Month: December 2015

Happy New Year 2016 from dPS

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Randy Tan Travelogue

By Randy Tan Travelogue

Well it’s been a fantastic year here at dPS, we hope you’ve had a good one too.

The New Year is upon us and it’s a time to reflect on the past 12 months, and look forward to the next 12.

So I’m curious, do you make goals for the new year? I’m not into making resolutions myself, I think they’re often too shallow, and most people make rash ones, that they don’t keep more than a few days. The reason is they don’t have a plan to go with them.

Goal + A plan of Action = Success

So tell me, in the comments below:

  • What are your photography goals for 2016?
  • What will you do (action plan) to move yourself closer to achieving them?

My own personal goals this year are around balance and fitness/health. So I’ve already joined a gym and have started going three times a week or more. For my photography goals, my big one is (I’m putting this out there so I actually do it and you guys can hold me to it):

  • GOAL: Make a book of my Grandmother’s images (have had the photos for two years) to give to her and my family members (she’s 96 and want to do this while she’s still here and has eyesight, which is failing her).
  • ACTION PLAN: Take 30 minutes each week to work on this project (cull images, edit them in Lightroom, and design and order the Blurb book).

Okay, it’s your turn. What is your one big goal and your action plan?

William Cho

By William Cho

PS – a future goal is to spend New Year’s in Singapore (I’ve been there over Christmas but didn’t quite make it to the 31st). Sure looks like they have an amazing fireworks display based on the two images above!

The post Happy New Year 2016 from dPS by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

How to Use Shadow and Contrast to Create Dramatic Images

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shadow and contrast

You can use shadow and contrast to create dramatic images. The key is to forget about shadow detail. You don’t need it. Shadows are meant to be dark and mysterious. This is good – it leaves something to the viewer’s imagination.

Utilize the dynamic range of your sensor. Expose for the highlights, and let the shadows fall where they will. If the light is strong enough, the shadows will contain very little detail.

Harsh light can make dramatic images

I took the following photo in Bolivia. The sun was sinking behind me, casting a strong shadow that had started to touch the underneath of the old car. The shadow fills the bottom third of the image. We don’t need detail in the shadow, although a little doesn’t hurt. Shoot in Raw format, and in most cases you’ll be able to pull some shadow detail out in post-processing, giving you a choice.

shadow and contrast

When I see a dramatic image like this, with strong shadows, my immediate instinct is to convert it to black and white. High contrast scenes look great in monochrome. There’s something about removing colour that emphasizes the depth of the shadows, and the drama of the composition. You can add impact by increasing contrast in Lightroom and emphasizing texture using the Clarity slider. Here’s my black and white conversion of the photo above.

shadow and contrast

Look for naturally contrasty scenes

I took the next photo indoors, in an old manor house that had been converted to a museum. The apples were lit by light coming through a window. The windows were small, so the interior of the room was naturally dark, which is why there is so little detail in the background. It’s a high contrast scene – the area lit by window light ,is much brighter than the rest of the scene.

shadow and contrast

Here’s the same image converted to black and white. Without colour, the emphasis is on the textures and shadows.

shadow and contrast


The following photo of an approaching storm uses also uses shadow and contrast. The mountains are backlit and silhouetted. The approaching storm clouds are dark and ominous. A brightly lit strip of sky fills the gap between the two dark areas. A silhouetted telegraph pole forms a natural focal point. The drama of the light has created a dramatic image.

shadow and contrast

The image is naturally monochromatic, and converts well to black and white.

shadow and contrast

There are lots of shadows in this seascape. But the ones that caught my eye were the silhouetted figures on the right. After I had set up the shot, two children walked across the beach, and climbed up on the rock. I used a long shutter speed (30 seconds) to blur the water, which also blurred the silhouetted children. I was fortunate because the figures add human interest and scale to the scene. They are a natural focal point that pulls the eye across the photo.

shadow and contrast

shadow and contrast

It also converted well to black and white.

The final image is also one that uses shadow to create mystery and drama. I focused on the grass on the foreground, set a wide aperture, and let the sun go out of focus. I adjusted the white balance in Lightroom to emphasize the warmth of the setting sun. This image is different from the others in that the colour is an important part of the composition and it doesn’t work as well in black and white.

shadow and contrast


One of my aims with this article is to dispel the idea that it is essential to capture lots of shadow detail, and that if you fail to do so, it is some kind of technical shortcoming. Not so – let’s celebrate the fact that camera sensors don’t capture the full range of brightness that our eyes are capable of seeing. Let’s use the interplay of light and shadow to create interesting and dynamic compositions. Let’s create some mystery and leave gaps for the viewer’s imagination to fill in.

Do you use shadows in your images? Please share your images with lots of shadow and contrast in the comments 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 Use Shadow and Contrast to Create Dramatic Images by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

How to Create a Vintage Look for Your Image Using Photoshop

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Creating a vintage look for an image is now easy, without having to shoot with an old film camera. Although I would recommend any photo enthusiastic to try! I have a an Agfa camera ISOLA that I use every now and then. I love the contrasty, grainy black and white pictures it allows me to shoot. I usually ask advice regarding the film I can use depending on the sought-after result (contrast- grain – ISO).

With a few easy steps in Photoshop you can make a textured, desaturated vintage look for any of your pictures. I’m going to show you how I did it with a self-portrait, but you can really do it with any picture as this technique really creates a great feeling to any image, whether it is a portrait or a landscape.

Vintage images are usually not so sharp, so I chose an image with some motion blur. You can add some directly in camera playing with slow shutter speeds and creating some motion. To edit this image, we are going to change the color using a gradient map adjustment, add some textures, and finally add a vignette to get a vintage look image.

Setting the mood for creation before Setting the mood for creation after

Step one: Modifying the color tones using gradient map

There are many ways to desaturate an image. I love the gradient map adjustment because it allows me to desaturate the image, to add some color tones, and also to adjust its contrast. Hopefully, you will love this tool if you haven’t tried it yet.

Vintage images are usually desaturated – it could also be sepia. To get the desaturation you can go to Layer > New adjustment layer > Gradient Map (as shown below).


Or you can go to your layer tab and select new Gradient Map layer (as below).


In the properties tab (screenshot below) you can see what gradient has been applied. By default it will be a foreground to background color, so usually black and white (the color squares on the bottom of your tools bar). You can also set the gradient color by changing your background and foreground color.


Photoshop then offers you 2 different options:

  • The Reverse option will change the gradient and give you a negative of your image, as in this case I add white into the black and black into the white (below).04
  • The Dither option will mix in noise to help blend the gradient more smoothly. So you can check any of those options depending on the effect you want to achieve.

Edit your gradient by clicking on it (click on the gradient color bar); the gradient editor will then open.


The gradient editor window shows you on the left the color applied to your blacks, and on the right the color applied to your whites. To modify the gradient you have two options:

First option, you choose one of the available presets. You click on a preset to apply it to your image. Second option is to create a custom gradient. Simply double click on one of the color stops, and choose a new color among the color pop-up menu.

You can also create a new color stop/intermediate by clicking below the gradient bar to define another one wherever you want (remember on the left are your shadows/black tone – in the middle mid-tones, and on the right your highlights/white tones). Once the new color stop is set you can also move it so it affects more of your dark or light tones.

In case you want to save the created gradient as a preset, name it, then click New after you have finished. It will then appear in your presets.

This is a powerful tool to adjust any color tone in your images. In this case I will first use the black and white gradient. When using this option the image is then turned into a black and white picture.


As it is not what we intended to do, lower the opacity of the adjustment layer.


I set it to 68% in this case, but you can choose whatever number gives a nice look to your image – play with the opacity to decide which one best suits the image you are editing.

You can add also a touch of color. Keep it very soft to achieve a vintage look. To bring back some color, you can add a second Gradient Adjustment layer. After you add another layer, click on your gradient and choose a yellowish/brownish option to get a sepia tone, one in the presets or make a custom one.


Once again you can lower the opacity of the adjustment layer to have a softer effect.


You can also add a different color according to the mood you want to set in your image. In this case I decided not to add further color tones so I added only the black and white gradient.

Step two: Adding texture to give the image a vintage feel

Now that you have achieved the color you want, it is time to add some texture to your image.

Personally I always shoot my own textures, but you can also find great textures on the internet on stock image sites. Or shoot your own pictures: walls, old paintings, grounds, wood, leaves, etc., any textured surface you can find. It is very easy, and can help you find some inspiration.


You drag and drop using your move tool or copy and paste a textured photo on top of your main picture. Then mix it by using the layer Blending Mode, try Overlay or Soft Light. I really recommend you to go through all the blending options to see how they blend the texture with your image (each image is different, and each mode can create a different look).


I always add textures to my personal works to give a painterly effect to my images. To have a lighter effect you can lower the opacity of your layer. To have a stronger effect you can repeat this step and add several textured layers.

You can modify the effect by adjusting your texture image. Select the texture in your layer’s tab and go to: Image > Adjustment > Curves/Levels.


Playing with Curves or Levels will help you to bring back, or soften, some details in the texture. You also can add a Gaussian Blur filter if there are details that are too sharp in your texture image.


Select the area where you want to show or not show the texture. You can add a layer mask on the texture layer and by painting with black or white on the layer mask, you add (show) or remove (hide) areas where the texture appears.

Select your texture layer and click on add a layer mask. Lower the opacity of your brush tool, and keep its hardness to 0% to get very smooth edges. Now you can start painting in black over the areas where you want less or no texture.


Everything is in the details, and Photoshop allows you a full control over your images. Usually to still have a “clean” image, and not to lose some details, you can mask areas such as skin, eyes, lips, etc., when editing a portrait.

So take your time to play with your textures. Try different types of shapes and contrasts. You can desaturate your textured image, or keep it in color. I find it easier when the texture is desaturated so you can fully control the color tones of your image separately, but it is up to you, and to the image you have in mind. As with any creative exercise, it is a matter of taste and style.

Step three: Finishing your image by adding a vignette

Vignetting can be an unintended, and undesired effect, caused by camera settings or lens limitations. However, you can also introduce it for creative effect, such as to draw attention to the center of the frame. You can choose a lens which is known to produce a vignette, or a filter to obtain the same effect.

Obviously, as we are going to do now, you can also add a vignette by post-processing your image in Photoshop. You have many options in Photoshop to vignette your images. In this case we are doing something very uneven so the vignette also helps to create a strange atmosphere.

Grab your lasso tool and draw very random lines around the edges of your image. It looks weird, but it is quite effective.


Go to Layer > New adjustment layer > curves. Darken your mid-tones by pulling down your curves to about one third (or to any darker/lighter spot according to your taste).


Whenever you select an area of your image, and have this selection active when you create a new adjustment layer, Photoshop automatically creates a layer mask on the new layer from your active selection.

Remember – on your layer mask white is where the effect will be applied, and black where the effect will not be applied. Here you want to apply the effect on the edges of the image, not in the center- if need be invert your layer mask by selecting the layer mask and pressing: CMD/CTRL+I.

Then double click on your Curves layer mask and feather your selection (around 87 pixels here).


You can once again play with the opacity of your layer to lighten the vignette.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Feel free to share in the comments your usual steps to crete a vintage look to your images. Share your images as well using this technique if you give it a go.

The post How to Create a Vintage Look for Your Image Using Photoshop by Amélie Berton appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

Improve Your Photography by Having Go-To Places to Shoot

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There is a spot about 25 minutes west of the city. It is a spot right along the highway with a big sign that says, “Scenic Viewpoint”. Naturally it draws a lot of photographers. A quick look on Google will show a lot of sunsets shots, most with the guard rail along the bottom.


Having 45 minutes before sunset, with a 20 minute drive, plus 10 minute walk, leaves no time to find and compose a shot. Being able to walk into the spot, set up and shoot makes some shots possible.

I know, I am one of them, making the scramble to get set up. Of course, it’s natural not to know the cool little spots when you are just passing through the area. However, after living in a place for some time, you start to learn of some go-to spots. You know, those places you can confidently walk into as the light is building, set up, and be there when the shot happens? If you don’t have a list of go-to spots you may want to consider making one, it can help you improve your photography.

Over the past couple of years that I’ve been shooting, I have developed a lengthy list of very specific spots (down to where the tripod stands) that all have their ideal season, weather, and time of day combination.


After an hour of walking this area, I found the spot that aligns the features of this shot. This way if it looks like a certain shot might have good light, I can save myself a ton of hassle and just get to where I need to be quickly.

This is particularly important when shooting at night, the Milky Way, northern lights, etc. Night photography requires a lot of planning. To make an interesting shot, having good foreground and mid-ground objects is key, and just cannot be done blindly in the dark. Thus a lot of mediocre shots are required while scouting a new area. Learning the angles to line up items in your shot with features in the sky.

River aurora

This photo was taken on the third trip in to this spot. I knew everything would work, so when the auroras started up I was ready.

The whole process takes some time, but as you revisit locations you will become so confident about it being right, that you can walk up to that certain rock and set up. There’s no second guessing, and wasting time repositioning for a better composition.

Building your list of go-to spots

Most places I shoot, I return to many times. The first trip in is often just to gather info, and shoot some images to use for planning purposes. Here are a few tools that I use:

1. Facebook:

Yes Facebook can be useful, I am part of several Facebook photography groups and specifically one for my local area. Going out to photograph with other people, is a great way to learn an area. Just be careful not to poach another photographers exact go-to spot. I also find groups for other places that I plan to visit.


Being invited along to an area with another photographers is a privilege. Be sure not to steal their go-to spot.

2. Google Maps and Images:

I use Google all the time to find new areas, specifically Maps, for looking into an area to see the lay of the land. The terrain is critical as to how the natural light will play into the shot. If a waterfall only shoots facing north, but you want the sunset behind it, then that will quickly rule out this spot for that shoot. However, it might make a fantastic spot to photograph the auroras.

3. The Photographer’s Ephemeris:

I use the Photographer’s Ephemeris to place celestial events. I won’t go into the ins and outs of the Ephemeris, but it will allow planning of moonrise, sunset, sunrise, etc., type of shots. It shows the azimuth, and time when certain events occur for any day of the year. Very handy if you plan to photograph the moonrise in a notch along a ridge, or something.


If you are interested in getting a shot of the sun rising at the end of the lake you will have to wait.

4. Boots on the ground:

Research can only take you so far before you have to get your feet dirty. Making day hikes into a new area is by far the best way to explore a specific spot. Just make sure to get off the beaten path, if possible, to see what others might miss. This is also the time to get some shots which I call taking notes. The images can even be iPhone shots, because their purpose is to gather info. I always look at my images and quickly see better positions to shoot from, or a feature that went unnoticed.

Timing is everything when lining up celestial objects. Knowing your go to spot can help you get the most out of your shots. I wasn't by chance that the Milky Way lines up with that point of rock.

Timing is everything when lining up celestial objects. Knowing your go to spot can help you get the most out of your shots. I wasn’t by chance that the Milky Way lines up with that point of rock.

You get the idea. I guess there is a fifth note, and that is to just keep going into places and taking shots. I always see better positions to shoot from while going through my images. Having a lot of go-to spots is the result of simply going to a lot of places. Remembering how each spot shoots, and knowing when the conditions will work best.

Although I am a landscape and nature photographer, who focuses on night sky photography, I also know the value of go-to spots for portrait and wedding photographers as well. Knowing when and where to shoot can make or break your shots. Being able to reduce harsh shadows and wrong angles to make more of your shots usable.

Do you have any go-to spots near where you live? Share your images and comments with us below.

The post Improve Your Photography by Having Go-To Places to Shoot by Dave Markel appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

How to Use the Canon Camera Connect App

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Cameras with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity are all the rage today, but not necessarily the most intuitive feature to unlock. Luckily, Canon seems to have listened to 6D owners, and increased the ease of use of their Wi-Fi platform by switching up the free mobile phone app that comes with the 6D. Previous versions of the app where called EOS Remote and Canon CameraWindow, but earlier this year, a new improved app called Canon Camera Connect, became the main app endorsed by Canon.

This is a visual tutorial on how the new app works. Please note that the tutorial is written assuming you already know how to enable Wi-Fi shooting on your particular device.

Canon Wi-Fi App

Step 1: Check for compatibility and download the app

Currently, Canon Camera Connect is a free app available for download on Android and iOS devices. The app is compatible with a limited range of Canon digital cameras, including select PowerShot point and shoot cameras, the EOS M2, and the EOS 70D and 6D. You can check full compatibility specs here. This tutorial was created using the Canon 6D camera, and a Moto X Android phone.

Step 2: Enable the Wi-Fi function on your camera

This step will likely vary depending on your model of camera. For the Canon 6D, this is a somewhat complicated process that merits its own tutorial, but the methodology can be summarized as such: you are effectively turning your Canon 6D into a Wi-Fi hotspot, that your phone must connect to as a means of communicating with your camera, for either remote shooting or downloading images. Thus, you must first activate the Wi-Fi hotspot on the 6D (or one of the compatible models), then connect to it via your phone’s Wi-Fi networks. Be aware that this WILL temporarily disable your phone’s functionality until you disable the connection with your camera.

Step 3: Explore the interface of the Canon Camera Connect App

After you have successfully connected your phone to your camera, the app should launch, and show you the opening screen, as seen below. The app’s menu is minimal, and pretty straightforward. You will most likely stick to the top two options, which are described in more detail below.

Canon Wi-Fi App

Images on camera

Pressing this will show you a gallery of all of the images on your connected camera, sorted by the date they were taken. To zoom in to any image, simply tap it with your finger. Three options will then appear at the bottom of the image: Save to phone, favorite (star), or trash. If you wish to share an image via email or social media, remember that you can’t do so without first disconnecting your phone from your camera. To work around this, choose the Save to camera option to store the photo on your phone, and then upload it when your phone has internet connectivity again.

Canon Wi-Fi App

Canon Wi-Fi App

Remote shooting

Selecting this option enables live view on your connected camera, and lets you control most of the settings from your phone. Controllable settings include: changing the shutter speed, aperture, ISO, exposure compensation, drive mode, focus mode, and of course the activating the shutter button to take a photo. All the controls can be adjusted and activated using touch screen control. There are a few shortcomings to the remote control settings as listed below, but off the bat the app provides quite a few options for remote shooting.

Canon Wi-Fi App

Canon Wi-Fi App

Camera settings

The third and final main menu option in Canon Camera Connect app is probably the most useless: it allows you to set the date, time, and time zone of your camera. This is a feature you probably won’t use often unless you take your camera traveling a lot.

Canon Wi-Fi App

What the app does

Shoots in JPG or RAW

The app is very quick and responsive, even when shooting in large RAW files. Also, it easily resizes RAW files to JPGs when you save images to your phone.

Will read JPG files taken from any camera

If you have JPG files taken from any other devices, the Canon Camera Connect will likely be able to read, and transfer them to your phone or tablet. I’ve done this using photos shot from an Olympus Tough TG-2 point and shoot, Fujifilm x100s mirrorless camera, and Canon 5D Mark III, so I would assume it would also hold true for other camera models.

What the app does not do

These are shortcomings, specific to using the app with the Canon 6D; some of these issues may not be points of contention when using the app with other compatible camera models.

Adjust to portrait mode while remote shooting

If the app does allow this, the user interface needs to be adjusted to make this feature more obvious. As is probably obvious from some demo shots above, I haven’t figured out how to enable it.

Remote shoot video

Whenever the Wi-Fi function on your Canon 6D is enabled, you cannot simultaneously activate video recording, so unfortunately remote video shooting cannot be achieved.

Time lapse

While you can set your camera to shoot in continuous or self timer mode with the app, there is not the option to shoot time lapses. This is a feature that Canon will hopefully implement in future iterations of the app.

Hopefully this overview will help you see if this app is useful for you. If you have one of the compatible cameras listed, give it a try and let me know what you think. Do you have any other uses for remote apps I haven’t thought of or mentioned?

The post How to Use the Canon Camera Connect App by Suzi Pratt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

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