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Updated: 3 hours 8 min ago

7 Different Situations Where You Can Use Fill Flash Effectively

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 13:00

The post 7 Different Situations Where You Can Use Fill Flash Effectively appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Many photographers experience anxiety when they think about using flash. It’s a big unknown, difficult to control and to predict what the results might look like.

Knowing when you need to use flash to improve a photograph is just another choice you need to make. A little like deciding what lens to use to take a particular photo. Obtaining the right amount of light from your flash to compliment your picture is key to effective fill flash photography.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

In this article, I share some thoughts on when and why you might choose to add fill flash. I’ll also walk through seven situations where using fill flash helps enhance a picture.

Using fill flash – what, when and why

Fill flash is typically used to balance with the ambient light to provide the main subject with a more pleasing exposure. So you are filling in some additional light to obtain a better or more interesting exposure. Balance is key. When light from a flash overpowers the ambient light, this is not fill flash.

You can make use of fill flash not only at night or in dark locations, but also when there is plenty of light. Fill flash can be used to effectively decrease or eliminate unwanted shadows when the ambient light is very bright.

1. Fill flash and bright sun

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

The bright sun casts a hard-edged, dark shadow. When there’s no other light source or reflected light, contrast can cause problems.

Photographing people in bright sunshine they will often have dark shadows under their eyes, nose, and chin. Adding some fill can help to fill in these shadows.

Adding just the right amount of light from your flash is important so it’s balanced with the sunlight. In this photo of a mannequin I saw on the roadside one morning, I have added fill flash. I directed my flash at the smiling figure. I set the output so she was well lit, but her shadow, from the sunlight, is still clear.

2. Electric light source and fill flash

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

When you have any light source which causes your main subject to be poorly lit, adding fill flash can help.

The large magnifying glass in this photo has a light behind it to illuminate the electronic board. Had I not added any fill flash, the electronic board would be well exposed, but the white surround of the magnifying glass would be underexposed.

Fill flash can even out the light when it’s important to have everything in your photo well exposed.

3. Using ambient light as backlight

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Photographing your subject with the main light source behind it is known as backlighting. This situation again can create problems when you want evenly exposed photos.

Adding fill flash to a subject which is backlit, you can bring a balance of light and obtain an even exposure.

In this photo of the young woman drinking, I wanted to include the train in the background. The light behind her was quite strong so I balanced it by adding in a burst of flash from my right.

By controlling the flash power to output slightly less light from the ambient light, I was able to leave a soft shadow on her face. Had I not included the flash, the shadow would be too dark and not help convey that it was a hot day so well.

4. Fill flash with a bright background

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Bright backgrounds, even on cloudy days, can sometimes cause you to underexpose your subject if you’re not careful. Adding some flash helps.

The bright background behind my model in this photo was not super bright, as it was an overcast day. I wanted her to be a little brighter than the background, so I placed the flash to my left. I also had a small softbox for the flash so it was diffused to match the feeling of the ambient light.

5. Light your subject at sunset or sunrise

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

At either end of a day, when the sun is low in the sky or just below the horizon, fill flash can be helpful. Sunrise and sunset can produce beautifully colored skies, but they are often going to be brighter than your subject.

If you set your exposure for the sky, your subject will be underexposed. If you set your exposure for your subject, your sky overexposes and you lose the effect of the color in your photo.

Adding a little flash to your subject, so it’s balanced with the light in the sky, will light your subject and allow the color in the sky to be captured also.

6. Fill flash and fire

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

This example is a little different but has the same principle. In this case, part of the main subject is the light source.

I photographed this inside. The workshop was fairly dark so the flames were throwing shadows over the dark metal.

Had I not included any flash in this scene, the crucible, tongs, and surrounds would have been too dark. I wanted more detail to be visible in these areas.

7. Slow shutter and fill flash

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Any time you have movement in a scene you can use a slow shutter speed to create motion blur in your photos. Using some fill flash can add a whole other dynamic, particularly if you set camera and flash to synchronize well.

Many cameras allow you to set the synchronization to fire the flash just before the second, or rear curtain of the shutter closes. This causes a partial ‘freezing’ of the motion in a more attractive manner.

Again, balancing your flash output is important to achieve the best effect. For this technique, I generally set my flash output to be slightly brighter than the ambient light. If the output is the same or less you will not see the effect much or at all.

How to use your flash well

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

You do not need to have your flash mounted on your camera’s hot shoe pointing directly at your subject.

Diffusing your flash, or bouncing it off a reflector or other surface, will soften the light. Placing your flash off to one side, above or below, will often produce more interesting, pleasing results.

Controlling the output of your flash is always vital. Too much or too little light from your flash causes an imbalance. You need to decide how much light your photo requires and make the correct adjustments to your flash.

Through the lens (TTL) metering is often the easiest setting. You can also use the Auto mode. Sometimes, with either of these settings, you may need to dial in compensation so the light will be a little stronger or weaker.

Using the Manual setting on your flash requires a little more thought and experimentation. It can often produce a more reliable output from the flash when you are taking a series of photos. This is particularly useful when there are variables in light or camera/subject/background distances.


© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Adding fill flash can make a positive difference to your photos in many situations. When you are not content with the ambient light alone, consider adding a little light from your flash. Even if the only flash you have is the pop up one on your camera.

You may not get the right result the first few times you try this method. Practice. Study your results. Compare photos where you did not use the flash with ones where you did. In time, you will develop a sense for when adding some fill flash will enhance your photographs.

Share some photos in the comments section below and tell us of your experience with using fill flash, whether you were successful or not.

The post 7 Different Situations Where You Can Use Fill Flash Effectively appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

How to Turn a Photography Technique into a Series

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 08:00

The post How to Turn a Photography Technique into a Series appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

Photography is a truly diverse art form. There are so many ways you can express yourself through a photograph. The photos you take are often a reflection of your personality, and it’s your personality which leads you towards your photographic style. There are a number of photography techniques you can learn to express this style. In this article, you’ll learn how to go beyond a few photos using a particular technique, and find out how you can turn this into a series of photos. So read on and find out how you can boost your creativity, by using one technique to create a photographic series.

Look to take as many interesting photos as you can, with your chosen photo technique.

Choose the photography technique for your series

With so many photography techniques to choose from, it can be tricky to home in on just one. Perhaps you already have some go-to techniques you regularly employ? If so, it’s a good idea to choose one of these. On the other hand, perhaps there is a new technique you’d like to try, and you have a raft of creative ideas to go with it. If you need a little help, below are some ideas that lend themselves to making a series.

  • Light painting – A genre with a massive amount of potential, and creativity is almost endless. Will you try your hand at kinetic light painting? How about using a programmable LED light stick?
  • Crystal ball photography – Explore the world through a glass ball, and discover that your lens is not the only optic you can use in your photography.
  • Minimalism – Photography is the art of subtraction, and the appeal of minimalism is always there. Why not turn this into a series?
  • Silhouettes – An easy photography technique to master is silhouettes. Get down low to the ground, and photograph against the light! You’ll need a strong compelling shape to aim at though.
  • Low-key light – A series of portrait photos always looks nice, and using low-key light is a great photography technique to produce them. Why stop at portraits though? There is a whole world of still life to work with.
  • Shadows – Like silhouettes, shadows can be an interesting subject matter. Look to photograph early morning, or late evening when the length of shadow is long.
  • Headshots – A series of portrait photos is a great idea, and if you travel it’s a great chance to show the diversity of the world. In this case, the overall theme is the composition of a headshot, but within that, there is huge potential to be creative.

Creating a story through a sequence of photos works well. In this case, the concepts of water, earth, and fire are displayed.

Have a narrative

Having a photograph technique that is consistent throughout your series is great. However, thinking of an overall narrative to describe your work makes it that much stronger. Think about how you can describe your technique. If your technique is on light painting, you could be exploring dynamism, the future, or energy flows. The crystal ball might allow you to explore themes like dreams, the world in a globe or environmentalism. Those themes can be used to form a title for your body of work. Now you’re not just working to a photography technique, but also to a creative concept. It’s this creative concept that can push you to produce more work in the photography genre you’re exploring.

In this photo, a portrait photo has been taken, but within the ball is a landscape image.

Combine techniques

Now, of course, there is no reason you shouldn’t combine techniques. It’s a great way to expand your series of work. You can use many of the techniques listed earlier in this article in combination. In fact, there are lots of techniques not listed here that you could also incorporate, such as contrast. The crystal ball is just one example of a technique that you can combine with others. Below you can see a few ideas for how you can combine techniques with a crystal ball.

  • Light painting – Light paint around the crystal ball gives it a more mystical feel.
  • Headshot – Use the crystal ball as a prop for your portrait photography.
  • Minimalism – Use the ball as a focal point in your image, and make the rest of the image as minimal as possible.

This photo displays both refraction photography and light painting.

Look to themes

A popular type of photography is to photograph the same scene but at different times of the year. In this way, you can use the seasons as your theme, and repeat the composition and technique you’re using. That means you’ll get four great photos, and you’ll have a mini-series within your overall set of photos. There are lots of ways you can apply this. Below are a few ideas that you may use to expand your work.

  • The seasons – Look to produce images that show spring, summer, autumn, and winter. They don’t have to be taken from the same location, but repetition does create a stronger feel to the set.
  • Elements – Can you use your technique to portray earth, fire, water, and air? Using these elements as a starting point can be a great creative exercise to make you think about how you’ll photograph your idea.
  • The senses – Once again, another popular mini-project could be portraying touch, smell, taste, sight, and sound. Will you also look to portray the sixth sense?

This set of images uses the same technique to display the 5 senses.

Take a mixture of photos

One of the keys to producing a successful series of photos is to mix things up. If your photos all look virtually the same, you’ll eventually run out of room to create. Ahead of changing the way you apply a photography technique you should maximize a particular way of photographing. You could well return to a particular concept and composition, especially if you travel somewhere new. That said, there are some simple, and effective ways of adding variety to your work, without the need to travel.

  • Composition – A change in how you compose your photo can give your photography technique a new twist.
  • Portraits – Using a technique like light painting or silhouettes? Think about how you can add some portraits to the set.
  • Landscapes – Are you doing low-key portraits? Is there a way to incorporate a landscape into the portrait photo? Crystal ball photography is a technique that lends itself very well to landscapes.
  • Macro – Get some closeup macro photos, and change the perspective of the viewer entirely.

With crystal ball photography, adding another ball can add to the variety.


Finally, you could look to collaborate with other photographers who are working in a similar area to your work. This can take the form of a joint project, where at the end you pool your work together. You could do a project where you make a title for the photo, and each person goes and interprets the concept in their own way. It’s also possible that by sharing work with each other, you’ll get ideas to progress your photography technique and concept even further.

Using alternative compositions adds an extra dimension to the crystal ball photography.

Turn your photography technique into a series!

Have you turned a particular photography technique into a series? What was your experience of this, and what did you do with your series once you produced it?

Are you thinking of creating a set of images focusing in on one particular technique to do this? What technique do you plan to use for your project? Hopefully, this article helps focus your mind on some of the things you can do to create a series of images.

As always, at Digital Photography School, we’d love to hear your thoughts, and see your images in the comments section! So please share your photographic series, either old or new.



The post How to Turn a Photography Technique into a Series appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

Newborn Photography Basics and the Equipment to Use

Sun, 02/03/2019 - 13:00

The post Newborn Photography Basics and the Equipment to Use appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

Many newborn photographers, especially those who specialize in purely newborn photos, have their own studio.

Parents come to them with their newborns, and their studios are fully kitted-out with lights (unless they are a natural light only photographer), backdrops and props. Some newborn photographers also travel to clients’ home and bring with them their own portable studio.

When I started photography, I did all sorts under the sun. Weddings, families, children, events, birthdays, newborns, maternity…Cake-smash is the only obvious thing I can think of that I haven’t done.

Over time, I cut down on the others and focused on weddings. Now don’t get me wrong, I still do these photography genres, but reserve them for past and annual clients and referrals.

What I’ll share with you is my way of doing newborns, my preferences and the equipment I use. There are other ways and styles, so please don’t take this as gospel and the only way to do newborns. It’s just the style that I prefer. Instead, take this as some advice (if there’s any you find helpful), and as a choice out of the many styles out there.

Before we dive in, let me first say that I didn’t go into newborn photography without reading up on it and learning about safety. Safety is critical. You can’t wing it. Instead, you have to understand risks and take necessary precautions with your equipment, process, and workflow. Baby safety is of utmost importance, over and beyond poses, props and style.

Choose a style

Your style dictates your equipment. If you want very natural looking photos, no poses, or plenty of candid captures, then you probably won’t need much equipment such as stands, backdrops, or softboxes. All you need are the basics – a camera, the correct lenses (24-70 or 50mm and a macro for close-ups like a 60mm), memory cards, batteries, reflector, speedlight (if using as a back-up).

If you like props, then it’s the opposite. You may need to use everything but your kitchen sink – baskets, bowls, wraps, flowers, textured rugs, fabrics, or toys. These are on top of all other photography equipment.

My preference is going to clients’ homes. I’ve done newborn shoots in my studio, but I prefer setting up in baby’s own home. I take my time and make sure everyone is comfortable and happy, especially the baby. Also, allowing for feeds and soothing. I know most specialist studios have the workflow scheduled to a T, taking an hour maximum and moving on to the next baby. That is fine too and makes good business sense.

1. Props

My style is simple and classic with a few props – namely blankets and wraps, sheepskin, and a basket. That’s it. I use soft fabrics to wrap the babies, so they feel secure. Sometimes I might add something extra depending on the situation, like these newborn twins, where I thought angel wings and a crown would look sweet, or a little flower hairband. Just don’t go over the top. Less is more when it comes to photographing newborns.

I also put them on a sheepskin or blanket to add texture. Usually, the sheepskin or blanket sits on top of a basket, so the babies are shaped curled up. I place the baby curled in there to represent the womb shape. The basket either sits on a beanbag on the floor or on the bed, which must be big, depending on the setup.

I like to keep props to a minimum and focus on the baby’s face, expressions, hands and feet, hair and the lighting.

2. Poses

Never force a pose on a baby. I do 2-3 poses maximum. If the baby is not comfortable with a pose or not wanting to cooperate, I drop it (the pose not the baby!) and move on to an alternative. I like the bottom up pose, fetal position with baby curled up in a basket, mother and baby/father and baby poses.

3. Lighting

There are many lighting setups. However, I take a softbox with me, speedlights, transmitters, a stand for the softbox, and a reflector. My set-up is simple. I prefer everything on the floor, so that’s where I place the beanbag. A rectangular softbox on a stand sits at a 45-degree angle to the bean bag. Opposite the softbox is a reflector. I use a speedlight in the softbox rather than a strobe for portability. Don’t forget the adaptor for the speedlight to sit on. That’s it. Simple. This way, you can shoot whether there is natural light available or not, whether there is a window in the room , or it’s pitch black!

4. Backdrop

A basic portable backdrop stand kit, with two stands and a bar across to clamp on some fabric, has served me well. Choose material that doesn’t crease! Once I used a black cotton fabric which was so wrinkled I spent ages photoshopping the creases out and painting over the fabric. Luckily it was black and was possible in Photoshop. I sometimes use the backdrop on the beanbag with the baby on top to get a seamless fading background. I prefer a darker background to light colored ones.

5. Other special items

I like to do the shoot as a story, so I always include other shots of the baby’s nursery. This story may include special newborn greetings cards, booties, or the most special toy gift for the baby. I check with the parents as to what they want capturing. These unique items are also why I prefer to shoot newborns in their homes – the shots become so personal to them and therefore more special.

6. Candids

I often end the session with natural, unposed shots of the family especially if there’s a sibling. That way, they have some memories together of their first few days as a family.

7. Editing

Unfortunately, in my experience, newborn editing takes up much time. Perhaps that’s because I like a more artsy look and there’s a lot of softening to do on the background to match the softness of the newborn skin. Not to mention cleaning up the newborn skin, which is often wrinkly and spotty with milk spots, or very red too. I aim to give the family a variety of images, so they have a good bunch of memories of those first days.


I hope this has given you a snippet of what newborn photography could look like for some. It’s different for others, but this is what I do. I’ve evolved from brightly lit newborn photos to moody, dark tones. Yours can be different. Just make sure it is something you love. Do share your thoughts in the comments below.

The post Newborn Photography Basics and the Equipment to Use appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

Godox XPro TTL Flash Trigger Review with Phil Steele [video]

Sun, 02/03/2019 - 08:00

The post Godox XPro TTL Flash Trigger Review with Phil Steele [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this video, photography educator Phil Steele reviews the Godox XPro TTL Flash Trigger. While reviewing the Godox unit, he also makes a comparison to other flash triggers he uses; the Yongnuo YN622 and the Phottix Odin. The unit is available for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Fuji, and Pentax.

So, if you are looking to do more flash photography, you should watch this handy review. You may be surprised at the features this unit packs, especially the cross-brand compatibility. Find out more in the video.


You may also find the following articles helpful:

How to Trigger an Off-Camera Flash with the Pop-up Flash

8 On-Camera Flash Tips: How To Get Better Lighting From Your On-Camera Flash

Bounce Flash Secrets – Bouncing Your Way to Better Photography

DIY Lighting Hacks for Digital Photographers

How to Understand the Difference Between TTL Versus Manual Flash Modes

How to Make Beautiful Portraits Using Flash and High-Speed Sync


If you want to learn more from Phil, check out some of his video courses covering topics like event photography, Lightroom, headshots and more on

The post Godox XPro TTL Flash Trigger Review with Phil Steele [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

What is a Tech Scout and Why You Need to Do One

Sat, 02/02/2019 - 13:00

The post What is a Tech Scout and Why You Need to Do One appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

When talking about photography, a Tech Scout is a term borrowed from the film industry. It refers to finding a location that will match the setting or scene of a story.

LIke filmmakers, photographers need to do tech scouting (also referred to as a location scouting or a location recce).

The importance of a tech scout is often underestimated. Sure, you may find the most amazing location to photograph a newly engaged couple, but if you’ve overlooked some potential problems, it can end up ruining shoot day.

Why you need to do a tech scout

As a photographer, a big part of your job is making sure you’re prepared. Cameras stop working, software crashes, and you realize that you forgot to charge the batteries for your Speedlites.

Unfortunately, technical difficulties are a part-and-parcel of the job. However, many various other issues can crop up when you’re on location. That location can even be a studio that you’ve never worked at before.

It’s part of your job as a photographer to ensure that the environment you’ll be shooting in is conducive to getting the desired results for you and your clients.

For example, as a photographer who shoots food, I always make sure that there is a kitchen in any studio I rent out for my jobs. Doing so narrows down the available studios that I can shoot in quite a lot. Food stylists work in all sort of conditions and can sometimes make do with a hot plate. However, why not rent a studio with a kitchen if it’s as easy as renting one without it?

Whenever I have to shoot on location, such as in a restaurant, I do a tech scout too. I visit the restaurant beforehand to find out where I’ll be able to shoot as unobtrusively as possible. I also want to see if there is enough natural light coming in from some windows. If not, I plan to bring in a strobe or a speedlight.

Becoming familiar with the environment you’ll be shooting in will help you not only plan your lighting accordingly but also anticipate potential snafus that can prevent your shoot from going as smoothly as expected.

Working with clients on a tech scout

If you shoot retail photography, for example, families or couples, you don’t necessarily need to share details or images of the chosen location or locations beforehand. Perhaps your client may be familiar with the setting or has suggested it themselves.

For commercial clients, however, you may be responsible for scouting several locations and presenting them to the client for their decision.

The client will approach you with a creative brief or some ideas of what they are looking for, but it’s up to you to find the ideal location. Your job is to present at least two or three locations based on the brief or mood board or other consultation from the client. It may mean coming up with a list of possible options before narrowing it down to the ones you will actually go check out and photograph.

How to do a tech scout

To do a successful tech scout, you need to define the scope of the project.

Be clear on the following:

* who and or what are you shooting?
* how many images are required?
* how and where are they to be used?
* what is the budget to shoot these images?
* what does the client intend to achieve?

You may have some locations in mind, or you might have to start with a virtual scout, a search using Google Maps and street view. You can use Google to search for iconic buildings, structures or other important locations.

Once you have feedback from the client, visit each location with your camera and take some pictures. If possible, do your scout at the same time of time you’d be shooting the final images. An app like Sun Seeker or Sun Surveyor can help you determine where the sun will be at that time, which may be a big factor in your decision-making process.

Send the client a gallery of some of the best images with a color treatment that somewhat reflects the desired results.

Potential pitfalls

There are some potential problems that can get in the way of your shoot. Some may be disastrous for you if you haven’t thought ahead, especially on a commercial production where the budget is high.

One such pitfall is permits and licenses. People take images in public all the time, but as soon as you put a tripod down, or have a crew with you, you’ll likely be asked to move along if you can’t provide the proper permits.

Make sure you have the required equipment to shoot in the conditions you’ll be working. This can mean having the right accessories to protect you and your gear from the rain, and even having a large enough vehicle to transport bulky equipment like c-stands.

Parking is another issue you should determine ahead of time. Are you and your crew or the client going to be able to access the location easily, or you will have to walk a bit. If so, how are you going to transport your gear?

Lastly, if you’re shooting outside all day, what are you going to do about bathroom breaks? It may sound funny, but you won’t be able to leave thousands of dollars of equipment and the talent sitting around while you search out a loo. This is a scenario where having an assistant is a must.

Bathroom breaks and meals/snacks are something that needs pre-planning.

In Conclusion

Hopefully, you’ve learned more about how useful it is to do a tech scout and the best way to approach one.

Proper planning can make or break a photo shoot. No matter how small your shoot or who you’re shooting for (even if it’s for yourself), checking locations out beforehand can save you a lot of headaches in the long run.


The post What is a Tech Scout and Why You Need to Do One appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

8 Lightroom Controls for Aurora Editing

Sat, 02/02/2019 - 08:00

The post 8 Lightroom Controls for Aurora Editing appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ian Johnson.

One of the most amazing phenomena of the night sky is the Aurora Borealis (or, “the Northern Lights”). For as long as humans have existed the dancing, brilliant curtains of light have dazzled the viewers below. For some, the opportunity to see the Aurora is a bucket list item, and the opportunity to view and photograph the Northern Lights draws thousands of people to polar regions every year.

In the images above, I minimally edited the Aurora and was sure not to over-enhance it. Understanding how the Lightroom slider controls impact your Aurora shots can help you achieve natural and beautiful edits of the Aurora Borealis.

Advancement of digital cameras and photo editing software has created an incredible opportunity to edit your shots after a night out under the stars and Lights. The advent of post-processing technology has, in my opinion, resulted in many Aurora photographs which are over-processed to bring out rich saturation and contrast that did not exist in the original scene. Because many of the middle tones (colors) of the Aurora are so pure and contrast so highly with the sky, it is easy to eject the equivalence of pixel-steroids into your image giving them a false look.

It is my goal when editing Aurora shots to enhance but not over-enhance. Understanding how each of the basic Lightroom editing tools impacts an Aurora image can help you tell the story of your night out by making your image look like they did when you saw them.

Lightroom basic sliders

To illustrate how the Lightroom basic sliders (contrast, clarity, dehaze, tint, saturation, vibrance, shadows, highlights) affect an Aurora image it is easiest to look at how extreme values for each setting impact the image. For each slider type, I will walk you through how the slider impacts any image (i.e., the definition of the slider). I will apply it at extremes to the same Aurora image to show a before (no edits) and after (extreme applied) comparison.

1. Contrast

Contrast is a very useful slider and a fundamental one for editing. By definition, the contrast tool darkens the darkest mid-tones in the image and lightens the lightest mid-tones. In an Aurora image, many of your mid-tones are going to be in the Aurora itself. So, you can see as you slide the contrast to 100% that the colors in the Aurora darken giving the image a more saturated look.

Extending the contrast to +100 increased the saturation in the Aurora and the foreground shadows became much deeper. Boosting contrast and adding saturation or vibrancy can have a compounding effect and lead to an image that appears over-processed.

2. Clarity

The clarity slide adds contrast in the mid-tones without adding much noise. The tool is often used to bring out texture and details. Again, Aurora colors fall into the mid-tones of your image, so a clarity boost impacts them strongly. Boosting clarity to +100 creates definition in the banding of this Aurora shot because there are vertical dark lines of the sky in the Aurora. You may like the clarity slider for Aurora shots because it doesn’t add as much contrast as the contrast slider does and can make stars in the image pop and seem crisper.

Adding +100 clarity increases the banding in the Aurora and you can see the stars stand out more. It did not add any saturation or other artifacts to the image.

3. Dehazing

Similar to clarity, the Dehaze slider increases midrange contrast and shadows giving the images a slightly dark and more saturated look. However, the Dehaze slider was built to remove fog from a scene. When you apply its technology to an Aurora shot, it adds a lot of contrast and saturation to the image. This is a slider to use gently (if at all) for Aurora image editing.

In comparison to Clarity, the Dehaze slider adds a lot of contrast and saturation to the Aurora image if it is boosted to +100. The Dehaze slider can be useful but use it sparingly (if at all) for editing your Aurora images.

4. Saturation

The saturation slider globally (for the whole image) deepens, intensifies, and brightens the color. In an Aurora image, you will find it is very, very easy to overdo the Saturation of an image. So, use Saturation sparingly. When slid to +100, it turns the Aurora to an almost neon appearance. At -100, it strips all color from the image. There are times when bringing the saturation out of your Aurora image by -5 or -10 can help improve the appearance of the image and make it easier for the eye to comprehend.

Bringing all of the saturation out of an image renders it to black and white

Over-saturating your Aurora image gives it a fake, neon look

5. Vibrance

Vibrance is the “less aggressive” form of saturation. It’s a smart tool that increases saturation and tones in more muted colors. In Aurora shots, the Vibrancy slider focuses on the Aurora and provides a more realistic enhancement of the colors. You can see in the examples below there is still danger in over-using it. A vibrancy value of +100 creates neon colors similar to overusing saturation. However, at -100 you can see there is a distinct difference from -100 Saturation. The -100 Vibrance does not remove all color from the Aurora.  You may find it a powerful technique to decrease your saturation slightly before increasing vibrance.

You may find Vibrance to be the most useful for natural Aurora image editing. However, boosting it too much will still result in a highly over-processed image

In contrast to Saturation, you can remove all of the vibrancy and still have some color left in the image

6. Shadows

The Shadow slider increases luminosity in the darkest parts of the image. With a picture of the Aurora, you have a distinct advantage in that the Lightroom program interprets almost any part of the image that is not Aurora to be a shadow. So, you have the power to lift or darken your foreground very easily. You can see in the +100 shadow example below, details were brought out of the shadows in the silhouettes of the trees.

There is a very clear definition in an Aurora image between the highlights and the shadows. Increasing the Shadows will raise the luminosity of any part of the image not covered in Aurora

7. Highlights

The Highlights slider increases luminosity of the brightest parts of the image. As I describe above, Lightroom interprets any part of the image with the Aurora to be a highlight. That means an increase in the highlights to +100 effectively increases the exposure of the Aurora. If you over-expose an Aurora image in the field, decreasing the highlights can help you reclaim lost detail.

There is a very clear delineation between shadows and highlights in an Aurora image. Increasing the highlights to +100 only impacts the brightness of the Aurora. In this image, it gives the Aurora an overexposed feeling

8. Tint

The Tint slider is a meant to be used for color correction in correspondence with the temperature slider. You can use the tint slider to neutralize the snow which tends to turn green during intense Aurora outbursts. Use a Graduated Filter, coupled with increased pink tints and decreased saturation, to return your snow closer to white. Often, this helps your eye focus on the Aurora and can restore balance to the shot.

Using tint to do color control on an Aurora image is a bit more advanced, but you will find that you can control the color of the snow by combining the Tint and Saturation slider controls

Putting it all together for a final edit

Now that you know how each slider impacts your overall image, its time to combine each in moderation to achieve a final edit. In the edit below I wanted to make sure the banding in the Aurora was enhanced along with the purples of the “sun-kissed” Aurora. My final edit brings out features of the image without over-enhancing it.

Using the controls described in this article, I edited the Aurora image to give it a natural look and enhance the features I liked most about it such as the purple colors and banding

I want you to experiment with editing aurora images. Please feel free to download and edit this high resolution image of the Northern Lights. If you can, share your edit so I can see! Like I always say, “Pixels are cheap” so I hope you make lots of pixels making Aurora images and have fun editing them!

The post 8 Lightroom Controls for Aurora Editing appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ian Johnson.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Rain

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 13:00

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is RAIN!

Nikolay Zakharov

Your photos can include anything that has rain. It can be storms, lightning, after the rain, cities soaked from rain, forests, people in the rain. Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Some Inst-piration from some Instagrammers:

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ronan Setias (@setias11) on Feb 18, 2018 at 4:49pm PST

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by mojtaba_sarmadi (@mojtaba_sarmadi) on Dec 28, 2018 at 2:05pm PST

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Cristiano Provini (@ph4mkr) on Aug 19, 2016 at 6:04am PDT

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Will Eades ? Australia (@willeadesphotography) on May 18, 2018 at 1:54am PDT

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Sarah ? (@bitsnbobs19) on Jan 13, 2019 at 2:00am PST

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by R?MIRO (@desdigital) on Jan 3, 2019 at 4:40pm PST


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

Tips for Shooting RAIN

Tips for How to Make the Most of Rainy Days as a Photographer

A Portrait Lighting Project for a Rainy Day

7 Ideas for Rainy Day Photographic Activities at Home

7 Things I’ve Learned from Photographing Storms

Video Tips: How to Photograph Lightning

5 Incredible Storm Photographers and Their Best Images


Weekly Photography Challenge – RAIN

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

You can also share your images in the dPS Facebook group as the challenge is posted there each week as well.

If you tag your photos on Flickr, Instagram, Twitter or other sites – tag them as #DPSRain 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 – Rain appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Challenge Yourself by Photographing One Object [video]

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 08:00

The post Challenge Yourself by Photographing One Object [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this great video from COOPH, they ask you to challenge yourself by photographing one object!

Will you do the challenge? If so, show us your results in the comments below!


Look for a versatile object that allows you to photograph it in different ways.

Take your object and try the following techniques:

Techniques 1. Get texture

Go close-up or use a macro lens to create different effects

2. Play with Colors

Add color using crayons, pencils or textas. Elevate your object to create bokeh with the colored background.
Experiment with color gels. Make contrast with color.


3. Experiment with Black and White

Use dramatic lighting.

4. Shoot Silhouettes

Cut some wire and attach to your object. Shoot in front of a bright light source. Bounce your side light with a mirror to create a glowing silhouette.

5. Cut and Peel it

Cut it into shapes. Use a whiteboard to reflect and a translucent surface to place your object on. Place your object on the translucent board, and backlight it.

6. Shape it

Make some creative cuts. Find interesting patterns that match and place your object onto it.


You may also find the following helpful:

How to Use Colored Gels for Creative Off-Camera Flash Photography

Tips for Fast and Effective Studio Product Photography

Reflections on Product Photography

How to Make Funky Colorful Images of Ordinary Plastic Objects Using a Polarizing Filter

Add Interest to your Background with Colored Gels

How to Backlight Translucent Objects for Dramatic Effect

10 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do at Home with Everyday Objects

How to Use Backlight to Create Incredible Images


The post Challenge Yourself by Photographing One Object [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

How to Find the Perfect Photography Assistant

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 13:00

The post How to Find the Perfect Photography Assistant appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

Whether you’re a professional photographer or a passionate amateur, I insist that you need a photography assistant.

You may think that you can lug around your own gear and do a great job on your own, but no matter how good you are, a photography assistant will make you better.

It’s not just about carrying your gear around. Your photography assistant takes on the tasks that clutter your mind and smother your creativity. When your assistant carries the load of the little things, your mind has room to roam and allow creativity to flow.

Your assistant frees your working memory to be creative. While you’re spitting out ideas, they’re taking note and making sure everything happens right. Meanwhile, you’re paying attention to nothing but your subject and the creative ideas coming together in your mind. They’re your second brain and second set of hands that you wish you were born with.

The practical implications of having an assistant

If you love street photography but are too shy to approach people for portraits, you can bring a chatty friend to be your assistant. They can strike up conversations with people and then say, “can my photographer friend take your picture?”

Your assistant can document your process through candid photos of you at work as a photographer. This is perfect for your blog and other publications.

During a wedding day, they’re organizing people for photos and handing you lenses as you need them. Your mind is free to focus on creative ideas and details that normally escape you.

Even when you’re photographing a landscape they can become your model when you wish there was a person in the scene.

Together, you and your assistant are an incredible partnership.

On the other hand, an assistant can ruin your work when they become a liability.

Here is how to find the perfect assistant who won’t let you down.

While I’m taking photos, my assistant is checking my list and adding to it as we have new ideas.

The traits of a great assistant 1. Loves to learn

The first thing to look for in an assistant is somebody who is obsessed with learning. They will love working with you and soak up the entire experience. They are eager to help with everything. Somebody who loves to learn and explore, and who can’t wait to work with you through new experiences.

2. Agreeable

When you find somebody obsessed with learning, they also need to have an agreeable personality. An assistant must be willing to do whatever you ask them without objecting to your ideas. Some people simply can’t handle being a helper – insisting on being in charge. You don’t want that sort of person because you’ll always be bumping up against them in conflict.

3. Polite

Your assistant must be capable of being extremely polite. Don’t risk jeopardizing your shoot with somebody who is rude toward your clients. They should also be enthusiastic and not shy about strangers.

4. Hardworking

The perfect assistant is hardworking and willing to be on their feet. They will be willing to run around without rest all day if necessary. They must be orderly and know where everything goes, and keep everything in place and ready for you.

If you work in high pressure situations, then your assistant must be capable of embracing stress without crumbling.

Look for assistants wherever you can find them. Sometimes an older sibling can help you make the infants laugh! My actual assistant is crouched behind the seat making sure the infant doesn’t fall.

Where can you find an assistant?

Your assistant doesn’t need to be an actual photographer. This may sound crazy, but it really doesn’t matter if they understand photography as long as they can assist you in the way you need them to. In fact, a non-photographer may offer insights that a fellow photographer would overlook.

Maybe your assistant should be a painter, musician or engineer. Each one will help you overcome different challenges in their unique way.

But if you are looking for someone who is a photographer to assist you, perhaps you could begin at a photo club. Many people at photo clubs are not working professionals, but they may be incredible photographers nevertheless.

You could bring a professional photographer to assist you. If that’s the case, I suggest a photographer who is the opposite of you.

I assist a local photographer from time to time and we love working with each other because we are exact opposites. He is orderly, precise, in tune with the details, and works with strobe lighting. In contrast, I prefer chaos, haphazard camera work, tuning into the big picture and using terribly challenging ambient light. It is a thrill to bring such opposites together!

I often let kids use my camera during family photo sessions. This candid photo was captured by my assistant.

When to fire your assistant

Don’t hire an assistant unless you are strong enough to fire them some day.

Fire them if they hinder your work and won’t change their ways.

But even when you have an amazing assistant with perfect chemistry, fire them as soon as they’re ready to have their own assistant. Don’t hold them back. Push them out so that they can grow too.

In the meantime, enjoy having the perfect assistant who frees your mind to let your creativity loose.


Feature image by: Greg Gelsinger

The post How to Find the Perfect Photography Assistant appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

How to Achieve Color Accuracy in your Photos

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 08:00

The post How to Achieve Color Accuracy in your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Karthika Gupta.

Ricardo Gomez Angel

Next to light, color accuracy is another important element in photography. Color temperature is annoying enough to deal with in terms of camera settings and editing. You spend all this time and effort on editing your photos and making sure they match your photography style. But sometimes the final product can be off if viewed on an uncalibrated screen. While having an accurately calibrated screen is ideal, there are still some things you can do to ensure that the colors are as close to the real deal as possible.

1. Photographing in raw

Completely overexposed sunset in the Grand Cayman. I love the little sailboat in the distance and tried to correct the image in post.

The sun is still overexposed and not perfect, but because I photograph in Raw 100% of the time, I could put down the exposure, highlights, contrast and my other normal editing steps. I was able to get some of the details back.

This really is key and I am a huge proponent of photographing in RAW 100% of the time. The colors can be adjusted easily on raw files in editing software like Lightroom, Photoshop, and others. But with jpegs, they’re already baked in. It is not impossible just harder to achieve the exact match.

In Raw files, all the original image data is preserved. In fact, when RAW files are opened in post-production software like Lightroom, a virtual copy is made and used. Edits are made in a non-destructive format so the original RAW file is always available for changes at a later stage. This is very useful when you want to edit images in different ways at different times in your photographic career.

Since a JPEG image is essentially a RAW image compressed in-camera, the camera’s computer makes decisions on what data to retain and which to toss out when compressing the file. JPEG files tend to have a smaller dynamic range of information that is stored and this often means less ability to preserve both highlights and shadow details in the image.

2. Use Kelvin WB mode on your camera

If photographing RAW is not something you can do, or don’t have space for on your flash drives (RAW files tend to be really huge), try photographing using Kelvin White Balance mode instead of Auto White Balance. Not all cameras may have this function, so check your camera manual to figure out the exact menu option and also how to adjust the value. Kelvin lets you adjust the white balance in camera rather than in post. In general, in your camera manual are the ranges of Kelvin values for the various lighting setups. You will have to tweak the values depending on your style and how you want the final image to look.

3. Use a good display screen/monitor

Cheaper screens have smaller color ranges, so the better your screen, the more colors that can be displayed. This is where you’ll be looking at the photos, so you don’t want your image to be limited in that way. At the very minimum, if you’re editing photos, you need a 99% sRGB screen. 100% Adobe RGB capable screens (which is generally better) are also relatively affordable now. That said, most media on the web generally uses sRGB format, so sRGB is perfectly adequate. People generally recommend editing in that color space anyway. In general, for built-in displays like laptops, most modern Mac screens have really good color accuracy and distribution.

This outdoor space was very hazy when we visited because of many forest fires in the area. That haze and overall air quality and temperature gave a very pink glow to all my images, one that I missed the first time I edited my images on my computer. But then I went back and edited to a more accurate representation of what the scene actually looked like.

4. Calibrate your monitor

Not enough people realize how big a difference calibrating your monitor makes. If your entire computer screen is shifted to be purple, when you look at your final images in a color-calibrated medium, it’s going to end up green. There are several in the market that do a good job like Datacolor Spyder 5 or X-Rite ColorMunki. At the end of the day, they all essentially have the same functionality. Plug in the color sensor, put it against your screen, run the software, and it will automatically install the color profile for you.

5. Edit in a color neutral workspace

Where you sit and work can also make a difference to how you edit. As funny as it may sound, it is true. If you have bright warm sunlight flooding your computer screen, you will likely edit cooler. The eye is automatically going to compensate for the warmth by gravitating towards cooler tones. If you have cool indoor lighting flooding your editing room, that might not work either. Believe it or not, the ideal editing environment is actually a totally dark room, so you don’t pollute any of the colors. I know I cannot edit in a dark room because starting at the screen for too long in that space gives me a headache. If you must edit somewhere with another light source, do your color calibration in that room. The Spyder and ColorMunki can both accommodate the ambient light in your environment.

The image was shot and edited in the same room with side lighting. Had I not seen this in another room and on another computer, I would have missed the uneven lighting and tonality from the left to the right side of the image, giving it a look of almost photographing with a flash, which was not my intention.

6. Use multiple devices to spot check color

If you are really doubting your color tones and edits, double check them on another device. Most people have iPhones these days, and iPhones are surprisingly well-calibrated. Unfortunately, you can’t use the calibrators on most phones, to the best of my knowledge, so just send your photos over to your phone, and you should get an idea of how most people are seeing your images.

The blueish tone in the image here would have been completely missed had I not seen the image on an iPad and an iPhone prior to sending out to a client. I prefer true to form white backgrounds when working with stock photos.

Unfortunately, most people, including myself, don’t pay too much attention to color accuracy in their photos. Most of the color matching stops at editing. Sometimes we even call it ‘photography style’ and leave it at that. But if you really want to understand color and how images can actually look versus relying on a specific style or edit, try one or all these steps. It is actually fairly simple once it clicks.

What techniques do you use for maintaining your color? Share with us in the comments below.

The post How to Achieve Color Accuracy in your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Karthika Gupta.

11 Influential Portrait Photographers you Need to Know

Wed, 01/30/2019 - 13:00

The post 11 Influential Portrait Photographers you Need to Know appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

There are some fantastic portrait photographers out there capturing cutting-edge, unique portraits. These photographers have been influential and you can explore and learn something from each of them. They are in no particular order.

Here are 11 influential portrait photographers you need to know: 1. Sue Bryce

Sue Bryce is a fine art portrait photographer with a classic portraiture style, while still looking quite modern. Her lighting techniques are soft and beautiful.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Sue Bryce (@suebrycephotographer) on Jun 20, 2017 at 11:56am PDT


2. Lindsay Adler

Based in New York City, Lindsay Adler, is a fashion portrait photographer with works appearing in Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, and Marie Claire.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Lindsay Adler (@lindsayadler_photo) on Dec 24, 2018 at 7:37am PST


3. Lee Jeffries

UK photographer, Lee Jeffries, is well-known for his “Homeless project.” In this project, Jeffries captures close-up portraits of homeless people living on the streets. His extreme close-ups that reveal all on his subjects faces are emotive and spectacular.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Lee Jeffries (@lee_jeffries) on Nov 17, 2018 at 8:31am PST


4. Derrick Freske

Based in Los Angeles, California, Derrick Freske does fashion portraiture. He uses interesting lighting techniques, including the use of colored gels, and light reflections.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Derrick Freske (@dfreske) on Aug 5, 2018 at 8:34pm PDT


5. Mark Seliger

Mark Seliger has photographed celebrity portraits for Rolling Stone, GQ, Vogue and Vanity Fair. He has photographed the likes of Kurt Cobain, Leonardo DiCaprio, Charlize Theron, and Nicole Kidman, to name a few.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Mark Seliger (@markseliger) on Dec 14, 2018 at 6:44am PST


6. Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz is a celebrity portrait photographer that has been photographing famous types for decades. Making the transition from film to digital, Leibovitz has continued to inspire photographers around the world. Her photographs have been published in Rolling Stone and the New York Times. She has photographed celebrities including Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Brad Pitt. She also photographed Beatles singer and songwriter, John Lennon, on the day he was murdered (wikipedia).


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by annie leibovitz (@_annieleibovitz) on May 8, 2016 at 12:36am PDT


7. Flora Borsi

Hungarian photographer, Flora Borsi is well known for her fine-art portraiture series, “Animeyed.” In this series, Borsi uses animal eyes to replace one eye of her human subject. You may recognize Borsi’s work on the Adobe Creative Cloud package.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Flóra Borsi (@floraborsiofficial) on Sep 23, 2016 at 5:06am PDT


8. Tina Eisen

Based in London, UK, Tina Eisen is a fashion/beauty photographer who has made portraits for some big commercial brands.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Tina Eisen (@tina_eisen) on Dec 2, 2018 at 5:23am PST


9. Patrick DeMarchelier

Patrick DeMarchelier is a fashion/beauty portrait photographer whose works have been in Vanity Fair and Harpers Bazaar.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Patrick Demarchelier (@patrickdemarchelier) on Dec 11, 2017 at 2:25pm PST


10. Marco Grob

Switzerland born, Marco Grob, is based in New York. Moving from fine art still life photography, into portraiture, he has photographed celebrities including George Clooney, Sandra Bullock, Sir Elton John, and Justin Beiber. He has also worked with Marvel Studios, Warner Bros and Netflix.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Marco Grob (@marcogrob) on Mar 6, 2018 at 4:14pm PST


11. Tatiana Lumiere

Tatiana Lumiere is a fine art and beauty portrait photographer based in Pennsylvania, USA. She specializes in “glamour portraiture with a dreamy, elegant and sensual twist.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Tatiana Lumiere (@tatiana_lumiere) on Jan 13, 2019 at 8:57am PST


Feature image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

The post 11 Influential Portrait Photographers you Need to Know appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Explorations in Natural Light for Photography

Wed, 01/30/2019 - 08:00

The post Explorations in Natural Light for Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Karthika Gupta.

Can you guess one of the most important elements in photography? No, it is not gear, or subject or even location. Yes, all of those are important, but not critical. The most important element in photography is light. And light can quite literally make or break an image. It took me a long time to understand this concept. I used to always think that light can be either good or bad. Have you ever tried to photograph indoors in that horrible florescent light? Or at high noon where you place your subjects in the light, and everyone is getting really mad at you because they are squinting in the sun.

Well, let’s just say we all learn from experience. Once I understood that there really is no such thing as bad light, life as a photographer just became a little easier. Light is different and understanding all the different qualities of light is what can help you photograph at any time of day and get the results you want.

For the sake of this article, we will focus only on natural light. Natural light is one of the main sources I use for most of my photography.

There are several reasons why natural light photography is so popular:

  • It is readily available and free
  • It provides a range of light variations
  • It is a super large light source a.k.a the sun
  • It changes constantly
  • It can be challenging to master and who doesn’t like a good challenge, right?

Let’s dig right in and understand all the complexes of natural light!

1. Light changes through time

The fascinating thing about natural light is that it changes constantly. Depending on the time of day, the season, or even the direction your window faces – light fluctuates minute to minute.

Just before the sun dipped into the horizon.

And 10-15 minutes after sunset when the sky just exploded with sun-pretty colors.

2. Light travels in a straight line but also has direction

Where is the light coming from? What angle is it coming from? I personally love the very one-directional, low-angle light that gives deep shadows that leads to a moody look. The best way to understand light direction is to look at a scene and see if it is coming from one plane, backlit, front lit etc.

By facing the subjects directly into the light streaming through the window, we almost can create a spotlight effect.

3. Light has intensity

How intense is the light? On a sunny day the light can be quite intense, but on a cloudy day the clouds act as a natural huge diffuser, and the light not only takes on a softer quality but also has less intensity.

4. Light has color

Is it a warmer light, such as in direct sunlight, or a cool light, such as at dusk? The color in the light affects the color and white balance of the scene and hence your photograph.

At sunset, the light is warm – exactly what I wanted for this editorial shoot.

5. Light reflects off of surfaces

This is particularly important because you have to be aware of your surroundings. This is also commonly known as a color cast in photos. Look at what’s around your scene including yourself. Your own clothing can reflect off the subject and cast unwanted color in the scene. This quality of light also allows us to try to modify light by adding a reflector to fill shadows, or a black surface to discourage any further reflections.

6. Character of light

Light can be harsh or soft or even a combination of the two which is known as dappled light. The best way to see dappled light is to stand under a tree in full sun. You will see spots of shade and sun on the ground or even on your clothes. This is dappled light. And if done right, is actually quite pretty in photos.

I love photographing food in this uneven, dappled light…the play of light, shadows, and patterns are what make this image work for me…instead of a boring white backdrop.

7. Proximity of light

This one is a little difficult to grasp because the sun is so far away. But the closer we are to the light, the more power it has. Try this out for yourself and sit closer to the window. Is the light more intense? Now move further away from the window and see if the light feels less intense?

One of my absolute favorite images of all times and almost no editing involved. Side lighting and diffused window make the dancer stand out and everything else fades away.

8. Relativity of light

This is a powerful aspect of light in that the way light hits various subjects is relative. If you have light hitting the primary object without hitting the background, the background will fade into shadows no matter if it’s white/black. You can achieve a black backdrop even with a white backdrop. Our eyes have incredible dynamic range and can see everything, but by selectively lighting objects, we can take photos that let objects fade into oblivion.


One of the best ways to create a mental checklist of all these properties of light is to do a small exercise. Walk around your area, be it your house or office space, look at the light in a scene and categorize it. Where is it coming from, what is the quality of light, and how can you use it? The more you look and analyze, the more you add to your light repertoire and pull it out when you need it for shoots.

The post Explorations in Natural Light for Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Karthika Gupta.

5 Secret Tips to Take Sharp Photos Using Any Camera

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 13:00

The post 5 Secret Tips to Take Sharp Photos Using Any Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kunal Malhotra.

How to take sharp photos is one of the most common issues a beginner photographer faces. In order to suggest a few important tips, I went back a few years and recalled the issues I used to come across.

Here are five tips I learned over the years to ensure I always take sharp photos using any camera.

1. Select Maximum AF Points

Every digital camera has a certain number of focus points, which are used by the camera to lock focus. By default, you can either allow the camera to use all the focus points or reduce them to a specific number such as 11, 9 or even one point.

I make sure that I am making use of all the focus points, to minimize the use of ‘focus and recompose.’ Keeping all the focus points active ensures that you get to use the entire focusing area on the sensor. Whereas, reducing the active focus points makes you focus and recompose the frame, resulting in soft focus.

2. 1-point AF

In the majority of situations, using single-point autofocus can help you nail the focus. Because if you allow the camera to lock focus as per its functionality automatically, there are chances that the focus might go off.

Assume you are taking a portrait, and in order to achieve crisp focus, you wish to focus on the eye of the subject. While using autofocus point selection, chances are, the camera might focus on the nose or the lips. The reason this happens is the camera does not know that you want to want to focus on the eye specifically.

Now by using the single-point autofocus feature, you can manually select the point where your eye is in the frame. Doing so, allows you to get the accurate focus on the eye, without any hit and trial method.

3. Back Button focus technique

There are some situations when you try to focus on a subject and the camera takes some time before you can fully press the shutter release button. Alternatively, when you want to take photos in Burst Mode the camera misses focussing on a few shots. You can eliminate these issues and achieve accurate focus by using the back button focus method.

The Back Button focus technique allows you to assign a button placed on the rear side of your camera to focus, and the shutter release button when pressed fully, captures the image.

While using this technique, you will realize that on pressing the shutter release button halfway, nothing happens. This is because another button using your thumb is now controlling the focusing.

4. Use of Shutter Priority

If you are a wildlife, action or sports photographer, there might have been instances where you were not able to freeze the motion of your subject. Moreover, if you shoot in low-lighting conditions, you might have encountered shake in your photos.

In any of the above situations, I make sure that I am using my camera on Shutter Priority mode. The basic rule that I start with is using the shutter speed 1/2x of the focal length. For example, while shooting at 50mm, I ensure that I start shooting by using 1/100 sec (1/2×50 = 1/100). In the worst situations, I reduce the shutter speed by 1-2 stops if my lens supports Image Stabilization.

Using the Shutter Priority mode ensures that your camera is using a specific shutter speed that results in no or minimum shake in the image. If you wish to freeze the motion of a moving subject, you can dial a fast shutter speed like 1/2000 sec and let the camera do the remaining math.

5. Take backup shots

The last important tip to get sharp photos would be to take a few backup shots during your shoot. Imagine if you are doing a commercial shoot and when you return to your editing desk you realize that the subject is out of focus or the image is not sharp.

Make sure that after clicking the desired photo, you take a few extra photos of the same frame. These backup photos reduce the risk and increase the possibility of getting sharp photos.

In the past 8-9 years, these five tips have helped me to nail focus in almost any situation and deliver quality work to my clients.

Do you have other tips? Do share your views in the comment below.

The post 5 Secret Tips to Take Sharp Photos Using Any Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kunal Malhotra.

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

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 08:00

The post How to Add a Toy Camera Effect to Your Digital Images Using Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

They may look cute, but toy cameras aren’t actually toys at all. The name refers to inexpensive film cameras made predominantly of plastic and paired with a simplistic lens.

From around the 1990s, toy cameras garnered popularity for their distinctive aesthetic. Cameras like the Diana and Holga are embraced, light leaks and all, for their wonderfully unpredictable results.

With their vignetting, blurry focus and lens distortion, photographers armed with toy cameras relinquish control over the definitive outcome of the image, adding a palpable sense of serendipity to the photographic process.

Applying a toy camera effect to a digital photograph isn’t the same as using a toy camera itself, I know. But it’s a fun way to add a unique retro feel to a photograph while making use of the control that a digital camera affords.

Here’s how to add a toy camera effect to a digital photograph using Photoshop.

1. Cropping your image

Open up your image in Photoshop. Here’s my starting image.

The original image

Toy cameras work within a square format, so you’ll need to crop your photograph accordingly. Select the Crop Tool from the left toolbar. In the top toolbar, click on the dropdown menu that regulates the crop ratio. Select 1×1 (Square).

A square demonstrating the crop parameters will appear over your image. Adjust the parameters until you are happy and press enter.

2. Applying a vignette

With your layer selected in the Layers palette, go to Layer -> Duplicate Layer. A dialogue box will pop up. In the input field next to “As:” type “Layer 1” and click OK. This duplicates your current layer so you can work non-destructively.

Next, right click on Layer 1 and select Convert to Smart Object.

Select Filter -> Lens Correction and a dialog box will open. Click on the Custom tab. In the Vignette section of the Custom tab, adjust the Amount slider and the Midpoint slider until you have a nice, dark vignette (for this image I set the amount to -100 and the midpoint to +10). Repeat this step if you want a darker vignette.

Use the Lens Correction function to apply a vignette to your image

3. Adding blur

As I mentioned before, a lot of photographs taken with a toy camera are unfocused or blurry. To emulate this, make sure Layer 1 is selected and go to Filter->Blur->Gaussian Blur. In the Gaussian Blur window set the Radius from 5 to 10 pixels depending on your image and click OK.

In the Gaussian Blur window set the Radius from 5 to 10 pixels depending on your image and click OK

4. Adjusting colors

Toy cameras often lend a distinctive color-cast to photographs. In the layers panel, click on the Create a new fill or adjustment layer button and select Curves. In the Curves adjustment palette click on the RGB menu, select the red channel and create a shallow ‘S’ bend. Select the green channel and apply the same shallow ‘S’ shape. Now select the blue channel and create an inverted ‘S’.

Use the curves function to emulate the distinctive color-cast often encountered in photos taken with a toy camera

5. Creating light leaks

One fun characteristic of toy cameras are light leaks. A light leak is caused by a hole or gap in the body of the camera, allowing light to “leak” into the film chamber. This exposes the film to excess light. The result is whimsical fields of color that add character to a photograph and illustrate the photographic process.

To emulate light leaks you first need to create a new layer. Click on the Create a new layer button at the bottom of the layers panel and rename the layer “Light leaks”.

Select your brush tool and set the brush size to around 2000 and your hardness to 0%. Set the foreground color to your preferred color – usually red, yellow or blue. With the “Light leaks” layer selected, dot or streak one or two patches of color over your image.

Once you are done painting the light leaks, change the Blending Mode of the layer by clicking on the Blending Modes dropdown menu and selecting Color. You can change the opacity of the light leaks by toggling the Opacity slider on the layers panel too.


And there you have it. Now that you know how to add a toy camera aesthetic to your photograph, the possibilities are endless. This is a great opportunity to make use of unfocused, spotty or noisy digital images. It’s the next best thing to using a real toy camera yourself!

Here are a couple of my own creations below, post yours in the comments!


The post How to Add a Toy Camera Effect to Your Digital Images Using Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Photographing Wildlife

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 13:00

The post 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Photographing Wildlife appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

Wildlife photography can be a great way to secure yourself a series of images of animals that you are proud of. However, it can be extremely challenging to capture good wildlife images because photographers often make errors resulting in missed opportunities.

© Jeremy Flint

When you have been waiting for a while and are suddenly faced with photographing a wildlife encounter of a rare species, it is easy to get carried away with the excitement. You may forget the essentials and make mistakes, consequently missing out on the perfect shot.

To help you improve your chances of capturing a great wildlife image, avoid making these common mistakes:

1. Not doing your research

Knowing a bit about your subject, such as where and when you can see them, is an essential part of capturing a memorable wildlife shot. Turning up to a place and hoping for the best will likely result in disappointment. Your best bet is to do your homework and be as prepared as you can.

2. Motion blur

Leopard, Wilpattu national park, Sri Lanka © Jeremy Flint

Generally, animals move quickly, and if you aren’t careful when taking your pictures, they can often result in motion blur. Sometimes adding intentional motion to your wildlife pictures can be effective and is a great way to add dynamism to your images through techniques such as panning. However, if you want to achieve sharper and more static images, which I would recommend for the majority of wildlife photographs, you need to take care that your shutter speed is not too slow.

3. Using too low an ISO

Murlough Bay, Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland © Jeremy Flint

One way to ensure a faster shutter speed is to increase the ISO. Many photographers make the mistake of keeping the ISO low when photographing wildlife. This is usually to maintain maximum image quality. However, with a higher ISO, sharper shots will be achievable as the shutter speed increases.

4. Not being prepared

Deer, Rondon Ridge Hotel, Mount Hagen, Papa New Guinea © Jeremy Flint

One of the biggest mistakes photographers tend to make when photographing wildlife is not being prepared. If you are not ready for the shot before it happens, you will miss it. Being unprepared could be something as simple as your battery going flat when you are taking photos or running out of space on your memory card.

Having prepared my camera the night before by charging my batteries and making sure my memory card had sufficient room to accommodate several images, I was able to take this shot of a deer as it appeared between the trees.

5. Out-of-focus pictures

Green bea eater, Udawalawe national park, Sri Lanka © Jeremy Flint

Have you ever returned home from photographing wildlife images only to discover that your images are not sharp? This is one of the biggest pitfalls of recording good wildlife photos. It is likely that it may have been a case of not focusing on the subject properly. Therefore, be sure to aim and focus the camera on the part of the image you want sharp.

6. Your subject is too small in the frame

© Jeremy Flint

Wild animals are easily spooked when approached by humans which means getting close to them is usually a challenging undertaking. As a result, you may find that your wildlife shots tend to have more of the surroundings in your shot, with your subject looking insignificant and lost in the background. Sometimes shooting an environment portrait of an animal can work well, but most of the time you will want to fill the frame with your animal shots. So if you aim to try and capture more of your subject, zoom in a bit closer.

7. The composition isn’t great

Hornbill in flight, Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka © Jeremy Flint

Taking pictures of fast moving animals can often result in poor compositional shots. For example, a fleeting moment of a bird in flight or landing happens so fast that just getting a shot usually occurs to the sacrifice of the composition. Pictures can be spoilt by flapping wings, clipped parts of the body (such as the wings or tail), and not giving your subject enough space.


Common mistakes that you are likely to make when photographing wildlife include not being prepared or doing your research, motion blur, using too low an ISO, out-of-focus pictures, poor composition and including too small a main subject in the frame.

Now that you are aware of what not to do when photographing wildlife, turn these mistakes around to enhance your chances of capturing an image you can be proud of.

Now it’s your turn to venture out with your camera to photograph wildlife and share your images with us in the comments below.

The post 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Photographing Wildlife appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

7 Pros and 5 Cons of Volunteering Your Photography

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 08:00

The post 7 Pros and 5 Cons of Volunteering Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

Some experiences are worth more than money. Volunteering your skills as a photographer may be worth more to you than some of your highest paying jobs.

You want to do good and help others. Offering your photography as a gift is a wonderful way to do this. But you need to volunteer properly, otherwise, it’s a meaningless transaction.

Let’s work through the pros and cons of volunteering your photography so that you can volunteer in a way that builds up you and the person you’re volunteering for.

A big rig delivering an excavator to a Habitat for Humanity build site.

Pros of volunteering your photography

There are good reasons to volunteer your photography beyond just saying yes because you feel guilty.

1. Your photography is a gift

Volunteering shouldn’t just be about working for free. Think of yourself as giving a gift rather than merely volunteering or working for free.

When you consider your photography a gift you won’t feel as though anybody owes you anything and your motives will be pure.

2. Grow as a person

You might consider sharing your gift of photography in order to grow as a person, especially if you don’t consider yourself to be compassionate.

Practicing acts of compassion through your photography is a perfect way to become more compassionate.

3. Develop empathy

Empathy is related to compassion. If you live an easy life, you might not notice how much suffering there is around you. Photographing people living through cancer, poverty, or natural disasters can help you become more empathetic.

My wife is called out during all hours of the day or night to photograph families who have had a miscarriage or infant death. We were a year into this volunteer work when we too experienced a miscarriage.

4. When it’s something you just can’t resist

You should jump at opportunities to volunteer when it involves something you just can’t resist. If you love cute animals then volunteer at an animal shelter. Gifting my photography to Habitat for Humanity allowed me to get up close to heavy machinery. Photographing things that excite you is good for your soul – and even better when it’s a gift.

I allowed for a hint of motion blur to capture the movement of the spinning drum on the cement truck.

5. Explore something new

Some volunteer opportunities will allow you to explore something new. Take it a step further by documenting your journey with a photo blog.

Explore an aspect of life that you know nothing about and see what you can learn as you volunteer your photography skills.

6. Make it a project

Volunteering your photography may be a good way to work on a project. For longer-term projects, you could explore a theme over the course of a month or even a year. Or maybe you bring only one camera and one lens to see what you can accomplish with a constraint.

7. Do it as an artist

Giving your photography as a gift allows you to think beyond merely working for free. So does thinking like an artist. Whatever the volunteer opportunity is, do it as an artist. Make a beautiful set of photos as if it’s an art project.

Volunteer your photography skills alongside other people gifting their skills too.

Reasons NOT To volunteer your photography

Don’t volunteer if your work is going to be shallow or self-serving.

1. For exposure

New photographers often fall for the lure of exposure. You’ll often be approached with volunteer opportunities that promise amazing exposure for you. And you’ll almost always be let down.

On what grounds will it be good exposure? Is the event filled with your ideal client? Will you be promoted in a meaningful way (social media mentions often don’t lead to real exposure)?

Offering to volunteer your photography in order to gain experience rather than exposure is a great idea. Experience builds and lasts, but exposure fades quickly.

2. For your portfolio

You might be told that the volunteer opportunity will be good for your portfolio. But is this the sort of subject that you would like in your portfolio?

It’s easy for enthusiastic people looking for a volunteer photographer to promise exposure and rare portfolio opportunities, but you need to be the judge of that. They likely know nothing about what is good for you and your portfolio.

Rather than hoping to build your portfolio, you should take it as an opportunity to explore. Be grateful if you happen to create an image that you will use in your portfolio.

I gave up on trying to produce portfolio images based on my home build photos. But surprisingly, those gritty construction photos have led to headshot work. They enjoyed the wide variety of photos I take and trusted that I would be a good creative photographer for them.

3. It might lead to paid work

Your volunteer work will probably lead to something paid, but maybe not anytime soon and maybe not the work you’re really after.

There are better ways to pursue paid work:

  • Improve your website
  • Make cold calls
  • Promote yourself publicly in creative ways

If you’re really after paid work, maybe you would be better off making cold calls for 10 hours. 10 hours of sales pitches is almost guaranteed to get you paid jobs. But 10 hours of volunteer work might not lead to anything paid.

Volunteer as a gift and that will be payoff enough.

4. Just because you can’t say no

You always say yes to everything because you don’t have the assertiveness to say no. When you volunteer just because you can’t say no, you’re letting somebody take advantage of your weakness. They might actually be disappointed to find out you said yes but meant no.

5. When there is too much risk

It’s wonderful to experience a new type of photography through volunteer work. It can even help you improve your craft.

But you shouldn’t volunteer for important photography jobs that you are not confident doing.

For example, if you’re strictly a landscape photographer who is uncomfortable photographing people then you should not photograph a person’s wedding for free. You will likely mess up their once in a lifetime photos.

When the home is finally completed the work becomes a gift from a whole community to the new family.

6. If you’re being run down instead of lifting each other up

Your volunteer work shouldn’t be burning you out. You and the person you’re volunteering for should both be built up in the process. This might be a sign that you’re saying yes when you mean no, or you are being taken advantage of. The point of charity and volunteer work is to build something good, not burn out those who want to be compassionate.

Volunteer for yourself too

If you’re a working photographer it can be easy to neglect your own photography projects. Those projects might not bring you any money, but you should pursue them for the same reasons you would volunteer your time for somebody else. You need to volunteer your time to yourself just as much to other people!

The pile of shoes is a sign of family and friendship gathered in the new home.

Motivation and side benefits

You could volunteer merely for the sake of exposure, portfolio building, or the hope of paid work. Or simply because you just can’t say no. But these are not good reasons to volunteer. They are risky and might lead quickly to burn out.

But when you think of volunteering as a gift, then you and your community will experience growth in empathy and compassion. Your gift becomes an opportunity for exploration and may grow into a beautiful art project.

Exposure, portfolio building, and paid work become a side benefit rather than a primary motivation.

I’d love to hear about your volunteer experiences down in the comments!

The post 7 Pros and 5 Cons of Volunteering Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

The Importance of Connecting With Your Photography Subject

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 13:00

The post The Importance of Connecting With Your Photography Subject appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Photography is more about connecting with your subject than the connection you have with your camera. If you love photography, hopefully, you will love your camera. Connecting with it will not be a problem for you.

Paying more attention to your camera than to your subject is a mistake I see so many photographers make.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Technical settings are important. But making well-focused and exposed photos is just the first step.

Making photos which communicate more than what something looks like takes practice. Express your experience. Your relationship with and connection to your subject.

Your connection with the world is unique

Nobody else sees the world in exactly the same way you see it. This is what can make your photography special.

Communicating not only what you see, but how you feel about your subject produces more interesting photographs. Anybody can pick up a camera and take technically correct photos. Do they always have appeal? No. Do they always communicate meaning in a manner that’s attractive? No.

Telling the story of how you see the world must be an intentional pursuit. Be mindful of your message before you pick your camera up. Without doing this you will only be taking photos that anyone else with a camera can make.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

What are you connecting with?

Are you connecting with a person, a landscape, your dog, or a concept? Whatever you choose as your subject, the more fascinated with it you are, the more this will be expressed in the photographs you make of it.

Photograph what you love, what you enjoy. Show your experience of your subject in your photos. To successfully communicate this you must connect outside yourself for others to really be able to appreciate your photos.

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough”

This is a famous quote from Robert Capa. He’s best known as a war photographer, but I think this advice has a far greater reach than with just conflict photography. I think it also has a deeper meaning than just physical closeness.

Getting closer to your subject in relational ways will make your pictures better.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Study your subject. Get to know it, or them. The better understanding you have of something the more dynamic your photographs of it will be.

Getting close takes time and commitment. Sometimes you’ll have years to build a relationship with your subject. Other subjects you may just have a few moments to make a connection. Getting close must be intentional.

We often visit the same locations in the photography workshops we teach. Over the years we have come to know the feel and flow of life in these locations. We have built a relationship with a lot of the people. Sometimes this can lead to tardiness in the way you approach photography.

Keeping a freshness of mind, thinking relationally, not just visually, keeps you motivated. Doing this, you’ll be able to continue making creative photos in places you visit often. By proxy, the people who join our workshops also reap some benefits from the relationships we have worked hard to build.

How do you get close enough?

Attach a wider angle lens to your camera. Standing back with a long lens will mean you are physically and relationally more removed from what you are photographing.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Be bold and step closer. Being in close proximity to your subject will make connecting more intimate. This requires you to present yourself well to your subject, especially when you are photographing people.

Be open and friendly. Approach a stranger with a smile and a warm greeting in their own language. Most people will reflect your warmth back to you. Making eye contact with people in most cultures will deepen your relationship instantly. Don’t be overbearing or too demonstrative, as this may put people off.

Take a little time to observe a situation and consider how you can best make a connection. This takes practice.

In big cities, this can be more challenging as people are typically more personally guarded. In smaller towns and rural locations, people can be more comfortable with being photographed.

Give something back

When you’re photographing people, show them the photos you’ve made. I love this about digital photography, that it’s so easy to share.

Be ready to take some more photos to capture their response. This is one reason I love making portraits with a 35mm lens. I can show my subject the pictures and be close enough to turn the camera back around and quickly take a few more of their reaction. With telephoto lenses, this is not possible because you have to be further away.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Ask for their email address or Facebook profile. Tell them you’ll send them a few pictures. If you photograph close to where you live, get prints made and take them back. People love this as it’s so rare these days to see a printed photograph of yourself.

Connecting with places and things

Photographing your favorite beach or city street can become more personal with mindfulness. Concentrate on why you like being there. Think about how you feel when you go to these places. Try to convey this in your pictures.

If you love photographing your car or pet, bring your experience into your expression. You’ve probably photographed these things many times already, so fresh concepts can be hard to come up with. Instead of looking for a new visual angle, seek one that reveals more about how you feel.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Time of day, quality of light, colors and other factors will influence feeling in your photos. Consider how the visual elements you include in your compositions reflect the way you feel about your subjects.


Practice your camera technique. Know your settings well. Give your brain more room to concentrate on what you want to convey about your subject.

Think what your photographs are about, not just what they are of.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Some of these ideas may be challenging or seem rather abstract. Build a habit of connecting with your subjects. Over time you will see your photographic style develop. You will become more creative and your photographs become more appealing.

The post The Importance of Connecting With Your Photography Subject appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

3 Top Cell Phone Photography Apps (Android or iOS)

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 08:00

The post 3 Top Cell Phone Photography Apps (Android or iOS) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

One of the nice things about photography is that you don’t need an expensive camera or exotic lenses to produce good photos. Although such gear ensures the best image quality, to some degree that need has been nullified by the way today’s photos are shared. When viewed on a high-res smartphone or tablet, the technical imperfections of a phone image all but vanish. Cell phone photography is as legitimate as any other form of photography. Or is it?

In recent years, as the Internet has grown in power and influence, cell phone photography has become widely accepted by picture libraries and agencies. A huge market exists for web pictures, and it doesn’t always take DSLRs or even compact cameras to supply it. After inheriting an iPhone a few months back, and acquainting myself with various apps, I began sending phone photos to picture libraries.

When it comes to cellphone photos, libraries are surprisingly open-minded about the use of filters and effects. A conservative approach to editing is not necessary and may even be unhelpful. This article looks at three of the apps I use most for preparing images: MIX, PS Express, and Snapseed. Any of these three allows basic manual adjustments of color and tone. So instead of attempting repetitive in-depth reviews of all three, I aim to show you some of their individual features.

The opening screens of MIX by Camera360, Adobe PS Express and Snapseed by Google. All three are available for iOS or Android phones.

MIX by Camera360

MIX is filter-oriented with 100+ free filters and some in-app purchases. Of course, it also lets you make straight edits to your pictures (e.g. brightness, saturation, contrast, sharpness, spot removal). I’ve always liked presets and filters. If other photographers know exactly what they’re going to do with every photo, I’m not one of them. Sometimes it’s fun to try out different stuff and hit a few buttons.

Cine Filters

When you want to apply a color cast to an image, the Cine filters in MIX work well. They have various effects, including warm-up, cooling, and a classic orange & teal combo for movie-style color contrast (try Googling “orange and teal photography” to discover more). Using these filters is a bit like tuning the temp and tint sliders in Lightroom. They affect the white balance of the image.

This orange (warm-up) and teal look is similar to an effect used in modern movies and comes from one of several Cine filters in MIX.

Slide Film Filters

As my photography predates the digital age, filters that imitate last-generation slide films appeal to me. I can’t testify as to their accuracy, but if I want a deep blue sky or just a bit more punch in color and contrast, MIX gives me an easy solution.

These deep-blue skies were achieved with the Fuji Velvia Slide Film filters in MIX and are true to the effect often seen in Velvia transparencies.

Holiday Sky Filters

Being an old-school slide shooter (or old at any rate), I struggle with the idea of grafting new skies onto photos, but then photography rarely tells the whole truth. MIX offers a range of Holiday Sky filters that might just rescue disappointing photos. To make artificial skies seem realistic, you must take notice of how the light falls in your photo and make sure it doesn’t blatantly conflict with the new background. There’s also a MIX “Magic Sky” filter series for more dramatic effects.

Sky grafting might be anathema for some, but Holiday Sky filters in MIX make it easy to replace a dull sky.

Adobe PS Express

As a long-time user of Photoshop, I tried PS Express hoping for a level of familiarity. I wasn’t disappointed. You can adjust photos using the same editing sliders found in other Adobe products: much of the toolbox seems intact.


If you shoot architectural photos, one of the best things about PS Express is its ability to easily correct the verticals and/or horizontals of a building. This avoids the “falling over” effect you get when pointing a camera at architecture. It helps if you leave space around the building when photographing it, otherwise, the transform tool will slice the edges off it.

The verticals in this photo of Florence were corrected with the Transform tool in PS Express.


PS Express has a decent selection of filters. I’m fond of the ones that apply a vignette, such as Basic/Autumn or B&W/pinhole. These give photos a sense of drama, and like all vignettes focus attention on the middle of the photo. You can give your photos a lot of mood with these filters.

The PS Express B&W Pinhole filter focuses attention on the face of this effigy in Rouen Cathedral.


Adding text to photos can seem a complicated process in some apps and programs, but PS Express makes it easy. You can easily create website graphics, greetings cards or memes and have plenty of control over fonts and opacity. As well, you can send your creations as layered PSD files to Photoshop CC on a computer.

Adding text with different fonts, opacity and colors is easy in PS Express.

Snapseed by Google

Developed by Google, Snapseed is an intuitive app that offers single-click “Looks” (filters by another name) and “Tools” for adjustable edits. It’s capable of great results with as little or as much input as you want. Among the tools, you’ll find anything from regular brightness, contrast or saturation sliders to more adventurous edits like “Double Exposure” or “Grunge”.

Looks: Fine Art

For black and white conversions, I find the “Fine Art” filter in Snapseed particularly pleasing. There is always a full range of tones to pack plenty of punch without much loss of shadow or highlight detail. The pictures are also very clean—no mid-tone noise in skies like there is with some B&W edits.

The Snapseed Fine Art filter gives a well-balanced B&W conversion with a pleasing range of tones. I use it as my B&W cell phone default.

Tools: Drama

The Drama tool can easily produce overcooked results if you’re not careful, but it’s useful for bringing out the detail in clouds and/or lifting an otherwise dull photo taken on an overcast day. You can adjust the filter’s contrast effect as well as saturation to fine-tune the result.

The Drama tool emphasizes mid-tone contrast and bleaches saturation on its default setting, often resulting in more dramatic skies.

Tools: Lens Blur

Snapseed’s Lens Blur tool lets you emphasize a particular area of a photo by controlling background blur and vignetting. The “Transition” slider lets you control the feathering area between the main subject and background, enabling natural-looking results.

The Snapseed Lens Blur tool emphasizes the face of this wooden sculpture of Christ in Venice.


The apps in this article will not be new to seasoned smartphone photographers, but I hope I’ve inspired others to use their cell phone cameras creatively. Phones have their limitations for some genres of photography, but that’s true of any camera and lens combo. They offer unrivaled portability. And while cell phones aren’t often seen in pro photography, they don’t rule out the chance of publication. Smartphones and their apps let you express yourself in countless ways.

The post 3 Top Cell Phone Photography Apps (Android or iOS) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

7 Lessons You Can Learn about Photography from Legendary Photographer, Diane Arbus

Sat, 01/26/2019 - 13:00

The post 7 Lessons You Can Learn about Photography from Legendary Photographer, Diane Arbus appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anthony Epes.

I discovered the extraordinary photography of Diane Arbus early on in my career and was blown away by the candid portraits she created. They seemed to have a strong feeling of intimacy coming from the subject (apparent in photos like “Family on their lawn one Sunday.”)

Arbus (1923 – 1971), was an American photographer whose most famous subjects were often outsiders in society.

Journalist Arthur Lubow said of her work: “She was fascinated by people who were visibly creating their own identities—cross-dressers, nudists, sideshow performers, tattooed men, the nouveau riche, the movie-star fans—and by those who were trapped in a uniform that no longer provided any security or comfort.”

I was impressed with her photos. To capture the feelings and reveal aspects of the lives and personalities of her subjects is both challenging to do as a photographer, and rare.

So many photographers are concerned with the ‘surface’ of their subject’s appearance. However, to spend time delving into our subject’s persona gives us an incredible insight into the multiple human experiences of that person’s life.

In this article, I take an in-depth look at Arbus’s photographic approach and draw out simple but powerful lessons to help you develop your photography.

What I most admire about Arbus’s approach is that she spent a lot of time connecting with her subjects. They felt comfortable with her and were able to relax and reveal aspects of themselves and their lives.

I think this connection is what leads to such a feeling of intimacy within her photos. It’s almost as if you are right there with her, and with that person (her photo of the boy with the toy hand grenade is brilliantly evocative of kids.)

Arbus died in the 1970s, but her photographic legacy is still profound. After her death, her daughter collaborated with the artist Marvin Israel to produce a short documentary about her work, Masters of Photography: Diane Arbus, in which her words get spoken over her images.


It’s a fascinating view of her approach, and many of the quotes I’ve used in this article come from that film. I encourage you to look up her work and see for yourself.

From my observations of her work and reading about her life, here are some of the lessons I’ve drawn from her photography. Included are my own photos.

1. We shoot what we are

“What moves me about…what’s called technique…is that it comes from some mysterious deep place. I mean it can have something to do with the paper and the developer and all that stuff, but it comes mostly from some very deep choices somebody has made that take a long time and keep haunting them.” Diane Arbus

I love the photographic kit, and I love cameras, and I am a bit of a tech nerd. Never met a camera manual I didn’t enjoy reading!

Moreover, I am an advocate of learning to use your camera, learning to shoot on manual and having an excellent understanding of all your kit. That way, you are so familiar with it that you can completely forget about it and concentrate entirely on getting into a deep creative flow state.

I will say, creating interesting, compelling and unique images has very little to do with your camera, and everything to do with who you are as a human being.

I have seen too many technically perfect, but entirely boring photos, to know how true this is.

We are all different as human beings, and so our photographs must reflect who we are. Reflect what we’ve experienced in life, what we love and dislike, what excites us and ignites our imagination, and what totally and completely fascinates us.

When we take photos, we are drawing from this massive well of life experience and our unique personalities. That is why I love the quote (above) from Arbus. It shows that there is so much more to photography other than the camera you have and how well you can use it. It is meaningful, but still a small part of the photographic process.

When people look at my photographs, they often say – “oh, you like to photograph cities or people or pretty nature?”

I say, “no – I only have one subject, and that is light.”

My photographic obsession is intriguing and beautiful light. Almost everything I choose to photograph has somehow been transformed by light, and it bewitches me.

I have distinct memories, of being a small child laying under a tree in a Greek garden, seeing and feeling the dappled light falling over my face. Moreover, many of my memories of growing up in California are also of light. Of being out in nature all day, and climbing trees in the hot, yellow sunshine.

I love the way that everything is affected by light. How the same thing – a tree, for example – looks and feels one way when the light is flat and grey, and entirely another way when it’s bathed in the light yellow sunshine of a spring morning.

Light is something that moves me on a subliminal, subconscious level. I didn’t even realize that light was my obsession for many years. That’s because, as Arbus says, “our photographs are a reflection of our deeper selves.”

When you examine your photos what do you see about yourself? What do you notice about the innate aspects of your personality? Does it tell you about what you love and what captures your attention?

Where can these deep passions take you in your photography?

2. Find the perfect angle

“I work from awkwardness. By that I mean I don’t like to arrange things. If I stand in front of something, instead of arranging it, I arrange myself.” Diane Arbus

I often see people’s photos of fascinating subjects, but the photos themselves are boring. They missed the chance to create a dynamic photo, often because of where they positioned themselves.

It may sound obvious, but your job as a photographer is not to wait for the subject to come to you, nor is it to wait for the subject to become perfectly aligned with your camera.

Your job is to find the very best angle. The very best place to stand and arrange yourself so that you place your subject at its very best situation in your frame.

There is always one angle that is the best for your subject. You have to find that. It may sound obvious but it’s not something I see a lot of amateur photographers do.

Ask yourself: if the subject and my composition isn’t perfect, where can I move to try different angles and compositions? Can I move up, down, or around?

Am I able to climb on a chair or walk up that hill? Do I need to lie on the ground or reposition myself so that the light falls on their face? Can I catch a reflection in the glass?

You should always be thinking to yourself: What happens to the subject when I go over here…?

Once you’ve got that great shot, explore further and search for other good angles. See if you can go one better.

3. Photography is your license to be curious (even when it scares you)

“If I were just curious, it would be very hard to say to someone, ‘want to come to your house and have you talk to me and tell me the story of your life.’ I mean people are going to say, ‘You’re crazy.’ Plus they’re going to keep mighty guarded. But the camera is a kind of license. For a lot of people, they want to be paid that much attention and that’s a reasonable kind of attention to be paid.” Diane Arbus

Many photographers are scared to shoot strangers but would love to do it anyway. However, shooting people you don’t know can be a very confronting experience.

Often there is a big fear about what the person might do when they see a camera focused upon them, or when you pluck up the courage to ask their permission to shoot.

The most important thing to know here, and this comes from my own experience as well as from other photographers like Arbus, is that most people enjoy some attention.

Most people are happy to have you shoot them – or they don’t mind. Photographing someone is saying to them – I find you very interesting – and most people see that as a compliment.

Now we are in a different age to Arbus. When she was taking photographs, very few people had cameras. Whereas, now with our smartphones, cameras are everywhere.

What I love about Arbus is that she holds strong reverence for her subjects. The process of connecting and working with them was all about them and not about her feelings.

She talked at length about the fear and anxiety she felt about approaching subjects or going to their houses to photograph them.

It is inspiring to hear that she was always pushing herself to do more and not allowing her fear to hold her back. Although, on occasion, it did hold her back. However, she’d start over the following day or at the next opportunity.

We all experience fear, and it’s okay. Go with it and don’t let it stop you.

There’s another piece of advice I’d like to offer when photographing strangers, and this is what Diane Arbus also did, and excelled.

It all comes down to your attitude. Your potential subjects pick up on a sense of your energy when you point a camera at them.

Think about whether you are friendly and considerate. Do you smile and relax? Are you trying to connect with the person? Alternatively, are you shoving a camera in their face and being aggressive or are you only looking for a quick shot?

The biggest asset I have when photographing people all over the world, and where I don’t speak the language, is my smile. I often smile and lift my camera as if to say, “may I?”

People sometimes nod, or don’t respond but just stand still. If they say no or walk away, then I’ve got my answer.

If I am photographing people without them knowing and they see me, usually they walk away. However, if they want to connect, then I’ll show them the photo, smile and have a chat.

I work on projecting confidence in myself, and friendliness to my subject. The very worst that can happen is that someone wants me to delete the photo. How easy is this nowadays with digital cameras?

In fact, this has probably only happened once in the thirty years I’ve been taking photos. What typically happens is that they ask for a copy of the picture, which I gladly email.

Photography is also a license to connect with people. I have had so many interesting conversations, been taken to lunch and shown around new cities when people see that I am a photographer.

I tell people about my work, my books, and my projects, and people are curious. For them, it’s often an excellent opportunity to get to talk to someone new.

When my wife was pregnant and after our kids were born, she said the whole process changed her experience of London. Suddenly, instead of being ignored, she was stopped in the street, talked to in cafes and chatted to all over the city.

4. How to get to the reality of people

“There is a point where there is what you want people to know about you and what you can’t help people knowing about you.” Diane Arbus

Everyone has a mask that they show to the world. It’s so embedded in us that we don’t realize we are projecting it.

To show our true selves often makes us feel vulnerable. We don’t want to expose our worries, or what we believe to be our character flaws.

So we show the world an edited version of ourselves and an identity that we are happy to project (or not. Some people project anxiety or melancholy.)

We can always photograph a person on a surface level, posed in the way they’d prefer. But the fascination is to dive beneath the surface and find the place that tells us more truthfully about that person, and who they are.

As photographers, we want to get a sense of what it is like to be our subject and how they feel in that space and time. This is where I think Diane Arbus excelled – like in her photo “A young man with curlers at home on West 20th Street, N.Y.C.”

She had such a strong awareness of what people wanted to show, versus what their life really was, that she was able to get people to show their true selves.

So as photographers, it is awesome that we get the opportunities to explore and probe the masks that people put on. When we are patient enough, the mask drops and we can see the true human experience.

Getting your subject to show behind their mask can be simple. When shooting a portrait, have your subject hold the same pose for an extended period. After a while, they become bored of the pose or forget about it because they start thinking about something else, Suddenly, a real emotion or feeling comes pouring through.

It’s harder to do with some people than others. Some people used to being photographed, or who have a stronger attachment to their mask or ‘identity,’ try not to allow their true thoughts and feelings to come out.

This is where your patience comes into play.

Keep going. Stay with your subject and talk to them. Ask questions, move them around a bit, and see what develops.

Arbus had a fascination with her subjects and their ‘beingness.’ She didn’t try to manipulate them or change them but gave them space to be themselves.

She talked about how nice she was to people. She was warm and ingratiating, and that led to people relaxing and being themselves. Consequently, Arbus captured the clear, unvarnished experience of life.

Another big key for me, when shooting strangers, is to be respectful. It is their lives, their selves, that we are revealing to the world.

When Arbus said, “You see someone on the street and what you notice about them is the flaw,” it is about what is speaking to you about this person’s true humanity. Because humanity can be messy and difficult. We are complex beings. Discovering what makes each person who they are is a wonderful journey to take as a photographer.

Revealing the flaws, characters, and difficulties are often what connects us to each other in the first place. We all connect to the challenges of the human experience – and working to capture this in your photography is a very enriching process.

5. Don’t worry about your camera

“I get a great sense that they are different from me. I don’t feel that total identity with the machine. I mean, I can work it fine, although I’m not so great actually. Sometimes when I am winding it, it’ll get stuck, or something will go wrong and I just start clicking everything and then suddenly everything is alright again. That’s my feeling about machines, if you sort of look the other way they’ll get fixed. Except for certain ones.” Diane Arbus

As I mentioned above, I love my kit, and I love working out new cameras. However, I also recognize a camera is just a tool that enables me to capture my vision.

I have a pretty good smartphone and I take some brilliant photos with that. There are a lot of photographers, like Diane Arbus, who have focused on the subject over technical skill, and they have done just fine!

If learning technique to a very deep level isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Learn what you need to learn and just keep pushing yourself creatively.

6. Allow your fascination for your subject to blossom

“I would never choose a subject for what it means to me. I choose a subject and then what I feel about it, what it means, begins to unfold.” Diane Arbus

This quote is such an unusual piece of advice for me because it’s the exact opposite of how I photograph. Regardless, it’s also brilliant for me because I don’t believe just one photographer or teacher can teach you everything you need to know about your personal journey as a photographer.

My advice is to find the subjects that fascinate you the most. Find the places, people and things that you are in total awe of, and then use those feelings to create emotive, captivating images.

Still, I can see Arbus’s point about finding a subject and allowing your ideas and interest in the subject to unfold from there. Anything can be your subject given the right circumstances, and for me, you guessed it, that involves interesting light!

Perhaps you should take this lesson as more of a way to train yourself into finding something of fascination in whatever subject you come across.

It can also be a truly revolutionary approach to your photography if you have become entirely immune to a scene or find it difficult to see exciting things to photograph in your day-to-day life.

If you find yourself numb to the world around you, concentrating on a subject and working to open your awareness to finding a compelling aspect to your subject, will do wonders for your ability to see incredible images wherever you go.
Diane Arbus said, “The Chinese have a theory that you pass through boredom into fascination and I think it’s true.”

So there you go! Don’t worry about getting bored because it can lead to fascination, given enough time and perseverance.

7. Photography should make you an adventurer

“Once you become an adventurer, you’re geared to adventure, you seek out further adventures.” Marvin Israel

This is not a quote by Arbus, but the artist Marvin Israel who was very significant in Arbus’s life. He talked about how “Each photograph for Diane was an event.”

Israel talks about how moved she was by the experiences she had taking the photographs. That it wasn’t about the end photo at all, but everything that led up to taking the photo.

Arbus commented, “For me, the subject of the picture is always more important than the picture. I do have a feeling for the print, but I don’t have a holy feeling.”

For her, it was just being with her subjects, talking and connecting, the dialogue, the waiting, and the anticipation.

This is what is so tremendously exciting about the medium of photography. You are not alone in a room with your thoughts, creating. It’s not a passive experience. You are engaging with the world, you are creating connections, and you are diving into life.

This isn’t about traveling to far-flung places. It’s not even about doing big, crazy things. It’s about enjoying all aspects of taking the photo. It is an adventure in itself.

Moreover, it’s about taking yourself on an incredible learning journey and seeing where your passions take you.

I would love to know what you think of these ideas. Do any of these connect with you and get you thinking in new ways about your photography?

The post 7 Lessons You Can Learn about Photography from Legendary Photographer, Diane Arbus appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anthony Epes.

How to Take Floating Photos – Levitation Photography [video]

Sat, 01/26/2019 - 08:00

The post How to Take Floating Photos – Levitation Photography [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this great video from, Dunna Did It, you will learn how to create Levitation photography. That’s right, you’ll learn how to take floating photos!


What you need:
  1. Camera to shoot with
  2. Tripod
  3. Photo Editing software
How to create levitation photography:
  • Set up your object that you are photographing.
  • Put your camera’s settings to the required settings based on your lighting and room.
  • The trick is to take one photo holding it with your left hand, and then one holding it with your right hand.
  • Be sure to turn on you turn Grids ON in your camera.
  • Line up your camera in the same spot for each shot using your grid.
  • Use manual focus for each shot because you want the focus to be exactly the same for each photo.
  • Hold your camera with one hand and line it up to your grid, focus and take the photo.
  • While still holding it, reach with your other hand and grab the opposite side (keeping the camera in the same position). Let go with the other hand, and take the 2nd photo. Try this as many times as you need to.
  • Choose and edit your best photos in Lightroom (or the editing program of your choice).
  • Once you have the two you want to combine, jump to Photoshop (press cmd+E mac, ctrl+E win) and choose Edit in Photoshop.
  • Go to the image held with the left hand and double-click the layer in the Layer Palette to make it an editable layer.
  • Then choose Cmd+A to select all, then Cmd+C to copy.
  • Jump to the other image, double click the layer in the Layers Palette to make the layer editable.
  • Then choose Cmd+V to paste the other image you copied into the new image.
  • Lower the opacity of the top layer to about 36% so you can see how well you can line them up.
  • Move the top layer until it is lined up.
  • Next, we want to take the top layer and delete to parts we don’t want.
  • Put a layer mask onto the top layer and select your Brush Tool (use a soft brush by turning down the hardness).
  • Change your foreground color in your toolbar to black to paint out areas of the layer mask.
  • Paint out the areas you don’t want. To fine-tune, make your brush smaller and continue to paint out areas you don’t need.
  • Check all your lines around your image to ensure they line up.
  • Do any further edits you want and you are done!
You may also find the following articles helpful:

How to do Digital Blending in Photoshop to Create a Composite Photo

How to Create A Simple Composite: Photoshop Creative

How to Make a Composite Wine Bottle Image using Photoshop Layers

Preparing your Model and Background for a Successful Composite

How to Shoot and Create a Composite Image for a Product Advertisement

A Guide to Create Eye-Catching Composite Images


The post How to Take Floating Photos – Levitation Photography [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.