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5 Tips for Better Forest Bird Photography

Mon, 02/25/2019 - 08:00

The post 5 Tips for Better Forest Bird Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Samuel Bloch.

Birds are a delight for the eye, and it’s natural you want to capture them with your camera. However, when you start shooting more and more, you’ll realize that each environment offers challenges, and therefore each requires a unique approach.

Red-Crowned Parakeet © Samuel Bloch

Birds are often found in good numbers in the forest, but you’ll find them moving fast into dark places, making photography there truly difficult. Here are a few tips I gathered during my time in the woods; I hope they can help you make the most of your trips there.

1. Wait for cloudy days

Light is everything in photography, and bird photography is no exception. Ideally, you’ll want to shoot birds during the golden hour (at sunrise or sunset). However, you’ll face two main obstacles shooting at this time. Firstly, sunrise and sunset may not reach inside the forest, especially if you are in a valley that opens to the north or south. By the time the morning light reaches the bottom, it may be harsh and unflattering. Secondly, forest birds might not be as predictable as, say, waterfowl, and you’ll need much luck to find a bird in the right spot at the right time before light becomes harsh.

On the other hand, shooting during a sunny day creates too much contrast: leaves catching sunlight turn into bright spots, branches cast ugly shadows on your subject, and in general, all the generic issues with shooting during the day apply in the forest as well…unless you go on an overcast day.

If it’s a cloudy day, contrast reduces, light softens, and the overall atmosphere will be much more flattering for your subject.

As an example, here are two pictures of the same bird; a New Zealand Bellbird. The first one was taken on a sunny day and exemplifies all the issues described above. Notice the branch’s shadow over the bird’s face and the bright spots on the tree to the right. I photographed the second image on a cloudy day when the light was softer and more homogenous.

New Zealand Bellbird on a sunny day © Samuel Bloch

New Zealand Bellbird on a cloudy day © Samuel Bloch

2. Embrace high iso

Under the canopy, it’s darker than in an open area. If you’re shooting on an overcast day, it will be darker than on a sunny day. Therefore, as in every situation, you’ll have to adapt your camera settings.

The first thing to mention is that you don’t need as high a shutter speed as you think, especially if you have a stabilized lens. If you shoot handheld, the general guideline is to use a shutter speed no lower than the inverse of your focal (i.e., if you’re shooting with a 400 mm focal length, you shouldn’t go below 1/400s). While this is good to keep in mind, you can go down to 1/250s or even 1/200s and still make great photographs! This requires practice, as you need to be very stable, but it’s possible. Birds move fast, but when they perch on a branch, they stay still for only a short time; trigger a burst of shots at the right moment, and you should come up with good frames.

The other aspect I’d like to focus on is ISO. Again, you can push your ISO much further than you think. I’ve found that if your bird is well in focus, grain is a problem only in the background, where you can easily remove it (with Photoshop for instance).

As an example, I shoot with a cropped-sensor camera (Canon 7DII), and I’ve heard people with the same equipment tell me they won’t go over ISO800. In the forest, I’m happy to go as high as ISO3200. Of course, you should not expect the image quality to be the same as ISO100, but you can still produce images you’ll like. Full-frame users have more flexibility in that regard.

Stitchbird shot at ISO3200 with a Canon 7DII © Samuel Bloch

3. Shoot Aperture Priority with auto ISO

Birds, especially songbirds, move quickly. You won’t have time to use Manual mode.

I make the majority of my bird photography with Manual mode, but there’s no shame in using a semi-automatic mode if it helps you create amazing shots! However, you’ll need to help your camera. Let it decide what ISO it wants to use (Auto ISO), but if you can, set a maximum ISO number that the camera won’t overrun (I use ISO3200 on a Canon 7DII). You can also set a minimum shutter speed, to prevent your camera from going too low there.

The aperture is the only thing you need to decide. Personally, with a Canon 100-400mm II, I prefer to shoot at f/6.3 because I find it sharper than when it’s wide open. However, in very dark conditions, I go down to f/5.6 (the minimum at 400mm). Remember the wider, the brighter.

North Island Saddleback © Samuel Bloch

North Island Robin © Samuel Bloch

Once you’re set up, start shooting and keep an eye on your screen. You can play with Exposure compensation to adjust your exposure; I often like to underexpose by one or two-thirds of a stop, but it depends on the conditions.

4. Mind your background

Because you’re shooting in Aperture priority mode, you have more time to work on composition. Your image has more impact if you can draw the viewer’s eye directly to your subject (the bird), so it is good to limit distracting elements. A clean, smooth background is one way to achieve that. It doesn’t have to be uniform. Some color patterns can be pretty, but branches and foliage should not be recognizable (at least, not too much!) The best way to create such a background is to be close to your subject while the background is far away. The further the bird, the harder it will be to obtain this clean background.

New Zealand Bellbird © Samuel Bloch

The other trick you can use for composition is framing: use out-of-focus branches and leaves to surround the bird and direct your viewer’s eye. Again, on an overcast day, these elements look soft and pleasant, while they can be harsh and distracting on a sunny day, as they catch the sunlight.

Juvenile New Zealand Bellbird © Samuel Bloch

5. Anticipate

Forest birds move fast. You can’t expect them to stay on a perch for ten seconds for you to fine-tune your shot. One second, maybe two, and they are gone.

Therefore, you need to anticipate. Keep your camera up, at the ready. When you spot a bird, try to guess in which direction it will move next, and position yourself to maximize opportunities there. Study the possible perches, and choose those with the most favorable background. Prepare yourself to shoot when the bird lands on these perches.

The approach above can be a gamble, especially if you don’t know the birds. It pays to regularly watch birds to learn their habits. It also pays to visit a place time and again, to learn it, to know where to find each bird, what area they like, and what perches they favor.

Rifleman © Samuel Bloch

You may want to set up a hide, but it is also valuable to stay mobile. Forest birds are not necessarily shy. Move slowly, and they may grace you with fantastic encounters. Then, it’s up to you to make the great pictures happen! Good luck!


If you can’t find birds at sunrise or sunset, elect to shoot on a cloudy day. It will be dark, so you have to adjust your settings – don’t fear high ISO! Aperture Priority mode gives you more time to work on your composition (mind the background!), and if you take time to observe the birds, you will be rewarded with fantastic photo opportunities.

The post 5 Tips for Better Forest Bird Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Samuel Bloch.

Have Digital Filters Replaced the Need for Physical Lens Filters?

Sun, 02/24/2019 - 08:00

The post Have Digital Filters Replaced the Need for Physical Lens Filters? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

Do you need filters for beautiful pictures?

If you are old enough to have used a film camera, you know why people needed lens filters in order to accomplish visual effects in their images.  Back in the film days, you had limited control over white balance or ISO. Once you selected your film from the available film stock, and put it in your camera, you were stuck with a roll (24 or 36 exposures) of single ISO negative or slide film that was probably daylight balanced. In order to not waste money, you did everything you could to carefully mete out your images and make the most of them.

Most film was daylight balanced so getting it right in-camera was critical

Back in the day

To help you make great images in the film days, you needed certain filters to help fix your white balance, and neutral density (ND) filters to allow you to slow your shutter speeds down. That was then, this is now. With the advent of digital cameras and the high-powered abilities of most image editing software, you can accomplish digitally much of the work that filters used to do.  Is there still a place in modern digital photography for optical lens filters?

The answer is yes, but only for a few specific types of filters. In fact, you may find it difficult to get many filters in your local camera store that would have been readily available in the film camera days.  Most bricks and mortar camera stores carry few filters. The more unusual filters might be found in the bargain bin section, next to the books on how to use your new Canon 5D mark 1 (hint: that is an old digital camera).

Some filters have to be really large to accommodate wide angle lenses

Types of Optical Lens Filters

I find that optical lens filters break down into six general types: UV/skylight filters, color modifiers, special effects, specialty filters, ND filters (including graduated), and circular polarizers. Most optical filters can be replaced by digital processes, either in the camera itself or in post-production. Some optical filters are really big and all take up space in your bag.

Ultraviolet (UV) or Skylight filters

Let’s consider UV or skylight filters. Film stock was often sensitive to UV light so it was important to protect your film by using a filter so that UV light wouldn’t make the images hazy.  Modern digital cameras are not susceptible to UV light interfering with their sensors as there are already UV and IR filters built into the cameras (we will discuss the importance of this later). Today, UV or skylight filters serve a completely different purpose: many photographers use them to protect the front element of their lenses.

A UV or Skylight Filter will protect your lens front element

UV/Skylight filters as lens protection

As an aside, there are two schools of thought regarding UV or skylight filters. Some argue that putting a cheap filter in front of a really expensive lens significantly degrades the optical properties of your lens and that most good quality lenses have great coatings and are quite robust.  Alternatively, others would prefer to replace a $100 filter than replace a $2000 lens. While I agree you should never use cheap filters, I do tend to think that if you use good filters they do protect your investment in much more expensive lenses. I have replaced lots of filters that were shattered from an impact. In all of those cases, the front lens elements were protected from contact by the filter. I am not sure that would have occurred without the sacrificial filters.

Regardless, since these UV/skylight filters don’t cause any significant changes to your image, they really are only useful for physical lens protection.

A warming filter to adjust white balance

Color filters

Color filters were another common filter used with film cameras for simple color correction. Back in the film days, the film stock was mostly daylight balanced so if your images were taken in non-daylight conditions, you would need to use a color filter to correct your white balance. Although film processors had some ability to adjust the white balance in the lab, back then – today too, for that matter – it was always easier when you got things right in camera. Color filters are still available but are more of a novelty item, used for a specific effect, often in concert with gelled flashes and strobes. They are also still used for film cameras, instant cameras, and for specific applications like underwater photography.

Special effects filters

Once upon a time, there were lots of special effects filters that would produce in-camera special effects like grids, streaks, and starbursts. These all still work on digital cameras, however, most of these effects can be digitally produced, reducing the need for the optical filter. Many film shooters will take their images and then scan them to edit them, so the extra effort and cost of using special effects filters seem unnecessary. They are also difficult to find.

Rectangular Graduated Neutral Density Filter

Neutral Density Filters – Graduated

The next filter type to consider is the neutral density filters, commonly used by landscape photographers (both film and digital). These divide into two groups: graduated neutral density filters and overall neutral density filters. Acting like sunglasses for your camera, graduated neutral density filters are all neutral colored – they should impart little color change – and darken only part of the image. Graduated filters help deal with the dynamic range of your sensors, particularly when shooting into scenes that are very bright and very dark in the same view. Most modern digital cameras have a dynamic range of about 10 – 14 stops whereas your eyes are more like 20 stops. Keep in mind that this is not really a fair comparison because our eyes work quite differently from camera sensors. Graduated neutral density filters can usually be applied in post-processing. Although, if the dynamic range is really huge, it often means you can take one image rather than multiple images that need to be composited (this is what HDR images really are).

The left shows the image normally processed with the right having a digital neutral density filter

Neutral Density Filters – Non-Graduated

A neutral density filter (non-graduated) is the first optical filter type that does things that cannot be easily duplicated, either in camera or in post-production. At least not all of its functions. While it is certainly possible to darken your images digitally in post, a non-graduated neutral density filter allows you to take images that your camera would not allow you to take in full sunlight. In full sun, it may be so bright that you may not be able to stop your lens down and slow your shutter down sufficiently to get motion to blur. Non-graduated neutral density filters allow you to slow your shutter speed down in the field when conditions are bright. You will be able to take images of moving subjects in bright locales and blur the motion to create interesting effects.  For example, waterfalls are often shot using a non-graduated neutral density filter. Neutral density filters are often measured in stops to indicate the number of stops you can slow things down. At the extreme end of the non-graduated neutral density filters are the specialty filters used for photographing solar eclipses. Without these strong filters, the sun can permanently damage camera sensors.

Neutral Density Filters on the front element of the lens

Smooth water motion with a non-graduated neutral density filter for longer exposures

Specialty filters

The second optical filter type that cannot be duplicated in post-processing or in-camera are specialty filters related to UV and IR light.  By default, cameras have filters on their sensors that cut UV and IR light out so that only visible light is recorded. However, it is possible to get these filters removed (you have to send your camera body away) to allow you to shoot UV-only, full spectrum (which includes UV, visible and IR), or IR-only images. Once this is done, your modified camera is generally limited to that particular use, but the images it produces can be quite interesting. By using specialty filters on a modified camera body that allows for full spectrum, you can control what portion of the spectrum is visible in your images. There are cut filters that allow full spectrum sensors to only see UV, visible light or IR spectrum. These filters cannot be duplicated in post-processing.

Slight neutral density cast for a circular polarizer

Circular Polarizers

The final optical filter type that cannot be duplicated in post-processing is a circular polarizer.  There are actually two types of polarizers, linear and circular. They both cut the same light out but circular polarizers can rotate an allow you to find the optimal orientation whereas linear polarizers are fixed (you should only use circular polarizers unless you know what you are doing). Circular polarizers do two things: cut down reflections and increase contrast. Some also act as a weak neutral density filter. When light hits a metallic or watery surface, the reflected light tends to be polarized (all the light is vibrating in the same direction). The circular polarizer lets you filter out this polarized light. You do this by turning the filter.  The change can be quite dramatic, and it cannot be achieved in any practical sense through post-processing. In addition, because there is always some polarized light in the atmosphere, the filter will make the colors in your images punchier. This is a secondary feature of polarizers but adds to their use. Colors just pop more.  Different brands and types alter how much this occurs. In general, you can’t go wrong using a circular polarizer, particularly for landscape photography.

Circular Polarizers help control reflections


Many filters that were used with film cameras are not really required anymore because of the ability to control white balance and ISO. Other filters created effects that can easily be duplicated using image editing software like Photoshop. Despite this there are a few filter types that cannot be replaced by processes applied in post, thus they remain vital tools in your photographer’s toolbox.

Do you use filters? Share with us in the comments below.



The post Have Digital Filters Replaced the Need for Physical Lens Filters? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid

Sun, 02/24/2019 - 08:00

The post 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Creating portraits is challenging for many photographers, for many different reasons. There can be so much involved in making a portrait of someone that it’s easy to make mistakes.

To make great portraits you need to be concentrating on more than just your camera settings. (I believe this is true for all photography.) You have to make sure the lighting is right, the background is suitable and wardrobe and props are on hand if needed. Most of all, you must give your attention to the person you are photographing.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Juggling all this is not easy, especially when you have little or no experience.

Practising taking portraits of someone you know, who enjoys being photographed, is a fabulous way to gain experience. Working with the same person for more than one or two portrait sessions will help you develop the skills you need.

As you begin you will most likely make some or all of these common portrait mistakes. Being aware of them can help you avoid making them.

1. Poor composition

The most common portrait mistake I see people on our workshops making with portraits is leaving too much space above the subjects head. Emptiness above someone usually does nothing for the look and feel of the photo.

Unless there’s significant information above a person, crop in more tightly to the top of their head.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

2. Distracting background

Having too much detail in focus behind your subject can draw attention away from them. Be careful about how you position your subject.

Also, make your lens choice thoughtfully. Using a longer lens will reduce the amount of background in your frame.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

3. Subject too close to the background

Don’t get your subject to sit or stand right up against the background. If it’s a busy scene your subject may be overwhelmed and end up not being the main focus. Even with a fairly plain background, it’s often best if you separate your subject from it.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

4. Not enough in focus

You may be tempted to open your aperture to the widest setting so you can blur out a distracting background. Be careful doing this that you maintain enough in focus on your subject.

Blurring the background may also mean blurring your subject more than what really looks good.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

5. Out of focus eyes

If your subject has eyes, focus on them. This is one photography rule I stick to, most of the time. It’s not often a portrait with the eyes out of focus looks great.

When your subject is facing directly at the camera it’s easy to get both eyes in focus. If their head is turned to one side you need to focus on the eye closest to the camera.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

6. Slow shutter speed

People move. You need to choose a fast enough shutter speed to freeze your subject. Even if they make a slight movement it can result in a blurred photo if your shutter speed is too slow.

1/250th of a second is usually fast enough. Slower than this and you may have problems.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

7. Poor lighting

Modern cameras can take photos when there’s next to no light, so it’s easy to get it wrong.

With portraits, it’s most important to have the right lighting for the mood you want to create in your photos. Hard, high contrast lighting is not good when you want a soft, romantic looking portrait. Equally, soft light will not help you create drama in a photo of a person.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

8. Bad timing

Capturing the right expression will flatter your subject. If you don’t, they may be reluctant to let you photograph them again.

Careful timing can make or break a portrait. Waiting and watching a person’s face for the right time to press the shutter button is vital. Most people will not stare into your camera without changing their expression. You need to be ready when they look their best.

If you’re photographing someone who is blinking a lot you need to time your photos in between blinks.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

9. Not taking enough photos

You need to take plenty of photos. Not taking enough photos will frustrate you when you are editing, because you will have too few to choose from.

Try to capture a range of expressions. Don’t just sit with your camera on burst mode filling your card up with nearly identical images. Aim to create a good variety. This will please your subject as it will allow them to make their selections more easily.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

10. Taking too many photos

Finding the balance between not enough and too many photos can be difficult. This will depend a lot on your subject.

Some people will be more comfortable being photographed for a longer period of time than others. You need to be aware of this. If your subject is getting bored or agitated because you are taking too long or taking too many photos, this will show in their face. Your results will suffer for it.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

11. Failing to connect with your subject

Connecting well with the person you are photographing is one of the most important aspects of portraiture. So many photographers spend more time and attention connecting with their cameras. This is a big mistake during a portrait session.

Building a rapport with your subject, even if you only have a few minutes, can make the biggest impact on your resulting photos.

When your subject is relaxed with you and happy, you will get better pictures of them. Your manner and the way you interact with them is vital.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

12. Not giving your subject enough direction

Communicate clearly what your intention for the portrait session is. What type of picture does your subject want? What kind of image do they want to portray?

When you know what they want, you will know what you have to achieve. If they do not understand what you are asking them to do, show them. Put your body, hands, face, just how you want them to look and they can mimic you.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

13. Feeling like you are imposing

This is common with photographing strangers. Many street photographers prefer candid portraits because they do not want to impose on people.

Standing back with a long lens on will not often produce an intimate portrait. You need to change your thinking and consider that what you are doing when you take someone’s photo has got the potential to bless them.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

14. Not being confident

If you are self-conscious and not confident this will generally be reflected back to you by your subject.

Having a calm, confident manner when you are making portraits will enhance both their experience and yours.

You don’t need to put on a show, but just be relaxed and assured that you are creating good photographs.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

15. Rushing to get finished

Take your time. It’s not a race.

Give yourself space to concentrate well on what you are doing. Make sure you are getting what you want and your subject is more likely to be pleased with your pictures.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan


It takes practice. Like learning to do anything well, it takes concentrated perseverance to succeed. This is why it’s good to practice making portraits with someone you know who is willing to be photographed.

Know your camera, be confident with it and with your subject and you will learn to make wonderful portraits.

When I started out as a photographer I found it incredibly difficult to photograph people. I was shy and lacked confidence. It was hard work, but over the years I have come to really enjoy the art of portraiture.

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


The post 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

How to Make Dramatic Photos with Backlight

Sat, 02/23/2019 - 13:00

The post How to Make Dramatic Photos with Backlight appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

Most people don’t notice light. But visual artists do. Light is one of the essential ingredients in your photographs.

Light can be tricky to deal with until you understand camera settings. But once you’re familiar with your camera, light is wonderful to play with in your photos.

Personally, I love backlight. It adds a sense of drama and beauty to your photography.

I’ll show you examples of backlight with food, landscape, and portrait photography (studio and outdoors).

In order to achieve backlight in your photo, have the main light source behind your subject coming toward your camera. In this photo, you can actually see the warm setting sun as the source of backlight.

What is backlight good for?

I love backlight because it adds depth and drama to an otherwise flat, two-dimensional photo.

Backlight helps to bring out the texture of objects that you photograph (sidelight is good for this as well). Texture is created through a combination of highlights and shadows. Since photographs are two dimensional, texture adds depth to your photo.

A strong burst of backlight adds drama to your photo. Think about the bursts of light at a rock concert or other performances. The temperature of the backlight (warm or cool) adds to the drama of the photo.

The backlight source might be in your photo along with your subject (as with the sunset photo above). Or the light source can be outside of the frame (as long as it illuminates your subject).

Any source of backlight can be used creatively, but sunlight, windows, and strobes are among the most popular.

The principals of backlight are the same no matter what camera you’re using, even your phone.

This ice-covered tree is backlit by the sun. Without backlight shining through the branches, this tree would not have stood out so much.


It’s great to begin practicing backlight with food. Backlight can be used to illuminate steam and bring out the texture of the food.

While any light source will work, many photographers love using window light to illuminate food.

The light source is not visible in this photo, but there is a window backlighting the food and making the steam visible.


This food was photographed while still in the oven. The warm backlight is coming from the oven light.


This is an example of soft backlight produced by a large window. I wanted to bring out the texture in the cookies. An iPhone 4s was used to capture the image and Lightroom was used to process it.

Your food photos will be less flat and have more pop to them when you use back (or side) light. Just look for a window or any other light source. Get creative and use the light from fridges, stoves, and lamps.

The great thing about practicing backlight with food is that if you can’t reposition the light source, you can easily reposition yourself and the food.

Landscape and Nature

Once you get the hang of backlight with food, use it to add drama to your landscape photos. In most cases, you won’t be able to reposition your backlight source since it will likely be the sun. However, you can always reposition yourself in relation to the sun and your subject.

I saw this scene as I looked in the rearview mirror. I couldn’t resist pulling over to take a photo. The setting sun is the light source for this scene. You can’t see it in the frame but it’s behind the trees to the left. Notice how the electricity wires are shining and standing out from the dark trees in the background.


The setting sun behind this crab apple tree caught my eye during a walk. I came back with my camera and found a perspective where the sun was visible filtering through the tree. An aperture of f/11 was used to create the starburst effect.


A combination of backlight and water droplets on the lens created this special effect. I don’t recommend letting your lens get wet, I was using a waterproof case. The case was still wet from using my camera underwater.


I love to incorporate backlight into portraits to accent the emotion. Beautiful or intense moments are brought out even more with the use of backlight.


The best part about backlight in a studio is that you can position your light source any way you like.

Two off camera flashes were used to produce this dramatic backlight.


Superheros are dramatic characters by nature. Using harsh backlight instead of soft front light is better for bringing out the nature of the subject.


Natural light

When using natural light, you’ll have to position yourself and your subject according to the light source.

This little guy is backlit by the setting sun, while the big open sky in front of him illuminates his face.


One of the biggest problems about backlight is that your photo may turn out as a silhouette when you don’t want it to.

You’re likely using a semi-automatic setting such as aperture or shutter priority. Your camera sees the bright backlight and meters itself accordingly. You can use exposure compensation to help you avoid unwanted silhouettes. Try setting your exposure compensation to +1 or +2. You’ll need to experiment according to the light conditions.

If you’re experienced then manual mode might be the best option for you.

The main light source is the sky in the background. The sun has not risen over the horizon yet.

Practice backlight with everything

Once you get the hang of it, you can introduce backlight into all sorts of situations. Use it to bring out texture and to heighten dramatic moments.

Concerts are a wonderful place to have fun with backlight. The rapidly changing lights will create a challenge for you. Take lots of photos and be happy with the few that work out.

I love how golden hour can add a nostalgic feel to photos.

Use a combination of low angles and backlight to make your photo more exciting.

I always wait until evening to visit the beach. That way the sun isn’t shining straight down onto the sand. Instead it shines down at a lower angle, creating texture through shadow and highlight.


I love my little guy’s hair. There is a window just above him as the source of backlight.

The post How to Make Dramatic Photos with Backlight appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

Review: Alien Skin Exposure X4 Software

Sat, 02/23/2019 - 08:00

The post Review: Alien Skin Exposure X4 Software appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

Alien Skin Exposure X4 is a photo editor providing direct competition to Adobe Lightroom, but with a few extra tricks up its sleeve. While it is a cataloging software, it doesn’t require a catalog like Lightroom. There is no importing to be done. It has a host of features and over 500 presets to help get you started with edits.

Who is it for?

Exposure X4 is aimed at a wide variety of users. From novices just getting started who want a little help via presets, to advanced photographers possibly tired of the subscription model Adobe keeps pushing for its programs.

As a professional myself, I don’t find any show-stopping limits within the program as I’ve seen from Lightroom competitors in the past. You’ll notice the word “robust” used a number of times in this article and I don’t use it without warrant. It’s a very serious competitor to Lightroom.

Highlighted Features No catalog

At its core, Exposure X4 is built to edit photos quickly, dynamically and then to help you get the finished product out to the world, be it in print or online. Exposure X4 uses non-destructive edits, much like Lightroom, and does this without a catalog. Instead, Exposure X4 drops another folder inside of any folder you are editing as in the screenshot below.

Some may like this system because without a catalog there is no catalog to corrupt. While not a widespread problem in Lightroom, it can happen if you don’t close the program properly or if your computer crashes. Uniquely, it also allows for a limited amount of shared editing.

As the program only looks to individual edit information files (those ending in .exposurex4 in the screenshot above), it is conceivable to run the program on two computers sharing the same files, such as with a Network Attached Storage or other file sharing services (Dropbox, iCloud, OneDrive, etc…). There’s also no need to pack up or export a catalog before moving files as the folder with edits will travel with the master folder.

File copy from cards

Instead of importing files, Exposure X4 uses a simple copy and bookmark feature to handle raw images.

The copy feature lets you copy from a card, or from a hard drive or network resource if you want to move files. This is a separate process than simply bookmarking an existing folder to bring its contents into Exposure X4.

The copy feature is pretty robust, with the ability to change file names, make backup copies, add metadata, including keywords and copyright. It can also apply presets (from the over 500 included or ones you create yourself).

The file naming convention is also robust with all kinds of variables you would expect. Below is an example of all the date related options you have.

As a long time Lightroom user, I was happy with the selections included.

Bookmarks instead of Imports

Lightroom requires you to run an import function to bring any images you want to edit into its catalog. Exposure X4 accomplishes this, in my opinion, in a more elegant way.

Simply click the plus sign on the Folders pane and select which folder you want including in the program.

The program also has the ability to monitor folders, so when new images show up (if you are importing with another program, for instance, or shooting tethered) the program will automatically bring those images in.


For those familiar with Photoshop, the Layers technique of editing will see standard practice. Using features like Brushes (for masks) and gradients will create a new layer for each desired effect.

In this case, I added some clarity to the mountains and a slight gradient. The array of presets is decent and you can modify any mask/edit to your liking.

Each layer can be turned on or off, which is very helpful when you want to see what effect each has without having to step back through the History.

Lastly, as you would expect, layers can be copied, named and deleted.

All the other edits

Exposure X4 has a vast array of editing options as you can see from this collapsed panel below.

While featuring every single item is beyond the scope of this review, I will mention the IR (infrared) and Focus.

For instance, take this shot of photographers in front of Cho Oyu, the 6th highest mountain in the world, shot from the Nepal side.

With a quick swipe of the adjustment brush on a new layer mask then a few slider moves as such:

Bingo! We have selective focus.


Further editing needs to be done, but this is a nice start to helping the photographers stand out.

Presets galore

If you love presets, you’re going to love what Exposure X4 packs into its programming. Here’s a quick screenshot of the categories:

If you want to see what is behind each of those headings, take a look at their website.

One downside I can see is there aren’t many third parties making presets for this program, at least not that I was able to find.

However, you are able to create your own with no limits.

Lightroom Migration Tool

Now the crux of it!

When you install Exposure X4 on a computer with Lightroom, it will add a Migration Tool as an add-on within Lightroom.

So what does it do?

It’s fairly basic and, for the most part, tells Exposure X4 where to find all your files from the Lightroom catalog as well as bring over keywords and collections.

Does it work?

Yes and no. You need to know what to expect.

First off, it’s not going to bring over the entire history for a photo with all your edits just as they are in Lightroom.

You have two options: 1) Simply point Exposure X4 to the RAW file and then start from scratch or 2) Export each file that you have edited as either a JPG, TIFF or PSD file.

The second option works well when I had it create new PSD files. Keywords, star ratings, color coding, and all the metadata came right along into Exposure X4. The one annoying thing is it renames each file and appends it with “_migrated.psd”. This can easily be cleaned up with Exposure X4’s renaming feature.

Here’s an example of a small catalog brought into Exposure X4.

More info on the tool can be found on their site.

Show me more

There really is way too much to talk about in this one post. Luckily they have a great Features page that lists the plethora of features you may be looking for.

What Could Use Work

I found a few issues with the program while testing it. I left out the items I would describe as “That’s not the same as Lightroom!” where I blurted out that phrase because it’s not exactly the same.

No preview on import

I admit that import is the wrong name for it. Mentioned above, I’m talking about the “Copy From Card” feature to move items from a card to a local hard drive and also include them in Exposure X4.

When running this feature, there’s no ability to preview the images. This also means there is no ability to choose individual images when copying from a card.

Hopefully, this will be addressed in a future version. But I can see why they left it this way; because Exposure X4 is supposed to look at all images in a folder. If you don’t want to see them, they shouldn’t be there! It does cut down on the need to synchronize things as Lightroom can.

Not all profiles are present

The camera profile for my drone, a Mavic 2 Pro, was not included. At least that’s what I thought.

While it did have the profile for the Mavic Pro, it was not automatically recognized and applied in the Lens Correction pane. This may be a temporary thing, but the Mavic 2 Pro has been out since last summer.

Two finger rotation

This will seems like a little thing, but it really annoyed me. Rotating images is accomplished by holding down Command/Ctrl and the left and right arrow keys. Using the arrow keys make sense, because they point the way of rotation, but I want it quick and easy, not with the added Command key.

I know, it’s a little thing.

Lack of Add-Ons and Plug-Ins

Because it is not Adobe, Alien Skins doesn’t have a huge pile of developers pumping out plug-ins and add-ons for Exposure X4. It tries to make up for this fact by offering a robust program from the start, but I use the Lightroom tethering abilities often and not having that feature in Exposure X4 is hampering.


Alien Skin Exposure X4 can do almost all of what Lightroom can do. It’s worthy competition that deserves a close look if you are getting fed up with Lightroom and Adobe’s current path.

It offers a number of creative features you won’t find in Lightroom, like the adding sun streaks or other lighting effects to your photos.

It’s a fun and different approach than Lightroom. It can export to Photoshop and has a decent migration tool if you are already using Lightroom.

It’s not compatible with Lightroom, though. Using both programs on the same images will not work, so you need to choose one or the other. In my mind, it’s worth giving it a try and really diving into the keyboard shortcuts (“-” is used to reject a photo and “+” is used to flag it, while either shortcut can be used to toggle off the flag. No more trying to find “U” (to unmark!) to see if it is the right program for you.

Have you used this software? What are your thoughts?

The post Review: Alien Skin Exposure X4 Software appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Transport

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 13:00

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is TRANSPORT!

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Your photos can include anything includes transport. It could be old decaying transport, trains, buses, scooters, bikes, cars etc. You may want to do some panning or long exposures. They can be color, black and white, moody or bright. You get the picture. Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

© Barry J Brady

Some Inst-piration from some Instagrammers:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by David Covell ( on Feb 9, 2019 at 11:58am PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Ron Mautner (@ron_mautner) on Feb 13, 2019 at 8:12am PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Rust Never Sleeps (@jerrylofarorust) on Jan 6, 2019 at 7:14am PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Leif Egil Olsen (@leo2048) on Feb 13, 2019 at 2:14pm PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Ricardo Heir (@heir_richard) on Feb 13, 2019 at 12:54pm PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by ENO (@eeeeeeeno) on Dec 31, 2018 at 2:58am PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by ENO (@eeeeeeeno) on Oct 4, 2018 at 5:40am PDT


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by The Battles (@argosyodyssey) on Feb 13, 2019 at 1:51pm PST


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

Tips for Shooting TRANSPORT

Panning and Other Tips for Adding Motion to Your Street Photography

6 Tips to Master Panning Photography

6 Tips for Shooting Long Exposure Night Photographs

10 Common Mistakes in Long Exposure photography

6 Ways to Improve your Cityscape Photography

How to Use Framing in an Urban Environment

How to Improve the Impact of Your Urban Images Using Lines


Weekly Photography Challenge – TRANSPORT

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 #DPStransport 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 – Transport appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

How to Care for Your Beloved Camera [video]

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 08:00

The post How to Care for Your Beloved Camera [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In another great video from our friends over at COOPH, they show you how to care for your beloved camera to keep her/him in great working order.


Here’s how to care for your beloved camera 1. Proper cleaning
  1. Use a blow brush to take off bigger particles and process both sides of the lens.
  2. Add finish with a lens cleaning cloth.
  3. Apply a cleaning solution to a cotton bud and clean the contact points.
  4. Use a rocket blower to clean the camera sensor. Tilt your camera down and blow.
  5. Still not clean enough? Put your camera into cleaning mode for a self-clean.
  6. Take out your Gel Stamp and gently stamp the sensor. To clean the gel stamp, use a piece of sticky tape.
  7. Lightly push the gel stamp onto the sticky tape, and the dust will transfer to the tape.
  8. Finish the job using sensor wipes.
  9. Shoot a long exposure against a white background, and when doing so, move the camera in a circular motion.
  10. Then check the image on a big screen to ensure the camera lens and sensor are clean.
2. Lens Swapping

No matter how good your jacket, never change lenses in the rain. Jump in your car and take a pit stop. Change the lens then.

3. The UV Filter

The UV Filter protects your camera from UV light and helps to avoid scratches on your lens when you are shooting wildlife in your home…

4. The Hand Strap

Buckle up so you don’t drop it. Carry it in your hand. Don’t use it like a yo-yo as you walk.

5. The Lens Hood

Not the type you wear. A lens hood gives the camera a safety guard for in case you bump the camera.

6. The Dry Bag.

Ziplock bags, along with some Dry Silica packs, make a perfect DIY Dry Bag. Airtight and condensation-proof.

7. The Dust Blocker

Shower Caps are perfect for dust protection and Sahara Safe!


So, be good to your better half and clean them.


You may also find the following articles helpful:

How to Clean Your Tripod and Make it Like New

How to Clean Your Photography Gear and Keep it in Good Shape

How to Spring Clean Your Memory Cards

How to Clean Your Camera Sensor in 3 Easy Steps

How to Take Care of Your Camera in Cold Weather

The post How to Care for Your Beloved Camera [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

How to Make Great Photo Invitations in Photoshop

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 13:00

The post How to Make Great Photo Invitations in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Do you have an event coming up? Let’s make it a success!

It doesn’t matter if you’re throwing a birthday party for your kid or organizing a fancy dinner for your clients and coworkers, every event needs an invitation. You want people to know about it, but you also want to get them excited so they want to come. Here are a couple of ideas to do photo invitations to start you off on the right foot.

In this day and age, we are used to expressing ourselves with photos and a party is no exception to that. If you make a Facebook event it asks you to add a cover photo; if you want to do printed invitations, a photo works well too. The idea behind a photo invitation is to communicate more than just when and where. It also sets the tone for the party, so choose your image wisely and incorporate the text creatively.

Text box photo invitations

One idea for your photo invitations is to create a text box within your photo, like the example above. I suggest this idea if you’re going with postcard format, or folding card, where you can put all the practical information on the back or inside. This is because too much text on top of the photo can look messy. However, it can work if you’re using a minimalistic photo.

In any case, you can achieve this effect in just a few steps:

Step 1:

Once you’ve chosen your photo, open it in Photoshop. Then duplicate the layer by going to Menu -> Layer -> Duplicate Layer. You can also do this with the New Layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel if you prefer.

Step 2:

You want the two layers to have different brightness, so depending on the exposure of your image you can either darken the original layer or lighten the new top one. You can do this by adjusting the levels. Go to Menu -> Image -> Adjustments -> Levels, making sure the right layer is selected.

Step 3:

Now go to the top layer. Using the Rectangular Marquee Tool, select the area of the Text Box to the size you require. Once you have it, create a layer mask by clicking on the button at the bottom of the Layers panel. You can also delete the excess image by inverting the selection with Menu -> Select -> Invert and click the backspace key, however with this choice, you can’t adjust it later so I don’t recommend it.

Step 4:

Give the text box a special effect so that it’s clearly separated from the background image. Click on the fx button at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose the one you like, usually an Outer Glow or Drop Shadow should work well.

Step 5:

Finally, click on the Text tool and add your text. Remember that you can personalize the font, size, color, and much more on the top Options Bar. One trick I like to use is to type it twice in different colors, then move one of them a click or two to give it some depth.

There you go. Using the same technique, you can do the invitations to any event from a casual rooftop party with friends to a homey, intimate holiday party and much more. What sets the tone is the photo.

Faded background photo invitations

If you need all the information to be in one place together with the image, you can use a fade effect:

Step 1:

With your image open in Photoshop, create a new layer by clicking the new layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel. Then go to Menu -> Edit -> Fill. Choose the color you want keeping in mind that this becomes the background of the text. However, it also interacts with the image you chose.

Step 2:

Click on the Gradient Tool (if you don’t see it, check under the Fill Tool) and drag across your image to fade in the color layer into the image layer. This process is trial and error, so do it as many times as you need until you’re satisfied. If you need more information on how the Gradient Tool works I recommend you check out my tutorial “How to Customize and Use the Photoshop Gradient Tool.”

Step 3:

Now you just have to include all the information using the text tool as shown in the first example and you’re good to go.

Have fun and feel free to share your invitations with us in the comments section below.


The post How to Make Great Photo Invitations in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

How to Define Your Ideal Photography Client

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 08:00

The post How to Define Your Ideal Photography Client appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

Many photographers in business struggle because they fail to understand who their ideal photography client is. Your ideal photography client is the person you love to work with and who wants exactly what you offer.

When you understand the sort of person who would want to hire you, you can speak directly to them in your social media and on your website. And when they stumble across your work, they will know that you are the one they want to hire.

After a couple of years of experience in business I began to tailor what I want to offer to the people I wanted to work with.

1. Do they want what you offer?

First, you need to determine what you want to offer as a photographer. What is the end product you want to deliver?

That decision includes digital or prints, the number of photos you wish to deliver, your style, number of hours put into the job, retouching, etc.

You may be deciding between:

  • Studio/outdoors (on location)
  • Posed vs candid (lifestyle)
  • Digital vs print
  • Many photos vs few
  • Your vision or theirs
  • Just photography, or a line of products

First, figure out what you want to offer, then match yourself up with people who want what you offer. Don’t be sidetracked by people who say you should be offering something else. Limit yourself to what you actually want to pursue and deliver (but feel free to experiment too).

I offer outdoor family photo sessions that focus more on candid moments than posed ones. I provide families with a digital gallery of 100+ photos. This is what I like to give. I like to spend time with the family and then give them lots of photos to enjoy.

My ideal family wants a lot of photos that they can turn into photo books, etc. I’m thrilled to spend an hour with a family photographing an adventure and then showing them all the fun photos I made.

When somebody contacts me for one posed print I send them to another photographer who specializes in that.

2. Match your approach with their personality

Your personality and approach to your photography is part of what you’re offering.

It may be the case that people want what you offer, but they don’t like your personality or approach.

Don’t take this personally. After all, there are many potential clients that you wouldn’t want to work with either.

For example, some lifestyle photographers take a photojournalist approach to their sessions and will not interrupt the scene. They give very little direction. While other lifestyle photographers direct and control every aspect of the session. The end product may be a collection of candid-looking photos but one photographer micromanaged every detail of those moments while the other influenced very little.

Whatever your approach to photography is, there will be people who don’t like it. Be clear about your personality and the way you work and you will naturally repel people you wouldn’t want to work with and attract the ones you do.

If you’re assertive and take charge, let people know.

If you need space to work out your vision and don’t want constant input from the client, let them know.

I always let parents know there needs to be room for play and fun in our sessions. It’s hard for some parents to let their kids have fun, but when they do the photos show it.

3. Look below the surface

As you seek to attract your ideal client, don’t assume that your ideal clients will have the details of their lives in common with each other or with you.

My ideal customers are quite different on the surface. Some of them live in the country, others live in big cities. Some are covered in tattoos, others have none. They work in offices, the trades, or are entrepreneurs. Some spend nothing on their wardrobe, some spend more on it than the photos. But it’s not what’s on the surface.

My ideal customers are families who love each other. They are creative and want a playful photo session. They like candid moments. They love the human nature that I portray in my photos. They enjoy receiving a gallery filled with digital photos that they can share online, and make photo books and gifts with. Family is everything to them and to me.

What to do when you’re stuck with terrible clients

No matter what sort of photography business you run, you’re going to end up working with the wrong clients sometimes. That’s okay.

Working with the wrong clients helps to reinforce who the right ones are.

When you can learn to make the wrong clients happy, you’ll do even better with the right ones.

Learning to work with people who don’t share your vision will help you to grow. You may even learn something in the process that you wouldn’t have learned otherwise.

I try my best not to attract clients who are too nervous to have fun, or who only want one or two quick shots, or who are too miserable to enjoy the session. But occasionally those people hire me and I do my best to make them happy anyway.

Who is your worst client?

If you’re not sure who your ideal client is, begin by describing the client you don’t want to work with. Then list the clients you’ve been happiest to work with. What did you like about working with them? What did they like about working with you? What was their personality like? Tailor your marketing toward people like them.

The post How to Define Your Ideal Photography Client appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

Photo Finishing – Challenge Yourself to Reveal the Personality in Every Image You Capture

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 13:00

The post Photo Finishing – Challenge Yourself to Reveal the Personality in Every Image You Capture appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

Many folks think that photography takes place in the camera, but that’s not the whole truth. Photography is a two-part process that involves 1) capturing the light from a scene, and 2) shaping that captured light into a form that matches what your mind saw when you took the picture. The capture process does happen inside the camera, but the shaping part happens on your computer.

The Capture, or Photo Process

We give the camera credit for things that it doesn’t actually do. Don’t get me wrong, capturing all the light in a scene is a monumental undertaking. Keeping track of millions of points of light is a very critical and specialized responsibility. However, the camera is not so much an artistic tool as it is a capture device with a single purpose – to accurately record the light from the surfaces of objects in a scene. While that purpose can get complicated with lighting challenges, the camera is still just box with a round glass eye and a single function: to record light.

When the light of a scene enters the camera lens, it gets dispersed over the surface of the camera’s image sensor, a postage-size electrical circuit containing millions of individual light receptors. Each receptor measures the strength of the light striking it in a metric called “lumens.” Each receptor on this sensor records its light value as a color pixel.

The camera’s image processor reads the color and intensity of the light striking each photoreceptor and maps each image from those initial values, producing a reasonable facsimile of the original scene. When this bitmap of pixels gets viewed from a distance, the eye perceives the composite as a digital image.

The real magic happens after the storing of light on the memory card. The image that first appears when you open the file is the image processor’s initial attempt at interpreting the data recorded by the camera’s image processor. Most times, the initial (JPEG) image interpretation of this data is an acceptable record of the original scene, though not always.


Your camera provides several pre-set programs that adjust the three settings in the camera that affect exposure: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

Three main controls determine your exposure: the shutter speed, the aperture, and the ISO. The camera presets (A, S, and M) allow you to determine the depth of field and/or speed with which the camera captures the light.

The A (aperture priority) mode allows you to set the size of the lens opening (f-stop) while the camera automatically sets the shutter speed. The S (shutter priority) mode lets you set the duration of the lens opening (shutter speed) while the camera adjusts the size of the lens opening. The letter P (program mode) allows you to determine the best mix of aperture and shutter speed while your camera retains the correct balance of light for the exposure. The letter M (manual mode) gives you complete control over all settings but requires to balance the overall exposure.

Your camera’s variable ISO (International Standards Organization) setting adjusts the light sensitivity of the camera’s image sensor, allowing you to capture scenes in dim or bright light; the higher the number, the more sensitive the light receptors become, allowing you to capture images in lower levels of light.

The Histogram

Your camera provides a small graph that roughly indicates how well the camera is set to correctly capture the light in the current scene.

This graph displays the range of light coming through the lens and approximates the current light distribution that captured under the current settings. By adjusting the three settings mentioned above, you can shift and somewhat distribute this range of light to best record the full range of light.

Color balancing the light

Every scene’s color cast is influenced by the temperature of the light illuminating that scene. When the scene is captured outside, the Sun’s position in the sky and the influence of cloud cover alters the color of the light. Your camera offers at least two ways to compensate for the differences in color temperature (Auto White Balance and Pre-set Color Balance).

Auto White Balance

The Auto White Balance (AWB) sensor in your camera seeks any prominent white or neutral subject in the scene and shifts the entire color balance of the scene in an effort to neutralize that element. But there is an assumption with AWB that you desire the current lighting to be perfectly neutral in color.

Any clouds interfering with the sunlight will have a slight influence on the neutrality of 6500° (natural sunlight) lighting. AWB takes that slight shift out of the equation. Most of the time, this is a great idea. However, to record early morning or late afternoon (golden hour) lighting accurately, AWB will neutralize those warm colors and completely lose that “warm” mood.

Pre-Set White Balance Settings

Your camera offers several pre-sets to offset any known color casts caused by specific lighting situations. These settings appear in every digital camera “Settings” display and may appear in a slightly different order or wording. Daylight sets the camera to record scenes under typical mid-day outdoor lighting. Cloudy/Overcast shifts the colors toward orange to compensate for the bluish cast caused by light filtering through nominal cloud cover.

Shade offers a stronger orange shift to compensate for completely overcast (stormy) skies. Flash provides a very similar color temperature lighting as Daylight and is intended to prepare the image sensor for artificial daylight or “Speed light” type flash devices.

Tungsten/Incandescent shifts the colors toward the blue end of the color range to compensate for the warmer shift of incandescent lights. Fluorescent attempts to compensate for the greenish cast of gas-charged fluorescent lights.

Kelvin/Custom permits the user to set a custom color balance setting, essentially teaching the camera what “neutral” gray color looks like. All of these pre-sets attempt to correct non-neutral lighting conditions.

The Sculpting, or Finishing Process

While the camera does capture the full range of reflected light in a scene, it has no way of knowing the best tonal curve to apply to each image. Many times the five tonal ranges (highlight, quarter, middle, three-quarter, and shadow) need to be reshaped to best interpret the light captured at the scene. This tonal contouring process is the magic of sculpting the light into a meaningful visual image.

This little fella perched outside my front door and caught me off guard. I didn’t have time to fiddle with the controls to optimize the lighting situation. My first click got his attention and the second got this expression. Fortunately, I capture my images in both jpg and RAW formats simultaneously. Doing so allowed me to post-process the tones and display to you what I actually saw that morning.

I use the term “sculpting” when talking about image editing because it best describes the rearranging of tones in a digital image. Only ideal lighting balance looks great when rendered as a “stock” JPEG camera image.

This sculpting or finishing process amounts to the clarification of tones and colors in a digital image; making the image appear in final form the way the human mind perceived it in the original scene. While the color balancing aspect of this process is a bit more obvious, the tonal recovery is actually more critical to the final presentation.

The digital camera cannot capture all of the dynamics of the visible spectrum on a sunny day, nor can it determine the best balance of those tones. The camera’s image sensor simply captures all the light possible and presents the data to the camera’s image processor to sort out. Under perfectly balanced lighting, this works out just fine, but occasionally detail hides in the shadows and gets lost in the highlights, requiring help from the photographer/editor to balance out the tones.

This is where the individual tone-zones come into play, and the sliders available in RAW processing software (Camera Raw, Lightroom, On1 Camera Raw, Exposure X4) are invaluable. The internal contrast of every image (Whites, Highlights, Middle tones, Shadows, Blacks) can be pushed around and adjusted in a very non-linear manner (in no particular order) to reveal detail that otherwise remains hidden.


Photo finishing isn’t complete until both color and tones are correctly adjusted for maximum effect, matching the emotion of the original scene. Only then is your image ready for viewing. Challenge yourself to squeeze the detail and reveal the potential personality out of every image you capture. It’s well worth the extra effort.

The post Photo Finishing – Challenge Yourself to Reveal the Personality in Every Image You Capture appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

How to Set Your Photography Goals (and NOT Fail)

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 08:00

The post How to Set Your Photography Goals (and NOT Fail) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

You can spend many years as a stagnant photographer simply because you didn’t set any goals.

But if you set goals, and work toward accomplishing them, you can grow more than you ever imagined.

Photographers encounter two problems when setting goals. The first is not knowing how to set a goal. The second is not knowing how to accomplish it.

Let’s look at how to set a goal and then be sure that you can accomplish it.

If you need inspiration toward growth and learning as a photographer, look to the toddler. They develop more over 2 years than most adults develop over 2 decades.

How to set your photography goals

I’ll share my photography goals with you and explain how to set your own goals.

  1. Define my creative vision (no more copying other photographers)
  2. Accomplish a photography project I started as an unskilled kid
  3. Learn about light from painters
  4. Study toddler psychology
  5. Help 15 students achieve their photography goals

Five goals seem like a lot, but I accomplished all my major goals last year, so I’m eager to accomplish these goals too.

Toddlers are at one of the crossroads of life. They’re exploding in their abilities but need to have their potential guided by grown-ups and older kids.

You should set your goals based on these 2 questions:
  1. What will I have accomplished when I finish this goal?
  2. How will this goal help me grow as a photographer?

Accomplishment: When I complete goals 2 and 5, I will have fulfilled a childhood ambition and helped other photographers to grow.

Growth: Goals 1,3 and 5 will help clarify my vision and deepen my understanding of light and toddlers.

Set goals that are meaningful to you. Make them small enough to be achievable but large enough to challenge you.

When you first start setting goals, you should set and focus on one at a time. Once you know what you’re capable of you can set multiple goals that cover an extended period of time.

A toddler with a marker, colors on everything without thought. We can be just as directionless in our photography, snapping photos of anything that grabs our attention. Or, we can be purposeful and move toward intentional accomplishment.

Setting a goal is easy, but how do you accomplish it?

After deciding on your goals, use this method to accomplish it:

  1. Describe how life will look when you’ve achieved your goal
  2. Understand the consequence of not completing it
  3. Plot out the steps toward achieving your goal
  4. Create an environment that makes the goal happen by default (so failure isn’t an option)

I’ll use my toddler psychology goal as an example.

How will life look once I’ve achieved this goal? I’ll better understand toddlers, better connect with them during sessions and take more creative photos.

If I don’t complete this goal then I will not have expanded myself as a photographer and I’ll continue to experience the same frustrations during sessions.

The main steps toward achieving this goal will be:

  • Finding reliable sources that explain toddler psychology
  • Reflecting on my experience as a father and photographer
  • Use what I’ve learned to take better photos of toddlers
  • Write about what I’ve learned (for myself and others)

Many people fail to reach their goals because their environment works against them.

How can I create an environment that will make this goal achievable?

It’s busy running a photography business and I’m likely to forget my goals. But, I’ve written it on my list of goals so that it won’t be forgotten. I came up with a quick list of sources to begin my research. Research time has been scheduled into my calendar.

Creating your environment to make your goals achievable

This is one of the most important steps. If you set a goal and then have the proper space and time to work on it, you’ll be able to achieve it.

Let’s suppose your goal is to learn how to use your camera off Auto Mode. But 30 days after setting your goal you’ve hardly practiced at all. Your life is hectic and your environment will keep you distracted unless you make it work for you.

You need to set aside a block of time every day that is devoted to using your camera. Write it in a day planner or set an alert. Better yet, carry your camera with you all day. It’s hard to avoid learning when you’ve committed to taking a camera with you everywhere you go.

Rubber boots are a passport to adventure for toddlers. With their boots on they can go anywhere and do anything.

Maybe you’re taking a trip this year and hope to take a lot of great photos. But hoping isn’t the same as setting a goal and plotting out the steps to achieve it. Most trips have a very rushed itinerary which is one way that your environment will work against you. Have you set aside time for photography?

Maybe you want a more efficient post-processing workflow. Is your environment filled with distractions that eat up your time? Turn off the WIFI, your phone, and any other digital distractions. Isolate yourself for a block of time or until the work is finished. Banish everything that distracts your focus.

Your goal should be challenging to achieve, but don’t make it worse by having your environment work against you.

Peeking through the bedroom door.

Tell me YOUR goals

One of the best ways to get started on a goal is to tell somebody what you plan to do.

I would love to hear your photography goal. Leave a comment letting me know what your goals are.

The post How to Set Your Photography Goals (and NOT Fail) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

What Your Camera Can’t See

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 13:00

The post What Your Camera Can’t See appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

For all the incredible technology packed into cameras, there is one missing element that will remain missing perhaps forever. The missing element? The combination of human eyesight and the brain’s image processor called the Visual Cortex.

The Visual Cortex

The Visual Cortex is located in the lower rear of your brain. It is here the real color perception magic happens – magic that goes way beyond the analysis capabilities of any camera on the planet. As you understand this human version of the camera’s image processor, your understanding of the photo process will come into clearer focus.

Medical experts tell us that more than 80% of what we experience enters our brain through our vision. Your eyes capture light’s amazing array of colors as the eye’s lens focuses light beams onto the panoramic viewing screen in the back of your eyeball called the retina.

Your brain is very forgiving. It focuses light entering through your eyes, and automatically color corrects almost every lighting condition and color cast en route to the Visual Cortex. Within seconds, your eyes and brain adjust to a wide range of lighting intensities and color influences and deliver very believable images to your mind. And it all happens without you even realizing it. No white balance to set, no color shifts to neutralize. Your brain’s magic intuition and forgiving nature do a crazy-good job of color correction for you.

Your camera records colors a bit more objectively. However, even when shooting RAW files, decisions about color still have to be made in the editing process. Your camera simply doesn’t have cognitive or reasoning skills and thus must be tutored to interpret what it “sees” accurately. You might say that your camera sees, but it doesn’t observe.

White balance and memory colors

When you visually observe a white sheet of paper in a daylight lighting (preferably outside, in natural light), the paper looks… white. Even when you observe that same white paper indoors under tungsten light, your brain recognizes that the paper is really white. This is because the human brain possesses what we call “memory colors;” a basic set of colors that are so familiar that even lighting variances cannot confuse.

Your camera cannot remember what color white is when it is captured under different types of lighting. It must be told every time. What your camera calls “memory” isn’t the same “memory” that your human brain possesses.

When you set your camera’s White Balance to Daylight and take a picture of the white paper outside, it indeed appears white. That is merely the way the camera’s image sensor is biased to record light under daylight (6500° Kelvin) color conditions. However, when you move inside and shoot the same white paper under tungsten lighting (using the same Daylight WB), the paper appears to the camera to be somewhat yellow.

Auto White Balance (left) and Tungsten (right)

Changing the camera’s WB setting to Auto White Balance (AWB) and shooting the paper under a typical table lamp light, the picture still appears slightly yellow.  Even when you set the camera’s WB to Tungsten, the paper still fails to appear perfectly neutral white, though it appears much closer to white.

The truth is, there are colors in the visual spectrum that digital cameras record differently than film cameras did in the past. And neither technology captures and records the exact colors that the human eye sees or the mind perceives. This is why most captured images, for all their beauty, still lack the full sense of authenticity and depth that the human mind experiences from light observed in every scene.

Technically (and spectrally), in each case, the camera is telling the truth, just not the “truth” that we perceive with our eyes. This is, of course, a good example of why we shoot in raw format. When captured in raw format, all regimented color categories get ignored. Any color shifts can be corrected and lighting variances addressed in the post-processing stage.

As mentioned earlier, the can’t the camera see the white paper as white (the way our eyes do) regardless of the lighting situation because the camera doesn’t have an onboard reference registry of “memory colors” the way our brains do.

The brain automatically remaps each scene’s color cast to your brain’s “memory colors.” Think of these memory colors as preference presets in your brain’s color interpreter. These memory colors automatically compensate for variable lighting situations. The infinite Look Up Table (LUT) variables that would be needed for a camera to replicate this basic, natural brain function would have to be both immense and incredibly complex. No matter how smart digital devices become, they’ll never replace the magic of human interpretation.


So what have we learned? Your camera, for all its sophistication, cannot automatically correct color casts. It simply isn’t human. That means that your camera ultimately benefits from and makes use of your understanding of the behavior of light and color. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll produce images that more closely replicate color as your mind perceived it. Photography is a two-part process that requires the camera to do its job and for you to do yours. What is defined by the clinical term as “post-processing” is merely finishing the job that your camera started.

Moreover, this is a good thing. Your judgment and interpretation of the colors your mind saw when you captured the image can guide you as you tweak and make minor adjustments to your images. Don’t think of this as a burden. Recognize this as a gift. You, the photographer, are the producer of the image. Your camera is merely a tool that provides all the “raw” materials you’ll need to share what your mind observed when you captured the scene.

This is why photography is an art, and why this art requires an artist. You are that artist.

Celebrate the partnership you have with your camera. Together, you produce visual beauty.

The post What Your Camera Can’t See appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

How to Move Your Lightroom Library to an External Drive

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 08:00

The post How to Move Your Lightroom Library to an External Drive appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Many photographers put their pictures on their computer’s internal hard drive. This can be a great solution since even laptops now have fairly generous storage options compared to their counterparts in days gone by. It may take you a while to fill up a 1TB or larger internal drive even if you shoot in RAW, but at some point, you’re going to run out of space, and you’ll have to address this problem. Cloud storage is a good solution but often involves a monthly or yearly fee, and upgrading your internal drive can be expensive and time-consuming. One perfect solution is to migrate your entire Lightroom library to an external drive. While this might sound difficult and intimidating, it’s quite simple and is something that anyone can easily do.

Choosing your storage

Storage space is fairly inexpensive, but not infinite. There are always going to be physical limitations when it comes to how many images you can store on a single piece of media. This is true whether it’s a traditional hard drive, a solid-state drive, or a mix of both such as Apple’s Fusion Drives.

Thankfully, external drives can offer vast amounts of storage space for relatively little money. With the fast transfer speeds of USB-3, which is common on most computers today, you won’t lose anything in terms of editing efficiency by having your pictures stored externally.

The first step in migrating your pictures to an external drive is to buy an external drive, and you have several options:

Traditional hard drive made with spinning platters. If you take this route, I recommend one with a transfer rate of 150mb/sec (megabytes per second) and an RPM speed of 7200. As I write this in early 2019, a four-terabyte drive, which can hold around 200,000 RAW files or half a million JPG files without breaking a sweat, can be found for US$100 to US$150.

Storage is inexpensive and prices are falling all the time. This 4 terabyte hard drive was only $90 when I bought it in the spring of 2019. (Guitar pick shown for scale.)

Solid-state drive with no moving parts. These aren’t as cheap as traditional drives, and they don’t hold quite as much data. However, with prices falling all the time, it won’t be long until solid-state drives are the norm and traditional spinning platters become redundant. Transfer rates on these drives are going to be plenty fast enough for any photo editing.

RAID array or Drobo. These are much more expensive than traditional storage options but offer redundancy in case of data failures, but they might be overkill for non-professional photographers. Besides, no matter what external storage solution you use, you should always have at least one off-site backup even if you do use a RAID array.

For most people, I recommend a simple USB-3 external drive, as it’s the most cost-effective solution and easy to backup onto another drive as well.

Once you have an external drive, there are two methods for getting your photos in Lightroom copied over to it. I’ll walk you through each of these methods as well as the positive and negative aspects of each so you can decide which is right for you.

Method 1: Use Lightroom

This process works well if you don’t have a large photo library. It doesn’t involve a lot of heavy lifting on your part because you can do everything within Lightroom. If you have a lot of images (a few thousand or more), I’d recommend against this because I’ve read reports that it can become a little unreliable when working with that many files. Your mileage may vary though, but know that you ought to proceed with a bit of caution when using this method.

First, locate your Folders pane on the left side of the Library module of Lightroom. Then click the + button in the top-right corner and choose “Add Folder…” This is going to let you create a new folder for storing your images. In this case, navigate to your external drive and create a new folder at that location.

Navigate to your external drive and create a folder on it that you can use to store your pictures. In the screenshot below my external drive is called “Untitled” and my folder is called “Lightroom Pictures.”

Once done, you should see the new folder show up in Lightroom, but it will be empty. This action also creates a new folder on your external drive, which you can see if you navigate to the external drive using Finder or Windows Explorer.

The final step in moving your images from the internal drive to an external drive is to drag-and-drop them from Lightroom. From the Folders panel, click on a folder that you want to put on the external drive and drag it from your internal drive to the new folder you just created.

Click the Move button and Lightroom transfers everything over to the external drive, with no extra effort required on your part. If you have thousands of pictures, this could take a while. So be patient. In the end, your images will be on the external drive and also removed from your internal drive.

Method 2: Copy files manually

If you don’t mind doing a little bit of work yourself using Windows File Explorer or the Macintosh Finder, this is the option I generally recommend. That’s because it not only gives you the most control over the copying operation but helps you understand exactly where to locate your pictures. This method also lets you decide when to delete the original images on your internal drive because you copy them to your external drive instead of moving them. The first thing you need to do is navigate to your Library module within Lightroom and look for the Folders pane. This module tells you where to locate your image files on your computer.

I’ve got images in Lightroom going back to 2013, and each year’s pictures are stored in a separate folder on my hard drive.

Right-click, or control-click on a Mac, on the name of one of the folders in your Folders pane and choose the option that says “Show in Finder.” If you are using Windows, this says “Show in Explorer.” This takes you to the location on your computer where your images are stored.

If you have multiple folders with images in them, do this operation one at a time for each folder. In this example, I started with the 2013 folder in Lightroom, and selected “Show in Finder.” Then it brought up the actual folder on my computer labeled 2013 that contains my images from that year.

When you get to this step, right-click (or control-click) the folder and choose Copy. Then navigate to your external drive and choose Paste. This makes an exact duplicate of the folder on your external drive which might seem redundant, but this is only temporary. A bit later in the process, you can delete the original folder on your internal hard drive once you are sure that everything worked with the copy operation.

Repeat this copy/paste process for every folder listed in your Lightroom Folders pane. After you are finished copying everything to your external drive, rename the original folders by giving them a suffix such as “2013-Original” or “2013-Old.” Again, this is only temporary, and you end up just deleting these folders entirely. But for now, you don’t want to get ahead of yourself and start deleting folders before you are confident that everything has worked properly.

Locating your missing folders

After you rename the original folders, Lightroom may have a bit of a fit because it suddenly won’t be able to locate all your images! With the folder names changed, it won’t know where to look for your pictures even though they are all still intact. The next step is to tell Lightroom where to find your images on the external hard drive instead of looking on your original internal hard drive. As soon as you rename the original folder, the icon in Lightroom changes to a question mark since it no longer knows where to locate your pictures.

Right-click on the folder with a question mark and choose “Find Missing Folder” to rectify the situation.

In the screen that pops up next, navigate to the folder on your external hard drive where your pictures are. This is the folder you copied over at the start of this whole process, and its name should be unchanged. Select it, to make it show up in Lightroom. All your photos should be fully intact.

Repeat this process with all your folders. When finished, your images will have successfully migrated to the external drive. You can verify this by scrolling through your Lightroom library and looking for any images with a question mark. If you don’t see any, then everything is fine. If you do, then Lightroom is having trouble locating the original image, and you might need to double check that all your pictures have copied to the external drive successfully.

When you are satisfied that you have completed the operation without error, you are free to delete the original images on your internal drive. However, I’d recommend keeping a backup of them just in case. When it comes to photos, you can never have too many backups!

Catalog vs. Photos

It’s important to know that your Lightroom pictures are not the same as your Lightroom Catalog. The latter is a reference file which keeps track of all your edits to your pictures, leaving the originals fully intact and unchanged. I recommend keeping your Catalog on your internal hard drive since Lightroom uses this for all your editing operations and internal drives are likely to be faster than external drives. However, it’s up to you. If you’re not sure what to do, just don’t even think about it, since moving your Catalog to an external drive is an entirely separate operation altogether.

The Catalog stores all the changes to your images and only takes up a few gigabytes of space. Your actual images can take up hundreds or even thousands of gigabytes.

Remember to Backup

A final step in moving your pictures to an external drive is to make sure you have a good backup plan in place. If you are on a Mac and have your computer backed up via Time Machine, it will not automatically back up your external hard drives, and you might also find yourself quickly running out of space on your Time Machine backup drive. I recommend keeping a separate backup of your external hard drive and using a program like Carbon Copy Cloner to make sure you sync everything correctly.

Windows has options available as well, but the bottom line here is that you can never be too safe when it comes to backing up your images. Hopefully, this tutorial helps you understand how to go about reclaiming some of the space on your internal drive and setting yourself up for success in the long run when it comes to external storage options. However, all will be for naught if your images aren’t properly backed up and your computer fails.

Once you have all these pieces in place, it’s time to get off your computer, start shooting photos, and know that you’ve got plenty of storage space for years to come!

The post How to Move Your Lightroom Library to an External Drive appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

How to Quote Commercial Photography Jobs: A Few Important Line Items to Consider

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 13:00

The post How to Quote Commercial Photography Jobs: A Few Important Line Items to Consider appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

There are a variety of ways to quote on a commercial photography job. Every photographer has their own approach.

If you’re new to working with clients, or even if you’ve been at it for a little while, putting together a formal estimate can be a daunting process. The bigger the scope, the more variables there are to consider.

Here are some line items to consider.

Creative fee

When you’re putting together an estimate for a commercial photography job, I recommend charging a Creative Fee for your labor. This creative fee is the time you spend shooting, but it can also include some post-processing.

Some photographers charge a day rate or a half-day rate. I don’t advise charging by the hours, but I determine how many hours you think you may need to execute a job and multiply it by the hourly rate you would like to receive for it. You may want to top that up by up to 25%, as you’ll find most jobs take longer than you think they will.

As a new photographer, I tried a variety of ways of estimating jobs. When I charged a half-day rate, I often found that there was no such thing. By the time I set up, did all the project management to pull the shoot together and hire the help I needed, it was a full day of work and then some.

Think about how much work you have to do behind the scenes and factor that into your creative fee as well.

One thing I don’t recommend is lumping all your expenses together and presenting it to the client. Giving them one big total can lead to sticker shock and confuse your potential client. They won’t know what they’re paying for exactly.

Breaking it down for them is a good business practice and helps the less experienced clients – say, those with a small business – understand all the work that goes into producing a commercial photo shoot.


Some photographers like to have their own equipment they bring to photo shoots. This not only means a couple of cameras and Speedlites, but it can also mean monoheads, stands, and a variety of other gear.

You may have everything you need to bring to smaller shoots, but on bigger productions, you may need to rent extra gear, like several lights and lighting modifiers. You should not absorb this cost. It goes into the estimate.

Therefore, you need to get all the pertinent information up front about what the shot entails, so you know what to take. Make sure you get a shot list and ask all the necessary questions up front.

If you do have your own gear, you can include it in your creative fee and mention it as a footnote on the estimate that it’s included. Alternatively, you may decide to separate it.

You should charge at least a nominal fee for the use of your equipment. This way you can put money aside for any replacements and upgrades you need to do over time.

If a client were to go to a rental house and rent the equipment needed to pull off a commercial production, they would pay hundreds of dollars. And that is just for the tools. What about the skill of the person to handle those tools?

Don’t be afraid to charge appropriately for your services.

Studio rental

Photo shoots can take place in a variety of locations, but if you need to shoot in a studio, make sure that you put a cost for the studio rental in your estimate.

Be familiar with at least three studios in your area that can be rented out and what they charge per hour or day. If at the time that you write your estimate you’re not sure which one you’d be shooting in, put the most expensive one as the cost.

Once you get the go-ahead you can see what is available on the date you’ll be shooting and book the available studio.

Editing & post-production

When working on a commercial level, you may not be the person responsible for editing the photos. If you’re working with an ad agency or sometimes even a magazine, they may have someone in-house to do editing according to specific parameters.

Alternatively, you may be expected to do the basic editing, but someone else may be responsible for further refinement. Be clear on the outset about the expectations around post-production.

The Photoshop required may be complex and require the expertise of a professional retoucher. In this case, you must get a quote from a retoucher and put that as a line item in your estimate.

Archiving fee

Some photographers charge an archiving fee as part of their post-production process.

There is the time associated with uploading and storing images and the process required to back them up. Since you should be charging for all the time you spend on a project, it makes sense to include it in the scope. You can have it as a line item or include it in your creative fee.

Digital Imaging Technician

Depending on the genre of photography you shoot and the nature of the production, you might want to hire a Digital Imaging Technician. Also known as a DIT, they are responsible for backing up everything as you shoot, and for doing quick color treatments or composites on set.

For example, as a food and still life photographer, I always shoot tethered to my computer so I can see a large, more accurate rendition of my image than I can get on the back of my LCD screen. I also sometimes have to work with overlays if I’m doing product packaging, so I can see how the image fits with any text or artwork. A DIT can help with this process.

Photo assistant

I have used a photo assistant since the day I started shooting professionally.

A good photo assistant is indispensable and worth every penny. A photo assistant can help you carry all your gear, work your lighting and run out on errands. Having one on hand saves you time, which in the end is saving you money.

There are professional photo assistants whose sole work is assisting other photographers. However, there are plenty of photography school grads that start their careers assisting and have a lot to offer in terms of technical knowledge and eagerness to gain experience.

Many of them are not even that expensive, so if you can’t get the extra expense approved, I suggest taking a cut for yourself to have one help you out.

Stylists and makeup artists

Depending on the niche you’re shooting in, you may need a stylist. This may be a wardrobe or fashion stylist, or a food stylist.

Food stylists are responsible for shopping for the food and ingredients required for any food shoot and preparing it for the set. Food styling requires particular skills and are an essential part of any team producing food photography. It is not the photographer’s job, as it’s a different occupation and should be treated as such.

Food stylists usually charge by the hour or a day rate, as well as for prep, and often have their own assistants.

Similarly, wardrobe stylists are responsible for the clothing and related props on fashion shoots.

Makeup artists are required for fashion shoots as well, and sometimes on commercial portrait shoots.

Image usage

Image usage is the trickiest part of a photography estimate.

There is no right or wrong answer for how much you should be charging for usage.

When you are hired to shoot for a brand, you still own the copyright to those images. The client does not own them. The creative fee is for the labor to execute the commission, the usage fee is a license that allows them to use the image in a defined way for a specific time period.

How much you should charge is dependent on your market, the visibility of the brand, and how they want to use them.

The Getty Pricing Calculator is a free tool that can give you some idea of what to charge for usage.

However, I have found that there is what photographers should charge, and then there is reality. There is no point in charging a client hundreds of dollars per image if the client is small and cannot pay that.

I always recommend separating image usage from the creative fee. However, often you need to educate the client up front about copyright and what usage refers to. This can be tough if you’re dealing with a small business owner who thinks they own the images because they hired you to shoot them.

Give them an agreement that outlines the usage and make sure they are clear on how and where they can use the images.

In Conclusion

If you’ve been struggling with how to price your photographic services, hopefully, you now have a better idea of the types of things you can charge for.

The post How to Quote Commercial Photography Jobs: A Few Important Line Items to Consider appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

How to Photograph Destination Weddings Successfully

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 08:00

The post How to Photograph Destination Weddings Successfully appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

So you’ve booked your first destination wedding, now what? Don’t worry, photographing a destination wedding is not much different from photographing a local wedding. Check out how to photograph destination weddings and make sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible.

1. Logistics and planning

It’s incredibly exciting getting the chance to travel to photograph a couple’s wedding. With that, however, comes the logistics and effective planning, so you aren’t scrambling or getting delayed by a flight.

First things first, make all the flight purchases and itineraries yourself. You should arrive at the destination at least one full day before the event.

For example, if the wedding is on a Friday, you need to arrive early Thursday morning at the latest. The best would be to arrive on Wednesday anytime. This way, if a flight gets delayed or canceled, you have time to figure out your next move. Never plan to arrive on the same day as the event.

If you are not extending your stay, make sure to leave the destination the next day or next night. The reason for this is because, after a full day of photographing a wedding, you won’t want to worry about packing, airport shuttles, and all that goes into traveling back home.

Get your rest, eat a good breakfast and then be on your way. Make sure to say goodbye to your clients before leaving if they are still on the property.

It is entirely up to you if you wish to extend the stay and turn the opportunity into a vacation. However, make sure that you separate the costs of work and vacation so that your clients aren’t paying for your vacation and you can relax knowing that you can enjoy your vacation.

Having said that, it is acceptable to extend the stay and travel a bit on your own. Destination weddings are perfect for this type of traveling, however, always be careful of your equipment when traveling.

2. Research the location of the wedding

Since you’ll most likely be traveling to a new place, you won’t be familiar with the location. Research online as much as possible so that you can find possible shoot locations and get an idea of what you’ll be working with.

Googling the location and adding “weddings” can also bring up other photographer websites who have photographed there. It can give you ideas of where to photograph or how the light looks.

Reach out to the planner or coordinator of the wedding and touch base with them before you arrive. It’s also nice to introduce yourself to them via email before arriving. Ask them in-depth questions about things such as the weather, the location, travel, and access.

All of these logistical and location questions are important so that you know whether to rent a car or if it’s easily accessible to the nearest town.

Getting all of this information can help you make an itinerary with the couple and they will be impressed that you went the extra mile to find out all of the details not only the wedding, but of the actual location.

3. Make the most of your time before the event

It can seem pretty enticing to take a dip in the pool after traveling to the destination of the wedding, however, it’s best to make the most of your time before the event.

Take the time to walk the grounds and get the lay of the land. This can help you get an idea of possible locations that aren’t too far from any of the important events of the wedding day. Ask the coordinator or planner to give you a quick tour of where the ceremony and the reception are taking place.

This is also a great time to check out the town if the couple has opted for photos there. Go and take a look and take the time to make a list of possible locations for portraits, family portraits, creative bridal party locations, etc.

In order to capture this shot, we had to wake up for sunrise at 6:30. Doing research on the location will help you determine the best time for photos.

Also, take a short break to say hi to the couple. Reassure them that you have arrived and have been checking out the location for the best possible photo spots.

Upon arriving, also check your gear. Check that everything is in working order after traveling and that your batteries are charged. If you find you need something, it’s best to find it during this time rather than finding out you needed extra double aa batteries during the ceremony.

Preparing yourself, the photo locations, and your gear allows you to fully relax knowing that you have everything ready to go for the event. Then you can take that dip in the pool without any worries.

4. Gear

Flying with gear can be stressful. Never check-in your gear. Whenever possible, put it in a carry-on case so that it is with you at all times – at least the most important gear. Light stands and tripods are not as crucial as a flash and your favorite portrait lens.

Keeping your lens within arm’s length always ensures nothing gets thrown or broken in the course of the trip. Also, you’ll be able to take photos as you travel on the plane, in the airport, and anywhere.

Before traveling, make sure to speak to an insurance agent about getting your gear insured while you travel. Some insurance agencies only cover your gear in the country you live in. Be sure to call around and have your gear covered as you travel.

Also, ask if your gear is covered in transit. That means that while you’re on your way to where your event is taking place. Transit means in the car on the way to the airport, to the resort, or on the plane.

Having your gear insured while you are traveling makes you feel more at ease in the event something were to happen. Something like a broken lens, a faulty flash, having your camera fall in the water or having your gear stolen.

No one would want this to happen, however, being insured against these things helps keep repair and replacing costs lower than if you didn’t have your gear insured.

Now that you’re insured make sure you bring a backup camera and lens that helps you to cover the wedding in case your main camera stops working for any reason. This is pretty basic for any wedding event – local or destination. However, overseas or far from your local camera shop, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to rent anything if something does go wrong.

5. Tell a story

Most destination weddings take place in places that tell part of the couples’ story or is meaningful to them in some way. Take a photo of the dress where the resort is shown off. For example, a couple from Washington has their wedding in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. An excellent photo to showcase the beach would be to take a photo of the wedding dress outside where you see the reflection of the ocean in the sliding door windows.

You can also strategically place the details of the wedding day, such as the shoes, bouquet, or the family formals so that some part of the location tells the story. Including these details in the photos makes for a beautiful wedding album and tells the story of the entire day. It has more meaning than a photo of the bride’s shoes in a location that could have been local.

Destination weddings tend to have a smaller guest list, and therefore, most of the guests are very close to the couple. This means that toasts and first dances may be emotionally driven.

Photograph from a more journalistic point of view during these emotional moments, that way, you can capture the mother with tears of joy during the ceremony, or a meaningful hug from a best friend after the first kiss. All of these moments are important during destination weddings.

The bride’s father is the officiant and her sister is behind them.

Take lots of portraits of the bride and groom with their guests, either candid or posed. As the guest list is small, every person is essential, and you should photograph each of them. If the wedding is tiny, say less than 20 people, take a group photo of everyone who attended.

Capture all moments. This man was telling the bride that she was the most beautiful bride he had ever seen during the bride and groom portraits. A funny and sweet moment to remember!

It’s sure to be a favorite among all the guests, and the bride and groom will appreciate you took the time to get a group photo of everyone who made their day special.

6. Get vendor information

Destination weddings are perfect for publications and lots of blogs. You’ll want to get the full list of vendors so that you can also share the images with them and across social media sites.

Tagging a vendor in your photos always creates more buzz and can help you to book more destination weddings in the future. This is especially helpful if you would like to keep photographing weddings at that particular destination.

Send the coordinator/planner a thank you email along with the link to selected photos of the event so that they too can share the images and tag you. Include any hashtags that you’d like for them to use on social media.

Doing this can create a positive rapport with the vendors and give you another opportunity to photograph more weddings at the same location. It also helps your future clients if they need referrals to vendors that you have personally worked with before.

In conclusion

There is not much difference between a local wedding and a destination wedding. With these tips, you’ll be more than prepared to photograph your destination wedding. With the right planning, you’ll do the very best for your clients, and you might even get to enjoy a vacation while you’re at it.

Have you photographed destination weddings? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.

The post How to Photograph Destination Weddings Successfully appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

How to Push Past Fear in Photography: A Retrospect

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 13:00

The post How to Push Past Fear in Photography: A Retrospect appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Five years. It doesn’t seem like so long ago that I first sat down to write an article which I hoped would help other photographers overcome some of the fears that we all face at one time or another. So much can change in five years. As I sit here and read back through that piece, “How to Overcome Fear in Photography,” I feel uniquely placed to add some insightful commentary on the things I’ve learned over the years about combating the oddly universal apprehensions that we all have to overcome from time to time as photographers. At the very least, I hope it lends a measure of solidarity to you no matter what stage you happen to find yourself at on your journey on the path of photography.

Fear #1: My work isn’t good enough

Ah, yes. I can personally guarantee that no matter how experienced or accomplished you may become in making photographs there is always concealed within yourself a secret doubt about whether or not your photos are good enough. The idea that we somehow fall short in our efforts is something that is forever in the back of your mind to one degree or another. Good photographers consistently are their own worst critics.

How to beat it:

Like all facts of life, the remedy to this lies not in solving the problem but rather in controlling our reaction. The recognition that we all strive towards an unattainable perfection with our work should not be a source of anxiety but instead should fill us with a sense that there are always new ways to improve. An assurance that we can do better gives us something to aspire to and through our aspirations lies creative growth.

Fear #2: I’ll never “make it” as a photographer

When you think about it, the idea of relying on photography to pay all of your bills is a scary thing. Let’s face it, going “all-in” on any endeavor drags us through all sorts of anxiety and fear. This is especially true if you happen to be leaving an established career which lies outside of photography as I did. Confounding the problem further is if you do decide to make a go of it as a photographer, you may be met with quiet disbelief and polite warnings of caution from your coworkers, your friends, and even your family.

I never saw myself as being anything resembling a teacher…yet here we are.

How to beat it:

Alright, let’s get one thing out of the way first: no one can tell you if you’re ready to be a full-time photographer except for you. However, the point I want to get across to you is that you CAN make it happen if you are willing to put in the work, accept failures with renewed vigor and never give up if it’s something you truly want to accomplish.

I’ll also let you in on another secret: photographers today seldom “make it” solely on income from their photographs alone, although some do. Many lead photography workshops and teach courses, sell books, produce editing presets and otherwise diversify themselves in many creative ways to keep the ball rolling. Sure, carving out a career in photography today is more competitive than ever.

The key to overcoming the fear of not being able to survive is by realizing that being a skilled photographer is not enough. You need to be flexible, persistent and resourceful in creating different sources of income based on your love of photography.

Fear #3: “I don’t know how to do…”

Closely related to that nagging fear of your work not being on par with other photographers lies the dreaded idea that you don’t possess a particular photographic skill which you’re convinced you need to master to take your work to the next level. Whether it’s working with strobes or filters, posing people for portraits, working with particular post-processing software, or simply learning what all those buttons do on your new camera; we all feel a little outmatched at times by our own ignorance.

How to beat it:

Luckily, of all the fears we’ve talked about, this one is the easiest to push past. It’s also the one which requires the highest level of tough love in order to overcome. Here goes…*clears throat*. The only thing standing in the way of you learning a new photographic technique or skill is you. Now, I know that’s a hard pill to swallow but stay with me. We live in a world today which offers arguably infinite knowledge right at our fingertips. The internet, eBooks, YouTube videos, online discussion groups, and photography courses have enabled us to learn virtually anything in the privacy of our homes.

Furthermore, the majority of this enormous wealth of knowledge is available for free!  There is virtually no excuse for us to be worried about not knowing how to do something. Knowledge truly is power.

Fear #4: The great unknown

If there’s one all-encompassing fear that eats at both new and established photographers, it is the fear of uncertainty. I remember back when Instagram changed its algorithm a couple of years ago. Many people, photographers and otherwise, suddenly realized that one of their primary sources of client exposure (and income) could be taken from them overnight. The fear crept in.

The same was true when YouTube reorganized it’s video monetization guidelines for creators causing widespread panic for those who depended on the outlet for a large slice of their work. I make and sell a large number of develop presets for Lightroom. When Adobe changed their file formats for develop presets a couple of years ago, there was a brief moment when I thought that all of the presets I had made thus far would no longer work with the new versions of Lightroom. Do you think that scared me? Absolutely it did. The harsh and inevitable reality of situations occurring which are wholly beyond our control can terrify us.

How to beat it:

There are two ways we can deal with the fear of the unknown. The first is that we can curl up into a ball and hope that nothing negative happens. I don’t recommend that option. Alternatively, we can accept that there are always things that can happen to us that we don’t see coming which spark fear and apprehension in our hearts. For example, your camera battery may die just as the sun breaks over that mountain top. Alternatively, your lens may malfunction just as the bride and groom kiss, or three clients might cancel their engagement sessions in one month.

Moreover, Instagram could change the algorithm for the 100th time, and your connecting flight for that incredibly expensive photo workshop in Patagonia may get delayed. Any number of a trillion problems may arise at any given time. We can’t control everything, especially when it comes to photography. Whatever happens, the only weapons we have to combat the fear of the unknown is preparation and acceptance. Prepare yourself for as many scenarios as you can and then just let go. “Be the ball” as Ty Webb might say. If you continuously operate under the notion that the future holds nothing but bad things not only will your photography suffer but so will you.

Pushing Past the Fear

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. As photographers, we base much of our learning on experience and experimentation. Trial and error is often our best teacher. We grow and evolve in our work as much through failure as we do by our success. The idea that there can be a day when you walk out with your camera without a doubt in your mind and feeling completely free of any degrees of photographic angst may likely never happen. You gain confidence through constant practice. You make gains, take losses and learn new skills by making mistakes. At times the future may hold much uncertainty, but being able to push past your fears is the key to reaching your potential in photography.

The hope I had five years ago when I wrote the first article on overcoming fear in photography is the same hope I carry now. I hope you now know that whatever fear you might be facing with your photography is likely shared by others. Moreover, it is entirely beatable. Push past your fears and allow yourself to be the photographer you know you can be.


The post How to Push Past Fear in Photography: A Retrospect appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

5 Great Android Apps for Taking Creative Selfies

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 08:00

The post 5 Great Android Apps for Taking Creative Selfies appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Erin Fitzgibbon.

Selfies with a Creative Twist

Last year I wrote an article about pushing beyond the selfie. I wrote about trying to make self-portraits that spoke more deeply about who you are as a person; that we should all try to make a portrait that portrays more than just a smiling face. I still believe strongly in that premise. I’m not the type to shoot endless selfies and post them on Instagram. I want to show off the amazing energy and rich personalities of the people I photograph.

Using another app called Photo Lab I created this image in just a few quick minutes. The free version requires the Photo Lab logo.

Peer pressure

But the problem is I have friends who love taking selfies. Everywhere we go they want to make sure we capture the moment. You know the quick shots that commemorate a place and time and how much fun you’re having there. The creative in me wants to do more than just put a hand on my hip and smile. I want to do more. So as a tribute to my friends and salute to those of who you crave creative options I’ve compiled a list of Selfie and Photo Apps that can help you to take great images but also allow you some creative opportunities.

App #1

Sweet Camera – I love this app. If I’m taking a selfie (mostly for my gaming avatar) I use this app. It’s quick and easy to use, and I’ll admit it’s fun. There are a ton of free filters to download and if you want you can add endless combos of ears, sparkly fake earrings, etc. The app works nicely on Android and links quickly through the share option to all my social media accounts. My friends love this one for all the fun little options they can use. One of their favorites is the ability to change their hair color.

I created this image in just a few minutes using a large window for lighting and the Sweet Camera app.


Pip Camera – Photo Editor Pro – this one is really about the different filters you can use. Pip camera allows you to take your photos and insert them into fun frames. Take a full length shot then insert yourself into a glass bottle. The effect is a lot of fun. There are also options to use polaroid frames. You can even take your photo and edit it, so it looks like the front page of a magazine. This app is about easily using options to make creative images. It’s more than just a selfie app that hides skin blemishes.

I used the bottle effect to take this photo of my friend. It’s the typical joyful jumping shot with a little adjustment.


Retrica – Yes, Instagram has many filters you can use for your selfies, but Retrica is probably one of the most comprehensive apps. Its got hundreds of different filters you can play around with and use for free. The editing power for managing blemishes and smoothing skin isn’t as powerful as other apps, but there’s a lot you can do with Retrica.

The filters on Retrica are a lot of fun to use in experiments.


Photo Overlays – this has lots of backgrounds that you can use to create interesting overlays. For those of you who use Photoshop, it’s really about blending layers. For those of you who know nothing about Photoshop, it’s plain fun to insert you and your friend’s face into the moon. Give it a try. Just be prepared to deal with advertisements. There are lots of opportunities for creativity with this app.

Photo Overlays lets you play around with layers in a really simplified manner.


VSCO– VSCO is more of a photo editor than a selfie app with lots of options for creativity. VSCO also works as a social media sharing platform in and of itself. It comes with lots of preset options as well as some pretty comprehensive editing tools. This app is more of an editing program for your mobile device than a quick and simple selfie app. However, it’s fun to use if you’re the type that wants to do more than add some fun stickers. VSCO lets you get creative with your mobile photos.


Processed with VSCO with b1 preset

Be creative!

So basically, the sky is the limit for all of those out there who want to tweak their selfies. You don’t have to stick to the simple little stickers and filters you find in your Instagram toolbox. There are a lot more options out there. Give some of these a try and show us what you create. The world of mobile photography is always expanding. The really cool part about it is that it is accessible to all. Some may turn down their noses at the idea of using these apps and filters but for the average user its a lot of fun to experiment. For me, these apps can never replace Photoshop and Lightroom – I love the creative flexibility of those programs too much to give up on them. I’m still a huge advocate for creating more than the quick and simple selfie, however, if you’re less inclined to take time to shoot something a little more original perhaps these options can fulfill your creative needs.

So now it’s time to see your creative endeavors. I’ll leave you with a few more fun experiments, but I know the rest of you are a lot better at this than me. I’m not the selfie type. So it’s your turn show me what you can do in the comments below.


The post 5 Great Android Apps for Taking Creative Selfies appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Erin Fitzgibbon.

Get Low and Aim High – How to Use Low-Angle Photography to Great Effect

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 13:00

The post Get Low and Aim High – How to Use Low-Angle Photography to Great Effect appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

One way you can make photos stand out is to compose them from an unusually low viewpoint. But why is low-angle photography so effective?

Good photography is hard to define, not least because there is always an element of subjectivity in judging it. Even when you have firm ideas about what great photos look like, there is no guarantee you’ll create them frequently. In fact, the more honed your tastes become, the less easily your own photos are likely to satisfy you.

Shooting this Prague gate from below gave it more visual impact and a cleaner composition.

Is there any secret to taking eye-catching pictures? If so, I wish I could harness it. There’s one idea I try to bear in mind: show people things in your pictures they don’t see in their day-to-day lives. That means looking closely and seeing details, noticing the unusual, emphasizing the point of interest, keeping things simple, and knowing what to exclude. What is it you have seen and want to convey?

Statues shot from below often work well when the subject looks down at the camera.

Used creatively, low-angle photography meets the criteria of being unusual and will often make viewers look twice. However, it needs a bit more thought than just pointing the camera upwards.

Getting low, aiming high

Of course, low-angle photography isn’t a radical idea in the context of photographing architecture or statues, because they will often rise above you anyway. Unless you photograph these subjects from distance, you’ll always be pointing the lens upwards. But even with these subjects, you need to get the angle of the shot right and consider what qualities you’re aiming to accentuate.

In this slightly eerie photo, the street name at the right adds extra interest and gives the picture scale.

If you’re photographing less lofty subjects such as people, animals or plants, you’ll have to get very low to make the perspective unusual. This, of course, could draw attention to you as a photographer, so you might have to shake off any inhibitions. Concentrate on the shot and you’ll soon forget about what other people think.

Architecture & statues

In the case of architecture, more ornate buildings (e.g. Gothic) aren’t always best shot from directly beneath, because all their detail becomes obscured or lost. You could photograph them that way and pick out a detail such as a gargoyle using shallow depth of field. The same can be done with statues on occasion, whereby you focus on an interesting part of the statue from below and isolate it.

Three buildings add to the enclosed feeling of this photo, while the carefully positioned clock lends it some scale.

Modern buildings like office skyscrapers often have the benefit of windows and lines, which narrow and converge if you photograph them from immediately below. This is an effective way of directing the eye towards the top of the building. Use of diagonals is an old trick for leading the eye into the picture, but you might need something else to make the shot a great one: perhaps a dramatic sky or cloud above the building.

Using a shallow depth of field, I isolated the eyeglass in the hand of famous suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, London.

Camera angle

There is no obligation when standing under a building or any other subject to keep it central or horizontal in the frame. By rotating the camera, often you’ll find an angle that increases the slightly giddy impression of towering height. This effect should not be underestimated. It’s a useful trick in low-angle shooting to make the viewer feel slightly disorientated.

Left: Silhouette of Rouen Cathedral. Right: One Canada Square – the tallest building in the UK when I shot it. The presence of a second building adds to the giddying effect.

When pointing a camera upwards inside a church or cathedral, I avoid including small sections of detail at the edge of the frame. Instead, I rotate the camera until everything in the picture looks intentional and not something I didn’t notice.

This is an obvious shot to take of the Crossing Tower in Rouen Cathedral. The main trick lies in composition and finding an effective angle.


Photographing people from a low angle produces some interesting effects. If you look at old “film noir” movie stills, you’ll see a lot of shots where the camera is pointing upwards. This gives portraits a moody feel and empowers the subject because he/she towers above the photographer and, ultimately, the viewer. The downside of shooting from below is that it can be unflattering, often making subjects look broader in the body and fatter in the face.

A somewhat moody low-angle portrait. You’ll see a lot of low angles as well as low-key lighting in old film noir movies.

You can shoot from low angles in street photography, too, whether from the hip or the ground. Be careful when shooting from the ground that you’re not invading anyone’s privacy by pointing the camera upwards—stay aware of your surroundings and watch who is entering the frame and how they are dressed.

This shot at the Venice Carnival was taken from ground level. Without any prompting, the lady in the middle obligingly leaned over towards the camera.

The mere act of taking street photos from a low level may not, in itself, create a successful photo (if only it were that easy). You still need to have seen something interesting or out of the ordinary and the composition must be right. You might notice a detail at ground level and juxtapose it with the people above it.

Animals & pets

Many people photograph their pets from above, but if you get down to their level you can almost humanize them. That is to say, you’ll often capture their character better than from above. Like human subjects, photographing a pet from floor level gives it more power. An example of this might be if you photograph a cat preparing to pounce—you’ll put yourself in the position of the cat’s prey.

Cats often take on that regal, aloof look when photographed from below.


Sometimes you’ll get good results when shooting flowers from a low angle. One benefit in good weather is that you might get a plain blue sky as a background. Blue goes well with red and yellow – the three together form a triadic color scheme. It also blends well with orange (e.g. California Poppies), since blue and orange are complementary colors.

This low-angle shot from many years ago was completely unsighted. I was aiming to contrast life (flowers and bumblebee) with the WW1 gravestone and tragedy of war. I don’t know that I succeeded, but the idea still resonates.

Of course, it may not be color that inspires you to photograph flowers from below. You might want to emphasize a long stem or capture the translucent qualities of a flower’s petals against a bright sky. You might go for the dramatic effect of many flowers looming over the lens—a bit like a miniaturized forest.

These flower shots from below aim to show the sunlit semi-opaque petals as well as color and shape. The fact that they are tall flowers makes this treatment easy even with a bulky SLR.


Trees are a prime candidate for low-angle shooting, either individually or collectively. Like buildings, you need to stand immediately below them to make the shot even slightly unconventional and maximize the effect. Such photos aren’t always striking unless there is an interesting branch formation or pattern above, so you should take care in picking a subject. Colorful foliage is an obvious thing to look out for, too, especially during fall.

I shot this mainly for its bark pattern and texture, using the blue sky as a pleasing backdrop. Interesting branch formations or foliage colors might also prompt you to take such pictures.


You don’t need any special equipment to shoot from low angles, but obviously a flip-out LCD screen is a useful thing to have. If you don’t have that, at least digital photography costs nothing to experiment with, so you can shoot blind until you get what you want. This was how I first took low-angle photos—with repeated unsighted exposures. A wide-angle lens might help you accentuate height sometimes with its sweeping view of the world, but this is not a necessity.

I hope this article inspires you to shoot some great low-angle photos, whatever the subject. Good luck, and please share with us in the comments below!

The post Get Low and Aim High – How to Use Low-Angle Photography to Great Effect appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

Enhance Your Images with Creative Photo Editing

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 08:00

The post Enhance Your Images with Creative Photo Editing appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Stacey Hill.

Much effort goes into creating an image; you have to buy the camera gear, learn how to use it, and then get out there and take interesting photos. However, once they are taken and downloaded on our computers, many images never see daylight.  Perhaps we take too many shots and can’t choose the best ones? Maybe our editing skills are not where we would like them, and we are frustrated?  It could be that we find editing boring?

While there is a school of thought that minimal or no editing is a preferred choice, the other end of the scale is all about luminosity masks, HDR and Photoshop layers by the dozen.  In between, there is a middle ground where many of us fall.

Here, we’d like to edit our images better but don’t necessarily understand the capabilities within the software we have. We may be uncertain how much editing is too much (or conversely, not enough).  Perhaps we don’t know what all the tools and sliders do and get confused and frustrated as a result.

One of the most powerful things that had a positive impact on my editing was choosing to play and experiment freely – to go in completely different directions.  Many of the outcomes were unexpected and gave me results that I really liked.

Note for this article I work with Lightroom and Photoshop.

Beyond the basics

Let us assume you’ve completed the following steps with your image editing:

– you’ve uploaded your image to your computer
– its loaded into your software program of choice
– you’ve completed basic edits – exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, etc
– you have applied any cropping, lens corrections, and other adjustments

So what is left?  You have a nice shot, that is well composed. The exposure etc is all right.  However, it may still feel lacking in some way?  Perhaps you feel you could do more to the image if only you knew how?

Let’s look at what else makes up your image and how you can work further with that to achieve a stronger picture.


Most likely your image is in color, and color has a significant impact on people’s brains.  A lot of the way we process and relate to color is instinctive and emotional. Our culture, society and personal experiences also contribute to how we relate to color.  Color psychology is a fascinating area to research.

As an example, in the Western world, white is the color of purity and innocence. However, in Eastern cultures, it is the color of mourning.

All colors have different emotional contexts associated with them, and people react differently as a result.  So the people viewing your images, (especially online around the world), may relate differently to the color in your work. How often do you consciously think about the color in your image from this point of view?


Contrast can be several different things within your image. It can relate most directly to the tonal range, i.e. the contrast between the light and the dark areas.  However, it can also relate the different colors and how they interact together.  How your subject matter relates to the rest of the image can be part of the contrast too.  Does your subject stand out in a particular way?

Can you somehow use these different contrast ideas to process your image in an alternative way?

For example, using a spot of color in a black and white scene can provide a point of interest and color contrast and change the way the viewer sees the image.

Tonal Range

While the tonal range of the scene is part of the image as you shoot it, with some careful editing you can change it.  How can this be impactful?  Visualize very high-key fashion or wedding photography images where its all white and bright, and the tonal range can be quite restrained.  Professional images may be purposefully lit and shot that way, but we can still achieve a similar look via editing on the right image too.  This can completely change the mood of your image as well.


Adding textures to images has become relatively popular, especially in still life and flower photography.  Its also being used with portraits and landscapes. Imagine if you had a beautiful subject with a great pose and an awful background? What if you could remove the background and make it awesome instead?

Alternatively, add some extra depth and interest, elevating your image above the average approach?


Sometimes a hard crop is called for to bring out the best in an image.  Alternatively, an abstract approach could make a big difference.

Some before and after examples Color

For me, color is the most versatile and flexible option to work with.  By changing the color, you can instantly change the whole mood and feel of your image.

BEFORE – This image had basic edits done and a black and white process – this was originally shot to be a black and white image.  Nice depth of field, a bit of tweaking on the vignette to bring focus to the center, but it feels cold and unwelcoming.

AFTER – the addition of a sepia tone makes the skin tones more inviting and adds warmth to the image. Sepia invokes a feeling of nostalgia. Perhaps a reminder of careless childhood days where adventures were had?


There are two types of contrast used in this image.  There is much contrast between the bright background and the heavy dark marble of the headstone.  Also, the pale stone behind the words offers tonal contrast as well.

This image was originally shot to be a black and white image, and as such, it looks quite good.  However, when I read the words on the headstone, I saw that a whole family was buried here over 200 years ago. Still, there was a bunch of flowers carefully poked into the corner of the headstone base. Who left the flowers and why?

BEFORE – unedited RAW


AFTER – I wanted to bring attention to the flowers, so I brought the color back into the final black and white image. The flowers were only a small part of the overall image, yet enough to catch the eye. My intention here was to ensure the flowers were part of the overall story.

Tonal range

Radically altering the tonal range is one of the tools that offer the most excitement in my editing process.  Being brave and going way up or down the histogram has resulted in some very creative and exciting results.

BEFORE – this is shot with my Lensbaby Velvet 56 which gives much softness when it is wide open.  This shows the unedited RAW file.

AFTER – This histogram has been pushed way to the right. Doing this overexposed the image. It removed most of the blacks and shadows, giving it more of a high-key tonality. The mood of this image now comes across as light, airy, floral, delicate and fragile. The original image was heavy and spiky and didn’t feel like a flower at all.


BEFORE  – I spent ages taking shots while this gorgeous steam train puffed up. The dark coal smoke against the white clouds of steam was very atmospheric.  The background is pretty awful and doesn’t do it any justice at all. So time to get creative!

AFTER – this one went through a range of edits. First, I played a bit with color.  I did a straight black and white treatment. Secondly, I added a sepia tone with an old vintage newspaper frame to add more of that vintage feel to the image. This is a side by side image for comparison.

AFTER continued – the background was annoying me, so I very carefully extracted the train and all the smoke from the background and then had some fun playing. This one had a Scribble Action along with a replacement background added.

AFTER continued – still wasn’t happy, so I put a new replacement background on the image. However, it was quite heavily textured and didn’t fit, so I ran a Topaz Impression over the whole lot to apply a painterly effect. I also added a subtle framing texture.  Doing so, finally provided the outcome I wanted.


Sometimes a hard crop is what an image needs to bring the focus in or to tell the story that you want. People often seem afraid of a hard crop.  I let the image tell me its story and work from there. If it is only ever going to be a digital format, i.e. not printed, then a hard crop has little long term effect.

BEFORE – original unedited RAW file.  The flowers are pretty, and the focus is good, but the background ones are distracting.

AFTER a hard crop and a soft edit.  Now the focus is on the delicate veins in the petals, the water droplets and even the pollen grains on the anthers.


There are many things you can do in post-processing that can further enhance your images.  Any good RAW conversion program has reasonable editing capability included.  What you choose to do with it is really up to you.

Maybe one day you take a handful of images, forget the rules and play and see what you get?

I find presets are a great source of creative inspiration – where someone else has made up a recipe of settings. However, it can be a random lottery to what the outcome is.  Still, you can quickly click and get a very different result, cancel it and move on to the next one.  It might surprise you what you end up with.

What about the deliberate considerations you make when editing? Do you shoot with a specific outcome (like black and white) in mind?  Do you edit and then wonder what other possibilities there are and then dabble a bit until you find something you like?  Alternatively, maybe you have a definite outcome in mind and work hard to get there?

It is allowed and encouraged for you to color outside the lines!  Be brave!  Experiment!  No one ever needs to see it, but you might be surprised at what you can achieve, what you might learn and how much fun you can have.

Share your images with us in the comments below.

The post Enhance Your Images with Creative Photo Editing appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Stacey Hill.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Wrinkles

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 13:00

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is WRINKLES!

Linnea Sandbakk

Your photos can include anything has wrinkles. It could be wrinkles on an animal, aging lines on a face or hands, wrinkles in clothing or sheets, wrinkles in paper, etc. They can be color, black and white, moody or bright. You get the picture. Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Cristian Newman

Some Inst-piration from some Instagrammers:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Prime Pet Photography (@prime_pet_photography) on Feb 13, 2019 at 3:31pm PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Peter O’Doherty (@irishphotographer1) on Feb 7, 2019 at 8:07am PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Martin Covey (@goodbye.1979) on Feb 13, 2019 at 10:45am PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by B (@easy__britt) on Feb 13, 2019 at 4:58pm PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Freya Stockman (@shotsbyfreya) on Feb 13, 2019 at 2:58pm PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by hegde_photography (@photography_hegde) on Feb 13, 2019 at 4:40pm PST


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

Tips for Shooting WRINKLES

How To Easily Improve Your Street Photography Portraits

Tips for Creative Plant Photography

Tips for Better Forest Photography

26 Expressive Images of Hands

How to Pose Hands in Portraits

Five Tips for Creative Pet Photography

Tips for Great Lighting for Pet Photography


Weekly Photography Challenge – WRINKLES

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 #DPSwrinkles 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 – Wrinkles appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.