Archive for March, 2015

Sometimes an expression can cut you like a knife.

Sometimes an expression can cut you like a knife.

One of the most fascinating things about street photography is that it can be so hard to pinpoint the reasons why one photograph works and another does not.

A good street photograph can be sharp or it can be blurry; it can be in contrasty light or in soft and even light; it can be an energetic scene with layers of people or it can be a quiet shot with nobody in it. It gets further complicated when you start to think about the ideas, moods, and feelings that your images suggest.

Despite this lack of certainty, I believe there are two things that will always improve a candid photograph, and that is a gesture in a subject’s body or an emotion captured on a subject’s face. Both of these elements have the power to be the defining reason that a photograph is great. They can be the basis for an entire image.

When I refer to emotion, I am talking about the look in a person’s face, in their eyes, in their mouth, in their eyebrows, or even in their nose. When I refer to gesture, I am talking about a movement, a stance, an elegance, or any position of a subject’s body that is suggestive in some way.

This image would not have worked without the elegant and suggestive stance in the legs.

This image would not have worked without the elegant and suggestive stance in the legs.

It can be misunderstood that doing street photography well is solely about photographing people that seem to pop out at you in some obvious someway. Maybe this is through a unique fashion or an interesting facial feature. The result is that you see images of people deemed interesting for some reason that don’t seem to be actually doing or thinking anything – they are expressionless and neutral in stride.

Instead of photographing with only the intention of capturing interesting people, try to take this idea further and locate interesting emotions and gestures in all different types of people. I don’t believe that you can differentiate who is more worthy of a photograph based solely on someone’s facial features or clothing. Your most ‘uninteresting’ person aesthetically can give you the best photograph of your life with a single powerful expression. So many compelling moments lie within these expressions and gestures.

So the next time you’re out photographing, pay attention to what you think a person is feeling and work from there out.

NY is filled with nervous people. This image tells the story of the city more than any image of a skyscraper can.

New York is made up of nervous people. To me this image tells the story of the city more than any image of a skyscraper can.

For more street photography tips try these articles:

The post The Importance of Capturing Gesture and Emotion in Street Photography by James Maher appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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If you have ever wondered how to improve your outdoor portraits. Turn off your Smartphone, shuffle your schedule, and make sure you read every single word on this page. Because outdoor portrait lighting secrets will finally be revealed.

Below is an example of one of my typical on-location lighting setups. It consists of a studio strobe with a battery pack and a Westcott 35″ Deep Parabolic Zeppelin modifier.


I am guessing you have most likely stumbled upon this article because you are searching for a way to improve your outdoor portraits. If you would like to capture perfectly exposed images in ambient light, the real secret is to use fill-flash and a light modifier. Sure, if you have a reflector and an assistant you may be able to achieve similar results using only natural light. But in this article, I am going to assume you shoot outdoor portraits by yourself and you are looking for the easiest way to control, and modify the light in your images.

Below is an example of an image taken with the above lighting set up, where I lowered the background exposure with a three stop neutral density filter.


Before we go any further, I just want to caution you, you may find some aspects of this article confusing the first time you read them. So I have included a video tutorial for you to further illustrate the lighting concepts discussed here.

Let’s break it down step by step:

Step #1 – meter the background

Step one is to meter the background area behind your subject, using either a light meter or your in-camera meter. For example, let’s say you metered the background at f/5.6 and you took a test exposure with your camera.

Step #2 – check highlights on the test shot

The second step is to examine your test shot and to make sure there are no blown out highlights in the brightest part of your image. Some DSLR models have a highlight warning indicator that you can enable and you can also view the Histogram to help you decide if your exposure falls within an acceptable range. The reason you are checking for blown out areas, is that once you loose detail in the highlights, the information from that part of the image is lost forever. So adjust your exposure if necessary to ensure you have an accurately exposed image with highlight detail intact.


Step #3 – check highlights on the test shot

Once you are pleased with the background exposure you may find that your subject appears too dark in relation to the background. Your next step is to match the foreground exposure with fill-flash. To do that, you can use either a speedlight or a studio strobe with the light modifier of your choice.

Let’s go into a little more detail. For example, if your background is exposed at f/5.6 then you have to match the same exposure on your subject’s face. Sounds simple right? Here is where you can run into some problems. If you meter the background at f/16 on a sunny day, but the speedlight you are using only meters f/11 at full power – then what do you do? Your subject will appear darker than the background. What are your choices?

In most cases your first impulse would be to raise the shutter speed, but when you’re using strobe lights you are capped at a shutter speed between 1/160 and 1/200th of a second. In some cases you may be able to use high-speed sync, but for the purpose of this article let’s say your maximum shutter speed is 1/200 (your camera’s native flash sync speed). If that is the case, you will have to use a two or three stop neutral density filter to lower the background exposure, so you can match the foreground exposure to the background.

Have I lost you yet? In case you find this concept difficult to grasp, I have included another video tutorial below on outdoor portraits using fill-flash, where I use a three stop neutral density filter to bring down the ambient exposure. In this example that allows me to use a wide open aperture, in combination with fill-flash to create a blurry background effect.

If you are like most people, it will probably take you a little practice until you feel comfortable balancing ambient light and fill-flash. Take your time and have fun with it. Read the article a few times and watch the video tutorials again. Once you have a pretty good grasp of the concepts discussed, head out and practice balancing your exposure. Some people prefer a background exposure that is one to two stops darker than their subject. Experiment with different ratios until you find a look that suits your style.


Please post any questions you have in the comments below.

The post How to Mix Ambient Light and Fill-Flash for Outdoor Portraits by Craig Beckta appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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While a satisfied client is the fuel for further sales and word of mouth, an excited client is the jet engine for your marketing. Unfortunately, many photographers don’t know how to turn regular customers into fans.

In this article you’ll find five simple, time-proven techniques of impressing your photography clients and building a long-lasting relationship from an ordinary photo shoot.

1. Be Professional

01 be professional
Image by niekverlaan

You should portray a professional image of yourself right from the beginning. This doesn’t necessarily involve spending hundreds of dollars on premium graphic design services and printed materials. In today’s world we have to deal with poor customer service too often, so being quick with your replies to client requests is an old yet very effective way to impress people.

Another factor contributing to your professional image is your website. It’s the first thing your clients see when they find you on the Internet, so it’s critically important to keep your site accessible and up-to-date. Don’t forget to update your portfolio and copyright information and make sure your website is mobile-friendly. Update information on your site regularly along with the copyright, share some personal stuff on your blog and “about me” page to show that you’re an open and available person, share your interests to make potential clients feel closer to you even before you meet.

Also, take care of your outfits and your entire appearance. No matter what type of photo shoot you’re heading to, make sure you’re dressed appropriately as it will directly affect whether or not you’ll get future jobs from this shoot. A rule of thumb is to avoid busy and loud clothing in favor of smooth colors and neutral style. Consider your own comfort, but probably more importantly, make your clients feel comfortable with you walking around.

2. Be Helpful, Be an Authority

02 be authority

Image by tpsdave

Give your clients an additional reason to book your service by providing exclusive, helpful information. It can be a blog post on how to dress for different types of photo sessions, or you could organize a workshop for moms on how to take great snaps of their children using a smartphone or a pocket camera. The idea is to figure out your clients’ possible knowledge gaps and fill them.

Not only is this a great way to strengthen relationships with your current customers, but it can also help you establish the reputation of being an experienced, leading professional which works as a charm for attracting qualified leads.

3. Get Creative with Bonuses

Every business is interested in long-term relationships with their customers, and photographers should be no exception. Your loyal clients help you find new client, but what do they get in return? Develop a loyalty program for your customer base. An exclusive discount or a free mini-session just for using your services will definitely leave an impact.

03 give bonuses
Image by GLady

Another neat way to please your loyal audience with an unsolicited bonus is creating a personalized product for them. For instance, with Defrozo you can create custom downloadable client galleries for free. The albums look great on both desktop and mobile screens, and can be built within a couple of minutes. The developers of Defrozo also promise full-featured websites for clients available later this year as the project raises funds on Kickstarter. You could also create a sweet, short video showing some backstage moments using Magisto.

Remember that bonuses don’t have to be monetary. It’s attention and a personal approach that will impress people.

4. Be the guy/girl next door

In other words, get to know what interests you have in common and use this info to customize your approach to the needs of your clients.

Fortunately you can make use of social networks. Not all of your clients will use them or share a lot of their personal details, but you can still get to know people you work with better by simply following their social media updates.

04 be the guy next door
Image by Alejandro Escamilla

Another great way to connect with your clients on a personal level can be seen on the website of well-known wedding photographers Justin and Mary Marantz. They simply listed things they like presented as icons accompanied by funny comments on their About page. That’s the information that turns a “leading destination photographer” into a “guy/girl next door” that understands you in a way no other photographer does, and therefore, can be entrusted to photograph one of the most special days of your life. Genius, huh?

5. Follow Up

Following up is important. When done right, it helps you reinforce relationships with your current clients. Besides, it’s a sure way for you to be recommended more often.

05 follow up
Image by Ginger Quip

It’s not uncommon to send your clients a printed Thank You card, along with a photobook or image pack from their session. You could go further and send them an extra print about a month after. Break the mould of typical follow-up messages that are only sent when a business wants to sell something and only include a note that would remind your client about the fun time you had during the photo shoot. It can work great as a feedback request too.

If sending a physical gift does not fit your budget at the moment, writing a detailed blog post about a specific client’s session is a decent alternative. It won’t cost you a penny, but sincere words shared publicly won’t leave them cold, for sure.


It’s sincerity, passion for what you do, and commitment to quality that motivates people to stick around forever. Is that what you can say about your business approach? Congrats, then, you’ve got that wow-factor to impress your clients. Remember that when creating your next marketing campaign and it will work like a charm.

What’s your number-one marketing tactic you use to impress your clients? Share with the community by leaving a comment below!

The post 5 Simple Yet Clever Ways to Impress Your Photography Clients by Julia May appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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5 Tips for Doing Candid Wedding Photography

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Weddings have changed drastically in the past few years. Couples want more from a wedding these days, they don’t want the traditional, normal photography anymore. They frequently ask for documentary or candid wedding photography because it captures the emotions of not only the couple, but also the guests enjoying themselves without lining them up in front of the camera.

IMG 0072

But, candid photography is so much more than just pointing your camera at people and shooting away to glory. You, as a photographer, need to know and understand the finer nuances involved in candid wedding photography; you need to know how to get good candid shots without people noticing you. Here are five tips to shoot a wedding in a lovely, unobtrusive and candid way which would make the entire task much easier for you.

1. Always be ready

The prime tip for candid wedding photography which I can give is, to be always ready. By that, I mean you must always keep an eye out for moments, and keep that camera ready. Your camera needs to be in your hands and ready to shoot at a moment’s notice. You must set the camera according to the light conditions (settings like the aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, etc.) so that you don’t need to fiddle around with the settings while things happen in front of you. (IMG_7211)

IMG 7211

2. Know your equipment

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen photographers miss the shot while they are trying to change the camera settings. You must know the equipment that you are using, inside out. It helps to gauge the light conditions and set the camera accordingly, so that you don’t miss the events that would warrant a picture. It might very well be helpful to have a smaller camera handy, in addition to that big bulky DSLR, just incase.

IMG 6243

3. Use a telephoto zoom lens

Candid photography is all about taking pictures of the bride, groom, guests, etc., from a distance without them noticing you. Nothing will be more helpful in achieving this than a fairly long telephoto zoom lens. I regularly use lenses like a 100mm, 70-200mm or even a 100-400mm when I need to capture those emotions, those candid moments. You can, of course, use any lens you want (something like a 50mm could be helpful too!). But, since candid photography is all about being unobtrusive and capturing those emotions in a natural way, I would suggest using a zoom lens. What it essentially does is helps maintain the intimacy of the picture being taken, which is so important in wedding photography.

IMG 7210

4. Do not use flash

One sure-fire way of getting people to notice you is to use a flash (whether it be the onboard one, or an external flash gun). Not only this, light from a flash can be so unflattering and boring, to put it simply. If there is a dearth of light, you as a photographer need to find other ways to brighten up the scene that you are photographing, either by opening up the aperture, increasing the ISO, slowing up the shutter (to an acceptable range), etc. I understand that by increasing the ISO a little too much, you might include a fair bit of noise into the picture, but the idea is to capture the moment, and there are times when noise is actually a good thing.

IMG 2346

5. Foresee or plan ahead

As a candid wedding photographer, it is your job to foresee what is going to happen, or at least take your best calculated guess. If possible, I’d suggest you visit the location before the wedding so that you can scout out some good locations for taking pictures. If you are unable to go visit the location beforehand, then at least reach the venue well before the function is to start. That way you can scout out not only some great locations to take pictures from, but you can perhaps even scope out the main rooms that will be used for the wedding and the reception. A little bit of planning goes a long way in getting some great shots.

I hope these top five tips will help you the next time you are out photographing a wedding in a candid, documentary style.

The post 5 Tips for Doing Candid Wedding Photography by Bobby Roy appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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In early February, software company Serif announced the free beta version of Affinity Photo, a Mac-only photo editing program said to rival the likes of other editing tools, including the standards for creative professionals, Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. In this article, I’ll walk through the public beta version of Affinity Photo and describe some pros and cons to using this new software.

Affinity Photo Basics

Affinity Photo editing software for MacAt the moment, Affinity Photo beta is available as a free online download and is compatible with Apple OSX Lion 10.7.5, and up. Some key features that move Affinity up in the ranks include support for CMYK color, RAW file processing, 16-bit editing, 64-bit Photoshop plug-in compatibility, ICC color management, and LAB color. A few other noteworthy tools include Affinity Photo’s Inpainting feature, which is essentially the equivalent of Adobe content-aware fill, and real-time editing that will apply edits instantly without the need to render a preview.

It’s uncertain when Affinity Photo’s full version will launch, but when it does it will be available for purchase in the Mac App Store for about $49.99. A Windows/PC version of the app is said to be in works, but again no solid timeline is available.

Pro: Speed and reliability

The first feature of the tool that really stood out was its speed and reliability. Affinity Photo is extremely fast and it never once crashed during the seven times I used it, which is impressive for a beta version. The tool’s speed is accredited to it being built on an entirely new and modern codebase, unlike Adobe Photoshop, which recently celebrated its 25 year anniversary and thus has been built on architecture that is also a couple decades old.

Con: Default RAW file conversion

One of the most striking differences that I immediately noticed was the default adjustment that Affinity Photo made to my RAW image when I first imported it. While these defaults could likely be adjusted to taste, I was surprised at how drastically Affinity altered my image when all I did was import it.

Affinity Photo editing software for Mac

Pro: Easy access to basic photo editing tools

The interface, and ease of use, is where Affinity Photo really shines. Despite being a longtime Photoshop user, I’ll admit that its layout can be overly complicated, presenting too many tools that are beyond the scope of basic photo edits. While Affinity’s interface definitely borrows some features from Photoshop, its basic layout is relatively straightforward and easy to understand without requiring a ton of customization. The top bar below the menu shows all of the basic details of your photo (file format, ISO, shutter speed, aperture, etc.), which is something that seemed rather hidden and hard to find in Photoshop.

Basic editing tools are presented in the right hand panel under the histogram, the tools are nicely labeled, and easy to adjust with sliders. There is also a History tab that, in the same way that Photoshop does, keeps track of every edit, making it easy to track and reverse any changes. Hardcore photo retouchers might find these editing tools to be lacking, but for beginners or photographers in need of basic edits, these tools will get the job done in a straightforward manner.

Affinity Photo editing software for Mac

As a photographer who shoots almost exclusively in RAW, I’ve grown accustomed to the seamless integration of Camera RAW with Photoshop and Lightroom’s smooth handling of RAW image conversion. The way that Affinity handles RAW editing took a bit of troubleshooting, but was straightforward when all was understood.

Initial RAW Editing Tools

When you first open a RAW file into Affinity, there are distinctly fewer editing options and adjustments to choose from. The Basic tab offers easy access to make basic adjustments to white balance, exposure, contrast, shadows and highlights, clarity, vibrance, and black points. What was curiously missing from this panel were saturation and tint control. The Lens tab offers adjustments for lens correction, chromatic aberration reduction, vignettes, and defringing. The Details tab allows for detail refinement, noise reduction, and noise addition. The Tones tab is where you can adjust curves, split toning, and black and white image conversion. In this mode, the left hand panel also has a vertical tool bar reminiscent of Photoshop’s, but when editing RAW files, it is noticeably much sparser containing just 10 tools versus the 20+ tools in Photoshop.

Unlocking the Full Editing Menu

In order to unleash Affinity Photo’s full set of editing tools, it’s essential to click the small Develop button in the upper left hand corner of the RAW image editing window. This will transform Affinity’s interface dramatically to more closely resemble that of Photoshop. If you work exclusively with JPGs, this step will automatically be done for you upon the uploading of the JPG image, but this is an extra step when working with RAW files that to me was not so intuitive.

Affinity Photo editing software for Mac

Within the full Affinity Photo interface, you no longer get the image EXIF data in the menu bar, but instead a full row of icons that offer shortcuts to quick edit features such as auto white balance, contrast, and color. There are also several icons on the right that describe different personas such as Liquify, Develop and Macro Persona. A couple of these were not yet available in thw beta version, but clicking on the Liquify Persona offered just about the same editing tools and capabilities that Photoshop’s liquify feature does. For the sake of demonstration, the below image shows off the use of Affinity’s Liquify Twirl Tool, which was intuitive and easy to use.

Affinity Photo editing software for Mac

Affinity Photo editing software for Mac

Note that the left hand tool bar is significantly longer offering; paint brushes, clone tools, dodging and burning, text overlays, and much more. The right hand editing tool panel is also laid out differently with tabs including Adjustment, Layers, Effects, and Styles. Want to add a Gaussian blur or 3D effect to your image? Just head over to the Effects tab and check the box next to the desired effect, and it is instantly applied as opposed to hunting around menus or creating an action as you would do in Photoshop.

Affinity Photo editing software for Mac

Closing Thoughts

It’s not often that a platform emerges to go head-on with Adobe, but so far Affinity Photo is setting itself up as a professional-grade app. While there are many high level features for advanced photo editing, there are also lots of basic photo editing tools that are intuitively positioned, making Affinity much more approachable for beginning or amateur photographers.

Whatever the fate of Affinity Photo, the fact that companies like Serif are working on platforms to advance the process of photo editing adds healthy competition to an industry that has long been dominated by big players like Adobe and will hopefully give photographers more options in the future.

Have you tested out Affinity beta yet? If so, what are your thoughts about what works well, and what could be improved?

The post Overview of the New Affinity Photo Editing Software by Suzi Pratt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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The more you experiment with off-camera flash, the more you realize that many lighting modifiers are pretty large in size. From softboxes to beauty dishes to umbrellas, many take up space not only in your camera equipment bags, but also on site at a photo shoot. This may be a small price to pay for the dramatic impact these modifiers can have on the resulting image, but sometimes you just want a really compact lighting modifier that can produce great results. One of the answers to this problem is the new Flash Disc by Fstoppers.

Flash Disc Product 02

A handy little device made to fit speedlights, the Flash Disc was created by Lee Morris of Fstoppers with the intent of being a portable softbox. It appears at first to be a little white reflector, as it folds up like one into a compact size that can fit into a large pocket or small bag. However, the Flash Disc is actually more like two reflectors that sandwich your speedlight. When a flash is fired, the light bounces between the two reflectors, creating a softer spread of light. Available for purchase online at a price of $49.99, the first batch of Flash Discs were so popular they sold out and supplies were only recently replenished.

Flash Disc Product

As a food, portrait, and event photographer, who travels a lot for photo shoots, the main features I’m looking for in a lighting kit are portability and functionality. I generally travel with one Speedlite flash (Canon 430 EXII) and a pair of wireless flash triggers (Yongnuo RF-603 II) for on-location portraits, candid event shots, and food photos in varied lighting conditions. When I have the luxury of space, I’ll bring an octabox softbox or shoot-through umbrella as a lighting modifier, although these devices take up both space in my photography kit as well as setup time while on location. I recently got my hands on the Fstoppers Flash Disc and was very impressed by its compact form, as well as big impact in helping diffuse and bounce my off-camera flash lighting.

Without a lighting modifier, off-camera Speedlight flash tends to be way too harsh.

Without a lighting modifier, off-camera flash tends to be way too harsh and overpowering.

Pro: Small and low-profile

The first big plus about the Flash Disc is that it is incredibly tiny when it folds up like a reflector and is put into its little black carrying case. Dimensions-wise, the Flash Disc is 12 inches in diameter when open, and 4 inches in diameter when closed. It’s very lightweight at less than 1 pound, and it is compatible with most external flash units. It really can fit into a jacket pocket, or be clipped (via a carabiner) to a loop on your belt or camera bag.

Flash Disc 05

Con: Very tight when collapsed

A possible drawback to having two reflectors folded into each other is that the Flash Disc can literally pop opened. I had a close call once when I opened the Flash Disc with my hands right next to an open bottle of water, resulting in said bottle being knocked over and spilled. Be sure not to open it close to your body or camera as it could possibly knock something over.

Pro: Includes a grey card

One side of the Flash Disc is translucent white and the other has built-in strips of white, black, and 18% grey. This is helpful for setting your white balance in post-processing (or doing custom white balance in the field)

Con: Sometimes the lighting is too harsh

Considering the 12″” diameter of the Flash Disc, sometimes the light it emits isn’t the softest, especially when compared to light from a 30″” softbox or umbrella. It’s a size trade-off that can sometimes result in the Flash Disc light still being a tad too harsh, although there are certain situations and photography styles that can benefit from this look.

Best uses

I tested out the Flash Disc during a recent tropical vacation-  using it on food, portrait, and product photography – and was pleased with the overall results. In the below product photo of a carry-on suitcase, the Flash Disc on a Canon 430 EXII was positioned camera right. The flash was in manual mode, dialled down to 1/64 power, and the result is a soft fill light on the bottom of the suitcase.

Flash Disc

For food photography, the Flash Disc’s compact size was crucial as many food photos are taken in restaurants or tight kitchens where there isn’t the space or time to indulge in more elaborate lighting setups. In the image below of a fish taco plate, natural lighting was illuminating most of the dish. The Flash Disc was camera right, fired at 1/64 power to fill in the shadow areas of the dish.

Flash Disc 02

The Flash Disc also came in extremely handy while doing casual location-based outdoor portraits, another scenario in which lugging around a large umbrella or reflector wouldn’t be convenient without an assistant. The portrait below was taken just after sunset, and my subject is lit by the Flash Disc fired at 1/64 power from camera left. This is an example of when the Flash Disc’s light quality is arguably on the harsher side, especially if you’re working as a lone “run and gun” photographer without an assistant, meaning you can only place the Flash Disc as near or far from your subject as your arm can stretch.

Flash Disc Portrait

Has anyone else tested out the Flash Disc? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how useful (or not) you find it.

The post Review: Flash Disc Lighting Modifier by Fstoppers by Suzi Pratt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to Create a Simple Slideshow in Lightroom

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Slideshow module Lightroom

If you’re over a “certain” age, you remember creating slideshows for friends or family members to see. The viewing process required a projector and a screen, plus a darkened room to enable people to see the projected slides properly.

Thankfully, things have moved on since then and it’s now much easier to show your photos to an audience. The advent of laptop computers, social media, blogs and photo sharing websites has rendered the old style of slideshow redundant.

However, there’s still a place for the new style of slideshow – one viewed on a computer monitor, rather than a white screen. Lightroom users can create slideshows from within the program itself, using the Slideshow module, greatly simplifying the process.

In this article I’ll show you how to create a simple slideshow, and point out some of the more advanced customization features you may wish to explore.

First steps in the Slideshow module

It helps greatly if you create a new Collection for the photos you want to use in your slide show. Once you have done so, switch to the Slideshow module. You will see, depending on whether you have used it before, something like this.

Slideshow module Lightroom

Click the Create Saved Slideshow button at the top of the Content window. When you do so, Lightroom creates a new Slideshow Collection which is placed (by default) inside the original Collection. From this point on, any changes you make to your slideshow are automatically saved, and you can’t lose them.

Give your slideshow a name in the Create Slideshow window, and decide where to save it using the drop-down menu under Location. If you tick the Make new virtual copies box you will be able to edit Virtual Copies in the Slideshow Collection without affecting the originals.

Slideshow module Lightroom

Identity Plates

If you have created a custom Identity Plate then you may see it displayed in the top-left corner of your slide show, as several of Lightroom’s slideshow templates incorporate Identity Plates in their layout.

You can move the Identity Plate by clicking and dragging, or enlarge it by clicking on, and dragging the white squares around the edge. Now is probably a good time to point out that there are two types of personalized Identity Plates in Lightroom – Graphical and Styled Text Identity Plates.

While Graphical Identity Plates have their uses (mainly as a picturesque alternative to Lightroom’s default Identity Plate) you can’t enlarge them beyond their native size of 400 x 57 pixels without pixelating the graphics, making them nearly useless for incorporating into slideshows. Styled Text Identity Plates are much better as Lightroom simply scales them to the required size without any pixelation.

If you don’t want to include an Identity Plate in your slide show at all, go to the Overlays panel and untick the Identity Plate box. This is the simplest option, but if you wish you can create your own Styled Text Identity Plate by going to Lightroom > Identity Plate Setup (Mac) / Edit > Identity Plate (PC).

Slideshow module Lightroom

Previewing your slideshow

Opening the Slideshow module automatically creates a slideshow (yes, it’s as simple as that) and if you’re happy with the default settings you’re already done. To see what it looks like, click the Preview Slideshow button (the play icon) in the Toolbar. For maximum effect retract the top, bottom and side panels first (keyboard shortcut: Shift+Tab).

Slideshow module Lightroom

Customizing your slideshow

Now that you have seen the default slideshow in action, it’s time to take a look at how you can customize it.

The place to start is the Template Browser, located in the left-hand panels. There are five Lightroom Templates to choose from. They are fully customizable. The easiest way to design your slideshow is to choose the template that gets you closest to where you want to be, and then make the required adjustments from there.

Slideshow module Lightroom

For my slide show I chose the Crop to Fill template, which expands (and crops) the photos in the slide show to fill the entire screen.

Slideshow module Lightroom

Most of the templates have Text Cells. If you don’t want a Text Cell to appear in your slide show, simply click on it and press the Delete (Mac) / Backspace (PC) key on the keyboard to remove it.

Alternatively, you can edit the content of the text box by clicking on the Text Cell, then going to the Custom Text menu in the Toolbar and select Edit. This opens the Text Template Editor, where you can select what will be displayed in the Text Cell.

Slideshow module Lightroom

If you want to add a new Text Cell (for example, if you are using the Crop to Fill template, which has none) you can do so by clicking the ABC button in the Toolbar. Select Edit (or one of the presets) from the Custom Text menu. If you select Edit the Text Template Editor opens and you can choose what will appear in the Text Cell.

You can drag the Text Cell around the slideshow to position it, and adjust the size of the font by making the text box larger or smaller by dragging the corner or edge handles. Go to Text Overlays in the Overlays panel to set the font type, colour and opacity of the font in the active Text Cell.

Slideshow module Lightroom

Exporting slideshows

The easiest way to show someone a slideshow is to open Lightroom, go to the Slideshow Collection you wish to view and hit the Play button.

There are also times when you may need to export the slideshow in a format that is viewable by other people, such as a movie file. To do so, click the Export Video button underneath the left-hand panels. Exported videos are saved in the .MP4 format, which is compatible with many video players including Adobe Media Player, Apple Quicktime and Windows Media Player 12. The video includes music if it has has been added to the slideshow.

Slideshow module Lightroom


Hopefully this article has given you a good idea of what you can achieve in Lightroom’s Slideshow module. If you like what you’ve seen so far, take some time to explore the right hand panels, where you will discover more ways to customize the appearance of your slideshow.

What uses have you found for Lightroom’s Slideshow module? Is it powerful enough for your needs or do you prefer alternative software? Please let us know in the comments.

The Mastering Lightroom Collection

Mastering Lightroom ebooksMy Mastering Lightroom ebooks will help you get the most out of Lightroom 4 and Lightroom 5. They cover every aspect of the software from the Library module through to creating beautiful images in the Develop module and making photo books and slide shows. Click the link to learn more or buy.

The post How to Create a Simple Slideshow in Lightroom by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Light is the main ingredient in any photograph. Without light, you cannot make an image. Photography is all about drawing or painting with light. One book I read on the subject said that light IS the subject in photography, in many ways, this is true. Light is a difficult phenomenon to quantify. Most of the time, we don’t really think about light in our day to day lives.

Shoot for the light...

Shoot for the light…

As a photographer however, light is your currency. Without it, you cannot create an image. If you were in a lightproof room, with no light entering the room at all, it would be nearly impossible to make a photograph. However, if you were to light one candle in that lightproof room, suddenly you could make many images. Light is the key to every photograph ever made.

As a result of light being so ethereal, the photography world has tried to make sense of it. Photographers speak about the attributes of light, namely: quality, direction, color and intensity. In this article, I want to look at the first of those definitions, known as quality of light.

What is quality of light?

Light quality is determined by the source of the light. Small light sources that are far from the subject, will create harsh lighting conditions, while a large light source will create soft lighting conditions. Another way to think of it is to look at the shadows what are created by your light source. If the shadows are clear and defined, then your light source is small relative to your subject, and the light is harsh and high contrast. If the shadows are blurry or nondescript, then the light source is large compared to your subject, and the light is soft and low contrast.

A small light source could be something like the popup flash on your camera. This is a small, sharp source of light that will blast bright light into your scene. It creates hard shadows and will create a high contrast scene. A large light source could be the light on an overcast day. The sun’s light is scattered, or diffused, by the cloud cover so the light becomes larger, soft, and less defined.

Warm sunset colours over the Vancouver runway

Warm sunset colours over the Vancouver runway

Time of day is key

You will be shooting either in daylight or nighttime conditions and often in the soft light between day and night. Each situation comes with its own challenges. If you are serious about taking your photography to the next level, you need to be shooting more often during the golden hour of the day. The golden hour occurs from about half an hour before, until about an hour after sunrise in the morning, and then an hour before sunset, to about 20 to 30 minutes after the sun has gone down in the evening. If you are going to shoot in this soft light, you will need a tripod, the rewards will be well worth the effort. It is not always possible to shoot at these times of day, so below are some guidelines about shooting throughout the day. Another good time to photograph is during the blue Hour which is the hour after the sun has set (more on this later).

1. Shooting in the middle of the day

Many of us were taught to shoot under bright sunlight, in the middle of the day, with the sun behind us. Sure, that can work, but you won’t get dramatic results every time, in many cases, your images will look very average. This is because light is harsh at this time of day.

Generally, when the sun is high in the sky, it is a small light source compared to the subject. This means that your subject will have very bright highlights and very dark shadows. This is high contrast scene. Also, the shadows will be very well defined and the light will be very directional. In other words, you will be able to see clearly where the sun is because the shadows will be very well outlined.

If you are photographing a wedding at midday in the summer (this is often the case) and the bride is in the full sunlight, you will have have some harsh shadows under her eyes to deal with. That’s not to say that you should never photograph in the midday sun, you can, but you need to know how to deal with the contrast situation. That might mean you need to use a reflector to put some of the light back into the bride’s face, or use some fill flash to lighten the shadows under her eyes. Remember, the brighter and smaller the light source, the harsher the quality of light.

Panoramic image taken at midday in full sun. The image works because the image is properly exposed for the bright sun.

Panoramic image taken at midday in full sun. The image works because the image is properly exposed for the bright sun.

2. Shooting during the golden hours

Shooting in the early morning, before the sun has risen, or shooting at sunset as the sun goes down, gives you a great opportunity to capture images, in dramatic light. Many of the scenes that people love to see in photography, are very often low light or golden hour ones. The reasons why these times are so good to shoot at area:

  • The light is golden in colour and changes colour from yellow, to orange to magenta.
  • The light is soft, i.e. no major contrast such as hard shadows and very bright highlights.
  • Colors are more exaggerated, the color of the light is far more emphasized, much more oranges, reds and magentas are visible in the scene.

It is for these reasons that photographers choose to shoot in the early morning or early evening, these times produce the most dramatic images.

Golden hour shot of the city with a warm glow in the sky.

Golden hour shot of the city with a warm glow in the sky.

3. Shooting during the blue hour

Blue hour conditions don’t always occur, but when they do, the results are spectacular. For the best possible blue hour conditions, you will want a sunset with very little, to no clouds in the sky. Summertime is normally good for this, but any time of year can work. If there is 80% cloud cover, you will probably not see the blue light in the sky, so a clear sky is important to make this work. Blue Hour is the time after the sun has dropped below the horizon and the sky goes a radiant blue for a while. The blue lasts anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour, and that’s the time you want to be photographing.

To make sure you get it right, be in position and set up 20 minutes before sunset. That way, when the light starts getting good, you are able to hit the shutter release and make some great images. Cityscapes work really well for blue hour images. The reason is that the sky will go blue, but the city will be reflecting the yellowy, orange light of the sunset. This means that you will have the sun setting behind you.

The beauty of blue hour images is that that the blue and yellow colours work well together, they are complementary colours on the visual colour wheel, so the scene is visually appealing. If you are not sure about when blue hour will be, you can visit this site and simply enter your city name and it will tell you what time it will be occurring in your city, on a given evening and morning. There is even an iPhone app you can download to work this out in the field, pretty amazing!

Blue Hour panoramic, the blues and the yellows work well in this image

Blue hour panoramic, the blues and the yellows work well in this image

What do I need to use to get the best images

A tripod is always a good idea. You will be able to make sure that your camera is perfectly still as you make longer and longer exposures. As the light starts fading, your exposures may be a few seconds long, this is impossible to handhold without getting blurred images. Use the best quality lenses you have and a cable release or remote shutter release to avoid any camera shake. You will want to set your camera up in manual mode and have your aperture settings at f/8 or f/11. Set your shutter time accordingly, make sure your ISO setting is at 100 and you are ready to go. When the light show starts happening, click away and enjoy the results!

The post Finding the Best Quality of Light During the Day by Barry J Brady appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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The golden hour. Even if you haven’t been involved in photography for very long, you undoubtedly have heard the term thrown around. As photographers we are in the business of capturing light, and there is no better light to have cast on our subjects, than sun light that is low on the horizon.

The golden hour is defined as periods of time; specifically, the hour after sunrise, and the hour before sunset. The length and time of these occurrences depends on your location on our planet, and time of the year.


Regardless of the type of photography you do, natural light generally falls into two categories; harsh (hard) and soft. Harsh light is what you see when the sun is high in the sky, during the middle of the day (cloudless day).

Because the light is at its most intense during that time, and shining directly down from above, shadows are sharp and well defined. They can also appear in places you don’t want them, such as on a human subject’s face. You can sometimes counter this by using fill flash and reflectors. When you’re shooting landscapes, you see the more unwelcome effects on the sky, with less warmth and higher contrast.

Your subjects are well lit, but generally only from one direction. Images shot during at midday can be rather dull and uninspiring, and it becomes more difficult to capture something spectacular.


After the sun lowers in the horizon and sunset approaches however, everything changes. Simply put, taking photos during the golden hour give the images atmosphere. These times give the best light for all kinds of photography, but what advantages do you gain by shooting your landscapes during the golden hour?

Reduced Contrast

Light from the golden hour effectively reduces the contrast in your images. A black and white street shot could benefit from harsher light in the middle of the day, because the higher contrast and sharp shadows better define the subject and the environment. For landscape photos however, the world comes alive when the sun is low, and the light is soft and diffused. Shadows become longer and less defined, and the tonal range changes significantly. Clouds are illuminated differently, and their visual transitions against the sky soften.


The position of the sun during the day creattes varying temperatures of light, as you can see by the different colors as it crosses the sky. When we discuss temperature in photography, we’re discussing tthat of color, instead of heat. Neutral temperatures are what you see during the middle of the day. The main point to take away from this is that neutral temperatures are fairly uninteresting in regards to their aesthetic effect on your photography.


Color ranges become more vibrant and pronounced when the sun is closer to the horizon.

During the golden hour periods, colors tend to bend to the extremes, and give you much more pronounced effects on your images. During the morning golden hour, just after sunrise, the color temperatures are cooler, and give a moody, bluish hue to the shot. In the evening before sunset occurs, the spectrum shifts to warmer colors, providing you with warm oranges and reds.

A photo captured during the golden hour has a wonderful warmth and feel that’s impossible to capture at midday.

Softer Light Through Diffusion

Diffusion can be visualized with the words, scattering and softening. Light that is diffused is soft with less defined edges, and scattered across a greater area than non-diffused light. A good example of that is a diffuser attachment for your DSLR flash unit. The translucency of the diffuser attachment emulates the soft light you get from the sun being in a low position in the sky, and takes away hard shadows.


Diffused light is more evenly and softly applied throughout a scene, and a low-hanging sun or sunlight projecting through clouds becomes a great natural diffuser.

Your landscape photos benefit from this by less pronounced shadows from objects in your shot, and in general the light that falls on your subjects within the landscape scatters in a more even, favorable manner. What does this all give you? Again, the one thing you’re ultimately striving for in landscape shots; atmosphere.

Sun Flare Effects

Another advantage of shooting during the golden hours is the opportunity to introduce sun flare effects and backlighting into your images. Because of the sun’s position in the sky (low and near the horizon), you have the ability to better introduce it as a subject, or as a compliment to the subject in your shot.


Sun flares are easier to capture during the golden hours, and produces a much more dramatic effect on the final image.

Flaring occurs when the sun is either at or near the edge of the frame of your photo, and while in some situations it is unwanted (photographers typically use lens hood attachments to minimize these effects), flares can add mood and drama to a landscape shot.

So now that you’re aware of the wonderful effects of photographing during the golden hour, how do you go about shooting our landscape images during these times?


Your camera settings for shooting during the early mornings or late evenings are going to depend on your exact subject, but in general, since less light is getting to your sensor, a larger aperture is usually required.

You may also need to bump up your ISO setting to compensate for the lower amount of light. This will increase noise, but usually not to a noticeable point, and even then, there are steps in post-processing that can easily remove it.

Again, this all depends on what type of shot you are doing. If you’re looking at a long exposure capture, you would set your camera for a smaller aperture and lower ISO.


Use a Tripod

As a landscape photographer you are always encouraged to use a tripod. Since generally you will be shooting in one static location for each set of shots, the tripod will allow you a wider range of apertures to work with. You always want your landscapes crisp!


By definition, you have two hours each day to shoot for the best light, so your preparation for those times are even more critical than usual (you’re always prepared for any shoot, right?). If you’re planning on just taking your gear and spending time to set everything up on location, you run the risk of missing the shots you’re looking to get in the first place.

Either prepare before you leave, or allow extra time well before the golden hour to get everything settled. Scout the location ahead of time. Have your settings ready for the appropriate shots, and pack anything extra that you might need, including food, drinks or something warm to cover up with.

Keep Shooting!

While the scope of this article has been the golden hour, don’t forget that the magic doesn’t stop after the sun dips below the horizon. After this point, the blue hour begins, when colors and tones change even more rapidly and dramatically. Keep adjusting your settings, and shoot until there’s no light left to capture. You’ll be surprised at what you have when you finally get those images unloaded on your computer.

White Balance

While white balance is a setting on your camera, because of its overall effect on the atmosphere of your images, it warrants a little extra attention when shooting landscapes during golden hour. My recommendation is to take your camera off of AWB (automatic white balance) because the camera will attempt to neutralize the warmth of the image on this setting. Most DSLR’s have a cloudy or shade setting that will retain that color tone.

If you’re shooting RAW images, this is a step that can be adjusted in post-production.

goldenhour_article_new2Helpful Apps

Thankfully, there are several Smartphone apps that can also help your planning process. A search on the Apple app store and Google Play shop will provide no shortage of this kind of apps, although there a few that I’ve used that seem a bit more robust, and worth the price you’ll pay. These apps provide calculators that will let you see when the golden and blue hours occur in any location in the world, and also include calculations for exposure, depth of field, time lapse, and more.

Enjoy the Light!

Shooting at optimal times of the day is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your photography. Nothing else adds character, atmosphere, and dimension to your work so dramatically.

What other golden hour tips do you have to share? How do you apply these guidelines to your own photography? Be sure to join in the conversation below, and keep churning out those golden shots!

The post Tips for Creating Landscape Photos during the Golden Hour by Tim Gilbreath appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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4 Tips for Creating Portraits with Impact

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Since the birth of the camera, an overwhelming number of photographers have concentrated on portraiture. Capturing the personality, mood, or expression of a fellow human is sublimely beautiful. Because of this, many of us have thousands of portraits saved on hard drives, and eagerly await the next portrait contest. Honestly, how many of these portraits actually have visual impact? How many of our portraits are powerful enough to hold a viewer’s attention longer than a couple of seconds?

We can continue to produce countless portraits that are stale and void of visual power, or we can step back, evaluate our work, and begin to strategically create portraits that do have impact. Whether you are shooting on location or in a studio, begin adding some punch to your portraiture to captivate your audience. Here are a few ways to start creating portraits with impact immediately.


When we pick up our cameras to snap a portrait, we almost instinctively move close to our subject. Yet, constantly shooting tight portraits can put us in a close-up rut. Simply moving your camera body closer to someone’s face, or using the telephoto aspect of your lens, doesn’t always lend itself to powerful photographs (the selfie is a perfect example of how easy it is to botch a close-up portrait).

Jun Temple

By physically taking several steps back, or by retracting your zoom, you allow context to enter the frame. Suddenly, what was just a photograph of a person’s face, can become an image rich with balance and environmental information. Additionally, a portrait with contextual information can easily appeal to a much wider audience by relating a story.

Steve wide

Shooting tip: When shooting wide portraits, make smart lens choices. Many wide-angle lenses (such as Canon’s 17-40mm L-Series) come with a great deal of distortion and will exaggerate a subject’s features. So that your subjects are not distorted, use a standard portrait lens (i.e. 85mm) and move your body in relation to your subject.


Negative Monks

Stepping back and including environmental information can add impact to many portraits. However, the surrounding environment can also distract from your intended subject. At times, photographs are more powerful if the environment is minimal or void.

To draw the viewer’s eye directly to your subject, strategically add abundant negative space (area around or between a subject) in your frame. The use of negative space can be a key element in artistic composition in that it emphasizes and defines the main subject of a photograph (positive space) and adds impact.


When we think of portraits, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a frame filled with a face. We can agree that there are many positives to this approach to portraiture. In a headshot we can see facial features, skin tones (unless we wipe them away in Photoshop or Elements) and the catchlights that draw us into the windows of the soul.

Alessa s Leg Grandmother s Hands

Luckily though, all of our photographs do not have to follow a headshot-only, antiquated view of portraiture. It is important to remind ourselves that a portrait is simply a representation of a person. Photographers are given the artistic license to determine how their subjects are portrayed. Instead of snapping a run-of-the-mill headshot, try shooting hands, feet, necks or even the cast shadow of a person. At times, moving away from a person’s face can lead to a frame that carries a tremendous amount of visual impact.


IMG 5902

Another way to add impact to your portraits is to experiment with cropping. This is one of the simplest ways to add impact to a portrait and to showcase your aesthetic as a photographer. If you are finding it difficult to see fresh or unique frames while you are actually shooting, experiment with the crop tools in post-production.

Focusing on smaller portions of your subject can have much more impact than if you neglect to adjust the original frame. Moreover, a cropped picture can completely alter the photograph’s intention or interpretation. The more you experiment with cropping, the more apt you will be in spotting unique and powerful frames in the field.


Shooting tip: If you are photographing with particular frame in mind, it is better to take photographs that are a bit wider than your intended crop. You can always crop tighter, but you cannot widen the original frame.

Whether you are an amateur or a seasoned professional, rethinking the way you shoot portraits will inevitable invigorate your craft. The next time your camera is pointed toward another human, try something new. Experiment with a variety of strategies that will add impact to your portraits.

The post 4 Tips for Creating Portraits with Impact by Andrew Faulk appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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A Beginners Guide to Light Modifiers

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Regardless of the light source you use (daylight, continuous or flash) it’s really easy to use light modifiers or shapers to train the light in any direction you want.


***A quick note about costs

Every kind of light modifier will have a top of the line version and a really cheap version. The main difference between the options is that the cheaper ones won’t be as durable. This becomes important when you’re using them every single day.

When you’re learning how to use them however, I recommend choosing cheap versions. You’ll figure out how they work and save yourself a lot of money.

I rarely work without some sort of diffusion because using naked flash spreads the light around too much. The result is hard shadows that I personally think look really unflattering.

Nobody is ever going to tell you, “Wow I love the way your hard lighting has captured and enhanced every single pore, line and blemish on my skin. I actually look ten years older. Thanks!”

There are, of course, many really cool uses for hard lighting and some photographers can make it look brilliant. I’m just not one of them. I like to control the light and only illuminate certain areas of my shot.

There are a couple of factors I consider before deciding what kind of light modifier to use:

1. What kind of lighting am I trying to replicate?

Fill Flash Light Styles HARD

As a general rule of thumb if you are in hard light conditions like full sun, then opt for a light modifier that creates hard light like a gridspot, beauty dish, fresnel lens or naked flash.

Fill Flash Light Styles Soft

If the light is soft like early morning, twilight, open shade, or overcast then chose a light modifier that produces soft light such as: a scrim, umbrella or softbox.

2. What kind of mood I’m in

What are the best light modifiers to recreate soft light?

The Umbrella

An umbrella creates a quality of light that is soft and abundant, and very forgiving. They are great to use if you want to light a large area with flat even lighting. Because umbrellas are quite easy to use, and relatively cheap, they are great as your first light modifier.

On the downside, umbrellas will over-light your shot spreading lots of light around. Lots of light. Everywhere. Like a hose with its spray nozzle set to “everywhere”.


Bounce umbrella throws light everywhere

Just like I consider eating Nutella straight out of the jar a sometimes food, you should consider using umbrellas as an only use in case of emergency style of lighting. If I overuse either, things tend to get a bit ugly.

Types of umbrella light shapers

  • Silver/gold reflective umbrella: These babies throw light everywhere. They are great for lighting large groups of people. The silver umbrella will give you a slightly cooler light, while the gold umbrella creates warmer light. Both produce a slightly harder light than the white reflective umbrella.
  • White reflective umbrella: This umbrella creates a soft light with slightly less spread and contrast than the silver or gold reflective umbrellas. Because the style of light created allows people to move around a lot and in a constantly even source of lighting, they are great to use when you are shooting groups and couples under pressure, like for an event.
  • White Shoot through umbrella: These are perfect as your first light modifier as they diffuse and spread light quite evenly.
Shoot Through_UMBRELLA

White shoot through umbrella

When my children were young, I taught them how to ride bikes using training wheels. The wheels boosted their confidence more than anything else. After a while, I took the wheels off and they rode on two wheels as if they’d been doing it all their lives.

Training wheels

I think using flash with umbrellas is the same. Use them as a learning tool until you get your balance, then move on to a better bike.

A final note on umbrellas

They are perfect for indoor lighting but become tricky, actually downright dangerous, to use outside. I’ve had countless (expensive) lights blown over using umbrellas! If you must use them then please make sure you have somebody holding them, or sand bags to keep them in place.

Scrim, baby


After you’ve ditched your umbrella training wheels, the next step is to work with a scrim panel which is a square or rectangular frame with a fabric diffusion material covering it. Of all the light modifiers, a scrim is probably the most versatile and a must have in your kit.

Shapers scrimThis is a really cool way to create large areas of soft diffused light, as if you were shooting next to a large window, or have light clouds over the sun.

Remember: The larger the light source, the softer the light.

This is a piece of equipment that you can easily make yourself. I used a DYI one for my first 10 years as a photographer and they are great for diffusing flash, continuous light, and sunshine.

Using a softbox


Small softbox 580EX+Lumiquest+stand 1

This image of race-car driver, Glauco Junior Solleri, was taken using a speedlight and small Lumiquest Pro softbox. This is a low-cost and versatile modifier that creates a beautiful soft light source that you can easily control. In this instance I only wanted to light Glauco’s face and let the background go to black, If I had used an umbrella (and spray light everywhere) the entire background would also be lit, killing my moody vibe.

If I could only pick one light modifier to take to a deserted island, it would have to be the softbox. Small, medium, or large – this little puppy is my go to light source for 80% of my shoots.

Why? The quality of light is soft, flattering and malleable. Changing the angle and proximity of the softbox to the sitter easily changes the hardness of light, and direction of shadow.

It’s one of the light modifiers that, I feel, recreates the effect of soft daylight through a window. I think what I like most about this light modifier is that it’s subtle. Highlights gently merge to shadows. I think I love this light modifier more than Nutella – there I said it.

Different softboxes

I use a few different kinds of softboxes depending on where and what I’m shooting.

If it’s a studio shoot I love using my Chimira Medium softbox with white reflective interior. The white interior creates a softer light and this particular softbox has an extra layer of diffusion on the inside, adding even more softness to the light.

Some photographers remove this interior panel because they like having more contrast of the harder light (because it’s not as diffused as much), but I prefer less contrast. You can also increase the spread and contrast of your light by using silver or gold interior panels.

Shooting using beauty lights

The beauty dish I have is quite a cheap brand, which goes to show you don’t need to shell out a lot of money for every piece of equipment. I like mine because it works with my speedlight, my Elinchrom monolight, and battery flashes.


I like that kind of versatility in equipment because it means I have more options on the day of the shoot, and less to carry around!

The beauty dish differs from other light modifiers because it gives you a distinct circular, soft-contrast light, which is perfect for lighting faces and defining bone structure such as cheek bones and chin lines. They also create a circular catch light in your model’s eyes, which makes the reflection seem quite natural.

You can see why these modifiers are popular with fashion/beauty and celebrity photographers.

The downside of using beauty dishes is that the fall-off, from light to dark, is very rapid so you’ll often get shadows under your model’s chin and nose. You can compensate for the shadows by adding a fill board, like a white reflector, to reflect light up, onto your subject’s face.

Why would you use this over other modifiers?

A beauty dish gives you a certain look. It will just light a small area and flatten out your model’s features. It makes people look great but you need to light your model in quite a specific way, lighting them from above, to really pull it off.

Using a grid spot

Gridspot Gridspot 2

A portrait shoot I did with Australian actor Scott McGregor shows lighting without gridspot (left) and with gridspot (right).grid

The gridspot is a bit of kit you can use in conjunction with a speedlight, monolight, or battery operated flash. The width of the grid and the size of the holes will affect the width of the light beam hitting your subject. This is a hard focused light. I love to use grid spots in the same way I use beauty lights.

Why would you use this over other modifiers?

I like using grid spots because they create a similar light to beauty dishes. The light is a bit harder but they’re perfect for single portraits because you can pop a bit of light onto someone’s face and shoulders without impacting the background mood.

They are also perfect to use outside as they won’t get blown about.

Gridspot typesjpg

BeautyDish+Grid 1

Beauty dish with a gridspot

Fresnel light (lens)


The Fresnel light modifier gives a soft, crisp and very distinct look to my portraits. In this portrait of Australian actor Robbie Magasiva, I’ve placed the Fresnel light slightly to camera right to create a shadow, which I’ve softened by using an umbrella (Sprays soft light everywhere) to increase the amount of daylight fill.

Fresnel 2

A Fresnel is a light modifier that can be focused. They were first used in lighthouses, then the technology was developed to include continuous lighting for movies and television.

The style of lighting is soft and crisp, reminiscent of 1940s portrait lighting. This style of lighting has become really popular lately, particularly with fashion and editorial photographers. The downside of this type of lighting is you need to hock a kidney to afford one.


Beauty dish Octa

Here are two different ways to use the Rotalux deep octabox. The image on the left of actor Firass Dirani is shot using a deep octabox as a beauty dish. The light source is hard and drops off rapidly under his chin to give a hard and contrasty light source, which not only defines and sculpts his features it also gives the image an edgy look.

The image on the right of actor Harley Bonner is shot using the same Rotalux deep octabox as I used with Firass but this time I’ve added the interior and exterior bevel giving a much softer light which blends in with the muted light and low key feel I was going for.

An octabox is what you’d get if a softbox and umbrella got married and had babies. An octabox has soft light, just like its mama the softbox, but spreads its light around more just like his daddy the umbrella.

They are fantastic for lighting large groups evenly. The other advantage some people like is they give round catch lights.

I don’t own an Octabox because I’m not a huge fan but do have a Rotalux deep octabox, which is what you get if a softbox married a beauty dish and made babies. This, as far as I’m concerned is a match made in heaven for lighting single portraits.


Octobox with the front panel in.


Octobox with interior baffle exposed.


Octobox as a beauty dish.

Mixing modifiers


Model credit: Fat Tony and Co., image courtesy Nine Network Australia.

I often mix my lighting modifiers to make my images more interesting. In this television promotional shot I did for Fat Tony and Co., I used a medium deep octabox as my main light and a gridspot as a hair light. I also added an umbrella for fill light to camera left because the deep octabox alone was too moody and I wanted more detail in the shadows.

Do you have a favorite light modifier or do you like working with naked flash? Do you have examples of your favorite images? Please share them in the comments below. I’d love to see them and hear your thoughts.

The post A Beginners Guide to Light Modifiers by Gina Milicia appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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The Winners of the Four NYIP Photography Courses Are…

NYIP logo440x232black  In Post Top and Bottom

A BIG thank you to everyone who entered our recent competition to win one of four photography courses from our friends at NYIP.

The response was amazing with over 680 entries. In fact, it was so great that the team at NYIP decided to offer a special $150 discount off any of their courses (details below). But first – here are the four winners of the competition (chosen by NYIP):

A Message from NYIP (and a $150 discount)

“Congratulations to all four winners! And thank you to all the participants for your many comments. We were so excited to see how many people were interested in our new photography courses. To those who did not win, we wanted to let you know that for a limited time we are offering you the chance to save $150 on the NYIP Course of your choice. Learn more at But don’t wait, because this offer is only available until Thursday, March 26th. – The NYIP Team”

Winners will be emailed with details of how to collect their prize by the team at NYIP.

Thanks to everyone for entering and to NYIP for yet again, sponsoring another wonderful competition.

The winning comments:

By Angela PritchardFourteen years ago, when my husband and I tied the knot, we could not afford to hire a wedding photographer. Instead, we bought a few of those one-time use cameras and had family members take photos. Needless to say, we didn’t get any really good, memorable photos. Over the years I have gone through countless wedding photos posted on the internet and so many of them are images that I would have loved to have had to remember my wedding by. In the last few years I have actually photographed several weddings for friends and family. I make sure to photograph every single detail that I would have wanted captured for my big day. From the rings to the Borrowed, Blue, Old, and New, the dresses and the tuxes, the cake and the flowers, everything gets photographed. Photographing weddings can be very stressful but it’s that stress combined with all the photos I didn’t get for my wedding that pushes me to get the very best for the couple I’m shooting for. I would love to take the Wedding Photography course to help mold me into a better wedding photographer; to improve on the things I’m doing right and correct the things I may be doing wrong. I believe this course would help me immensely. I have my fingers crossed and I will be waiting right here in front of my computer for you to contact me to tell me that I have won. Thank you so much for considering me. And if by some strange reason I don’t win, I will still continue to make beautiful photos of the world around me.

By Jenn S.I would love to win the Portrait Photography Course. Last year while I was pregnant with our second son, we learned that my husband had cancer. He got through treatments (and is now cancer-free!), but the cost of those treatments took a toll on our finances, and we were left with little money for me to start the photography business I had been planning on to help support our family. Through hard work, I was able to purchase some basic equipment, but because we could not afford it, everything I have learned about using my DSLR, equipment, and running a successful business has been self-taught, and I am sure that there are many gaps in my knowledge base. I would love to take the Portrait Photography Course to enhance my understanding of posing, learn how to better run my business, and so much more. I think I would really benefit from an environment where I am able to get the (professional) feedback on my work that I desperately need, and having a mentor to guide me sounds just heavenly! I also think I’d also greatly benefit from the student forum and the knowledge base my peers could provide there! Thank you so much for the opportunity to win!

By Deonne Kahler I’d very much like to win the Travel Photography Course. I’ve been making photographs since high school, but only recently started taking it seriously, and just placed in my first competition. I’m on a mission to see every U.S. National Park, and until now I’ve been documenting those visits the best I can. I feel so strongly that it’s my job to let people know about the wonders of the parks – which include historical monuments, an easy and accessible way for all of us to learn more about this country and its past. I’m based in Taos, NM but I travel around the country with my dog Sam in my 13′ Scamp travel trailer. I’ve been winging it with my photographs up until now, but the NYIP course would push me to the next level, as I still have plenty to learn about using my Nikon D90, being more nimble with it in the field, documenting the National Park sites in a unique way (honing my voice), and translating that to books/online media where I share photos and stories about the Parks. They’re such a treasure, and with the NYIP course, i’d be much better equipped to tell their stories and get more folks involved either by simply visiting, or supporting the National Parks foundation to keep them safe from development. Thank you for the opportunity! (P.S. This is a terrific site – so much good information. Thanks for that, too.)

By VickiI am a Social worker in the military and Photojournalism is exactly what I’m looking for. I’m a beginner and have been doing a lot of learning on my own, but would love to have the opportunity to learn from professionals. I’m drawn to photojournalism because of my love for people and our stories and would love to improve my ability to capture these stories in my pictures. I’ve only been deployed once but hopefully will have the opportunity to travel more with my Army career and use photojournalism skills to capture my travels.

The post The Winners of the Four NYIP Photography Courses Are . . . by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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