Archive for September, 2015

Do you commit mistakes in photography?

I bet you do. I have made mistakes. As a matter of fact I have committed many. But we all learn from our mistakes. What you don’t have to necessarily do is to re-invent the wheel. Instead of learning about these common mistakes the hard way, why not learn from other’s mistakes? That sounds awesome, doesn’t it?

Sandhill Crane Family Flying on a Beautiful Autumn Morning in Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area in Medaryville in northwestern Indiana. Every year around 10,000 Sandhill Cranes migrate to this location during Autumn. The calls of thousands of Sandhill Cranes that reaches several miles is an experience that is next to none. It is one of the best locations to photograph them as they fly past the Autumn trees at the Sunrise to feed in the close by farms.

Sandhill Crane Family Flying on a Beautiful Autumn Morning in Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area in Medaryville in northwestern Indiana. Every year around 10,000 Sandhill Cranes migrate to this location during autumn. The calls of thousands of Sandhill Cranes that reaches several miles is an experience that is next to none. It is one of the best locations to photograph them as they fly past the autumn trees at sunrise to feed in the nearby farms.

Here is the list of 10 common bird photography mistakes and their solutions. If you learn and apply these bird photography tips you would see the results immediately in your images.


This is the biggest mistake. A bad exposure would ruin the photograph. Most common is overexposed (blown-out) highlights.


Overexposed – highlights blown out.

The issue is that your camera has much less dynamic range than your eyes. This means you can see the details in both brighter and darker regions of a scene, but the camera doesn’t.

You have to make a choice whether to keep the details in the brighter or the darker region. Your choice would almost always be to keep the details in the brighter region. Because our eyes are more sensitive to brighter areas (or highlights).


Correctly exposed for the highlights.

In short – always expose for the highlights.


Photography is painting with light. If you underestimate the light, then you are bound to get bad photographs. It’s not an exaggeration to say most photographers seem to ignore it.

More the time is spent debating about equipment, than studying the light. No equipment can save your photograph if the light is not favorable. Look how boring this silhouette of an India peafowl is.

Just before minutes, it was like this.


Isn’t it evident? Learn to see the light. It’s all about light.


Bird photography is not demanding in terms of composition. Even so, a lot many bird photographers don’t seem to understand simple techniques. All that you need to know is the rule of thirds, the rule of spaces, and fill the frame composition techniques.

How many times have you seen a photograph like this? A subject in the center!


Just by following the rule of thirds, this is what I got.


Next time you are out in the field, remember to compose well.

  • Place the bird off-centered and give enough it breathing space.
  • Or, fill the frame with the bird.

That is as simple as it gets.


Blurry bird photos are everywhere. Birds are always active, making it harder to achieve sharp focus. But that doesn’t mean you don’t recognize it. If you rely heavily on your LCD monitor, this is what happens.

Nothing seems to be wrong in this photograph, right?

Wrong. It’s a blurry photograph. Can you see the out of focus eye now?

Fixing it is easy. Check for the critical focus by zooming in on your LCD monitor. If it’s not sharp, make the adjustments until you get the focus perfect. The initial focus was on the bird’s body. By shifting the focus point to the eye of the bird, I got this tack-sharp image.


How do you see your world? From your eye level…isn’t it? But, how does the bird see its world? You got the point. But more than 90% of the bird photographers do not seem to understand this simple concept. They shoot from their eye level. Can you believe that?

If you are doing it too…stop it right now. It’s not your portrait but the bird’s.


Get down and shoot from a bird’s point of view, and see the magic unfold.


Your eyes follow the lead. You will follow the line of sight of a bird. If the bird looks left, your eye will move in that direction and vice versa. If your eye is lead in an interesting way, then your image works.

What doesn’t work is when the bird looks away. It’s not uncommon to see such photographs everywhere on the web.

Wait for the right head angle. Take photograph when bird is actively looking for its prey. Or, when it is sensing an impending danger.

With just the right head angle, the image became more interesting. The Great Egret is actively searching for its prey. The head angle is diagonally inclined adding dynamism to the photograph.


Do you care for the background? Most often bird photographers just don’t care about anything other than the bird. Why? Are you saying because it’s a bird photograph after all! Do you know it’s the background which makes the picture?

Okay, take a look at this bird photograph.

That’s a fantastic action shot of two Indian Darters or Snakebirds fighting. But, is it amazing? Take a look at this one now.

You see how beautiful the action is. It just couldn’t get better. Here’s the best bird photography tip I can give you – put more importance on background than the bird and you’ll make great bird photographs.


Is post-processing good? There’s probably a hot debate around every corner about this topic. If you do post-process here’s what you shouldn’t do.

Here’s a simple and useful post-processing tip for bird photography. Don’t over process your image. Over sharpening and extreme noise reduction are typical mistakes of many bird photographers.

Rose-Ringed Parakeet displaying all its color in soft Sunlight in Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. I sm so lucky to have been able to capture this beautiful parakeet. I love it!

This one has too much noise reduction

Rose-Ringed Parakeet displaying all its color in soft Sunlight in Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. I sm so lucky to have been able to capture this beautiful parakeet. I love it!

This one is over sharpened.

It destroys your image. It makes it either look like a wax statue or a wired toy.

Take it easy. Keep your processing to a minimal. Just do enough processing to bring back the details and colors in the bird. Reduce noise only in the background. Sharpen only the bird with just enough to bring out detail.

Rose-Ringed Parakeet displaying all its color in soft Sunlight in Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. I sm so lucky to have been able to capture this beautiful parakeet. I love it!

Rose-Ringed Parakeet displaying all its color in soft Sunlight in Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. I sm so lucky to have been able to capture this beautiful parakeet. I love it!


Do you know that location really matters? In fact, it can make or break your image. It’s a very important bird photography tip to remember. If you end up photographing a species in a wrong place, then you’ll end up with bad results.

Find the right location where there are enough birds, good light, good feeding ground, and a good background. Assuming that you know important bird photography tips, you’ll most certainly make the best bird photographs.


Not many photographers talk about this. But here’s the thing: If you think that a professional or experienced bird photographer goes to a place, points their expensive gear at the birds, and take home loads of amazing photographs, then you are wrong.

This is far from the truth. The truth is they are the ones who go to the place before anyone. Stay there until there’s no light. Come back to the same place again, and again, and again until they get what they want.

My friend, it’s not magic. It’s bird photography. Everyone needs to pay their due respect. Birds never differentiate.


Bird photography is fascinating.

Birds attract us like crazy. They make us forget about the world around us. But, you have to get over this. You have to see beyond the bird. You have to pay close attention to everything in the frame – the bird, the background, the placement, the light, exposure, etc.

It’s easy to be a bird photographer. Not that easy to be a good bird photographer.

These 10 bird photography tips should give you a fair idea of what makes a good bird photograph. Understand them. Practice them. Your bird photographs are bound to improve.

Let me know if you have any questions. I would love to answer them.

The post 10 Common Bird Photography Mistakes and Their Solutions by Prathap DK appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to Organize Your Photos in Lightroom

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The Lightroom Catalog is a database containing all the relevant information that Lightroom needs about your photos in order to process your images and sit at the centre of your workflow.

Lightroom is a digital asset management (DAM) tool – you can use it to organize and search your photos, as well as process them. This is the main difference between Lightroom and Photoshop, which is a powerful image editor, but has no database capabilities.

Even if you use Photoshop for all your processing you can still use Lightroom to view, organize, and search your photos. That’s why the two programs come together if you subscribe to Adobe’s Creative Photography Plan (and why Photoshop no longer comes with Adobe Bridge). This article will walk you through some of the tools inside Lightroom to help you organize your photos.

Using Collections

Lightroom uses Collections to organize your images. A Collection is a virtual folder that exists in the Lightroom Catalog. You can create as many Collections as you like within Lightroom and use them for whatever purpose you see fit. The more you use them, the more you will find better ways to use them.

There are several types of Collections in Lightroom:

Collections: Virtual folders to which you can add any photo that you have imported into Lightroom.

Collection Sets: Another type of virtual folder to which you can add Collections, but not photos. Collection Sets are used to keep your Collections organized.

How to organise photos in Lightroom

This screen shot shows the icons used to represent Collection Sets and Collections in Lightroom. Xi’an – Terracotta Warriors (red arrow) is a Collection Set. Full Selection (green arrow) is a Collection. The icon is indented because it is inside the Collection Set.

Smart Collections: Collections that are populated automatically according to the rules that you set. For example, you could create a Smart Collection containing all photos taken in 2015, tagged with the keyword phrase “New York” to find all photos that meet those criteria. A Smart Collection is really a way of searching for images, and retaining the result indefinitely.

Published Collections: Beyond the scope of this article, Published Collections are created in Lightroom’s Publish Services. You can learn more about Published Collections in my article How to Upload Photos to Flickr and 500px Using Lightroom 5 (the information applies to Lightroom 6 and Lightroom CC as well).

Book and Print Collections: These are created in the Book and Print modules. My articles How to Create a Simple Blurb Photo Book in Lightroom and How to Create a 2015 Calendar in the Lightroom Print Module go into more detail.

For the purposes of this article we are interested in Collections and Collection Sets.

Creating Collections and Collection Sets

If this is your first time using Lightroom you won’t have any Collections yet (apart from the Smart Collections that it already contains). So let’s get started! I’m assuming that you have already imported your first photos into the Lightroom Catalog.

Go to the Collections panel and click on the plus icon you see in the top right corner. Select Create Collection Set.

How to organise photos in Lightroom

The Create Collection Set window appears, where you can give the Collection Set a name.

How to organise photos in Lightroom

I’ve named this one 2015. The idea is that it will house all the Collection Sets containing photos taken in the year 2015 (remember that Collection Sets can only contain Collections, not photos).

Now right-click on the Collection set you just created and choose Create Collection Set. Lightroom prompts you for a name. I’ve called this Island Bay because it’s the Wellington suburb where the photos in my last import were taken (and have saved it inside the 2015 Collection Set).

How to organise photos in Lightroom

Right-click on this new Collection Set (Island Bay) and select Create Collection. The Create Collection window opens. This is slightly different and gives you more options. Name the Collection “Full selection” (I’ll explain why in a minute), tick the Set as Target Collection box and click Create.

How to organise photos in Lightroom

Now go to the Catalog panel and click on Previous Import. Lightroom displays the last set of imported images in the Content window. Go to Edit > Select All to select all the photos and press the B key. Lightroom adds all the selected photos to the Target Collection – the Collection called Full Selection that you just created. Congratulations, you have just created your first Collection!

How to organise photos in Lightroom

This is what the Collection Sets and Collection I created in the example above look like in the Collections panel in the Library module. The plus icon next to the Collection Full Selection indicate it is the Target Collection. The number 27 on the right tells you how many photos are in the Collection.

Collections and workflow

Of course, you are probably wondering why I asked you to create such a strange name as Full Selection. To find out why read my article Use Lightroom Collections to Improve Your Workflow. It shows you how to use Collections to help you decide which photos from a shoot you are going to process. All will become clear when you do so.

Flags, Ratings and Color Labels

The Lightroom database (called the Catalog) lets you assign Flags, Ratings, and Color Labels to your photos. There seem to be as many ways of using these as there are photographers, but if you have read my article about using Collections to improve your workflow you will understand that I favour a very simple system, which is this:

Use Flags to indicate which photos you are going to process.

I ignore Ratings and Color Labels and don’t use them. Of course, you may wish to use them and there is nothing wrong with that. Workflow is a personal thing, and ultimately you will figure out what works best for you through trial and error.

Let’s take a closer look at Flags, Ratings, and Color Labels. The easiest way to see them is in Grid View, which you can go to from any Lightroom module by pressing the G key on the keyboard. Read my article Making Sense of Lightroom’s Grid View to learn more.


Every photo in your Lightroom Catalog is either unflagged (the default), flagged as a Pick (indicated by a white flag) or flagged as a Reject (marked by a black flag with a cross in it).

The quickest way to flag a photo as a Pick is to select and it and press the P key. You can remove the flag by pressing the U key or mark it as a Reject by pressing the X key. Flags are generally used to indicate which photos you would like to process (Picks) and which you would like to delete (Rejects).

How to organise photos in Lightroom

The middle photo has been flagged as a Reject. It is marked with a black flag (circled left) and the thumbnail is greyed out, making it easy to pick out in Grid View. The right photo has been flagged as a Pick and is marked by a white flag (circled right). The left photo is unflagged. There is no flag icon, but Lightroom displays a grey one when you mouse over the thumbnail.


Every photo in your Lightroom Catalog is either unrated (the default) or has a one, two, three, four or five star rating. You can apply these ratings by selecting a photo and pressing the corresponding number key (1, 2, 3, 4 or 5).

Ratings are generally used as a way to indicate which photos are your favourites. Give your best images a rating of 5, and use the other numbers for the rest.

How to organise photos in Lightroom

Here, the three photos have been given a rating of three, four and five stars respectively. The star rating of each photo is displayed under the thumbnail in Grid View.

Color Labels

You can also assign a color label to your photo by selecting it, going to Photo > Set Color Label and choosing from Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple or none. You can also use the 6, 7, 8 and 9 number keys as a shortcut to applying Red, Yellow, Green and Blue color labels.

How to organise photos in Lightroom

Colour labels are designed to be adaptable so you can use them for whatever you want. Go to Metadata > Color Label Set > Edit to assign a meaning to each color label. In this example I have entered a purpose for three of the color labels. It’s just an example to show you the possibilities – in reality I prefer to keep things simple and not use them.

How to organise photos in Lightroom

Hopefully this article has given you a good overview of the process of using Lightroom as a digital asset management tool. The next article in this series will show you how to get started in the Develop module. Meanwhile, if you have any questions about organizing your photos in the Library module then please let me know in the comments.

Mastering Lightroom Book One: The Library Module

Mastering Lightroom ebookMy latest ebook Mastering Lightroom Book One: The Library Module (second edition) is a complete guide to using Lightroom’s Library module to import, organise and search your photo files. You’ll learn how to tame your growing photo collection using Collections and Collection Sets, and how to save time so you can spend more time in the Develop module processing your photos.

The post How to Organize Your Photos in Lightroom by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to Capture a Photo of a Bubble Bursting

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Set yourself a high-speed challenge: Capture a bursting bubble

I have always loved the idea of photography as being a way of taking an instant out of time, and preserving that moment forever. By freezing time in this way, a photograph can show something that may not normally be seen in day-to-day life, and can make an ordinary subject extraordinary.

So, when going through a bit of a creative lull a couple of years ago, I felt that I needed to set myself a challenge to restore my motivation. I decided that I was going to capture the exact moment of a bubble being burst. After some internet research, I came to the conclusion pretty quickly that I did not have the necessary budget for a super slow-motion camera to achieve this. I did, however, become determined to capture a bubble in mid-burst using only equipment I already owned – my DSLR, various lenses and a flashgun (speedlight).

The challenge was lengthy and often frustrating, but when I did successfully take a photograph of a bursting bubble, it was incredibly satisfying. By freezing a moment, the photograph showed something that could not normally be seen by the human eye – a soap bubble with one half completely intact and the other half made up of separate swirls of liquid. The bubble was collapsing in on itself in mid-air. Friends and family who saw the photograph showed surprise and commented that they, like me, had assumed that a bubble just disappeared when popped. A photograph had changed their view of the world simply by freezing a single moment of time and I was reminded just how powerful photography can be.


With my motivation fully restored, I progressed further and attempted to capture a sequence of shots to show the entire process of a bubble collapsing. One of the shots has even been included in an international exhibition for scientific images. I have included some of these shots here but there are many more on my website at the link shown below in my bio.

I would definitely recommend this challenge to anyone, particularly if you may be in need of a creative boost or maybe need to rediscover your passion for photography. If you do decide to take up this high-speed challenge, here are some things that I learned along the way. I hope that they will be of help to you when capturing a bursting bubble.

1. Use large bubbles

Larger soap bubbles will be easier for you to focus on than small bubbles, and they will also be easier to burst. Additionally, the composition of your shot can really benefit from using larger bubbles – you should be able to get a frame-filling shot of a bubble bursting without the need to crop.

I have previously used a kids’ bubble toy set (purchased for around £1) that came with a bubble wand of around 5cm (2 inches) in diameter. I found this to be ideal for blowing one or two medium-to-large size bubbles, that stayed in the air long enough to capture them being burst. Smaller wands tended to produce streams of little bubbles which were (a) difficult to burst and (b) cluttered up the final shot.

2. Get a friend to help you

You are probably going to need somebody else to help you with this project unless you have superhuman reaction times! Blowing the bubble, bursting the bubble, and setting up the shot was just too much for me to complete on my own. Having someone to blow and burst the bubble for you, allows you to compose and focus your shot without distraction.

3. Shoot indoors

If possible, shoot indoors so that you can limit the movement of the bubble. I have taken a number of shots outdoors, but any slight breeze will cause the bubbles to fly away pretty quickly, making it much harder to set up your shot.

I have found it very useful to shoot in front of a floor-to-ceiling window facing onto a garden. This provides lots of natural light and some pleasing, natural colours for the backdrop, which was the look I was after. Just remember to leave some space between the bubbles and the window to reduce any reflections or glare that you may get from the glass.

4. Use a zoom lens

Even when shooting indoors, the movement of the bubbles will still be somewhat unpredictable. For this reason, I have found it useful to use a zoom lens when shooting bubbles, so that I can adjust the focal length as necessary to focus and compose the shot while the bubble is in mid-air. I have usually taken the bursting bubble images with a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens set to between 100-150mm. A further advantage of using this lens is that it helps to create some pleasing bokeh (blurry out-of-focus highlights) in the background while keeping the bubble details sharp when the focal length is increased.


5. Shoot in full manual mode

Shooting in full manual mode will give you the control over the settings that you will need to get good results. Firstly, you will need to set as fast a shutter speed as you can get away with, depending on the available light. The action of a bubble bursting is extremely fast and so you will need to set your camera to a shutter speed of 1/1000 second or faster to freeze the action – the faster the better.

With such fast shutter speeds, you will need to use a wider aperture (lower f-number) or a higher ISO setting. However, given the unpredictability of the bubble’s movements, you do not want to have such a wide aperture (and, therefore, shallow depth of field) that you end up with most of the bubble out-of-focus. For this reason, I prefer to increase the ISO setting before dialling in a wider aperture as some additional noise to the image is easier to manage (and can be corrected to a certain extent during post-processing) than an image where the bubble is largely out-of-focus.

If the available natural light is not sufficient to allow fast shutter speeds, a flash can be used to help to freeze the action. However, I would recommend using a diffuser or reflector with any flash, particularly if shooting indoors in front of a window.

6. Focus manually

I have tried to capture bursting bubbles with and without the use of autofocus. My preference is definitely without. My best results have been when I focused manually on the bubble floating in mid-air and pressed the shutter release button as soon as the bubble was to be burst. On several occasions, the autofocus was too slow and I missed the shot as the camera struggled to find focus. If nothing else, this project will give you a lot of practice in manual focusing!

7. Keep calm and carry on


The speed at which the bubble bursts means that you will probably have to try this many times to get the timing exactly right. Patience is key. Don’t give up on the challenge. Accept that it is going to be slightly frustrating but know that, when you get the timing spot-on, your final image will be much more satisfying.

The post How to Capture a Photo of a Bubble Bursting by Richard Beech appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Fall is my favorite. At least it used to be before it was Pumpkin Spice Everything. I’m so tired of Pumpkin Spice Everything, but I’ll never tire of chilly weather, or scarves, or leaf piles. Or even shorter days, mainly because long summer days are just too much pressure for me.


I like everything about fall including, maybe especially, that it’s ripe for portraits. Here are seven ways to help you take advantage of all of autumn’s goodness in your portrait photography.


1) The light is phenomenal 

Yes, there is less of it, but it is so golden and delicious. I’m sure there is a very scientific reason for that, which of course I know and understand exactly, but I don’t want to bore you. I like a warmer image, so to get one without having to add a filter is fantastic. I prefer to shoot in the morning and early evening hours but in the fall, the light reflecting off of the warmer tones in the trees make even the deadest of shady patches come alive.

While people don’t normally wear yellows and oranges for picture day, the golden tones found in nature compliment all skin tones. This is why I always tell my clients to dress in colors that are found naturally outside—not only does it keep people from showing up in lime green, but the palette works for whatever background we find that day, and this time of year dressing in earth tones can really make a portrait pop.


2) Clients dress in their finest

I’m not big on fancy clothes, but even I agree that flip flops take a back seat once we can bust out boots and scarves. Fall is when people tend to take it up a notch, plus it’s layering season. Layering is the best way to achieve portraits that look high-end or even fashion shoot-like. You won’t ever find me in boots, a t-shirt, a jacket, a skirt, tights, a scarf and a hat in real life….but on picture day, I’ll happily dress everyone in five layers and make them stick with it for 20 minutes if it makes my ragamuffin family look like we bathe regularly. I’ve found that my clients feel the same. Which is not to say that my clients are ragamuffins, I’m sure they always look as sharp as they do on picture day.


3) Fall adds a playful feature to portraits

I don’t like traditional posing so fall adds so many more options: throw leaves, lay on leaves, climb in colorful leaves, throw leaves at me! (Try to watch out for sticks please) You get the idea. The colors are almost like an extra family member that matches everyone, and isn’t making things more difficult. Use it to your every advantage. It’s not possible to look like you’re miserable in five layers of fancy-pants clothes when you are having a leaf fight. I know, I’ve done the research.


4) Don’t forget black and white

While the changing fall season offers colors, it also offers texture. Black and white portraits can still feel the magical spell of autumn through texture, tone, and playfulness. Plus, that phenomenal light thing goes for black and white too (see #1). I love black and white portraits, and while I am likely to do more color this time of year, I still proof a few black and whites for all of my clients.


5) Compensate for the warmer tones

Sometimes if I am hitting the light just right, and my subjects are in perfect clothes, and the moon isn’t void of course, I find that images can get too warm. I know that sounds crazy, but it can happen. A custom white balance can help you on the front end, but if you didn’t notice it until after, don’t despair. An auto color run (under Image in Photoshop) or a cooling filter can fix everything. For as much as warm tones are flattering, no one wants to look like a seasonal gourd.


6) Fall weather is perfect for cuddling

Now I’m not one to cuddle, much to my husband’s dismay; I can’t take people in my personal space for an extended period of time. Last weekend a client that knows how I feel about hugging and all that, giggled at how often I tell people to “snuggle up” when I’m shooting family portraits. I guess I figure that most people enjoy it. Or are at least willing to pretend they do for the sake of the pictures (even I am willing to do that for a good Christmas card), especially if it’s not 100 degrees F (30c) outside. And a snuggle feels like a lot less pressure than cuddling, now doesn’t it?


7) The holidays are around the corner

In the US, the changing colors of the trees means that winter is almost here, which puts portrait photographers square into Holiday Card Season. Most of the clients I photograph this time of year are planning on using their images for sending out cards, or even creating holiday gifts.

So this is the only time of year I’m likely to offer a sale or special on portrait sessions, and every time I do, they sell out. That also means that this is the time of year that I can lose my mind in a pile of editing if I am not careful. To try to prevent both a nervous breakdown and spending a month staring at my computer screen, I usually offer mini sessions—10 to 15 minute shoots where I promise five or so pictures that I deliver as high resolution files. This takes any printing or card creating out of the equation, and also limits the amount of images I promised, rather than a full session which for me can be 50 or more. In turn, my clients get a few choices of images for their holiday cards and gifts, including that one great picture that was likely the whole reason they wanted portraits anyway. And I don’t have a nervous breakdown. Probably.


So throw back a pumpkin spice latte and put on a pair of boots and go shoot some portraits, even if you usually don’t. Everything is on your side in the fall – great light, fabulous surroundings, and more clients than any other time of year. That doesn’t happen very often (well, it happens once a year, but still).


The post 7 Ways to Take Advantage of Autumn in Your Portrait Photography by Lynsey Mattingly appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to do Landscape Panoramic Photography

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Have you ever been somewhere with a great view and taken a picture with your widest lens, but wished you had an even wider one that could capture the whole scene?

That is how panoramic photography was born in the 1840s when the pioneer photographers started using Daguerreotype plates pieced together to form very wide-angle scenes.



This panoramic image showing San Francisco from Rincon Hill was photographed by Martin Behrmanx in 1851. It is believed that the panorama initially had 11 plates, but the original daguerreotypes no longer exists.

An image showing a field of view greater than that of the human eye, about 160° by 75° or an aspect ratio of 2:1, or larger may be considered panoramic.

Even thou there is specialized equipment for panoramic imaging, we still find ourselves using the same simple techniques of merging images together more than 150 years later, but now using digital cameras and photo merging software to achieve similar results.

This is a simple and beginner’s approach on how to create a panoramic image like this one:



This amazing view of The Dom Luís I Bridge in my hometown Oporto, Portugal, was created by merging four vertical images into a high-resolution panorama.



Shooting your panorama

To make sure you get good results in you panorama merging, it’s important to use Manual settings in you camera and try to have similar exposure, focus and white balance in all your images.

In this particular case, the images were photographed with a 20mm lens in a full frame camera body at f/16, 1/125th and ISO100. The focus was set to infinity and the white balance was set at 5500K.

It’s also really important to have at least 30% overlapping between images so that the software can have enough pixels to merge and make the blending seamless.

The more rigorous you are during the image exposure step, the more likely you are to have better results in your final image. The use of a tripod and a bubble level are recommended tools, but on a day with good light you might get away with handheld camera images, as long as you try to follow the horizon line or some reference points for the image overlapping.

The number of images you need depends on the field of view you want to cover, but always try to photograph more area than you need so you can crop after the merging process. Portrait or vertical images are usually a better option because they give a better height and therefore higher resolution to the final image.

Stitching your panorama

As for the stitching process, here are the basic beginner steps in Adobe Photoshop, but keep in mind that there is a lot of software options for this kind of editing that can be taken further with vertical, 360º or multi-row stitching which are a lot more complicated.

  1. Open Photoshop
  2. File > Automate > Photomerge
  3. Browse and select the images for the panorama
  4. Click the “Auto” option in the Layout area
  5. Click the “Blend Images Together” option
  6. Click OK to start the stitching process

You will end up with a final stitched image like this:



The layer masks are really helpful if you have moving objects, or difficult areas in your image that look weird after stitching and can be edited to enhance the blending.

Now you can flatten the image and just choose the best crop area for your panorama.

So, just add this technique to your bag of tricks and give it a try next time you spot a panoramic view.

The post How to do Landscape Panoramic Photography by Ivo Guimaraes appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Next Level Techniques for Advanced Beginners

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You’ve been bitten by the photography bug – it’s not an actual insect, but you know what I mean.


By Andreas.

After the salesman pried that hard-earned money from your hands, you brought home that tantalizing-looking DSLR and your friends looked at it like it was a dangerous alien device, inquiring what all of those buttons, dials, and switches actually do.

At the time you didn’t really even know what they did, but you did know that once you figured it out, some cryptic combination of clicking knobs, pushing buttons and twisting rings on that lens, you were going to produce some knock-out photos.

Since then, you have spent eons of your life that you will never get back reading and researching on Digital Photography School, and highlighting juicy passages in your camera’s user manual (that last part might not be true). And guess what? It’s paid off!

Now you know how aperture affects depth of field, how to use shutter speed to freeze or blur movement and that once mysterious acronym, ISO, finally means something to you. Looking back you now understand what it is like to be a beginner, and that realization alone has raised you to a new level.

JD Hancock

By JD Hancock

What now? You are getting some shots you are proud of, have a pretty firm grasp of the fundamentals and are ready to take it to the next level. You are ready to learn some new techniques, emerge from survival mode and get out there and photograph with intention.

Let’s take a look at some techniques that just might get you over that hump and give you the skills, knowledge and power to capture great photos consistently.

Understanding and Using Aperture and Shutter Priority Modes

These are features that the vast majority of DSLRs have, and even many point-and-shoot cameras on the market as well. Some purists may balk at the thought of using one of these “automatic” settings, but pro shooters have long ago learned the versatility and usefulness of these controls.

Aperture priority settings

Aperture priority gives you full control of aperture while your camera takes care of the rest.

Although the various options for these settings may vary between manufacturers and camera models, the basic premise remains the same.

As the name suggests, these settings are pseudo-automatic. However, unlike the Program (P) setting, which does allow a minute amount of influence from the shooter, Aperture and Shutter Priority modes let you set certain parameters that change automatically to compensate for other adjustments that you remain in control of.

For instance, if your camera is set to Aperture Priority you retain the ability to adjust the Aperture to alter the depth of field as you see fit, and in conjunction with ISO, the camera will automatically choose the corresponding shutter speed for correct exposure. Many cameras give you the option to control ISO manually or let the camera adjust it for you.

The Shutter Priority setting does what you would expect, allowing you to control the shutter speed while the camera does the heavy lifting of setting the appropriate aperture.

Thomas Hawk

By Thomas Hawk

Some cameras offer the option to set limits on the extent of certain settings. For example, if you are shooting in aperture priority, you can set the camera so the shutter speed won’t drop below a predetermined speed or the ISO won’t exceed a maximum level.

My camera is set to Aperture Priority more often than not – this is personal preference. I know my camera like the back of my hand, and can anticipate how all the settings correspond to one another, so I feel comfortable using this setting under most conditions. It is certainly important to be comfortable using your camera in Manual Mode, however, you are likely to find that once you become accustomed to Aperture or Shutter Priority modes, you will have enough control without having to spin dials as much. Priority modes also help prevent accidental changes which can result in improper exposure.

Exposure Metering, Exposure Lock, and Exposure Compensation


Vintage exposure meter – By A*J*P

While we’re on the subject let’s look at some other ways that you can work with your camera to get proper exposures in all sorts of conditions.

DSLRs give you a few different options as to how they meter and determine exposure for a given scene. The most common are spot, center-weighted and evaluative or matrix metering. Take a look at this handy cheat sheet that should help you wrap your mind around the concept.

Fancy technicalities aside, what are the practical applications of these different settings?

Spot metering

Since spot metering bases exposure on the reading from a very small area of the image, it is a great choice if the subject of your composition is small and significantly lighter or darker than the rest of the image, so you can hone in on the correct exposure. This metering mode can be useful for small backlit subjects, as the light source shining directly at the camera will most often result in an underexposed subject. Keep in mind that regardless of the type of focus points you are using, spot metering will read only about a 4mm radius (depending on the camera) from the very center of the focus point.

Center-weighted metering

Center-weighted metering takes the whole frame into consideration, but puts more value towards the center of the focus points (somewhere in the 12mm range). This setting works great when your subject takes up a larger part of the frame, or the lighting is more even. Consider a close-up portrait where spot metering might be too specific if it reads a shadowed or highlighted area, but center-weighted would give you more of an average.

Evaluative or Matrix metering

The last of three main metering types, evaluative (Canon) or matrix (Nikon) metering, determines exposure in a more complex way by taking into account composition, tones, color and some cameras can even factor in the distance objects are from the camera to estimate what the main subject is. This system of metering works great for landscapes and wide angle shots.

Many cameras are equipped with a dedicated exposure lock button or have customizable settings in order to delegate one. This is used when you want to take an exposure reading and hold it. If your subject fills a large part of the frame, the camera may do a good job at setting exposure. If the subject takes up only a small part of the frame, you can move in close to get an exposure reading, lock exposure and recompose the image.

Exposure/focus lock button

Once you familiarize yourself with the exposure/focus lock button, you will be surprised how often you use it.

Exposure compensation

Exposure compensation allows you to over or underexpose the image manually. This is most useful while using automatic or semi-automatic settings like Aperture or Shutter Priority. In the example of a backlit portrait, many photographers prefer to overexpose the camera’s suggested exposure, knowing that the reading will be wrong because of the lighting. You could certainly change your exposure metering to try and secure a more accurate reading, but with experience you can easily predict how the camera’s exposure meter will react ,and use exposure lock or exposure compensation as a more direct, and one-off, route to proper exposure.

Just keep in mind that the most challenging conditions for your camera’s exposure meter are high contrast situations, and with enough experience you will learn to “see” like your camera and easily be able to anticipate necessary compensations.

Selecting Different Focus Settings

To start with, there are two main categories of autofocus settings: Single and Continuous.

Single (One Shot on Canon) is intended for stationary subjects. When the camera finds focus in single servo mode, it holds that focus point until the shutter is released or the autofocus is released and re-activated.

However, single servo focusing can be very useful for action in certain applications. For example, one technique when shooting a moving, yet predictable subject, is to compose the image and lock focus on the spot where you know your subject will be, and wait for it to enter the frame (think panning).

In continuous focus mode, your camera will continually refocus while the autofocus is engaged. This is the setting to use if your subject, or you and your camera, are on the move. In continuous mode, many cameras allow you to choose how many focus points are live. Say you are shooting a sporting event and there are a lot of players, you may want to use fewer focus points in order to single out your subject.

Continuous servo autofocus

Continuous servo focusing is best used to maintain focus on moving subjects – especially if they are moving towards or away from you.

It’s also worth mentioning that just in case you haven’t figured it out already, you can move the focus points around the frame in the viewfinder with the multi-selector. This is key while trying to maintain a certain composition with a moving subject. Consider some basic compositional conventions such as the rule of thirds when setting your focus points for a shot.

Confirm Focus by Previewing Images at 100%, In-camera

As a digital photographer you are extremely fortunate to have access to a feature like this –film shooters didn’t/don’t have this luxury.

The concept is simple: if you are unsure whether you nailed a sharp image, due to camera shake or shallow depth of field, zoom in to 100% and do a little pixel peeping for confirmation. Make a habit of doing this instead of ending up in front of your computer in disappointment at a great shot that’s not sharp.

Zoomed to 100% in camera

Zooming to 100% is a quick way to confirm you have a sharp image.

Some cameras (check your user’s manual to see if your camera supports this feature) allow you to customize a button which zooms directly to 100% for this purpose.

Many cameras have a setting (sometimes called shutter release priority) which won’t allow a picture to be taken unless it recognizes that your focus point is actually in focus. Personally, I loathe this setting. I think it is better to take your chances and at least try to get the shot. Although the focus may not be spot on, you still may get a usable image.


These are just a few of the major technical considerations to keep in mind as you bravely forge ahead in your photographic pursuits.

Every situation requires its own approach, and the more tricks you have up your sleeve, the more prepared you will be to nail the best shots. Keep your nose to the grindstone and embrace the challenge!

Do you have any other tips for the advanced beginner? Please share in the comments below.

The post Next Level Techniques for Advanced Beginners by Jeremie Schatz appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Tips for Creating Original Images

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Years ago I shot an image for a competition that I was sure was a highly original piece of genius. Only to find out when looking at other entries, there seemed to be rather a lot of other highly original geniuses with exactly the same idea.

To get further in competitions I realized I had to start thinking outside the box. So I developed a strategy for getting a bit more original with my photography. Here are some tips you may find helpful for coming up with unique ideas and for creating original images.

Coming up with an idea

If you don’t already have an idea to work from, you can pick one right now – be it the first item you see after reading this sentence, or google your town and see what comes up. For example, the first link might be to a local hairdresser, so your theme could be hair. Try this with some other keywords like; photography or art, or go completely random and google both hair plus the first item to your left.

Send in the clowns

A quote from musician Nick Cave explaining his song writing process:

“Do you want to know how to write a song? Song writing is about counterpoint. Counterpoint is the key. Putting two disparate images beside each other and seeing which way the sparks fly. Like letting a small child in the same room as, I don’t know, a Mongolian psychopath or something, and just sitting back and seeing what happens. Then you send in a clown, say, on a tricycle and again you wait and you watch. And if that doesn’t do it, you shoot the clown.”

Apply this to your photography. Your theme, that’s your small child. Add to that a certain style of photography, macro , high speed , light painting, that’s your Mongolian psychopath. Now send in the clown, perhaps this could be, as above, the first thing you see to your left, or something available to you that might not be available to other photographers like an awesome local location, unique props, or skills. In my case some mad crafty skills and a friend, with a lot of red hair, to model for me.

An unusual prop is a good place to start when aiming for an original image.

Combining other skills or hobbies (in this case my crafty skills) with your photography can help to create unique images. I made a crown out of coat hangers and wrapped the model’s hair around it. The jewels in the crown were some old chandelier parts I found at a market. Markets and thrift stores can be a good source for unusual items to inspire an original photograph.

Think about what is available to you

It’s all well and good to want to do a high-speed Kung Fu fighter action shot in low light, when all that is available to use is your mobile phone camera and your dog as the actor, and he has no Kung Fu training whatsoever. Not that it can’t be done, just saying, know your limits – then ignore them, or try to work around them.

Go for a walk

Even if you have a good idea, it’s a good idea to go for a walk.

When you get home, write or sketch further ideas. They don’t have to be good, or fully thought through, just get them down on paper or computer. Make notes of anything that comes to mind, you can sort out what works later. Even if you think your first idea is the one, still try to stretch yourself to come up with at least five to 10 more. This may sound like a lot, but sometimes that is what it takes to get yourself thinking outside the box.

If by then you don’t come up with anything original that you are excited about, go for another walk.

Let it rest

Creativity requires leisure, as they say. I am all for striking while the iron is hot, as they also say, but there is a lot to be said for allowing yourself to just mull over ideas for a while. Send in or shoot a few more clowns, see if you can improve the concept, or add a new element to really make it original.


Google your idea or theme in an image search. This may not only inspire further ideas, but also allow you to check that any you’ve come up, with haven’t already been done a million times before.

Be prepared to re-shoot

Sometimes we can get caught up in an idea. I once went to great length with costume, setup and a bizarre concept, for a competition brief. After a lengthy photo session and editing, I realized the idea didn’t actually make any sense because the concept was too complicated. So I simplified the whole thing back down to basics, shot the clown as Mr. Cave advised, and the second attempt worked a treat. Going that extra mile to keep thinking and photographing, plus a willingness to let go of an idea you have worked hours on, will help you get to that truly original image in the end.

Shoot a series

This works on the same principle as coming up with 10 ideas in the sketching stage before you settle on one. Getting past your first inclinations, and pushing an idea, will get you outside your initial box. Photographing a series, forces you to take that a step further. When you are thinking about an idea over an extended period of time, over several shoots, you really give your creativity a work out. You may surprise yourself with what you come up with by your seventh photo shoot, based on your first concept.


Aristotle said; “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. Not all collaborations create equally, but when they work, something wonderful happens. The combination of two or more collaborators can create concepts and ideas that take you far beyond what you would have done on your own.

Even something as simple as asking a portrait subject to bring in some props or personal items of their own, can change a photo shoot from ordinary to original.

Go beyond the sunset

This applies to any form of photography but I’ll use the ubiquitous sunset shot as an example.

Basically what I am saying here is get out of your comfort zone, and take a different approach. Instead of the cliché sunset, try something new with it, be it learning different photographic method such as infrared photography, multiple or long exposures, light painting, or add a new element, some random item. Hair + sunset = a challenge, but it’s going to take you beyond the ordinary sunset photograph.

An exercise to stretch your imagination

Choose one of each from the two lists below, then try a few of the tips above, especially coming up with 10 possible photograph ideas. Then go have a hoot photographing the one you like best!


  • Something from your refrigerator
  • A bottle
  • A piece of fabric
  • An item from your bathroom

Camera method:

An image from that list could be a low light shot (sunset) and a message in a bottle on the beach, not exactly an original concept. However, just because something has been done before, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run with it, put your own mark on it, find an original way to show that story.

Should you try the exercise, or any of the above tips, share your results in the comments, let’s have some fun with this!

The post Tips for Creating Original Images by Lea Hawkins appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to Import Photos into Lightroom

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If you are new to Lightroom, the first thing you need to do after installing the software, opening it up, and taking a look around is import some photos.

As Lightroom is a database you can’t open photos in it the same way you can in Photoshop – instead, you have to import your photos before you can view, or process them. The import process adds photos to the Lightroom Catalog (Adobe’s name for the database that the program uses) and generates a preview of the image for you to view. Once imported, images stay in the Lightroom Catalog forever (or until you remove them from the Catalog yourself).

The Lightroom modules

Lightroom is modular software, there are seven of them: Library, Develop, Map, Book, Slideshow, Print and Web. You can only work in one module at any one time, but you can move around between them as often as you want.

The Library module is the heart of the system. This is where you view photos, organize them into Collections and carry out searches. The Library module is your window to the Lightroom Catalog ,and all the information that it holds about your images.

Importing and viewing photos happens entirely within the Library module.

The Lightroom module layout

The screenshot below shows the Library module layout. If you haven’t imported any photos into the Lightroom Catalog yet this is what it will look like.

Importing photos into Lightroom

1. Module selector
2. Side panels
3. Filmstrip
4. Content area

The screen is divided into four areas.

1. The Module selector: This is the bar at the top that tells you which module you are in (in this case, the Library module). You can make it disappear by clicking the white arrow at the top of the screen, freeing up screen space.

2. The left- and right-hand panels: These contain all the Library module tools. You can click the arrow on either side to make them disappear and reappear.

3. The Filmstrip: Displays thumbnails in the currently selected Folders, Collections or search results. If there are no photos in your Catalog it will be blank. Click the white arrow at the bottom of the screen to show/hide it.

4. The Content window: This is the central display area. After you have imported some photos into Lightroom you can view them here. If you hide all four side panels (use the keyboard shortcut Shift+Tab) it will fill your screen.

Importing photos

To get started, free up some screen space by hiding the Module Picker, Filmstrip and right-hand panels. Click the Import button in the bottom left-corner of the left-hand panel.

Importing photos into Lightroom

If this is your first import you are likely to be importing your photos from your hard drive, but you can also import them directly from a memory card, or connected camera.

It is best to import your photos one folder at a time, so you can organize them as you go along. It is more difficult if you import all your image files in one go. Plus, Lightroom will make you wait a long time while it carries out the import process!

The Import window

When you click the Import button Lightroom takes you straight to the Import window. It is divided into four sections (marked below).

Importing photos into Lightroom

1. Source 
2. Photo thumbnails
3. Import options
4. Destination

1. Source (left panel): This is the folder(s) from which you are going to import the photos. You can navigate through all hard drives, cameras, or memory cards connected to your computer.

2. Photo thumbnails (middle section): Here Lightroom displays thumbnails of the photos in the selected source folder or folders. The photos are ticked to show that Lightroom will import them into the Catalog when you press the Import button (you can untick any that you don’t want to import).

3. Four import options which tell Lightroom what to do with the photos (top middle): They are:

  • Copy as DNG: When you select this option Lightroom converts your Raw files to Adobe’s DNG format (non-Raw formats such as JPEG and TIFF are not converted). This is the most time consuming option as Lightroom has to first copy your photos then convert them to a new format. Make Lightroom Faster by Using DNG explains the advantages of the DNG format. If you’re new to Lightroom leave this option alone for the moment, as it’s for more advanced users.
  • Copy: Lightroom copies your files from their current location to a new one, without changing the file format. This is ideal for importing photos from a memory card, as it leaves the original files intact on the card.
  • Move: Lightroom moves your files from their current location to a new one, without changing the file format. However, it does delete the original files after they have been moved. This is ideal when you want to move photo files from one folder to another on a hard drive.
  • Add: Lightroom imports your photos into the Catalog, without moving or copying them from their current location. Select this option if you are importing photos from your hard drive and don’t want to change their location.

4. Destination (right panel): This is where you tell Lightroom what to do with the photos (and where to put them) during the import process. If you select the Add option you will see two panels here (File Handling and Apply During Import). If you select Copy as DNG, Copy, or Move, Lightroom also displays the File Renaming and Destination panels.

Putting it together

Ready to import your first photos into Lightroom? These are my recommended settings – you can start with these and adjust the workflow to suit your needs as you become more comfortable with Lightroom’s settings.

1. Navigate to the folder containing your photo files on the left and select the Add option from the top.

Importing photos into Lightroom

2. On the right open the File Handling panel (click on the heading to open and close panels) and set Build Previews to 1:1.

Importing photos into Lightroom

3. Open the Apply During Import panel and set Develop Settings and Metadata to None. The idea is to keep your first import simple – you can learn how to use Develop Presets and Metadata presets later (this article How to Create Your Own Lightroom Presets will get you started).

Importing photos into Lightroom

4. Click the Import button (bottom right). Lightroom returns to the Library module and starts the import process. It takes Lightroom a while to build the 1:1 previews, but the wait is worth it, as it makes viewing them in the Library module much quicker.

Importing photos into Lightroom

Once Lightroom has imported your photos, you can view them in the Library module. These articles Making Sense of Lightroom’s Grid View and The Hidden Secrets of Lightroom 5’s Loupe View (yes it applies to Lightroom 6 and Lightroom CC too) will get you started.

Importing photos from a memory card

Once you’ve carried out your first import, at some stage you will want to import photos directly from a memory card into Lightroom. There are a couple of extra steps in this process. Start by selecting Copy (instead of Add) at the top of the Import window.

Importing photos into Lightroom

Set the File Handling and Apply During Import panel settings as above. Ignore the File Renaming panel (another advanced topic).

In the Destination panel, select the folder where you would like to save the imported images (you can create a new folder by right-clicking on an existing one and selecting Create New Folder). The selected destination folder is marked in white.

Importing photos into Lightroom

Click the Import button when you’re ready.

After the import

It’s important to understand that the import process doesn’t physically add your photo files to the Lightroom Catalog. The Catalog contains previews of your photos, plus information about them, including the location where they are saved. The photo files themselves remain on your hard drive.

The next task is to organize your newly imported photos. I’ll show you how to do that in a future article.

Do you have any questions regarding this process? Please let me know in the comments.

Mastering Lightroom Book One: The Library Module

Mastering Lightroom ebookMy latest ebook Mastering Lightroom Book One: The Library Module (second edition) is a complete guide to using Lightroom’s Library module to import, organise and search your photo files. You’ll learn how to tame your growing photo collection using Collections and Collection Sets, and how to save time so you can spend more time in the Develop module processing your photos.

The post How to Import Photos into Lightroom by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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If you are an avid reader of this site, most likely you are a photography enthusiast wanting to learn more and advance your craft. If you really care about doing so, it is time to stop taking snapshots and start making photographs to become a better photographer.

Taking versus making can be a question of semantics; that’s why I prefer to call it snapshot versus photograph. But beyond semantics, in my humble opinion, you graduate as a photographer the moment you start making photos instead of taking them, regardless of the results. But wait, regardless of the results? Well, not really. Of course, you want great photos. What I mean by that is that you’ll progress in your craft the moment you start thinking about your photos, your vision, and how to reflect it with your image. The results could be bad or good, but you are thinking as a photographer. When you start thinking as a photographer, the results will come, sooner or later.

New Orleans Skyline

So what’s the difference? Taking a photo is the result of an impulsive reaction; you just press the shutter because you are there and you shoot it. Taking a photo is just snapping what you see. Instead, making a photograph is a process. When you make a photo, you are creating something from your vision. You are constructing it, and you are putting what comes from you in it.

The process of making a photo can take different periods of time. For some, it is a longer, thoughtful process, and for others it is a just a moment. For a National Geographic photographer, making a photo can take months; there is a lot of planning, research and being there just to get the right image that makes the cover of the magazine. For a street photographer, making a photo is totally different; they only have a split second to get it right without the luxury of setting up. But, there are other things they can control, like location, time of the day for best light, and so on.

I am telling you that you graduate as a photographer when you start making photographs because, for most us, enjoying the creative process is what makes us different from the rest. It does not matter if you are an enthusiast, serious amateur, or pro – we all enjoy it. Sure, learning how to expose, compose and post-process is important, but it’s something you can learn with enough practice and attention. That’s the technical aspect of photography, and when you master the basics, there will be always something new learn. But besides that, it comes with the freedom to stop thinking about aperture/depth of field and ISO/noise, and focus more on the photos you want to create.

Making a photograph will also help you to cut the clutter. When I first started to go on travel photography trips, I used to come back home with thousands of photos that were taken in just a span of a couple of days. That made the selection process a daunting task. First, who really wants to see thousands of photos? Second, is there any meaning in them? When you take the time to plan a more thoughtful photograph, you cut the clutter because often you’ll shoot less, but come out with better content.

Happy woman in Taung Tho Market Inle Lake

Last, I want to leave you with a couple of examples, starting with the opening picture of this article. I was going to be in New Orleans only for a long weekend and one the things I wanted to photograph was the skyline of the city. So, I started my research ahead of time to find the best spot to do it. I only had three nights in the city and as I wanted to shoot during the blue hour, I really didn’t have the chance of messing it up. Once I knew where I was going to make my photo from, it was all a matter of arriving there in time to set up and wait for the right moment. So besides finding the location and arriving early to set up, I also had the right tools with me to make it happen. I knew I wanted to include the Crescent Connection Bridge, so I brought a wide angle lens. I knew that it was going to be a long exposure, not only because of the time, but also because I wanted a smooth reflection over the Mississippi River, so I also brought a tripod and a neutral density filter to make a long exposure.

Sometimes making a photo also means finding an interesting subject, and trying to learn more from them by staying for a while, instead of grabbing a shot and moving. I found this amazing woman for this photo (above) from the Taung Tho Market of Inle Lake in Myanmar. I sat there taking pictures of her for a while, and I remember she pretended I was not there until I told my guide to tell her that she was beautiful. Her reaction was priceless and that made the photo.

Monk in the Punakha Dzong

Other times, making a photo means waiting for something interesting to happen if you are in the right place. For the Bhutanese monk above, I found myself on a big patio surrounded by typical and colorful windows that I wanted to photograph, while I was visiting one of the many monasteries. But I needed something else besides the windows. Because I had seen them earlier, I knew that another monk would walk across my frame sooner or later, so I carefully composed my photo and waited until this one walked by.

There you have it. As you can see, there are different meanings and ways to create photos, and not just take them. But the most important thing is for you to understand that you can be a better photographer by making photos instead of just taking them. Plan and enjoy the process, and results will follow. By the way, if you are already making photos, why don’t you share one with us in the comments below with a short caption on how you made it and why.

The post Start Making Photographs to Become a Better Photographer by Daniel Korzeniewski appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Making Sense of Exposure

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When I first started out in photography I had a tough time wrapping my head around one of its most fundamental concepts: exposure. I learned everything I could about things like aperture, light, shutter speed, highlights, shadows and dynamic range, but all these were planets orbiting a central sun called exposure and I couldn’t nail down exactly what that meant. I heard terms like “expose for the highlights” and “try to get a good exposure” sandwiched between people talking about “double exposure” and “long exposure” and my head was swimming. I figured things out eventually, but it took trial and error and cries for help to my fellow photographers (not to mention a lot of online research and books). So, then, let me help other aspiring image-makers learn a thing or two by making sense of exposure.


A properly exposed architecture photo.

Here’s the most basic, but informative, definition I can offer of exposure: it’s how bright or dark your photograph is. If a photo is too bright, it’s considered to be overexposed. Too dark, and it’s underexposed. But the Goldilocks-approved version of almost any picture is what’s known as a proper exposure – it’s neither too dark nor too light. All other bits aside, when people talk about getting a properly-exposed image, or tweaking camera settings to get a good exposure, all it really means is getting an image that’s not too bright or not too dark.


The bright sunlight made getting a proper exposure a bit tricky, but understanding how it works helped me get the photo I was looking for.

Sounds simple, right? It is, and yet it’s much more because photography is not just about getting things to be neither too bright or too dark. It’s up to you as a photographer to know not only how to get an image that’s properly exposed but how to adjust your camera’s settings to get the exposure you want. You might look at a given scene and decide that you want things to be a bit too bright or too dark, or you would really like some of the darker areas of the image to show up brighter, or you want to get a picture of something in broad daylight that’s normally too bright for your camera to deal with. Or perhaps you like images with extremely dark and light areas and you want to purposely create a sense of contrast while also maintaining a certain type of exposure. In Auto mode your camera will almost always try to get what it thinks is a properly-exposed image, but if you can work up the courage to try Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, or even Manual mode you can start to control the various parameters that combine to make an image and, thus, get the precise type of exposure you want – not what your camera thinks you want.


Knowing how to adjust my exposure was critical to capturing this image. My camera’s Auto function would have left me with an unusable photo.

So how do these other elements affect exposure, and what can you do to manipulate them to get the exposure you want? This is a simple breakdown of the three most important things you need to know:

Aperture: The size of the opening in your camera lens that lets light pass through to the image sensor. A larger aperture will let more light pass through, while a smaller one will not let much light pass through.

Shutter Speed: How long the curtains in front of the image sensor are open. A longer shutter speed will let more light pass through, while a shorter shutter speed will not let much light pass through.

ISO: How sensitive your image sensor is to light. Lower ISO values mean your camera is not very sensitive to light, which means a proper exposure requires either a longer shutter speed, a wider aperture, or both. High ISO values mean your camera is very sensitive to light, which means a proper exposure requires either a shorter shutter speed, smaller aperture, or both.


In this shot, I used a special light-blocking tool called a neutral density filter in order to get the desired exposure.

What does all this mean in practice, and how can you adjust these elements to get the exposure you want? To illustrate a few basic principles, here are some photos that show what can be done to manipulate your camera in order to get the proper exposure (combination of light and dark) that you want.

This first picture has a proper exposure: there’s some bright areas, some dark areas, and a mix of both in various sections of the photo.


Early morning on campus with a good overall exposure. 50mm, ISO 100, f/4.0, 1/2000 second.

Now take a look at the next one, which has been exposed for the highlights. This means I wanted to take the bright areas of the picture, specifically the sidewalk as it recedes to the horizon, and make that part be properly exposed. To do this, I had to decrease my shutter speed quite a bit, which meant that only a little bit of light was captured. Since there was so much light shining on the sidewalk, a little bit was all I needed. You’ll notice that the result illustrates a bit of a trade-off: the very bright portions of the  image are now more properly balanced and you can make out a lot more detail in the sidewalk, but the darker portions are now really dark and you can’t see much of anything.


The same scene, exposed for the highlights. 50mm, ISO 100,f/4.0, 1/5000 second.

I also took a photo of the same scene but exposed for the shadows. Since the dark areas of a given composition are not reflecting much light, you’ll need to find a way of capturing as much of it as possible. In this case, I chose to use a much longer shutter speed in order to let in much more light. Once again, you can see an immediate trade-off: the dark areas are much more colorful, but the bright areas are way too bright. If I wanted to emphasize the trees, shrubs and other greenery this is one way to do that, even though it would come at the expense of some of the color and detail on the sidewalk.


The same scene, exposed for the shadows. 50mm, ISO 100,f/6.7, 1/90 second.

If you want to try altering the exposure of a given photograph the simplest way is to use your camera’s exposure compensation function to quickly over – or under – expose your composition. Alternatively, you can manually adjust the parameters like Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO to get the desired result. If you want to get really creative you can use different metering modes on your camera (spot, center-weighted, average, etc.) to adjust how your camera takes various sources of light into account in order to get the exposure you are looking for.

As a side note, you might have heard about a technique called HDR which stands for High Dynamic Range, and involves taking multiple exposures of the same scene and combining them on your computer using a program like Photoshop. This means you get the best of all worlds: properly exposed highlights and shadows along with a good overall balance of color throughout the image. It’s just another tool in your kit that you can utilize to get the exact image you are going for, which is why understanding exposure is so critical to photography. By knowing what it is and how to control the exposure of a scene to get the picture to turn out how you want, you can take more control over your pictures and start making creative decisions instead of leaving things up to your camera.

I hope this article clears up some confusion you might have about the subject of exposure, as it’s the kind of piece I wish I had in front of me several years ago. Do you still have questions about what exposure is all about? What are your favorite tips and tricks to deal with exposure? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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6 Tips to Get Started with Portraits

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People fascinate me. I love the diversity in personality and expressions, and I love using my camera to capture all those personalities! People are by far my favorite subject to have in front of my camera.

If you are new to photography and getting frustrated that you aren’t creating portraits like you hoped, I’m here to help! Let’s go through six tips to get started with portraits. You’ll be a pro before you know it.


1. Get yourself a 50mm lens

Are there better lenses out there for portraits? Yes. But the 50mm is inexpensive, versatile and great to get started! Once you’ve gotten the hang of this lens, you’ll know what other lenses to invest in later and you’ll never regret having a 50mm prime lens in your bag. Your camera probably came with a kit lens that zooms in and out. The drawback of this lens is that you can’t open the aperture very wide.

Have you noticed portraits that have a creamy blurred background, and the subject just pops? This is achieved by setting the aperture on a very low number, usually between f/1.8 and f/2.8. Look at your kit lens. It probably can only go down to f/3.5, and if you zoom in your lowest aperture number is probably f/5.0. You could get the 50mm 1.4 or, if you’re really unsure about what you want, give the 50mm 1.8 a try. It’s the least expensive lens out there, but it will still give you a lot of bang for your buck. Trust me on this one! If I could only choose one lens to have in my bag for the rest of my life, it would be this one.


2. Focus on the Eyes

Toggle your focus point of your camera until it’s right on the eyes; if your subject is close to you, put the focus point on one eye (if one eye is closer to you than the other, focus on that one). If you are still letting your camera automatically choose where to focus, change that in your settings now! Pull out that manual you hid away and put it to good use.

If your subject’s eyes are in focus, it will be a much more compelling portrait. After all, the eyes are the window to the soul! If possible, try to position your subject so they have some catchlights (or sparkle) in their eyes.


Be cautious when you are shooting really close portraits. You want to make sure that you have your aperture number high enough that everything you want to be in focus will be in focus. If you are really close to your subject and your aperture number is really low, like f/1.8, you may notice that the eyes are in focus, but the nose is not. Just bump up the aperture a little at a time until you get the look you are going for. When you are learning and experimenting, it’s helpful to zoom in on the preview on the back of your camera after you have taken the photo. Sometimes it may look like everything is in focus, but later when you upload it to your computer, you realize that it definitely was not in focus. If you can find this out WHILE you are shooting, you have a chance to correct things and learn at a faster rate.


3. Experiment with Distance and Orientation

Sometimes as beginners we might get stuck doing things always the same way, like needing to put the subject’s whole body into a portrait, or having the face fill up the frame. Neither is right nor wrong. The important thing is not to produce the exact same photo over and over.

Try stepping back a bit and include the surroundings in your portrait. It might tell a great story about the person you are photographing. Then try getting really close. Now get even closer. Don’t worry about what grandma is going to say – it’s okay to cut off the top of someone’s head in a photo.

You might notice that you almost always shoot vertically (portrait), or maybe you’re stuck shooting horizontally (landscape) all of the time. Don’t let yourself get in a rut! Try close-up portraits horizontally and try vertical portraits that take in lots of the surroundings (and vice versa).


4. Create a True Portrait

We can stick anyone in front of a paint splattered backdrop, sit them on a stool, turn their shoulders at an angle, tell them to smile and call it a portrait. Or we can use our skills to make a portrait that truly shows who your subject is, and what they are about. I love the portraits that tell a true story about my subject because I know that I have captured something worth keeping.

Try to get to know your subject a little bit and use that knowledge to create a portrait that anyone could look at and know a little bit about who that person is. You could do this with props, expression or posing. If they’re passionate about something, they may want it included in the photo with them. If he’s a person who smiles all the time, a serious portrait may not capture who he really is.

Your job as the photographer is to make a portrait that will be treasured by everyone who knows your subject. They will know that you really caught who he is. It’s also your job to create a portrait that will be compelling to those who don’t know your subject. It should make them want to get to know him and let them know a little bit about who he is, even if they’ve never met.


5. Lighting First, Background Second

Good light on your subject’s face is most important in a portrait. I look for good lighting before I look for a good background. The easiest lighting to work with for beginners is an overcast day (if that’s the way the cards fall that day) or shade. On an overcast day, try having your subject facing toward the light source. Even if it’s cloudy, often the direction you have your subject face will either illuminate their eyes or put their face in shadow. If you’re not sure which direction to have him face, just rotate until you have that aha! moment when the light is just right.

You might find shade on the shady side of a building (subject facing out towards the light) or in the shade of trees, but if the light is patchy in the trees have your subject put her back towards the sun. You don’t want to have dappled light on her face, or half-shadow and half-sun. Try to have the light as even on her face as possible. Also, avoid having full sun on your subject’s face. This can cause harsh shadows and make it almost impossible for some not to squint their eyes.

Expose for the face for portraits, even if it causes your background to not be exposed correctly. In a portrait, the person is obviously the most important part, so this makes sense.



6. Don’t Worry About the “Rules”

It’s important to learn all you can about the rules of photography. Learn them, practice them, use them. Then be creative and have some fun without worrying too much about the rules. If you’re making a portrait, the eyes don’t have to be looking at the camera. The photo doesn’t always have to be divided into the rule of thirds. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing, either. Be true to yourself and have fun with it! When you create a portrait of someone, it can be truly unique. Nobody else will be able to take that same photo in that same light with that same expression. Make sure it represents who you want to be as a photographer and make sure it represents the person you are creating a portrait for.

Do you have questions about taking portraits? I’d be happy to answer everything I can in the comments. I’d also love to see your favorite portraits you’ve taken!



The post 6 Tips to Get Started with Portraits by Melinda Smith appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Have you ever wondered how you can get more gear onto a plane without paying an excess baggage fee?
We found this interesting video from photographer Peter Leong, a wedding photographer in Japan who travels regularly for overseas weddings, describing how he carries camera gear on board.

Have you worn a photography vest before? What has your experience been when traveling with photography gear and taking it through airport security?

The post How to take more Photography Gear through Airports by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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