Archive for July, 2015

Seascapes are awesome opportunities for photography. In fact, it will probably be your first impulse upon seeing the ocean to pull out your camera (or wish you had it with you). It takes some skill, however, to turn a beautiful coastal scene into something more than a snapshot. If you are not careful, your coastal photo can be a boring picture of sand and water.

One of the keys to success for coastal photography is finding something interesting along the coastline to put in your picture. It would be great if there was an abandoned boat every 100 meters, but there isn’t. And we don’t all live near Big Sur or the Cliffs of Moher. Therefore, you often have to hunt for features to make your seascapes come alive. When you find such a feature, look at it from different angles, often with your camera to your face (you’ll be surprised at how different things sometimes look through the viewfinder or through the LCD). 

To get you started, here are some suggestions of coastal features to look for:

1. Old piers and docks

Abandoned piers and docks solve a huge problem with most coastal photography in that they add a center of interest to your photos. Many times you have a beautiful background created by the coastal scenery, but nothing else. You want an actual subject for your photo, the pier gives you that.

Top Coastal Formations - Pier

Abandoned piers and docks also provide a great opportunity for you to blur out the water, which creates a strong contrast between the blurred water and the sharp pier. To do this, make sure you have a 10-stop neutral density filter. Using this filter will reduce the amount of light allowed into your camera, and cause the camera to use a much longer shutter speed than it would otherwise. That long shutter speed blurs (or smooths) the water.

2. Lighthouses

A less common feature, but one that you should always look for, is a lighthouse. These add a great subject to an otherwise uninteresting scene.

Obviously, you won’t find lighthouses everywhere, but you’d be surprised how many there are if you look for them. In the U.S., the state of Maine alone has over 60 lighthouses, California has about 30. You can check to see if there is a lighthouse near your destination by using the map created by the Lighthouse Friends.

Seascape features example -  Portland Head Light

Oftentimes access to lighthouses is restricted to certain hours because they are on public property. This can be an issue if you want to shoot before sunrise or after sunset, as most of us do. Be sure to check the access and/or opening times.

3. Sunrise and sunset

Whereas your location may not have something like an abandoned pier or a lighthouse, no matter where you are there will always be a sunrise and sunset. You may not get the most dramatic of sunrises or sunsets on the day you are out shooting, but you will always have one. If you are not doing this already, it is the number one improvement you can make to your photographs, and it costs nothing.

If you don’t ordinarily shoot into the sun, do so on occasion to add drama and interest. You can also use the sun as a center of interest.

Top Coastal Formations - Sunset at Pigeon Point

Be sure to arrive well before sunrise or hang around after sunset. The skies are often more dramatic during these times than during the actual sunrise or sunset itself.

4. Interesting rock formations

Remember that in coastal photography, the top half of your picture is often a given; it will be the water and sky. In those cases, the only variable is the foreground. Therefore, you should spend a lot of time looking down to get the best foreground possible.

When you do that, one thing to look for – which is available no matter your location – is interesting rocks, or rock formations. Spend a lot of time looking for them, and as you do so, look through your camera frequently. The camera sees things differently than you.

Seascape features example -  Green rocks at Acadia

To make the rocks stand out, get let low to the ground and get right behind them. This is sometimes inconvenient or uncomfortable, but it is worth it. Be sure to use a wide angle lens to capture the whole scene.

5. Patterns in the water

Sometimes the water itself is enough to create an interesting photo. For this to be the case, you will need to capture the pattern of the waves or the currents in the water.

top Coastal Formations - Ocean at Night

Use a slow shutter speed to capture the patterns of the waves and currents. At night, your shutter speed might naturally be slow enough to do this because of the low-light environment. During the day, however, you will need a 10-stop neutral density filter to use a slow enough shutter speed.

6. Animals

Seacoasts are home to a vast array of wildlife. In some places, livestock are allowed to roam freely along coastal regions. If nothing else, you can count on birds being present at the coast. Use one of these animals as a center of interest for your photo when you capture the scene.

Seascape example - Valencia Island with Sheep

You will need to use a reasonably fast shutter speed to capture the animal and make it sharp. If you like to shoot from a tripod and use a neutral density filter when capturing coastlines, you will have to change things up. Creating a blur to the water will also blur the animal, which will ruin the shot.

7. Powerful waves

On some days, the waves are enough to create a nice photo. In particular, after a storm or high winds, the waves may come crashing in and give you something interesting to work with.

Top Coastal Formations - Crashing Waves

Use a fast shutter speed (at least 1/250th) to capture the power of the waves. If you use a slower shutter speed it will blur the wave, which will create a sense of movement, but not show the power of the wave. This will probably not be a problem most days, but if you are working in low light you will need to increase your ISO, or open up your aperture a bit to get the shutter speed fast enough.

8. People (for a sense of scale)

You can have the most dramatic scenery in the world in your picture, but if your viewer cannot instantly determine the scale of the scene, it might be lost. Nothing solves this problem more than having a person in your picture. We all know how big people are, and seeing a person in the picture instantly helps put the size and scale of the scenery in perspective.

Seascape features example -  Photographer at Davenport cliffs

Next time, rather than cloning out that person who wandered into your picture, leave them in. Better yet, look for opportunities to include a person in your scene to add a sense of scale.

9. Reflective water

If you are shooting up or down the coastline (i.e. perpendicular to it), land features will sometimes reflect on the water or wet sand. These reflections can make a nice foreground for your picture. Capturing reflections usually requires that:

  1. You are photographing just before sunrise or after sunset
  2. You use a long exposure, which will blur the water and make the reflection show up

Seascape features example -  Reflections at Pfeiffer beach

It need not be a perfect reflection (it rarely will be, since the water is moving so much), but just something that captures the colors and tones in general. You will use these to create a foreground that is more interesting than just a bunch of sand. Slow down your shutter speed and see what develops.

10. Clouds

Another item found along the coast that does not depend on your location or geography is clouds. More often than not, the clouds will give you something to work with. Coastal regions – being a transition between land and sea – often develop the most interesting clouds anywhere, and conditions can change rapidly.

Seascape features example -  Davenport clouds

If you are focusing on the clouds as the subject of your picture, make sure that the top two-thirds (2/3) of your picture (at least) is above the horizon line. Be sure to use your polarizing filter if you are shooting near midday.

Next steps

There is nothing to do now but get out there and photograph the coast. Start with the features in this article, then go find your own. There is no end to the interesting things you can find along the coast. If you have a favorite that I didn’t list, be sure to leave it in the comments below.

The post Top 10 Features to Bring Your Seascape Photos to Life by Jim Hamel appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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The Secret to Great Photography Portfolio

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If you’ve been around the photography world for a short time, you probably have at least a basic grasp of the technical skills. You know how to manipulate depth of field with aperture, where to focus in a portrait, and how to compensate your exposure for extremes in shadows and highlights. Even knowing things like that, you’ve probably stumbled across some incredible portfolios or magazine spreads and asked, “How did they do that?” Or even “What’s their secret?”

The secret to a great photography portfolio is simple. It isn’t even a secret at all, although it’s not often talked about in photography communities. Simply put, the secret is:

Master the technical skills until they’re automatic, then go out and endlessly make photographs, a lot of photographs. Only a handful should ever be shown to anyone.

Photography is easy; at least the technical side. Yes, that’s a quite a contentious statement, but I’m not the one who said it. It was David Bailey being interviewed by Rankin and answering the question, “What makes a good photographer?” His answer was:

“You can learn to take pictures in three months. You can learn to draw in three months, but only technically. It’s where you go from there.”

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The critical point is that it’s not the technical skills that make good photography. They’re vital ingredients but it’s how they’re put together with your subject to create an end result that is most important.

Think of it like cake. If you’re digging in to a piece of cake and you actually notice any of the individual elements of eggs, flour, butter or sugar, something’s gone horribly wrong in the baking process.

What comes after the technical skills?

There are two elements to consider when thinking about what to do next:

  • First, creating a lot of images and showing only a few.
  • Secondly, giving your subject comprehensive coverage.

Create many, show few

In an article, that I read a few years back, a National Geographic photographer said that they use to go through 1500 rolls of film to create a single set of 10 to 20 images for an article.

Secret to a better portfolio 4641

To translate that, assuming they used 120 film in a 6×9 medium format camera; that yields eight frames per roll of film. That’s 12,000 photographs. Also assume that those photographers would have bracketed one or two stops on either side. (Bracketing is the practice of taking a normally exposed photograph, then taking two more – generally one overexposed, one underexposed. This was useful in the days of transparency film which offered very little in terms of exposure latitude.) That brings the number to 4000. Finally, say 50% of those weren’t good enough to show the editor.

That leaves 2000 photographs that most people would probably be more than happy to have taken. The final spread used about a dozen of the very, very best or 0.6% of all of the images taken.

To apply this concept to your own portfolio, you have to learn how to be ruthless. If it isn’t your very best, scrap it. It can be hard work, especially considering the emotional connections we, as photographers, have with our work, but if you can learn to turn that off then your portfolio will be better for it.

Comprehensive coverage

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Back to dissecting National Geographic, my favourite article is one that covers the glamorous topic of caffeine. This one is a large spread and is made up of 23 photos.

Breaking it down: nine images are environmental portraits, six are classical reportage, six are still-lifes, and two are landscapes.

The set of photos also covers five countries and five US cities; all within 23 photos.

To cover every possible aspect associated with caffeine, the photographer for that piece documented several facets of the human element of the topic, from production workers, to scientists in labs, as well as the consumers. The landscape images in the article showed the environmental impact of caffeine.

Hopefully you’re starting to see what comprehensive means in this context. Of course, very few people have the kind of resources to approach a subject so thoroughly, but if you take the extra time to consider and follow through on other possible aspects of your subject matter, you may be surprised with the results.

Icing on the cake

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To return to the cake metaphor: when you’re at a bakery, you only see the shop floor, with the well presented finished products. You don’t see the chefs slogging through hours of batter and hot ovens. You don’t see the logistics of bringing chefs and ingredients together in the right place. You just see cake.

Hopefully, you now have a little more insight on what may have gone on behind the scenes, albeit a simplified interpretation, when you look at a photo that you admire, and what steps you can take to push yourself in that direction.

Just remember: get the technical skills mastered and out of the way, then go wild.

The post The Secret to Great Photography Portfolio by John McIntire appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Not too long ago, the path to choosing your gear was very clear. If you wanted to take professional quality images, the DSLR reigned supreme. Yet, the landscape of available camera gear is constantly evolving, and today there are more options than ever before. Instead of just one or two dominant companies, you now have outstanding systems from no less than seven manufacturers. Mirrorless cameras have matured from a niche product to a complete solution, while DSLRs have been further refined. This may sound daunting at first, but with a bit of research, it’s possible to find a model that meets your specific needs. Here are the main points to review when considering whether you get a DSLR or mirrorless camera next.

1) Availability of Lenses

Buying a high megapixel camera body won’t spare you from the the negative effects of a poor lens. In fact, more resolution can bring greater attention to the lens’s optical flaws. For example, if you pair a full frame sensor with a kit lens you’ll have soft corners and mushy detail. Alternatively, high quality lenses can maximize every pixel of your camera’s sensor providing tack sharp focus from corner to corner. There may be some who will argue this theory and point to studio tests and technical charts. Yet in practice, a camera with a smaller sensor and less megapixels paired with a stellar lens can provide more clarity than a high resolution full frame coupled with an average lens. For this reason, the selection of available lenses is the first consideration when deciding on a camera.

Sharpness is not the only part of this decision, but also the speed in which the lens achieves focus. A constant aperture is also a nice convenience for low light shooting as opposed to slower variable aperture lenses that span from f/3.5 to f/5.6. Finally, if you envision a super shallow depth of field in your images, f/5.6 will not be as desirable as f/2.8. Map out your kit with each manufacturer using your dream scenario. For example, can you build a system with f/2.8 lenses that span from ultra wide to super telephoto? How much would this cost for each manufacturer, and what would it weigh? While it’s true that DSLR users once enjoyed a significant advantage in lens availability, that gap is quickly closing. Most mirrorless systems now offer a complete line of professional quality glass that is of equivalent quality to a DSLR counterpart.

2) Image Quality

Ultimately, the image quality from a camera is only as good as the person controlling it. The best photographers in the world can capture stunning imagery, with the most basic cameras. Simply put, they know how to maximize the potential of any situation, and work around the limitations to get the shot.

Ideally, you want to find a camera that doesn’t get in the way of your creative process. If you’re fumbling with confusing menus and buttons, chances are you will miss a number of fleeting opportunities. Still, photography is also a game of confidence, and you want to feel as if the photo you are capturing will have all of the detail you need it to. I have good news for you! Nearly every DSLR and mirrorless camera today has more than enough resolution for professional work. Whether you are shooting for large prints, billboards, magazine spreads, stock submissions or your own personal satisfaction, today’s modern cameras are up to the task. This is a game changer, as a DSLR is no longer a prerequisite for professional work.

3) Sensor Size

At the same effective focal range and aperture, the actual depth of field each format provides will appear different based on sensor size. For example, a full frame camera at f/2.8 dramatically throws a background out of focus. This is ideal for reducing distractions and bringing attention to the subject. To achieve the same look with an APS-C sensor you would need to open the aperture to f/1.8. With micro 4/3, you’d need f/1.4. Clearly, this makes shallow depth of field easier to achieve with a full frame. Having said that, micro 4/3 users can create similar results with fast lenses like the Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95.

While larger sensors enjoy a slight advantage for shallow depth of field, the opposite happens with great depth of field. This means f/5.6 on a micro 4/3 camera provides the equivalent depth of field to f/8 on APS-C and f/11 on a full frame model. This provides the micro 4/3 user with 1-2 extra stops of light while still creating sharp focus from near to far. As a result, the ISO doesn’t need to be as high, providing better image quality. For the same exposure and equivalent depth of field, here is an example of how the sensor size would affect the settings.

  • Micro 4/3: 1/125, f/5.6, ISO 200
  • APS-C: 1/125, f/8, ISO 400
  • Full Frame: 1/125, f/11, ISO 800

This is summed up nicely by Cambridge in Colour who noted, “Larger sensors (and correspondingly higher pixel counts) undoubtedly produce more detail if you can afford to sacrifice depth of field. On the other hand, if you wish to maintain the same depth of field, larger sensor sizes do not necessarily have a resolution advantage.”

4) Features and Functionality

The technology you’ll find, in even the most entry level mirrorless camera, can make a DSLR feel like stepping back in time. This is not solely due to the weight, but the glaring absence of useful features that make simple tasks more convenient. No longer do you need to stand beneath a shaded tree to check your images on the LCD. The quality of EVF in today’s mirrorless cameras is astonishing. It’s similar to using live view, but the image appears in the viewfinder where the display is not affected by harsh sunlight. Without removing your eye from the viewfinder you can check critical focus and exposure while viewing the histogram, highlight alert, and exposure settings.

With in-viewfinder image magnification and focus peaking, manual focus has never been easier or more accurate. Tapping the shutter lightly will activate the shooting mode so you’re always ready to capture the action. This can certainly reduce time spent chimping, and helps one remain focused on the subject in front of them. Depending on the model, you may enjoy other features like double exposures, silent electronic shutter, keystone correction, live time, time-lapse, touch screen autofocus that covers most of the frame, and built-in wifi. It’s these little things that ultimately make the shooting experience more enjoyable.

For those who are struggling with depth of field, the EVF on mirrorless cameras offers a huge advantage. As you look through the viewfinder and adjust your aperture, you will see a real-time look at how the depth of field will alter your image. This makes it so convenient to establish your settings for any given shot. In fairness, some DSLRs have a DOF preview button, but its functionality is far from ideal. Using that method the screen gets very dark, and you have to really look hard to determine what will truly be sharp. The EVF simplifies all of this as what you see is what you get.

5) Size and Weight

A DSLR is a commitment. You make a decision to take pictures, pack your gear, and head out. This has proven to be an effective formula for a very long time. Yet, I’ve spoken with countless photographers who leave their DSLR home to avoid carrying extra weight. Some even purchase expensive telephoto zoom lenses only to complain they’re too much of a hassle to bring along. If you do the math, DSLRs are about twice as heavy as mirrorless cameras and approximately 40% bulkier. When you’re traveling to distant places, or hiking deep into the woods, every ounce matters. I’ve been on small international airplanes with a strict 25 pound luggage limit, which included personal items.

Advances in technology can allow us to go places that were previously inaccessible. No longer do you need to leave important things behind. That’s one of the reasons carbon fibre tripods have become the preferred choice for many. Since they are much lighter than aluminum models, you can go further. Couple this with a lighter camera system, and it’s possible to reach remote locations faster, giving you the competitive edge.

6) Familiarity

15 years ago, on countless pages of photography magazines, experts debated the topic of film versus digital. What followed was undoubtedly one of the biggest revolutions in the history of photography. Despite some of the early limitations, digital imaging forged ahead, ultimately winning over many of the initial naysayers. While this current shift in camera gear may not be quite as dramatic, there are many who are still resistant to change. Yet, as George Bernard Shaw said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” If you’ve never tried a modern mirrorless system, you are short changing yourself. Visit a local camera store and have a look, or better yet, rent one for a weekend photo adventure. It may take a real world test to experience the benefits that don’t translate well on paper.

7) Durability and Battery Life

DSLRs take the crown when it comes to battery life. Where one DSLR battery can go a full day with 1000 plus shots, a mirrorless camera will require approximately three batteries. The obvious workaround is to carry several spares, but it’s worth noting as it is one definitive area that requires improvement. The issue is largely due to the heavy power demand from the EVF. As a result, it’s a concern for all mirrorless manufacturers with no one brand having a distinct advantage.

If you’re looking for a camera that’s weather sealed and built like a tank, both types of cameras have models to check out. Still, in order to enjoy a fully weatherproof system, the lenses need to have the same level of durability. With a DSLR this build-type is often reserved for the professional models. These are typically more expensive and heavier than non-sealed lenses. Alternatively, Sony, Fuji and Olympus all have rugged systems that boast features like splash, dust, and freeze resistant. If you find yourself in extreme situations often, this may be the better option for you.

8) Cost Savings

Do you rely on image stabilization as part of your photography routine? With a DSLR, this convenience comes at a significant cost. Lenses with this feature are often priced hundreds of dollars more than a non-stabilized model. Perhaps a more cost effective method would be a camera with built-in 5-axis stabilization. This will work on any lens you mount, making it possible to capture sharp hand held images at 1/15th of a second or slower. If you’re skeptical, as I certainly was, there are a myriad of tests that prove its accuracy.

This is an important development that changes the way you works in low light scenarios. For example, if you’re photographing a dark interior where tripods are not allowed, a typical setting would be around 1/125, f/4, ISO 6400. That same shot with 5-axis IS could be captured at 1/15, f/4, ISO 800. Noise won’t be nearly as prevalent at the lower ISO, and you’ll still have a tack-sharp image. This cutting edge feature gives photographers yet another tool to solve common everyday problems.


There have never been as many viable options as we have right now. It is indeed a great time to be in the market for a new camera. The system you decide on will certainly have a big impact on your work, so do thorough research and choose wisely. Remember, the ideal selection should not be based on what everyone else is doing, but what will allow you to realize your unique vision. This can only be decided by you, not a salesperson, or forum chatter. Above all, your next camera should be one that inspires you to pick it up and use it more often.

As for my gear, I don’t leave the house without my Olympus OMD EM1. Sometimes I also carry an EM10 as a backup body. I recently sold a Canon 40D, retired the old 10D, and am still determining the fate of my Canon 6D.

The post 8 Factors to Look at Before You Choose a New DSLR or Mirrorless Camera by Chris Corradino appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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photo of a Tokyo streetscape after being fixed in Lightroom

Learn how to fix problem light and enhance your vision for your photos in Lightroom.

If you’re like most of us, you’ve taken photos from time to time that you’ve had high hopes for, only to realize later on that they didn’t turn out the way you’d hoped. Often what looks like awesome light when you captured the image, just doesn’t translate to great light when you view the photo on your computer screen.

When the photos you’ve captured are once in a lifetime memories they deserve better than this. Thanks to Lightroom they can be improved, fairly quickly and easily. In this video you’ll see how to relight a photo in Lightroom. You’ll learn techniques that you can use on your photos to move the light from where it is now to where you want it to be.

You will see how to use the Graduated Filter to darken skies, how to use the Radial Filter and the Adjustment Brush to bring light and saturation to where you want it to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big advocate of using the correct settings and capturing a good photo right in the camera. I’m also pragmatic and I know that, despite the best of intentions, the photos you capture don’t always look as good you’d like. Lightroom can help.

So here’s how you can use Lightroom’s tools to improve a photo. This rather lifeless Tokyo streetscape is improved so it is a crisper, shinier image with light and saturated color where it should be. This is something you can do too.

We’d like to see what you do with these tools and your photos, so feel free to show us in the comments below.

The post How to Creatively Alter the Light in Your Photo Using Lightroom by Helen Bradley appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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10 Tips for Photographing Strangers

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I do a lot of wandering at dawn, taking photos of the city as it wakes. Mostly I am on my own, but occasionally I come across someone, a worker or a person coming home from a party. In Paris, a few summers back, I came across this guy.


“Take my photo, friend!” he said to me.

So, of course, I did. He was brash, but when I was done he hugged me and carried on with his early morning adventures.

If only all interactions with strangers, when I’m out with my camera, could be that easy! But, unfortunately, they are not. So when you don’t have random strangers accosting you on the street, here are some thoughts on how to get amazing shots of people you don’t know.

Tips for photographing strangers

Let’s start with what holds most people back from approaching that cool looking stranger, or from raising their camera when they see a great shot of interesting people.

1 – Dealing with your fear

Having fear come up when you are approaching strangers to photograph is totally normal. All photographers who do this have experienced fear, and may continue to. Sometimes we give in to fear and walk away without the shot, but if we can get through it and push ourselves to do what we love, then gradually the practice of photographing strangers becomes much easier.

When you look up the definition of fear it says it is: an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm. Now I have occasionally been shouted at when out and about – usually in situations I would expect to be shouted at, like in an Italian market where people were selling fake designer handbags – but I’ve never had a threat of danger. So I like to think – “Okay fear, there is nothing that is likely to cause me pain or harm, I’ll just let you hang around until you feel the urge to go.” It probably sounds weird talking to your fear like that, but it works for me. Just letting it be there until it drifts away on its own.

AEP_DPS_strangers_009 EXTRA PHOTO

2 – The secret

But actually there is a secret to this – most people are not just happy to be photographed, they love to be noticed. It’s a massive compliment to them that you have sought them out and want to take their picture. This is your secret key!

I was wandering around Montmartre in Paris about 5 a.m. and walked past two men having their early morning coffee and chatting. They looked at me curiously, and to be honest I faltered. I walked straight past them. A language barrier can sometimes add to the intimidation. But I knew if I didn’t go back I’d be kicking myself all day. So even though I’ve been doing this for twenty years, even though I’d photographed hundreds, if not thousands of strangers, the fear does sometimes return. Just don’t let it get in the way of taking shots of those awesome strangers that you see!

So I went back and smiled at them. They smiled back, and I gestured to my camera. They both nodded and I took a few shots. It took a minute or two at most, and I loved the result:


3 – Break down your fear into bite sized chunks

Diane Arbus talked a lot about her fear of photographing strangers. She described spending a summer hanging around a park in the hope of getting up the courage to talk to a group of people who hung out there most days. Gradually over days and weeks she started to get to know them. Her constant proximity helped to make them trust her and she started to chat to them. Over time, she developed a relationship, and it was only then that she introduced the camera. Because they trusted her she was able to get some stunning portraits of people.

“If I were just curious, it would be very hard to say to someone, ‘I want to come to your house and have you talk to me and tell me the story of your life.’ I mean people are going to say, ‘You’re crazy.’ Plus they’re going to keep mighty guarded. But the camera is a kind of license. A lot of people, they want to be paid that much attention and that’s a reasonable kind of attention to be paid.” Diane Arbus

4 – Be genuine, be human

I’ve had a few occasions where people have been sticking cameras in my kids’ faces, snapping away without asking me or my wife, and it has really irked me. There are photographers who seem to think that anything and everything are your subjects, regardless. I know that the law is on your side in most countries (see note at the bottom) but I don’t think it’s respectful to just treat everyone as a subject regardless – and I think people can feel if you are being respectful of them as human beings.

I will always show the subject the photo if they want to see it and give them my business card or take their details so I can send them photos.


5 – How to approach strangers

It doesn’t matter what you say to people, the most important aspect of approaching people is being genuine, warm, friendly and calm. People will read your body language before you open your mouth, so if you come off as tense they will probably think you are shifty. If you are not smiling, people are going to think you’re unfriendly. Of course being a bit nervous is natural, I still get nervous too. It’s totally normal. But the more you practice, the calmer you’ll become. Then you’ll settle into yourself more, get a little pattern going and it’ll be much easier. It doesn’t matter much what you say, how you say it, or what you are working on, how people react to you is almost 100% because of your body language and the feelings you have when you approach them.

“You can find pictures anywhere. It’s simply a matter of noticing things and organizing them. You just have to care about what’s around you and have a concern with humanity and the human comedy.” Elliott Erwitt

6 – Be quick, be prepared

That’s not to say I won’t take a good anonymous portrait – I love them. At the moment I seem to be having a good time with this selfie trend:


I took the photo above in Venice a few months back. I was walking up some steps with a group of students and bang, there it was. Because I was prepared with my camera, and because I always see what’s going on around me, I was able to capture it straight away.


I also liked this photo because for me selfies feel a bit vacuous, and the background was not of Venice but a large photo of Venice covering a building. Both the background and the selfie seem to me to speak of how most people see the world, just on its surface. We photographers have to be prepared to get deeper and see more of what’s really going on.

7 – Have a project and be professional

Over the past several summers I’ve been working on a project, photos of people’s bellies. I always felt it was quite an under-appreciated part of the body and I wanted to see how people felt about theirs. So I started out experimenting by asking people if I could take photos of their bellies.

Now for this kind of project it’s a harder sell. I was asking people to reveal a part of their body that they mostly keep covered up. So the way that I did it was I would look for people on the street who were on their own (because for some bizarre reason people are usually more receptive to strangers taking their photo when they are alone and they seem relaxed). I would approach them, explain what I was doing, and give them a business card that I had made about the project – which had all of my business details on one side and a bunch of belly photos on the other.

Image from The Belly Project by Anthony Epes photography

Image from The Belly Project by Anthony Epes Photography

I also got people’s photos by hanging out at my local cafe, hanging around summer festivals, anywhere really where I could just hang out and chat to people. It’s a brilliant way to fall into conversation with people, so the approach can be more subtle and relaxed.

I am not a super chatty guy. I am not known in my private life to fill the space with epic conversation. You do not need to be a master of conversation – you just need to be genuinely curious and people will feel that, and start to open up to you. Most people love talking about themselves, and they love people who are interested in them. It’s a human trait that photographers must be aware of. Once you’ve approached someone, or when you are just hanging out – ask people questions about themselves. “Worked here long? What’s this festival all about? That’s an awesome t-shirt, where did you get it?”

8 – Your background is your second subject

What I hope you see in my shots is that the person is not the only subject – where you place your subject, the colours, the lines, the light – all of that will enhance, or detract from the portrait. Ideally you want to find a background that adds to the portrait in someway – almost like a comment on the appearance or pose of your subject. Ask yourself – what does this background add to the photo?


I find that many people use backgrounds that are too busy, so the subject gets lost. The camera can’t distinguish between the layers of a background the way that your eye can, so you almost want to over simplify the background to create the maximum impact for your viewers. Break down the elements that you see, and work out how a person would affect that.

If you are shooting posed portraits this is easier, but before you go about approaching people, get your background organized first. I often wander around looking for interesting locations, interesting elements out on the street, and then once I’ve found something I like, I wait around to see who comes along.

Image from The Belly Project by Anthony Epes Photography

Image from The Belly Project by Anthony Epes Photography

9 – What story are you telling with your photos?

When you are taking someone’s portrait, you are not just putting together an interesting combination of colour, light and shape – you are doing that as well – but there is something else too. You have an amazing opportunity to tell a story, and to communicate the emotion and feeling of your subject. The human face and body are the most expressive and revealing things on this planet.

“A picture of a guy in the street in New Guinea, with a bone through his nose is interesting to look at. But for it to be a really good photograph; it has to communicate something about what it is like to live with a bone through your nose. It is a question of the moment to reveal something interesting and profound about the human condition.” Steve McCurry

10 – How do you get people to reveal their emotions?

When you hold a camera up to a person, you will see that they start out with one emotion, but quite quickly that will change. After a few seconds most people start to get uncomfortable looking into a camera lens, then once they pass through that, other emotions start to appear as their minds move on to thinking about other things – perhaps how uncomfortable they are in the heat, the shopping they have to pick up later. People’s thoughts move at an alarming speed and their faces reveal it all. So just being with them, looking at them, photographing them, you’ll start to see how they peel like an onion.



So to sum up – be friendly, smile, enjoy yourself. Remember this is fun what we do! I have stayed in touch (through Facebook and the like) with a bunch of my subjects whom I’ve met on my travels. It’s a great way to get to know people and create really compelling photographs.

A note about usage and permission

In most countries you only need people’s permission if you are going to sell the photos, or use them for commercial gain. Photos for art and editorial usage usually don’t require individuals’ permission (but there are exceptions – like Hungary where it’s now illegal to photograph anyone without their permission). There are exceptions, especially for children, so always check out the law in the country you’re in, and remember laws change all the time.

Plus, when you are travelling it’s important to be aware of cultural sensitivities before you blaze out there, camera in hand. There is a ton of info out there on the web. Load up on knowledge and that will also help you feel confident as you go out to shoot.

The post 10 Tips for Photographing Strangers by Anthony Epes appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How many times have you arrived at a place and it just is not up to your expectations? There is nothing worse than wasting your time, especially when it was all planned out to be a good day. What a letdown. But, what if you could turn that around and produce something amazing? What if you can do it, and make a great photographic experience out of it? Well you can and it doesn’t take a lot of work, or a lot of camera equipment.

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There are likely many times as a photographer where you have prepared all your gear and scouted your location, only to arrive at your destination and find that it was not all what you thought it was going to be. Maybe the light is not what you imagined, maybe the building was demolished, or maybe there are numerous people when you thought you would be the only photographer there. Many scenarios could come up, and that is why as a photographer you need to think on your toes and improvise.

So, how do you make a bad day of photography, turn into something meaningful that you can still be proud of? Unless you are in a studio, photography is a balance between action and inaction. What are the things you can control and what are the things out of your control? And in the moment of interaction between the two, how do you see and create your vision? The best photographers in the world don’t control more in the situation, they SEE more. So how do you see more in a bad situation?

1. Flip the script

Be flexible in your photographic visions. You may have a favorite type of photography like landscapes or portraiture, but that shouldn’t prohibit you from enjoying other aspects as well. If you expected to shoot people and the streets are empty, then shoot the buildings. If you expected sun and it rains, then shoot the boy playing in the puddles. Don’t struggle to create what the place or situation is not. Change your own narrative to fit the situation. This mindset means you are not always reacting, rather that you can be proactive in a new direction and creative in your story.

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A rainy day in the famous Glockenspiel square of Munich. From the tower above you get a very different feel of the space.

2. Get up close

When you change your perspective there is a new world to be discovered. The easiest way to do this is by getting close, and that means to get down on your knees and elbows. There are always amazing creatures, delicate flowers, and wildly uncommon structures in tiny forms below our feet. So, when heading into unfamiliar environments bring your macro lens. In cases where the scenery or situation is really unappealing, something on the micro level will surely amaze you. The opposite of this would be to get further away to obscure the subject and give it a new setting. The point is to change the perspective.

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Macro photo of a sunflower in the mountains of NE China. You would never know how awful the weather was for the whole week.

3. Get in touch with your reaction

Allow yourself to feel the letdown or disappointment between what you originally hoped to find and what you are actually presented with. But, don’t let it decide your photographic destiny. This means do find creativity in the presented emotions. What are the emotions that are being portrayed in the scene? This could actually be done figuratively in an abstract way by photographing negative space to define your images. Or it could be done by finding images that literally match your mood. What is most important is that you are open to opportunity, not confined or limited by what your expectations were. By getting in touch with your photographic feelings you are freeing your photographic expressions.

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A splendid view of the Taj Mahal from Fort Agra was closed for cleaning. A real disappointment or an opportunity for a new story to be told?

4. Experiment

If you are not working professionally, and don’t need to get a specific shot that your customer has commissioned you to do, then you are free to experiment. When doing so, will you come home with some images that are going straight to the recycle bin? Yes. But, you will also learn something in the process. Thus, you will be increasing your photographic experience, discovering new techniques, and pushing your creative self.

Experimenting might mean going from Aperture Priority mode to fully Manual. Or it may mean that you will take some bracketed exposures even though you really don’t know how to combine them in an HDR software (yet). Or how about focus stacking? It could mean that you are adding light by using a flash. Whatever level you are at, or whatever gear you have purchased, think about how it could be used. When conditions don’t present themselves perfectly, it is a perfect situation to experiment.

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An HDR panoramic in the midday sun in the Austrian Alps. The sun was behind the mountains and high noon is not the best time for landscapes, so HDR was a possibility. A sun flare was also added in post-processing to experiment more with the image.

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Double exposure experimentation

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. But that doesn’t mean you must be in the green pasture to get great results. There will always be conditions that are not ideal, and as alluded to above, great photographers don’t see constraints in difficult situations they see creative opportunity. So can you. Creativity is not spontaneous; it is habitual. Any creative person will tell you that their successes are predicated upon effort; so too, is much of photography. There are so many variables, that each time you go out with your camera, you really never know what you will get.

Stop thinking about how lucky you are if you get a perfect sunset, but how incredibly lucky you are when you need to be a constructively creative photographer and how you can turn a bad day of photography into a great series of images. So, no more excuses — go out and be the great photographer you are.

The post 4 Tips on How to Be Creative in Undesirable Photography Conditions by Branson Quenzer appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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In the world of photography, editing and retouching are just as important as the imagery itself. Every image that you see published has been through its fair share of post-processing before it is seen by the public. If photographers didn’t retouch their images, it would be like a painter presenting his sketches instead of the finished painting.

portrait retouching techniques

With the fast moving technology of today, extraordinary images are everywhere, every day. Even with perfect lighting, and preparation work, a final image always receives some post-production attention. The trick to post-processing is to make it look as if it hasn’t been retouched at all, or as I call it, “refreshed”.

With the endless possibilities of Photoshop retouching techniques available, how do you know what tools to use when, and why? In this article, you will learn professional photoshop tricks that work for any portrait, any time. This is a simple recipe to give your subjects a naturally refreshed look, letting their genuine beauty shine, while keeping the integrity of their expressions, their features, and the clarity of the digital image itself.

Key Steps in the Refreshing Process

  1. Evaluate
  2. Eliminate
  3. Reduce
  4. Repeat

The specific tools and techniques discussed here are tried and tested with over 10 years of retouching experience. It is best to experiment with these concepts, and with practice, develop your own style of retouching.

This process has been designed as a routine that will eventually create habits in your mind, train your eyes to see the details more clearly, and create an overall efficient and effective retouching process. The goal is to spend less time in front of the computer and more time behind the lens (where the real magic takes place).

Let’s look at each one of these steps in order. We will use a studio image of a musician as the example throughout this article.

A great tip to keep in mind during this entire process is that with each new step, or even sub-steps, it is best to duplicate your layer before beginning to use the next tool. This way you are creating a back-up of each step for you to return to, if you notice that you are retouching too much on any particular step. It also allows you to see the progression of your workflow in Photoshop.

portrait retouching techniques

Step One: Evaluate

Immediately analyze the image you are about to retouch. How is the lighting? How do the subjects look? What is going on in the background?

When you see the areas of the image that will need your attention ahead of time, you can quickly assess what you will want to accomplish with the retouching process. This is the beginning of training your eye to seek out the details, and look at your image differently, than when you first took the shot.

Look at your image as if it’s not a photograph of a person, but instead consider that it is just shapes, colors, and light. Identify where the light is coming from and how it is affecting the subject.

In this example, the direction of the light is causing more definition, creating harsh shadows across the subject. This was done intentionally to give a more characterized, artistic portrait for this musician.

However, its effect can be overpowering at times and cause distraction to the viewer. This is noticeable in the darker shadows around his right eye, and the highlights shining across the left side of his face.

portrait retouching techniques
Here are some additional elements to be aware of.

  • Different textures: The subject is an older man wearing a suit and playing an instrument. All of these textures are different and will require various tools and techniques when the retouching process happens in those areas.
  • Zoom in close: As with any image, zooming in close will allow us to see any skin imperfections, dirt, dust, or scratches that you will want to eliminate all together.
  • Make judgements on distracting elements: There are some parts of the image that could stay or be eliminated, it becomes your choice as the retoucher. What is a distraction? What is a part of the purpose of the image? For instance, the scratches on the trumpet and the left side pocket sticking out could potentially be distractions, but maybe this client would like them to stay.

Once you identify the elements that need attention, decide if each will be removed altogether, or if it needs to be reduced. For instance, the stray hair and the dust on his jacket need to be removed, but the redness and wrinkles are only to be reduced, not eliminated completely. This difference is important for the next steps in the process. So ask yourself, will it be eliminated or reduced?

Step Two: Eliminate

Once you have made your initial evaluation of the image, you can begin the elimination process. This includes but is not limited to: dust, dirt, scratches, pimples, food in teeth, and anything else that doesn’t belong. Zoom in and examine your image up close. Think of each area as shapes and color, allowing yourself to be as accurate as possible when removing these details.

For this first elimination step, it is best to use the spot healing brush, the healing brush tool, the spot tool, the patch tool, and/or any other tool that completely removes things. Don’t rely on just one. Learning how each tool works different will help you use a combination of these removal tools effectively, and efficiently.

For instance, the clone stamp tool copies exactly what you click. The healing brush blends the color and texture of what you click on, with the area you want to fix. The spot healing brush is a genius tool. It has its own way of deciding if you want to blend the area you click on, or remove the unusual pixels within that area (like a stray hair against a solid background).

portrait retouching techniques

The more you make effects to a digital image, the more destructive you can be to the clarity of the final file. Using these tools is crucial to the integrity of the image. If you can click it away in less than a few clicks, then this is the time to do it.

Once the “spots” are removed, you can focus your attention on reducing or “refreshing” the imperfections we all know we have, but don’t want to notice in the permanence of a photograph.

Step Three: Reduce

This is where your artistic eye, and attention to detail come into play. Pimples go away, dust and dirt are just distractions, but our wrinkles, smile lines, scars and facial expressions are the details that make each of us unique. Those are the things you will focus on in this stage of the “refreshing” process.

Every subject you see in an image has great qualities that they might not be confident about accentuating. It is your job as the retoucher to keep not just the integrity of the digital image, but the integrity of the special moment and the emotional expressions that have been captured in that image.

For this reason, this second step is crucial. Train yourself to pay attention to the details, the purpose of the image, and the personality of your subject. If you are retouching a very smiley bride who laughed a lot, you don’t want to remove her laugh lines, but you do want to reduce the shadows and shine as her makeup wears off and the night wears on.

In this specific example of the musician, the character lighting has created great contrast that add to the personality of the subject. But in some areas it over accentuates his wrinkles by creating deep shadows and harsh highlights of overexposure.

The Best Trick in Portrait Retouching

portrait retouching techniques

Duplicate your layer after completing step one. With this new top layer highlighted, select from the main photoshop menu: Filter > Noise > Dust & Scratches. A window will pop-up with settings options, and you will notice the image behind that window now shows a preview of this filter effect.

In the Dust & Scratches window, change your Radius to 40px and Threshold to 1. Experiment with these settings and see what works best for your images.

Once you have applied the Dust & Scratches filter (on the top, duplicated layer), you will notice how it blurs the image. But, this is not like using the blur tool. The method that this filter uses specifically identifies differences between pixels and their surrounding area. The Radius is what removes the “dust” and the Threshold is what brings back the details. Dissimilar pixels are modified to achieve a balance between sharpening and hiding defects.

The Dust & Scratches filter provides a more powerful way to remove noise from an image than any other noise removal tool. This is key to keeping the integrity of the textures, color, and overall feel of the digital image as you see it in print or on a screen.

Now that you have a layer with the right effect applied, you are going to add a layer mask to this newly altered layer, and invert the mask. Do this by clicking the icon “Add layer mask” at the bottom of your layers panel. Notice the layer mask shows up as a white box next to your highlighted top layer. Now invert this layer mask by holding the command button and clicking the letter, “i”. This will now change the layer mask to black and bring the original image come back into view.

portrait retouching techniques

Step 1: duplicate the layer
Step 2: add a layer mask
Step 3: invert the mask so it is black

You can see how the image looks unaffected by the Dust & Scratches filter. Really, it is just hidden under the layer mask. Now you can paint back into the areas where you want to reveal the Dust & Scratches filter. The trick is to do this precisely, and not too much.

Select your brush tool (keyboard shortcut is B). Making sure the layer mask is selected (not the layer – square brackets will show around the mask when it is selected like shown above), noticing its color is black, paint with the color white to bring back the Dust & Scratches filter effect.

The key to using the brush tool on an inverted layer mask is to experiment with the brush opacity strength. When focusing on the skin areas, start by brushing back at only 30% opacity. Remember, you can always brush back over an area again more or less by toggling back and forth between painting with black or white. Painting with white will reveal the effect, while painting with black with hide it.

Steer clear of teeth, lips, eyes, nostrils, ear folds, and edges like the jaw line and hair lines during this time. These areas have specific edges and textures that are important to the overall image.

Once you have completed the skin areas, you can smooth the background. Change the opacity to 100% to completely smooth out this solid color background. This only works on solid backgrounds that are seamless. Using the brush at 100% will remove any dust spots that show up from the camera lens, or dirt that is actually on the studio backdrop.

portrait retouching techniques

Tips to Keep in Mind During This Step

  1. In general, keep your brush below 50% when painting the effect on skin. This allows more than 50% of the original textures and features to still be noticeable. If you paint more than 50% in these areas, you will see a putty-like effect starting to take over, causing your image to be more retouched than refreshed.
  2. Using the bracket keys on the keyboard [ and ], frequently change the size of your brush as you paint. Keep your brush hardness at 0 unless absolutely necessary. This allows you to move in and around smaller and larger areas of the skin and background with more efficiency and accuracy.
  3. The zoom tool is your best friend during this part of the refreshing process. Remember, instead of thinking of this image as a portrait, consider that you are just seeing shapes, color, and light. Zoom in close and pay attention to the changes you are creating. Force yourself to go too far with some brush strokes so that you know the limit. When you have gone too far, just toggle back to painting with black (set your opacity to 100%) and remove that last brush stroke all the way before beginning again (or use Command+Z to undo the last step).
  4. Be careful around fingers and edges of arms and legs where there are small curved areas. If you paint near these edges the Dust & Scratches will run over the edge and remove the curved areas all together, altering the look of elbows, fingers, shoulders, ankles and knees.
  5. Men can have beards and tend to have rougher looking skin than women. Be careful not to soften too much on a man’s skin. The same goes for grandparents.
  6. With babies and children, who have much smaller features, it is important to be aware of the shadow areas that you paint over. If you change the shape of their skin too much, it will no longer look like them. This is particularly important around the nose, eyes and mouth – their tiniest features.

Here is the before and after of the Dust & Scratches filter effect on the musician’s face:

portrait retouching techniques

Notice the softening of the skin and reduction of the shadows in the wrinkles, yet he still looks untouched with most of the original texture still visible.

Now that you have completed the most important task of this post processing technique, it is time to repeat the steps from the beginning. Start again by evaluating the image as a whole. Notice any other areas that need attention. Remember to duplicate the top layer once you have completed any step in the process. Allow yourself to duplicate your layers as many times as you want. It’s always a safe bet.

Next, eliminate. This is your chance to eliminate any larger parts of the image that take more time. Elements to consider removing are:

  • Some (not all) of the scratches across the trumpet.
  • His left-side jacket pocket.

After eliminating for the final time, move on to step three again. In this case, instead of using Dust & Scratches as your reduction tool, you can use other popular items in the toolbox. Tools to consider using are the Healing and Spot Brushes, Dodge and Burn, and Sharpen and Saturate/Desaturate.

photoshop brushes for portrait retouching

Eliminate then Reduce – Repeat.

First, don’t forget to duplicate your layer before starting this step! If you don’t duplicate, this step will not work.

To lighten the shadowed area of the musician’s right eye, the Dodge Tool used at 50% on shadows would look too overly processed. But by allowing it to be over done on this newly duplicated top layer, you can then reduce the opacity of the layer to bring back the layer underneath at 50% or more. Now the over processed shadows look naturally lighter than the original.

This technique is great for all the tools mentioned above. The Sharpen tool can be used on eyes and jewelry. The Healing and Spot tools can be used for under eyes, and shadows that need a bit more attention. Desaturate and Dodge tools can be combined to whiten teeth. Anytime you want to reduce using these tools, just remember to duplicate the layer; make your changes, then reduce the opacity of that newly affected layer until the effect looks natural.

At this point in the retouching process, you have walked through each step of the process twice. It is time evaluate your finished image. This is where all those duplicated layers comes in handy. Keeping the top most layer turned on and the bottom original layer on, turn off every layer in between. Then zoom-in to 100% (accurate view of pixels), and click on and off of your top layer to see all the changes you have made.

If necessary make any other slight adjustments, like cropping to the correct size, then save your image. It’s best to always save the Photoshop layered copy (save as a PSD file) as well as a flattened JPG file, in the quality size you want.

We all know photoshop is full of endless possibilities, and we all love to learn. If you have other techniques that are great for “refreshing” your portraits, please share.

As with all things in life, this process takes practice to perfect. With practice you will gain accuracy, efficiency and train your eyes to see your images (before and after post-processing) in a whole new light, giving you better control over the look and feel of your retouched portraits.

portrait retouching techniques

Remember, as you learn and grow as a photographer, the goal is to always create your best images in the camera, and not just assume that you can just fix it in post. Keep this in mind, and with every click of the shutter you will become a better photographer, and spend less time in front of the computer.

Of course, you will always edit and retouch your very best images. When you do sit down to do so, now you will have a whole new range of techniques you can apply.

The post 3 Steps to Photoshop Retouching for Natural Looking Portraits by Danielle Werner appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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The thing you need to do for getting good ideas which are actually possible, is to weigh the game in your favour.

You need to be selective in your project choices, research well, and demonstrate an intense curiosity when pitching your project idea.

The four steps in this article will help you:

  • Use your interests to research and learn about a subject.
  • Demonstrate your curiosity to those who hold the key. These are the gatekeepers.
  • Gain access.
  • Start a documentary photography project.

Peter David Grant dps submission 1 of 7
Primarily a street photographer, using this method I transitioned into documenting places hidden behind closed doors, as you can too.

Step #1. What are you interested in?

The first thing to ask yourself is, what are you actually interested in? Grab your pen and pad, write down “What Interests Me?”, then number lines, 1 to 20.

Without thinking too much, fill in all the way down to the bottom of the list. The goal here isn’t to think about where your interests might go, but rather to give you a reference from which to work.

Peter David Grant dps submission 2 of 7
Look back at your photographs and see what you like to capture. Lots of street photographs like these were coming about due to my interest in transport. I’ve now started projects about the local train station, and a local bus company.

Step #2. Whittle down your list

Now that you’ve got your list of 20 interests, the next thing you need to do is get rid of those which are not visual in nature, or are impractical. For example, you should cross off astronaut training from your list, or following your favourite sports star around the world, as they do their thing. It just isn’t realistic, at least not in the early days.

Your goal here is to have a list of potentially visually stimulating interests which are readily accessible (assuming you gain access) to go back to over many visits. A key part about documentary photography is understanding what is going on, and picking up on the subtleties of the situations. You need to be able to go back again and again, build rapport, and blend in – because it is at that point that you’ll start producing quality photographs.

With the list reduced to those that are practical, which also have a visual interest, you should select three that you believe will be most interesting to others. This is important for a couple of reasons:

  1. You’re starting to think about what your audience will be thinking. This will be useful when it comes to talking to the gatekeepers, to use as a reason why you should document the subject.
  2. You’re thinking about what the gatekeepers find interesting. You need to be able to demonstrate empathy with the people you contact.

Finally, of those three interests, which one do you feel you know the most about? This makes the next step easier.

Peter David Grant dps submission 3 of 7
Don’t forget to think laterally. While I’m as musical as a crumbling wall, being an engineer, I could appreciate the design and material aspects of violin making.

Step #3. Research your interest and finding out who to contact

Once you’ve chosen your interest, you should further your understanding. Get your notebook again, start researching and make notes. Some suggestions:

  • Google your interest, and read the top three or four links.
  • Read the related Wikipedia article, making sure you follow any links that stand out.
  • If you’re researching a company, devour their website. Click every single page. Read everything.
  • Search on Google News for your interest.

While reading, in addition to anything that grabs your interest, keep an eye out for:

  • A name for someone you might be able to contact.
  • Something time sensitive which is changing. Part of documentary photography is recording something for historic purposes.

All of this collected information will form ammunition for your first contact, showing your knowledge, interest, and understanding of the subject. Remember this should be interesting stuff to you. If it feels like a chore, you’ve probably chosen the wrong interest as a subject, or aren’t connected with it.

Peter David Grant dps submission 4 of 7
You should be deeply interested in the subject. I had no problem spending hours, upon hours, researching the local train station, because I wanted an all-access pass so badly.

Next, you should consider your close friends and family. Do any of them have links to your interests? Those who do, are they in a position to give you the access you’re after? If so, great! They’re going to be who you contact. If they’re not, you should still talk with them about your interests, and desires. They might be able to put you in contact with a connection.

After you’ve found the person you’re going to contact, you should look for their details. It might be as easy as looking at their contact page online, or through finding someone else’s email address at the company, working out their structure, and taking a punt.

For example, if you wanted to contact John Doe to ask about documenting Company XYZ, through some Googling, or looking at XYZ’s PR or HR page, you might find an email address like It wouldn’t be too difficult to imagine I’ve used this in the past to great success.

Peter David Grant dps submission 5 of 7
Guessing an email address allowed me to access the Oxford Train Station which I’m currently documenting as they redevelop.

In large organizations, you might find the assistant to the gatekeeper is the person you’re going to be contacting. LinkedIn is also a brilliant resource.

One final piece of research to do, is to look for example photographs you can show the person you’re making contact with. These can either be your own work, or the work of other photographers (be sure to credit them though). What you’re looking for is something that visually explains the kind of thing you’re seeking to achieve.

At this point, you should have a chunk of research about the organization, relevant news articles, an idea of who you’re going to contact, and some example photographs to show them.

Step #4. Making contact – demonstrating your interest and knowledge

It is now time for you to put it all together in an email. Your email should include:

  1. Why you’re emailing that particular person. This is about understanding why they are the gatekeeper to the project, showing that you care about the subject, and demonstrating your understanding.
  2. Show your curiosity and understanding of their role within the organization.
  3. Tell them what you want to do. Make your request clear and straightforward. Note: don’t ask for everything at once. If you think what you want to ask is too much, dial it down, and ask for something smaller. Once you’re in, and have gained their trust, they’ll open things up for you. As well as explaining what you want to do, you should also explain why you want to produce and show your audience the photographs at all. Mention the examples you’ve attached.
  4. Tell them what they can do with the photographs. Give them permission to use those that you’re going to take. It is the least you can do. Make suggestions where they can use them, for example in their monthly newsletter (if you can somehow find out what they call the newsletter, make sure to include that too) or on their social media.
  5. Tell them what you want to do. Explain your intentions for the photographs, e.g., are they for an exhibition (don’t worry if you’ve not arranged one, if the work is good that will sort itself out later), a book, or just your website. Be honest about your intentions.
  6. Understand the difficulties. This will impress them. You’re once again demonstrating your understanding of what they do. You’re effectively saying, “I know there are problems that me being there will bring, but I think they’re worth overcoming”. Bring it back to why you want to do the project in the first place, so that they can see the benefits, and why they outweigh the difficulties.
  7. Summarize all of the above and suggest what the next action step. You could say something like, “If this sounds interesting to you Mr. Doe, it would be great to discuss this further when it suits you sometime”.

Peter David Grant dps submission  6 of 7
Don’t be scared to chase emails either. If you don’t hear from them within the week, send a follow up email or phone call. Without it, I wouldn’t have shot at Oxford Violins.

In addition, you should make it clear that none of your ideas are set in stone, and that you’re open to their input (remember, it is highly likely that they are more knowledgeable than you are).

Finally get someone to check it. Before you do though, make sure you don’t prime them as to your intentions. You’re looking to find out if your request is obvious, clear, straightforward, that you’ve demonstrated your curiosity, and that there is a single next step that is easy to understand.

Now send it.

Step #5. What do you do next?

Once you’ve got your foot through the door, you need to show your face, be confident, demonstrate your knowledge, ask questions, and show your curiosity. Assuming that all goes well, the rest should pan out nicely. Start shooting, see how the project develops, and learn as you go.

This is where the joy starts. You’ve used your interest, and your camera, to get into somewhere that is fascinating to you. Enjoy yourself. Make friends, and click that shutter.

Peter David Grant dps submission  7 of 7
Before you know it, you’ll be behind the scenes in places you couldn’t have imagined yourself being.

Bio: Peter David Grant has produced an exclusive ebook of the emails he’s used to get access to many of his projects for dPS readers. He’s deconstructed them, explaining why each bit is in there, and provides templates for you to use. You can get it here.

The post 4 Steps to Help You Start a Documentary Photography Project by Peter David Grant appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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10 Tips for Photographing Dragonflies

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Dragonflies and damselflies are fascinating insects which can be particularly photogenic due to their bright colours and striking patterns. As with any type of wildlife, dragonflies can be challenging to photograph because they can scare easily and never seem to keep still. However, it may be easier than you think to get some great shots of these amazing insects. Here are 10 tips to get you started.


1. Choose the right equipment

As they are slightly larger than other insects, dragonflies can be photographed with anything from a point-and-shoot to a DSLR. The accompanying images have been taken with a DSLR. However, many of the principles remain the same whatever equipment you use.

A good zoom lens (100-400mm) can produce decent results, but a dedicated macro lens has the advantage of providing closer focus for high magnification. If you are using a zoom lens, fitting an extension tube to the lens will allow it to focus closer and should produce good results. This is a cheaper option than buying a dedicated macro lens. However, if you plan to photograph insects on a regular basis, a macro lens may be a worthwhile investment as you will be able to take frame-filling shots from a comfortable working distance so as not to scare away the dragonflies. The macro lens used to take the majority of the shots here was the Sigma 150mm f/2.8.

2. Find a good location

During the summer months, dragonflies can be seen anywhere there is water. Certain species may be found in your garden pond, while others could be found near rivers or streams. Damselflies, for instance, are often weaker fliers and tend to stay close to the water surface, whereas dragonflies can be seen flying further away from the water, sometimes perching at eye level.

Taking the time to research your native species of dragonfly, and their preferred habitats, before you go out will make you much more successful in photographing them. Be prepared to get a bit muddy as you may need to get low to the ground near the water’s edge. Wear appropriate clothing and respect the environment that you are working in.

3. Study their behaviour

Once you have spotted a dragonfly, take some time to watch its behaviour. You will quickly learn where it flies and where it likes to perch; some dragonflies prefer the ground, but others prefer to perch on grass or rocks.


Photographing dragonflies in flight can be pretty tricky. So, for starters, I would recommend trying to get some shots of dragonflies at rest. Rather than chasing a dragonfly around with your camera, I have found it better to watch out for a spot where they land, set up the camera nearby, and then wait. If you see a dragonfly perched on a stick approach slowly and carefully and avoid sudden movements. You should be able to get quite close. However, if the dragonfly does fly off, remain still and wait for a few minutes. It may well return to land on the same spot. Patience is key.

If you are lucky enough to find a dragonfly that is eating, you may be able to get closer as they seem to focus more on their meal rather than you.

Something that I have tried with some success is to take your own perch – a stick or reed – and place it near the water, close enough for you to take some shots should the dragonflies decide to land on it. Adding a couple of water drops could encourage them to land.

4. Get up early

Dragonflies are more active during the hottest part of the day as they require the heat from the sun to warm them enough to fly. If possible, I would recommend going out earlier in the morning, when it is slightly cooler and the sunlight is not as harsh as it would be around midday. You may not find as many dragonflies as you would later in the day, but those you do spot will likely stay still for longer, allowing you to get closer. You may even be lucky enough to get a shot of them covered in early morning dew, if you go out first thing.


5. Control the aperture for sharp images

Sharpness is vital in macro photography, and to ensure you get sharp images you will have to use the aperture to control the depth of field. You will need to have as much of the dragonfly in focus as possible and one way that you can maximize this is to photograph the dragonfly sideways on. Making sure that the camera’s sensor is parallel to the body of the dragonfly will enable you to use a wider aperture to blur out any distracting background while keeping the whole of the dragonfly in focus.

Getting such a clear, side-on shot of a dragonfly will not always be possible. In such instances, you can increase the depth of field by reducing the aperture. I have found it useful to start off with an aperture of f/5.6, then take a series of shots working down to around f/11 or smaller, changing the shutter speeds and ISO accordingly. However, always ensure that the eyes are in focus and as sharp as possible. Your images will be poorer without this.

6. Get the correct exposure

Getting the correct exposure can be tricky, particularly if you are shooting in bright sunlight. You will get softer, diffused light by shooting earlier in the day or in slightly cloudier conditions.

Even when perched, dragonflies can make a lot of fast movements such as flicking their wings or twitching their heads. Therefore, you will need to work with relatively fast shutter speeds. I would recommend shooting in bursts of three or four frames, as when you are reviewing your shots, you may find one is particularly sharper than the others. You could increase the ISO setting slightly to allow faster shutter speed and smaller apertures, but probably no more than 400 to maximize the quality of your images. A tripod may come in useful if you do have to use slightly slower shutter speeds, however the locations where dragonflies are found are not always too tripod-friendly. If you decide to shoot while hand-holding the camera, make sure you keep a steady hand, maintain a good footing, and ensure image stabilization is switched on (if available).

7. Switch off autofocus

You will often get sharper shots of dragonflies by switching off the autofocus and focusing manually.

One useful (and inexpensive) piece of kit when shooting down low to the ground, is a right angle viewfinder, which attaches to your camera and allows you to look down into the viewfinder rather than having to lie flat on the ground. You could also try using your camera’s live view and zoom in on the detail to make sure the focus is as accurate as possible.


8. Pay attention to the background

When lining up your shot, pay attention to the background. Ideally, an uncluttered background of a contrasting colour to the dragonfly will produce shots full of impact. However, some damselflies will land in vegetation closer to the water surface making a clean background almost impossible. Larger apertures will help blur out any distracting backgrounds; this works well if you can take them sideway-on, as previously mentioned. A wider aperture will also help to produce bokeh in the background (circles of light from out-of-focus highlights) depending on your personal tastes.

If possible, when selecting a spot to set up, try to place the subject as far away from any potentially distracting vegetation in the background. Moving a perch, or taking your own with you, may help with getting a cleaner background.

9. Think about composition

With such fascinating subjects, you have a range of options when thinking about composition. Try shooting the dragonfly from a range of angles (sometimes this helps to identify the species when you get home). It is not always necessary for the whole dragonfly to be included in the frame. If you can get close enough, you could attempt an extreme close-up on the eyes or part of the wing detail.

Alternatively, you could capture the dragonfly within its surrounding environment. For example, iridescent demoiselles can look great when perched low down on a riverbank. This works particularly well with slightly larger dragonflies, and as the insect does not have to dominate the image, a dedicated macro lens may not be required.


10. Try to capture some behaviour

Dragonflies look great at rest, but if you can, try to capture some of their behaviour for some unique shots. For example, damselflies mating can make shapes that look a bit like a heart (see above under #3), which can make for a pleasing image. Or, if you are up for a challenge, try to shoot a dragonfly in flight. For this, I would recommend using a telephoto lens of 300-400mm with an extension tube. Spend a few minutes watching how the dragonfly moves as they often follow the same path repeatedly. Once you have observed them flying, focus on a spot on their flight path and wait for the dragonfly to enter the frame. There is an element of luck with this type of shot. I have tried on many different occasions and sometimes the dragonfly will vary its flight patterns seemingly at random. Don’t give up though – patience is key with all wildlife photography and just enjoy the process of observing and photographing these amazing insects.


I’ve included several dragonfly shots taken in the UK. Please feel free to add your own as a comment below.

The post 10 Tips for Photographing Dragonflies by Richard Beech appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Photography is all about the light. As photographers, our aim is to capture and control the amount of light hitting the camera’s sensor to perfect a good photo.

When photographers talk about light, you will hear terms mentioned such as ambient, which is natural light. Note this type of light is always changing, it doesn’t remain constant. Split, Rembrandt, and Butterfly are some of the classic lighting patterns used for portraiture in a studio setup.


A LED torch with a paper snoot.

One of my favorite basic setups when I shoot outdoors is when the day is overcast (dull), which makes the light act like one big soft diffuser. The ambient light provides my main source of light (key light) and I use a white, silver, or gold reflector to act as fill.

This is in sharp contrast to shooting in a studio where artificial lights are used. The choice and range of lights will depend on whether you use flash or continuous lighting. The main advantage to this kind of setup is that you have complete control over the lighting, plus it doesn’t rain!

The best method I find in learning about lighting, be it natural or artificial, is to experiment. Recently, I was flipping through a camera magazine when this product caught my eye – The Ice Light 2 by Westcott. It stood out for two reasons: The concept and the price. I really liked the Stars Wars light-sabre appeal to it. It’s different, and has that wow factor, as does the price. It’s not cheap.

This is not a review of the Ice Light, but it did give me some inspiration for an idea. For less than $12.00 USD, I purchased this LED light which, surprisingly, has 140 lumen. I set myself a challenge to see how effective this light source could be when used for photography.


A small but powerful LED torch light.

How did I test it? I took some shots outdoors, as well as indoors, just to get some variety and scope to this project.

For my initial shots, it was 10:30 p.m. at night, not quite dark, but dusky. I went to a little park near where I live, placed the torch horizontal in the grass, and had the toy plastic Gorilla in a grassy verge, roughly a couple of feet away. I had the aperture at f/2.5, the ISO at 400, and the shutter speed at 1/50th.


A toy plastic gorilla in the grass.

Nearer home and again outside, I place this Lego figure on a garden wooden chair with slats. I had the torch underneath standing vertically. Just by moving my camera rather than the light, I was able to get a bit of flare that really added drama to the shot.


Cool Lego girl figure.


I placed the torch upright under a garden chair with slats.

Back indoors, I had my daughter hold the torch with paper wrapped around the end to form a snoot.


Using plain white printing paper wrapped around the torch to form a snoot.

I got her to move the torch around until I was happy with the light. I really liked the catchlights. The camera settings were: Aperture f/4.5, shutter speed 1/30th, ISO at 800, the focal length was 44mm.


Interesting catchlights from the torch with a white paper snoot.


The torch was placed in the centre of the book facing towards the camera.

I had the idea brewing for some time of trying to get that shot lit from the inside of a tent; the one that is ubiquitous in great landscape shots. I had a lot of fun doing this shoot, and would highly recommend you try to do the same! The plan was to have my daughter inside and get a nice silhouette of her against the wall of the tent. It didn’t go to plan, which was fortunate for me.

As a last resort, I got my plastic gorilla figurine and placed him inside the tent with the torch lying horizontal on the floor of the tent, only about 6 inches behind him. I was well chuffed (pleased) with the final result. It was even better than I had envisioned; especially as the gorilla is only 3.5 inches tall. I did have the camera on a tripod as it was dark. The settings were: ISO 800, aperture f/4, shutter speed 1/8th, and focal length was 40mm.


Fun with a toy gorilla inside a tent with a torch.


The gorilla is only 3 and half inches tall, small relative to the size of the tent.


To be honest, I wasn’t expecting this project to yield the results that it did. It has been the best $12.00USD that I’ve spent in a long time. It is now another must item to have in my camera bag.

What non-photography light sources have you used in your photography? Please share in the comments below.

The post How to Make Creative Images with a $12 LED Light by Sarah Hipwell appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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If you have ever wanted to explore off-camera flash but don’t know where to start, I have some good news. Many consumer-grade cameras such as the Canon Rebel series and the Nikon D3000 and D5000 models have a fantastic feature that might be just what you are looking for.

One challenge with off-camera flash is that you need a way to fire them at precisely the right moment. That usually means outfitting them with tiny little remote controls called triggers, that are tied into a transmitter unit affixed to the flash hot-shoe on your camera. When you want your off-camera flashes to activate, the transmitter sends a radio signal to them, and they go off at precisely the right time to give you the photo you want. Some triggers are inexpensive, while other, more customizable one,s will set you back hundreds of dollars. But, if you own one of the cheaper Canon or Nikon bodies, you already have a handy trigger built right in to your camera; the pop-up flash.


Your built-in flash can probably do a lot more than you might think.

Several manufacturers have this feature built-in to their cameras, but since Canon and Nikon are the most popular, those are what I’m going to focus on in this article. Both types of cameras require you to change a few menu settings that may seem a bit confusing at first, but get easier with practice.

Setup for Nikon cameras

On a Nikon camera the first thing you will need to do is set your internal flash to Commander mode. This means it will still fire a burst of light when you take a picture, as a way of communicating with your external flashes. You will see this when you take a picture, but don’t worry, this brief burst is not bright enough to have much of an impact on your photo. This quick flash instead serves as a signal to your external speedlights that they need to fire. To do this, press your camera’s Menu button, then choose Custom Setting Menu (Bracketing/Flash) and the “Flash control for built-in flash” option.


Select the “Flash control for built-in flash” option

The default value for the “Flash Control” option is “TTL,” which means that your built-in flash functions exactly how you normally expect, and has no control or interaction with any off-camera flashes. Change this value to “Commander mode” which will then allow you to use it to trigger external speedlights.


Next, select “Commander mode” – press the right button to get to the next menu below

The final menu looks a bit complicated, but you only need to change a few settings in order to get everything set up initially. Change the Built-in flash option to display two dashes (–) and leave the rest of the values as shown below; Group A TTL, Group B TTL, and Channel 1.


Change “Built-in flash” to “–” and you’re all set.

You can do more complicated operations involving multiple flashes or even groups of flashes, but for a basic off-camera trigger setup not much else is required.

Setup for Canon cameras

If you have a Canon camera, the process is similar but involves a few different menus. Go to your main camera settings menu and choose Flash Control. Then select Built-in flash settings and choose the EasyWireless option. Make sure your channel is set to 1, and you’re ready to go. If you have a higher-end camera like a 60D you won’t see EasyWireless, so leave Flash mode as E-TTL II and change Wireless function to an image of two flashes with a colon between them. As with the Nikon settings there are other options you can change to customize how your external flashes behave, but this is enough to just get you started.


On Canon cameras, start by choosing the Flash control menu.


Next choose Built-in flash func. setting


Set Flash mode to E-TTL II, and then set Wireless func. to the icons displayed above. Alternatively, you can select EasyWireless if that appears as an option.

Testing your setup

Now that your camera is set up, all you need to do is put your flash in Remote (Nikon) or Slave (Canon) mode and make sure there is an unobstructed line of sight between the receiver on the speedlight, and the flash on your camera. Some speedlights allow you to twist the base so it faces a different direction than the flash itself which is useful if you want to get a little more creative with your lighting angles.

Before you get too far into all this you should be aware of two caveats: Canon cameras can only control Canon flashes, and same with Nikon cameras and Nikon flashes. Also, most third-party flashes such as those made by companies like Yongnuo are not compatible with the on-camera remote trigger setup described here. To use those you will need to purchase a remote flash trigger, but since the flashes themselves are cheaper than their first-party counterparts you should have a bit of money leftover to buy a trigger setup.


Makesure your external flash is set to “Remote” (Nikon) or “Slave” (Canon). It should also be in the same Channel and Group as your camera, but if you have never changed these then the default values should work fine.

As you get more experience with off-camera lighting you might find yourself wanting to expand your horizons with diffusers, colored gels, additional flashes, and more. But if you just want to get some basic experience with this technique, learning to use your built-in flash as a remote trigger is a fantastic way to get started.

Have you tried using this method before? What has your experience been like, and what are some of your favorite off-camera flash tips? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

The post How to Trigger an Off-Camera Flash with the Pop-up Flash by Simon Ringsmuth appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Using a Curves Adjustment Layer with the Blend Mode set to Screen to correct exposure in Photoshop.

In general, where images are too dark, this is referred to as underexposed. Conversely, images that are too light are overexposed. Photos taken on sunny days are prone to being overexposed.


An animated gif to illustrate a correct exposure, an underexposed shot and an overexposed one.

In an ideal situation, the aim is to try and get the correct exposure in-camera. In doing so, less time will be spent in front of your computer post-processing.

In this article, I will describe how to easily correct photos that are underexposed (photos that are too dark) and overexposed (photos that too light) using Adjustment Layers and Blend Modes in Photoshop. I will then describe how the Dodge and Burn tools work to target specific areas to brighten or darken your image.

The following techniques are not new, but have been around for quite some time in Photoshop. The methods are still very effective, quick and easy to do.

  • Overexposed photos – Blend Mode: Screen with Curves Adjustment Layer.
  • Underexposed photos – Blend Mode: Multiply with Curves Adjustment layer.
  • Dodge & Burn tools – New Layer above the image filled with 50% gray – Blend Mode: Overlay/Softlight.

Read:  The First 3 Photoshop Blend Modes You Need to Understand

All of the images I used in this article are the jpegs straight out of the camera, completely unedited. I want to demonstrate how effective these techniques are when applied.

Correcting Overexposed Images


A typical washed-out look from an overexposed photo.

As you can see, from the first overexposed shot. The subject has that washed-out look. The subject is overexposed by a stop and a half. I applied a Curves Adjustment Layer and changed the Blend Mode to Multiply. Straight away, the contrast of the image has dramatically increased.


The result is quite dramatic when the Curves Adjustment Layer (with Multiply blend mode) has been applied, but there is a noticeable change in color shift.

The Multiply Blend Mode can cause a shift in color, but this is easily remedied. To adjust the color balance, go to the Properties panel (CS6) and choose the channel you want by clicking on the menu left of the Auto button. In this case, the color was too cool, so I adjusted the three channels (Red, Green and Blue) to get the result I wanted.


The color balance has now been modified by adjusting the red, green and blue channels in the the properties panel for the Curves layer.

In the image of the Rhino below, when I applied the adjustment layer and changed the Blend Mode to Multiply, the effect caused a color shift to green, and the intensity of the effect was too dramatic. I adjusted the color balance by choosing the green and red channels in the Properties panel. I then reduced the Opacity to 55% of the layer to further fine-tune the image.


Overexposed photo of a Rhino taken at Dublin Zoo.


A Curves Adjustment layer with the Blend Mode set to Multiply.


I reduced the Opacity of the Curves Adjustment Layer as the effect was too much. I then adjusted the color balance by tweaking the red, green and blue channels.

Correcting Underexposed Images

Underexposed shots are typical when working outdoors on sunny days. Usually, the background is properly exposed but your subject is silhouetted. Similarly, if the background is washed out but your mode/subject is exposed correctly.

For example, the photo of the flower was taken at the beach on a very sunny day. I focused and exposed for the flower, which meant the background was way too dark. I applied a Curves Adjustment Layer and changed the Blend Mode to Screen. The shadows became lighter, but I duplicated this layer again as I wanted more detail in the shadows. (In most cases, this effect of using the one Adjustment Layer is enough but if your photo is very washed out, or very dark, you may need to duplicate the Adjustment Layer and adjust the opacity accordingly.)


An underexposed flower in green foliage.

I reduced the opacity of both layers and added a mask to bring back the highlights on the flower’s petals. Similar to the Multiply Blend Mode, the Screen Mode can cause a shift in color. In this instance, the photo had too much green. Similar to the photo above, I was able to adjust the color balance in the Properties panel and chose the green channel to modify the color balance.


Two Curves Adjustment Layers were applied to this photo. I wanted to bring out more detail in the shadows.



By going into the different channels, it’s easier to target the specific colour that needs adjusting. In the image of the flower, I wanted to reduce the green colour. So by clicking on the top right point of the graph (output) and dragging it down. I then moved this Input slider to the right to bring in some magenta. As this an adjustment layer, you can play around with each of the colour channels and experiment using the input and Output sliders in an non-destructive way.


A more accurate way would be to plot different points on the grid to get that classic S shape, which is what the Curves Adjustment is know for.


Opacity was reduced on each of the two Curves Adjustmnet layers. The green channel was adjusted to modify the color balance.

The shot of the hippo below was taken at Dublin Zoo and the day was quite overcast. As before, I added a Curves Adjustment layer and changed the Blend Mode to Screen. I then adjusted the red, green and blue channels to correct the color balance. I reduced the opacity on the Adjustment Layer only slightly.


A underexposed shot of a hippopotamus taken at Dublin Zoo


A Curves Adjustment layer with the Blend Mode set to Screen.

The shot of the Hippo was taken at Dublin Zoo and the day was quite overcast. As before, I added a Curves Adjustment layer and changed the Blend Mode to Screen. I then adjusted the red, green and blue channels to correct the color balance. I reduced the opacity on the Adjustment Layer only slightly.


The Opacity was only slightly reduced for this image but the color balance again had to be adjusted in all the channels.

So by using an adjustment layer and changing the Blend Mode to Multiply or Screen, overexposed and underexposed shots can be easily fixed in a few steps. But what if specific areas of your image only need the exposure corrected?

Dodge and Burn

The Dodge tool lightens and the Burn tool darkens specific areas of your photo. This is why the Dodge and Burn tools are really useful if you don’t need to apply a global exposure correction.

I use these tools a lot in my workflow, it can create highlights in hair. When I shoot headshots, the eyes are important and the Dodge and Burn tools can also really enhance eyes and make them sparkle. Other forms or parts of the body can also be accentuated and given more depth by using these tools.

However, the Dodge and Burn tools, if used directly on a image, work in a destructive way. So to use these tools non-destructively, you will need to create a new blank layer above the image that you are working on, fill it with 50% gray and change the Blend Mode to Overlay or Softlight.


Where to locate the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop.

Before you begin, use a brush with the hardness set to soft (0-30). In the Tools Options Bar, make sure that you set the Range to Midtones, Exposure is set to low (8-10%) and that the Protect Tones is checked, as shown below.


Set the Range to Midtones. Keep Exposure at a low setting. Make sure the Protect Tones box has been checked.


In this photo of the dog, I want to create some highlights on the dog’s fur. Well, fur is like hair!


You can see the difference in what a little dodging can do in this image of the dog with the photo above.

If you feel that you have overdone either the Dodge or the Burn tool, just lower the opacity of the layer.


Lisa, before any Dodging or Burning has been applied to the image.


Just a little dodge and burn can make a difference to your photo.

Even subtle differences can enhance your images. In this image of Lisa, I applied some dodging to her eyes, I used the Burn tool to emphasize her lips. I then added a bit more dodging to the face and hair.

I hope you find these techniques useful? Maybe, you have some of your own? If so please share in the comments below.

The post 3 Useful Photoshop Techniques for Making Images Exposure Corrections by Sarah Hipwell appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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