Archive for June, 2016

Checking off your travel photo listWant to bring back travel photos that your friends actually enjoy viewing on Facebook? Want to make sure you don’t miss anything when visiting a new culture? Then it’s time to make a list!

We all have our easy ruts we fall into when photographing, but travel, for me, is about expanding my view. That’s why I take a travel shot list and try my darnedest to get at least one of each shot when visiting a new location.

What’s on my list?

Here are some tips for you to help make a travel photography shot list for your next trip. Feel free to use my list and add to it with your own ideas.

1 – People – old, young, and in-between

Spread out your people photos between age ranges. I’ve seen a bazillion images of old ladies from Cuba, while often missing are people like me; middle aged and fairly normal, even a bit boring. Round out your people photos with more variety, is all I am saying.

Portraits in Bhutan

What’s not to love about those shoes and that smile?

Kids are an easy target as they often love having their picture taken. You will need to be aware, though, that not all parents wish for their children to be photographed. That’s the crux of it; parents worry how the images this stranger just took will be used. Sometimes all it takes is a simple “Hello” first to the parents to gauge if taking photos is okay. If language is a barrier, you can also point to your camera, then to the children with an inquisitive look on your face. Either way, no matter the answer, respect the parent’s choice.

Peruvian kids

Kids playing in Inca ruins, Peru

Delhi street market scene

Street scene in Delhi, India with people my age.

Men at Red Fort, Delhi, India

People watching at the Red Fort, Delhi, India

2 – Food – preperation, presentation, social aspect

Food brings us together. It’s a basic need we can all relate to, even if we don’t know exactly what we are about to eat.

Cooking at a Sikh Temple

Inside the commercial sized kitchen at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India

Don’t just shoot the Instagram-worthy image of a plate of the amazing new delicacy you are experiencing, find a way to shoot the preparation of food. Get behind the counter (where it’s allowed) to see how it’s cooked, and where it comes from. As you plan to share these photos (why else are you taking them?), you may find that a large, and often hidden, swath of your friends and followers have a strong interest in food prep.

Buddhist monastery kitchen in Nepal

The full kitchen at a monastery, high in the Himalayas of Nepal

3 – Architecture – old, new, juxtaposed

In some locations the old and the new architecture matches, Bhutan comes to mind. I watched artisans paint a brand new home with traditional patterns and motifs from the nearby 400 year old monastery. Everything there fit a certain style.

Buddhist Temple in Punakha, Bhutan

Looking up at the Punakha Temple, Bhutan

Then we have countries making vast changes from the old style to what constantly evolves as modern – think of Tokyo or Dubai. Look for the differences even where you think there is just one style.

4 – Water – how is it used?

While food brings us together, water is even more vital to our lives. In California we are familiar with our current drought, but forget that not every place has this problem. Some places are quite extravagant with their use of water, while it is a scarcity in others.

Water in use in Nepal and India

Scarcity of water in Kathmandu means water lines, while a woman in Varanasi, India, washes her clothes in the river.

How do the locals use water? Do they wash their laundry in the rivers? Are there fountains everywhere? Are their cities built along waterways, or with vast ports?

Infinity pool and Dubai

An infinity pool 23 stories up in the Burj al-Arab, Dubai, UAE

Old water storage tank overflowing and leaking

In the woods of Oregon, there is often way too much water.

5 – Transportation – private and public

How do people get around? At home we have our patterns, and often don’t see the other forms of transport we might use. But when you travel, it will hopefully be obvious how the people there transport themselves.

Tuk-tuk ride at night

Tuk-tuks in Amritsar, India, are the easiest way to get around town.

It might a passel of buses, camels, rickshaws, taxis, or Maseratis.

Also, how are goods moved? Does your location have shipping traffic and a lot of cargo? From continent to continent, the methods for moving goods from here to there can be vastly different.

Boating on the Ghanges River

Boating along the Ghanges River in Varanasi, India

6 – Commerce – macro and micro

When I think of macro-commerce I think of things like whole industries like: agriculture, tourism, and banking.

With micro- commerce, I think of markets and vendors, where money actually changes hands. Who’s selling what, and who is buying? Is there a special technique to transactions?


Try to capture both the large scale, and intimacy of commerce, and show how things may be very similar, or very different from what you are used to back home.

7 – Nighttime

When the sun goes down, don’t stop shooting! Learn to find light, and exploit its unique qualities during the night. Maybe you have some moonlight or some neon in your location. No matter the source, there is still light at night.

Balanced Rock, Arches National Park, at Night

Balanced Rock in Arches National Park, Utah, USA takes on a new look at night.

Does your location shut down when the sun hits the horizon? Or does it rally for an all-night bender?

I found the markets in Aqaba, Jordan come to life once the heat of the day was done. I also found that the town had way more neon signs than I ever expected, but hadn’t bothered to notice while touring in the daylight. Get out at night and explore.

Noel in Aqaba, Jordan

Neon in Aqaba, Jorda


8 – Religion

How different parts of the world practice religion has always fascinated me. There isn’t a single part of this globe, that does not have some nod to the local religion, in some aspect of their lives.

Minaret of a mosque in Oman

Colorful minaret in Jebel Shams area of Oman

It may be subtle, such as a small altar to burn incense, or it could be the overt repetition of churches across a city. Travel is a time to break out of your routine and try new things. Stick your head (respectfully) inside a temple. Tour a mosque. Visit a cemetery to see the influence of religion on those in the past.

Buddhist monks in ceremony, Bhutan

Photography inside many Buddhist temples in Bhutan is banned, but on the night of this retreat for monks from all around the valley, I was allowed to shoot the ceremony.

Military tombstones and flags located in Eastern Washington, USA

Military tombstones and flags located in Eastern Washington, USA

9 – Landscapes – natural and manmade

I love landscapes, so they come easy to me. But, I have not always been a fan of cities and people. So, it takes me some effort to really appreciate the organization and layout of a nice cityscape. But it’s always worth it to bring back a mix of both in your images.

View of Canyonlands National Park at sunset

No people to see. Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA.

Photographers and Cho Oyu, Nepal

A few people give a sense of scale to Cho Oyu, the 6th highest mountain in the world, Gokyo, Nepal.

Sunrise view of Seattle, Washington and Mount Rainier

Here there are a lot more people in Seattle, Washington, USA

I am reminded of the craze for photos of Iceland. I’ve seen my fill, and rarely was a single cityscape in the mix. Black sand beaches with ice, waterfalls, all that stuff shows up – but most photographers have left out the manmade landscape. Include it! At least once.

10 – Icons – clichés big and small

I know people who refuse to shoot iconic locations. “They’ve been over shot and I wouldn’t be caught dead shooting them,” is a common refrain. Ignore those people.

Taj Mahal and reflection

The classic Taj Mahal view.

You’re traveling, so have fun. Shoot the Eiffel Tower if you’re in Paris. Hit up Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park, and why not get a reflecting pool image of the Taj Mahal, or a cigar smoking lady in Havana? Do it. Get a posed photo of Masai Mara villagers, a llama in front of Machu Picchu, pretend to push over the Tower of Pisa.

Heck, even get a photo of that same waterfall everyone else visiting Iceland has shot.

That being said, you probably shouldn’t share only the cliché shots. Unless you’re on assignment to shoot something highly unique, go ahead and hit the clichés, then move on to the rest of the list. Better yet, look around your cliché location for something new to bring back and share.

Tourists at teh Taj Mahal

The not-so-classic view of the Taj Mahal, but a lot more fun.

11 – Wildlife – domestic and truly wild

My daughter’s obsession with taking photos of cats in Morocco sticks with me as a reminder to not ignore the domestic animals, along with the wild. I’ve photographed big cats in India and Africa, tarantulas in Peru and breaching whales in Alaska. But, I’d be remiss if I didn’t convey the fact that the town of Essouira, Morocco, with its fresh fish markets, is a haven for cats of all kinds.

Breaching humpback whales, Alaska, USA

Humpback whales in Alaska, USA

FIghting Hippos, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Fighting hippos in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

What about the beasts of burden? The donkeys, llamas, horses and camels? Put those on your list as well.


12 – All the pretty plants and flowers

Some of us just don’t care that much about plants. A green thing giving off oxygen at home is the same as a green thing giving off oxygen halfway across the world.

Rhododendrons in the Himalayas, Nepal

Rhododendrons at 14,000′ up in the Himalayas

But, I had no clue there were rhododendrons in the Himalayas of Nepal, much the same (but smaller), as both the ornamental and wild versions, I knew in Washington state growing up. When you get down to the tropics, the plants certainly get exotic, don’t they? Grab their wonderful colors and adaptations to share with friends back home.


This list can be just a start for your own customized version. Take it, shape it, make it your own. Put your favorite things on the list, but also keep those that don’t interest you. Growth as a photographer comes from trying new things and shooting new subjects.

Lastly, when it’s time to share your trip photos, I would suggest using 2-4 images from each category when making an online album. This will force you to pick only the best and it will give your viewers a good cross section of what you saw on your travels.

The post How to Use a Travel Photography Shot List to Come Home with Better Photos by Peter West Carey appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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It’s not always easy to be a photographer, seeing all of the great photo opportunities around us, and wanting to capture them all. Recently, I was working with a student of mine, and she wanted to know how to handle changing settings quickly from one situation to another.  Her example was trying to go from photographing landscapes, to trying to focus on a bird or other wildlife that may quickly enter the scene. While some seasoned photographers may be ready for a situation such as this, it’s certainly not easy, and for someone just learning, I would argue that it shouldn’t be attempted at all.

24-120mm. Shot at 120mm, 1/160, f/4, ISO 1400. Knowing how the lens behaves at both ends of the zoom, I knew I could use this lens for wide angle shots in close, but zoom in as the flower girl was coming down the aisle and still get an interesting shot.

24-120mm, shot at 120mm, 1/160, f/4, ISO 1400. Knowing how the lens behaves at both ends of the zoom, I knew I could use this lens for wide angle shots in close, but zoom in as the flower girl was coming down the aisle and still get an interesting shot.

While many of the camera manufacturers want to make photography sound easy (anyone remember “So advanced, it’s simple”?), the fact is, photography is a craft, that despite the advances in technology, takes some time to master. Different photographic situations call for different settings, different lenses, or even a completely different approach to the subject matter. If you’re a hobbyist with only one camera, it can be impossible to be ready for all of the possibilities as they happen.

So here are three ways to keep it simple while you’re learning photography, and stop the overwhelm.

#1 – Focus on one subject at a time

I’m a strong advocate for keeping things simple. First off, if you’re planning to photograph landscapes, wildlife, or portraits, stick with that one goal.  It is easy to get distracted by other subjects that come along. Those opportunities can seem like gold when they pop up, and they can be, but if you’re already set up to shoot a landscape photo at ISO 100, f/16 aperture, and 1/20th shutter speed, quickly switching to settings suitable for capturing a bird in flight is not an easy process. It will likely end in you being frustrated, capturing photos that don’t quite meet your expectations, or worse, don’t come out at all.

Even now, 20-plus years after beginning my photography career, I try not to do too much at once with a camera. I focus on what my goal was when I first decided to pick up the camera and head out. If I’m planning on photographing a landscape at sunset, that’s what I do. The only time I will try to be ready for two separate subjects, is when I have two cameras. For instance, if I’m photographing a landscape, but there are waterfowl nearby and I want to be ready for that, I have a second camera set up with a telephoto lens, so I can grab it and try and get the shot. Even this requires me to at least temporarily put my initial subject, the landscape, aside for a bit.

Wildlife image taken using a fast shutter speed and a telephoto lens.

This shot of the blue heron was taken with a 400mm lens, using continuous AF, and 1/1250 shutter speed.

The image of the waterfall (below), and the image of the great blue heron (above), were both taken at the same location.  However, for the shot of the waterfall, I needed to use a neutral density filter to slow down the exposure. There is no way I’d have been able to remove the filter, and be ready to photograph the heron, even if both shots could have been captured with the same lens. Not only would my shutter speed have needed to be drastically faster to stop the flight of the heron, I would also have needed to use continuous AF to capture its flight sharply, while I always use one-shot AF when photographing landscapes.

Knowing there may be wildlife nearby, I mounted a Nikon 80-400mm lens on one camera (on a strap on my shoulder), while I had a second camera with a shorter lens, set up on a tripod to capture the waterfalls. If I only had one camera, I would have needed to choose between one subject or the other, and then move on. Rare is the occasion when you can jump so quickly from one subject to a completely different one using only one camera.

Landscape image using a slow shutter speed and wide angle lens.

This shot was taken with a 16mm lens, using one-shot AF, and a 0.6 second shutter speed.

If you’re working with only one camera, don’t try to do too much.  Pick one subject and work that until you feel you’ve accomplished what you wanted, then move on to another subject. Yes, it’s difficult to be set up to catch a sunset and watch a beautiful snowy egret land nearby and start fishing, leaving you itching to try and catch it, but chances are it will fly away again while you’re still fiddling with your settings. Meanwhile, the sun is still setting, the color is fading, and you’ve likely missed a shot or two there as well.

#2 – Use only one lens

Back when I took my first photo course in college, my professor was adamant that each student use only a 50mm lens. I didn’t understand why at the time, but I do now. It’s important to understand how your lenses behave, so you’ll know which one is right for the job. As photographers, many of us become gear collectors, always wanting another lens, to allow us to photograph the way we saw another photographer do it. But before you start collecting lenses, it’s important to recognize what each lens can do for you, and to truly understand that, you’ve got to use each lens extensively.

Wide angle lenses expand perspective.

Using a wide angle lens, I was able to emphasize the ice in the foreground, while pushing the bridge to the background at the top center of the frame.

I currently have seven camera lenses in my kit right now. At any given time, there may be four or five in my camera bag when I’m out photographing, depending on what my planned subject is, or what contingencies I want to be ready for. But, as usually happens, it’s rare that most of those lenses will see the outside of my bag once I get where I’m going. While each situation is different, I often find that one lens will usually handle what I want to do when I get to a location. So unless it’s one of those rare times when a situation calls for both a telephoto and a wide angle look, usually only one of those lenses gets mounted on the camera. While in the above example I broke this rule and used two cameras with two different lenses, that is not usually the norm for me.

When you pull your camera out of the bag next time and select lens to use, stick with that one lens. Really get to know it. If it’s a zoom, shoot at only one end of it. The next time you use it, use the other end. Learn how to make that lens really sing. Find out what it’s really good for, and what it’s not good at. Do this with every lens you own, if you own more than one. When it comes time to purchase new glass, you’ll have a much better understanding of where your kit comes up short, and what you need to buy. In addition, you’ll also be building on my first point, focusing on one subject. Too often, new photographers miss opportunities because they are busy changing lenses because they think they need one over another. If changing lenses is not an option, you won’t waste time with it, and can focus on making great photos with whichever lens you find on your camera.

Telephoto lenses compress perspective.

Telephoto lenses compress perspective. Want to make the sun or moon look really big in relation to a building or structure? Back away from your subject a bit and use a telephoto lens to compress the perspective and distort the size relationship.

In the two images shown above, the same bridge can be found in both, and both shots were taken from roughly the same spot. One was taken with a 16mm lens, and the other, with a telephoto lens at 290mm. Wide angle lenses expand perspective, emphasizing the foreground and pushing background objects back, while telephoto lenses minimize foreground and tend to flatten perspective. Using only one focal length will also help you to compose more effective images. Zooms can at times make you lazy. Zooming from a wide angle to a telephoto lens changes the image profoundly, and it’s important to understand what effect that can have on your image.

Telephoto lenses compress perspective, while wide angle lenses enhance it, and each perspective communicates something different to the viewer. There are reasons to use both wide and telephoto lenses, but only working with them extensively will help you recognize the situations where each is most effective.

#3 – Don’t accessorize

For the lighthouse image- Shot at 16mm, f/16, 15 seconds, ISO 64. I simplified my composition down to two elements, the reflection in the foreground, and the lighthouse in the background. Knowing the lighthouse would be there regardless of where I stood or how I zoomed, I focused on getting the reflection right, and letting the rest of the composition fall into place.

Shot at 16mm, f/16, 15 seconds, ISO 64. I simplified my composition down to two elements, the reflection in the foreground, and the lighthouse in the background. Knowing the lighthouse would be there regardless of where I stood or how I zoomed, I focused on getting the reflection right, and letting the rest of the composition fall into place.

One of the great things about digital photography, and today’s technology, is the many cool new tools available to help with your picture-taking endeavors. It’s great to be able to connect to a camera from your smartphone, and do things such as time lapse or long exposures, but often times, these accessories are one more thing that can go wrong, or distract you from actually taking photos.

There are only three accessories that I use regularly. One is a time controller that plugs into my camera directly, second is a tripod, and finally, a set of neutral density and graduated neutral density filters, used to help control exposure. I didn’t even begin using the filters until a few years ago, more than 15 years into my photography career. Both images below used nothing more than a remote shutter release. In the case of the Milky Way image, on the right, I set my camera to manual for a 15 second exposure and used the remote release as I would the shutter button, simply to avoid touching the camera. For the image on the left of the star trails, while that becomes a bit more complicated in processing, in reality, it’s just a lot of 30-second exposures. I simply set my camera to continuous drive, and locked the shutter button on the remote down. Simple.

Minimize accessories

Even for images such as these, the only accessory I used was a time controller, with only the shutter button locked down.

It’s important, when learning photography, to focus on the basics – aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, and understand how they affect your images. It’s too easy to get caught up in all the bells and whistles and how cool they are, and forget that the end result is what matters. In my mind, if the accessory isn’t contributing in a way that affects the final image, then I don’t need to use it. I’m not saying that accessories are bad, or even unnecessary, but if you aren’t sure how to achieve a proper exposure yet, put off purchasing that shiny new toy, and really learn your camera.

I would even advise you to stay away from the special modes on your camera, such as HDR, or star trails mode (I do that manually in post-production), or multiple exposure mode. Yes, they can look cool, and do great things, but again, understanding the basics of exposure is paramount. If you don’t understand basic exposure, using the bells and whistles won’t help you make music.

I find that simplifying the process as much as possible helps me come away with the best images possible. What do you do to help simplify your photographic process?

The post 3 Ways to Simplify and Learn Photography Faster by Rick Berk appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Cinematic style portraits are personally one of my favourites. What I like the most about them are the desaturated colours and the dramatic ambience.

Before we start the tutorial on colour grading, I will give you some of my best tips to achieve this cinematic look:

  • Use a large aperture, something between f/1.4 and f/2.0. If you have a long lens then you can also use that. The idea is to have a nice background bokeh (when things in the background are blurred). You also want to have nice separation between the model and the background.



  • If you’re shooting outside, the I recommend shooting right after sunset. You will get nice soft light on the model’s face, and you will also have city lights behind them, to really get a cinematic feel. This only works with a large aperture, and it adds another point of interest.


  • Your model should have a strong expression on their face, especially if it’s a male. Cute smiling images do not really work that well with this style.
  • Leave some space in the frame. You do not want your model to take up the whole frame, so leave some space around them, to add context to your image. You can get better results if the viewer is able to locate the spatiotemporal context of your image.


  • Your model should not wear something too flashy (something like pink or yellow), limit their clothes to sombre, subdued colours.
  • Try to use complementary colours as much as possible, it creates nice depth to your images. Usually in movies, the actor is either in blue and the background in yellow/orange, or vice versa. Try to keep your actor in a range of cold colours and your background in warm colours, it works the best. The opposite also gives you good results.


  • The most important thing is that your model should look like a character. Try to add accessories, clothes, or poses that make the character look credible. You can discuss with the model or stylist before the session, the look you want to give to your images, and have a look together at the wardrobe.
    IMAGE 6

Color Grading in Photoshop

For the colour grading tutorial I am going to work on this image:


This image was taken on a Canon 6D, with an aperture of f/1.8, on a 50mm lens. This was taken during a short film where I was the photographer. There was a lighting behind the window aiming at the model, we added some fog to create this 1945 look.

What we’re going to do with this image is bring it back to life, by enhancing the contrast between the yellows in the highlights, and the greens in the shadows. We’re going to have a colour scheme based on analogous colours, going from green to yellow.

Let’s start with some basic exposure correction on Lightroom, this will depend on your image, so adjust accordingly.


Do basic adjustments in Lightroom, or your program of choice, first.

After the basics are done let’s move the image over to Photoshop to start our colour grading. If you are using Lightroom just right click and choose Edit in Photoshop.

First, duplicate the layer in Photoshop so that you won’t do any destructive editing. You can always go back to the original layer if you don’t like the results.



Make a duplicate layer.

The first thing we’re going to do is to create a new layer adjustment, go to: Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Lookup…

Screen Shot 2016 06 23 at 2 08 13 PM

Pick filmstock_50.3dl and reduce the opacity of the layer to around 20%. You need to reduce the opacity otherwise the effect is going to be too strong.



Next thing we’re going to do is create a curves layer and redo the contrast. This will really depend on your image, so adjust according to your taste.


Adjustment layer Curves to add contrast.

Then create another curves layer, go to the blue curve and lower the top right extreme of the layer. This will add yellow to your shadows.


Add yellow to the shadow areas using this curve adjustment

Next step is to play around with the colour balance (make another new adjustment layer) to enhance to greens in the midtones and the yellows in the highlights. Once again just the sliders to add green and yellow to both the highlights and the midtowns.


Select Midtones from the pull-down menu and add green and yellow.


Select Highlights from the pull-down menu and add green and yellow.

Right now, we are basically done with colour grading. Lastly is to quickly dodge and burn, to enhance the light coming from the window, and to darken the image and the background. We are basically doing a manual vignette.

To lighten up the image, create a curves layer, make it brighter, and add a black layer mask (CMD/CNTRL+I to invert the layer mask). Call the layer Dodge, and paint with a white brush (because the mask is black) in the spots where you want to brighten up the image. Pick a brush with an opacity around 40% with and edge hardest of 0%

To create a dark layer, we will basically do the same thing but darken up the curves layer and paint over the spots in the image we want darker.


This Curves adjustment layer is for dodging or lightening areas of the image.


This Curves adjustment layer is for burning or darkening areas of the image.


Rename your layers to identify them easier.


This is the final result:



Cinematic portraits rely heavily on great colour grading – but the lighting, model, camera settings and ambience should not be neglected. It all starts with a great image and ends with Photoshop to enhance your vision.

Enjoy the art !

The post How to Create a Dramatic Cinematic Style Portrait Using Photoshop Color Grading by Yacine Bessekhouad appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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You may be wondering – shouldn’t you always place your subject or main point of interest off-center? Isn’t that what the rule of thirds is about? If so, I suggest you refer back to my earlier article about creating strong compositions with a centrally placed subject. It makes the point that it’s perfectly possible to create a well composed image with the subject placed centrally.

Central composition

Equally, there are times when you should place the main point of interest away from the center of the frame. Not necessarily on a third, but anywhere between the centre of the frame and the edge, centered neither vertically nor horizontally.

I firmly believe that you should never ask yourself whether you should place the main subject or focal point on a third when you take a photo. There are much better questions to ask, such as:

  • Is there enough space around the subject to give it room to breathe?
  • Are there any highlights near the edge of the frame that take the viewer’s eye out of the photo?
  • How does the viewer’s eye move through the photo? This question may be partly answered during post-processing, where you can darken or lighten parts of the image to guide the viewer’s eye.
  • How do I make this photo as interesting as possible?

The answers to these questions influence the decisions you make in composition, and help you decide where to place the main point of interest. Let’s look at some examples.

Examples of off-centered compositions

I took the following photo in a historical building in Beijing called Prince Gong’s mansion. There was a courtyard inside, with Tibetan prayer wheels down one side. As people walked into the courtyard, most of them walked down past the prayer wheels, spinning them as they went. This boy decided to join in the fun.

Composition and placement

I placed him off-center because was shooting through some red tags (like the ones you see behind the boy) hanging from another structure. I used an aperture of f/5 to make sure the tags were out of focus. They create a frame that adds a sense of depth, and also pushes the eye towards the boy. It helps that his yellow T-shirt contrasts with the surrounding red hues.

The next image was taken in New Zealand. I found these beautiful stones by the sea, and asked my model Ashley to lay down on them.

Composition and placement

I liked the way the blue dress contrasted against the more subdued colors of the rocks. I framed the photo so that Ashley’s body formed a diagonal that takes the viewer’s eye from the right side of the photo, to the left. Her face, which is the main focal point of the image, had to be placed off-centre. If it was central there would be lots of empty space on the left-hand side of the image, and it would be unbalanced.

Incidentally, there is an idea that it is better to compose photos to work with the natural tendency to read a page from left to right. As this photo does the opposite and takes the eye from the right of the frame to the left, I flipped it so that you can see the difference.

Composition and placement

Which version of the photo do you think works best? If you have an opinion please let me know in the comments below. I know which version I think is better, but I’d be interested to hear it from people seeing the photo with fresh eyes.

The next photo was taken in the Great Mosque in Xi’an, China. The boy was trying to catch the cat, and I took a photo as he ran after it.

Composition and placement

The boy is the focal point of the image, and because he is moving from left to right in the frame he needs some space to move into – the empty space on the right of the frame provides this. If the boy was centered in the frame there would be too much space on his left.

The next photo, a close-up of a flower, is interesting because it has two focal points.

Composition and placement

The main focal point is provided by the open flower on the left. But the closed flower on the right is a second focal point that also pulls the eye. The result is that the viewer’s eye moves back and forth between the two points. When you have two focal points in a photo like this, it makes sense for them to be on opposite sides of the frame, and therefore off-centre, so that they fill the frame adequately.

I took the next photo at a concert in Auckland, New Zealand.

Composition and placement

I placed the guitarist off-centre so that I could show him in context. Behind him you have another band member on the keyboard, and three spotlights. You can also see some Chinese lanterns (this photo was taken at the Chinese Lantern Festival in Auckland). The lights also provide leading lines to draw the viewer’s eye to the guitarist.

For the next photo we return to Beijing, this time to the Forbidden City.

Composition and placement

I was sitting on a bench resting, when I realized that the doors and pillars you see in the photo lined up nicely when viewed through my 35mm lens. I waited, and took photos as people passed through, hoping to get a good image. Until finally the little boy you see in this image walked through the doorway and hid. A few seconds later he jumped out to surprise someone – as a man, presumably his father, walked through the doorway.

The boy is so small in the frame that you may not have noticed him right away. It is good for photos to contain surprises like this, as a kind of reward for the viewer when they finally spot it.

The colors in this photo also harmonize well. The yellow of the boys’ shorts echoes the yellow around the door frame, and the yellow tiles on the pillars. This is purely luck, but it’s the kind of luck that presents itself when you are present with your camera.

What do you think? What factors do you consider when deciding where to place the main focal points? Let me know in the comments.

Mastering Composition

If you’d like to learn more about composition then please check out my ebook Mastering Composition: A Photographer’s Guide to Seeing.

The post How to Improve Composition by Placing your Subject Off-Center by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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One of the most difficult and frustrating parts about shooting with film, back before the days of digital photography, was the limited amount of attempts you had to get the photo you wanted. I remember carrying around spare rolls of film in a fanny (waist) pack on a trip to Walt Disney World years ago, and carefully considering each photo, lest I get one setting wrong and blow the entire shot.

How to use bracketing3 Different methods(1)

Back then you had to wait days, or even weeks, to get your pictures back from a processing lab, and if a picture was too dark, grainy, or out of focus there was nothing you could do about it at that point. Fortunately, digital cameras are far more forgiving than their film-based counterparts, and have many systems in place to make sure you do get the shot you want. But even then, sometimes things still don’t quite work out.

Thanks to a technique called bracketing, you can use the power of your camera, combined with the space available on most memory cards, to make sure you always end up with just the right photo every time.

What is Bracketing?


There’s a classic children’s tale called Goldilocks and the Three Bears, in which a young girl enters the home of the bears and helps herself to their food, furniture, and futons. With each set of items there are three options: two that don’t quite work out and one that is, as the story goes, just right. While the story could be seen as a cautionary tale about the dangers of sneaking into the home of wild animals, and sleeping in their beds uninvited, its lessons can also be applied to photography.

Essentially, Goldilocks demonstrates the concept of bracketing, by giving herself many options so she can make sure to have at least one that is precisely what she is looking for. In photography there are various types of bracketing, but all involve taking multiple photos, so as to ensure you have at least one good picture. Bracketing can also be used to combine different elements of various photos together to get the best of all versions. The three most common versions of bracketing involve exposure, focus, and white balance.

If you have ever struggled to get just the right shot, or want to learn a new technique to improve your photography, this might be just the thing you’ve been looking for.

Exposure Bracketing

Modern digital cameras are pretty good when it comes to evaluating a scene, and giving you just the right exposure. You can even use different metering modes where your camera looks at either the whole scene, just the center, or even a specific part of the photo like the highlights or some faces. If you know precisely how to control your camera to get the shot you want, you can use these various metering modes, in tandem with your camera’s built-in light meter, to get just the right exposure.

However sometimes it pays to take a few extra pictures to make sure you, like Goldilocks, get an image that is just right. This is where exposure bracketing comes in handy since you can take several additional photos, some underexposed and some overexposed, to make sure you go home with the perfect picture.


There are several ways to go about using the bracketing technique, and one of the most simple is to put your camera in Program Mode and use your camera’s exposure compensation function.

First, take a picture that appears to be properly exposed. Then use the exposure compensation option to intentionally underexpose your image by one or two stops (-1 or -2). More than two stops is generally unnecessary. You are of course free to do so, but it’s quite rare that your camera’s meter would be off so much as to require more than two stops of exposure compensation to get the picture you want.

Then use exposure compensation to intentionally overexpose your image by one or two stops (+1 or +2), and in the end you will have at least three photos from which to choose: one that your camera thinks is properly exposed, one that is underexposed, and one that is overexposed. This may seem kind of redundant, but it’s a nice insurance policy to make sure you get just the right photo you want. It works especially well if you are shooting landscapes, or other outdoor scenery, as the bright sunlight coming from overhead can sometimes cause your camera to meter a scene improperly, even if you think you have everything set up just right.

Bracketing for HDR

Another benefit of using exposure bracketing, is that it lets you create stunning works of art using a technique known as HDR, or High Dynamic Range. This requires the use of exposure bracketing, a tripod, and often some special software like Photoshop, Lightroom, or Aurora HDR Pro, to combine several photos into one.

To get started with HDR you need at least three images, bracketed in full stops of exposure. Take one image properly exposed, then underexpose by one or two stops, and then overexpose by one or two stops. Some cameras do this bracketing automatically with a built-in bracketing function (AEB) but I often find that I like to control the exposures manually with exposure compensation, or by using manual mode. You can use more than that, but if you are just starting out three bracketed photos should be sufficient.

Once you have your bracketed photos, load them into the software of your choice, and you can instruct it to combine them into a single photo that takes the best parts of all the images and creates a single frame-worthy masterpiece. To see this in action, first look at the following image, which despite having a fairly even exposure overall, still suffers in a few areas.

This is an un-retouched JPEG image straight from my camera. The overall exposure is good but the sky is bright white and the hallway is a bit too dark.

This is an un-retouched JPEG image straight from my camera. The overall exposure is good, but the sky is bright white and the hallway is a bit too dark.

I used exposure compensation to overexpose the image by two stops, which lost almost everything in the sky, but brought out much more detail and color in the darker areas of the hallway.

The same image, over-exposed by two stops.

The same scene, overexposed by two stops.

Then I took a third image, this time underexposing by two stops, which made the dark parts really dark, but brought out much more color in the sky.

This image was intentionally under-exposed by two stops.

This image was intentionally underexposed by two stops.

Finally, I used Aurora HDR Pro to combine all three bracketed JPEG images into one that contains the best of all worlds. This shows how useful bracketing can be, and might give you some ideas for how to use it in your own photography.

This final image was made using Aurora HDR Pro to combine all three bracketed shots into one, and final edits in LR including correcting the tilting building.

This final image was made using Aurora HDR Pro to combine all three bracketed shots into one, and final edits in LR including correcting the tilting building.

In recent years the image sensors on many cameras have gotten so good, that the use of exposure bracketing is not as critical as it was in days gone by. If you shoot in RAW instead of JPG, a single image will often contain so much information in the highlights and shadows, which you can recover using Lightroom or Photoshop, that you simply don’t need to take separate images and combine them later. One major disadvantage of this is the file sizes, which on some RAW formats can be anywhere from two to 10 times as large as a JPG file. At the end of the day though, exposure bracketing is still a valuable technique that many photographers rely on to get just the right result, and you might enjoy trying it out to see if it works for you.

Focus Bracketing

Another way to apply the bracketing technique is to take several images that are focused at various distances, which is especially critical when doing close-up photos or taking macro shots. On most cameras the autofocus generally works great to make sure things are crystal clear and tack sharp. But, when using very shallow depth of field, or focusing on objects that are extremely close, it’s not always going to produce the most reliable results.

Often when doing this type of photography you will end up with pictures that are just slightly out of focus in one direction or another, either in front of the subject or behind it, and there is no way to fix that in Photoshop, or any other image editor.

I made this image by slowly adjusting the focus on my lens while I took several shots. Only one had the single strand sharp and in focus, but that one picture was all I needed.

I made this image by slowly adjusting the focus on my lens while I took several shots. Only one had the single strand sharp and in focus, but that one picture was all I needed.

The solution to this problem is to take not one picture, but several, and use manual focus instead of automatic. I start by intentionally focusing not on the subject but slightly behind it, then I slowly turn the focusing ring on my lens as I take several images in a row. I know it can be a bit intimidating to shoot using manual focus, but once you try using this technique, you will probably start to see how useful it can be.

When you have your set of images loaded in Lightroom, or another image editor, you can then pick out the exact one you want, instead of hoping you got one in focus while relying on your camera’s built-in autofocusing algorithm. If you want to get into an even more advanced technique with focus bracketing, you can actually combine all your photos into one super-sharp image using a technique called focus stacking. But if that seems like a bit much for you, it’s still worth your time to try regular focus bracketing, just to make sure your close-up subjects are tack sharp.

Nailing focus on the water drop was almost impossible, so I took several images while focusing manually to make absolutely sure I got at least one good image.

Nailing focus on the water drop was almost impossible. So I took several images while focusing manually, to make absolutely sure I got at least one good image.

White Balance Bracketing

The final technique I want to discuss here is similar to the other two types of bracketing in that it also involves taking several photos of the same scene, while adjusting a single parameter. In this case it’s the white balance, instead of the exposure or focus. Most casual photographers use the Automatic White Balance setting on their cameras, which does a pretty good job most of the time. But every now and then it can leave an image with an ugly green or red tint, or all pale and washed out, because of improper white balance.

The lighting conditions here wreaked havoc with my camera's Auto white balance, so I took five separate exposures and manually adjusted the white balance each time in order to make sure I got one good shot.

The lighting conditions here wreaked havoc with my camera’s Auto white balance. So, I took five separate exposures, and manually adjusted the white balance each time, in order to make sure I got one good shot.

White balance bracketing can be very useful if you shoot JPG, because your camera’s Auto white balance setting is not always as reliable as you want it to be. However, if you shoot RAW you have complete freedom to alter white balance as much as you want using a program like Lightroom, Photoshop, or almost any other image editor. Because the RAW format does not discard any photo data like JPG does, white balance bracketing is not needed when you are shooting. That gives you far more flexibility for fine-tuning things like white balance, as long as you are willing to take the time to do it.

Do you find bracketing to be useful in your own photography? When have any of these techniques been especially useful to you? Share your thoughts, and any pictures as well, in the comments below.

The post How to Use Bracketing to get Your Best Shot – 3 Different Methods by Simon Ringsmuth appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Sony has spent recent years charging full steam ahead into the full-frame mirrorless camera market. But they have also managed to satisfy the desires of APS-C shooters, mainly through their widely-popular a6000 mid-range mirrorless camera. In March 2016, just two years after the debut of the a6000, Sony released the a6300 with improved features, that still retain many of the characteristics of the older model.

To be clear, Sony doesn’t intend for the a6300 to be a replacement for the a6000, meaning the older camera is still in production and can be purchased at a very attractive price point (around $549.00 for the body only).

Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera

My Camera Background

Before diving into this review, I want to clarify my digital camera experiences to make my perspective more apparent. The Sony a6300 is the very first mirrorless camera I’ve owned, besides my very brief experiment with the a6000 for comparison purposes. Until recently, I’ve shot almost exclusively with Canon DSLRs, namely the 5D Mark III and 6D. As a result, many of the a6300’s features such as its pop-out LCD screen and electronic viewfinder might seem like standard features to other mirrorless shooters, but for a Canon DSLR user like myself, these are newfound novelties that turned my world upside down. With that being said, let’s move on to the a6300’s specs.

Key Features of the Sony a6300

Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera

The main improvement with the Sony a6300 is a newly developed sensor with a pixel count of 24MP (same as the a6000) that is packed with a whopping 425 phase-detection AF points, which is significantly higher than the a6000’s 179 AF points. According to Sony, the a6300 has the greatest number of phase-detection points to date, on an interchangeable-lens camera ,and makes the a6300 the camera with the world’s fastest autofocus.

Video is another aspect that Sony upgraded on the a6300, with the inclusion of 4k video recording capabilities, the addition of a mic socket, and the ability to record time code. Besides the autofocus and video systems, the a6300 sees an OLED 2.36M-dot viewfinder, an improvement from the a6000’s OLED 1.44M-dot viewfinder. Battery life is also slightly improved at 400 shots versus 360 shots.

Physically, the a6300 is only 2 ounces heavier than its predecessor, although it feels much more solid with its weather-sealed magnesium alloy build, that was lacking on the a6000. An AEL button with an AF/MF switch has also been conveniently added to the back of the camera, which sports and action shooters should find handy. Other than these few additions, the Sony a6300 doesn’t look or feel much different than the a6000.

Overall, these added features of the a6300 clearly appeal to shooters looking to focus on action, sports, and video.

Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera

Sample action shot with a Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens.

Pros of the a6300

While discussing the pros and cons of the a6300, it should be noted that many of the same features are also available on the a6000.

Extremely compact

As a DSLR shooter, the a6300’s compact size was particularly appealing. While testing the Sony a6300, I used both the kit 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 retractable zoom lens, and the Sony 20mm f/2.0 pancake lens, and was amazed that both were incredibly lightweight and basically the same size. There is of course, the trade-off of both lenses being made of plastic and not feeling as robust as say a Fujifilm lens, but they both perform very well and weigh close to nothing. Pairing either lens with the a6300 makes for a very compact, low-profile camera system that is perfect for travel.

Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera

An informal food photo taken at a restaurant table moments before consumption. Shot with a Sony 20mm f/2.8.

Silent Shutter

While many DSLRs offer a Silent Shutter that is still quite noisy, the a6300’s silent shutter feature makes the camera so quiet you wouldn’t even know a photo was being taken. It’s a great feature for undercover or candid photography moments when you truly want no sound associated with taking a photo. With that said, non-silent shooting on the a63000 produces a very crisp shutter snap, especially when firing away at the camera’s highest shutter speed of 11 frames per second.

Panoramic shooting feature that actually works (most of the time)

After consistently trying, and failing, to take advantage of panoramic shooting on a variety of devices from point and shoots to cell phone cameras, I was beginning to think that on-the-go panoramic shooting was a myth, until I tried it with the a6300. Unlike other devices, the a6300 will shoot and stitch together a near-perfect horizontal or vertical panorama even when your manual panning isn’t spot on. There were a few times when the camera insisted that I wasn’t panning straight enough to make a clear pano shot, but most of the time even my wobbly panning techniques were good enough for the a6300 to make sense of.

Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera

Sample panorama shot with a Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens.

Focus Modes + Face Recognition

Easily two of the best features of the a6300 are the Face Registration and Eye AF (autofocus) features, which do pretty much what their names imply. Activating Face Registration allows you to program the a6300 to recognize and prioritize up to eight faces. This feature is incredibly handy when shooting a crowd of people, and the a6300’s accuracy of picking out the correct face is astounding. Eye AF works very similarly, but without the need to register (program them in) the eyes. Simply enable Eye AF on the a6300 and the camera will automatically search for your subject’s eyes and track them using continuous autofocus. This feature is so spot-on that the a6300 will even lock onto artistic renderings of eyes, such as a painted portrait.

Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera

Sample portrait shot with a Sony 20mm f/2.8 lens.

Quick Wi-Fi connection

Like most newer digital cameras today, the a6300 has Wi-Fi and NFC, to connect with smartphones and tablets for remote camera shooting, and wireless image transfer via Sony’s PlayMemories Mobile app. Setting up Wi-Fi on the camera is very quick and intuitive, and Sony’s accompanying app also includes an array of other options that can further enhance your shooting experience, such as time-lapse and multiple exposure apps, among many others.

Built-in flexible flash

Sony a6300 flash

Thankfully, Sony kept one of the a6000’s best features on the a6300: a built-in pop-up flash. Extremely compact and flexible, the little flash can bend 45 degrees to tilt upwards, allowing for bouncing the flash off the ceiling.  Next to the pop-up flash is a hot shoe mount that can fire Canon or Nikon Speedlight flashes when used with an adapter.

One accessory that can help fully utilize the pop-up flash are plastic bounce cards which attach to the a6300 via the hot-shoe mount, and hold the flash in an upright position.

Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera

Sample night shot with a Sony 20mm f/2.8 lens.

Sony Lens Options

Currently, there are over 70 Sony lenses that you can purchase to go along with your new a6300 body. Options range from compact, low-priced primes and larger, higher-priced zoom lenses. Cheaper prime options include the 16mm f/2.8, 20mm f/2.8, 28mm f/2, 30mm f/3.5 macro, 35mm f/1.8, and 50mm f/1.8, all ranging in price from $249.99-$449.99. Wide-range zoom lenses, without a fixed f-stop, are also somewhat affordable, such as the 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 ($749.99) or the 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 ($998.99)

Sony 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 ($749.99)

However, Sony’s higher-quality lenses are much higher in price, which may be difficult to swallow if you’re converting from a DSLR kit. Larger, high-quality Sony primes such as the 24mm f/2 and 35mm f/1.4, prices are upwards of $1,200.00 and more. The same is true for Sony’s versions of traditional DSLR lenses such as the 16-35mm f/2.8 ($2,248.99), 24-70mm f/2.8 ($2,098.00), and 70-200mm f/2.8 ($2,999.99). If you’re a DSLR shooter with an array of lenses, you can always invest in a converter to use your DSLR lenses with your Sony camera body, but at the expense of slower autofocus.

When you purchase either the Sony a6000 or a6300, you have the option of buying it body-only, or with a 16-55mm f/3.5-5.6 E-mount retractable zoom kit lens, which is valued at approximately $260.99 if purchased separately. For its size, range, and overall performance, the kit lens, plus a Sony prime lens, aren’t a bad starter combination, especially if you’re looking to keep your gear compact and lightweight, and aren’t quite ready to invest in higher-priced Sony E-mount lenses yet.

ISO Performance

Sony opted to improve the a6300’s high-ISO performance by including a native ISO range of 100-25,600 with the possibility of extending that ISO to 51,200. While the ability to shoot at higher ISO is great in theory, I found that ISO 6400 was the highest I could comfortably push the a6300 in darker environments, without sacrificing too much image quality. Even my RAW photos shot at ISO 6400 were a little too grainy for my taste, no matter how much noise-reduction I did in post-processing.

Sony a6300 high ISO2

Cons of the a6300

Sony’s bloated camera menu

A common complaint among Sony shooters, that I have to agree with, is that the camera menu is very difficult to navigate. It truly seems like Sony outfitted the a6300 with so many features, and tried to stuff them all into a menu, that it can take weeks for new Sony shooters to get used to using the camera.

This could be easily solved if Sony allowed users to customize the menu a bit more, so that frequently-used features can be quickly accessed. As it stands, Sony only allows assigning custom functions to the camera’s physical buttons, and there aren’t nearly enough of those.

With that being said, the trick to making sense of Sony’s menus is to customize as much of the camera’s settings as possible. Presently, I’ve customized the buttons and settings on the a6300 set to shoot almost identically to the way I shoot with my Canon 5D Mark III, making it easier to switch from one system to another.

Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera

Sample action shot with a Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens.

LCD screen sometimes blanks out

When it comes to the a6300’s LCD screen, I was grateful for its pop-out rotating feature, something that has been sorely lacking on Canon DSLRs. Some other reviewers complained about the a6300 lacking a touch screen LCD, but again, this is something I’ve never had on a camera, so the fact that it’s missing doesn’t bother me.

One feature of the a6300’s LCD that was troublesome, was its occasional blackouts, which usually occurred right after rotating the screen. Oftentimes, the only way to get the LCD working again was to turn the camera off and on. With that said, using the electronic viewfinder (EVF) always worked without fail, even when the LCD blanked out.

Over to you

Do you already shoot with the Sony a6300, or are you considering making the move? What do you love about it, or what hesitations remain? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

The post Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera – Thoughts and Field Test by Suzi Pratt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Have you ever felt that your photography isn’t improving as much as it once was? Do you feel that the level of your work is stagnating and not progressing much more?

Improve Your Photography

Yet you keep reading article after article, either on the web or in magazines. You hope that one of them will provide the next breakthrough for your work and help you rip through the barrier that will bring your photography to the next level. You show off your work to friends and family, and you hear the resounding praises of, “That’s a beautiful photograph” or, “You nailed it”, or any other form of overly positive, loving feedback. The people that you show your work to love it, but you feel that it’s just becoming a little boring, and the next image isn’t really any different from the last.


By Justin

Do this one thing to improve your photography

If this sounds like you, don’t panic; you’re very likely not alone! Even better, there is a very simple remedy for this. This remedy will not only help you now, but also continue to help you well into the future, and at all stages of your photographic journey. You won’t need to read anything extra for it, nor will you have to buy any equipment. To break through this barrier you need to do one thing: be more selective with the feedback you listen to.

The trouble with feedback from people like friends and family is that, unless they are photographers themselves, they won’t tell you want you need to hear. Rather, they will tell you what you want to hear – which is generally positive reinforcements – however, when you come to think of it, no one really wants to hear that their latest photo is rubbish!

But it’s this honest, yet brutal truth, that will ultimately help you take better photos. Sure, I’ll be the first to admit that it wasn’t the best feeling in the world when I was once told a collection of my photos weren’t that great. To make things worse, this came from a photographer whom I greatly admired and respected. It shook me up a little. It made me feel a little inadequate. It made me question if this was indeed the career for me, and if I actually had what it took to succeed.


By arileu

But I needed to hear it. I needed to know what my work was actually like. Being continually told that my work was great and amazing wasn’t really helping with anything other than inflating my ego. I needed to hear exactly how a seasoned photographer viewed my work, and I needed to hear it honestly and clearly. This feedback set me on the direction that I needed to take to improve my game, and because it wasn’t sugar coated, I had no ambiguity about any of the feedback I had received.

Finding good feedback

This kind of feedback is not something that you will get from friends and family. You have to go out there and find a third party. A person that not only has no emotional connection with you, but also who knows one or two things about photography. By removing the emotional connection, you open the door for truth and honesty.

Quinn Dombrowski

By Quinn Dombrowski

How it’s delivered, however, is a variable you cannot control. This means you also need to bring something to the table; a thick skin. Some photographers, just like doctors, are fantastic at delivering bad news in a nice subtle, even positive, way. Others will tell you how it is, warts and all, without the sugar coatings. But where do you find this third party?

There are many avenues you can take to find the right third party for getting feedback on your work. Social media, such as Instagram and Facebook, can be great. Facebook in particular has many useful groups where you can seek feedback and critique on your work. But if keeping it in person and face-to-face is more your thing, looking around at camera clubs is another option. The feedback you get at camera clubs may not always be accurate, but it is a useful tool to network with other photographers.


By s3aphotography

Just keep in mind exactly who your third party will be. You ideally would like your mentor to be involved in the genres you’re most interested in – there’s no point showing a wedding photographer, for example, a body of sport or landscape images. Also keep an open mind to having multiple people. This will help you smooth out any personal preferences each photographer may have, and find a more common denominator to look out for.

Being more selective with who you seek for feedback will help improve your photography immeasurably. It won’t always be easy to hear your work being torn apart, but if you keep at it and keep your chin up, you will come out the other side a stronger photographer and perhaps even a stronger person.

The post Improve Your Photography by Getting the Right Feedback on Your Images by Daniel Smith appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Win one of 10 Copies of AfterShot™ Pro 3 Photo Editor from Corel!

Enter the After Photography Contest Today!

After dark, after thought, after noon, after work, after school, after life, after all…

You pick your after theme and have fun with it.

ASP 3 workspace

Over the last few years here at dPS, we’ve run very some very popular contests with our partners, to give away some of their great photographic products to lucky dPS readers. We are lucky enough to be able to do it again now.

For this competition, Corel is giving away TEN copies of AfterShot™ Pro 3 Photo Editor!

These prizes are designed to help every level of photographer create BETTER pictures. Since 1989, with the introduction of CorelDRAW, Corel boasts a range of award-winning products that includes graphics, painting, photo, video, and office software with a community of over 100 million strong. Each copy of AfterShot Pro 3 will be won by a different dPS reader.

ASP3 box front

Our 10 prize winners will receive the full version of Corel’s leading RAW Photo Editor – A $79.99 Value

Corel® AfterShot™ Pro 3 is up to four times faster than Adobe® Lightroom (claim based on a batch export workflow, using Lightroom CC 2015.5.). It’s the photo editor that helps you reveal your true creative potential. With AfterShot™ Pro 3 there are no subscriptions, and no longer a need to spend hours editing at your computer. You can import, process, output faster, and get back to taking photographs. Take a look at a few of the new, improved and classic features:

  • Faster workflow
  • Simple photo management
  • New comprehensive watermarking
  • Enhanced highlight recovery
  • New blemish remover tools
  • New image preset library
  • Powerful batch processing

Adobe®, Lightroom® and Photoshop® are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the United States and/or other countries.

ASP 3 Highlight Recovery

New Blemish Remover

Learn a little more about AfterShot Pro 3 HERE:

ASP3 Logo

How to win

To win this contest you’ll need to:

  • Edit your favorite ‘After’ photo. To make it even better, download a free trial of AfterShot Pro 3 HERE
  • Post your After photo, along with a few words on how you feel AfterShot Pro 3 would help your photography in the comments section below, and of course, your After themed image. It’s as easy as that!
  • Do this in the next 21 days and on August 5, 2016, the team at Corel will choose the 10 best photos and comments, and we will announce the winners in the following days.
  • Deadline Is July 19, 2016, at 11:59pm PDT. Photos and comments left after deadline will not be considered.

By best – we’re looking for people who have an understanding of photography post-processing, and how AfterShot Pro 3 may best suit your needs. So you’ll need to check out the product page to put yourself in the best position to win. Don’t forget to grab a free trial download.

There’s no need to write essay length comments to win – but we’re looking to hear what you like about the software, and how it would help your development as a photographer. Don’t forget to include your favorite After themed photo. We encourage you to have fun and be creative!

This competition is open to everyone, no matter where you live – but there is only one entry per person. To enter – simply leave your photo and comment below.

ASP3 Logo

Disclaimer: Corel is a paid partner of dPS.

By entering the After photo contest, the Entrant is providing permission to Corel to publish their photo, if it is chosen as a winner, to be utilized within media post(s) by Corel announcing the winners and promoting. Entrants will be provided a full photo credit if photo is used, and will retain their copyright – Please click HERE or full contest rules, terms and conditions.

The post Enter to Win one of 10 Copies of Corel’s AfterShot Pro 3 Photo Editor by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Whether you are a Photoshop newbie or a guru, there is always something new to learn or discover in this extensive image editing software. One of the joys of using it,  is that there are many ways to do the same thing in Photoshop. Here are a few tips that are useful to improve your workflow, either by speeding it up or adding a few tweaks to your process.

1. Copyright Metadata Tip

Many people use the terms watermarking and copyrighting interchangeably, but these are two different things. While arguments continue for and against watermarking images, in this digital age copyrighting your photos is still highly recommended. One of the best ways of doing this, is to embedding the copyright information right into the metadata of your image.

Follow these steps:

  1. Click Ctrl + Alt + Shift + I (Mac: Command + Option + Shift + I), or go to File > File Info to bring up the Metadata panel
  2. Click on the Description tab (left one) and enter your copyright information in the relevant fields


2. Color Correcting with Curves Tip

As you may know, there are many way to correct color in Photoshop, and you may have even experimented with using a Curves Adjustment layer to achieve this. Sometimes, while working on this layer to color correct an image, you may inadvertently make the image lighter (or darker).

An easy fix that allows you to apply your color correction, without affecting the tonal values of the image, is to set the Curves Adjustment layer’s Blending Mode to Color.

3. Double Windows Tip


Zooming into your images can be helpful when editing details, but it can feel like a chore if you constantly have to zoom in and out to see how your changes affect the overall image. A simple solution to your problem is to open the same image in two windows. Now you will be able to put them side by side, at different zoom levels for your comparative purpose.

  1. With your image open, go to Window > Arrange > New Window for [file name of your image].  This this will open up a second window for the original image.
  2. Then, go to Window > Arrange > 2-Up Vertical and this will put your windows adjacent to each other. Now you have one zoomed out for an overall picture, and you can zoom in to edit the other.

The coolest part is that all the adjustments you make to one window, will be reflected in the other.

4. Contrast with Channel Mixer Tip

The Channel Mixer is an easy way to add great contrast to an image.

  1. Create a new Channel Mixer adjustment layer.
  2. Choose Black and White With Red Filter from the preset drop-down (in the Properties Panel).
  3. Change your blending mode for the adjustment layer to Soft Light.
  4. Play around with the opacity of the layer until you get the desired level of contrast.

Original Image


Image Contrast changed using Channel Mixer

5. Content Awareness Tip

Several tools use Content-Aware, which is Photoshop’s method of examining your image, and calculating which pixels are needed to repair the selected area. At times though, even awesome tools such as the Healing tool or the Content Aware fill, do not return the best results when applied

If you are not happy with what the tool has returned, simply apply the adjustment again. Yes you read that correctly, you can apply content aware a few times and get a more desirable result the second or third time around.

6. Better Black & White Image Tip

Making a black and white photo can be as easy (and boring) as desaturating your images (using Image > adjustment > desaturate). If you want to take it up a notch, try using a Black and White adjustment layer (from the Layers panel), where you can use up to six color sliders to control the main colors in your imag,e and adjust the relative brightness of each color.

While you’re there, check out the very useful click and drag (targeted adjustment tool) icon. Click it, then click and drag (hold the button in while you drag) on any area of the image that you wish to make darker or lighter— to the left for darker, right to make it lighter


7. Getting Historical Tip

Have you ever wanted to repeat your timely editing on another image and found your memory unreliable? Photoshop’s History Log is a great feature to turn on if you want to keep a text record of every single step you have done to your image.

  • Click Ctrl + K (Mac: Command + K) to bring up the Preferences panel.
  • In the General tab check the History Log and the Text File box, and choose a location to save the file (name it for easy reference later on).

Now when you work on your image, and Photoshop will record every step you take. If you ever want apply the same steps to another image, just locate the text file and review.


8. Check Spelling With Photoshop Tip

Spell check is not something that would come to mind when you think of Photoshop, but yes it can do that too. All you have to do is click on Edit > Check Spelling and your visible text layers will benefit from more accuracy.

9. Revealing Hidden Detail Tip

To bring out hidden detail in the shadows and highlights of your image, one of the best tools is the (you guessed it) Shadow/Highlight Adjustment. Sadly though, it is not available for application via an Adjustment Layer, so for non-destructive use, first convert your layer to a Smart Object.

Then go to Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights and apply to recover those details.


10.  Close Everything Tip

Did you know you can close all your open images at once? Simply hold down the Shift key and click the close icon on any of your image windows.


While there are several ways to accomplish a task in Photoshop, hopefully there was something new hidden in these quick tips. Were any of these new to you or did you discover a new way to execute an old favorite? Maybe you can share some other must-know, or time saving tip,s that you use to be more efficient at post-processing in Photoshop.

The post 10 Quick Photoshop Tips to Improve Your Workflow by Nisha Ramroop appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Have you ever stared at a photo of a food dish, and instantly thought that something looked a little odd? Like the shot wasn’t quite bang on, but you can’t quite put your finger on what it is? Chances are the dish hasn’t been shot using its hero angle.

Rachel Korinek Food Photographer DPS Hero Angle 12

You can have the freshest ingredients, the maddest styling skills, and be able to tame ever changing natural light, but if your angle isn’t complimentary to the food you’re shooting – you’re missing out on the full potential of creating a powerful food image.

Never fear though, the secret to finding the hero angle in food photography is simple. Just approach the shoot with two things in mind; the height of the dish and/or the props, and the layers contained in them.

The Height of Your Dish and Props

The height of food basically falls into two categories; tall or flat.

Tall subjects are simply anything with height – like a bundt cake, an ice cream cone, or a burger with the lot. For tall subject you will usually default to shooting somewhere between a 45 degree angle to straight on. Going beyond 45 degrees can sometimes limit being able to see the full dish and layering.

Flat subjects are simply anything whose width is inherently larger than its height – like a tart, a cookie, or a pancake. For these types of subjects, default to shooting somewhere between straight above and a 75 degree angle. Going too close to 45 degrees will also accentuate their flat qualities.

Rachel Korinek Food Photographer DPS Hero Angle 8 Rachel Korinek Food Photographer DPS Hero Angle 5

But what about everything else? What about soup, salad, or how about liquids? I am so glad you asked, because this is where the fun starts.

There are quite a few foods that are dependant on serve-ware. A burger or cake can hold their own, but liquids, soups, salads, and puddings cannot. Which category these guys fall into is dependent on the food styling prop in which they are presented.

Take soup for instance, is it being served in a bowl, or is it a fancy cold soup served in a tall shot glass? The salad, is it served on a plate or a large glass bowl? What sort of holder is the liquid in; tall, short, opaque? Is it in a flat tray because you’re about to freeze it and turn into granita?

Oh the possibilities are endless! But remember, they all fall into two categories, so you’ve got a 50/50 shot of getting it right. I’m pretty sure you’ve got this.

The Layers in Your Dish and on Set

There are two things to consider when thinking about layers in food photography. The layers present in your food dish and the layers present on set.

Layers in a dish are the number of visual components in a recipe. The classic example is a burger with seven layers, bun, meat patty, cheese, sauce, slice of tomato, lettuce, bun. Or a layer cake with seven layers, cake, jam, cream, cake, jam, cream, cake. So to get the best food photography shots, you’ll want to choose an angle that exposes these layers in their best light.

Rachel Korinek Food Photographer DPS Hero Angle 6 Rachel Korinek Food Photographer DPS Hero Angle 7

Layers on set are the number of elements or props that you have on your set (props) on top of one another. For example, napkin, plate, and garnish would be three layers and would appear on top of one another. I don’t count the food/recipe as a layer as it is the subject and will always be present. If the prop layers are an important part of telling the food story, you’ll want to make sure your angle captures those elements too.

Putting it all Together

Now that you’ve thought about the height of your dish and the layers, you can marry those two, in order to figure out your hero angle. Let’s look at some examples.

This is a little game I like to play called; Okay, Better, Hero. There is nothing wrong with any of these shots I’m about to show you per say, but there can only be one hero, right? That’s what we’re aiming for, so let’s dive right in.

Turkish Delight (a flat dish without layers)

Rachel Korinek Food Photographer DPS Hero Angle 1

I shot this Turkish delight with a 105mm micro (macro) lens, at a 25 degree angle, overhead, and 75 degree angle respectively.

Because this is such a flat dish, you may expect that the overhead angle would be the most flattering. But really the 75 degree shot is hero angle, here is why. It is so close to overhead, yet allows you to capture the gorgeous light coming through the Turkish delight which adds to the richness of its colour.

25 degrees also captures the colours, but accentuates the flatness of the dish, and detracts from the overall feel.

Rachel Korinek Food Photographer DPS Hero Angle 11
Horizontal variation, shot at the same angle.

The Burger (tall dish with layers)

I shot this burger with a 105mm micro (macro) lens, at a 45 degree angle, 25 degree angle, and straight on respectively.

Rachel Korinek Food Photographer DPS Hero Angle 4

The hero angle is the one shot straight on, because it allows the viewer to focus on all the delicious layers, and elongates the height of the burger which you naturally expect to be a tall food. Your mind thinks, the taller the burger, the more ingredients, and the more bang for your buck you get.

The 45 degree angle doesn’t give you enough context of the layers, and the 25 degree angle makes the top burger bun look too flat.

Kale Pesto (tall dish without layers)

I shot this with a 60mm micro (macro) lens, at a 85 degree angle, 45 degree angle, and straight on.

Rachel Korinek Food Photographer DPS Hero Angle 3

Pesto, being a sauce or condiment, is dependant on the serve-ware in which it is presented. As you want to show that there is enough of the pesto to coat an entire family size dish of pasta, it was shot in a tall glass. This also complimented the tall spoon, and bottle of oil in the shot as props.

The 45 degree angle is workable, but straight on one is the hero angle here. It allows for an overall sense of how the dish is being served and stored, while still allowing the viewer to comprehend its texture.

If you want to get into the nitty gritty, the 45 degree angle allows for reflection of the plate to show up in the glass, hindering the ability to see the texture of the pesto.

Egg and Bacon Muffins (flat with layers)

I shot this with a 60mm lens, at a 45 degree angle, 30 degree angle, and from directly overhead.

Rachel Korinek Food Photographer DPS Hero Angle 2

Here the 45 degree angle accentuates the flatness of the dish, but does show the layers. The 30 degree angle is better, but it doesn’t show the full layers of the dish as much as the overhead shot does. That’s why the overhead shot is the hero angle in this case. It allows you to see right into the dish, while still getting the action of the egg filling being poured into each compartment.

Putting Finding That Hero Angle Into Practice – 5 Take Aways

Next time you’re doing a food photography shoot, put the following into practice:

  1. Thinking about whether your dish falls into the tall or flat category.
  2. Are there layers in your dish, or through your use of props on set?
  3. For tall foods, especially those with layers, explore angles between straight on and 45 degrees.
  4. For flat foods, explore angles between overhead and 75 degrees.
  5. Take a few shots with different angles outside the recommended ones above, and look for the OK, better, hero shots.

Do you have a favourite angle for food photography that you can always rely on? Please share in the comments below, as well as your food shots.

The post The Secret to Finding the Hero Angle in Food Photography by Rachel Korinek appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Photograph Flowers 2016-05-11at15-41-06


Learning to see and use light is one of the most important steps to creating great photographs. As you become more aware of what nice light really looks like, you can start to manipulate even the harshest conditions with some simple tools. The photo above was shot in bright sunshine using both a diffuser and a reflector.



To practice this exercise, find some flowers in bright sun. You can photograph flowers that are planted in your garden, or in pots.



Notice the quality of light on the flowers. In bright sun, there are strong highlights and deep shadows. There is lot of contrast, which comes through in the image.


Notice how you lose detail in the highlights. The bright spots caused by the sun don’t add anything to the photograph, in fact, they are very distracting. Our eyes tend to go toward the brightest spots in a photograph and in this situation, the highlights are drawing our eyes away from the center of interest – the flower.


Add a reflector

Now, try using a reflector. Light bounces just like a billiard ball. By placing a light colored, reflective surface opposite the light source, you can bounce light back into the subject. In this instance, our light source is the sun, so I placed the reflector under the leaves to bounce the light back into the shadows. You can use almost anything as a reflector. In this example, I’m using a piece of white poster board.

Read DIY How to Build and Use a Reflector to Take Better Portraits and 10 Ways to Use a 5-in-1 Reflector for more help on using reflectors.


Notice the difference in the image above, compared to the one without the reflector. Can you see how bouncing the light back in brightens up the flower? The exposure settings haven’t changed. The only difference is the reflector (also called a fill card) in the second shot.


Diffuse the light

Now, we are going to use a diffuser to soften the light.


Here we are starting to see some really beautiful, soft light. Notice how even the light is and how much softer the flowers feel. The highlights and shadows are not as severe and harsh, and more detail is retained in both areas.


Use a reflector and diffuser

Take it a step further.


Let’s use a diffuser with a reflector, and see how that looks. Here’s a tip for you: If you can’t prop up your reflectors and diffuser and press the shutter button, you can use the 2-second self-timer on your camera to free up an extra hand.


With the diffuser above and a reflector below, the flowers start to take on a magical feel.




Now you can see how using a reflector and diffuser can drastically improve your flower photographs. I also want to add that none of these photographs were manipulated in Lightroom or Photoshop in any way, other than a little sharpening. The dramatic difference in the photographs was created entirely by manipulating light.

Please share you comments and questions below, then try this exercise at home and post your photos in the comments below. I’d love to see them!

The post How to Use a Reflector and Diffuser to Enhance Flower Photographs by Vickie Lewis appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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The guys over at the Cooperative for Photography (COOPH) have some good quick tips from Thomas Leuthard for you. If you are planning on doing some street photography this summer, joining a photo walk, or even doing travel photography – apply this tips to those genres and have some fun. Let’s see the tips:

My faves are:

  • #2 control your camera remotely: I never even thought of that but will work great with my Fuji X-T1
  • #10 get down low: another thing cameras like the Fuji X-T1 do well with a tilting screen.
  • #13 shoot water as a slow shutter speed: this is starting to sound like an ad for the Fuji X-T1, but I love the fact my camera is weather resistant (WR) and I’ve stood in the rain, and taken a direct hit from an ocean wave and it withstands it and keeps going! Read more on this camera here.
  • #17 shadows make great photos: see How to Use Shadow and Contrast to Create Dramatic Images for more on that

Thomas Leuthard, “Street photography is like fishing, catching the fish is more exciting than eating it.”

Which of those quick tips did you like best?

The post 23 Quick Tips for Street Photography or Your Next Photo Walk by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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