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How to Boost Your Creativity with Lightroom Presets

Sat, 12/01/2018 - 08:00

The post How to Boost Your Creativity with Lightroom Presets appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Stacey Hill.

There are many divisive points in the photography world – brand versus brand, film versus digital, and minimal editing versus Photoshop. The one that seems to have a fervent dislike is the use of Presets in Lightroom. Find any post on presets and people line up in the comments to judge and criticize anyone who uses them. People get told they are lazy, that their images all look the same ala Instagram filters and so on.

Up to a point they are right – anything overused becomes a short-lived fad. If all you ever do in your editing is use canned settings and don’t learn even the basics, then I agree with them.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that applying a Preset (or a filter) makes a bad photo better, but hopefully, Instagram has taught us better by now. Instead, think of Presets as tools to help you automate your process, make you faster and more efficient at editing.

Still, there’s a lot of potential and possibilities that presets offer us. Let’s explore that idea!

(Note:  While this article specifically addresses Creativity with Lightroom Presets, the same principles apply for any other program that allows presets, including Photoshop Actions)

This is the same image as the header but this features a preset which deepens the green tones and desaturates the image, toning down the yellow. I like this much more than the original which is true to life.

The Benefits of Using Lightroom Presets 1. Saves Time

You can spend hours on editing just one image if you want to. However, most of us don’t have the luxury of that much time. Nor do customers want to pay that much for their images.

My recommendation is you should do a basic edit for each image to suit its requirements. However, if you want a specific look or a consistent style to your images, imagine how much more time you have with just being able to click a preset to finish it off?

Some images take more time to edit. You can allow extra time for those images by utilizing presets on the easier ones.

Of the two images below, the top image is an unedited RAW File, while the second image is a processed image using Presets.

2. Easy and Fun

Why do people judge you for doing something that is easy?  Does everything have to be complicated and involved? Can’t it be fun too?

Not everyone has time to fully understand and master every setting and option within Lightroom (or any other program). Presets can allow you to quickly and efficiently apply complex effects.

It’s also fun to experiment with new styles.

3. Consistency

If you have a shoot where the subject/light/tones are all similar, you can achieve a consistent finish for the final image by applying a preset. You can also make one specifically to suit the shoot if required.

Besides, if you have done a series of tweaks to your image, do you remember exactly what you did and what the settings were?  Do you remember everyone to add to lots more images manually? Yes, you can write it all down or pull it out of the ‘history,’ but there’s no need.

Of the two images below, the top image is an unedited RAW File, while the second image is a processed image using Presets.

4. Customizable

You can easily create your own presets in Lightroom and save them for using repeatedly. Alternatively, you can create one that only works for a specific shoot. Presets are also available to buy pre-configured for all kinds of different finishes.

Once you have applied the preset, you can continue to edit and refine the look. Depending on the settings, you can stack multiple presets on top of each other for a unique outcome.

There are many different ways to use and apply presets, and you can get a sophisticated outcome quickly and easily even when you may not fully understand all the capabilities of the software.

5.  Different Functions can have Presets

For your editing functions, the primary use for Presets is in the ‘Develop’ module. However, you can create presets that apply to Metadata, or when you Import or Export images. This process can help you apply copyright information or customer information to images, or quickly change the export settings depending on requirements. For example, print versus web use.

Of the two images below, the top image is an unedited RAW File, while the second image is a processed image using Presets.

So, can I just use Presets for everything?

Presets are not a magic one-click fix. Each preset reacts differently with individual images. It is essential to understand the basics of your program because some editing is necessary.

However, if you only want to use presets, no one is going to stop you. Do you want to make that choice though?

Can people tell if you are not entirely in control of your editing software?  Yes. In general, experienced people can tell.

That said, I strongly recommend that everyone should have a solid understanding of the basic features their editing program has so they know enough to be able to edit without relying on presets. If you are using presets, you should understand how you can further tweak and improve the effect.

Please note that not all presets are created equal. Some are better designed and, when applied, provide a more polished effect.

Of the two images below, the top image is an unedited RAW File, while the second image is a processed image using Presets.

Freedom to be Creative

One of the most powerful things Presets can do is take us out of our comfort zone and show us new possibilities in the way we edit images. Humans are creatures of habit, so once we find the comfortable place that we can generate images of acceptable quality, we are likely to settle in there.

Maybe we don’t know everything the program can do? Perhaps we don’t understand how we can apply this feature here on top of that function there. For example, how many people fully understand Split Toning?

What if we didn’t need to understand absolutely EVERY function and feature in our software? Maybe we simply don’t have the time. What if we could understand enough to be able to use the necessary bits and then use the knowledge someone else has created to add that extra dimension to our editing?

What if we CAN try a new look with one click? Maybe a purple-toned one, then a matte-finish one, and a black and white one? We can compare a whole heap of different processes.

Maybe by trying out Presets, we can learn more about the software’s capabilities? Perhaps it can give us more confidence to shoot in a different style, taking advantage of the new editing prospects.

Breakdown of an Edit

In the screenshot below it shows the final edit of the clematis flower (Before and After images featured above).

As you can see, after Import, the next step is ‘Paste Settings.’ This is where I have copied the Preset and some adjustments made on a previous image in the shoot.

A further 19 steps have been taken to enhance and finalize this image to achieve the desired outcome.

Could I have stopped after the first ‘Paste Settings?’  Absolutely.

Was it the best that image could have looked?  Not in my opinion. So, I spent the time I had saved using a preset to do further fiddly little tweaks and refinements.

Using Presets Creatively

This winter landscape of frost-crusted rocks, icicles, and what I can assure you was freezing water, was already quite blue-toned. The blue tone was due to the 10-stop filter I used to achieve long exposure on the water.

I liked how the blue tone emphasized the cold crisp winter feel so I decided to use it to set the whole mood for this image.  A blue-toned, slightly matte finish preset helped boost that aspect of the process. It added more brightness on the whites, deepened the shadows a touch and added a bit of clarity for extra crispness.

I could have completely changed the color space to natural daylight, but seeing this blue tone inspired me to follow that direction further. I knew I had a preset that would do interesting things to the blue tones and it worked better than expected.

Of the two images below, the top image is an unedited RAW File, while the second image is a processed image using Presets.

I tend towards darker, moody edits. So, using Presets for an image helps me see different possibilities quickly. With a few clicks, I can assess what is suited to a high-key edit, a desaturated, matte edit, a neutral, natural edit, or perhaps black and white one.

Sometimes I strike gold and end up with something delightfully unexpected (like the green currants at the top of this article). It never fails to amaze me how much scope Lightroom has to do things I don’t fully understand yet. However, using presets has taught me a great deal, and I am slowly unpacking them, figuring it out and beginning to make my own Presets now.


Lightroom (and other editing programs) offer a lot of functions and scope for editing your images. Many people don’t have the time to learn all the features and capabilities in detail. It can be frustrating when you are learning how to use it.

Presets give you access to features within the software without needing to know exactly how to implement them manually.

Using Presets allows even novice users the ability to be creative and experiment with different styles and looks to their editing. More experienced users can create their own presets, or utilize purchased ones in their editing process. They save time and can make your editing process more efficient as well.

Presets offer you the opportunity to try a style that is different to what you typically create. Alternatively, perhaps you want to dabble and see how an image turns out with a range of edits. Using Presets can also help you learn more about the program by showing more of its capabilities.

While Presets can be overused, or not used to best effect, they also offer many advantages. Provided they are used as part of your process, and not as a magic solution, Presets can be a valuable tool.

Finally, playing with them is fun. Being able to experiment safely and easily with one click of a button gives you the latitude to be brave while considering new editing styles.


The post How to Boost Your Creativity with Lightroom Presets appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Stacey Hill.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Type

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 13:00

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

Bushells House on the corner of Charles Street and New England Highway, Moonbi by Caz Nowaczyk

Your weekly photography challenge – TYPE!

That’s right! Typography, text, numbers, and glyphs.

Any writing in any language. New, faded, barely legible – sign writing, posters, light painting etc.

Brass and Iron Lace Foundry – Forge and Museum, Enmore Road, Uralla NSW Australia by Caz Nowaczyk

An old truck stop on Putty Road, Garland Valley in Yengo National Park, NSW by Caz Nowaczyk

Beechworth, Victoria Australia by Caz Nowaczyk

Beechworth, Victoria, Australia by Caz Nowaczyk


An old petrol pump gauge at an old truck stop on Putty Road, Garland Valley in Yengo National Park, NSW by Caz Nowaczyk

Check out some of the articles below that may give you inspiration for shooting and editing Type pictures.

How to do a Photography Alphabet Project

How to Find Inspiration for Your Photography When Your Muse is Missing

The Ultimate Guide to Street Photography

How to do Light Painting and Illuminate Your Photography

Beginner’s Guide to Light Painting


Weekly Photography Challenge – Type

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 #DPSTYPE 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 – Type appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Keeping Colors Consistent in Photography in 3 Easy Steps

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 08:00

The post Keeping Colors Consistent in Photography in 3 Easy Steps appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this video by Gavin Hoey from Adorama, he discusses ways of keeping colors consistent throughout your photography process.

Keeping Colors Consistent in 3 Easy Steps

Using these 3 quick steps in your photography workflow will make your process much easier and save you time.

1. Begin with the Right Computer Monitor

Begin with a great monitor, because a bad monitor makes editing your photos difficult. A monitor with at least 100% of the sRGB color space will work. Even better, is a monitor that displays 99% of AdobeRGB color space, such as the BEN Q SW2700.

You will need to color-calibrate the monitor. Get the best out of your monitor using a color calibration tool. Using something like an X-Rite i1 Display Pro Display and Monitor Calibrator. See more on using it here.

2. Getting Colors Right In-Camera

Set a custom white balance using a color checker passport. Open up to the grey side. Get the model to hold it in front of them. Fill the frame with the white card, use the custom white balance mode in camera (varies from camera to camera) and take a photo. Your white balance should now be correct.

Setting in-camera means you can show your subjects the photos in-camera.

Also saves you time in post-processing. The image may then look a bit wrong when looking through the view-finder. Just check the image when you take it – it should look correct.

Next, take a picture of the color checker passport fully-open to the color side, and under the same lighting conditions. We will use this to make the profile. This color setting will be used for the entire shoot.

3. Set-up Your Custom Profile in Photoshop

With the shoot done, it is time to make the Photoshop custom profile for post-process editing.

Bring the RAW file of the model holding the color checker passport into Photoshop. Open it as a DNG (Digital Negative) and save it somewhere that is easily accessible. Close the file.

Find your DNG file and drag and drop it onto the Colour Checker Passport application. The application will do all the work for you. All you need to do is click ‘create profile’ and save it with a unique name for that particular shoot/set-up. It is saved as a new color profile.

Next, open your RAW file into photoshop. Go to the ‘Profile’ Tab and select ‘Browse.’ Go to your saved profile and select it.

How do you use this profile for all the images across your shoot?

Go back to Camera RAW. Choose the icon in the top corner of the panel, and select ‘set as new camera RAW default.’ All of the photos you open will now apply the new color profile, keeping your entire shoot consistent.


You may also find the following articles helpful:

How to Choose the Right Monitor for Photo Editing

Setting Your White Balance with a Gray Card – a Tip from Phil Steele

Setting The Mood By Adjusting Your White Balance

How to Use the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport to Obtain Perfect Color

How to Make Custom Camera Raw Profiles for Lightroom & Photoshop

The post Keeping Colors Consistent in Photography in 3 Easy Steps appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

7 Ways To Take Your Photography To The Next Level

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 13:00

The post 7 Ways To Take Your Photography To The Next Level appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kav Dadfar.

It easy to stagnate as a photographer. It’s a lonely hobby where you often work alone spending hours in pursuit of one photo which may not materialize. You can begin to lose interest and become lazy. This loss of interest can manifest itself in your photos which, in turn, demoralizes you further. As with many hobbies, the great thing about photography is you can reignite your passion. So here are 7 ways to take your photography to the next level.

1. Photograph Something Different

One of the things many photographers are guilty of doing is photographing the same things over and over again. If you did the same thing again and again, eventually you’d get fed up with it. So, a great way to boost your passion for photography is to photograph something completely different. For example, if you are a travel photographer, spend some time photographing wildlife. If you take portraits, start photographing food.

Not only will this help reignite your passion, but it can also add more skills to your repertoire. You never know, you may find a new passion you never knew you had.

2. Work On a Brief

Remember when you were at school and had to work on projects set by the teacher? It required you to learn about the subject, think about it and create a piece of work to present to your teacher. The concept of working on a brief is the same. You are given a topic or subject to photograph, and you take photos that answer the brief.

The project could be anything from a simple task of documenting a local event, to photographing a remote tribe in another country. Many people who take up photography as a hobby take photos of things that they come across rather than a specific brief. Working on a brief can help focus your photography and make you think about things differently.

Ask a friend or family member to set you a brief. It could be on anything. After you receive the brief, go about creating a set of images that respond to it.

3. Set Yourself a Challenge

Another way to improve your photography is to set yourself challenges. These can help diversify your portfolio. For example, you may have lots of photos but are missing some nice close-ups. So, set yourself a challenge to capture one close-up image every day. Perhaps you have a weakness in a specific area of photography? Set yourself a challenge to improve that one element.

If you are a shy person and struggle to approach people to take their photo, set yourself a challenge to photograph ten people in one day. You’ll be surprised how much more confident you feel after doing so.

4. Read, Watch, Follow

One of the best ways to improve your photography is to be inspired by photographers whose work you admire. Follow photographers on social media whose work inspires you. Look at the work of the masters like Ansel Adams, Steve McCurry, and Robert Capa. Read books such as the ‘Bang Bang Club‘ and watch documentaries and movies about photography. Even flicking through photography books or magazines can help inspire you. However, remember the objective should be to be inspired, not copy someone else’s work.

5. Get a Photo Buddy

Photography is usually an isolated hobby and can be difficult to judge how well you are doing. Having someone who shares your passion can help motivate you while also giving you someone to bounce ideas off. You can learn from one another and push each other to capture better images. If you don’t know anyone who has a passion for photography, join your local camera club where you can meet likeminded individuals.

6. Rent or Buy a Film Camera

There is no doubt that cameras are better and more powerful than they have ever been. You’ll find it hard finding many photographers who still shoot in film.

Still, one negative of digital photography is that it makes the decision of taking photos easy. Back in the days of film, every single photo you took cost money. Meaning, you had to be sure of what you were photographing to avoid wasting money. So you didn’t waste money, you had to think a lot harder about a scene. You had to think about your settings and if it was an interesting subject. You didn’t have the luxury of looking at the picture on the back of your camera.

Try it out. Rent film camera for a day, or buy a second-hand one, and see if it makes you think differently about photography.

7. Go On a Photo Tour

Photo tours are quite common these days. Tours usually entail going to a country and touring it with the purpose of capturing photos. Ranging from a few days to weeks, tours are one of the best ways to boost your photography. You are away with likeminded individuals who share your passion, and you are joined by a professional photographer who can help you with your photographic weaknesses.

Nevertheless, arguably the most significant benefit of a photo tour is you are immersed in photography every day for weeks. If you keep practicing and doing something for hours every day, it’s natural for you to become better at it. So, if you haven’t tried a photo tour or workshop, give it go. It could be the best way to boost your photography skills and passion.

Like any other hobby or profession, you need to continually challenge yourself, set goals and have the motivation to create great photos. Sometimes that comes naturally, like when you are heading to a fantastic destination. At other times you have to make an effort to push yourself to be able to take your photography to the next level. The above tips should help you on your way, but ultimately it is down to you to push yourself.

What do you do to improve your photography? Tell us below.

The post 7 Ways To Take Your Photography To The Next Level appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kav Dadfar.

Gear Review: The Lumix G9 Mirrorless Camera

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 08:00

The post Gear Review: The Lumix G9 Mirrorless Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by David Shaw.

The Lumix G9 – a 20.3mp, micro 4/3rds, mirrorless camera.

When I bought my first full-frame DSLR many years ago (an original Canon 5D), I thought I’d discovered the pinnacle of camera technology. Because a bigger sensor is better right?

Well, not necessarily.

Sensor sizes are like film sizes- they are different formats, not different quality. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and some will fit your needs while some won’t.

Flying in small planes is how I reach many of my photo locations. A light camera system is vital.

The Lumix G9 Mirrorless Camera

Bigger sensors, for all their benefits, also mean bulkier and heavier lenses. A smaller sensor, such as the micro 4/3rds system, is compact, and light. That’s why, as an outdoor pro who specializes in shooting in remote areas, I’ve recently begun shooting the Lumix m4/3rds system. Specifically, my primary camera is now the Lumix G9 mirrorless camera, the flagship of Lumix still cameras.

Body Quality

The Lumix G9 Mirrorless Camera from the top.

The Lumix G9 Mirrorless Camera is of a similar size to other pro-level mirrorless camera bodies. For me, this is the appropriate size. If the body were much smaller the controls would become too small and cumbersome for rapid use in the field, and impossible while wearing gloves. The G9, in my opinion, is a good compromise between size and functionality.

The build is sturdy with a die-cast magnesium chassis and is environmentally sealed. A textured rubber coating covers most of the body providing a confident grip, even when wet. The body weighs in 658g, more or less typical of this size mirrorless camera. I’ve used mine in temperatures varying from -25F, to +100F in the snow, rain, and salt spray. I’ve banged it around inside bush planes, safari vehicles, rafts, and canoes, and have yet to have an issue with durability.

Bush planes. I’ve gotten used to flying in them, but I never get tired of photographing them. (De Havilland Otter reflected in an Alaskan lake).


The 20.3mp micro four-thirds sensor has an excellent dynamic range for a sensor of this size and extremely low noise below about 1600 ISO. At higher ISOs, the noise does increase noticeably, which is a drawback for night photography. However, the files can handle substantial pushes in post-processing. Adding two or even three stops of light seems to have little impact on image quality.


Handheld, at 1/15th second. Easy.

Lumix advertises a whopping 6.5 stops of stabilization built into the camera; a system that works seamlessly with lens-integrated stabilization. This impressive number isn’t just marketing hyperbole. I’ve found I can handhold images, even while using a long lens, to speeds as low as 1/8th of a second. Blurred water shots no longer require a tripod and video capture is smooth and almost vibration free. This is unquestionably the best camera I’ve ever used when it comes to image stabilization.

Still Photography Performance Frame Rate

Mirrorless cameras are not subject to the same limitations of shutter speeds as their DSLR counterparts. The electronic shutter of the Lumix G9 reaches a whopping 20 frames per second, far more than is needed except in all but the most extreme, fast-paced shooting situations. Even when using the standard frame rate, it still manages 9 frames per second, which is competitive with just about any camera on the market.

At 20fps in the high burst mode, or 9fps in regular, the G9 makes quick work of moving subjects.


The autofocus is perhaps the one point, where the G9 does fall a bit short of high-end DSLRs. Lumix has applied a contrast detection system combined with Panasonic’s Depth from Defocus technology (DFD). In bright conditions with few obstacles, I found the autofocus to be exceptionally fast with a high hit rate. However, in tangled environments, or in low light, it occasionally struggles to grab my subject.

The DFD system is an active autofocus that perpetually pushes and pulls the focus just a hair back and forth as it determines the focus point. It’s fast, but slightly distracting and often lead me to think that the camera hadn’t settled on my subject. It had, and the resulting images show a high hit rate, but the constant push-pull is a bit distracting.

Image Quality

While overall image quality is excellent, night photography is the one place where the G9 falls short. This image, captured at ISO 3200, required substantial noise reduction.

In most lighting situations, the 20.3mp images are excellent. RAW format files have a competitive dynamic range which allows substantial pushing of exposure in post-processing. If you are jpeg shooter, the camera exports colorful, but not unnatural files ready for sharing on social media. I like the jpeg outputs so much that I’ve set the camera to write both small jpegs and RAW files which allows for quick shares without post-processing.

Contrasting the previous image, this image captured at 800 ISO is nearly clean and required no noise reduction, despite the dim conditions. There seems to be a big reduction in image quality between ISO1600 and ISO 3200.

High contrast scenes like this, the G9 handles admirably well.

High-Resolution Images

One of my favorite features of the Lumix G9 Mirrorless Camera is the high-resolution setting. The 20.3mp sensor is plenty for general use, however, as a landscape photographer, I often desire files that can be printed very large. The high-resolution image setting on the G9 takes 8 images in a row, each offset by 1/2 pixel. This produces a final file that is over 80 megapixels! For best results, a tripod is required, but for landscape work, I’m almost always using one anyway. The quality of the final image is, quite frankly, amazing.

This image was captured using the high-resolution setting on the Lumix G9. The original file is a whopping 10368x7776px.

The above image, cropped nearly in half, is still enormous by almost any standard.

Features WIFI

Wifi connectivity when combined with Lumix’s intuitive app for phone or tablet, allows quick exporting of files for sharing from the field. Additionally, the app allows full remote operation of the camera. Once your image is composed, you can use the app to adjust exposure, aperture, shutter speed or ISO, then click the shutter from a 100m away.


With a wide variety of lenses in the Lumix (and Olympus) lines. There is no shortage of options for all kinds of photography from wildlife to portraits and landscapes.

Advanced shooters will appreciate the extensive customization options on the G9. You can program in multiple preset modes, accessible from the main function dial atop the camera. But I’ve come to like even more, a separate switch on the front of the camera at the lower left, which allows you to switch between two types of shooting modes. I have one set for my standard landscape settings, and one to my favorites for wildlife. With a quick flick of a finger, I can move back and forth between the two as my shooting situation changes. Nifty.


Lumix has always been associated with video capture, even more than still photography. And while the G9 was definitely designed with still images in mind, it has inherited many video features of the other Lumix cameras. 4k video capture up to 60fps is possible with the G9, something few other still cameras can achieve. With the excellent integrated stabilization, high-quality video is a breeze. As many of my clients are now requesting video clips in addition to stills, the excellent moving image capture of the G9 means I no longer have to carry a second, video-specific camera when I’m shooting on assignment. For a still shooter who likes to capture some video or a film-maker who also wants high-quality stills, the G9 may be the perfect compromise.

From the back, the camera’s controls are straight forward.

But What’s it Like to Use?

All the tech specs in the world won’t tell you what it actually feels like to use the camera. And in that case, I think the Lumix has really won the race. The controls are intuitive, with buttons conveniently located and ergonomics that allow you to determine buttons easily by feel, and without searching around. I moved from Canon to Lumix and found it didn’t take long to feel at home from the new system. I also shoot a Sony mirrorless, and moving back and forth between the two is not challenging.

It was intermittently snowing hard and blowing cold wind when I made this image in Alaska’s western Arctic. The G9 handled the conditions without issue.

But it’s in the field that I really love the Lumix G9. The m4/3rd system means that not only the sensor is smaller, but the lenses too. Everything is much smaller and compact, even with fast, high-end lenses. My kit has shrunk substantially with my switch to Lumix. While full-frame mirrorless cameras are smaller and lighter than pro-level DSLRs, the lenses are not, which puts a limiter on how much weight and space you can really save by switching to full-frame mirrorless. With micro 4/3rds however, everything is smaller.

As a wilderness photographer, this is a HUGE advantage for me. I can carry a body and multiple lenses for the same weight and size as a single DSLR and mid-range zoom lens. I can’t tell you how much this has meant to me on the many occasions I’ve had to weigh out every ounce to make my kit fit in a bush plane. Size matters to a backcountry photographer, and when it comes to cameras, smaller is better.

A Note on Lenses

While this isn’t a review of the Lumix lenses, I do want to offer a quick hat-tip to the Lumix-Leica lens systems. The glass is compact, light, and extremely sharp. The Leica glass elements are impeccable, and while not cheap, the sharpness is in every way comparable to the best Nikon, Canon, and Sony lenses. Secondarily, the m4/3rds lenses are compatible across brands meaning that Olympus equipment works seamlessly on Lumix bodies. (My current long lens is the Olympus 300mm f4 PRO, and it works perfectly on the G9).

Final Thoughts

Lumix has been a go-to manufacturer for videographers and film-makers looking for a compact, high-quality system for many years, while Olympus has led the m4/3rds still photography market. That has all changed with the Lumix G9. While I look forward to a few improvements in the next generation, the G9 has almost everything a serious photographer could want: great image quality, excellent choices in lenses, ability to shoot 4k video, abundant customization options, and intuitive controls.

It looks like the Lumix system has found a permanent place in my camera bag.

Have you used the Lumix G9 Mirrorless Camera? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

The post Gear Review: The Lumix G9 Mirrorless Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by David Shaw.

7 Things I’ve Learnt About Photography From Pablo Picasso

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 13:00

One of my favorite photographers, Ernst Haas, said we should seek inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. Listening to music, looking at paintings and sculptures, and reading books feeds your imagination more profoundly than just looking at the work of other photographers.

I think this is true. Exploring the work of a painter I love is as enriching to me as exploring a new city at sunrise. Similarly, wandering through a forest and photographing the sunlight filtering through the trees.

Our minds are hungry beasts. We think around 60-70,000 thoughts every day, with the majority of them being the same thoughts we had yesterday (and the day before). That’s scary. You can see how easy it would be to live life on autopilot.

We can choose to think the same thoughts as yesterday, or we can feed our minds with new ideas – be they visual, sensory, words or music.

One artist who has inspired me with his work and ideas is Pablo Picasso. When he spoke about the artistic process, he articulated many of my core beliefs about taking photos.

He reminded me of the most exciting and essential elements of living a creative life. In the busy-ness of life, I so often forget.

Today I’d like to share some of Picasso’s ideas that are incredibly inspiring and impactful on any photographic journey.

1. “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

This quote of Picasso’s sums up why I dedicated my life to photography. Why I let it be almost everything that I am.

There is something about photography that deeply stirs my soul. I feel more alive while taking photos than I do with most other things.

Playing with my kids or talking to my teenage son deep into the night about challenges he faces, brings a similar feeling of purpose. However, very little else matches the feeling I get in the act of creation.

Photography is a life-affirming pursuit. It makes me feel I am not just skating on the surface of life – rushing to and fro, writing emails and filling in forms.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with either of those activities, but do they really make you feel alive?

We all have to live and do necessary mundane tasks. But, we can also commit to making a vast amount of space in our lives for things that create deeper satisfaction in ourselves.

2. “Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.” – Pablo Picasso

This quote of Picasso’s is a testament to say: take photos even when you’re not in the mood, even when you’re only getting rubbish images. The only way to get that fantastic image is to keep going.

You never know when the light may dramatically change, making the scene before you look eerily beautiful. Alternatively, an intriguing stranger might walk past doing something peculiar!

Even though I am a professional photographer, I sometimes suffer from procrastination as much as the next person. I intend to go out shooting but get distracted by my kids or get too tired after a heavy meal.

I realize if I’m not out there, I’ll never know what experiences, and then what photos, I’m missing. That seems like an insane waste of life.

Keep going. Continue searching for that great scene, interesting person, or a beautiful landscape. Whatever it is that floats your boat, go and find it.

3. “Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.” Pablo Picasso

I look at thousands of photos on my workshops. One thing I see regularly is people making images too complicated. When your images are too complex, you are not defining your subject correctly.

There’s a myriad of compositional ideas you can use to help define your subject. For example, Rule of Thirds, creating clean backgrounds for your portraits and breaking the world down into elements.

The overarching concept in all of these ideas about composition is to eliminate all that is unnecessary.

Photography is a process of choosing what to put in the frame, and what to take away. It is wise to make your composition, then look and think. What isn’t working here? What do I need to remove?

For example – one common mistake many photographers make is not checking their corners. It’s amazing how often people spend so much time composing their subject, but not checking all around the frame, especially the corners, to see that everything within it should be there.

Therefore, creating images is not just – ‘what do I put in the frame?’ But also – ‘what do I take away?’

4. Creating Feeling Within Your Images

“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who, with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.” – Pablo Picasso

The same is true for photographers. You can photograph any number of things, and it looks entirely real. However, what does it feel like when you look at your photograph?

It is all too easy to just document, without creating any sense of what it feels like to be in that hot and humid city, to look at that face, to feel the textures of the buildings you are capturing.

Photographing a cold winter’s morning is simple. Nevertheless, to translate the feeling of what it would feel like to stand in a misty field, with cold biting your face and a deep feeling of eeriness as fog rolls in across the land – that is another skill entirely.

Ultimately, the success of any photo is whether it creates an impact for your viewer. The only question you need to ask is, ‘does this image invoke a feeling?’

It’s not just what we see that creates an impact, but the feeling that is created within our bodies when we see something that we love, dislike, or invokes joy, or sadness.

Feelings are what we remember. Images have no sense of feeling are instantly forgettable.

5. “I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” – Pablo Picasso

One of the things that surprised me about being a parent is how quickly young children latch on to the idea, ‘I can’t do this now, so I’ll never be able to do it.’

Once you have allowed that thought into your mind, it can quickly mushroom until you are utterly convinced that you can’t do something. Never, ever.

I see it in my children, and I see it in 70-year-old clients who come to my workshops. I have to say that, ‘I can’t do this, so I’ll never be able to it,’ is one of the most destructive ideas for your photography.

Of course, the technophobe might never become the most skilled camera person alive. In contrast, they can overcome their self-perception and become competent and confident with their cameras. I see proof of this regularly.

One of the most exciting ideas I have noticed coming out of the science community in recent years is the idea of Neuroplasticity.

Instead of the old belief that our brains become ‘fixed’ and unchangeable as we enter into adulthood, we now understand that brains are completely changeable.

In fact, at any point in life, one is able to totally rewire thoughts and beliefs we hold about ourselves.

“The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right.” – Confucius

Think of all the things you believe you can’t do with your photography, and go out and challenge those beliefs.

If you believe you can’t do street photography, but would secretly love to try it, do it!

If you think you’ll never master manual mode, read up on it. Go out as often as you can. Make a ton of mistakes. You’ll get it eventually.

If like me, you think, ‘I’m not a nature photographer, but I’d love to try it,’ go and spend time in nature. Experiment, play and try new things.

As long as you approach the world with the attitude of ‘I can,’ you probably will.

6. The World is Rich With Ideas

“A piece of space-dust falls on your head once every day… With every breath, we inhale a bit of the story of our universe, our planet’s past and future, the smells and stories of the world around us, even the seeds of life.” – Pablo Picasso

Of course, photography starts as a technical exercise. You need to use a machine, often with a little computer in it. Fully get to know the machine you are using. At least to the place where you are comfortable.

Photography is a union of the technical and the creative. The creative part of photography comes from an ethereal place within you that is unique.

Your creative vision flows from everything that has made you who you are – your experiences, your life, what you love and what you detest.

It also comes from the world around us; from the feeling of history we experience when we walk through old city streets; from the awe of looking at a majestic five hundred-year-old tree.

The world isn’t a flat surface. Everywhere we look we see the ‘moment;’ the weather; the time of day. We also know that in a few hours everything we are currently seeing can change.

Most people are so locked in their minds and focused on themselves that they don’t open themselves up to the mysteries of the world.

There are stories and ideas all around us that can inspire us in our photography, can provoke new ideas and adventures for us.

All we have to do is pay attention and commit to the awesome power of photography.

7. “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” – Pablo Picasso

The older I get, the more I feel like I need to demand of myself. That by the end of each day I want to be profoundly and truly satisfied. Not just to be content, or to have my to-do list full of check marks.

I want to have created something. Something that is entirely my own. A creation that no one else could have, because they are not me.

Photography gives us that, and I love that it does. It can give us opportunities to see, feel and experience more of the world.

Without photography, life would not be anywhere near as rich and meaningful as it is.

When faced with either sleep or the chance to catch an amazing sunrise – I get up to photograph the sunrise.

Our lives are speeding along and, although we are aware of this, we become complacent. In a subconscious part of ourselves, we truly believe we live forever. The possibility of not existing doesn’t seem right.

Our time on this planet is finite. If we acknowledge that we are organic beings, it can motivate us to demand more of what we truly want from our lives.

For me, it’s exploring and taking photos. It’s creating art and sharing it with others or showing people what beautiful things I see all around me.

Of course, your photography journey is different from mine.

You may record the breathtaking journey of your children from babies into adulthood or documenting the joyous color of flowers.

Alternatively, you may be climbing snowy mountains and showing the world the awe-inspiring landscapes you witness. You may be documenting the strange and humorous things we humans do when out in the world, inhabiting our little bubbles as we move around the streets, unaware of the world watching us.

There are so many ways to be a photographer. So many things to document, explore and see. Follow your own path.

Just be open, and inquisitive. Look around you and open your mind to everything you don’t usually notice.

By showing yourself and others what you see in this world, you open up other people’s perspective of the world around them. You take them out of their hectic bubble – full of the 24/7 news, the list of things to do, the emails and daily demands of daily life.

You give them a gift of seeing — a gift of taking a moment to stop and stare in awe at what the world has laid out before us.

It’s a pretty exciting, amazing and incredibly life-enhancing pursuit taking photos.

Have these ideas fed your creative soul? If they have helped you demand more from your photography, and to take more time out of your life to commit to this fantastic pursuit, let me know below. It’s always great to hear from you.

The post 7 Things I’ve Learnt About Photography From Pablo Picasso appeared first on Digital Photography School.

3 Critical People Skills Portrait Photographers Need

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 08:00

Photo by: Greg Gelsinger

How do you ensure failure as a portrait photographer? That’s easy; treat your subjects or clients poorly. From start to finish, make the entire experience unforgettably miserable for them!

So, what does it take for an amateur or professional photographer to create a wonderful experience for their subject? Three things: generosity, empathy, and assertiveness.

Let me show you how these three qualities, combined with your photography skills, create a wonderful experience for your subjects and clients.

Treat your subjects and clients as you would your friends.

1. Begin With Generosity

When you bring a generous spirit to your work, your clients are delighted with the experience. You may be one of the few people who has treated them well. You can show your generosity with:

  • your time
  • gifts
  • yourself

When I photographed college and university students for their graduation portraits, I often gave up my lunch breaks to spend extra time with them. Maybe they were self-conscious, and I had to work extra hard to capture portraits they would love. Perhaps I wanted to take extra time to work out some creative ideas.

Don’t treat time as if it’s your you own, treat your time as if it’s theirs.

I wouldn’t normally travel so far, but this couple told me they had a really unique place for their photo session. From the highway to back roads to small trail roads, it took an hour and a half to get there. But the scenery was much different than I could have found close to home.

What does generosity look like for street photographers? Think about carrying a small printer with you so that you can print a portrait when you photograph somebody. Perhaps offer to send them one digitally.

Wedding photographers can show up a little bit early or stay a little later to capture candid photos. When I photograph weddings, couples are always so thankful that I didn’t rush to leave – especially when they are behind schedule.

You’ll take many photos as a travel photographer and discover unique places in small towns and villages. Share the love by promoting those places through Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Personality, friendship and time are among the most valuable things you can share with a person.

Over the years, some of my closest friendships began as photography clients.

Will people take advantage of your generosity? Absolutely! However, you tend to fear the worst case scenario. There aren’t very many people who take advantage of your generosity. When they do, you won’t care – because you’re generous!

For photographers in business, being generous doesn’t mean that you give everything away for free. It just means that you build generosity into your business model.

2. Empathy

Empathy is a superpower.

It is a superpower because it allows you to understand your subject or client. Empathy allows you to care for them deeply, see it their way, and serve them as a unique person instead of a fast food process.

Empathy provokes understanding and opens people up. They’ll discover something new about themselves, and you’ll discover something new about yourself.

Also, empathy means not treating people on streets as if they are mannequins on display. Ask permission to photograph people and understand when they say “no.” If you aren’t willing to spend a few minutes with them as a person, why photograph them at all?

Their ultrasound appointment revealed that they would be having a baby boy. But the doctor kept it a secret, allowing their friend to create a paint war between the couple! Once they started squirting the paint, they found out they were having a boy.

Having empathy helps you understand the exhausted parents of newborns. It helps you to understand the toddler who is tired of posing for your photos. Empathy helps you to understand the middle-aged headshot client who is self-conscious about wrinkles and their double chin. You may even have compassion toward bridezillas!

Moreover, empathy leads you to ask, “how would I want to be treated if I was getting photographed?”

When generosity is the foundation of your workflow, it is easy to be empathetic.

3. Be Assertive, But Not Bossy

Assertiveness is a critical skill for portrait photographers. Most people have no idea what to do in front of the camera (photographers included). You have to tell them!

They haven’t just come to you for a photo, they’ve come to you to get guided through the process.

You’ve tuned into your subject with empathy, so you already know they feel awkward in front of the camera. Assertiveness allows you to give your subjects direction so that they can relax and lose their self-consciousness. The first thing people used to say to me was, “tell me what to do.” They don’t ask me that anymore because I guide them from the start.

Of course, it’s possible to be overly assertive. You’ve gone too far when you’re impolite and bossy. Nobody enjoys getting photographed by a photographer who is rude.

If you’re a kind and assertive photographer, you’ll enjoy directing your subjects through your creative vision. Moreover, your subject could love you for it too.

Strength and Weakness

There is a pretty good chance that you’re stronger in one of these three and weaker in another.

Maybe you’re very empathetic but not very assertive. Alternatively, quite assertive and not very generous.

Determine where your strong points and play on those strengths. However, also observe where you are weak and work toward improving it. I can tell you from experience that even timid people can become assertive with practice.

You know how to handle a camera and work the light. When you’re equally good with people, your photography life is rewarding and fulfilling.

“If the photographer is interested in the people in front of his lens, and if he is compassionate, it’s already a lot. The instrument is not the camera but the photographer.” — Eve Arnold

If you have any other tips or experiences, please share with us in the comments below.

The post 3 Critical People Skills Portrait Photographers Need appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Nikon Custom Modes of the D750 and D500. Which mode is best?

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 13:00

Customization is a big trend. From 3D printing to personalizing phones to our face, customization is becoming a requested product feature and a competitive advantage. Cameras also try to provide more and more customizable features to cater to our individual shooting styles. In this article, I will present and compare the Nikon custom modes of the D750 and the D500 including:

  • U1/2 and
  • Memory banks

A D750 features ‘U1/2’ and a D500 the ‘Memory banks.’ In this article, you will learn ways to set both up. Shooting scenarios showcasing the usefulness of custom settings will be included. Finally, I will share my preferred settings for each one, as well as some thoughts on both methods.

The location of U1/2 on the D750

Location and activation of U1/2

Generally a warmly received feature, U1/2 can be found on the top dial of the cameras that include them.

The way to move between them is to push the button next to the dial and spin the dial until the required setting aligns with the white indicator line next to the dial. This then becomes the active combination of preselected settings.

Location and Activation of Memory Banks

On the other hand, Memory Banks are not assigned upfront directly to physical controls. Instead, these are selectable through the menus or are assignable to button and dial press-and-turn combinations.

There are different ways to access and activate banks. The most common are:

  • Through the ‘photo shooting’  and ‘custom’  menus shown below. It is the top option on both menus. These switch between the four (A/B/C/D) available photo shooting menu banks (in the photo shooting menu) and the four (A/B/C/D) available custom setting banks (in the custom setting menu). This is the longest way to set banks up, as it resides deeper in the menus.

Screen of photo shooting menu on the D500

Screen of custom setting menu on the D500


  • Through the ‘info’  button at the back of your camera. Pressing this opens up a menu and the two topmost options are: ‘photo shooting menu banks’ and ‘custom settings banks.’ There is no way to change the order in which they are shown.
  • Through the ‘my menu’  tab. With this menu, you assign them in any ranking that suits you. A variation, for quicker access, is to first place either of them (but only one at any time) as the top item in ‘my menu.’ To follow, assign the shortcut ‘access top item in my menu’ to any permissible button. The buttons / / / work for this shortcut (sub-selector press).
  • Through the assignable button and dial press-and-turn combinations. This method applies exclusively to ‘photo shooting menu banks.’ The buttons that can be pressed in combination with any command dial rotation are / /  (sub-selector press) / (movie record button next to the shutter button). For the combination with the movie record button to work, the live view selector needs to be in rotated to .

Live view selector to photography mode position on the D500

A Conceptual Way to Approach Custom Settings

Now you should know how to access and activate both custom settings. I will now discuss the rationale behind them using them.

Firstly, I will talk about useful ‘generic’ concepts:

  1. Camera settings (core/output/fine-tune)
  2. Photographic parameters (scene variables/photographic intent/enablers)

These concepts are a framework for you to consider in the use of custom settings. I prefer this framework, rather than simply answering ‘which custom settings are best for portrait, sports, nature or any other photography genre?’ I have intentionally left out perspective (I consider this primarily impacted by lens selection) and composition (as this is the photographer’s prerogative).

1. Camera Settings

Core Settings: Aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and metering. These are at the heart of photography, regardless of genre. Most of these are changeable on the fly while shooting through the dedicated button and/or dial press/turns.

Output Settings: Most of the settings of the ‘photo shooting’ menu. These affect the output file type, size and look, such as file quality (raw and jpeg), picture control system (standard, vivid etc.), and white balance. An exception is the ISO setting, which I consider core.

Fine-tune Settings: The menu options of the ‘custom settings’ menu. These are important adjustments to the way the camera looks at and reacts to the scene/subject.

2. Photographic Parameters

Scene variables: I keep it simple, by including (available) light levels and subject movement only.

Photographic intent: This is the part where you decide what you want to convey or achieve through your photograph. Do you want to freeze or show movement? Go high or low key on the scene? Are you isolating your subject from its surroundings or showing some background detail? These (and many more) are the meaningful aesthetic choices, which make each photographer unique.

Enablers: Out of the many props/modifiers available to photographers, I include here the flash and the tripod. These two (arguably filters as well) make possible, more than anything else, the realization of our vision in diverse genres of photography (e.g. landscape, long exposure, night photography, macro etc.). Additionally, each of them has their own distinct group of settings to maximize their effectiveness. 

How Do U1/2 and Memory Banks Approach These Concepts?

Any given scene can be broken down to any pair of variables (marked with x) in the table below.

I argue that superimposing our photographic intent on these sets of variables, assisted by suitable enablers, is the art and technique of photography. In my view, the custom settings number one goal is to facilitate effortless interplay between variables, intent, and enablers.

To achieve this, they should allow a quick switch from one bundle of the core, output and fine-tuning settings to another. U1/2 and Memory Banks do this in different ways, as I will demonstrate below.

U1/2 Table

Key: U1 (User-defined 1), U2 (User-defined 2), C1 (Core 1), C2 (Core 2), O1 (Output 1), O2 (Output 2), F1 (Fine-tuning 1), F2 (fine-tuning 2)

Memory Bank Table

The tables above summarize the difference in the logic of U1/2 and Memory Banks.

  • U1/2 are vertical combinations of selected settings of all types of camera settings.
  • Memory Banks is a matrix combination (i.e. mix and match) of primarily ‘Output’ and ‘Fine-tuning’ camera settings. The exception is the inclusion of the core ISO setting on the photo shooting Menu Banks. Turning on the ‘extended photo menu banks’ option in the ‘photo-shooting’ menu allows for the other settings (aperture/shutter/manual priorities, aperture, and shutter values as well as exposure and flash modes) to be embedded in the photo shooting banks.
Applying Custom Settings to Real-Life Shooting Scenarios Generic Shooting Style

Before I provide some examples of real-life shooting using both custom settings, I will make a few important working assumptions about a ‘generic’ shooting style:

  • You shoot various genres of photography regularly in a mixed way (i.e. you would opt for the maximum settings’ range and flexibility within easy reach)
  • You do not employ back button focus. I propose you do so. It can increase your focusing and composing options, as well as your speed of shooting considerably.
  • You are not a full-time raw or jpeg only shooter. Myself, I shoot raw 95% of the time/shots.
  • You do not use auto ISO. I propose you do, as on the field it can make life a little less complicated.
  • You have and know how to use a flash and a tripod.
Typical Shooting Situations

Now, I will walk you through one of my typical shooting situations – walking around town or traveling, to show what I ideally expect from my custom settings.

Scenario One:

As I am strolling along, I see a nice background for a portrait. I want my camera to be on the ready with pinpoint focus accuracy (AF-S single point) with a nice shallow depth of field. Depending on surrounding light levels and contrast, I may or may not want to add flash-fill or even overpower available light using high-speed sync, so it is handy to be able to quickly access a convenient flash exposure starting point.

Portrait of a friend taken with the D750

Scenario Two:

Along the road, a cute animal is playing. I’d like to shoot it as it moves, freeze it or do a nice pan. My camera needs to be ready to follow motion (AF-C combined with any preferred focus area mode). Also, I need quick flexibility on my shutter speed selection from a 1/1000th sec (to freeze action) down to around 1/30th sec (to pan).

A portrait of a dog taken with the D500

Scenario Three:

I enter a beautiful garden. Flowers are perfect to photograph close-up (macro) so I set up my tripod. Here, I require a deeper depth of field and pinpoint focus accuracy again (AF-S single). If the light is not plenty, I may need a longer than usual exposure.

Turning ‘on’ long exposure noise reduction and exposure delay, provides better image quality in these scenarios. To further mitigate shake risk, I also engage mirror lock-up. Unfortunately, mirror lock is not pre-configurable in U1/2 or in Memory Banks.

A Flower close-up taken with the D750

Scenario Four:

On any trip, it is great to take a nice landscape photo. In this case, the macro settings above, more or less apply. If there is plenty of light, shooting handheld is not an issue.

A landscape taken with the D750

Scenario Five:

Finally, during a town-by-night walk, a nice long exposure is always memorable. Again, the macro scenario settings and my trusty tripod come in handy.

A long exposure taken with the D500

Based on these realistic hypothetical-shooting scenarios, it is evident that settings vary considerably from auto-focus mode to shutter speed and aperture, to flash or no flash etc. You may also want to give your camera to someone for a quick snap, without having the time or inclination to explain focus, recompose or other settings.

If there is an ‘auto’ option on your modes dial then all is good, if not, then resetting to ‘waiter’ or ‘dumbbell’ mode (as full-auto is also known to some) is not quick nor easy without custom settings.

Now, I will briefly show my settings for both modes and a few tips to further increase their flexibility.

My Settings for U1/2

U1 is my ‘General Shooting Mode’ and the settings are shown in the screen below. If you employed back-button focus, then you would use AF-C instead of AF-S

My U1 settings in D750

U2 is my ‘Flash Shooting Mode’ and the settings are shown in the screen below.

My U2 settings in D750

It is important to mention that you have additional options by customizing M/A/S modes.

The Settings I Use For Memory Banks (Extended Banks ‘ON’)

My photo shooting banks are named A=General B=JPG C=Shutter D=Manual

The custom banks are named A=General B=Flash C=Tripod D=Waiter

I have set banks this way to be able to move from my usual working best quality output (e.g. A/A) to basic point and shoot output (e.g. B/D) within just a few seconds by using the ‘info’  button and changing the ‘custom settings’  banks.

Tips to maximize both methods:

  1. Create and rank items in ‘my menu’. This will allow quick access and change of settings that are not pre-programmable in any mode (e.g. mirror lock up).
  2. Especially for Memory Banks, use the ‘save/load settings’ option onto an SD card (one you will not format). Also, store the settings file on any drive for safekeeping. This will give you a quick restore method, in case you forget what your initial Memory Bank settings were after many changes, as banks are not ‘sticky’.
  3. Read on the net for other ways that users have set their U1/2 and banks. Their needs and style may suit yours. 
So Which Method is Best?

After comparing U1/2 with Memory Banks for versatility in the above scenarios, my conclusion is that banks provide me with the highest flexibility thanks to their matrix structure. However, banks demand greater discipline in their set-up and use to remain helpful. This is because U1/2 are ‘sticky’, while banks are not.

Once settings are saved in U1/2, no matter what changes you make while shooting with U1/2 selected, you will not impact the saved settings. Simply reselect U1/2 and you are at your initial settings in a blink, hence ‘sticky’. However, all 8 banks save settings dynamically in real time as you apply them during your shooting. Following is a simplified example to elaborate:

You have U1 set up as A-priority, AF-S at f/5.6 and matrix metering. During your shoot, you move from the matrix to spot and f/8. Do you want to go quickly back to your base settings? Simply turn the dial from U1 to U2 and then back to U1 again, and you are back to f/5.6 and matrix.

In banks (both custom and shooting), if you wanted to keep your selected bank identical to the starting configuration, you would need to manually bring metering and apertures back to their initial values.


So, in the grand scheme of things, I have no complaints from either method in the Nikon Custom Settings. I am glad to have both available. I value the ease of use of U1/2 and I love the greater choice that Memory Banks give me. For example, being tripod-ready for landscape or macro, without having to remember to change many settings makes things easier and quicker.

It would be great to have an option to easily save and restore banks in camera to provide the best of both worlds, or to have the quick recovery of U1/2 with the greater choice of the banks.

Join the discussion and let us know your preferred method and way of programming Nikon Custom Settings on the D750, D500 or any other camera featuring U1/2 or banks.

The post Nikon Custom Modes of the D750 and D500. Which mode is best? appeared first on Digital Photography School.

10 Key Tools for Editing Portraits Using Adobe Lightroom Mobile

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 08:00

Photo: Jye B

As humans, we relate to and love to capture photos of other people. Be it family, friends, strangers in street photography or professionally in a portrait studio.

Model/Actor: Patrick Walsh, Jr.

However, we don’t always have time to sit in front of a computer at home or in an office to edit our work. With the fantastic creation of Adobe Creative Cloud, you can now sync your Lightroom library to all your devices. You can create and edit images directly on your mobile phone or edit images created in any fashion, including in a studio. You can edit them in Lightroom Mobile on the go via laptop, tablet or smartphone.

While editing portraits, Lightroom Mobile, like its desktop counterpart, has many tools available to help take a snapshot of a great portrait. While it is helpful to explore every tool in the toolbox, here are ten key tools for editing portraits using Adobe Lightroom Mobile.

1. The Exposure Tool

Whether it’s midday outdoors and your image is a little overexposed or its a bit overcast and your image is a little underexposed, the exposure tool in the Lightroom Mobile app is a quick fix to brighten or darken a photo to your liking arbitrarily. In the image below, the mirror image of my subject was a little bit dark, so I bumped up the exposure just a little. Doing so lightened some of the shadows in the subjects sunglasses so that you could see his eyes better. It also helped to show more detail in the black coat.

In this case, bumping up the exposure helped bring out details.

2. The Contrast Tool

Adding contrast to an image creates more emphasis between light and dark colors in an image. However, sometimes contrast needs to be subtracted because too much can make similar tones can blend and lose definition. In the image below, I lowered the contrast to enhance the detail in my subject’s coat. Adding exposure in the first step brightened the subject as well as the mirror image. Although, it brightened the subject a little too much. I also dropped the highlights to put less focus on the brightest parts of the subject’s face.

Taking away contrast can show more detail. Taking away highlights can lessen the glare.

3. The Shadows Tool

You can utilize the ‘Shadows’ tool when sculpting to a face or body is required, or you can remove them to show more detail. In the image below, while I did bump up the exposure a little bit, I also took away shadow to show more of my subject’s eyes through the sunglasses. You can now see the irises and catchlights in the eyes. It has also lightened some of the lines on the face too.

Removing shadow can sometimes reveal more detail.

4. The Healing Tool

One of the most amazing Lightroom Mobile tools recently introduced is the ‘Healing’ tool. This tool allows you to correct things on portraits such as blemishes. In the image below, I tried to preserve the model’s natural moles and birthmarks while only removing unwanted blemishes using the Healing brush.

Before and after images using the Healing Brush in Lightroom Mobile.

5. The White Balance Tool

Sometimes you may capture an image where the white balance is a bit off. It could be too warm or too cold. The ‘Temperature’ slider under the ‘Color’ tab for ‘White Balance’ allows you to cool or warm an image. The below-left image was too cold, and the skin appeared gray. So, I boosted the warmth using the Color Temperature slider from 4400K to 4768K, giving a more natural color to the skin.

You can cool or warm an image using the ‘Temperature’ slider for ‘White Balance’ under the ‘Color’ tab.

6. The Clarity Tool

The ‘Clarity’ tool has a very magical effect when it comes to editing portraits – especially of women. If you have a portrait with harsh shine on the skin or the pores are extremely visible, softening the ‘Clarity’ helps to blur out some of those imperfections subtly. It can make skin appear smoother, as in the image below.

Softening Clarity can subtly blur out some imperfections and make skin appear smoother.

7. The Sharpening Tool

In portraiture, a sharp image is key. An essential portrait element to be sharp is the eyes, or at least the eye closest to the camera. Sometimes you may need to sharpen your image in Lightroom Mobile to achieve this.

Sometimes sharpening is necessary to get key features, like the eyes, crisper.

8. The Noise Reduction Tool

After sharpening, zoom in to check for unwanted noise in your image. If there is unwanted noise, Lightroom Mobile has an entire ‘Noise Reduction’ section under the ‘Effects’ tab that you can use to minimize noise in your portraits. The Noise Reduction tool is also helpful in smoothing out any highlighted rough skin.

The Noise Reduction tab helps get rid of noise and smooth out the rough skin under highlights.

9. The Presets Tool

The ‘Presets’ tab is a fun tab. There are several sub-menus under Presets with a variety of readymade one-click settings you can quickly apply to your portraits. As examples, I chose two from the ‘Creative’ sub-menu under Presets to apply to the original image below-left.

Left to right: Original image, Soft Mist, Aged Photo.

10. The Crop Tool

The last tool you may find you need while editing on-the-go is the ‘Crop’ tool. Sometimes we have too much in an image, whether by accident or on purpose, knowing we can edit it later. Lightroom Mobile allows you to select the area of an image you wish to keep. Using your fingers, you can drag the borders to where you want them placed, as per the image below.

Using Lightroom Mobile, drag borders with your fingers and click the checkmark to finished when cropping images.

Tying It All Together

Lightroom Mobile grants photographers many tools to edit on-the-go. You can take a regular capture and make it an extraordinary image. Take a few images, use the various tools of Lightroom Mobile, and learn how they can be adjusted more toward your vision. You’ll find the convenience of Lightroom Mobile second-to-none, with results being similar to those of a desktop computer.

Have you used Adobe Lightroom Mobile? What are your experiences with it? Let us know in the comments below.

The post 10 Key Tools for Editing Portraits Using Adobe Lightroom Mobile appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How Using the SpiderPro Camera System V2 Changed My Life

Mon, 11/26/2018 - 13:00

As a professional wildlife and adventure photographer, I am accustomed to carting heavy camera equipment from location to location. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever used 500mm+ lenses and pro-bodies. Nevertheless, in most situations, these larger-than-normal set-ups are used in conjunction with super-sturdy tripods with gimbal heads and or other supports such as bean bags, which comfortably take the weight and more importantly, the strain.

When I set up my UK-based dog photography business a few years ago, I rocked up to my outdoor on-location dog photo sessions with a lot less equipment than I was used to – which was awesome!

So I thought!

Holding Heavy Equipment

On most dog photography shoots there are periods where I’m holding a pro-body, with a 70-200mm f/2.8 or 24-70mm f/2.8 lens attached. I hold this in my right hand while using my left to attract my subject’s attention with squeakers, toys, balls, treats and more. I use my thumb to control the back-button focusing while using my index and middle fingers to control a multitude of features. I am crouched, lying down while looking up, standing while looking down, in water, or snow. You name it; I do it!

Now, I’ve always been a reasonably fit individual and look after myself, so when I started to suffer from a few unusual aches and pains, alarm bells rang.

First off, I experienced chronic muscle twinges and aches in my right shoulder. Then, depending on the demands of the shoot, I frequently suffered from lower back pain. These two issues were bad enough. However, the most painful affliction was in the index and middle fingers on my right hand. I only had to knock these two digits against something and the pain, although momentary, was excruciating.

So, after a couple of x-rays the verdict was in – Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). After I discussed my experiences with three fellow pet photographers with comparable stories, RSI was confirmation of what I suspected.

However, they are no longer sufferers, and each put their freedom of pain and increased productivity down to a couple of products from the SpiderPro range: the SpiderPro Camera Holster and the SpiderPro Hand Strap.

Their shared experiences were endorsement and encouragement enough to test-drive the SpiderPro Camera System V2 system and discover the potential benefits for myself.

SpiderPro Single Camera System v2 The Belt and Holster

The SpiderPro Pro 2 Belt features an improved design, over the original that is more optimized for comfort and flexibility and now features a heavy-duty triple-lock buckle. The whole belt and holster system is super-tough and expertly constructed with durable and wear-resistant materials.

My immediate impression, when first wearing the holster, is just how comfortable and secure everything feels. The build quality is excellent with stainless steel and hardened aluminum. The plate and pin system, that screws on to my camera’s base and engages with the Holster feels bulletproof and is not going anywhere.

The SpiderPro Camera Holster takes the weight of my pro gear away from my upper body relieving the strain on my upper back. The holster relieves strain in my shoulder areas, and distributes it at my waist, which according to Spider is “the most ergonomic place to carry heavy gear – just ask a carpenter with a full tool belt!” Moreover, I have to agree.

The SpiderPro Camera Holster features a two-position lock designed for flexibility – unlocked for quick draw action shots or auto-locking for security in any shooting situation.

The Plate

The improved Pro2 Plate attaches to any professional DSLR and has is redesigned for a more balanced and comfortable carry. The new plate also features an improved and more secure pin and anti-slip rubber grips to keep the plate in place. It can be swapped easily for carrying on the left or right and is compatible with any tripod.

If you want a camera on each hip, you can now upgrade the single system instead of purchasing the dual system. The Dual Camera Upgrade v2 requires no tools, which makes adding a second holster extremely easy.


The SpiderPro Hand Strap

Over the years I’ve experimented with various hand straps and none, and I mean none, have worked for me. They’ve all lacked one or two crucial features such as comfort, performance and or ergonomic functionality.

The SpiderPro Hand Strap, however, is different. It has all of the features that make a good hand strap and has been an absolute game changer for me.

My hand slides in effortlessly.

The ‘S’ curved leather strap is particularly snug and follows the contour of the back of my hand, ensuring the weight of the camera is evenly distributed and secure. However, more importantly, the straps’ clever design ensures the correct position for shooting while allowing my thumb, index and middle fingers to operate the camera unrestricted.

Trust me – that’s a major coup.

The Strap is compatible with extended battery packs, vertical grips, and any tripod or Spider plate. There’s also clear access to the memory card slots. It’s available in a variety of colors, which is an extra touch.

In Conclusion

I’ve been using the SpiderPro Camera Holster System, v1 and v2, in conjunction with the Hand Strap now for over a year and my strain-related pains have all but gone.

Photography, like many professions, can be physically demanding and you need to look after yourself. So, when a brand, like SpiderPro, takes on the challenge of designing and producing a product that not only enhances our lives but also increases our productivity, then I have to take my hat off to them.

Nowadays, manufacturers can tap into social media and online forums for real-time user feedback on their products. Armed with valuable, in-the-field insight, they’re able to improve each product based on what we, the consumer, would like to have.

The adage of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ very rarely applies to camera systems and camera accessories. SpiderPro’s products are indeed a testament to this.

All images courtesy of Spider Holster.

The post How Using the SpiderPro Camera System V2 Changed My Life appeared first on Digital Photography School.

7 Tips for Beautiful Photos in Icy Cold Weather

Mon, 11/26/2018 - 08:00

Winter is a beautiful season to take photos. In order to capture the beauty that winter offers you’ll have to overcome cold temperatures for both you and your gear.

Here are seven tips that will help you protect your gear and take beautiful photos during the winter season.

Remember that exciting feeling you had as a kid when the first snow came? If you’ve become a grumpy grown up when it comes to winter, challenge yourself to recapture the wonder of winter this year!

1. If You Hate the Cold, Stay Inside!

When you think of winter photos you might imagine being bundled up outside in the howling cold trying to avoid frostbite while taking photos. I’ve certainly been in that situation a time or two!

Maybe the thought of crazy winter weather keeps you from ever stepping outside to take photos during winter months. But who says you have to go outdoors to take nice winter photos?

Before stepping outdoors, think about what you can accomplish inside.

A few years ago I spent the whole winter indoors studying. I loved the way the icicles looked hanging from our house. Rather than take my camera outdoors, I photographed the icicles from inside my house.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve always had a bedroom that faces the sunrise. I love waking up to golden hour.

These are the icicles during the afternoon.

These are the icicles at sunset. In Ontario, Canada, sunsets often have deep and vibrant colors.

These icicles are being lit by the cool light of the full moon.

2. Preparing Your Batteries

Now suppose you do want to head outdoors to take winter photos; you had better be prepared.

Make sure your batteries are fully charged (including your spare ones). Batteries tend to drain faster in the cold, so find a warm pocket to keep them in. A pocket should allow the batteries to be up against your body; perhaps an inner chest pocket. Also, try keeping a hand warmer or baked potato in the pocket!

While you’re waiting for your batteries to charge, enjoy a hot cup of tea! Steam is a lot of fun to photograph and works best when it is backlit.

3. Metering for the Snow

Most people use some sort of auto setting on their camera such as ‘landscape’ or ‘portrait’ mode. You may even be using aperture or shutter priority. With all of these settings, your camera uses its internal meter to calculate the right exposure or brightness for your photo.

This can be a problem.

When the landscape is covered in bright white snow, your camera will want to darken the exposure. This means that you’ll snap a photo and the snow will turn our looking very gray. The camera doesn’t realize that you want the snow to appear bright white in your photo. Of course, it doesn’t even know it’s looking at snow!

There are two ways to fix this. The first is to use full manual mode so that you have control over the exposure, not your camera.

If you’re not comfortable using manual mode yet, then try using exposure compensation. Set your camera to aperture priority, then use exposure compensation to increase the exposure by a full stop. Keep making adjustments until you’ve got it just right. Consult your camera manual on how to adjust exposure compensation.

Prior to using exposure compensation, I used to have to brighten all my winter photos with Lightroom. Notice how gray the snow is in the photo on the left.

Even though you can brighten your photos later with an editing program, it’s far better to get the exposure correct the moment you take the photo.

4. Look for Contrast

Once you’ve got the hang of exposure and metering it’s time to make some creative photos.

The first thing I look for in a snowy landscape is contrast. Since the snow is bright white, I look for dark objects that will stand out in contrast to the snow.

Contrast is what will help your photo to ‘pop’ and give it more dimension.

In a landscape, this might be trees, buildings, animals or people.

The dark trees in the background help the shape of the snow-covered hill to stand out. The boy sliding down the hill really pops too.

5. Think in Black and White

You’re already looking for high contrast scenes. Bright white snow together with dark objects create a perfect high contrast black and white photo.

Seeing our photos in black and white allows us to appreciate the lines and texture in the photo without being distracted by colors.

The bright snow is contrasted by the dark trees.

There are two options to get a black and white photo. You can change your camera settings to photograph in black in white. Or, you can photograph in JPEG or RAW mode and convert the photos to black and white later.

I recommend using RAW mode and set your camera to black and white. This way your RAW photo will retain its color even though it appears black and white on your camera. Using RAW mode offers you the chance to see your photos in black and white as you take them, but still have the option to keep them in color when you look at them later on your computer.

A silhouette is a perfect choice for a high contrast black and white photo.

6. Slow Shutter Speed

I love to be out in snow storms watching the wind whip the snowflakes around. The constant motion of the snowflakes will allow you to get creative with your shutter speed.

You can set your shutter speed to freeze the movement of the snowflakes, but you can also slow your shutter speed down and capture the movement of the snowflakes.

You can’t see the wind with your eyes, but you can see how it blows the snowflakes around. When you slow down your shutter speed, you’ll capture the blurred movement of the flakes.

You can slow your shutter speed down just a little bit and capture some slight motion blur.

You can slow the shutter speed down to about 1/30 of a second to capture even more motion blur. Just make sure that both your camera and your subject are held very still (consider a tripod).

I recommend using shutter priority. Slow down your shutter speed until you achieve the desired amount of blur in your photo. Remember the third tip I gave you about metering for the bright snow? If you’re having trouble getting the right exposure then try manual mode or exposure compensation.

7. Protect Your Camera Before You Come Inside

People who wear eyeglasses know how annoying it is to come inside from the cold. As soon as they step indoors, their glasses fog up! This is called condensation. It’s moisture from the warm air collecting on a cold surface.

This will happen to your camera too. When you bring it inside from the cold, moisture will collect on it, getting into all the tiny little parts of your camera. Naturally, this can be a problem for the long-term health of your camera.

Here’s what you can do to bring your cold camera into the house without having to worry about condensation:

While you’re still outside, put your camera into a large heavy-duty airtight bag. Seal the bag so that no moisture can get in. Now when you bring your camera into the house no moisture will get into your camera. Allow your camera to return to room temperature before taking it out of the bag. When you do take it out, no moisture will collect on it!

This airtight bag will keep all the condensation off my camera until it returns to room temperature.

Beautiful Photos in Icy Cold Weather

Whether you’re taking winter photos from the warmth of your cozy home, or you’re going to brave the winter chill, remember these simple tips:

  • Charge your batteries and keep them warm.
  • Get perfectly exposed photos through manual mode or exposure compensation.
  • Make your winter photos look creative by finding contrast, converting them to black and white, or using a slow shutter speed.
  • Keep your camera safe from moisture by sealing it in an airtight bag before coming back inside.
  • Be ready for your next adventure by recharging your batteries as soon as they are warm!

The post 7 Tips for Beautiful Photos in Icy Cold Weather appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Essential Family Photo Session Preflight Checklist

Sun, 11/25/2018 - 13:00

When preparing for a family photo session, there are plenty of things to keep in mind. Such as: making sure you know what time to meet, where you are going to do the shoot, and having all your gear handy. However, even the most seasoned family photographer can overlook some items from time to time though.

For people who are new to this type of work, it can be a headache trying to keep track of all the little things that can make or break a portrait session. A simple solution is to borrow a technique from the aviation industry known as a Preflight Checklist. Creating a checklist makes all the difference between happy clients and photographic disaster.

A Preflight Checklist is a list with various items on it that you can physically check off. Pilots use them to make sure everything is in order before taxiing down the runway, and photographers can use them before they start snapping photos.

You could create one on your phone with any note-taking app, but I recommend a physical Preflight Checklist. Since you can keep it in your pocket, you don’t have to worry about accessing apps or unlocking your phone. You can also hand it to someone else if you need another pair of eyes to check it over.

Some of the items on a photographer’s Preflight Checklist might sound relatively obvious, but it’s a good idea to keep one handy to make sure you have everything in order. Simple mistakes can make or break a photo shoot, and it doesn’t hurt to double-check that you have every little thing set – especially when dealing with families and children.

Following are the items I advise you to put on your checklist. You may want to customize it to suit your needs and possibly even create your own from scratch using a word processing program. I have included explanations for each item on this list. You could remove them to save space and focus just on the items and not the rationale for including them.

Checklist items 1. Format Your Memory Cards

Each photo session should use fresh memory cards. The best way to do that is to format them using your camera. Doing a complete reformat, using the instructions provided in your camera’s manual, is preferred over merely deleting the pictures one-by-one. Doing a complete reformat resets your memory card to a fresh state. Deleting pictures can leave certain bits of data intact that, over time, could cause problems and make it more difficult to recover images in the case of a card failure.

2. Charge All Batteries

Charging your batteries may seem painfully obvious, but most photographers have been in at least one situation where they forgot to bring fully-charged batteries to a session. Having this on a checklist ensures that this doesn’t happen to you.

This engagement session lasted quite a while, but luckily I remembered to have plenty of fully-charged batteries. I almost forgot though, which would have spelled disaster for the entire shoot.

3. List the Camera Gear You Need

You probably don’t need to bring all your camera gear to every photo shoot. Having a checklist for family photo sessions (or other types of sessions, such as sports or weddings) is an excellent way to ensure nothing gets overlooked. This list should include camera bodies, specific lenses, flashes, filters, even specific equipment like camera straps and lens cleaners. Don’t just assume you will remember to bring these! Having them on a checklist can save you from a big disaster during the photo session.

4. List the Accessories You Need

Accessories can include something to write with, something to write on (such as a clipboard), blankets for people to sit on, benches, footstools, and even stepladders (depending on the location and situation). Be as detailed as you like with this. It may help to have different accessories listed for different types of sessions such as pictures involving young children, or elderly grandparents.

I was so focused on getting the gear I needed for this shot that I nearly forgot to bring a blanket for this baby to lay on.

5. Edible Items

It never hurts to have food or snacks on hand. As well as pacifying fussy kids or calming nervous parents, it sends a message to your clients that you know what you are doing and have their needs in mind. Chewy granola bars, single-serve packs of fruit snacks, and bottles of water all come in handy at photo sessions. The clients appreciated it too. Just be sure to avoid food that leaves crumbs or stain clothes!

6. Specific Types of Shots

Wedding photographers know this well, but some family photographers can easily make the mistake of forgetting specific shots in the hustle and bustle of a session. Write out the shots you want (i.e., Mom and Dad, Mom and kids, Dad and kids). Consult with the family beforehand to see if they want anything unique to their shoot. Even if they don’t have something in mind, they may appreciate that you asked for their input.

The family specifically requested this type of shot, so I made sure to include it on my checklist.

7. Specific Poses

It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle and chaos of a family photo shoot only to realize afterward that there were certain poses you wanted to get. Or worse, certain poses your clients requested that slipped your mind. Once, I looked through my photos in Lightroom after a session. I banged my head against my keyboard because I forgot to get a shot of the parents holding their daughter or all the brothers in one group.

If you take more of a freeform approach to your sessions, you might not be too concerned about certain poses. However, if you want to cover your bases, putting your poses in your checklist is a great way to get the ones you want.

8. Clear the Pockets

If I had a dollar for every time I looked through pictures from a photo session only to realize that someone had keys, a giant cell phone, a glasses case, or other sundry items sticking out of their pockets, I’d be a rich man. These types of imperfections can land an otherwise frame-worthy photo in the rejection bin. Alternatively, it requires hours of postprocessing to fix.

The easiest solution is to have clients empty their pockets before you start taking pictures. Family sessions can be so hectic that it’s easy to overlook. Put this item on your checklist, and you’ll be all set.

I forgot to use a checklist on this photo shoot. As a result, I didn’t think to have everyone empty their pockets. Even though the family was very pleased with their pictures, the phone and handkerchief are glaring mistakes that could have been easily avoided.

9. Clothing Check

Similarly to pocket-clearing, this one is an easy fix but can cause you to pull your hair out in post-processing if you forget. Make a note on your checklist to see that shirts are tucked in, collars are down, and ties aren’t sticking into belts.

10. Names

Names are last, but it’s one of the most important things to remember. It can make the difference between a one-time client and years of repeat business. Leave space on your checklist to write all the names of your clients and take a bit to rehearse them before your clients show up. This helps to avoid an awkward scene when directing a person to stand somewhere or put a hand on another’s shoulder, but you can’t remember their name. Nothing says unprofessional like barking out, “Hey you over there, move your hand!” Write your clients names down and use them during the photo session as much as possible. It helps the entire event to run smoother.

There were a lot of names to keep track of during this session, but writing them down on a checklist was an easy way to help me remember.

Every photographer is going to need different items on his or her checklist. Hopefully, these give you a good idea of where to start. Creating the list is as simple as opening up a word processor and starting a bulleted list. Once you have a basic one created, you can fine-tune it to meet your needs on each shoot. It might seem like much work to create a checklist, but in the end, it saves you far more time than you might realize. You create better results for your clients too.

If you’d like to use my checklist as a template, you can download it here. I strongly recommend using this as a starting point and adding, removing, or changing the items to suit your needs.

Do you already use a Preflight Checklist or other such devices to help you with your photo sessions? If so, what do you put on it? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, and I’m sure other photographers would as well.

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Essential Portrait Photography Gear You Need When Starting Out

Sun, 11/25/2018 - 08:00

My last post was on equipment to have when starting out as a wedding photographer.

I am not reiterating what I have touched on in that article, although there are some slight overlaps. Still, I recommend that you read that first.


In this article, I touch on the differences between wedding and portrait photography which I have not covered in the previous post. I also follow that with equipment you need for portrait photography.


1. Weddings are fast-paced. Portrait photography is slower in comparison.

2. Weddings require photojournalistic shots and a documentary style to the coverage. Portraits most often include must have looking photos or a well-composed artful photo.

3. Weddings can involve countless lighting conditions, many of which you have no control over. Portraits are more manageable than weddings, and you have more control and options.

4. Weddings require dealing with large numbers of people but with less personal face-to-face interaction. Portraits are the opposite – especially involving children.

Given the above differences, this is the equipment I suggest you have in your bag as a portrait photographer.

1. Zoom Lens – Wide and Long

An excellent example of a wide zoom lens is the 24-70mm f/2.8 or if you have a kit lens, the 18-55mm. While this lens is versatile for wedding photography, in a small studio, this helps when shooting portraits with many people in them. There is no need to change lenses every time you go from photographing one person to three or five. The important thing to remember here is the distortion you get when shooting with a wide focal length at close range to your subject. 35mm for a full body length is good, but you start getting distortions wider than that, especially shooting 24mm at close range.

However, if you have a big studio, then you could do with a prime lens like a 35mm for a crop-sensor or a 50mm/85mm for a full-frame camera.

The 70-200mm f/2.8 (Nikon also has an f/4 option) is an excellent zoom lens. I used this lens for the cherry blossom photos above. An inexpensive alternative is the 55-200mm f/3.5. Using long focal lenses are fantastic for separating the subject from the background.

2. Fixed Lens

Also called prime lenses, those with longer focal lengths, such as the 85mm, 105mm, and 200mm, are great for portraits. You get amazing compression and depth of field. If you only have a small studio, using these lenses may be tricky because you need to have enough space between you and the subject. However, if you are shooting outdoors, results can be dramatic and beautiful.

If you are a natural light photographer, having a prime lens with a wide aperture is your best friend. For example, you can shoot between f/1.4 – f/2.2 and still get sharp images. However, a word of caution, there are other factors to consider to get sharp images at these apertures. Including: how you hold the camera, your ISO and shutter speed settings, and the use of a steady surface or tripod/monopod where needed. Because you have more control over the time you spend on portraits, and it’s not fast-paced, you can afford to use a tripod. Slowing things down may help you to nail your focus or achieve the compositions you are after.

Here is an article I have written comparing natural light and the use of flash.

3. Tripod or Monopod

As mentioned above, using a tripod or monopod is helpful when photographing subjects using natural light – especially if you have a static set-up/backdrop. You don’t have to keep moving your camera, and you get the same frame and composition every time.

If you take the majority of your portraits in your studio, there’s no need to shell out for an expensive portable tripod. These tripods are generally expensive because they are sturdy and made from lightweight materials, and they are a small size. As long as your tripod is strong and stable, even if it is super heavy, it can do the job.

4. Artificial Light Source

If you don’t purely rely on natural light, consider other light sources such as continuous lights, LED lights, flashguns, and electronic flashes/strobes. With these, you can shoot at any time of day under any lighting conditions. You are then not dependent on sunlight, the weather or the season. This article on a portable started kit may help with how artificial light sources can look.

You may need remote triggers and receivers to work these with your camera. Unless, for example, you are using the built-in creative lighting system of your flashgun unit in the case of Nikon.

5. Light Modifiers

With the use of artificial light sources, it is crucial to pair them with modifiers to take the edge off and soften the light. There are many types you can go for and this article could help you decide.

6. Reflector

Reflectors are a handy tool for portrait photography, especially when using in a studio environment. Using the correct reflector has an undeniable impact on the image before applying any editing in post-production. Read this article for a side-by-side comparison of various reflectors. If you have space, it is a good idea to have one large reflector propped up on a stand in your studio (lockable castor wheels are handy).

As this is to do with portrait photography, this article on setting up a home portrait studio might help give you more of an idea of the basics.

I hope you found this article helpful. If there is any equipment you wish to add, share your thoughts in the comments below.

Top feature image by:

Alexander Dummer

The post Essential Portrait Photography Gear You Need When Starting Out appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Use Complementary Colors for Color Correction of Your Images

Sat, 11/24/2018 - 13:00

Two days before my wedding, I got sunburnt on a fishing trip. It was also my bachelor party.

Al Shallal Ice Rink in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – before color correction

Al Shallal Ice Rink in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – after color correction

My wife’s cousin, the makeup artist for the big day, took one look at my bright red nose and dragged me into a changing room. She sat me down and pulled out a jar of green powder.

“Is that green powder?”

“Yep – green is the opposite of red on the color wheel, so this cancels out some of that shine.”

Those probably weren’t her exact words – but it was something like that. However, it stuck with me. She added a dash of green powder and my nose was slightly less red.

Using Complementary Colors for Color Correction

We are always striving to use color theory in new and captivating ways. Using complementary colors in your images, and creative adjustments to color balance and split toning can take your images to the next level. You most likely adjust white balance, including temperature and tint, somewhere at the start of the editing process. The ‘Temperature’ slider gives your images a cool or warm tone. The ‘Tint’ slider gives a green or magenta tint.

You use these sliders to add to the overall mood and tone of the image. Those values are fine-tuned throughout the editing process while making other adjustments. Recently, I made use of my knowledge of color theory (and that critical lesson on my wedding day), for an entirely different purpose.

Lightroom White Balance Slider at Default Settings

I currently live and work in Saudi Arabia. To the surprise of many people, I also play ice hockey out here for The Red Sea Sabres. We practice in Jeddah and play in international tournaments every year. On Saudi National Day, our team was invited to play in a friendly scrimmage against the re-emerging Saudi National Team. It was part of an effort to showcase ice hockey in The Kingdom (the details of the entire story are in the blog post linked in my bio).

When we arrived at Al Shallal Ice Rink, the ceiling lights had been tinted green in honor of the Saudi Flag. There was also a large mist looming over the entire ice surface. It was kind of like playing ice hockey on Venus. We were also part of a larger ice skating and Saudi National Day showcase, and there were heaps of photographic opportunities everywhere I looked.

Shooting backstage was fine, as you can see from the before and after images below that have only a few adjustments to the RAW cuts. However, backstage was under ‘normal’ fluorescent lighting and not the green tinted light hanging over the ice.

Original RAW file

And after minor corrections in LR

Tint Slider

My import screen filled with heavily tinted green photos.

You may already add small amounts of tint to your images for artistic purposes or to balance color after shooting under lighting conditions that cast an unwanted tint to your images. However, I had never seen anything like the RAW files I captured that night. As I watched my import screen fill with a tapestry of heavily tinted green photos, one word popped into my head…’magenta.’ I moved the tint slider toward the magenta side of the spectrum and the green cast faded.

Before the ice hockey scrimmage, an ice skating exhibition took to the ice – before color correction.

And after color correction.

Usually, I don’t go above +20 on the magenta slider, but the photo above required +130!

Split Toning

To help adjust skin tones and overall colors of jerseys and ice, I adjusted the split toning to add even more magenta to the image. However, I struggled to fully-correct the skin tones, but they looked better than the pale green faces staring back at me on import!

‘Split Toning’ helped remove more unwanted green from skin tones and even out the color of the ice.

Some of the images required a tradeoff. As with the image below; the foreground is backstage under fluorescent lights, and the background is on the ice under green colored lights. You can see that the player’s skin tone is off from the heavy magenta tint on his neck. However, it’s such a compelling image I allowed the tinted skin tone in exchange for the overall shot to be balanced.

This image could be further corrected in Photoshop using a localized correction on the player’s neck to correct his skin tone further.


Color, mood, and tone have a dynamic relationship in every image. If you are a self-taught photographer like me, you probably missed out on formal training in color theory. I have a picture of the color wheel on the wall in my editing office. That way, I am always reminded of the subtle but powerful difference using complementary or anchoring colors can add to an image. Alternatively, in this case, how adding a significant imbalance to one side of the spectrum can rescue images.

If you have been challenged by colored lighting conditions or have some images you’d like to share with us, please do so in the comments below.


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Using Photoshop Filters During Post-Processing to Correct and Enhance Images

Sat, 11/24/2018 - 08:00

When you think of filters in photography, your first thought might be those specialized glass pieces you affix to the end of your lens. Most of these filters serve a specific purpose (e.g. a polarizing filter to reduce glare), although some are for artistic effects (e.g. colored filters).

But if you want to apply artistic/special effects in post-processing, Photoshop has a number of filters you can apply during this stage of your workflow. They can also be used to clean up or retouch images.


When working with an image, it’s good practice to work non-destructively (i.e. you don’t change the pixels). Using Photoshop filters directly on a pixel layer will change the pixels, so wherever possible you should use Smart Filters.

A Smart Filter is a filter that’s applied to a Smart Object – a layer that saves the image’s source information with its original characteristics and allows you to edit non-destructively. So before you start applying filters, convert the layer you’re working on to a Smart Object.

Note: Depending on your version of Photoshop, you may not be able to apply some filters as Smart Filters.

Filter Gallery

The filter gallery in Photoshop gives you quick access to a number of filters. From the menu choose Filter, and then Filter Gallery to view them on the screen. It’s an easy way to see the effect a filter would have without changing the original image. Here you can apply one or a combination of filters to your image.

The easiest way to understand what they all do is to select each one and look at the preview. It’s a simple artistic edit that can come in handy when used selectively.

The Filter Gallery showing the options that can be applied.

Adaptive Wide Angle Filter

This is also available in the Filter menu and can be useful for correcting distortion issues resulting from wide-angle or fisheye lenses. These lenses sometimes introduce curves that weren’t actually there. You can also use the adaptive wide angle filter to straighten lines that appear curved in panoramic shots.

To straighten a curved horizon, click and drag from the left side of the horizon to the right. This adds a blue line (called a constraint) around the area of distortion. The constraint marks the area and straightens it.

An image taken with a fish-eye lens

This filter has a number of correction types:

  • Fisheye corrects those extreme curves made with a fisheye lens
  • Perspective corrects converging lines resulting from your angle of view or camera tilt
  • Full Spherical corrects 360-degree panoramas with a 1:2 aspect ratio
  • Auto applies what Photoshop deems an appropriate correction

Image adjusted using Adaptive Wide Angle filter

Note: The Panorama correction type is also available if you apply this filter to a photomerged panorama.

Lens Correction

The Lens Correction filter fixes different kinds of distortions. Similar to the Adaptive Wide Angle filter, it remedies distortion created by wide-angle and fisheye lenses. It can also straighten images taken at an angle and make them appear as if shot straight on. One of the great things with this filter is you can choose to either manually correct the image or have Photoshop correct it automatically.

Angled image.

  • Geometric Distortion is another easy way to remove a fish-eye effect.
  • Chromatic Aberration can remove any colored fringes around your subjects on high contrast edges.
  • Vignette does a good job of adding a vignette.
  • Transform gives you sliders to help you correct perspectives, with options for vertical and horizontal perspectives, as well as rotating to compensate for camera tilt.

Edited with the Lens Correction filter.


The Liquify filter can be used to push and pull pixels around and is one of the most powerful filters under the Filter menu. You may associate liquify with body transformations, but it can do much more than that.

Within the liquify filter menu, the forward warp tool (at the top left) is the most popular. The key to using this tool successfully is to use a brush size slightly larger than you think you need. You should also use a lower pressure brush (for more subtlety) and increase your density (to affect a bigger area within your brush circle).

The Liquify Tool used to reshape a piece of fruit.

Vanishing Point

The Vanishing Point filter brings an image in line with the perspective of another. For example, if you want to composite a picture frame into a room, this filter will help you match the perspective of the frame to any wall in the right perspective.

Third-Party Filters

Photoshop lets you easily add hundreds of third-party filters (available via plugins) to your arsenal.

These can help you make the most of your images or get super creative. Many simplify the steps Photoshop is capable of achieving so you can perform them in a shorter time. Some of these include the Nik Collection, Topaz and ON1.

Above Image with two Nik filters applied: Paper Toner and Vignette


Using Photoshop Filters is an easy option if you want to get creative. Photoshop has a few standard ones you can experiment with, and stacking them can create a unique image.

Which filters do you use? Share some of your results with us.

The post Using Photoshop Filters During Post-Processing to Correct and Enhance Images appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Abandoned

Fri, 11/23/2018 - 13:00

This week’s photography topic for our weekly challenge is ABANDONED!

Abandoned truck NZ by Caz Nowaczyk

I have a fascination with things that are abandoned and left to decay. There is a sense of history that comes with things that are left behind.

Think urban decay, abandoned buildings (interiors and exteriors), abandoned cars, or anything that has been discarded.

Burnt out abandoned vehicle by Caz Nowaczyk

Check out some of the articles below that give you tips on finding and shooting Abandoned pictures.

How to Photograph Abandoned Places

25 Dilapidated Images of Urban Decay and Grunge

Urban Exploration Photography – Urbex

Photography Weekly Challenge – Abandoned

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 #DPSABANDONED 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.

Dumped mattress in floodwaters by Caz Nowaczyk

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Abandoned appeared first on Digital Photography School.

$400 Camera VS $4,000 Camera – Can a Professional Photographer Spot the Difference?

Fri, 11/23/2018 - 08:00

In this video, Peter McKinnon asks the question “Can a professional photographer tell the difference between a $400 camera and a $4,000 one just by looking at the pictures?”


Watch the video, and take a look at the images shot with the Canon Rebel and the Canon EOS R. Can you tell which is which?

Can you really take professional photos with an entry level camera? Can you be a professional photographer on a budget or do you need to spend thousands of dollars on professional gear?

You may also find these articles helpful:

Shooting Portraits Like a Pro on a Tight Budget

A Look Inside the Bag of a Hobby Photographer on a Budget

10 Tips for Creating a Photography Kit on a Budget

Small Budget Photography: Lenses

Beginners Guide to Different Types of Digital Cameras


What cameras do you use for your photography work? Are you achieving great photos with less expensive gear? Share with us in the comments below.


The post $400 Camera VS $4,000 Camera – Can a Professional Photographer Spot the Difference? appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Photography Deals

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 20:58

It's that time of the year - if you're looking for a good deal, then you're sure to be on alert for the next few days! We're taking the opportunity to re-launch two of our popular courses for the year with some big savings and great bonuses.

31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer Course - Save $200

This course only opens a few times a year and is currently our only instructor-supported course with a dedicated Facebook group. Students have direct access to photographer Jim Hamel for 3 months, and they love it!

I have taken other on-line courses and found them not to as comprehensive as 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer. Since I took this course may photography has reach a whole new level. I am more confident in my camera settings; I have learned how to look and analyze the scene before I take the shot and not to be afraid to experiment. The concept of doing a daily photo after each lesson helps to put into practice what you have just learned. Jim Hamel is a wonderful instructor and I like that he is available for questions and answers back quickly. I have recommended this course to others that are just beginning. I also love the Facebook Group. It is such a supportive place for not just beginners but for photographers of all levels as we can always learn from each other.

Bett Cox


Usually $199, we are repeating the original launch special of just $49. And, if you buy in the next few days you'll also get a $50 credit to spend on our Landscape & Nature Photography course below. But you don't have to spend it now, because we know you'll want to do the 31 Days course first - so we're letting you claim it up until the 31st of March 2019. 

Act quickly if you want to get into the next intake of 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer because the will doors close for registration in less than two weeks. It's one of the best ways to get your photography kickstarted for 2019.

Learn More

Ready for something a little more challenging now? 

Landcape & Nature Photography Course - $237 in Bonuses

This was another popular video course we launched earlier this year with some great bonuses offered by instructor Johny Spencer. 

Exactly what I was looking for. Johny has a unique Aussie way about him and his enthusiasm comes through. Easy to follow and I can take all the information in during my own time. Good length individual segments. My equipment and photographic knowledge is vastly improved now I’m ready to get out there and try with confidence. A very worthwhile investment.

Bill Vincent

Now the bonuses are even better with the addition of 15 landscape and nature video masterclasses worth $150 (previously only available via his community membership). But you'll need to be quick to grab this and two other bonuses during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale. And if the bonuses were not enough, we've also taken $50 off the course fee too.

Learn More Looking for Photography Gear Deals?

We took a quick look at what Amazon is offering. We get a commission if you buy anything through our links below, at no extra cost to you.

There is a big sale happening in their Camera, Photo and Video section. Their specials are changing all the time so do check back later to see what else they’ve added. Or take a look at our most popular digital cameras and gear page for some hints as to what others are buying. Many of the cameras listed there are currently on sale at Amazon too.

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5 Tips for Capturing Nature Across Different Seasons

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 13:00

Taking photographs of nature can be an incredibly rewarding experience. During the year the change in seasons provides you with wonderful photo opportunities to capture the variety of nature subjects on offer. Here are some tips for capturing nature across the different seasons.

Lavendar, Provence, France

1) Shoot The Same Location in Different Seasons

You may have a favorite location that you like to visit. For example, it could be a local woodland, a landscape or a place of interest you enjoy visiting during a holiday. When visiting there, you may find the scenery looks unique at different times of the year. The changing seasons mean the conditions may vary dramatically from one period to the next. Snowfall in winter makes way for spring flowers and lush green vegetation in the summer, which can have a significant effect on the look and feel of your image.

Frosty sunrise, Kings Sutton, Oxfordshire, England

Frosty sunrise, Kings Sutton, Oxfordshire, England

A blanket of snow or frost transforms the landscape, giving the most mundane subjects, such as your favorite tree, some magical appeal. While winter provides a striking and crisp scene, spring’s greens and blues can give a more vibrant and colorful image. I recommend you return to your favorite place, observe the scene during a few different seasons and capture the seasonal changes.

2) Shoot More Sunrises and Sunsets in Winter

One significant advantage of photographing nature during winter is that sunrise and sunset times are more favorable than in summer. Many people prefer to spend the colder months of the winter season indoors. However, this is a great time to head outdoors while the days are shorter and timings are better than the rest of the year. Later sunrises allow you more sleeping time, and earlier sunsets mean you do not have to wait around for hours to capture it.

3) Capture the Season of Changing Colours

Autumn is a magical season to be out with the camera and is the favored time of year for many landscape photographers. The season brings a fantastic variety of warm and vivid colors. You can capture a variety of subjects during the fall from woodlands to foliage and wildlife.

Consider the light and decide what you want to capture. You could zoom in on the leaves, or find a striking scene that is well lit. You can also shoot into the sun and work with backlight to create a dynamic image.

4) Capture the Changing Light

The Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons

Dramatic lighting and changes in weather occur at any time of the year. Striking storm clouds replace sunny spells in an instant providing fantastic subjects for your nature photography. I find that during the summer months, storms can be very dramatic and give great moments of fleeting light. Passing rains can give way to radiant glows and if you are lucky – beautiful rainbows. I captured this scene in June while out walking. The change in light that occurred as the sun re-emerged after a considerable downpour was wonderfully atmospheric.

I recommend capturing the change in light during autumn and winter seasons too, as the sun stays lower in the sky compared to the summer. Thus, providing longer shadows with which to play. The height of the sun can make an image look very different in the winter compared to the summer. In winter the sun strikes the scene from a lower angle making the overall composition and lighting unique.

5) Capture the Seasons in All Weather

Come rain or shine you should go out with your camera to capture the various seasons during all weather conditions. Don’t be discouraged from venturing out with your camera if it’s raining outside or the skies are grey and leaden. There may be breaks in the weather, and the rain eventually stops. Mist can often form after periods of rain making an attractive scene to photograph.

Misty landscape, Northern Ireland

If the rain is persistent, think of other ways to photograph the adverse weather. Photographing abstract scenes, water droplets, and close-ups of flowers or fresh water on lush landscapes can work. Waterfalls look good with overcast skies, and additional rainfall adds beauty with more water.


In summary, capturing nature in different seasons can be very enjoyable at any time of the year. Photograph your favorite place in changing seasons, take advantage of early winter sunsets and capture the changing light in all weathers.

Whatever Mother Nature serves you next, get out there and capture the fantastic changes in our beautiful world in all its seasons. Once you do, please share your images with us below.

The post 5 Tips for Capturing Nature Across Different Seasons appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Advantages DSLRs Have Over Smartphones, and Why They’ll Always Have Them

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 08:00

I love watching the annual press events of Apple, Google, Samsung and others where they show off their latest high-tech gadgets, including mobile phones. With each new iPhone, Pixel, and Galaxy they seem to repeat a common refrain: “And the camera is the best one ever in a smartphone”.

Are DSLRs fading away with modern advances in smartphone camera technology? Or are they primed and ready for an entirely new life?

Mobile phone cameras are mind-blowing marvels of modern technology. With some of the tech showcased in the recent Pixel 3 announcement, you might be wondering if traditional DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are even relevant anymore.

The answer is more complicated than you might think.

Before you get too deep into this post, I want to make one thing abundantly clear. No-one can tell you which camera is best for you. If you have a 3-megapixel point-and-shoot that does what you want, then, by all means, keep using it and don’t let anyone stop you. Also, if your smartphone takes selfies and Instagram-worthy photos of your morning coffee, then keep snapping away.

In this article, I’ll be looking at some advantages traditional cameras have over smartphones. However, I won’t be telling you which one to buy, and I certainly won’t be telling you to stop using the camera you already have. Too often, the point is missed entirely when people get caught up in silly arguments on internet forums and message boards about whether such-and-such camera is better.

It’s important to know the advantages and disadvantages of different cameras, so you have enough information to choose one that best suits you and your needs. However, please don’t think I’m trying to tell you what you should or shouldn’t buy.

In almost every way I can think of, modern smartphones can take incredible images compared to those from just a few years ago. These days they have real-time HDR, depth mapping, background separation, multiple lenses, machine learning, portrait mode, selective bokeh adjustment, and even computer-assisted sub-pixel digital zooming. It’s enough to make even the most staunch DSLR owner feel a tad envious.

Still, don’t toss out your Canon or Pentax just yet. DSLRs and other traditional cameras have a treasure trove of advantages no current smartphone can match, and some features they may never be able to achieve.

Lens Selection

What’s the essential advantage of DSLRs over smartphones? I couldn’t tell you, but lens selection would undoubtedly be near the top of the list. Despite all the advances in smartphone photography in recent years, some laws of physics and photons are only overcome when switching lenses like a traditional camera. Most mobile phones have lenses roughly equivalent to a 28mm lens on a full-frame DSLR, although some dual-camera models roughly mimic a 50mm field of view to try and recreate professional-style portraits. Even though you can get adapters (such as the Olloclip) that let you do some creative experimentation, they rarely hold up to dedicated lenses mounted on interchangeable-lens cameras.

By comparison, DLSRs can use hundreds of different lenses, each designed for specific photography needs and situations. No matter what you need from a DSLR, there’s a lens that does it – from wide-angle primes and telephoto zooms to basic kit lenses, tilt-shift, and specialized macro lenses.

A photo like this, which requires a telephoto lens with a wide aperture, isn’t currently possible on any smartphone (and may never be).

The AI-powered tricks and computational somersaults modern cell phones are capable of can work wonders for different photographic situations. But when it comes to choosing the perfect lens for the job, smartphones simply can’t compete. If you want to shoot close-up images, far-away wildlife, fast-moving sports or pleasing group portraits, your mobile phone will probably come up short. Sure, you can’t install apps on most DSLRs. But you can change out lenses which, when it comes to photography, is infinitely more useful.

The portrait mode on mobile phones is amazing. But it doesn’t come close to what you can achieve with a portrait lens on a DSLR or mirrorless camera.

Customizable Settings

While phones can produce amazing photographs in lots of different conditions, you’re fairly limited in terms of settings. You usually can’t change the aperture or focal length (and no, digital cropping is not the same as changing focal lengths). All you can really control are the ISO and shutter speed, and the native camera apps rarely even let you do that much.

When you press the button to take a picture on your phone, you’re letting the computer do most of the thinking it terms of white balance, shutter speed, ISO, and even which part of the image should be properly exposed.

One of the biggest selling points of DSLRs and other dedicated cameras is that (while they have auto modes that do much of the heavy lifting) they have manual modes that let you choose everything – aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and even the focal length if you’re using a zoom lens. Admittedly, not everyone wants that much control, and you can choose to shoot in auto or semi-auto if you want. But having such fine-grain control is a huge advantage over smartphones.

I could choose a slow shutter speed to get this shot on my Fuji X100F, whereas most mobile phones would have used a much faster shutter speed resulting in a vastly different image.

Smartphones and the software that powers them are so advanced and sophisticated that people are perfectly happy letting them make the decisions and do most of the heavy lifting. But if you want more control you won’t get it on a mobile phone. Even the dedicated camera apps run up against physical limitations such as focal lengths that can’t be changed.

There are times when the photo you want to take isn’t the photo your camera wants to take. In those situations, a dedicated camera will let you change aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to get the exact photo you want.

I shot this image at 200mm, f/2.8, ISO 100, and 1/4000 second, which is impossible for any mobile phone.

Low-Light Shooting

DSLRs will always have the advantage over mobile phones in low light due to the way camera sensors collect light. Larger sensors mean larger photosensitive sites, which means they can capture more information about incoming light when there isn’t a lot of it.

At Google’s recent Pixel 3 announcement they demonstrated a feature that vastly improves its low-light shooting. But it only works with still subjects. It also runs into the same limitations all mobile phones have such as fixed focal length and limited options for changing settings.

I took this deep under the earth in Mammoth Cave National Park, 23mm, f/2.0, 1/20 second, ISO 6400. While some phones could have taken a shot similar to this they would have needed much longer shutter speeds, which would make the people a blurry mess.

Try it for yourself to see what I mean. Even with the best night-mode options on the newest mobile phone, you’ll still struggle to get clear shots of moving subjects. It’s great if you only require pictures of static compositions such as buildings or parked cars. But if you want to capture shots of kids, animals or anything that moves around, your mobile phone will probably leave you wanting more.

As the technology advances, low-light photography on mobile phones will improve. But there will always be physical limitations inherent in the platform that DSLRs and mirrorless cameras simply don’t have to deal with. Much of it stems from their larger image sensors, which collect much more light data per pixel. But the fact cameras let you specify the ISO value you need to get the image you want is also a big advantage.

Model train in a dim basement, shot at 50mm, f/2.8, 1/60 second, ISO 3200.

Not Quite There… Yet

I’m a big believer in the promise of computational photography in mobile phones. If the best camera is the one you have with you, then for hundreds of millions of people around the world their mobile phone is the ideal choice. But even with all the rapid advances in technology, there are still plenty of reasons to own a traditional camera.

If you have one that’s been relegated to a dark closet or dusty shelf and replaced by a high-tech mobile phone, get it out and see what it can do. The results may surprise you and have you wanting to use it more and explore the possibilities it offers.

What about you? What are the advantages of using traditional cameras that keep you coming back to them time after time? I’d also like to hear your thoughts about mobile phones and the technology they offer photographers.

One thing is clear. No matter where you stand on this issue, we certainly live in exciting times for photography.

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