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Updated: 2 hours 13 min ago

Using Face Detection and Recognition in ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2019

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 08:00

The post Using Face Detection and Recognition in ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2019 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Stacey Hill.

Are you a person who takes lots of photos of people? Perhaps you shoot weddings or events? Family portraits? Maybe you like to capture images of family and friends? Eventually, you end up with many images. Some are easy to sort through when they have only one person in them.

However, what about group photos? How do you tag/catalog/sort through those? Do you have to list out everyone’s name in the meta tags manually?

What if you don’t know all the names immediately? What if you find out later that Heather is actually Helen and you have to go back and change it?

Finally, how can you find all the images with a specific person quickly and easily?

Luckily, ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2019 makes this task easy with the new Face Detection and Recognition capabilities.

How to set up Face Detection and Recognition

1.  Open the program and in ‘Manage’ mode, navigate to the desired folder where you have stored your images.

2.  Click on an image of the person you want to name and click on ‘View’ to open in View mode.

3.  Face Detection identifies the person by outlining their face.

4. If this outline box is not present, click on the ‘Show Face Outlines’ button (or Shift + B).

5. Once the face is selected, we need to apply the name. Click on the ‘Face’ Tool (or Shift + F) and a dark grey text bar pops up under the outline.

6. Click in the text bar and type the name of the person and press ‘Enter.’

7. If you select any other image with that person and open it in ‘View mode,’ it should automatically select their face and apply the name.

A key point regarding the naming structure you use is to put some thought into what naming convention you use and then keep it consistent. For example, something along the lines of: first name (space) last name or first name_last name. Doing so makes a difference later if you are using search parameters to find people.

What happens if you have more than one Joe Smith? What if you start off using only first names and then you have 3 x David, 4 x Michael, 2 x Louise all in the same wedding party? Being as specific as possible when naming addresses this issue.

How it becomes useful

Once the software has recognized the face and you have assigned a name to it, it detects that face amongst all your other photos. While it works across any images currently stored on your computer, the data is saved and applied to any new images you import onto your computer.

Therefore, you should only have to tag the person once. ACDSee remembers their name and applies it to any future image with their face in it.

Now you might want to search for all the images with Heather.

1. In ‘Manage’ mode, select ‘Catalog’ on the left-hand panel. The panel is broken up into different sections. At the top is ‘Categories.’

2. The second panel down is ‘People.’ All the names you have applied to your images are listed. Click on any name, and it goes through the database to pull out all the images with that face present in them.

3. In ‘Manage’ mode, you can ‘Quick Search’ by typing the name in the Quick Search box.

Searching for multiple people

1. Search for two or more people by holding down CTRL while selecting a second name in the People section of the Catalog panel. The software finds the images for those people. You can also utilize the ‘Easy Select’ arrows next to the names to select multiple people.

2. Find an image with two specific people in it together by typing both of their names in the ‘Quick Search’ bar as Person 1 + Person 2 to run a Boolean AND search. It is during this process that it’s essential to understand the naming convention you used originally.

In ‘Manage’ mode, select the folder you want to search in and click F3 to search (or right mouse click and select Search). Make sure you put ‘People’ in the ‘Categories’ section or it will search the entire database and potentially pull up other images.

3. You can also run a search from the ‘Catalog’ pane. In the ‘People’ section, select all the people you want to search for by using the ‘Easy-Select’ arrows or CTRL/SHIFT clicking. Click the gear icon on the People section header, and change the search type to ‘Match All.’

Managing name data

You can edit/change/remove the name data you have stored, which comes in handy if you have to update the spelling on one. Maybe you forgot you already had a ‘Sebastian’ in there, and you need to change one of them.

1. In ‘Manage’ mode, select ‘Tools’ from the top menu option.

2. From the drop-down menu, select ‘Manage People.’

3. A ‘People Manager’ box opens up with all the names you have saved. You can edit each one as needed by selecting them and using the bottom buttons.

Things to note:

1. The naming convention you use is important, so plan that out in advance.

2. If the face is not automatically detected, and you have to create it manually, the software will not further recognize it in Face Recognition. Also, note that if you use the Remove Faces or Redetect Faces command on an image, manual faces aren’t retained. The Rerun Face Detection option remembers them if you edit images.

3. Currently, there is no facility to import face recognition tags from other software (Picasa as an example). However, a search through the support forums has this listed on the ‘Potential Ideas for Future Updates’ list. It also appears to apply to the exporting of images from ACDSee as well, with the intention of retaining the face recognition tags.

4. There is no easy way to establish if there are currently any unnamed faces.

5. If the software has assigned the wrong name to someone, you can remove it with the Remove Faces function. This removes all face data from the selected image, not just the one wrong one.

6. To ensure a better success rate, you may need to manually select several images of one person so that the software can ‘learn’ that face with accuracy. You achieve better accuracy by naming as many faces in the (first) image as possible.

7. You can manually remove the names from incorrect selections and can rescan in ‘Manage’ mode via Tools | Redetect Faces. You need to correct the wrong name, rather than remove it, otherwise rescanning continues to return the wrong name over and over.


Face detection and recognition is a tool that can make life easier for a photographer with many images of people in their portfolio. The ability to assign a name to a person and have the computer run an algorithm to find all the other images is significantly faster than doing it manually.

To be able to search for images with a specific person (or range of people) becomes faster and more efficient as well.

Is it perfect?  If I am honest, not 100% all of the time. However, it is easy to use, easy to manage and does a pretty good job for most requirements. It could be useful for many other things that they may implement into the next version.

Right now, it is an effective time saver for the home photographer with photos of family and friends, through to commercial photographers with wedding/event shoots filling up the portfolio.

The previous 2018 generation of ACDSee was the first version that bought a range of features all together in one space. Thus, giving you the capability to manage and view files, edit Raw files, do creative editing with layers, all in one piece of software.

Leading with this Face Detection and Recognition, the 2019 iteration builds on that initial foundation by bringing specific functionality to boost capabilities even further. Thus, making for a compelling consideration for anyone looking to purchase editing software, especially when it is available via one-off perpetual license purchase.




The post Using Face Detection and Recognition in ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2019 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Stacey Hill.

Why You Should Have Photography Heroes

Mon, 12/10/2018 - 13:00

The post Why You Should Have Photography Heroes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Daily bombardment by images can leave us desensitized to truly inspiring art and cause creative catharsis. Pictures crowd our lives more than ever before. They are on the internet, social media, tv, billboards, pavements and walls. Images are on pretty much every product we purchase. Filling the whole sides of buildings or as miniature graphic icons on our phones.

Anyone interested in growing their photography skills may find this saturation somewhat nauseating.

Narrow your sphere of influence. Purposefully. Feast your eyes on the best and your creative muse will be full and satisfied. Indulging in visual junk food will only make you bloated and unhealthy. Uninspired.

Those Who Have Gone Before Us

Masters of the camera are plentiful. True photography heroes have produced impressive bodies of work in every genre imaginable.

Learn from the best. Find those who have distinguished themselves and whose work stands out and moves you. These days it’s very easy to research and locate portfolios of photographs which inspire you.

How to Find Your Photography Heroes

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Make a list of the styles of photography you are most interested in. Maybe there’s just one. Google your results and include the word ‘photographer’. You might search ‘street photographer’, ‘landscape photographer’ etc. The results will provide you with a starting point you can work with and refine. Also, try searching photography specific sites like 500px. Pinterest is another good option. Searching hashtags on Instagram also produce fruitful results. But on these uncurated websites be careful to find the best, most renowned photographers.

Don’t just read camera manuals and ‘How To’ books. Read blogs and books by photographers whose work you admire. Reading what they write can provide valuable insight into how a photographer thinks. How did they achieve a certain look and feel to a particular photograph? What was the process they worked through in the development of their distinctive style? Which equipment did they use?

There are lots of amazing online documentaries you can watch about famous photographers. Sitting down for an hour or so to see and hear how photographers work is a terrific way to learn.

Go to exhibitions. Viewing curated bodies of work, printed and framed beautifully is a far different experience than looking at photos on a computer monitor or on your phone.

Talk to your photographer friends and find out who they draw inspiration from.

Follow any of these suggestions and your inspiration will increase.

New to Photography? Seek a Wider Sphere of Influence

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

If you’re new to photography and not sure where to start, take a broader approach. Look at books on photography where more than one artist and style is discussed. Draw from the ones who move you the most.

I think the very first photography book I owned was called The Camera. It’s part of the classic Time/Life series ‘Life Library of Photography’. The last chapter of the book profiles ten photographers and introduced me to the work of Ansel Adams, W. Eugene Smith, Diane Arbus, amongst others.

Two photographers who caught my attention in this book are Irving Penn and Henri Cartier-Bresson. I have continued to study their styles and methods over the years. Looking back I think it is the connection with the people they were photographing that touched me the most.

Natural Light Portraiture

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Some years later I picked up Penn’s book ‘Worlds in a Small Room’. His use of natural light in his portraits had always captivated me. In this book, he writes about developing his outdoor studio and using it in countries like Papua New Guinea and Morocco. He motivated me to emulate this innovation. I designed and built my own version of a natural light studio and use it in the mountain areas of northern Thailand.

From time to time, as the opportunity arises, I enjoy photographing the various ethnic minority peoples who live in this part of the world, (where I also live.) During the past ten years or so, I have had many enjoyable experiences photographing these people in their villages. The studio allows me to photograph them in their space, within their comfort zone. Using the studio, I have more control over lighting and background than I would otherwise have.


© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Shortly after purchasing my first camera I was introduced to the photo joiners David Hockney was dabbling with at the time. I saw this video. The idea of making images beyond the conventional photographic boundaries of time and space constraints appealed to me, so I experimented.

Back then we had no internet and information, and examples of Hockney’s photographic montages were hard to come by. I started messing around and chewing through lots and lots of film.

Once I went digital a whole new world opened up. I began to produce video and photos to incorporate into my montages. I am still experimenting more than thirty years after being introduced to this cubist form of image making. The concept still captivates me and draws me to explore wider and deeper.

Be Purposeful in Your Hero Worship

Seek to emulate. Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Make the most of what you see in other photographers work. Don’t just admire it, mimic it. Build the techniques and methods you see your heroes using into your photography. Then incorporate your ideas, or things you have seen in various other photographer pictures.

The daily bombardment of images into your eye space hopefully presses you to produce better, more exciting and creative photographs. It is too difficult to do on your own. Find your heroes and pay them homage by developing a style of your own, inspired by the images they’ve produced.

The post Why You Should Have Photography Heroes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media

Mon, 12/10/2018 - 08:00

The post Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Search Instagram for #foodphotography today and you’ll find almost 30 million posts.

Blogs and social media have turned what was once a weird little niche in photography into a worldwide phenomenon. From Baltimore to Beijing, there is no doubt that people love to take pictures of food.

However, as appetizing as your filet mignon may look to your eye, it may not to the camera. Throw in some bad restaurant lighting and a wide angle smartphone lens into the mix, and the potential for ugly food photography is high.

Here are my top five tips for great smartphone food photography for social media that will make your Instagram and other social channel images stand out.

Use Natural Lighting Whenever Possible

When it comes to food photography lighting is everything. The knowledge of how to use light is what separates the amateurs from the pros.

Although flat lighting has been a trend in food photography lately, food looks best when the light is natural and directional.

The reason a lot of food images taken in restaurants looks so bad is the fluorescent lighting, which is hard and unflattering. It is also often tinged with a green or yellow color cast.

When shooting food indoors on your smartphone, try to get beside a window.

Natural window light is what every professional photographer tries to mimic with complicated and expensive flash systems.

It is very flattering for food.

Just be sure that the sun is not too bright, as it can also cast harsh shadows that are unflattering to your dish.

When shooting food with a smartphone, notice where the light is coming from. It should be from the side or the back of your plate or set-up.

While front light is beautiful in portraiture, it will make food look flat and also can cast unwanted shadows.

Choose the Right Angle

Does your plate ever look like it’s sliding off the table whenever you shoot with your smartphone?

This is because the camera has a wide angle lens, so certain angles make your food look distorted.

To achieve the best results, shoot your scene at 90-degrees or straight-on. A 3/4 angle rarely works.

An overhead angle gives a graphic pop to an image because it flattens depth. You can also get a lot more into the frame than you would if you were shooting at 45-degrees.

It’s a perfect angle for tablescapes, but also more minimalistic compositions.

90-degrees is not a good angle for tall foods, like burgers or stacks of pancakes. You want to see those layers, so shoot these kinds of subjects straight-on.

Take a Minimalist Approach

Tablescapes are fun and look appealing, but they are oftentimes difficult to do.

It can take a lot of moving the various elements around to make a pleasing composition and by the time you get it right, the food will no longer look appetizing.

A minimalist approach usually works best, especially if you’re a beginner. After all, the focus should be on the food!

Look at it this way: if your food is nicely plated and styled, then you’re already more than halfway there!

All you need is an additional prop or two, like a utensil or a piece of linen tucked under the plate.

How you approach your propping will really depend on the food. In the image of the poke bowls below, the food is already bright, colorful, and full of texture. Adding more than a set of chopsticks would have distracted the viewer’s attention from the dish.

Heed the Rules of Good Composition

One problem you often see in food pictures on Instagram is that they look messy. Sometimes the food looks messy but also the environment in which the food is captured in.

The background is cluttered, or there are too many props that are distracting and don’t add anything to the shot.

Some of this can be solved with tighter shots and by taking some unnecessary elements away.

But you should also be aware of some of the basic principles of composition.

Try to have some negative space in the image. That is a clean area where the eye can rest for a brief moment as it moves through the image.

Resist the urge to fill every part of your image.

If every area of your surface is covered with ingredients or a prop, it confuses the viewer and gives a claustrophobic feeling. Negative space provides a bit of breathing room and helps us focus on the main subject.

You should also be familiar with the rule-of-thirds. This is a compositional guideline that divides an image into nine equal parts, using two horizontal lines and two vertical lines, like a tic-tac-toe board.

Rule of Thirds

The important elements in your scene should fall along these lines, or at the points where they intersect.

Smartphones already have a grid like this as an overlay when you turn on your camera. Use it to help you place your focal point. That is the area where you want to create emphasis and draw the viewer’s eye.

A focal point can be created with color, an area of contrast, or isolation. A garnish can serve as a focal point.

Tell a Story

I have stated that a minimalist approach is often best, however, be mindful that adding a narrative quality to your images can also be very powerful.

Everyone loves a good story. Give your viewer an idea of a wider story taking place beyond the confines of the frame.

For example, you can do this by partially cropping out some of the elements in an overhead table shot, or show someone’s hand serving food or holding a cup of steaming coffee.

This human touch has become wildly popular in food photography, and this lifestyle element has spilled over from Instagram into the world of commercial food photography because it creates a sense of atmosphere and relatability.

In Conclusion

Hopefully, this article has given you some tips to improve your smartphone food photography for social media.

Whichever approach you choose, be conscious of consistency and developing your style.

If you look at the most successful accounts on Instagram and other social media, you will find that they have a specific look in terms of color treatment or palette.

Take a good look at your images for the consistencies in your style and work on developing them. This may mean you take a lot of bright and airy images, or maybe you do mostly close-ups of your food.

The more you hone your style, the tighter your feed will look and draw an audience that loves what you do.

I’d love to see some of your smartphone food photography, so please share in the comments below.



The post Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

5 Tips to Guarantee Great Road Trip Photos

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 13:00

The post 5 Tips to Guarantee Great Road Trip Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Few things say “Midwest United States” like hay bales and rolling hills. You won’t find scenes like this on most interstates and major highways though.

For some people, the idea of taking a road trip can seem like a dull proposition. One fraught with mundane scenery and near-endless hours of staring out of the window watching the world outside whiz by at 70 miles an hour. However, with a little planning and creativity, you can turn any long car ride into a precious opportunity for amazing pictures.

The countryside you are traveling through may seem uninspiring. You may have already made the drive dozens or even hundreds of times. Still, there are a few things you can do to set yourself up with some fantastic photos, of which to be proud, at the end of your journey.

Take the road less traveled

I live about 400 miles from my parents and siblings, so I end up making the drive back to my old stomping grounds a few times a year. The easiest route to take involves a turnpike, followed by hundreds of miles of interstate. Due to the speed limit being higher, and the drive straighter, I don’t have to slow down every 20 minutes to pass through a small town. However, when it comes to photo opportunities, this type of travel precludes a lot of good chances for picture-taking.

I was driving down a highway when I saw this dirt road off to the side, so I pulled over and got a picture while also taking a minute to stretch my legs.

Interstates and other thoroughfares are great for getting to your destination quickly, but not so great for photos. Instead of taking the quick and easy path, as Yoda might say, look for alternate routes to your destination. Alternative routes that may not be as fast but are far more photogenic.

Pull up your preferred mapping software, or unfold a physical map, and look for highways or other types of two-lane roads. When you are driving down these types of roads, you pass by scenery that is more interesting than you find on the interstate.

Moreover, you also have the luxury of being able to pull over and stop without causing a traffic jam.

Plan your photos

When taking a road trip, have an idea in mind of the types of pictures you want to take. Keep a sharp eye out for those opportunities when you are on your drive. Hoping to find something interesting along the way to your destination may work out, however, planning ahead to photograph something specific, is likely to achieve much better results.

On this particular drive I wanted to take pictures of windmills and sure enough, once I had that thought in my mind I started noticing windmills all over the place.

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is a weird trick your brain plays on you. When you start taking notice of one particular thing, say a specific type of car or style of clothing, you start seeing it everywhere. This concept comes in handy on road trips. While you may not know what you are going to encounter along the way, you can plant the seeds for some great photos with a little mental preparation in advance.

For instance, on a recent drive back home, I pulled out a map and found some slower, but more interesting, highways to take. I told myself to look for windmills along the way. I couldn’t recall ever seeing windmills before.

However, given that I was going across the midwest United States, I felt sure I would end up going past at least a few. I was stunned when, as the hours ticked by on my drive, I kept passing one after the next and ended up with some excellent pictures as a result.

Try applying this method next time you’re on a road trip. You might be equally surprised at how well it works. Before you leave, think of a particular subject or type of picture you want to take. Then look at how often you see those opportunities along the way. Things such as dilapidated barns, weathered billboards, old bridges, tall cacti, mountainside vistas, or even dirt roads can all be exciting subjects for road trip photos.

If you plant these seeds in your mind, by the time you reach your destination, they could very well grow into fascinating and beautiful photos.

Time of day is paramount

Sunlight can make or break almost any type of photo. The same holds true when it comes to making images on a road trip. The journey you are taking might be perfect for some sunrise or sunset shots, but those aren’t going happen if you set out at noon! It might seem too simple to mention, but just knowing that your photos are dramatically affected by the sunlight affects your departure time and helps you plan accordingly.

There’s about a two-minute window for getting sunrise shots like this. Plan your drive accordingly.

If you aren’t sure what type of pictures you want to capture on your road trip, plan to leave at least 30 minutes before sunrise. You may see something compelling. Alternatively, if you know you are going to pass by a particular photo location, make sure you get a good picture of it by adjusting the timing of your trip. That way you maximize the chances of getting good light in that particular spot.

Allow more time than you need

If I take the interstate to get back to my hometown and plan on stopping only once, I can make the trip in about six and a half hours. However, that’s not how I prefer to make the drive. Taking less-traveled roads and stopping half-a-dozen times for possible photo-ops, I usually get there in seven-and-a-half hours. So, when planning for the drive, I always allow at least eight hours for unexpected photo opportunity stops.

One of the worst situations a road-trip photographer encounter is coming across a stunning sight or landmark only to realize they don’t have enough time to stop and take a picture. Give yourself some wiggle room by adding an extra half-hour into your drive schedule. Make sure that time is not a limiting factor.

Having extra time is also an excellent excuse to get out, stretch your legs, and see the scenery even if you’re not sure of the photographic possibilities.

On one recent drive to see my folks, I ended up driving past a vast field of beautiful sunflowers by accident. The lighting wasn’t great, but I stopped for some pictures nonetheless. I made a mental note to go back to the same spot on my return drive. Not knowing how long I would need, I made sure to build in plenty of extra time on my drive and achieved the shot you see above. This extra time gave me the ability to pull over a few hours later to capture this shot of an oil pump and wind turbine.

Don’t worry about your gear

At this point, you might be thinking about how to apply some of these tips on your next drive. However, you may not think you have the right gear for the job. On the contrary, the nice thing about road trip photos is you probably already have the camera equipment you need to take great photos. Something as simple as a mobile phone camera is enough to capture sweeping landscapes or beautiful countrysides.

I shot this with some expensive camera gear but based on the exposure settings (f/4, 78mm, 1/180 second, ISO 220) a nearly identical image could have easily been taken with a basic DSLR with a kit lens.

Don’t let your camera gear, or lack of it, hold you back from taking good photos the next time you are in a car for hours on end. Fantastic shots are achievable with a mobile phone, a DSLR, or anything in between. If you have a tripod, go ahead and bring it because you never know when it might come in handy. However, don’t stress over whether your camera is good enough.

As you develop your skills, you may find yourself gravitating towards a particular lens, or camera depending on the shots you like to take. Things such as lighting, planning, and taking less-popular roads achieve better results than merely buying a new camera.

I took this shot on a road trip with a simple point-and-shoot camera, and all it required was some good light and an observant eye.

What about you? Do you have any favorite tips or tricks for getting good pictures while out driving? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post 5 Tips to Guarantee Great Road Trip Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Gear: DJI Mavic Air Drone Review – Better than the Mavic Pro?

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 08:00

The post Gear: DJI Mavic Air Drone Review – Better than the Mavic Pro? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Slowly but surely I’ve begun to set my sights higher when it comes to my photography. Literally. I got my first real taste of aerial photography/videography a few months ago when I used the DJI Mavic Pro drone for the first time. A whole new world opened up with a brilliant “aha” moment when I realized that a bird’s eye perspective can lend itself to an incredible expansion of creative ideas.

So when the good folks at DJI asked me to have a go at their Mavic Air drone…it was difficult to say no.

Being primarily a landscape and wilderness photographer, the super-small size of the Mavic Air made it immediately appealing, as did the fact that the imaging performance was rumored to be on par with that of its larger cousin, the Mavic Pro and Mavic 2 Pro.

Sit back, relax, and let’s have a look at the incredibly capable, incredibly small Mavic Air drone from DJI.

Out of the box

Opening up the package for the DJI Mavic Air Drone proved to be an exercise true to the drone’s namesake. The Air is surprisingly small and most of all, lightweight. I was honestly taken aback at just how minute of a profile the aircraft presented; easily fitting in the palm of my hand.

In fact, the AIR isn’t much larger than the provided radio controller.

Visually, the drone is beautiful. My test model came in “Alpine White” color but red and black flavors are also available.

The Mavic Air is simply a great looking drone in this color scheme. Of course, form should always follow function.

Here’s a list of the key aircraft specifications for the Mavic Air:

  • Folded Dimensions(L×W×H): 6.6″x 3.3″x1.9″(168×83×49mm)
  • UnfoldedmDimensions(L×W×H): 6.6″x 7.2″x 2.5″(168×184×64mm)
  • Flight Vision Senors: Downward, Forward, Backward
  • Controllable Gimbal Range: Tilt: -90° to 0° (default setting),-90° to +17° (extended)
Build quality

Even though the Mavic AIR is admittedly small, the build quality is extremely sturdy. The drone does not feel flimsy at all. Throughout my tests and a couple of crashes (sorry DJI), this little drone sustained little more than a few scrapes and scratches.

In terms of build quality, the Mavic Air feels less substantial than it’s big brother, the Mavic Pro (and 2 Pro). The overall quality is apparent. I would not worry about the Mavic Air being capable of surviving extended (and turbulent) fly time.

Flight performance and handling

If you’re like me, anything that has a “Sport Mode” function makes you extremely excited. More on that fun little feature in just minute, but first let’s discuss how the Mavic Air handles…well…in the air.

The DJI Mavic Air Drone has a maximum horizontal flight speed of 17.9mph (28.8kph) which is just a tad slower than the DJI’s new Mavic 2 Pro, which clocks a blistering 44.7mph (72kph) and is even more sluggish than the 31mph (50kph) speed of the DJI Spark. These numbers, however, are slightly deceptive as the relatively sloth-like horizontal speeds of the Air are all in “P-Mode”, which could be considered the mode best for general flight.

Where the Mavic Air really earns it’s wings (haha drone humor) is when it’s Sport Mode is engaged. This kicks the Mavic Air’s top horizontal speed up to a hearty 42.5mph (68.4kph). Here’s a quick video of the Mavic Air in Sport Mode. To be honest, the acceleration when in Sport Mode would make the Millennium Falcon a little bit jealous.

I absolutely love the Sport Mode of the Air because it allowed me to use P-Mode for the majority of my flying time to conserve battery life. At the same time, I knew that I could really stomp the gas to fly into or out of trouble extremely quickly.

Overall, the handling of the Air was responsive and accurate during radio control although not as snappy as the Mavic Pro.

Speaking of radio control, I want to take a moment to give the remote control of the Mavic Air a little bit of love. Not only does the controller feel great both with and without my mobile device mounted but it also features removal joysticks. This makes the controller even more packable.

A small feature but one that speaks volumes to the amount of thought DJI put into making the Mavic Air truly user-friendly.

The ascent speed of 9.84fts (3ms) was actually more comfortable and controllable for my personal tastes when compared to the meteoric 16.4fts (5ms) of the Mavic Pro.

Here are a few more important performance specifications for the Mavic Air:

  • Maximum Descent Speed: 6.56 ft/s / 2 m/s
  • Maximum Wind Resistance: 23.61 mph / 38 km/h
  • Flight Ceiling: 16,404′ / 5000 m
  • Maximum Flight Time: 21 Minutes
  • Maximum Hover Time: 20 Minutes
Camera performance

The proof is in the pudding as they say and the Mavic Air produced some beautiful video and stills with its 12MP camera. Some useful specs of the Mavic Air camera are as follows (provided by DJI):

  • Sensor: 1/2.3” CMOS
  • Lens FOV: 85°
  • 35 mm Format Equivalent: 24 mm
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • Shooting Range: 0.5m to infinity
  • ISO Range Video: 100 – 3200 (auto),100 – 3200 (manual)
  • Photo ISO Range: 100 – 1600 (auto),100 – 3200 (manual)
  • Shutter Speed Electronic Shutter: 8 – 1/8000s
  • Still Image Size: 4:3(4056×3040),16:9:(4056×2280)
  • Burst shooting: 3/5/7 frames
  • Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB): 3/5 bracketed frames at 0.7EV Bias


  • Video Resolution 4K Ultra HD: 3840×2160 24/25/30p
  • 2.7K: 2720×1530 24/25/30/48/50/60p
  • FHD: 1920×1080 24/25/30/48/50/60/120p
  • HD: 1280×720 24/25/30/48/50/60/120p
  • Max Video Bitrate 100Mbps
  • Supported File System FAT32
  • Photo Format JPEG/DNG (RAW)
  • Video Format MP4/MOV (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC)

Here’s a quick video short made using the Mavic Air. Shot in 1080P at 30fps:

Another extremely convenient feature that bears mentioning about the Mavic Air is the inclusion of an 8GB internal “last ditch” memory storage. This bit of built-in memory is an incredibly practical way to ensure that you aren’t completely immobilized by either a forgotten or full memory card. During one of my flights, I managed to fill up my micro SD card, and the 8GB of internal storage really saved the day. Especially if it had been crucial that I finished shooting the scene at the time.

Final thoughts on the DJI Mavic Air

How to best characterize the Mavic Air?

I will admit that before I received the Air I was under the impression that it was going to be a step down from the Mavic Pro I had tested previously.

This is simply not the case.

In fact, I can confidently say that I prefer the Mavic Air to the Mavic Pro based on my testing.

The Mavic Air is extremely compact while still packing in the imaging power of it’s larger cousins. It looks great and can hold its own while in flight.

And that Sport Mode….sheesh.

If you’re looking for an extremely portable yet powerful drone for your aerial photography and videography needs that won’t break the bank, I strongly suggest you have a look at the DJI Mavic Air Drone. It seems great things truly can come in small packages.

Have you used the DJI Mavic Air Drone? If so, share with us your thoughts in the comments below.

The post Gear: DJI Mavic Air Drone Review – Better than the Mavic Pro? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

7 Top Tips For Running Photography Mini-Sessions

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 13:00

The post 7 Top Tips For Running Photography Mini-Sessions appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

For many photographers, especially those who photograph families and children, there are certain times of the year which can be great opportunities for photography mini-sessions.

If you have done mini-sessions before, you’re probably already a seasoned pro. But if this is your first time doing one, these tips may help. It’s better to start planning months in advance to get the word out before people’s diaries fill up.

Mini-sessions are a quicker photographic session that is captured at lower than your full photographic session rate.

The most obvious opportunity is the Christmas mini when parents book photo shoots for their children or their family for holiday cards or to give to grandparents and family as gift prints. Then there’s Valentine’s day, Mothering Sunday, Easter/Spring, Father’s Day, Summer shoots, Autumn shoots.

Unless mini-sessions are all you do, I suggest deciding on which one to do from the above opportunities instead of offering a mini-session for each month of the year!

I thought it would be fun to do this in a DO and DON’T format. DON’T forget these are only my suggestions. Ultimately, DO decide for yourself what is best for your business.


DON’T do more than two in one year.

DO select carefully the ones you want to do and whether you vary them each year or stick to the one or two. Running them more often than this only encourages a client culture of waiting for mini-sessions, much like waiting for a sale. You may lose full-paying clients. Whilst you end up with many new contacts and families, you may be missing the opportunity to market to clients who want to have a longer session with you.


DON’T invite everybody.

DO invite only the clients who don’t usually go for full-price packages in the first instance or those who have a budget. Extend the invitation to their friends if spaces remain. If you don’t fill up, then you may well decide to make the invitation public. You may find that clients have like-minded friends. Knowing their friends do a mini instead of a full shoot, they may tend to follow suit, even if they can afford the full package. You don’t want your normal full-paying clients to suddenly switch to mini-sessions for their annual photoshoots.


DON’T do several days or weeks.

DO specify one day (2 if you have more than you can take in one day), one location and short time slots. Make sure your time-slots do not have long breaks in-between. Be clear as to the duration of the mini-session, that is, when their time starts and ends. Make this much shorter than your usual photo shoot. It helps to have a short time in-between slots for a bit of leeway in case a shoot runs over. However, not too long in between so your client knows you have to wrap it up as there is another family waiting after their slot is over.


DON’T overshoot.

DO have a maximum number of images to shoot in mind so you don’t take far too many and end up with more editing hours equivalent to a full shoot. When shooting very young children, we normally have to shoot plenty to make sure we get good ones but don’t labor a pose. Take a few and move on. It helps to have a mental (or physical) list of shots and combinations as well as spots and locations for poses or positioning of subjects to help keep to the session’s time duration.


DON’T leave all the outfit planning to your clients.

DO give your clients an idea of the set or backdrop color beforehand so they can plan outfits to suit or you can suggest clothing. I usually ask them to send me photos of their outfits beforehand so we decide together. Having great outfits really make a difference to the final look of your images and may even help strengthen your branding if and when you decide to blog the session.


DON’T allow an unlimited number of props.

DO ask them to bring only one or two props or items from home. For example, special teddies or toys for the kids to use as a prop or to comfort them if necessary. Usually, something that has special meaning works well. It’s a bonus if it goes with the outfits too. Again, you can discuss this with your client beforehand during the planning stage.


DON’T send the children off without a little gift after their session.

DO show your appreciation. Applaud their effort and reward their time with one small gift like a small bottle of bubbles, sticker sheets or a little car. They will feel appreciated and that their hard work is recognized and valued. Who knows, this might set you up nicely for the next shoot with them where they warm up to you quicker than the last and be more obliging too. It’ll be a win-win.

I hope these tips are helpful. Do share your thoughts on photography mini-sessions and comments below, or if you have more tips to add.

The post 7 Top Tips For Running Photography Mini-Sessions appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

Photoshop Focus Stacking for Still Life and Product Photography

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 08:00

The post Photoshop Focus Stacking for Still Life and Product Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Still life and product photography often require that your entire subject be sharp.

This can be difficult to achieve in-camera because if you’re shooting up-close, you can’t always get a lot of your subject in focus.

Stopping down to a smaller aperture (higher F-stop number) will not necessarily help you get a sharper image.

Enter Photoshop and focus stacking.

Focus stacking is a post-production technique of blending several images with different focus points to create one image that is sharp and in focus throughout the entire subject.

It’s the ultimate way to get the sharpest images, and it’s a crucial technique to know for still life photography.

Why you can’t get razor sharp photos

Your aperture, focal length and the distance from your subject all impact the sharpness of your image.

Shooting at a higher F-stop number like f/22 won’t help you get sharper images in still life photography because of lens diffraction.

Lens diffraction in a phenomenon of optical physics that occurs in the lens and camera sensor.

When you shoot at f/2.8 or f/4, a lot of light hits your camera sensor directly. At apertures like f/16, the light hits the subject less precisely and causes a loss of sharpness.

It doesn’t matter how good your lens is – your images will be less sharp at apertures of f/16 and higher due to this law of physics.

The more you stop down, the finer details will blur out further.

Lens diffraction tends to be worse in zoom lenses than prime lenses because zooms have several moving parts.

The depth-of-field problem

In still life and product photography, you often need to get pretty close to your subject. This means a shallower depth-of-field.

If you’re shooting small objects like jewelry, or objects that need to fill the frame, you’re usually so close that its entire depth cannot be in focus.

Using a macro lens like a 100mm or 110mm will also give you a shallow depth-of-field.

This is great if you’re doing food photography and want that blurred out background that is sought after in that genre, but for other types of still life, it creates a problem.

Shooting for focus stacking

In order to focus stack in Photoshop, you need to shoot in a certain way with certain tools.

First of all, you need a sturdy tripod because your subject must be in exactly the same position from shot to shot in order to be successfully blended later in Photoshop.

If you accidentally bump your tripod, you’ll need to start all over again.

A shutter release is recommended to activate the shutter. Pressing the shutter by hand will introduce a small vibration that can introduce camera shake into the image and cause them to be misaligned in Photoshop.

That being said, Photoshop does a good job with aligning layers that are slightly off.

Personally, I like to tether my camera to Lightroom or Capture One and activate the shutter from within the program.

To shoot for focus stacking, start off by composing your shots and determining your exposure. You should use manual mode so that your exposure is the same from shot to shot.

  • Choose a point on your subject to focus on and take a shot.
  • Focus on a different point on your subject without moving the camera or adjusting any setting
  • Choose the next point and take the final exposure.

Three images will often be enough to cover each area of depth-of-field but it will vary by image

Focus stacking in Photoshop

To blend the images together in Photoshop, start off by exporting PSD files into a folder or onto your desktop where you can easily find them.

  • Open Photoshop.
  • Go to File and choose Scripts.
  • Select Load Files into Stack.
  • Click Browse and select all the images from where you saved them initially.
  • Check the Box for Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images.
  • Click OK. Each of the images will open as a new layer in Photoshop.
  • Hold down Shift and click on the top layer in the Layers panel to highlight all the layers.
  • Under Edit, select Auto Blend-Layers.
  • Check the box for Stack Images and also for Seamless Tones and Colors. DO NOT check ‘Content Aware.’ Click OK.
  • Save the final image.

If you have uploaded a lot of images, flatten the final image by selecting Layer -> Flatten Image -> Save.


Focus stacking is necessary for product photography but also very useful for other types of still life photography – even food photography.

If you’re fairly new to Photoshop, don’t be intimidated.

Focus stacking is a lot easier than you might think and you will undoubtedly be pleased with your results.

Have you used photoshop focus stacking? If so, share with us your thoughts and images below.


The post Photoshop Focus Stacking for Still Life and Product Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Shadows

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 13:00

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

Your weekly photography challenge – SHADOWS!

Still River in black and white by caz-nowaczyk

This week, I challenge you to embrace shadows in your photography. Shadows can be used to tell stories, create drama and mood, as well as mystery.

Your photos can be color, or black and white, and be landscape, portraiture, street photography or any other genre. Either way, I can’t wait to see them!

Check out today’s video on embracing shadows as well as some of the articles below that may give you inspiration for shooting and editing Shadow pictures.

Here are some cool insta pics for inspiration too:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Manuel Pena (@manolobrown) on Dec 4, 2018 at 3:52am PST



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Julia Coddington (@juliacoddington) on Sep 20, 2018 at 2:44pm PDT


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Dilerious Dilettante (@loulou_mcphee) on Dec 6, 2018 at 11:52am PST


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jeremy Perez-Cruz (@sleepingplanes) on Oct 29, 2018 at 4:46am PDT


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Gregory Urquiaga (@eight_spicey_ducks) on Dec 4, 2017 at 12:29pm PST

Add Impact to Your Photos by Including Shadows

5 Tips for Mastering Shadows in Your Photography

How to Use Shadow and Contrast to Create Dramatic Images

24 Dark and Mysterious Shadow Images

25 Shadow Images to Inspire You

Still Waters in black and white by Caz Nowaczyk

Weekly Photography Challenge – Shadows

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll be 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 #DPSSHADOWS 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 – Shadows appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Embracing Shadows in Photography – A Lesson for Light and Life

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 08:00

The post Embracing Shadows in Photography – A Lesson for Light and Life appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this fantastic video by Sean Tucker, he takes a look at the ways shadows can be used in photography to create mystery and depth.



Shadows in film

Throughout this process, he examines the work of cinematographer, Roger Deakins, and looks at stills from his films Skyfall, Bladerunner, Jarhead and Unbroken. Using these amazing film stills, he analyses how the Deakins uses color, backlight, selective lighting and loads of deep shadows to create mystery and mood in his images.

According to Sean, many photographers say that using film as a point-of-reference for this type of photography is difficult because the same type of images cannot be captured in stills. As photographers, we simply don’t have access to million-dollar lighting set-ups and set design.

Photographers who tell stories through shadows

So, as part of this perspective, Sean also looks at photographers, Constantine Manos, Ray Metzker, Saul Leiter, and Trent Parke who manage to capture shadows in creative ways. These photographers manage to do this through the use of natural light and in the genres of landscape, portraiture and street photography. Through these images, they sculpt light, create character and tell stories with an interesting narrative. These images draw the viewer in and tell richer stories.

In the video, Sean also discusses the limitations of cameras to see the full dynamic range of the eye. He shows us exactly how this theory works with our camera through a diagrammatic presentation. A helpful tool for those wanting to understand dynamic range.

You may also find the following articles helpful:

Add Impact to Your Photos by Including Shadows

5 Tips for Mastering Shadows in Your Photography

How to Use Shadow and Contrast to Create Dramatic Images

24 Dark and Mysterious Shadow Images

25 Shadow Images to Inspire You

The post Embracing Shadows in Photography – A Lesson for Light and Life appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Taking a Measured Approach to Learning Photography

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 13:00

The post Taking a Measured Approach to Learning Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Whether you have just invested in your first camera, or you did so a while back, taking a measured approach to learning to use it will help you improve your photography.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Beyond camera skills, there’s a whole lot more to making great photos. Composition, lighting, timing, and relationship with your subject are all important aspects of photography. All are largely unrelated to camera tech.

Photography is a journey. You can make it as long or short as you like. You can stick to a well-beaten path, (and create photos much the same as most people do,) or be more ambitious and scale lofty peaks. If you want to do the latter you better have a good idea of where you want to go and be ready to develop the necessary skills for the adventure.

Where do you start and how do you become competent in both the technical and creative aspects of photography?

Start with What’s Essential

Camera manuals are notorious. They are often difficult to understand and the information can appear disjointed. However, these books provide you with valuable insight. To be able to create interesting photographs you need to have a good knowledge and understanding of your camera first.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Start with your camera manual. Read it in the language you most easily understand, (and ignore all other language options.) Don’t try and absorb it all at once. Spread out your reading over the first week with your camera in your hands. Take in a little at a time and practice it.

Google and Youtube will often provide you with information about your camera that’s more straightforward. Search your camera make and model. Find one or two sources that cover it in depth and spend time studying it.

Get a good grasp of the basics of how your camera works. Get to know it’s settings and functions. Learning these things will help you avoid a lot of frustration when you are taking photos.

Concentrate on the Basic Functions

Trying to learn all the intricacies of your camera right at the start can be confusing. Modern cameras are packed with more whistles and bells than you will ever need to use.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

My first camera was a simple tool. I had no option but to learn to use it manually. It had no automatic functions. This was a great way to learn. Thirty years or so later as I was preparing to launch my photography workshops, I had to study how to teach using the auto settings. I had never used them.

It’s a little like driving a car with an automatic transmission after learning in a manual shift car. Easy, because you’ve already mastered the essentials in manual mode.

Personally, I think using manual mode gives you the freedom to become more creative with your camera. I encourage you to do this. If you don’t have the time or commitment, experiment with the auto settings on your camera and find one or two which suit you best. Don’t be distracted by the scene modes or the many other functions your camera has. When you are starting out these will just add confusion.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Be Regular

Picking up your camera frequently and regularly is the one thing that will advance your photography. Make a habit of taking at least one photo a day. It only needs to take a few minutes.

Once you form a habit you will find it easy to make more time for photography. As you become familiar with your camera you will start to enjoy it more. When this happens you will notice you are beginning to take better photographs. It can become addictive.

Using your camera infrequently will lead to some frustration each time you do pick it up. You will have to think again which dials and buttons do what. You will not be familiar enough with the controls to use your camera with ease. Taking at least one photo a day will help you learn the camera controls and before long you will know them and use them intuitively. You don’t need to make a masterpiece each day, just try to improve a little at a time.

© Pansa Landwer-Johan

Learn a Little More

Studying – along with regular camera use – will accelerate your photography learning experience. Find a good book, online course or enroll in some classes.

Look for a teacher or author whose style you like and would like to emulate. Some people who teach photography will have you concentrate heavily on the technical aspects of the craft. Others will encourage you to leave your camera on auto all the time and let the camera do the work. It’s your choice which path you choose to follow. I prefer to teach a mix of the creative and technical aspects of photography.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Building your technical ability is important. You need to understand your camera and how to manage the settings. Receiving some good teaching on the functions of shutter speed, aperture, ISO, focus and other essential controls will lead you to be more creative. Once you have learned these skills your mind will be freer to focus on the creative elements that make good photographs.

Having a good grasp of composition, light, color, and timing is equally important for being able to make good photographs. Much of the creative side of photography is very subjective. You can study it and gain foundational knowledge. This will set you up towards developing your own personal photographic style.

Without a balance between technical and creative study, you can end up unbalanced. This can lead to technically perfect snapshots or terribly exposed, out-of-focus ‘creative’ photographs.

Three Helpful Tips to Help Your Progress

Make a separate folder on your computer, somewhere you can access it easily. At least once a week, go through the photos you have made and choose a few of your favorites. Put them in this new folder. This is your portfolio. You don’t need to share it with anyone else (but it’s a good idea to.) It’s there so you can see your photographs improve over time.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Having your work critiqued by a more experienced photographer helps. You may not always see what you have done wrong. You may look at your photos and know they are not great, but not be able to figure out why. This is where an experienced photographer can help you. A good critique will be positive and constructive but not shy away from pointing out changes which need to be made.

Finding someone to mentor you is one sure way that will help your photography progress. Regular contact with a more experienced photographer who’s committed to helping you learn will accelerate the process. The feedback a mentor can provide is invaluable. A good mentor will teach and guide you. They will also set and assess assignments for you.


© Pansa Landwer-Johan

Like learning to play a musical instrument or losing weight, the level of your commitment will be reflected in the level of your success. The more committed you are to learning to use your camera well, the more successful you become.

Frequent camera use and study will propel you more quickly to your goal. It’s your choice. Make regular study and camera use a daily habit. Go through and separate out your favorite photos once a week or so. You will be encouraged by the photos you are making. You will never achieve your potential by only occasionally picking up your camera.

The post Taking a Measured Approach to Learning Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Photography Equipment Tips for an Africa Photo Safari

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 08:00

The post Photography Equipment Tips for an Africa Photo Safari appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Andrew Sproule.

There’s no doubt that booking and planning for an Africa photo safari is an exciting time, especially if it’s your very first venture. As a photo safari tour leader, I’m used to the process. Nevertheless, I still behave very much like a child in anticipation of what Christmas brings. As your departure date draws nearer, your thoughts move to packing for your trip. Although the appropriate clothing is essential, these trips are really about amazing wildlife encounters, shared experiences and capturing memories. It’s time to think about your photography equipment, – your gear.

It’s time to pack your camera bag!

Author’s Note

Before I dive in, I would like to state that this article represents my tips for maximizing your experience while on an Africa photo safari. It’s a guide with a mix of opinion and facts based on my on-location, in-the-field experience. It’s a summary, an introduction and not a laboratory review and therefore should be treated as such.

Secondly, I always recommend photography enthusiasts choose a safari designed explicitly with photographers in mind. General ‘tourist’ safaris have their place, but they’re much more likely to be governed by a species timetable. Lion, check. Move on. Buffalo, check. Move on. You get the picture. On a dedicated Africa photo safari trip, not only will you share a vehicle (often customized for photographers) with liked minded people, you’ll also benefit from being able to spend much more time with an individual animal or group of animals. You’ll be able to witness unusual behaviors and explore different angles and lighting situations. Explicit and invaluable guidance and advice are also on tap.

Thirdly, you’ll notice that I’ve included my camera settings below a number of the images. These settings worked for me in those particular situations, under certain conditions to produce the type of image I was after. I suggest you use these posted settings as a guide only. Instead, think about how these images might look if you were to adjust the shutter speed, aperture or ISO. Then, take that information into the field with you. The relationship between these elements can create widely different outcomes and also help you to define your style.

Leopard, Botswana. Canon 1DX, Canon 70-200mm(at 105mm), f/2.8, ISO 400, 1/125th sec handheld. Image © Andrew Sproule

Cameras for an Africa Photo Safari

Notice I have stated ‘cameras’ in the title and not ‘camera.’ I recommend you take at least two camera bodies with you. On the surface, this may seem like overkill or even a touch extravagant, but there are valid reasons why.

Firstly, it’s peace of mind. Imagine the heart-sinking moment if your camera fails. That emotion is tenfold if it happens on day one of a two-week photo safari! Whether you take two DSLRs, two mirrorless cameras, a combination of both, or an alternative solution, possessing a backup prevents any unnecessary anxiety. Before I purchased a second camera body, I used to hire one for my Africa trips. I still do this on occasion. It’s a great way of testing and trialing gear in the field beforehand and working out what works best for you.

Secondly, Africa is an extraordinarily harsh and dusty environment. Sand and dust particles are the enemies of sensitive camera sensors. Consequently, eliminating the need to swap lenses while on location can be a huge plus.

Furthermore, having two cameras armed with different lenses (for example a telephoto lens and a mid-range zoom), you’ll find it easy to switch between them. Switching between them is useful when wildlife comes too close, or if you are pulling away for a wide shot of wildlife in context of its habitat. Being able to adapt to shifting conditions can mean the difference between capturing, or not capturing the shot.

Not everyone is in a position to take two cameras. It also doesn’t matter whether your camera is full-frame, crop-sensor or another type, as there are pros and cons to all. What is fundamental is that you know your camera intimately. Practice on your dog, your cat or deer in a local park. Whatever you can. The more familiar you are with your camera’s features, the quicker you’ll be able to adjust to conditions that unfold in front of you with confidence.

Lenses for an Africa Photo Safari

Super-telephoto lenses with a focal length of 300mm plus are the staple for most Africa photo safaris. For crop-sensor cameras, 300mm should be ideal. If you intend to photograph birds as well as large game, the longer the focal length, the better. Full-frame cameras usually need lenses of 400m+.

Wild dog, Botswana. Canon 1DX, Canon 500mm, f/5.6, ISO 200, +2/3 EV, 1/160th sec, monopod. Image © Andrew Sproule

Although my go-to lens is a 500mm, I believe the versatility of zoom lenses make them ideal for African safaris. There’s such a wide variety of birds and mammals of a degree of varying sizes and distances that a good lens option would be something like the 100-400mm.

A short-zoom lens in the range of 24-70mm is also a great option as it provides the flexibility to pull away to present wildlife within its environment, adding real context to an image. Because I’m also a landscape photographer, I also favor super-wide lenses in the range of 16-35mm or 14-24mm.

Much of Africa’s wildlife is active in the early mornings and late evenings meaning you’ll be battling low levels of light. Lenses with larger apertures, such as f/2.8, allow more available light into the camera, so you’ll be able to use a reasonably high shutter speed for much longer. These lenses are a luxury item though, so an alternative solution is to increase the ISO. Doing so most certainly increases noise, but most photographers would rather have a sharp shot with an acceptable amount of noise than an out of focus shot with no noise. In many cases, you can eradicate most noise in post-production.

Filters for an Africa Photo Safari

I often use filters when composing landscape images, and on an Africa photo safari there are most certainly circumstances when the use of a filter is advantageous. For filters that reduce glare, saturate colors and darken skies, I recommend using a polariser filter.
If you need help to correctly expose bright skies, while preserving exposure detail in the foreground, then I recommend an ND filter.

Camera Support on an Africa Photo Safari

Burchell’s Zebra, Kenya. Canon 1DX, Canon 500mm, f/4, ISO 200, 1/50th sec, bean bag. Image © Andrew Sproule

Bean Bags

Bean bags are my go-to support, especially in East Africa. They are a simple, yet extremely effective support for your camera. Bean bags can be used to rest your lens on a vehicle’s doorsills, window frames, roof rails and the actual roof itself. Also, wildlife is often on the move, so you’re not limited to one position within the vehicle. Many reputable Africa photo safari tour operators provide beanbags. However, that said, it is always worthwhile double-checking beforehand. Bean bags can pack light and get filled with rice or beans on arrival. Some photographers prefer to fill their beanbags with lightweight polystyrene balls before they leave. It’s bulkier but a lightweight alternative. I’ve been using a couple of Kinesis SafariSacks 4.2 for a while. As well as being a great support, the quick release straps secure the bags in place, so you never lose them in the bush.

A typical East Africa safari vehicle. Image courtesy of Governors Camp, Maasai Mara, Kenya

Unfortunately, bean bags are not a universal solution, contrary to what you may have read in certain books or magazine articles. Although they’re a fantastic solution in East Africa, they’re not as useful in Southern Africa (including South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). The reason is that the vehicles there are radically different. Safaris in Southern Africa use open Land Rovers and Land Cruisers with no sides at all – often there isn’t even a windshield! So, there is nothing on which to rest the beanbag. In Namibia, both open Land Rovers and closed vehicles are in common use.

A typical Southern Africa safari vehicle. Image courtesy of Motswari Private Game Reserve, South Africa


If a bean bag is not an option, a monopod offers a lightweight and more practical alternative to use within the confines of a safari vehicle. Especially in Southern Africa. You don’t need to extend it entirely, and it takes the strain from your arms and shoulders while seated. It’s surprising how effective it can be. I have tested many monopods over the years and have found that Gitzo Monopods best suit my needs. I also use a Really Right Stuff lever-style, quick release that makes the process of taking lenses on and off the monopod very fast.


A tripod is useful or even an essential piece of kit for evening photography, longer exposures or for around the camp. Although, the wide-spread tripod legs make them impractical and ill-advised for most safari vehicles. However, if you’re in an open vehicle on your own, or perhaps with one other, a tripod can be rigged to provide an excellent platform for larger lenses. To avoid badly damaging your camera from vehicle shake, always remove your camera from the tripod while on the move.

Some airlines take a dim view of tripods, and you may find it difficult to persuade them to let you take it in the cabin as part of your hand luggage. If it’s going in the hold, it can take up more of your baggage weight allowance.


I often use a ball head or gimbal head on a Manfrotto® Superclamp that can be bolted almost anywhere, including a vehicle’s roof bars. If I’m on my own, or part of a tiny group, I may even have several of these clamps placed in strategic points around the vehicle making it extremely easy to switch from side to side and back to front.

Manfrotto 035 Superclamp. Image courtesy of Manfrotto®

Storing Images while on an Africa Photo Safari Laptop

You could easily take 300-500 images a day. Trigger-happy photographers may even have over 1,000, so a small laptop with external hard drives are useful for securely backing up your photographs. If weight restrictions allow, two hard drives that mirror each other is a great solution. Remember to pack essential items such as connecting cables, chargers and memory card readers.

Memory Cards

An alternative solution to external hard drives is to bring extra memory cards. You can file these away at the end of each day. That way, you are safe in the knowledge that your data remains untouched until you arrive home. If you don’t like the idea of swapping out memory cards too often, go for larger capacity ones such as 32GB. That said, I don’t like to put all my eggs in one basket, and therefore I opt for 2 or 3 smaller cards in favor of one larger one.

Accessories for an Africa Photo Safari Batteries

Get to know what you can expect out of your camera with regards to battery life and take enough spares to get you through each day. Cold is a battery’s nemesis, so make sure they’re not getting too cold overnight. I have two spare batteries for each camera body, and that’s always been more than adequate for my purposes.

Lens Cleaning Cloth

Remember lens cleaning cloths. I would also recommend a camera and lens cover that helps protect your camera in the event of a rain shower and for protecting your gear against the dust mentioned above.


Don’t forget your smartphone, binoculars, head torch, notepad and pen, personal medication, malaria medication, toiletries, money, your passport, and visa.

For detailed, up-to-date information on vaccinations and more, you are best to consult an official website.

Packing for an Africa Photo Safari

I recommend packing high-value items like cameras, lenses, and laptops in your hand luggage. Some airline safety requirements require you to pack batteries in your hand luggage, so ensure you charge your items, as airport security often requires you to demonstrate that laptops and cameras are all in full working order. A simple rule of thumb is to pack items essential to your photography, travel, and health in your hand luggage.

Pack your gear very carefully with disruption in mind. Some Africa photo tours can consist of two or three successive flights to get to various destinations in Africa. There may be two or even three layers of airport security on each of these flights. You may be required to unpack large cameras, lenses, and laptops. If you can, avoid placing smaller accessories on top of larger items that you may need to take out repeatedly and re-pack. Pack cables and batteries together in small pouches rather than loose in your bag.

Your camera bag should be large enough for your gear but small and light enough for all cabin limits. When packed you should be able to safely lift your bag in and out of the overhead lockers without assistance. Check the maximum sizes and weights for all the airlines and be aware that different flights often have different rules.

For small internal charter flights within Africa, total baggage allowance (hand luggage plus hold luggage) can be as little as 20kg and bags must be soft and pliable.

Typical Southern Africa internal charter flight. Image courtesy of Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana

Final Thoughts on an Africa Photo Safari

An Africa Photo Safari is an incredible experience. For many, it is a-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity both to experience incredible scenery and wildlife and to take amazing photographs.

There’s no doubt that it can be a daunting experience packing expensive and essential photography equipment for a safari. Even for seasoned photographers. Just remember to seek out advice. If you are booked on a photographer-specific tour, you can request support from your guides and or Africa safari tour facilitator. They have the experience and knowledge to help you make it the through this process with as little stress as possible.

The post Photography Equipment Tips for an Africa Photo Safari appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Andrew Sproule.

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

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 13:00

The post Black and White in the Outdoors: Learning to see in Monochrome appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by David Shaw.

To determine when black and white is the best option in nature photography, you need to learn to see your scene in black and white. Most beginner photographers arrive at their monochrome images by experimenting with post-processing. While this occasionally works, shooting with black and white in mind results in far better images.

In other words, you need to SEE in black and white.

Look for Contrast Highlights

In color photography, there are almost unlimited options to juxtapose contrasting and complementary colors or to provide an attention-getting subject in a flashy tone. But in black and white, you lose the ability to use color in the traditional way and are instead left with shades of gray. Contrast, rather than color, is our compositional tool.

Most of us see the world in rich color and there is no saturation slider in our eyes or brains with which we can switch color on and off. But we can train ourselves to see contrasts.

As I’m writing this, I’m looking out my window onto the spruce trees in my front yard. The sun is shining on a layer of fresh snow which fell over the past few days. The limbs of the spruces are draped in white. Looking south, toward the low sun, I can see flashes of perfect white where the sunlight is illuminating fresh snow. Those bright highlights contrast sharply with the dark, shaded trunks and exposed branches of the trees. In fact, even in the shaded areas, the difference between the snow and the dark needles is remarkable. With little color in the scene to begin with, it doesn’t take much to “see” this scene in black and white.

Because I can “see” this scene clearly in black and white, I can recognize that images like this will translate well from color. Here, let me step outside for a few minutes and make a few photos, to show you what I mean.

(A few minutes later…)

I’m back. I’ve pulled a few images and did a quick black and white conversion in Lightroom. Here are a couple of shots; first color, and then black and white.

This is a straightforward example. As most people can see, lacking many colors, the snowy trees were a likely subject for black and white. However, the next step is harder.

Color Contrast

I had another black and white shooting session a few months back when “seeing” in black and white was much more difficult.

Each fall, I make a pilgrimage from my home in Alaska’s interior to the Kenai Peninsula. This year, I spent a day exploring the forest and mountains of Kachemak Bay State Wilderness Park, across the bay from the town of Homer. I hiked for several miles through the wet forest making images of the rising autumn colors, and the fog-draped mountains. It was a sea of greens and yellows, red highlights, grays, and browns. Some images were perfect for color, others not so much. Telling the difference in the field was a game I played as I walked.

Some black and white images were clear in the gloomy forest. The dull yellow, jagged leaves of Devil’s Club against the muted greens and browns of the forest floor were an obvious contrast that I knew would translate well into black and white.

Others, like the pale green of fern fronds, were less contrasty in the field, and yet translated beautifully into shades of gray.

These ferns were dying back at the end of the season and were largely a dull brown. Kind of ugly really. However, the color doesn’t matter in black and white, and the contrast between the pale brown fronds, and the deeply shaded background worked.

This patch of ferns was pale green and popped against the darker green background. This is my favorite image of the series. It was a shot that took me a moment to “see” in black and white.

Another shot of an autumn stalk of bright red fireweed, I thought would look good in black and white when I first made the image, but upon examination of the back of my camera in the field. There was actually little contrast in brightness between the greens and red. That image didn’t work quite as well.

Lighting Contrast

Later that same afternoon, bright sunlight started to filter through increasingly thin clouds. It wasn’t yet hard light, but it was bright enough to be directional. The sun came through the forest canopy in patches, illuminating and shading different areas.

And this brought about a third option for black and white: lighting contrast. In the differing light, even similar colors will contrast in black and white.

Beyond Details

Seeing a large scene in black and white is the next step. I was photographing by a lake this fall. It was early in the day, the sun not yet far above the horizon, but any lingering sunrise color had faded. Most of the lake, some rising fog, and the surrounding mountains were in shadow. Aside from the sky, there wasn’t a lot of contrast. I was about to pack it in for the morning when the sun got high enough to illuminate a patch of fog, which flashed white in this scene of muted blues. Not much for color, I thought, but in black and white? That, I realized, would work.

Terrible Light

At times, when photographing in harsh light, black and white can also salvage an otherwise impossible situation. A number of years ago, I was shooting in the altiplano of Bolivia. I arrived at mid-day at the spectacular and weird Laguna Colorado. It was savagely bright; cloudless skies, high elevation, middle of the day, and within a few degrees of the equator. Lighting conditions couldn’t have been worse.

While the landscape was uniformly drenched in harsh, ugly light, there was contrast in the colors of the desert. A polarizer darkened the sky and removed the worst of the glare. The resulting black and white conversion, was if not perfect, at least the best of a very bad situation.

Frequently traveling photographers find themselves in beautiful locations at bad times, and we don’t always have the freedom to return when the light is better. In such situations, consider black and white. It’s not a cure-all, by any means, but nasty light will often translate better into monochrome than full color.

The situation I described above was not unique on my trip through Bolivia. The sweet light of morning and evening lasted only minutes in the high desert, quickly replaced by glaring light. And yet contrasts in the landscape salvaged many a scene for me.


If you can recognize a black and white subject in the field, it will open up your eyes to new compositions you may have previously ignored. Black and white photography is not simply the removal of color, it is a way of seeing.

When next you venture outdoors with your camera, look at the way colors and even shades contrast with one another. Look for lighting conditions that cause contrast to appear and embrace those situations in the form of black and white photography. Even on those days with rotten, bright light, consider how removing those washed out colors might help your final image, sometimes black and white can salvage an otherwise desperate moment.

Give it a try and then share your results in the comments below.

The post Black and White in the Outdoors: Learning to see in Monochrome appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by David Shaw.

4 Tips for Building a Photography Portfolio and Business

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 08:00

The post 4 Tips for Building a Photography Portfolio and Business appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

For some of us, a photography business springs from a hobby and grows into a paid endeavor, and so we feel it just landed in our laps. To others, it was more of a dream that was kept close and dear and planned to make a reality for a long time. For others, doors of opportunity open at the right time and place, and they’ve grabbed it.

Regardless of how your photography business has come about, for your business to take shape and grow, there are necessary steps to take. These steps require many initiatives and work and do not depend on luck or open doors of opportunity.

Let me share with you a few tips for building a photography portfolio and business. This article is of benefit if you are building your business from scratch or have been in operation but have relocated, requiring you to start afresh in a new location.

1. Build a Strong Portfolio

Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t expect that you have a massive pile of photoshoots under your belt in the beginning (although that would be great.) All you need is a handful of carefully curated photos for your portfolio. If you have any images from practices or hobby shoots, choose your very best images. The best of the best, even if you only end up with a handful. If you are brave enough to do so, choose one genre and focus on that!

Usually the more niched, the stronger the portfolio.

2. Call for Models

If you don’t have any images to use or you feel your images are not good enough yet, plan a model call-out. Shoot new images that are more focused and consistent – your portfolio benefits from more consistent images. The goal down the line is that you are the one people think of when they need a photo shoot of a particular type.

You’re the expert in that field, and therefore you can also command decent prices. Having this in mind at the very start of your portfolio-building helps you streamline your model call plans in regards to age group, style, outfits location, and set-up. Branding is vital, especially at this stage. One could go as far as saying branding is everything.

You have two choices for model calls:

1. You can ask friends or friends of friends. You can do a public call on your social media platforms. If going the friends’ route, you may decide not to charge as you may feel they are doing you a favor. That is your call. However, money doesn’t grow on trees in business. Money comes from clients or investors who want a return on their investment.

Therefore, don’t be quick to offer your services for free, especially if you want to start charging decent fees or market rate. It’s hard for a potential paying client to start paying good money after initially being offered a freebie.

2. There are other options far better than offering freebies. You can do a barter of some sort. Think of something that either party finds beneficial with relatively equal values. You can also charge a fair rate for portfolio building that is lower than the market rate. You can offer the session at no charge in exchange for the model call but sell the prints. That way it’s not a total freebie.

Right off the bat, learn to accept money from clients without feeling guilty or feeling that you don’t deserve it. Also, don’t be embarrassed about it!

3. Have a Web Presence

Nowadays, if you are not on the web, you are not on the map. You don’t need a super-fancy website either if you feel that is out of reach at the moment. Although, it is easy enough to start a website using readily adaptable templates. More importantly, use social media platforms that are free and easy to set up such as Facebook and Instagram.

If possible, have both. However, if you are only doing one, a top tip is to think about your audience. What platform is your target market using? Parents with children are usually on Facebook. Younger age groups, like seniors, early 20s and 30s, are on Instagram. If you are after more real-time conversations and engagement with your followers, you could also link your accounts on Twitter.

A Web Presence is Your Virtual Office

Having a web presence is like having a virtual office. People can contact you and view your strongest images in your portfolio. This tool can be leveraged to reach more people, especially friends of friends. You can tag friends, share on their page, and ask them to share. All of these methods help to spread the word about you.

By tapping into your contacts’ friends, you are starting from a position of trust. You are no longer a stranger to a potential client but a referral. Use that to your advantage. By being reached easily on social media channels, you become more of a real person than just a webshop.

4. Print Some Business Cards and Stationery

While they may seem old-fashioned, business cards are useful because some people expect them, and they are great if you are networking in-person. If you want to be memorable, make your cards into a magnet, so you stay on people’s fridges! Think of something quirky, or at least different, so that you stand out more.

Having some printed promotional materials like mini-brochures and vouchers are invaluable. They come in handy if you want to collaborate with other small businesses in your area, such as your local health clinics for baby and maternity shoots, or boutique shops that sell outfits that fit with your branding.

I hope the tips in this article will help you in some way as you start your photography business. If you have any other tips, please share them in the comments below.

You may also find this article helpful.

The post 4 Tips for Building a Photography Portfolio and Business appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

Full Frame VS Crop Sensor VS Micro Four Thirds: Camera Sensors Explained

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 13:00

The post Full Frame VS Crop Sensor VS Micro Four Thirds: Camera Sensors Explained appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kunal Malhotra.

‘DSLR Camera, Full-Frame, Crop Sensor’- Just 3 terms which are prevalent in virtually every discussion involving photography. The two terms in use to classify sensor sizes of a DSLR camera are ‘Full-Frame’ and ‘Crop-Sensor.’ A Full-Frame camera contains a sensor size equivalent to a 35mm film format whereas a Crop-Sensor camera has a sensor size smaller than a full-frame sensor or a 35mm film format.

Micro-Four-Thirds (4/3) is a relatively new format (and term). First introduced around 2008, this sensor is slightly smaller and compact in nature. However, owing to a variety of factors, this format is now considered almost equal to, if not better than, the Crop Sensor format.

Apart from the physical size difference, there are several other points of difference between a full-frame sensor, a crop-sensor, and a micro-four-thirds sensor. Let’s take a look at a comparison between them under the following characteristics, to get an accurate understanding of their differences.

Crop Factor

As mentioned above, a full-frame camera has a 35mm sensor based on the old film-format concept. Whereas, a crop-sensor (also called APS-C) has a crop factor of 1.5x (Nikon) or 1.6x (Canon). Micro-Four-Thirds are even smaller sensors having a crop factor of 2x.

This crop factor also directly affects our field of view. Simply put, an APS-C sensor would show us a cropped (tighter) view of the same frame as compared to a full-frame sensor, and a Micro-Four-Thirds sensor would show an even tighter (more cropped) output of the same frame.

LEFT: Photo clicked using a Full-Frame camera. CENTER: Photo clicked using a Crop-Sensor camera. RIGHT: Photo clicked using a Micro-Four-Thirds camera.

Focal Length

The focal length obtained by different sensors is also directly associated with crop-factor. The focal length measurement of any given lens is based on the standard 35mm film format. Whenever we use any crop-sensor camera, its sensor crops out the edges of the frame, which effectively increases the focal length. However, this is not the case with any full-frame sensor, as there is no cropping involved with a full-frame field of view.

For example, in the Nikon eco-system, a crop-sensor camera such as the D5600 has a ‘multiplier factor’ of 1.5x. Thus, if I mount a 35mm f/1.8 lens on my Nikon D5600, it would multiply the focal length by 1.5x, thus effectively giving me a focal length output of around 52.5mm. If you mount the same lens on a full-frame Nikon body such as the D850, it gives an output of 35mm.

Similarly, if you mount a 35mm lens on a Micro-Four-Thirds sensor, which has a crop factor of 2x, it effectively doubles the focal length obtained to around 70mm.

LEFT: Photo clicked at 35mm on a Full-Frame camera. CENTER: Photo clicked at 35mm on a Crop-Sensor camera. RIGHT: Photo clicked at 35mm on a Micro-Four-Thirds camera.

Depth of Field

Similar to focal length, the aperture or f-stop measurement of a lens is based on the full-frame 35mm format. Similar to focal length, a ‘multiplier effect’ gets applied to the f-stop when using crop-sensors. As we know, the f-stop or aperture is the singular most important factor that affects the Depth of Field.

Thus, a Micro-Four-Thirds camera gives us less (shallow) Depth of Field at similar focal lengths when compared with a full-frame camera. For example, an image shot at f/1.8 on a Micro-Four-Thirds camera would give an output similar to an image shot at f/3.6 on a full-frame camera, and f/2.7 on a crop sensor camera. This is assuming that the effective focal length, and other shooting conditions, are the same.

Low Light Performance

Generally, full-frame cameras provide not only better low light & high ISO performance, but a better dynamic range. These factors combined eventually produces a much better image output than any crop-sensor camera can achieve.

Full-frame cameras are capable of capturing the most light and will almost always out-perform an APS-C or Micro-Four-Thirds camera body under low-light conditions. Micro-Four-Thirds sensors don’t perform well under low-light conditions where the ISO needs to be cranked up to say, above 2000.

For these reasons, despite full-frame camera kits being expensive, bulky and heavy to carry around, they are still industry-standard and the preferred cameras for virtually all professional photography work.


Thus, while full-frame DSLR’s remaining the industry standard even today, we cannot ignore the undeniable advantages of the Micro-Four-Thirds cameras. Micro-Four-Third cameras, such as the Olympus EP-5 & the Panasonic GH5, are affordable and easy to carry around. Thus, enabling a much larger group of people (who are hobbyists and enthusiasts but not professionals) to have access to DSLR-like shooting conditions at a fraction of the price.

Ultimately, factors such as your budget, use and other criteria define whether you choose either Full-Frame, Crop-Sensor, or Micro-Four-Thirds cameras.

Read more info on sensors here.

The post Full Frame VS Crop Sensor VS Micro Four Thirds: Camera Sensors Explained appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kunal Malhotra.

How to Create a Lithography Effect Using Photoshop

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 08:00

The post How to Create a Lithography Effect Using Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

I love getting inspiration from darkroom techniques and applying original effects to digital photos. If you’re like me and want to give your images a vintage look, this tutorial is for you. I’ll show you how to get a beautiful creamy-caramel tone that mimics Lithography (or Lith for short) printing.

Lith printing is a monochrome technique that consists of overexposing the paper and then underdeveloping it. By doing this, your photograph gets warm colors with strong shadows but with aerial highlights. That explained, now let’s get into Photoshop.

1.  Choose Your Image and Create a Black and White Adjustment Layer

To create a Lithography Effect Using Photoshop, choose the image you want to work with and open it in Photoshop. There’s no need to duplicate it or save an extra copy as you’re not going to touch this original image. Everything is done using layers and adjustment layers. Working this way not only protects your original image, but it also allows you to go back and adjust or modify every step if you wish to.


The first step is to create an adjustment Black and White Adjustment layer. To do this, click on the ‘Add Adjustment Layer’ button from the bottom of the layers panel. It’s the one with the symbol of a half dark – half light circle. A pop-up menu appears with all your choices. Choose the Black and White one. Now the properties panel allows you to adjust it through the use of sliders. You can move the green and the yellow sliders to lighten it a little bit like I’m doing. However, this depends on the photo you’re using.

2. Create a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer

Next, add another adjustment layer. This time choose ‘Hue/Saturation’ from the menu to achieve the tones you want. Ensure the ‘Colorize’ box is checked and move the ‘Hue’ slider. In the original technique, the tone depended on the type of paper, the specific blend of developer and the time you left it to process, so you can also be flexible here. In any case aim for a soft brown or caramel, For my taste, something between 20 or 30 on the slider works well.

3. Create a Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer

Create another adjustment layer and choose ‘Brightness/Contrast’ from the menu. Click the ‘Legacy’ box and drag the contrast slider to the left to flatten your mid-tones.

4. Create a Curves Adjustment Layer

The last adjustment layer is meant to adjust the shadows. Add a ‘Curves’ adjustment layer and anchor the lightest part by clicking on the top right corner. Drag the darkest one (on the bottom left) to the right until you reach the first quadrant. Finally, create an anchor point in the middle and drag it upwards for the mid-tones. It may sound complicated, but you can see it in the screenshot below. There is also no need to replicate exactly. It also depends on your image and your liking.

5. Create a New Layer

That is all for the adjustment layers. Now create a new layer. This button is also on the bottom of the panel; however, the symbol is a square with one corner bent. Color this layer by going to Menu -> Edit -> Fill, choose 50% Gray and apply. This layer should completely cover your image but don’t worry; you’ll fix that later.

6. Add Noise

While still in this layer, go to Menu -> Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise. In the pop-up window, choose ‘Monochrome’ and slide up to about 140% because you need to distress the image.

6. Add Blur and Soft Light

Next, go to Menu -> Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and set it to ‘4.’ This softens the noise.

Now change the Blending Mode from the drop-down menu that you’ll see on the top of the panel, and choose ‘Soft Light.’

7. Add a Layer Mask

Now your image is distressed as desired, but the effect needs to be contained only into the darkest areas because Lithography prints are characteristic for their grittiness within the shadows. To achieve this effect, you need to add a layer mask to it. Go to Menu -> Select -> Color Range and sample the darkest areas by clicking on one of them. You can fine-tune this selection by dragging the fuzziness slider.

Now click on the Layer Mask button and see the results or your finished digital Lith. Please give it a try and share your results in the comment section.

The post How to Create a Lithography Effect Using Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

6 Ways to Capture Coastal Scenes to add Impact to Your Photos

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 13:00

The post 6 Ways to Capture Coastal Scenes to add Impact to Your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

Myrtos beach, Kefalonia. © Jeremy Flint

Coastal photography is a popular genre and provides a plethora of photographic opportunities. At the same time, it is an enjoyable experience being by the sea. Whether you are visiting the seaside on a day trip or as part of a holiday, or are lucky enough to live near the coast, the fresh sea air is a refreshing draw while the coastline can be incredibly scenic.

Here are 6 tips to help you capture coastal scenes with impact and take your photos to the next level:

1. Colors of the Seashore

You don’t need to be taking a vacation on a paradise island to capture a beautiful beach shot. Light and water always make an inspiring subject. Captured in the right light, which may only last minutes, a pebbly or sandy beach can become transformed into a strikingly colorful image. With careful framing and the right conditions, a color in the sea in good light and with waves can add impact to your images.

Look at the beach in different ways. Close-ups of vibrant textures in the sand or sea make for great abstract pictures. Alternatively, add contrast to a scene. You can achieve contrast by adding another element such as the sky or white foam in the water.

© Jeremy Flint

2. Crashing Waves

Have you ever been on the coast and enjoyed seeing the dramatic effects of a rough sea and crashing waves? Capture one of the cycles of waves when the next big swell hits. It may take a few attempts to get a picture that is pleasing.

Dunseverick Falls, County Antrim, Northern Ireland © Jeremy Flint.

Be careful to position yourself in an area that is out of danger, so you don’t end up wet. Some coastlines can produce unusually large waves so stay at a safe distance. Use a zoom lens to capture the action and avoid being too close to the sea if the conditions are hazardous.

3. Fast-Flowing Water – Sea Shot

Fast-flowing water can be a challenge to photograph well. There is often a sharp contrast between the dark shadows and the brightness of the water. In bright sunlight, there is the added disparity of light and shade. Take some test shots and adjust the shutter times for creative effects. If you want to record sharper images of the moving sea water, use shorter shutter speeds, or use a longer exposure to give a milky effect. Try different settings and see which effect you prefer.

La Digue, the Seychelles © Jeremy Flint.

4. A Tranquil Scene

Idyllic, peaceful seascapes are great subjects to photograph by the coast.

So how do you capture a tranquil scene well? Some things you should consider are location, tone, and color. Select a suitable location, use gradients of tone to draw the eye into the picture and use color to suggest movement. Capturing a serene and calming scene can be very inspiring and great for the soul.

The Giants Causeway, Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland © Jeremy Flint.

5. The Colors of Sunset

Who doesn’t love witnessing a spectacular sunset by the sea? Photographs of this spectacle can often be underwhelming but vastly improve when vivid skies shine brightly overhead. Aim to arrive early to capture the sunset and be in a position to capture the last rays of light on the ocean.

© Jeremy Flint

Don’t forget to turn around and capture the sky and landscape opposite the sunset which gets bathed in beautiful light.

Take in and photograph the warm yellows and deep blues as the sun reaches the horizon before dipping below.

For subtle or dramatic tones, shoot the palette of colors left in the sky after the sun sets.

© Jeremy Flint

6. Cloud Formations

Magnificent cloud formations are always worth photographing and help take your coastal images to the next level. If you look up from the shoreline, you can see clouds change constantly. They often take on wonderful shapes and patterns that encompass great colors interacting with the seascape.

You can create a fabulous picture of cloudy seascapes just by capturing these changes and shifts of light.

Watch for low clouds in the sky too, which can produce a magical spectacle.

Durdledoor, Jurassic coast, Dorset © Jeremy Flint.


In summary, photographing the coast can be a great experience and a brilliant opportunity to capture coastal scenes beautifully. Crashing waves, fast-flowing water, tranquil scenes, clouds, and colors can all be utilized to create images with impact. Once you capture coastal scenes near you, please share your images with us below.

The post 6 Ways to Capture Coastal Scenes to add Impact to Your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

5 Ways to Light Your Christmas Tree Portraits This Festive Season

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 08:00

The post 5 Ways to Light Your Christmas Tree Portraits This Festive Season appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

You want to snap a picture of the kids around the Christmas tree. But after finally getting a photo where they’re all looking happy, you’re disappointed with how it turns out.

In this scene both the tree and the people are nicely illuminated.

Why is it so dim? Where’s the ambiance? Why can’t I capture what I’m seeing with my eye?

The classic Christmas tree portrait can be problematic. And many of those problems have to do with light. So today I’m going to walk you through the five major lighting solutions for better Christmas tree portraits.

I want you to be able to set up a quick shot in front of the tree and have it turn out well. And to do that you need to light the people in the photo without ruining the mood of the Christmas tree lights.

Nighttime vs Daytime Tree Photos

There’s a big difference between taking a Christmas tree portrait at night and taking one during the day. What’s the difference? Light. During the day you can make use of natural window light. However, at night you have to create your own light, which means you’re often taking your tree portrait in a dimly lit room.

So let’s cover nighttime tree photos first, then daylight. Because shooting photos in daylight is easy.

1. Ambient Light by Accident

Ambient light simply refers to the light already present in the scene – the light from your tree, whatever other bulbs you have on in the room, and maybe some lamps or an overhead light.

Many people prefer using ambient light to their camera flash because the flash often ruins the mood of the scene. Working in ambient light can be wonderful providing you’re intentional about it. You can’t just turn on the tree lights and hope for the best.

This was our first ever family photo around the Christmas tree. Like most families, I propped up the camera and set the ten-second timer. But clearly, it didn’t work. Even though the tree is glowing nicely, we’re not lit at all.

2. Ambient Light on Purpose

If you’re going to rely on ambient light for your photos (rather than using your camera flash), you need to get extra light on the people without it spilling onto the Christmas tree. You don’t want to spoil the mood and glow of the tree lights, but you still want the people to be lit nicely.

Try moving some lamps around. Don’t just turn them on to get more light. Move them closer to the people.

This portrait was taken using only the tree lights and a small lamp. Because of the way they diffuse light, lamps create soft light.

3. Pop-Up Flash

Sometimes the ambient light just doesn’t work. So how else can you light the scene? By using the pop-up flash on your camera.

I can hear you groaning. “But I hate the look of flash.” Me too. But there are things you can do to make it look better. And what you rather have – a photo lit as well as possible with flash or no photo at all?

Remember, the idea is to light the people without ruining the mood of the tree lights.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Move the people in your photo away from the tree a little (three feet or more).
  2. Get as close to the people as you can.

Why do it like this? Because when you’re closer to the people, the flash sends out a smaller burst of light. Once it reaches the people in your photo it fades out quickly, which means it won’t light up the tree too much.

In this photo the pop-up flash has lit the entire scene, ruining the ambient light of the Christmas tree. I need to bring her away from the tree and closer to the camera so the flash lights her but not the tree.


While I also used the pop-up flash in this photo, this time she’s further away from the tree. Now she is lit nicely by the flash, while the tree remains untouched by the flash.

4. External Flash

If you don’t like your pop-up flash blasting light directly at your subject, you could try using an external flash instead. It still attaches to your camera, but you can aim it at the ceiling or a wall to bounce the light off that surface and onto your subject.

I used an external flash for both of these photos. For the photo on the left, I pointed the flash at the wall so the light bounced back to light her up. In the photo on the right, I pointed the flash at the ceiling.

Bouncing light can be tricky when it comes to color. As well as the light, it will also reflect the color of the wall or ceiling it bounces off. (Direct flash is a much cleaner light than bounced flash.) As you can see, the photos I took with the external flash look much warmer. But I can adjust that with a program such as Lightroom.

Notice how her eyes are a little dark in this photo? The light is being bounced off the ceiling above her and isn’t lighting up her eyes. To avoid that, back up a little farther so the light bounces back in front of her and not just above.

Tip: If your flash seems too bright, turn down the power with flash exposure compensation.

I turned the flash power down all the way in order to add just a little bit of light to the scene.

5. Window Light

Window light is is my favorite form of natural ambient light. It’s bright and soft, and illuminates people wonderfully for photos.

This works best when the tree is tucked into a corner out of the window light so it still has some glow for the photo.

Here the tree is tucked into a dim corner so the lights can glow. The kids will sit on the stool and be lit by the window.

Have the light from the window lighting people from the side to create some dimension in the photo through shadow.

The window light provides soft light with just a hint of contrast from the soft shadow. Notice that her left cheek is just a little bit darker than her right.

Notice the glow of the tree and the nice soft light illuminating the portrait.

However, try not to get split light. Have them look toward the window slightly.

Because she’s turned away from the window, a shadow is now dividing her face. Even though it’s still a soft shadow, the light on her face isn’t as pleasing.

In this group portrait, you can even see catch lights in their eyes.

They are turned ever so slightly toward the window, ensuring their faces are nicely illuminated.


Even though I had no idea what I was doing at the time, this is a good example of a glowing Christmas tree combined with window light. There’s a small window illuminating his face, and a larger one creating edge light around his arm and head.

Practice Makes Perfect

Remember, your goal is to set up a quick shot in front of the tree where you’re lighting the people without ruining the glow of the tree lights.

Practice using both flash and window light so you’re prepared for anything. Feel free to share examples of your christmas tree portraits that you’ve taken and how you lit them in the comments.

The post 5 Ways to Light Your Christmas Tree Portraits This Festive Season appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

Improve Your Photography by Learning How To Use Exif Data

Sun, 12/02/2018 - 13:00

The post Improve Your Photography by Learning How To Use Exif Data appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Whenever a photo is taken with a digital camera, data relating to that photo gets stored with the image in what’s known as the Exchange image file format (Exif).

Knowing how to use that Exif data can help you gain insight into the camera settings of both your own and other people’s photos. Seeing what settings worked well together in a great photo (or didn’t work well in a bad one) can help you improve your photography skills.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Data About Data

The Exif data is what’s called metadata (data about data). Some data is more significant and useful than the rest. Within it you’ll find the information you probably know already – camera make and model, image dimensions, copyright information, etc. But you’ll also find information about the exposure, whether or not the flash fired, metering mode, distance to subject, and plenty more.

You can view the Exif data on your camera, on your computer, and on photo sharing sites such as Flickr and 500PX.

Here’s a screenshot of the Exif data being displayed in Adobe Photoshop after choosing ‘File Info...’ from the ‘File’ menu.

To view this information in Windows right-click on the image file and select ‘Properties,’ then select the ‘Details’ tab.

If you’re using a Mac, open the image file in Preview, then select ‘Show Inspector’ from the ‘Tools’  menu and select the ‘Exif’ tab.

Note: Adobe programs create a file with the same name as the image but with the extension ‘xmp’. This stands for Extensible Metadata Platform and contains the Exif data for the image.

As you can see, the EXIF data includes all the information about the exposure. My camera was set to manual mode. My shutter speed was 1/320 sec, the aperture was f/2.8, the ISO was 100, and I used my spot meter. It also shows that my flash fired.

In these examples, we’re looking at data from the RAW file. But the data is also stored in other file types such as JPEG and TIFF.

About the only thing it doesn’t tell you is whether a photo has been manipulated during post-processing.

How Is This Information Useful to Beginner Photographers?

When you first start out, and you’re still getting used to your first camera, the Exif data can help you learn. If you took a photo that didn’t turn out the way you thought it would, the data may show you why.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

For example, seeing that the shutter speed was 1/4th sec will help you understand why your photo was blurred. To shoot at such a slow speed you need to use a tripod to avoid camera shake.

And seeing an aperture setting of f/16 will help you understand why so much of your image is in focus. You could then look at the Exif data of an image where more of the composition is out of focus to see what its aperture setting was.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Use Exif Data To Make Comparisons

The Exif data can also help you compare images you’ve made. Looking at the lens data can help you understand when it’s best to use that lens. Compare the same aperture setting on two different lenses. It will help you learn more about depth of field.

Comparing the same image shot with two different focal lengths is also a useful exercise. These three photos were taken using different lenses (as shown in the Exif data).

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Analyze and Anticipate

Analyzing the Exif data of your photos can help you plan and improve future photo sessions of the same subject or situation. Studying the data on photos from an annual event will give you insights into what you did well and where you can improve.

The Hmong people in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and other countries (including the US and France,) hold awesome New Year festivals. The celebrations include various sporting competitions such as kart racing, crossbow shooting and top spinning, which can all be challenging to photograph.

So before I go to the festival each year I look back at photos I’ve made previously. The Exif data from these images reminds me of the settings I’ve used in the past. When I arrive I know which lens will give me the best photos for each competition, and what shutter speed I’ll need to capture sharp action in the kart racing.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Analyzing data from photos of subjects you don’t photograph can also be helpful. On websites such as Flickr and 500px the Exif data is often displayed alongside the photos, and so you can use it as a reference. When you’re photographing new subjects, especially ones that require special camera settings, look at the Exif data of other people’s photos. It could save you a lot of time and stress.


Making the most of the tools you have will help you become a better photographer. Next time you wonder why a photo worked (or didn’t work) so well, take a look at the Exif data. You may be surprised what you can learn.

Do you use the Exif in other ways? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

The post Improve Your Photography by Learning How To Use Exif Data appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

The (Almost) Perfect Autofocus of the Sony a7R III: a Hands-On Review

Sun, 12/02/2018 - 08:00

The post The (Almost) Perfect Autofocus of the Sony a7R III: a Hands-On Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Focus is one of the most important concepts for a photographer. It can make or break an image. Whether you’re a pixel peeper like me who always looks for technical critical focus or an image maker who uses specific focus points to tell a story,  how the camera focuses is everything.

That’s why the newest addition to the Sony Alpha series is so conversation-worthy. With the 399 focus points on the Sony a7R III, and its ability to track focus like no other, the company touts it’s hard to get a shot that’s out of focus. This camera is like an artificially intelligent robot – it can predict and figure out exactly what you want in focus on.

With the thumb joystick on the back of the camera, you can quickly and easily change your focus point. And its AI Servo is out of this world. It could figure out the entire outline of a subject and hold on to it for dear life.

I take varying images – shooting animal action sports, live concerts, and everything in between. So I took all the boasting I’ve heard about this camera and put it to the ultimate test.

About the Sony a7R III

The a7R III is one of Sony’s newest and flashiest addition to its impressive mirrorless line of cameras. According to its website, the Sony a7R III sports the following drool-worthy perks:

  • 42.4 MP 35mm full-frame Exmor R CMOS and enhanced processing system
  • Standard ISO 100-32000 range (upper limit expandable to 1024005, with a lower limit of 50)
  • Fast Hybrid AF with 399-point focal-plane phase-detection AF and 425-point contrast-detection AF. The focus modes include:
    • AF-A (Automatic AF)
    • AF-S (Single-shot AF)
    • AF-C ( Continuous AF)
    • DMF (Direct Manual Focus)
    • Manual Focus
  • Face detection, with Modes:
    • Face Priority in AF (On/Off)
    • Face Priority in Multi Metering (On/Off)
    • Regist. Faces Priority (On/Off)
    • Face registration (max. number detectable: 8)
  • High-speed continuous shooting of up to 10fps (12fps with AF/AE tracking)
  • 5-axis image stabilization with 5.5-stop exposure advantage
  • 4K video recording
  • Dual card slots with simultaneous or consecutive recording
  • Silent Shooting Mode

The camera is compatible solely with Sony E-mount lenses, including G-Master and Zeiss lenses (sought after in the Sony world). The aspect ratio is 3:2, and the camera can record still images in JPEG, (DCF Ver. 2.0, Exif Ver.2.31, MPF Baseline compliant) and RAW (Sony ARW 2.3 format). The images are quite large: a 35mm full-frame image is 42MP (7,952 x 5,304 pixels), which in uncompressed RAW format takes up about 80MB of storage.

The camera also has built-in noise reduction software you can turn on or off as needed.

But what really set this camera apart (and why I fell in love with it) is the autofocus.

The Sony a7R III Autofocus Features

The a7R III allows for silent shooting at up to 10fps with AF/AE tracking – great for those who do wildlife photography. Shooting at 10 FPS yields up to 76 images at a time (when shooting JPEG).

Its phase-detect points cover around 47% of the sensor area. When you combine that with the contrast-detect sensor areas, the total AF coverage is nearly 68% of the frame.

Advanced algorithms provide high AF precision down to light levels as low as -3 EV for more reliable autofocus in dark scenes. The enhanced Fast Hybrid AF speeds up AF approximately two times faster under dim lighting conditions. The camera’s infrared technology allows it to autofocus even in extremely low or difficult lighting situations.

The camera also has an ‘eye autofocus’ setting. You read that right: it can find eyes on your subject and lock focus on them with the push of a button. This is photographic witchcraft and I love it. The a7R III’s Eye AF evolves with twice the effective eye detection and tracking, even when shooting a moving portrait subject. It’s touted by the company to work when:

  • the subject’s face is partially hidden
  • the subject is looking down or wearing glasses
  • the subject is backlit
  • the lighting is dim or low
  • the subject is far away.

The a7R III includes a touchscreen that provides touch AF, focus point dragging and focus racking features. The AF-C (continuous autofocus) option feature is extraordinary. The camera can keep tracking the subject even if it’s changing direction erratically or an object gets in the way.

Tip: The ‘Expand Flexible Spot’ mode is a good one to start from, and works well with the AF joystick for quick adjustments to the preferred focus area.

Real Life Use

This camera is fast and accurate. With my DSLRs, I usually have to refocus multiple times. But I didn’t have to do it once on the Sony a7R III. I think mirrorless cameras really outshine most DSLRs in the autofocus department.

Here’s how it did in various scenarios:

Action and Sports

I photograph a lot of action, and when I first bought this camera I took it to a Frisbee dog competition to test it out. I was absolutely blown away by the autofocus. The camera even recognized a dog’s face with its facial tracking autofocus and maintained focus on the dog’s face throughout its trick-induced performance. When the dog moved further away the focus changed to the animal’s entire body, which I appreciated.

Regardless of how spontaneously the dog moved, the focus remained locked.

I typically use my Canon 7D Mark II for animal sports photography due to its speed and the fact the body is intended for action. But I now prefer the a7R III due to its superb tracking. The 7D tends to get lost when there isn’t much contrast between the subject and the other objects in the frame, such as photographing in the fog. (Many of these dog sporting events happen around 7am when the fog rolls onto the field.)

The Sony mirrorless clearly identified the subject despite the lack of contrast. It can even refocus on dogs running at me without needing any prompting or additional technique.


Portraits are an absolute breeze with this camera. From face tracking to eye tracking, it’s almost impossible to take an out-of-focus image unless you have your settings wrong. As I mentioned earlier, the eye tracking feature is said to work in problematic scenarios (the face is partially hidden, the subject is looking down, etc.)

Well, I can confirm that what Sony promises is true. It works in all of those scenarios. Even when I shot a model wearing unnatural contacts and bright glittery makeup, the camera had no issue.

Dimly-Lit and Golden Hour Portraits

Much like the camera’s success with well-lit portraits, the Sony a7R III can focus on portraits in dim light as if they were lit to perfection. I’m happy to say there was absolutely no difference between the two. Night portraits were a breeze.

The golden hour portraits were just as easy (not to mention exquisite). My other cameras have focusing issues when the sun is low and hitting the lens at an angle. But the a7R III breezed through and held focus on the subject no matter how the sun was hitting the lens glass.

Live Concerts

Dogs may wake me up in the mornings, but it’s the rock stars who keep me awake at night. In the evenings you’ll probably find me shooting a live concert with an arsenal of camera equipment to get me through the job.

Live concerts are extremely difficult focusing situations. In fact, they’re like a low-light sports situation. For the most part, you’ll have limited lighting, and have to deal with colored bulbs that can paint the subject with a very saturated color (such as the dreaded red hue).

Live concerts are also high-energy and filled with action as the guitarists swing their guitars and the drummer pounds away. You may not always have enough contrast to work with, and plenty of annoying obstacles to get in the way of whatever musicians you’re photographing.

Much like I found success in dog sports photography, the Sony a7R III does mighty well at maintaining focus on the subject despite erratic movement or instruments getting in the way. If the light is low but even, the camera does a splendid job of finding the subject thanks to its Advanced AF algorithms.

Unfortunately, live concerts are also where we hit a bit of a snag. As venue goers know, most music venues (especially small indie ones) don’t have consistent lighting on the stage. It can be uneven, sporadic, and wild. Some genres of music (e.g. metal and rock) really love using strobe lights on the stage as well.

And this is where the Sony a7R III flops terribly.

The moment strobes are used, the camera completely loses its ability to focus or find the subject. It’s a negative I haven’t seen covered in other reviews and one that keeps me from bringing this camera to a live concert (after having a particularly bad experience at a recent show).

When strobes were involved, none of the autofocus settings or adjustments worked. The camera began to hunt and then failed to focus at all. This happened with other native and non-native lenses. My guess is the infrared technology is affected by the strobing effects, but that’s just an assumption.

Non-Native Lens with an Adapter

As an avid 16-year Canon user with an army of L lenses, I have no plans on switching brands anytime soon. When I added the Sony a7R III to my kit, I immediately looked for ways to adapt my L glass to the Sony camera. (That way I’d need to buy only buy one native lens for the Sony and use the rest of my existing kit.)

After testing out several adapters I found that the Metabones Smart Adapter worked best.

Now it was time to test the autofocus on a non-native lens.

Although some of the autofocus features (e.g. eye-tracking) are disabled on non-native lenses, the facial recognition and AF-C (continuous autofocus) features worked like a charm. Once I’d calibrated the adapter to my lenses I didn’t experience any lag, searching or loss of focus. And despite certain features being unavailable, the camera was just as fast with non-native lenses as it was with native ones – even in low light. (I took this set up out for a spin during a club event.)

But the strobing issue was still there, which is why I’m convinced it’s a camera issue rather than a lens issue.

Final Thoughts

I have no regrets investing top dollar in this mirrorless camera. I find myself using it as much as my DSLRs, and I have three of them. I’ll often pick the mirrorless for more complex shoots simply because of its exquisite face tracking with autofocus.

Have I got you salivating? Think the Sony a7R III might be your next camera? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

The post The (Almost) Perfect Autofocus of the Sony a7R III: a Hands-On Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

How to Capture Candid Moments This Christmas

Sat, 12/01/2018 - 13:00

The post How to Capture Candid Moments This Christmas appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

Ever since I was a little kid with a 110 camera and little rolls of film, it’s the candid moments I love to capture.

At Christmas, that often meant the expression on someone’s face as they opened a gift. However, over the years I discovered that there is a lot more to Christmas than the excitement of opening gifts.

I’ll show you a few specific ingredients to use if you would like to better capture candid moments this Christmas.

Our living room window is a backdrop for candid moments to happen. Many times I have passed through the living room, only to stop and fumble for my camera to capture something interesting.

Why Candid Moments?

Taking candid photos is a fun challenge. You don’t get to direct the scene, and you have to take whatever the moment offers.

The benefit to this is that you really get to see what is going on. Many people complain that they miss out on a group or family experience because they’re always taking pictures. If you focus more on seeing than on clicking, you may find that you’re more in-tune to events than ever before.

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

Even though you’re not in control of the scene, you can still make the most of the moments given to you by:

  1. Understanding the type of moment
  2. Choosing the best angle
  3. Paying attention to your background
  4. Learning to write about your photos

When our kids were young they always napped over the Christmas holidays. The days were packed with activities and they were exhausted by the afternoon. My little girl fell asleep with an LED lantern. I couldn’t help but sneak in for a photo. I pushed my camera to its limits with this low light photo. 56mm, f/1.2, 1/15th, ISO 6400.

1. What kind of moment is it?

This first question I ask about a candid moment is whether it’s an action moment or an emotional moment.

What inspired you to pick up the camera? Are you anticipating a burst of excited emotion? Is somebody about to do something?

Action vs emotion is a quick way to understand the nature of the moment that is about to happen. This becomes more intuitive over time so you won’t have to overthink it.

I consider this to be an action moment. It is about my son playing with his model plane. Action is often about gesture. He is holding the plane precisely, and you can even see by the shape of his mouth that he is making the sound of the airplane. The plane is in focus so we likely look at it first, but then we’re led back to his face. His eyes are looking at the plane, so our focus is brought back to it as well. The more engaged a person is in an action moment, the more interesting the photo will be to you.


This is more of an emotional moment. It’s not a high energy moment like laughter or tears, rather it’s soft and subtle. It’s among my favorite portraits of my daughter. The only thing that indicates Christmas in this photo is the paper crown from her Christmas cracker, a tradition carried on for at least four generations in my family.

2. What is the Best Angle to Use?

There are five main angles from which you can choose:

  • Bird’s eye view
  • High angle
  • Face to face
  • Low angle
  • Bug’s eye view

My favorite angles for candid moments are high-angle because it often makes the scene appear more dramatic, and face-to-face, because it’s such an engaging angle.

This is an action moment. My son was playing with his new helicopter. I went for a low angle because I wanted to be looking up at the helicopter. Normally, we see helicopters in the sky, so let’s go for a more dramatic looking angle. In this action moment, you can even see him lifting his foot for balance. When kids play, they get right into it!


High angles are great for looking over shoulders. Some moments are tough to define as simply action or emotion. Though my son is looking at the pictures in his new book, it’s not exactly what we think of as an action moment. We can’t see his face to detect any emotion. But this photo comes to life in my mind as I think of all the times I read him this book while he was tucked into bed or sitting on my lap. In that sense, I would call it an emotional moment.


I jumped up on the coffee table to get this bird’s eye view angle of my son. He had just tried crawling for the first time and collapsed after using all his energy trying to reach a can a play dough!

3. Pay Attention to the Background

Backgrounds can be a distraction in your photo if they are messy or cluttered. But they can also add to the mood or story of your photo.

I try for one of two types of backgrounds:

  • Clean and simple
  • Scenic

You can see that the photos above either had a clean and simple background or something more scenic, but not cluttered.

I love this humorous photo of my daughter, but the background is really cluttered and distracting. One thing I could have done while taking the picture is to get closer to her. That way she would appear larger and there would be less background. But another way to deal with a cluttered background is to crop it away!


This face to face angle draws me right into this photo. The background is clean and simple with no distracting elements. I find that black and white often draws out the humanity and emotion of the moment.

4. Journal

Many photographers understand themselves to be creative people. Creative people are often compelled to write.

Take time this Christmas season to write about what is happening in your life. You can write about your kids, your parents, or your traditions. Think of it as a way of preserving some of your family history. Write about the moments of days gone by and the new moments happening around you.

Christmas can be a very difficult season for people who struggle with depression or anxiety. It can be a very sad time of year when you miss loved ones. Many people have found that writing helps you wrestle with and take control of what you’re struggling with.

Inspired by photojournalists, take time to truly reflect this Christmas. Add words to your photos.

This Christmas

As you grab your camera to take candid photos this Christmas, think:

  • Is this an action or emotion moment?
  • Which angle would look best?
  • Is the background clean or scenic?
  • What will I write about?

I would be thrilled to see some of your favorite Christmas photos when you post them in the comments below!

The post How to Capture Candid Moments This Christmas appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.