Month: April 2015

9 Tips for Photographing Mountain Lake Reflections

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How to Photograph Mountain Landscapes

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

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

1 – Don’t shoot super wide

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

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

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

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

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

How to shoot mountain lake reflections

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

How to shoot mountain river scenes

2 – Fill your frame with what’s cool

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

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

How to Photograph River Landscapes

3 – Waiting for the wind to stop

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

4 – Shoot two versions – adjust the polarizer

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

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

5 – Interrupt the reflection

Vermillion Lakes, Banff - Mirror World by Gavin Hardcastle

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

6 – Get down low

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

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

7 – Look for framing elements in the foreground

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

8 – Look for leading lines in your foreground

Lake Photography Tutorial

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

9 – Star reflections are gold

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

Star Trails Selfie Tutorial

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

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Categories: Digital

What are the Real Responsibilities of a Professional Photographer?

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

What are the Real Responsibilities of a Professional Photographer? 6

Portrait of a dancer

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

1. A photographer is an artist and storyteller

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

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

2. A photographer is a craftsperson

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

Bethesda Terrace Wedding

Engaged couple

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

3. A photographer is a businessperson

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

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

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

3. A photographer is an expert in logistics:

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Executive group portrait

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

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

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

4. A photographer is an actor and a performance artist

What are the Real Responsibilities of a Professional Photographer? 8Worrying is good, but showing your worry is not. Plant a smile on your face and show confidence in the face of adversity. Inspire and comfort. You will come across to many clients who will be so nervous. Photography has the ability to make a lot of people nervous. There are many people who hate having their photograph taken.

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

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

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

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

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

What are the Real Responsibilities of a Professional Photographer? 9

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Digital

How to Shoot Panoramic Photos

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

Stitched Panorama

A six image pano of Howe Sound, Squamish BC

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

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

Stitched Panorama

Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas

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

1. How to shoot panoramic photos

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

A. Shoot in Manual mode

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

B. Overlap your shots by at least 30%

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

Stitched Panorama

Five images stitched, Jack Poole Plaza, Vancouver

C. Use a tripod

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

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

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

Stitched Panorama

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Digital

3 Simple Tips for Subtle Landscape Photography Post-Processing

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

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

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

Tip #1: Enhance details

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

High pass sharpening filter landscape photography

Steps for sharpening using the High Pass filter

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

Landscape photography high pass sharpening filter

High Pass filter landscape photography

Tip #2: Remove image haze

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

Landscape Haze before and after

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

Landscape photography auto contrast

Tip #3: Enhance the colors in the sky

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

Landscape photography Sunset before after

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

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

Landscape photography sunset sky painting

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

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

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Categories: Digital

Lighting for Macro Photography

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Macro photography is great for exploring new worlds that are otherwise invisible to the naked eye. You can turn ordinary, boring subjects into fascinating ones. A closeup photograph’s composition is 80% determined by the lighting, therefore it is the single most important element a macro photographer should have complete control over. With good lighting your macro photographs will pop out of the frame and will be sharp, vibrant, and visually stunning. If you get the lighting wrong however, your macro photograph will just look dull and boring.

Image 1

In this article I hope to show you some of the ways you can illuminate your macro subjects in order to capture fantastic photographs. Macro photography can be achieved using three forms of light; continuous, flash, and natural. All of these have separate advantages over one another, but it is completely down to personal preference as to which one you should use.

Continuous Lighting

Continuous macro lighting is great for controlling a number of lighting characteristics. Furthermore, with continuous light you can see how the light is affecting the subject at all times. I believe continuous light is the best option for beginning macro photography. It allows you to build your understanding of how lighting effects macro photography considerably, which will result in you becoming a better macro photographer. Continuous lighting also offers a much more convenient way to direct light on to specific areas of a subject. This gives you full control of the lighting environment, which can result in some stunning photographs.

Continuous lighting also adds another weapon to a macro photographer with a video capable camera. Macro videography is incredible and with continuous lighting, you don’t even need to change anything to switch between capturing photos and videos.

Image 2

The images above were both captured using continuous lighting techniques. The first image subject is a wasp and the second is moss.

Flash (strobe)

Flash photography is great if used properly. Its main advantage is the ability to freeze subjects due to the short duration of the light. This makes it excellent for out in the field as a fill light and for capturing moving insects.

Flash is more complex to learn to use properly, with strange flash settings such as manual mode, TTL and rear curtain sync. However, once learned well the results are amazing. Using flash is very much a trial and error process and it takes a lot of time to get right.

Natural Light

Image 3

Natural sunlight usually provides more than enough light for macro photography. You can combine it with reflectors and other photography accessories to gain an element of control. Natural light can also be used alongside either continuous or flash light accessories.

Image 4

The two images above were captured using natural light.

Adding additional elements of lighting control:

Controlling your lighting environment is essential to producing that perfect macro photograph. Here are a couple of methods that you can use to help achieve complete control.

Diffusion

Lighting that doesn’t look natural is not a good look for a macro photograph, if it is unintended. The way to avoid this is to use diffusers, which spread out the light across a bigger surface area. This results in a softer light that looks natural and makes your macro photographs aesthetically more pleasing. Diffusers can be made out of materials found in the home; tissue paper is great for example.

Image 5

This image was taken with no diffuser, notice how the light is quite harsh and reflects off the subject.

Image 6

This is the same subject, but captured using a diffuser. Notice how the light looks much more natural and makes the image look more appealing.

Colour

Adding coloured lighting to macro photos can make them unique, and stand out in the crowd. You can do this by applying gels or colour filters to your lighting equipment.

Image 7

This image of shaving foam has been captured using coloured continuous lighting.

Image 8

This image of a flower has been captured using coloured continuous lighting.

Lighting Position

Understanding how the direction of light alters the appearance of your subject is significant. This is much easier to do with continuous light, although it can be done with flash as well. A macro subject will look completely different with a light behind it for example.

Image 9

This image of liquid soap has been captured using a light positioned from behind the subject.

I hope this article has given you a great insight to how lighting affects macro subjects and how you can control it. If you have any questions or additional tips, please leave a comment below.

The post Lighting for Macro Photography by Samuel Granger appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

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