Archive for February, 2016

I’m here to share my photography journey that started few years ago as a novice, to where I stand today. As am amateur or hobby photographer, you may relate.

The journey from novice to advanced photographer

About two years ago, I bought an entry level DSLR, to use it as an expensive point and shoot camera. The camera decided the fate of most of my pictures. On innumerable occasions, the pictures were blurry, under or overexposed, and were of poor quality.

The urge to work on my photography skills blossomed, when I was blessed with a little girl. An utmost desire to take only the best pictures of my angel, had taken roots in me. As you may also do, I started searching the internet fervently, for ways to capture the best shots.

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This is the kind of natural light photography I do now, but that’s not where I started. Read on to find out how I got here, and you can too.

I realized, other than going through basic photography tutorials on YouTube, the thing that helped me the most was Flickr’s discussion groups. It has large community of knowledgeable professionals, and semi-professionals, who love to take a look at your picture and provide valuable feedback. Positive suggestions and encouragement I received on the forums, helped me to experiment further, and escape out of automatic mode. If you are in the same mode as I was two years ago, I strongly recommend getting feedback for your photos, through the online forums.

Moving out of auto mode and kit lens limitations

The very first step towards improvement for me, was shifting to Aperture Priority (Av/A) mode. Initially, pictures were blurry even in Av mode, but I could see that inside my home, my kit lens at f/4.5, ISO 6400, was still unable to shoot faster than 1/30th of a second. Such a slow shutter speed caused the motion blur. Shooting outdoors normally helped me to avoid blurry pictures, but I was not sure why my images didn’t have a blurry background like I saw online. Eventually, I understood the limitations of my kit lens, in not being able to shoot at a larger f-stop, to achieve shallower depth of field.

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This image is very noisy, focus is on her dress rather eyes/face, the out of focus raised hand actually distracts the viewer a lot.

One thing I would realize after many months of shooting, is that the exposure triangle (aperture, shutter speed and ISO) is easy to comprehend theoretically, but really hard to apply in the field. I went out for a shoot almost every day, and started experimenting with aperture and shutter speed to get a more desired shot. On returning home, I always got an impression I should have used a different aperture or shutter speed for a better shot. The ability to learn through your mistakes is a major milestone in your journey.

Branching out

Once you are bit confident in your understanding of the basics, you start enjoying it – which is what I experienced. I started devoting time to reading topics such as composition, photography tips, and subscribed to sites like Digital Photography School. Another thing that helped me a lot, was connecting to local events and activity pages via Facebook. I started showing up at many local events and offering free photography to the organizers.

The experience of shooting events was quite chaotic and challenging, especially when there were far more people posing in front of the camera, and many arbitrary things happening – kids running around, or folks dancing to tunes of the festivities. Every such shoot gave me lot more insight into concepts of understanding concepts like plane of focus, controlling focus points, exposure compensation, tips to hand hold the camera firmly, etc.

One of my early event photos. The face and overall image is poorly lit and the face looks orange. Overall image is noisy and the eyes are not in focus. The person behind her is very distracting.

One of my early event photos. The face and overall image is poorly lit, and the face looks orange. Overall, the image is noisy, and the eyes are not in focus. The person behind her is very distracting.

Upgrading gear

It’s very easy to get overwhelmed when reading about, or watching, the type of gear that pros are using in the field. My advice would be to start with minimum possible gear, and upgrade only when you clearly understand the limitations of your existing gear. Be it body, lens, tripod, or anything. After understanding that I couldn’t shoot with very low noise in ambient light during evenings, or achieve huge shallow DOF with my canon T3i and a kit lens, I moved up to a 6D after few months, and bought a prime lens. Though I love to shoot 100% natural light, I added a flash to my gearbox as well, to use as a fill light in some situations.

Here are few things I learned so far, that you can also apply in your photography. Then I will move on to what kind of work I produce these days, and some explanation about how the results are achieved.

Understand the basics:

Read a lot about aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and other beginner tutorials. Apply them as much as you can. These concepts are simple but take a lot of hands-on practice to start making some sense.

Very noisy, Focus is on the shoulder, a very bright area in the background is a huge distraction, very messy environment.

Very noisy, Focus is on the shoulder, a very bright area in the background is a huge distraction, very messy environment.

Participate:

Do share your everyday shots and learning, to online discussion groups and forums, without worrying about the quality of your work. Google knows a lot. Give it a try by typing the question the way you would ask someone in person. Once you get some clue, make sure to try it out, to experiment and confirm your understanding. As I said earlier, do volunteer photography for local charity or non profit, etc., as that is a sure way to learn, and it is much more fun.

Avoid GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome):

Avoid the mindset that you cannot do good photography without expensive gear. In the beginning, your cheapest camera is enough to get you started. Photography is not 100% driven by expensive gear. There are way many areas to catch up like composition, understanding of light, angle of shooting, etc. Learn the basics and how to use the gear you have first.

Shoot, shoot and shoot:

There is no shortcut to get good at photography. You have to keep shooting to learn, and learn more to confirm your understanding and get better.

Understand Light:

Taken in the middle of the day when sun was overhead with caring about harsh shadows. From composition point of view the image has a very busy background and viewer will be completely distracted at other elements of the image.

Taken in the middle of the day, without caring about harsh shadows when sun was overhead. From a composition point of view, the image has a very busy background and viewer will be completely distracted by other elements of the image.

It doesn’t matter what genre of photography you shoot; you need a firm understanding of light. This is a key ingredient for a good picture. So, read about the direction and quality of light, and how it affects the shape, size, shadows, and contour of objects it falls upon.

Master your camera:

This tip is especially important if you aim to shoot events, happening at fast pace like kids photography, birds, action, sports, etc. You will really miss opportunities if you are unable to change settings quickly on the fly, without looking at the controls.

Go Manual:

This needs to be your ultimate destination in terms of shooting modes. It’s true that 80% or more time you may be happy with Av mode, but ideally you should have no hesitation in switching to the manual mode in a blink.

Depth of Field:

Technically, in simple terms, aperture controls the depth of field. However, this is the area that took me the longest time to get a good grip on. It’s very hard to stop the desire to shoot at f/1.2, if you own a lens capable of that. However, lenses are not the sharpest at so small f-numbers, plus the depth of field is so thin, that it could be unusable if you are not at the right distance from the subject.

Though there is a nice catch light but looking at the distance it has been shot the f stop should have been chosen higher. The face is not completely in focus and the image does not appeal the viewer. The subject should have been moved a bit to get rid of uneven shadows.

Though there is a nice catch light, but looking closer, it has been shot with an f-stop that should have been higher. The face is not completely in focus, and the image does not appeal the viewer. The subject should have been moved a bit, to get rid of uneven shadows on his face.

Positioning the Subject:

Another key point I have seen even very mature photographers lacking, is realizing the importance of where you should ask the subject to stand. Key mistakes are: placing subject in front of a very busy background, having undesired points of interest in the frame, a brighter large light source behind the subject, etc.

I hope you find the above tips useful. In the final part, I would like to show some images, and a bit about my thoughts on post-processing. All the below images have been published in one or the other magazine.

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85mm, f/1.6, 1/1600, ISO 800

Location: Milwaukee, WI. This was taken at golden hour, with the sun facing the subject. The trees with some fall colors, are very far behind her.

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85mm, f/3.2, 1/400, ISO 400

Location: Redwood Shores, CA. This was taken at golden hour with sun facing her. The intensity of the light was low, as only partial light was passing through the tree. It was shot from above at about a 45-degree angle.

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70mm, f/2.8, 1/320, ISO 800

Location: Los Angeles, CA. This was taken in the middle of the day, in an apartment, where model was facing window light.

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135mm, f/2.8, 1/400, ISO 400

Location: Palace of fine arts, CA. Taken in the middle of the day, where plenty of ambient light was available. Behind the subject is a little darker area, due to trees and pillars. I positioned her at a spot where light was just right to avoid on her face which were too dark.

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85mm, f/1.8, 1/6400, ISO 100

Location: Fremont, CA. Again taken during golden hour, with a bit of shade from the door structure.

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85mm, f/2.8, 1/2000, ISO 800

Location: San Jose, CA. Taken in the middle of the day, using the shade from the ceiling above the model, and avoiding sunlight falling directly her.

Importance of Post-Production:

As a beginner you will surely hear or read a lot something similar to these statements, “I love straight out of camera pictures” or “I hate editing pictures”. However, I have found that you can delay getting into the post-processing of images, but cannot avoid it.

The extent you go to post-processing an image, is totally a different debate. Some do it to enhance the existing elements of an image, and others do it to make it into a totally different image. I am in the first category, and spend time doing things that improves the overall image appeal.

For beginners, I would advise that you stay away from it until you are comfortable with your gear and the basic concepts of photography. Always aim to get the image right in the camera.

The first step for post-processing, you can start with Adobe Lightroom, which is a great piece of software to enhance your images. Spend time in achieving mastery with Lightroom, and, once you understand its limitations, then start exploring Adobe Photoshop on a need only basis. In my typical workflow, all the images go through Lightroom, then for some final touches in Photoshop.

Your journey

So where are you in your photography journey? Did you just pick up a camera and can relate to my early experiences? Have you been practicing for a while? What is your experience, please share in the comments below.

Author Bio

Vik (Vivek) Kumar is a photographer and a software engineer. Hi started his photography a couple of years ago as an amateur landscape photographer. The hobby became serious portrait photography fun. His images are used by reputed hotel brands like Hyatt. He has been published numerous times in various fashion magazines like ICON, PUMP, Surreal Beauty Magazine, etc. See more of his work on his website or on his Instagram profile. His landscape photography work can be explored on 500px.

The post A Journey From Novice to Natural Light Portrait Photographer by Vik Kumar appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Feb
29

3 Tips to Maximize Your Road Trip Photos

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Road trips have been hailed as one of the greatest pastimes ever, and something that everyone should do at least once in their lifetime. It is a great way to experience a lot in a short span of time, and as a photographer, there will be many opportunities and moments awaiting your perspective. Sometimes preserving your creative spin in the midst of all the new discoveries, can become sensory overload and feel overwhelming.

Here are three tips that can help you make better photographs on your journey and maximize your road trip.

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1. Plan, plan … plan?

Most successful photo sessions involve a level of planning, this is no different for road trips. The plan does not have to be detailed, it can start out with some basics, such as final destination and must-see places/events, then you determine what should happen daily. Research your routes, note interesting things along the way, and make a priority list. Keep in mind that when traveling you are subject to the unforeseen, such as inclement weather, or places inaccessible for one reason or another, so be ready to switch to Plan B.

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As a light chaser, planning should include knowing when the most flattering light will hit your must-see locations or subjects (e.g. sunrise or sunset), and getting there on time. Thankfully there are now many smartphone apps that will help you plan for the golden hours, work out directions, as well as drive times (and distance) between destinations.

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The last part of planning is building flexibility into your days. Sometimes even the best laid plans end up with hiccups and delays, and you still need to make the most of it. The main objective of any road trip is to have fun, so build in a little flexibility, and who knows, you could find something worth exploring, or maybe you will be forced to get creative when you least expect it.

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2. Gearing up

So with your destination(s) planned, it’s time to figure out what gear you need. The last thing you want to do is lug around everything you own, in fact, quite the opposite – you will want to travel light. This is why knowing your destination is key to packing. Will you be driving through amazing scenery? If yes, then you may want to pack a wide-angle lens. If wildlife is your focus, you may decide on a telephoto zoom, which is also great for capturing portraits of people in their natural environment, without being too obtrusive.

Note: Good advice, when it comes to portraits, asking permission is a nice approach.

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It all depends on what your end game is, and what lens (or two) you will be using the most. There will always be regrets over what you left behind, such as that one photo that would have been awesome if you had packed a fish-eye or macro lens – but think about the extra weight, and whether of not it’s justified for the duration of the trip.

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If you really want to travel light, a mid-range zoom is a great compromise and a good broad spectrum lens to have during your journey, so research your surroundings and decide if this could work for you. A tripod is a safe bet if you plan to do any night photography, but use the same rule and take it only if you need it.

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3. Road trip story

When you shoot with a story in mind, it can make your photos take on a life of their own. Are you documenting something specific along the way, such as small towns or diners, breath-taking landscapes, or the road itself?

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There are many different ways to tell a story, and your objective and style will dictate the way you tell yours. If your destination includes places that are prone to lots of tourists – decide how this fits into your vision. Do you make them a part of the photo (i.e. use their presence for a sense of scale) or would you prefer the location desolate (which probably means rising early to beat the rush). What story are you trying to tell?

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Conclusion

Road trips are fun, and are a great way to make memories with hundreds of photo opportunities. Planning goes a long way, and will help you determine which gear to travel with, and what photos will make up your story line. So whether you are journeying to a National Park or just venturing out to a new place – a journey that spans two weeks or just two hours – know before you go, have lots of fun, and make awesome photo memories.

What other important tips would you add for fellow photography road trippers?

The post 3 Tips to Maximize Your Road Trip Photos by Nisha Ramroop appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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As you learn more about using your camera, and start taking beautiful pictures, you might also want a way to share them with the rest of the world. There are many social networking platforms that are ideal for this sort of thing like: Instagram, Flickr, Google Photos, Tumblr, and Facebook, along with hundreds more.

However, one of the most popular, and effective ways, to share your pictures is a simple, humble, tried-and-true blog. Even though blogs are sort of like grandpas in our modern internet age, there’s a reason they have stuck around for more than two decades: they’re intuitive, easy to set up, and they allow you to have full control over your content. Many photographers enjoy using blogs because of their flexibility and customizability, and if you want to spent a bit of money for a dedicated blog platform like Squarespace, or a self-hosted WordPress installation, you can get even more creative.

If you are thinking about pursuing this route there there are some things you need to consider before setting up your own photo blog.

There are many sites that let you build photo blogs, several of which do it for free.

There are many sites that let you build photo blogs, several of which are free.

Know why you are doing a blog

This first point seems kind of obvious, but a lot of photographers find their blogs stalling out, and gathering dust after a few months, because they did not define their purpose for doing the blog when they first began. Many people start blogs because they just want to share random pictures, but if you want a viable long-term blogging solution, you’re going to need something more.

Are you starting a photo blog to get your name out there, and generate sales leads (potential customers)? Do you want to make a mark in your community? Do you want to simply post photos you think are interesting? Whatever your reason for doing a photo blog, it’s important to make sure you at least have one, in the first place. If you have never done a photo blog, then it’s likely you are doing it for personal reasons, such as trying to learn and grow as a photographer. That is an outstanding goal, and one that has helped many other bloggers, become much better at photography as well.

Once you know precisely why you are doing your blog, it will serve as a guide for everything you post. Brandon Stanton started the well-known Humans of New York blog with a specific purpose: to photograph 10,000 people living in New York City. This helped him have a sense of purpose and direction when taking and posting photos, and doing the same thing can greatly benefit you as well. If you cannot explicitly state why you are doing a blog, it is much more likely to gather virtual dust after a short time, and any readers you do manage to pick up, will possibly stop investing their time in it as well.

One of the first pictures I ever posted to my blog. It's not even an interesting photo but I was just starting out and can look back on this to see how much I have learned since then.

One of the first pictures I ever posted to my blog. It’s not even an interesting photo, but I was just starting out, and can look back on this to see how much I have learned since then.

In 2008 the web analytics firm Technorati found that roughly 95% of the blogs it tracked, went more than 120 days without being updated. When your blog goes four months without anything new, it is more than likely a failure. So how can you keep your blog not only surviving, but thriving past 120 days, and well beyond? Here are few more tips that might help:

Clearly articulate the purpose of your photo blog to your viewers

Attention spans are short, and people today have a never-ending stream of tweets, news clips, soundbites, app updates, and cat videos coming their way, almost every waking moment. So,how on earth can you make your blog stand out, and get noticed amid all the other sites, apps, and feeds that people check on a daily basis?

New readers should be able to tell within five seconds, what your blog is about. The best option is to have a specific niche that your photo blog serves (e.g. wildlife, surfers, snowflakes, street pictures, etc.). But, even if it’s just pictures you like taking for no particular reason, you should at least make that clear to your readers upfront. You’re basically setting expectations right from the outset, and giving your audience a clear sense of what they will get out of reading your photo blog. Some people do this by having a descriptive name for their blogs, a brief tagline, or a set of pictures that instantly conveys a sense of purpose (e.g. flowers, cattle, cars, sunsets, etc.). Whatever the purpose of your photo blog is, if your readers can’t figure it out, they’re going to quickly move elsewhere.

My blog is specifically for photos I take with my 50mm lens, and I make that clear to my readers immediately when they visit the site. If you don't let your readers know what your blog is about they will probably not stick around very long.

My blog is specifically for photos I take with my 50mm lens, and I make that clear to my readers immediately when they visit the site. If you don’t let your readers know what your blog is about, they will probably not stick around very long.

Post new content regularly

Not every blog that is updated regularly is going to be a success, but every successful blog is updated regularly. I have seen too many photographers start blogs that are updated daily, then weekly, and before long, the rate at which new pictures are posted slows to a trickle. Soon it’s a photo every couple weeks, then one a month, and then a written apology by the blogger about how he or she has just been so busy lately, but they promise to start posting more photos soon. More often than not, soon becomes later, then later becomes never, and a once-promising photo blog becomes another statistic of failure rates.

The best way to combat this problem, is to not post pictures whenever you feel like it, but instead post them on a regular and predictable basis. This gives your readers something to expect, and also imparts upon you, the blogger, a sense of accountability, which helps keep your camera in your hands and out of your closet. My photo blog is titled “Weekly Fifty”, and because it requires me to post a picture every single week, I almost always carry my camera with me, and am constantly looking for photo opportunities. In almost three years I have never failed to post a photo each Wednesday morning, which has helped me build a nice following, with regular commenters as well.

A few years ago I ran out of ideas for pictures to post, but I knew I had to stick with my weekly schedule so I made this image that turned out to be one of my more popular photos.

A few years ago I ran out of ideas for pictures to post, but I knew I had to stick with my weekly schedule. So, I made this image, that turned out to be one of my more popular photos.

One trick I like to recommend for photo bloggers, is to schedule your posts in advance. This doesn’t work well for blogs about news or current events, but as a photo bloggers you do not have to be timely in the same manner. I currently have complete posts (each with a photo, written explanatory text, and an accompanying 4-minute audio commentary) scheduled for the next six weeks. I use WordPress, which allows me to schedule posts in advance, so each of these six posts will be automatically published on subsequent Wednesdays at 1:00 a.m. This gives me a bit of padding, if I ever find myself in a position with lots of things going on in my life, and my readers know that they will get a new picture each week, no matter what.

Of course the catch here, is that I can’t merely sit on my laurels in the meantime. I have to keep taking pictures, and producing new blog posts, so that six weeks from now I don’t run out of material. This type of accountability is enormously helpful for photo bloggers, and if you’re not sure where to start, I always recommend doing one picture each week. If that’s too much you can lower it, and if it’s not often enough you can increase it, but I have found that a weekly schedule is a sweet spot that gives you enough time to take pictures, and doesn’t overload your readers with so much new content that they start ignoring it.

Engage with your audience

Building a loyal audience is the holy grail of almost every blogger, but it’s not easy to do. Your readers have many obligations, alerts, people demanding their time, and often it’s difficult enough just to get them to visit your blog in the first place, much less comment on a photo, or offer some kind of reaction to it. Early in the life of your blog, visitors will usually not be invested in your pictures enough to leave comments. But, as you start to build traffic, and readership over time, you will likely have a few people who start to offer feedback on your images.

When you do get commenters it’s essential that you interact with them, in order to build a sense of community, respect, and mutual sharing. If someone likes one of your pictures, say “Thank you” and ask if you can see some of their photos too. If someone offers a bit of constructive criticism on a picture, try re-taking a similar photo using their suggestions. You can offer a Call to Action by posting a photo, and encouraging your readers to take, and share similar photos in the comments section. This type of audience engagement benefits all parties; by giving you even more reasons to continue your blog, giving your readers a reason to keep coming back, and giving new readers a sense that your photos are interesting and worthy of comments.

I ran my blog for almost a year and a half before getting any regular commenters. Now I get about 40 comments each month, a number with which I am very happy.

This chart shows my comment statistics for calendar year 2015. I ran my blog for almost a year and a half before getting any regular commenters, and now I get about 40 comments each month. It’s not huge, but it’s a number with which I am very happy.

If your blog grows to mammoth proportions, and you start getting hundreds of comments on each picture, it might not be reasonable to reply to every single one, but until that happens you need to take care to give each commenter a personal response. If people are taking time out of their day to leave comments on your pictures, knowing that you personally read and responded, will make them want to keep visiting your blog, and engaging with you as well as other readers.

On my blog I have a few loyal readers who comment on every single picture, and it’s well worth a few minutes of my time each week to respond to the things they write. This helps make my commenters feel valued, and builds a sense of community that would not exist otherwise.

Push content to your readers

People rarely go out of their way to visit a blog, so instead you need to find a way to push your new pictures to them. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to ask your readers to sign up for email updates, but you can also use social networks to get the word out about each new post.

Every Wednesday my email subscribers get that week’s photo in their email inbox, but I also publish a link to my blog on Facebook and Twitter, and put that week’s image in my Instagram feed as well. (With the last option people are not directed to my blog, but I still get to engage with them about my pictures.) If you would like to ultimately generate revenue from your blog you might want to focus on ways of pushing content to your readers that, as often as possible, will bring them directly to your site and not to somewhere else that also has your photos.

I woke up the morning this photo was published and found two comments had already been posted at about 2am. This type of engagement is possible because these people subscribed to email updates. If you don't have a way of pushing content to your readers you will likely not get the same level of engagement as you would otherwise.

I woke up the morning this photo was published and found two comments had already been posted at about 2am. This type of engagement is possible because these people subscribed to email updates. If you don’t have a way of pushing content to your readers you will likely not get the same level of engagement as you would otherwise.

Define your success criteria

I teach a Project Management class at Oklahoma State University. One concept we talk about often is how to tell if a project is successful, and the same holds true for your photo blog. At what point will you know that your blog has succeeded in meeting your goals? Will you be happy if you have two comments, and 10 social media shares for each picture you post? Are you looking for a way to generate a specific amount of revenue from your blog? Or is your success criteria more esoteric, such as using your blog for a sense of personal growth and development?

Having a set of clearly-defined success criteria is not necessarily essential for a blog, but it will give you something to shoot for, and a way of knowing whether you have gotten there or not. Whatever your success criteria is, take care to not compare it to anyone else’s. For example one of your photos might get five comments and 10 social media shares, but then you talk to a friend who just had five thousand visitors to his blog. Whose blog is more successful? The answer is…they both are.

Success depends entirely on how you define it, and thankfully the internet is big enough for millions of photo blogs to coexist. Congratulate your friend, and ask to see the photo that was so popular. Don’t make your blog’s success a competition, because and as long as you are happy with how things are going, then that’s the only thing that matters.

This photo had a great deal of personal meaning to me, but it generated very little traffic and almost no comments. If my success criteria is only quantifiable through numbers I would have been let down, but instead taking this photo forced me out of my comfort zone and made me try something new. Because of that I considered this one of my better photos even though raw numbers might say otherwise.

This photo had a great deal of personal meaning to me, but it generated very little traffic, and almost no comments. If my success criteria was only quantifiable through numbers I would have been let down, but instead the sheer act of taking this photo, forced me out of my comfort zone, and made me try something new. Because of that I considered this one of my better images, even though raw numbers might say otherwise.

Ignore the numbers

Visitor statistics can be so exciting, but they can also lead you down the path to the blogging dark side. It can be fun to log in to your account dashboard, and see that a recent picture generated 200 visitors, but those numbers don’t mean anything, if they don’t translate to reader engagement. Imagine building a store and getting hundreds of people to come see your wares, but having every one of them leave without making a purchase. Not only would your store be a failure, but you would quite likely be disappointed on a deeply personal level.

As a photo blogger you need to strive for quality over quantity, and look for ways to build a loyal following, not just try to increase raw visitor statistics. You might get a nice feeling seeing one of your photos get hundreds or thousands of views, but what happens when a different (or far better) picture you post gets only a couple dozen views? Visitor traffic is a fickle mistress, and if you pin your blogging hopes and dreams on simply making the numbers go up, you could very well be setting yourself up for a painful failure.

February 2015 was a big month for my blog, but the numbers have gone down dramatically ever since. Since my success criteria is not measured in raw numbers this drop in traffic makes no difference to me, but if numbers are your goal then you could very well end up chasing a white whale that can never be captured.

February 2015 was a big month for my blog, but the numbers have gone down dramatically ever since. Since my success criteria is not measured in raw numbers this drop in traffic makes no difference to me, but if numbers are your goal then you could very well end up chasing a white whale that can never be captured.

I used to run a movie and TV review website, and wrote an article about the now-defunct show, “Man versus Food” on The Travel Channel. Somehow the host of the show found out about the article, tweeted it to his followers, and that single article generated more traffic than anything else we had ever posted. The problem was that those visitors did not stick around, and within a few weeks we were back to the same relatively low numbers we always had. At the time I figured blogging success meant getting sky-high traffic numbers, and when those numbers did not pan out I thought we had failed.

When I started my Weekly Fifty photo blog, I took an entirely different route and tried hard to ignore numbers about visitor statistics, and have been much happier as a result. I do my blog because it helps me learn and grow as a photographer, and I get a great deal of personal satisfaction out of it. I appreciate the continual challenge it offers. In short, I’m a happy and successful small-time photo blogger, because I don’t let numbers and statistics define what success means to me.

This is by far the worst photo I have ever posted on my blog, and it's almost painful to look at it now. But early on in my blog I had no idea what I was doing, and it was only through taking lots of bad pictures that I learned how to make a good image. Even though this picture is kind of embarrassing, it served a valuable purpose both on my blog and for me as a photographer.

This is by far the worst photo I have ever posted on my blog and it’s almost painful to look at it now. But early on in my blog, I had no idea what I was doing, and it was only through taking lots of bad pictures that I learned how to make a good image. Though this picture is kind of embarrassing, it served a valuable purpose both on my blog, and for me as a photographer.

Do you have a photo blog, or are you thinking about starting one? I’d love to hear any tips you would like to share, and will try to answer any questions you might have as well. Leave your thoughts in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to engage with you, the dPS readers, so you feel valued and keep coming back to our site. :)

The post Tips to Help You Start a Successful Photo Blog by Simon Ringsmuth appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Feb
28

2 Quick Ways to Add a Sunflare in Photoshop

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Sunflares can make an otherwise dull image, look pretty dramatic. It’s very tricky to get good images of a sunflare in-camera, especially when using natural light only, as the contrast between the light and dark parts of the image is often too great that no amount of Active-D lighting can fix. Thankfully, we have Photoshop and many special effects like sunflares can be magically created, added, or enhanced, using this software’s mind-blowing functionality.

special-effects-sunflare-photoshop-tutorial

Why add a sunflare?

Special effects, such as a sunflare, ultimately boil down to the photographer’s personal taste. Here are a few reasons why sunflares may be added in post-processing.

  • To exaggerate the sun’s rays.
  • To enhance contrast and inject drama.
  • To hide unwanted clutter.
  • To achieve artistic effects, for example if you are aiming for a dreamy and romantic effect, or soft and hazy ambience, such as the image above right.

When not to add a sunflare?

When you discover the magic of Photoshop, you can easily get carried away by the excitement of adding special effects, and there’s the danger that you add it on all your images, even when completely out of context, out of place, or totally unnecessary. I suggest avoiding sunflares when:

  • There is no sun at all or any large light source, in the shot.
  • When it makes the image look completely fake, when you really mean for it to look natural.

How to add flare in Photoshop

As is the usual case in Photoshop, there are always several methods to do something. This tutorial focuses on two ways of adding a sunflare.

special-effects-sunflare-photoshop-tutorial (1)

1. Method one: Using the LensFlare filter

Adding a bright sunflare to the image above won’t make much difference to an already washed out sky and part of the building. First of all you would need to create contrast by darkening the image. Copy the image on a new layer using CMD/CNTRL + J, and darken it using a Levels adjustment layer.

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Merge the background copy layer with the levels layer, by selecting both layers and typing CMD/CNTRL + E to merge them. Now you have a new darkened layer. Make another copy of the new darkened layer, then work on this new layer with the sunflare.

When you add sunflare, it is automatically added on the layer as part of the image, and not on a new layer by itself. So to be safe, keep a copy of the darkened layer which you don’t touch. Always work on the new copy with the sunflare, so in case you make mistakes or need to reposition your sunflare, then you won’t need make a darkened layer all over again. You can just delete the layer you are working on, and duplicate your untouched dark layer, to start adding a new sunflare.

In Photoshop, bring up the Lens Flare from the top menu bar using the Filter>Render>LensFlare drop down menu.

special-effects-sunflare-photoshop-tutorial (1)

You can experiment which type of lens flare you want to add, by clicking the circles next to the type of sunflare option, and adjusting the brightness intensity by moving the slider. Click OK when you’re happy with your choice, and the sunflare will be superimposed on your image on the same layer.

special-effects-sunflare-photoshop-tutorial (8)

Once the sunflare is applied to the image, add a layer mask, and using a soft black brush, remove some of the sunflare from areas you want to protect such as faces (make sure to paint on the mask, not on the layer).

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To finish, I added a photo filter on top, to warm up the image. Below is the image before and after the sunflare has been added. It is always a good practice to save the image with sunflare as a new JPG file, and always save your Photoshop file (PSD) with all the layers in tact, in case you need to revisit it again in the future.

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special-effects-sunflare-photoshop-tutorial (2)
2. Method two: Using overlays

The built-in sunflares in Photoshop have very limited choices, as you have seen above. There are far more interesting sunflares of all shapes and colours available, in the form of overlays.

Below is an example of an image with a faint sunflare added in Photoshop, using one of the built-in choices above. I don’t think this is dramatic enough. In this example, I am exaggerating the sunflare by adding a sunflare overlay.

special-effects-sunflare-photoshop-tutorial (5)

First darken the image with Levels, as in the first method above, using a layer mask to protect areas you don’t want to be darkened. Then apply the overlay on the entire image, as shown below.

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Change the layer blend mode to Screen, which makes all the dark areas of the overlay disappear, and you will only be left with the light areas superimposed on your image.

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Below is the final JPG image with the new sunflare overlay, with the whole image darkened for more contrast.

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Below is another image about to be treated with a sunflare overlay, but this time way more exaggerated than the example above.

special-effects-sunflare-photoshop-tutorial (7)

The overlay is so strong, as you can see on Layer 1 below, I have applied a levels layer to brighten it a little, and a layer mask to gradually remove some of the overlay from areas I wanted to protect.

special-effects-sunflare-photoshop-tutorial (7)

Below is the final image with an exaggerated sunflare overlay, that looks like it has been photographed through a warm filter over the lens.

special-effects-sunflare-photoshop-tutorial (7)

A few things to note when applying special effects

  • Be subtle and experiment with the opacity to achieve the desired effect.
  • Darken surrounding areas to emphasize flare, especially on a very bright image.
  • Mask off special effects from faces, and areas that clearly do not need it. The built-in sunflares in Photoshop have circular flares that appear too perfect and hard-edged. You can always mask some of this away to take the edge off, and soften the flare effect.

I hope you have enjoyed this little tutorial in adding a sunflare special effect in Photoshop. Do you have other tips and ways to add sunflares in post-processing? Please share them in the comments below.

The post 2 Quick Ways to Add a Sunflare in Photoshop by Lily Sawyer appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Feb
27

7 Tips for Better Adventure Photography

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Adventure photography has continuously become more and more popular for outdoor photographers, thanks to new technology in cameras, and the outlets of social media platforms like Instagram, that are very photography-friendly. You may have seen some posts that are routinely labeled as “epic” and want to know how to create the same awe-inspiring feeling in your own photographs.

The good news is you can! But, just like in other fields of photography, composition is extremely important when you want to start dabbling in epic scenes. Let’s look at some tips to help you start shooting better adventure photography.

1- Always have your camera on

PHOTO 1

Like a lot of photographers, you may suffer from battery anxiety, the fear that your battery is going to die and you’ll miss that one shot you’ve been waiting for your entire life. Well, when you constantly have your camera turned off, you’re probably going to miss more amazing split second shots, than if your battery died. That’s why you should always leave your camera on when you’re out shooting adventure photography.

Are you out hiking with your friends? Leave the camera on. What about spelunking in some caves? Leave the camera on. What if you’re zip-lining through a jungle canopy? First, leave your camera on, and then hold on to your camera tightly.

You won’t have to worry about battery anxiety if you properly pack, including extra batteries to take with you. Simply leave your camera on, never put your lens cap on, use a lens hood to protect the lens, and take a micro-fibre cloth to clean the lens. Your fear of the battery going dead should never stand between you, and freezing an adventurous moment in time.

2 – Put yourself in the frame

Adventure photography features people living their lives to the fullest, by placing them in amazing landscape scenes. But, what if you aren’t in nature with anyone else? I’m sure you’ve faced that dilemma before. Well, instead of feeling like all is lost, think outside the box and put yourself into the frame.

PHOTO 2

It may feel a bit strange at first to feature yourself in a photograph, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do,in order to get the shot! If you’ve never done this before, all you have to do is mount your camera on a tripod, and set it to the 10-second delayed timer. Once you press the shutter and the timer starts, get into position, and wait for the camera to do its thing.

You might want to also set your camera to take a series of shots once the ten second timer is complete, to be sure you get a suitable photograph. Many cameras have the option to use the timer, or one with continuous shots. Sometimes you might not get in place fast enough, but using a multiple shot sequence will allow you to have a couple more frames to get into position.

3 – Subject placement in adventure photography

Subject placement is extremely important in adventure photography. You want to feature your subject (the person out adventuring) in the landscape, without any distractions or limitations. Anyone viewing your adventure photograph should never be confused about where the subject is, or what they are doing.

It doesn’t matter whether your subject is close to the camera, or way off in the distance. What matters is their placement in space. So, when you’re inspecting a landscape, and trying to decide where to place your subject, always look for a solid color or a negative space to place them.

PHOTO 3

The people in the landscape will stand out against a solid color and negative space, to allow your audience to locate the subject immediately. The last thing you want when you show a photo, is someone trying to find your subject because they are right on the horizon line, or lost in a pattern of shadows.

Not only will placing your subject in negative space clearly reveal where and what your subject is, but it will also eliminate any boring spaces in the photograph’s composition.

4 – Choose a better perspective

Perspective, or point of view, in photography ia always important when you’re trying to show a scene more creatively. Think about it; everyone walks around all day seeing everything at eye level. So, if you want to show something differently, shoot a perspective that isn’t at eye level.

Getting lower to the ground gives your subject in adventure photography a larger than life feel. This is usually shot with a wide angle lens, to fit a low perspective foreground, and the landscape into one photograph. Low perspectives show the importance of a person or activity, more than the landscape surrounding them.

PHOTO 4

Higher perspectives feature the landscape more than the subject, making the natural elements of the frame seem larger than they actually are in reality. These points of view are usually used to look down on your subject, while allowing you to show more of a landscape as well.

5 – Show scale

Do you remember doing science projects in school where you’d have to collect photo evidence of your specimen, by placing a pencil or coin next to it to show its size? Well, that’s called scale. You use an object of a well-known size next to your find, to give your audience an idea of the actual size of the specimen shown.

You can actually do the exact same thing in adventure photography. Everyone knows the average size of a human. However, when you show a photograph of just a cliff, it’s difficult for someone to get a really good idea of how large the cliff actually is.

The solution is to incorporate a well-known average size (in adventure photography that would be a person) into the frame, so your audience is able to get a much better idea of how large and grand the landscape actually is. This is a tremendous composition technique to use whenever you feel absolutely dwarfed in nature.

PHOTO 5

6 – Think about using silhouettes

Silhouettes are another great technique that you can use in adventure photography. Whenever you’re stuck in a bad lighting situation, one that has too much dynamic range to be able to capture both your subject and the landscape in good light, go directly for the silhouette shot.

To use silhouettes effectively in adventure photography, place your subject on a solid line within the scene. This could be either a horizontal or a vertical line. For example, you could place your subject on a hiking trail, or on a vertical wall, while rock climbing. Next, compliment your subject by placing an interesting background behind them, such as a forest or sunset.

The key to an effective complementary background is to create a composition that features your subject first. This goes back to what you learned on subject placement in adventure photography. Never overpower the subject of the photograph by hiding them in a complementary background.

PHOTO 6

7 – Make your audience jealous

Lastly, make your audience jealous with your adventure photography. Compose an adventure photograph in a way that makes people want to go where you went, and do what you did. The overall goal of adventure photography is to get people outside, exploring new places.

Let your audience live vicariously through your photography. When you’re able to do that, you’ve definitely stepped up your adventure photography game.

PHOTO 7

So, by all means, get out and document your adventures!

Do you have any other adventure photography tips to share? Or perhaps some of your favorite adventure photography images? Please do so in the comments below.

The post 7 Tips for Better Adventure Photography by David Johnston appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Feb
26

Weekly Photography Challenge – Square

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Shapes are everywhere, have a look around you. Do you see any squares like these images I shared previously?

Uqbar Is Back

By Uqbar is back

Weekly Photography Challenge – Square

There are many ways you could choose to approach this week’s challenge. You could take it literally and photograph:

  • Things which are square shaped
  • Images cropped into a square format
  • Patterns that include squares

Or you could take it a bit more off-beat and go for:

  • Squares as in city parks or plazas, and things that take place there
  • A person or thing which is a bit odd as in the old hippy phrase “He’s a square”
  • Something that happens directly, or shooting square on to the subject
Philippa Willitts

By Philippa Willitts

Tom Waterhouse

By Tom Waterhouse

Uwe Potthoff

By Uwe Potthoff

Eivind Barstad Waaler

By Eivind Barstad Waaler

Gianmaria Zanotti

By Gianmaria Zanotti

Steve Bailey

By Steve Bailey

Share your images below:

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.

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Square by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Feb
26

23 Geometric Images of Quadrangles or Squares

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Finding geometric shapes to photograph is a great exercise for beginners. It helps train your eye to look for something specific.

A quadrangle (also known commonly as a square, of course) is easily found in many places. Look around you, how many do you see in your room?

Here are some images of squares – either cropped into the square format, or subjects the represent the shape – as interpreted by a few different photographers:

Wicker Paradise

By Wicker Paradise

Torbakhopper

By torbakhopper

Stuart Hines

By stuart hines

Dustin Gaffke

By Dustin Gaffke

The Hamster Factor

By The Hamster Factor

John Catbagan

By John Catbagan

Jordi E

By Jordi E

Michael Pardo

By Michael Pardo

David Santaolalla

By David Santaolalla

Jed Sullivan

By Jed Sullivan

? ? ? ?

By ? ? ? ?

Kevin Chan

By Kevin Chan

Vitor Antunes

By Vitor Antunes

Marcy Leigh

By Marcy Leigh

Ynot-Na

By Ynot-Na

Timothy Neesam

By Timothy Neesam

DurhamDundee

By DurhamDundee

Carol Von Canon

By Carol Von Canon

Tommpouce

By tommpouce

Matthew G

By Matthew G

VirtualWolf

By VirtualWolf

Henk Sijgers

By Henk Sijgers

Jr2142

By jr2142

The post 23 Geometric Images of Quadrangles or Squares by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Over the last few years I have worked with enough budding new street photography enthusiasts, to notice a common thread of early mistakes that many of them make. A lot of these are very simple tendencies and changes, that can make a vast difference to the final output. It’s for this reason that I try to teach these 7 tips from the very start. Follow along so you can avoid the seven common mistakes that newbie street photographers make:

Grand Central, NYC Street Photography

Grand Central, NYC.

1. Thinking too much while shooting

If you are reading this article, you are on the right back. You should read about photography to teach yourself, and study the work of great photographers. However, when you are out there, in the process of shooting, try to not over-think things too much. There are so many tips and tricks, and you may worry a lot about capturing bad images, but that can all get in the way sometimes.

Instead of worrying about the results, get lost in the process. You can assess your results during the editing phase. When you are out there shooting, have fun. Explore, take your time, relax, and just watch everything go by. This is a type of photography that you really have to enjoy to do well, and the best part about it is that you can go out and do it nearly anywhere and at any time. You can do it in 10 minute spurts, or during your lunch hour. You can even do it with your iPhone if you don’t have your camera. The more fun you have with the process of being out there, getting lost, and exploring, the more dedicated you will become, and the better street photographer you will become.

2. Traveling too heavy

There are many great videos of the old masters shooting street photography. You know what is the one common thread between many of them? It’s that they had manageable sized cameras, that they could easily take anywhere, and they more often than not they used small prime lenses. You can certainly shoot street with an SLR, and do it very well. There are top photographers that do just that, but at the same time are you really going to want to carry that tank of a camera around on a daily basis? That’s the big advantage of a smaller camera, and the technology is catching up quickly with the large bodies. A small Fuji camera, or a Ricoh, will do wonders, and you can even get an older used version for much cheaper than the new ones. There are many iPhone street shooters as well.

Astor Place, NYC Street Photography

Astor Place, NYC.

Likewise, you do not need a big bag of lenses and filters. If you haven’t tried it, I can’t stress enough, how freeing going out for a day with a single small camera body, and a single prime lens, can make you feel. Leave the rest behind. Yes, you will miss out on that 200mm zoomed shot of the water tower, but you will come back in the long run, with so many more good photos, and you will have a lot of fun doing it.

3. Trying to get somewhere too quickly

We’re all in a rush these days, running from place to place. Luckily, that is one of the worst ways to do street photography. To do street photography well, you need to slow down, and take your time. You can’t always be in a rush. Look around, and wait for things to happen. Wait with your camera, and let the subjects come to you. The slower you go, the more aware you will be of your surroundings, and the more able you will be to capture those extraordinary fleeting moments. Use photography as a way to break out of the rushed lifestyle, and to get lost and slow down for awhile.

4. Not standing in the middle of the action

Broadway, SoHo, New York Street Photography

Broadway, SoHo, NYC.

It is so easy to get intimidated when you are first learning. Many people start by photographing from a distance, and they never really push themselves to get right in the middle of what’s happening. Carry your camera proudly, put a smile on your face, and get involved in the action. Get in the middle of the street.

You might notice that if you are standing too far away and shooting, then people will actually think you are up to no good. But, if you are directly in the middle of the action, people will walk right by thinking that you are doing nothing wrong. Sometimes you’ll even blend in more being in the middle. How could you possibly be doing something wrong if you are right there in the middle? Nobody that obvious would be doing anything bad, but that photographer creeping around over there in the corner, just has to be a stalker. Stop and wait right in the middle of an area where things are happening, and just let everything happen around you. Engulf yourself in the experience.

5. Not putting the camera to your eye enough

I hip shoot a decent portion of the time, particularly when things are happening incredibly fast, but I also try to look through the viewfinder as often as possible. A lot of new photographers only hip shoot, and it quickly becomes a crutch. After a while, they become even more afraid to put the camera to their eye, than when they started. Force yourself to get comfortable shooting through the viewfinder. Just stand in a busy place, with the camera to your eye for a while, until you feel comfortable. After that you can add in the hip shooting. There will be situations where a hip shot is beneficial, but you will get better shots, and better framing, when you look through the viewfinder. Take pride in seeing it all coming together, and capturing that split second moment where it does.

Fire Hydrant, SoHo, NYC

SoHo, NYC.

A tip that helps with this, is to not take the camera away from your eye right after you take a shot of someone. It’s a natural habit to remove the camera from your eye briefly when you take an image. Instead, get in position, and wait for a person to be in the right spot, Then, take the image, but continue to keep the camera to your eye as they walk through the scene and past you, as if they got in your way and you are trying to photograph what is behind them. This trick works incredibly well in areas with quite a few people walking around.

6. Rapid firing with the camera

Turn the machine gun setting on the camera off. A lot of people think that if they take 10 photos of the same scene, they will be guaranteed to get a good one. Where’s the art in that? I actually find that holding down the shutter button, and taking a stream of shots, is a way to guarantee that you will screw up the shot. You need to be able to visualize what you are getting. See the moment as it happens, then capture the elements as they all fall into place. That only takes one shot. Then, as a scene further develops, you can take more, but see the moment and grab it. If you miss it, and you will miss some, there’s always next time. Let go of the fear of missing a shot.

In addition, with rapid fire you will end up taking 10 times the number the photos, over the course of the day. How are you going to find the perfect moment in all of that? Nobody has the time, or the hard drive space. With less, and more purposeful photographs, comes a much more enjoyable editing session.

7. Under and over-editing

East Village, New York Street Photography

East Village, NYC.

A lot of new street photographers will both under, and over-edit their photos. What I mean is that they will show too many photos, and they will over-process them. Be ruthless with narrowing your photos down to the best ones. You want people to actually give your work attention, and if you show too many photographs at one time, they will tune out. By showing too many photos you are relying on the viewer to do the editing in their heads about what they like. That’s not fair to them, do that work yourself. Spend that extra time organizing. Use a starring system to give your photographs ratings and make sure that there are not too many five star images. Spend the time after each shoot to narrow it down to just the cream of the crop. If you don’t do this consistently, you will allow your archive to pile up into an unorganized mess.

When you do the actual editing to your photos, keep a light touch. You can, and should fix the exposure, blacks and whites, vignettes, color temperature or black and white tones, contrast, and all that other good stuff. However, a lot of new street photographers go way too far. Part of the extraordinary nature of street photography is that it was actually captured in the real world. It was not made up. If your photos are too edited, and lose that real feeling to them, it kills the thing that makes them special.

Are you guilty of any of these mistakes? How have you overcome them? Do you have any others you’d like to share? Please do so in the comments below.

The post 7 Common Mistakes That Newbie Street Photographers Make by James Maher appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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A huge part of your job as a photographer is to make people pause, and linger over a photograph. Sometimes it could be a stunningly lit portrait, or maybe an epic landscape. But, if you’re like me, more than likely you don’t live in an area that will provide you with daily majestic shots, and you likely don’t have a full studio set up. So, you need to find inspiration around you, in the day-to-day grind, which is not always obvious.

Roots

Albrect Dürer, the masterful Reformation period painter and engraver said, “Nature holds the beautiful, for the artist who has the insight to extract it. Thus, beauty lies even in humble, perhaps ugly things, and the ideal, which bypasses or improves on nature, may not be truly beautiful in the end.” His studies, such as The Great Piece of Turf, are great examples of this concept.

Even if you live in a concrete jungle, or the strip-mall suburbs, there is some sort of nature around you. And in nature lies the capability and potential for endless creativity. Nature may be trees, flowers and plants to you, but it’s also in the weeds, the decay, or in the ugly, neglected bits along the side of the road.

Snail

The other part to this truth of beauty in ugly is this – we are drawn to imperfection and fascinated by it, it’s human nature. Think about it – the last photo that captured your attention, was it a Photoshopped model with flawless skin in a magazine ad, or was it a side-lit portrait of an older man with a grizzled beard, and experience etched into his face? The more interesting things in life are usually the imperfect ones. We connect more to reality, not ideal perfection. So this search for interesting, compelling images in ugly, may turn you towards the neglected and forlorn places, where decay and rust run rampant.

Seed pod

In your search for beauty in ugliness, try to switch your mindset and look past the obvious subject matter.

A great way to start is to take a walk around where you live, or where you work. All the photos in this post were taken either on a 5-minute walk around the neighborhood, or a 15-minute walk around the campus where I teach. The goal is to stretch your mind on what could be an interesting photo. You could easily do this with your smartphone, as a way to actively work on photography at any time.

If you’re having difficulty getting started, think about these tactics:

Look down and look closely

Much of the decay and imperfection is at your feet, or at the edges of things. Peeling paint, rusting hinges, grass and leaves – all can make compelling images, equal or even more so than the roses or pretty blooms. You need to slow down, and look at the things you normally pass by quickly.

Grass

Shoot tight

Are you fortunate enough to have a macro lens? Use it. No such luck? Experiment with your lenses and find the minimal focal distance that works for you. Even without macro or close focus, think about shooting a quality image (ISO, resolution, etc.) that you can crop in on later. And if you’re doing this as a creative exercise, remember that your smartphone has an incredible macro on it–it’ll focus inches away from your subject. Ugly often works best as a subject in small details rather than big, wide shots.

Seeds

Go for contrast

You’re not just looking for tonal contrast, but any contrast is a magical photo trick. Contrasting textures? Check. Contrasting colors? Check.

Peeling paint

Texture, texture, texture. It’s really your best friend in the search for interesting shots in not-so-pretty settings.

Think deeper

Don’t underestimate the power of symbolism. You intuitively know that there are inherent themes of loneliness, isolation, or neglect in a powerful stark image of something ugly. There is a huge fascination in current society with photographing abandoned spaces, and areas that have been forgotten. These images resonate within people. Alternately, there is a hope that occurs when you see a small bloom emerging from a pile of rubble. Remember the power of a simple visual.

Sprouted pod

Remember the ultimate subject in photography – light.

Ordinary objects can be transformed through your use of light. When you find an object to shoot, circle around it and look to see if you have shafts of light streaming in, or if there’s misty diffused light to add a mood. Just remember that if you’re shooting at noon with a harsh direct sun, it’s a good time to head for the shaded areas.

Condensation

In the end, you’ll find that by concentrating on finding interesting images in the weeds and gutters, it will actually help you in your other photography projects as well. By only documenting the ideal, perfect moments in life, you miss out on the whole story. Next time you’re shooting a wedding, or a child’s birthday party, you’ll be better prepared to capture the unplanned, imperfect moments. Those shots will be the ones that get talked about, and laughed over, for years to come.

The post How to Capture Beauty in Ugly and Mundane Subjects by Sharon Zoetewey appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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For the first three years as a professional photographer I suffered a severe case of Photophobia and Photoaugliaphobia. I tried to cover it up by saying things like, “I’m a natural light photographer” or “I really don’t like the aesthetics of flash photography”. In reality I was scared to death of using flash. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the concepts and science behind it.

Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real

  • Photophobia – Fear of ligh
  • Photoaugliaphobia – Fear of glaring lights

Each shoot I went on that involved flash was accompanied by a sleepless night, with dreams about turning up to the shoot naked (anxiety dream) and just the thought of having to use flash, also had a mild to moderate laxative effect on me.

Fearflash main

I managed to work out a system where if I shot at f/8, with the flash dialled in to a particular spot, I would end up with a shot that looked half decent. I had a few successful shoots (and by that I mean there was a detectable image on the film, often blown out by two stops) and was feeling pretty confident about my high-tech – stand here, shoot at f/8, and don’t change anything on the dial – approach to flash photography.

I started getting cocky and developed a “geez you’re good you should do this for a living” strut. In my mind, I’d mastered flash. Sure it wasn’t amazing, but I’d convinced myself that I was pretty good at it.

Then everything changed. I botched a few big jobs in a row; a wedding, where only one frame turned out, a corporate shoot where the flash overexposed the logo, and a historic family portrait where 200 members of the same family flew in from around the world to be in one place together. I set the camera to the wrong shutter speed. The only record of the event is now a faded memory.

Gear 11

I blamed Flash. It was the common denominator – it’s unreliable, difficult to use, and completely stupid. Why bother, I’m a natural light photographer and I don’t need this in my life.

I then started to go through all the stages of grief:

  • Denial – this isn’t my fault right? Flash did it. It’s stupid, right?
  • Anger – what do you mean this is my fault?? Are you kidding me?
  • Bargaining – dear God/Universe/Oprah please make this go away. I will never eat Nutella again.
  • Depression – I suck at photography, what was I thinking? Who do I think I am?
  • Acceptance – I suck at photography, what was I thinking? Who do I think I am?

Probably the toughest, and most grown-up thing I did as a professional photographer, was to face up to the fact that I sucked at flash photography. I needed to develop a learning style, a protocol that would help me understand flash, learn how to use it well, and stop being afraid of it.

PG 51 manual mode

Learning a new skill can be overwhelming at first. I can still remember learning to drive stick shift, and bunny hopping my father’s car around the block, stalling at every red light and being frustrated at the number of things I needed to remember. At the time, I thought there was no way I could possibly remember how to do everything. But, little by little, day by day, I started to overcome the shock of the new, and driving became second nature.

I think the reason that many photographers become frustrated with flash, is because they are working with lighting styles, and modifiers that are too complicated and involve too many variables. Most of us are impatient. We want to get to the “good stuff” right away. But the danger is that you never really understand the subtle differences between each lighting style and modifier.

When it comes to teaching flash photography, I like to implement what I call, The Bruce Lee Protocol. Bruce Lee was a master in martial arts, whose training requires participants to master each level, or belt, before they move on to the next. If a white belt in Karate attempted to break a plank of wood with a roundhouse kick, they would probably end up breaking their foot.

Fearflash 2b

We all want to skip straight to the black belt, but doing this before we’re ready usually ends with tears.
Taken for: Japan Karate Association Australia (JKA)

It took me many years to realize that owning every single light modifier and photography gadget, was not going to make me a better photographer. The one thing that would improve my photography was deciding on one lighting style and modifier, and working with it until I felt I’d mastered it.

I use one light with the same modifier for 80% of my fill-flash photography. I can vary the look of my shots by the way I expose my images, and where I position the light. If you’re just starting out, I recommend that you buy only one modifier and one light, then work with that setup until you’re confident, and happy with your style. Here is my stepped approach to learning how to light with flash based on The Bruce Lee Protocol.

The Bruce Lee Protocol to Learning Flash

Just like training for a black belt, I believe it’s a great idea to stay on one level, until you feel 100% ready to move on to the next. A white belt in Karate would never attempt to break a plank of wood in half with a roundhouse kick , a newbie to lighting shouldn’t attempt to work with a beauty dish before they have mastered working with an umbrella.

Step One: White Belt – Laying the foundation

I think it’s a great idea to ease into lighting, by starting with daylight. Work with hard light, soft light, flat light, and contrasty light, until you are confident you can notice the subtle differences.

Step Two: Yellow Belt – Easing into a new way of thinking

Start by adding fill-flash to your images, using flash on-camera, set to auto. This will give you the confidence to continue working with flash. The next stage is to introduce flash on-camera modifiers, to soften and shape the light.

Step Three: Orange Belt – Expanding your knowledge

FlashPoint Li-on zoom flash and commander set

Umbrella light is a great choice for a fill-light. It closely resembles daylight, making it perfect for lighting large areas. Because the light is very soft and spreads everywhere, this is the easiest light shaper to work with, making it an ideal light modifier to start learning.

Step Four: Green Belt – Developing your skills

Once you have gotten the hang of working with umbrellas, try adding reflectors to your shot, and focus on balancing the daylight and flash.

Step Five: Blue Belt – Confidence

It’s time to ditch the Umbrella and move up to softboxes, umbrellas boxes and octaboxes.

The umbrella box is the most convenient light modifier, because it combines the simplicity of an umbrella, with the control of a softbox. The box design eliminates the complications of using this modifier outdoors. Umbrella boxes are also cheaper than softboxes, so they’re a great choice for your first serious light modifier.

Head 5 200

Softboxes create a soft light that is more contained than that from an umbrella. This makes it a better choice of light modifier if you want to light only certain areas of your image. They are completely enclosed, and are a much better light modifier to use outside, as they are less likely to blow around in windy conditions.

Step Six: Purple Belt – Getting serious now

Once you have mastered soft light, it’s time to start experimenting with hard light. Hard light is tricky to work with, because there is very little room for error. Hard light modifiers include beauty dishes and grid spots.

If you’ve done all the work, adding a beauty dish or grid spot to your lighting setup, will be much easier to manage at this stage.

Fearflash 1

Step Seven: Brown Belt – Bringing everything together

Now you are ready to work with hard and soft light at the same time. The hard light, like a beauty dish or grid spot, can be used as the main light, and the soft light becomes the fill.

Step Eight: Red Belt – Developing your own style

Once you’ve mastered each of the lighting styles individually, and know how to work with them together, you can focus your attention on developing a lighting style that is unique to you.

Step Nine: Black Belt – Enlightenment

A black belt in lighting comes with the realization that we never really stop learning. Most of the best photographers in the world will admit that they are yet to master their craft, and the more they know, the more they realize they have yet to learn.

One of my greatest highlights of the past few years, has been watching the students I have taught overcome their fear of flash, and seeing their styles evolve and develop.

Here are some of my favourite examples of their work, and the steps they took to create these images.

Lisa McTiernan

Lisa McTiernan

Off-camera flash has scared me for a while now. Finally! Simple, easy to understand info, that even after one go has opened up a whole new world for my photography. Gina Milicia you’re my hero. Legit.

I wanted a moody vibe for this shoot in an empty concrete carpark. I wanted the shot to look like it was lit by the fluorescent lights on the walls and ceiling, and not by my speedlight. After setting the exposure for the ambient light, I bounced the flash (with the diffusion dome) off the ceiling at an angle to soften, and bounce it back onto my subject’s face and upper-body to highlight his red shirt. I set the flash to 1/16 power, and adjusted the level until I got the look that worked. Exposure: 1/100th, f/5.6, ISO 500, 27mm lens.

Kristi Louise Herd

Kristi Louise Herd

www.herdstarphotography.co.uk ( weddings only for now) www.flickr.com/photos/herdstar

This is from a photo shoot I did with an aspiring model, it was my first night shoot and my first using flash. Before I did the shoot I read and re-read your ebook, Portraits, Lighting the Shot. Tricks I learned from you became invaluable. I used the trick with the phone to focus, as the light was pretty dim. It worked fantastic, and the softbox, which I had never used before, was held just above and sightly to the left of the model (I had seen this again in a diagram from your ebook). Camera settings: Nikon D750 f/4.2, 1/30th, ISO 800, focal length 112mm. I would never have achieved this shot without learning from you Gina Milicia.

Erica Rampant

Erica Rampant

Hi Gina, I asked a few weeks ago about placement for lighting for a milk bath shoot. Here is the result! It was taken with a Nikon D610, 50mm Sigma Art lens, ISO 100, f/2.2, 1/160th of a second.

This is my friend Antonette, she just gave birth to a healthy baby boy and I was there to photograph it. She had a home birth and her baby was born in water! I’m still a new photographer and have only been shooting for five months, but have been listening to you, and learned so much!

Natalie Ord

Natalie Ord

This is a shoot a recently did for a client. The day was windy, overcast, and I had limited time. I needed to portray the client as friendly, accessible, and show that she is rural-based, so it was important for me to get the background exposed right. I couldn’t have done that without using off-camera flash.

Settings were 1/320th, ISO 250, f/7.1, using PocketWizards, a Canon Speedlite 600EX without a softbox, as it was windy and I didn’t have anyone to hold the stand, shot on my 70-200mm f/2.8L with a Canon 5D MkII.

Gary Lun

 

Gary-Lun-3

Canon 5D MkII with Canon 16-35mm f2.8 at 18mm, f/4.5, 1/125th, ISO 1600. Flash was Yongnuo YN560III at 1/8 power, positioned at camera right. Softbox was using SMDV SpeedBox-60.

Quick story: I was doing an engagement shoot at a typical location in town for many photographers. It was packed with photographers that day! Anyway, in order to get a unique photo I knew I must use flash. So I waited until all other photographers were gone, because the sun is going down (since most of them were using natural light), took my flash out, asked the couple to stand near something with texture, and took the shot.

Phil Enn

Phil Enn

Canon 7D, 17-85mm at 17mm, f1/6, ISO 200, six speed lights held in a bunch, off to camera right.

Andrew McNamara

Andrew McNamara

Canon 5D MkII, 24-70mm at 24mm, f/9.0, ISO 100, 1/50th with a camera-mounted Canon 480exII Speedlite. As stated in the original story, shot from inside a training element for the Southern Cross Search Dogs photoshoot. I had a diffuser on the flash, just for the safety of the dogs eyes, and bounced it just a little.

P.S. I’m one of those people who are afraid of flash so this was a big step!

Rahim Mastafa

Rahim Mas
Inspired by one of your ebooks, I used one studio strobe as a key light to the front of him, and a speed light as a kicker, over his shoulder on the backrest. Settings were: f/2, 1/1500th, ISO 100, Sony a77, 50mm lens.

Matt Zahn

Matt Zahn

This was part of my self portrait challenge. Since it was nighttime, and obviously no natural light to shoot with, I attempted to create the illusion that this was natural light coming through a window. I used my Canon 430exII Speedlite on my T5i. I slid a home-made snoot over the end, and used some electrical tape to create some of the shadows. This shot was taken at 1/400th, f/5.0, ISO 400. I also placed a gold reflector to camera left, behind me.

Scott Stokhaug

Scott Stockhaug

With the help of your ebook, Flashfast for Portrait Perfection, I made a minimal investment to get that speedlight off my camera, and open many new doors! This photo is my Rembrandt lighting, along with black background that was shot in my home, in broad daylight, with no backdrop. I love this technique!

Next step

So where are you on The Bruce Lee Protocol steps? Do you have a fear of flash? Have you overcome and mastered it already? Please share with us where you are, and what you’ve done to conquer your fears.


fastflash_bookIf you want to learn more about using flash for creating portraits, pick up Gina’s brand new dPS ebook: Fast Flash for Portrait Perfection. Now on sale for an introductory price for a limited time only.

The post 9 Steps to Get Over Your Fear of Off-Camera Flash by Gina Milicia appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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So you’ve done the research, read the articles, browsed through your photos, and decided it’s time to make the leap from shooting in JPG to shooting in RAW, in order to get the most quality possible out of your photos. Congratulations, and welcome to the fold!

Things are nice over here in RAW land, we have cookies too. Now that you’ve firmly decided once and for all to shoot in RAW, you can stop thinking about file formats and get back to making beautiful images, right? Well, sort of. Turns out there’s yet another layer to this cake, that adds yet one more twist to the mix: RAW compression formats.

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“What?!” I can hear you saying now. “What’s a compression format? And why does it matter? Can’t I just shoot in RAW and be done with it?” Well yes, and no.

For starters go grab your camera, caress it gently, and rest assured that you have in your hands a very capable imaging device, that would have been the envy of every photographer in the world 10, or even five years ago. You don’t have to understand everything about RAW, JPG, and other formats, as long as you’re getting out there and taking photos that you like. But, if you would like to know more about how all this works, then by all means, read on. You might want to sit down and grab a cup of coffee, because things are about to get a bit tricky.

How RAW format works

When you take a photo with any camera (DSLR, mirrorless, point-and-shoot, or even your smartphone) a massive amount of color information is captured by the camera’s image sensor, and sent to a computer chip that analyzes it, and ultimately saves it to your memory card as a picture. If you shoot in JPG, a great deal of that data is discarded to save storage space, and facilitate easier sharing. But, if you shoot in RAW, most of that color data is retained, which results in you having much more flexibility to edit each picture in a program like Lightroom or Photoshop, but also results in file sizes that can be quite large and not at all conducive to emailing or posting on social networks. Many cameras allow you to choose different types of RAW formats such as:

  • JPG – Every camera offers this format which stores 256 tonal values for each color, but compresses the file in such a way that a significant portion of the photo data is discarded. This format is ideal for photographers who do not do much editing in Photoshop or Lightroom, and the file sizes are much smaller than RAW, which makes them very easy to share.
  • 12-bit RAW lossy compressed – This format stores 4,096 tonal values for each color (red, green, and blue) per pixel, but then throws away some information it deems unnecessary, using an algorithm to compress the file, so it’s a bit smaller and takes up less space on your memory card. Most of the discarded data is on the right side of the histogram, which makes sense, since digital cameras typically capture much more information in the mid-tones and highlights to begin with. Thus, there is a great deal more leeway when performing a lossy compression algorithm, since it is removing some data from a part of the image where there is so much to begin with, that removing a little will not matter to most users.
  • 12-bit uncompressed – Also stores 4,096 tonal values for each color, but does not throw out any data to shrink the file size.
  • 14-bit lossy compressed – This format stores 16,384 tonal values for each color (way more than 12-bit – 12-bit mean:s 2 to the power of 12 or 2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2, 14-bit is 2 to the power of 14) but also discards some data it deems gratuitous, in order to compress the file so it’s a bit smaller.
  • 14-bit uncompressed – The best option most cameras offer (though some ultra-high-end models do have 16-bit RAW files, but they usually cost more than a new car) stores 16,384 tonal values for each color per pixel and does not throw any away, giving you the highest possible amount of information, to work with in post-production.
The original photo (left) was somewhat bland and flat, and shooting in RAW gave me the flexibility I needed to properly edit this into an image I really liked.

The original photo (left) was somewhat bland and flat, and shooting in RAW gave me the flexibility I needed to properly edit this into an image I really liked (right).

Looking at this data the answer seems clear, right? Just shoot in 14-bit uncompressed RAW because it’s obviously better! Well again, yes and no.

Due to the increase in the amount of data offered by a 14-bit file, the resulting RAW images take up much more space on your memory card and computer, and are much slower to load in a program like Lightroom or Photoshop. If you shoot with a high-megapixel camera like the Nikon D800, Sony A7Rii, or Canon 5DS, you can easily get RAW files approaching 100MB each. That is great when you need it, but can be quite a burden if you decide that all the extra data is not always worth the tradeoff in storage space.

Another issue that comes into play when comparing formats is whether the increased data actually does give you more flexibility when editing the image. Of course it does in theory, but in practice, having 16,384 tonal values for each color could be a bit of overkill for most people. If you generally get your exposure correct in camera, then you may not need the sheer quantity of data provided by a 14-bit uncompressed RAW format file.

Real-life examples

Some camera makers have other RAW formats, such as sRAW and mRAW, that actually decrease the pixel count of your images, while still giving you the flexibility of a RAW file. But, at the end of the day, one thing is clear – shooting in RAW will always give you significantly more freedom to edit your images than shooting in JPG. The question then becomes, which RAW format to use?

There are benefits and drawbacks to each one, but all RAW types allow you to have an extraordinary degree of flexibility in post-production, compared JPG. Like almost everything in photography, there is no single correct answer to the question, and it is largely dependent on your shooting style and needs as a photographer. To see how this plays out in a real-life scenario, here’s a picture I took, overlooking the Formal Gardens at Oklahoma State University.

f/4, 35mm, ISO 100

35mm, f/4, 1/350 second, ISO 100

I re-shot the same picture using massive over- and under-exposures using four different RAW formats, then corrected them in Lightroom. Shooting these photos as JPGs would have resulted in unusable images, but RAW gives you so much extra information, that you can often salvage parts of a picture that would have been entirely lost otherwise. RAW is useful for much more than fixing overexposed pictures, but it’s in extreme circumstances like this that the real differences between the 12-bit, 14-bit, compressed, and uncompressed formats, would be most likely to show up.

This first set of images has been intentionally overexposed by three stops, by leaving the aperture at f/4 and ISO at 100, but increasing the shutter speed to 1/30 second.

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Overexposed intentionally by three stops, to test which format offers the most in terms of highlight recovery.

I then used Lightroom to bring the exposure values back down by three stops, for a correctly exposed image. Some data has been lost due to clipping, where things are so overexposed there is literally nothing left to recover, but for each picture I was able to get a decent image, useful for comparison purposes. I still wouldn’t use these in an actual production environment, but it does give you an idea of how flexible the RAW format really is.

raw-formats-compared-garden-overexpoure-fixed-compared

All images look virtually identical, but that’s not too unexpected given that these are minuscule thumbnails of 24-megapixel images. To get a better understanding of how the RAW compression formats compare, here is a 1:1 crop of the same section of each photo.

raw-formats-compared-garden-overexpoure-fixed-compared-crop

Upon close inspection, all four RAW formats appear to offer similar functionality when recovering highlight data.

Notice much of a difference? I don’t. That’s not to say there isn’t any difference, just not one that’s discernible to the human eye.

Since the initial 14-bit uncompressed file is more than 50% bigger than a 12-bit compressed image (39MB versus 25MB) there is clearly a lot more data to work with, but as this test illustrates much of that is not likely to matter a whole lot in practical terms. The biggest difference I can see is not due to lossy compression but bit rate, as both 14-bit files show just a few more clearly-defined bricks in the sidewalk, to the right of the planter.

However, keep in mind this is a 1:1 crop of a 24-megapixel image. You’re looking at about 94,000 pixels in each section above, out of nearly 25 million, or about .04% of the total image. If you have to zoom in this far to see any noticeable differences between 12-bit and 14-bit RAW files, that were overexposed by three whole stops to begin with, then to me it does not offer a significantly compelling reason to shoot 14-bit RAW most of the time.

To continue with the comparison, here’s the same picture underexposed by three stops in camera, by increasing the shutter speed to 1/3000 second.

raw-formats-compared-garden-underexposure-compared

Underexposed by three stops to test shadow recovery.

Since almost no data was clipped, which I could tell by looking at the histogram, adjusting the exposure by three stops in Lightroom results in an image that is virtually identical to the correct one at the top of this article. Taking another look at the 1:1 crops below, yields a similar result as the first test.

raw-formats-compared-garden-underexpoure-fixed-compared-crop

Once again, all four RAW formats appear to be on par with each other for recovering detail in the shadows.

The results here are remarkably similar to the overexposure test, and remember that these pictures have been severely underexposed before correcting them in post. The differences between the corrected images you see above are negligible, and the much smaller 12-bit compressed file gives results that are almost identical to the 14-bt uncompressed.

So, which format should you use?

While you can’t draw a universal conclusion from just one test, this example does illustrate that shooting in 12-bit compressed RAW still gives you plenty of data to work with, when editing your images. As I mentioned at the top of the article, some data is literally thrown away when shooting with a lossy compression format, but in most situations it’s nothing you are likely to notice. Only in extreme circumstances, such as when you want to do massive highlight or shadow recovery, or if a photo has been severely over or under-exposed, are you likely to notice any practical benefits from shooting in 14-bit RAW.

However, if you are the type of photographer who wants the most possible data in each picture, and continually pushes your camera to its limits, I would recommend capturing as much information as possible (i.e. shooting in 14-bit) and retaining every last chunk of it (shooting uncompressed).

Even when shooting for clients I use 12-bit RAW because it gives me more than enough color information to edit my shots.

Even when shooting for clients I use 12-bit RAW because it gives me more than enough color information to edit my shots. I could use 14-bit RAW, but for my purposes I have found that I simply don’t need to.

A notable caveat here is that the test I performed was just one example, and it’s entirely possible that a different scenario would have done a better job at illustrating the differences in terms of the different RAW formats. When doing this I tried to pick something that was generally representative of a typical photographic scenario, and not a situation that was far outside the realm of what most people would encounter when taking pictures. If I had over or under-exposed by four or five stops, or shot at higher ISO values, perhaps there would be some significant differences in terms of what each format has to offer, and I don’t want to draw any large-scale conclusions from just one small set of data.

What this test does illustrate is that even though 12-bit compressed RAW contains less photographic information than its higher bit rate counterparts, enough important data remains to give you plenty of wiggle room, if you need to do extreme corrections in post-production.

The original uncorrected version of the image at the top of this article, shot in 12-bit compressed RAW.

The original uncorrected version of the image at the top of this article, shot in 12-bit compressed RAW.

I generally don’t like to give advice when it comes to photography, life, jobs, or matters of the opposite sex, but I have shot with many types of RAW formats for a few years, and feel entirely comfortable shooting in 12-bit compressed. I do all my pictures this way, even paid jobs for clients, and have never had a circumstance in which a bad picture would have been salvageable if I had only shot in 14-bit uncompressed.

In my experience (which, I admit, is not the same as a professional photographer who makes his or her living taking pictures) there are plenty of other factors that matter just as much, such as: choosing the right lens, nailing your focus, composing your shot, knowing when and how to use external lights, and a host of other things that are more important than eating up your memory cards with 14-bit uncompressed RAW files. If your pictures regularly, and consistently, require the type of extreme editing that can only be saved by heavily editing a 14-bit uncompressed RAW file, I’m going to go out on a limb and say there are probably other things that you need to work on to improve your photography, besides choosing the right file format.

Even black and white photographers can get a lot of benefits from shooting in RAW.

Even black and white photography can benefit from using the RAW format due to the additional data available in each individual pixel.

Of course it should be noted that the RAW format is beneficial, not just for fixing images that are way too bright or dark. RAW files give you significant flexibility when editing the colors of an image, and allow you to bring out more natural skin tones, get the deep rich blues hidden in a dull gray sky, find the intricate details of a flower petal that would be lost in a JPG, and perform all sorts of other edits that have nothing to do with making a dark photo a little brighter. Any RAW format is better than none, if you’re the kind of person who likes to edit your images after you take them, but if you want a nice balance between having lots of data while still keeping file sizes down, 12-bit compressed will most likely suffice just fine.

What about you? I’m curious what your experiences have been with compressed and uncompressed RAW. Perhaps you’re the kind of photographer who shoots in JPG and doesn’t bother messing with processing afer the fact. I’d like to hear about your experiences in the comments below, especially if you have found times when shooting 14-bit uncompressed RAW has come in handy. The more information we have to work with, the better informed we will all be as photographers.

The post 12-bit Versus 14-bit RAW – Which is Right for You? by Simon Ringsmuth appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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There may be times when you want to play around with some elements in your images. Perhaps you want to change a color to a more suitable one in post-processing. One of the tools you can use in Photoshop is the Channel Mixer. It is a simple process that allows you to change the color of any element in your image to any other color under the rainbow. The Channel Mixer adjustment is widely used for making good black and white image conversions, correcting color casts, and exaggerating color. But why not use it for fun too, such as changing the color completely!

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Before you start, however, there is one vital thing you must know, if you want to work in Photoshop in a non-destructive way: layers and masks.

The examples below are from a photoshoot I did with my girls. I did not like the colors of their capes, and didn’t have any other alternative, so Photoshop was to be the answer.

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The first thing you need to do once your file is opened, is to select the area where you want the color changed using either the quick mask mode, or one of the lasso tools. While your selection is highlighted, add a channel mixer adjustment layer and your selection will automatically be added as a layer mask. Click on the channel mixer icon to the left of the layer itself and a window pops-up.

channel-mixer-photoshop-tutorial_0001

There are three values under the output channel: Red, Green, and Blue . You need to bring up each value and move the sliders until you get your desired color. It will take a little experimenting, and going backwards and forwards between the three colors, until you arrive at your chosen color. When the color change is vastly different, you will notice that the RGB values individually requires major changes.

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You need to keep an eye on the total value for each channel, aim to keep it within 100%. A warning is displayed when you go over 100%, as this means the color output is too bright or dark, and you are losing data in the darkest areas or the highlights. A negative value means you are adding more of the colour to the channel, and a positive value means you are taking away.

channel-mixer-photoshop-tutorial_0003

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Once you have decided on your new color, don’t forget to check the edges and carefully mask around if necessary. When the new color is a lot darker than the original color, such as on the image below, more meticulous masking is necessary to clean up the edges. In some cases, painting the highlights with the same color is needed for the image to look natural. You may also have to adjust the opacity of the brush, or the adjustment layer as required. The important thing is to make sure the image looks believable, if that was your original intention.

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Once you have changed the color and cleaned up your masking work, check the overall look, and adjust the background accordingly.  In the case of the image below, the original background looked too bright for the new moodier look so I darkened it to go with the scene I was after.  There are various ways of darkening an image in Photoshop. The method I used here was to duplicate the original image (duplicate layer), and change the Blend Mode to Multiply. You can then mask out any areas you don’t want to get too dark, or change the opacity of the layer, as done on the image below.

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You will notice that I have added additional layers such as levels for brightening some areas, and photo filters for warming up or cooling down other areas. It is essential to have a good look at the overall picture, not just the isolated area and selective changes you have made. This is because our perception of color is relative and mostly dependent on the colors around them. Here are the before and after images (below).

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Your Photoshop play doesn’t have to end in isolated color changes. You can experiment in many various ways to achieve any look you desire. In the image below I decided to go for a more monochromatic look. This involved selecting the background, applying another channel mixer adjustment layer, and moving the sliders on each RGB value until I got the color I was after.

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Or you can throw all caution to the wind and go totally crazy. You can add and remove colors from each channel at purely 100% in a mix and match fashion, and see what array of unrealistic looks you get, such as the magenta image below – for fun!

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I hope this has been a little helpful tip for your Photoshop play.  Do you have other ideas on how to use the channel mixer to achieve various effects in Photoshop? Share them in the comments section below please.

The post How to Use the Channel Mixer in Photoshop to Change Colors in Your Images by Lily Sawyer appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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