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Your Guide to Posing Bands in Photography

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 10:00

The post Your Guide to Posing Bands in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Getting your favorite band into your photo studio might sound like a dream come true – but could quickly turn into a disaster if you don’t know what you’re doing! Not all bands know how to pose or position themselves for photographs, and it’s your job as a photographer to direct them. So before you find yourself having a crisis – unsure of how to properly get bands set up for their epic promotional shoot – check out your guide to posing bands in photography!

How is band photography different from other group photography?

I hear this question a lot in my line of work. How does band photography differ from, say, a group portrait at a sports game or a family reunion? Well, the short answer is – the intent is different. Though all types of photographs tell a story, band photography has to sell both the image and idea of the band. The poses, styling, arrangement, lighting, and everything in between is akin to the marketing of the music group itself. To make this even more complex, the audience members have to develop the right preconceived idea of what the music will sound like based on the picture! This is the same principle that is applied to album artwork.

Aimee Saturne

As well as this, the connection between all of the members in the band is different than that of family members or a sports team. Bands can be a complex series of relationships, some akin to kinship, others to sibling rivalry, and some can even be likened to business partners. Whichever is true for the band you are photographing, that unique relationship will come out in the photographs.

Does the genre of music affect the pose?


In short, yes and no. The genre of music can impact every facet of the image, but not necessarily. Doubling back to the idea that a photograph of a band needs to sell their music, the genre portrayal can be a fundamental part of that goal. For example, metal music has a much darker, harder, and tougher edge to it than, say, a girl pop band.

Much of how I figure out how to pose bands has to do with three key factors:

  1. What is the stereotypical image for that genre? (This being said, the image does not have to be stereotypical – but there are some specific poses to include if you want to really push on the fact that the band plays a specific type of music).
  2. What image does the music evoke? (I find that closing my eyes and listening to some of the key songs pointed out by the band can provide a lot of inspiration. Music and imagery tie together, and whatever image is evoked by the sound is one that you should likely follow).
  3. What is the story the band wants to convey with their presence?

Aimee Saturne

Here is an example of how these three questions can drive a photo shoot.

Say that a five-piece, all-female symphonic metal band approaches you, with a melancholy and dark sound, whose story revolves around pagan rituals. With this in mind, the posing will likely be more rigid with the band members standing in a crescent formation due to the ritualistic nature. Their chins will likely be a bit lower down with a very slight hunch and legs tightly placed together, and eyes are looking directly towards the camera (whilst the face is slightly lower down).

Likewise, say an all-male pop duo approaches you with a very light-hearted, summer, beach feel to their music, with a tagline revolving around living every day in the moment. The posing will be very loose, fun, and expressive – likely a popular choice would be to place the two lads back to back with them looking over their shoulders at one another laughing and the arms placed in very relaxed positions.

As a photographer, much of our jobs revolve around bringing a static visual image to an ever-moving description.

Chasing Desolation

To express why genre doesn’t necessarily have to affect the pose, not all bands fall perfectly within a box.

That’s a good thing. Art shouldn’t always be easily categorized.

As such, some acts defy traditional rules and do not follow convention. Their images won’t follow convention either, and the posing may change drastically from the usual.

Common posing qualms

Of course, posing groups of people isn’t without its troubles.

Here are some of the most common posing “uh-ohs” you might encounter (with solutions, of course):

Not all of the band members are a similar height – someone might be very short or extremely tall

This is a very common situation you’ll encounter. Luckily, there are some clever solutions!

Firstly, if your band promotional image doesn’t include full body shots, simply place the member(s) on boxes (often called ‘apples’ in studios) that even-out their height.

If the band does want full body shots, play with perspective. Place the taller members further in the back and the shorter members closer to the front. A reverse V or U shape is an excellent idea!

Thirdly, get creative with levels and props. My go-to – which tends to receive favorable reviews – is to place one member sitting on a chair and pose the rest of the band around the chair. The taller members can crouch on the ground at the corners of the chair while the shorter members can stand around the chair. The frontman or frontwoman sits in the chair.

You can achieve a similar effect by posing on stairs, walls, rocks, or anything that allows one person to sit while the rest are crouched or standing.

Killin’ Candace

Everyone is wearing the same color clothing

I photograph primarily heavy metal and rock music, so this is something I deal with daily. Everyone wants to wear black in a black studio, against a black wall. The result, when done right, is super cool. However, when done wrong, the image suffers from “floating head” syndrome.

The real key here is to ensure that every article of clothing is a different texture from one another. Everyone can wear the same color, but try to encourage the band to wear different textures.

For example, a shiny top with matte pants works great. If a band member has both a matte top and matte pants, throw in a textured scarf or a tie to break it up. Jewelry is also a great idea. The point is, the colors can all be the same, but the way the clothing photographs must be different from one another. This can affect pose positioning as well, as you don’t want the same texture to cross one another and look flat in an image.

You can also use lighting to help separate the subject from the background. For example, shoot your studio lighting behind the band so that it creates a rim light, which pushes them off of the studio wall.

Our Dying World

Someone is dressed elaborately and someone is not

Sometimes, a band member overdresses while others underdress. If you can’t swap out wardrobes or add accessories, then get extremely creative with posing.

When I was pursuing my visual communications degree, I had a wonderful professor drill into my head that the key to an effective image is having the viewer’s eye move around the entire frame rather than settle on one central point.

A great way to get the viewer to take in the entire image rather than settle on one point is to place the elaborately dressed band members around the less-elaborately dressed members on opposite ends.

Another solution is to use the flashy wardrobe to create lines that the viewer can follow throughout the image. A good way to create a line is to have the overdressed band member stretch an arm out to the other band members to encourage the eye to travel.

Bullet Height

You are shooting a large piece band in a small, constricted space

If you do backstage photography, you’ll run head-on into this issue (especially in Los Angeles. Unless the band is in a major theater like The Hollywood Bowl, your backstage experience will be cramped. Trust me on this one). The most efficient way to utilize small spaces is posing the band in levels. Have some crouching and some standing, some leaning on walls and some stretched on the floor! Think of keeping everyone in a square image ratio format. You’ll be able to pose even 11-piece bands in a small space (I’ve done it!).

Trash Deity

How does the lighting affect the pose?

The lighting you are using will make a difference in how you pose the band. If you’re shooting outdoors and are at the mercy of natural lighting (but don’t have a reflector), you will need to adjust head, hand, arm, and leg positions in order to make the best of the conditions you are working with.

For example, if you ended up shooting at high noon, keep chins up to avoid unflattering shadows on the neck. Likewise, make sure hands aren’t hidden in shadows so that they do not appear too dark.

Jyrki 69

If you are in the studio with more controlled light, this becomes a bit easier – assuming you have enough lights! Work with what you have, and find creative ways to pose the musicians in order to illuminate them in the most flattering way. If you don’t have enough lighting units to capture certain poses, avoid them altogether (unless you are a whiz at post-processing!).

Karim Ortega

(Pssst: reflectors are your best friend! Both indoors and outdoors. In outdoor situations, these help control the light. In indoor situations, if you don’t have enough budget for additional studio lights, you can use reflectors to bounce light and help it stretch further. Reflectors are budget-friendly solutions, and can even be made at home if you are DIY-savvy).

Is hierarchy in a band a real thing?  


With some bands, it definitely is! Generally, you want the frontman or frontwoman as the center of attention with the rest of the band members posed around. Some bands have more than one vocalist, and often the vocalists tend to be the central figures (not to be confused with importance. All members are important. A band does not function without all of its contributing talents). Guitarists and bassists tend to find themselves beside the singers naturally, and other instruments such as percussion and keys even further off to the sides.

Bullet Height

Most of the bands that step into the studio are live performers; that is, they have experience playing on a stage together. As such, the first thing I do is have them stand in my studio the way that they would arrange themselves on stage. I use that as the basis of where I pose everyone in the lineup. Many bands organically step into the spots that they are meant to stand in.

Posing a solo musician

Brandon Rage

Posing a solo musician opens up a door of massive possibility. Very little is out of your control here. However, remember, because you are photographing only one person, try to give the image as much interest and life as possible. Images are static; we have to make them move. The more dynamic the pose, the better, and the benefit of music photography is that you can get super-quirky with it!

Grant Webb

Remember that traditional posing rules also apply here. Flattering angles and flattering poses. Try to avoid harsh shadows on parts of the face or body that may make someone appear different than they are.

Aimee Saturne

Mess around with props as well. Props are great ways to give a client something to do with their hands or legs. They can also make an uncomfortable or nervous client much more comfortable as they have something to which to focus. Don’t assume that because a client is a musician that they love getting photographed – not everyone does. It’s your job to give them the best experience possible and make them love being in front of the camera with you.

Aaron Lee

My technique is to shoot with a high shutter speed and have the musician constantly move and change poses, encouraging even the weirdest of ideas to come through. More often than not, the weirder it seems, the better it looks. Also, making the client move continuously keeps them from pausing and overthinking.

… with instruments

Alexx Calise

Including their instrument is a common request from musicians, especially solo artists. Band photography often steps into the realm of endorsement photography for the various instrument companies that may be sponsoring the project. With solo artists, it’s fairly easy to get them posed with their instruments as you don’t have to consider the spacing with other band members.

Alex Crescioni

The key with instruments, however, is to ensure that the instrument does not cover any important parts of the musician’s body such as their face! The instrument should fit in very organically and not feel forced or uncomfortable. It’s okay to have the band member pose with, say, a guitar hanging just a bit lower than they play it – as long as everything looks natural.

Ace Von Johnson

Commonly, I have the musician play the instrument to feel more comfortable with the lens being there. Often, those candid moments look amazing.

Arielle Silver

Posing an odd number of persons

Posing an odd number of people in a band is arguably the easiest (outside of a solo musician). This is because you can adhere to many of the traditional (and very effective) band poses, such as the “U” formation, the “V” formation, and anything else that pushes the lead member to the front. The lead member that stands in front of the rest is a great baseline to use to pose the remaining band members. Moreover, you tend to keep your composition more even on either side as a result.


However, don’t let this fact make you lazy. Just because you can do a traditional “crowding around the lead” shot, doesn’t mean you should make it boring! After all, you’re photographing bands – play with various facets of music photography and keep it interesting.

… with instruments

The addition of instruments might seem daunting, but this is a brilliant opportunity to use the lines of the instruments to have your viewer’s eyes move around the frame. As well as that, this allows you to use the instruments as a way to direct the attention to the lead of the band.

Posing an even number of persons


The most common even-number band is two. I love posing two-person bands. There is such a dynamic range of posing you can do. The connection between each member in a two-person band is also really cool and unique. There are lots to play off here. Honestly, get as quirky with this as possible!


An added benefit to two-people bands is that they don’t take up much space. Whether you’re in a studio or an outdoor location, two people take up less space than three or more. You can fit in a lot of wickedly cool shots in smaller spots.


The main things to remember are that both members need an even amount of attention in the images. Don’t try to have one overpower the other. It doesn’t look right in an image.

Our Dying World

Now, the difficult even-number bands are those of four, six, or eight members. The primary difficulty is that you can no longer arrange them in “V” formations or have one member in front of the other because there isn’t an odd number! As such, try staircase poses or diagonal lines. You don’t want either side of the frame to feel too empty or too busy; you have to even it all out.

The addition of a prop is an excellent idea to even out the composition. I like to pose even-number bands in a more square-ratio (and this isn’t just because of the rise of Instagram). This gives you more options for dynamic posing and is a good baseline to help pose even-numbered bands.

… with instruments

Much like with just the band members themselves, use the addition of instruments to comply with a square posing ratio even further. If you pose everyone straight, make sure that you have enough room for the guitar and bass necks. You can play with levels here too, like in the example image below.

Our Dying World

Bonus tips:
  • Straight backs! Pay attention to your client’s back and shoulders. If they are arching, straighten them out unless you’re going way more vogue and odd. In that case, over-exaggerate the arch.

Alex Crescioni

  • Make sure there is nothing in anyone’s pockets. You will thank me for this one in the editing room.
  • Don’t allow someone’s pose to block out a key part of another person’s body.

Brandon Rage

  • For the “stretching arms towards camera” pose, have the band member cheat and keep the arm lower. It may feel counterintuitive, but if they stretch out towards you organically, their face will be blocked.
  • Pay attention to how poses cast shadows on oneself and the people around them.
Final takeaway

In conclusion, all great posing arrangements start with a deep understanding of what your client is wanting and needing. Don’t be afraid to have some fun with it, but keep everything cool, flattering, and most of all – epic. This is the music industry after all!

Do you have any other tips to add to this guide for posing bands in photography? If so, please share with us in the comments below (and your band photos)!


The post Your Guide to Posing Bands in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Godox TT350 Flash Review – the Little Flash that Can

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 15:00

The post Godox TT350 Flash Review – the Little Flash that Can appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sean McCormack.

Godox – the mighty Chinese brand that’s sweeping the lighting world, bringing fear to long-established premium brands. And their quality has reached the point where they can now be trusted.

One thing they’ve done well to push the brand forward is their system integration. Any of their X-series triggers will fire any light in the system. Not only that, their TTL speedlights can also act as masters for other lights in the system, from the mighty AD600Pro right through to the humble TT350.

That’s what we’re looking at today – the TT350.

This compact and pocketable unit is the smallest flash in the Godox range. It really is small – requiring noting more than two AA batteries.

The Specs
  • A Guide Number of 36 (rather than the typical 52 of most larger flashes).
  • Recycle time of 2.2 seconds at full power
  • 210 full-power flashes available from two 2500maH AA batteries
  • TTL, Manual, Optical Slave, Optical Slave with Preflash, and Multiflash modes available
  • Coverage from 24–105mm in full-frame 35mm terms
  • High-speed sync up to 1/8000 sec
  • Built in 2.4G radio transmitter and receiver to act as either radio master or slave
  • Wide-angle diffuser and bounce card

The small size and weight of the TT350 make it the perfect on-camera flash for any camera system, particularly mirrorless systems. While I’m using them with a Fuji, they’re also available for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus/Panasonic and even Pentax.

As with any on-camera flash aimed directly at the subject, the light is hard and not particularly flattering.

While the flash does have a bounce card, I prefer using reverse bounce for on-camera situations to create a larger light source coming from behind me.

On-camera, the TT350 can be used as a master for other off-camera flashes.

Now let’s look at off-camera flash.


The benefits of using a flash off-camera are many. You get better placement to control shadows, and by extension the shape of the features in the shot. You also can use a larger range of modifiers to soften or shape the light itself. To go off-camera, you need a flash, a trigger and a stand (with a modifier being an additional option). In this case, our flash is the TT350.


The TT350 can be powered from:

  • the X-16 for manual power
  • the X1T or XPro trigger for TTL and Manual.

It can also be triggered from:

  • another TT350 (and its lithium battery brother the V350)
  • the TT685 and V860II speedlights.

The trigger sits on-camera and relays information from the camera to the remote flash.


Any stand will do, even the cheap Photo-R stands . I find Neewer to be great value for money, although in the studio I prefer using C-Stands even with speedlights.

Master and Slave

To use the radio features, hold down the Sync button and then twist the dial when the antennae icon flashes.

The first option that appears is M, making your flash the Master.

A second twist brings you to S, which enables the Slave mode.

To change between TTL, Manual and Multi modes, press the Mode button.

In Master mode, press the Slave button to alternate between the Master group (M) and the A, B or C groups.

In Slave mode, pressing Slave chooses the group the flash is on (A, B or C).

The M group in Master dictates what the flash does on-camera. Press Mode to switch between flash off, TTL and Manual.

Here’s a video that takes you through the entire process.


Make sure all your flashes or triggers are on the same channel. To set the channel:

  1. Hold down the Slave button until the CH number flashes
  2. Use the dial to change channel
  3. Press Set to make the change.

You’re now ready for off-camera flash.

Using the TT350 with modifiers

Moving the flash off-camera doesn’t automatically make it look better. But you do get to position the shadows better, as you can see in my article on lighting. I also have a list of cheap modifiers that won’t break the bank. The 120cm Octa is a good investment.

One light

With the TT350 inside a 120cm Octa (with the diffuser on), you’re ready to get some big light from a small flash. With the Octa between you and the subject, you’ll get flattering light in the ‘Butterfly’ position.

You can improve this further by adding a reflector underneath, such as the Lastolite Halo Compact.

High-Speed Sync

To get really shallow depth of field with flash (especially outside), you need to use High-Speed Sync to overcome the limitation of the camera sync speed. To engage it, tap the Sync button once.

Here’s a shot at 1/2000sec and f/1.4, ISO400 with HSS on. (You’ll find bumping the ISO helps save battery life, which is why I’m using ISO400 here).

Two lights

Another way to help battery life (and the recycle time) is to use two flashes in the modifier.

Set both flashes to the same channel and group. This allows them to automatically match power when you make a change.

You can get double flash brackets and aim them into the center with them positioned either close together or further out.

Here’s a portrait with this dual-light Octa box setup on the left (facing across the shot) and a white reflector on the right.

This is what the setup looks like.

Removing one of the lights and putting it on a stand behind our subject gives a good cross-light setup.

Should you get a TT350?

Clearly, a flash you have with you is better than one you leave behind because of the weight. So for general flash applications the TT350 is great. But, it’s never going to overpower the sun, and and its compact size makes it the lowest-power flash in the range (excluding their mobile phone flash unit).

However, you can buy two TT350s for the price of a V860II. And while they don’t have built-in batteries, combined they can provide more power for less weight.

Me? I bought two so I can use them in the configurations I’ve shown here, and as a master-slave setup if I have an issue with a trigger.

Overall, they’re great tools to have in the bag.

Have you used this flash? What are your thoughts? Please share with us and the dPS community in the comments below.


The post Godox TT350 Flash Review – the Little Flash that Can appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sean McCormack.

How to Add Functionality to Photoshop CC with Free Extensions

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 10:00

The post How to Add Functionality to Photoshop CC with Free Extensions appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

Using extensions in Photoshop is like putting scaffolding on Mount Everest. The program already has more features than you probably need. But you can add more functionality by using free extensions. Photoshop CC even invites you to “Find Extensions on Exchange…” on the Windows menu.

Finding Photoshop extensions

When browsing the Adobe Exchange site for extensions, take note of what products they’re compatible with. Otherwise, you’ll end up downloading stuff that won’t install. Naturally, free extensions are less likely to be up to date. Some of the paid add-ons are worth a look, with the caveat that you can’t always try them out first.

Extension installers

You can install Adobe extensions easily by using either Anastasiy’s Extension Manager or the ZXP Installer. (I use the latter.) Drag the .zxp file onto the app, and the extension will be waiting next time you open Photoshop. (Or at least it should be.) You can also use Adobe’s Creative Cloud desktop app to install and uninstall extensions.

If your extension doesn’t load automatically through the Creative Cloud app, try Anastasiy’s Extension Manager or the ZXP Installer.

Three great free extensions

Some great up-to-date extensions are available for free. They might be a segue from an unpaid product to a paid one or have some other sales angle, but they’re still handy additions to Photoshop.

Here are three free extensions that work with Photoshop CC in 2019 (version 20.0.4 as I write).

Adobe Paper Textures Pro (Russell Brown)

This extension lets you easily add paper textures to photos. The downside is the supplied textures are web-size only, so you can’t add them to big files without losing definition. Of course, it’s designed to hook you into buying full-res textures from Fly Paper. But if you’re into this type of editing, it’s probably worth it, as they appear to be high quality.

A textured digital photo using one of the supplied Fly Paper overlays in Adobe Paper Textures Pro.

To make Adobe Paper Textures Pro fully functional without costing you anything, you can download free full-res texture images from other web sources and load those up instead. The textures automatically blend with your open image, so it’s quicker than creating layers manually. In the past, the extension has drawn a few negative reviews. But it has behaved well for me, and despite the odd glitch, it’s a lot of fun to use.

Adobe Paper Textures Pro and a separately sourced texture overlay.

Interactive Luminosity Masks (Sven Stork)

Being able to select different areas of luminosity within an image can be useful when making local edits. You might want to adjust the contrast or tone in one area and not another. Or perhaps you want to avoid sharpening noisy, darker areas of the image or apply noise reduction to the shadows.

The Interactive Luminosity Mask lets you select highlights, mid-tones or shadows, and also allows a customized choice with a zone mask and picker.

A luminosity mask exposing shadow areas only for adjustment. You can invert the selection if you want to protect an area rather than edit it.

The extension also includes saturation masks. These were once useful for selectively increasing saturation, but the vibrance slider made that a little redundant. Even so, there’s still a lot of value in being able to use color to make selections. For instance, you may want to avoid sharpening large single-tone areas such as skies. This add-on lets you select areas of low, mid or high saturation, or manually pick a color using the zone mask. You can even launch channels and commonly used adjustment layers from within the extension.

Facebook Grid Cover (Bojan Živkovic)

Facebook grids force you to curate your own photos if you want to create a good one. That’s always a useful exercise. This add-on set of actions works flawlessly.

Facebook covers may seem like a frivolous way to spend your time. But creating a grid of photos that look good together isn’t always easy. Even with a simple three-image grid, you may find composing a good online triptych challenging. This extension doesn’t end up in your extensions menu. Instead, it’s an action (or series of actions) that loads initially onto your desktop.

You can pick up to 13 images to go into your Facebook grid cover, and the actions let you switch any one of them as long as the layers remain intact. Whether you run a photographic Facebook page, or just want one for your own cover, this extension will create an eye-catching result.

Further delights

Here are some more free extensions for you to try:

  1. Thomas Zagler’s Free Stock Search is ideal for finding free stock images you can use for things such as digital composites. You could compile a folder of free texture photos and use them with the Adobe Paper Textures Pro extension I talked about earlier.

    Free stock photos are useful for overlays in Photoshop. Add texture to your photos or drop in a better sky.

  2. Sven Stork’s Interactive Blender Panel lets you blend pictures together according to tone (highlights, mid-tones, or shadows) and leave the rest of the photo unblended. This is ideal for dropping in more appealing skies, among other things.

    This is another first-rate offering from Sven Stork. Adding better skies is one use for blending pictures by tone. You can use a layer mask to brush out any unwanted blending.

  3. Anil Tejwani’s Action Launcher provides useful ways to organize your actions, including alphabetically or by favorites. Note: The favorites feature expires after 30 days unless you upgrade to the pro version.

    Action Launcher lets you easily filter and organize your actions.

  4. Davide Barranca’s PS Tools lets you lay out all the Photoshop tools you actually use in a pop-out panel and conceal the rest.

    This extension lets you lay out all the tools you usually use and hide the rest. (Note: The panel doesn’t float. The illustration shows screenshots of editing pane and selected tools.)

  5. Denis Yanov’s RealLookLongShadow panel gives you lots of control over drop shadows and their length to make photos or cut-outs stand out.

    This extension lets you create longer shadows than is usually possible within Photoshop.

Your recommendations

I hope you find some of these extensions useful or fun. Please feel free to add your own recommendations for free or paid extensions in the comments.


The post How to Add Functionality to Photoshop CC with Free Extensions appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

How to Pose Grooms and Groomsmen Effectively

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 15:00

The post How to Pose Grooms and Groomsmen Effectively appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Wedding days aren’t just about the bride, even though it might seem that way. As photographers we must also take photos of the groom by himself and with his groomsman buddies – whether they like it or not.

Posing the groom alone

When posing the groom alone you often see stiffness and shifting eyes because most men don’t feel  comfortable having their photo taken. So it’s worth starting a conversation that has nothing to do with the wedding to relax them and settle their nerves.

Find a nice background where you can photograph the groom at three different crops: full-body, half-body, and close-up. These three crops will add variety to your portraits, and give you more options when choosing the best portrait to deliver to your clients.

For example, window lighting can add dimension and depth while the groom is adjusting his tie or watch, or buttoning his shirt. Have the groom look out the window, or at his watch or tie. This keeps his hands busy, and because he’s not looking at the camera he won’t feel as vulnerable.

When you’re outside you can have the groom lean on a wall, or simply stand in the middle of a walkway. To help him pose naturally, tell him to stand as if he was by himself and not getting his photo taken.

Also, remind him to breathe. The stiffness is often caused by the groom holding his breath. It will also help him relax his shoulders and overall stance.

Photographing the groom at three different crops is a great way to add variety to the final images.

If the groom usually puts his hand in a pocket, have him put the one furthest from the camera into his pocket. This can help make the portrait feel more natural. Having the groom look at various points beyond the camera (to the side, behind you, or even at his shoes) can reduce the nerves and stiffness, and make him feel more comfortable.

As you’re taking the groom’s portraits, feel free to joke around, talk about things they like, or simply compliment them. This can make them feel more comfortable and bring about natural smiling and laughing, as well as fill in the silence.

Sitting is another great way to pose the groom. Have him sit on steps, a short wall or a chair. It will make the groom feel less stiff, and allow you to focus on various details of his outfit such as his shoes or socks if he chose something special.

Portraits of the groom while with the bride

But the groom doesn’t have to be completely alone in his portraits. A beautiful portrait of the groom with his bride can isolate him while placing him in the overall story of the wedding day.

Pose the couple facing each other, and ask the bride to place her head on his chest or arm to bring her face out a little. Then have her close her eyes while you direct the groom to look at the camera.

Another great portrait is having the groom at a 45-degree angle, with the bride behind him. Ask her to put her head on his back/shoulders, and have him look either directly at you or off into the distance.

He doesn’t have to smile. He can even look a little more serious. But the big picture will still look romantic and show that the couple is sharing a special moment.

You can move the groom and bride from there and create variations where the groom is:

  • in focus
  • in the forefront
  • looking directly at the camera
  • the main focal point in the photo.

These will all make great portraits of the groom and help him pose with his bride.


Groomsmen are really fun to photograph. Most of the time they’re buddies and will joke around a bit, which can make for great candid photos. But it can also mean they won’t take the photo shoot seriously.

One way to get them to listen and cooperate is to let them know the faster they get through the photo shoot, the sooner they can start having fun. But don’t use this trick until you’ve captured some candids showing how they all interact, as it will be nice for the groom to have those as well.

Keep at least three different groomsmen setups in mind before photographing the wedding. You can find inspiration online and save those inspirational photos on your phone to recreate or build on them. This can save you lots of time if you’re new to wedding photography.

Try and keep the conversation light and easygoing. It will help the groomsmen relax, and you’ll get much more authentic expressions from them.

Group huddles and hugs are great icebreakers, and can lighten the mood if you feel the photos are getting a little stiff or the groomsmen are losing steam. A slow walking photo is also nice to have and having them looking at each other and talking is a great way to get them all smiling.

A staggered photo, either on a staircase or in a big area, can provide you with more varied poses for your final photos. If you have enough time, get a photo of each groomsman with the groom. Keep the photos moving by keeping the groom in the same place and having the groomsmen take turns standing beside him.

Keep everyone’s height variations in mind when taking photos of the groom with his groomsmen. Taller groomsmen may need to stand further back. If there are big height differences between the groom and his groomsmen, place those who are about the same height next to the groom, or bring the groom closer to the camera. This can help isolate the groom and make him the focal point of the photo, which is exactly what you want.

Keep everyone moving and try to get the photos done quickly. Groomsmen are usually ready for the next event pretty quickly and get sick of the camera much faster than the bride and bridesmaids.

If the groomsmen have ideas for poses, go along with them. It may be an inside joke or something that brings them closer together as buddies. And they’re usually the photos they love to remember.

Also, always ask if the groomsmen are wearing something special or have a gift from the couple – watches, socks, matching shoes, flasks, etc. These items have far more meaning when they’re photographed in the hands of those who received or are wearing them.

For example, these groomsmen all received personalized flasks from the groom, so a toasting photo was fun to create for them, along with a close-up of one of the flasks.

In conclusion

Grooms and groomsmen are fun to photograph during a wedding. But it’s best to have a few poses in mind so you can work quickly, as they often don’t like having their photos taken and may tire quickly. Keeping the mood light and fun gives them a great experience, and they’ll look back at the photos with fond memories.

The post How to Pose Grooms and Groomsmen Effectively appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Advising Clients What to Wear for a Photo Shoot

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 10:00

The post Advising Clients What to Wear for a Photo Shoot appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

Outfits can make or break a photo shoot. No matter how beautiful your photos are, if the outfits aren’t right it can affect the look and feel of the photographs.

I wouldn’t have said this before, but now I know from experience.

Before each photo shoot, I send my client an article and encourage them to read it. I then ask them to send me some of their outfit ideas so we can discuss their choices. The client plays the most important role in the photo shoot, and so while I offer advice on what to wear, I  also like to tailor their photo shoot to match their preferences and personalities.

Here are some factors that help my client and I come to a decision on the right outfits for a successful photo shoot. Naturally, the outfits need to be right for the client. But they also need to be right for you as the photographer.

Type of photoshoot

Chances are you already know this from the booking and/or your niche (if you have one). But in case you don’t, here are some photo shoots you may be asked to do:

  • Family (immediate family, perhaps with a couple of grandparents added)
  • Children (just the kids, sometimes with cousins included)
  • Siblings (brothers and sisters or multiples e.g. twins)
  • Three generations (e.g. grandmother, mother, daughter)
  • Engagement, love shoot or couple shoot
  • Newborn or babies
  • Valentine, anniversary
  • Activity-based (sports, event, themed)
  • Clan (bigger family shoots to include extended family, several families together)
  • Birthday, cake smash
  • Lifestyle (usually more informal)
  • Portrait (usually more formal)
  • Corporate

Type of client

From my experience, clients generally fall into one of two types: styled or casual.

Styled clients think about every detail of their shoot including:

  • the look and feel they want
  • the color scheme, location, and any props they want to use
  • makeup and accessories
  • the final outcome of their shoot in terms of products and what they do with them.

Casual clients just want some memories captured, usually showcasing their usual attires and what they do as a family. They’re not too fussed about location or outfits, they just want lovely photos of their family or themselves and have the digital files stored safely so they can print them whenever they want.

In both cases, I still try to get together with them to discuss their outfits and plan the photo shoot.

Theme or no theme

When it comes to themes, the possibilities are limitless. But I always advise my clients to narrow it down to a handful of choices and keep things simple within their chosen theme. For me, a theme just provides context. The focus is still the client looking good in their photographs, looking natural in the context, and loving the way they look in them.

Keeping it simple is best.

Location of the shoot

Rather than talk about differences between studio and outdoor locations (which are pretty obvious), I want to focus on what’s important when choosing outdoor locations to fit a client’s outfits and vice versa.

If they’ve put a lot of work into choosing outfits (and perhaps props), a location that provides a simple but effective background will work best. So having outfits that suit the location is crucial.

If you’re shooting in a busy location (e.g. city, market, funfair) where you can’t avoid being surrounded by people, I’d suggest plain, non-printed outfits. This will help you isolate your clients so they’re still the focus amidst the busy setting. When I shoot in these locations, I sometimes blur the background or drag the shutter to blur everything but the client.

If the location is a park where you can find a quiet spot and use trees, foliage or sky as the background, then they can wear florals and busy patterns. You can isolate them by blurring the background when shooting so you get creamy bokeh in a very shallow depth of field.

You can also do silhouettes. This works well if they’re wearing outfits that are similar to each other (e.g. simple jackets or trench coats).

Here are some other locations you could choose:

  • a brick wall (or any textured surface) large enough to be the background
  • large murals
  • alcoves
  • corners
  • an old building
  • a row of pillars that would work for background.

While I try to minimize stark contrast within the outfits themselves, I try to maximize the contrast between the outfits and the location. In other words, plain outfits in busy locations and busy outfits in plain locations.

Time of the year

This is pretty self-explanatory, except I want to add one word: options. I encourage my clients to have a change of outfits in case they want a different look. Some take up the offer, while others don’t. The weather in the UK can change quite dramatically. In autumn and spring, we can have all four seasons in one day.

So during this time, I encourage my clients to dress in layers. If the sun comes out they can take a layer off. If it rains we can do some shots with an umbrella. If we’re suddenly plunged into winter, we can add a couple of layers for a cozy look in a cafe, complete with hot chocolate topped with marshmallows.

But make sure you factor the weather, outfits and any activities (boating, cycling, etc.) into your shoot so you don’t run over time.

Your style/niche

You may have been told you should have a niche, and shoot only within that niche. That’s a nice ideal, but it isn’t true (or easy) for everyone. Sure, some people may not be your ideal client. But if they like your pictures, want you to photograph them and will pay you for it, would you turn them down?

And while you may not showcase their photos on your blog because of the niche and brand you’re trying to build, if they don’t mind then why not do it? Yes, the photos in your portfolio, on your website and in your social media messages will help you attract those ideal clients. But here I’m talking about those who want you to photograph them regardless.

General outfit advice

Bearing all of this in mind, here’s my general advice regarding outfits.

Classic: Timeless style, chinos, khakis, beige and blues, nature-hues, pastels, shirts, and simple dresses.

Florals and prints: Just florals, or an eclectic mix of prints and patterns. Pairing them with stripes can also work sometimes.

Colors: Keep them complementary as opposed to completely matching (e.g. all white shirts and blue jeans). Avoid stark contrasts such as green and orange/red together, and yellows and purples juxtaposed. Complementary colors are more like warm tones (yellows, oranges, pinks, warm red and even warm greens) together and cool tones (blues, purples, greens) together. But an explosion of bright colors could also work, although I’d shoot it on a plain background or setting.

Consistency: Avoid extreme differences (e.g. one person is wearing a casual knitted chunky sweater and the other is wearing a nice silky dress). It can be quite jarring. Black and white is another combination that’s too stark a contrast unless it’s done intentionally.

Dark, light and bright: Darks for adults, and lights or brights for small children. Do it the other way and the adults will dominate the scene and draw the viewer’s attention, while the smaller people will disappear.

We all have our own personal preferences and styles. These are mine, but if you have other ideas for your photo shoots that’s okay.

If you have any other helpful advice, please share it with us in the comments.


The post Advising Clients What to Wear for a Photo Shoot appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

5 Tips for Stunning Macro Photography

Sun, 05/19/2019 - 15:00

The post 5 Tips for Stunning Macro Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Do you want to capture gorgeous macro photography?

Macro photography might feel like a struggle. But it doesn’t have to be. By using a few simple tricks you can capture amazing macro photos consistently.

So if you’re interested in taking your macro images to the next level, follow these five tips.

1. Simplify your macro composition’s subjects and colors

All great macro photos have a carefully chosen composition. That is, the elements in the photos have been arranged in the most beautiful way possible.

So if you want to capture amazing macro photography, you need to carefully choose your compositions, too.

And the number one rule of composition?

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Start by choosing a subject for your photo. Something that stands out – ideally the thing that initially drew you to the scene.

And once you’ve found your subject, hit your viewer over the head with it. Remove any distractions from the scene. If there are stray twigs in the background, remove them. If there’s something unpleasant in the foreground, change your angle.

The goal is to isolate your subject in every way possible. You want the viewer to know exactly what they’re supposed to look at.

But as well as removing all the physical distractions, you should also remove all the distracting colors.

A macro photo should have three colors or fewer – four if you’re really struggling. But no more than that.

Because too many colors cause chaos.

And in macro photography you absolutely need to avoid chaos.

You need to simplify.

2. Increase the subject-to-background distance for beautiful macro backgrounds

Now you understand the importance of simplifying. But it’s not just the subject of the photo you need to simplify. You also need to simplify the background.

The best macro photography backgrounds are clean, simple and uniform. They don’t take away from the subject. Instead, they complement the subject and help it stand out.

But how do you create such a simple, clean background?

One way is to increase the distance between the subject and the background, and use a very wide aperture (something in the f/2.8 to f/4 range).

Why? Because the farther the subject is from the background, the greater the aperture needed to keep everything in focus. And so at very wide apertures the whole background becomes  wonderfully blurry.

This background blur is called bokeh. And macro photographers love it because it helps the subject to stand out.

Just remember that when it comes to macro photography backgrounds, blurrier is almost always better.

So use a wide aperture, and increase the subject to background distance.

You’ll get far better shots that way.

3. Focus manually for the best macro photography detail

Do you ever struggle to nail the focus while doing macro photography?

It’s a common problem. Since you’re working at such high magnifications, the autofocus on your lens will undoubtedly struggle. And it’ll often miss your point of focus entirely.

Fortunately, there’s a simple workaround for this problem: manual focus.

Manual focus lets you change the point of focus using the ring on the lens. Twist the lens ring and the focus moves, allowing you to focus close, far away, then close again without using the lens’s autofocus.

This is extremely useful for macro photography. Even at high magnifications, you’ll be able to consistently nail the focus.

As long as you switch over to manual focus, of course.

A couple of tips:

  • Turn the manual focus ring gently. You don’t want to go at it aggressively. Instead, move smoothly.
  • If you’re struggling to lock focus on your subject, try using autofocus to get you in the general area. Then fine tune the focus with manual.

Manual focus may take a bit of practice to master. But it’ll be worth it in the end.

4. Shoot into the sun for amazing background bokeh

Now we’ve reached the fun part of this article: How to generate gorgeous background bokeh.

As I mentioned earlier, bokeh refers to a beautiful blurry background.

And here’s the thing: If you can create amazing bokeh in your macro photos you’re practically guaranteed a great shot, because it will make your shot stand out from the crowd.

But how do you capture stunning bokeh?

Here’s one simple trick you can use: shoot into the sun.

First, wait until the sun is low in the sky (early morning or late afternoon).

Next, find a subject and place that subject between you and the sun. Crouch down low so the sun is behind your subject.

Now, move around until you find an area where the sun is broken up by something – tree branches, leaves, etc. You want the sun to shine through these tree branches, hit your subject, and then hit you.

Why is this so important?

Well, broken sunlight ultimately creates the best bokeh. Those smaller pinpricks of sunlight produce amazing backgrounds.

Note: You don’t want the full sun in your frame. Otherwise the sky will be far too bright and your picture will lack serious detail. Instead, block the sunlight with your subject. If you like, let the sun peek out from behind. (In fact, this can result in some especially interesting effects.)

Bottom line?

If you can create amazing bokeh, your macro photography will be stunning. So create it whenever possible.

5. Find shade-sun combinations for gorgeous colors

Here’s a final macro photography tip for you (and one of my favorites).

If you want to create wonderful, pastel-like colors in your macro photos, use shade-sun combinations.

When the sun is low in the sky, go out looking for subjects. Shadows will be long, so you shouldn’t have any problem finding a nice subject in the shade.

Get ready to photograph that subject. But before you actually take the shot, carefully position yourself so the background of the shot is sun-drenched.

This works amazingly well, because the sunny background will be soft and golden. And golden light is amazing for bokeh.

You’ll capture photos like this:

And this:

With a bit of patience, you should be able to find many great backgrounds by using this trick.

So don’t forget to try it.

Stunning macro photography: next steps

Capturing amazing macro photos doesn’t have to be hard. You just have to know a few tricks.

For instance, you have to simplify your compositions.

You have to create beautiful backgrounds.

And you have to focus manually.

If you can do that, your macro photos will be amazing in no time at all.

We’d love you to go out and try these techniques, and share your macro photos with us in the comments below.

The post 5 Tips for Stunning Macro Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

How to Turn Day to Night Using Photoshop for Urban Landscapes

Sun, 05/19/2019 - 10:00

The post How to Turn Day to Night Using Photoshop for Urban Landscapes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Have you ever wished you’d photographed something at night? You may not have had the time, knowledge, or gear to do it, but you still regret not getting that shot.

In some cases you may be able to return at night and have another go. But if you can’t, you can quickly turn day to night with Photoshop.

In this article I’ll show you how you to turn your daytime urban scene into a nighttime one using layers and masks. I’ll also give you a few tips on the details you should take care of for a more realistic effect.

But first I want to explain the idea behind this technique so you can apply it to all kinds of photography.

The blue night and the yellow light

You may have noticed that different lights have different colors. Sunsets are redder and warmer than the sunlight at noon. The table lamp from your bedroom is more yellow than the fluorescent light of an office building. And so on.

This is called the color temperature, and is measured in Kelvin degrees. (You can see it in full in this color temperature scale.) And you can take advantage of it to simulate night time by colorizing your image accordingly.

Make it night

First, you need to change the white daylight into a dark blue that corresponds to the night light by adding a blue layer. You can do this in various ways, although I find the easiest way it to select Layer -> New Adjustment Layer -> Color Lookup… from the menu and clicking OK.

From the Properties panel, open the top drop-down menu and choose any option that gives you a blue tone such as Moonlight, Foggy night, or Night from Day.

If you’re more experienced, and want to to have full control, you can work with a RAW file. At the top of the adjustment panel of the ACR window is a slider where you can adjust the color temperature. You can also enter the Kelvin degrees value you want directly according to the scale I mentioned before.

Turn the lights up

Next, create another layer that’s yellow or amber. If you’re using Adjustment Layers, remember to duplicate of the original first and then add the color one on top of it. If you’re sticking with the Color Lookup adjustment layer style choose Edgy Amber or Candlelight. Once you have it, merge the adjustment layer with the copy you created from the original.

If you’re doing it from ACR, don’t just duplicate your layer. Use the Create a New Smart Object via Copy option instead, or the first layer will go yellow too. You can find this option by right-clicking the layer and choosing it from the menu. Then double-click on the thumbnail to open ACR again and drag the slider to the yellow side.

You now need to add a mask to this yellow layer. You can do this by clicking on the Layer mask button on the bottom of the panel. Once you’ve created it, click Invert in the properties panel. We do it this way because the white mask will show all the content and the black one will block all of it. (To learn more about it, check out Getting Started with Layer Masks in Photoshop – a Beginners Tutorial.) For now you’ll want it all covered so you can paint only what you need to in the next step.

The yellow corresponds to the tungsten light from light bulbs, which you can use to paint lamp posts, windows and any other source of light that might be available during night time. Identify these sources and, using the Brush tool, start painting in the Layer Mask with the brush set to white.

For windows, I find it easier to paint the entire rectangle and then paint out the divisions with the black brush.

This also works for any corrections or detailed work. If you paint something by accident, change the color of the brush to black and paint back over it to cover it again. This is why we’re using masks. The work is non-destructive, and you can easily go back and forth.

The Giveaways

It’s up to you how much work you want to put into the transformation. But keep in mind that the more details you do, the more realistic the effect looks.

For example, the lamp will shed some light onto the wall where it’s hanging, so you’ll want to illuminate that part as well. With the same Brush tool you were using, diminish the opacity from the Options Bar and paint the wall where the light would be hitting. Keep diminishing the opacity as you get further away from the light source.

Another big giveaway is reflective surfaces because light would reflect onto them. In this example, the water in the canals needs to have reflected light. But it may also be needed for cars or puddles, so keep an eye on your scene and paint those as well.

There you have it: from day to night using nothing more than  layers and masks.

I hope you enjoyed this technique. I recommend you go out and do some night photography so you can learn how light, tones and colors behave. The more you understand it, the better you will be able to replicate it in post-production.

If you need some help getting started, check out The Ultimate Guide to Night Photography.

And to get some inspiration for your next digitally created night scenes, here are two great articles:

The post How to Turn Day to Night Using Photoshop for Urban Landscapes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

3 Fun Backgrounds for Portraits and Photo Booths You Can Create at Home

Sat, 05/18/2019 - 15:00

The post 3 Fun Backgrounds for Portraits and Photo Booths You Can Create at Home appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Erin Fitzgibbon.

Bring out your Creativity

With our phones becoming an essential tool in our lives, we’ve started integrating them into our daily routines. We use them to document events and milestones, and then share them on social media.

One trend that seems set to continue is having photo booths at events and even gatherings. Guests are invited to shoot photos in front of a fun background to help document the memories of that special day.

And photographers are always looking for great studio backdrops to help make portraits interesting.

Keeping both scenarios in mind, I’ve put together three examples of easy-to-create backdrops that can be used in all sorts of situations. So whether you’re a serious portrait photographer who wants to create something unique for your business or a creative individual who wants to give your guests with something fun during an event, here are step-by-step instructions for creating some pretty cool backgrounds.

1# String and a Theme

For this creative effort all you need is a lot of string and some paper clips. I’ve used this technique with everything from displaying art to creating a fun backdrop  for portraits in support of Down Syndrome awareness.

(The creases in the fabric can easily be removed in Photoshop. I just wanted to show exactly how it looked.)

Created using some friends’ socks, two pieces of white fabric and some push pins.

The steps are quite simple.

  1. Get some string. (I’m partial to either black string or brown hemp-based string.)
  2. Using strong tape or hooks, run the string back and forth across the area you’ll be shooting. This works best on a blank wall or a plain backdrop cloth. (If you don’t have a backdrop cloth, iron a bed sheet and hang it up using thumbtacks.)
  3. Attach whatever theme items you’ve chosen at random places along the string using paper clips.
  4. Take some test photos to make sure you like the look of your backdrop.


I hung the socks from the string using bobby pins.

Here’s a background we made for a school. The design was created for World Down Syndrome Day. Everyone was encouraged to raise awareness by wearing crazy socks. So we created this simple background and then took photos of the students in front of the socks. It was easy to set up, and a lot of fun to shoot.


2# Paint Splatters and a Tri-Fold Display Board

Remember those tri-fold display boards we all bought to make our science fair projects? Well, here’s a backdrop you can make using that school day staple. It’s also easy to transport – just fold it up and away you go. It’s also a great way to use up any paint you have sitting around in the basement. 

I used some acrylic paint and a palette knife for this background. I decided to smear it this time, but you can also splatter the paint.

  1. Buy a tri-fold display board (black or white) from the dollar store.
  2. Choose some paint colors that go with your theme (or use whatever you have lying around in the basement). If the paint is too thick to splatter, adding water can help make it more pliable.
  3. Take the tri-fold board outside (or put down a lot of newspaper on the kitchen floor).
  4. Using a variety of brush sizes, randomly drip, splash or flick paint onto the tri-fold.
  5. Let it dry for several hours before moving the board.

If you load the knife with a few colors and drag it across the palette you get lots of mixing and color variation.

Here’s the full tri-fold display board. While the background isn’t very big, it’s quite portable. However, it does limit how much you see. But keep in mind you can always use a zoom lens and have your subject stand at a distance from the background. After all, a lot of DIY is about making do with what you have.

A simply white tri-board can be really useful. And in a pinch it can also be used as a reflector.

3# Brown Paper and Old Books

For this one you’ll need a roll of craft paper, which you can either hang from a studio backdrop or improvise by taping it to the wall. But you’ll have to be gentle with this backdrop, and if your guests or clients aren’t careful they could easily rip the paper.

Next, choose some books that have significance to your event. If it’s a baby shower, old children’s books might be a good choice for the background.

(I realize that some people think dismantling a book for a backdrop is blasphemous. Personally, I think it’s a great way to give it another purpose instead of having it just sit on the shelf. If this really bothers you, use newspapers instead.)

  1. Gather up old books you won’t be reading again, or visit the library and ask for any damaged books they’ll be throwing away. Flea markets and garage sales are also great places to find books.
  2. Cut pages out of the books that you find visually appealing
  3. Glue the pages to the long strip of brown craft paper you hung up
  4. Apply as many pages as you see fit. (You may want to use only a few pages, while someone else may want to completely cover the brown paper.)
  5. Carefully adjust the roll of paper so guests can easily stand in front of your backdrop

I used pages from an old Writer’s Market to create this background. The nice thing is I can roll it up and take it anywhere.

I also like the look of this background with a black and white treatment.

A classic black and white portrait in front is quite pleasing.

Other Ideas

Here’s are some more ideas for backgrounds.

  1. Run party streamers diagonally down the wall in a variety of colors.
  2. Hang homemade snowflakes from the ceiling.
  3. Hang Christmas lights behind a bed sheet for a glowing look.
  4. Collect fall leaves and glue them to brown paper.
  5. Use old rolls of wallpaper and drape them behind your subject. (No gluing required.)

There are countless ways to create an inspiring look for portraits. Don’t be afraid to be creative and use items you have lying around the house. And please share your ideas and examples. We’d love to see what items you use to make something truly fun and creative. 

The post 3 Fun Backgrounds for Portraits and Photo Booths You Can Create at Home appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Erin Fitzgibbon.

How to Create and Use a Light Skin Smoothing Action in Photoshop

Sat, 05/18/2019 - 10:00

The post How to Create and Use a Light Skin Smoothing Action in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

When you photograph portraits, you’ll spend time editing the photos so your clients look their very best. A lot of that time is often spent smoothing out the skin. But while some smoothing is okay, doing it too much can change the look of the person.

Here’s how to create a simple and easy Photoshop action that will have you smoothing out skin faster without over-retouching it.

Before and after using this light skin smoothing action.

What is a Photoshop Action?

A Photoshop action is where you record various steps in an editing process and save them so you can then reapply those steps simply by ‘playing’ the action.

In this case, the action will have three steps. When you press ‘Play’ it will apply those three steps quickly and automatically so you can get to the fun part – the retouching.

Create the action

Step 1: Open a photo (any photo will do) so you can create the action.

Step 2: Make sure the Actions panel is open. If it isn’t, go to the Window menu and make sure Actions is selected. If you can’t find the Actions panel on your workspace, deselect and re-select it in the menu.

Step 3: Create an Action Set, which will create a master folder for your action to live in and help you organize your actions. (You can skip this step if you already have one.) Click on the three lines in the Actions panel and select New Set. You can also create it by clicking the folder icon at the bottom of the Actions panel. You can give it any name you like. (In this example I named it “My actions”.)

Step 4: Now it’s time to record the action. Select New Action from the Actions panel menu, or click the New icon at the bottom. Choose a name for your action, select the set you want it stored in, and click Record.

Note: Once you hit record, everything you do in Photoshop will be recorded – including the things you did accidentally. Fortunately, you can click the Record and Stop buttons at any time while you’re recording the steps.

Step 5: Once you start recording your action, duplicate your layer in the layers panel or by hitting CMD/CTRL+J.

Step 6: From the Photoshop menu select Filters ->Blur -> Gaussian Blur and choose a value between 10 and 25 pixels. (Don’t worry. Your photo won’t stay blurry.)

Step 7: Create a mask layer, then hold down the Alt/Option key and click on the mask. This will add a black mask on your blur, and your photo will be back to normal. We’ll be using this mask to add the smoothing rather than erase the blur, which is a lot more work.

Step 8: Select the Brush tool (or press B on the keyboard), and choose an opacity between 10% and 20%. Make sure your foreground color is set to white so you can paint back the smoothing.

Step 9: Hit Stop to stop recording.

Your action is now ready to use.

To test your action, open a new photo and hit Play in the Actions panel.

You’ll see the actions you recorded re-applied to the new photo.

How to use your action

Open a photo with the skin you want to smooth out. It’s best if you retouch any imperfections or blemishes beforehand. This action simply smoothes out the skin lightly to make it look natural and clean.

Hit Play on your action, choose a brush size that’s best for your photo and start painting in the smoothing in small strokes. Make sure you paint in the mask layer or you’ll be painting white onto the skin.

You should see the difference after a few strokes. You can also change the opacity if you need more or less smoothing.


If you accidentally record extra steps, simply stop the recording and then delete the steps that aren’t part of the action.

You can also delete the action and start over. So don’t worry if you don’t get each step right the first time.

In conclusion

Retouching skin can often take time away from photographing clients. But by using actions, you can streamline your editing by automating steps you use regularly.

This action also helps you retouch photos lightly and more naturally.

Let us know if you find it helpful.

The post How to Create and Use a Light Skin Smoothing Action in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Macro

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 15:00

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is MACRO!

Image by Jaymes Dempsey.

Go out and capture flowers, objects, insects etc. Just be sure they are really close up! 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!

Image by Rick Ohnsman.

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

Tips for Shooting MACRO

Macro Photography on a Budget: An introduction to Close-up Filters

Getting Started with Abstract Macro Photography

How to Give Your Macro Photography a Fine Art Touch in Post-Processing

5 Surprising Macro Photography Ideas to Jumpstart Your Creativity

Reverse Lens Macro – How to Make Macro Photos with “Backward Thinking”

Creative Macro Photography – Using Fairy Lights

How to Choose the Perfect Macro Lens

Weekly Photography Challenge – MACRO

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 #DPSmacro 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 – Macro appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

TOP 13 Landscape Photography Accessories Under $100 [video]

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 10:00

The post TOP 13 Landscape Photography Accessories Under $100 [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Following on from last week’s video share from Mark DenneyWhich Landscape Photography Camera Should You Buy?“, I thought I’d also share his video on affordable landscape photography accessories.


These are, of course, Mark’s opinions and not mine. I’d be interested to know your thoughts and if you have any to add to this list.

In the video, Mark mentions these accessories in order of price, starting at number 13.

TOP 13 Landscape Photography Accessories under $100 13. Samsung 500GB SSD at $87.99

While the Samsung 500GB SSD doesn’t have massive storage, it is perfect for travel because of its size and portability. It’s lightweight and durable and fits in your pocket.

12. NRS Boundary Socks – $84.95

NRS Boundary Socks are water socks and keep your feet warm and dry when standing in water. They have a seal around the top so that water cannot enter the top. These are also handy for getting better shots because you can get into the water and shoot from better angles.

11. Vallerret Photography Gloves – $79.95

The Vallerret Photography Gloves are perfect for photographers because the thumb and forefinger tips flip back to allow you to adjust your camera controls while still keeping your hands warm and dry. They also have a non-slip surface on the palm so that you can grip your camera confidently.

10. Hoya Circular Polarizer – $53

This Hoya Circular Polarizer is a great option if you are on a budget. The quality is high and the results are great. You may not always use it, but they are great to have.

9. Black Diamond Headlamp – $38

This Black Diamond Headlamp is great for when you are shooting sunrises and sunsets, blue hour, astrophotography and you have to hike in and out of places in the dark, and set up your camera in low light. Having it on your head leaves your hands free. The headlamp is also super-bright – with 3 levels of brightness.

8. Tripod Spikes – $20-$96

Tripod Spikes are great for digging your tripod into the surface to give your tripod extra stability.

7. Pelican SD Card Case – $33.99

The Pelican SD Card Case is tough, durable, and waterproof. It fits several cards safely. It protects one of the most important parts of your gear because that is where your photos are stored.

6. Shimoda Small Accessory Case – $24.95

The Shimoda small accessory case is ideal for storing your extra camera batteries, chargers cables, and anything related to power. It has a clear plastic side so that you can see exactly what is in the case too. The fact that it is bright blue means that you can find it easily in your suitcase or backpack.

5. Small Moleskin Case – $19.95

The Small Moleskin Case can be used for keeping tools, such as Allen keys, flathead screwdrivers, or backup tripod plates.

4. Backpack Rain Cover – $5-$25

Backpack Rain Covers are ideal for covering your backpack and also for covering your camera when it is set up ready to take shots near waterfalls or if it is rainy. Shower caps are also a good solution for covering your camera in the rain.

3. Think Tank Red Whips (10) – $9.94

The Think Tank Red Whips are amazing cable ties for keeping your cables organized.

2. Giottos Rocket Blower – $8.00

All photographers should have one of these. The Giottos Rocket Blower is perfect for blowing the dust off your lens and camera. It’s strong and

1. Zeiss Microfibre Cloth – $7.90

The Zeiss Microfibre Cloth is ideal for cleaning your lenses and filters.


Do you have anything to add to this list? If so, please share in the comments below.


You may also find the following helpful:

The post TOP 13 Landscape Photography Accessories Under $100 [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Pros and Cons of Adobe Portfolio For Your Professional Gallery

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 15:00

The post Pros and Cons of Adobe Portfolio For Your Professional Gallery appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ian Johnson.

I am going to tell you one of the worst parts about running a photography-based website, and you can tell me if you agree with me: maintaining your image galleries. Galleries are one of the greatest ways to show off your content to the world and to show everyone what you are all about. As you grow as a photographer, you need to continually update your public face and what you want to tell your followers. However, curating the content is so time-consuming that I often wonder if it’s worth it! I, (and surely you) would rather be out making more images and bringing visions to life, not spending more time in front of the computer. I have great news – you can use Adobe Lightroom’s workflow, coupled with Adobe Portfolio, to create beautiful and dynamic galleries in record-breaking time!

This collection set in Adobe Lightroom syncs directly to my Adobe Portfolio. Any edits that I make to images in this collection sync automatically to the online gallery making it incredibly easy to keep up-to-date galleries on a website

Adobe Portfolio? What is it?

Adobe Portfolio is Adobe’s online website-for-dummies platform to display your images in stunning galleries. It links directly to Adobe Lightroom using collection sets. Updating the gallery is as easy as adding or removing an image from the collection! If you are already paying for their annual Adobe Cloud membership, you have access to Adobe Portfolio without paying another dime. This is a great option if you run your own low-budget website and are doing your best to keep your costs at a minimum.

This is a look at my Adobe Portfolio website in design view. Adobe Portfolio offers easy website creation with dynamic, beautiful galleries connected directly to Lightroom.

How to do it?

To set up your Adobe Portfolio there’s really three main steps:

  1. Set up an Adobe Portfolio account,
  2. choose a template, and
  3. sync photos from your Adobe Lightroom collections to the website.

Presto! In his article, Andrew Gibbon claims you can set up a full Adobe Portfolio website in 15 minutes. His step-by-step tutorial makes it easy! Since making a tutorial as thorough as Andrew’s would be simply re-writing the wheel, I’d like to instead turn to the pros and cons of Adobe Portfolio so you can determine if this service is right for you.


I always like to get the bad news before the good. So here’s a couple of cons for your consideration.

1. Cannot sell imagery from it

If selling your imagery through a savvy e-commerce solution is what you most desire, then Adobe Portfolio is not for you. Technically you can hyperlink your image to a sales page, but the likelihood of losing the shopper is high. There are multiple other web platforms such as Fine Art America, Smug Mug, Square Space, Weebly, and so many others that allow you to sell your imagery directly.

2. Redirects traffic from your primary website

If you run a website through another host, you will need to connect your websites. I outlink the galleries using a custom link in my WordPress site. If you feel you need to keep people on your primary website to sell them something or deliver a message, then you may choose to avoid Adobe Portfolio and look for integrated gallery options. I will say though; Adobe Portfolio gives you lots of options on their templates to re-direct people where you want them to go (such as sales) after they view your gallery.

I outlink to my Adobe Portfolio galleries which directs traffic away from my primary website. If you need to keep traffic on your primary website, then Adobe Portfolio may not be for you.

3. Templates are pretty, but not highly customizable

The templates within Adobe Portfolio do not give you access to CSS or other mechanisms to customize them. Although you can change the color of the theme, your options are very limited here.


The way I want to use Adobe Portfolio, the pros outweigh the cons. The pros below are listed in importance (most important to least) for my own workflow and website needs.

1. Show image edits in Lightroom instantly

How many times do you re-edit an image? There are so many reasons why you continue to tweak an image. In most website galleries, a new image edit would require taking down the old edit and uploading the new. Not so with Adobe Portfolio. Any edits sync (color, crop, clarity, any of them!) to your Adobe Portfolio and can be updated on your website with just a few clicks. In my eyes, this is the #1 reason that Adobe Portfolio shines for my needs.

In each of these thumbnails, you can see a double arrow in the upper right-hand corner. That means all changes are automatically synced to my gallery online!

2. “Free” if you already pay for an Adobe Creative Cloud membership

There’s a good chance that you do not want to pay for more services than you already do. Camera gear, website fees, and everything else add up! As long as you already pay the annual membership for Adobe Creative Cloud, Adobe Portfolio is included.

3. Automatically resizes images

Adobe Portfolio’s galleries are very beautiful. Even though a RAW file is being synced to the Adobe Cloud, they automatically reduce the resolution of the image to optimize load time and viewing. This also makes it is less useful to a copyright thief. Having this built-in functionality removes any need to research optimal DPI, web color space, and pixel widths you would need to do if exporting your images for the web.

4. Lots of templates that easily outlink to your other content

I mentioned in the cons that you have to outlink to your Adobe Portfolio. However, all of the Adobe Portfolio templates provide lots of links back to your other work.

This landing screen of my Adobe Portfolio has five links where viewers can click to redirect back to my website and two links to my social media websites. In my opinion, if you can hook them with your beautiful galleries it is likely they will follow your links.

5. You can create as many collections as you want

In Adobe Portfolio, collections act as a page on your website. There are no limits to the number of pages you can create. This gives you a huge amount of flexibility because you can create very specific collections (say for an individual wedding or a species of animal) and have personalized galleries for each one.

6. No coding necessary

There is absolutely zero coding needed to set up an Adobe Portfolio website. If you want to have heavy customization privileges over your website, this isn’t for you. However, I found most of the templates to have characteristics that I liked, and I’m not looking for a lot of control over this website. That’s in stark contrast to my WordPress site where I like to have CSS control for each element in a theme.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is there are SO many ways to display your images on a website – many ways to “skin that cat” if you will – that finding the best solution for you can be challenging. I think many users will find the ease of creation and low cost of Adobe Portfolio to be very appealing, but it may not be desirable for high-level web users.

I’m all ears and happy to discuss Adobe Portfolio further, and my experience or yours. Please provide your constructive thoughts, and I’ll be sure to respond!

The post Pros and Cons of Adobe Portfolio For Your Professional Gallery appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ian Johnson.

8 Creative Ways to Photograph Trees

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 10:00

The post 8 Creative Ways to Photograph Trees appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

A favorite subject for many photographers is the tree. Tree’s can be found everywhere, so wherever you are in the world, you’ll have a chance to photograph them. In this article, you’ll see how adding a tree to your composition can add oxygen to your photography! So take a deep breath and learn how inspiring tree photography can be by using these seven different approaches to photograph trees.

1. The lone tree

A lone tree frames a typical landscape scene in southern England.

The lone tree alone in a field or on the brow of a hill really is a photo for the ages. It’s as strong a main subject as you’ll ever take in landscape photography. Whether you position this tree in the center of your frame or the left or right third, the photo is likely to work. The main thing is to ensure the tree is truly isolated and doesn’t have other rival trees in the frame competing for attention. The challenge, of course, is to find such a tree. In some cases, these tree’s are famous like the one at Wanaka lake in New Zealand. The chances are you’ll find a tree near where you live though.

Lens choice

The choice of lens you use may well help you isolate that tree once you’ve found it.

  • Wide angle – This type of lens works well when you want to get close to the tree, yet want to show the tree in its entirety. Through the use of this lens you might be able to create a minimalist style photo containing just the tree, the sky, and some fields where the tree is located.
  • Telephoto – When that tree is a long distance away, and is perhaps inaccessible because it’s on private land, a telephoto lens could work.Of course, make sure you’re not impinging on someone’s privacy when taking that photo. You’ll also be able to zoom in to isolate a lone tree, which is perhaps near to other trees and removing those other trees from your composition.
2. The tree tunnel

Another popular type of photo is the tunnel. These contain a strong leading line and an infinity point. They’ll also work very nicely with portrait photos, where the model acts as a foreground element in front of this tunnel. When it comes to trees, you’ll find they’re naturally good at creating tunnels. This happens when a mature tree has an arching main trunk, and branches that hand down to the side of the tree. Another place you can see a tree tunnel is a path or road that has trees on both sides, where those trees form a roof of interlocking branches. Photos of tree tunnels like this are usually more dramatic taken at longer focal lengths, where the comprehension that gives will enhance the effect of the trees creating the tunnel.

Tree lines work very well in photography.

3. The change of seasons

As with all things in nature, they’ll change with the seasons. As long as you’re not in the tropics, you’ll be able to see the change in a tree throughout the year. The most powerful way to record this is to choose one composition and photograph it for each of the four seasons. Whether that composition is a single lone tree or a path with trees along it will be up to you.

You don’t necessarily need to make your seasonal set from the same location though. You could choose to show photos of trees in the country you’re from, with clear markers that you’re in a particular country from your photos. Each scene you show can show the different seasons, and show the trees of that country.

Autumn is one of the most popular times to take photos of trees, and with good reason.

4. Applying creative techniques

There are many photography techniques out there which you can try. A lot of these techniques are adaptable to use with tree photography. Here is a selection you could try the next time you photograph a tree:

  • Silhouette – This works great with trees, especially those trees with beautiful branches that show the detail of the tree when silhouetted. Silhouettes are relatively easy to achieve. Expose for the sky, and aim towards the sky. The tree should naturally silhouette as long as you’re photographing with the sun in front of you.
  • Refraction – Another classic for tree photography involves using a lensball. Here you’ll see an inverted image of the entire tree all captured with a small glass sphere.
  • Infrared – Choose a sunny day with some clouds in the sky. You’ll want to choose the summer as well, as this technique needs green leaves on the tree. These photos can be taken with infrared filters or repurposed cameras. You’ll need to adjust the white balance in post processing. Once done, you’ll produce a beautiful dreamscape image.
  • Long exposure – The tree itself won’t benefit from long exposure. However, on days when clouds are moving across the sky, this technique looks great. The static tree juxtaposed against blurred moving clouds will work very well.

This is a slightly different take on the lone tree photo, and uses a lensball to achieve it.

5. Details photos

Having taken plenty of photos of entire trees, it’s a good idea to balance this with some detail photos. You’re really spoiled for choice when it comes to the type of photos you take here. All areas of the tree offer potential.

The following ideas can guide you:

  • Leaves – Detail photos of leaves could take different forms. You could focus on a single leaf, and produce a bokeh background behind it. You might use a macro lens and focus on all the detail the veins of the leaf give you. Photographs of leaves work very well with the sun shining through the leaf from behind.
  • Bark – The texture of bark is a natural fit for a detail photo. Look to side light the bark to get maximum texture in your photo.
  • Trunk – The trunk is not just about the bark on the tree. Focus on the root system around the trunk, and all the patterns you can find at the foot of the tree.
  • Branches – Looking up works equally well. Interlocking branches make for great pattern photos, especially when silhouetted.

One of the best places to photograph trees is the jungle. This photo show the detail at the tree trunk.

6. Portrait work

The use of trees as backgrounds for portrait photos is a popular idea. There is a good reason for that; much of which is related to the points made earlier in this article. Tree’s have the potential to form natural frames, especially where branches arch back from the trunk towards the ground. A line of trees forms a leading line, one that can draw the eye towards your model.

In the summer months, you’ll find leaves are amazing for creating a natural bokeh background for your portrait. Your model will be able to interact with the tree, perhaps mimicking the shape of the branches. There are many ways trees can add to your portrait work. So using trees for portrait work is another way to use trees creatively.

In this photo the model stands under cherry blossom trees as the petals fall down.

7. Different perspectives to photograph trees

Another way to photograph trees more creatively is to change the perspective. There are lots of angles you can use, though you’ll need to be close to the tree to utilize some of these. Take a look at the angles you could be using, and see how you can apply them to your work.

  • Low angle – Either from a distance or closer to the tree, photographing from a low angle will give you a different perspective. Foreground elements will show up a lot more in the frame, so you could place flowers in the foreground with the tree in the background.
  • Worm’s eye view – Low to the floor, but now looking up at the sky. This is a great angle when there are several trees together, and you stand in the middle between them.
  • Bird’s eye view – Should you have a way of getting an overhead photo of the tree, or a canopy of trees, this is a great angle.
  • Framing – Look for ways to frame a tree, perhaps use another tree in the foreground to frame a tree in the background.

This photo uses the branch of one tree to frame another tree in the background.

8. Wildlife photography

It goes without saying that a tree is a living ecosystem. Many living things rely on trees for life, including humans. In terms of photography, you could start small by looking for beetles in the soil, or under the bark. Leaves will also be home to a lot of smaller life such as caterpillars. So you’ll be able to get your macro lens out and explore the world of insects.

Of course, larger creatures feed on these insects, and you’ll be able to photograph them as well. You’ll find lots of species of birds, squirrels, and other animals. Photographing these is trickier, and you’ll certainly need a longer focal length. The use of camouflage gear and bird-watching huts also enhance your chance of photographing life within a tree.

In some countries the wildlife in the trees is a little bigger than a squirrel.


A tree is an interesting subject for a photo and has been used by photographers many times to create photography projects. In this article, you’ll have seen several methods you could use to photograph a tree.

Are there any in this list that interest you? What other approaches to tree photography have you used that aren’t discussed here?

At Digital Photography School, we’d love to see examples of your tree photography, together with your thoughts about this article.



The post 8 Creative Ways to Photograph Trees appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

Simple Methods for Creating Better Still Life Images

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 15:00

The post Simple Methods for Creating Better Still Life Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Many find shooting still life images a real challenge when they’re just starting out because it can be hard to know where to start. But taking the time to shoot a great still life can be a rewarding and somewhat meditative pastime for photographers.

Still life photography can help you hone your photographic skills at your own pace while still creating work that can go in a portfolio or be printed for your wall. But styling tabletop images doesn’t come naturally to all photographers, so here are some simple things to think about when you’re next shooting still life.

Choose props for color and mood

Now might be a good time to go and brush up on your color knowledge, because you’re really going to need it when it comes to creating still life images! Everything, including the colors, in your still life scene, will be there because you put it there. Nothing has to make it onto your tabletop studio if you don’t want to include it in your shot.

Colors can be a way of introducing either harmony or contrast. If you were photographing something blue, for example, and you used blue and green backgrounds you’d have a very harmonious and potentially calm image. On the other hand, if you added yellows or oranges into the scene, it would create tension and result in a more dynamic overall feeling to the shot.

You can bring color to your still life images in different ways. Backgrounds, fabrics, plates, bowls, vases – all these items are props that you can start collecting to build up a color library of props. Don’t forget natural objects like flowers and foliage too; they can often really bring a shot to life.

Selecting complementary backdrops

Your backdrops will often be the most dominant colors in your scene, so pick wisely (it’s also hard to change it once you’ve started arranging your props). Pick your backdrops according to the feel you’d like to create in your final image.

Backdrops can be anything that works with the scene you’re creating. It might be a marble countertop, a beautiful old farmhouse table, or a complementary piece of fabric. Whatever helps to set the mood for your images.

As well as the color of your backdrop, think about the texture as well. A scuffed up, blackened old baking tray creates a very different feel to draped silk. Think about the way that different backdrops make you feel as you select them for your scenes and decide if that’s correct for the kind of story you’re trying to tell in your photograph.

Over time you will build up a library of different backdrops to use in your shots. Then you can create a whole variety of different styles of images just by switching out the backdrop. Keep your eye open when you’re out and about for potential backdrops to add to your library!

Thinking about texture

I love including texture in my still life photographs, and it has become a part of my style now. Scouring both high street and artists shops for interestingly textured table linens, bowls, and backgrounds for my still life images are favorite pastimes.

Along with all the other elements of a still life image, texture can really help set the mood. Are you shooting something rustic that would have its story helped by the introduction of some beautiful coarse fabric? Or maybe you’re photographing a more modern scene that would benefit from glossy backdrops and slick, shiny props?

It also adds interest and depth to your final image. If you look around the room you’re in I’m sure you’ll see a whole variety of different textures. Perhaps you have a smooth leather chair with a velvet cushion on it, placed next to a distressed wood coffee table. Our lives are a riot of different textures, and these affect our senses both visually and through touch.

Since you can’t touch the objects in a photograph, you need to tell the viewer what they’re like. Texture is the main way to visually convey what something would feel like if you reached into the photograph and touched it. With that in mind, pay attention to what the textures in your shot are telling your viewer.

Create a beginning, middle, and end

Just like a good story, a photograph needs a beginning, middle, and end. Except we usually refer to these things as foreground, middle ground, and background when it comes to visual storytelling. Creating a layered effect in your photographs helps to create depth in what is a two-dimensional object.

Try building your still life scenes intentionally. First of all, place your main object roughly where you think you’d like it to be. It helps if you put your camera on a tripod for this because you can keep the framing and focus consistent.

After you’ve placed your main object try creating some foreground interest. This could be some petals if you were photographing flowers, or perhaps the curled corner of table linen if you were shooting food. Anything that leads the eye into the shot without distracting too much from the main focal point is good. You want something that adds to the story.

Lastly, place a background element in your scene. In the shots above, I’ve added a yellow napkin which both creates interests and adds a contrasting color, but you could be more subtle. Your background itself could also be your background element if it were sufficiently interesting! It should be like a “full stop” to your composition; ending the viewer’s attention the same way that a full stop ends a sentence.

You might find it easier to play with compositional colors and shapes for the foreground and background if you use a shallow depth of field. Rendering these elements as out of focus in your scene helps to keep the viewer’s attention on the main focus of your image.

Finishing an image in post-processing

There’s no rule in creative still life photography that says the colors have to be true to life. Using different colors – or even turning your digital files black and white – can result in a change of mood and story.

Processing your still life images in Adobe Lightroom allows you to create duplicates of images and try out different color treatments while comparing them side by side. It’s great for black and white conversions too. The best thing about Adobe Lightroom is that the editing is completely non-destructive to the original file. This means you can try out everything from wild color treatments to something more conservative and always go back to the original file.

I touched on color grading your still life photographs in a previous article. It can help evoke different moods, bringing different colors to the fore. It can also help to make items really pop off the page if you use color grading in a way that emphasizes your main subject.

Color grading your shots can also help to contribute to a more coherent style in your work. You don’t always have to treat the color in your images the same way, but over time you might notice that you seem to pick up a style the more you shoot. This can help to make your work recognizable which you might find desirable.

Put it all Together

Now that you know the simple ways that you can improve your still life images it’s time for you to have a go. Get some inspiration, shoot some images, and then come back and let us see them in the comments!

Don’t be afraid to work slowly and try new things when you’re shooting still life. The objects in your scene are not going anywhere, and they won’t run out of patience as a portrait subject will! Also remember, you don’t have to show anyone the images if you’re not completely happy with them.


The post Simple Methods for Creating Better Still Life Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

What is Royalty-Free Editorial Stock Photography and Can You Earn Money From It?

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 10:00

The post What is Royalty-Free Editorial Stock Photography and Can You Earn Money From It? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Photographs of just about anything can be sold as royalty-free editorial stock photography. How they are licensed is defined as either editorial or commercial. An image sold with an editorial license can only be used in news or general interest publications like;

  • Blogs
  • Textbooks
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

An editorial stock photo cannot be used to directly promote anything for profit.

Photos sold by a stock agency with an editorial license are more limited in how they can be published. Commercially licensed photos can be more broadly used, but there are more restrictions on what they contain.

What’s the difference between editorial and commercial stock photo licensing?

Editorial stock photos do not require model or property releases.

You can submit photos of individuals or whole crowds for editorial licensing and no model release would be requested. If you submit any photos of people for commercial use, signed model releases are required. Whenever a person can identify themselves in a photo, a release is required if the photo is to be sold with a commercial license.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Commercial licensing prohibits the inclusion of any copyrighted elements in your photos. Any branding or products must be removed from the photos. This also goes for people and private property. These things must be accompanied by an appropriate release form. If they’re not stock agencies will not accept the images into their collections.

Editorial licensing allows visible branding, products, people and property. However, no manipulation of the content is permitted.

I would not be able to submit this for sale under an editorial license because I have removed a logo from the man’s shirt. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

If you have a photo of something containing a logo or company name, you can remove it and still license the photo with a commercial license. When uploading editorial photos, you will be asked to state that you have not manipulated the photo in any way. Editorial stock photos must depict things as they really were when you took the photo.

Most stock agencies have disclaimers attached to editorial licensing of photos. The buyer is in control of how the photos will be used and must be made aware of the restrictions and their responsibilities. Stock photo agencies make it clear they are not liable for how the purchaser uses editorial photos.

Are there restrictions on the types of photos you can upload?

Most royalty-free stock agencies don’t have many restrictions. So long as you are uploading photos within the bounds of common decency, you won’t have any problems. Check with each stock agency where you wish to submit photos. They will be able to provide you with their company policy on what they want you to upload.

The law in most countries allows you to photograph anything you like from a public space. However, in doing so, you must not infringe on the rights of others or abuse their privacy. Photographing military facilities, power plants and other important infrastructure can sometimes get you into trouble. Check with local laws before you do.

Don’t just upload any old pictures. Make sure to only submit your best images. The market has become so saturated with photos that it’s increasingly difficult to make sales. Make sure your pictures stand out from the crowd.

I do have a signed model release for the woman in this photo, but because of the branding on the camera I could only sell it with an editorial license. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

How do you know what photos will sell?

You really don’t.

Predicting how well editorial stock may sell is very difficult.

If you have a good photo of a spectacular event or happening of international significance, it will likely sell well. If you were the only photographer to capture this amazing occurrence, then it will certainly sell better. However, these type of situations are extremely rare.

Carrying your camera with you wherever you go will increase your chances. It will also sharpen your awareness of what a good editorial image can be as you learn to focus your attention. If you leave your camera at home, it won’t happen.

Upload a variety of images and build up a large number of your photos in a stock agency website. Doing this gives you practical experience of what will and will not sell. There are many variable factors involved.

If you can build up a solid base of your own photos, you will be able to analyze which ones sell more consistently. You can then use this information to plan what you will photograph.

Annual events can make good subjects for editorial because the can be used year after year. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Once you have this information to work with you can decide on a niche or two to concentrate on. Look at which of your editorial stock photos sell the best and which of them you enjoyed making the most. This is what you will be best to focus your efforts on.

Royalty-free stock agencies boast collections of millions of photos. They contain photos already of pretty much every subject you can think of. You need to take better images than the ones they are already selling.

Browse these collections for ideas. See what others have done and come up with a new angle. If you see that there is a number of similar images that sell well, and you can produce photos of the same subject, do so. Don’t just copy. Improve on what’s already been done.

Update images you find that might be out of date. Has your city’s skyline changed recently? There may not be many new photos of it online yet.

Has there been some big news recently that you can illustrate with a stock photo? This will have to be ongoing news, or you’ll need to produce and upload your photos quickly so as not to miss the moment.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

How many agencies can I upload my editorial stock photos to?

You can choose to upload exclusively to just one agency or to as many as you have time to service.

Signing an exclusive contract to supply just one agency has certain benefits. However, you are restricted to only their customers buying your photos.

Supplying to many agencies takes time. Each stock library has its own requirements and contracts, and you must understand these and follow their terms closely. If you don’t, you may find you’ll have many of your photos rejected for one reason or another.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan


Do your research and understand what’s required before you start uploading photos to sell as editorial stock. You will probably find you have a huge number of images on your hard drive you can upload.

If they’re only stuck on your computer, you’ll never make any money from them. Uploaded to a stock agency, you won’t get rich overnight, but you will earn something over time.

Taking a business-like approach to stock photography is best if you are serious about it. Treating it too casually, not paying attention to what’s working and what’s not, will not bring you success. You’ll need to stick with it and consistently upload to make a really good go of it.

The post What is Royalty-Free Editorial Stock Photography and Can You Earn Money From It? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Try this DIY Neutral Density Filter for Long Exposure Photos

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 15:00

The post Try this DIY Neutral Density Filter for Long Exposure Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

You could buy an expensive ND filter to make a long exposure image like this. Or, you could do it “on the cheap” with the trick you’ll learn in this article. 162 seconds f/8, ISO 100

You’ve seen those landscape photos where the water has been rendered silky smooth, ocean waves look more like fog, or the clouds have streaked motion effects?  How are they done?  They are long exposure photos. The shutter speed often measured in full seconds rather than fractions of a second.  Some even measured in minutes of exposure.  In low light, you can sometimes slow your shutter speed by decreasing the aperture size and setting the ISO as low as it can go.

Of course, if you’re working in bright light, you may find that even with the smallest aperture and lowest ISO you still can’t get the shutter speed slow enough to produce the effect you want while still maintaining proper exposure.  What can you do then?  It’s time for a Neutral Density Filter.

So what are they, how do they work, and how can you achieve a similar effect without immediately laying down about $100 U.S dollars for one?  Read on my friend.

This one was done with a variable ND filter. With a 30-second exposure, whatever moves will blur. Note the water and clouds.

What is ND and why use it?

On a bright sunny day, you may reach for a pair of sunglasses to reduce the amount of light coming into our eyes.  A Neutral Density (ND) Filter is much the same for your camera.  The “density” part of that term refers to how dense or dark the filter might be.  The “neutral” portion of the term refers to the coloration the filter might add to the image.

If we’re making color images, we’d like a filter that would help reduce the amount of light while remaining neutral in color and not putting a color cast on our images.  So we want a neutral filter that can cut the light in situations where the ambient light is too bright to get a slow shutter speed beyond that obtainable with a combination of the lowest ISO and smallest aperture.

A 6-stop ND filter was used here. 30 seconds, f/20 ISO 100

Types of ND filters

The DIY approach to long exposure photography to be discussed here uses a method never initially designed for photography but will allow you to give this technique a try “on the cheap.”  Rather than spend around $100, it’ll cost you a tenth of that.  Before I reveal the “secret,”  let’s first talk about the commercial photographic ND filters you might buy.

Camera filters typically fall into two types:

Screw mount – Those that screw into the filter threads on the front of your lens

Square filters – Those that are mounted to the lens with a filter holder.

Both are available in varying degrees of density.  How dark the filter is, is typically described in how many “stops” of light it reduces compared to an exposure without the filter.

For example, if you made a proper exposure at ISO 100, f/5.6, 125 seconds, and then after the filter was mounted, you needed to slow the shutter speed to 1/2 second to get the same exposure, (assuming you left the ISO at 100 and f-stop at 5.6), that filter would be a 6-stop ND filter.  (1/125 – > 1/60 -> 1/30 – 1/15 -> 1/8 -> 1/4 -> 1/2 second ).  The density of the filter would have reduced the amount of light by 6-stops.

You can purchase both screw mount and square filters in various “strengths” or number of stops they reduce the light.

For example, this 77mm screw-mount 6-stop ND filter made by B&W runs about US$71, while this popular 10-stop square mount ND filter, the Lee “Big Stopper” is at this writing US$129.00.

A variable ND might work, but take it too far…

…and you’ll get weird artifacts.

Variable ND Filters – Another type of ND filter uses two polarized filters mounted together so they can be rotated in a way that produces variable density.  One might think this is a better solution than a fixed ND filter, allowing the photographer the means of adjusting the desired stops of reduction.

That would be ideal, and it works – to a point.

The problem with variable ND filters is sometimes they can produce nasty “artifacts” that spoil the image, especially on wide-angle lenses at higher density settings with less expensive variable ND filters.

More expensive variable ND filters will be better, but of course, cost even more.

The “One Weird Trick” ND filter

You’ve seen that “one weird trick” phrase used on the web before, right?  Usually, it’s for a gimmick that is less than a quality product.  I confess, what I’m going to suggest here is a bit of a gimmick and no, won’t deliver the results of the pricier dedicated photography ND filters.  You have to perform a few workarounds to get it to produce decent results and mounting it to your camera will be a little… “funky,” shall we say?  The upside is, it will probably cost about 1/10th of what a true photographic ND filter.

So, it could be a nice introduction to long exposure photography, while allowing you to explore this technique on a budget to see if it’s for you.

So here’s the big reveal…

What you are going to use is a piece of welder’s helmet glass.

You’ve seen welders wearing helmets while they work and perhaps noted a glass “window” they look through to observe their work?  The intensity of arc welding is so great that without a way to darken the welding spark the welder would be blinded.  So, a piece of very dark glass, a “density filter,” is what they have in their helmets.  The common denominator is the welder wants to darken the welding arc and you, as a photographer, want to darken the light coming into your lens.

These aren’t spacemen. They are welders and that piece of glass you see in their helmets is what you need for this “weird trick.”

What and where to get it

What you are looking for is a piece of welding glass used in a helmet.  Pieces can be purchased alone, (as replacements for the helmets) and in various sizes and “grades.”  You might have a local welding supply shop where you can get these or purchase them online.  Here is a link to an example. The glass measures 4.5″ x 5.25′ (114.3 mm x 133.35 mm) which is large enough to cover most camera lenses.  It comes in grades 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, and 14 with the higher numbers being darker/denser.

This chart may help you in determining the conversion from “grade” to the amount of f-stop reduction:

To keep it simple, most often you will use a 6-stop or a 10-stop ND filter.  One popular brand of ND filters is Lee. Their “Little Stopper” is a 6-stop filter, and their “Big Stopper” is a 10-stop filter.  So consulting the chart, if you wanted a 6-stop welding glass filter, get a Grade 6, and for a 10-stop reduction, get a Grade 8.

The left half of this shot shows how the uncorrected image looks due to the heavy green color of the welder’s glass. The right has been white-balanced using the custom white balance method discussed.

Density Yes, Neutral… not even close

This is probably the biggest drawback to using a piece of welding glass as an ND filter.  You can get very dark pieces of welding glass, so density isn’t a problem.  The problem is that most welding filters have a very pronounced green, or in some cases, gold color cast.

Dedicated photography ND filters may have a little coloration, but try to come as close to neutral as possible.  You will pay more for more neutral filters as you’d prefer to get darkening without coloration.  So what to do when using a welding glass filter?

Three options to dealing with the color cast

There are three things you can do to help reduce the distinct coloration a welding glass filter causes:

  • Shoot in Raw, (which you do anyway, right?) and adjust your white balance when editing to compensate.
  • Set an in-camera Custom White Balance
  • Plan to make your images monochrome where color casts won’t be a problem.

Let’s discuss these options.

The first is simple enough.  Yes, when you review your images after shooting on the camera LCD they will look very green.  (I’ve only used the green welder’s glass, not the gold).  Just know you will be adding lots of magenta, (the opposite of green), to your white balance when you edit.  Even then, good color may be a struggle.

Rather than fight the color cast, maybe monochrome is the ticket when using the welder’s glass ND trick.

The second option, setting a custom white balance, is a good idea.  To do so, mount your welding glass filter, (more on that in a minute) and make an exposure of the sun or bright sky.  Then, using the custom white balance function of your camera, (consult your manual on how to do this), store that image and white balance on it, creating a custom white balance you can use to shoot with when using your welding glass filter.

The advantage of this is image playback on your LCD will be closer to a normal color.

Additional tweaking will likely be needed in post-processing, but this may help you a bit when shooting.

The third option, (and to me maybe the best) is not to fight the color cast and plan to make your welding glass filter shots monochrome.  Long exposure images have an “ethereal” look often enhanced in a monochrome image.  So, rather than fight trying to restore good color from that alien green image, embrace monochrome.

If you decide you love long exposure photography, you will then likely buy a photographic ND filter which will make much better color shots.

Calculating your exposure

Before mounting your welding glass on your lens, you will want to compose your shot as usual.  You will also want to obtain good focus.  Do this first, because you won’t be able to see much of anything with the welding glass mounted.

Once focus has been obtained, switch the focus to manual.  Consider putting a piece of tape on the focus ring so it won’t move later.

Now make a shot with good exposure without the filter.  You will be changing your shutter speed once the filter is mounted, so choose an aperture and ISO.  What setting you choose will depend on the depth of field you require and also how long you’d like your exposure to be.  The slower the shutter speed you set here (while still getting a proper exposure), the longer your exposure can be with the filter.

Your subject will largely dictate your desired exposure length and the look you are trying to achieve. A silky waterfall might only require a 2-second exposure while smoothing ocean waves could take 30 seconds and streaking clouds in the sky a couple of minutes.  There is no formula here – trial and error will help you learn what works right.

The monochrome version of this shot above was done with the welders’ glass and an exposure time of 1.6 sec. This shot was taken later when the last rays of sun lit the turbines and also used 1.6 seconds. Too short a shutter speed and the blades were frozen. Too long and they disappeared. 1.6 seconds was the “sweet spot.”

Using an app to calculate shutter speed with the filter

Your meter will likely be useless once you mount the welding glass ND filter so you will need to calculate shutter speed yourself using the previous exposure information as a starting point.  There are numerous smartphone apps available to help you.  I like the one made by Lee Filters (Android / iOS ). Made for use with their Little (6-stop)/Big (10-stop)/Super (15-Stop) filters, you will need to tweak a bit when using it with your welding glass. However, it will get you in the ballpark, and you can adjust from there.

Let’s use an example:  You’ve made a shot without the filter and with the ISO set at 100 and the aperture at f/22 you can get the shutter speed down to 1/15th of a second and make a proper exposure.  You bought both a Grade 6 (6.67-stops) and Grade 8 (10-stops) pieces of welding glass.  What will your new shutter speed need to be with each filter installed?  Using the Lee app, we can see the 6-stop reduction would put us at between 4 and 8 seconds and the 10-stop reduction at 1 minute.

Again, plan on using these adjusted settings as starting points.  Try them and adjust your shutter speed (or possibly other settings) as needed.  Definitely plan on taking multiple shots as you get things dialed in.  Long exposure photography is not something you do in a hurry.

It’s funky, but it works. Reverse the lens hood and use rubber bands to attach the welder’s glass filter.

Attaching the welding glass filter

You’ve set up the camera, composed, focused, locked everything in, calculated your new shutter speed and are ready to mount the welding glass ND filter.  I think I used the word “funky” earlier in the article to describe how you will attach your DIY ND filter to your lens.  The photo here, showing how reversing the lens hood on your lens and then using rubber bands pretty much depicts the technique.

Something to improve it a bit – put some black gaffer tape on the edges of your piece of welders glass.  This will give the rubber bands a surface with more friction to grab onto.  (It also helps you in hanging onto the glass).  I’m not sure if the edges of the glass would transmit light onto the image, but the tape will also prevent that should it occur.  If your lens doesn’t have a hood to reverse, try larger bands which will allow you to stretch them back around the camera body.

Try not to disturb the focus ring as you mount the filter.  You will not be able to check focus again once the filter is in place.

Set your focus BEFORE mounting the filter and turn the switch to Manual focus (MF)

Making the shot

With the welder’s glass filter mounted, you will pretty much be “flying blind.”  You will not be able to see anything through the viewfinder, and maybe, if your filter isn’t too dark, you might be able to see just a little bit using live view if your camera supports that.  You better have composed and focused before mounting the filter as you can’t see to do it now.  Your meter will also not work with such low light.

While you could use the 2-second timer to trip the shot, I’d suggest a remote release.  You will also definitely need one if you’ll be making exposures over 30-seconds (on most cameras) in which case you will be putting your camera in Bulb-Mode.

A release that allows you to lock the shutter open during the exposure will help a lot here.  The Lee exposure calculator app also has a countdown timer.  Activate it when you open the shutter and it will countdown and beep at the end of the calculated exposure time telling you when to close the shutter.

If your shutter speed will exceed 30-seconds, you will probably need to use bulb mode. A remote release is a good idea in such cases.

You may also want to consider using the noise reduction feature of your camera.  Noise can be a problem with long exposures.  The noise reduction feature will make a second black frame image the same length as your first shot and then subtract any random noise or hot pixels from your image using the black frame as a reference.

Keep in mind, however, that the black frame exposure will be as long as the original shot so if you are, for example, making a 2-minute exposure, your camera will be busy for four minutes.  I told you, you don’t do long-exposure photography in a hurry.

No filter. A straight shot – 1/25 sec. f/8 ISO 100

Back in post-production

You edit your long exposure images much as you do with any regular shot with the big exception of that crazy color cast.  There are lots of web resources that tell you how to help correct for that cast so I won’t spend time on that here.  Just know that with this welding glass technique you will never get the color as good as you would without the filter.  I still believe that monochrome is the way to go here.

Using the welder’s glass ND. Custom white balanced in the camera, color corrected again in Lightroom and Photoshop. 162 seconds, f/8 ISO 100. The monochrome version is at the top of this article.

Frustrations and limitations

I’ve since bought a real ND filter, the 6-stop B+W I mentioned, so my welding glass hasn’t seen much use until I got it out to make this article.  In making the wind turbine shots, I found what I think, (after some comparison testing), is a Grade 10 glass, very dark but still not dark enough to make even a short 1.6 second shot, (the shutter speed I determined was best to get the hint of motion I wanted on the turbine blades.)  Longer exposures simply caused the blades to disappear entirely.

A side note here: long exposures can be a great way to make a crowd disappear when photographing a busy cityscape.  The people move and so disappear during a long exposure while the static buildings and such stay put and show up in the photo.

Trying to darken the shot further, I put a polarizer on the lens, (dropping the exposure 2-stops), and then stacked the welder’s glass ND over that.  It wasn’t a good combination.  Too much, as the British say, “faffing about,” and I likely knocked my focus off slightly.  Also, shooting through both the polarizer and the welding glass put too much “cheap glass” between the camera and the image, so the sharpness suffered.

A straight shot with no filter. 125/sec. f/22 ISO 100

A second trip to the Boise River provided an opportunity to see how a long exposure would depict the fast-moving spring runoff.  I was able to use much longer exposures here, a few just over two minutes.  I also made a 30-second exposure with the sun in the shot, something that wouldn’t have been possible with no filter even with the minimum ISO of 50 and the smallest aperture of f/22.  Shooting long exposures in bright light is a big reason for using an ND filter.

A shot directly into the sun, and a shutter speed of 20 seconds, probably isn’t possible without a strong ND filter. I calculate the Grade 10 welder’s glass used here to give about 13-stops of light reduction. 20 seconds f/14 ISO 100

When to buy a real ND filter

You may find the welder’s glass technique a fun way to dip your photographic toe in the waters of long exposure photography.  If you find you enjoy it and like the kinds of images you can make, save up and buy a good ND filter.  However, if the technique is interesting, but not really your bag, then you will have discovered that having only spent a few dollars on your welder’s glass DIY version.

Either way, you will learn much more about creatively using your camera controls to make exciting photos and that’s what it’s all about.  Learn and enjoy!


The post Try this DIY Neutral Density Filter for Long Exposure Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

How to Achieve Cool Urban Cityscapes

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 10:00

The post How to Achieve Cool Urban Cityscapes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

Cool Urban Landscapes through post-processing

Creating an emotional response

How you present your images can really affect one’s emotional response to them. Certain styles of image lend themselves to stylistic changes because they can create a specific emotional response when the viewer sees them. For example, film-based black and white images, when done well, present a sense of timelessness and can make things seem more serious. Similarly, high dynamic range images (HDR), when done well, can add “pop” to landscape photography. One particular style of image that lends itself to stylized treatments through post-processing is urban landscapes. Particularly if you are trying to make an already interesting image look more appealing based upon the lighting already present.

Crushed black and blown highlights on a street scene

Gritting and moody

Similar to black and white images, a high-contrast, selectively saturated look works well to create urban landscapes with a gritty and moody feel.

Using filters for effect

Nowadays, smartphone and some consumer cameras, have a great deal of pre-packaged stylistic treatments available that you can apply to photographs to try to evoke an emotional response. Someone, somewhere, has spent a great deal of time creating those filters to make your images feel as though they are from a different time or place.

For example, the classic 1970s snapshot look is full of color shifts and light leaks. They were common at that time because of the use of unstable film stocks and cheap cameras. Digital cameras don’t suffer the same issues that were present at that time. So, to simulate these conditions, adding light leaks and color shifts can make images feel vintage. There are many filters out there – each with their own effects.

Lit up Las Vegas

Make your own filters

To put the idea of emotional response to images in context, think about a familiar treatment that you are probably already aware of: black and white images. These photographs are rarely just images with the color drained. Good black and white images are contrast-rich with deep blacks and bright whites. The grey middle ground of many images can lose their impact when drained of color. Many black and white films had specific response curves that created the contrast-rich images. So now, with digitally-captured images that are black and white, they can appear a little sterile and plain. Adding high-contrast effects and grain to simulate film black and white tends to create an emotional response and mood.

To improve as a photographer, most people start, at some point, to try to take a more artistic approach to their images. Many newer photographers may start with simple prepackaged filters and presets, and apply them to their images. Currently, there is no end to the filters available in pretty much any photo sharing application and many cameras. From terms like “cool,” “50s,” “vintage,” and “grunge,” all these filters are stylizing the image for an emotional effect. Instagram was built on filters. People are very used to stylized images.

Old Montreal

Creating your own style

Becoming a better photographer involves the deliberate use of styles to create your desired effect. You may find there are particular filters you gravitate towards; styles that evoke an emotional response you like.

This is the beginning of finding your own style of image making. As you advance, you might explore manipulating images with Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, Skylum Luminar or some similar program.

When you get to the point where you are working with and creating your own filters, you create your style. You can start by playing with filters or dissect other photographer’s images that you really like to see if you can recreate that style.

Surprisingly, creating set styles in many photo imaging software packages is quite easy. It allows you to recreate your style and apply it repeatedly to multiple images.

Notre Dame in Montreal

Create your filter

Let’s consider the urban, gritty look for urban landscapes.

Here are two treatments of the same image, split for comparison. On the right is the Straight Out Of the Camera (SOOC) jpeg and on the right is the treatment with the blacks crushed, highlights blown, oranges highlighted and an almost selective color approach.

It is easy to create for yourself with whatever tweaks you like to create a style for yourself.

Comparison of straight out of the camera to the final product

A word of warning is necessary at this point. When you start stylizing your images with intentionally weird effects, you may generate some negative comments from people who don’t like the look you create. This does not mean you have failed to create something interesting. However, it means you have generated an emotional response to your image by someone who doesn’t care for that look.

Remember that some people find that they can only validate their work by diminishing others. Whereas, most find growth in encouraging others to take risks with their art. A true artist picks their vision and follows it. Sometimes it can be a bumpy road if you are only expecting validation from others.

It is important at some time for you to consider yourself an artist and not just a recorder of images.

All art is about creating an emotional response. Beyond capturing a moment, it is how that moment makes you feel. Emotional responses can be positive or negative.

Atwater Market in Montreal

It turns out this crushed-blacks, blown highlights, contrasty, desaturated, and the almost selective color look isn’t that tough to create for yourself. However, for this particular effect, you may do some damage to your photos by intentionally making some parts too black and other parts too bright.

So let’s look at the images I think work for this type of treatment. Shots typically taken at dusk/night, with artificial illumination present, add interesting artistic character for the urban landscapes shot.

Use a Raw Image Processor or Lightroom

I use Adobe Camera Raw to do most of the edits to these images, but you can use Lightroom or any image processing software to create a similar style. My suggestion is you modify and tweak it to your liking to get the desired effect.  The tools are similar, but just in different places. Also, even though I process these images with a raw converter, you don’t have to use a RAW image (although that is always the best starting point) and can use a JPEG or DNG file.  The treatment will look very similar.

To start, open your image with the raw converter.

Opening up the Raw Processor


With your raw converter, you have access to many parameters that act globally on your image.

Change the sliders as shown on the panel below.

Specifically, you want to make sure you have the desired white balance (it may be fine from what your camera selected, or you may want to resample).  You want to up the Contrast hard, more than you probably have done previously to make those hard edges at the light and dark parts of your image. You then do two things that seem contrary – you are going to pull the details out of the shadows (increase the Shadow slider) and make the Blacks blacker (crushing the blacks).

Finally, boosting the Clarity increases the midtone contrasts, boosting the Vibrance boosts the midtone colors and toning down the Saturation prevents them from looking too candy-colored.

Here’s my panel for example:


Adjustments for the effect

Once you have made a look that you like the effect of, you can make this a repeatable look by creating a user preset.

Switch to the presets tab and then make a new preset.

You will be prompted to add a preset name. Pick something relevant to your style and save it. Next time you pull up an image (or multiple images) in your raw processor, you can simply highlight them all and apply the presets at once.

How to save the effect

A lot of these settings may cause parts of your image to clip. The crushed blacks mean that much of the detail in the blacks disappear. The boosted colors lead to clipped highlights. However, in the end, that’s okay because that is the desired effect.

Here’s a Pro-Tip: All those presets you can buy for Lightroom and Photoshop essentially do a version of this. You can create those presets if you have the time and the inclination to do it yourself. By doing it yourself, you create an image style that appeals to you.

Edmonton Skyline


Art is about evoking an emotion. Sometimes photographers try too hard to make an image that looks too lifelike and loses emotional impact. You can create urban landscape images that are moody and gritty by making them dark with blasted colors and blown highlights. It also opens doors to other types of manipulations used for images warranting other types of emotional reactions.

Old building in the Westmount area of Montreal


The post How to Achieve Cool Urban Cityscapes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

How to Photograph a Minimalist Landscape

Mon, 05/13/2019 - 15:00

The post How to Photograph a Minimalist Landscape appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

Creating amazing photos can be much easier than you think. The simplest images can be the most striking. Keeping your image simple means minimalism. In this article, you’ll learn about creating minimalist landscape photos. The creation of these type of images requires the correct use of a lens, and often the correct selection of location. Read on and find out all you need to know to create minimalism in your landscape photos.

In this photo, the main subject is the mountain in the distance. The remainder of the frame is kept simple.

The location for a minimalist landscape

Where you take your photo will determine your success with minimalist landscape photography. You’ll have more success in remote locations, but urban environments can also be used for minimalism as well.

When photographing in a busier environment, you’ll need to use the correct lens and camera angle to maintain minimalism with your photo. More remote locations naturally have a minimalist feel, but the challenge in those locations is locating a strong main subject.

The following are locations you could use for minimalist landscape:

  • Coastal – This is a great location for minimalist photography. The great expanse of the sea invites minimalism. You can further build on this by flattening the sea through long exposure. Interesting rock formations or a lighthouse can make great main subjects.
  • Deserts – Whether you’re photographing on the sand or on the ice, deserts are the land equivalent of the sea when it comes to minimalism. Vast, uniform in their features, and without the clutter of human development.
  • Mountains – Another area that is remote are mountains. These also offer opportunities to create a minimalist landscape. With too many mountains in the one scene they can also be potentially cluttered, so choose compositions with care. A lone hut surround be the green foothills of a mountain range would make for a good subject.

Deserts make excellent locations for minimalist landscapes.

The lens

The lens you choose is equally as important as the location for a minimalist landscape. There is no absolute rule over which lens to use; it depends on the location you find yourself in. If you have chosen a location in the wilderness, the chances are you can use either a wide angle or a long telephoto lens. However, if you’re photographing in the city, the lens becomes important.

  • Wide angle – A lens that works well for minimalism, as you can use that wide angle to create the nice negative space required for a minimalist landscape. Think how you can get down to a low angle for those ripples in the sand on a sand dune. In a more cluttered environment, you need to be careful though, as the wide angle could easily cause unwanted elements to appear in the frame and make it too busy.
  • Long focal length – The longer focal lengths allow you to zoom in on a particular portion of your scene. Here, the challenge is to avoid compressing too many things into the same photo. Choose an area on the horizon that’s interesting but devoid of too many extra elements. This focal length can be a big advantage in an urban setting that’s generally too chaotic for minimalism, yet has portions of the skyline that can be zoomed in on to create a minimal image.

This photo uses a wide-angle lens. This really captures the interest in the foreground from the shapes in the sand.

Adjust your perspective

Photos that are taken at eye level work well for many situations. However, when you’re looking for minimalism, changing to a new angle works wonders.

The following are good choices when it comes to simplifying your image:

  • Bird’s eye – Things looks very different from a high angle looking down. The higher you get, the more dramatic this becomes. One of the reason’s drone photography works so well is its potential for minimalism.
  • Worm’s eye – At the other extreme is the worm’s eye view looking up. You could include a small amount of the horizon line, and make the remainder of the photo about the sky. This will give you a landscape photo with a very minimalist feel.
  • Framing – The use of a frame around the landscape portion of your photo could give you a minimalist photo. The landscape itself need not be minimalist in this case, so long as the surrounding frame provides enough negative space to tick the minimalist box.
  • Lensball – A lensball, in effect, frames a landscape inside a spherical object. That allows you to take a minimalist landscape, and keep the area surrounding the ball simple. This will give your photo a minimalist edge as well.

A lensball can be used to capture a scene that’s not normally minimalist, and capture it in a minimal way.

A good main subject

Every photo type is strengthened by having a main subject. In some cases, the inclusion of that main subject can be more of a challenge. Portrait photos, for instance, always have the main subject – the person you’re photographing. Landscape photos may not always have an obvious focal point – in some cases, it’s not needed – but for most photos, it will give you a stronger image.

In a minimalist landscape, that main subject will leap out of the photo strengthened by the minimalism across the rest of the frame. So what type of object could you use for this main subject?

  • A lone tree – The classic, a lone tree. There’s a good reason for this, of course. It’s a clear focal point in an image, looks beautiful, and works well for a number of composition types. It’s also relatively easy to isolate a lone tree.
  • A single person – A lone person silhouetted against the horizon. Someone riding their bike up the ridge of a hill. Whether you decide to stage this or it was more spontaneous, the photo will have more narrative.
  • A building – A red-walled building against green hills is a good combination for a photo. In a coastal setting, a lighthouse can make for a great subject.

The single yurt acts as the main subject in this photo.

Use other techniques

Minimalist landscapes naturally dovetail with several other well-known photography techniques. You can apply one or more of these to your photo, for a better image. Take a look at some of these techniques, and look at why they’ll improve your photo:

  • Silhouettes – In order to photograph a silhouette, you’ll be photographing towards the light, and quite likely towards a sunset sky. This means landscape features in your photo will likely also be black with a colored sky. This will give you a good chance of creating a minimalist image.
  • Long exposure – Blurred clouds moving across the sky, or flattening the sea are both potential results of long exposure photography. Use a tripod and expose for more than 5 seconds to flatten the sea, and usually longer than 30 seconds to see cloud movement.
  • RefractionThe use of a lensball for refraction photography is a good way of creating minimalism even in a busy setting. Place the more complicated scene within the lensball, and surround the ball with a blurred bokeh background for minimalism.
  • Harmony – This means keeping the same set of colors within the same photo. So try cold colors or warm colors. Even better for minimalism is keeping the same color, but in different shades. There is lots of potential for this in landscape photography, especially when the photo is taken from a bird’s eye point of view.
  • Contrast – One of the reasons black and white photography works so well is its intrinsic minimalism – especially those black and white photos with the highest contrast. Look to experiment with two main colors, and not more when creating a minimalist landscape.

In this photo, there are a number of elements in the frame. The minimalism is provided by the single tone of the image. The main subject is silhouetted against the background.


Landscapes and minimalist photography are two of the most popular photography genres there are, so it makes sense to combine them.

Have you experimented with this type of image? Did you use any of the approaches mentioned in this article? Having read this article, would it make you approach your landscape photography in a slightly different way? What approaches do you use for landscape photography?

As always, we’d love you to share your opinions and photos with the community. Please share in the comments section of this article.


The post How to Photograph a Minimalist Landscape appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

How to Use Scene Elements to Create Impactful Panoramas

Mon, 05/13/2019 - 10:00

The post How to Use Scene Elements to Create Impactful Panoramas appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ian Johnson.

Close your eyes and let me take you to a scene that you have experienced before. You are standing in front of a wonderful vista. It is huge – a sunset, a mountain range, a canyon, a cityscape – and you are blown away by the grandeur of it. After admiring it for a bit you pull out your cell phone or camera to take an image. But alas, your phone cannot capture the image because it extends far out of your field of view. “Not to worry,” you think to yourself as you flip your device into panorama mode to create impactful panoramas.

A few seconds later and your newly stitched image captures the whole scene with one problem: all the things you loved about the scene have been reduced to tiny pixels making it hard to appreciate how beautiful it was out there. In my opinion, you’ve fallen victim to the “panorama trap.”

Paradoxically, wider is not always better for capturing a large vista!

This panoramic image illustrates the “Panorama Trap.” I wanted to photograph the mountains, but there is nothing compelling to draw me into the image or tell the story of that place (it happens to be the Denali Highway).

You can up your panorama photography game by carefully thinking about elements of the shot before making it. For instance, integrating close foreground elements using hyperfocal distance or switching to a longer lens can give you a more interesting shot. We’ll go through that and more in this article!

Why panoramas?

In order to capture a more interesting shot, it is useful to think about why you are using a particular technique. For instance, you might think of black and white photography for shadows and contrast, macro techniques for tiny things (although that’s a rule to be broken), and side-lighting for portrait photography. Each of these techniques or photography genres is meant to maximize the benefit and impact of the elements in the image.

So, why panoramic? Because you want to maximize and impress the viewer with grand-scale elements in the image which you cannot capture in one image alone. Using the mantra of “making a shot” and not “taking a shot” is good to keep in mind for panoramas. To make a more compelling panorama, envision what you want to accomplish and how you want the image to feel or influence your viewer before pressing the shutter button.

Some scenes are just too big for one image! This snow-covered landscape caught my attention during an afternoon of skiing. I like the framing of the trees on the left, but to my eye, this image still gets caught firmly in the panorama trap because it lacks compelling elements in the foreground.

Techniques Integrate Close Foreground Elements using Hyperfocal Distance

Foreground elements are critical pieces to incorporate into your image to grab the viewer. Foreground elements help tell a story, give the image context, and make it more interesting to look at. Since many panoramas get taken with a mid-length (e.g., 50 mm) to ultra-wide lenses (e.g., 12mm), you must walk close enough to foreground elements to give them a presence in the image.  You can maximize the impact of a foreground element by using a photography technique called hyperfocal distance.

This image was made during a recent trip to Hawaii and shot on a Nikon D810 with a 24mm Sigma Art f/1.4. The Mamane Tree in the foreground was a compelling silhouette.  I am only about 10 feet from it, but HFD enabled me to keep the foreground and Milky Way sharp.

Hyperfocal distance (HFD) is not a “hyper-difficult” subject. By definition, it is the closest thing your lens can focus on while keeping the horizon at infinity. HFD is influenced by your lens focal length, by your camera’s sensor size, and by your aperture. As a rule of thumb, wider lenses have a shorter HFD than longer lenses, and the larger your sensor is, the shorter the HFD is. Creating a smaller aperture (e.g., f/16 instead of f/2.8) will also decrease the HFD.

Depending on your system and camera settings you may be able to have foreground elements 2.0 feet (0.6m) away and have all elements beyond that in focus! There are many resources to learn HFD from and to calculate it for your camera system. I recommend starting with this article to learn more. As you use HFD more, you will begin to have an intuitive sense of how far objects have to be from your camera to be in focus.

This image incorporates HFD to frame the image. The closest spruce is about 8 feet in front of me. I made the image with a Nikon D810 and a 12mm, ultra-wide lens

Hopefully, you have made the connection of why HFD will help you integrate interesting foreground elements into your panoramic image. Here’s how you can achieve intriguing panoramas in three generic steps:

  1. find a compelling scene,
  2. locate an interesting foreground element, and
  3. walk to the HFD in front of the foreground element and begin shooting.

I recommend stopping your lens down to f/8, so it is at its sharpest and shooting with a panning tripod head to keep your horizon straight and level. It will make the stitch and final image cleaner. However, don’t be overwhelmed – these techniques take time and patience.

This image was made on an Olympus OMD Em5 with a 12mm lens adapted with a Metabones speed booster. The foreground silhouette tree was about 8 feet away. I got as close as HFD would allow to make it impactful in the image.


This image is not utilizing HFD, but I had to consciously know how close to stand to these spruces to give them impact in the image. I intentionally balanced their silhouette against the glow of the Northern Lights.

Now that you have learned briefly about HFD, I’m going to tell you to keep in mind that rules are made to be broken! The foreground of your image may be far more important to the telling of that story than the horizon. Having an in-focus foreground element and out-of-focus background is okay too.

The image below has many compelling elements. However, my goal was to bring you into the winter scene by ensuring the hoar-frost-covered Black Spruce in the foreground was tack-sharp.

Rules are made to be broken! In this image, I knew my background and stars were going to be out of focus. That did not matter to me because they were only accents to the foreground trees and their beauty.

Use long lenses to bring the scene to you

You may be thinking to yourself “I can’t always get closer to my subject, so what then?” Not to worry – you can make compelling panoramic images by using long lenses to bring the landscape closer to you. When using a long lens of 150mm or more, it is critical that you use a tripod with a panning head. Use a cable release to remove shake in the lens and shoot at a large aperture (e.g., f/20) to get sharp elements.

This image of Denali was made with an Olympus OMD Em5ii at 100mm. I isolated the mountain and its foothills to create a panorama full of layers, colors, and textures.

You can use a telephoto lens to isolate and photograph your favorite part of a scene. Above, I used one to isolate Denali, and below, I used it to isolate a cannery against the large mountains of the Juneau Range.

The steps for making a panoramic image with a telephoto lens are similar to using HFD. You need to:

  1. Identify a scene,
  2.  identify which part of the scene to isolate with the telephoto, and
  3. shoot the scene with the telephoto and cable release.

I made this image from a boat and shot it at 330mm to isolate the cannery. The effect of “compression” from the telephoto lens made the mountains feel very close to the cannery. In reality, they are over 18 miles (350km) away!

Practice makes perfect

Experimenting with HFD and long lenses is going to result in some images that you “could have done better on.” Expect to learn from your mistakes!

I’ll share an image that illustrates when my HFD distance estimating was off. I did not achieve a sharp foreground and background. However, I like how the sharp part of the image draws your eyes through the snow-covered trees. So, this image is not a total flop.

As I always say, “pixels are cheap.”

I hope you make tons of pixels while experimenting with panoramic images!

Even images that are not perfect can have qualities you like! The air glow on this night was spectacular and I like how the distant spruces are in focus drawing your eye through the tunnel of snow-covered trees.

The post How to Use Scene Elements to Create Impactful Panoramas appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ian Johnson.

Adobe Price Hike Just a ‘Test’; Should Photographers Be Worried?

Sun, 05/12/2019 - 22:55

The post Adobe Price Hike Just a ‘Test’; Should Photographers Be Worried? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Adobe made waves earlier this month when it doubled the price of its Creative Cloud Photography plan–from $9.99/month to $19.99/month.

Soon after, the price reverted back to the original. And Adobe has assured its customers that it was just testing a new price.

But this begs the question:

Should photographers be concerned?

It’s not like we haven’t seen this before. Last year, Adobe announced price increases for a number of its CC products, though the Photography plan was spared. So the Photography plan – which includes Photoshop, Lightroom, and Lightroom Classic – remained an affordable deal for professional photographers.

But if Adobe is testing out a price increase, then it’s no doubt a real possibility for the future.

If that’s the case, would Lightroom and Photoshop be worth it?

The increased price did come with one benefit: Creative Cloud storage, which currently sits at 20GB, shot up to 1TB.
(It’s now back to 20GB.)

But how many photographers have been waiting for additional storage? For many photographers, the increased CC storage is worth little.

Maybe it’s time to start looking into other options.

In the past few years, a number of strong Photoshop and Lightroom contenders have been released–and at significantly lower price points.

For instance, Affinity Photo retails at a one-time payment of $49.99. It offers many of the same functions as Photoshop, including basic editing tools, layers, and some more sophisticated options, such as lens distortion corrections.

And ON1 Photo RAW is a neat alternative to Lightroom. For a single payment of $79.99, you get a combination of advanced photo editing and photo organization software. Plus, it comes with a set of excellent presets.

Photographers should also check out Luminar 3. This is a full-featured program, offering an excellent combination of basic editing options, local adjustments, and photo organization. All for a one-time price of $70.

A couple more options:

  1. ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate (for $8.90/month or a one-time fee of $84.95)
  2. Exposure X4 (for a one-time fee of $119)

Here’s the bottom line:

With Adobe considering a Lightroom/Photoshop price hike, other options (which you can purchase for a one-time fee) have suddenly become far more enticing.

For those of you who aren’t willing to fork out the additional US$10 per month, take a look at these other options.

Just in case.

The post Adobe Price Hike Just a ‘Test’; Should Photographers Be Worried? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.