How to Tell Better Visual Stories with Travel Photography

Take a look at your favorite travel magazine, and you will notice a pattern in the images.

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Understanding how to turn a bunch of images into a story – creating series is crucial to any travel photographer.
In this article, we will get familiar with two kinds of very important visual concepts in the travel photography world: the establishing shot (above) and the detail shot (below).

Detail 1

It doesn’t matter if you wish to do travel photography professionally, or if you just want to come back home with better pictures from your next trip. Understanding these visual concepts will help you.

Establishing shot

The establishing shot is arguably the most important shot in a travel photography series. In a print magazine, this image will usually cover the two first pages of the article (the spread). In a digital-based platform (your website or Facebook page), this will be the album’s opening image. However, you can find the establishing shot later in the series.

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The establishing shot’s purposes are to:

  • Give a general idea about the story and the “what” and “where” of this series.
  • Be visually interesting enough so that the viewer wants to read the article or go through the digital album.

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From the technical point of view:

There are no clear rules. But in most cases, the image is a horizontal one (sometimes you will see two vertical images side by side).

Most important:

This image is the grand entrance to your story. Make it impressive and epic. It is usually recommended to leave room for text on this image. So take it into account when you create your composition.

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The detail shot

While the establishing shot is all about being big and epic, the detail shot is about putting a spotlight on something small and making it the image’s hero.

The detail shot’s purposes are to:

  • Give attention to different aspects in your story that might get lost in the bigger picture.
  • The detail shot is like sorbet ice cream in a gourmet dinner — it gives balance to the other, bigger images.

Detail 4

From the technical point of view:

It is all about making small things bigger, so a macro lens is useful (but not obligatory) here.

Most important:

While in the field, be on the lookout for interesting details of things that relate to your story. If you are doing a series on a city a funny street sign, graffiti, or food in a local market can be your detail shot. If you are doing a story about a specific person, his hands or his work tools can be the hero of the shot.

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Putting it all together

Of course, I’m not saying that there are certain rules that you must apply in order to create a well-built travel photography series. But by thinking in terms of visual concepts, such as the establishing and detail shots, it will help you be more focused in the field.

Examples include taking the extra effort to reach a high vantage point, or getting an “off limits to the general public” pass to an interesting location in order to get that jaw-dropping establishing shot. Or, taking an hour just to “hunt” for interesting subjects to snag the detail shot. From my experience, having a framework to work within allows you to know what you are looking for, and increases the chances you will find it!

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Want to get more tips and hints about travel photography in a snap? Check out Oded’s ebook, about travel photography, by dPS and our sister brand – Snapn Guides.

Note: the author would like to thank Nicholas Orloff for his help in writing this article.

The post How to Tell Better Visual Stories with Travel Photography by Oded Wagenstein appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

6 Eye-Catching Photos and How They Can Help You Improve Your Photography

Each photographer has their own way of approaching a scene, choosing which settings on their camera will best reflect their vision, and then crafting the final image. You get to make this series of decisions each time you take a photo, and it’s a highly personal experience.

But you can still learn a lot by going behind the scenes of a photo, and hearing how the photographer made their own decisions. Whether you pick up a new tip for creating an interesting effect, a new way of looking at a scene, or simply the inspiration to go and shoot, it’s both informative, and a lot of fun too.

So here are six of my favourite photos, and details about how they were taken. Get out your notebook, have your camera handy, and let’s go.

1. Waterfall in the Woods

Extremely essential camera skills 1

Vancouver Island, Canada – Settings: 14mm, f/10, 1.6 seconds, ISO 80

This shot is a great example of what happens when you pick a slow shutter speed. Moving water takes on this flowing look and adds a softer feel to the image.

If you want to get this effect, first set your shutter speed to a long value. Here the setting was 1.6 seconds – a value around there is a good place to start. Then you’ll need to adjust the rest of your settings to get a good exposure. This can be tricky sometimes, especially if it’s a really bright scene. A high (small) aperture, and low ISO can really help. But if that’s not enough, you may need to use a neutral density filter.

Then make sure you can keep your camera steady for the entire shot. The ideal would be to use a tripod, but it doesn’t even need to be a big, heavy one. This shot was taken with a point and shoot camera (the Sony RX100III) and the tripod was just a tiny tabletop tripod set up on the rocks.

Finally take the photo, and enjoy a beautiful waterfall image that really grabs your viewers’ attention.

2. The Bee and the Flower

Extremely essential camera skills 2

Edmonton, Canada – Settings: 85mm, f/4.0, 1/3000th, ISO 200

This photo has two elements to pay attention to, the first being the composition. The bee is very small, but you can still easily make it out. That’s thanks to negative space. All of the blue, empty sky is negative space that draws your eye towards the subject. One of the keys to finding negative space in a scene is to move your feet. Walk around, looking to see if you can find an angle that helps simplify your frame by incorporating negative space. Don’t stop there, though. Change your position even further by climbing up high, or, as in this case, lying on the ground. Yep, this photo was taken lying flat on the grass. Don’t be afraid to get messy in the pursuit of a great shot.

The second thing to note about this shot is the shutter speed. There’s a very fast setting chosen here (1/3000th of a second) and that allowed the bee to be in sharp focus, even when it was moving very fast. A slower shutter speed could have led to motion blur of the subject, losing that crisp, sharp detail. When shooting fast moving objects, make sure your shutter speed is set appropriately.

3. The Internet Man

Extremely essential camera skills 3

Jodhpur, India – Settings: 50mm, f/1.6, 1/320th, ISO 400

There’s a great story behind this image. On a trip through India we found ourselves in Jodhpur, known as the Blue City. The walls of many of the houses are painted a vibrant blue, and it made for some incredible images. But this portrait was not taken on a photo walk, but rather after we made our daily visit to the internet shop.

After we finished up on the computer, we got to chatting with the man who owned the shop. He was a wonderful guy, with a great face, so we asked for a portrait. He was happy to oblige, and by standing in the doorway of his shop we got both a beautiful blue background, and catchlights in his eyes from the light coming in the door (catchlights, those white specks in the eyes, are a great way to add life and sparkle to your subjects’ eyes).

One final note on the settings: using a low aperture value can help your subject stand out from the background, especially if you can’t bring them very far forward from the background. In this image f/1.6 was used, which is definitely very low, but it really helped create some background separation.

The best part of the story? After we took his photo (and gave him a copy of the file) he thanked us, and told us that he’d pray that we’d have a son before returning to India. Well, we did have a son. Now we just have to go back, don’t we?

4. Cows in the Field

Extremely essential camera skills 4

The Sacred Valley, Peru – Settings: 200mm, f/7.1, 1/1600th, ISO 800

Learning how to use lens compression to your advantage can make for some really impressive shots. This image is a great example of this technique.

Very simply, when you use a longer focal length (like the 200mm used in this photo) it makes the distance between objects in the frame appear to be less. It makes the background appear closer to the foreground, and in this example it makes the hills appear very close to cows. Essentially, it compresses the space in the image.

Here you can see how it makes the hills really fill the frame and create a strong, patterned background that contrasts nicely with the organic shapes of the cows.

In your own photography you can use a long lens to make clouds appear much larger and closer to your subject, or make your friends look like they’re stepping on top of a building, Godzilla-style. There’s no limit to the creative effects you can achieve when you use compression.

5. Down the Stairs

Extremely essential camera skills 5

Krabi, Thailand – Settings: 17mm, f/5.0, 1/400th, ISO 400

If long lenses make objects appear closer to each other in your frame, what about wide angle lenses?

Here’s a great example. This shot, taken while looking down a few of the 1,272 treacherously steep steps of the Tiger Cave Temple, makes you feel like you may just fall down them, along with the photographer.

The wide angle lens (17mm) helps to create that feeling. The wide angle exaggerates the distance between objects, especially at the edges. Take a look at those hand rails at the edge of the frame. They look very far apart, especially compared to the distance between the hand rails further down the stairs. But this exaggeration at the edges helps to turn the rails into leading lines, drawing your eye down the stairs, and creating that falling feeling.

So if you want to add some drama to an image, or exaggerate perspective, grab a wide angle lens. Place objects near the edges and make use of the stretching it causes.

6. Camel at Sunset

Extremely essential camera skills 6

Jaisalmer, India – Settings: 70mm, f/7.1, 1/400th, ISO 125

Doesn’t a great silhouette image just grab your attention? It’s so different from how we normally see the world that it can add a big impact to your work.

But a silhouette is a prime example of how your camera can easily be fooled by light, and how you, the photographer, need to know how to control it.

In this example your camera might very well try to expose for the camel, or somewhere in between the camel and the sunset, and you’ll wind up with something really bright, or sort of dark, but it probably won’t look like a nice, crisp silhouette.

So what to do? Take control. When aiming for a silhouette you’ll want to expose for the sky, not the subject. Then you can either use exposure compensation to dial in the exposure you’re looking for, or better yet, jump into full manual control and choose your settings to get exactly the exposure and depth of field you want.

Hopefully this peek behind the decisions and settings of these photos gives you a few tips to take some great shots of your own. The more you learn about how all the settings on your camera affect the look and feel of your images, the better decisions you’ll be able to make. Best of all, this stuff doesn’t have to be hard to learn, and you’ll get to use the knowledge to create better images for the rest of your life.

The post 6 Eye-Catching Photos and How They Can Help You Improve Your Photography by Lauren Lim appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

Vital Tips for Photographing and Editing Interiors

Shooting interiors can be tricky. Spaces tend to either look cold and empty, or warm and inviting. While we always strive to capture what the eye sees, the complexity of the human eye will never be matched by the lens of any camera. Still, there are things you can do before, during, and after shooting an interior space that will go a long way in improving your chances of ending up with stellar photos.

Not sure where to start for improving your architectural photos? Here are my favorite tips for photographing interiors, plus some tricks for touching them up with Adobe Lightroom.

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How to Shoot Your Best Interior Photos

Grab your favorite camera and use these tips for snapping more professional-looking photos every time.

1. Prepare the space

Set the stage by taking the time to de-clutter and open up the space. Clear all flat surfaces and floor areas. Open all blinds and curtains. Clean any dirty dishes in the sink and put them away. Be sure to clean the space much more so than you would for yourself. We get used to clutter and become blind to it, but a bit of clutter in a photo goes a very long way.

2. Add warmth and life with personal touches

The space should feel lived-in and inviting, like the kind of place you can imagine yourself spending your days.

You can create those feelings in your photos, by adding personal touches. Set the dining table for two and place a vase of fresh flowers in the center. Transform an empty breakfast nook into a great spot to lounge by adding a newspaper, coffee cup, and a plate or bowl of light (and pretty) snacks. Hang a fluffy bathrobe on a hook next to the bathtub.

When it comes to decorations or color palettes, you want to either fill the space with personality to play up the uniqueness of it, or keep everything neutral with pops of bright color.

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3. Fill the room with light

All interior lights MUST be on. While they’re not necessarily helpful in actually lighting the space, they help to create the ambiance. The absence of interior lights will give the space a cold, empty feel.

When using flash, never directly point it into the space. Instead, bounce it off the ceiling or walls, depending on what the space offers. If you can help it, always use flash as a source to fill in shadows, rather than as a main source. That said, if there is enough ambient light (which is your ultimate goal), skip using flash altogether.

Also, play with the strength of your flash. For my Canon, I like to slightly overexpose by about 1/3 of a stop and push the flash to about +2/3 in ETTL mode. Each camera can be different, so don’t be shy about experimenting with what works best with yours.

For outdoor shots, consider setting your flash to manual mode and using it as the fill light. I tend to set mine at 1/16th of full strength, but again, experiment with what works with your camera’s setting and your personal preference.

4. Shoot low

Keep verticals as truly vertical as possible by shooting from a slightly lower camera angle. If you’re going for a graphic composition, watch your horizontals as well. It’s quite easy to fix these issues in Lightroom during your final edit (see more in the first editing tip below).

5. Strike a balance

When composing your shot, focus the viewer’s attention on where you want it to go. Consider using staged items to add depth and interest in the foreground. Try blurring the background to make foreground objects really pop. Avoid flat looking photos by contrasting different elements in the foreground, middle-ground and background. Remember to aim for balance, not distraction.

Using the background to show a connecting room is also a great way to give the viewer a sense of space. This will add interest and make the viewer feel like they can visualize walking through the home.

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How to Edit Your Interior Photos

Import your photos to Lightroom and follow these basic editing steps to create more powerful images. Tip: You can also use Photoshop for many of the steps laid out below.

1. Straighten out the lines

Doing this will instantly polish up your photos. If you shot at a height of roughly five feet from the floor and kept the camera level, the amount of straightening you have to correct should be minimal. In Lightroom, you can find this tool under Lens Correction under the Manual section (tab).

2. Fill in and even out the light

Screen Shot 2015 02 10 at 2 01 28 PM

Before doing any adjustment to brightness or exposure, be sure to correct any lens vignetting that may have happened. This is when the corners of the image are a bit darker, and is a common effect in wide lenses. You can find the slider for this setting in Lightroom under Lens Correction, Manual, then Vignetting.

Once your corners are corrected, use the Adjustment Brush to correct the exposure in bright or dark areas. This is your time to “dodge and burn.” I find that erring on the side of overexposure actually has a more natural feel to the space. I recommend pushing the overall exposure up slowly, then when it feels too bright, start pulling back.

You can also lighten dark areas slightly with the shadows slider in the top (Basic panel) section. However, be careful not to lighten so much that you bring out grain (noise) or that the image looks fake.

3. Perform color corrections

Adjust the overall temperature as needed. You’re aiming for warmth, not yellow. Also, bump up the Vibrance a bit instead of messing with the saturation. Oversaturating can quickly make a photo look too fake, while Vibrance is a more subtle tool that helps give the color a little extra kick. Again, playing with the sliders on these settings, and seeing what your eye is comfortable with, will go a long way toward honing color-correcting skills.

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4. Adjust the clarity and sharpness

Push the Clarity slider up (to the right) slowly. Clarity is a great way to polish up a photo without going overboard on contrast; plus, it gives the photo an overall crisp look. Depending on the image, you may want to simultaneously play with darkening the blacks a bit, too.

Lightroom has two great presets built-in for sharpening: faces and scenic. I use scenic for architectural mages because it sharpens a bit more than the preset for faces. It’s a subtle, but vital, touch.

5. Clean up with spot removal and cloning

Use the Spot Brush tool to remove any dust spots or other anomalies that may have gotten onto the photo. You will see two options in Lightroom for the brush: Clone and Heal. Healing is a great option when correcting small spots, as it will have a softer blend to it. Next, use the Cloning tool to remove any glares or reflections of you in the photo. You can also use it to remove address numbers, if requested.

While I typically use Lightroom for editing photos, my personal preference for cloning is Photoshop’s stamp tool. It seems to allow for more control over the brush itself, therefore making it easier to clone in a way that looks natural.

How do you shoot and edit interior spaces? Share your tips and photos in the comments section below.

The post Vital Tips for Photographing and Editing Interiors by Natalia Robert appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

Depth of Field and the Importance Distance to Subject Plays

Let’s say that perhaps you’ve been taking photos for a while now. You’ve gotten yourself a good DSLR camera and have recognized that the standard 18-55mm kit lens that comes with your camera is nice, but just doesn’t give you the shots that you are looking for.

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So you plunk down your money on the ever-popular 50mm f/1.8 prime lens that everybody is talking about, mount in on your camera, change your aperture to its widest (f/1.8) setting and start shooting. You spend all day shooting with this wonderful little lens and then you get home and put them on your computer and realize that 80% of your shots are out of focus.

In the past, when this used to happen to me, I would reason that shooting wide open was just not possible, because I ended up with too many shots that were out of focus. I incorrectly reasoned that I always needed to close down my aperture when shooting portrait subjects, or they would end up out of focus because the shallow depth of field was just too unusable wide open. For a while, I only used my 50mm 1.8 lens at f/4 because it was the widest aperture that I trusted to get the shot in focus. Crazy yes, I know. But then I figured out something that has changed my use of wide-aperture lenses forever.

Before we continue, let’s break down the meaning of “wide open” and “fast prime lenses”. To shoot “wide open” means that you are choosing to photograph at your lens’ widest aperture setting or f-stop. On a lot of lenses, the widest aperture is listed somewhere on the lens itself with Canon usually listing it on the front of the lens, and Nikon listing this information on the body of the lens. Generally the ration looks something like this: 1:2.8 or 1:1.8. (See photos)

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A “fast prime lens” is one that has one focal length (does not zoom) and has “fast” light-gathering ability (due to its wider apertures). Most photographers consider a fast lens to be one with an aperture number of f/2.8 or wider (the smaller the number, the wider the aperture). Two of the most popular features of fast prime lenses are their ability to obtain beautiful out of focus backgrounds and shallow depth of field, as well as their ability to handle low-light conditions because of the aforementioned large apertures.

Let me let you in on a little secret about shooting wide open – it’s about the distance to your subject. Most people learn that wide-aperture lenses blur the background and let in more light, but they never understand that the really neat shallow depth of field created by their lens is also affected by another factor; how close they are to the subject.

You won’t find many manuals on subject to camera distance. It’s kind of an assumed topic that doesn’t get enough attention. Let’s look at it as simply as possible: the closer you are to your subject, the shallower the depth of field is relative to your chosen aperture. In other words, if you are shooting at f/1.8 and you are 20 feet away from your subject, you will have MORE depth of field than you will if you are shooting 2 feet away from your subject.

To get more mathematical, if you’re using a 50mm lens at f/1.8 and photographing something at 4 feet, your depth of field will be around 1.5 inches deep. But if you photograph that same subject from 10 feet, you will have a depth of field of just under 10 inches deep.

2ft 35mmP

Shot at 2ft with a 35mm lens at f/1.4.

9ft 35mmP

Shot at 9ft with a 35mm lens at f/1.4. 

The right image cropped to similar framing as the left. Notice the increase in depth of field on the hair and ears, and also the reduction in lens distortion.

2ft 35mm

Shot at 2 ft with a 35mm lens at f/1.4.

9ft 35mm

Shot at 9ft with a 35mm lens at f/1.4. Cropped to similar framing. Notice how the pencils in the back row come into focus.

With this information, it is also very important that you get to really know your lens and its abilities. For instance, if you happen to know that you shoot a lot of portraiture close to your subjects, be aware of how much depth of field your lens gives you at three feet, four feet, and so on, when shooting wide open. In time, with experience, you will be able to immediately predict the depth of field your lens will give you based on the distance you are away from your subject.

5ft 85mmP

Shot at 5ft with an 85mm lens at f/1.4.

12ft 85mmP

Shot at 12ft with an 85mm lens at f/1.4.

The depth of field does increase slightly in the right image, but not as dramatically as the 35mm lens due to the 85mm longer focal length.

In conclusion, you can see that the reason your photos might be coming out blurry would be because of your distance to your subject when shooting wide open. So the next time you find yourself frustrated at your results shooting with that wide-aperture lens at its widest aperture, take a step or two back. You might like the results.

The post Depth of Field and the Importance Distance to Subject Plays by Al Jurina appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

3 Video Tutorials – How to Use On-Camera Flash

This week I have found some great videos to help you to understand how to use on-camera flash to your advantage. Flash can be confusing to understand and using on-camera flash incorrectly can make unflattering light, or worse yet ruin your photos completely. Have a watch of these tutorials on flash and see if you can pick up some helpful tips:

Video #1 Ed Vorosky – On-camera fill flash basics

Ed Vorosky covers some of the basics you will need to get a grasp on using flash on-camera. He goes over some of the settings to look for on your flash, different lighting situations, and which camera shooting mode to use. There’s a helpful demonstration of using Flash Exposure Compensation and how it affects your photo as well.

Video #2 Tony Northrup – Bounce Flash Basics

In this second video tutorial Tony Northrup goes into a little more detail using on-camera flash indoors and bouncing it for various different looks. He shows the results using just ambient light, flash straight on, and bounced off both the ceiling and side walls. You can see how just a small adjustment with your flash can completely change the look of your image or portrait.

Video #3 Mark Wallace – On-camera flash basics

In this last video Mark Wallace covers some of the basic flash settings for both Canon and Nikon flashes, then he goes outside to demonstrate how to control the exposure on the background (ambient) using both systems. Then he goes back indoors and shows several options for using the flash on-camera in that environment including bounce flash techniques.

Do you have any anxiety around using flash? Or are you a pro? Share any questions and comments you have below.

The post 3 Video Tutorials – How to Use On-Camera Flash by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

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