Month: October 2016

3 Tips for Taking Portraits with a Kit Lens

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One of the first things that new photographers often hear is “your kit lens is garbage.” While there are certainly benefits to upgrading your glass as your budget allows, it’s also important to know that there is so much you can do with your kit lens if you understand how to use it to your advantage! In this case, let’s talk about portraits.

Most photographers quickly upgrade to a 50mm or 85mm prime lens for portraits, and with good reason. These lenses are sharp, and can typically shoot as wide as f/1.4 or f/1.8, which means that it’s easier to achieve that nice blurred background in portraits.

Taking Portraits with a Kit Lens

Canon 50mm lens at f/2.0, 1/160th sec, ISO 100.

If you plan to spend any significant amount of time taking portraits, I would absolutely recommend upgrading to at least a Nifty Fifty lens. When it comes to portraits, I almost always find myself reaching for my 50mm prime lens, and I really do think it’s worth the money. That said, when we’re living in the real world, there are a whole plethora of reasons why you might not upgrade lenses right away. Perhaps it’s a budget issue. Perhaps you’re still trying to decide which type of photography really interests you. Or maybe you just opened the camera box for the first time today and want to have a better understanding of your camera before you purchase anything else. Regardless of the reason, I’ve got good news for you–you can take great portraits with a kit lens!

In this article, we’ll explore a couple of limitations when it comes to taking portraits with a kit lens, as well as some tips for working around those limitations and capturing the best portraits possible with the equipment you already have.

1. Use Depth of Field to your advantage

As I mentioned before, one of the benefits of using a prime lens for portraits is the ability to shoot as wide as f/1.4 or f/1.8 to easily achieve that nice blurry background (called bokeh) in almost any location. Most kit lenses can only shoot as wide as f/3.5 (at 18mm) and f/5.6 (at 55mm) which won’t blur the background as much as new photographers are typically hoping. That is unless they understand that aperture isn’t the only important factor in creating that nice blurry background for portraits.

Taking Portraits with a Kit Lens

Another key aspect in creating a blurry background is the distance from the subject to the background. The further the subject is from the background, the blurrier the background will be in the photograph.  So, to create the blurry background when using your kit lens, one of the easiest things to do is to position your subject as far away from the background as possible.

Typically, when I use a 50mm lens to photograph my kids in the backyard, I have them sit on the grass about two or three feet away from our back fence. When using a kit lens, I have them sit about 30 feet away from the fence, as you can see in the image above. Then, I zoom-in to somewhere between 35-55mm, and shoot at the widest aperture the lens will allow for that focal length, in order to produce the most blur in the background possible.

Taking Portraits with a Kit Lens

Canon Kit Lens that came bundled with the Rebel XS. This image was shot at 37mm and f/4.5.

2. Change your perspective

Taking Portraits with a Kit Lens

Both images were taken with a kit lens at f/5.6.

If you can’t place your subject far away from the background and/or the background isn’t something you’d like to incorporate into your photograph, another option to consider is to change your perspective. Stand up, and have your subject sit on the ground, photographing them from above. Grass, cement, asphalt, and sand all photograph well from above, and can often be more visually pleasing in a portrait than a background that cannot be blurred as much as you’d like.

Taking Portraits with a Kit Lens

Shot with a kit lens at 55mm, f/5.6.

Bonus Tip: When shooting from above, try converting to black and white! When converted to black and white, grass reads as a dark background that can be a nice contrast for lighter skin tones. Likewise, concrete often reads as a light background that can be a nice contrast for darker skin tones. Converting to black and white when shooting from above can be a great way to work around the inability to blur a background as much as you’d like in portraits.

3. Try candid or semi-posed portraits

Taking Portraits with a Kit Lens

Shooting at f/4 or f/5.6 means that more of each image is going to be in focus than it would be if you were shooting at f/1.4 or f/1.8. Rather than consider this a disadvantage, think about the things that are easier to capture at those apertures.

For example, at f/5.6, you have the freedom to capture images with a little more movement without risking a lot of blur from motion. This is a great opportunity to try taking portrait-style images that are candid or semi-posed. Try photographing kids running toward you or siblings mid-hug. Have your subject twirl or jump. Ask mom or dad to tickle their child. Though these images may be slightly different than the head-and-shoulders images that the word “portrait” often brings to mind, they often invoke emotion and movement in a way that is really compelling and valuable in photographs.

Taking Portraits with a Kit Lens

Shooting from a slightly wider angle than just head and shoulders also allows you to incorporate aspects of the surroundings into your images to tell a story. Perhaps it’s a handful of flowers at the park, a bunch of balloons for a child’s birthday, or even an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. The cold hard facts are that the story and emotion make the portrait, not the bokeh in the background.

Using a kit lens in a nutshell

My suggestion to you is to fudge the expectation of head-and-shoulders images when it comes to kit lens portraits. Instead, focus on capturing emotions and telling a story, while getting as close as you reasonably can. If you can move the subject far away from the background in order to create a nice blur, absolutely do so. If you can’t, consider changing your perspective to create a more uniform background that’s reasonably free from distractions so that the viewer will be able to focus solely on your subject.

Taking Portraits with a Kit Lens

Does a kit lens have limitations when it comes to portraiture? Absolutely. However, recognizing the limits of a kit lens when it comes to portrait photography isn’t prohibitive. Rather, it allows you to recognize the situations and applications that will be most effective in creating the images you want with the equipment you already have, and that’s always a good thing!

Do you have a great portrait taken with a kit lens? Please share it in the comments below!

The post 3 Tips for Taking Portraits with a Kit Lens by Meredith Clark appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

The Ultimate Guide to Street Photography

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The Ultimate Guide to Street Photography 6

Phil Steele is a well-known and respected photography educator. In this video tutorial he walks you through exactly how he works through the post-processing of an event he has just shot.

Learn tips on importing, rating, culling, organizing in Collections, exporting, and delivering the photos as Phil goes through his entire event photography workflow step by step.

If you enjoyed that and want more you can check out Phil’s courses here:

In this extensive article, I will help you understand more about street photography, how to do it, and all the things you need to think about including equipment, ethics, and even legalities. This is the ultimate guide to street photography to help get you started in this genre of photography.



  1. What is street photography?
  2. Ethics and overcoming your fear.
  3. The law and street photography.
  4. A few of the most important tips to get you started.
  5. Equipment.
  6. Camera settings.
  7. Composition and light.
  8. Advanced tips.
  9. Content and concepts of street photography.
  10. Editing.
  11. Master street photographer research.

1 dior 5th avenue nyc


Street photography is an inherently clunky term, and because of this, there are many street photographers that dislike it. They consider themselves photographers, plain and simple.

The first image that typically comes to mind for the term street photography, is an image of a stranger just walking down the street in a city like New York, London, or Tokyo. This is a huge part of street photography of course, but it is only one part, and it can cause confusion over the true meaning of what street photography really is all about, and how it can be done.

Street photography is candid photography of life and human nature. It is a way for us to show our surroundings, and how we as photographers relate to them. We are filtering what we see, to find the moments that intrigue us, and to then share them with others. It’s like daydreaming with a camera.

2 prince and broadway

People do not need to be present for an image to be considered a street photograph. The photograph does not need to be taken in a city, or in a busy market. It can be taken anywhere and can portray nearly anything, as long as it isn’t posed or manipulated. It can be shot at a family barbecue, or in the middle of 5th Avenue in New York City.

While many may consider the term clunky, there is an elegant side to it as well; that I think is often missed. The street is the most public and accessible of places. Street photography is the most public and accessible form of photography. Anyone can do it. You do not need an expensive camera. You do not need a big studio, professional lighting, or beautiful models. We all have the same content out there, and it’s up to us to figure out how to capture that and bring it home.

In addition, while technical quality is always important to every form of photography, it is not celebrated in street photography in quite the same way. A nature or landscape image needs to be sharp. It usually needs to be able to be printed at large sizes with great technical quality. In these genres, you can pick the perfect location, frame it the perfect way, choose the perfect equipment and settings, and continue to come back until you get the perfect lighting.


With street photography, on the other hand, the best image of your life can pop right in front of you on the way to get your morning coffee. This spontaneity is what’s celebrated. That is why grainy images, slightly off-kilter framing a-la Garry Winogrand, or imperfect focus will not always ruin a street photograph. Sometimes they will, and we must aim for technical mastery, but other times they can add to the realness of the moment. Sometimes these deficiencies may actually improve the image.

But these are decisions that can’t be taught. Many of them are spontaneous and instinctive. That is why you can’t buy or read your way into mastery of street photography. You are on the same plane as every other photographer. The only thing standing between you and them is the time spent out there paying your dues, waiting for those intriguing moments to occur, and improving your ability to notice and bring them back with you.


Let’s not sugarcoat this – street photography is an intrusive form of photography, and sometimes it can be creepy to the subjects. Photographing people candidly usually means that you do not have their permission beforehand.

3 smiley face soho

This is something that you will have to come to terms with to do street photography. For every image you capture, no matter how beautiful or interesting, there is the chance that the subject may not like seeing it. Some will, but there are some that will not.

This is the moral cost of doing this type of photography. Most of us do this because we like people, and we like exploring, and capturing culture. The camera is just a way to bring back moments that we see and enjoy. These images have value – both current, and historical value. When you look at images from the 1920s, 1950s, 1970s, or even from fifteen years ago, what are the most interesting images? Usually, it’s the ones that people and culture. These are the photographs that so many find fascinating because there is a lot of cultural value to them.

Fear is one of the toughest obstacles to overcome for beginners, and these moral quandaries can make it even tougher. The main idea to keep in mind is that getting caught does not have to be that bad.

4 shades of red

Think about the first time that a comedian bombs on stage, and how important it is to get that out of the way for the first time so that they no longer have to worry about it. Similarly, it’s an important moment when you speak to someone, after having taken his or her candid photograph for the first time.

Keep in mind that when done right, this will usually happen infrequently. But, you want to be confident, and comfortable in what you will say if someone asks you what you are doing. I will say that I am a photographer who is doing a project capturing the culture and people of New York, and I thought they looked fabulous (flattery is key). If they ask further, I will explain more and tell them that I did not mean to make them uncomfortable and that I’m happy to delete the image if they prefer. Only twice, have I ever had to delete a photograph when the person asked me nicely. Those are pretty good odds.

You do not need to delete the photograph of course; that’s a decision you need to make for yourself. I do this type of photography because I like people, and if they seem truly uncomfortable in the moment, then I have decided to delete the images for their benefit and my conscience.

Joe soho

If someone catches you, own up to it. Do not be combative. Even if it is in your legal right, you do not need to use that as your argument. You don’t need to argue at all. Make sure to keep a smile on your face no matter what.

Stealth is obviously good for street photography, since if every single person noticed you taking their photo, it would just make things immensely time-consuming and difficult. However, keep in mind that the stealthier you try to act, the weirder you can actually look. Sometimes, being obvious and taking photos in a direct way can be the least confrontational strategy. The more obvious you look, the less people will think that you could possibly be doing anything wrong. If so, why be so obvious?

Finally, consider starting somewhere busy, such as at a fair or a market. If you are just learning, go where there are a lot of people, so that you will be less noticeable. This is a great way to get over the initial hump, and as you improve, you can then maneuver to completely different places.


5 police manhattan and brooklyn bridges

Disclaimer: Regarding the law and street photography, do your own research into your local laws, as I am not an expert in this matter. Do not hold me (or dPS) accountable for what is said here, but these are just my own beliefs, based on my research. Do your own due diligence, and get familiar with the laws in your area, or places where you travel.

All countries have different laws, and street photography without permission is illegal in some places. Some make it impossible to do street photography at all, while in other areas photographers may decide to ignore the laws. In some countries, street photographers will continue to take candid images, but only images where the person’s face is unrecognizable.

In the U.S. and U.K., there is no right to privacy in public. This means that you can legally take photographs of anyone in a public place. On private property, that right goes away, but many street photographers choose to ignore that and do not differentiate.

Graffiti selfie

Note: the very definition of that term, public place, may vary from one country to the next – but generally includes things such as’ parks, sidewalks, roads, outdoor common areas of office buildings, and other similar places. Most indoor locations would be considered private spaces such as; shops, churches, schools, and office buildings.

You can use photographs taken in public places for artistic purposes, without the need for a model release. This means you can sell them as fine art prints, or as illustrations for books or cards. However, you cannot use these images for commercial or advertising purposes without a model release of any person in the image. You cannot use the image to promote a product, and you cannot use it in any way that may insinuate something against the person that is untrue.

Legal rights aside, it can also be smart to research an area that you are traveling to so that you can find out what practicing street photography is like there. In some places, it is much easier to do this type of photography, while in others people may be much more confrontational. One of the reasons that New York is a great mecca for street photography is because the people are very used to seeing cameras.

6 canal street

You also want to assess people before you decide to take a photograph of them. It’s usually not worth it to photograph anyone who looks very angry, or who might have some mental disability. Use your judgment, and if your gut says no, then wait for the next one. There are a lot of opportunities out there.


We will cover more technical concepts regarding street photography later on, but I want to start you off with a few of the most important tips to consider when you walk out the door. These are the ones that I think can help you out the most.

The best tip I can possibly give you is to find a good spot and just wait there. If you only shoot while you are walking, you will come across many wonderful locations, but will only give yourself a brief moment to capture the right image there. Instead, find the right location, and then just wait for the right moment to happen. By hanging out in one area, you will be able to funnel more of your attention towards observing, and your coordination with your camera will be faster. Finally, people will be entering your personal space instead of you entering their space. It makes a big difference to capturing good shots, in a way that is comfortable for both parties.

7 pushups rucker park

The next very simple tip refers to the camera snap, which is something that most photographers do instinctually. Try it, and take a photo. The second you take a photograph; you will likely immediately move the camera away from your eye slightly. This is what tips off people, to the fact that you have taken their photo. Instead, after you capture an image, hold the camera there until the subject leaves your scene. It will lead the person to think that you were just photographing the background and that they were in the way, or will confuse them enough to leave you alone.

Next, consider photographing within your everyday life, near where you live. It’s a common misconception to think that you can only do street photography well in the most interesting of areas, or that you will get better photographs if you travel to New York. That is not true. The best photographers can take good images anywhere, and it doesn’t have to be a highly populated area for you to be able to take interesting images. In fact, it may give you an advantage, because you do not have as much competition.

I want to take this point further and have you try an exercise. Think about the least interesting areas, near where you live to photograph. Go there and force yourself to figure out how to take good photographs.


8 yosemite soho

You can do street photography well, with really any type of camera. You can do it with an SLR and a long zoom lens, and you can do it well with a camera phone.

However, different equipment will have different advantages. A zoom lens will give you more obvious opportunities at different distances but will be heavier, more noticeable, and more cumbersome. A prime lens will constrict you to images at a specific distance from the camera, but will also be light, freeing, and fun to use.

Traveling light will give you a lot more flexibility. Mirrorless, micro four thirds cameras, or even a camera phone, will allow you to take images more easily, in places where a large camera would stand out too much. They are lighter and thus more fun to shoot with, which will allow you to enjoy photography in situations where you normally wouldn’t take your SLR.

Prime lenses, while constricting you to a specific focal length, will actually give you a big advantage. You will begin to see the world more intuitively with that focal length, and while the limitation will stop you from being able to capture certain shots, you will become even better at capturing images within the constraints of that focal length. Because of this, you will become quicker, and more spontaneous with your camera.


9 sample sale

Many photographers shoot in completely different ways for street photography. There is no correct way, but there are some factors to consider. Also, if you have photographed in the same manner for a long time, I would consider being open to trying other ways of shooting to get out of your comfort zone. It can be good to switch things up every once in awhile.

Some photographers choose to have a lot of bokeh in all of their images. This is a fine way to shoot, but you also have to consider that in the fast moving genre of candid photography, if you are photographing at f/2.8 and you miss the focus slightly, you will probably ruin the shot. It will be tougher to capture images with multiple subjects at different depths shooting wide opened. By choosing to blur the surroundings; you will also remove some of the context and background from the image, which can take away some of the meaning or storytelling.

For these reasons, I usually try to shoot with as much depth of field as possible. I find that with the variety of situations that you can come across suddenly in street photography, this strategy allows you to succeed more often than not.

10 bike messenger

It is important to pay strict attention to your shutter speed, much more than you would for genres of photography where your subject is not moving. You need a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of people. I prefer to use 1/250th in the shade and 1/400 or 1/500th in direct sunlight. In darker situations, I will go to 1/160th and sometimes 1/125th.

Now imagine that you are trying to squeeze as much depth of field as possible out of your camera. What is the ideal way to set up your camera to achieve this? The first thing to do is to set your ISO. You should not be afraid to raise your ISO up to high numbers. Grain (or noise if you prefer) is good here. Test your camera out to see how it looks at high ISOs, not just on the monitor, but in different sized prints. With newer cameras, you can easily go to ISO 1600, 3200, and for some even 6400.

With a digital camera on the more advanced of the spectrum (e.g. the Fuji X100 line), I will typically set my camera at ISO 400 in sunlight, 800 in light shade, 1600 in dark shade, 3200 at dusk, and 6400 at night. With entry-level digital cameras, I would probably cut a stop out of that, so 3200 at night, 1600 at dusk, and so on.

11 canal street

The reason for a higher ISO is that it will allow you to have both a fast shutter speed to freeze motion and a smaller (higher numbered like f/8 or f/11) aperture, so that there is as much depth of field as possible in the image.

Finally, I will set my camera to shutter priority mode. You can shoot manual, but I prefer shutter priority because you will often be shooting into the sun one moment, and away from it the next, so the necessary settings will be completely different. I prefer not to have to change my settings every time I turn my body. In consistent lighting situations, indoors, or at night, I will go to manual mode, and for the photos where I want a very shallow depth of field, I will shoot on aperture priority at a low number (like f/2.8), and choose a much lower ISO.


12 blonde soho

Composition for street photography works the same way that it does for every other genre, but there are a few things that I want you to consider. Compose your street photographs the same way that you would compose your landscape images. Assess the scene and arrange all of the elements together. Instead of a tree here and a mountain there, you might place a fire hydrant here and a ladder there. Every element counts just as much as they do in a traditional landscape, no matter what it is, and the best street photographers have a way of bringing everything together in just the right way.

Sometimes, the subject alone is all that counts, and you will want to frame it, or blur the background away, forgetting about everything else. But that’s only sometimes. A lot of photographers will shoot this way 100% of the time, especially when first starting out, but that’s a mistake. Try to see beyond the main subject, and see if you can combine it with other elements to create a more complex scene. Can you create relationships between subjects to add new meaning to an image? Whether or not you decide to make the surroundings prominent, you always need to be aware of them. I would prefer that you intentionally decide to not include elements of the background, rather than to not notice them at all.

Construction workers

You always want to keep an eye out for your main light sources. How does the light hit your subject, and where is it located in relationship to that subject? How is it hitting the background? What color is the light, and are there multiple light sources? These are ideas that you will usually pay attention to for every type of photography, but it is important to understand for street photography that there is no best time or lighting. The harsh midday light will be just as beautiful and interesting as the warm, even dawn or dusk light. Since you are at the whim of your environment, it is very important to be able to see and maneuver yourself to get the most out of the light in any location. The beauty of street photography, though, is that it will teach you how to work with light very quickly.

Some photographers will use a portable flash to illuminate their subjects and separate them from the background. This can create a great look, but also keep in mind that flashing a stranger in the face can be very confrontational. Also, when the flash is too strong, it can take away from the feeling of reality in the photograph, which is a look that some photographers desire, so it is a decision you will have to make. A surreal look might be something that you are going for, and in that case, a flash could be a big asset.


13 youth soho

Facial expressions and gestures

When capturing images of people, photographing them just walking down the street, or standing in place, is not enough. To take your image to the next level, that person needs to have a strong facial expression or gesture in their body.

As humans, we feel what another person is feeling, through their facial expressions. When you’re out shooting, one of the first things you should be doing is paying attention to people’s eyes and the expressions they show. Similarly, you can see subtle cues from a person’s body, so keep an eye out for how a person may be expressing themselves through their body, hands, legs, and feet.

The beauty of street photography is often in its imperfections. You do not need to try and make a photograph perfect in every way. Strong grain (or digital noise), an image that is slightly askew, an element that is slightly in the way, or imperfect lighting, are all examples of what can make an image feel real. While any of these things have the ability to ruin a photo, sometimes they can get in the way just enough to make it feel like a natural moment. So while you should always aim for technical mastery, realize that imperfections can be beneficial, and even necessary.

14 selfie soho

Zone Focusing

Zone focusing is simple to learn, fairly difficult to master, and agonizing to explain in writing (it’s much easier to just show someone how to do it). Basically, zone focusing is the strategy of turning your autofocus off and using manual focus. When done well, it can allow you to capture consistently sharper images in a variety of situations.

The goal is to pre-focus your camera to a certain distance. I typically choose between eight and 10 feet away, which is the most common distance where I like to capture my subjects. Then, when subjects enter the range that you are pre-focused for, you can click the shutter without having to waste any time focusing. The fraction of a second that it will save, and the added freedom this allows, will take you a long way.

I usually only zone focus at 35mm and wider, although sometimes I will do it up to 50mm on bright days. The reason for this is because the further you zoom in, the more accurate you have to be with your focus to get your subject sharp. It becomes very difficult to zone focus over 50mm.

Jerry delakas astor newsman

Zone focusing is very easy to screw up at first. If you do not gauge the distance correctly, you can easily miss the focus entirely. It is much easier to start off in bright sunlight, because with a 35mm or wider focal length, and an aperture of f/11 to f/16, there will be a huge depth of field. So if you miss the focus by a bit, your important subjects will still be sharp.

You can, and should learn to zone focus in darker situations, and at apertures up to f/2. It’s much more difficult, though, so take your time getting there, but it’s very possible and it just takes practice. When zone focusing at shallower apertures, you can even learn to move the focus ring without looking, so if you are focused at 10 feet and a subject appears five feet away, you can move the focus instinctively to that distance without even looking (this is how sports shooters did it before autofocus existed). This is the pinnacle of skill with zone focusing and takes a lot of practice, but it is very possible to learn to do well.


15 cellphones

The toughest step in all of this is to figure out what it is that you actually want to capture and create. What do you want your photographs to be of, and what do you want them to look like?

If you look at the works of any great street photographer who has done it for long enough, there will be many consistencies in their work. Maybe these consistencies last throughout their entire lifetime, or maybe it changes in different bodies of work, but they are there and should be studied to help you find your own.

The longer you shoot, the more you will begin to understand what you are drawn to. You will begin to see types of photographs that you are attracted to, and you will begin to seek them out when you are photographing. Think about what you are trying to portray with your photography. Occasionally, you will have big ideas right away, but often it will take a lot of time for these ideas to grow and develop naturally.

Sequencing is also important to many photographers. While it is not a necessary aspect of street photography, it is a way to place unrelated images together, to create a larger narrative. This is why the book has become, in my opinion, the best way to show street photography. Each image takes on even more importance and meaning when surrounding by other photos. There is a lot of power in how you decide to display your work.


16 soaring eagle grand central

Editing is half of the battle for becoming a good street photographer. When you are out photographing, it is best to be spontaneous and to get lost in the moment, but editing is when you begin to really think about your work in a larger setting. It is where you can explore themes and ideas as they start to pop up in your photography. It is when you can combine similar images to create a larger story. It is where you can develop a style in both look and content. Because of all of this, the time that you put in editing will then help you when you are out shooting. You will notice more because you will have a better idea of what you are looking for, and this will make you a much better photographer.

Consider using Lightroom’s star rating and collection system to organize your best work, and to put photographs with similar themes together. Find consistencies in your work, and images that play well off each other, and create collections for them. Constantly tinker, add, remove photos, and change the order in these collections.

Technically, when editing your work it is important to consider how vital realism is to the genre. Yes, many photographers celebrate the surreal and the extraordinary moment, but they do this only if those moments actually happened. Street photography obsesses over realism, and a made up moment is not a true street photograph. Similarly, an image that is over-edited, so as to make it look fake, will kill the spirit of street photography. The image does not have to be perfect. You do not have to have every detail in the shadows and highlights. While you should do enough post-production to make it look right, always take a step back and consider whether or not you’ve overcooked it.


17 bubble soho

The final step is to research the work of other street photographers. This is something that you should start from the very beginning to gain inspiration and to understand more about what you are capable of achieving in this genre. Consider the work of photographers who shoot in a variety of locations, including big city, rural, and suburban. Purchase books on a consistent basis, as learning from the book format is still very important. There are many affordable street photography books, to go alongside the expensive ones.

Take special notice to the street photographers whose work you do not like at first. Many people will immediately disregard a photographer at first glance, without delving deeper. The issue with street photographs is that they are often different and weird, and it can be impossible to truly get a sense of what a photographer is trying to portray by seeing just a few photographs. Read about the history and location of the photographer, look through as much of their portfolio as you can, and then try to figure out what they were trying to say. Sometimes you will find yourself with a completely new appreciation for the photographer, and see things in their work that went right over your head with your first look.

18 mona 5th

Here is a list of photographers to start off with for your research. It is not an exhaustive list, but it will help get you going:

  • Henri Cartier-Bresson
  • Garry Winogrand
  • Robert Frank
  • Helen Levitt
  • Lee Friedlander
  • William Eggleston
  • Walker Evans
  • Daid? Moriyama
  • Martin Parr
  • Elliot Erwitt
  • Joel Meyerowitz
  • Mary Ellen Mark
  • Bruce Davidson
  • Saul Leiter
  • Trent Parke
  • Alex Webb
  • Vivian Maier
  • Bruce Gilden

19 polka dots and pink shoes

I hope this ultimate guide to street photography has answered some of your questions about this genre of the craft. If you have any others that haven’t been answered or have some comments to add, please do so below.

Now go out and photograph as frequently as possible, and have fun with it.


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The Ultimate Guide to Street Photography 6

The post The Ultimate Guide to Street Photography by James Maher appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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The Ultimate Guide to Street Photography 12

Categories: Digital

How to Add a Sun Flare to Your Images Using Photoshop

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If you read my previous article where I give you some tips for doing more spectacular sunset photography, you’ll understand that I love taking photos during the magic hour. For my portraits, I also book my sessions during that time because the light is very soft and flattering. There is one thing I particularly like to do when I process my images and that’s adding a sun flare to my portraits and landscapes. I love to use Photoshop to recreating a scene that would have ideally been there in real life.

How to Create a Sun Flare in Photoshop

I added sun flares to this portrait to add depth.

It’s difficult to not underestimate the effect of a sun flare but it really does make a big difference, especially if you like cinematic results to your images. They’re a great way to add color and depth to your images.

Analyze your image first

The process of adding sun flares is actually quite easy, it only takes two steps and a few minutes. The most difficult thing however is to get a realistic result. You need to analyze your image before doing anything. Start by looking at the position of the sun, how the shadows and highlights are wrapping around your subject.

In the image below, I added a sun flare on the left, but before doing that I noticed that the highlights were hitting the Taj Mahal from the left and the shadows were in the right side of the monument. If I were to position the sun flare on the right side of the image, the results wouldn’t be realistic because the highlights and the shadows wouldn’t correspond to the direction of the light of my sun flare. Try to consider the position, direction and intensity of the light.

How to Create a Sun Flare in Photoshop - Taj Mahal

This is another example of a GoPro image I took. I added a sun flare on the right side of the image because the sun was positioned there in real life. We’re not trying to create another sun, we’re just enhancing it with more colors and more intensity.

How to Create a Sun Flare in Photoshop

In this portrait, I added a sun flare to the left of the model. The result looks realistic because you can see the orange flair spreading and lightning the hair of the model but her face isn’t affected.

How to Create a Sun Flare in Photoshop

How to create and add a sun flare in Photoshop

It’s actually quite easy to add a sun flare in Photoshop. Start by opening your file in Photoshop and creating a new empty layer. The next step is to analyze where you want to place your sun flare and how strong do you want the effect to be. In this case, I want to place my sun flare in the top right of the image and make it pretty big. The sun was actually setting in that position but I am not completely satisfied with how it looks. I want to make the flare more vivid and more intense.

How to Create a Sun Flare in Photoshop

Select the Brush Tool and pick a color

The next step is to select the Brush Tool with an opacity and flow of 100%. Make sure to select a soft brush with a hardness of 0%. I usually like to pick my own color of the sun flare, the color code I use is #fd9424, but there are different ways to pick a color for the sun flare.

You can use the Eye Dropper Tool and select a color from the image by pressing I on your keyboard or by selecting it in the tool box on the left (the chosen color will automatically be set in your palette). Or after you have created the flare, you can create a hue/saturation adjustment layer only affecting that layer and just playing around until you find a color you like.

How to Create a Sun Flare in Photoshop

Adding your flare

To create the sun flare, the first step is to simply create one brush stroke (you just have to press once). Make sure your brush is quite big. So far your image should look something like this:

How to Create a Sun Flare in Photoshop

The next step is to go to blending modes for your current layer (the layer with the brush stroke). The default blending mode is normal, you need to change it to Screen. The screen blending mode by definition will invert both layers, multiply them, and invert the result. Your sun flare is going to get brighter and blend in with the sky after you do that.

How to Create a Sun Flare in Photoshop


The next step is to select your layer with the sun flare and press CTRL/CMD+T to transform (resize) it. A little box will appear, you want to drag the corners to make it bigger. How big you want to make it depends on your image and your desired effect. The sun flare will affect the whole image if you make it too big and will brighten up the shadows.

Using a brush tool on a new layer is really helpful because you have full control. You can change the position, color, brightness, or saturation of your flare whenever you want by creating new adjustment layers that only affect that layer.

If you think that your effect if too strong, you can reduce the opacity of the layer, if it is not strong enough, you can duplicate the layer. Always remember that the effect should be subtle otherwise if will look quite unrealistic. We are just trying to create a scene taking in consideration how light works.

How to Create a Sun Flare in Photoshop

 whenever you want

Your turn

Now you try you hand at adding a sun flare to one of your images using Photoshop. Please share your images and any questions in the comments below.

The post How to Add a Sun Flare to Your Images Using Photoshop by Yacine Bessekhouad appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

5 Tips for Portraits of Musicians That Will Help You Hit All the Right Notes

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I’d like to share a few tips for portraits of musicians that will help you avoid the awkward photos that make any musician cringe.

portraits of musicians

Sometimes we are lucky enough as photographers to be asked to photograph someone with one of their most prized possessions: their musical instrument. Most people that want to be photographed with their instrument really and truly love it, and it’s a part of who they are. As a musician myself, I love photographs with gorgeous instruments in them, and I am especially bothered by photos that don’t capture those instruments naturally. Sometimes I’ll come across a photo that makes me cry out, “Why?? Nobody would EVER hold their instrument like that!!” You can still be creative with your photos without making them awkward.

portraits of musicians

1. Trust the musician

If you aren’t familiar with the instrument you’re photographing, it is especially important to trust the musician. This isn’t the time to try every posing trick that you can come up with, ending up with flutes on top of the head, or cellos held under the chin.

Ask your subject how they hold their instrument naturally. You can ask how they hold their instrument while playing, or when they’re relaxing between songs. If it’s a big instrument, like a piano, ask them how they would stand next to it before they perform, or how they sit by it when they’re thinking about what to practice. Ask them to demonstrate how they carry their instrument from one place to another. These might seem like silly questions, but you can really get a sense of what positions and holds are natural, then you can build from there.

portraits of musicians

As an example, a violinist may tell you that she holds her violin under her right arm when resting. You could take that position, ask her to sit on a chair in a formal pose holding the violin under her arm and get a beautiful portrait of a girl and her violin. The key is to remember that they are much more expert at how to naturally pose with their instrument than you likely are. However, if you do happen to know their instrument well, feel free to use your knowledge to get beautiful natural poses.

2. Do your homework

portraits of musicians

Before a session with a musician, you could watch some videos on YouTube to see how people interact specifically with the instrument you’ll be photographing. Find a professional musician who plays the same instrument. Look at their website to see what kind of photos they have with their instruments. You may have a client who is very shy and need more guidance posing, so it’s helpful to have a few ideas ahead of time. Be prepared for challenges that an instrument might bring, such as unwanted reflections in brass, immobility of harps or pianos, sensitivity to temperature or weather, and have a plan.

3. Ask the musician to play for you

portraits of musicians

If you can get your subject to give you a little performance during the photo session, you will get some great action shots. It usually helps loosen them up a little bit too, and brings out some natural smiles. Remind them that it doesn’t matter if they make mistakes because your camera doesn’t catch any audio. It will only capture the perfect moments of their playing. Also, remind them that you aren’t there to judge their skill, you just want to capture the relationship they have with their instrument. Move around as they play, and catch the beautiful moment from every angle you can, close, and far.

4. Get close-ups of the action

portraits of musicians

Hands are the main part of playing most instruments. Get in close on the hands as they play. These shots often end up being some of my very favorites. Try focusing on the hands as you shoot down the neck of a guitar, the fingers on a flute, or hands that are frozen in mid-air during a drum solo. Getting in close on these details can create beautiful action photos that really tell the story. If their hands are moving too quickly for you to focus, ask them to freeze for a moment in that position while you get the shot.

5. Make the instrument the star

portraits of musicians

Take a few photos of the instrument by itself, too. Musicians love their instruments, and they will love photos that show their beauty. Make sure to ask permission to touch their instrument, and to set it down, move it, or anything you might want to do for the shot that could potentially harm it in any way. You can even ask the owner to do all of the touching and moving, and you can move yourself around to get the photo that you want.

Tell the musician what you have in mind, and they will most likely be on board, and be happy to help you get some amazing instrument photos. Instruments can be extremely expensive, and even more importantly, can have sentimental value that can never be compensated. Keep this in mind throughout the session, whether your subject is in the photo with the instrument, or not. Never ask them to do something that could harm or damage the instrument.

portraits of musicians

portraits of musicians


Every time I’ve been asked to create photos for album covers for musicians, head shots for websites, art to print and frame, or just to capture someone’s favorite hobby, my goal is to create a photo that they will love. One that will stay true to what they would naturally do with their instruments.

I hope these tips can help you create beautifully genuine musician portraits too. I would love to see your musician portraits in the comments!

The post 5 Tips for Portraits of Musicians That Will Help You Hit All the Right Notes by Melinda Smith appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

How to Make a Sketch Inside a Photograph

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This is one of those tutorials that’s great to play around with, maybe do it once or twice. But in the end, the thing they are great for is that they always teach you something. It may not be much, but it might help you think in a different way, or learn a skill you didn’t know about. This one is about how to make a sketch inside a photograph.



This is a simple tutorial that can help you learn how to use layers, and combine images. There are so many things you can do with layers, but  in this example, we are going to work on putting a drawing of a scene in front of the photograph. Of course, it isn’t a real drawing, but one that is created from the image using the artistic filters in Photoshop.

The image

Deciding which image you are going to use can be harder than you think. It could take a while to find one that will work well, one with lots of contrast is good. You want an image that will stand out when you put the drawing over the top of it.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph

Open the image and process it normally to get it ready. If you have several layers flatten or merge all of them, and copy that new merged layer so there are two. To copy the layer press Ctrl/Cmd+J.

Turn off the top layer by clicking on the eye icon next to the thumbnail. That will make it disappear, or turn off temporarily.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph - hide layer

Click the bottom layer to select it as the one that you will change into a drawing.

Making the drawing

Go up to the Main Menu and click Filters > Filter Gallery, or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl/Cmd+F.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph - filter gallery

If you can’t bring up the Filter Gallery or click on it in the menu, it may be because your image is either 16 or 32 Bits, so you will need to change it to 8 Bits.

To change the image to 8 Bits select from the top menu bar: Image > Mode > 8 Bits/Channel. You should now be able to use the Filters Gallery.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph - 8 bits

There are loads of options in the gallery to give you an artistic look. Select the one you like. For this example, I used the Graphic Pen found in the sketch section. If you don’t like any of the ones that Photoshop has to offer, you can look for artistic actions (google search) that may give you a better drawing.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph - sketch filter

Adding the hand

I took several images of my daughter holding a piece of paper. It’s good to get a large variety, and if you have the time, shoot in different lighting conditions as well.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph - hands

Choose an image of the hand holding the paper. Open it in Photoshop and use the Quick Selection tool to select the hand and paper. It doesn’t have to be exact, as long as everything you need is selected. Once you have the hand on the image you can fine-tune it.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph - selection of hand and paper

Press Ctrl/Cmd+C, then Ctrl/Cmd+V. This will copy and paste the selection onto a new layer (in the same document). However, if you go back over to your original image and pressCtrl/Cmd+V it will paste the hand onto your image as a new layer. Use the move tool, the top one in the tool bar.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph

Size and position the hand

If you are lucky the hand will be the correct size, however, if it isn’t you may have to resize it. You might also have to change the angle. Free transform will allow you to do that, press Ctrl/Cmd+T to activate it. If you click on the corners you can make it bigger or smaller (hold Shift down to keep the proportions the same!). If you hover around the corners you will see a small curve appear with arrows on either end, this will allow you to rotate it to the desired angle.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph - transform tool

The hand looks a little odd because it needs a shadow. Take note of your original image and how the shadow was placed. You also need to look at the main image, it will look a bit off if the light is coming from a different direction than the image of the hand.

Creating the drawing on the paper

To get the image on the piece of paper you need to ensure the layer that is the photograph is still not visible. It should still be invisible from when you did the drawing.

Add a mask to the layer with the hand and paper. At the bottom of the layers panel click on the mask icon, looks like a white rectangle with a round black circle in it. It should be down in the bottom right corner.

Next, make sure the layer mask is selected. If there are white lines around the outside of the mask (not the image thumbnail, it means the mask is selected.

Select the Brush Tool and make sure the foreground colour is set to black. Go down the tool bar and find the foreground and background colours. If white is on top click on the arrow above it to make it black (if other colors are showing hit D on your keyboard to set to the defaults of black and white).

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph

You could mask out the whole sheet of paper, or leave an edge around the image. For this tutorial, I left a border intentionally. Once you think you have gotten the whole image, press Alt (PC) or Option (Mac), and click the mask. You should then be able to see what you have masked – the black areas are the mask, so make sure there are no white spots left. Brush over any white bits and remove them. If you realize that you are painting white, then the foreground color is wrong. Press X and it will reverse the color so you can go back to painting with black.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph

Putting the photograph back

Once you have the drawing showing through the paper, you need to make the photograph appear again. Click on the eyeball icon next to the image so it is visible. You will notice the whole drawing has disappeared, it is now behind the photograph. You will need to do another mask so you can see the drawing on the paper again.

The beauty of this image is that you can use the same mask that you used for the paper layer.

If you go to the layer mask that you used to show the drawing, press Ctrl/Cmd and click on the mask you will see it make a selection (marching ants around the selected areas). Press Ctrl/Cmd+C, to copy that selection. Then, make sure the photograph layer is selected and click the layer mask icon to create a new one. You should get a new layer mask the same as the other one. (Alternately you can click and hold Alt/Opt, and grab the layer mask from the paper layer and drag it over to the image layer. That will copy the same mask over for you).

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph

It is time to remove the parts that don’t really belong. You can use the mask that you had for the hand layer. Use your brush tool and remember to make black the foreground colour. You can now mask out the parts of the hand that you didn’t mean to select when you did the quick selection (zoom in close, you can also use the refine edge function).


Fine tuning

The hand can look a little weird, so next you need to add a shadow that the hand would have created. This will make it more believable looking.

Add a new layer by clicking the icon at the bottom of the layers panel. It is the square outline with the folded corner, usually located next to the trash can. Alternatively, you can go to Menu > Layer > New Layer.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph - new layer

You will need to use the lasso tool. It is also helpful to zoom in so you can see what you are doing. The zoom tool is also in the tool panel, or you can press the letter Z which will make it appear. Click the image to zoom in, or to zoom out press the Alt or Option key and click the image. (Note: Press B to get the brush back.)

On the new layer, draw under the hand with the lasso tool to get the shadow. You don’t have to be exact as it is not going to be really dark. Go up to Menu > Select > Modify > Feather. In the popup window enter the amount of feathering you want. 5 pixels was the setting selected for this image. Alternatively you can press Shift+F6.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph

Add in the shadow area

Fill the selected area with black using the Paint Bucket Tool. Make sure that the foreground colour is black.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph

You may need to add a mask to remove any parts of the hand that you don’t need. You can also change the opacity of the layer so the shadow isn’t as dark. The opacity slider is located at the top of the layers panel near the blending modes. Adjust to where you think the shadow looks natural.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph

To deselect hit Ctrl/Cmd+D.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph

The image is now done.


I don’t know how many of these you would do, but some of the techniques used to create it can be used for many other things. Try doing this tutorial a few times, then see how you can use some of the processes in different ways. Don’t forget to share your images so we can see what you have done.

The post How to Make a Sketch Inside a Photograph by Leanne Cole appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

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