Archive for May, 2015


Backyard Macro Photography Safari

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Editor’s Note: This is part a series on macro photography this week. Look for a new one each day. The next newsletter will have them all if you miss any!

As photographers, we often have the opinion that in order to capture a great image we need to head out to an exotic location. But, what if you don’t have the time or opportunity to go to one of those places? Say you have free time some morning, and would like to go outside and capture some stunning images. You might be surprised at what you can find to photograph right in your own backyard!

If you don’t have a backyard, take a trek to a nearby park. Everywhere you look, you will find subjects to photograph in macro. Spring and summer are great seasons to go on a backyard macro photography safari. There are many advantages to such a shoot. For one, you don’t need to be up and at’em before the crack of dawn to travel – though it is beneficial to take full advantage of the early morning light. Also, keep in mind that if you are planning a Backyard Macro Safari for your weekend, you should put off mowing your grass until after your macro adventure, because your mower will likely destroy some potential subject matter in your yard.

New growth on a pine tree creates a unique color burst effect.

New growth on a pine tree creates a unique color burst effect.

Necessary Equipment:

Keep it simple! Start out with your camera and macro lens on a tripod. Other equipment you might find useful includes a mat or knee pads, an off-camera flash, a reflector, and a diffuser. Another great thing about a backyard safari is, if you decide to use another piece of equipment you can just go back in the house and get it!


As with almost every type of photography, the tripod is one of your most important pieces of equipment, for a couple of reasons. The most obvious reason is to avoid camera shake, But also, in many cases, your depth of field will be very shallow, and keeping your camera still on a tripod will help keep your subject in sharp focus. Another benefit to using a tripod is that to do so will slow you down, which is very helpful with setting up the composition and lighting of your image.

Mat or knee pads

Not every capture will be found at standing level. A mat or knee pads are great tools for helping you get to ground level conveniently and comfortably in your yard.

Off-camera flash

Sometimes you’ll find some of the most interesting subjects in the deep shadows of your yard. In these cases, using an off-camera flash will add some light to better reveal or enhance your subject.

Light Reflectors

Reflectors come in very handy when you need to add some light into the shadowy areas of your image.

Light Diffusers

If you are dealing with very harsh light, diffusers or light modifiers can soften the light.

Black and white

Converting to black and white can bring out the patterns and textures of your images.

Take time to look around

Yogi Berra once said “You can observe a lot by just looking around.” In macro photography, sometimes less is more, so slow down and seek out even the smallest detail that could create a great macro image. Try to find new angles that make even the simplest object interesting. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new techniques such as multiple exposures.

What to look for, subject-wise

There are many objects right in your own backyard that make great macro photography subjects, such as flowers and insects. But don’t just stop there! Look for repeating patterns, textures and leading lines. Water droplets and spider webs can become beautiful subjects if photographed carefully. Just as in any other form of photography, look for the color red to compose a powerful image.


Choose your background wisely

The background is one of the most important elements of a good macro. Setup your camera at the level of your subject. This will allow you to move 360 degrees around it, and carefully choose just the right background to enhance the subject. Be aware that if the background is too busy or too light, it will draw the viewer’s eye away from the subject.


The muted colors of the background causes the subject to stand out sharply.


Avoid harsh lighting or flat lighting. By looking for side light, or even back-lighting, you can create more dramatic images. Adding an off-camera flash is an effective technique to enhance your subject and separate it from the background. By setting your fastest flash sync-speed, and using a small aperture, you can make your subject pop from an otherwise boring background.


Focusing can be the most difficult component of macro photography. Here’s a little trick to help you get the focus result you are looking to achieve: First, set your lens on manual focus. Next, turn the focus ring to the minimum focus length. Now simply move your camera closer to your subject until the part of the image that you want to be sharp is in focus and take the shot.

The wind is not your friend

Windy days make it very difficult to capture sharp macro images, and even harder to compose one if your subject is swaying back and forth in the wind. Try adding a flash to freeze your subject in windy conditions. In some cases the wind can help create interesting effects, but it’s a challenge!

Found this in the under growth in my backyard. Because of very low light I add a off camera flash set to low power on the side. I wanted to add some light to the top so I used my hat to reflect some of the light from the flash to the top of the plant.

An off camera flash was used here to add side light to this Jack-in-the-Pulpit. A light colored hat was used as an impromptu reflector to add light to the top of the wild flower.


Capturing images of nature in your own backyard is rewarding and convenient. One of the best things about a Backyard Macro Safari is that you don’t have to go anywhere for the shooting experience, so if things don’t work out, you don’t have that long disappointing ride home with nothing to show for it. If it was successful, you can kick back and celebrate right away, though you may still have to face mowing the lawn! What macro images can you capture in your backyard safari?

macro-coverWant to learn more about macro photography? Check out Ed Versosky’s Introduction to Close-Up & Macro Photography ebook – just $10 (over 30% off) this week with coupon code: DPS. You will need to enter the code to apply the discount.

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The decision to go pro with your photography business is a big step. It’s a time when the future is ripe with possibility and fears tend to run high. In what we call a “crisis of confidence,” you may find yourself comparing your work to other photographers and wondering, “am I really good enough?” or “will people give me a chance?”

When you begin experiencing these thoughts, take a deep breath and remember this; almost everyone feels this way before they begin a new journey – especially if their dreams are on the line. In fact, those super successful photographers you keep comparing yourself to likely experienced those same emotions when they decided to go pro themselves.

I asked 10 experienced professional photographers to reflect on the early days of their careers – from finding their first clients, to marketing strategies they used to establish their brands. Read on to see how each of them was able to find success as a professional photographer — and how you can, too.

It all starts with relationships

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Photo by Casey Kelbaugh

When you decide to offer your photography as a professional service, you’ll need to find a few clients who are willing to take a chance on you. For many photographers, this means starting with friends and family members who already like and trust them. “In my 15 years in the business, I have never gotten a job out of thin air,” NYC-based photographer Casey Kelbaugh said. “ Every single break, every assisting gig, every big campaign, every meat-and-potatoes job has come to me through some kind of relationship.”

Alfred Eisenstaedt, famous Life Magazine photographer said, “It’s more important to click with people than to click the shutter.” and “People hire you because of the quality of your work, but will hire you again and again because they enjoy your attitude and manner both on and off the set.” says landscape and commercial photographer Michael Zide.

Steve Hansen, a headshot photographer from Los Angeles also began his career by leveraging his personal network. “My first client was actually a friend who needed headshots,” he said. “He couldn’t afford some of the more pricey photographers, and I needed clients, so we struck a deal.”

According to photo and video educator Marlene Hielema, networking is also critically important. “You have to get out and meet people! People like to work with people they like, so you need to make connections with people who need the type of work you want to do. Have your elevator pitch ready, because I have met a lot of future clients at parties.”

Marlene hielema 0347

Photo by Marlene Hielema

When networking, Kelbaugh also recommends looking beyond photo editors and art directors, since they’re already being bombarded with photography pitches. “Clients can be found anywhere, so think about reaching out to your friends that work at startups, universities, law firms and restaurants” she said. “When building your clientele, try to think outside of the box.”

Speak up

In addition to utilizing the power of your existing network, don’t forget to take advantage of opportunities as they arise – no matter the time or place. Take Cappy Hotchkiss, a New York-based wedding photographer who met her first buyer at a dog run (a park where dogs can run off-leash). “I had photographed weddings for a few friends and absolutely loved it” Hotchkiss said. “Someone at the dog run overheard me talking about it and asked me to shoot her wedding. I still remember what a thrill it was – and how scary and fabulous it was.”

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Photo by Cappy Hotchkiss

Sports photographer Chris Marion had a similar experience when he happened to meet the editor of a local sports magazine. “I asked him if they had a need for additional photographers” Marion said. “He said yes and gave me what was most likely a test assignment. The assignment went well and it went on to become my first real sports job.”

Small wins lead to big ones

As your portfolio and word-of-mouth referrals begin to grow, so will the likelihood that you’ll land that one, great assignment. These assignments can be game changers for some professional photographers – leading to high-profile work and long-term relationships that ultimately lead to even bigger projects in the future. “I got my best client, Google, by landing a smaller event for them and delivering photos that they just loved” photographer Andrew Federman said. “Word spread and they asked me if I would come shoot the inaugural Google Science Fair out in Mountain View, California at Google HQ.”

750 AndrewFederman2 GoogleScienceFair

Photo by Andrew Federman

Marion landed his best client, the NBA, in a similar way. “My hometown of Springfield had an NBA development league and I was their team photographer for five years,” he said. “Through that experience I was able to capture the attention of the NBA, which then led to freelancing opportunities with Sports Illustrated, as well as others.”

Professionalism counts more than you realize

Sometimes that great assignment comes simply from being available. “One day I was at the library and got a phone call from a weird number,” said James Brosher, an editorial, commercial and wedding photographer in Bloomington, Indiana. “I answered, and I was glad that I did; it was a great job that paid my bills for an entire month. The client said he had called a couple other people but I got the job because I answered the phone. Ever since then, I’ve made a point to always answer my phone. You never know when a great client will call.”

Brosher has also landed several jobs because of his flexibility to take on last-minute projects. “One day I was on the couch and got a call from the Indianapolis Star needing an event covered in 15 minutes,” he said. “Being around, available, and being able to anticipate when a publication might need you goes a long way.”

Marlene hielema cycling 703

Photo by Marlene Hielema

According to Christina Van Dyke, the owner and founder of Van Dyke Design & Photography, something she’s found incredibly important is a focus on providing both great work and a great customer experience. “My best client found out about my photographic services from a word-of-mouth referral,” she said. “The lesson I’ve learned is to always treat each and every client as if they are your ONLY client. In return, your clients will reward you with wonderful referrals that keep your business growing and thriving.”

Play the long game

Hansen recommends focusing more on building your name, and less on your paycheck – at least in the beginning. “Don’t be afraid to take a pay cut in the early stages of building your business and name,” he said. “Yes, you may be worth a lot more, but having your work out there is invaluable to building a solid client list.”

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Photo by Andrew Federman

“My advice for young photographers is to remember that it’s the photographs you actually deliver to your clients that set you apart – not how slick your website is, how many Instagram followers you have, or how many blog hits you get,” Federman said. “Marketing is important, but delivering photos that blow away your clients will generate a powerful word-of-mouth force.”

View the complete interviews on SlideShare (below)

Thanks to our contributing photographers:

The post What it Takes to Go Pro – Lessons from 10 Professional Photographers by Kelly Kingman appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Editor’s Note: This is part a series on macro photography this week. Look for a new one each day. The next newsletter will have them all if you miss any!

Lines and light can emphasise your subject

Lines and light can emphasize your subject

Macro photography truly is a unique genre of photography. In most of the other types of photography (landscape, portrait, sport, etc.) you want to get the context of your scene in the image. In macro photography, you can literally focus in on what’s important and remove any distractions by simply getting closer. One of the best things about macro photography is that you can do it anywhere, all you need is something to photograph. In my previous article: Getting Started Guide to Macro or Close-Up Photography, I went into some details about what you will need to get started in macro photography. Take a look at that article to be sure that you understand more about the genre of macro photography.

In this article we are going to be looking at getting great abstract images using macro photography.

Look for shape and colour

Look for shape and colour

What is abstract macro photography?

Abstract photography in general is about representing a subject in a non-literal way. The focus of abstract photography is more about colour, shape, and texture as opposed to the literal representation of the subject. Abstract macro photography, takes this to the next level by enabling you to get even closer to your subject, and therefore also able to be more abstract in a sense.

The same guidelines around composition apply, you can use the rule of thirds, curves, and lines to draw the viewer into the image. The difference is, the subject may not be immediately recognizable, your centre of interest might be a colour or a curve of a flower. So for abstract macro photography, you will need to think a little differently.

Abstract close up of a lily

Abstract close up of a lily

What will I need?

You will need a macro lens if you want to get in really close. You can use a prime lens like a 50mm, or even an 85mm lens, but for this type of work, a macro lens will work best. The reason is that you want be able to get in close enough to remove all distractions; in other words, you want to fill the frame with your subject. With a macro lens, you can do this. Most macro lenses have the ability to focus on subjects that are really close to the lens. The prime lenses can focus on subjects that are reasonably close, but you may not be able to get in close enough to remove the background.

You will also need to use a tripod. The close focusing ability of the macro lens means that it is very easy for your subject to become out of focus with the slightest movement. Ideally, you will want to have you camera set up with your macro lens mounted, then get that in as close as possible to your subject. Next, you will want to set your aperture to f/8, or higher, and then click onto manual focus to get your subject good and sharp in the frame.

Frayed rope abstract

Frayed rope abstract

What can I photograph?

For abstract macro photography, I find that organic items work best. By organic I mean flowers, wood, fruit, vegetables, and so on. That does not mean you can’t photograph an abstract macro image of a computer keyboard or a coffee cup, but sometimes, these well known shapes are difficult to transform into abstract images. If you are going to photograph a product like a computer or another manufactured product, try shooting it from a different angle or get in very close so that any telltale signs of what it is, will be lost. Ultimately, you can photograph anything that you think will work, but start out with some easy subjects first,  then move on to the trickier ones.

Buds about to bloom

Buds about to bloom

Try this…

Set up your subject and get your camera in position. Look through the viewfinder and start working on your composition. Try some of these pointers to get started and work from there:

  • Work on building your composition – are there any curves, lines, shapes ,or colours that you want to emphasize?
  • Use manual focus to bring even a small part of your image into sharp focus, this will be your centre of interest.
  • Make sure your centre of interest is obvious. In other words it should be in focus, it can be a different colour to the rest of the frame, or it can even be a well defined line or shape in the image
  • Check the exposure to make sure that you are exposing your scene correctly.
  • You can even overexpose slightly. In abstract macro photography, some slight overexposure is okay, as long as it does not distract from the rest of the image
  • Capture the shot
  • Try shooting the same image from a different angle and maybe even a different centre of interest.
  • Take as many images as possible, from different angles, with different focal points.
  • Choose the best three images and edit them in your chosen image editing software.

This is a great indoor project, but you can try this outside too. Shooting macro images outside can be more challenging as the subject may be affected by changes in lighting. If it is a flower or a plant, there may be a slight breeze which can move the flower as you are trying to photograph it. The most important thing is to try this type of photography if you can. It will cause you to think creatively and to look for different things in your image setup. Give it a try and load up your results below – let’s see what you get.

Abstract of a lily leaf

Abstract of a lily leaf

macro-coverWant to learn more about macro photography? Check out Ed Versosky’s Introduction to Close-Up & Macro Photography ebook – just $10 (over 30% off) this week with coupon code: DPS. You will need to enter the code to apply the discount.

The post Getting Started with Abstract Macro Photography by Barry J Brady appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Editor’s Note: This is part a series on macro photography this week. Look for a new one each day. The next newsletter will have them all if you miss any!

Here are 5 quick creative tips to help you with your macro photography:

1) Use Flash for Tiny Details

While a macro lens with a 1:1 (one to one) ratio is a terrific tool for close-up work, so too is an external flash. Contrary to what some photographers will tell you, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a ring light for successful results. The trick is to reduce the flash output to approximately -1.75 in TTL mode. This will illuminate the finer detail in your macro work such as a butterfly’s antennae. Should you need even less light, cut the flash intensity further to -2 or -3 stops.

There are times when you’ll want more depth of field to keep the entire subject sharp. This can be problematic, however, as more of the scene remains in focus and can be distracting. Rather than opting for a shallow depth of field, consider using flash. With it, you can illuminate the subject, enjoy great depth of field, and render the background really dark, or even black. To do this, position yourself so there is at least six to 12 inches of separation between the subject and the background. Your reduced flash will effectively expose your macro subject without reaching what’s behind it.


2) Shoot Through a Flower Petal

Go beyond the routine snapshot by adding a layer of visual interest to your macro captures. By shooting through a flower petal or leaf, you can create a soft wash of color while keeping the main subject in sharp focus. The technique is simple but yields a sophisticated look that’s reminiscent of an impressionist painting. For this particular method, you may prefer the freedom of shooting without a tripod. By working handheld, it’s easier to position the camera directly into the patch of flowers.


Start with your widest aperture, preferably around f/2.8. Locate a flower that’s in front of your subject, and place your lens approximately one inch away from it. Don’t worry if it largely blocks the main subject, as the extremely shallow depth of field will render it nearly transparent. The closer your lens is to the front flower, the more out of focus it will become. Carefully compose so that you can still see your subject in the background. Finally, move your single active autofocus point to the flower you want sharpest.


3) Switch to Manual Focus

Autofocus is highly effective for the majority of shooting opportunities. In extreme close-up situations however, it can struggle to find its mark. This is particularly true with ultra fine details such as a delicate spider web. A better alternative is to use manual focus aided by Live View or focus peaking. These options take the guess work out of manual focus, allowing you to view the scene at extreme magnifications. At 5x or 10x magnification, it leaves no doubt that something is sharp. On some camera models you can even couple the enlarged view with focus peaking. This works by outlining the portion of subject that’s in focus. While it’s possible to do this handheld, a stable tripod will improve your accuracy.


4) Mind the Background

When shooting macro images, the importance of clean background can not stressed enough. If the area behind your subject is cluttered, it draws attention away from your main point of focus. Rather than taking the first vantage point offered, try composing with your feet. This is a deliberate process that forces you to slow down and explore the subject from all possible angles.


Filling the frame with your subject can be an effective way to eliminate distracting backgrounds. With the close focusing ability of a macro lens, you can carefully arrange the scene to only include the flower. This enables you to work with small apertures such as f/16 for maximum depth of field. With sharp detail throughout the frame, there are no areas of soft focus to detract from the subject. For a more dynamic look, try using the rule of thirds instead of a bulls-eyed composition.


5) Experiment

There is something serendipitous about in-camera double exposures that is lost when methodically stacking images in Photoshop. Making exposures this way builds a sense of anticipation that is normally not present in digital photography, with today’s camera’s featuring “instant everything”. Instead, you take the first image, look at it on the LCD and hold that visual in your mind while searching for a second scene to best compliment it. After capturing that, you have to wait a few seconds for the camera to reveal your creation. In that brief pause, suspense builds, and anything seems possible, much like the days of waiting for your film to be processed. Of course with a technique like this, there will be a few misses. Nevertheless, the results can be quite interesting when you get it just right.


Another creative option is to experiment with slow shutter speeds and intentional camera movement. You don’t even need a macro lens to try it, just a basic zoom. Start by filling the frame with the flower and make sure it’s in focus. For this you can be at the longer end of your focal range. Press the shutter all the way down and start the exposure, then immediately zoom out to a wide-angle perspective. You can also reverse the process, starting with a wide angle and zooming in. The following settings are a baseline to get you started.

  • 1/6th of a second for the shutter speed.
  • f/22 on the aperture.
  • A very low ISO around 100.
  • Based on the existing light you may have to adjust these for the best results.


Do you have any additional creative tricks to share? Please do so in the comments.

macro-coverWant to learn more about macro photography? Check out Ed Versosky’s Introduction to Close-Up & Macro Photography ebook – just $10 (over 30% off) this week with coupon code: DPS. You will need to enter the code to apply the discount.

The post 5 Creative Macro Photography Ideas that Really Work by Chris Corradino appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Macphun Noiseless Pro Software Review

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I hate digital noise. I’ve been a stickler about keeping it out of my images for years and have tried just about everything under the sun to aid in that process. So when Macphun offered to send over their new Noiseless Pro app I jumped at the opportunity (especially after seeing the promo video for it).

Before we get started, let’s go over the basics of noise for those who are just dipping their toes in this area of post-processing. Noise is basically an unwanted side effect of shooting at high ISO levels or super long shutter speeds (long exposures). Without getting into photodiode leakage currents and other super-techy jargon, just know that noise is the little salt and pepper type specs that show up in your low light images.

Noise reduction is a give-and-take process, just like anything else in photography. It comes at a cost most of the time, and the cost is some amount of detail. Because of the way the noise reduction algorithms work, and because of the nature of high noise images, you just can’t remove noise without losing some of the sharpness in your photo. So the task at hand for software companies who want to tackle noise is to eliminate as much as possible, without screwing up the image and making it unusable.

Enter Macphun

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 9.32.00 PMMacphun came onto the photography scene fairly recently; although only for the Macintosh users as evidenced by the first three letters of their name. Each app they have created comes in two versions: A simple, easy to use version that usually goes for around $20, and a pro version with more features that goes for around $60. With any software that has the word “pro” in it, I am going to expect it to perform at a pro level. So with that said, let’s go over some of the key features that I personally expect to see in a brand new noise reduction program, as well as how Noiseless Pro measured up.

Video Review

For those who prefer video content over reading, here’s a walkthrough of Noiseless Pro and how it stacked up to DeNoise from Topaz Labs with a couple different images. For those who prefer reading, or can’t watch the video at the moment, read on below!

Differences Between Noiseless and Noiseless Pro

Each product that Macphun offers comes in a basic version as well as a pro version. The base version of Noiseless is $17.99 and the pro version is $49.99. So what does the extra $32 get you?

Each version comes with all the algorithms that were created to reduce noise in your images, as well as advanced algorithms for smart phones and GoPro cameras. The pro version comes with a few extra noise reduction presets, Adobe RGB/ProPhoto color space support, a navigator view to easily peruse the image when zoomed in, more advanced controls in the Adjust panel, as well as the ability to use the app as a plugin with programs like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop (this is how I use it).

So, in my opinion, it’s well worth the extra bit of cash to go with the pro version. Photo editing software has come down in price by leaps and bounds over the past several years, so $49.99 seems like a great deal to me.

Ease of Use/User Interface

This is where all of Macphun’s programs shine. By targeting a Mac-specific audience, they had to kill it in the UI department, and they have with each product I’ve seen. The program is both incredibly fast and incredibly clean in its layout.


You can either drag an image right into Noiseless Pro, or you can use the program as a plug-in with Photoshop or Lightroom. The program opens immediately, and by default, opens up with the image zoomed in to 200%. This works well because it really lets you see what the noise looks like in the image, so you can see what needs to be done to combat it. It does throw you off a bit at first, but I think I like it.

From there, all you have to do is choose a preset on the right hand side (which couldn’t be easier). Just select the strength level that your image needs and make fine adjustments if needed. Each preset you select will have an “amount” slider appear once it’s been selected. Just use that to dial back the noise reduction strength if needed.

If you need to make even finer adjustments, just click the “Adjust” button up in the top right corner. Here you can adjust color noise, luminance noise, structure, details, etc.

Clouds and Skies

This is where Noiseless Pro exceeded my expectations. It really does a great job at reducing noise while still managing to maintain some detail in your clouds. Skies are the main thing I use noise reduction on and this is an important tip to those who are new to the idea of reducing noise in your images: Never do it globally! This is the problem with noise reduction in programs like Lightroom. They apply the reduction to the entire image, sacrificing detail in every single pixel of your image. Sure, they have some sort of intelligence built-in to preserve some details, but you’re still make a global change to the image.

Monstrosity | Somewhere Near Ardmore, OK

Using Noiseless Pro side by side against Topaz Labs DeNoise was pretty impressive. I’ve been using DeNoise exclusively for years now really wasn’t expecting Noiseless Pro to outperform it, or even come close. After all, Topaz has been in this game for years. However, after running the minimal amount of noise reduction necessary to get rid of the noise with both programs, I was stunned to see how much more detail Macphun retained in the clouds beneath the storm.

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 1.11.16 PM


This is one of the less common areas where I apply noise reduction. It really just depends on the image, but if I’m going to reduce noise in a foreground area, it’s usually going to be a body of water, windows on a building, the finish on a car or some other kind of flat surface that should be smooth.

Noiseless did a great job in this area, and again, it’s so fast and easy to use. It literally just works like a breeze right out of the box.

Mobile Photography

One of the pro features mentioned in the marketing materials for Noiseless is “advanced algorithms for mobile photography.” I ran a few of my random mobile images through the program and it did seem to do pretty well. I think the biggest question here is, “Why?” I mean, it’s a nice feature and all but I doubt that personally will ever care enough about a mobile photo to reduce noise in it. That could of course change in the future, as our phones will likely continue to get closer to being capable of what our SLR’s do, but that’s not going to truly be the case any time soon (no, not even with the new LG phone that shoots RAW and offers manual controls). Of course, this is just my opinion.

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 1.44.30 PM

Astro Images

Well, every fairy tale has its villain and astro photography, unfortunately, seems to be the enemy of Noiseless at this point in the game. I was really bummed to see this, but it’s true. Here’s one of the high ISO images containing stars that I used.

Kilauea's Glow | Volcanos National Park

Using Noiseless side by side with Topaz Labs DeNoise was pretty telling to say the least. But then again, Noiseless also did surprisingly better with clouds and skies. DeNoise seems to have something built into their software that detects the stars in an astro/night sky image and masks around them. Noiseless, on the other hand, just completely degraded the stars in every night sky image I threw at it. The good news is this is a known issue and one that has already been brought up to the team at Macphun by several other photographers/beta testers. Macphun seems to be a solid company with solid people running it, so I am pretty confident they will address this and create something for the astro photography community in a future iteration. Fingers crossed.



While Noiseless may not perform as well as I’d like with astro/night sky images, it has still found a home in my post-processing workflow, especially for images containing clouds (which tends to happen quite often with landscapes). I’m certainly looking forward to where this program goes in the future, and really hope they will incorporate some better algorithms to handle stars.

The post Macphun Noiseless Pro Software Review by James Brandon appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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In this article you will see how to deal with fast moving objects. For me shooting action is the most fun you can have with your photography. You can freeze that instant split second that the human eye couldn’t even comprehend, and capture it in an image for all time.

Image 4

1/6400, f/6.3. ISO 800

Last weekend I was lucky enough to shoot a bicycle charity event in the countryside. The sun was out, the birds were singing and there was enough cyclists, kids activities, and local celebrities to keep me shooting non-stop for the day.

As I was shooting fast moving road cyclists I had two lenses that I used. One which is the bread and butter lens of most photographers, the 70-200mm f/2.8. On a full frame body it has a good focal length that can capture subjects at a medium distances and the fast aperture allows for shooting in quite low light conditions. The second lens was a wide angle, for capturing some different looking shots. You don’t want to have a memory card with all the same style of shots, boring for you, and if this is for work, definitely not what the client wants to see.

image 7

Shutter speed: 1/50th, f/16, ISO 200

Although I just listed pro lenses, honestly you can do this with any kit zoom lens, a 55-200mm variable aperture or a 70-300mm like the Nikon VR which is a great value for money zoom lens.

As with most shoots I make sure I get the classic shots that I KNOW I can nail first. For me this is frozen action, nice background, and the subject at approximately a 45 degree angle.

Image 1

1/2500, f/3.2, ISO 200

As you can see in this image, it’s not mind blowing, however it has all the ingredients for a nice photograph that meets the criteria of what you are trying to capture. To create this type image, shoot with your zoom lens using the following settings as a rough starting point:

  • Camera mode: Aperture Priority (Av in Canon, A in Nikon and most other brands)
  • Aperture: As you want to freeze the action you need as much light entering the camera as possible, so choose a large aperture setting. With most kit lenses go down as low as possible, at this focal length that may be f/5.6.
  • Shutter speed: No need to worry about this as the camera will adjust this automatically in this mode.
  • ISO: If it is a sunny day like above, then ISO 100 or 200 is fine. However, if it is a little bit gloomy you may have to increase your ISO, I’ll talk about this in a minute.
  • Focus: Set your camera for on Continuous or Servo focus depending on your brand. This means that while your shutter button is held halfway down, or your AF on button is pressed, the camera will continue to adjust its focus, which is what you need when tracking moving objects.

Your camera is now setup and ready to go. Get yourself in a position where the subject, in this case the cyclist, will be at approximately 45 degrees to you. Full side-on image and straight-on images can seem a bit odd unless it’s the style you are going for; at this angle you can see most of the rider and it’s more flattering.

Smoothly follow the rider with your camera; this might be easier in a crouch or if you have a monopod, utilize it. Once they are in a good position click off a shot or two. With any luck you have a nice photo of the rider, somewhat frozen in time.

Image 2

1/1600, f/3.2, ISO 200

It didn’t work? Okay, there are two main things that could trip you up here,firstly the shutter speed wasn’t fast enough and the rider is blurry, secondly your focus isn’t quite right. As you are using Aperture Priority (which means you set how much light is allowed in the camera and the camera adjusts the amount of time the shutter is open automatically) it’s possible that there just isn’t enough light. So the camera has slowed the shutter speed way down to let more light in to exposure your photo properly, which has caused blurring of the subject.

When looking through your viewfinder. check your shutter speed down the bottom. You should be aiming for at least around 1/500th of a second. If it is slower than that, it’s time to bump your ISO up to compensate. Your ISO is how sensitive your camera sensor is to light. As a general rule you always want to keep this as low as possible to guarantee grain and noise-free images. However, it is a tool to be used, and on modern DSLRs shooting at ISO 800 yields incredible results over the older generation digital.

image 6

1/4000, f/3.2, ISO 400

Adjust your ISO up to 400 and try again. If you are still experiencing motion blur bump it up to 800. Unless it’s a very dark and gloomy day this should give you a crisp clear image with a fast shutter speed.

The next issue you might encounter is that the focus isn’t right. Maybe the rear wheel of the bike is in focus, but the riders face isn’t. Or even worse, the background is sharp and the rider is way out of focus. This is a simple fix.

All DSLRs give you the ability to change focus points, the square which the autofocus uses to target the focal point. Move this point to where the riders head will be in your frame. You may have to change your focus mode to Single Point Focus, as many cameras have the ability to change which focus point they use automatically, depending on the situation. You will have to consult your manual to find out where this is located in your menu system.

image 5

1/3200, f/3.5, ISO 400

Now when your rider is in frame, and you are focusing, it will focus on the rider’s face. Honestly, as long as their face is in focus the rest could be a blur, it doesn’t matter, faces are the most import thing in nearly all photos.

These guide lines should give you most of the info you need to shoot this type of photo. However, as with all photography, it’s trial and error to get things right and to get it looking the way YOU want.

Practice this week. Get your kids out on their bikes, go to the park and try to get some photos of dogs running around (this is fantastic practice for tracking subjects) or head down your local racetrack and take photos of cars, motorbikes or horses!

Image 3

1/2500, f/7.1, ISO 500

Once you get this dialled in. it can be moved to many other subjects and situations, the photos of a skier (above) and snowboarder (top of article) were shot using exactly the same technique.

Do not dismay if things aren’t working out straight away. A lot of learning photography is trial and error and practice. Any entry level, or higher DSLR setup, can do this. Learn your gear and practice, you will be surprised at the caliber of photos you can get from even the least expensive setup.

Thank you for reading, I hope this helps you on your photography quest this week. Please post up your photos and practice shots, if you have any questions I will try to answer them all and get you on the right track to photography perfection. Happy snapping!

The post Shooting Fast Moving Subjects – How to Stop the Blur by Matt Hull appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Editor’s Note: This is part a series on macro photography this week. Look for a new one each day. The next newsletter will have them all if you miss any!


Macro photographers have a plethora of choices when it comes to selecting a camera with this feature. From DSLRs to even cell phones, the macro function is becoming a standard add-on to most forms of digital photography. But, when put to the test, which type of camera will give you the best macro photography results? This article compares the macro photography functions of a DSLR, mirrorless, and point-and-shoot camera to evaluate the pros and cons of using each to shoot extreme close-ups.

To start, can you tell which of the below images were shot with either a DSLR (Canon 6D with 100mm f/2.8 macro lens), mirrorless (Fujifilm x100s), or point-and-shoot (Olympus Stylus TG-2 Tough)? The answers, listed in sequential order below the image, may surprise you.

Fuj Oly Can

1) Fujifilm x100s

The image on the far left in the above montage was shot using the macro function of the Fujifilm x100s mirrorless camera. The x100s has a macro mode and can shoot images as close-up as 3.9 inches (10 cm). Accessing the macro mode is simple, requiring just a quick dial turn; the results can be seen below.

Fuj Dragon


Besides being an attractive camera with its retro body, the x100s has become popular among both professional and amateur photographers, thanks to its high quality features and ability to produce stunning images with its fixed Fujinon 23mm f/2.0 lens. At 15.7oz (445g), this camera is significantly smaller and lighter than a DSLR, yet it is relatively more affordable costing around $900. It also offers a unique hybrid viewfinder, meaning shots can be taken using the built-in optical viewfinder, or an electronic one.

Fuj Flowers


The fixed lens might bug some photographers since it can’t be swapped out, and the 23mm focal range means you have to get really close to your photo subject. This could produce shadows or block natural lighting, which can’t be overridden without purchasing the optional external flash unit. An additional possible grievance is the 3.9 inch maximum focusing distance. Some of the other cameras mentioned below allow you to get much closer.

These shots were taken at an aperture of f/2.8 using natural lighting, in JPG format (RAW shooting is also available) with no post-processing.

2) Olympus Stylus TG-2 Tough

This little camera shot the middle image in the above photo montage. One of the most sophisticated, prettiest, and most durable point-and-shoots on the market today is the Olympus Tough line. It is your best friend for taking high quality photos while engaging in extreme outdoor adventures, and it has a superb macro mode.

Oly Dragon


Waterproof, freeze-proof, crushproof, and shockproof, the TG-2 also has a 12 megapixel BSI CMOS sensor and a high-speed f/2.0 lens. It is pocket-sized, although a little bulkier than most other point-and-shoots, and it only costs around $350 (TG-4 is the current model). This camera also has many shooting modes including two macro options: Super Macro and Underwater Macro. Both allow you to get as close as 1 cm to the photo subject, and additional magnification of up to 7x with the optical zoom, and 14x with Super Resolution zoom, which is closer than either the x100s or Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens offer. Its unique 5:1 magnification really makes macro photography a joy on this little camera.

Oly Flowers


This is the only camera of the bunch that doesn’t offer RAW shooting or an optical viewfinder, but it is the only one that has a built-in flash. While the flash produces a balanced output in most situations, it isn’t helpful when shooting in macro mode since it tends to blow out the image due to being too close to the photo subject. Along those lines, shooting in macro mode on the TG-2 does require the camera to be very physically close to the subject, again making it easy to obstruct lighting.

3) Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

The final image on the far right of the montage above was snapped with the Canon 100mm macro lens. A newer version of this lens recently debuted featuring Image Stabilization and extra goodies, but the older model still boasts spectacular, sharp optics at a relatively lower price ($549 versus $899).

Can Dragon


Canon has a small but mighty line of macro lenses, and the 100mm is arguably the best choice. Its longer focal length causes images to be rendered at 1:1 magnification, giving you more working distance so you don’t scare away your living photo subjects, or cast shadows. Since this lens is paired with a DSLR, image resolution can be up to an astounding 50.6 megapixels if it is used with the Canon 5DS. That’s a huge number compared to the 16.3 megapixels on the Fujifilm or 12 megapixels on the Olympus.

Can Flowers


At 20.6 oz (584.2 g), the 100mm macro lens is by far the bigger, heavier, option of the three. With a cost of $550-899, and the requirement of using it with a Canon DSLR, this is also the most expensive macro photography tool.


So which camera option is the best for macro photography? It truly depends on how you define “best.” In moments when you need a compact option, the Fujifilm x100s or Olympus Tough point and shoot are the better options, the latter being the better deal for budget or extreme sports shooters. However, if high-quality, professional imagery is your goal, a DSLR with a macro lens is your best bet.

macro-coverWant to learn more about macro photography? Check out Ed Versosky’s Introduction to Close-Up & Macro Photography ebook – just $10 (over 30% off) this week with coupon code: DPS. You will need to enter the code to apply the discount.

The post Mirrorless, DSLR or Point and Shoot: Which Camera is Best for Macro Photography? by Suzi Pratt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Editor’s Note: This is part a series on macro photography this week. Look for a new one each day. The next newsletter will have them all if you miss any!

This week we’re focusing (pun intended) on one specialized area of photography, macro or close up photography. True macro photography means that you are close enough to reproduce the subject 1:1 or actual size on the camera sensor (or film). Usually that requires a special macro lens but there are other ways to do it – check out: 3 Ways to Try Macro Photography on a Budget for some ideas. See more examples of bug images here.

Laurenz Bobke

By Laurenz Bobke

Weekly Photography Challenge – Bugs Close-up

Your challenge this week is to get buggy with it – go find some creepy crawlers, multi-legged creatures, flying nuisances and photograph them. Get as close as you can with the equipment you have, perhaps give reverse lens macro a try if you haven’t got extension tubes or a macro lens.

Here are a few examples:


By mrholle

William Cho

By William Cho

François Reiniche

By François Reiniche


By Special 

Think outside the box – use humor!

Share your images here:

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer upload them to your favourite photo sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge. Sometimes it takes a while for an image to appear so be patient and try not to post the same image twice.

Geert Orye

By Geert Orye

William Warby

By William Warby

William Warby

By William Warby

Thomas Hawk

By Thomas Hawk

macro-coverWant to learn more about macro photography? Check out Ed Versosky’s Introduction to Close-Up & Macro Photography ebook – just $10 (over 30% off) this week with coupon code: DPS. You will need to enter the code to apply the discount.

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Get Buggy With It by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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DPS Silhouette 1


Place the subject’s entire body, from head to toe, against the sky. In order to do this, you will need to be lower than the subject. You can do this by laying on your back, or stomach, while taking the shot.

If you are unable to get low enough, you may need to have your subjects get higher, such as on the very top of a rock, small hill or sand dune. This will hopefully allow you, in most circumstances, to get an angle that places the subject’s entire outline against the sky. You can see a variety of landscapes utilized in the examples below.

DPS Silhouette 2

Hint: It’s so, so, SO important that their feet are against the sky! Legs in a silhouette portrait that are cut off above the feet look like weird, short stumps. If you can’t find a suitably spot at a location, you can play with silhouettes of a closer composition.

DPS Silhouette 3


Silhouettes work best around 20-30 minutes before sunset. However, it does vary with the angle you are able to achieve – the greater the height difference between you and the subject(s), the earlier you will need to take the shot.

If you wait any longer, the sun will be hidden behind whatever your subjects are standing on, and the sky might not be bright enough to make a silhouette. If you do it too early, the sky’s colours can be a bit boring and you will be dealing with other issues, such as sun flare.

DPS Silhouette 4

Tip: Silhouettes can be taken earlier before sunset if the sun is partially blocked or filtered through strong clouds.


Set your camera to Aperture Priority (AV) mode, with an aperture of f/2.8, and ISO of 400. Have Evaluative Metering selected, which means that the camera will take into account the whole scene when deciding how to find a balanced exposure.

If you fill the frame with your subjects’ faces or bodies, then the camera will expose for their skin, even with a bright background (see example below).

If you fill the frame mostly with a very bright sky, than the camera will expose for the bright sky, brining out the natural sunset colors and making everything else in the photograph dark.

So, if you place your subject directly against the sky (bright), than the subject (which is darker) will be heavily underexposed. The result – a silhouette!

DPS Silhouette 5 DPS Silhouette 6

Both photographs were taken on the exact same setting mentioned above, only seconds apart. The difference? Composition, and what is filling the frame – subject or sky.


Silhouettes are very forgiving of poor facial expressions (simply because you cannot see them), but very harsh when it comes to outlines. After taking each shot, check to make sure that nothing looks odd in the photograph.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when posing subjects in a silhouette:

  1. Hugging poses do not work – A hug silhouette looks like a great big blob monster. All subjects need to be clearly defined, which means they need to be at least a couple of inches apart from each other. It’s nice for subjects to still be connected, through holding hands, or kissing, but their bodies should still be defined.
  2. Have your clients look away from camera – It’s much nicer and more natural to have poses where the faces are profiled.
  3. Watch the clothing – Very baggy clothing will not work as well for a silhouette, as the shape can become unflattering. It is best for females to wear dresses or skirts in silhouettes, as it brings a feminine shape and helps clearly define them against the male’s figure. – Very baggy clothing will not work as well for a silhouette, as the shape can become unflattering. It is best for females to wear dresses or skirts in silhouettes, as it brings a feminine shape and helps clearly define them against the male’s figure.

DPS Silhouette 7


Try to capture at least one silhouette at every photo shoot, whether it is a family portrait, maternity, engagement or wedding. Why? Because they sell!

Here are some reasons why clients love to purchase silhouettes:

  • Silhouettes add variety to your shoot. Silhouettes are so different in nature, in their colouring and style, that the variety they give instantly makes any shoot more interesting and saleable. As the silhouette is quite unique from all other photographs, it also makes it easy to sell individually as a unique piece of artwork.
  • Silhouettes are perfect for shy clients. Some clients hate the idea of their faces hanging up on their walls, making silhouettes the perfect objection handler. As the focus of the photograph is not on the subjects’ faces at all, it can be marketed to them as the perfect piece of personalized artwork, without battling their self-conscious nature.
  • Silhouettes look better bigger! If you capture silhouettes on a wide composition, it’s all too easy to sell them as very large piece of artwork. Because the subjects are relatively small within the frame, silhouettes can encourage a larger, more impressive piece of artwork for the client and a more profitable sale for you.

DPS Silhouette 8

We hope this guide gives you the confidence to go out and try your own silhouettes.

The post 5 Secrets to Create a Perfect Silhouette Portrait Outdoors by Alana Orth appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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3 Ways to Try Macro Photography on a Budget

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Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of article on macro photography this week. Look for a new one each day. The next newsletter will have them all if you miss any!


Has Macro Week here at DPS sparked your interest, but you’re still not sure whether you’re quite ready to invest in a macro lens of your own? If so, then this article is for you! I’ll outline three different ways that you can try out macro on a budget, and possibly even with gear that you already own.

Now, before any macro-purists fall off their chairs in disgust, let me say that the techniques outlined in this post will produce pseudo-macro images. In a true macro image, the subject is projected onto the camera’s sensor at a 1:1 magnification, which means that the subject is exactly the same size in real life as it is on your camera’s sensor. That’s not the case, or the intent here. The intent here is to allow those of you who haven’t tried macro photography, the opportunity to test the waters and see if it is even something that interests you before making a big investment in a macro lens.

1.  Use a Telephoto Lens


This image was shot about two feet away from this flower, using a telephoto lens at 220mm.

My very first dslr camera came in a package with both an 18-55mm lens and a 75-300mm lens. I don’t tend to use the 75-300mm lens very often, but when I do, it’s usually in a pseudo-macro capacity. If you have a telephoto lens already in your bag, give this a try–stand about two feet away from your subject, with your zoom lens at about 250-300mm. If you have trouble getting your subject to come into focus, continue to move backwards with your feet until you find the sweet spot. It’s important to zoom with your legs rather than your lens, in this instance, so that you can keep the background nice and blurry, and the focus on your subject. Once you find that sweet spot, you may want to set your camera on a tripod at that spot to avoid camera-shake as you’re taking the photo. I’ve also tried it hand-held a few times with good results, so don’t be afraid to give that a try as well.


This image was shot using a telephoto lens at 300mm. This is about as sharp as I’m personally able to get when photographing living creatures with this method, and it isn’t sharp enough in my book.

One of the benefits of this method is that it doesn’t require you to get particularly close to your subject, which is ideal if you’re interested in taking macro photos of living creatures. Personally, I find that it is still difficult for me to achieve sharp focus when it comes to photographing living creatures with this method (even with a tripod),  so I usually stick to more stationary objects like flowers. Still, if you already have a telephoto lens in your bag it may be worth your time to try this method first, before buying a macro lens. I say this only because I have more than one friend who thought they’d be really interested in macro photography of insects, only to discover that they actually couldn’t stomach seeing the insects up close in all their glory.

2. Try Extension Tubes

This image was taken with an 18-55mm kit lens + manual extension tubes.

This image was taken with an 18-55mm kit lens + manual extension tubes.

An extension tube is a nifty little invention that screws on in between your camera body and your lens. They come in different widths, and can often be stacked so that you are able to use more than one at a time. They do not contain any glass, but simply allow you to get closer to your subject than you would be able to normally, while still maintaining focus. When it comes to extension tubes, you can find something for nearly any budget. More expensive versions maintain the electrical connections that allow you to use the autofocus feature on your camera, while less expensive versions will not. Additionally, some extension tubes will limit your ability to control aperture in-camera. If you have a lens that has a manual aperture ring, you can control it that way, but otherwise you’ll be shooting wide open. Personally, I have one of the least expensive sets of tubes $15, and even though I don’t have the capacity to use autofocus or control my aperture, I have always really enjoyed my set of tubes for creating macro images.

This image was taken with an 18-55mm kit lens + manual extension tubes.

This image of a blueberry bush was taken with an 18-55mm kit lens + manual extension tubes.

That said, before you buy, you should know three things.

First, some reviewers have reported that the less expensive tubes have gotten stuck on their camera body and/or lens. Others have reported that the tubes did not hook securely to their camera body and caused their lens to fall off during use. I have not experienced either issue, but generally use the tubes on my second body, with my kit lens, neither of which I would be devastated to lose. It is a trade-off though—using my kit lens means that I’m not able to control my aperture as I would be with other lenses, which is a bummer (but also not a major issue for me).

Editors note: buyer beware, just be sure to shop around and read reviews (the good and the bad) before you buy any extension tubes. It may seem like a great deal but if they wreck your camera or your lens it won’t be.

Second, be prepared to get close. Like, REALLY close. It will feel really strange to have the lens almost touching your subject, but that’s typically about as close as you will need to go in order to achieve focus. If you’re too close try using a longer focal length lens, that will help with this issue.

Third, there is absolutely a learning curve with extension tubes, particularly those that don’t maintain the electrical connection with the camera. It’s not insurmountable, but you probably won’t be able to use them perfectly right out of the box. Just be prepared for some trial and error.

3. Reverse Your Lens

50mm lens hand-held in reverse up to an 18-55mm kit lens.

50mm lens hand-held in reverse up to an 18-55mm kit lens.

Did you know that you can turn any lens around and use it backwards? Well, you can! There are two different ways that you can reverse a lens to use it for macro photography.

The first way to use your lens in reverse is to buy a macro reverse ring. These rings are usually around $15, and you would need to know which lens you plan to use in reverse (different lenses require different sized reversal rings), AND whether you’d like to reverse the lens directly to the camera, or on to another lens.

Another instance of a 50mm lens being hand-held in reverse up to an 18-55mm kit lens. Note the major vignetting in this image--that was straight out of camera.

Another instance of a 50mm lens being hand-held in reverse up to an 18-55mm kit lens. Note the major vignetting in this image, along with an almost tilt-shift effect. Both were straight out of the camera

The second way that you can reverse a lens is to simply hand-hold it in backwards. If you have both a kit lens and a 50mm lens, attach your kit lens to your camera as usual, and then hold your 50mm lens backwards, up to the end of the other one. If you can, wrap your fingers around the place where the kit lens and the 50mm lens join together to minimize any accidental light leaks. Again, you’ll have to zoom with your feet, and you’ll probably have to get pretty close in order for things to come into focus. This method works best for creative macro—you’ll find that the focus is much softer than the other methods, and often includes unpredictable vignetting. That said, if I’m trying to create a macro image that feels ethereal, this is my go-to method.

Are there any other techniques you’ve used to create macro or pseudo-macro images without a macro lens? If so, please share!

macro-coverWant to learn more about macro photography? Check out Ed Versosky’s Introduction to Close-Up & Macro Photography ebook – just $10 (over 30% off) this week with coupon code: DPS. You will need to enter the code to apply the discount.

The post 3 Ways to Try Macro Photography on a Budget by Meredith Clark appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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The human element in photography

I believe that when someone asks how to improve their composition, that what they’re really asking is how they can make their photos more interesting.

The skill of composition is in arranging the elements of the scene in such a way that the resulting image is aesthetically pleasing, and interesting to look at. Composition involves using techniques such as including leading lines, isolating the subject, exploiting tonal contrast, deciding what to leave out of the frame, and so on. But none of this matters much if your subject matter is boring.

The most effective way to create interesting images is to find an interesting subject. Composition becomes much easier when your subject is interesting. You are more likely to be enthusiastic about the photos, and put more effort into finding a good composition, if you are engaged with, or passionate about the subject.

Luckily, there are lots of interesting things to take photos of. But for me the most interesting subject of all is people.

The human element in photography

Unlike static subjects like the landscape, which change slowly or not at all, people are transient. They change. Jobs change. Towns and cities change. The ebb and flow of life creates many interesting and varied subjects for the curious photographer.

Many of the great photographers (and yes, there are exceptions) built their reputations taking photos of people. Masters like Steve McCurry, Sebastião Salgado, David Bailey and Annie Leibovitz predominantly photograph people and their affect on the world.

So, how do you add the human element in your photos? Here are some ideas.

1. Include human figures in the landscape to show scale and context

Including human figures in the landscape provides both a focal point and a guide to scale.

I took the following photo in a remote region of northwest Argentina. The scene caught my eye not just because it is spectacular, but because of the people walking in the middle ground. The presence of the figures reveals the height of the cliff face behind them. We know how big it is because we can compare its size to the them.

Even though the people are small in the frame they are still large enough for you to see they are wearing traditional dress. There are also some stone walls in the foreground, which are animal pens.

The human figures, and evidence of human activity, adds information, providing context about the relationship between the individuals in it and the landscape.

The human element in photography

2. Take environmental portraits

One way to create interesting photos of people is to take environmental portraits – photos that include information about the person’s surroundings. The person will be the focal point of the photo but really there are two stories being told here; one about the person, and another about their environment.

The photo below came about after I asked a friend of mine if I could take some portraits with her new gypsy caravan that she built herself from scratch. She loved the idea. This photo is as much about her caravan and the way she created a unique place for herself to live, as it is about capturing her likeness.

The human element in photography

3. Find interesting people to photograph

The easiest way to find interesting people to take photos of is to set yourself a project. One of my current projects is to take photos of local craftsmen. This led me to take photos of Eoin in his glass blowing studio.

After I had taken some photos of him blowing glass, we went outside to take some portraits. You can see one of the images below. He has a very interesting face, and was a great subject, but I would never have found him if it hadn’t been for the project.

The human element in photography

You may have read the story where a student asks photographer Jay Maisel how to take more interesting photos. The reply was,

“If you want to make more interesting pictures, become a more interesting person.” – Jay Maisel

Another way to find interesting people is to lead a more interesting life. The more hobbies and activities you participate in, the more people you will meet in everyday life. Some of them may make interesting subjects.

Your turn

Do you agree with my idea that people are the most interesting subject for photographers? Please let us know in the comments, I’m looking forward to hearing what you think.

Mastering Composition ebookMastering Composition

My new ebook Mastering Composition will help you learn to see and compose photos better. It takes you on a journey beyond the rule of thirds, exploring the principles of composition you need to understand in order to make beautiful images.

The post How to Make Your Photos More Interesting with a Human Element by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Demystifying Shutter Speed

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One of the most crucial factors of making any photograph is the selection of the shutter speed. It is not always an easy task to decide what shutter speed you should select, to correspond to the aperture or ISO setting you have chosen. It can be a little overwhelming, and sometimes discouraging, to learn how to select the proper shutter speed to produce whatever your desired photo may be. You might still be shooting in full auto just because you can’t seem to have any luck with manually selecting your exposures. Luckily, once you understand the basic concept of shutter speed in relation to photography, this aspect will become much easier and almost intuitive.

Shutter Speed

Let’s take a look at what shutter speed really is, and how to better understand it, so you can begin to have more control over your photography.

What is shutter speed?

First things first, what exactly do photographers mean when they say “shutter speed”? This refers to the amount of time that the shutter of the camera is open. Shutter speed can be easily compared to blinking. Close your eyes, then open them for about one second. Now close them again. You have just performed a one second exposure with your eyes. Though very simplified, the exact same thing happens inside your camera when you press the shutter release button. The shutter opens, and remains open, for whatever duration you have set your camera to expose. This lets in light through the lens which interacts with whatever receptor you’re using (film or digital sensor), in order to produce a photograph. In reality, it might help you to refer to shutter speed as shutter time.

How does shutter speed affect a photograph?

As I have said, shutter speed is one of the biggest assets you can control in order to produce the type of photograph you want. Now, the shutter is not to be confused with aperture. Aperture has nothing to do with the amount of time that light is allowed to enter your camera. Aperture simply refers to the size of the opening through which the light passes when the shutter opens. The larger the opening is, the more light that enters your camera. The shutter speed, on the other hand, controls how long light is allowed to linger in order to make the photograph. Got it? Good.

So since shutter speed is related to time, it naturally means that it will directly affect how motion is recorded by your camera. This is where an infinite amount of creativity can be applied to your photographs. You may have heard a photographer say, “I used a really fast shutter speed to freeze the motion.” What they means here is that he or she used a shutter speed that was much faster than whatever motion was happening in the scene. The faster the motion, the faster the shutter speed will need to be, in order to arrest the movement. This is the very reason beginner photographers can become frustrated when photographing sports, children, or pets. They simply don’t understand that the shutter speed must be set in relation to the subjects motion to produce a desired outcome.

Take a look at this quarter that I froze mid-roll by using a fast shutter speed of 1/1250th of a second.

Fast Shutter

The flipside of the shutter speed coin comes into play when you want to impart a sense of motion, or to intentionally use blur within your composition. There is no better illustration of this than when working with moving water and waterfalls. Photographers will often use a long shutter time in relation to the speed of the water in order to produce that smooth, almost fog-like appearance that many of us love (or hate) to see. This again, comes down to relativity. A longer shutter time will be needed to blur a slow moving subject. A faster moving subject will not require as long of a shutter time in order to produce the same effect.

Here’s that same quarter shot at 1/50th of a second.

Slow Shutter

Things to keep in mind about shutter speed.

As with virtually everything else that has to do with photographic technique, there are not absolutes when it comes to how you choose to manipulate your shutter speed. It always comes down to whatever it is you are trying to express through your photograph. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t other things that you should know which are related to shutter speed. Two of the most important things you need to know is how aperture and ISO interact with shutter speed.


Aperture is the best friend, and worst enemy of your shutter. As you have already learned, aperture controls the size of the opening in your lens and is measured in “stops”. Stops are indicated by the usage of f-numbers. Understanding how aperture is measured is the most difficult aspect of the subject. It is actually somewhat counter intuitive and that is why it becomes so confusing. Basically, the larger the f-number, the SMALLER the physical opening becomes. It might help to think of aperture as a window in your home. The larger the window the more light can come through. When shooting at larger apertures (smaller f-numbers like f/2.8, etc.) you have a lot of light coming into your camera so your shutter time doesn’t have to be as long in order to reach the desired exposure. The opposite is also true. When you are shooting at smaller apertures (bigger f-number like f/22) a longer shutter time will be required to produce the same exposure that was achieved at the larger aperture.

Here you can clearly see why less light can come through a smaller aperture.


Let’s say a certain shutter time at a certain aperture gives you a properly exposed image. You then switch to a higher f-number. If you don’t increase your shutter time, this image will be underexposed compared to the previous one because you have essentially made the window into your camera smaller. The take-away point here is that a change in aperture must also be accompanied by a change in shutter speed if you wish for the overall exposure to remain the same.

It should also be noted that aperture plays a key role in the perceived depth of field of a photograph…but that’s another article.


ISO is a measurement of light sensitivity. It is fairly straight forward to understand. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive the camera sensor, or film, is to the light coming in through the lens. Although most modern cameras are capable of selecting ISO in smaller increments, when first learning about how ISO relates to shutter time it might be easier to use increments in powers of two; meaning ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, etc. Each time the ISO number doubles, the sensitivity to light also doubles. So ISO 200 is twice as sensitive as ISO 100.

We can then easily relate ISO to shutter speed using a one second exposure to simplify the math. Let’s say we find that a proper exposure of a scene requires ISO 100 and a one second exposure time. If we increase the ISO to 200 then we have doubled the sensitivity so we can now get the same exposure using half a second instead of one second. If we further increase the ISO to 400 then we can get the same results from a ¼ second exposure. As you have probably already deduced, increasing your ISO is an easy way to allow for an increase in shutter speed to compensate for subject movement, or for low light.

Take a look at these three images. I was able to get virtually identical results each time even though I decreased the exposure from 1 second to ¼ of a second just by increasing my ISO.

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

Be aware though, increasing your ISO will add grain (noise) to your final image to some extent depending on your camera and equipment. Still, it is almost always more acceptable to live with a little increased grain in an image, than to underexpose or miss the shot completely.

Understanding what shutter speed means to your images doesn’t have to be a complicated issue at all. Shutter speed, or more accurately shutter time, is simply a measure of how long you choose for light to enter your camera to make an image. Learning how shutter time relates to other aspects of photography is slightly more complex. That doesn’t mean that it should discourage you from experimenting and seeing first hand how ISO, aperture, and shutter time come together to produce different types of images.

Have more questions about shutter speed? Post them in the comments below.

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