Archive for August, 2015


How to Build Relationships in Photography

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What’s the most important thing to maintain in any business? Confidence, market knowledge, technology? Sure, keep any one of those at the top of your list. But there’s also something else. Perhaps the most sought after and powerful asset you can ever hope to have when it comes to making yourself successful is – strong relationships.

JD Hancock

By JD Hancock

That’s right, good relationships with those who you are seeking to do business with is the most most crucial aspect of any type of business venture. This is especially true when you become a photographer. No matter what kind: landscape, commercial, portrait, wedding, lunar, Martian. It is the cultivation of relationships with other people that will make or break you in this industry – and make no mistake, it is an industry.

Gentlemen and ladies, before we begin, take a moment to congratulate yourselves on an accomplishment that is at the very least extraordinary. We, as photographers, are the jockeys of an art that has been melded with a science. We possess the skill to take time, hold it in our sometimes shaky hands, and pass it on to our clients to be forever held. We don’t just capture light, or moments, or events – we capture memory. Memories, that without us there to tend, would surely shift out of sight, and out of mind.

Amanda Tipton

By amanda tipton

Now, back to what we’re here to discuss – why relationships are so important in photography. Thank goodness you’ve found this article on dPS if you don’t already know the answer to that question. The purpose of this writing is not to give you any ironclad formula of success. In fact, I feel I should remind you that you will most likely meet with more failure than success if you plan to become a photographer of any magnitude. It is our failures that teach us, that enable us to move forward, not our successes. So, if you’ve got the guts, keep reading.

We are nothing on our own. True, I often make photographs that I never show (or intend) to show to anyone other than myself. I keep some places where I go to photograph secret, and return to them sometimes even without a camera. This is all well and good. Honestly, I usually advise such exercises because they often spark more creative thinking down the road. In this case, what I mean is that we cannot realistically be successful as photographers without the support of other people.

Portrait photographers need subjects to sit. Wedding photographers need brides and grooms to direct their cameras. Epic landscapes pass from dawn to dusk in extraordinary light without a camera to capture them and put them on walls. What I’m saying here is that we cannot reach our own potential, both artistically and commercially, without some type of audience.

Thomas Hawk

By Thomas Hawk

How do you get that audience? Well, that’s the difficult part of the photographic equation. The answer, fortunately, is fairly simple. Here are four steps to ensure you are doing your best to cultivate and maintain the relationships that will help you build and grow a career as a photographer.

STEP ONE: Be nice

When dealing with the public, and make no mistake, you WILL inherently have to deal the public, be sure to ALWAYS be polite. Even in the face of the most insulting and anger conjuring client – you must always be polite. Smile, be firm, and always remain true to yourself and your personal policies, but always be polite. This is where most new (and even experienced) photographers run into trouble. Overt politeness can go a long way in maintaining and building relationships with those who are willing to exchange money for your services. Learn to accept that you will have conflict, and that not everyone will like or appreciate your work. When you come to the realization that you don’t need to meet hostility with more hostility, you will be able to remain much calmer and relaxed. Remember, you are better at everything when you are relaxed and focused.

Roberlan Borges

By Roberlan Borges

STEP TWO: Be humble

Just as you will certainly run into those people who test your patience and civility, you will also encounter those who think you hung the moon. The bride who just can’t stop complimenting your work, or the Facebook friend that likes and comments on every single image you post. This is an unexpected accompaniment of being a well-liked photo maker. Train yourself to take a compliment with grace. Say thank you and don’t play out the situation more than it needs to be played. The key here is to stay humble. Of course, in the back of your mind you know when you make an exceptional image, or pull off a one in a million shot. That doesn’t mean that you have to be boastful or even worse, brag about your prowess. Take it from me, no client wants to deal with a photographer who is pompous or inflexible – well, most clients.


By tanakawho

STEP THREE: Be honest

Hopefully, we all follow some ethical subscription be it in life or in our careers. As photographers, we must know what we can and cannot do, and in turn be honest about those facts. If your client requests you to cover a wedding and you don’t physically have the speedlights or lens to cover it, be honest. Never promise what you you can’t deliver, and most definitely don’t accept compensation for a job you’re not qualified to perform. Granted, the only way to learn is by doing. By all means, stretch your photographic legs and push the boundaries of your skills. However, always be mindful of your weaknesses, and when it comes down to it, you’ll know your limitations. Always be sure to let your employer be aware of what you can do. It will go a long way in building a lasting business relationship. That leads us to step four.


By thinkpublic

STEP FOUR: Be willing to step outside your comfort zone

This is perhaps the most difficult part to decipher as a fresh new photographer. When do you draw the line between expanding your skill and having no idea about what you’re doing? This can be troubling, yes. It can also be absolutely exciting. The bottom line, be willing to step outside of your comfort zone for your client. If it’s something you simply cannot do (and you will know), refer to the honesty principle above. That being said, most likely you are your own worst critic, and you can do more than you ever dreamed. So don’t be afraid to try something new. Your client will remember you as the photographer who was honest with them about your abilities, and communicated your willingness to try something unique.

The Shopping Sherpa

By The Shopping Sherpa

It’s tough to start out in a new field. It’s extremely tough to be a new photo maker in a market saturated with photographers. Get the best gear you can afford. Learn as much as you can. Do as much as you can. At the same time, don’t forget that you are a provider in an industry that caters to the wants of others. As such, your success is dependant on the good graces of those with whom you do business. Be honest, humble, and competent. Be bold, but never be reckless. Build relationships with your clients based on mutual understanding, and I guarantee you be a more satisfied, and dare I say a more successful photographer.

The post How to Build Relationships in Photography by Adam Welch appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Depth of field is the amount of distance between the nearest and farthest objects that appear in acceptably sharp focus in a photograph, it varies depending on camera type, aperture and focusing distance. If you are into photography you probably already know this and how critical it is when you photograph in macro distances.


This image was done with a 100mm macro lens with a life-size converter attached, at a distance of 4 inches to the object to achieve this type of magnification. The Depth of Field you see here is impossible to achieve, as there is no way to have the whole ring in focus with this focal length and this distance to the object.

Here are a couple of test shots to show a comparison between an f/8 and an f/32 exposure of this image:


In this particular image f/8 would give you a very shallow Depth of Field, so if you would like to have more then f/32 would seem to be a better choice, right? But if you take a closer look, you will realize it is just not that easy.


The magnified image shows you that f/8 has shallow Depth of Field but, because it represents the sweet spot of this lens, it gives you great detail in the focused areas. On the other hand f/32 gives you more Depth of Field, but it lacks detail overall.

This lack of detail is due to diffraction, that is the slight bending of light as it passes around the edge of an object giving the photographed image a soft focus effect. So, sharp focus and deep Depth of Field are impossible to achieve in this image due to optical limitations.

A great work-around for these limitations is Focus Stacking (also known as Focal Plane Merging, Z-Stacking or Focus Blending), which combines images photographed with different focus distances into one final image with a greater Depth of Field.

This technique is only possible if the camera, and all the elements on the image are perfectly still, so the use of a steady tripod is really important.

Another important factor is to shoot, and focus without touching the camera. In this particular image the camera was tethered with a computer and a remote shooting app was used to focus the image.


The best way to capture these images is to start by focusing on the closest area first, then keep shooting, making sure you cover all the focusing length (move focus farther away from the camera with each successive shot). Just use the controls of your remote trigger and app to fine-tune the focus for each shot.

The final number of shots depends on how detailed you want your image to be, but keep in mind that the more images you have, the harder it will be to process later on. This particular image was made with a merge of 21 images.


After the images are captured it’s time to process them. There are a lot of software options on the market for focus stacking; this image was edited with Adobe Photoshop CC. Here are the steps:

  1. Open Photoshop, go on File > Scripts > Load files into a stack
  2. Select all the pictures and turn on “attempt to automatically align layers”
  3. Select all your files in the layer panel on the right side
  4. Go to edit > Auto-Blend Layers and select “stack Images”

You will end up with a stack of layers with associated masks that look something like this:


Each layer mask reveals the best of each focused part of the image, and they can also be manually adjusted for more controlled results. The final images are usually very impressive and allow you to achieve effects that would be impossible to reach any other way.

The post Tips for Depth of Field Control in Macro Photography by Ivo Guimaraes appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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You recently received an inquiry from someone who really likes your work, is interested in hiring you for a shoot, and wants to meet in person (or on the phone) to discuss more details. Naturally, you’re pretty excited. The thought of booking an event is something that thrills all of us. Then, as soon as the meeting starts, the two cardinal sins of salesmanship rear their ugly heads. What are they?

Talking too much and not listening enough.

Two Clumsy Mistakes Banner

Sure enough, once the prospect asks you a question, it’s as if you’ve suddenly been put in front of a classroom with the responsibility to lecture on photography for the next 25 minutes, flood gates thrown open. And because you want so badly to make the sale, you don’t leave anything out – linking your statements from one benefit to the next, emphasizing personal strengths, advantages, until you’ve suddenly dominated the conversation with what YOU wanted to say and talk about, not what THEY needed to hear.

This is the first massive mistake, and is actually the primary cause for the second mistake. Whether you are just starting to charge for your photography services, or wanting to increase and grow your existing photography business, you cannot allow yourself to command the conversation. When you do this, you miss uncovering the real concerns of the client, what they really want in the end, and ultimately it makes them feel as though they weren’t really heard. Remember, it’s not about YOU – it’s about THEM.

One way to turn this scenario around is to start asking them questions, turn the table. Get them talking about what their vision for the shoot is, what concerns they may have, how they view the end result. A great trick to get them to start talking is to say something like this, “____ (name), I’m fully prepared to discuss the event/project in detail with you, but first I want to get your perspective on it so that we can focus our time together on the things that interest you most.”

Meeting Cafe

By announcing that you’re prepared, you demonstrate your competence and responsibility – and by demonstrating your preparation, you build immediate credibility. Furthermore, by inviting your customer to articulate what’s most important to them, you recognize and validate their importance. In other words, it shows that you care about their thoughts and concerns, and that you want to work together to provide a solution that works for both of you.

The next step is to keep them talking. Again, this is all about them, not you. An easy way to do this is to keep asking questions that are easy to answer such as:

  • Tell me more about
  • What else should I know about?
  • Could you please expand on..?

It’s imperative that you uncover as many of their fears, concerns, wants, desires as you can. Consider asking questions like:

  • What worries you most about this?
  • I can tell that you are frustrated about that – how come?
  • You mentioned that you tried that in the past. Why didn’t it work so well that time? What could have been done differently?

Meeting Consult

The primary benefit of asking all these questions is to uncover what’s really important to them. This is the treasure chest, what they are really after. Once you know what’s most important to them, you can then frame your offer according to the specific desires of that client, which will skyrocket your chance of booking the shoot.

But all of these questions are worth nothing – if you don’t listen to what they’re saying. There are four primary elements to Active Listening:

  1. Attentive body language (nod, make eye contact, smile, etc.)
  2. Verbal attends (uh-huh, okay, sure)
  3. Ask leading questions (open-ended questions that encourage them to talk more)
  4. Restating back to the person what they just said


Active Listening is not simply waiting for your turn to talk, and it’s certainly not interrupting them to demonstrate that you already know what they’re talking about. Active Listening is nothing more than allowing the customer to completely share their story with you, then playing back that story to them asking for confirmation and clarification. “Is that right? Did I miss anything?”

With any new skill, it takes time to get down pat. But this is something that will have an immediate effect on your ability to book more events because you are validating the concerns of your potential clients, and linking your services to their exact wants and goals.

The post 2 Clumsy Mistakes To Avoid When Meeting With Potential Customers by Mark Thackeray appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Composition in black and white photography

Brilliant black and white photos are created in two steps. The second of these is post-processing, and is very important. But before you get to that stage, you have to learn how to see and compose photos in black and white. This is just as important as processing – it doesn’t matter how creative or clever you are in Lightroom or Photoshop, if the image is badly composed, or the subject just isn’t suitable for black and white, then you are going to struggle to make a half-way decent monochrome conversion, let alone a great one.

I thought it would be interesting for you to look at some of my favourite black and white photos and learn why they work in terms of composition.

Wooden boats – Puerto Aysen, Chile

Composition in black and white photography

Puerto Aysen is a small port town in south-west Chile. The weather is often cold and miserable, even in summer. It rains a lot. I was wandering around the outskirts of the town when I came across these old wooden boats. Initially I was attracted to the atmosphere of the scene – there was a soft rain, and in the original uncropped photo you can see the hills on the horizon fading through the drizzle. The scene worked in colour (see below), but in the post-processing stage I also realized that it would come out beautifully in monochrome.

Composition in black and white photography

The reasons the image works well in black and white are:

  • Tonal contrast: The boats are painted light tones and the background is mainly comprised of dark tones. The eye is naturally pulled to the largest boat in the scene which becomes the focal point of the photo.
  • Texture: The weathered surfaces of the boats and the grass are beautiful textures which tend to be more effective in black and white than colour. This image wouldn’t have worked nearly as well if the boats were brand new.
  • Lines: The position of the boats in the scene creates two diagonal lines. The first moves from the bottom left through to the top right, and the second line, formed by the rowboat, creates a second diagonal line that meets the first. Diagonal lines pull the viewer’s eye through the photo and help add a sense of movement to the composition.
  • Panoramic crop: I decided the hills in the distance were a distraction and cropped the photo to concentrate attention on the boats. This took place in post-processing and strengthened the composition by focusing attention on the boats.

Chairman Mao watch – Shanghai, China

Composition in black and white photography

I went to Dongtai Road antiques market in Shanghai, an open-air street market comprised of stalls and shops where you can buy a variety of genuine and fake antiques, plus kitsch ornaments and souvenirs. I found the watch that this vendor was offering quite amusing. I didn’t want to buy the watch, but I asked if I could take a photo. The answer was yes.

Why the image works in black and white:

  • Strong use of shape: The watch face is a circle. It is placed in the centre of the composition and dominates it.
  • Lots of texture. The textures of the watch and the vendor’s hand are very strong.
  • Strong diagonal lines. The vendor’s fingers create lines that pull the viewer’s eye up from the bottom of the frame. I deliberately framed the photo so the fingers ran at an angle across the frame rather than parallel with the edges. This creates a more dynamic composition.
  • Simple composition. I moved in close to create a simple composition that emphasized shape, line and texture, the dominant elements of the photo. Another benefit of moving in close and using a wide aperture was that the background went out of focus, eliminating potential distractions.

John – Wellington, New Zealand

Composition in black and white photography

I got in contact with John via Model Mayhem and we arranged a portrait shoot. The setup was simple – I used an 85mm lens (with a full-frame camera) and a wide aperture of f/2.8 to blur the background. The portrait is lit by natural light – John stood underneath an archway so the light fell from his left (camera right).

Men can be great subjects for black and white portraits because there is no pressure to retouch skin. Black and white emphasizes texture – the texture of skin can be a beautiful thing that doesn’t (or perhaps shouldn’t) need retouching as often as some people think it does.

Why this photo works in black and white:

  • Strong eye contact. The strength of this portrait is in the eye contact. John is gazing directly at the camera which creates a powerful connection with the viewer. His face is level with the camera so I could use a wide aperture to defocus the background, while keeping both eyes in sharp focus.
  • Texture. The texture of John’s skin, especially in the sharpest areas around his eyes, renders beautifully in black and white. The background is out of focus and lacks texture, and this sets up a contrast between the sharp areas of the model’s face and the heavily blurred background.
  • Tonal contrast. The model’s face is a lighter tone than the background. Light tones pull the eye, and the tonal contrast here (combined with the strong eye contact) establishes the model’s face as the focal point of the composition. The side lighting effect, created by asking the model to stand in an archway, means that one side of his face is lighter than the other. This creates depth, by revealing the shape of this face.

Common themes

Analyzing these photos is a simple exercise but it brings up several elements that work well in most black and white photos – texture, line, shape, tonal contrast, and simple composition. When you find a subject where these elements come together, you know you have the potential for a great black and white photo.

What do you think is important for a brilliant black and white photo? Please let us know in the comments. I’m looking forward to hearing what you think.

Editor’s Note: We recently ran a series of articles this week featuring black and white photography tips. Look for more on this topic below.

Mastering Composition ebookMastering Composition

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

The post How to Compose Brilliant Black and White Photos by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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This video tip is courtesy of Anthony Morganti and shows us what you can do using the Graduated Filter tool in Lightroom. What if you’ve maxed out your basic adjustments and want to go farther? This little tip might do the trick for you, check it out:

Learn more about using the Graduated Filter in LR here.

A very cool tip, had you thought of that or done this before? Do you have any other Lightroom tips and tricks? Please share in the comments below.

The post Quick Lightroom Tip Using the Graduated Filter by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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If there is one thing in photography that every photographer can work on, it’s composition. Like many of the other techniques in photography, your composition will improve the more you practice. Very often, photographers seem to go to their comfort zone of the rule of thirds. I personally like the rule of thirds as a starting point, not every photograph however, needs to be composed on the rule of thirds. In fact, it is a good idea to shoot the same scene in a few different compositions, even depth of field can be used as a compositional tool.

A good way to work on your composition is to start with the rule of thirds, then change it up, try a few different compositions and see how that works. The challenge is this, what other compositions can you use? Let’s take a look at some advanced compositional techniques that you can try out on your next shoot.

1. Left to right

The smooth curving water leads our eye to the rock on the right of the image

The smooth curving water leads your eye to the rock on the right of the image

In the western world, we read the words on a page from left to right. It is logical to think that when someone views your image, they will generally begin on the left side of the image, and move to the right. You can use this technique in a few ways.

Firstly, you could place your subject on the right hand side of the frame with a leading line drawing the eye to your subject. The leading line could be a river, a road, or a railway track – it doesn’t really matter, all that it needs to do is allow the eye of the viewer a natural entry point, then lead them to the subject.

Secondly, if you were shooting street photography, you might have a person in the frame on the left hand side, looking toward your subject on the right. You might even have a vehicle such as a car or a motorcycle, moving from left to right. These techniques will immediately draw the eye to the right side of your image.

2. Use shapes – both seen and unseen

In many images, there are hidden and visible shapes. Window frames are square or rectangular, doors are rectangles, and so on. Look for shapes in your images, look beyond what the actual object is and see its shape. You can also compose the scene to create a shape. Sand dunes can become triangular shapes, open fields can be green rectangles, so look for shapes in your scene and compose your image to include them.

There are many shapes in each scene, use them to enhance your composition

There are many shapes in each scene, use them to enhance your composition

3. Use numbers – not literally!

If you are shooting a scene with trees or leaves, or even a river with some exposed rocks, try and use odd numbers of things. Odd numbers tend to create a dynamic feel in your scene – three trees or rocks will feel more dynamic than two trees or four rocks. This also works well for groups of people. If you have a large group of say 12 people, try not to make three rows of four people, maybe have them pose in two rows, one with seven people and one with five. For people photography, you can also try and create a triangle shape with your subjects. Three people naturally creates a triangle, give it a try!

Odd numbers work well in most images

Odd numbers work well in most images

4. Use negative space

Negative space can really make an image interesting. Negative space is essentially blank space, but really, it helps to anchor your image. It provides really important information about the image. A blue sky can be used to create negative space. The blueness of the sky tells the viewer that it was a sunny day. Your blue sky may have one small cloud in it and that can make the negative space seem interesting.

The blue sky and the hint of a cloud makes this negative space interesting

The blue sky and the hint of a cloud makes this negative space interesting

5. Framing

Framing can be used very effectively to showcase your subject. You can use a window, a door, or even trees to frame a subject. The idea is to create a frame around the subject that does not distract from the subject, but causes the viewer to know immediately where to look.

A tree, framed by an old wooden door.

A tree, framed by an old wooden door.

When you are looking at a scene for the first time, try some of these techniques, or try a combination of them. Shoot from different angles and move around your subject before settling on a composition. You will find that by looking at the scene in many different ways, you will unlock more creativity. Your best shot, may not be your first compositional choice. Composition is one of the more flexible tools in your creative toolbox. You don’t need any particular piece of equipment to change it, you simply need to move your camera around. Give it a try, load your results up in the comments!

The post 5 Ways to Change Your Composition For Better Photos by Barry J Brady appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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On all the 2015 Workshop I held here in Italy, I introduced a little game, where at the end of the workshop the attendees had to write down on a paper three mistakes that they used to make before taking the workshop. So I decided to collect all these lessons learned papers and make a list of the 10 most common errors in long exposure photography so you can learn from this also:

FG 1

Mistake #1 – Vibration reduction system is set to ON

There are some lovely technologies that can help get much sharper images minimizing the blur caused by camera shake, which are extremely useful in low-light conditions where slow shutter speeds are required. Every brand calls this technology something different, but the aim is the same. They can be lens-based (like for Nikon and Canon cameras) or camera-based (like for Sony, Olympus and Pentax cameras), but at the end the result is that this vibration reduction can give you the same image quality up to four shutter speed stops slower than usual.

They use some movement sensors to detect motion and try to compensate for it by moving an element group in the lens, or on the sensor itself.

The point is that if the camera is on a sturdy tripod (and if you are shooting a long exposure, your camera is definitely on a tripod!), you shouldn’t expect any vibration. You may know this, but your camera doesn’t, so even if there is no movement, it can happen that this anti-vibration system tries to compensate anyway moving a lens group (or the sensor), and this will actually result in an introduction of a vibration (and blur) instead of a removal.

So, if your camera is on a sturdy tripod, turn the anti vibration system to OFF!

FG 2

Mistake #2 – Forgetting to use Mirror Lock-up

In a DSRL camera, light travels through the lens and is sent to the viewfinder by a mirror. When you press the shutter button, the mirror flips up so that the light goes directly onto the image sensor. This movement introduces a small vibration that will cause slight blurring in the photo.

To avoid this vibration, you can activate the Mirror Lock-up function in your camera. After its activation, the first time you press the shutter button, your camera will lift the mirror; the second time it will open the shutter. If you wait a couple of seconds between the first and the second press, you will avoid the vibration!

Yes, if you have a mirrorless camera, you can skip this advice!

Mistake #3 – Not using a GND filter because they are expensive

In some situation (in places where there is not a big difference in the exposure between different areas of the scene), just a Neutral Density filter can allow you to get the desired result. However, in many situation the light condition require the use of a Graduated Neutral Density filter to balance the exposure.

If you are using a screw-on ND filter, you may believe that the only chance you have is to try to apply a GND filter in post-production – but you’d be wrong!

FG 3

You can just hold the filter with your hand in front of the lens. For a shot with a shutter speed up to few seconds, your only problem will be the correct alignment of the filter. For shots which are minutes long, even if your hand is not perfectly still, the final result will be more than great – try it if you don’t believe me. The holder is required if you want to use multiple filters together (or when you start having cramps in your hand).

Mistake #4 – Setting the aperture to f/22 to increase the exposure time

The rule was simple: if you decrease the aperture, you increase the exposure time.

With this rule in mind, you may think that you can transform your 30 second exposure to a two minute exposure just moving from f/11 to f/22. Theoretically, you’re right. Unfortunately there is a physical phenomenon called optical diffraction that above f/16 is enough intense to ruin the sharpness of your image.

If you are already at f/11 and you need a slower shutter speed, decrease ISO if possible or use a stronger filter.

FG 4

Mistake #5 – Forgetting to adjust the ISO

ISO can be a powerful ally in a long exposure. Sometimes you forget the possibility of changing the ISO setting, and you only play with filters and aperture. Remember that every camera has a range of ISO where the output quality is almost the same. In high-end cameras this range is usually between ISO 50 and 200.

This means that you have two stops to play with, and in a long exposure shoot, two stops mean minutes of exposure.

Mistake #6 – Shooting like you’re in a studio

FG 5

When you shoot pictures at home or comfortably seated in a studio, no external agent can affect the quality of your image. But if you are perched on a rock in front of the sea, on a beautiful stormy day, quite soon your filters will be completely wet.

Remember to fill your bag with cleaning cloths. A a thin layer of water on your outer filter will result in a high diffraction, and this will irremediably ruin your image. Never underestimate nature, even on a sunny day, the weather conditions can change very quickly.

Mistake #7 – Choosing a low quality filter

Every time you add a filter in front of your lens, you inevitably decrease the overall quality of the optical system. Yes, some well-known filter brands are quite expensive, but do you believe it is worth puttting a 5$ filter in front of a camera of thousand dollars? No, it isn’t – so focus on quality: fewer filters but better! You don’t need the whole set of density ranges for ND and GND filters. Try to understand which filters you will probably use more often, then remember that you have ISO and Aperture to play with to cover the gap between. Finally, remember that a lot of good quality filters are available at incredibly affordable prices. Check in advance for filter reviews on internet.

FG 7

Mistake #8 – Underestimating the wind

When you take a long exposure shoot, you camera is exposed to possible external vibration agents for minutes. Even a wind gust of a few seconds can ruin your image. Invest on a sturdy tripod, and then set it firmly on the ground. If needed, hook an additional weight to the tripod to make it even sturdier and solid.

Avoid using the tripod’s central column too – if you raise it up, you raise the center of gravity of the system and it will be less stable.

Mistake #9 – Not covering the viewfinder

You took a three minute exposure, and the preview is full of strange purple lines and halos. Why?

It is because light, like water, loves to find a way – always.

FG 9

Your camera is intended to allow light through only from the hole in your lens, but unfortunately there are some other accesses that can potentially harm your images.

The most common of them is the viewfinder. To avoid infiltration of light from it, cover it after composing the image. If your camera is not provided with a cap, you can even use some black tape. If you forgot the black tape, use a chewing gum. The typical result of viewfinder infiltration is a strange purple halo. Yes, if you have a mirrorless camera, you are also free of this issue!

If you use slot-it filter system, another possible source is the gap between one filter to another (this is one of the reason why many photographers love screw-on filters). In this case, the best solution is to cover that gap with black tape. The typical result of filter infiltration is a vertical purple line on the opposite side of the sun.

Finally, if you use a tilt-shift lens, or a lens adaptor, you may have an infiltration from the lens body. The best way to avoid this is to cover the lens with a black neck warmer.

Mistake #10 – Believing the filter vendor

FG 8

When you buy a six stop ND filter, you expect that it has exactly the optical density to get a six stop reduction. Unfortunately, you are wrong. In my life I never found a filter with the exact intensity stated by the manufacturer. Of course, the difference usually is minimal, but remember that even ½ stop of difference, in a long exposure means minutes of error.

To avoid errors when you are on field, test it in advance by following these steps:

  • Choose a room in your home, turn on the lights and close the windows (you need a place where the lighting is perfectly constant).
  • Mount your camera on a tripod and take a photo of the room until you get a shot with a good histogram. Note down all the parameters (ISO/Aperture/Shutter speed) of the shot.
  • Mount the ND filter and compensate the shutter speed obtained before, according to the f-stop reduction introduced by the filter.
  • Take a picture with the ND filter.
  • Look at the histogram of the photo taken with the filter, and compare it to one taken without. If they are approximately superimposable (exactly the same), the filter intensity stated by the manufacturer is accurate. If the new histogram has shifted to the left, your filter has an intensity greater than that the one declared; if it is moved to the right, it has a lower intensity.
  • If the two histograms are not superimposable, take another shoot changing the shutter speed to obtain a histogram approximately similar to the one of the picture without the filter.

FG 6When you have found the exact optical density, build your own shutter speed conversion table. Another possibility is the PhotoPills app for your iPhone, the only one that allows you to convert the shutter speed for non-standard f-stop reductions.

That’s the ten mistakes to avoid when doing long exposure photography. Have you got any others you’ve made and learned along the way you’d like to share? Please do so in the comments below.

The post 10 Common Mistakes in Long Exposure photography by Francesco Gola appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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1 Light figure on a dark ground

Light figure on a dark ground, Florence, Italy © Adam Marelli

What is figure to ground?

Why can you recognize an amazing photograph but struggle to produce one? Sure there are better cameras, advanced lighting techniques, and endless theories on composition, but very often the root of the problem lies in a simple concept that is often missed. In three words, we can sum up almost every cover of Vogue, National Geographic, and the New York Times – Figure to ground.

What is this term, what does it mean, and where does it come from? Figure to ground is one of the most important, and easily overlooked concepts, in photography. It’s not a rule, it’s not a law – it is a tool, and a very powerful tool at that. Once you learn it, it will become a part of every picture you take, no matter what type of camera you use.

If you were ever curious to see masterful use of figure to ground, try revisiting the photographers you already love like Steve McCurry, Richard Avedon, or Henri Cartier-Bresson. They all use it, some more elegantly than others. Figure to ground acts like an anchor in a photograph, holding the viewer’s eye inside the frame.

2 Dark figure on a light ground

Dark figure on a light ground, Florence, Italy © Adam Marelli

It goes by many names

Figure to ground has a multitude of names; subject to background, figure separation, foreground to background, and the list goes on. To simplify, figure to ground is the most descriptive and easiest to say, which is why artists have favored it for centuries.

3 Light figure on dark ground

Light figure on dark ground, Berlin, Germany © Adam Marelli

A starting point

When it comes to describing visual tools in the written language, firm definitions are always a problem. Consider the following definition a starting point, not an immovable scientific definition.

Figure to ground is the visual relationship between objects and the space they occupy. We live in a 3D world, but your photographs are a 2D translation. When the third dimension of depth disappears, you end up with a problem that has plagued artists since they started scrawling on cave walls, how do you create a picture of the 3D world with only two dimensions?

Figure to ground allows your brain to determine shapes, sizes, distance and other optical illusions that exist in photography (it also applies to drawing, painting, and other 2D arts, but for this article the focus is on photography and how you can use it successfully).

4 Dark figure on a light ground

Dark figure on a light ground. Berlin, Germany © Adam Marelli

Where did it come from?

The idea of figure to ground comes from drawing and painting. It forms the basic grammar of the visual language. Think about it, how can you see a shape on a piece of paper? It is visible because it is a black line on a white page. Seems obvious right, but what is that phenomenon called? It is called figure to ground. Imagine if we wrote in white ink on white paper – everything would be invisible.

The same thing applies to photographs. In order for your photograph to be legible, we must be able to see the object against the background. Artists have worked with this concept for centuries and developed elegant solutions to figure to ground as a deliberate, but subtle, technique for making pictures.

5 Light figure on a dark ground

Light figure on a dark ground, Matera, Italy © Adam Marelli

How to practice it

The first step in practicing figure to ground is to condition your eye by looking at good examples. If you want to be a great photographer, study master painters and how they use figure to ground. You can do this on the internet, in a book, or at a museum. Pick the one that is easiest for you.


Pick up a book on a famous Renaissance artist, like DaVinci, Raphael, or Michelangelo. Setting aside whether you like their work or not, the way to use art to your advantage is to master the tools of successful artists, and apply them with your own unique touch. Lay a piece of tracing paper over the page and be sure to cover the whole picture. Can you still see the subject? If yes, there is good figure to ground. If the subject seems to disappear into the background then no, the figure to ground is weak.

TECHNIQUE 2: The Museum

If you wear glasses, this will be even easier. Go to a museum and find a painting. Following DaVinci’s advice on viewing distance, stand three times the height of the painting away from it (example: if the painting is five feet tall, stand 15 feet away). Now squint at the painting until it is all blurry, or simply remove your glasses. Can you still make out the major shapes in the painting. If yes, there is good figure to ground. If the subject seems to disappear into the background then no, the figure to ground is weak.

6 Light figure on a dark ground

Light figure on a dark ground. Kyoto, Japan © Adam Marelli-8

TECHNIQUE 3: The Computer

If you prefer to use technology, here is a technique you can do in Shotoshop. Pull a picture into Photoshop. Select Filter > Box Blur > set the pixels at 15 pts. You will end up with a blurry version of the picture. Can you still make out the major shapes in the painting? If yes, there is good figure to ground. If the subject seems to disappear into the background then no, the figure to ground is weak.

TECHNIQUE 4: Your Photography

Try any of the techniques above with your own photographs. If there is not strong figure to ground in your picture, play closer attention to the backgrounds when you shoot.


What if you never learn figure to ground, what will happen? Will it be impossible for you to ever make a good picture? No, of course not. But when you understand why some pictures work better than others, and what tools to use at the right time, you will enjoy photography much more. It relieves the anxiety of, “Will I get the shot?”. When you have a toolbox full of resources, it becomes easier to create consistently powerful pictures.

If you would like to know what the opposite of figure to ground is, look no further than camouflage. Camouflage is designed to obscure objects in space. It is the direct opposite of figure to ground. If the goal is to blend in, then use camouflage – if the goal is to pop out, use figure to ground. It is your choice.

7 Dark figure on a light ground

Dark figure on a light ground. Matera, Italy © Adam Marelli

Tools are not rules

Photography is an artistic expression. It might be your break from everyday life, the pressures of work, or the hidden talent you want to explore. Whatever role photography plays for you, the idea to take away is that photography is not a rule book. BUT – and this is a big BUT, there are tools involved. You can use a tool the way it was intended and achieve amazing things, or you can spend your life using a chisel as a fork and wonder why eating is so painful.

Think of your photography like a toolbox; it might have a hammer, a chisel, a screwdriver and a wrench. You might use more than one tool at a time, and all tools will not be used for every job. Your role as the photographer is to know how to use each tool at the appropriate time to reach the desired effect. Otherwise you might end up hammering screws and painting nails.

8 Dark figure on a light ground

Dark figure on a light ground. NYC, USA © Adam Marelli

Developing subtlety

Where do you go from here? Here’s an assignment that will be very helpful:

1. Find 20 examples of figure to ground in paintings
2. Find 20 examples of figure to ground in photography
3. Go take 10 pictures of light figures on a dark ground
4. Go take 10 pictures of dark figures on a light ground

Once you practice this enough it will become like a reflex. Please share your comments and images below.

The post How to Use Figure to Ground Art Theory in Photography by Adam Marelli appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Hang in there

Photographing large, dangerous wildlife can be extremely fun to do, but there are some unique factors to consider when your subjects are wild animals, in their natural habitat. Your adrenaline may be pumping, but you must keep your wits about you at all times, and not get caught up in the excitement! Here are a few things to consider when photographing dangerous animals in the wild.

Safety first

When photographing wild animals (such as black bear in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as featured throughout this article), naturally the most important factor is safety, both yours and the subject’s. Getting too close to one of these animals is never a good idea. Most national parks will post the distance that you should keep from their animal attractions for your safety. Obey them! If no guidelines are posted, as a general rule, remember – if you are close enough to an animal that they are aware of your presence, and change their behaviour because of it, you are too close.

You may think a large animal will be a slow mover and that you’ll have no problem escaping from it, but adult bears, for example, can run up to 30 MPH, and you won’t stand a chance. (You may have heard the joke that you don’t have to outrun the bear, just the guy behind you!) Getting too close to these animals is not only life-threatening to you but also to the animal, because an animal that attacks a human, or even shows aggressive behaviour to people that get too close, will likely be targeted to be euthanized. Another thing you must never ever do is put yourself between a mother and her offspring, probably the most dangerous situation you can find yourself in. So, keep your distance, and never put yourself in that position.

Litter is an issue

A third safety issue for both you and the animal, often underestimated, comes in the form of littering. Litter may become a dangerous food source for these animals, because it has human scent on it. If and when the wild animals begin to relate the human scent with a food source, these animals may also have to be euthanized for human safety. Even biodegradable items, such as an apple core, should not be thrown down. So please dispose of your trash properly! Do not carry any food on your person, as most wild animals have a very good sense of smell, and this may put you in grave danger if the animal is really hungry.

It is so tempting to get caught up in the moment while photographing these beautiful creatures, but you must keep safety as your top priority, and abide by the rules that are posted for your safety and the animals’.

Mother Bear

Recommended equipment

  • DSLR camera, preferable to your cell phone. If you are close enough to get a great cell phone image, you are too close!
  • Lens with a long focal length: A must, because as mentioned above, getting close to untamed subjects can be dangerous. The images in this article were taken with a Tamron 150-600mm zoom lens.
  • Monopod or tripod: Because large lenses can become heavy and difficult to hold steady over a long period of time, a good monopod is a great asset, as it’s quickly and easily transportable.
  • Window mount or pad for the lens: It’s good to have something firm to brace your lens on, if you end up shooting from your vehicle window.

Do your homework

Before you head out to your chosen park or nature preserve, do your homework. Having an idea of the lay of the land is very useful before you arrive in the area, so you don’t waste time getting to know it. Download maps of roads and trails for the area. Research the wildlife you expect to photograph, learning the facts about their habitats, food sources, and what time of the year the babies appear. Learn the animals’ habits, such as what time of the day they are most active; and what, when and where they feed. One of the best ways to find this information is talk to park rangers or local residents, as they will know exactly where to locate the wildlife. I recently asked a park ranger “What is the most asked question you get as a ranger?” I had a pretty good idea what his answer would be, and it was, “Where are the bears?”

A rare sighting of a mother bear in the midday sun. The harsh lighting creates a very contrasting image.

A rare sighting of a mother bear in the midday sun. The harsh lighting creates a very contrasty image.

Be observant

The hardest part of photographing wildlife is finding them, because they often avoid contact with sight-seers and paparazzi.  Most wildlife is not likely to be found out in the open, during the heat of the day. Early morning or late afternoon are the best times to find animals moving about. During the day, look for them in shady areas or near water where they can stay cool. Don’t forget to look up, as bears and other animals will climb trees, and if they sense danger they will also send their little ones into the canopy for safety. One time as I was trying to photograph an encounter between a mother bear and a coyote, I later found out I had walked right by the tree that the mother bear had sent her cub up into for safety. A missed opportunity for a memorable photograph!

bear cub playing

Designated driver

In many cases, when you are scouting for wildlife to photograph, so are hundreds of other photographers, and park visitors, who also crave the experience of seeing an animal in the wild. When one or more are spotted, a great traffic jam may occur along the road, and by the time you get to the place the subjects were first noticed, they have moved on. If you have a willing companion, take them along for the adventure as a “designated driver”, so when traffic stops you are free to jump out with your camera and get to the animal sighting before they have disappeared.

Parks have rules about not stopping in the road, but people often get excited and just stop their vehicles to get out and get a good look. Be courteous if you are the first to come upon an animal sighting, and pull your vehicle off the road if you want to stop and photograph. Depending on the animal you are photographing, it could be dangerous to get out of your car, so be extremely careful.

bear cub


Focusing your camera can be one of the more challenging issues in photographing creatures in the wild. You must be careful when focusing that your camera doesn’t lock on a foreground object, instead of your intended subject. Getting a clear shot may be difficult to achieve with undergrowth, tall grass, and other distractions competing with your subject for the focus lock.

Of course, just as with any other animal, your aim is to focus on the subject’s eye. One way this can be accomplished very effectively is by using back button focus. Once your focus is locked, you are ready to shoot without worrying until your subject moves. Then you can refocus and shoot again.

In this image the grass in the foreground made focusing difficult. Notice that the grass in in focus but the bear is out of focus.

In this image the grass in the foreground made focusing difficult. Notice that the grass is in focus, but the bear is out of focus.

Camera setting suggestions

Spotting wildlife in the bright sun of the day is, in most cases, a dream shot. Many times you are going to be faced with low-light situations with the animals in the cover of the forest. Keep in mind the exposure triangle and get the best possible combinations to achieve a good exposure.

Using a long focal length such as 600mm requires that you use a fairly fast shutter speed of around 600th of a second (depending on if, and how fast, your subject is moving, you may need an even faster shutter speed). To set your Aperture, depending what you want for depth of field, you should shoot wide open if you’re looking for a very shallow DOF to blur the background, or you may prefer to stop down to the lens’s sweet spot around f/8. Now adjust the ISO to get the proper exposure for the available light. In low light this could mean you have to adjust the ISO very high, which causes concern about digital noise, but it may be a choice between noise or no image at all.

Don’t worry about the noise, just take the shot! Most of the newer DSLR cameras do a very good job set at higher ISOs. What noise does affect your images can be removed in post processing with programs such as Photoshop, Lightroom or Nik Dfine 2.

bear cub


While it is fun to photograph these beautiful animals, don’t forget about your safety, and also that of the animal. Be prepared and patient! Always remain calm, and treat all wildlife with respect so they are available for everyone to enjoy.

The post How to Be Respectful and Safe Photographing Wildlife by Bruce Wunderlich appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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In this article I want to lay some foundations, on which I will build in future articles. I am not talking here about image development, but your personal and professional development as a photographer. As a full-time working photographer, I am well aware of the 10,000 hours I have invested in my art and craft – not just once, but many times over the last two decades – and it doesn’t end. This is ongoing and if you don’t continue to invest in your personal development, you will not improve and remain static.

Hidden Kingdom

Regardless of whether you are at the start of your journey, having just recently picked up a camera, or have been working in the field for decades, this overview will apply and help you improve.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, don’t complain about the destination!”

1: Nobody is born brilliant

Pick any field: from music, sports, arts, academia, whatever, and pick the best-known people in any of them. They started off as babies playing in mud and sucking their thumbs. Yes, they applied themselves and made life choices to get where they are, but they are all the product of hard work and dedication. We all have a capacity to be brilliant in our own way.

2: Education should never stop

You invest the best part of your childhood in school and the better part of your 20’s and 30’s climbing ladders at work – whatever that may be. This is normal; you accept it as the necessity of making a living.

When it comes to hobbies and pastimes we vary in our commitment to study. There are plenty of folks who only do photography to wind down on the weekend and get away from the stress of a professional career. If that’s you, don’t worry, as I often say, “Learning should be Fun.”

Into the West

3: Effortless development

Be inspired – surround yourself with excellence. When I started to get serious about wanting to become a better photographer, I sought out the very best photography in the fields that interested me. This can be found in many of the excellent online forums these days – images are everywhere and you need to find the best.

Why? Excellence inspires excellence. It allows you to set the bar for yourself and establish a standard for which you aspire. I don’t mean to offend, but if you surround yourself with mediocrity, it will drag you down and create a “that’s good enough” mentality.

Inspiration should be used to help seek out styles you gravitate towards, themes, moods and forms of expression. Plagiarism is a great way to grow, we all do it, but I would recommend trying to develop your own style as soon as you can, rather than copying others. Why, because you’re the best in the world at being you!

4: Truly evaluate where you are right now

This is actually harder than it sounds, as you are trying to compare yourself to a massive spectrum of talent out there in the world. Many times I have gotten to the stage where I thought, “Hey, I’m not bad at this.” Only to find the work of some unknown guy from Romania, whose work blew me away! Honest evaluation can be very humbling.

Life on the Edge

Remember when you were a kid and you used to get your height measured with a pencil mark on the kitchen wall? Remember that feeling when you’d grown an inch over the summer? That’s what photographic development is like – you can feel the inspirational creative muscles stretching and growing.

5: Ask yourself WHY?

I can answer one question about every one of my images, “Why did I make it?”

To be honest, those reasons have changed significantly over the years, especially now this is my career. But typically the more you understand why you are making (or taking) photographs, the sooner you can begin to channel purpose, and specific expression into your work.

I have been through every stage of WHY in my own development. I know when I am forcing it and making images just because I have a camera in my hand. I know when I am making contrived compositions, because I feel I have to make images, even when I don’t feel like it. Equally, I know when I am on fire, running on instinct in the fast lane, charged up with a lot of technique and subconscious understanding.

Professional photographers often talk about utility, having a preset use for an image even while it is being envisaged. For example, while I am in the field, I may be thinking, “That image can be used to advertise a workshop, that one will work well in an eBook or article, that’s a portfolio image to showcase my work, that one is great for Social Media” and so on.

Symphony of Light

6: What is photography?

I am well aware that you could ask a million people and get a million different answers, but this is mine!

“Photography is a visual language: its aim is to communicate something to another person. That something is in the voice of the person who made the photograph. The clearer the photographer’s intention, the more likely the viewer will understand the intent.”

As with spoken language, the more articulate you are, the better you can be understood – by people who understand your language!

Leading on from the why in point #5 above, you have to ask yourself what? – “What am I trying to say with this photograph?”

7: Speak the language of photography

When you admire an image, think about words that explain why you like it. I would imagine the majority of those words would be adjectives, for example: Moody, evocative, dramatic, calm, reflective, soothing, energetic, sad, happy, etc.

Only photographers use technical language to describe photographs. Shutter speeds, exposures, apertures, noise, depth of field, etc.

When you make your images, concentrate on the adjectives. If you make an image to be moody, you can bet the viewer will think it is moody too. Advertising agencies do this all the time, they manipulate their viewers with subliminal messages in film, photographs to make them more likely to buy a product.

This was one of the biggest developments in my own images – I always try and instil a very distinct mood, or feeling, into my work. Start to think in terms of key words that describe your work.

The Wester Isles

8: Understand the creative cycle

Many people describe photography as a process – as if it is linear and follows a set path. In some regards this is true, and certainly from a teaching point of view it is the only way to explain it without melting your student’s brain.

However, recall what it was like learning to drive a car, especially a manual transmission with a stick shift. All those things you have to learn to do simultaneously: steering, mirrors, signals, brake, accelerator, clutch, gears, changing lanes, avoiding pedestrians and cyclists. Now, you manage it with ease, totally subconsciously while having in depth conversations with passengers, kids in the back, or on a hands-free phone to the office.

Photography is the same – the trick is to determine what can become subconscious, and what needs to be at the front of your mind. I call it the creative cycle because there is feedback.

You are unique, because when you look at one of your own photographs, it triggers memories for you – you were there when it was taken and you crafted it in-camera and in processing. When you see the final image, you get it. Other viewers only get what you show them – they have no experiential perspective. You need to be super-articulate with your images to allow a viewer to feel something.

The photograph itself forms an emotional bridge between the event experienced by a photographer and a viewer who only experiences it second hand – but gets it!

9: Disciplines

The First Dawn

Again, I’ve seen the whole process written in many ways, with lots of subsets. For me it is this:

Seeing – Shooting – Expressing

You see something; you organize it, get the light in the camera and then use a computer (typically these days anyway) to make it look the way you want. You can hold up that image and compare it to what you wanted to say about that moment in time, and determine how successful you have been in your expression.

How other people feel about it is a product of how well you get that message across.

The shooting phase is mostly technical and you should become very adept with your camera. Know what it does, know how to expose well and get the light into the computer where it’s useful.

10: Aim for second impressions

The world is full of images. We see thousands every day, and every one we see sparks a snap decision in our brains.

  • First Impression – Wow/Yuk – I like/don’t like that (formed in maximum two seconds)
  • Second Impression – Wait a minute, there is something about this one! (10-30 seconds)
  • Third Impression – This image changes my view of the world, inspires me, makes me want to change, etc. (one minute to the rest of your life)

The Heart of Me

If you are going to open your mouth, you normally think before you speak. It saves a whole lot of trouble. Do the same before you post an image online. You’re still saying something – just with an image instead of words. It represents you; it is a statement from you. Value your work and value what you have to say – then others will too.

The post A 10 Step Personal Development Strategy for Photographers by Alister Benn appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Vintage, retro, moody, classic are all adjectives that might be used to describe black and white photographs. It may seem counter-intuitive in an age where cameras are lauded for their abilities to render colors and skin tones in super accurate or pleasing ways, to just go and eliminate all the colors in post-processing. Nevertheless, the timeless qualities of grayscale images continue to persist, and the alluring beauty shows no sign of subsiding.

A black and white architectural photo

Since most of us see in color, black and white images seem to be inherently abstract.

In Lightroom (LR), the transformation of a photo from color to black and white is simple – drag the Saturation slider all the way to the left. The end.

I’m only half-joking. Although this will drain all of the color from the photo, there are many other considerations to mull over, various entry points to begin the process, and an immense amount of control and fine-tuning to explore.

Image Selection

Naturally you will need to start with a photo, so the decision as to which photo is a good candidate to make the transformation to black and white is your first task.

There are a few characteristics in a photo that would make it qualify as a good candidate. Obviously any photo that has strong colors, which add strength or appeal may not make the cut. You would be doing yourself a disservice by taking a beautiful, saturated sunset shot only to rob it of its finest feature.

I prefer to convert photos which have a lot of repetitive detail, high contrast, or have an inherent look that would be accentuated by converting to black and white. Architectural shots work well, and sweeping landscapes with puffy clouds against a blue sky stretching off into the horizon can be dramatized tastefully.

Without any colors to lean on, black and white images must have other strengths. Your black and white images just may have to rely a tiny bit more on the subject, composition, emotion or lighting. This is a good thing. Thinking in black and white can help train your eye to look for other photographic strengths which will make your color images that much stronger as well.

Where to Start

In Lightroom there are several features built-in that enable you to control the look of your black and white images. Let’s take a look at their dedicated black and white converter.


The B&W sub-panel gets your images to grayscale in one click.

If you simply click on the B&W panel in the Develop module, LR converts the image to gray scale. The same thing can be accomplished at the top of the Basic panel where it says Treatment by selecting Black & White.

Note that when you do this the eight Black & White Mix sliders are all zeroed out. You may also note that there is a curious little oval-shaped Auto button hanging out underneath the sliders. What might this do? In case you didn’t guess, LR will use its own infinite wisdom to evaluate your image and adjust the color tones to what it thinks is appropriate. I’ve never clicked that button and said “wow” but you never know.


The Auto button adjusts tones as LR sees fit, but I find further editing is usually necessary.

If you like the settings that LR chooses for you with the Auto setting you can have it applied automatically every time you convert an image to black and white by navigating to Edit>Preferences and under the Presets tab, check the box that says: Apply auto mix when first converting to black and white, as shown below.


You can have LR instantly apply its automatic black and white settings upon conversion by navigating to Edit>Preferences and checking the appropriate box.


Before you open Pandora’s Box and start dragging sliders all over the place, let’s see what other kind of shortcuts LR has to offer.

Within the Navigator panel is the handy Presets menu. The first three selections are dedicated black and white preset menus including Filter Presets, Presets and Toned Presets. The 25 presets found within these menus are pretty cool and are way more powerful one-click options than the Auto button.

A sample of LR's black and white filters

LR is loaded with 25 black and white presets to give you some quick conversion options.

The filters can also be used as jumping-off points from which to work in your editing endeavours.

Start with the Basics

I would like to preface this section with something to keep in mind when converting an image to black and white and processing it: LR edits that may appear to affect colors only, also effect tones and contrast in grayscale images. For example, although I never change them in my black and white processing, the White Balance and Tint sliders are active, and can be used to alter tones in your black and white photo.

The rest of the sliders, in both the Basic and Tone Curve panels, do the same for a black and white image as they do for a color one. You can be more zealous with contrast since there are no colors to be over/under saturated. I also find that the Clarity slider works especially well to tease out tons of detail in black and white images. Beware, however, that it can be unkind to wrinkles and blemishes in portraits, unless that is the look you are going for.

Simply increasing the Clarity on a black and white image can add a lot of drama. No other edits have been made to the above photo except increasing the Clarity to 100 per cent.

Simply increasing the Clarity on a black and white image can add a lot of drama. No other edits have been made to the above photo except increasing the Clarity to 100 per cent.

The HSL/Color/B&W Panel

I briefly touched on this earlier when mentioning the the Auto setting. So what happens when you start messing around with all of those sliders? Well, if you’re anything like me when I was fumbling my way through LR back in the day, you’ve already gone through and started indiscriminately throwing sliders all over the place.

What they do is increase or decrease the luminosity of the corresponding color in the original image, which is now represented in various shades of gray. If you’ve already applied one of LR’s black and white filters these sliders may not be zeroed out any longer.

In addition to adjusting the individual sliders, there is also a click and drag (target adjustment) tool similar to the one found in the Tone Curve panel, and it’s pretty sweet. Once you activate the tool, click on an area in your image and start dragging, you will notice that LR will not only adjust one slider, but will combine multiple sliders to pinpoint the tones you wish to adjust.


The Targeted Adjustment Tool (left arrow) works well to isolate colors to desaturate. Holding the Alt key presents you with the option to reset all the sliders at once to start fresh (arrow on the right) – this option is available in many of LR’s adjustment panels.

Another approach to this whole black and white post-processing thing can also be initiated in the HSL/Color/B&W panel. If you select HSL and choose the Saturation sub-panel, you will be presented with another set of eight color sliders.

These sliders provide you a quick and easy way to achieve selective color effects. You can start by dragging all of the sliders down to -100 and then add the colors you want to preserve. You also have a click and drag tool that works the same sort of magic as the one mentioned earlier.

You can also select the All sub-menu which reveals all of the Hue, Saturation and Luminance sliders. Adjusting the Luminance sliders gives you control over the brightness of individual colors now represented in black and white.

Utilizing the controls found within the Camera Calibration panel can give you similar, yet much more limited, control over your black and white tones.

Split Toning

If you’re looking to add a radical tint to your black and white images, the Split Toning panel is where you want to be. Okay, so it doesn’t have to be too radical but a little tinting can help alter the mood of your image.

The tool gives you control over the intensity of highlight and shadow tint colors, and the ability to balance the two however you wish. Subtle use of this effect can be a fantastic way to sneak a hint of color back into your photo, while still maintaining the charm of black and white.

Split Toning allows you to tint an image's highlights and shadows different colors.

Split Toning allows you to tint an image’s highlights and shadows different colors.

The Split Toning panel is also where you can apply, and fine-tune, sepia toning effects to get that warm antique look that gives images a grungy and elegant look at the same time.

As you have probably found out by this point, LR does a pretty thorough job at giving you a ton of control processing black and white images – from big global adjustments to small tweaks to tease out just the look you are going for. Don’t forget that you can get really creative by throwing the Adjustment Brush and Gradient tools into the mix, not to mention the plethora of plugins available on the market that give you even more options.

Have you been met with some success in black and white conversion with Lightroom? Show off your results in the comments below.

The post A Guide to Black and White Conversion in Lightroom by Jeremie Schatz appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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My name is Andrew Suryono and I’m an amateur travel photographer. When you read the title, you may feel funny that an amateur photographer like me is writing this article. “Shouldn’t winning a photography contest be reserved only for the professionals?” you may ask.

Well, speaking from my experience, the answer is no. I’m one of many amateur photographers in the world that have won photography contests. This year is special for me because I won first place in the world’s largest photography competition, the Sony World Photography Award (Indonesia National Category).

Image 1 andrew suryono trophy

I’m writing this article to share my experience and give my personal tips to you on how to increase your chance in winning a photography competition. Yes, YOU can win in a photography contest!

Why enter photo contests?

Before we start though, let’s look at some of the benefits of joining a photo contest.

Get exposure

The first benefit of joining a photography competition is you can get exposure for your work quickly. The bigger the photography competition, the quicker and the more exposure you’ll get. By submitting your photos to a contest, you give easy access to people all over the world to view your work. If you’re struggling to get people to look at your photography website or portfolio, try joining a photography competition.


This image appeared in Bryan Peterson’s newsletter

Market your work

By giving yourself lots of exposure, you also increase your chance to market your work. If people are interested in your work, they might contact you to buy some prints or strike licensing deals. After joining several photo competitions, I got contacted by many people who wanted to do licensing deals for books, magazines, greeting cards and many other things. To my surprise, my work not only attracted small publishers, but also big ones like National Geographic.

You really never know who is looking at and interested in your work!

Measure your work against others

A photo competition is a good way to measure your work against other photographers’ work. You’ll have a chance to look at other their images and see how your works compares. It’s important that you don’t judge your work too harshly when you do this. See what you
find interesting from other people’s work, like how they use of composition or color, and learn from it.

Image 2 andrew suryono orangutan in the rain

Winning image!

Make new friends

Finally, a photo competition is a good way to make new friends and connections. Through photo competitions, I’ve gotten many like-minded friends who I enjoy speaking to, and sharing my work with regularly. We even went on to create a private Facebook group where we share our work to get each other’s feedback, helpful online tips that we find, and many more.

Are you already feeling excited? Great!

How to increase your chances of winning

Now that you know all the benefits of joining a photo competition, let’s look at some ways to increase your chance of winning one.

The first and the most important thing that you should do before joining a photo contest is spend some time to know the rules inside out. Here are some things that you should pay attention to:

Copyright ownership

I decide whether I enter a photo contest or not based on this information alone. Make sure you retain full rights and ownership of your photos before joining in any contests. Personally, I would avoid any photo contests that want me to give any rights to them. I want to keep all rights to myself and they must ask me for permission if they want to use my photos for anything.

Appeared in Bryan Peterson's newsletter

Appeared in Bryan Peterson’s newsletter

Image dimensions

Pay attention to the image dimension that they require you to submit. Typically, a lot of photo contests are bombarded with image submissions
from all over the world, so they only require you to submit a small resolution version of your image. Make sure to resize your image according to their specification. Some photo contests are so strict that they’ll immediately disqualify your image if it’s not submitted according to their specifications.

Submission deadline

This is pretty explanatory, but still worth mentioning. Make sure you pay attention to the submission deadline. Photo contests won’t let you
submit images once the deadline has passed. Mark your calendar and set reminders!


After you’re done going through all the contests’ rules and regulations, it’s time to do some research. You’ll need to research and study previous winners’ work, and the judges’ work if you want to increase your chance of winning in the competition.

Image 3 study judges work

By looking through the previous winners’ work, you’ll get a sense of how they won the contest. Pay attention to the composition, color and most importantly the message that they’re conveying through their photos. Pay close attention to their post-processing work, and look at how it strengthen their images.

Photography contests are judged by humans. It’s subjective by nature. By looking at the judges’ work, you’ll get a sense of their style and what kind of works they like to see. For example, if you find that most judges in the contest love strong black and white images, you’d better think twice about sending images with bright, saturated, and punchy colors.

Image selection

After you’re done with your research on the previous winners and the judges’ work, you’ll need to select images for submission based on your findings.

Go through your portfolio of images and see which images stand a chance of winning the competition. Be very selective with your own work. I know it’s hard criticizing and selecting your own work, but doing this will dramatically increase your chance of winning a photo contest.

Pick photos that you personally think are better than the previous winners’ photos, match with the judges’ style, and strongly show
your unique photography style. Then, submit your images, cross your fingers, and wait for good things to happen!

Image 4 andrew suryono pictures trophy

Remember that I can’t guarantee you win will any photo competition, but at the very least, I have given you some tips that you can use to increase your chances.

Don’t get discouraged if you submit an image and it doesn’t win. Remember that a photography competition is always subjective by nature. If one image doesn’t win in one competition, it doesn’t mean it won’t win in another. Also, there are also plenty of benefits that you can get by joining a photo contest, even though you didn’t win it.

Follow the guidelines above, enter as many photography contests as you possibly can, and hopefully you get to win in some of them. It’s a number’s game!

Keep shooting and don’t forget to have fun!

The post How to Improve Your Chances of Winning a Photography Contest by Andrew Suryono appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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