Archive for April, 2015


Long Exposure Photography Without a Tripod

Posted by: | Comments (0)

For me, as a travel photographer, the size and the weight of the photography equipment that I carry around is very important. Over the years, I learned how to carry only the items absolutely necessary for shooting in order to eliminate anything unessential.


Long exposure photo shot without a tripod, using the Align+Blend technique.

I was able to replace some of the pieces of equipment with software. For example, I stopped using ND Graduated filters a few years ago. For me, it was easier to take bracketed shots and blend two images in Photoshop or simply use the graduated filter in Lightroom. Next, I left behind the remote trigger because I learned that using the two second delay function on the camera allowed me to achieve the same result without an extra piece of equipment.

A couple of months ago, I pulled the trigger on the biggest change in my photography universe when I switched from a Canon DSLR to a Sony Mirrorless (read my article here 5 Lessons Learned Switching from DSLR to Mirrorless for Travel Photography). That drastic switch resulted in cutting the weight and the size of the equipment I carry around by more than half.

During my latest photography trip to Hawaii and Northern California, I did quite a bit of hiking and realized that, after the switch to mirrorless, the biggest and by far the bulkiest, piece of equipment I carried was my tripod. I love my Feisol tripod because it is light, tall, and steady like a rock. But, sometimes it is just impossible to bring with me.

Even though I learned how to take bracketed shots handheld and merge them effectively to HDR in Photomatix and Photoshop HDR Pro (read Natural Looking HDR in Photoshop and Lightroom in 5 Easy Steps), without a tripod I still could not accomplish one of the most important types of photography, which is long exposure photography.


Long exposure photo – shot with a tripod.

I use long exposure photography quite a bit, especially when shooting seascapes, and of course, I have plenty of seascapes in my portfolio. Longer shutter speed allows me to achieve beautiful, smooth and silky looking water plus, it works just as well for the sky.

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with a few techniques in an attempt to achieve the same long exposure effect in the water and the sky by shooting handheld without a tripod. After I started to produce predictable results on a consistent basis, I am now ready to share the technique with you.


Below is the effect I achieved using my new technique that I call Align+Blend.

Normally, I shoot in bracketing mode, taking at least three exposures. In order to use the Align+Blend technique, I had to switch from bracketing mode (AEB) to the Single Shot Mode. I shot 10 consecutive shots of the scene, trying to be as steady as possible, without too many movements. I was shooting at an approximate speed of one shot per second and, it took me nine seconds to complete the series. In order to get the sharp images, I used a shutter speed of 1/200th of a second.


Single RAW image, unprocessed (1/200 sec).

That was it. The shooting part was done. The rest was accomplished in post-processing.


Step 1 Import

I imported the 10 RAW files into Lightroom.

Step 2 Process in LR

I applied one of my landscape presets to the entire set making sure that each image had an identical look (If you are interested you can download my free preset collection on my blog).

Step 3 Open as layers in Photoshop

I selected 10 images in Lightroom and opened them in Photoshop as layers in the same document (right/option click).

Long Exposure Photography Without Tripod Photo 3

Step 4 Align Layers

I used the Auto Align Layers feature in Photoshop to align all 10 layers with Projection set to AUTO. The Auto Align is a fairly sophisticated tool, and Photoshop had no issue aligning all of the 10 individual layers.

Long Exposure Photography Without Tripod Photo 4

Step 5 Convert to one Smart Object

I converted the 10 layers to one single Smart Object (right/option click).

Long Exposure Photography Without Tripod Photo 5

Step 6 Set Stack Mode

I used the following command to blend the 10 original layers inside of the Smart Object. Layer > Smart Object > Stack Mode > Mean. This resulted in a long exposure effect by moving elements of the scene (water, sky).

Long Exposure Photography Without Tripod Photo 6

Step 7 Fix any areas with issues using a layer mask

At the same time, the windy weather created some unwanted effects by moving tree branches and the grass in the foreground. To fix the blurry effects I placed one of the 10 original RAW images on top of the Smart Object layer and blended together two layers with the help of transparency (layer) masks. I used the area of the water and the sky from the smart object layer and, the rest of the scene from the single RAW layer.

Long Exposure Photography Without Tripod Photo 7

I managed to achieve the long exposure effect without a tripod and without sacrificing the quality of the final image.

This technique also works as the replacement for Neutral Density filters. In broad daylight, even when you have a tripod but the smallest aperture (f/22) is still not small enough to slow down the shutter speed, take multiple shots and blend them together later in Photoshop in a similar manner.

Here’s the final image again:

Long Exposure Photography Without Tripod Photo 2

The post Long Exposure Photography Without a Tripod by Viktor Elizarov appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Categories : Digital
Comments (0)

Stop the Rush and Return to Simplicity

Posted by: | Comments (0)

As modern day photographers it is easy to get overwhelmed and consumed by new gear, new technology, new software, new techniques (did someone say HDR?) and so on. With so much going on in the industry, sometimes you need to step back, sit down and relax.

Sometimes you need to stop the rush in your head and slow the heck down.

With that said, I thought it would be worthwhile to share some advice for you new photographers that feel an intense desire to do more than you know you can handle at the moment. Or for you photographers that have experience already, but want to go back to simplicity.

Before I dive into my advice, read through Simon Ringsmuth’s article: 5 Tips to Help You Slow Down and Take Better Photos. Now that you have done that, here is my advice.

Slow Down

To add to Simon’s article, I wanted to share a video I recorded on the same topic of slowing down:

You will notice that I have shared some very specific things you can do to force yourself to simplify your photography. Things like switching to manual focus completely, using a smaller memory card, or not using Auto-ISO. Each of these things will force you not only to think, but to think specifically about the subject or scene rather than just broadly.

Prime Lenses

Prime lenses are another way to simplify. It would be nice to have expensive zoom lenses with f/2.8 or wider apertures. But do you need that? Might it just complicate your photography?

Instead of spending the money on expensive lenses, or an all-in-one zoom, try prime lenses. When I am on the job I’m typically using either a 20mm, 35mm, 50mm or 85mm lens. Each has an aperture of f/2.0 or wider. They’re lighter so they don’t hurt my back, they’re smaller so they take up less room, and they make me move my feet and think about perspective more.

They are simple.


Made using a prime lens.


Admittedly, when HDR first became popular I hopped on the bandwagon. But eventually I got bored with doing the same bracketing technique over and over. At the time processing HDR was not even close to perfection, so the time needed for post-processing was way too much for my liking.  So I stopped and instead started to bracket two exposures, or three if needed. Then I would manually mask in specific parts of the scene as needed. I would do this using onOne Perfect Layers or Photoshop – depending on what else I wanted to do to the photo.

Having written books on long exposure and panoramic photography, I love both those techniques. But I don’t always need to do them. I don’t always need filters or a tripod.

A good example of this is as follows. Recently I have started trusting the dynamic range of my camera’s sensor more than ever. Instead of using a filter as often as I used to, when possible I will use that dynamic range and recover highlights and shadows inside of Lightroom. The histogram for my photos is typically towards the middle so that it’s even easier to recover both ends of the spectrum.

Fortunately the Nikon D810 has an amazing dynamic range to allow this. Many other cameras are in a similar situation.  That doesn’t mean I never use my neutral density filters, because I do. It just means I simplify when I can, because it allows me to enjoy photography even more.


Sky blackened without filters and only using Lightroom.


When it comes to processing photos I often see so many filters being used by photographers. There is nothing wrong with that, but I sometimes feel it’s overboard. I might be a minority with how I feel about processing, but here it goes.

When processing photos I am a mix of a purist who also likes to experiment. I am colour-blind, so I rely on my ColorChecker Passport to guarantee accurate colors. But I know that my colors are often off. It happens and that’s okay, but I still aim for accuracy. That’s the purist side of my mentality. The experimental side wants me to try new things, and that is also okay.

But, lately while processing I have been keeping things simple. Very basic color correction as needed, contrast, clarity, and so on. Or a very basic black and white conversion using either Lightroom, onOne, Silver Efex or Tonality. I don’t go for anything out of the ordinary. My black and white processes are very simple. Because sometimes simple is best.


Simple photo and processing brought a smile to hundreds of Vineland, NJ residents.

Keep it at One

If you really want to return to simplicity, try spending your photography time with only one camera body and one lens. For the past few months I have been participating in the WE35 project at The Photo Frontier. It’s a project where each photographer is researching the world of photography, and life in general with only one camera body and a 35mm lens (or 35mm equivalent).


Doing this is extremely challenging and mentally fulfilling. It requires you to simplify your entire photography workflow. So I encourage you to give it a try, as well as the other tips I have shared here.

I will leave you with one more note. Believe in yourself, your knowledge, and your creativity. You don’t need expensive equipment or to always do fancy techniques. You need yourself, your camera and a lens. So step back and enjoy photography and stop driving yourself nuts over every piece of gear and technique that you can do.

The post Stop the Rush and Return to Simplicity by Scott Wyden Kivowitz appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Categories : Digital
Comments (0)
Clone Stamp Tool - Opera Garnier shot

You will not often find the stairs of Opera Garnier in Paris free of people, so you will need to put the Clone Stamp tool to work to remove the people if you want a clean picture. This applies at many other tourist destinations as well.

There are a lot of good post-processing tools available for making minor edits to your photos. Within Photoshop, there are the Healing Brush and the Spot Healing Brush tools. Lightroom now has its own healing brush. Those are great for minor edits to your photos like removing spots or power lines. When it comes time for serious, intensive surgery on your photos, however, there is no substitute for the Clone Stamp tool. You will only find this in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, there is no Lightroom substitute.

Getting started with the Clone Stamp tool is simple. You just have to tell Photoshop two things: (1) where you want to replace the pixels (target area), and (2) from where Photoshop should take the pixels to use as replacements (s0urce area). To use the Clone Stamp tool, just follow these steps:

  1. Select the Clone Stamp tool from the tool bar on the left side of your screen (you can also use the keyboard shortcut S). Once selected, set the brush size and hardness.
  2. Put your cursor in the area where you want to change the pixels.
  3. Select the source area: Press the Alt key (your cursor will now become a target) and move your cursor to the location where you want to take pixels from (source area). Click your mouse in that location.
  4. Paint in the target area: Release the Alt key and move your mouse back to the original location. Hold down the mouse button and paint in the pixels from the location you chose.

That is a simple process, but if you have used the Clone Stamp tool you realize that there is a lot more involved if you want to master it. This article will provide you with some tips to move you along the road towards conquering this important tool in Photoshop.

#1 – Work on a New Layer

First, always create a new layer before making changes with the Clone Stamp tool. Any changes you make should be made on the new layer. You can flatten the image when you’re done.

Why should you do this? There are many reasons. First of all, it is non-destructive – meaning you are not changing the underlying pixels of your image. In addition, when you use a layer, you can delete it if you don’t like where the changes are going. You can also create a mask if there are portions of the changes that you decide later you do not want. Finally, you can target adjustments to just the cloned areas if they are on a new layer (as will be shown below).

Creating a new layer is easy; simply press Ctrl+J (Cmd+J on Mac) to create a duplicate. You can also press Shift+Ctrl+N (Shift+Cmd+N on Mac) to create a new blank layer, but if you do so, make sure that you have “All Layers” selected as your source in the Clone Stamp Tool settings.

Clone Stamp Tool - Work on a New Layer

I prefer working on a new layer (as opposed to a duplicate layer) but either way will work.

#2 – Zoom in (way in)

When working with the Clone Stamp tool, zoom in on the area you are working on. In fact, zoom way in (to 100% even). That will help isolate the area you are working on, and importantly, it will also allow you to work at a much greater level of detail than you otherwise would. Make your changes look as good as you can at this higher level of detail, then when you zoom back out, the changes will be indistinguishable (which is what you want).

A shortcut for zooming quickly is to hold the Alt key with your left hand while using the scroll wheel on your mouse to zoom in and out (or use Cntrl/Cmd and the + or – key on the keyboard). That will allow you to move in and out quickly.

#3 – Set Your Brush Size Quickly

You will change your brush size often when working with the Clone Stamp tool. You should do this often to make sure that your brush size is tailored to the change you are making. Changing the size through the Brushes panel is cumbersome. Instead, use the keyboard shortcuts for changing brush size:

  • Left bracket [ makes brush smaller
  • Right bracket ] makes brush larger

Using these keys will allow you to rapidly tailor your brush to the specific circumstance.

#4 – Set the Proper Brush Hardness

The Clone Stamp brush’s edges can be set to whatever hardness you desire. Hardness determines the level to which the cloning will blend in with the surrounding pixels. If you set the hardness level more toward 100%, the edges will be hard and definite. If you set the hardness more toward 0%, the edge will blend in with the surroundings.

Clone Stamp Tool - Setting Hardness of Brush

In general, keep the hardness level at 0%. That will help you seamlessly blend in the effect. There will be times, however, where you are working near a defined edge, in which case you should increase the hardness. Even then around 50% will usually do. Setting the hardness any higher creates harsh transitions that are dead giveaways to your use of the Clone Stamp tool.

#5 – Clone Without Adjustments

Do your cloning before making other adjustments to contrast, color and other changes often made via adjustment layers in Photoshop. If you use the Clone Stamp tool after creating those layers, you are baking the changes permanently into your picture when you clone.

Clone Stamp Tool - Adjustments

However, in some cases you will have already made changes on an adjustment layer, and you need to decide whether your cloning should include those adjustments. Photoshop lets you decide whether to include those changes in your cloning. After you have selected the Clone Stamp tool, the top row of your screen will include a circle with a line through it (see graphic above). Photoshop defaults to applying the changes of any adjustment layers, but if you click on this icon, Photoshop will ignore any adjustment layers when cloning.

#6 – Grab the Low Hanging Fruit

Most of the time your pictures will have some easy items to clone out, as well as some harder things. Clone out the easy ones first. In addition to giving you confidence in the tool, this will also help you when the time comes to make the hard changes.

How will that help you? Remember that you need clear space from which to draw pixels when using the Clone Stamp tool. By making the easy changes first, you are doing just that so you can draw replacement pixels and will make your job easier when it comes time for the harder, more in-depth changes.

#7 – Watch for Patterns

Sometimes you want to include patterns in your cloning. In that case, when selecting pixels from which to draw, try to find patterns in your picture that match the area you are replacing. For example, if the background is a building, look for a similar building. Then make them match (which will be the subject of the next tip).

Clone Stamp Tool - removing distractions without creating a pattern

Here is a different example to show the Clone Stamp tool in another context. The right side of this image was filled with distractions, but the Clone Stamp tool eliminates them. Be careful that you do not create patterns by using pixels immediately adjacent, or it will give away your use of the Clone Stamp tool

But many times you will not want there to be any discernible patterns in your cloning. Usually a pattern is a dead giveaway to your having cloned something out. In that case, the way to ensure that there will be no patterns is to keep resetting your source point. Sample from one area and clone one part, then sample from another area – repeat frequently. Keep doing that to blend everything together without repeating a pattern.

#8 – Follow the Lines

A key to successful use of the Clone Stamp tool is making all the lines in your picture match. Even slight deviations look fake and destroy the effect you are trying to achieve. For example, in a landscape setting make the edges of tree branches match up. In an urban context, follow lines in buildings such as roof lines, doorways, and patterns on the ground.

When you are using the Clone Stamp tool, start with the lines and then let the rest of the pixels fall where they may. After that, if you need to go back over other areas, you can do so.

Here I've zoomed in on a portion of another shot of the Opera Garnier. Use the patterns on the floor and door to recreate the space where you clone over the people.

Here I’ve zoomed in on a portion of another shot of the Opera Garnier. Use the patterns on the floor and door to recreate the space where you clone over the people.

#9 – Avoid Selecting from Adjacent Areas

As previously mentioned, a dead giveaway of Clone Stamp tool usage is repetition. The Clone Stamp tool is all about repetition – you just need to do it in such a way that the viewer doesn’t notice it. If you draw pixels from an immediately adjacent area, you are risking the viewer noticing the repetition. Take the pixels from somewhere else in the picture instead.

Inadvertently creating a pattern is an easy trap to fall into because the immediately adjacent areas usually are the closest in color and tone to the area you want to replace. As you move further away, tones and colors change so that the pixels get harder to match. Working hard to find a way to use pixels from somewhere else in your picture will pay dividends because the viewer won’t see the repetition.

#10 – Muddle Through (accept the messiness)

By now you have fixed all the easy areas in your picture and you’re ready to tackle a bigger problem. It might be a crowd of people or a car that entered your frame, but it is a large area of your picture. This is the scary part of using the Clone Stamp tool.

The key is to just dive in. Don’t try to figure it all out beforehand (you never will). You can do this in a couple of different ways:

  1. Go big first: Set your brush a little larger than you might otherwise use and just replace the entire area in one fell swoop (and then clean up with a smaller brush), or
  2. Go small and steady: Stick with the smaller brush and paint in gradually, but the key is to keep going. Remember that you can go over it again. Whatever you are doing, while it is probably not perfect, will undoubtedly look better than what you started with.

The key thing is just to do it. There is a tendency to freeze up and plot the entire change before doing anything, which causes you to stare at the computer screen for long periods of time.

Remember, you can always undo what you’ve done (Ctrl/Cmd+Z). In addition, because you followed tip #1 above and are working on a new layer, you can always mask this area off or delete it if it isn’t heading in the direction you want.

#11 – Use the Mirror Function

You can affect a lot of settings involving the Clone Stamp tool in the Clone Source panel (to see it, go to Window and then click on Clone Source). For instance, you can change the shape of the brush or the angle of the replacement pixels.

One of the most useful features in the Cone Source panel is the flip-horizontal option in the middle of the panel. If you click on it, the pixels will be replaced in the opposite horizontal direction as the source. This can be extremely useful in many instances since often you will be dealing with a symmetrical subject where you can now draw from the other side.

Clone Stamp Tool - Flip Horizontal setting

A typical example where you might want to use the flip horizontal option is where something covers one side of a doorway or window that you want to remove. By clicking on flip-horizontal, you can use the other side of the doorway or window as your source. Take another look at the Opera Garnier examples above and you will see how the flip horizontal tool would be used quite frequently whenever your picture contains any symmetry (I used this feature in those pictures quite a bit).

#12 – Change the Cloned Areas with Adjustment Layers

Sometimes your cloned areas just won’t look exactly like the surrounding areas. Perhaps it is too bright or too dark, or perhaps the colors are just off a little bit. You can fix it without affecting the surrounding pixels.

Clone Stamp Tool - tying adjustment layers

One of the great benefits of working on layers is that you can create adjustment layers that affect only the areas you just cloned. Simply create a new adjustment layer (levels, curves, or hue/saturation), which will appear above your cloning layer. Then hold down the Alt key and click at the bottom of the adjustment layer (you will see your cursor change). Doing so will apply the changes of the adjustment layer only to the layer below it.


Remember that using the Clone Stamp tool can be a messy process. Don’t worry if you find yourself having to redo changes or make things up as you go. There is no magical “clean” process. One of the fun parts about the cloning process is the problem-solving that goes into it. Take your time and just keep moving. You can always redo your changes or, if you are working in layers, get rid of them without losing the rest of your work.

The Clone Stamp tool will save more pictures than almost any other tool in your post-processing. If you master it, you can remove almost anything in your pictures that you do not want.

The post 12 Tips for Mastering the Clone Stamp Tool in Photoshop by Jim Hamel appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Categories : Digital
Comments (0)

5 DIY Hacks to Have in Your Camera Bag

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Close up of a DIY camera wrist strap made from paracord

1. Camera strap(s)

I stopped using the camera strap that comes with the camera (DSLR) quite awhile ago now. My fundamental gripes were as follows:

  • Not at all comfortable to wear around the neck, especially if you have a long lens attached to the camera.
  • Didn’t particularly like the camera brand name in bright colors screaming out to potential camera thieves that you have a nice camera worth taking!
  • The strap was a nuisance when the camera was mounted on a tripod.
  • Because of the strap length, it was irksome and fussy putting the camera back into the camera bag.

DIY paracord camera wrist strap

I like to switch from handheld to mounting the camera on a tripod when I shoot. I do however, like the security of a strap when holding my camera. Some years back, I found a useful DIY tutorial online, outlining how to make a camera wrist strap using paracord. Take a piece about 27 inches long and make a loop about 7-7.5 inches long by tying both ends together into knot. I used a simple overhand  knot but you could use a more sophisticated knot such as a Lanyard knot. You will need to burn the ends of the cord, after the knot, to stop it from fraying.


Depending on the size of your hands, you want enough slack to be able to adjust the buttons on the camera.

This paracord is strong and really inexpensive to purchase. It comes in a variety of colors. There are a multitude of uses for this cord, it’s a dream for most DIY enthusiasts. However, this configuration of strap isn’t a fail safe option should you let your camera fall out of your hand.

Joby have a corded strap, specifically for DSLRs that is designed to automatically tighten around the wrist if the camera is dropped. Out of curiosity, I purchased one to try it out. It’s not expensive and does tighten around the wrist if the camera falls or drops out of your hand. It is very comfortable and I love the green color.


The Joby DSLR wrist strap

However, for you DIY hackers out there, you can fashion a similar wrist strap with a built-in wrist tightener from paracord using a slip-knot. Just do a google search to get a tutorial online.

2. Wrist rubber band to prevent zoom creep

I used to own a Nikon 18-200mm VR lens. It was a great versatile lens. But after some time, when I would take macro or overhead shots, where the camera is at 45 angle or more, I’d notice the lens would creep (move slightly due to gravity). I found this neat solution online to put a wrist rubber band around the zoom ring and the barrel of the lens. It worked and was a perfect solution to prevent the lens from creeping.


A wrist rubber band to stop lens creep.

This rubber band can also act to secure the Ziploc bag around the lens if safeguarding against the rain. See tip below.

3. Ziploc bags and cable ties

Sandbag(s) are great for adding stability to your lightstand or tripod. But they are not practical to bring with you on vacation or on a day trip. This is where having a couple of Ziploc baggies with you in your camera bag are ideal.

If you are away on vacation, purchase a bag of dried beans, rice, or soup mix. Make a small hole near the top of the bag, place a cable tie through the hole and create a plastic ring. Depending on the type of tripod that you have, place this on the hook or use another cable tie to create second ring that will secure the bag to the centre column of the tripod.


A Ziploc bag filled with 1kg of rice suspended from the tripod using cable ties adds stability.

A Ziploc bag filled with dried beans etc., can be also used as an alternative bean bag tripod. If you are out and about shooting on a day trip, and there are no convenience stores nearby – use soil or sand to fill the Ziploc bags.

A large Ziploc bag can even be a turned into a quick rain guard. Make a hole for the lens and use the rubber wrist band to secure the bag around the lens.

4. Vaseline

This small tin of petroleum jelly is small to put in your camera bag and weighs practically nothing. If you are shooting portrait shots and your subject or model forgets to bring their lipstick, the vaseline gives sparkle to lips and helps catch some specular highlights.

You can get creative by applying some vaseline to an old UV filter, rather than on the lens itself, to create a dreamy retro look. It’s a bit messy, so use a Ziploc bag to put the UV filter in when you’re done and clean it when you get home.


Vaseline, pen with gaffer tape plus other items to have in your camera bag.

If you are a landscape or street photographer, the elements can play havoc with your lips. Nothing worse than chapped lips. Apply some vaseline to protect them.


Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) smeared on the UV filter.


Before shot without Vaseline.


After shot with Vaseline on the UV filter.

I could have smeared more Vaseline to allow for a smaller opening, which would have created an even more dreamy effect. That is the beauty of this technique, just experiment.

5. A Bic pen or any plastic disposable pen

This inexpensive pen should be an automatic addition to your camera bag. After all, you never know when your smartphone or tablet might lose power and you will need to write down some specifics. A pen and paper always comes in handy. Wrap some gaffer or duct  tape around the middle of the pen rather than carry a big roll of it around. You never know when you may need a bit of tape.

All of these items are so small and compact that you won’t know that they are in your camera bag. Sometimes it is the small things that can make a BIG difference!

Do you have any hacks or tips that you would like to share?

The post 5 DIY Hacks to Have in Your Camera Bag by Sarah Hipwell appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Categories : Digital
Comments (0)

Long exposure photography makes it possible to show the passage of time in a still photograph. It does this by blurring moving elements and sharpening the static parts. But there is a downside to long exposures – any camera movement blurs the static elements. Here are four simple ways you can prevent unwanted blurring.

Salt Lake Sunset at Mandurah

1. Use a Good Tripod

For very short exposures there are ways to hold yourself and your camera steady, like: How to Reduce Camera Shake – 6 Techniques. However, when you’re taking an exposure of a few seconds, you need something steadier than your hands to hold your camera. You may set the camera on a table, or a rock but risk dropping the camera or accidental movement that can ruin your shoot.

The most common way is to put it on a sturdy tripod. You have to get at least a decent tripod as El Cheapo tripods are going to give you camera shake too.

Light Trail Central

2. Use a Remote Shutter Release

Even with a tripod the act of snapping the shutter can cause the camera to shake. There are a couple of ways to combat this problem.

One is to set the delay on the camera (2-sec timer) so any movement is done by the time the shutter snaps. The other is to get a remote shutter release.

Remotes can be connected to the camera by a cable or wireless – either one snaps the shutter without shaking the camera. They are also called remote cable releases. This is a small and cheap accessory which can help you get rid of camera shake.

Rockingham Sunset

3. Use Manual Focus

Autofocus is a wonderful thing. Most of the time it does exactly what you want, making it easier to take great photos. But there are times, especially when shooting long exposure, that it can have the opposite effect.

In low light situations autofocus has trouble finding something to focus on. Even when it seems focused it can readjust when the shutter is snapped. Using ND filters can cause the same problem.

Light Trail IFC

Fortunately, there is a simple solution. When shooting in low light you can use manual focus, or use a flashlight for focusing and once the focus is set, turn autofocus off so it won’t change once the light is off.

For ND filters set the focus manually (either before or after mounting the filter) or autofocus first, turn it off and mount the filter. The shot will stay focused, the picture sharp.

Moving Cloud Sunrise at Kings Park

4. Lock the Mirror Up

If you are using a DSLR camera – and you probably are since you are shooting long exposure – it has a mirror that reflects the image from the lens to the viewfinder. It is between the lens and the camera sensor, so it has to move before the shutter snaps.

That small movement causes vibration. When you turn on the mirror lockup it turns the shutter button into a two stage button. The first click lifts the mirror and the shutter doesn’t open until the second click. The time between the two clicks allows the vibration of the moving mirror to stop.

Light Trail Hong Hum

5. Use Your Aperture Sweet Spot

Closing down the aperture can make you shoot longer. However, when your aperture is too small, it will start to have a diffraction effect which lowers the sharpness.

In most lenses, the sweet spot of the lens aperture is between f/5.6 to f/8. In other words, you will get the sharpest images when using this range.

When you step down to f/16 or smaller, you will get images like that seem out of focus. You can learn the physics about diffraction in the below video by Steve Perry:


Taking long exposure photographs is a science and an art. Like any art, taking long exposure pictures with the right balance of sharpness and blur takes both skill and intuition. These five tools will help you use your skills to turn intuition into great photographs.

The post 5 Tips for Geting Sharper Images When Doing Long Exposures by Kevin Choi appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Categories : Digital
Comments (0)

Putting You Into Your Landscape Photography

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Photographing the landscape is one of the oldest forms of photography, along with others like portrait and street photography. Since the advent of digital photography the possibilities of what can be done seem almost endless. It also means that photography has become more accessible, so with more people taking it up it is becoming harder to be original, and make your images your own. There are ways of creating landscapes that have your style, but it usually means throwing away a lot of what you first learn about photography.

Perhaps the only time a photographer is really free to do whatever they please is when they first begin, before they are told what they should or shouldn’t be doing.

Learning About Photography

However, that might be true, but it isn’t long before the beginner starts to learn what we all learn. We start wanting to know how to use the camera properly, and how to get the best out of it. So they might begin by doing a course to learn about aperture, shutter speed and ISO. No one is denying how important it is to learn about those things, and learning how to correctly expose an image is not something that anyone ever regrets.


Then there is composition and what is meant to make a good or perfect image. There is the rule of thirds – placing everything in that third, or on the third lines. You learn that when you are composing the image that the horizon should be on one of those thirds, or that the lone tree in the paddock or field should also be on one. Never put things in the middle of an image.

If you really get into it then you might learn about the golden ratio or the Fibonacci Spiral. This principle is about using a curve that determines where the subject should be placed for the perfect image; the spiral placement is very similar to the intersection of the third lines.

Then there is post-processing and again, there are rules about what is appropriate for landscape photography and what isn’t. Landscape photography is steeped in history and your photos should be true to what you see.

There are theories or rules that suggest you shouldn’t do any more processing to your images other than the very basic; that your images should represent the reality of what you saw. It is okay to fix exposure, horizon line, but you shouldn’t move pixels, like removing things from the image, or replace a sky.

No one is going to deny that learning all of that is wrong, and we should all learn it all. The next stop is working out if you are happy to follow the rules and do the same images that everyone else is doing.

The first thing you will find is that other people will start to criticize you. The tree is in the middle of the photo, or you shouldn’t have the horizon line in the middle. The one I get all the time is that I over process or my images are too dark.


My answer to that is: don’t listen.

Creating Your Own Style

There is a growing movement of photographers doing work that is not traditional and pushes the concept of landscape photography a whole lot more. It is where rules are broken, and new things are done that change what is considered traditional landscape photography.

Things like the rule of thirds are often forgotten, and you might see the subject placed firmly in the middle of the image. The horizon line may be in the middle of the image, cutting the image in half, as we’ve constantly been told is wrong and we shouldn’t do it.

How often do you get told that an image needs to be in focus, that if the subject isn’t sharp then you should delete the image? There are art photographers who take out of focus images and use them for art. Perhaps you shouldn’t go around taking a heap of photos that are out of focus, but sometimes the feeling or something else is just as important.

If we consider those things, then what does it mean for landscape photography, and how does it affect us? Perhaps it means that the world is your oyster and fine art is more about your interpretation of the world around you than the reality of it, then the possibilities of what you can do are endless. You can do whatever you like.


Let’s look at what you can do, first out in the field and then back at home with post-processing.

Out in the Field

When you are out taking photos, look for odd angles. Think about how everyone else would take the image and see if you can come up with other ways to do it that are different. It isn’t always going to be possible, but it is a good practice to get into.

You could try using props in your images. I’ve heard of a couple of photographers that will place a person in their landscapes to help give it scale. You could do something like that, or start adding a prop of some sort that gives you a signature.

Photographing the same area time and time again can give you an edge too. You learn the area and discover things that people who rarely go there would find. Of course you have to also open your mind to the idea of finding new things. Try photographing the same thing over and over; see if you can find different ways of interpreting it.

It can help looking at what other photographers are doing to find styles you like. Study what they do. Work out what it is that you like about their work. I wouldn’t recommend copying them, but take some of it and use bits to help make your work your own.

An important thing to remember is that you don’t have to use photo editing to create images that are uniquely yours.


Back in the Digital Darkroom

Once you get your images onto the computer, anything goes really. How far you take your images is completely up to you, but you also have to be prepared for heavy criticism from others. You are always free to ignore that – I do – but be polite about it.

You can do so many things in post-processing, such as selective focusing. Really make the viewer look where you want them to look. You can do this in many ways, with added blur or with lighting. It can be a strong technique; one that is used by painters all the time.

Selective saturation is a style that a few landscape photographers have started employing as well. You select areas of focus and give them a little more saturation, or you can desaturate the area around it. Make that area brighter or give it more vibrancy so it will stand out and attract attention, which is what you want.


Controlling the lighting is another technique that many use, myself included, meaning you take an image then try to find a way of completely changing the lighting so that the viewer can’t work out when it was taken.

Having an idea of what you want to achieve is also good, describing what you want people to see, or how you want your audience to view your work. Telling stories with your images is a great thing to do.

Again finding other photographers whose style you like is good too. Learn from them and see what you can do; it is encouraged in art schools all the time. Do what they do, but don’t pass it off as yours, find your own style, your own voice.

Through fine art landscapes you are showing an interpretation of the landscape around you, or wherever you take photos. The rules don’t always apply, but if you want to break them then do so in a way that will help you develop your own unique style.

Good luck.


If you have any other comments or tips please share in the comments section below.

The post Putting You Into Your Landscape Photography by Leanne Cole appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Categories : Digital
Comments (0)
The goal of portrait retouching is to bring out the most naturally pleasing image of the subject. This image is the finished result of Frequency Separation Retouching in Photoshop.

The goal of portrait retouching is to bring out the most naturally pleasing image of the subject. This image is the finished result of Frequency Separation Retouching in Photoshop.

Portrait retouching may be accomplished using many different methods. Still, how often have you seen a portrait image that has been retouched to the point that the subject’s face looks unnatural? Even many of the software packages available for portrait retouching result in an airbrushed effect to skin tones.

What if the detail and color of a portrait could be separated for retouching? Frequency Separation Retouching will allow you to do just that! It will allow you to fix all the usual facial issues like removing wrinkles, bags under eyes, and blemishes. By dividing your image into two separate frequency layers, one layer being high frequency digital data, which contains the information of detail in the image, and a low frequency layer which contains the tonal and color information of the image.  However, the neat thing with Frequency Separation Retouching is that it allows you to make these corrections and retain the natural textures of the skin. By separating the colors and the details you can work on one aspect without affecting the other. Sure, some people will prefer the usual retouching methods, including airbrushing, but Frequency Separation Retouching gives you another option to use for enhancing your portraits. If you have a working knowledge of Photoshop, here’s how to get started:


#1 Make two copies of the background layer

In Photoshop, open your image, then make two copies of the background layer. Label the first layer “color” as this will be your low frequency layer, then name the second layer “detail” to become your high frequency layer.

#2 Apply a blur to the color layer

Turn off the detail layer and select the color layer. Apply a Gaussian Blur (found under the Filter menu>Blur) to a setting that blurs all the detail of the image, but leaves features intact (see sample below). This setting will vary from one image to another depending of the size of the image.


#3 Setup the detail layer

Turn the detail layer back on and select it, then go to Apply Image under the Image tab. Depending on which color depth you are working with, 8 bit or 16 bit, see settings below for Apply Image.

apply-image3Set your Layer to color. For 8 bit images set the Blending to Subtract, Scale to 2 and Offset. For 16 bit images set the Blending to Add, Scale to 2, Offset to 0 and check the Invert box.

Set your Layer to color. For 8 bit images set the Blending to Subtract, Scale to 2 and Offset. For 16 bit images set the Blending to Add, Scale to 2, Offset to 0 and check the Invert box.

  1. Change the blending mode of the detail layer to Linear Light.
  2. Create a layer group, and drag the color and detail layers into the new layer group.

Once you get the hang of this setup, it’s easy to make a Photoshop action to take care of these steps with one click. Download my Photoshop action for the setup HERE (the file is zipped, just unzip and load into Photoshop)

Now you’re ready to start the fun part!

Retouch the Color layer

By retouching the color layer, you are going to even out all the color tones of your subject’s complexion and to remove dark and light areas.

Clone Tool – the Clone tool can be used to even out the color tones or experiment with different blending modes. Normal, Darken and Lighten are very good effect modes to use on the color layer. You may also need to adjust the opacity (the degree of transparency) of these blending modes.

Dodge and Burn Tools are a couple of other useful tools to even out dark and light tones of the skin tones.

As with almost any Photoshop function, there are various ways to get the results you desire. The tools mentioned above are good starting points for working on the color layer, but the possibilities are endless! Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Retouch the Detail layer

Click on the Detail layer, which contains every detail of your portrait image. There are a wide variety of tools you can use to fix skin imperfections, ranging from wrinkles to acne.

Clone Tool – Use the Clone tool with mode set to normal and just clone out imperfections, sampling (ALT/OPT key click) from a desirable area to paint over an imperfection in another area.

Healing Brush Tool –  The Healing Brush tool works similarly to the Clone tool and will sample textures from nearby areas to make a seamless patch.

Spot Healing Brush –  Spot Healing Brush works similarly to the Clone tool and Healing brush, but does not require you to sample a source area. It will automatically sample from another area to repair the target imperfection. Use the adjustable brush sizes to paint over spots and remove them.

Patch Tool – Like the Healing tool, the Patch tool will match the texture of the near-by area for a seamless repair. Make a selection over the area to be repaired and drag the selection over a good area. For best results work on small areas at a time.

Content-Aware Patch –  Similar to the Patch Tool, but with the Content-Aware Patch you select a good area and drag it over area to be repaired, and the tool will match the texture.

After image

After image

Once you have finished retouching the color and detail layers of your image, you can simply turn off the layer group to see the before and after of your work. (This is also a handy review tactic as you are working, to see how your adjustments are affecting the image.) Because all the retouching you have done are applied to the two new layers, it is completely non-destructive to the original image.  So, if you are unhappy with your first results, you can simply delete the retouched group and start over.


A – Original image B – Air-Brushed look retouching C – Frequency Separation retouching



Portrait retouching can be accomplished by using many different methods, and various software and plugins designed especially for that purpose. This article is meant to give you a Photoshop option for retouching and enhancing your portrait photography. The great feature of this method is the ability to separate the detail from the color and tones before retouching. Do you have any tips for portrait retouching?

The post How to do Frequency Separation Portrait Retouching in Photoshop by Bruce Wunderlich appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Categories : Digital
Comments (0)

Why You Should Make Dark Images

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Street scene

One of the most unexplored aspects in digital photography is the dark image.

With digital, we have built-in light meters, histograms, incredible ISO capabilities, and processing programs, which make it much easier to expose our images brightly in all different lighting situations. This can have the effect of making photographers feel that they need to expose all of their images with a neutral histogram, where you can see the image perfectly well, with some information in the highlights, mid-tones, and shadows.

This is often what you want to do, but not always.

When you are using Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, or the Automatic modes, your camera’s light meter has the aim of making whatever it is focusing on a neutral grey. Thus, it has the tendency to overly darken scenes with a lot of bright highlights or to overly brighten scenes with lots of dark tones.

The Lake, Central Park – NYC

Because of this, when you photograph in dark situations your exposures can end up being bright as if they were taken during the day. It’s easy to think that this is okay, and often it is, but it also makes it easy to forget that sometimes a dark image is a good thing too. There is nothing wrong with making an image look like it was taken at night. There is nothing wrong with making the image tougher to see, like the scene was to your eye as you captured it.

For me, it was an experience when I started to look at older photography books and came across images that I couldn’t quite make out. ‘They should have been brighter”, I immediately thought, but then I realized that I liked them. I realized how natural and moody it made the images feel. I had to put in more effort to make out what was going on, and I liked that. It felt moody and real.

This image could have been made brighter and still worked.

Technically, to achieve this on Aperture or Shutter Priority, you need to lower your exposure compensation (+/-) setting when you are photographing subjects or areas with a lot of darker tones. I usually default to -2/3 or -1 stop, then tweak from there depending on the situation. You can even take it further by going into full Manual mode to override the camera’s light meter. Since the lighting is fairly consistent in many dark situations, this is often a great way to shoot.  I do this when shooting at night, in train stations, alleyways and many indoor situations. You can even shoot like this during the day by strongly underexposing your image.

If you notice, in the images in the article, the highlights are represented as middle grey tones. This is called exposing for the highlights and that is a key for making a dark image. Get used to seeing lots of deep blacks and mid greys. It can help to take a file into Lightroom and play around with the exposure to get a feel for how an image can look at different exposures. When shooting in dark situations, which means you will probably be using a very high ISO, you will want to make sure to get the image as close as possible to the prime exposure in the camera. But when you are learning it can only help to experiment in Lightroom to find the exposure that you like the best.

Nightlife Street Scene, East Village, NYC.

But what is the purpose of making an image dark? There are a few reasons. The first is that in many situations it can feel more realistic. Night images that look dark feel more like the viewer is actually there. They feel accurate and that can go along way for the viewer. Dark images can feel moody, eerie, dangerous, quiet, romantic, scary, weird, or contemplative. Many backgrounds look more beautiful with the dark shadows and moody lighting at night.

In addition, dark images draw the viewer in. Often with photography, the devil is in the details and sometimes it can be hard to draw viewers in to really look around an image. Dark images do that. As the viewer tries to make out the details, they inadvertently start exploring the image in more depth.

So next time you are shooting at night or in a dark area, think about making that image a bit darker.

Nightlife Street Scene, NYC.

The post Why You Should Make Dark Images by James Maher appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Categories : Digital
Comments (0)

How to Photograph Mountain Landscapes

There’s something ultimately alluring about lake and river reflections in landscape photography, especially when surrounded by majestic snow capped mountains that glow hot from the light of the setting sun.

Here’s a little time-lapse video I put together using some of my recent lake reflection still shots in Alberta, Canada. Each frame is from a still image shot with a small mirrorless digital camera. Read on to learn the methods I use when trying to capture stunning lake and river reflections in my photography.

1 – Don’t shoot super wide

Regardless of whether your camera is full frame, APS-C or MFT (micro four thirds), it’s important to realize that when shooting mountain reflections you might not need your widest lens to capture the most pleasing composition.

A lot of the time I shoot in the super wide realm but that doesn’t work so well when shooting mountain reflections. A super wide lens tends to reduce the epic size of the distant mountains and magnifies the foreground.

That’s great when you can get fairly close to my central subject, but when that subject is a snow capped mountain a few kilometers away, it’s time to strap on a lens that gets you closer to the action.

At my most recent visit to Banff and Jasper in Alberta I found that I rarely shot with anything wider than 35mm on full frame. In many cases I was zoomed in past 50mm, and often beyond 100mm. Here’s an example.

This first shot is at a focal length of 70mm.

How to shoot mountain lake reflections

This second shot is at 16mm, super wide. There are a few minutes of light change in between the shots but otherwise it’s the exact same scene, from almost exactly the same position. I don’t know about you, but I much prefer the simpler, cleaner composition of the first, zoomed image.

How to shoot mountain river scenes

2 – Fill your frame with what’s cool

This is good advice for any kind of photography but with mountain lake reflections it’s easy to get wowed by the colourful clouds that are reflecting in the mirror surface lake. If they really are doing something impressive then by all means, devote some frame space to the clouds.

You’ll find however, that when you zoom closer to fill your frame with your most impressive mountain range and reflection, your image may have much more impact. At times this isn’t too obvious when you look through the viewfinder or LCD but when you view that zoomed image back on a large computer screen it often has more wow factor than your wider, cloud filled image.

How to Photograph River Landscapes

3 – Waiting for the wind to stop

If you’re out on a gale force windy day, don’t expect any lake reflections. You need that water to be perfectly still for good reflections. A mild, occasional wind is fine, just stick around and wait for it to periodically die down. You only need a few minutes. Bring a camp chair and thermos, then chill out while you wait for the perfect moment. It’ll come.

4 – Shoot two versions – adjust the polarizer

If you shoot lake scenes without a polarizer you’ll get a lovely mirror-like reflection, but you might be missing out on some interesting details under the water in the foreground. I like to take at least two shots with my polarizer in different positions. One shot will give me the maximum reflection while the other shot will reduce that reflection to reveal the details under the water.

I can then easily blend these two exposures in Photoshop to get the best mixture of reflection and water detail.

5 – Interrupt the reflection

Vermillion Lakes, Banff - Mirror World by Gavin Hardcastle

I have a thing for the interrupted reflection. I find it more interesting to have my mountain reflection interrupted by ice formations, river bends, rocks and branches as apposed to a completely whole and perfect reflection. Try and avoid that obvious BAM reflection. Be a bit clever and put some thought into how you can make the reflection more interesting.

6 – Get down low

I like to pick the most interesting point of my mountain range then find a spot in my foreground that reflects that interesting point. I often need to get the camera down lower to achieve this, sometimes adjusting the tripod to its lowest point. At times you might not need to get so low and maybe just step back a few feet to place your reflection where you need it to be.

You can’t change where the mountain is, but you can change your position relative to it to capture the most interesting foreground and reflection.

7 – Look for framing elements in the foreground

If possible, try to incorporate elements in your foreground than frame the scene. It creates a window into your scene that we humans find very appealing.

8 – Look for leading lines in your foreground

Lake Photography Tutorial

Try and find foreground elements that suck the eye in to the centre of your image. Use rocks, logs and branches to blatantly point at the mountain scene in your image. Obviously you’ve got to work with what you have but there’s almost always something there.

9 – Star reflections are gold

If you’ve got a calm, clear night that is the perfect chance to capture the Milky Way or star trails in your lake reflection. Place a colossal mountain range in the centre of that and you’ve got yourself a killer shot. For tips on how to shoot star trails like this, view my tutorial How to Shoot a Star Trails Selfie.

Star Trails Selfie Tutorial

The post 9 Tips for Photographing Mountain Lake Reflections by Gavin Hardcastle appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Categories : Digital
Comments (0)

The number of different roles that a professional photographer has to lead these days can be pretty intense and intimidating, but it’s just part of the job. From the creative, to the technical, to the business and marketing, here is a list everything that a professional photographer really has to do to make a living.

Portrait of a dancer

Share this with anyone who thinks you only push a button for a living!

1. A photographer is an artist and storyteller

Professional photographers are in the business of telling stories. They create images that are both beautiful on the surface, and give us a glimpse of what is underneath. Portrait photographers aim to capture a feeling of what the person is like with a single look. Wedding and event photographers aim to tell the story of what the day was like. Product photographers aim to give the viewer an idea of what using the product will feel like. Art photographers aim to make the viewer think and feel something.

There are artistic aspects to all types of photography. To be a good photographer you will often have to compromise to the needs of your client, but figure out how to infuse your spin on what you create whenever possible.

2. A photographer is a craftsperson

No matter how good of an artist and storyteller you are, there lies the underlying fact that photography is also a craft. You need to be good with your tools and technical abilities. You need to have the ability to successfully take what’s in your head and turn it into the final product. Spend an equal amount of time learning your tools as you do thinking about what to capture.

Bethesda Terrace Wedding

Engaged couple

You need to know how to use your camera. You need to know how to use light and color to your advantage. You need to know how to edit and retouch your work so that it can look its absolute best. You need to be able to organize your archive well and to work quickly and efficiently. You need to have a standard workflow. This is all part of becoming a good craftsperson.

3. A photographer is a businessperson

Not many people actually enjoy the process of selling. We all wish our work sold itself – that people would be able to see the talent in the images and would purchase something or hire you based on that alone. However, that rarely happens in the real world, no matter how good you are. Even top artists rely on galleries, representatives, and marketers to sell their work.

From the very beginning, you need to think as both a creative and a businessperson. You need to put equal time into each to succeed. You should read books on selling and marketing. Don’t make people uncomfortable of course, but don’t be afraid to sell. The worst words a photographer can say are, “Sorry for the shameless self-promotion.” Don’t feel shame for promoting what you do. If you’re proud of your product, then let people know about it! Social media, mailing lists, networking, SEO, web design, and branding are all tied into this idea. The more put together you are as a business, the easier it will be to market.

Being a successful businessperson these days means that you have to network. Let people know what you do, pass out your business cards when it’s appropriate, connect with similar creatives to share advice, and connect with people in your community and field. And for pete’s sake, respond quickly to inquiries! If you don’t, someone else will.

3. A photographer is an expert in logistics:

Executive group portrait

Pushing the button is only a tiny part of the process of any job. Photography is about creating an experience for your clients. From the beginning, you have to be good at communicating with them to understand what they want. You can lead clients in certain directions that you think are best, but you need to cater to their likes and interests at the same time. A photographer needs to listen and advise so that everyone has the right expectations and has an idea for how a job will go.

A photographer is a planner. They are in charge of organizing the assistants, travel, make-up artists, and everything else in a seamless manner. Job planning is difficult work and should be charged for. This is all part of being a good photographer. Some high-end photographers have production companies to do this work for them. If you are one of the many who does this yourself, charge for your production time.

A good photographer is meticulous about planning but then relies on serendipity. A photographer is an expert in contingencies and Murphy’s Law, and saves the day when things go wrong. I know wedding photographers who carry small sewing kits with their gear. Plan the day and the shots that you want to capture. Have backups for everything that can possibly break or go wrong. Go into a job comforted that you can handle anything and your confidence will soar. Then when the job happens, keep your eyes open to serendipity. That is where the magic happens. The better planned you are, the more comfortable you will be to veer off of the plan when the situation presents itself.

4. A photographer is an actor and a performance artist

Worrying is good, but showing your worry is not. Plant a smile on your face and show confidence in the face of adversity. Inspire and comfort. You will come across to many clients who will be so nervous. Photography has the ability to make a lot of people nervous. There are many people who hate having their photograph taken.

You want to learn how to read people and get through to them effectively. Each subject is different and sometimes you have to play the role of therapist to figure out how to talk to them to get them to do what you need. I’m an introvert myself and have had to teach myself to do this over the years. It used to make me so uncomfortable but now it’s way far down on my list of worries.

Have a stash of jokes or comments to back you up. When I see people giving one of those awkward smiles to the camera I like to just call them out on it. “Give me your most uncomfortable smile. Well, we can only go uphill from that look!” Or “That’s just terrible.” I don’t use that for all types of people, but it works a lot.

People also like direction. It makes them think that you know what you’re doing. I personally try to capture my subjects in ways that feel natural, so if they look like they need direction, I’ll pose them even if I know I’m not going to use those photos, all to make them more comfortable. Then I’ll tell them to stand in a way that feels natural to them and we’ll go from there. That usually works.

Keep them moving. Tell them to change positions slightly every shot or two. If someone starts getting uncomfortable in their stance, point for them to move somewhere else to break their tension.

Ask them questions that make them think and open up! Get them talking about themselves so they loosen up and like you more. Smile at what they say. Sometimes I’ll even hold the camera up and tell them I want to shoot them while they’re talking. I’ll take some shots while they are and when they give the right look or mood I’ll tell them, “Hold that! Don’t move an inch!.”

A portrait for an engaged couple in Grand Central Station NYC (seen kissing in foreground)

Getting to the point of pushing the button, and all the editing afterwards, is where the real work happens for a photographer. When all of this is done well, the pushing of the button can almost feel like an afterthought. It will be so much easier to record those magical moments when you are able to create a magical environment.

Did I miss out on anything? What else do you think a professional photographer needs to do to be successful?

The post What are the Real Responsibilities of a Professional Photographer? by James Maher appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Categories : Digital
Comments (0)

How to Shoot Panoramic Photos

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Image stitching is not new, neither is panoramic photography. Since almost the beginning, photographers have been intrigued with providing a wider view of a given scene. The reason is that panoramic images provide context. In a normal frame of a large expansive scene, we only see a small part of the bigger picture. A panoramic image however, gives us a broader view, and a context for that image. The word panorama is derived from two greek words, “pan” which means everything and “horama” which means that which is seen or the view. So, panorama literally means – a view of everything.

Stitched Panorama

A six image pano of Howe Sound, Squamish BC

Early on, photographers would make panoramics manually, by simply panning across a scene and taking sucessive images. Once the images were printed, they would manually stitch them by overlaying one image on top of the other, or even cutting them into place. This was a new way of viewing and capturing scenes. I saw my first panoramic image as a young boy. It was a huge scene of photographs that had been stuck together and overlaid. It was in a museum in the city where I grew up. I was intrigued, it gave me a view of the city I was living in, that I had never seen before. It gave me a whole new perspective on the place that I called home. I wasted many rolls of film as a youngster trying to do the same shots, but never managed to get it right.

One solution to this challenge was the panoramic camera. These cameras revolutionized panoramic photography. They were able to capture a panoramic scene of 180 degrees in a single shot. No more cutting and sticking photographs together. These rotating cameras captured great images of scenes and did it with ease. There were also wide-angle panoramic cameras that took in much more of a scene in a single image and again, changed the way we viewed images and scenes. These cameras changed the views, and contexts of many famous places. In their day, they were the pinnacle of technology.

Stitched Panorama

Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas

Once again, the wheel of progress turned and all of this changed when digital panoramics became possible. The photographer only had to pan across the scene and take successive images, as in the past, but now the stitching process in the computer gave a seamless result. The photographer simply dropped these images into a photo stitching tool and voila, an amazing panoramic image magically appeared. Well, that was the idea anyway, in practical terms it was not so easy.

1. How to shoot panoramic photos

Autopano giga is a standalone software tool that stitches your images together. There are a few guidelines to follow when you do a photostitch. By following these guidelines, you will be almost guaranteed that your image will stitch properly the first time.

A. Shoot in Manual mode

Expose for your scene manually and don’t change the exposure between shots. You may have to do a light meter reading for the brightest and darkest parts of your scene. Adjust your settings to make sure that you have good exposure throughout the images and then start shooting.

B. Overlap your shots by at least 30%

Overlap each image by at least 30% if you are shooting in landscape orientation and up to 50% if shooting in portrait. By overlapping you will have duplicates of parts of your scene, this will allow the software to stitch the images together better and adjust for the perspective distortion too.

Stitched Panorama

Five images stitched, Jack Poole Plaza, Vancouver

C. Use a tripod

You can shoot handheld, but using a tripod will ensure that the images will be shot along the same horizontal plane. This can also help with the stitching process too.

D. Keep your aperture between f/8 and f/11

You will want to keep everything in focus, so be sure that your aperture is set to at least f/8. At f/2.8 your focal point may change and this could cause some parts of your image to be out of focus. It may also be a good idea to set your aperture to f/8, focus your camera, then switch to manual focus. That way your camera won’t be focusing on a different part of the scene in each image. At f/8 or f/11 the whole scene should be in focus.

Stitched Panorama

Six image Pano, Victoria Harbour on a snowy, windy day

Now the magic part, digitally stitching the images together. You can do this using Autopano Giga or Photoshop, my preference is Autopano Giga. To learn more about how to do this, take a look at these articles I wrote on image stitching: Walk Through and Review of Autopano Giga – Image Stitching Software and Step By Step How to Make Panoramic HDR Images.

Lets make this fun, upload some of your images that you have stitched, then tell us what software you used. Enjoy, happy shooting and stitching.

The post How to Shoot Panoramic Photos by Barry J Brady appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Categories : Digital
Comments (0)

Landscapes are one of the most popular photography subjects, and for good reason. Nature is enchanting to the human eye, and it’s only natural for people to want to capture that stunning natural scene with cameras. Some landscape pros and über-enthusiasts will plan ahead with tripods, shutter release cables, filters, and extra gear to make sure they really nail the shot they have in mind.

Then there are more casual photographers like myself who tend to shoot landscapes on a spur of the moment basis, usually during vacation. If you fall into the latter group, this article is more geared toward you. Maybe you have a single landscape shot that looks pretty good, but you’re looking for some light post-processing tips to top it off. If that’s you, read on!

In this article, I will present a few methods for enhancing natural scenes to keep them looking close to how you originally viewed them. All of these techniques have to do with enhancing a single shot, and the effects are not too dynamic or exaggerated, keeping you safe from overdoing it with say, HDR.

Tip #1: Enhance details

One of the quickest and easiest ways to polish any photo is to apply image sharpening. There are several ways to do this in Photoshop. For this article we’ll focus on applying the High Pass filter’s image sharpening effects to the landscape image below of Haleakala, a hiker-friendly dormant volcano in Maui, Hawaii. The before image is above and the after one is on the bottom. The effects may seem subtle from a zoomed-out perspective, but compare distinct areas such as the rock formations to see the sharpening in effect.

High pass sharpening filter landscape photography

Steps for sharpening using the High Pass filter

  1. Start by duplicating the Background layer, and changing the blend mode of the new layer to Overlay. The image will appear heavily contrasted, and with the Overlay blend mode applied, you’ll be able to get a preview of the High Pass filter effects.
  2. Next, apply the High Pass filter to the duplicate layer. It is located in the Filter menu at the top screen in the Other section.
  3. Adjust the filter settings: You’ll then see the High Pass filter dialogue box, which will allow you to use a simple slider to increase or decrease the intensity of the radius value (aka strength of the filter’s effect). The higher the value, the more intense the High Pass filter effect. Generally speaking, it’s best to keep the value on the lower side, between 1-5 pixels. In the case of this image, the radius was set to 1.2 to provide just enough sharpening around the edges of the image without exaggerating the effect.
  4. Tweak the layer settings: After the High Pass filter is applied, it can be fine-tuned by adjusting the blend mode of the duplicate background layer and/or lowering the layer’s opacity. The blend mode you choose can either intensify or reduce the amount of sharpening. For some examples, take a look at the image comparisons below. Hard Light and Vivid Light increase sharpening, whereas Soft Light keeps it subtle.

Landscape photography high pass sharpening filter

High Pass filter landscape photography

Tip #2: Remove image haze

It’s not uncommon for landscape images to appear hazy or foggy when the natural weather conditions are such. The image above was shot on the Oregon Coast a few summers ago using a Canon 70-200mm at f/11 with just a basic clear UV haze filter on the lens. The mist in the air give the photo a dull look in the unedited, straight-out-of-camera version (top image below) but luckily this can be easily fixed in Photoshop (bottom image below).

Landscape Haze before and after

Since the biggest problem with hazy images is soft contrast, the quickest fix is to simply select the Auto Contrast function, located in the top menu dropdown under Image. Poor image contrast is then instantly fixed based on pixel luminosity, resulting in overall finer image contrast. After Auto Contrast was applied, I also adjusted Levels, Saturation, and Vibrance, and the resulting image looks much more balanced and vibrant despite the hazy conditions of the scene. 

Landscape photography auto contrast

Tip #3: Enhance the colors in the sky

Most sunset photos are already quite spectacular when they’re captured with a camera, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to enhance them a bit more, to fully convey an exceptionally surreal or beautiful scene you witnessed. The photo below is an unedited sunset shot taken at the Grand Wailea in Maui, Hawaii. It looks pretty fine on its own, but I wanted to paint a little more orange and pink into the sky. 

Landscape photography Sunset before after

To do so, we’ll follow these simple steps:

  1. Create a new layer by clicking on the layer icon to the left of the trash can in the layers panel.
  2. Then go to the toolbox and select the Paintbrush icon. To ensure a smooth transition, make sure the opacity is set to 100% and the brush hardness is set at zero.
  3. Set your color: With the Paintbrush still selected, click on the Foreground Color, which is at the bottom of the toolbar. A dialogue box will appear and your cursor will transform into an eyedropper tool. Left click on the desired color in your image that you wish to paint with, in my case a light pink-orange.
  4. Next, start painting over the areas of the sky that you wish to enhance. Be sure to limit the brush strokes to just your sky area; in my case, I wouldn’t want to paint over the darkened shadows on the left side of the photo since I want to keep them as dark as possible.
  5. Change the Layer Blend Mode: After you’re done painting, right-click on the layer you painted on and change the blend mode to something like Soft Light or Overlay to achieve the desired effect. If the effect is too strong, adjust the opacity of the layer to a lower percentage.
  6. Violá! You should now see much stronger, vibrant colors radiating from your sunset image.

Landscape photography sunset sky painting

How do you process your landscape images? Do you have any other tips or tricks? Please share in the comments below.

The post 3 Simple Tips for Subtle Landscape Photography Post-Processing by Suzi Pratt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Categories : Digital
Comments (0)