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The Basics of Simulating Vintage Film in Lightroom

Thu, 02/14/2019 - 13:00

The post The Basics of Simulating Vintage Film in Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Like all forms of art, photography can be a complex and contradictory medium. It’s straightforward yet complicated; personal but at the same time wholly based in exhibitionism. In recent years perhaps the weirdest and paradoxical event to happen in the world of photography is the idea of simulating film photographs with our digital photography. Think about it for a second or two. We’ve moved (for the majority) from using physical photographic film to digital sensors, and still, we are searching for the feel and aesthetic quality of the very process we left behind.

A digital photo split toned for yellow in the shadows and blue in the highlights. Faded and then finally grain added to approximately simulate ISO 800 film.

We’ll leave the discussion of the currently popular “analog renaissance” for another day. For now, let’s talk about how you can go about simulating the look of a photographic film. More specifically, creating vintage or expired film looks using Adobe Lightroom. Adobe has made a couple of big updates to Lightroom lately that make working towards that “vintage film look” more effective and easier than ever before! Simulating the look of any film consists of four core dimensions: color, contrast, and grain. Before we get into the “how” of simulating film in Lightroom, let’s first briefly talk about some of the confusion surrounding film photography in general.

Film photography is full of variables

There’s a misconception that the look of film is set in stone; meaning that “XXX type of film always looks like this and XXXX type of film always looks like this.” Nothing could be further from the truth! There are all kinds of factors which play a roll (film humor) in how the final negative or print appears to the viewer.

A Nikon F3 35mm film camera. Shot with a digital camera…made to look like a vintage film. Ironic.

The age of the film, how it was stored, type and temperature of chemicals used in development, the duration of development, even how we agitate the chemicals around the film all play a major part in how the finished film appears. Also, when it comes to the final print, there are even more variables that can affect the look of the picture. The reason I’m saying all of this is to make sure you understand that simulating the look of vintage films has just as much to do with your creativity as it does with understanding the basics of how film works. There is no explicit right or wrong! So relax and let’s get to work learning how to simulate the look of vintage film in Lightroom.

Color

Color is the most effective part of the simulation process and there are many routes we can take to manipulate the colors of our vintage film simulations. The “vintage look” comes about literally by the progression of time. As the light-sensitive emulsion of the film degrades, it produces all sorts of funky color tones and nuances. To simulate this effect of color aging, we will use the tried and true Split Toning Panel and also one of the biggest and newest features to come along for Lightroom: Creative Profiles.

Split Toning

Don’t worry, split toning can look a little intimidating but it’s really not! Split toning is just a way for us to add in specific color tones to the shadows and highlights within our photo.

To change the color tone of the highlights move the highlights color slider to the color tone you like or select it from the color palette.

You can also change the saturation of the highlight colors by using the saturation slider. The same goes for the color toning of the shadows as well.

The balance slider is just a way for us to control the bias of the split toning to favor either the highlights or the shadows. Moving the balance slider towards the left makes the shadow toning more prominent while sliding it to the right makes the highlight color stand out. There are limitless combinations of colors and saturation balances so feel free to experiment. Just remember that using complementary colors for the shadows and highlights (blue and orange, yellow and violet) are always a good choice when it comes to split toning. Also, color changes in an expired film are usually quite subtle so keep that in mind as well as your tone.

Creative Profiles

One of the coolest and most versatile new features to come along for Lightroom recently is the introduction of “Creative Profiles.” Profiles have long been a part of Lightroom, but now we have the option to apply our own custom profiles that we’ve either bought or made ourselves. To learn more about the full power of Adobe’s Creative Profiles check out another one of my articles here. For our purposes, Creative Profiles allow us to introduce color grading to our vintage film simulations.

The great things about creative profiles are that they apply themselves without disrupting any of your development settings. What’s more, you can dial in the strength of the profile using the density slider. Being able to use controllable color grading with creative profiles not only opens up a whole new world when it comes to simulating vintage film but in all areas of your post-processing workflow.

Contrast

Unlike color, simulating the contrast of vintage film in Lightroom is more or less a straightforward idea. Generally, as the emulsion of a photographic film ages its contrast usually decreases. This is due to the breakdown of the light sensitivity of the film.

A 4×5 large format negative

The amount of contrast lost depends on a number of things such as the age of the film, the way it was stored, and the actual type of the film itself. The take away from this is that a good guideline for vintage film simulations is to essentially “fade” the image by decreasing its contrast. You can achieve this in a few ways. The most simple being to use the contrast slider to lessen the contrast. However, there’s a more precise and arguably more appealing way to fade the photo; by using the tone curve.

To decrease the contrast and ultimately simulate the fading of an image all we need to do is take the control point at the bottom left of the tone curve and move it directly upwards. This controls the luminance values of the darks in the photo and makes those areas appear lighter which in turn makes them less contrasted. In most cases, you’ll want to add at least one more control point to the right of the one you’re adjusting and pull the rest of the tone curve back down. Of course, this is completely subjective. Feel free to add other control points and play around with the tone curve to really control the way your fades appear within your photo. Remember, there is no correct amount of fading so experiment as much as you like!

Grain

The final facet of our vintage film simulation routine is to add in and control simulated grain to our photos. Not to be confused with digital noise, film grain is a direct result of the visibility of the individual silver crystals present in the films light-sensitive emulsion. The more/larger the crystals which present in the emulsion, the more sensitive the film to light and the higher it’s ISO rating. While the overall appearance of grain depends on a vast array of variables, a general rule is that the higher the ISO of the film the more pronounced the film grain becomes. So if you are attempting to make your simulations appear as a highly light-sensitive film such as ISO 1200 or ISO 3200, the more grain needs to be added to your simulations. If you are shooting for a lower ISO film for your vintage film simulation, say an ISO 80 or ISO 100 speed, you add less grain or even none at all. Here’s an image from a medium speed expired 35mm film, Kodak Tri-X 400. It was developed at a higher temperature and agitated quite a bit to bring out more of the grain.

To control the presence of the grain we add in Lightroom we are presented with three sliders: amount, roughness and size.

When you think about each of these sliders, it’s easy to visualize how they affect your image if you imagine them as physically controlling characteristics of the light-sensitive silver crystals of the film’s emulsion. The Amount slider would add in more or less crystals. Roughness is how raised or bumpy those crystals appear. Lastly, the Size slider controls how large or small those crystals seem. I know…that might still be a little confusing. So I’ve made up a quick guide for adding in your grain and given a couple of common real-world 35mm film stocks as reference points:

  • ISO 50-100(Kodak Ektar 100, Ilford FP4 Plus, Fujichrome Velvia 50)
    Amount: 15
    Size: 10
    Roughness: 10
  • ISO 200-400(Kodak Tri-X 400, Ilford HP5 Plus)
    Amount: 30
    Size: 10
    Roughness: 10
  • ISO 800-1600(Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 800, Fujifilm Superia 1600, Kodak Portra 800)
    Amount: 45
    Size: 40
    Roughness: 15
  • ISO 3200 and above(Kodak T-Max P3200, Ilford Delta 3200)
    Amount: 60
    Size: 40
    Roughness: 45

Lightroom automatically sets the “size” and “roughness” sliders to 25 and 50 respectively. If you add ANY amount of grain to your photo remember that those defaults are set out of the gate. Also, something to keep in mind, the amount of grain added largely depends on the original digital ISO of your photo. The values listed above are merely baseline approximations.

Vintage film simulations: Why?

Even as we steep in the digital waters of today’s modern photography world, I still have a love and lust for shooting film. Film, especially expired and vintage film, carries an aesthetic that goes beyond digitized image files of “1’s” and “0’s”. Speaking just for myself, the majority of my professional work consists of digital photography – not film. To that end, I’m sure that some of you are still thinking, “If you want the look of film, just shoot film.” Yes, I understand that even at its most basic applications, film photography isn’t for everyone. That’s why being able to approximate the looks of so many different types of film in Lightroom is such a wonderfully paradoxical thing. We can still enjoy the accessibility and convenience of digital photography without wholly sacrificing the “feel” of film. What’s more is that thanks to the recent advances of color profiles in Lightroom, we can now blend and mix our settings until we reach that perfect imperfectness which captures the organic unpredictability of vintage film. Which, when you think about it, should grant each of us the realization of how extremely fortunate we are to be living in such a cool time to be photographers.

Test out the ideas in this article and try some vintage film simulations of your own. Be sure to post your results in the comments. We’d love to see them!

 

You may also find these articles on vintage techniques helpful:

How to Add a Toy Camera Effect to Your Digital Images Using Photoshop

How to Mimic a Digital Cyanotype Using Photoshop with Ease

How to Create a Lithography Effect Using Photoshop

How To Mimic a Cross-Processing Effect in Photoshop

How to Mimic Lomography in Photoshop with Ease

The post The Basics of Simulating Vintage Film in Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Walking the Line – How Using Line in Photography Can Enhance Your Images

Thu, 02/14/2019 - 08:00

The post Walking the Line – How Using Line in Photography Can Enhance Your Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Defined in Wikipedia as the “marks that span a distance between two points,” lines on their own don’t sound particularly enthralling. But when you think about it, the very basis of visual arts centers on the use of line. Take painting for instance; many paintings start as line drawings. These lines intersect to form shapes. The shapes are then filled with tone and color and the process continues, building on the scaffold of line to create an image.

It’s no wonder that line is probably the most versatile of the elements of art. In photography, every photograph hinges upon the reproduction of a scene constructed by lines. Even the physical edges of a photograph are dictated by the lines of the photographic frame it is within.

By deliberately incorporating different types of line into an image, a photographer can take greater control over the way an image gets read. Here, we’ll look at the different types and characteristics of line and why you should prioritize them in your photography.

Why use line?

As one of the intrinsic elements of art, line appeals to our innate understanding of the visual landscape. Delineating shape and form, line constructs a narrative in an image, guiding a viewer’s eye around a photograph. The use of various forms of line set the emotional tone of an image while leading lines create an optical entry and exit point. By mindfully incorporating line into your photography you can take control of the viewer’s gaze, therefore, maximizing presence and impact.

Types of line

Trees, buildings, roads, or rivers – line takes on a new life depending on the environment. Focusing on specific types of line creates connections with a viewer and builds images that have depth and substance.

Horizontal

The horizon is the line that separates the sky from the earth. Derived from the Greek words for “separating circle,” “to divide” and “to separate,” the horizon dictates the way we orient ourselves. It marks the furthest distance the eye can see. If the horizon is obscured, the resulting junction of earth and sky is called the visible horizon. Nevertheless, the horizontal line is innately linked to nature.

Horizontal lines read as an organic presence in a photograph. Our associations with the gradual rise and fall of the sun over the horizon evokes a sense of time and rhythm. Because humans generally sleep horizontally, we associate horizontal lines with relaxation, rest and stability.

That said, the majority of travel functions on a horizontal trajectory, meaning that horizontal lines can also denote a sense of motion. In situations involving panning or slow shutter speed photography, the path of the horizontal line anchors the image to a readable axis, accentuating motion through motion-blur and adding a unique dynamism to an image.

Vertical

The vertical line has come to be seen as a symbol of quiet endurance. Maintaining the integrity of a photograph through our visual associations with strength, vertical lines add vitality to a photograph.

As mentioned before, humans sleep horizontally and stand vertically, creating a visual association between energy and the act of being upright. The exclamation mark is another example of this. Its’ vertical stroke suspended above a full stop to communicate action and energy at the end of a sentence.

Though associated with steadfast urban structures, the vertical line can still hearken back to nature, delineating growth over the passage of time. The epigeal seed pushing through the earth follows a vertical path in the direction of the sun, cultivating a juxtaposition between the urban and natural environments.

Diagonal

As one of the first Western artists to focus entirely on non-representational forms of painting, Wassily Kandinsky experimented heavily with the geometrical elements that make up an artwork. Published in 1926, Kandinsky wrote extensively on the artistic attributes of line in his book Point and Line to Plane. In the book, he stated that “the third line is the diagonal which, in schematic form diverges from both [vertical and horizontal line]…at the same angle…a circumstance which determines its inner sound…diagonal line is the most concise form of the potentiality for endless…movement”.

A painting by Wassily Kandinsky courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Often diminishing from the foreground into the depths of a photograph as leading lines, diagonals lift an image off the page. When repeated in close conjunction or zig-zagged, diagonal lines create a vibration that plays with our vision like an optical illusion.

Free from the constraints of vertical/horizontal orientation, the diagonal line operates as a visual hive of activity. While solid horizontal and vertical lines imply stasis, the diagonal line teeters between the two, generating a palpable sense of kinetic energy.

Curved

From the event of the early human, curves have held a particular fascination in the visual arts. Simple to create, yet visually complex, the decorative use of curves has been discovered on countless examples of ancient art.

Megalithic art featuring curved demarcations courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Adopted as a traditional art concept in Ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, many figures were sculpted on the double-curvature of the S. This S curve was proclaimed as the “line of beauty” by 18th-century painter, satirist, and writer, William Hogarth. Hogarth said that the curve signified liveliness and activity, as opposed to “straight lines, parallel lines, or right-angled intersecting lines, which signify stasis, death, or inanimate objects.”

As a line, curves join point A to point B. The difference lies in the path the curved line takes, traveling in bends and dips before arriving at a destination. A curved river winding through a landscape may connect the foreground with the background, but it does so in its own time, imparting a sense of calm and ease.

Implied lines

Perhaps the most intriguing line of all, implied lines are implied by other visual components in an image. Gesticulations, points of interest, lines of sight, arrows, similarities and movement all create implied lines. These implied lines tow the viewer’s eye from one point to the next within a frame.

Without the strict use of a physical line, implied lines lend momentum and narrative to an image. Think of ancient astrologers joining up the stars with implied lines to create celestial beings. Or, the movement of a car in a particular direction, sweeping the viewer’s eye along with the subject. Neither example makes use of a dedicated line. However, each has the effect of composing a network of lines that make the image more interesting and readable.

Characteristics of line

Along with the different types of line, there are different characteristics of line. Thick, thin, soft, and hard. These characteristics govern the nature of a line, adding depth and interest to an image.

Width

The width of a line refers to its thickness. Dictated by their real-life physicality, thicker lines are stronger and have a bolder presence. A thin line is easier to break and therefore has more delicate connotations. Width also refers to the tapering of a line. A line that disappears into the background of an image creates a visual illusion of depth. A line with an uneven or jerky width denotes a sense of playfulness, texture or unrest.

Length

Length covers the overall length of a line. A short line indicates immediacy or action. Long lines denote a feeling of space and calm. Length also dictates the continuity of a line. A broken line gives the impression of movement, like the imprint of footsteps in the sand. Continuous lines, like those often found in landscapes, are more relaxed.

Feeling

The feeling of a line dictates its visual tactility. Visual tactility is the way a viewer feels about a subject just by looking at it. Over a lifetime we compile a mental bank of the physical sensations we encounter. When stimulated visually to access this mental bank, we mentally experience sensation without actually touching a subject. For example, a picture of a line tapered to a sharp point can stimulate the impression of a pin-prick. By exploiting the tactile characteristics of line (such as roundness or roughness), a photographer can appeal to a viewer physically as well as visually.

Direction

As discussed above, line can sprout from any direction. Depending on the subject (and the orientation of the camera), line can be vertical, horizontal, diagonal or curved. The direction of the line dramatically alters the reading of an image, creating (or deconstructing) a scene. For example, a horizontal line evokes a sense of nature and time, whereas a diagonal line charges an image with energy.

Focus

The focus of a line is much like the measure of focus in a photograph. Some lines can be sharp, others blurry or fuzzy. The focus of a line illustrates how smoothly it blends into other segments of a photograph. A sharp line is an abrupt contrast, commanding attention. A blurry or faint line is more subtle, easing from one subject to the next, creating a gentle transition between subject matter.

Color

A vast number of emotional associations are connected with color. Rooted in both cultural and universal experience, studies show that different colors have different influences on the brain. This means that a viewer will have a different visual experience based on the color make-up of a photograph.

The color of a line contributes significantly to the reading of a photograph. For example, a yellow line could signify energy or allude to danger. A blue line could signify calm or water. Connotations like these shape the outcome of an image, creating harmony (or disharmony) and adding impact.

Emotion

Emotional connotations govern the experience of a viewer. For example, jagged lines foster an impression of energy and unrest whereas a serpentine S curve cultivates a more relaxed atmosphere.

From urban abstracts and landscapes to the human form, line appeals to our senses on a psychological level. Whether it be curvy, horizontal, jagged or diagonal, our innate associations make line a valuable tool to convey emotion.

Conclusion

As painter Jean-Michel Basquiat once said, “every line means something.” For an effective image, different components of composition must come together to form a cohesive body of information. As one of the most versatile elements of design, line speaks to our sense of the world. Through the mindful combination of the types and characteristics of line, you as a photographer can convey a unique experience to a viewer on both a conscious and subconscious level.

The post Walking the Line – How Using Line in Photography Can Enhance Your Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

How to Choose the Right Location for Your Photo Session

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 13:00

The post How to Choose the Right Location for Your Photo Session appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

It’s thought that clients are the ones who choose the location for their portraits, but more often than not, choosing the right location is left entirely up to the photographer. In this article, we’ll outline a simple formula to help you and your client settle on the perfect location for the session.

1. It’s not about location, it’s about the look and feel

When you talk to your client about possible locations, change the language you use. Instead of “have you thought of where you want your session to take place” with “what look and feel would you like your photos to have?”

That simple change in language will help your clients to visualize their final images. I’ve listed a few words that can help your client choose which look and feel they want for their final images. Thus, helping you to choose the best location for the session.

These two locations offer different “feelings”.

  • Ethereal: This can be an open field, nature park, or a bright location with little to no busyness in the background like buildings.
  • Nature/natural: Here you can offer a park with lots of green grass and tall trees. Giving them a more natural feel to the photos. You can also offer a field of wildflowers.
  • High fashion/urban: This is definitely in a busy neighborhood or downtown area with lots of big buildings, reflective windows, and metal accents. Giving lots of contrast to the photos and the look and feel of a busy city.
  • Vintage: This can mean either old architectural buildings with wooden doors and big arches or it can mean that they want a location where there are lots of vintage accents, like a neighborhood of restored or historical homes.
  • Warm/homey: These words are a little broad but they can mean that the session can happen at a nice warm location like a field or during sunset at the beach. Homey can mean that they want to feel comfortable and relaxed, which can mean a location they frequent or even their own home.
  • Beach: This one is pretty easy, you can offer the beach if you are near one as a location. The time of day will give you the look and feel. The morning will give you a more blue and pink hue whereas during sunset you’ll get the beautiful golden hour lighting. Make sure to explain both options to your client so you can choose the right time for the look and feel they are visualizing.
  • Meaningful location to the client: Yes, this is an option as well! Especially for engagement sessions because it can be really meaningful to have the photo session at a location where the couple met, or where they got engaged, or simply where they spend a lot of their time together. This is also important for clients celebrating anniversaries or a really important milestone, like graduating from high school or college.

Two different locations for the same maternity portrait session to offer variety.

2. Ask what their home decor looks like

Another way to set a location for the portrait session is to find out what kind of home decor, theme, or color scheme they already have. This way, when it comes time to hang beautiful photos in their home, you can be sure that it won’t clash with the rest of the home.

Your clients will appreciate that you took the time to find out what would look best in their home before even taking a single photo. This makes you look even more professional because you are going to choose the perfect location so that when they are ready to frame, they are reassured that the photos you took will match their home decor perfectly.

This can also help you to upsell items like albums because you’ll know the right album cover and color to choose for each one of your clients. It will make them see that you care more about how their photos will match their home rather than simply choosing an easy location for all of your photo sessions.

For example, choosing a black leather cover for an album can look great in a contemporary modern home whereas a fabric cover album would look better in a more country style home. Or another example would be if the home has brown, beige, and reds in the decor then a perfect location would be a field of flowers.

3. Time of the session

Time can be a huge factor in choosing the right location. Some families need to keep nap times and energy levels in mind when scheduling a session. For example, if your clients need to keep in mind a little one’s nap time at 2 pm, you can choose to have the session in the morning or in the evening when the child is at his best. Photographing in a park that is rich in trees and greenery can help shade you from afternoon light or keeping the sun off your clients.

Or, you could schedule the family during the golden hours at a nearby beach or lake so that the child can play and still have had his nap time earlier.

Sometimes the time is dictated by the location itself. For example, photographing in an urban setting where tall buildings can shade the sun during sunset means that you might have to photograph your client at an earlier time to have enough light.

Or, if you’re photographing in a field, sometimes the early morning hours are best when it’s cool and not so bright. Golden hour is also perfect for fields and beaches.

Midday sun at the beach may be a little harsh but it is still doable. Speak with your clients to choose the best time that works for their schedule.

Talk with your client to see if time will be the determining factor in choosing the right location.

4. Use your website to help choose the location

Chances are, your clients have already looked through your website and have fallen in love with your style! This is great because this can also help your clients to choose the perfect location for their portraits.

This photo is a common favorite on my website since most family sessions are on the beach and during sunset.

If your clients are having trouble visualizing what they want their photos to look like, have them go over to your website and point out a photo that they like the most.  The one that just jumps out at them and had them convinced they wanted you to photograph them.

If the location is nearby or accessible, offer that same location to your client! They loved the photo and it is what led them to contact and hire you, so why not photograph them there? It’s guaranteed that they’ll love the final photos.

5. When they leave it up to you

Even though you’ve gone through all the steps above, some clients don’t know what they want for their photos. They’ll look to you to offer up the best locations because what they want is to have the best photos possible so any location, look, and feel is okay with them.

When this happens, don’t be afraid to take charge. Choose a location that perhaps you’ve been wanting to photograph in for a while, or a location that you know has great golden hour lighting.

Sometimes, clients just need more of a visual to get an idea of what they are actually looking for. Send your clients links to two or three specific locations that you’ve chosen so that they can see with their own eyes what the images will look like. Blog posts and images from your website would be perfect examples.

This way, even though they don’t know what they’re going for, they can choose the one that seems more interesting to them. Giving them the final decision on where they would like the location for their session to take place.

6. More than one location

Depending on your portrait business model and what you have offered your client, and if you’re willing, you can do one session in multiple locations.

For example, if you are photographing an engagement session and they are going for a natural park look but got engaged in front of the downtown theater, then you could offer your clients to photograph in both locations for their session. Either on the same day or on different days.

Photographing in multiple locations offer your clients a variety in their photos so that they can showcase different photos in different rooms in their house as well!

Of course, sticking to one location where there is variety in looks can also be an option to add variety to the photos without having to go somewhere else.

In conclusion

Each session is different and each client is different, using the tips above will help you to determine the perfect location for all of your sessions. When you guide and help your client visualize the perfect location for their session, you will not only look more professional, you will be giving your clients a very personalized experience that they will appreciate. Resulting in more referrals and return clients!

The post How to Choose the Right Location for Your Photo Session appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

8 Ways to Use Water in Photography to Add Impact

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 08:00

The post 8 Ways to Use Water in Photography to Add Impact appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

Water is a fantastic natural resource that can be used to create great photographs to be proud of. If you are looking to improve your images, including water as an element in your photos can work wonders. Water comes in many forms and can be a visually pleasing addition to a landscape or nature scene. It could represent the main point of interest in your photos or be a key part of your composition. At first, I would recommend identifying a water source you would like to capture, consider how to capture it and then create an image with impact. How you interpret a scene that includes water is purely a personal choice and depends on the water source you choose as your main subject. Here are eight ways to use water in photography to add impact:

1. The Sea

© Jeremy Flint

Many origins make up our planet’s water supplies, each of which provides a unique and wonderful way to use water in your images.

Oceans make up a vast amount of the globe’s water and make a great feature in sunsets and coastal scenes. Seascapes are visually attractive and satisfying to capture. Depending on your approach to photographing seascapes, the sea can provide images with a sense of calm and flow or a snapshot of rapid activity. For example, photographing water using a slow shutter speed can lead to more fluid and interesting images where there is a representation of the water’s motion and movement. Alternatively, shorter shutter speeds can be used to create fast and dynamic images of seas in a static-looking fashion.

You may represent the sea as a prominent feature in your images blended into the surroundings. Alternatively, you may use it as an individual element like crashing waves or flowing around rocks.

2. Lakes and Rivers

© Jeremy Flint

Lakes, rivers, and streams can also add beauty to your images and can be found in cities and the countryside. These water sources provide a unique addition to a natural or urban landscape and are a great way to include water in your landscapes.

They can look great at different times of the year such as frozen rivers in the colder, winter months. Rivers, lakes and streams also provide reflections and symmetry when the conditions are still and calm. If you are heading out with your camera to photograph a lakeside or river bank, keep a look out for reflections that may be worth photographing.

© Jeremy Flint

3. Waterfalls

There is something about a waterfall that provides a universal appeal. Waterfalls are such an incredibly attractive subject to photograph that it is hard not to be in awe of their majestic beauty, especially at first sight.

© Jeremy Flint

Have you ever stood for a moment beside a waterfall and just admired its sight and sound? Observing the waterfalls flow and listening to the sound of the gushing water is a joy to behold. Also, witnessing the view and taking in its scenic splendor is a mesmerizing experience. How you choose to include a waterfall in your image is entirely your choice. You may find they look great individually or can be incorporated as part of their wider environment to show the surrounding nature.

4. Mist & Fog

© Jeremy Flint

The water vapor that makes up mist and fog is a beautiful and atmospheric way to include water in your photographs. They make a great dreamy photo where mist and fog can provide an ethereal and elegant quality to your photography. They are well worth the effort in capturing them.

© Jeremy Flint

Although their appearance is often unpredictable, these elements are well worth the effort in capturing and can be used to generate spectacular images when included in your shots. Be aware that mist and fog can move quickly and consistently with the ability to disappear in an instant.

5. Snow

© Jeremy Flint

Photographing snow is another wonderful way to add water to your images. As taking photos of falling snow could end up with your gear getting wet, I would recommend taking images of snow after it has settled.

In terms of subjects, you could capture anything from a gorgeous snowy vista to portraits of people or animals. A white winter wonderland will be sure to elevate your images.

6. Shooting in the rain

Have you ever considered rain as a great water source to include in your images? Most people tend to head straight indoors at the first sight of rain. Why not break this trend and head out to photograph in the rain. Rain provides an interesting element that can be used to transform familiar scenes into something more refreshing such as cityscapes.

7. Reflections in puddles

With heavy rains, the residue water can lead to great puddles forming that give the opportunity to capture reflections. Puddle reflections are captivating to photograph. Subjects and scenes reflected in water provide a unique way to photograph the world around us as the water acts as a mirror and gives a different perspective on something ordinary.

8. Underwater photography

Take your camera below the water to discover the delights of underwater photography. There is an entirely different world of coral and marine life beneath the surface of our oceans. Of course, you will either need a waterproof camera or waterproof housing to protect your camera from the elements.

Conclusion

Whether you choose to photograph the sea, lakes and rivers, waterfalls, mist and fog, snow, rain or reflections; using water in your pictures is a great way to make your images stand out. Find the water source you want to photograph, identify a composition you like, take a shot and share your images of what you capture with us below. What other fun ways would you like to suggest to include water in your photography?

 

The post 8 Ways to Use Water in Photography to Add Impact appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

Best Vlogging Cameras for 2019

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 13:00

The post Best Vlogging Cameras for 2019 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

What’s the best vlogging camera for 2019? That’s a tough question to answer given the wide variety of cameras on the market. In this article, I’ll talk about traditional vlogging camera rigs. I’ll also introduce three non-traditional cameras that also serve as modern vlogging options. Which is the best for you? Read on for some ideas, and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Traditional vlogging cameras

Before we go any further, let’s define vlogging as a video blog. The traditional way to film a vlog is to point the camera at oneself, while also inserting B-roll (supplemental footage). Thus, most modern vloggers need a camera that allows them to film themselves, and also gather alternative shots.

Popular vloggers such as Casey Neistat and Peter McKinnon use traditional vlogging tools: a DSLR camera with a wide angle lens and shotgun mic, all attached to a Gorilla Pod. This is a tried and true vlogging rig, but it can also be modernized or made simpler by switching out the camera. Mirrorless cameras such as the Panasonic GH5 and Sony a6400 offer a slightly smaller footprint while also giving you a flip screen to monitor yourself. Or you can opt for even smaller point and shoot cameras such as the ever-popular Canon G7X or Sony RX100.

Modern vlogging cameras

While the traditional vlogging cameras mentioned above are still ubiquitous among vloggers, there are newer, more modern cameras worth considering. Here are three fairly new cameras that might fit the role as best vlogging camera of 2019.

Contender #1: GoPro Hero 7 Black

GoPros are traditionally known as action cameras. However, many people use GoPros for everyday usage, including vlogging. This actually makes a lot of sense given GoPro’s tiny footprint, and its wide-angle lens that is perfect for capturing the first-person perspective. The brand new GoPro Hero 7 Black also adds several new features that work in a vlogger’s favor.

HyperSmooth and Timewarp

First, HyperSmooth. GoPro claims gimbal-like stabilization when HyperSmooth is in use, and it’s hard to argue. When shooting in HyperSmooth, bumpy footage is nearly completely eliminated. This means you can walk, run, drive, or perform just about any movement and get buttery smooth video. You can also shoot at up to 4K 60 frames-per-second with HyperSmooth enabled. Second, Timewarp. This is basically a timelapse video with HyperSmooth applied, resulting in a stabilized moving timelapse. It’s perfect for shooting B-roll and transitional scenes for a vlog or video.

Vastly Improved Sound

GoPros have always had atrocious sound quality. For a long time, this was due to the fact that GoPros had to be put into a plastic cage to become waterproof. All of this changed with the Hero 5, which was the first GoPro camera to be waterproof without the cage. The Hero 7 Black is also waterproof without a cage, and it adds much-improved sound. There are now 3 microphones dispersed throughout the camera, and they do a pretty good job at picking up voices. The Hero 7 Black is still without a built-in microphone jack, but if you really need one, GoPro sells a (rather ridiculous and expensive) mic jack adapter.

Contender #2: DJI Osmo Pocket

Brand new to the camera world is the DJI Osmo Pocket. Made by the same manufacturers of DJI drones, the Osmo Pocket employs nearly the same camera found on the Mavic Pro drone. The camera has just a 1/2.3-inch sensor with a f/2.0 aperture. It can shoot at up to 4K/60fps at 100 Mbps. It can even shoot 12-megapixel photos. Best of all, the camera comes mounted on a 3-axis gimbal so that you can record buttery smooth footage.

There are a host of other features worth mentioning about the Osmo Pocket. But two features in particular that relate to vlogging are FPV and Active Track. FPV allows you to quickly reorient the camera to face yourself, while Active Track is intelligent in-camera tracking. Both of these features are incredibly handy for vlogging. And just in case the Osmo Pocket screen is too small for you, you can also plug in your phone for a much bigger touchscreen interface.

Two Downsides

There are two major downsides to the Osmo Pocket as they relate to vlogging. The first is that the built-in sound quality is bad. No matter what side of the camera you’re on, it doesn’t pick up voices very well, especially if you’re filming in a noisy area. Currently, there are also no adapters or ways to install a microphone to enhance the sound. The second downside is the Osmo Pocket’s fixed 24mm camera lens. While 24mm is great for taking more cinematic footage without distortion, it’s not the best focal length for vlogging. You have to hold your arm out pretty far to get yourself in the frame, and even further if you have a buddy.

Contender #3: Modern Smartphone

A third camera to consider using to vlog is any modern day smartphone. Phones today are jam-packed with impressive camera specs with both front and rear-facing cameras. Many phones such as flagship Apple and Samsung phones also have in-camera stabilization, and the ability to shoot 4K video. They also have superior built-in sound since they are still phones, after all. You can also purchase a few accessories to take your smartphone photography and videography a step further. Investing in a smartphone gimbal gives you added stability, while Moment lenses increase image sharpness and offer wider angles.

The only real downside to using your phone to vlog is that you can’t use your phone to do other tasks while filming. Smartphone videos can also take up tremendous space on your phone, eating into your storage.

In Conclusion

So what is the best vlogging camera? It comes down to your shooting preferences. Personally, I find myself oscillating between the GoPro Hero 7 Black and my Samsung Galaxy S8 with a fisheye Moment Lens. These two cameras are so compact and easy to take anywhere, and they have been great for spontaneous vlogging.

If you’re looking for the best vlogging camera in 2019 and beyond, the good news is that you have lots of options. You can opt for tried and true DSLR or point-and-shoot rigs. Or you can look at modern, super compact options such as the GoPro Hero 7 Black or DJI Osmo Pocket. Or you can use the camera you have on you – a modern-day smartphone – and buy a few extra accessories to make your phone a pretty awesome vlogging rig. The choice is yours!

 

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You may also find this articles helpful:

Essential Tools for Making Videos on Your Mirrorless Camera

Equipment List for Making Better Smartphone Videos

The post Best Vlogging Cameras for 2019 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Capture One Pro 12 Review – Whats New and Should You Upgrade?

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 08:00

The post Capture One Pro 12 Review – Whats New and Should You Upgrade? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Capture One have recently released version 12 of their image editing software. Capture One have made a name for their high quality imaging software that offers professional users the best control of their images. But does version 12 deliver this? And, more importantly, is it worth upgrading to from version 11?

What’s new?

Capture one say “Capture One 12 delivers better, faster, and more creative control. New features includes advanced masking functionality, an even more efficient and intuitive user experience, plug-in compatibility, and much more”

In any software, a speed increase is always welcome. In use, Capture One 12 is slightly quicker on my machine, which is nice. Is it enough on it’s own to make me upgrade? Probably not. However, there are lots of other features that make it much more appealing. These include an updated interface, new masking options, intelligent adjustments copying and much more. Let’s look at each of the updated features in more detail.

New updated interface

The menu system in Capture One Pro 12 is more customizable than before. The new icons have been upgraded, which does make it look fresh. I like the new design, but this is nothing to get excited about. There is a redesigned keyboard shortcuts panel though, which is useful for those who like to create their own. I’m not someone who delves deep into creating my own shortcuts, but I do appreciate the new design. If you are so inclined, you have the option to create more than 500 customizable commands.

The updated interface. Yes, it is a little nicer, but not a massive difference. V12 is on the left.

New masking options

New masking options are something to get excited about. The Luminosity masking allows you to create a mask based on the Luma Range of the file. This makes it really simple to create a mask to bring back only the darkest of shadows or add clarity to the lightest part of the image. It is a straightforward system that works well in practice.

Linear gradient masks have also been transformed to give more precise control, which many of us will really find useful. The addition of Radial Gradient Masks is another handy option for those who like to create custom vignettes on their images.

Luminosity masks are a great time saver and probably my favourite new feature in Capture One 12

Intelligent adjustments copying

I love this update. I use Capture One for about 80% of my editing. This includes minor skin retouching and cropping, etc. It used to be that when I copied the adjustments and pasted across to a batch of images, I then had to go in and undo the crop and remove the retouching on each image. Now, the copy-paste tool ignores options such as crop and spot healing by default, but if you want to add them, it is simple to do so. A great timesaver and a feature I love.

A small thing, but a massive timesaver. Copy/paste adjustments without adding the crop is huge for my workflow. What about yours?

Plugins

Plugins are the one feature that I love from Lightroom. Finally, Capture One is allowing plug-ins to work with their system. With this being new the range is limited, but obviously, this will increase over time. A great time saver, I can’t wait to see the potential of this increase going forward.

At launch the plugins are limited, but this will grow and become a great time saver for many users.

Fuji Film simulations

I don’t currently shoot Fuji (I do lust over their Medium Format Cameras) but for those that do, Capture One have now developed (alongside FujiFilm) the different Film simulations available in their cameras. This means you can add the FujiFilm preset onto your images and use this as a starting point in your editing. Now if only I can get DPS to fund the rental of a a Medium Format Fuji, I can do an in depth test for you all (editor’s note: I wouldn’t mind one myself). Please comment below to help me out. In all seriousness though, this is awesome for all you Fuji Owners.

Mac OSX Mojave support

As a Mac user, this is my biggest pet peeve with Capture One. With the release of version 12, support for version 11 has now ended. This means that if you want to use Capture One with OsX Mojave, you need to upgrade to version 12. Obviously if you pay monthly this isn’t a big problem, but if you own the software outright, the upgrade price of £150 (US$195) feels a little steep just to use the latest version of an OS.

Whilst I understand it from a business point of view, it does feel like, as a Mac user, you are forced to upgrade every year. I love that you can purchase Capture One outright, but it does feel like they are slowly creeping towards the subscription model like everybody else. 

Should I upgrade?

The million dollar question. I have upgraded. The plugin support for JPEG mini and intelligent copy paste features will save me enough time to easily justify it. The added benefits of better masking is also great for the way I work. However, it is not that simple for a lot of people. If you are PC based, you may want to skip this version unless, like me, there are features that will help your workflow. However, if you use a Mac, this is more of a do you want to upgrade to Mojave. If the answer is yes, then you really do need to upgrade. There are many reports of version 11 working fine in Mojave, but as a professional, I cannot risk it. Capture One have also ceased their discount codes, which again seems to be a little harsh. You used to be able to easily find a 10% voucher, but since the end of 2018, Capture One seem to have cut them. Obviously I am not privy to why, but I am sure they have their reasons. 

Should I move from Lightroom?

If you are thinking of moving from Lightroom, I would say give it a go. Capture One have a generous 30 day trial of the software, which is time to get to grips with it and see what it can do. Give it a try, you have nothing to lose.

Do you use Capture One? If so, share your thoughts below.

The post Capture One Pro 12 Review – Whats New and Should You Upgrade? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

How To Make Amazing Photomontages. Part 3: Printing and Constructing Photomontages

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 13:00

The post How To Make Amazing Photomontages. Part 3: Printing and Constructing Photomontages appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

This is the third article in a series of three (part one, part two) with guidelines on how to make amazing photomontages in which you’ll learn about printing and constructing photomontages.

You may be quite content with your photomontage you see on your monitor. But there’s something special about getting all the images printed out and pasting them onto a board. Finishing a montage like this is even more fulfilling.

You can, of course, have your montage printed out as a regular photo, on a single piece of paper. However, I prefer getting individual prints made of each layer, positioning them and sticking them down.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Part 3: Printing and Constructing Photomontages 1. Have your photos printed

Importing the photos using the method I outlined in Part two of this series will mean each of your layers has retained the original file name. Now it’s time to go back to the folders with the photos you resized and collect up all of them that made it into your final composition.

Copy them into a new folder and have them printed.

2. Buy a board

You’ll need a sturdy piece of board to mount your photos on. I prefer to use foam core board as it’s strong but lightweight. It also does not warp. If you use cardboard it can buckle easily once you get many layers of photos stuck down.

Whatever you choose to use, make sure that it will be big enough to compile all your photos on.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

3. Prepare to adhere your photos

For many years I have used double-sided adhesive paper. It’s like a huge roll of double-sided tape. This method is the cleanest and easiest that I know of.

Pasting the photos up with glue is possible, but you need to be extremely careful you don’t get glue places you don’t want it.

Before I begin sticking the prints down, I use a black marker pen to blacken the edges of each print. White edges don’t look great when the photos are stuck down.

Photo by: Pansa Landwer-Johan

4. Lay out your prints

Open your montage file on your computer and turn off all the layers except the bottom one. Find the print of this image and position it on your board. Turn on the next layer and repeat the process of laying out your photos.

Prints will get knocked and move around during this process. Don’t be concerned, because as the montage takes shape the positions of prints will change. You may begin to see different relationships between the prints you may not have noticed on your computer monitor.

You can use masking tape to help keep the prints in position. Take care when you remove the tape that it does not damage your print.

I will often use post-it notes stuck alongside the photos. This helps me reposition them when they do get bumped.

Remain relaxed and fluid during this part of the process. Don’t stress if you cannot manage to line all the photos up as precisely as you lined up the layers in Photoshop.

Take a few steps back, or get up above the table you are working on. This will help you see the overall look of your composition. Do this a few times during your layout stage.

Photo by: Pansa Landwer-Johan

5. Stick it all down

You can spend forever tweaking the positioning of the prints, but eventually, you will want to stick them all down.

Start with a corner there’s a print with no others overlapping it. Position it carefully in relation to the edge of the board and stick it down.

Begin to work your way from this point, sticking down only prints that do not overlap above any other print. Whenever a print has another layer underneath, the bottom one must be stuck down first.

If you make a mistake, just consider alternatives to remedy the situation. You might have to get another print or two made so you can cover up the problem area. Other times you will be able to rearrange the way you stick the prints down and still make it look good.

Work slowly and carefully, trying as much as possible not to let the prints move around. Any fast movement or clumsiness at this stage can mean you have to start over and lay it all out again.

Photo by: Pansa Landwer-Johan

Conclusion

Once your photomontage is all adhered, you will notice a big difference. It’s much more dimensional than it appears on your computer monitor or as it would be printed on a single sheet of paper.

Taking your time and working carefully, yet remaining flexible, as you stick your prints down, will make it a more enjoyable process.

The overlapping layers and any unconformities that happen during paste-up give a montage some depth and texture. These used to bother me until I realized they actually add to the look and feel of these artworks.

Here’s another short video of me working on a montage for my ‘Fractured Dimensions’ exhibition in 2014.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short series on photomontages and I encourage you to experiment with the process yourself. Let us know how you get on in the comments below, and don’t forget to share your montages with us too.

Other articles in this series:

How to Make Amazing Photomontages. Part 1: Taking Your Photos

How To Make Amazing Photomontages. Part 2: Compiling Photomontage Photos

 

The post How To Make Amazing Photomontages. Part 3: Printing and Constructing Photomontages appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

You Are Your Own Best Teacher – Learning From Your Photography Mistakes

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 08:00

The post You Are Your Own Best Teacher – Learning From Your Photography Mistakes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

Personal experience is the very best teacher. Reading tutorials, studying the professionals, and mastering the fundamentals will certainly incrementally improve your photographic skills, but you’ll grow exponentially when learning from your photography mistakes. This is most true when you study your mistakes. You only learn when you make a mistake and know why.

James Baldwin

Learning from your photography mistakes

Conversely, if you don’t seriously study the shots that you captured from each outing (both good and bad), you’ll be more prone to make those mistakes again and again and never clearly understand why. Discovering how camera settings and scene lighting produced specific results can give you real insights that even a private tutor may not deliver. You are your own best teacher because this kind of lesson is concentrated on you alone and concerns you alone. You aren’t competing with anybody else, nor are you being judged by anyone else.

Metadata and EXIF Information

Metadata is the techno-term for the settings your camera uses to capture digital pictures; which includes File Properties and Exif (camera capture data). Every camera collects facts that describe just about everything your camera knows about the pictures it takes.

Metadata and Exif information accompanies every image captured and is disclosed by a variety of different software applications, and it is exhaustively disclosed in Adobe’s Bridge software. The illustrated examples in this article have were captured from Bridge. While Lightroom delivers a small subset of this information, Bridge lists virtually everything and acts as a “bridge” (clever name) between the files and other Adobe software to catalog and process the images.

Metadata reveals that this photo was set up in Auto mode with AWB (Auto White Balance) and Matrix metering which opened the Aperture to 3.5, evenly exposing the scene and allowing the camera to correctly balance the colors based on the neutral gray elements in the scene.

This shot illustrates the danger of setting the camera for full Manual operation but incorrectly selecting Tungsten lighting as the light source which biases the colors toward the cooler (blue) side of the spectrum. Tungsten setting expects the yellow cast of tungsten lights, however, the outdoor lighting was shaded sunlight. The Aperture was set manually to f/22 which did not allow enough light to expose the darkened scene.

Discover what works and what doesn’t

Get hard on yourself and discover what works and what doesn’t. Then try to repeat the results you received from your best shots. If you make this exercise a habit, and seriously analyze why some shots worked, and others didn’t, you’ll improve with every outing. Learn to appreciate the “keepers” but don’t view the rejects as failures… they are merely lessons from which to learn.

Note the difference that the time of day makes and the angles (and severity) of the shadows produced during different hours of the day. Take notes on why some shots are 5-star picks, and some others are rejects. Become a student of your work and watch your learning curve shorten.

This metadata also teaches you the limitations and restrictions of specific settings. Sometimes processes that fail are caused by equipment failure rather than judgment error. Here’s an example of the camera being set up for a flash image but encountering an entirely different lighting condition when the flash failed to fire. The ripple effect of a flash misfire caused a massive failure in the camera’s exposure, focus, and color.

The metadata reveals that this image was captured correctly. All processes functioned as expected, resulting in a color-correct, well-exposed picture.

The metadata in this file reveals why the image is overexposed, grossly discolored, and blurry. While the flash was instructed to fire, it failed (probably because the flash was fully charged and ready to fire). This resulted in an image that the camera’s settings (Aperture Priority and Auto exposure) forced the camera to compensate the lack of flash lighting with extremely slow shutter speed. The yellow cast was the result of tungsten lighting in the room while the image sensor’s color balance expected daylight (flash temperature) settings.

Develop a routine

Develop a routine and a personal discipline that forces you to shoot during the same time of day for a full week. Note that I said “force,” rather than try. Personal discipline is a wonderful trait and one that can improve your photographic skills very quickly. Who knows, it might actually affect other areas of your life that need improvement too.

If you only shoot occasionally, you’ll develop skills at a slower pace. Moreover, if you only critically review your work occasionally, you’ll learn at a snail’s pace. Make the review process a regular exercise, and it becomes habit… a good one. I once had a professor who stated in almost every class, “repetition is the exercise of your mental muscle.” The advice sounded strange back then, but it makes perfect sense now.

Every session you shoot produces winners and losers. Make it a habit to examine all metadata from your session to deduce what went right and what didn’t. More importantly, you’ll learn why. Take ownership of your mistakes, especially errors in judgment. You only grow when you recognize a mistake and work to overcome it. While you’ll always be very proud of the great shots you take, you’ll learn more from the shots that didn’t work!

The metering used in this shot was Pattern or Matrix, which averages light readings from the entire frame to influence the shutter speed. The average exposure was based on middle-tone (18%) gray. The sunlight reflecting from the sand on the ground and the black feathers in the bird’s wings established the outer parameters of the exposure, producing an unacceptably dark overall exposure. Had I chosen Spot metering, the picture would have considered only the tones in the middle of the frame, thus lightening the overall exposure.

More often than not, this examination shows you how your camera reacts to specific lighting in a scene. It sometimes produces profound shifts in exposure from small differences in the framing of a scene. Weird but true. While cameras are thought to have “intelligence,” in reality they have no intelligence or no judgment capabilities of their own. They’re merely algorithms that affect settings based on the lighting observed in the scene.

The camera angle was shifted to reduce the amount of sunlight reflection in the frame which, in turn, changed the lighting ratio and lightened the resulting exposure. Reviewing this result taught me to carefully evaluate a scene for content before choosing a metering system.

There are many ways to learn

There are many ways to learn. Taking courses online, reading tutorials and technique books, and tips and tricks columns all teach us a little something more. Years ago I decided to learn how to play the game of golf. After shooting some very embarrassing and humbling rounds, I realized that I desperately needed help. I bought many golf magazines and tried to mimic the stance and swings pictured in the exercises. I watched a large number of video tutorials and listened to advise from everybody, but my game remained poor.

Nothing improved and I only became discouraged. It was when I practiced the disciplines on a regular basis and took serious notes on what worked and why that my game began to improve. I continued to fail simply because I didn’t analyze (and learn from) my mistakes. You learn a lot when you expose yourself to the valuable experience of others, but you’ll only truly grow in your photography skills after you study your own results. So here’s an exercise:

An exercise to help you learn

Open any of the excellent software packages that display both the Metadata (aperture, metering type, ISO, color mode, and shutter speed) and Camera Data, or Exif information (exposure mode, white balance, focal length, lens used, light source, flash behavior, etc.) from both RAW and formatted photos.

Set the View in the software so that you can observe the images in browser or catalog mode, allowing you to see thumbnail views of the files in each session. Also, set the window to display the settings for each image as you step from one image to another.

Whether you shoot in Manual, Aperture or Shutter priority, or even Auto mode, the software lists the individual camera settings exhaustively for each image.

Next: note the variations in lighting between the images and recognize what changes in the camera settings cause the small shifts in the results. Each variation gets linked to one or more of the camera settings; sometimes just a small shift in ISO.

If you allow Auto to control any aspect of your shots, the camera makes subtle changes to shutter speed, ISO, or aperture. Using Auto can be very beneficial in this learning stage because you’ll see how each of these controls affects the appearance.

Make a short columned note card and enter the basic settings for the keepers. Add the weather and lighting conditions that existed at the time of the shot.

Keep this note card in your camera bag and try to replicate the results from the keepers.

Repeat this exercise regularly and watch your results, judgment, and predictability improve.

Conclusion

You are your best teacher and your camera’s metadata and EXIF information recorded automatically with every shot is the notebook recording detailed information about every shot. Your confidence and efficiency should improve along with your photography when you study your notes. Who knows, this could be the shot-in-the-arm that pushes you forward.

Share with us how you have learned from your own mistakes in the comments below.

The post You Are Your Own Best Teacher – Learning From Your Photography Mistakes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

So You Want to Build a Website? Part 5: SEO

Sun, 02/10/2019 - 13:00

The post So You Want to Build a Website? Part 5: SEO appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Well, this is it. We have gone all the way from choosing your platform through to generating content (see article links at the bottom of the article). Hopefully, this series of articles has persuaded a few of you to update your website and even more of you to create one.

The final step in the series is to optimize your website for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Doing SEO is the hardest part – it can even give many web professionals nightmares sometimes! Constant Google changes, and advice that seemingly contradicts other advice, can make it a mine field. This article is not the complete solution to your SEO and doing these things does not guarantee to get to page one on Google. It will, however, start you on the right path. These tips are simple, easy to follow tips that to help you optimize your site and aide your user experience. With that said, let’s get started.

1. Register with Google Search Consoles

You want to rank well in Google. The first step is to make sure you get your site registered for Google Search Console. This is an essential set of tools to tell you how your site is performing, how people are searching for you, and any issues that Google detects when going through your site.

Search Console (like SEO in general) can be daunting but bear with it. Do some reading and utilize what you find. Search Console is the number one tool for helping your website rank better. To add Search Console to your website, you need to register your website and then verify it using a code snippet on your site. It is simple to do. WordPress folks, if you have Yoast installed (if you haven’t – stop what you are doing and go and install it), they have tools to help with this.

The first step when registered is to submit your sitemap. This is normally located at www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml. When you submit this you are basically showing Google how your site is laid out and showing them how to crawl it. 

Once you have Search Console installed, you will be able to see how people are coming to your site, what they are searching for and any issues that may be affecting your ranking in Google. 

It is simple to see how your site is performing direct from the source. Google Search Console is the number one must do.

2. Optimize your images

Speed is king. People like fast-loading websites and Google likes websites that load fast too. With photography websites, the best way to help with this is to properly size and compress your images. This is a simple thing to do, but if your site already has hundreds of images, it can take time. You need to check your website for image sizes and then make sure that you export images at that exact size. The reason for this is smaller images equal smaller file size, which equals quicker loading.

Regarding compression when exporting from image software, make sure you reduce it to around 70% or so. You can compress images further using specific software such as JPEG Mini, but this does come with a cost. You can also use a free online tool such as Squoosh or Bulk Image Resize, but this takes a little longer to do. It is amazing how much smaller you can make the size of a webpage by doing this.

If you want further checks on how fast your site is, and what you can do to improve it, Google has a tool called Page Speed Insights. This free tool shows you how your site loads and what you can do to improve it.

Using a free app like Squoosh really can make a difference to your image sizes. Every little bit adds up when it comes to website speed.

3. Build backlinks

To get yourself higher up in the rankings, one of the best resources is backlinks. Getting a link to your website from other sites shows Google that your website has the respect of others. Getting links can be hard, especially those that help to boost your ranking. The links you want to try to get are those that are for popular websites in the specific field. It used to be that you could pay and your website would have links from lots of websites and boost your ranking. However, Google got smart to this very quickly, and this practice now may actually make your site going down in rank, not up.

Genuine, quality backlinks are what you should aim to achieve. The more domain authority a website has (how well Google rates it), the more valuable the link.

As a wedding photographer, I have weddings featured on blogs. The links to my website from these blogs do two things: Firstly, potential customers may read this blog and click. Secondly, Google sees that well-respected wedding sites are linking to my site. So when people search for wedding photography in my area, Google knows that high-quality wedding blogs link to me, so my site must contain quality and relevant content.

How do you get them? You approach people. Flat out asking can lead to refusal, but offering value can work wonders. Asking a blog if you can write a guest post or asking a local business if you can exchange backlinks (so you both benefit) is an excellent way of getting some links (and building relationships).

3. Make it mobile friendly

We live in an age where most web browsing happens on a mobile device. Therefore you need to make sure that your website runs well on mobile devices. For those of you who are creating new websites, this is pretty simple. Pretty much every template is now optimized for mobile browsing. For those of you with older sites, you may want to check. Google ranks mobile first, and therefore you must make your site mobile friendly.

Tools such as such as AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) helps here. Again, setting this up depends on your platform and theme. In Squarespace, it is simple to turn on AMP in settings. In WordPress there are plugins that get AMP up and running on your site.

I’m up to here… 4. Create quality content

Content is also king. Google has advanced and continues to advance. It used to be constantly cramming your keyword into your written content would mean you ranked well, however, that has all changed. As Google makes advances in machine learning, they now read websites more as a human would. Google love content that is helpful for the person searching. So if the user is searching for tips on how to take better photos, Google knows what they are looking for and shows the user sites that answer that question well.

The best way to do this on a continual basis is through a blog. A blog keeps your website fresh, helps Google see your website is updated regularly, and it gives you a place to offer content that is useful for people.

There is so much to blog about in every type of photography, from recent shoots and the latest equipment you have bought, through to how you got a great shot. Having new content gives people a reason to revisit your website and is a way to get new readers to your site. Continual blogging can be tough, but like anything the more you do it, the easier it gets.

5. Turn on SSL

Google likes websites to be secure when using the web. Having a secure website using SSL (Secure Socket Layer) is an easy way for you to help protect people who visit your website.  Having an SSL on your website is essential in 2019. It is super simple. Check with your host if you are using self-hosted WordPress. On Squarespace, it is as easy as turning it on. This is the simplest tip on this list. Just go and do it.

6. Bonus tip: Keep going – it’s a long game

Ranking well in Google takes time and effort. Don’t expect to see the fruits of your labour after a couple of weeks. To rank well can take months. Just remember the golden rules:

  • Keep your images correctly formatted.
  • Work on getting backlinks. Not only does it help your SEO, it helps people see your content.
  • Start as you mean to go on with things like title tags, etc. Going back when you decide you need to do it is a real pain. Start with good habits. 

Well, that’s it. Our website series is finished. I hope you enjoyed it. I’m hoping it got some of you to build your first site. For those with websites, I hope it gave you some ideas to make your sites better or something new you could try. As always, let’s see your sites below. 

Other tutorials in this series:

Part 1: Squarespace versus WordPress

Part 2: How to Create a Website

Part 3: Creating Your Portfolio

Part 4: Adding Website Content

 

The post So You Want to Build a Website? Part 5: SEO appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review – 5 Things I Love and Dislike About this Camera

Sun, 02/10/2019 - 08:00

The post GoPro Hero 7 Black Review – 5 Things I Love and Dislike About this Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

The GoPro Hero 7 Black is hands down the best action camera on the market right now. With meaningful updates such as incredible stabilization, improved built-in sound, and better app integration, GoPro makes a compelling case for even its most loyal user base to upgrade to the latest model. If you’re on the market for an action camera, read on to find out 5 big reasons why the GoPro Hero 7 Black is the best one for you.

Specs

GoPro released three new action cameras in September 2018: the Hero 7 Black, White, and Silver. The Hero 7 Black is their most premium model at US$399, with the other two being stripped down versions. GoPro’s mid-tier camera is the Hero 7 Silver. Priced at US$299, the Silver has most of the features of the Hero 7 Black minus Hypersmooth; it’s also capped at taking 10-megapixel photos compared to the Hero 7 Black’s 12 megapixels. GoPro’s new entry-level camera is the Hero 7 White. At US$199, you get the same 10-megapixel sensor as the Hero 7 Silver. Most features are retained except for the ability to shoot in 4K video.

Besides the price difference, the Hero 7 Black is also the only model to receive three new key features: HyperSmooth, live streaming, and TimeWarp video. More on all of these features below.

Look and feel

The Hero 7 Black retains the same rubberized design that was first introduced with the Hero 5 Black. Side-by-side, it looks almost identical to the Hero 6 Black. Both cameras have the same 2-inch touchscreen, button placement, and the same ports (USB-C and micro HDMI). They even use the same replaceable batteries.

Before you gripe about GoPro retaining the same camera design, consider this: reusing old designs means you can keep using the same GoPro accessories. This is key as GoPro, and many third-party manufacturers such as Joby have created some truly helpful accessories to get more use out of the camera. So if you have mounts, cages, or adapters for the Hero 5 or 6, rest assured that you can use them all with the Hero 7 Black as well.

5 things I love about the GoPro Hero 7 Black 1. Hypersmooth

Hands down the best feature about the GoPro Hero 7 Black is Hypersmooth. GoPro claims it is the very best in-camera video stabilization on the market, adding gimbal-like stabilization to video footage. After profuse testing, it’s hard to argue. Shooting with Hypersmooth enabled does indeed produce ultra-smooth footage akin to what you would get if you used a gimbal. In turn, this seems to kill the GoPro Karma Grip gimbal as it seems the Hero 7 Black can record video just fine without it.

You can shoot in Hypersmooth even when shooting at 4K 60fps at full resolution. Just be mindful that Hypersmooth can’t be enabled when shooting in 4:3 aspect ratio, and also when shooting in Full HD at 240fps and 120fps.

2. TimeWarp

Also new on the Hero 7 Black is a feature called TimeWarp. In a nutshell, this is timelapse video with HyperSmooth applied. The resulting effect is being able to capture timelapse videos that are ultra stable. This is key for time-lapsing anything with movement, such as driving, hiking, walking, running, or biking. When using TimeWarp, you have the option to record at several different speeds including 2x, 5x, 10x, 15x, and 30x.

3. Same form factor as Hero 5 and 6

On the outside, GoPro made almost no change to the Hero 7. It looks exactly the same as the Hero 5 and 6, and even uses the same batteries. This is actually a good thing. If you’ve invested in GoPro cages or batteries before, you can reuse them with the Hero 7. Also, many third-party companies have created accessories for the Hero 5 and 6. You can use these just fine with the Hero 7.

One design change I’d love to see in future GoPros: a camera that comes with its own mount and doesn’t need to be put in a cage.

4. Touchscreen with revamped UI

While GoPros have had touchscreens for several models now, the user interface has been revamped in the Hero 7 Black. Key information such as resolution and framerate are condensed at the bottom of the screen, while battery life and remaining memory card space are in the upper portion of the screen. Portrait mode has also been added, allowing you to shoot vertical photos and videos for platforms such as Instagram Stories or IGTV.

Speaking of social media, the Hero 7 Black now allows for live streaming. Using WiFi or cellular service, you can conduct a 720p live stream on Facebook. At this time, live streaming to other platforms (ie. YouTube) isn’t yet enabled.

5. Seamless smartphone integration

One of my biggest gripes about modern cameras is how terribly unreliable their smartphone integrations are. While most cameras offer Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity for remote control via smartphones and easily transferring images, it’s always hit or miss whether or not these features will work. With the GoPro, connectivity is the most responsive and reliable I’ve ever seen on a camera. This makes it very easy to use your smartphone to control the GoPro and review photos and videos immediately after capture. Well done, GoPro.

5 things I dislike about the GoPro Hero 7 Black

For all of the things that GoPro improved in the Hero 7 Black, there is still room for improvement. Here are 5 features in particular that I would like to see refined and improved in future generations.

1. Unresponsive screen

While the Hero 7 Black’s touchscreen is largely improved, it has one major shortcoming: it’s not very responsive! This problem also extends to GoPro’s other two buttons. In general, it’s hit or miss whether the GoPro will react to buttons being pushed or the touchscreen being swiped. This can be very frustrating, especially when trying to shoot spontaneously.

2. Voice commands are unreliable

Another feature that is hit or miss is voice control. New on the Hero 7 Black are two voice commands that can control the GoPro: “GoPro capture,” and “GoPro Stop capture.” While useful in theory, these voice controls seem to work about half of the time.

3. No mic jack

In the past, GoPro was notorious for having awful built-in microphones. All of that changed with the Hero 7 Black, which offers remarkably improved in-camera sound. However, there are still instances that require enhanced sound capture via a lavalier (lapel) microphone or shotgun mic. Unfortunately, GoPro has withheld the mic jack from the Hero 7 Black, opting instead to give us USB-C and micro HDMI ports. GoPro does offer a solution in the form of a mic jack adapter. However, it is bulky and expensive, and you must use GoPro’s adapter (other brands will not work).

4. Battery life

Of all the things GoPro improved in the Hero 7 Black, one thing that remains unchanged is battery life. It’s hard to give an estimated battery life as it depends on how you are using the camera. But in general, one battery lasts about an hour when shooting in 4K. Luckily, all three Hero 7 models come with a USB-C port to allow for charging via a wall socket or external battery. However, it is still a wise idea to carry several spare batteries with you.

5. Low light performance

All three Hero 7 models have an f/2.8 aperture. This means they are decent at shooting in low light, but the video and photo quality still leaves room for improvement. In the case of the Hero 7 Black, it also seems that HyperSmooth is automatically disabled in low light conditions, further worsening the low light performance. In general, you’ll get the best photo and video performance out of your Hero 7 if you use it in daylight or good lighting conditions.

In Conclusion

Despite some shortcomings, the GoPro Hero 7 Black is easily the best action camera on the market right now. GoPro made significant and actually useful improvements on this camera and it is worth using not only for action scenarios but everyday use as well. Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments below!

 

You may also like these reviews from Suzi:

Moment Smartphone Lens Review for Photography and Videography

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

Essential Tools for Making Videos on Your Mirrorless Camera

Gear Review: Lensbaby Sol 45 Field Test

Equipment List for Making Better Smartphone Videos

The post GoPro Hero 7 Black Review – 5 Things I Love and Dislike About this Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Photographing Small Things – A Personal Voyage

Sat, 02/09/2019 - 13:00

The post Photographing Small Things – A Personal Voyage appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

Souvenir Mask

When you photograph an item for a marketing campaign, or to record its physical condition, it’s called product photography. This is a very specialized type of photography. While you may never be commissioned to photograph a commercial product, some of the techniques used in product photography may have relevance to your personal life.

Perhaps these techniques offer a solution to a problem many people don’t recognize – hanging on to reminders of people, places or events from the past.

Ostrich Egg on a pedestal

A collection of small things

My wife’s uncle Larry recently passed away. Larry was an incredible guy and was a man of good taste. For a period of about 10 years during his late 60’s and 70’s, he traveled to many far-flung parts of this blue orb we call home. During his travels, he acquired an extensive collection of items that I reluctantly call souvenirs.

To Larry, these items represented mementos, memories and valued objects from his travels. Now that he has passed, any monetary value of these objects is unknown. The stories of their origin, that ultimately made them of personal value to Larry, have been lost. It is left to us to figure out what to do with his extensive collection. There are boxes and boxes of these things, most of which are unlabeled.

Going beyond Larry’s collection, when I look around my house, I see pieces of furniture that remind me of my long passed parents. Most of these are not functional, nor do they match my personal taste. I keep them around because they evoke memories. My wife came up with a novel idea that seemed to resonate with everyone: create a photographic series to preserve the memories that the collection of material objects represents. Perhaps more correctly, for me to create this collection. This digital photographic record would certainly occupy less space than the physical objects.

Small figure on a black background

Combining approaches to product photography and archival photography

For this project, I am combining the approaches to product photography and archival photography. I am photographing the objects as though I am going to sell them, and recording the images from many perspectives so that the record of their existence is complete. We may also be able to use the resulting images to figure out if the objects have any value outside of our family. From there, we can decide what to sell, what to give away, and what to keep for ourselves and other family members.

African Mask, a larger piece on a black background

To give you an idea of the project scale, I have 15 boxes containing between 10 and 20 objects each. So we are talking about 200 – 300 objects. Although I have made a dent in the collection, at the time of writing, I still have a long way to go. However, my workflow and objective are solidifying.

In doing product or archival photography, you need good, controlled light with limited shadows. Shadows are great for portraits and drama, but they detract from an image captured for archival purposes where you want to capture the object’s details. You also need to control reflections and ensure that the light appears to come from everywhere.

This glass bowl with gold leaf gilding was highly reflective

Equipment

I considered using a studio strobe setup. It’s a great way to light things, but it can get complicated when dealing with smaller objects. It also takes up a great deal of space. It’s generally intended for bigger objects in larger spaces. I needed a more compact footprint that would allow me to do the photographs in my home when it was convenient for me.

A small 24-inch lightbox for product photography

The collection I’m photographing contains objects ranging from 1 cubic inch to large, skinny objects that are almost 18-inches long. I decided it was worth investing in a small portable lighting cube designed for product photography. The 24-inch portable cube has reflective walls, LED lights, and a selection of backgrounds. It packs up into a skinny portfolio sized carrying case and provides flexibility to accommodate all of the objects in a relatively confined space.

I use the cube in conjunction with a small card table and my tripod. There are many brands of this type of set up, but for my purposes, I used the Promaster Still Life Studio 2.0.

Lightbox interior with a black background and small box to elevate objects

Right from the start, a few challenges presented themselves. Some objects don’t stand well on their own, and some objects really benefit from sitting off the background to make them stand out more. Finding interesting supports or display blocks all of a sudden seemed important.

White balance

In addition, I discovered that I needed to get a baseline for white balance. When you use Auto white balance in this kind of environment, even if you are using a white background, color management becomes problematic. By establishing a baseline white balance, you can color correct all the images in post-production (provided you shoot RAW files) or in camera if you use and set a custom white balance.

Be careful when you use custom white balance settings on a camera that you use for other purposes. If you’re like me, you may forget that the white balance has changed which only creates problems with the other work.

Some objects have their own stands

The portable studio has a set of LED lights at the top of the cube, a diffusion panel underneath the lights to make a bigger light, highly reflective side panels, and a set of backgrounds in white, black, grey, and light blue/grey. When you take a photograph there is a small hole (either in the front or the top) where you insert your lens, so the lighting is fairly even all around. It works pretty well. Most items are lit well right out of the gate.

Choice of colors for backgrounds

Depth of field and exposure

Once you’ve set your white balance (either by using a grey card or a custom white balance), you need to consider the depth of field and exposure. The cubes are very well lit, so there’s plenty of light. This light dominates, and you don’t have to worry much about ambient light interfering with your white balance or exposure.

Because many of the objects I’m shooting in my project are small, I need to be close but not quite at a macro scale. Due to this factor, the depth of field becomes a big issue. If I shoot wide open, part of the object is out of focus. Shallow depth of field is necessary when you need to create separation from the background. In this project, the background is akin to seamless paper, which means I don’t need to create that separation. Instead, I can choose a wider depth of field to ensure that the entirety of the smaller object is in focus.

To get a complete record of an object you need to see it from all sides

I come from a background in forensic engineering investigations. Here, I photographically documented objects to ensure the preservation of as much visual information as possible.

To capture your items, reasonable depth of field (maybe around f/8) should give the right amount of depth of field without diffraction effects. Of course, this depends on the size of the camera sensor.

Because I set the portable studio on a small card table, I can elevate all items I am photographing. When shooting stationary objects, use a tripod to set up the shots, and move the object relative to your camera. Due to the items being three dimensional and digital images are flat (2D), you need more than one image to capture each object adequately.

To be thorough, it is a good idea to capture around ten images. One from the front, back, two sides, four corners, top, and bottom. Depending upon the nature of the item or how complex it is, sometimes it’s fine to take fewer images. In this case, it works best to keep the camera in a great position, set for white balance, depth of field and exposure, and then to turn the item around.

The depth of field helps show the incredible details of the objects

Labeling the items

In the next step, I labeled my items. You don’t want to photograph an item, only to never be able to find it again! My items were bubble wrapped, so I labeled the boxes with a letter and gave each bubble wrapped item a number. To keep track of all the items and their associated numbers, photograph the letter/number then photograph the item, labeling it with the number when finished with it. By putting an identifier at the beginning of the series of images for that item, you can easily see the name of the images plus the images together.  I have used this technique frequently for event photography as well.

Once I had all my images, I corrected the white balance and then ran the images through a batch process droplet to get the images the way I like them.

In the end, I have a great collection of images, and you can too. You can use either a website or a proofing gallery to look and share all the images. It makes it easier to manage all the images for all of the items.

Lots of detail in this mask

Conclusion

Taking this approach to photographing meaningful objects from life seems like a way to preserve the memories of meaningful objects without retaining the physical objects. Sometimes I hang onto things because they mean something to me or remind me of people or happier times. However, I don’t have space or need the items, and I don’t want them in my life other than to remind me of others.

For instance, I have a small french provincial style buffet that I have had for as long as I can remember. It was important to my parents and reminds me of them. They passed away many years ago. Through objects like this, I connect to my past when they were here. As a consequence, while it is a meaningful object that connects me to my parents, it’s of a style that doesn’t fit into my house, and it’s large and impractical.

In the end, maybe just a photographic record of the furniture, without keeping it, is all I need. I just need to make sure that the images of all the items both large and small are reasonably accessible for those moments I want to remember my parents or uncle Larry.

Feel free to share your comments below.

The post Photographing Small Things – A Personal Voyage appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

How To Make Amazing Photomontages. Part 2: Compiling Photomontage Photos

Sat, 02/09/2019 - 08:00

The post How To Make Amazing Photomontages. Part 2: Compiling Photomontage Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

In Part One of this three-part series on How to Make Amazing Photomontages, you learned how to approach and take your photos for your montage. Here in Part Two, you’ll learn about compiling photomontage photos. To compile your Photomontage images using the following steps, you require Photoshop or other imaging software that has the ability to create layers.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Part 2: Compiling your photos 1. Get organized

Managing your photos well can save you getting in a mess further along in this process.

Import all your images into one folder. Go through and pick out your strongest images – ones that stand out to you.

Naturally, you’ll have lots of photos that won’t be worth looking at on their own, but among them should be some key images. Put these into a separate folder and label it ‘Group 1’ or something useful to you.

Next, you need to choose the bulk of the photos you want to use. Think about the images you want to go around the edges. Which ones are for the main body of your photomontage? These are likely the first photos you took. Place these into another folder and label it ‘Group 2’ or something useful to you.

Drop the remaining images into a third folder and label it.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

2. Save as and resize all your images

Save all your photos as jpeg files with a resolution of 300ppi. At this resolution, they are a little large but will be the same size when you get them printed later.

What dimensions do you want your finished photomontage to be? Think about how many photos you made along the horizontal axis. Calculate how wide each one should be, so they fit within the finished size you want your montage.

If you want a montage one meter wide (3.3 feet) and have taken seven photos across the horizontal, make each photo 14 centimeters wide (5.5 inches.) This gives you a starting point. As you start laying the photos out, this can change entirely so you may have to resize the images again later.

Run a batch command to resize them all. Save them to new folders because it is helpful if you need to resize the originals again later.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

3. Prepare a clear canvas

In Photoshop or your preferred software, make a new canvas. Make the ppi resolution 300 to match your image files. Make the size a little larger than you want your finished Photomontage to be.

4. Import your photos

Photoshop allows you to import a series of images to a single working file, so they retain their original file names. To do this, go to the top menu and choose File->Scripts->Load Files To Stack. These open into a new canvas. Select them all and drag and drop them onto your montage canvas.

Do this with the three folders of resized images you’ve made. Arrange them in the layers panel so they are in three groups to make your workflow easier.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

5. Lay out your photos

Right now you probably have all the layers stacked so you can only see the top photo. Turn off the visibility of the Group 1 and Group 3 folders.

Select all the layers in the Group 2 folder and drag all the photos to one corner of your canvas.

Now select only the top layer and drag and drop it roughly in the position you want it. Do the same with each layer. Don’t worry at all about positioning anything precisely at this stage. Everything from here is likely to be shuffled around a number of times.

Once you’ve added all the photos in Group 2 and have them laid out, repeat this process with images in Group 1. Then from Group 3, but only if you really need them.

Drag photos up and down in the layers panel hierarchy to place them above or below other photos on the canvas.

As you add more photos, you should start noticing the relationship between the images. Keep nudging and tweaking all the layers until you are satisfied they’re all in the best position.

When I am working with large numbers of layers, I color code them to help me keep track of them. You might like to make the layers with the images on the left, middle and right of your montage all separate colors.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

6. Turn unused layers off

You may now have many layers visible with lots of overlapping. Begin to turn layers off for images you may not want to include in your finished montage. Don’t delete them at this stage, just turn their visibility off.

Now you’ll see fewer photos on your canvas, and it’ll be easier to arrange the images you have visible.

At this stage, you may be seeing some gaps in your montage. This is where the images in Group 3 may be useful if you haven’t added them already. You can always duplicate similar layers and drag the copied layer to fill the space. If this does not work, you may need to go back and take some more photos.

Once you are happy with the way your montage looks, go ahead and delete all the layers you have turned off.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

7. Go back and take more photos (optional)

Having big gaps in your photomontage may look okay. Alternatively, you may have completely covered the whole area and edges, and have ample images. If not, you’ll need to have another session and make some more images.

Use the same camera and lens, at the same focal length. Make your new photos at about the same time of day and ensure you have similar lighting. If the light’s not right, you’ll have a hard time making the new set of photos match.

A few additional layout tips

There’s no right or wrong way of laying out your Photomontages, but you’ll be more pleased with some layouts than others.

If you get stuck and can’t get the photos arranged so they look good, start again. Duplicate the whole file. Keep the original one and re-work the new file. Move the images around differently and change their positions in the layers hierarchy. Experiment until you are content.

Aim to build cohesion in your composition. Too much fragmentation can make your montage difficult for people to view. Follow strong lines in your montage to help keep the flow. In my montage of the taxi trucks in Chiang Mai, following the lines of the vehicles was vital.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Don’t worry about ragged edges. I don’t often make montages that fit a regular shape. However the edges of your montage are formed, make sure they enhance the overall image.

Tweaking individual photos may sometimes improve the overall look of your montage. When you have the images laid out, take a step back and consider your composition. Are there individual images which are too dark or too bright? Do some contain colors that don’t fit well? How would the whole montage look in black and white?

Be prepared to go with the flow of new ideas you’ll have during the process. As I said, there’s no right or wrong way to make these. It’s up to your creative process. Starting with some idea of how you want it to look is important. However, you don’t need to stick to it strictly when you feel fresh ideas emerging.

Conclusion

Take your time. The process of compiling a montage until you are satisfied can take a long time.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Often I have been on the verge of giving up because I just can’t get a montage looking right. I had started my Tuk Tuk montage then it sat on my hard drive for months without being touched. Finally, I got back to it with some fresh inspiration, and it came together well.

Experiment with the placement of your photos on the canvas. Look at how each one relates to the images around it. Zoom out and sit back often to keep an eye on how the overall montage is taking shape.

Let’s see what you are working on and your thought process in the comments below.

In the next article in this series, I outline how to compile a print version of your Photomontage.

 

https://digital-photography-school.com/

The post How To Make Amazing Photomontages. Part 2: Compiling Photomontage Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Solitude

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 13:00

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is SOLITUDE!

Marc Zimmer

Your photos can include anything has a feeling of solitude. It could be a lone cabin in the woods, a lone animal, a bird in an open sky or sitting on a wire, a lone person, a lone kayak or boat out in the ocean, or a tree in a landscape. 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!

Some Inst-piration from some Instagrammers:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Chiara (@chiarik22) on Jan 24, 2019 at 10:28am PST

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Ocean (@theocean) on Jan 23, 2019 at 8:30am PST

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Jay Vulture (@vulture_labs) on Sep 9, 2018 at 9:42am PDT

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Outlook Traveller (@outlooktraveller) on Nov 5, 2018 at 2:56am PST

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Mark Medcalf Photography (@markmedcalfphotography) on Jan 22, 2019 at 9:35am PST

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Rudy Dewatine (@rudy.dew) on Dec 22, 2018 at 12:08pm PST

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

Tips for Shooting SOLITUDE

Finding Your Strength in Isolation – 3 Methods to Make Your Subject Pop!

 

How to Create Silky Split Toned Black and White Photos Using Luminosity Masks

Black and White in the Outdoors: Learning to see in Monochrome

How to Achieve Background Blur or Bokeh

A Guide to Photographing Birds and Wildlife in a Wetland Area

Tips for Shooting Landscapes With a Telephoto Lens

10 Surefire Tips for Photographing Birds in Flight

 

Weekly Photography Challenge – SOLITUDE

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 #DPSsolitude 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 – Solitude appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

How to Shoot Long Exposure Seascape Photography [video]

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 08:00

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

In this video by Landscape Photography IQ, Tom Mackie shares some great tips on how to shoot long exposure seascape photography.

?

Firstly, seaspray and salt cover everything! So bring optical wipes or spray to clean your lenses and filters.

Things to consider:
  • Think about your composition. Are there leading lines that you can use?
  • What direction is the wind going, and how is that affecting the movement of the clouds?
  • What are the tides like?
  • How quickly is the light changing?
Camera settings:
  • You may need to use a polarizer, with a graduated ND filter over the sky.
  • Put ISO at the lowest setting (64 or 100 ISO).
  • Stop down to your aperture to around f/14 max (depending on the amount of foreground and background you want in focus). Further than that softens the image through diffraction.
  • Play with different exposure times for varied effects. Try 30seconds or 60seconds.
You may also find the following articles helpful:

Step-by-step Guide to Long Exposure Photography

Recommended Gear for Doing Long Exposure Photography at Twilight and Dusk

How to Avoid Blurry Long Exposure Images with Proper Tripod Setup

How to Choose the Correct ND Filter for Your Desired Long Exposure Photography Effects

Long Exposure Photography 101 – How to Create the Shot

Long Exposure Photography 201 – How to Edit a Long Exposure Seascape

A Guide to Shooting Long Exposure Landscape Photos

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

How to Light, Shoot, and Edit for High-Key Photography

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 13:00

The post How to Light, Shoot, and Edit for High-Key Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

High-key lighting originated in the early film and television days. Early cameras and film with limited dynamic range, forced lighting techniques to reduce contrast intentionally. Today, with its use of bright light and an emphasis on whites which give an almost ethereal feel to a photo, the high-key look has become the desired style for some photographers. Let’s explore when you might want to choose the high-key photography style and how you can achieve it both when shooting and in editing.

Emulating the look of early television was the goal for this photo and a high-key monochrome was a great way to do it.

As with all art, individual interpretation plays a big part in what photographers consider a “high-key” image and how the technique should be used.

A few things that typify a high-key photo:
  • Bright lighting that greatly reduces and sometimes eliminates shadows
  • A dynamic range that is predominately toward the right side of a histogram.
  • Images where the “mood” is typically upbeat, light-hearted, ethereal, “airy” or beautiful.
  • Typical uses are in high-fashion, product, or studio-produced images. Lesser so, but not totally non-existent, are high-key outdoor and landscape photographs.
  • Lighting where the ratio between the key and fill light is very close, thus the root of the term “high-key.”
  • Distracting elements in the background get eliminated, and typically high-key images contain only the main subject. High-key images are often Minimalist. Many times, the background is entirely white.
  • Monochrome high-key is more prevalent, and when there is color used, it is typically subdued or used as an accent.

Images of babies and children often benefit from the bright, happy feel of high key.

Two basic approaches to creating high-key images:

1) Light, expose and shoot the photo with high-key in mind from the beginning, or
2) Rework a photograph in editing so that it takes on the attributes of the high-key style.

Often the final image, even if initially shot with high-key in mind, may still require some post-processing to achieve the best result. So let’s first look at how to light and create a high-key image.

Creating the high-key look in the studio

I use the term “studio” here to reference the use of artificial lights in an indoor environment where you can control lighting. This may be but is not restricted to a traditional studio. For smaller still-life subjects, the kitchen counter works just fine. How you light the subject is what creates the high-key look.

The background

The first objective is to light the background in such a way that it is entirely white with no detail. The choice of background material is up to you. If you are shooting a model full-length in a studio, you might traditionally use something like a large piece of seamless paper. A plain white wall can work too. In fact, you can use most light-colored backgrounds if you can put enough light on it to bring the levels up to a “255” totally white level. The lighting diagram below shows how you can set up for a high-key shot in the studio.

Two lights to light the background and two softboxes or other modified lights to light the subject is how high key portrait lighting might be traditionally used in a studio

Once you have your lights set up, make a shot and adjust your exposure so that the background goes as close to all white as you can make it. Sometimes, depending on the lighting equipment you have available, you may not be able to get even lighting across the background. Getting it right in-camera is, of course, optimal; however, you can clean things up in post-processing.

Professionals who make many high-key shots during a studio session may take the time, and have the equipment, to light the background evenly, thus avoiding extensive editing of each shot later. If you are a beginner though, lack of more expensive lighting equipment should not prevent you from giving high-key lighting a try.

Lighting the subject

Lighting the subject is done in the same kind of standard style you might use when doing portrait photography with a key and fill light. You’ll see from the diagram above the key and fill lights have been placed on opposing sides of the subject. For traditional portrait or studio still-life shots, the fill light is typically slightly dimmer than the key light. This allows some shadows to create modeling and depth to the image. (The difference in intensity between lights is called the “lighting ratio.”) In the high-key lighting style, the key and fill lights are usually closer in intensity with the objective being to lessen shadows and give a “flatter” look, minimizing contrast.

In the first diagram above, the background is front-lit with light shining on the background. An alternative is to back-light the background, placing whatever lighting device you’re using, (studio strobe, continuous light, flash or whatever) behind a translucent background so the light shines through and illuminates it. As before, you should light this to be even, and bring its brightness as close to full white as you can get. Take a look at the diagram below to see this alternative lighting method.

Another often used variation of this style is to use a large softbox behind the subject and pointed at the camera.

Here is an alternative that uses just one light. The light source is placed behind the subject and diffused through something translucent. I used a white shower curtain here. Reflectors are used for key and fill.

 

This lighting style brings in another option of how you light your subject. Because the light used to illuminate the background is pointed at the camera, it might be possible to substitute reflectors for the key and fill lights, bouncing that backlight back onto the subject. This technique can work well for smaller subjects where the distances between the background, subject, and reflectors can be smaller and less light is required.

It may be possible to create the entire effect using just one light source. The photo below was done using this technique.

 

Using window light

Understanding the concepts above can help you create high-key images using window light and a reflector or fill-flash. Portrait and wedding photographers often take advantage of this style of creating high-key shots with a minimum of lighting equipment. The same principals apply – overexpose the background and light the subject with fill lighting.

An easy way to make a high-key shot at a wedding is to put your subject in window light, overexpose the light coming in the window and fill the subject with your Speedlight.

This was done using the same technique with the backlit shower curtain, but a Speedlight was used to fill the subject.

High-key in landscape photography

High-key images are relatively easy in an environment where you have full control of the lighting. Being able to make high-key shots outdoors with only the available light is more of a challenge. You have to work with the light that is available, have an eye for subjects that lend themselves to the high-key look, and then use your camera settings to get the best in-camera shot you can. Also know that almost always, you need to do some extra work in editing to achieve a good high-key look with your landscape images.

This bitter cold day in Yellowstone National Park had a high-key look already, and minimal editing was needed. High-key needn’t always be monochrome.

The look that typifies high-key photography

Consider the look that typifies high-key photography and what subjects and conditions in landscapes might lend themselves to that look:

  • Bright, white backgrounds – Snow and bright sand often work well, as do flat cloudy skies
  • Low contrast lighting – Cloudy, foggy, flat-light days are a good time to consider making high-key shots
  • Back-lit subjects where you can overexpose the background and fill in the subject with fill-flash or reflected light
  • Consider spot or center-weighted metering of the subject, allowing good exposure of the subject but a blown-out background.
  • Using the Live-view feature of your DSLR or mirrorless cameras can be your friend as you can see your exposure and lighting effect before you make the shot.

Snowscapes Can take you most of the way to a high key image right out of the camera.

Editing high-key images

While it’s always a goal to get images that are perfect Straight-Out-Of-Camera (SOOC), editing can be used to fine tune an image. Even when you shoot in the high-key style, additional editing can be used to clean up problem areas, lighten up and even out the background, and enhance the look and feel you are striving for. Take a look at the image below.

Straight out of the camera, this shot needed to be white balanced and there were portions not evenly lit.

 

Turning on the Highlight Clipping feature in Lightroom allowed painting in more brightness with the Adjustment Brush and Auto Mask turned on. It was an easy way to get a completely white background when the lighting wasn’t even enough

Sometimes you might have an image that you did not consider making a high-key photo when you shot it. However, while editing, you may decide the mood you are seeking would is best suited to a high-key look. Such was the case with the “Angels Dance” image below.

The music and mood of the dance when I captured the shot of these ballet dancers was free, light, and airy. It created a mental image of angels dancing for me. So later, I used the tools in Lightroom to get the look I was after. Following the method used may give you insight into how you can create high-key images in post-processing.

This shot was going to need some work to give it the high-key mood desired.

Post-production technique

The Raw color image out of the camera was underexposed, and the stage lighting had introduced some unusual color. This did not start out looking like a high-key candidate, but here are the steps taken in Lightroom to produce the final result:

  • There were two dancers in the shot with good form, but two others who needed to be cropped out.
  • I used a basic editing workflow – Exposure brought up to +1.00, Highlights brought down to -100, Shadows opened up to +100, the Whites brought up to +44, the Blacks brought down to -56.
  • To deal with the color problem, and also be more compatible with the high-key look, I converted the image to Black & White. Next, I opened the Black & White Mix dropdown and used the Targeted Adjustment Tool. Here, I sampled different spots in the image and brought up the luminance of those colors. Further manual tweaking of the sliders helped bring up the brightness of each color.
  • Then I readjusted the Exposure to +1.46, the Contrast to +38, brought the White down slightly to +38, the Clarity to -7 and Dehaze down to -9.
  • To make the background full white, and also lose some distracting elements, I used the Adjustment Brush tool. The Exposure was turned all the way up to +4, checked the Automask checkbox, and carefully used the brush to “white out” the background.
  • To further give the “heavenly effect” I used a brush with -50 Dehaze to brush in some light “clouds.”

This high key version much better captures the mood of the dance.

Conclusion

The numbers and precise steps used for this image are a guide rather than an exact “recipe.” They are intended to show you the general idea for creating the high-key photography look with Lightroom and the tweaks and tools to get there. The main point is, even if you have an image that does not immediately look like a candidate for the high-key look, some knowledge of what constitutes that look, and how to use your editing tools to get you there, can create some magic.

It’s okay to have some darker tones in your high key photos.

Good photographs communicate to the viewer, tell a story, convey an emotion, or take the viewer to a time and place. Using the technique of high key is one more way to use your images to speak to your viewer. Learn the techniques both to shoot and edit a high-key shot, and you can not only grow your lighting, camera, and editing skills but add a new means of communicating with your images to your bag of photo tricks.

Please try this technique out and share with us in the comments below.

The post How to Light, Shoot, and Edit for High-Key Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

How to Make Amazing Photomontages. Part 1: Taking Your Photos

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 08:00

The post How to Make Amazing Photomontages. Part 1: Taking Your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

This is the first article in a series of three on how to make amazing Photomontages.

Most photographs are created in a fraction of a second from one point of view. Imagine an image made from multiple positions and spread out over time. This is the nature of the cubist style Photomontages I make.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

David Hockney, the famous English painter, made many of these in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He called them “photo joiners.” This is where I gained my initial inspiration to experiment with time and space photographically.

What’s involved in making a Photomontage?

Joining together a series of photographs is not a new idea. My great grandfather, Frederick Cooper, was doing it back in 1889. He made this panorama of the Tasman Glacier and Mt. Cook range with five 8X10 inch images. He made them on the first expedition to photograph the mountain.

What’s different about Photomontages is they are not supposed to represent a single perspective in a single instant. By changing your camera position and spreading out the process of making the photos, a cubist style becomes possible.

Here’s a series of steps I take to produce my Photomontages. This has developed over time since I was first introduced to the concept in 1984. There are no rules. If you want to try something new, follow these steps as guidelines to create your own cubist-styled photography.

1. Choose your subject carefully

Have a raw concept in mind. What is your photomontage going to be about? It’s more than just the subject you choose.

When you are starting out, it is easier to use static subjects. Any movement in the scene adds complexity and difficulty.

Can you re-visit and photograph you subject again if you need to? Getting all the photos you need does not always happen in one session. It is convenient if you can return to your subject and fill in any gaps.

Try to find a subject you can move around and photograph from different angles. Nothing too small. Small subjects can be very challenging.

For my Photomontage of the old Iron Bridge in Chiang Mai, I photographed it from the left side, in the middle, and then from the right side.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

2. Decide how big you want your Photomontage to be

My example above is made up of only seven individual photos. You can make a montage with just a few photos or with hundreds or thousands. There is no limit.

Looking at your scene, choose a focal length to use. I generally keep to one. Zooming or changing lenses can bring about confusing results.

Avoid using a wide-angle lens. Distortion at the edges of the photos can make it harder to compile them well.

Base your lens choice on the dimensions you want your finished montage to be. This can be tricky when you are first starting out, but it’s helpful to consider at this stage of the process.

Having a baseline of six or seven photos with a height of five photos, you end up with around 40-50 photos in your final montage. Choose a focal length that gives you the number of photos across the horizontal axis that you want.

Having too many or too few photos to work with can be quite complicated. The Iron Bridge montage took me ages to compile to make it look right because I was working with so few images.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

3. Create a base series of photographs

Take more than you think you need. This is most important. Don’t go crazy taking loads of images that are all very similar. Change each composition slightly.

I am always working in manual mode, so my exposure remains constant unless I choose to adjust it.

You can use this first set of photos as the base of your Photomontage. It’s good to have a foundation of images to reference once you start compiling your montage. For these first photos, try to build a selection of images that, when put together, make a fairly normal looking representation of your subject.

Aim to have some overlap in every photo. About 30% is the minimal amount. Being methodical as you make the photos can help to ensure you capture everything you need.

Follow a grid pattern. Start at the bottom left corner and make a series of overlapping images as you move your camera across to where you want the bottom right corner to be. Count the number of photos you are taking.

Point your camera a little higher, including some of the last photos you made. Now work your way back across to the left, taking roughly the same number of photos. Follow this pattern as you continue to cover the whole area you want to include in your Photomontage.

Look for strong lines running through your montage. These help make a more cohesive image when you are putting it all together.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

4. Begin adding alternative perspectives

Now that you have a fairly standard collection of photos change your perspective. Move to your left or right. Crouch down or get up higher. You may be surprised at how much a slight change in your perspective alters the look of your montage once you start to compile it.

Move a few times, each time photographing the whole scene again or just the most significant parts of it.

When working with movement in your subject, it may be best to stay in one position to make all your photos. You can rely on the changes in your subject for a cubist effect.

Photographing the tricycle taxi rider, I did not move much. As he moved, I photographed him in different positions. I compiled the photos to convey this movement and contrast it with the image of him sitting.

Keep looking for the strong lines as you or your subject moves.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

5. Take more photos

Once you think you have taken enough photos, take some more. There’s nothing more frustrating when you’re compiling your montage than finding gaps you have no photos to fill.

Don’t be in a rush. Take a careful look over the area of your composition and take more photos around the edges and the most important parts of your main subject. These are the two areas you can have the most significant problems with.

When you’re working with subjects you have some control over, think about adding them into your composition more than once. I have done this with some of the people in my tuk-tuk montage.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Conclusion

Taking the photos for a montage is typically the shortest part of the process. Imagining how your compiled montage looks help guide you when taking the photos.

Be careful not to make your first Photomontage too big or too small. If you do discover you have photographed a space too wide or too high, you can alter it when you start positioning the photos in the next step.

Here’s a short video where I share a little more of my montage making experience and an introduction to the videos I make of these Photomontages.

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I’d love to read your comments and feedback below. Please share your photomontages and your thoughts on making them.

The next article in this series I will explain the steps taken to compile your photos so they won’t end up looking like a dog’s breakfast.

 

The post How to Make Amazing Photomontages. Part 1: Taking Your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

How Your Childhood Inspired the Future of Your Photography

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 13:00

The post How Your Childhood Inspired the Future of Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

If you’ve had a camera in your hand since you were a child, stop and consider how that camera helped to shape your future. How did it bring you to where you are today?

There are a few ways that your childhood love of photography may have inspired the future of your photography.

My obsession with photography began when I was just ten years old. I was in Niagara Falls the moment I realized I must get a camera!

Exploration

As a child, you were a natural explorer. There is a lot to explore in this world, and there is a good chance that whatever you loved to explore as a child still inspires you today. Some kids grab a camera and sneak a bunch of candid photos. Others go to where the action is or discover the macro world that is usually invisible to the eye.

You explore, then study your photos, then explore some more. A photograph anchors you in the experience you had as a child and keeps calling you back to continue the adventure.

There was a lot to hold us back as kids. But the joy of growing up is the ability to step out the door and explore the world around us.

As a child, it may not have been that you brought your camera on adventures, but that it was your camera bringing you on an adventure!

As a child, I would photograph anything that grabbed my attention and made me look. Dinosaurs were one of those things!

Seeing

Along with exploration is the ability to see. Seeing doesn’t just mean looking. Seeing means piercing deeper than the surface level scene in front of you. It’s noticing patterns and humor and beauty.

With a camera in your hand, you look at the world in a different way. That deeper ability to see shaped you as you grew up. No doubt, your friends and people you work with are fascinated by the unusual things that you notice.

You don’t just see, you imagine. You bring your imagination to life for all to see through the images (photographs) you make.

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

When I really started to learn about photography I had to be very conscious about getting clean backgrounds. Notice how this dino is framed by the objects around it rather than overlapping with them.

The scariest part of a dinosaur is its teeth. I used a wide angle to bring the viewer right into the jaws!

I share the love of Niagara Falls with my kids. We couldn’t help but imagine the chaos of the dinosaurs coming to life. While riding the Ferris Wheel, I timed this shot to be able to see the T Rex in the background. In black and white who’s to say it isn’t real?

Your own form of magic

Think about this medium that you discovered as a kid. You explore and bring your imagination to life. Through print or a digital medium, you get to show everyone else what you saw. You can make a portrait of your father and pass it on for countless generations. It doesn’t have to be a standard portrait either, but your father as you saw him and knew him.

Through photography, you transfer the image in your mind into the minds of people you may never meet.

When I was a kid, I visited air shows with my dad. The planes always appeared as little specks in my photos. I look back at those photos and remember how inspired I was by those planes. Now that I’m a dad, I share that love with my kids.

I would never have noticed the potential beauty of light and texture as a kid.

Savoring the moment

The heightened attention that you learned as a child makes life meaningful today. Not only did you learn to see but you learned to capture that on film (or pixels). You could sneak into any situation and come away with a little slice of the moment to carry with you.

Even when you don’t have your camera, you can look at a scene and know this is a moment worth capturing. You can stay in the moment, recognizing something special, knowing this is a moment to be savored.

“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.” Marc Riboud

I loved to take pictures of concerts as a kid. Back then I had no appreciation for angle, backlight or decisive moments. Now, I roam around the audience and time moments for gesture and dramatic backlight.

Recall to adventure

If I could write a letter to my childhood self, I’d thank the little guy for pressing on with photography even when nothing really worked out for him.

Have you lost your sense of exploration and adventure? Is your life consumed with work and monotonous routine? Think back to when you were a kid. What adventure would that camera take you on today? What experience is there around the corner to savor?

Charge your batteries, clean your lenses and fall in love with photography all over again.

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

The post How Your Childhood Inspired the Future of Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

8 Great Reasons to Enter a Photo Contest

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 08:00

The post 8 Great Reasons to Enter a Photo Contest appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

Do you want to take your photography to the next level? Are you look for a focus to your work? There are many ways to achieve those aims in photography. One of the best ways is to enter a photo contest. That competitive edge is a really good way of driving your photography on by that extra few percent. In this article, you’ll discover some great reasons to enter a contest. Then you’ll find out some great contests to enter, and some of the potential pitfalls that some contests present.

1. A photo contest gives you direction

A decent level of creativity and a well-executed photo are two things needed to win a contest.

There are times as a photographer that you’ll drift a little bit. Whether that means you photograph less, or when you do photograph there’s not too much cohesion to it depends on you as a photographer. Even those with clear ideas about their photography benefit from a clear direction to head in, and a photo contest is one great way to achieve this. Not all, but many photo contests have themes, and it’s this theme you concentrate your mind on as you look to compose the best photo.

2. Pushes you out of your comfort zone

In the same way that a themed contest can give you direction, it can also push you out of your comfort zone. Of course, if the contest is too far out of your comfort zone, you might choose not to enter for a variety of reasons. However, with enough time before the final entry date, contests provide the perfect opportunity to hone your skill in another area of photography. Contests also allow you to adapt the way you take photos to fit the theme of the contest. Do you enjoy landscape photography? A contest theme set to crystal ball photography could be the perfect chance to learn this new photographic technique while applying what you already know about landscape work.

This photo ranked number 1 for the daily interesting contest on flickr.

3. Focuses your mind on being perfect

Do you always photograph all your photos at the correct aperture? Was the ISO left too high, from the last time you photographed indoors? While you’ll almost certainly get those camera settings correct when you’re out photographing when it comes to a contest you definitely will. The smallest advantages you can gain by perfecting your technique can all stack up, and you’ll need every advantage you can get to win a contest.

4. Is a great way to gain exposure

There are several ways you can gain exposure through a photo contest. However, there is no doubt your photo needs to stand out because most contests gain thousands of entries. It’s in the interests of a contest to engage its audience though, so how can that benefit you? Those contests that run for a couple of months may well have a weekly top ten. Photos from this ten may not end up winning the prize, but it can put eyeballs on your photo if you make the ten. In addition to this, typically photo contests have a winner, as well as a raft of commended photos. Once again, this gives you a significant chance of more exposure, should your photo be commended.

This photo won a contest in South Korea a few years ago.

5. There’s the potential to win a great prize!

The bigger the contest, the bigger the prize! Of course, it is incredibly difficult to win the grand prize of any contest, and that’s certainly the case with photography. Those that win often gain a photographic opportunity that is a once in a lifetime chance. The national geographic contests often have prizes that involve traveling to exotic locations, and the chance to learn from established photographers.

6. See other peoples entries, and be inspired

There are plenty of places you can see other photographers work. More or less, any form of social media allows for this. Photo contests are the place people place their very best. Seeing how other people have interpreted a contest theme can lead to inspiration in your own work. Of course, plagiarism isn’t a good idea, but looking at style, technique and execution might lead to an adaption in the way you take photos yourself. Adapting other peoples ideas, and incorporating them into your work is a great way to improve.

Photo contest sites like Pixoto are a great way to see how well your photography level is progressing.

7. Doing well validates you

All that exposure and a potential prize is not the only benefit you get from a photo contest. Having a winning entry, be that the overall winner or a top ten photo gives your photography validation. There is nothing that beats this when it comes to things like growing your photography business. The ability to call yourself a prize-winning photographer can go a long way. Does the size of the contest matter? From the perspective of calling yourself a prize-winning photographer, entering a smaller contest where there is a greater chance to win might be the way to go.

8. Gain feedback

If you’re lucky, you might get direct feedback from the person judging the contest. Those contests that allow comments may also lead to fellow contestants commenting on your work. Getting feedback on what you do is a great way to grow as a photographer. Contests are one platform where you may be able to receive some of this vital information.

The really big contest to win is National Geographic’s. It’s of course incredibly difficult to do so.

Photo contests to be wary of

There are, as you may have read, a great many good reasons to enter a photo contest. That said, there are a few contest types to be wary of.

Large entry fee

The majority of photo contests are free or have a nominal entry fee. Some contests charge large entry fees though. It’s up to you, but sometimes these contests are best avoided. There is no justification for a large entry fee. A good contest has many contestants, so they should only need to charge a nominal entry per person to cover their costs.

Loss of photograph rights

It’s always worth reading the terms and conditions of a photography contest carefully. That’s because some contests claim rights to your photo when you enter it in the contest, even if your photo is not one of the winning entries. Contests like this are essentially looking to use your work for their commercial advertising. Instead of paying for a stock image, they’ll instead run a photo contest to get their advertising material that way. This is why you’ll lose rights to your photo by entering this type of contest.

The Photocrowd website offers two prizes: A Judges Award, and a Peoples Award.

Which photo contest is for you?

The rise in the number of photographers has also led to a rise in photo contests. There are now many choices. You could choose a local contest, contests that run weekly, or perhaps you’ll go for one of the big yearly ones. Those looking to try their luck with a weekly contest should look no further than digital photography school, which runs a great themed weekly challenge to get you out with your camera (though it is not a contest, just a challenge). Sony and National Geographic run two of the biggest yearly photo contests, though search the web and you’ll find more. Finally, there are now websites dedicated to photo contests throughout the year. You can look to Photocrowd or Gurushots for these types of website.

Improve your chance of winning

Of course, improving your photography, and going to the best locations to take photos, are great things that can improve your chances. An excellent tip is to find out who the judges are. Do your research on these people, and visit their websites. See what kind of photos they enjoy taking, and channel your own work through the prism of the judges work. It’s not certain you’ll win, but it’s likely to improve your chances.

Go out and win the prize!

Do you enjoy entering photo contests? Are you new to this, and keen to dip your toe in the water? Have you got prize-winning photos, which you’d like to share with the digital photography community in the comments section? We’d love to hear from you, and having read this article we hope you’ll want to join a photo contest yourself! So pick a contest you like the sound of, and start planning how you’re going to take the winning photo!

The post 8 Great Reasons to Enter a Photo Contest appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

How to Move from Auto to Manual Modes Using Camera Semi-Automatic Modes

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 13:00

The post How to Move from Auto to Manual Modes Using Camera Semi-Automatic Modes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Are you tired of the auto mode of your camera but don’t feel confident enough to go full manual? In this tutorial, you’ll learn how exposure works and how to use your camera semi-automatic modes to make the transition easy and smooth.

William Bayreuther

 

The Exposure Triangle

The first thing you need to know is that you control exposure by three factors: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. They are all interconnected, meaning when you move one of them, you have to adjust the others to compensate. This connection is known as the exposure triangle.

So, if the correct exposure can be achieved with many different values, as long as it’s compensated, what’s the problem with letting the camera choose those values? Because they control more than just the exposure. Let me show you with a visual explanation. Below is the same photo shot with different settings:

This photo was shot in Auto Mode meaning the camera decided what shutter speed to use, what aperture and what ISO. I had no control whatsoever about which would take priority:

Here I decided the shutter speed so I could control how long the light would come into the camera, which translates into freezing moving objects or capturing movement. The aperture and ISO were then automatically decided by the camera.

Left image – SHUTTER PRIORITY:1/250, f/3.5, ISO 800 = Freeze Subject. Right image – SHUTTER PRIORITY:1/30, f/10, ISO 800 = Motion Blur.

In this case, I chose the aperture because this controls how much of your photo is in focus. This technique is called Depth of Field. Shutter speed and ISO were then automatically decided by the camera.

Left image – APERTURE PRIORITY:1/200, f/2.8, ISO 800 = Shallow depth of field. Right image – APERTURE PRIORITY:1/6, f/22, ISO 800 = Deep depth of field.

In this last one, I changed the ISO, and the result gets reflected in the amount of noise you find in your photo, especially in the darkest areas. I’ll show you a zoomed in comparison for you.

Left image – AUTO ISO:1/200, f/16, ISO 6400 = Much noise. Right image – AUTO ISO:30, f/2.8, ISO 200 = No noise.

Now, if you go from Auto Mode into Manual Mode, suddenly you’re changing from no control into full control, and that can be difficult at first. Especially if you’re shooting scenes where you might lose the perfect shot if you take a long time figuring out the correct exposure. Fortunately, camera manufacturers know this, and they’ve created different semi-automatic programs for you to choose from.

Aperture Priority Mode

Aperture Priority Mode is marked as A or Av. It’s the same thing, but it changes according to the brand. With this setting, you can manually choose your ISO and your aperture number, which leaves the shutter speed up to the camera. This setting is handy when you are photographing still objects or landscapes. Just make sure to use a tripod if there’s low light because with a low shutter speed even your own movement can be recorded. However, if you don’t have a tripod, you can increase the ISO. But be mindful that the higher the number, the more noise you’ll have. Why would you want to control the aperture? Because it controls the depth of field.

Left image – APERTURE PRIORITY:1/60, f/2.8, ISO 200. Right image – APERTURE PRIORITY:1/50, f/22, ISO 4000.

The smaller the aperture number is, the wider the plane of focus becomes. However, most lenses have a sweet spot around f/8 that gives you the sharpest image of all. You can use this Aperture Priority Mode to experiment with your lens.

Shutter Speed Priority Mode

Shutter Speed Priority Mode can be marked as S or Tv, again depending on the brand. You control the shutter speed and ISO, while the camera takes care of the aperture. You’ll want to use this setting when there’s movement involved in your shoot, such as sports photography. In this case, you need a high-speed value if you want to freeze the moving object, or a slower speed if you want the moving object to leave a trail. Another situation in which this is useful is night or dark scenes, and you don’t have a tripod. In this case, you need to make sure to put your shutter speed fast enough so that the natural movement of your body doesn’t register with the camera.

Top image – SHUTTER PRIORITY:1/8, f/2.8, ISO 200. Lower image – SHUTTER PRIORITY:1/30, f/2.8, ISO 800.

Auto ISO

Finally, automatize the third factor of the exposure triangle, Auto ISO. There’s no program mode on the mode dial as such, but there is a setting. While being in Manual Mode, adjust your ISO sensitivity to AUTO so that you can decide the other two factors (aperture and shutter speed). However, you can also pair Auto ISO with any of the semi-automatic modes listed before, and then you only have to think about one factor. What you have to consider in this case is that the higher the ISO, the more noise you’ll have in your photo.

*A couple of extra considerations:

-Always check the results as your camera may misread the scene, especially in scenes with high contrast.

-When using the priority modes, the settings values start to flash if you’re out of reach (if it doesn’t have a way to compensate what you’re adjusting.) In this case, depending on what your shoot requires, you may have to solve it by adding a flash, raising the ISO or adding a filter.

Have fun using the semi-automated modes and remember to switch to full manual once you feel more comfortable with the entire exposure triangle. That way you’ll always keep learning!

The post How to Move from Auto to Manual Modes Using Camera Semi-Automatic Modes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Understanding and Unlocking the Power of the Lightoom Vignette Tool

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 08:00

The post Understanding and Unlocking the Power of the Lightoom Vignette Tool appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

The Lightroom vignette tool is like adding a bit of spice to your favorite meal. Without a bit (but not too much) garlic, basil, thyme, or other even salt, your food might taste bland. Add too much, and it can ruin the whole thing. In a way, the vignette effect does the same job. It adds a bit of spice, flavor, and panache, to give your photos that little extra push over the cliff. It turns them from mediocre to magnificent. If you want to unlock its full potential, it’s important to understand what it does and see how, when applied to different pictures, it can dramatically affect the final output.

You and the Lightroom Vignette effect: A match made in heaven.

About Vignettes

Vignette effects are nothing new to photography. The word itself has French origins. It refers to the wavy lines that would appear like vines (or in French, Vignes) drawn around page edges marking the beginning or end of a book chapter. Over time the word was adopted by artists and photographers to refer to the gradual fade or darkening of an image near its edges.

While vignettes can be distracting if implemented poorly, they can result in a pleasing artistic effect when applied like spices when cooking. The outcome is akin to laying a reverse darkened oval across an image so that the corners and edges of the picture are a little darker. This method also serves to draw the viewer’s attention to the center. You’re basically trying to achieve the Goldilocks balance where it’s not too much and not too little, but just right.

Understanding the Vignette Options

The first step in using Vignette is simply locating it. You’ll find it in the Effects panel on the right-hand side of the Lightroom Develop module. You’re presented with an option to choose a particular style along with five sliders that help you fine-tune the vignette to taste. All of this happens after your image cropping has been applied, so if you use a vignette and then re-crop your image the vignette changes to suit your new crop.

There are three options for the Style of vignette:

  • Highlight Priority – Ensures that the bright areas of the image blend more smoothly with the darker areas. The downside here is it can make areas of the image with a lot of colors appear a little strange.
  • Color Priority – The opposite of Highlight Priority, this style makes sure that color is preserved across the vignette. However, it can make the bright areas have some jarring shifts.
  • Paint Overlay – This is a blunt instrument. It just darkens the image where the vignette is applied, with no attention paid to highlights or colors.

If you’re not sure which of these to use, I recommend sticking with Highlight Priority. Both that and Color Priority produce similar results which are not unlike the Burn option in Photoshop (which itself mimics the process of selectively over-exposing parts of an image when developing film in a darkroom). These two also let you use the Highlights slider at the bottom which helps you recover some of the brighter portions of the image that are darkened with a vignette, whereas Paint Overlay disables the Highlights slider entirely.

Additional options:

In addition to the style of vignette, you have additional options that allow you to precisely control how the effect is implemented.

  • Amount – How much vignette is applied. Moving this to the left adds a dark vignette while sliding it to the right adds a white vignette.
  • Midpoint – The degree to which the vignette reaches the middle of the image. All the way to the left results in much more of the vignette reaching the center, whereas all the way to the right keeps the vignette at the most extreme edges and corners. If you’re not sure what to do, just leave this in the middle.
  • Roundness – All the way to the left makes the vignette into more of a rectangle. Leave it in the middle for an oval-shaped vignette. Slide it all the way to the right to make your vignette a circle.
  • Feather – How smoothly the dark areas blend with the light areas. All the way to the left results in a harsh edge and all the way to the right gives you a nice smooth blend.

If you don’t want to over-complicate things you can leave all these sliders at their default values and you’ll be fine. However, they are fun to experiment with over time to get just the right look you are going for.

Visual explanations

This tool is easy to explore on your own but looking at how it affects a black and white grid may give you a better understanding of what is happening. I used the Paint Overlay instead of Highlight or Color Priority because in a simple black-and-white grid Paint Overlay gives the clearest visual representation of how the vignette is applied. The left side of each is the original un-edited grid while the right side is the same image with a vignette applied. The settings used for each one are described in the caption.

Amount -50, Midpoint +50, Roundness 0, Feather +50

Notice how the vignette gradually fades from dark to light, with the center portion of the image on the right being the exact same brightness as the grid on the left with no vignette applied.

Amount -50, Midpoint 0, Roundness 0, Feather +50

With the midpoint set all the way to 0, the unaffected portion of the vignette is concentrated in the middle with the edges and corners being uniformly dark. This highlights the center portion alone but there is very little fade-out between that and the vignette.

Amount -50, Midpoint 0, Roundness 0, Feather +100

The midpoint here remains the same but there is now a more gradual fade-out to the darkened portions thanks to an increase in feathering.

Amount -50, Midpoint 0, Roundness 0, Feather 0

Reducing the feathering to 0 makes the vignette clearly visible with virtually no gradation in how it is applied. I would never use this on an actual photo, but it is useful to understand how the vignette function operates.

Amount -40, Midpoint +25, Roundness +100, Feather +30

Setting the roundness to +100 gives you a vignette that is a perfect circle instead of a more oval shape. It’s important to remember that vignettes are applied after cropping, so if you start with a square image then you will have a circular vignette even with the roundness value set to its default value of +50.

Hopefully, these graphics give you a better understanding of how the vignette effect works. However, to really see it in action, it helps to look at what happens when it’s applied to actual photographs instead of just a blank grid.

Vignette examples

Almost any photo-editing app will let you apply a vignette, but with the extensive tools available in Lightroom you can customize your vignette to do precisely what you want and shape your viewers’ perception of an image in a very specific way. If you control parameters like midpoint and feathering, in addition to the amount, you can create vignettes that impart certain overtones and even emotions and transform your humble images in to works of art.

No vignette applied.

The above image looks fine on its own, and the viewer’s attention is meant to be drawn to the droplet of water right in the middle, but there are other portions of the image competing for attention. Adding a vignette completely changes the mood of the scene and makes the viewer feel like they are in a much more intimate setting. Notice how, with the darkened corners, your eye gets immediately drawn to the center and not to the edges at all.

Highlight Priority. Amount -30, Midpoint +50, Roundness +20, Feather +40

Vignettes can be used to eliminate distractions in the edges of the frame as well, and in doing so draw the viewer’s attention to the subject in the center. In this image below, there is a fence on the top-right and a black climbing rope on the top-left. They don’t really add much substance to the image and instead can take your attention away from the rabbit in the middle.

One way to solve this is by adding a vignette. Through some tweaking of the parameters, the end result is an image that still contains the fence and the rope but makes them far less prominent while focusing your attention squarely on the bunny.

Highlight Priority. Amount -42, Midpoint +50, Roundness 0, Feather +70

I do a lot of family pictures for clients in my city, and one of the final touches I’ll add to most of my pictures is a simple vignette. It’s often very subtle, usually only -10 or -15, but depending on the Style (Highlight or Color Priority), I might need to add more and then tweak it with the sliders. Below is an image with no vignette applied. While it’s fine on its own, the subjects are competing with the bright edges and corners for your attention.

A Color Priority vignette helps maintain the integrity of the colors while darkening them a little, and then I brought back some of the highlights particularly in the top-right corner by adjusting the Highlights slider to 10.

Color Priority. Amount -53, Midpoint +55, Roundness 0, Feather +45, Highlights +10.

Positive values

One thing I didn’t mention in this article is positive Amount values, which make the edges of the frame brighter instead of darker. In my years as a photographer, I can’t think of a single instance in which I have used this option, and I don’t know anyone else who uses it on a regular basis either (editor’s note: it may be used it in high-key photography). You may find instances in which you want to make the outer portions of your image brighter instead of darker and, if so, then positive Amount values would do the trick. Just know that it’s easy to overdo it and the results can sometimes come across as a little cheesy and forced.

Conclusion

These examples and explanations are designed to give you a better understanding of what the vignette effect does and how it impacts an image. I encourage you to try it out for yourself. Use the different sliders and style options and notice how they affect the vignette which, in turn, can have a profound impact on your image as a whole. Just remember the cooking analogy: you don’t want too much vignette, nor do you want too little. Strive to get it just right, and your pictures could take on a whole new life.

Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.

The post Understanding and Unlocking the Power of the Lightoom Vignette Tool appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

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