the head of a tripod, and for that reason, you’ll often be using a worm’s eye perspective for this photo. Once again, you can take this as an abstract, two-step or you can combine it with flash. This type of photo really needs a wide-angle lens. You might even experiment with a fisheye lens.

  • Abstract – Look for a light source that’s tall and vertical, preferably lit from top to bottom. A skyscraper or tower is ideal. Use a two to three-second exposure and continuously rotate the head of the tripod during the exposure.
  • Two step – Once again, you’re going to combine the abstract photo described above with a regular nighttime long exposure. This time when pre-composing, make sure you make a note of the angles of degree on your tripod head that you begin the exposure at. Now take a 30-second exposure, once again rotating the camera head during the exposure. However, this time, when you reach the number on your tripod head that you started the exposure, it’s time to lock the camera in position for the remaining exposure time.
  • Flash – Use a one-second exposure time, and aim the flash at your subject. Now smoothly rotate the camera around the central point of your photo. This must be done handheld, making this a tricky technique to get right.

You can use flash in combination with a zoom burst, as seen in this photo.

Random camera movement

The two above techniques use controlled movements of the camera for light painting. The moving part can only move in one way, so you get smooth lines through the photo.

It’s also possible to use random movements of the camera to produce light paintings as well. You can even do this using the two-step approach used for zoom and rotation.

The abstract approach is easiest. Use some fairy lights and randomly move your camera in front of them. To use the two-step approach, you’ll need to move the camera around in some random motion. Once finished, lock the camera in position for the remaining exposure time.

Other movements can be used for kinetic light painting. The risk is the photo becomes too busy.


There are many forms of creativity in photography, especially at night. Light painting is a great technique to experiment with, and kinetic light painting is an interesting sub-genre of this that’s really worth exploring.

Have you tried light painting before? How about kinetic light painting?

Here at digital photography school, we’d love you to share your experiences of these techniques, together with any photos you have taken, or will take having read this article.


The post Kinetic Light Painting vs Light Painting appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

5 Photos to Take with Auto Mode

Sun, 07/14/2019 - 15:00

The post 5 Photos to Take with Auto Mode appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

Were you disappointed when you bought a fancy camera and it didn’t take good pictures for you? It happens to a lot of people.

But even when you know nothing about how your camera works, it’s possible to take a good photo on Auto Mode.

Auto Mode isn’t the place to stay, so once you get the hang of it, you can move on to aperture mode, shutter mode, and manual mode. You can also learn about exposure compensation, metering and all sorts of other fun things!

But first, let me show you how to take 5 different photos on Auto and then how to put the finishing touches on them using Lightroom.

  • Portrait with bokeh
  • Golden hour nature photo
  • Silhouette
  • Freeze a splash
  • Food photo
Portrait with bokeh

He is standing about 20 feet away from the tree in the background and I zoomed in to 140mm.

It’s actually pretty easy to take a portrait with bokeh (out of focus background).

I’m assuming that you have an 18-55mm kit lens, but maybe you even have a telephoto lens that zooms to 200mm or 300mm.

You’ve got your camera on auto mode. To achieve an out-of-focus background, bring your subject away from the background. Zoom your lens in all the way because this increases the bokeh effect.

It’s really that simple. The soft, overcast sky made a good light source for this photo. The photo would be even better if his expression were more authentic and there were catchlights in his eyes.

Golden Hour nature photo

Many people like to photograph flowers and nature, but they choose the worst time of day to do it. The harsh afternoon light is not always the best time to photograph a flower. The light is intense, the shadows are harsh, and you won’t likely be impressed with your photo.

Try taking nature photos during golden hour instead. The light will look much more pleasing in your photos. Even on Auto Mode, you’ll likely be happy with how some of your photos turn out.

These are all unedited Auto Mode photos.

This photo was taken about an hour before sunset. The sun is behind the flower and you can see how the warm light causes this blossom to glow.


Freeze a splash

You’ll likely end up with blurry photos on Auto Mode if the light is dim. That is because you need lots of light if you want to freeze the action. It’s fun and easy to freeze water splashes when you’re outdoors in bright light.

That is the key to freezing motion on auto mode; lots of light.

I had my kids ride through mud puddles so that I could get a shot of the water spraying up. The bright outdoor light allowed the camera to have a quick shutter speed and freeze the movement.


Let’s start with accidental silhouette photos. Your eye sees something pretty but the photo turns out like this:

This birdhouse looked really cool, so I snapped a picture. Unfortunately, it turned out as a silhouette. That’s not what I wanted.

If the background is really bright, you’ll likely end up with a silhouette. Had I wanted this birdhouse to look brighter, I should have moved to the other side where the light was actually hitting it.

But let’s suppose you want a silhouette photo. How do you do it? It’s pretty easy to get a silhouette photo on Auto Mode. Just make sure the background is really bright and that you’re standing on the shady side of the object.

This silhouette photo was intentional. I put the camera on Auto and knew that it would be a silhouette because of the bright sky in the background. I chose to make this a silhouette because I like how the pattern in the leaves and the clouds play off each other.

Food photo

Many bloggers purchase an expensive camera and are disappointed with the results of their photography. Let’s consider somebody who blogs about food but only knows how to use Auto Mode. Is it possible to take a decent food photo on Auto? Yes.

The key to a good food photo is light. Normally, you want the light to come from beside or behind the food in order to bring out the texture. A window is a great light source.

It can be a little tricky and you will likely want to do a basic edit of the photo (particularly exposure and clarity).

This is an unedited photo taken on auto mode. You can see that it is warm light coming from the side. I placed the cookies next to a window with late day, soft sunlight coming in.


I set this sugar-topped muffin next to a window, hoping that the backlight would bring out the texture. Unfortunately, the photo is underexposed. The plate and the window sill are bright white and caused the camera to create a darker exposure. It’s almost a silhouette.


You can see that with some simple brightening in Lightroom the photo looks a lot better.


It’s a lot better to understand how your camera works so that you don’t have to rely on Auto Mode. But until then, do the best you can with side or backlight and then use a program like Lightroom to put the finishing touches on your photo.

Adding finishing touches using Lightroom

I use Lightroom to edit my photos, but just about any editing program will work fine.

There are two ways to think about editing. The first is fixing a photo that didn’t turn out right. Hopefully, you can avoid this approach as much as possible. If you find yourself having to fix the same sort of mistake over and over (say underexposed or misfocused photos), then you know it’s time to learn to get it right in-camera.

But if your photos are turning out nicely, then you can think of editing as putting the finishing touches on your photo. I’ll show you how I do that.


You can see that I didn’t do a whole lot to edit this photo. I added some warmth, brought up the exposure, and decreased the blacks to add a little contrast. Very simple finishing touches.


I was a little heavy-handed with adjustments to this photo. First, I increased the overall exposure but then decreased the highlights because some parts of the photo had become too bright. The shadows were also increased, allowing for more detail to be seen. The clarity is increased to see the water droplets more clearly.

When to move off Auto

Keep track of the problems that you keep running into. These problems are clues about when to move away from Auto Mode and what settings you need to begin learning about. Don’t try to learn everything – just what you need to know to overcome problems you’ve been facing.

You’ll want to explore:

These are all dull-sounding words, but when you explore and learn the concepts, you’ll overcome challenges and have far more creative control over what you’re doing.

Keep pursuing creative elements and technical knowledge, and you will grow over time.


The post 5 Photos to Take with Auto Mode appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.