Archive for January, 2015

In this short video by Ed Vorosky he covers three rules about the behaviour of light. When you understand these principles you can then use them better in your photography.

  1. Light travels in straight lines
  2. The subject receives less light as the distance to the light source is increased
  3. The larger the light source relative to the subject, the softer the light source

Watch the video for a more detailed description and demonstration of each:

So what does that mean for your photography? How can you use this information in practice?

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Are Mirrorless Cameras Here to Stay?

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In the late 2000s a new segment formed in the photography industry. This segment goes by many names, but the most common nowadays is “Mirrorless”. These cameras fall between the generic point and shoot cameras and the professional full frame DSLR systems.

Zhao !

By Zhao !

So what is Mirrorless all about?

The first mirrorless cameras came out with a traditional rangefinder design. They were small, had many manual settings, and were geared more towards street photographers who wanted great image quality in a small body. From these first cameras it became evident that a smaller camera with great image quality, professional grade, could be very useful. Soon there were several manufacturers developing mini-DSLR looking cameras, more rangefinder designs, and adding more and more features that are found in very high-end cameras. Along with these smaller bodies and variety of sensor sizes new lenses were engineered to take full advantage of the mirrorless design. Some of these manufacturers include Leica, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus, Fuji, Canon, Nikon.

First impressions

When these cameras hit the market they were sought after by photojournalists, and street photographers as well as the techie part of the industry. Some thought it was just a trendy segment while others laughed at their size and functionality, forever comparing with full frame DSLRs (this is due to the fact that many mirrorless cameras don’t use a full frame sensor). Even after many articles had come out talking about the benefits of these cameras, many looked passed them and considered them amateur gear. But, manufacturers continued to produce new cameras with more features and better performance.

What really sets Mirrorless apart?

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As the segment continues to gain traction several key features are really starting to turn heads.

EVF: Electronic Viewfinder

Unlike traditional viewfinders which show you what is reflected via the mirror you actually see a small built-in display in the viewfinder showing you what the sensor sees. Try to picture a mini-tv monitor inside the viewfinder showing you what the camera sees.

This might seem strange, but there are tons of benefits to having it set up this way. You see what the sensor sees. So, you can point the camera into the sun and not get blinded. Or you can set the camera to black and white mode and you’ll see everything in black and white. On some cameras you can access your full camera menu through the viewfinder without having to look at the screen on the back. Also, you can fully customize the information you see in the viewfinder. What you see is what you get.


9977912 origMirrorless cameras are small, compact, and very well built. They are made with high grade materials, and just by holding them you know you’re not using a generic point and shoot. To some photographers this is a huge selling point as they look to get away from their heavy camera gear. It also makes it easier to blend into the background without a big DSLR pointed at someone. Some of these cameras are even fully weather sealed, or have a flip out display, and just about all of them have a hot shoe for an external flash.

But, it goes further. The button layouts and menu systems are designed to be easy to use for even the most demanding of photographers. Unlike point and shoot cameras all the main controls are easily accessible. Some of these design cues come from professional full frame cameras while others look towards old film cameras for inspiration. With all this variety there is system for everyone.

Image quality

As each new generation comes out there has been an improvement in sensors, autofocus, and even better lenses. All of these things have caught the eye of the whole industry. The mirrorless segment is maturing at a rapid pace and it shows! Unlike the large DSLR companies who are fighting the megapixel race, the mirrorless segment is working on improving image quality in low light situations, fast moving subjects and lens quality. They have found ways to make it easier to take photos with manual focusing lenses as well. Image quality is a very important part of the development of the mirrorless segment.

The future of mirrorless – predictions

The mirrorless segment of the industry has really caught fire in the last few years. All major manufacturers have jumped on board, which means there are lots of options for anyone interested in giving them a try. New adapters have come out so you can use your existing lenses on your new mirrorless camera. Improvement on sensors, auto focus, weather sealing, range of lenses, and options, are attracting more and more people to mirrorless. Fujifilm as well as others are already developing a huge loyal customer base. Firmware updates seem to be the big game changer regarding loyalty. The constant updates and improvements are much more useful than what we’ve seen from most DSLR manufacturers.

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This segment will continue to grow and get better at a much faster rate than other segments. Although still young, mirrorless is here to stay. There is something for everyone. Even the most traditional photographers are getting excited about the possibilities of the Electronic Viewfinder as it keeps getting better and better. At the lower price point, much smaller form factor and close to equal image quality to the very large and expensive DSLRs means that it makes sense that more and more photographers will look to add, or replace, their gear with a shiny new mirrorless system.

Zhao !

By Zhao !

What are your thoughts? Where do you stand?

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We’ve all seen hundreds of gorgeous photos of sunrises over beaches and beautiful landscapes. Of course they have the capacity to wow and inspire, but I would argue that it’s far more interesting to photographs cities at dawn. You have so much more to work with – buildings, graffiti, debris, rivers, glass, the odd person, roads, and greenery in the midst of all of this urban-ness. The possibilities to create unique photos are endless. So, if you combine all this intense city landscape with the wonderful and quickly-changing light of dawn, you have an amazing combination.

Anthonyepesphotography DPS 1

I’ve been shooting cities at dawn for over a decade now. For me cities are at their most inspiring when they are empty of people, traffic, and chaos and bathed in the beautiful light of dawn.

Here are 11 tips on how to create stunning photographs of cities at dawn:

1. Sunrise

Sunrise, especially when it’s an epic one, is obviously the focus for any early morning shoot. But it shouldn’t be just about capturing the sunrise.

  • Clouds: To me what is special about any given morning is what kind of clouds are in the sky. Clouds are what make mornings different from day to day and are one of the reasons to keep going back to the same place again and again.
  • Other elements: Think about other elements you can use to enhance the photo. Try framing the sunrise, and the sky, to create an interesting contrast (see photo above).
  • Foreground: Find an interesting subject for your foreground, using the sunrise like a tapestry.

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2. Emptiness

Being in a city (which is usually densely packed with people) suddenly deserted, creates a feeling that you are in a different world. You see the city as it really is, and it changes what you see but also what you photograph.

This sense of emptiness is made especially impactful when you photograph:

  • Tourist attractions
  • Roads
  • Monuments
  • Public squares

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3. Varying types of light

The sunrise may be the shining moment of the morning, but don’t forget other unique qualities to early morning photography.

  • Blue hour: Is a very short time between night and sunrise, when the sky changes quickly from dark to light. It happens again before sunset, but at dawn the beauty of the blue hour is enhanced by the emptiness and stillness of the city. When you are shooting during the blue hour, be prepared as the light changes very quickly. Get your camera set up on a tripod and have your scene already composed, so that when it arrives and the light is changing, you won’t miss it. If you have a shot you really like, be patient, and shoot slowly as the light changes. Slowing down like this also creates the opportunity to relax enjoy the view and look around for the next shot.

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  • Artificial and natural light: Contrasting artificial and natural light. There is a very short time at dawn when you have both, and the effect is beautiful.
  • Low sun, long shadows: At dawn the sun rises from below the horizon and moves up into the sky at a height dependent on the time of year (and what part of the world you are in). The effect of a low sun is that it creates long shadows, which are stunningly effective with the low light of dawn. Stick around for a few hours after sunrise to capture the light falling over the streets and buildings like this:

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4. Look for light sources

A bundle of different elements like buildings, roads, glass, and windows with the light falling onto them creates a myriad of opportunities for light to bounce, reflect, bend and distort. If you see light falling onto a wall, or reflecting onto a piece of glass, look for its source. It could be that the source is more interesting than the effect the light is creating.

  • Reflections: Are a gem to photograph and dawn is such a brilliant time because there aren’t people crowding around disturbing them. Search out water as it’s usually still – puddles, canals, ponds and my favourite – glass buildings.

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  • Light effects: The low sun creates a myriad of effects as it filters through trees, buildings and other city architecture. Look at this man, locking up, and how the shadows enhance the mood and meaning of the photo.

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  • Use the light for contrast: Search out the unusual. I love the contrast of some of the rougher, decaying edges of a city with the vibrant light of dawn.

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5. Seek out people – they are usually doing interesting things at dawn

Most people out at dawn are either working or they’ve been out all night enjoying themselves. They make interesting, and often very willing subjects!

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6. Return to your favourite spots

No two sunrises are the same. So, if you have a favourite spot, go back and photograph it on a different day, during different seasons. The quality of the light will be different, perhaps there will be changes in the cityscape (London is never the same year to year), you will notice contrasts. Give yourself a challenge, ask yourself: How can I make this same scene a distinctive photograph? What else can I do? Push yourself to create more unique photographs every day.

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7. Explore

Go off the beaten track. Photographing the iconic sites is amazing in any city (it’s iconic for a reason, right?) and having St. Mark’s Square in Venice to yourself at dawn is a heady experience. But there are always so many areas of any city that are not so frequently photographed. It could be the docklands in London’s East End, the rough and run down area east of Paris’s Sacre Coeur or the eastern edge of Venice, where I found abandoned buildings and ancient fortresses. Everything seems other-worldly at dawn and worth exploring.

8. Look behind you (and above, below, around and everywhere)

When you are going out to shoot, it’s important to really look around you. Doesn’t this sound like a simple task that we spend all of our lives doing? Actually no! You will be surprised by how much we all miss as we rush around in the little bubble of our minds, distracted by our thoughts and our tasks for the day.

Don McCullin says it brilliantly: “You can feast your eyes on a daily basis, although I suspect the average man on the street goes through life with narrowed vision, not seeing the whole scope of what’s going on around him.”

If you want to create images with a WOW factor you have to pay attention to what’s around you. What the photo world calls, “The art of seeing”.

I find being out at dawn helps me see, because there isn’t the usual distractions, our senses are more heightened, it’s an unusual time of day to be awake (for most of us) and we are seeing our familiar streets and places in a new light.

9. Get started early

I like to have found my location before I go out. From there I wander, but it’s good to have a initial place so you don’t waste time. I like to be in this first location at least an hour, sometimes an hour and half, before sunrise. There are some incredible opportunities to photograph the blue hour.

10. Be prepared with your kit

The light changes very quickly at dawn, and you definitely don’t want to miss that spectacular sunrise. My essential kit list for dawn shooting includes:

  • A small torch (flashlight) for setting up your camera in the dark
  • A plastic bag for my camera in case it rains (cheap but it works!)
  • A visor or hat as walking into the sunlight is hard on the eyes
  • Gloves (it’s often cold at dawn, even in summer)
  • A light, but sturdy tripod, (you’ll need this for the first couple of hours, but then you’ll be carrying it, hence it should be light)

11. Get yourself acquainted with your camera

This may seem a bit obvious but it is something most people don’t do; know your camera. Lack of camera knowledge can turn a simple shoot into a difficult one (especially in the dark)! Know what all those buttons do, some may make your life easier.

Does that give you some ideas for photographing your city at dawn? Or perhaps getting up early on the next trip? Share your comments below please.

Photographer Anthony Epes is currently publishing a series of photo books on Cities at Dawn, with instalments on London, Paris, Venice, New York and Istanbul. Inspired by his books Anthony runs photo workshops at dawn in some of the world’s most interesting and beautiful cities. His work has been featured on BBC World, French Photo Magazine, The Economist, Hyperallergic and CNN. He blogs about photography on his website.



The post 11 Tips for Creating Stunning Photographs of Cities at Dawn by Anthony Epes appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Handiwork: How to Pose Hands

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“Never neglect the little things. Never skimp on that extra effort, that additional few minutes, that soft word of praise or thanks, that delivery of the very best that you can do. It does not matter what others think, it is of prime importance, however, what you think about you. You can never do your best, which should always be your trademark, if you are cutting corners and shirking responsibilities. You are special. Act it. Never neglect the little things.” – Og Mandino

All images copyright Gina Milicia

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What to do with your model’s hands is the one thing most photographers and their models get flustered with. Hands can feel like the leftovers of a pose but giving your models relaxed and natural looking hand poses is going to make your portraits look really polished. In fact, skillful hand placement is one of the abilities that separate an experienced photographer from a beginner.

How to pose hands

I can remember, back in my assisting days, we used to hire professional hand models to hold objects for advertising shots. Their hands were truly beautiful with long elegant fingers and perfect soft flawless skin that made everything they held look really expensive.

Sadly, not everyone you photograph will be born with these kinds of hands so here are a few things to keep in mind when photographing hands.

  1. Clean nails are a must. I always ask my models to at the very least have clean nails and clear nail polish for women.
  2. If your model is wearing makeup on their face, remember to add a bit of bronzer to hands, as nothing looks worse than hands that are three shades lighter or darker than rest of body or face.
  3. Watch out for clenched hands, which is a common instinct to help with nerves but it doesn’t photograph well!

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Model Credit: Jonathan Newton. A great hand pose for men is to hold their hands as if they are holding a pen or to ask them to pretend they are twirling a ring on their little finger.

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Business Chicks Ceo, Emma Isaacs, Arms crossed in front of a female model looks more elegant but make sure you balance the shot with both hands showing to give the body language a more open feel. Get your model to only lightly touch their arms when they are crossed.

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Model Credit: The Cast of Fat Tony/image courtesy Nine Network Australia

Giving your model something to do with their hands helps create a natural looking pose. Putting hands in pockets, doing up buttons or rubbing hands together can all create a natural pose for hands.

Hands hair

Model Credit_ Mimi Elashiry on location, Sacre Coeur , Paris. Playing with strands of hair or running hands through hair. This works for male and female models.

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Model Credit Shareena Clanton/Foxtel ( left) Piperlane (right). For female models, placing their hands on their hips can create an optical illusion of a smaller waist.

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Model Credit Rachael Lever

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Model Credit Shareena Clanton/Foxtel

When asking models to rest their hands on their face or their bodies, ensure they are only lightly touching with their hands so they don’t distort the face or body. Hands look best when they are photographed side-on as it reduces their size.

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Model credit: Lester Ellis/Nine Network Australia

This “soccer goalie” pose is a classic “go to” pose for most men when they are not given any direction. This is a sign that they are feeling vulnerable and insecure and, thus protecting their masculinity. There are many alternatives to the soccer goalie pose. Try asking your model to place hands in pockets, hanging them from belt hoops, or pretending to adjust an item of clothing.

Group White

When posing groups, I like to ask each of my models to do something different with their hands because I think it makes the portrait look more dynamic.

What are your techniques for posing natural looking hands? If there is anything I may have missed? I’d love to hear from you.

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Are you seeking some inspiration for getting creative with some new macro photographs? Perhaps you’ve grown tired of taking close-ups of typical macro subjects like flowers and insects. Help is on the way.

There is a whole world of macro photography available to you that doesn’t involve the typical subject matter so often associated with close-up photography. There are some amazing images of insects and flowers to enjoy on the web, but what about going in a different direction?

Photo 1 macro photography ideas

Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing, to challenge your imagination, and direct you to doing more interesting macro photography:

1. Pick a location

This is a good technique to use when the weather outside isn’t the best for macro work. Your kitchen is the easiest place to start generating ideas. I usually grab a notebook, or a tablet and a pen, and start brainstorming by opening drawers and cabinets and writing ideas down.

You have appliances, silverware, glasses, cooking utensils, and plates to start with. Add food and liquids to your list and you’ve got a great big inventory to work with. Coffee beans, cherry tomatoes, and peanuts work well because of their size and variety in surface and color (see photo above).

A few years back, I gave myself a photo assignment to create some new macro images using bathroom subjects. I don’t consider myself an expert macro photographer, but I did have a good time with the challenge of making a few non-typical macro photos. Cottons swabs, a suction-cup shampoo bottle holder, and a razor became the subjects from the bathroom.

Photo 2 macro photography ideas

Other locations could be an office, a workshop, or yes, perhaps even the bedroom. You could also leave your house and take a trip into town, visit a junkyard, or go to a local thrift store.

2. Come up with a theme

Rather than limit yourself to a single location, take a theme approach. What if you picked texture as a theme to develop? Take a second right now to jot down anything you can think of that has texture. Take a deep breath, relax, clothes your eyes, and let your mind go.

Use a mind map like the one pictured below. This is just a brainstorming method to generate creative possibilities. Here are just four random examples. These can lead to other tangent ideas so write down all of your thoughts and you can edit your lists later.

Photo 3 macro photography ideas mind map

3. Take a workshop

There are plenty of courses online you can take, or find a live workshop nearby. Not only will you be exposed to the close-up photos from the instructor, but you’ll surely have an opportunity to interact with other budding macro shooters.

You could ask them what their most unusual macro subject has been. They may have ideas that never would have occurred to you.

I started a practice of attending a minimum of at least two workshops or seminars yearly, and it has been a great way for me to recharge my creativity.

4. View macro photography portfolios

One of the most powerful idea tools I use is Google. Try using a variety of keyword searches with “macro” and “close-up”. Search specific categories and those search results will lead you to other themes and ideas.

You can go to big photo gallery web sites that have search boxes to explore literally millions of macro images. Do a variety of macro searches, based on subject, lighting, or location at web sites like 500pixels, SmugMug, or Flickr, just to mention a few.

5. Play with the lighting

Challenge yourself to come up with a few completely different ways to light one of your subjects. We know photography is a form of painting with light. Try to significantly change the appearance of your subject by dramatically changing the way you light it.

Change the direction, the size of your light source, and the shadow to highlight ratio in a variety of ways to get new results. This may lead to the discovery of different ways to reveal specific characteristics of your subject like texture, color or compositional lines.

The red pepper photo below was lit with a single speedlight, bounced off of a small white piece of cardboard, above and behind the subject.

Photo 4 macro red pepper speedlite

Idea generating tips

The best time for creative thinking is when your mind is fresh and rested. Many personal development books and various brain studies make the point that there are specific peak performance conditions that you can implement to boost your creativity and effectiveness.

For many, certain environments or activities can work. A few minutes of focused and relaxed breathing, time during or after exercise, a walk in the woods, or even brainstorming while in the shower can bring forth great ideas.

Other avenues you can explore can be taking your macro photographs with different lenses or manipulating them afterward with software. The photo below is of a plastic model turbine engine.

Photo 5 macro photography ideas software

I liked all of the details revealed in the close-up, but the original photo had remnants of a yellowish glue from its assembly. I used Nik Silver Efex Pro 2’s Low Key filter to convert it to a black and white image.

In addition to these five ways of getting creative ideas for macro photography, there is a wealth of information available to you for creativity, imagination, and brainstorming techniques in general which you can apply to your photography.

Some of the books by Michael Michalko, Amy Wallace, and Austin Kleon are worthwhile reading if you are looking to apply creativity to your photography or any another aspect of your life.

Have a blast and share any comments or images you have below.

The post 5 Tips for Getting Fresh Ideas for Macro Photography by Bruce Lovelace appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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4 Ways to Use the Warp Command in Photoshop

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Warp command in Photoshop, showing the grid over a selection and the presets

What is Warp?

The Warp command was introduced in Photoshop CS2 along with Vanishing point feature. This meant an image, or part of one, could now be distorted or transformed into a new shape. You may have seen popular online tutorials where the warp command was used to create a realistic page curl in Photoshop?

How useful is the Warp Command as a photographer?

Honestly, to answer this question it will depend on the type of photography you specialize in, and to what degree you post-process your images. For a lot of photographers, the less time in front of the computer editing the better. I include myself in this group. That said, I rarely get that perfect in-camera shot that requires minimal processing after the fact. If you composite images together, do a lot of retouching, or you just simply want to know what this command does in Photoshop, then read on. I’ve put together five tips that you may find useful.

How do you access the Warp Command?

To access the Warp Command, you need to first have a selection or a layer selected (you cannot use your background layer, you must duplicate it first). Go up to Edit>Transform>Warp.

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Alternatively, CMD+T on a Mac or CTRL+T on a PC. This brings up the Free Transform command. Click on the Warp mode button in the tool Options bar or right click within the Free Transform bounding box.


A grid with nine boxes appears with control points on the perimeter. The four corner square control points are similar to the bezier handles when using the pen tool. As you drag on those points, the handles appear. You can drag on the other points, and within the boxes to change the shape of the selection in any direction. There are also a number of built-in presets (see below).



Are the Puppet Tool or Liquify Filter alternatives to the Warp Command?

Well not exactly. Both have their merits when it comes to distortion but each have their own characteristics and differ again to the Warp Command. The Puppet Warp tool allows you to place points or pins systematically around a displayed mesh (polygons) which will create bending or warping points. The object or subject selected must be isolated from the background first. Puppet Warp can also be applied to a Smart Object.

The Liquify Filter will work on ordinary layers but If you convert your layer to a Smart Object, then the Liquify Filter won’t work in Photoshop versions up to CS6. However, Liquify does work with Smart Objects in Photoshop CC. The Liquify filter takes a bit of getting used to. When you open it, a separate dialog box appears, like a plug-in of sorts with its own set of warp tools. It works on pushing and pulling the pixels around, similar to a smear effect.

4 Ways of using the Warp Command

1. Wrapping

The Warp Command is great for wrapping text, logos, or even textures around cylindrical objects such as bottles to give it that 3-D look. For example, a bike has a lot of cylindrical shapes on it, the front forks, frame, etc. So any logos on a bike will look bendy to fit the shape it sits on. In the photo of the BMX bike which I deliberately shot wide(focal length-10mm) to emphasize the cylindrical shape of the tube. I removed part of the existing logo to illustrate how I wrapped some text around the front tube. Type ‘BMX’ on a separate later and convert this to a smart object. You will need to do this to access the custom mode of the Warp Command. By using the existing Logo as a guide, I was able to warp ‘BMX’ in place. I then applied the Blend-if layer style to the underlying layer to give it a more authentic look.


A wide angle shot of a BMX type bike


I removed the centre part of the logo on the bike


I wrapped the letters ‘BMX’ around the front tube area of the bike using the Warp Command


Holding down the ALT key on Mac, Option key on a PC, will split the slider arrows to get a finer adjustment.

The Warp Command can also be used to wrap texture around an object.


I used an image of a Peacock to add texture and realism to the owl’s leg

2. Duplicating a similar element in an image and distorting it to make it look different

When you use the Clone Tool to replicate a similar object or element in an image, it does a fantastic job. However, if you don’t want the cloned look, this is where the Warp Command is great for changing the shape of a duplicated element in an image, to give the appearance of a completely different one. I found this particularly useful when I used the same heron claw to replicate four Owl’s talons.


I used the same heron claw to manipulate four owl talons

3. Retouching – adding elements

Retouching an image can mean many things. Usually, it means removing or taking away parts of a photo so that the final image looks better. This includes removing imperfections and blemishes from a model or subject’s skin. It could also mean removing distracting elements from a photo, and the list goes on.

But what about adding to an image to enhance it? For example, you have a shot of a subject but you want to add volume to his or her hair. You can do this using the Warp Command by selecting part of their existing hair. Put the selection on a separate layer, make sure you convert that layer to a Smart Object (working non-destructively). You will then need to apply a layer mask to hide hard seams or obvious cloned areas.


Photo of a jacket with a fur hood


This is the same jacket but I’ve added more volume of fur to the hood by using the Warp Command

4. Retouching – removing things

The Liquify Filter is a choice for many retouchers. It is very powerful, but as I mentioned before, it does take a bit of mastering and Smart Objects cannot be applied to this filter, unless of course you use Photoshop CC. I find the Warp Command quick and easy to use. It does a great job of slimming areas on the body. Sometimes due to the angle of how a model or subject was photographed, it might require that you raise or lower a shoulder, for example to give symmetry or balance to the shot.

Take the Love Handles for example in the photo below. Make a quick selection using the Marquee Tool. Use CMD+J on a Mac or CTRL+J on a PC. This puts the selection on its own layer. Right click on the layer and convert it to a Smart Object. Hit CMD+T/CTRL+T, to bring up the Free Transform Tool, then click on the Warp mode button in the Options bar. Distort just enough to keep it real. Add a layer mask to hide any hard seams.


Even sport models can have slight ‘Love Handles’


Love Handles removed using Warp


Careful nudging of the Warp Command to get rid of Love Handles

When using any of the distortion tools or commands in Photoshop, do so with restraint. A slight adjustment is often all that is required. It is this small change that can sometimes add a big difference to your image.

Just for a bit of fun, I produced the animated cow.gif to illustrate a slight adjustment where I made the nose smaller. I then went on to show no restraint by enlarging the eyes and making the jowls slimmer!


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In this short video tutorial by Tuts+ you can get a quick overview of how the basic sliders work in Adobe Camera Raw. It has a great demonstration using a white to black grayscale image which shows what each slider does, and which parts of your image each are affecting. There is also a good indicator of why you want to be shooting RAW format instead of JPG, showing the same corrections done on both formats and the difference the the larger RAW file makes.

Enjoy the video:

For more Photoshop tips check out our post-processing section. The Basic sliders in Lightroom do pretty much the same thing, but they have slightly different names. Give it a try yourself and see if this helps make sense of the basic panel.

The post Understanding the Basic Sliders in Adobe Camera Raw by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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In this article I talk about a technique used in all types of business, but of course will relate it to photography. To make it easy to understand, I am going to discuss the technique specifically for wedding photographers. But it is important to know that the technique you will learn in this article can work for any type of photography niche or genre.

Wedding cake

Utilizing a business partner vendor list to grow your business

How so? By creating something of value to offer website visitors, which will in turn get them to give you their name and email address. When someone offers you contact information in exchange for something of value, they are now considered a lead. From there you have the potential to convert that lead into a paying customer.

Let’s break it down piece by piece. I’ll start with a list and then talk about each individually:

  1. Create a PDF document that is attractive to your potential customers. This PDF is intended to act as a conversion tool – a free offer.
  2. The offer utilizes a business partner vendor list by recommending preferred and partner vendors. This helps add more value to the download and also improves the relationship between you and the vendor.
  3. Create a way for site visitors to enter their contact information on a landing page, a magnetic spot like blog sidebars, or a pop-up box.
  4. Capture emails of website visitors, which then turn into quality leads (because they downloaded something specifically for their intention of hiring a photographer).
  5. The vendors included in the document are also likely to further promote the document.
  6. You now have huge potential of converting those leads into customers, via phone calls and email marketing.

Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of each of those points. As mentioned earlier, this is geared to wedding photography. So if you are not a wedding photographer, take all I am saying and relate it to the type of photography you do.

Step one – create a PDF

The first step is to come up with a PDF document which you can offer for free on your website. Ideally it will contain everything that your potential customer would need to know about planning a wedding. It’s important that the document is branded to your business, and has an attractive design overall. You can use your letterhead (with logo of course), or a pre-made design for the task at hand (which I have made available) or templates from Keynote or PowerPoint. The important part is that your branding is in the design and that it won’t turn people away by looking unprofessional.

Photographer free pdf

Step two – utilize your list

Inside the PDF categorize it for different types of vendors. You may have a page of florists, and another for wedding venues that you recommend. Ideally make each a two-page spread if possible. One page would provide the information on the vendors, and the other page would contain your photography examples related to the vendor. Think of it like a portfolio of your best work combined with your recommended vendor list.

The beauty of this is that you are getting your photographs in front of couples planning their wedding. Your brand is there as well vendors, which the couple might also hire.

Step three – create the opt-in

Next up is creating a way convert website visitors into leads. This is a bigger section due to the complexity. By this point you will have already created the PDF, which leads will download. But the process of gathering the email addresses confuses many people.

The first step is to use an email marketing service like Mailchimp or Aweber. Both are fantastic. I personally use Mailchimp for its ease of use and pricing.

Both services offer a feature, which can automatically send emails based on certain actions. In Mailchimp it is called Automation, in Aweber it’s called Follow Up Series. There you will set up an automated email, which will be sent to anyone who signs up for the “Free PDF” list that you will have created. Definitely name the list something you will recognize immediately when logging into your account.

These services allow you to attach a PDF to an email, which is what I recommend. But if you are using a service that does not allow attachments then create a Dropbox or Google Drive link and include that in the email.

This is where the fun part starts. There are many places where you can place what’s called an opt-in form. That means, a form which asks a website visitors for a name and email address, or any other information you want to request like a phone number.
Note that the less information you request the higher your conversion rate will be – meaning, the more people will fill it out. So I typically ask for email addresses only (you will see why later).

The first place you want to place the opt-in form is on a landing page specific to the free PDF. The benefit of having a unique page for the document is connected to SEO (search engine optimization). A dedicated page can be filled with additional text and image content optimized to rank well on search engines. It can also increase the conversion rate (percentage of people who sign up compared to number of page visits) for the opt-in because there are no distractions from blog articles or other content available only your website. Services like Mailchimp and Aweber offer embed codes for your opt-in forms. You use it like you were copying and pasting HTML from YouTube, Vimeo or 500px.

The second place you can have the opt-in form is on your blog’s sidebar, or in a pop-up form. These are called magnetic areas because they draw the attention of a visitor’s eye directly to them. There are a few ways you can do the magnetic opt-ins. For sidebars you can use the standard embed code. Some services offer pop-up codes as well. For WordPress sites I recommend services like OptinMonster or Pippity, which come with many design options as well as timing and split testing so you can see what converts the best. I have helped a many photographers with this method.


Step four – leads versus quality leads

Now that you have the PDF done, and everything set up for visitors to convert into leads – it is important to note the difference between a lead and a quality lead.

A lead is anyone who contacts you about anything. An example of a standard lead is a couple who contacts you for a price list. They might be interested in your services, but there is no way of knowing how interested they really are, how far along they are in their wedding planning, or how serious they are about you.

A quality lead is someone who has taken specific actions to do research and wants valuable information. For example, a quality lead would be a couple downloading your free PDF because it contains information specific to their needs. They understand that it will contain every vendor they need to know about to plan their wedding.

Quality leads have a much higher chance of converting into paying customers over standard leads. That’s because a quality lead is already more interested in your services than a standard lead.

Step five – inform your vendors

If the couple books a venue listed on your PDF, then it is highly possible they will mention you as a referral. Your vendor partners will appreciate that. So, be sure to send a copy to your partners so they know what you are offering potential customers. Then they are also more likely to promote it, and promote you.

Your best sales people are your brand advocates. Those are your customers and your business partners.

Biz partners

Step six – converting to customers

You have your free PDF and are converting site visitors into leads. You are utilizing an email marketing service as recommended. Next is where it really comes into play.

I mentioned earlier that I typically only ask for email addresses. That is because with email marketing you can learn more about your leads, so names and phone numbers are NOT essential. In fact, you may find that through nurturing those leads via email marketing that you will have more people contacting you than you contacting them.

After doing some testing, I came to the conclusion that sending one email a week to my list is most effective. You may find yourself in a different situation. But having an email marketing service that tracks statistics will help you identify the optimal sending scenario – days and times.

One effective trick I find for converting leads into paying customers is to ask a question, which warrants a reply. Whatever the question might be, you will find people replying. That is where the conversation really takes off. Something like this perhaps:

As a wedding photographer I am always so curious what types of gowns brides pick.  Please reply with the type of dress you will be wearing at your wedding.  Or if you already picked it out, I’d love to see a photo!

What have you learned

To wrap-up this article, I want to restate what you learned here and what your first step should be.

Your business partner vendors are more important than ever to your business. You can foster those relationships online, and offline, by creating a free PDF as described here. That PDF will be used as leverage for converting website visitors into quality leads. Using email-marketing you can nurture those leads and convert them into paying customers. All with a little help from a simple PDF that includes super valuable information.

New family

Once again, I used wedding photography as an example, so if you are not a wedding photographer then be sure to think hard about your vendor list and what your clients would need. Then start creating that document.

Hop to it!

Disclaimer: dPS does not agree or disagree with any recommendations made by the author. The author receives no extra compensation for these referrals and benefits in no way. He only recommends them because these are the services he uses – do your own due diligence when selecting any service for your business.

The post 6 Steps to Growing Your Photography Business Using a Recommended Vendors List by Scott Wyden Kivowitz appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Kupo Grip Master C-Stand Review

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I’ve been using studio lights for a couple of years now, I’ve used a few different brands with all sorts of different modifiers, from the basic softboxes that your less expensive lighting kits might come with, to my current favourite, the 2 meter Octa from

The one consistency with bundled lighting kits is that they mostly all come with a set of lightweight stands that, for the most part, are great and will certainly do what you need them to do when you’re starting out and they’ll get you a long way with clever use of sandbags and counterweights. But when you start using bigger, heavier modifiers on these stands, you may find it’s time to get yourself a dedicated “big” stand.

Enter stage left, Kupo Grip. (Thanks to the crew at ProTog for sourcing what I was after – also available on Amazon)

I wanted a stand that was going to take anything I’d ever use, I wanted it to be modular and easy to put up and tear down, I’m a one man show and setting up and packing down needs to be easy! (I’m not lazy, honest) so after visiting the crew out at ProTog in Melbourne, I settled on the 40″ C-Stand (C for Century, folks) with the Kupo Turtle base. The base and the upright pole come apart for easy packing and transporting.


They come in 20″ or 40″ and in black or silver (I went for the black option, for no real reason…)


It isn’t always the strength (or weight) of the stand riser that gives you problems, it might be when you first get a 70cm beauty dish and put it on the front of your studio light and then find that the locking mechanism that holds the stand’s legs in place just doesn’t have the wherewithal to hold it all up. Maybe you simply need something more sturdy to hold a light and Kupo Convi Clamp (like the little beast below) or something similar like a Magic arm that you sit a Tether Tools Aero on… Anyway, you get the point – one solid workhorse of a stand has made all of these things much easier for me.


The other main reason I love my C-Stands is that with the legs the way they are, sticking out low to the ground and horizontally to the riser pole, you can load them up with some big heavy sandbags and use them in most any weather. If you’ve ever had even a single flash on a lightstand blow over and smash on the ground, you’re most likely nodding along right now! I have a special umbrella at home that’s kind of flat on one side – as a reminder. Use a solid stand OR bag your lightweight stands.


No sand bags, a lightweight stand in a light breeze… An accident waiting to happen.

As I mentioned earlier, with the ‘Turtle base’ they’re easy to pack down but obviously not as easy as a small telescopic light stand or a tripod with a long neck and you might not want to fly a whole lot with them, but when you need a heavyweight and you want innovative, maybe take a look at the Kupo Grip Master C-Stand.

Kupo Grip gear (well, my stands at least, I’ve not checked ALL of their products) comes with a two year warranty which, if you register, gets you an extra three years giving you five years warranty.

My summary, if you will… They’re priced nicely, they have a really solid build and a great finish, I can’t fault the things – that’s five big smiley stars from me.

The post Kupo Grip Master C-Stand Review by Sime appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Basic Portrait Processing in Lightroom

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Over the past few years I have learned a great deal about doing portraits, especially of young kids. I think it’s because I get so much enjoyment out of these types of shoots that I end up doing them more, though at some point it hardly seems fair because I wonder if I’m having more fun than the children whose pictures I am taking.

While each session is unique, I have developed my own style (which, in many ways, will always be a work in progress as I continue to learn new things) when it comes to both the shooting and editing process, and I thought it might help those who are new to this type of photo session to see a few examples along with an explanation of the creative choices I made along the way. I do all my edits in Lightroom, and while I sometimes need to do some more in-depth adjustments in Photoshop, 98% of all the pictures I give to clients don’t need anything more than what Lightroom can do. If you don’t have this software, I highly recommend it!


Get it in camera first

Before I get to the editing portion of this piece, I need to clarify one thing: no amount of editing can make up for initial on-location mistakes, which is why it’s so critical to get the initial picture as good as you can right from the beginning. This involves things like choosing a good place to take the photos, finding the right time of day, and communicating with your subjects (and their parents, if you are working with kids). Along with that are your own creative choices such as your aperture and focal length, the composition of your shot, the angle from which you choose to shoot, the lighting manipulation you use, and a host of other elements that have an enormous impact on the final outcome of any given photo session.

Of course if you work in a studio you have much greater control over some of these items, but at the end of the day a poorly-shot initial photo will remain exactly that, no matter how much you try to edit it in Lightroom or Photoshop. I say all this to make sure you understand that editing tools are not a magical cure-all to make all your pictures shine. And the best way to make sure your photos are as good as they can be from the beginning is to focus not on the editing, but on basics like exposure, lighting, framing, and composition. It also helps to shoot in RAW, not JPEG, in order to maximize the amount of data you can work with on each individual photograph.


Basic portrait processing in Lightroom

I shot this picture with my Nikon D7100 at 50mm, f/1.8, ISO 200. Since the sun was setting and I was not working with off-camera strobes, my lighting options were a bit limited. I had his father stand behind me with my Neewer 43-inch reflector to capture a bit more of the available light. (If you don’t have one of these, I recommend getting one. They are quite cheap and a fantastic addition to any camera setup.)


The initial photo was a bit underexposed, as shown in the histogram as well.

I also chose to frame the child with the green bush in the background, and of the half-dozen images I got of this particular pose I liked this one in which he was not quite looking at the camera. Often when working with kids I have found that the best images are a bit more candid as opposed to posed, but again, this is a creative choice you will have to make for yourself. Finally, I made sure to shoot this in RAW to take advantage of as much data as possible in order to correct some things back at my computer. Right away you probably noticed that the image is a bit too dark, which was the first thing I fixed in Lightroom.

A quick look at the histogram showed me that overall I got things pretty good in camera, but to make it look a bit better I increased the exposure by 1.2 stops, as well as cropped it a bit to focus the viewer’s attention on the boy’s face without the distracting red building in the background.


First edits: Cropped and increased the exposure by 1.2 stops.

So far so good, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. While the overall brightness was better, the colorization was still a bit off. The initial white balance settings determined by my camera were 4900K and -9 tint, but I wanted something a bit warmer so I increased the temperature to 5700K and changed the tint to -7.


Second edits: adjust white balance and tint.

I liked this much better, but there were still some things that needed fixing. Now that the overall photo was properly exposed, there were some parts that were a bit too bright which was handled by lowering the highlights slider by -19. After that I increased the saturation to +6 and added +4 contrast as well.


Third edits: lower highlights, increase saturation and contrast.

I was much happier with this, but it’s important to remember that all of the changes you make to a photo in post-production are based on your own creative ideas and there is no right or wrong way to do things. Some people like images that are desaturated, some prefer selective coloring (i.e. one part is colorized or over-saturated while the rest of the image is more black-and-white), others use cropping to achieve different effects. The sky really is the limit. One thing I like to do from time to time is add a subtle vignette effect (using Post Crop Vignette at -26, Highlight Priority), which I did here to result in the final image I gave to the client.


Final edits: add a bit of an edge vignette, other minor color adjustments.

You might look at this and think the colorization is a bit off, or the vignette should be stronger, or the entire framing should be different, but the beautiful part of photography is that we all have our own opinions on how to do things. I was happy and so were my clients, which is all that matters to me.


In this photo I used the Brush tool to selectively desaturate the orange strip on the boy’s shirt, and the Radial Filter to add a more precise vignette.

I do think it’s important to maintain a sense of reality in photos, though, and not let the editing get out of hand. It’s easy to feel like an all-powerful genie when you start playing around with the tools in Lightroom, Photoshop, or other editing software, but my rule of thumb when editing is to try to make the final image represent what I saw, when I initially took the photo. In the above image, for example, the orange strip on the boy’s shirt was a bit distracting, so I was able to selectively desaturate it quite a bit with Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush tool. This, along with other edits similar to the ones described above, resulted in a photo that my client was quite pleased with.

My point is that it’s great to have these editing tools available but If I start to lean too heavily on the saturation, bump up the clarity to absurd levels, or making dozens of small changes with the brush tool, I usually end up with photos that bear little resemblance to the original and come across as emotionless and empty.

What about you? What style have you developed over the years, and what approach do you use when you sit down to edit? Post your thoughts in the comments section below.

The post Basic Portrait Processing in Lightroom by Simon Ringsmuth appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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I do not believe that in photography there are absolute rules of composition, but it is undeniable that certain compositions work better than others.

Why? Probably because our brain is the result of millions of years of evolution, and as in two dots and a line we recognize a face (you don’t believe me? Have a look here.), in the same way we recognize some images as more pleasant to look at than others.

So let’s look at a few tricks to keep in mind during your next visit to the seaside.

Start following rules

Before trying to break rules, try to follow them. Start with the Rule of Thirds: divide your image into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. Then place important compositional elements along these lines or their intersections. The result will be that your photo becomes more balanced. In a seascape shot, for example try to put a Lighthouse on one of the vertical lines and the horizon on one of the horizontal ones.

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Important elements (the lighthouse and the horizon) are positioned along the lines and at the intersections

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Choose the leading actor

If you follow the Rule of Thirds, you’ll never again put the horizon in the middle of your image, and that’s a great thing unless you have a perfect symmetrical reflection.

Decide next if the leading actor of your seascape is the sky or the sea, and place the horizon line accordingly. For example if the leading actor is the sea, the image portion under the horizon line will be 2/3 of the whole image.

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The rock formation in the foreground is really interesting with this tide. I wanted to emphasize it and so I give ? o the image to the sea in this the image.

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Check the horizon

There is nothing more annoying than seeing a crooked horizon. Use the built-in level of your camera, or for few cents buy an external hot shoe level (the yellow one with an air bubble inside). Why? Because every time you fix the horizon in post-production you will lose a portion of the image. Finally, remember that if you publish an image with a crooked horizon, the horizon will be the leading actor of your image.

Choose your focal length wisely

Sometimes you might believe that a certain focal length is perfect for the scene you have in front of your eyes. Think wider! If you’re using a 24mm lens, try with an 18mm or a 21mm lens – don’t be lazy. Remember that in post-production you can always crop your 21mm image to a 24mm image, but you’ll never be able to do the opposite.

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A 21mm lens was perfect here as it let me put inside the frame the spring flowered plant on the bottom right.

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Use leading lines

An image is like a book, and to really enjoy it you should be able to read it from the begin to the end. To do that, try to use lines and curves to guide the eyes through a path. You can use a road or the natural line of the coast for example. Keep in mind that you should avoid interrupting that path because it’s like skipping a line in a book; you lose the sense of the story that you’re telling. Also try to avoid lines that guide the eyes of the reader outside the image. You want attention given to what is inside the image, not to what is outside.

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I used the road to drive the eye of the viewer from the margin of the image to the main character.

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Avoid straight objects in the margin

One common problem of wide angle lenses is the perspective distortion when the camera is not aligned perpendicularly to the subject. In other words buildings like lighthouses appear to be falling if you (correctly) place one according to the rule of thirds. Well, the bad news is that there is no an universal solution. The best one is obviously to buy a lens with excellent optical quality, but they are very expensive and in any case the perfect lens does not exist. So we need to correct the distortion in post-production. There are a thousand ways to do that, but most of them require an image crop. For that reason, if you have a straight object in your frame, don’t put it exactly on a vertical line of the Rule of Thirds, but slightly closer to the image center. In that way, after correcting the distortion, your lighthouse will be nearer the vertical line of the third.

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If I had put the small village too close to the frame edge, it would be affected by perspective distortion and to correct it in post production probably I would have lost the nice leading line with a crop.

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Add dimension and scale

When I started taking seascape pictures, I was a purist: no humans or human artifacts were allowed inside my frame. If humans are still not allowed to join, sometimes I think it’s a good idea to put some artifacts in my composition. The main reason is that even if you exactly the dimensions of the rock formations in front of you, viewers of your image may have no idea if they have never visited that place. When you look at a image, your brain tries immediately to define the dimensions comparing the unknown to something known – help it and use something like a lighthouse, bridge, church to give an idea of scale. A reef is even more beautiful if it is perceived as high and massive.

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The lighthouse give a dimension to the other rocks in the image (try to cover the lighthouse with your finger.)

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Use negative space

I’m a big fan of using negative space. But what exactly is that? Easy – it is nothing but the space around, and between, the subject of an image. Yes, basically they are “the” nothing. So, how can that be useful? Negative space is perfect to emphasize the subject. A lonely church on the top of a cliff is even more brave if it seems that it challenges the vastness of the sea.

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This old church reminded me a solitary sentinel who scrutinizes the sea.

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Have fun

Finally, remember that every rule is made to be broken. If the horizon is not perfectly in one third because the sky lacks of clouds, put it above the upper horizontal line of rule of thirds. If you need to put a lighthouse near the margin of the frame to use leading lines, just do it.

The real goal of a picture is not to follow the rules, but to arouse emotions in the viewer. Keep this in mind and there is no composition that can overcome you.

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The lighthouse is on the right vertical line of rule of thirds. Unfortunately I didn’t have a wider lens with me and I had to put it there in order to use leading lines in the foreground and not to cut the nice wave trails in the upper left side of the image.

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The post Tips for Better Composition of Seascape Photographs by Francesco Gola appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to Crop Like a Boss in Photoshop

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I have a habit of shooting for the crop (see my previous article ‘No Telephoto lens No Problem – Shoot for the crop‘) which often means that my final vision is a 4:2 proportion, or even a 4:1 panorama style image, instead of the most common 3:2 that is the default for most digital cameras.

With Photoshop’s latest crop tool this has never been easier, so let me show you how to crop like a boss!

How to crop like a boss in Photoshop

Step 1 – Load the Crop Tool in Photoshop

With your image open in Photoshop, press the ‘C’ button on your keyboard. This loads the crop tool; you’ll know this by the appearance of the marquee (square) which has been drawn around your image. You can now begin to draw the crop shape you want simply by dragging the corners of the crop marquee, but I’m going to show you a cleaner way to do this.

How to Crop in Photoshop CC

Step 2 – Choose an Aspect Ratio

If you want to keep your existing aspect ratio but simply want a smaller crop you can hold down the shift key while dragging one of the corners of the marquee. But, what if you want to get creative and want a different aspect ratio?

We do this by clicking in the very first drop down menu in the crop tool properties (usually displayed at the top under your main Photoshop menu).

Photoshops Crop Tool

For now I’ll specify an aspect ratio of 2:1 and I do this by entering the number 2 in the ‘width’ box and the number 1 in the ‘height’ box.

2:1 Ration in Photoshop crop tool

I’ve also specified the ‘Rule of Thirds’ grid (image below) because it closely matches the grid that I use on my camera when shooting. There are several to choose from, pick a grid that works for you.

Rule of Thirds grid in Photoshops crop tool

What About Custom Sizes?

You may decide that you’d rather not conform to an industry norm so you’re free to crop to a custom size and ratio. Either leave the aspect ratio boxes empty or press Clear if you’ve already played around. You can then drag the marquee tool to whatever size or shape you like. If however, you intend to send your image to a print lab, you’ll discover that they charge more for custom sizes so it’s often a good idea to choose the closest aspect ratio to your artistic vision. I just saved you $$$$, you’re welcome.

Step 3 – Place the Crop

The really cool thing about Photoshop crop tool is that now you’ve specified your aspect ratio you can then move the image around within those crop constraints. All I do is click on the image and drag to position. In this case all I’m doing is dragging the image slightly higher so that the bridge is perfectly centred in the middle box of the grid.

Drag Photoshops crop tool to place your crop

Step 4 – Now Experiment

Before you decide to apply the crop, it’s worth playing around a little to see if you can spot a better composition. For fun, I’m going to reverse the aspect ratio by entering 1 in the width box and 2 in the height box. This gave me a crop like this:

Vertical Crop in Photoshop

Step 5 – Apply the Crop

When you’re happy with the crop you’ve found, it’s time to apply it. You need to decide on whether or not you’d like to commit to this crop or if you’d like to keep the ‘cropped’ pixels. There’s a checkbox entitled ‘Delete Cropped Pixel’ which is ticked by default. Simply apply the crop by hitting ‘enter’ on your keyboard.

Delete cropped pixels

If you uncheck this box it doesn’t really crop your image, it just displays the cropped version while you view it in Photoshop. This is called ‘non-destructive’ editing.

With this option, you can save the image after you’ve cropped and although you’ll be looking at the cropped version in Photoshop, the original is still intact. If you want to recall the original (uncropped) image, just open the image file, load the crop tool and then enter the original aspect ratio to revert back to its original crop state (3:2 in most cases).

Confused? Yeah, it sounds kind of silly if you’re not used to Photoshop logic. I personally prefer to have the ‘Delete Cropped Pixel’ checked and then I simply save the cropped image as a separate TIFF file, leaving the original image unsaved and untouched. That’s just good old fashioned file keeping.

To Cancel the Crop

If you get nervous and want out of the crop tool, just hit your ESC key repeatedly until the crop tool vanishes. You can also press the M key to go back to the ‘Rectangular Marquee Tool’ which cancels the crop tool quicker.

How to Use Aspect Ratios

There’s a brilliant article by Elliot Hook called Aspect Ratios in Landscape Photography where he explains all of the standard aspect ratios that most print labs can handle. Try some of the ones that he mentions to see if they work for your image crops.

Try it with Your Images

I’d love to see some great examples of images that you have cropped using this technique. I often say that you can learn a lot about composition simply from carefully cropping existing images to create new compositions. It’s fun and easy to get busy with the crop tool and now you’ve learned how to crop like a boss!

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