Month: June 2016

How to Use a Travel Photography Shot List to Come Home with Better Photos

Checking off your travel photo listWant to bring back travel photos that your friends actually enjoy viewing on Facebook? Want to make sure you don’t miss anything when visiting a new culture? Then it’s time to make a list!

We all have our easy ruts we fall into when photographing, but travel, for me, is about expanding my view. That’s why I take a travel shot list and try my darnedest to get at least one of each shot when visiting a new location.

What’s on my list?

Here are some tips for you to help make a travel photography shot list for your next trip. Feel free to use my list and add to it with your own ideas.

1 – People – old, young, and in-between

Spread out your people photos between age ranges. I’ve seen a bazillion images of old ladies from Cuba, while often missing are people like me; middle aged and fairly normal, even a bit boring. Round out your people photos with more variety, is all I am saying.

Portraits in Bhutan

What’s not to love about those shoes and that smile?

Kids are an easy target as they often love having their picture taken. You will need to be aware, though, that not all parents wish for their children to be photographed. That’s the crux of it; parents worry how the images this stranger just took will be used. Sometimes all it takes is a simple “Hello” first to the parents to gauge if taking photos is okay. If language is a barrier, you can also point to your camera, then to the children with an inquisitive look on your face. Either way, no matter the answer, respect the parent’s choice.

Peruvian kids

Kids playing in Inca ruins, Peru

Delhi street market scene

Street scene in Delhi, India with people my age.

Men at Red Fort, Delhi, India

People watching at the Red Fort, Delhi, India

2 – Food – preperation, presentation, social aspect

Food brings us together. It’s a basic need we can all relate to, even if we don’t know exactly what we are about to eat.

Cooking at a Sikh Temple

Inside the commercial sized kitchen at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India

Don’t just shoot the Instagram-worthy image of a plate of the amazing new delicacy you are experiencing, find a way to shoot the preparation of food. Get behind the counter (where it’s allowed) to see how it’s cooked, and where it comes from. As you plan to share these photos (why else are you taking them?), you may find that a large, and often hidden, swath of your friends and followers have a strong interest in food prep.

Buddhist monastery kitchen in Nepal

The full kitchen at a monastery, high in the Himalayas of Nepal

3 – Architecture – old, new, juxtaposed

In some locations the old and the new architecture matches, Bhutan comes to mind. I watched artisans paint a brand new home with traditional patterns and motifs from the nearby 400 year old monastery. Everything there fit a certain style.

Buddhist Temple in Punakha, Bhutan

Looking up at the Punakha Temple, Bhutan

Then we have countries making vast changes from the old style to what constantly evolves as modern – think of Tokyo or Dubai. Look for the differences even where you think there is just one style.

4 – Water – how is it used?

While food brings us together, water is even more vital to our lives. In California we are familiar with our current drought, but forget that not every place has this problem. Some places are quite extravagant with their use of water, while it is a scarcity in others.

Water in use in Nepal and India

Scarcity of water in Kathmandu means water lines, while a woman in Varanasi, India, washes her clothes in the river.

How do the locals use water? Do they wash their laundry in the rivers? Are there fountains everywhere? Are their cities built along waterways, or with vast ports?

Infinity pool and Dubai

An infinity pool 23 stories up in the Burj al-Arab, Dubai, UAE

Old water storage tank overflowing and leaking

In the woods of Oregon, there is often way too much water.

5 – Transportation – private and public

How do people get around? At home we have our patterns, and often don’t see the other forms of transport we might use. But when you travel, it will hopefully be obvious how the people there transport themselves.

Tuk-tuk ride at night

Tuk-tuks in Amritsar, India, are the easiest way to get around town.

It might a passel of buses, camels, rickshaws, taxis, or Maseratis.

Also, how are goods moved? Does your location have shipping traffic and a lot of cargo? From continent to continent, the methods for moving goods from here to there can be vastly different.

Boating on the Ghanges River

Boating along the Ghanges River in Varanasi, India

6 – Commerce – macro and micro

When I think of macro-commerce I think of things like whole industries like: agriculture, tourism, and banking.

With micro- commerce, I think of markets and vendors, where money actually changes hands. Who’s selling what, and who is buying? Is there a special technique to transactions?


Try to capture both the large scale, and intimacy of commerce, and show how things may be very similar, or very different from what you are used to back home.

7 – Nighttime

When the sun goes down, don’t stop shooting! Learn to find light, and exploit its unique qualities during the night. Maybe you have some moonlight or some neon in your location. No matter the source, there is still light at night.

Balanced Rock, Arches National Park, at Night

Balanced Rock in Arches National Park, Utah, USA takes on a new look at night.

Does your location shut down when the sun hits the horizon? Or does it rally for an all-night bender?

I found the markets in Aqaba, Jordan come to life once the heat of the day was done. I also found that the town had way more neon signs than I ever expected, but hadn’t bothered to notice while touring in the daylight. Get out at night and explore.

Noel in Aqaba, Jordan

Neon in Aqaba, Jorda


8 – Religion

How different parts of the world practice religion has always fascinated me. There isn’t a single part of this globe, that does not have some nod to the local religion, in some aspect of their lives.

Minaret of a mosque in Oman

Colorful minaret in Jebel Shams area of Oman

It may be subtle, such as a small altar to burn incense, or it could be the overt repetition of churches across a city. Travel is a time to break out of your routine and try new things. Stick your head (respectfully) inside a temple. Tour a mosque. Visit a cemetery to see the influence of religion on those in the past.

Buddhist monks in ceremony, Bhutan

Photography inside many Buddhist temples in Bhutan is banned, but on the night of this retreat for monks from all around the valley, I was allowed to shoot the ceremony.

Military tombstones and flags located in Eastern Washington, USA

Military tombstones and flags located in Eastern Washington, USA

9 – Landscapes – natural and manmade

I love landscapes, so they come easy to me. But, I have not always been a fan of cities and people. So, it takes me some effort to really appreciate the organization and layout of a nice cityscape. But it’s always worth it to bring back a mix of both in your images.

View of Canyonlands National Park at sunset

No people to see. Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA.

Photographers and Cho Oyu, Nepal

A few people give a sense of scale to Cho Oyu, the 6th highest mountain in the world, Gokyo, Nepal.

Sunrise view of Seattle, Washington and Mount Rainier

Here there are a lot more people in Seattle, Washington, USA

I am reminded of the craze for photos of Iceland. I’ve seen my fill, and rarely was a single cityscape in the mix. Black sand beaches with ice, waterfalls, all that stuff shows up – but most photographers have left out the manmade landscape. Include it! At least once.

10 – Icons – clichés big and small

I know people who refuse to shoot iconic locations. “They’ve been over shot and I wouldn’t be caught dead shooting them,” is a common refrain. Ignore those people.

Taj Mahal and reflection

The classic Taj Mahal view.

You’re traveling, so have fun. Shoot the Eiffel Tower if you’re in Paris. Hit up Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park, and why not get a reflecting pool image of the Taj Mahal, or a cigar smoking lady in Havana? Do it. Get a posed photo of Masai Mara villagers, a llama in front of Machu Picchu, pretend to push over the Tower of Pisa.

Heck, even get a photo of that same waterfall everyone else visiting Iceland has shot.

That being said, you probably shouldn’t share only the cliché shots. Unless you’re on assignment to shoot something highly unique, go ahead and hit the clichés, then move on to the rest of the list. Better yet, look around your cliché location for something new to bring back and share.

Tourists at teh Taj Mahal

The not-so-classic view of the Taj Mahal, but a lot more fun.

11 – Wildlife – domestic and truly wild

My daughter’s obsession with taking photos of cats in Morocco sticks with me as a reminder to not ignore the domestic animals, along with the wild. I’ve photographed big cats in India and Africa, tarantulas in Peru and breaching whales in Alaska. But, I’d be remiss if I didn’t convey the fact that the town of Essouira, Morocco, with its fresh fish markets, is a haven for cats of all kinds.

Breaching humpback whales, Alaska, USA

Humpback whales in Alaska, USA

FIghting Hippos, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Fighting hippos in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

What about the beasts of burden? The donkeys, llamas, horses and camels? Put those on your list as well.


12 – All the pretty plants and flowers

Some of us just don’t care that much about plants. A green thing giving off oxygen at home is the same as a green thing giving off oxygen halfway across the world.

Rhododendrons in the Himalayas, Nepal

Rhododendrons at 14,000′ up in the Himalayas

But, I had no clue there were rhododendrons in the Himalayas of Nepal, much the same (but smaller), as both the ornamental and wild versions, I knew in Washington state growing up. When you get down to the tropics, the plants certainly get exotic, don’t they? Grab their wonderful colors and adaptations to share with friends back home.


This list can be just a start for your own customized version. Take it, shape it, make it your own. Put your favorite things on the list, but also keep those that don’t interest you. Growth as a photographer comes from trying new things and shooting new subjects.

Lastly, when it’s time to share your trip photos, I would suggest using 2-4 images from each category when making an online album. This will force you to pick only the best and it will give your viewers a good cross section of what you saw on your travels.

The post How to Use a Travel Photography Shot List to Come Home with Better Photos by Peter West Carey appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

3 Ways to Simplify and Learn Photography Faster

It’s not always easy to be a photographer, seeing all of the great photo opportunities around us, and wanting to capture them all. Recently, I was working with a student of mine, and she wanted to know how to handle changing settings quickly from one situation to another.  Her example was trying to go from photographing landscapes, to trying to focus on a bird or other wildlife that may quickly enter the scene. While some seasoned photographers may be ready for a situation such as this, it’s certainly not easy, and for someone just learning, I would argue that it shouldn’t be attempted at all.

24-120mm. Shot at 120mm, 1/160, f/4, ISO 1400. Knowing how the lens behaves at both ends of the zoom, I knew I could use this lens for wide angle shots in close, but zoom in as the flower girl was coming down the aisle and still get an interesting shot.

24-120mm, shot at 120mm, 1/160, f/4, ISO 1400. Knowing how the lens behaves at both ends of the zoom, I knew I could use this lens for wide angle shots in close, but zoom in as the flower girl was coming down the aisle and still get an interesting shot.

While many of the camera manufacturers want to make photography sound easy (anyone remember “So advanced, it’s simple”?), the fact is, photography is a craft, that despite the advances in technology, takes some time to master. Different photographic situations call for different settings, different lenses, or even a completely different approach to the subject matter. If you’re a hobbyist with only one camera, it can be impossible to be ready for all of the possibilities as they happen.

So here are three ways to keep it simple while you’re learning photography, and stop the overwhelm.

#1 – Focus on one subject at a time

I’m a strong advocate for keeping things simple. First off, if you’re planning to photograph landscapes, wildlife, or portraits, stick with that one goal.  It is easy to get distracted by other subjects that come along. Those opportunities can seem like gold when they pop up, and they can be, but if you’re already set up to shoot a landscape photo at ISO 100, f/16 aperture, and 1/20th shutter speed, quickly switching to settings suitable for capturing a bird in flight is not an easy process. It will likely end in you being frustrated, capturing photos that don’t quite meet your expectations, or worse, don’t come out at all.

Even now, 20-plus years after beginning my photography career, I try not to do too much at once with a camera. I focus on what my goal was when I first decided to pick up the camera and head out. If I’m planning on photographing a landscape at sunset, that’s what I do. The only time I will try to be ready for two separate subjects, is when I have two cameras. For instance, if I’m photographing a landscape, but there are waterfowl nearby and I want to be ready for that, I have a second camera set up with a telephoto lens, so I can grab it and try and get the shot. Even this requires me to at least temporarily put my initial subject, the landscape, aside for a bit.

Wildlife image taken using a fast shutter speed and a telephoto lens.

This shot of the blue heron was taken with a 400mm lens, using continuous AF, and 1/1250 shutter speed.

The image of the waterfall (below), and the image of the great blue heron (above), were both taken at the same location.  However, for the shot of the waterfall, I needed to use a neutral density filter to slow down the exposure. There is no way I’d have been able to remove the filter, and be ready to photograph the heron, even if both shots could have been captured with the same lens. Not only would my shutter speed have needed to be drastically faster to stop the flight of the heron, I would also have needed to use continuous AF to capture its flight sharply, while I always use one-shot AF when photographing landscapes.

Knowing there may be wildlife nearby, I mounted a Nikon 80-400mm lens on one camera (on a strap on my shoulder), while I had a second camera with a shorter lens, set up on a tripod to capture the waterfalls. If I only had one camera, I would have needed to choose between one subject or the other, and then move on. Rare is the occasion when you can jump so quickly from one subject to a completely different one using only one camera.

Landscape image using a slow shutter speed and wide angle lens.

This shot was taken with a 16mm lens, using one-shot AF, and a 0.6 second shutter speed.

If you’re working with only one camera, don’t try to do too much.  Pick one subject and work that until you feel you’ve accomplished what you wanted, then move on to another subject. Yes, it’s difficult to be set up to catch a sunset and watch a beautiful snowy egret land nearby and start fishing, leaving you itching to try and catch it, but chances are it will fly away again while you’re still fiddling with your settings. Meanwhile, the sun is still setting, the color is fading, and you’ve likely missed a shot or two there as well.

#2 – Use only one lens

Back when I took my first photo course in college, my professor was adamant that each student use only a 50mm lens. I didn’t understand why at the time, but I do now. It’s important to understand how your lenses behave, so you’ll know which one is right for the job. As photographers, many of us become gear collectors, always wanting another lens, to allow us to photograph the way we saw another photographer do it. But before you start collecting lenses, it’s important to recognize what each lens can do for you, and to truly understand that, you’ve got to use each lens extensively.

Wide angle lenses expand perspective.

Using a wide angle lens, I was able to emphasize the ice in the foreground, while pushing the bridge to the background at the top center of the frame.

I currently have seven camera lenses in my kit right now. At any given time, there may be four or five in my camera bag when I’m out photographing, depending on what my planned subject is, or what contingencies I want to be ready for. But, as usually happens, it’s rare that most of those lenses will see the outside of my bag once I get where I’m going. While each situation is different, I often find that one lens will usually handle what I want to do when I get to a location. So unless it’s one of those rare times when a situation calls for both a telephoto and a wide angle look, usually only one of those lenses gets mounted on the camera. While in the above example I broke this rule and used two cameras with two different lenses, that is not usually the norm for me.

When you pull your camera out of the bag next time and select lens to use, stick with that one lens. Really get to know it. If it’s a zoom, shoot at only one end of it. The next time you use it, use the other end. Learn how to make that lens really sing. Find out what it’s really good for, and what it’s not good at. Do this with every lens you own, if you own more than one. When it comes time to purchase new glass, you’ll have a much better understanding of where your kit comes up short, and what you need to buy. In addition, you’ll also be building on my first point, focusing on one subject. Too often, new photographers miss opportunities because they are busy changing lenses because they think they need one over another. If changing lenses is not an option, you won’t waste time with it, and can focus on making great photos with whichever lens you find on your camera.

Telephoto lenses compress perspective.

Telephoto lenses compress perspective. Want to make the sun or moon look really big in relation to a building or structure? Back away from your subject a bit and use a telephoto lens to compress the perspective and distort the size relationship.

In the two images shown above, the same bridge can be found in both, and both shots were taken from roughly the same spot. One was taken with a 16mm lens, and the other, with a telephoto lens at 290mm. Wide angle lenses expand perspective, emphasizing the foreground and pushing background objects back, while telephoto lenses minimize foreground and tend to flatten perspective. Using only one focal length will also help you to compose more effective images. Zooms can at times make you lazy. Zooming from a wide angle to a telephoto lens changes the image profoundly, and it’s important to understand what effect that can have on your image.

Telephoto lenses compress perspective, while wide angle lenses enhance it, and each perspective communicates something different to the viewer. There are reasons to use both wide and telephoto lenses, but only working with them extensively will help you recognize the situations where each is most effective.

#3 – Don’t accessorize

For the lighthouse image- Shot at 16mm, f/16, 15 seconds, ISO 64. I simplified my composition down to two elements, the reflection in the foreground, and the lighthouse in the background. Knowing the lighthouse would be there regardless of where I stood or how I zoomed, I focused on getting the reflection right, and letting the rest of the composition fall into place.

Shot at 16mm, f/16, 15 seconds, ISO 64. I simplified my composition down to two elements, the reflection in the foreground, and the lighthouse in the background. Knowing the lighthouse would be there regardless of where I stood or how I zoomed, I focused on getting the reflection right, and letting the rest of the composition fall into place.

One of the great things about digital photography, and today’s technology, is the many cool new tools available to help with your picture-taking endeavors. It’s great to be able to connect to a camera from your smartphone, and do things such as time lapse or long exposures, but often times, these accessories are one more thing that can go wrong, or distract you from actually taking photos.

There are only three accessories that I use regularly. One is a time controller that plugs into my camera directly, second is a tripod, and finally, a set of neutral density and graduated neutral density filters, used to help control exposure. I didn’t even begin using the filters until a few years ago, more than 15 years into my photography career. Both images below used nothing more than a remote shutter release. In the case of the Milky Way image, on the right, I set my camera to manual for a 15 second exposure and used the remote release as I would the shutter button, simply to avoid touching the camera. For the image on the left of the star trails, while that becomes a bit more complicated in processing, in reality, it’s just a lot of 30-second exposures. I simply set my camera to continuous drive, and locked the shutter button on the remote down. Simple.

Minimize accessories

Even for images such as these, the only accessory I used was a time controller, with only the shutter button locked down.

It’s important, when learning photography, to focus on the basics – aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, and understand how they affect your images. It’s too easy to get caught up in all the bells and whistles and how cool they are, and forget that the end result is what matters. In my mind, if the accessory isn’t contributing in a way that affects the final image, then I don’t need to use it. I’m not saying that accessories are bad, or even unnecessary, but if you aren’t sure how to achieve a proper exposure yet, put off purchasing that shiny new toy, and really learn your camera.

I would even advise you to stay away from the special modes on your camera, such as HDR, or star trails mode (I do that manually in post-production), or multiple exposure mode. Yes, they can look cool, and do great things, but again, understanding the basics of exposure is paramount. If you don’t understand basic exposure, using the bells and whistles won’t help you make music.

I find that simplifying the process as much as possible helps me come away with the best images possible. What do you do to help simplify your photographic process?

The post 3 Ways to Simplify and Learn Photography Faster by Rick Berk appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

How to Create a Dramatic Cinematic Style Portrait Using Photoshop Color Grading

Cinematic style portraits are personally one of my favourites. What I like the most about them are the desaturated colours and the dramatic ambience.

Before we start the tutorial on colour grading, I will give you some of my best tips to achieve this cinematic look:

  • Use a large aperture, something between f/1.4 and f/2.0. If you have a long lens then you can also use that. The idea is to have a nice background bokeh (when things in the background are blurred). You also want to have nice separation between the model and the background.



  • If you’re shooting outside, the I recommend shooting right after sunset. You will get nice soft light on the model’s face, and you will also have city lights behind them, to really get a cinematic feel. This only works with a large aperture, and it adds another point of interest.


  • Your model should have a strong expression on their face, especially if it’s a male. Cute smiling images do not really work that well with this style.
  • Leave some space in the frame. You do not want your model to take up the whole frame, so leave some space around them, to add context to your image. You can get better results if the viewer is able to locate the spatiotemporal context of your image.


  • Your model should not wear something too flashy (something like pink or yellow), limit their clothes to sombre, subdued colours.
  • Try to use complementary colours as much as possible, it creates nice depth to your images. Usually in movies, the actor is either in blue and the background in yellow/orange, or vice versa. Try to keep your actor in a range of cold colours and your background in warm colours, it works the best. The opposite also gives you good results.


  • The most important thing is that your model should look like a character. Try to add accessories, clothes, or poses that make the character look credible. You can discuss with the model or stylist before the session, the look you want to give to your images, and have a look together at the wardrobe.
    IMAGE 6

Color Grading in Photoshop

For the colour grading tutorial I am going to work on this image:


This image was taken on a Canon 6D, with an aperture of f/1.8, on a 50mm lens. This was taken during a short film where I was the photographer. There was a lighting behind the window aiming at the model, we added some fog to create this 1945 look.

What we’re going to do with this image is bring it back to life, by enhancing the contrast between the yellows in the highlights, and the greens in the shadows. We’re going to have a colour scheme based on analogous colours, going from green to yellow.

Let’s start with some basic exposure correction on Lightroom, this will depend on your image, so adjust accordingly.


Do basic adjustments in Lightroom, or your program of choice, first.

After the basics are done let’s move the image over to Photoshop to start our colour grading. If you are using Lightroom just right click and choose Edit in Photoshop.

First, duplicate the layer in Photoshop so that you won’t do any destructive editing. You can always go back to the original layer if you don’t like the results.



Make a duplicate layer.

The first thing we’re going to do is to create a new layer adjustment, go to: Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Lookup…

Screen Shot 2016 06 23 at 2 08 13 PM

Pick filmstock_50.3dl and reduce the opacity of the layer to around 20%. You need to reduce the opacity otherwise the effect is going to be too strong.



Next thing we’re going to do is create a curves layer and redo the contrast. This will really depend on your image, so adjust according to your taste.


Adjustment layer Curves to add contrast.

Then create another curves layer, go to the blue curve and lower the top right extreme of the layer. This will add yellow to your shadows.


Add yellow to the shadow areas using this curve adjustment

Next step is to play around with the colour balance (make another new adjustment layer) to enhance to greens in the midtones and the yellows in the highlights. Once again just the sliders to add green and yellow to both the highlights and the midtowns.


Select Midtones from the pull-down menu and add green and yellow.


Select Highlights from the pull-down menu and add green and yellow.

Right now, we are basically done with colour grading. Lastly is to quickly dodge and burn, to enhance the light coming from the window, and to darken the image and the background. We are basically doing a manual vignette.

To lighten up the image, create a curves layer, make it brighter, and add a black layer mask (CMD/CNTRL+I to invert the layer mask). Call the layer Dodge, and paint with a white brush (because the mask is black) in the spots where you want to brighten up the image. Pick a brush with an opacity around 40% with and edge hardest of 0%

To create a dark layer, we will basically do the same thing but darken up the curves layer and paint over the spots in the image we want darker.


This Curves adjustment layer is for dodging or lightening areas of the image.


This Curves adjustment layer is for burning or darkening areas of the image.


Rename your layers to identify them easier.


This is the final result:



Cinematic portraits rely heavily on great colour grading – but the lighting, model, camera settings and ambience should not be neglected. It all starts with a great image and ends with Photoshop to enhance your vision.

Enjoy the art !

The post How to Create a Dramatic Cinematic Style Portrait Using Photoshop Color Grading by Yacine Bessekhouad appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

How to Improve Composition by Placing your Subject Off-Center

You may be wondering – shouldn’t you always place your subject or main point of interest off-center? Isn’t that what the rule of thirds is about? If so, I suggest you refer back to my earlier article about creating strong compositions with a centrally placed subject. It makes the point that it’s perfectly possible to create a well composed image with the subject placed centrally.

Central composition

Equally, there are times when you should place the main point of interest away from the center of the frame. Not necessarily on a third, but anywhere between the centre of the frame and the edge, centered neither vertically nor horizontally.

I firmly believe that you should never ask yourself whether you should place the main subject or focal point on a third when you take a photo. There are much better questions to ask, such as:

  • Is there enough space around the subject to give it room to breathe?
  • Are there any highlights near the edge of the frame that take the viewer’s eye out of the photo?
  • How does the viewer’s eye move through the photo? This question may be partly answered during post-processing, where you can darken or lighten parts of the image to guide the viewer’s eye.
  • How do I make this photo as interesting as possible?

The answers to these questions influence the decisions you make in composition, and help you decide where to place the main point of interest. Let’s look at some examples.

Examples of off-centered compositions

I took the following photo in a historical building in Beijing called Prince Gong’s mansion. There was a courtyard inside, with Tibetan prayer wheels down one side. As people walked into the courtyard, most of them walked down past the prayer wheels, spinning them as they went. This boy decided to join in the fun.

Composition and placement

I placed him off-center because was shooting through some red tags (like the ones you see behind the boy) hanging from another structure. I used an aperture of f/5 to make sure the tags were out of focus. They create a frame that adds a sense of depth, and also pushes the eye towards the boy. It helps that his yellow T-shirt contrasts with the surrounding red hues.

The next image was taken in New Zealand. I found these beautiful stones by the sea, and asked my model Ashley to lay down on them.

Composition and placement

I liked the way the blue dress contrasted against the more subdued colors of the rocks. I framed the photo so that Ashley’s body formed a diagonal that takes the viewer’s eye from the right side of the photo, to the left. Her face, which is the main focal point of the image, had to be placed off-centre. If it was central there would be lots of empty space on the left-hand side of the image, and it would be unbalanced.

Incidentally, there is an idea that it is better to compose photos to work with the natural tendency to read a page from left to right. As this photo does the opposite and takes the eye from the right of the frame to the left, I flipped it so that you can see the difference.

Composition and placement

Which version of the photo do you think works best? If you have an opinion please let me know in the comments below. I know which version I think is better, but I’d be interested to hear it from people seeing the photo with fresh eyes.

The next photo was taken in the Great Mosque in Xi’an, China. The boy was trying to catch the cat, and I took a photo as he ran after it.

Composition and placement

The boy is the focal point of the image, and because he is moving from left to right in the frame he needs some space to move into – the empty space on the right of the frame provides this. If the boy was centered in the frame there would be too much space on his left.

The next photo, a close-up of a flower, is interesting because it has two focal points.

Composition and placement

The main focal point is provided by the open flower on the left. But the closed flower on the right is a second focal point that also pulls the eye. The result is that the viewer’s eye moves back and forth between the two points. When you have two focal points in a photo like this, it makes sense for them to be on opposite sides of the frame, and therefore off-centre, so that they fill the frame adequately.

I took the next photo at a concert in Auckland, New Zealand.

Composition and placement

I placed the guitarist off-centre so that I could show him in context. Behind him you have another band member on the keyboard, and three spotlights. You can also see some Chinese lanterns (this photo was taken at the Chinese Lantern Festival in Auckland). The lights also provide leading lines to draw the viewer’s eye to the guitarist.

For the next photo we return to Beijing, this time to the Forbidden City.

Composition and placement

I was sitting on a bench resting, when I realized that the doors and pillars you see in the photo lined up nicely when viewed through my 35mm lens. I waited, and took photos as people passed through, hoping to get a good image. Until finally the little boy you see in this image walked through the doorway and hid. A few seconds later he jumped out to surprise someone – as a man, presumably his father, walked through the doorway.

The boy is so small in the frame that you may not have noticed him right away. It is good for photos to contain surprises like this, as a kind of reward for the viewer when they finally spot it.

The colors in this photo also harmonize well. The yellow of the boys’ shorts echoes the yellow around the door frame, and the yellow tiles on the pillars. This is purely luck, but it’s the kind of luck that presents itself when you are present with your camera.

What do you think? What factors do you consider when deciding where to place the main focal points? Let me know in the comments.

Mastering Composition

If you’d like to learn more about composition then please check out my ebook Mastering Composition: A Photographer’s Guide to Seeing.

The post How to Improve Composition by Placing your Subject Off-Center by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

Improve Your Photography by Getting the Right Feedback on Your Images

Have you ever felt that your photography isn’t improving as much as it once was? Do you feel that the level of your work is stagnating and not progressing much more?

Improve Your Photography

Yet you keep reading article after article, either on the web or in magazines. You hope that one of them will provide the next breakthrough for your work and help you rip through the barrier that will bring your photography to the next level. You show off your work to friends and family, and you hear the resounding praises of, “That’s a beautiful photograph” or, “You nailed it”, or any other form of overly positive, loving feedback. The people that you show your work to love it, but you feel that it’s just becoming a little boring, and the next image isn’t really any different from the last.


By Justin

Do this one thing to improve your photography

If this sounds like you, don’t panic; you’re very likely not alone! Even better, there is a very simple remedy for this. This remedy will not only help you now, but also continue to help you well into the future, and at all stages of your photographic journey. You won’t need to read anything extra for it, nor will you have to buy any equipment. To break through this barrier you need to do one thing: be more selective with the feedback you listen to.

The trouble with feedback from people like friends and family is that, unless they are photographers themselves, they won’t tell you want you need to hear. Rather, they will tell you what you want to hear – which is generally positive reinforcements – however, when you come to think of it, no one really wants to hear that their latest photo is rubbish!

But it’s this honest, yet brutal truth, that will ultimately help you take better photos. Sure, I’ll be the first to admit that it wasn’t the best feeling in the world when I was once told a collection of my photos weren’t that great. To make things worse, this came from a photographer whom I greatly admired and respected. It shook me up a little. It made me feel a little inadequate. It made me question if this was indeed the career for me, and if I actually had what it took to succeed.


By arileu

But I needed to hear it. I needed to know what my work was actually like. Being continually told that my work was great and amazing wasn’t really helping with anything other than inflating my ego. I needed to hear exactly how a seasoned photographer viewed my work, and I needed to hear it honestly and clearly. This feedback set me on the direction that I needed to take to improve my game, and because it wasn’t sugar coated, I had no ambiguity about any of the feedback I had received.

Finding good feedback

This kind of feedback is not something that you will get from friends and family. You have to go out there and find a third party. A person that not only has no emotional connection with you, but also who knows one or two things about photography. By removing the emotional connection, you open the door for truth and honesty.

Quinn Dombrowski

By Quinn Dombrowski

How it’s delivered, however, is a variable you cannot control. This means you also need to bring something to the table; a thick skin. Some photographers, just like doctors, are fantastic at delivering bad news in a nice subtle, even positive, way. Others will tell you how it is, warts and all, without the sugar coatings. But where do you find this third party?

There are many avenues you can take to find the right third party for getting feedback on your work. Social media, such as Instagram and Facebook, can be great. Facebook in particular has many useful groups where you can seek feedback and critique on your work. But if keeping it in person and face-to-face is more your thing, looking around at camera clubs is another option. The feedback you get at camera clubs may not always be accurate, but it is a useful tool to network with other photographers.


By s3aphotography

Just keep in mind exactly who your third party will be. You ideally would like your mentor to be involved in the genres you’re most interested in – there’s no point showing a wedding photographer, for example, a body of sport or landscape images. Also keep an open mind to having multiple people. This will help you smooth out any personal preferences each photographer may have, and find a more common denominator to look out for.

Being more selective with who you seek for feedback will help improve your photography immeasurably. It won’t always be easy to hear your work being torn apart, but if you keep at it and keep your chin up, you will come out the other side a stronger photographer and perhaps even a stronger person.

The post Improve Your Photography by Getting the Right Feedback on Your Images by Daniel Smith appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

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