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The Essential Guide to Photographing Birds in Flight

4 hours 40 min ago

The post The Essential Guide to Photographing Birds in Flight appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Bruce Wunderlich.

If you want to photograph birds in flight like a pro, then you’ve come to the right place.

As a longtime bird photographer, I’ve spent countless hours tracking birds through the viewfinder, dealing with the frustration, the difficulties, and the exhilaration that comes from nailing a perfect shot.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes – and I’ve also discovered many, many tips and techniques that’ll instantly elevate your photos.

And in this article, I aim to share it all. I’ll explain all the birds in flight photography basics, including gear choice, location choice, lighting, composition, and more.

Let’s dive right in.

1. Pick the best location for flying birds

Beautiful flying bird photography begins with your location.

Certain areas will have no birds at all; others may have birds, but they’ll be in the wrong places, or in a place that offers limited access. In my experience, it’s best to set up near rivers or lakes, because they offer an abundant food source for the birds, and you’ll often be able to move along the water’s edge to find different positions.

You might also try doing a quick search online for the best birding locations near you. Alternatively, you can find a birding forum or a birding blog that lists bird count data; that way, you can head to the locations that interest you most based on your target bird species.

Once you’ve found a location, observe the flying birds for a few moments. Look for a position – on a bank or a hill – that will put you as close to the bird’s level as possible. (In other words, you don’t want to be shooting up at the birds from below or down at the birds from above. You want the most direct, dead-ahead angle possible.)

And check out the position of the sun, because you should not be shooting into it. Light coming from behind you or from the left or the right of your position is preferred.

Also, birds will generally take off and land into the wind, so knowing the wind direction of your location will help you predict the flight direction of the birds you are photographing.

Finding the best bird in flight locations will take a lot of trial and error. Many of the locations you check out will be duds – but it’ll be worth it, because very occasionally, you’ll find an area you can return to again and again and again. Scout out locations enough, and you’ll end up with a good list of these “hotspots!”

2. Only shoot during the best light

If you want great birds in flight photos, you need to head out during the best light, at least when you’re starting out.

(Over time, you’ll start to learn tricks for working in bad light – but as a beginner, shooting in dismal light is a recipe for, well, dismal photos.)

So what counts as the best light for birds in flight photography?

The golden light of morning and evening, often referred to the golden hours, is perfect, thanks to its gorgeous, soft effect. Really, as long as you shoot in the two hours after sunrise and the two hours before sunset, the light will look great (though remember that you need to carefully choose your position; you want the birds to be illuminated from the front, not the back!).

Also, because you’re photographing birds in the air, you’ll still get nice lighting on your subject even if you shoot a little before or after the golden hours (just make sure the light doesn’t get too harsh!).

3. Make yourself invisible

Most birds are various levels of skittish, so if your goal is to capture frame-filling images, you need to make yourself as invisible as possible.

Start by avoiding brightly colored clothing. You can also stay low to the ground as you approach a bird hotspot, use natural cover (e.g., trees). As you get more serious, you might consider wearing camouflage clothing, using a blind, and even shooting from your car window (birds tend to be less bothered by cars, so you can often drive close to birds that would normally fly away).

Once you’ve found a nice spot, keep relatively still. Don’t make any sudden movements. Instead, keep everything slow and steady as you set up your camera, then take a seat if you can (I recommend maintaining that low profile).

4. Use the right gear

You can photograph birds in flight with pretty much any modern DSLR or mirrorless camera, but the best models offer:

  • A viewfinder (so you can easily track the birds as they fly across the sky)
  • Fast continuous shooting speeds (so you can capture a sequence of split-second images, at least one of which will hopefully look good)
  • Good high-ISO performance (so you can boost your camera’s ISO in low light without worrying about noise)
  • Good autofocus performance (so you can track your subject as they weave and dive through the air)

Often, you’ll need to compromise when starting out, but try to check as many of the above boxes as possible.

You’ll also want to get the best-possible lens, which will generally offer these four features:

  • A long focal length (at least 300mm, though 500mm or 600mm is better)
  • A wide maximum aperture (f/4 is ideal, but f/5.6-f/6.3 can work, too, especially if you don’t plan to shoot in low light)
  • Sharp optics
  • Fast autofocus

Again, a compromise is likely in order here; the best birds in flight photography lenses cost thousands of dollars, which just doesn’t make sense for a beginner. So get the best lens you can afford, then learn to use it well!

I’d also recommend you grab a sturdy tripod and a good gimbal head. It’ll help you balance your setup while tracking birds (though a less expensive option is a pan head, which can also work well when panning). Finally, while ball heads can be used for birds in flight photography, they’re not a very stable solution for large lenses, so I don’t generally recommend them.

5. Study your subject

If you want to become a great bird photographer, then you’ll need to study birds.

Why? Once you know birds, you can predict their movements. For instance, many birds, especially the larger species like herons or eagles, will relieve themselves just before they fly. Knowing this can give you a split-second warning that translates into a beautiful takeoff shot.

Really, a lot of this “learning” will occur while you’re out photographing. Just by watching the birds, by identifying their behavioral habits, by seeing what they do and when they do it, you’ll accumulate plenty of useful knowledge.

For instance, did you know that shorebirds tend to run down the beach in a consistent direction? So if you want to close-up shots of skittish shorebirds, determine their direction, position yourself down the beach, get on the ground, and wait for them to come to you!

(That’s the kind of thing you learn after spending hours and hours watching birds on a beach!)

6. Get your birds in flight camera settings right

To determine the right camera settings for birds in flight photography, you’ll need to balance your artistic needs – such as depth of field and sharpness – with exposure needs. And it can get a little complex.

However, I do have some recommendations that should simplify the process immensely.

First, use either Aperture Priority mode or Manual mode; that way, you have control over your aperture and ISO at all times (and by boosting your ISO or widening the aperture, you can increase the shutter speed).

Second, set your aperture to around f/8 or so. This is where your lens will be most crisp, plus it will give you enough depth of field to get wingtip-to-wingtip sharpness.

Third, set your ISO to its lowest value, which is generally around ISO 100. The goal here is to avoid boosting the ISO, which will create noise – but when photographing in low light, you’ll need to raise the ISO to increase the shutter speed.

You see, in bird in flight photography, the shutter speed is probably the most essential setting, because if you get it too slow, the bird’s wings will blur, and this rarely looks good. In general, I’d recommend using a shutter speed of at least 1/1000s, and 1/2000s and beyond is better. (Your minimum shutter speed will change, though, depending on the speed of the bird; large birds in flight, like herons and geese, are slow, whereas small birds in flight, such as wrens, dart through the sky.)

Anyway, dial in the aperture and ISO, then look at your shutter speed, which your camera will select based purely on exposure considerations. Ask yourself: Is this shutter speed fast enough? If so, then you’re golden – but if not, you’ll need to either raise your ISO or widen your aperture so that your camera has enough light to boost the shutter speed.

I’d recommend boosting the ISO before you adjust the aperture. But if your ISO is creepy into noisy territory, it might make sense to widen the aperture rather than risk a too-noisy image.

Once you’ve dialed in all your settings, I’d recommend doing a quick test. Capture a few photos of nearby birds (they don’t need to be well-composed – the goal is to make sure your shutter speed is fast enough and your aperture is narrow enough). Zoom in on your camera LCD, make sure everything looks good, then have fun photographing birds in flight!

7. Learn good focusing technique

Birds are fast, which means you’ll need to put in some serious work to get consistently sharp shots.

First, you’ll need to set your camera to its continuous focusing mode. That way, whenever you half press the shutter button, the focus will lock – but it will refocus as your subject moves. (Nikon and many other manufacturers call this mode “AF-C,” though Canon calls it “AI Servo.”)

You should also set your camera to its fastest burst mode, also known as its continuous shooting mode. It’ll let you capture a series of images in quick succession, even as a bird flies by.

Next, you’ll want to engage your camera’s tracking AF-area mode. It’ll tell your camera to track the bird through the frame, even as it flies left and right, up and down, etc. The specifics will depend on your camera, but some form of “tracking” should do the trick. Also, if your camera offers it, try activating your animal Eye AF, which will specifically identify and track birds’ eyes through the frame.

Then, once your camera is set, start focusing on the bird when it’s either a) perching and about to take off, or b) flying far off in the distance. Half-press the shutter button, and keep tracking the bird as it takes off and/or comes closer. Once the bird flies into the prime area, press the shutter button down completely, fire off a burst of shots, and – fingers crossed! – you’ll get a good result.

A few additional tips:

Once the bird flies by, keep panning even after you’ve stopped shooting. This follow-through motion will keep your last image in focus better than an abrupt stop.

Also, when panning as the bird flies by, you want to match your panning speed to that of the bird. Even if you’re forced to drop your shutter speed, perfect panning will keep the bird sharp while the background blurs.

Aim to keep the bird’s eye in focus and sharp; this is key. If you are handholding your setup, try to keep your left hand under the barrel of your lens and your elbows close to your body, as this will help you maneuver the camera as steadily as possible. If you are standing, keep your legs spread out to create a good sturdy base.

Finally, if you’re planning to hold your location and position for a time, I recommend a tripod. This will help keep your camera steady, especially if you’re using a very heavy lens.

8. Aim for a powerful composition

Composition can be tough for beginner bird photographers, but don’t worry; there are a few basic rules you can use to capture consistently well-composed birds in flight shots.

First, you can always use the rule of thirds, which suggests you position the bird (or the bird’s eye) a third of the way into the frame, rather than dead center.

And I’d also recommend using the rule of space, which urges you to put more space in front of the bird than behind it (a good guideline is to have at least two to three times the space in front of the bird, which will help you follow the rule of thirds anyway!).

Also, while most birds in flight photography includes just one bird, look for those occasions where you can capture two or three birds at once for a well-arranged result.

Birds in flight photography: final words

Birds in flight photography isn’t easy, and it will take lots of practice to get that perfect shot.

But once you get it right, you will be hooked!

So remember these tips, get out with your camera, and have fun!

Now over to you:

Which of this bird in flight advice do you plan to use? What birds do you plan to photograph? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post The Essential Guide to Photographing Birds in Flight appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Bruce Wunderlich.

Beauty Dish Photography: The Essential Guide (+ 5 Lighting Setups)

Sat, 12/04/2021 - 04:00

The post Beauty Dish Photography: The Essential Guide (+ 5 Lighting Setups) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Gary Detonnancourt.

The beauty dish is one of my absolute favorite light modifiers – but it can be intimidating for beginners, and can even confuse serious portrait shooters.

That’s why, in this article, I share everything you need to know about beauty dish photography, from the lighting basics all the way to my favorite setups. I also explain when it makes sense to use a beauty dish versus a softbox, so if you’re not sure which way to go, I should be able to help you out.

Let’s get started!

What is a beauty dish?

A beauty dish is a circular lighting modifier with an opaque center, like this:

Like most lighting modifiers, you can combine a beauty dish with a studio strobe or speedlight. Note that a beauty dish blocks light in the center of the strobe and reflects it around the entire dish; this ensures a relatively hard, focused beam of light, though it’s softer than, say, a scrim, a softbox, or an umbrella. Beauty dishes are generally reserved for portraits, for reasons I explain in the next section.

You can buy beauty dishes for most lights, and they’re usually less expensive than other modifiers – but if you don’t want to spend extra money, consider creating a DIY beauty dish (many plans exist online, and I’ve actually made them out of aluminum turkey pans!).

Why are beauty dishes useful?

Beauty dishes are popular in the fashion industry, generally for head-and-shoulders portraits that highlight makeup and hair. Because beauty dish lighting is relatively hard, you can sculpt the subject’s face and show texture in their skin, but without straying into bare-flash territory. Plus, the light falloff is quite rapid, which allows you to emphasize facial features and deemphasize surroundings.

Also, beauty dishes produce stunning catchlights in the eyes (beautiful, circular highlights that draw the viewer into the portrait), and they produce nice shadows under the jaw line.

Beauty dishes are versatile, too; you can change the quality of the light by selecting a dish with a silver or white inner surface (the white surface will reduce specular highlights on the subject’s face). You can also control the spill of light with a grid and further soften the light by adding a sock over the front, like this:

Beauty dish vs softbox: which should you use?

If you’re just getting started with studio portrait photography, you might be struggling to decide between a beauty dish and a softbox. While both these lighting modifiers work great, they do come with several significant differences, so it’s worth carefully considering your options.

As I explained above, beauty dishes are primarily used for portrait photography, especially fashion. So if you’re hoping to shoot still life photos, product photos, or even studio pet photos in addition to standard portrait shots, a softbox is the better buy.

Softboxes are also great for achieving a softer, flattering look – so they’re perfect if you’re hoping to get that “diffused window” effect that portrait photographers love.

Plus, you can buy huge softboxes, which are great for group shots (beauty dishes vary in size, but they never go that big).

On the other hand, the beauty dish look is harder and sculpted, so if you want intense portraits, a beauty dish will serve you well.

Beauty dish photography: getting started

So you’ve decided to use a beauty dish – and maybe even purchased one. What now? How should you proceed?

First, I’d suggest you only use a beauty dish setup on clients or models with very good skin, because the harder lighting can show off imperfections like wrinkles and blemishes. It’s also helpful to find a good makeup and hair artist since you’ll likely be showing off the subject’s face in detail.

(Pro tip: If you want to use a makeup artist but aren’t ready to pay for this service, offer them a trade: makeup in return for professional images, which they can use to expand their portfolios.)

As for the technical details: I’d recommend a lens in the 85-200mm range so you can zoom in for tight headshots. In general, it makes sense to use an aperture of around f/8 to f/11 and an ISO of 100, then adjust the lighting power to achieve the right exposure. I would also recommend using a boom arm, which will help you put the beauty dish in just the right spot without getting in the way of your shot (though beginners can certainly get started with a conventional light stand).

The beauty dish will give you very nice light on your subject’s face, so get that set up first. Then go ahead and add additional lights, if you have them: a rim light behind your subject, a hair light above your subject, and/or a background light to separate the subject from the background.

Below, I share five specific beauty dish lighting setups to get you taking gorgeous images in no time at all:

1. One light with a reflector

This setup, also known as clamshell lighting, is the most typical way to do a beauty-dish photo. Start by positioning your beauty dish right above the subject’s face and point it down slightly, so the center of the dish is aimed at the subject’s forehead, right between the eyes.

The dish should be close enough to your subject to produce soft light, generally within two to four feet. When you set this up, make sure you can see catchlights in the top of your subject’s eyes (try taking a test shot or two and zooming in on your LCD).

Next, add a reflector under the chin to bounce light back up into the subject’s face. This will help minimize shadows under the chin and will add a catchlight at the bottom of the eyes. Note that you’ll need to put your camera between the beauty dish and the reflector, which might take a bit of finesse. Also, to adjust the amount of fill light, you’ll need to push the reflector closer or pull it away.

Some photographers like to add black cards on either side of the subject to create shadows on the sides of the face, but this is optional. And for a more sophisticated effect, try adding a background light or a rim light to make your subject stand out.

2. Two lights in a clamshell pattern

This lighting setup is similar to the clamshell pattern I shared above, except you use a strobe in place of the reflector. So add your beauty dish above the subject pointing down, then position the strobe below the subject pointing up.

What’s the benefit of this setup versus number one? A strobe lets you control the fill light power, which makes filling in shadows much easier. I prefer to use a strip box as fill (set one or two stops darker than the main light).

3. Add a sock over the beauty dish

A sock is a piece of diffusion material that looks like a shower cap (see the image in the Why are beauty dishes useful section above), and it goes directly over the beauty dish. This softens the light on the subject’s face, and if you are getting shiny spots, it will reduce the specularity of the light.

While a naked beauty dish produces sculpted light, a sock will produce a creamy look with less skin texture, like this:

Note that the goal here is to create either of the clamshell setups I shared above, but with the added sock.

4. Add a grid to the beauty dish

Here’s another method of modifying the beauty dish clamshell setups:

Set your beauty dish above the subject, then add a grid, as shown below.

The grid will focus the beam into more of a spotlight pattern, which can be used to create some interesting effects. Just make sure the grid is pointed directly at the subject, or the light pattern will not strike the face correctly. (The easiest way to check this? Ask the subject if they can see directly through the grid to the light source.)

5. Head outdoors

The beauty dish is a great portable light modifier because it’s more compact than a softbox, and it won’t catch the wind like an umbrella.

Depending on the power of your lights, you can use a beauty dish as a main light or fill light. Feel free to use the straight-down positioning I recommended above, though you can also set it up at a 45-degree angle, like you might use a softbox.

When the light conditions are warm – such as around sunrise or sunset – you may want to add a color temperature orange gel over the beauty dish to help blend the strobe with the sunlight.

Beauty dish photography: final words

Hopefully, you can now confidently use a beauty dish. They’re powerful lighting tools, and the effect is amazing.

So if you haven’t already, go out and buy (or make!) a beauty dish. And then do a photoshoot! I guarantee you’ll get some beautiful shots.

Now over to you:

How do you plan to use a beauty dish in your next photoshoot? Which beauty dish do you plan to buy? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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The post Beauty Dish Photography: The Essential Guide (+ 5 Lighting Setups) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Gary Detonnancourt.

dPS Weekly Photo Challenge – Negative Space

Fri, 12/03/2021 - 14:00

The post dPS Weekly Photo Challenge – Negative Space appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

We’ve had a crack at this previously, but it was a while ago and it’s a brand new day, so why not. What IS ‘negative space’ in photography? Very basically it’s using the open space in an image to draw focus to the subject – your eyes pretty much can’t help but be drawn from the nothingness to the subject.

This week your challenge comes from Sharon Williams a member of our Facebook Group (you should join!) …and after you join you should suggest a challenge (or suggest one in the comments under this post if you don’t do the Facebook thing)

Remember! One photo per challenge, make sure you tag it #dPSWeeklyChallenge and #dPSNegativeSpace if you’re sharing on social media.

Photo by Isaac Benhesed on Unsplash

The white expanse of the table with the simple but eye-catching coffee above is a great example, But it’s not one of mine, the photo below is one of mine (Drone, Mavic 2 Pro) and I think perhaps I went a bit far, the surfer almost too small to find… What do you think? Anyway… gives me the chance to do better this week!

Need help adding YOUR photo into the comments below? Here’s a mini-tutorial!

Simply upload your shot into the comments field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see. Or, if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them.

The post dPS Weekly Photo Challenge – Negative Space appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

The Luminar Neo Release Timeline, Revealed (Plus Program Details)

Fri, 12/03/2021 - 04:00

The post The Luminar Neo Release Timeline, Revealed (Plus Program Details) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Looking for information on the upcoming Luminar Neo? You’re in the right place.

Below, we share all the latest program details, including the release date, a list of editing features, plus how you can buy Luminar Neo for a discounted rate. 

When will Luminar Neo be released?

Luminar Neo, the highly anticipated image editor from Skylum, now has an official release timeline:

The program will be available for download “in the beginning of February.” Note that “early bird” purchasers – those who are among the first 30,000 Luminar Neo customers – will receive download access “at the end of January” (though it’s unclear whether the early bird promotion is still ongoing).

You can preorder Luminar Neo on the Luminar website, and for the next few hours, you can still grab it for the Cyber Monday rate.

What is Luminar Neo?

Luminar Neo is an advanced photo editor from Skylum, which will feature an AI-driven workflow greater than both its predecessors, Luminar AI and Luminar 4.

While Luminar Neo will feature the standard set of image editing tools, including exposure adjustments, color adjustments, cropping, and cloning, the program will also boast plenty of Skylum’s patented AI enhancements. 

For instance, landscape and travel shooters will love Sky Replacement AI (which allows you to swap skies with the click of a button), while portrait photographers will appreciate the handy Face AI (for speedy portrait retouching). There’s also Atmosphere AI (so you can add fog and other effects), Portrait Bokeh AI (for instantly creating beautiful background blur), and Structure AI (for intelligently boosting image sharpness). 

Luminar Neo will also feature a handful of new tools, including:

  • AI Relight, which applies lighting adjustments based on a 3D depth analysis
  • AI Sensor Dust Removal, which instantly removes dust and other debris that is affecting your images
  • AI Power Lines Removal, which identifies and erases any pesky power lines
  • Portrait Background Removal, which intelligently masks your portrait subjects, then allows you to replace the background

Luminar Neo includes layer-based editing (a feature that was present in Luminar 4 but absent from Luminar AI), and plugin compatibility with Photoshop and Lightroom

Also, for the first time ever, Luminar will debut alongside a mobile app. Skylum claims that, with its “mobile image-sharing app,” you can “share your ideas between desktop and mobile in one click,” so don’t expect a full-fledged editing app – but those who frequently move images between their smartphone and desktop will undoubtedly appreciate any improved functionality.

How can I get Luminar Neo?

Luminar Neo is available for preorder here.

And for those still on the fence, Skylum does offer a 30-day money back guarantee following the ship date, so if you don’t like the program, you can always return it. You also have the option to purchase both Luminar Neo and Luminar AI with a hefty discount (see the details here).

Now over to you:

Do you plan to purchase Luminar Neo? How do you think it will compare to previous Luminar programs? Are there any features on your wish list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Luminar Neo FAQs When will Luminar Neo be released?

Luminar Neo will be released “in the beginning of February, 2022.”

How much does Luminar Neo cost?

Luminar Neo will be available for $79 (for a one-seat license) and $99 (for a two-seat license), but it is currently discounted to $59 (for one seat) and $69 (for two seats).

How can I buy Luminar Neo?

You can preorder Luminar Neo right here.

Should I get Luminar Neo or Luminar AI?

Luminar Neo is designed for photographers looking to enhance their photo-editing workflow, whereas Luminar AI is geared toward content creators and others hoping to quickly improve their images. Luminar Neo will be the more powerful editor, though Luminar AI is (likely) easier to use.

The post The Luminar Neo Release Timeline, Revealed (Plus Program Details) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

How Do Cameras Work? A Guide for Beginners

Thu, 12/02/2021 - 04:00

The post How Do Cameras Work? A Guide for Beginners appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Want to know how cameras work but don’t want to read about complicated mathematics and physics? This is the guide for you.

In this article, I’ll explain how most cameras work, and I’ll also explain the differences between various camera types (such as film versus digital and DSLR versus mirrorless). With this knowledge, you can make an informed choice before buying a new camera – plus, you can better understand what’s going on inside your equipment!

If you’re ready to get started, let’s dive in.

How do cameras work? The basics

If you look at the giant cameras used by photography pioneers, then you check out the latest iPhone camera, you might think they don’t have anything in common.

But in reality, the basic concept of how cameras work hasn’t changed much. Put simply, the light reflected from the subject goes into the camera through a hole; it’s then projected on the back of the camera, where it’s registered by a light-sensitive material (whether a digital sensor or film).

This core process has stayed the same since the invention of photography, though the details have changed. Let’s start at the very beginning, then build up to modern-day camera equipment.

The camera obscura Source: Wikimedia Commons

The forefather of the photographic camera was the camera obscura, first created in 1545 based on a principle that dates back to around 400 BCE.

The first camera obscura was just a dark room with a hole in one of the walls. Whatever was outside of the room would be projected through the hole onto the opposite wall. Because light travels in a straight line, the projection would be upside down, as you can see in the diagram above.

Over time, the camera obscura became smaller – instead of whole rooms, it was made from boxes – and was used to aid artists when drawing.

The pinhole camera Source: Wikimedia Commons

A camera obscura is just a box with a hole that allows light to project on the opposite side – but once you add in a light-sensitive material, you have a pinhole camera.

It’s a simple item you can create with a shoebox (or any box) painted black. Use a needle or a pin to punch a small hole, then place a negative film or a sheet of photographic paper at the back to register the image projected inside.

In essence, this is how any photographic camera works, even the latest models. Of course, some elements have evolved, as I explain in the next section:

Photographic cameras The basic DSLR components.

All cameras, old and new, work under the same principle: light comes through a hole and projects an image on the back of the camera. But different models feature various details, and I can’t go into all the developments, so please bear with me as I talk generically.


Unlike pinhole cameras, most current cameras have a lens. Lenses generally include multiple glass elements that bend the light for a sharp, focused image.

The quality of the glass, the way it’s arranged, and the amount of glass inside the lens can impact the quality of the final image. This is one of the reasons why some lenses are more expensive than others.

By moving the lens glass, you can focus the image. And in some (zoom) lenses, you can also change the focal length.


Modern lenses contain an aperture, a hole that allows in light. In most cameras, you can control the size of the aperture, much the same way as the pupil in our eyes dilates or contracts to let in more or less light.

The lenses that allow for wider maximum apertures are more expensive and are commonly known as fast lenses. Note that the aperture is expressed in f-numbers, like so: f/1.8, f/2.8, f/6.3, f/9, f/16, etc., where smaller f-numbers correspond to larger apertures.


As light moves through the lens toward the camera body, it won’t simply impact the camera sensor or film. There’s a barrier that opens and closes to block the light or allow it through, called the shutter.

Most shutters consist of two curtains. When you press your camera’s shutter button to take a photo, the first curtain slides up to expose the sensor or film to light. Once a predetermined amount of time has passed (the shutter speed), the second curtain covers the sensor or film, and the image-making process stops.

Film/Sensor and ISO

When light reaches the back of the camera, it gets recorded by the film (analog cameras) or the sensor (digital cameras).

I won’t go into much detail here, because I’ve discussed this in depth down below. I will tell you, however, that films and sensors can have different sensitivities to light, called ISO (or ASA).

By the way, ISO is the third factor you need to consider when exposing a photograph. The ISO, along with the aperture and the shutter speed, form the exposure triangle.

Film vs digital cameras: what’s the difference?

These days, digital cameras are far more popular than film cameras – yet some photographers still prefer film, and the technology is more similar than you might think.

The main difference between film and digital cameras is the medium that registers the image. Digital cameras have a sensor that stores the image as data, while analog cameras use photosensitive film.

A digital camera uses one sensor – once the camera is built, there’s no changing it. But analog cameras offer all sorts of film types. You can load a traditional camera with negative film (black and white or color), slide film (also known as color reversal and black and white reversal), or infrared film.

Of course, before you load an analog camera, you’ll need to decide which type of film you want to use, how sensitive it should be (the ISO/ASA), and how many pictures you want (conventional film rolls offer 12, 24, or 36 exposures).

You can make some changes afterward, such as pushing or pulling the film, as well as cross processing. However, these changes affect the entire roll and not a single photo.

With digital cameras, you can change nearly every setting from image to image: the ISO, image quality, file format, and whether the shot is in color or black and white.

Photographic film comes in different sizes (35mm, 120mm, 4×5, etc.). In the same way, you can find different digital sensor sizes; I’ll talk more about them in a later section.

Let me emphasize that film is not better than digital or vice-versa. It’s a matter of personal preference, style, and storytelling.

Types of digital cameras

Photographers use many different camera types, but for the purposes of brevity, I’ll skip the large- and medium-format cameras and focus only on the most common options.


DSLR stands for digital single-lens reflex, which is the digital counterpart of the popular SLR film camera. DSLRs use interchangeable lenses, and the lenses from a DSLR often work on an SLR and vice-versa.

The most distinctive characteristic of the DSLR is a reflex system that allows you to see exactly what you capture through the viewfinder. On the outside of the camera, you’ll notice a bump, beneath which sits a series of mirrors. On the inside, the light that comes through the lens hits a mirror in the back of the camera. This mirror is positioned at such an angle that it reflects the light up toward a pentaprism, where it bounces to reach the viewfinder.

When you push the shutter button on a DSLR, the mirror flips up to let the light pass through to the sensor. That’s why, during a DSLR exposure, you can’t see anything through the viewfinder.

Mirrorless cameras

As the name suggests, mirrorless cameras don’t have a mirror in front of the sensor.

Mirrorless cameras are relatively new, and prior to the last few years, they were considered amateurish because the quality didn’t match that of a DSLR.

Nowadays, mirrorless cameras have full-frame sensors just like DSLRs, so the main difference is the size – mirrorless cameras tend to be far smaller than DSLRs – and the viewfinder. You see, because mirrorless cameras don’t feature the mirror used by DSLR technology, there’s no “true” viewfinder image; instead, higher-end mirrorless cameras offer a feed to the camera sensor (so you can preview the image), while some entry-level cameras don’t have a viewfinder at all. (In the latter case, you can preview the image on the rear LCD screen.)

Optical viewfinders (DSLRs) and electronic viewfinders (mirrorless) offer various advantages and disadvantages. I won’t get into the details here, but suffice it to say that both work great for pro-level work, and you can rely on either option for beautiful results.

Bridge cameras

Bridge cameras are often called “superzoom cameras,” because they generally feature a wide range of focal lengths – though unlike DSLRs, you can’t swap out the lens.

And while bridge cameras are built like DSLRs, they usually don’t have an optical viewfinder.

The sensor is often small, and to this day, there aren’t any full-frame bridge cameras. In fact, bridge cameras are halfway between a DSLR and a point-and-shoot camera – hence the name, “bridge.”

Point-and-shoot cameras

Point-and-shoot cameras, also known as compact cameras, may offer some manual control – but they’re meant to be used in Auto mode, and they’re all about ease of use. You simply point the camera, press the shutter button, and get a photo.

Point-and-shoot cameras have a fixed lens, and while they’re quite small in size, they have become somewhat irrelevant as smartphone cameras have advanced in power and popularity.

Camera sensors: why do they matter?

In the back of every digital camera is a sensor that records light, and you see the result as a digital photo.

A camera sensor is a grid of photosites that capture photons and convert them into a voltage value. This information is later processed in different ways according to the type of sensor – currently, they can be CCD or CMOS, although CCD is becoming less common.

Each photosite is called a pixel (sensel is a more technical term, but this article is meant to be an introduction, so I’ll stay with the commonly used pixel).

When you see that a camera has 24 megapixels, it produces images formed by 24 million pixels. Don’t be tempted by a high pixel count, though. You’ll have bigger images, yes – but they won’t necessarily be better. Let me elaborate.

Megapixels and image quality

If all camera sensors work the same way, then what’s the difference? Why should you buy one camera sensor over another? The main reason is that sensors come in different sizes, and so different sensors have different-sized pixels.

Have you ever wondered why some smartphones have 108 MP and professional cameras only have 30 or 40 MP? It’s because the pixels in that 108 MP smartphone are tiny, whereas the pixels in a 30 MP full-frame DSLR are much larger. Most people know about megapixels and think that more MP equals better image quality, so smartphone camera manufacturers keep increasing the pixel count, but this isn’t always a good thing.

How do the sensor size and pixel size impact your photography?

  • Bigger pixels (usually found in bigger sensors) have a better high-ISO performance (though note that newer cameras generally offer better high-ISO performance over older cameras, so a small, new sensor may be superior to a large, old sensor).
  • At high ISO values, small pixels lose significant dynamic range.
  • Larger sensors feature a shallower depth of field than smaller sensors, assuming the image is identically framed. This can be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on your needs.
  • Smaller sensors mean that you have to apply a crop factor to your lens, effectively giving it a longer focal length. For example, a standard 50mm lens on a full-frame camera becomes a 75mm telephoto on a standard APS-C camera. Again, this can be good or bad depending on what you want to shoot.
Sensor sizes Source: Wikimedia Commons

Sensor sizes aren’t standard, and you’ll find that each manufacturer makes their own rules. However, here are some categories that you can use as a starting point:

Medium format: Only certain professionals use sensors this big, so I won’t go into too much detail. However, it’s important to know they exist. The sensor sizes range from 43.8 x 32.9 mm to 53.7 x 40.2 mm.

Full frame: These sensors are the equivalent of 35mm film, which is 36 x 24 mm. It’s the standard size found in professional DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.

APS-C: These are commonly referred to as cropped sensors, because they’re cropped in comparison to full-frame sensors. The size varies according to each brand, but many manufacturers, including Nikon, Sony, and Pentax, use 23.6 x 15.6 mm, while Canon uses 22.3 x 14.9 mm.

Four Thirds/Micro Four Thirds: This standard was created by Panasonic and Olympus so that lenses could be compatible across brands. The size is 17.3 x 13 mm.

Sensors used in bridge cameras, point-and-shoot cameras, and smartphones are less consistent in size, but they are generally smaller than the Four Thirds standard.

How cameras work: final words

As you can see, cameras can be complicated! But hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how cameras work, and you know how to pick a camera of your own.

Now over to you:

Do you have a favorite camera type? Do you shoot with digital or film cameras? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post How Do Cameras Work? A Guide for Beginners appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

The Lightroom Masking Tool: A Guide to Lightroom’s New Masking Features

Wed, 12/01/2021 - 04:00

The post The Lightroom Masking Tool: A Guide to Lightroom’s New Masking Features appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

In October 2021, Adobe rolled out a software update that included a revolutionary approach to Lightroom masking. Previously, Lightroom had offered a basic but highly useful set of masking options, including the Radial, Graduated, and Brush filters, which were tweaked and refined over the years to meet the needs of most photographers.

However, these old masking adjustments still relied heavily on you, the photographer, to create masks and then refine them with a set of sliders and options. But thanks to the power of algorithms and artificial intelligence, the October update boosted these tools into the stratosphere, and the result is a profound and extraordinarily useful workflow that has the potential to fundamentally change your approach to photo editing.

In this article, I’ll explain everything you need to know about Lightroom’s updates, including a hands-on explanation of each new feature, along with plenty of examples so you can see exactly how powerful these adjustments really are.

For a comprehensive look at Lightroom’s new Masking tool, read on!

Lightroom masking, explained

When I first started out as a photographer, it didn’t take too long to learn basic photography concepts such as aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. It was the editing process, especially some of the tools and terminology, that sent me reeling and made me want to toss my camera out the window and never return.

One of those difficult concepts was masking.

While masking serves as the bedrock foundation for so much of the editing process, it seemed impenetrable to a newbie like me – at least at first. But in truth, masking is extraordinarily simple, and it’s based on a process that painters have used for centuries.

A mask is simply a cover, much like a mask you might wear on your face. Have you ever used blue tape to make sure paint doesn’t get onto windows and wall trim when doing a bit of home remodeling? Congratulations! You have used the real-world equivalent of the Lightroom Masking tool. The digital version is far more flexible than its real-world counterpart, but the basic idea remains the same: masking lets you cover certain parts of the image, so that you can then safely target edits to specific areas.

The Lightroom Masking tool allowed me to enhance the color of the tower without affecting the surrounding terrain and sky. Lightroom Masking: what’s new?

For years, the Lightroom masking tools relied entirely on you, the photographer, to indicate where you wanted the mask to be applied, to refine the edges, and to generally do a lot of the heavy lifting. Lightroom didn’t even use the term “mask” for most operations, instead opting for the word “filter” – which wasn’t really an accurate description of the work being done. The sheer power and flexibility of the Radial, Graduated, and Brush filters was amazing, but the workflow was often slow, especially when editing dozens or hundreds of images.

Adobe’s October 2021 update to Lightroom changed all of that by moving these editing tools under a single umbrella of “masking” while increasing the amount of flexibility and customization at your disposal. Lightroom has also augmented your editing with a massive dose of artificial intelligence. Much like Dominic Toretto giving his V8 engine a shot of nitrous in a Fast and Furious movie, the new Lightroom Masking tool supercharges your editing to ridiculous levels and gives you the type of power previously restricted to Photoshop and other high-end applications.

Instead of offering a Graduated Filter, Radial Filter, or Adjustment Brush, all these options are now consolidated under one tool, called Masking. Clicking “Masking” brings up the same options as before, but they are now properly labeled as Masks. The best part is the addition of two entirely new features, Select Subject and Select Sky, both of which have the potential to transform your entire approach to photo editing.

Masking feature 1: Select Subject

Have you ever used Lightroom to apply certain edits just to the subject of your image and not the rest of the shot? This process used to involve the Adjustment Brush and a lot of patience – but the new Lightroom Masking tool simplifies everything to a single click.

Click “Select Subject,” and Lightroom will use advanced algorithms and computations to analyze your image and find your main subject. While the results aren’t always perfect, it’s far easier than doing it manually.

After you tap Select Subject, a color overlay will appear atop what Lightroom assumes is the subject, along with a small pop-out Masks floating palette. If you can’t quite discern the mask from the rest of your picture, use the small colored square at the bottom of the floating palette to choose a different overlay color:

Once this initial mask is created, you can adjust all the standard editing parameters: white balance, exposure, contrast, shadows, texture, saturation, hue, and more. Every slider and adjustment from earlier versions of Lightroom is present and accounted for, but now consolidated under one single Masking panel instead of three separate panels.

Masking feature 2: Select Sky

The Select Sky option in Lightroom is practically a love letter to nature and landscape photographers. Whenever I sit down to edit a picture of grand prairies or sweeping vistas, one of the first things I do is create a mask for the sky so I can adjust exposure and white balance. The Graduated filter had always been my preferred tool for this process, but it required a lot of fine-tuning with the Range Mask option and other manual adjustments. It was an effective but slow process, one that didn’t work well if you had more than just a handful of images to edit.

Happily, the new Select Sky masking feature changes all of that.

To use Select Sky, first navigate to a picture in the Develop module that contains a view of the sky. Then select the Masking tool, and click Select Sky. Lightroom will automatically analyze the image:

The process only takes a few seconds, and you’ll ultimately see an overlay showing the masked-out sky portion of the shot. As with the Select Subject feature, you can change the color and opacity of the overlay, and you can perform additional edits, as well:

This automatic process for selecting the sky offers a great starting point, and it will speed up your landscape editing like flooring the pedal on a Tesla Roadster. It’s not always perfect and you might need to make some tweaks to the mask in order to get your edits just right, but it’s much easier than the old method of using a Graduated filter.

Masking feature 3: Mask display customization

Adobe added some incredible quality-of-life improvements to masking in Lightroom, and while they won’t necessarily make your workflow faster, they’ll give you much greater control over how you create and edit your masks.

Regardless of whether you use computational tools like Select Subject and Select Sky or you prefer to create masks on your own without the help of algorithms and automated processes, the enhanced display tools will certainly make your life easier.

Masks in Lightroom now have an overlay color that can be customized simply by clicking the color in the Masking panel, but there’s a lot more you can do than just change the color. You can alter the opacity of the mask overlay by using a slider, which can help your mask stand out against a crowded foreground or background. You can also tell Lightroom to show the overlay color on the mask (affected areas) or on everything except the mask (unaffected areas). Neither the opacity nor the overlay affects your edits, but they are incredibly useful to help you see where your edits are being applied.

Lightroom doesn’t stop there, though. Showing an overlay color is nice, but what if you want to see only the mask? Or only the unaffected areas? Or the mask against a black-and-white version of the image? You now have these options and more:

The Overlay Mode menu offers six choices for how your mask is displayed, and this is like manna from heaven for weary photo editors. None of these options change your edits, but instead give you a lot of useful visual information for seeing precisely where your mask is located on the image.

These overlay modes have the potential to truly transform your editing in Lightroom. Until now, the only tool at your disposal was a color overlay, but with the ability to see exactly where your mask is (and is not) applied, you can create masks that do exactly what you want.

Masking feature 4: Add and Subtract

While you have always been able to add to and subtract from masks and filters in Lightroom, the new Masking tool makes this process easier than ever.

With the masking panel visible, choose Add or Subtract to adjust the mask area. This is great if one of the automated masking processes like Sky Selection or Subject Selection doesn’t quite give you what you are looking for, or if you just want to create your own precise custom masks.

I created an initial mask to lighten up the fly in the image below, but then I created another mask using Select Subject:

The results of the automatic Select Subject option were spot on, with two notable exceptions: the green protrusions on the top-left side of the leaf, and the brown leaf on the right. You can easily see this using the White On Black mask overlay:

The White on Black mask overlay lets you easily see portions of your mask that you might want to remove, as well as places you may wish to add.

Fixing this issue is simple with the Subtract tool. Click Subtract to bring up several options that’ll let you subtract parts of your mask. I chose the Brush option, and then carefully brushed out the parts of the mask I did not want.

With the Subtract tool, I was able to quickly erase unwanted parts of the mask.

Previously, you could do these types of operations in Lightroom, but it involved a few more steps and you didn’t have six different mask overlay options to help you refine your edits. The new system is significantly improved, and it makes the editing process fast, simple, and much more enjoyable.

The Lightroom Masking tool: final words

Several years ago, Adobe renamed Lightroom to Lightroom Classic and launched a redesigned Lightroom to appeal to photographers who prefer a more mobile-friendly workflow. There was some degree of trepidation among photographers, myself included, because it seemed like Adobe would leave Lightroom Classic behind and focus all their efforts on the revamped Lightroom.

Thankfully, that has not been the case; Lightroom Classic has received a steady stream of updates, bug fixes, and improvements, including the brand-new Masking tool. This makes me excited for what the future holds, and I can’t wait to see what’s next from Adobe. If you haven’t tried the new Lightroom Masking tool, I encourage you to give it a shot. You might be very pleasantly surprised by what you find!

Now over to you:

What do you think about Lightroom’s new Masking tool? Have you tried it? Do you plan to? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post The Lightroom Masking Tool: A Guide to Lightroom’s New Masking Features appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Polarizing Filters: What Are They and Why Do You Need One?

Tue, 11/30/2021 - 04:00

The post Polarizing Filters: What Are They and Why Do You Need One? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

What is a polarizing filter? And what makes polarizers so special?

In this article, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about polarizers. I’ll explain what they are, what they do, and how they can help improve your photography. I’ll explain when you might want to use a polarizer, and I’ll also highlight certain situations where a polarizing filter is a very bad idea – so you know exactly when to use one the next time you’re out in the field.

If you’re ready to become a polarizer expert, then read on!

What is a polarizing filter?

A polarizing filter is a piece of glass that goes over your camera lens and reduces haze, reflections, and glare. It also darkens blue skies.

Without getting too scientific, light waves that bounces off water, leaves, glass, and other reflective materials become polarized, which means they vibrate in a special way; polarizing filters are designed to block this polarized light from reaching your camera sensor.

Most photographers use circular polarizing filters, which screw onto the lens and can be rotated to amplify or reduce the polarization effect. So by turning a polarizing filter in one direction, the photographer can block out reflections, and by turning the polarizing filter in the other direction, the photographer can ensure the reflections are clearly visible.

Why are polarizing filters useful in photography?

Polarizing filters are known for three highly visible effects:

  1. They reduce reflections, so you can photograph through glass and water.
  2. They reduce glare, so you can capture more saturated colors.
  3. They cut down on polarized light in the atmosphere, which causes skies to turn a deep, dark blue.

In certain situations, these effects are a big deal. For instance, if you’re photographing a beautiful rocky tidepool, a polarizer can eliminate pesky reflections and reveal the beauty underneath. And if you’re photographing a desert landscape at noon, the polarizer will turn the hazy blue sky into a darker, more evocative color.

In fact, polarizers are used for landscape photography all the time, because you’re often faced with reflective water and foliage. Don’t like the reflections in the water? Use a polarizer. Want to capture more saturated fall colors? Use a polarizer.

And many other genres of photography use polarizers, too. Cityscape and architectural photographers use polarizers to reduce reflections in glass windows and car windshields (though note that polarizers don’t reduce reflections and glare off of metal surfaces, such as the sides of buildings).

Basically, whenever you’re faced with unwanted haze or reflections, you simply screw a polarizer onto the front of your lens. Then, by twisting the polarizer, you can block out the offending light and get much deeper, saturated colors and reduced reflections.

How to use a polarizing filter: step by step

Polarizers are wonderfully easy to use.

First, when you find a scene that requires reflection or glare reduction, simply screw your polarizing filter onto the front of your lens.

Next, look through the camera viewfinder, then slowly rotate the polarizer. As you rotate the glass, watch the areas of your composition with obvious reflective elements.

After a few moments of rotation, you should see the reflections start to fade. Continue to rotate the filter until the reflections have disappeared (or have reached a level that you like).

Then leave your polarizer as it is, and proceed to adjust your other camera settings for the proper depth of field, exposure, etc. Note that you should always set your exposure after applying the polarizing filter, because a polarizing filter blocks out light, which in turn requires exposure compensation.

Another key fact: Polarizing filters don’t always work perfectly. Depending on the angle of the sun and the quality of the light, you may notice significant changes to a polarized image – or you may notice no changes at all.

For the greatest effect, try to keep the sun at a 90-degree angle to your lens. A common trick is to make a finger gun with your thumb and index finger. Then point your thumb at the sun and rotate your index finger in a circle (as if your thumb is the axle and your index finger is the spoke on a bicycle tire). Wherever your index finger points will experience the strongest polarization effect, whereas other areas of the scene will experience the polarization effect to varying degrees.

The problem with polarizers

Now that you’re familiar with the polarization effect, you might be wondering:

Why don’t I just use a polarizer all the time? Can’t I keep it attached to my lens, then rotate it as needed?

The problem is that, in addition to their benefits, polarizers have several drawbacks.

First, polarizers reduce the amount of light that hits your camera sensor and this impacts exposure. Every time you add a polarizer to your lens, you lose light, which means you need to use a slightly slower shutter speed, a slightly wider aperture, or a slightly higher ISO. This is rarely convenient, and in certain situations, it can be a non-starter; what if you’re photographing in low light? A polarizer may cause you to miss the shot thanks to a too-slow shutter speed.

Second, polarizers don’t impact an entire scene equally, especially if you’re using a wide-angle lens. Wide-angle lenses portray so much of the scene that you’ll often get some areas that are highly polarized, and other areas that are much less affected. This can look strange – like blue banding across the sky – and so you may want to avoid using a polarizer in certain wide-angle landscape situations.

Third, while quality polarizers work well, there are plenty of poorly made options out there that will produce unpleasant color casts and reduce image sharpness. So if you do buy a polarizer, make sure it’s a good one. Don’t compromise, even if it means paying $100+ for a nice filter.

When to use a polarizing filter

While you shouldn’t use a polarizer all the time, here are a few situations when it’s a good idea to screw on that filter:

When photographing water

When photographing a scene with water, you’ll often get unwanted reflections, and a polarizer can make all the difference.

For example, when I was snorkelling off the coast of Indonesia a few years back, I took a series of photos without my polarizer. The water looked murky, plus it had a big, unpleasant reflection on the surface.

But when I used my polarizing filter, everything changed; the water become a crystal-clear, bright-blue color, and the shots had far more impact.

Of course, you shouldn’t always apply a polarizing filter to water shots. Sometimes, you’ll want to maintain reflections in a scene – think of a mountain reflecting in a quiet lake – in which case you should leave the polarizer in your bag.

But more often than not, if water is featured in your scene, a polarizer is a good idea.

When photographing a blue sky

The color of the sky can change dramatically with a quick twist of the polarizing filter. A pale blue can turn to a vibrant, deep blue color, though the extent of the effect does depend on the sun’s position.

(Also, a polarizer can cut out a lot of the smoggy haze that you’ll find in city scenes.)

When you’re photographing a landscape on a clear day, it’s often a good idea to at least try using a polarizer, especially if you’re shooting when the sun is high in the sky. The effect is quite striking, and it can even be the difference between a mediocre shot and a great shot.

When photographing trees and leaves

When you think of reflective objects, “leaves” probably isn’t the first item that comes to mind.

Yet leaves are actually quite reflective, and this reflectivity can seriously reduce color saturation.

A circular polarizer is particularly useful when capturing fall colors – professional photographers use polarizers pretty much non-stop when photographing the autumn landscape – because it cuts down on reflectivity and glare, which consequently increases color intensity.

When photographing reflective glass

If you like to photograph buildings or cars, a polarizer can be a big help, assuming you want to emphasize the building/car interior.

Glass is pretty reflective, but a polarizer can do a very nice job of removing those reflections.

(Of course, there are times when you’ll want to keep reflections for an interesting effect. In such cases, keep the polarizer off your lens.)

How to choose a polarizing filter

Most lenses take screw-in filters that attach to the end of the lens barrel, just over the front element.

Because different lenses feature different diameters, you’ll need to take note of the diameter on your specific lens, then buy a polarizing filter with a matching size.

If you have several leness with different diameters, you’ll need to buy several polarizing filters (annoying, I know; the alternative is purchasing step-down filters, but they can be cumbersome and frustrating to work with).

Keep in mind that good polarizers are not cheap – but as I emphasized above, you shouldn’t skimp and buy a poor-quality filter for your top-notch lenses. Instead, pay for a good polarizer made by a reputable brand (Hoya and B+W are two good places to start!).

Polarizing filters: final words

Now that you’ve finished this article, you should know all about polarizing filters and how you can use them for stunning shots!

So if you’re attracted to the power of a polarizer, then consider purchasing one! I guarantee you’ll have a lot of fun with it.

Now over to you:

Have you ever tried a polarizing filter? What was it like? What subjects did you use it on? Share your thoughts (and images!) in the comments below.

The post Polarizing Filters: What Are They and Why Do You Need One? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

See the New Lightroom Masking Tool in Action [Video]

Mon, 11/29/2021 - 12:11

The post See the New Lightroom Masking Tool in Action [Video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

In October, Adobe unveiled several revolutionary updates to its local adjustment tools in Lightroom, including a new Masks panel, several AI-driven masking tools, and a revamped masking workflow.

But while these updates offer unprecedented power, they take some getting used to.

Later this week, we’ll be releasing a comprehensive tutorial on the new updates – but in the meantime, why not see the Masks panel in action?

Check out the video below, in which professional landscape photographer Nigel Danson puts the Masking Tool through its paces. Danson explains every step of his process, so you can understand exactly how he approaches editing with the Lightroom updates, plus – bonus! – you’ll see a beautiful landscape shot go from a flat, boring RAW photo to an eye-popping masterpiece.

Along the way, you’ll learn:

  • How to use Radial Gradient masks to create a gorgeous sunset glow
  • How to add drama to the sky with a Linear Gradient
  • How to fine-tune your masks with Color Range and Luminosity Range functions
  • How to combine masks for highly targeted adjustments

And once you’ve finished, be sure to leave a comment below, discussing your favorite element of the new features!

The post See the New Lightroom Masking Tool in Action [Video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Burst Mode: What Is It, and How Should You Use It?

Mon, 11/29/2021 - 04:00

The post Burst Mode: What Is It, and How Should You Use It? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Do you want to capture action shots of kids running, birds flying, sports players dunking, split-second moments on the streets, and more?

Well, you can – if you know how to use your camera’s burst mode, that is.

Burst mode, also known as continuous shooting mode, allows you to shoot a series of rapid-fire images without stopping. Depending on your camera’s capabilities, you can record 5, 10, 20, or even 60 images per second, and each one offers another opportunity to capture a once-in-a-lifetime action image.

In this article, I’m going to share everything you need to use burst mode like a pro, going from the basics all the way up to advanced continuous-shooting guidelines.

Let’s dive right in.

Burst mode is great for capturing fast-moving subjects! What is burst mode?

Burst mode is a camera function that allows you to capture a series of photographs in quick succession. With burst mode activated, you can hold down the shutter button, and your camera will rattle off a set of photos.

The specific burst mode speeds vary from camera to camera; low-end and older cameras offer burst modes in the 3 frames-per-second range (i.e., 3 photos per second). Class-leading sports cameras offer 20, 30, or 60 frames per second. And the average camera offers 6-12 frames per second.

Also, note that some cameras offer several burst speeds, which vary depending on the size and quality of the photo, the autofocus mode, the shutter mode, and more.

Unfortunately, most camera burst modes are not unlimited. As you take photos, your camera’s buffer – where images are stored before being added to your memory card – fills up. Once the buffer is full, your burst mode will stop working (at least until the buffer frees up space, at which point you can start shooting bursts again).

There are exceptions when shooting lower-quality images or when using top-of-the-line cameras, but generally speaking, if you hold down your camera’s burst mode, it’ll eventually freeze up.

I used burst mode to capture this moment of a cockatoo eating grass seed. When should you use burst mode?

Technically, you can use burst mode all the time. Assuming you don’t hold down the shutter button for too long at any one time, you can capture a burst of images every time you find a new subject.

However, I don’t recommend you use your continuous shooting mode constantly. For one, this will encourage you to get lazy with your photography – you’ll shoot in bursts and you’ll never learn how to time beautifully composed images. Plus, constant burst mode will produce a huge number of files. Your memory cards will fill up insanely fast, and so will your hard drives.

Instead, I suggest turning on burst mode when you know you’re photographing action, or when you’re about to see a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

For instance, if you’re shooting a sports game, you might leave burst mode on for the entire event; that way, whenever something interest happens – a slam dunk, a turnover, a buzzer-beater – you’re ready to capture the essential moments. Same if you’re photographing fast-moving wildlife or birds, a child’s soccer game, or a dog doing an agility course.

Burst mode is also perfect for capturing moments that are unmissable (even if they don’t involve action). If you’re photographing your child walk across the stage at graduation, burst mode will all but guarantee a shot of them accepting their diploma. If you’re photographing a portrait subject, burst mode will increase your chances of capturing an evocative expression or pose. And if you’re photographing a street scene, burst mode will help you record split-second interactions, such as spouses making eye contact.

By the way, you can also use burst photography to capture technically difficult scenes. If you’re manually focusing on a flower at high magnifications, you could fire off a series of images as you slowly adjust the point of focus, and you’re more likely to get a nice result:

Handholding with extension tubes can be tricky. Burst mode is one way to increase the ratio of sharp macro images.

Here’s a list of photography genres that use burst mode consistently:

  • Sports photography
  • Pet photography
  • Bird photography
  • Wildlife photography
  • Street photography (sometimes)
  • Event photography (sometimes)
How to use burst mode (step by step)

Now that you’re familiar with the definition and importance of burst mode, let’s look at how you can use it for the best results.

Step 1: Activate burst mode on your camera

Activating burst mode depends on your camera (and it can vary from model to model, so don’t assume that all cameras from the same brand or even from the same series are the same).

In general, you’ll want to look for a Drive menu or a Shooting mode menu. Some cameras offer dedicated Shooting mode dials (you get this on certain Fujifilm models), while others offer Shooting mode buttons (several Olympus cameras feature one of these), and still others require a menu dive to adjust the shooting mode.

Once you’ve located your Shooting mode menu, you’ll want to select the Continuous or Continuous High option, sometimes symbolized as multiple stacked frames (see the icon in the bottom right corner of this Canon 5D Mark II display):

If you’ve tried and failed to activate burst mode, consult your camera manual or have a look online.

Step 2: Select the relevant focus mode

With burst mode engaged, you’ll also need to set the right focus mode. For action photography, it’s best to use your camera’s continuous focusing mode, known as AI Servo on Canon and AF-C on most other camera brands (including Nikon and Sony). Continuous focus will constantly track moving objects even as you hold down the shutter button, helping to maintain sharp focus as your subject moves across the scene and you capture bursts of images.

Alternatively, if you’ve already composed a shot but want to guarantee a good pose, a beautiful moment, etc., I’d recommend using your camera’s single-shot autofocus mode, known as One-Shot on Canon and AF-S on most other brands. Simply half-press the shutter button to lock focus, then when your subject moves into the frame, fully press the shutter button to fire off a burst.

Step 3: Carefully choose your settings

Last, you’ll need to dial in the right camera settings for your shooting situation. While these will vary from scene to scene, make sure your shutter speed is relatively fast; otherwise, you’ll end up with blurry shots (or, if your shutter speed is really slow, your camera’s burst mode won’t work properly). I’d recommend shooting at 1/250s and above for slower-moving objects, and 1/1000s and above for faster-moving objects.

If you’re struggling to get the shutter speed you need, try widening the aperture or boosting the ISO.

Step 4: Capture a burst of images

Now the fun begins! As soon as you find a subject worth shooting, hold down the shutter button, and your camera will fire off a burst of photos.

As I explained above, it’s important to show restraint when using burst mode; otherwise, your camera’s buffer will fill, and you’ll miss critical moments. So wait until a good shot starts to materialize – if you’re using single-shot autofocus, you should generally lock focus in advance – and then fully press the shutter button to capture the perfect photo.

Burst mode is good for capturing fleeting moments. Burst mode in photography: final words

Now that you’ve finished this article, you know all about continuous shooting photography – and how it can improve your results.

So spend some time testing it out. Find an action subject, and have fun firing off bursts of shots. You’ll get better at using burst mode, and you’ll start to understand your camera’s capabilities and limitations.

Now over to you:

Do you plan to start using burst mode? When do you think you’ll use it? Do you have any burst mode tips? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post Burst Mode: What Is It, and How Should You Use It? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Infrared Photography: How to Get Started (Beginner’s Guide)

Sun, 11/28/2021 - 04:00

The post Infrared Photography: How to Get Started (Beginner’s Guide) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

Do you want to capture haunting infrared pictures like the ones featured above?

Well, you can – and it’s not even hard. Infrared photography is an easy technique that can give you breathtaking, otherworldly results, and it only requires a simple filter (plus a little technical know-how).

In this article, I’m going to share everything you need to know to get started, including:

  • IR photography gear (for both beginners and advanced photographers)
  • Key camera settings for IR pictures
  • Simple post-processing techniques to get your photos looking great

Sound good? Then let’s get started with a simple overview of infrared imaging…

What is infrared photography?

Infrared photography uses infrared light to expose photos, a form of electromagnetic radiation that lies below the visible spectrum. Humans cannot see infrared light, but camera sensors can, and this IR sensitivity can be used to create images.

That said, cameras aren’t well-equipped to capture infrared wavelengths – after all, they’re designed to use visible light, not IR light! – so infrared imaging requires special filters or adjusted camera sensors.

When you capture an infrared photo, the result usually looks like this:

It’s interesting, but not what most photographers are after. However, with a little post-processing, you can achieve a beautiful infrared look:

If you’ve encountered infrared images, you’ll immediately notice that the look stands out – and while some find it rather eerie, others are intrigued by the way the IR look can transform the ordinary.

Infrared photography gear

To shoot infrared photos, you’ll need standard photography equipment – a camera and a lens – but you’ll also need to create the infrared effect, which you can do in one of three ways:

  1. With an infrared filter
  2. With a professionally converted infrared camera
  3. With infrared film

Let’s take a look at each option in turn:

Infrared filters

If you are just starting to explore infrared photography, an IR filter is the cheap and convenient way to go. Simply place it in front of your lens, and it’ll allow infrared light to hit your camera’s sensor while blocking out all visible light. The results can be very nice; here’s an image I shot with an infrared filter:

There are plenty of options out there, ranging from screw-on to slide-in filter systems. The Hoya RM-72 is a popular screw-on infrared filter, and is a great introductory option to the world of infrared.

Note that different filters render color differently, depending on the specific IR and visible light ranges they filter in and out, so the results are inconsistent from filter to filter; this can be frustrating if you want your IR photos to look like everyone else’s, but the silver lining is that you can experiment with different filters until you find one that suits your vision.

Converted infrared camera

If you are truly committed to infrared photography, then you should consider purchasing a dedicated infrared camera body.

As far as I’m aware, no DSLR or mirrorless manufacturers produce infrared cameras, but you can send off a camera body to be converted by third-party companies. Alternatively, you can buy an already-converted IR camera used on eBay or from an IR-conversion dealer.

When a visible-light camera is converted to capture infrared, the infrared-blocking filter (which sits in front of the sensor) is removed. It’s certainly more expensive than purchasing a $75 filter, but the benefits include convenience and consistency.

Note: Once a camera has been converted, its sole use is infrared photography; you cannot take regular images. So buying a dedicated infrared body involves purchasing a second camera body (unless, of course, you want to fully dedicate yourself to infrared!).

Infrared film

Infrared film is readily available and relatively cheap, too – so you might consider purchasing an inexpensive SLR, grabbing some IR film, and testing the infrared waters.

Unfortunately, developing infrared film is tough. For one, not all labs can handle infrared film, and it generally costs more, too, so you’ll need to do a careful cost-benefit analysis before grabbing an infrared film setup.

Infrared camera settings

Selecting the perfect IR camera settings involves a lot of trial and error, and while nothing beats proper experimentation, here are some guidelines to get you started.


When you’re starting out, shoot both RAW and JPEG files. You won’t be capturing thousands of shots, so space shouldn’t be an issue, and RAWs and JPEGs each offer valuable benefits.

On the one hand, RAW files give you the most scope when processing (and infrared photos do require significant edits). A RAW file will let you recover blown out highlights and clipped shadows, which is essential for infrared photography, as the right exposure settings can be tough to nail down (more on that later!).

On the other hand, JPEGs are easily viewable, so you can see the results of your infrared photos on your computer screen without any processing.

It’s important to emphasize, though: Straight-out-of-camera infrared photos look horrible. At first, you’ll probably be turned off by their flat, pink appearance – but over time, you’ll get used to it, and you’ll soon develop the skills to identify a good IR image from a bad IR image at a glance.


When you’re exposing for infrared photos, all common wisdom goes out the window. You can’t trust your camera’s meter, you can’t trust handheld meters, and you’ll simply need to take some test shots, preview the results on your LCD, and keep going until you get a good result.

(I’d recommend you take careful notes; that way, as you progress, you’ll start to figure out the right settings for the look you’re after.)

Infrared filters require extremely long exposure times; they block out visible light but don’t let any extra infrared light through, so on a bright sunny day, you’ll often work with exposure times between 30 and 120 seconds (assuming you’re shooting at f/8). Here, a tripod is essential.

If your camera is infrared converted, your settings will be much more standard. On sunny days, you might shoot at f/8 and 1/125s, though the settings will vary depending on the light.

Whether you use a filter or an IR-converted body, review your photos constantly, especially in the beginning. As soon as you’ve taken a shot, check the LCD and view the image histogram. You might consider bracketing your photos to increase your chances of capturing a nice exposure.

Infrared post-processing

As previously mentioned, when you shoot RAW infrared images, you’ll get a dull pinkish-red image, like this:

Infrared RAW image straight out of the camera.

Not such a great look, right? Fortunately, processing an IR file is pretty easy. Here’s what I recommend:

Step 1: Start with Auto Tone

This is a common way to handle infrared images. Simply import your file into Photoshop and apply Auto Tone (hit Image>Auto Tone).

Photoshop will analyze your image, then it will make a series of adjustments for the best results (at least, the “best results” according to Photoshop!). Often, this looks pretty good. Here’s what Auto Tone gave me when I processed the file shown above:

At this point, I could continue processing my infrared photo like a normal image – that is, I could proceed with a normal editing workflow – or I could proceed with the next step:

Step 2: Do a channel swap

To get natural blue skies, you’ll need to channel swap your colors. Here, the goal is to take one channel (e.g., red) and convert it completely to another channel (e.g., blue), which is simple to do; create a new Channel Mixer layer (Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Channel Mixer), then adjust the Red, Green, and Blue channels until you get the result you’re after.

But while channel swapping is an essential part of infrared photography processing, photographers disagree over which channels to swap to what values, and there’s no one “right” answer, because it’s all about looks and personal preference.

Here are a few common channel-swap values. Experiment until you find the one that works for you:

Changing the Red and Blue channels only:

  • Red channel: Red=0, Green=0, Blue=100
  • Blue channel: Red=100, Green=0, Blue=0

Changing all the channels:

  • Red channel: Red=0, Green=0, Blue=100
  • Blue channel: Red=100, Green=0, Blue=0
  • Green channel: Red=0, Green=100, Blue=0

Another creative option:

  • Red channel: Red=0, Green=0, Blue=100
  • Blue channel: Red=100, Green=100, Blue=-100
  • Green channel: Red=0, Green=0, Blue=100

Here’s my image after a bit of channel swapping:

As you can see, the sky looks more natural, and the trees – while still pale pink – feel more grounded.

Step 3: Do any final edits

At this point, we’ve finished all specialized infrared post-processing, but feel free to add final touches like you would to any image.

For instance, you might consider cropping, adjusting the saturation, dodging and burning, adding a vignette, or even converting your photo to black and white. It really all comes down to your personal taste, and as always: experiment, experiment, experiment!

Infrared photography: final words

Infrared photography is a growing photography niche, and it’s a great way to capture creative images, get out of a photographic rut, and just have a lot of fun.

I’d recommend you start off simple with filters, then – if you still enjoy IR photos – graduate to a dedicated infrared camera body.

Now over to you:

Have you tried infrared photography? Do you think you’ll purchase IR filters or an IR camera? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

The post Infrared Photography: How to Get Started (Beginner’s Guide) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

10 Ways to Take Stunning Portraits (Portrait Photography Guide)

Sat, 11/27/2021 - 04:00

The post 10 Ways to Take Stunning Portraits (Portrait Photography Guide) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

How do you do portrait photography that has the wow factor?

Capturing stunning portraits often seems difficult, but it’s actually pretty easy once you know a few tips and tricks. Below, I share my 10 absolute favorite techniques for shooting portraits, including tips for lighting, composition, perspective, and much more.

I’ve also included plenty of portrait photography examples (to get you inspired as we go along). Hopefully, by the time you’re done, you’ll be a more confident portrait photographer – and you’ll be excited to get out your camera and take some beautiful images of your own.

Let’s dive right in.

1. Alter your perspective

Most portraits are taken on a level with your subject, where the camera lens aligns perfectly with the subject’s eyes.

And while this is a good idea in most situations, if you want to spice things up, I recommend completely changing the angle you shoot from.

For instance, you can get up high and shoot down on your subject from above:

Here, you have several different options. You can ask your subject to lie down on the ground and then simply point your camera downward (this works well when shooting in the studio or on clean ground, but it’s not something you can try when photographing in a lake!). You can also find a nice vantage point, like a balcony or even a roof, then ask your subject to look up. And if you’re really focused on getting that overhead shot, you can bring a step stool or ladder with you out into the field.

Another great angle for portrait photography:

Get down low and shoot up. You’ll make your subject appear strong and powerful (and you’ll make the viewer feel small):

Obviously, different angles are more appropriate for certain image types; business executives will appreciate the power of a low-angle portrait, but they probably won’t want to be shot lying in the grass. So pay careful attention to your subject and surroundings, then pick angles that complement the scene. Make sense?

2. Play with eye contact

It’s amazing how much the direction of your subject’s eyes can impact an image.

Now, when you’re just starting out with portraits, I highly recommend you work on attaining perfect eye contact (with the eye in sharp focus). This looks great, and it can create a real sense of connection between a subject and those viewing the image.

Once you become a more advanced portrait shooter, however, there are a few more techniques worth trying.

Looking off-camera

Ask your subject to focus on something outside the frame (a tree off to the left, a house off to the right, etc.). This can create a feeling of candidness, plus it can create a little intrigue and interest; the viewer of the shot will wonder what the subject is looking at, which will cause them to engage further with the image.

This intrigue is particularly strong when the subject is showing some kind of emotion. The viewer will ask, “What’s making them laugh?” and “What’s making them look surprised?” which can lead to interesting narratives and emotional connections.

But be careful; when you have a subject looking out of the frame, you’ll push the eye of the viewer to the edge of the image, and unless you’ve composed your shot carefully, you may take away from the main point of interest: your subject.

Looking within the frame

You might also ask your subject to look at something within the frame. A child looking at a ball, a woman looking at her new baby, or a man looking hungrily at a big plate of pasta; it can all work!

See, this technique creates a second point of interest, as well as a relationship between your subject and another key element in the scene, which in turn helps create a story. (And in photography, stories are pretty much always a good thing!)

Here, the mother is looking at her child, which highlights their relationship and emphasizes their emotional connection:

3. Use the rules of portrait composition, then break them

There are plenty of portrait photography composition rules (guidelines, really) out there, and I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with them. On the one hand, the rules are great for beginners; on the other hand, as you progress, the rules will start to hold you back. So in this section, I’ll start by offering a few useful rules, and then I’ll explain simple ways to break them.

So here are a few compositional guidelines that’ll help you as you compose your portrait shots:

  • The rule of thirds urges you to position your subject a third of the way into the frame; it can often be helpful to put your portrait subject’s eyes along the top-third gridline of your image.
  • The rule of space advises you to position your subject looking toward empty space, rather than away from it. In other words, your subject should look toward the more distant frame edge.
  • Triangular composition theory suggests that elements positioned in a triangle tend to look great. So you can arrange three subjects with their heads at points of a triangle, or you can arrange the subject’s head and the shoulders or arms in a triangular fashion.

Then, as you advance in your skills, you’ll want to experiment with breaking these rules. For instance, placing your subject dead-center will violate the rule of thirds, but it can sometimes create a powerful image (especially when symmetry is involved):

And the rule of space, when broken, can create a level of mystery and tension:

So learn the photography rules, then learn to break them!

4. Experiment with lighting

In portrait photography, lighting is key, and there are literally thousands of blog posts and video courses devoted to portrait lighting.

But for now, I just recommend you learn the basics.

For instance, soft light is generally best, which you can create with a softbox or you can find on a cloudy day (the golden hours can work well, too).

As for lighting direction: Front light is best avoided, because it tends to produce very flat, bland images. Instead, for good portraits, I’d recommend sidelight, which will add three dimensionality and create mood. I’d also recommend backlighting, which can create plenty of mystery.

Below is a fully sidelit subject. Notice the drama?

(For a more subtle sidelit image, you can use a reflector or fill light on the other side of your subject, or you can bring the light out in front of the subject, so it sits at a 45-degree angle to the face.)

Once you get down the lighting basics, start to experiment. You can use rim lighting to capture subtle silhouettes, and you can even have fun with long-exposure light painting, which will give you portrait photos like this:

5. Move your subject out of their comfort zone

Unless you’re photographing professional models, your subjects will likely be a bit (or a lot!) uncomfortable in front of the camera. And an uncomfortable subject makes for uncomfortable photos.

To get your subject more relaxed, start out with some “softball” shots. Photograph your subject just standing or sitting, use simple light setups, and don’t ask for anything out of the ordinary. Praise them after every few shots (even if the shots are bad).

Then, as your subject begins to warm up and as you complete all the basic shots, ask them if you can create more interesting images. Don’t push them, of course – you don’t want to send them back to square one – but gently suggest that they mix things up a bit. For instance, you might ask them to jump, you might ask them to run, dance, make faces, climb trees, and more.

By the way, don’t feel like these more experimental shots need to fit the tone of the shoot. Once you’ve nailed your standard shots, it’s okay to get a little creative. You can ask a family to make silly faces, or even ask a businessperson to jump off rocks, for example:

6. Shoot candidly

Sometimes, posed shots can look somewhat…stiff. Bland. And while there’s nothing wrong with a posed photo, especially if it’s for a corporate flyer, if your subject seems lifeless when posed, why not try a candid approach?

Ask your subject if you can shoot them at work, with family, or doing something that they love. This will put them more at ease, and you may end up capturing some extra-special shots where your subject reacts naturally to the situation.

(Pro tip: If the candid approach is working and you want to get yourself completely out of the way, try grabbing a 70-200mm lens to give your subject lots of space.)

I find that the candid approach can work particularly well when photographing children, but even when photographing adults, it’s worth a shot!

7. Introduce a prop

Portrait photographers love props – and for good reason. Props can add a sense of story and place to an image, they can help your subject feel more at ease, they can add interest, color, and texture…the list goes on.

So don’t be afraid to bring a handful of props to your portrait photoshoot. Then give your subjects the ones that seem to fit with the scene and/or their personality, and get photographing!

A warning, however: Don’t let the props overwhelm your main subject. The goal is to photograph the model with the props as an accent, not the other way around. If you use too many props, or your props become distracting (either visually or more generally), it’s time to toss the props and get back to basics.

8. Focus on one body part (and get close up!)

Here’s a fun way to create unique portrait photos:

Use a long lens (anything in the 100mm+ range should work), then zoom in to capture some detail shots.

I’m talking about images of your subject’s hands, eyes, mouth, shoes, or clothing, all of which can tell an interesting story, plus the results will be far more eye-catching than your standard head-and-shoulders portrait.

Here’s an image of a subject’s hand; it has an element of artistry and intrigue that you rarely find in conventional portrait photography:

Of course, feel free to go even more abstract than that; with a macro lens, you can focus on tiny details, such as the curl of your subject’s hand or the light on their hair.

9. Obscure part of your subject

Throughout this article, I’ve emphasized the value of storytelling, mystery, and intrigue in portrait photography.

Well, here’s yet another way to add mystery, and it’s extremely simple to pull off:

Cover your subject.

For instance, you can cover the face with clothes or hair, or you can use hats or scarves to cover the head. Usually, it’s a good idea to leave some recognizable features exposed, but if you want to make things really interesting, you might cover your subject completely (e.g., you could wrap the subject’s entire face in their hair!).

A lens with close-focusing or macro capabilities will be a big help here, because the closer you can focus, the more you can cut out of the frame and the more you can isolate certain features. In the image below, close focusing was essential (plus, it created a lovely shallow depth of field effect that really emphasized the subject’s eyes):

10. Take a series of shots to capture the action

Whenever you’re photographing active portrait subjects – runners in motion, as in the image below, owners playing with their pets, or even children just having fun – I highly recommend you use burst mode, also known as continuous shooting mode.

You see, burst mode allows you to capture a series of shots in quick succession (the specifics depend on your camera, but these days, 10 frames per second or more is not uncommon). And this does two things for your portrait photography:

  1. It allows you to nail those once-in-a-lifetime moments and expressions, like a couple looking longingly at one another, or a child throwing leaves in the air.
  2. It allows you to take a series of images that can be presented together, as a unique story.

I don’t suggest using burst mode all the time, unless you have a huge amount of storage space and don’t mind sifting through thousands of images after each photoshoot.

But when you expect action, switch to burst mode. And have fun getting those split-second images!

10 ways to take stunning portraits: final words

Capturing stunning portraits is easy – as long as you remember a few of these simple tips!

So start thinking about compositional rules (and start learning to break them). Start thinking about lighting. Start thinking about angles.

And practice your portrait photography!

Now over to you:

Which of these portrait photography tips is your favorite? Do you plan to use any in your next shoot? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Table of contents Portrait Photography var dpsTopics = { id: 1874, titles: [] };

The post 10 Ways to Take Stunning Portraits (Portrait Photography Guide) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

dPS Weekly Photo Challenge – Perfectly aligned

Fri, 11/26/2021 - 14:00

The post dPS Weekly Photo Challenge – Perfectly aligned appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

This week your weekly challenge photography theme is “Perfectly aligned” by our dPS Facebook group member Sharon WIlliams.

Use the hashtag #dPSPerfectlyAligned if you’re sharing on social media.
Share your photograph in the comments below if you don’t use social media. (Here’s how)

Perfectly aligned? The sun? Lines on a road? Kids artwork on a wall (I’m running late this week, that’s all I’ve got – BUT – I will find something during the week!)

Perfectly Individual | Perfectly Aligned

There are a whole list of articles HERE that may have a plethora of inspo in them, for you. Take a look and see what you come up with!

Find all of our previous weekly challenges here.

The post dPS Weekly Photo Challenge – Perfectly aligned appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

Vibrance vs Saturation in Photography: The Essential Guide

Fri, 11/26/2021 - 04:00

The post Vibrance vs Saturation in Photography: The Essential Guide appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Elizabeth Halford.

What is vibrance? What is saturation? And when should (or shouldn’t) you use these post-processing tools to enhance your photos?

Vibrance versus saturation can be a confusing topic, one that causes a major headache for Lightroom beginners. But it doesn’t have to be complicated, and in this article, we break it all down for you.

Specifically, you’ll discover:

  • An easy-to-understand vibrance definition
  • An easy-to-understand saturation definition
  • Plenty of visual examples showing how these adjustments affect your photos
  • A quick guide explaining when to use one (or both) tools

So if you finally want to learn the difference between these two editing tools, then read on!

What is saturation?

Saturation simply boosts the intensity of all the colors in a photo. It intensifies the greens, it intensifies the reds, it intensifies the yellows, it intensifies the oranges, and more.

Here’s an image with no added saturation:

And here’s the same image, but with the saturation cranked up to 100:

(It’s an extreme example, and it looks horrible, I know. It’s just for illustration purposes.)

Now, pretty much every post-processing program includes a Saturation slider. Here it is in Lightroom Classic:

And boosting the saturation is as simple as pushing the Saturation slider upward. (You’re also free to drop the saturation, which will turn your photo black and white.)

What is vibrance?

Vibrance is often referred to as “smart saturation,” because it intensifies colors – but it does so more selectively. Specifically, vibrance boosts colors that are more muted. And it mostly ignores warmer colors (yellows, oranges, and reds), while prioritizing cooler colors (blues and greens).

Here’s the image featured above, once again with no adjustments:

And here’s the same image, but with the vibrance pushed to 100:

Note that the greens of the water and the blues in the mountains and sky become insanely intense, while the yellows and oranges in the mountain and the boat are only boosted slightly.

Here, Lightroom is trying to avoid skin tones; vibrance lets you increase the colors of an image without creating unnatural, oversaturated portraits. That’s why portrait photographers are big fans of vibrance, and why vibrance is often more useful than saturation, especially when people are in the frame.

Here’s the Vibrance slider in Lightroom Classic:

Vibrance vs saturation: what you should know (+ examples)

At this point, you should be roughly familiar with the differences between vibrance and saturation (in Lightroom and otherwise): Saturation boosts all the colors, while vibrance boosts muted colors and cooler colors, not skin tones.

But I’d like to offer a few more examples to make the effect even clearer. First, a standard portrait with rather subdued colors:

Then the same portrait, but with the Lightroom Saturation slider pushed to 100:

Finally, the same portrait, but with the Saturation slider set to 0 and the Vibrance slider pushed to 100:

As you can see, the oversaturated version looks unpleasant and garish, while the vibrance-adjusted version is significantly more palatable. I would never recommend boosting the Saturation slider or the Vibrance slider to 100, but you could push the Vibrance slider to 35 or so and get a nice result:

Here’s another image, which features both a person and a landscape:

Based on what you learned above, you might expect +100 Saturation to create crazy skin tones, and you’d be right:

The sky and the lake are boosted, too, of course, but not on the same level.

And then we have another version, set to +100 Vibrance:

Interestingly, while the skin tones are more muted, the sky and water actually appear more saturated than in the oversaturated version above – so if you’d prefer to intensify cool tones over warm tones, vibrance is the better bet.

When (and how) should you use saturation on a photo?

In general, I recommend you use saturation subtly. Yes, it’s a nice way to make your photos pop, but it’s very easy to go too far – and end up with a garish, even nauseating, result.

So when you’re faced with a new image, try boosting the saturation in increments of +5 and see how it looks. You’ll rarely need to go over +20 or so (and if you do increase the saturation beyond +20, pause and consider before continuing; try hitting the “\” key to see the before and after version).

I often subtly boost the saturation on images full of bright colors, especially if those images don’t include people (remember, saturation really intensifies skin tones!). So if I’m editing a nice landscape, a sunset, or a flower close-up, the Saturation slider is often my go-to tool.

However, if my photo includes people, I’ll often focus on vibrance instead, as I explain in the next section.

When (and how) should you use vibrance on a photo?

Vibrance is great for photos with people – as you know, it prevents oversaturated skin tones – so whenever you’re editing a portrait, I’d recommend increasing the vibrance.

You can also use the Vibrance slider when faced with more subtle landscape and flower images. Maybe you want to add a bit of pop while keeping the intensity to a minimum; if so, vibrance will serve you well.

Still, you should apply vibrance carefully. Don’t boost it all at once, and feel free to use the method I recommended for saturation adjustments, where you increase the slider by increments of +5 each time.

Vibrance plus saturation: the experimental method

While it’s useful to know what saturation and vibrance mean, most photographers don’t know exactly what they want to do to a photo in Lightroom before they do it.

Which is where a more experimental method of boosting colors comes into play.

Instead of thinking carefully about vibrance and saturation, it’s often a good idea to simply test the waters. First, boost the Vibrance slider and see what happens. If the result looks bad, drop it back down.

Then boost the Saturation slider and see what happens. Work in small increments, of course, and monitor your photo. When you reach a result that you like, keep it.

In fact, many photographers work this way. Sometimes, they end up using both vibrance and saturation together for a great edit. Other times, they end up dialing in negative saturation (i.e., desaturation) or negative vibrance to get the look they’re after.

So don’t be shy – go where your eye takes you!

Vibrance vs saturation: final words

Now that you’ve finished this article, you know what vibrance means, what saturation means, and why you might want to use one editing tool over the other.

Plus, you know how to approach an image for the best possible results.

So find an image or two, then test out your Vibrance and Saturation sliders. See what you get. And have fun!

Now over to you:

What do you think about vibrance and saturation? Which do you prefer? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post Vibrance vs Saturation in Photography: The Essential Guide appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Elizabeth Halford.

7 Macro Food Photography Tips (for Eye-Catching Shots!)

Thu, 11/25/2021 - 04:00

The post 7 Macro Food Photography Tips (for Eye-Catching Shots!) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

When your objective is to communicate that your subject is tasty and delicious, macro food photography might be just the technique you need. And sometimes, it’s not so much about the appeal to the palate as it is about capturing the interesting colors, textures, and patterns of a food subject. An extreme macro of food might not even clearly identify the subject – instead, it might simply be interesting as an abstract.

Whatever your intent, let’s explore the tools and techniques you can use for gorgeous macro food photos.

To begin: macro or close-up?

In the purest sense of the term, a “macro” photo renders the subject at a 1:1 ratio. That is to say, the actual size of the object is perfectly represented on the camera sensor. With a full-frame camera, that’s about 24mm x 36mm. A U.S. quarter will fill the frame from top to bottom at that size (or if we’re doing food photography, an average-sized grape).

If your full-frame camera and lens can produce this shot – with a U.S. quarter filling the frame from top to bottom uncropped – you can achieve a true macro photo.

But is that the size we want to represent the food we photograph? If we are shooting tiny food objects like peppercorns, we might want to be in much tighter. If our food subject is a cupcake, we might want to include the whole delicious item, which would not technically be a macro photo.

The shot at left is a close-up while the one at right is a macro. What matters is the story you want to tell about your subject.

Does it matter? No. What you intend to communicate is what should dictate how closely you shoot food, what you include and crop out, and whether you are making macro or just close-up photos. For the purpose of this article, I may use the term “macro,” but I’m really referring to any close-up rendition of a food subject.

How tight you shoot is more a function of what it is you intend to communicate. The top shot is interesting, but we may not even recognize the subjects as peppercorns. In the second shot, the spoon gives some clue as to the size of the objects. The third shot tells more of a story and might be used to advertise peppered crackers. 1. Get the right equipment

You can do macro food photography with almost any camera, and you can even do an admirable job with many phone cameras. If you want to get more serious, however, you should probably use a decent DSLR or mirrorless camera with interchangeable lens capabilities. A true macro lens, one allowing 1:1 representations, as discussed above, will also prove useful. Remember that most macro lenses will also let you shoot from farther distances if needed.

Want to do macro photography but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a dedicated macro lens? Combining extension tubes with standard lenses can get you much closer to your subject; you might even try the reverse-lens macro technique.

Any kind of serious macro work requires a tripod. Camera movement is magnified when you are shooting very close to your subject, and so keeping your camera rock-steady is critical to getting sharp photos. Extreme detail is what will make your macro food photography stand out from the rest, and you should do everything in your power to achieve tack-sharp results, even if it means purchasing a solid, sturdy tripod for in-studio use.

Other equipment can be useful for macro photography, especially if you intend to get ultra close. Items such as focusing rails, bellows, and specialized lighting may be things you’ll add to your kit in time, but probably aren’t as necessary for most macro food photography (especially as a beginner).

What’s the objective? Often food photography is about marketing a product. 2. Identify (and style) the “hero” object

Your first task will be to determine the food object you’ll be shooting. That will dictate many things: your lens choice, your lighting needs, your supporting elements, your background, etc. After you decide on the subject, you will want to pick out the very best representative as your “model.”

In the professional food photography world, this is called the hero. While the photographer may set the scene, position the lights, and get everything else ready, they will likely have a “stand-in” for the subject. Meanwhile, a food stylist prepares the “hero” object, much as hair stylists and make-up artists ready a fashion model.

Say you’re doing a shoot for a McDonald’s hamburger. The food stylist will pick just the right bun, condiments, tomato, lettuce, cheese, pickle, and whatever else goes on the burger. They might place each sesame seed on the bun individually with tweezers and brush the burger with oil to give it just the right glisten. They might take a blow torch to the cheese for just the right amount of meltiness. High-end food stylists are artists in their own right. The “hero,” when ready to be placed on the set, might not even be edible – but it’ll sure look good.

You probably don’t have a food stylist to do these kinds of things, but even so, do what you can to pick out the very best subjects for your shot. Your objective is the same as a professional stylist: to make the food look as delicious as possible. This is especially crucial with tight macro food photography. A blemish on an apple, an overripe berry, or a speck of anything that doesn’t belong there will force you to do significant retouching or might make the shot unusable altogether. Pick the best representative for your hero subject and learn some food styling tricks as you go along.

Sometimes, your macro food photography might be less about making a yummy-looking food shot and more about capturing the interesting colors, patterns, and details of a food subject. Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun! 3. Set the scene to complement the “hero” object

A movie set director carefully chooses what props to include in a scene – and you, as a food photographer, will also need to decide what props and background items to add to your photos. With macro and close-up photography, you’ll be shooting tight and your depth of field will likely be limited. Keeping your set simple so that the “hero” food object is the main focus is usually the best option.

Additional objects you decide to include in the scene should enhance the “story” and support whatever it is you’re trying to communicate. Backgrounds can be simple: a plate for the food object, a board, or maybe some colored cloth or paper. Think about how the colors, textures, and patterns of background objects will help enhance your subject.

The props, the plates, the backgrounds, and how the colors of your scene coordinate should all be key food photography considerations.

With any kind of photography, composition is king. How you position elements in the frame so the viewer’s eye moves to the main subject is critical. Therefore, compositional techniques like the rule of thirds, leading lines, symmetry and patterns, natural frames, and choice of aspect ratio are very important. Consider the rule of odds when making a photo with multiple objects.

Camera angle is also very important in food photography. Do you want to shoot from table level, perhaps to emphasize the size of the food, a 45-degree angle as a diner might view their plate, or do what is called a “flat lay,” a shot from directly above? Think about this, and if in doubt, make shots from various angles.

This is a 45-degree “diner’s view” angle. I happened to be the diner and made the shot with my LG V30 cellphone just before I ate my subject. I know I’m not the only one out there who takes pictures of their dinner! 4. Carefully light your macro food subjects

Photographers doing studio portrait photography spend lots of time learning how to light their models. Think of your food subjects as models, too, and learn how to light them to highlight their best qualities. Here are some basics to think about:

  • Lighting types. Will you use natural daylight or artificial lights? If you go the artificial route, will you use tungsten, fluorescent, LED, or flash? Remember that each of these lighting types will have different color temperatures and you will need to correctly white balance your shot to keep the food looking natural and appetizing.
  • Start with daylight. Often the easiest and best lighting for food photography is natural light. Place your food subject near a window and then fill in shadow areas with reflectors.
  • Consider the lighting angle. Do you want to use three-point lighting like you might do in portraiture? Side light? Backlight? Rarely will you want to light directly from the front, as this will usually make your subject look flat and uninteresting. Side light can help bring out the texture of your subject, and for some food subjects, especially food that is translucent, backlighting can be dramatic.
  • Use lighting modifiers. You may want to soften the shadows in your shot with softboxes or lighting scrims. This can be useful when your food object is shiny and produces specular highlights. Fill cards can be used to reflect light back onto a subject, lighting “flags” can be placed to block light from select areas of your subject, and devices like snoots can be used to restrict light to very specific parts of your subject.
  • Specialized lighting instruments. One real advantage of lighting in macro food photography is that you are dealing with a small area and not much light is usually required. Small-lighting instruments like LED flashlights can often work well. Sometimes, when the camera is in close proximity to the subject, your biggest challenge will be to stop the camera from blocking the light. Many macro photographers favor ring lights, which can help evenly distribute light around a small subject and soften shadows.
Thinly-sliced foods that are translucent can be backlit and make for some colorful and interesting subjects. You needn’t buy fancy lights to get started with macro food photography. These cheap hardware-store LED flashlights have worked well for many of my shots. 5. Use the right setup and settings

Here’s a list of things to consider when setting up your camera for macro food photography:

  • Work on a tripod. This bears repeating. Thanks to the limited depth of field and magnified motion when doing macro work, keeping the camera rock-steady via a tripod is mandatory.
  • Use Manual mode. Taking full control of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO will help you better control your exposure and depth of field. It is also a useful way to maintain shot-to-shot consistency. Once you determine the proper settings, you can then concentrate on subtle tweaks to your composition while knowing the exposure will remain consistent.
  • Turn off image stabilization. Be sure lens and camera image stabilization is off. If you’re working on a tripod, this technology won’t help and might even hurt.
  • Use Live View. Most newer cameras have the ability to display a live preview of an image on the LCD screen. This is a good way to shoot, especially if your camera has a flip-out LCD screen; you can visualize your composition, rather than needing to peek through the viewfinder. It will also help minimize the movement you’d create by touching the camera. Another option, if you can set it up, is tethering your camera to a computer. Viewing your composition live on a large monitor or even a laptop screen is a great way to visualize your shot.
  • Use a remote release. Eliminating camera movement when you make the shot is important, so if you can trip the shutter without touching the camera, you’re bound to get sharper results. Another option is to use your camera’s two-second timer. The camera will wait two seconds to take the photo, enough time for any vibrations to die down.
  • Pay attention to the plane of focus. When making tight macro shots, depth of field is minimal. Try to keep key objects at an equal distance from the camera; that way, everything stays as sharp as possible. Think of the camera sensor as one plane and the objects in the shot as another – then try to keep those planes parallel.
  • Use your depth of field preview button. Most cameras have a button that, when pressed, will stop down the lens to its set aperture and will thus display what’ll be in focus when you shoot. This will greatly aid you in determining the perfect aperture for your desired depth of field.
  • Learn how to position your focus point. By default, if you simply point and shoot, your camera will typically choose the center focus point. But what if the object you want in sharp focus is not in the center of your composition? (If you are using the rule of thirds, then it won’t be!) Learn how to reposition your focus points so the camera focuses where you want it to.
The colors, patterns, textures, and details of food are often more than enough to make for an interesting image.
  • Use manual focus. You can disregard the previous point if you turn off autofocus. It wasn’t so long ago that cameras didn’t have autofocus and photographers did just fine without it. Most macro food photography is done with static subjects in a controlled situation where fast focusing isn’t necessary. So take full control and set focus exactly where you want it to be.
  • Use your base ISO. The lowest ISO setting on your camera is the one that will produce the least noise in your images. Typically, you will raise the ISO if there’s not enough light to get the aperture/shutter speed settings you’d like. But in macro food photography, you will usually control the light. If there doesn’t seem to be enough, add more. If this isn’t an option, then slow down your shutter and make a longer exposure. With a static subject (and your camera on a tripod), nothing should blur, even if your exposure time is a few seconds. Stick with ISO 100 (or whatever the lowest setting is for your camera) whenever you can.
  • Work the triangle. I’m referring to the exposure triangle, a foundational photography concept that is crucial to understand if you are to become a skilled photographer. In macro food photography, of the three triangle settings – aperture, shutter speed, and ISO – you will usually be most concerned with aperture, which controls your depth of field. So start by determining what you’d like your aperture to be. We just said to try to leave your ISO at base level, usually ISO 100. What remains is the shutter speed, and with static subjects, that shouldn’t really matter. Leave your ISO at 100, set your aperture for the desired depth of field, and then adjust your shutter speed to whatever you need for a proper exposure. Simple, right?
The blueberries weren’t going to move and I was shooting on a tripod, so an 8-second exposure was not a problem. It also gave me time for a little light painting with a small flashlight. 6. Experiment with food in motion and special effects

I just said that shutter speed usually won’t matter with a static subject, and that is true. But what if your food subject isn’t static? What if you want to create some drama with a food object in motion?

The photos below might give you ideas of how you can create interesting food photography images with some creative camera and lighting work. Read the captions for insight into how these photos were taken.

A brightly lit white card served as the background for the raspberry shot, and a 1/1000s shutter speed froze the motion. The strobe-mode of a flash was key to the multi-image look of the falling pepper shot. These shots were “flash-frozen;” that is to say, it was the high speed of the flash, not the (often lengthy) shutter speed, that froze the action. Bright sun was the key to getting sufficient light for the 1/2000s-1/3200s shutter speeds that froze the motion in these shots. 7. Don’t forget to edit your macro food photography!

You’re no doubt familiar with photographers who preach the importance of “getting your image right in camera.” I wholeheartedly agree that getting the best exposure you can, composing so you don’t have to crop, working to get perfect white balance, and doing everything you can to produce an image that won’t need editing is a worthy goal.

But it’s a goal that you’ll rarely achieve, especially with macro food photography.

First, your RAW image (and you are shooting in RAW, I hope?) will need at least some processing. More importantly, there are the fine nuances of lighting, white balance, sharpness, and many other things you can control with editing but you simply can’t control with your initial shot.

Second, as careful as you might be, tiny details, like specks of dust, crumbs, blemishes on fruits and vegetables, stray hairs, and all kinds of other things will inevitably show up in your shot. You can remove these things with skilled editing.

Lastly, a good editor can help highlight areas where more attention is needed, darken or blur areas where less attention is needed, give more pop to an image with contrast, clarity, saturation, or sharpness adjustments, and perform all kinds of other enhancements.

An editing session should never be a rescue mission to save a poorly executed shot, but can and should take a good shot to the next level.

There’s more editing here than might meet the eye. The white balance was adjusted, highlights and shadows tuned, areas were dodged and burned, and the background made more blue than the initial shot. There were also some crumbs to clean up. Expect to do some editing to your macro food photography if you want to give it that extra polish. Macro food photography tips: final words

Maybe you are mostly a landscape photographer, or you do portraits, sports, action, travel, or some other genre of photography. Even so, learning other skills will help you grow as a photographer. Food subjects are as close as your pantry, garden, or refrigerator, your studio can be the kitchen counter, and your lighting can be what comes in the window.

If you don’t want to spring for a dedicated macro lens, buy some extension tubes or try the reverse lens technique. Macro food photography is a lot of fun, and – bonus! – you can often eat your subject when you’re done.

Go nuts and make some interesting macro food photos!

The post 7 Macro Food Photography Tips (for Eye-Catching Shots!) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

The Best Black Friday Deals for Photographers in 2021

Tue, 11/23/2021 - 20:33

The post The Best Black Friday Deals for Photographers in 2021 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

If you’re looking for the best Black Friday deals for photographers, then you’ve come to the right place.

We’ve put together a huge collection of discounts, including incredible savings on cameras, lenses, photography courses, photo editing software, presets, and more. Note that we’ve also included some affiliate links, which we use to promote our trusted partners. While we receive a commission for products purchased through these links, this is at no cost to you, and it has not biased our recommendations; our goal really is to share the best Black Friday discounts!

Bottom line: If you want to level up your photography, then you need to take advantage of these deals while they’re still available. So without further ado, let’s look at the current best Black Friday deals in 2021!

You can click below to go directly to the product category you’re interested in:

  1. Special Deals, Ebooks, and Courses
  2. Cameras
  3. Lenses
  4. Software and Presets
Special Deals, Ebooks, and Courses

Black Friday is an amazing time for photography learners of all stripes, from beginners to professionals. Why? Because the best photography education companies in the world offer major discounts on training materials, courses, and ebooks. Here are a few of our favorite deals:

Photzy Action Cards (88% Off)

Do you want to get better at photography – but without all the difficult book learning, the trial and error, and the thousands of wasted photo opportunities?

It seems impossible, but it’s not – once you have access to Photzy’s world-class Action Cards. 

You see, the Action Card set is designed to streamline the photography learning process. Instead of lengthy theoretical books, you get 65 succinct Cards, and each one breaks down a key photography concept in a simple, practical, easy-to-understand way. 

Interested in macro photography? There’s a card for that, which explains the equipment you need to get started, plus it offers up tips, example photos, and even a handful of “Action Assignments” that’ll help you cement your skills. Love landscape photography? There’s a card for that, too, and it’ll get you capturing stunning scenics in no time at all.

In fact, Photzy has cleverly organized the Action Cards into two sets: 

  • The Genre set, so you can quickly tackle each and every photography subject that interests you
  • The Composition set, so you can develop your compositional skills and start taking pro-level images, fast

It’s a great product, and it’s basically a full photography education rolled into one easy-to-digest pack of cards, so it rightfully costs several hundred dollars ($325, to be exact). But for Black Friday, you can grab the cards at 88% off, for just $39.

So grab the Action Cards here – and become a better photographer!

Secrets to Tack-Sharp Images, by Brent Mail (77% Off)

Are you tired of taking blurry photos? Do you wish you could capture sharp, crisp, clear images every time you hit the shutter button?

Then check out Brent Mail’s top-quality ebook, which shares everything you need to know for tack-sharp results.

Brent identifies the 12 focus mistakes that are causing you image-quality problems – then he shows you exactly how to fix them, in simple, easy-to-undersand language. 

You don’t have to spend hours wading through unnecessary content, either; the book is short and to the point, with four simple chapters (totaling just under 30 pages).

Normally, the book costs $39 – but for Black Friday, you can buy it for just $9 (and you get several handy bonuses, too!), so click here to grab your copy!

Photzy Snap Cards (93% Off)

Have you ever been out taking photos and wished you could have your training materials open in front of you? Or better yet, have you wished for a photography expert to be standing next to you, giving you advice as you choose your settings and press the shutter button?

Thanks to Photzy’s Snap Cards: Essentials, it’s possible.

Because the Snap Cards are designed by experts to do exactly that:

Tell you what you need to know about photography – when you need to know it. Not when you’re sitting in your room reading about photography, but when you’re actually out in the field taking pictures.

The Snap Cards consist of 20 printable cheat sheets, including plenty of key information about:

  • working with your camera
  • creating perfect exposures
  • arranging perfect compositions
  • photographing people
  • capturing beautiful night photos
  • and much more!

They’re easy to read, they offer quick solutions in the field, and they’re wildly effective. But don’t take our word for it; here’s what Snap Card customers have said about this one-of-a-kind product:

  • “I was a little worried whether there’d be enough useful information on the cards…but I was pleasantly surprised. They are extremely useful. I’ve printed out different sets and they now live in my bag!” – Amy W.
  • “The cards were truly a blessing to me as I could take my time and peruse them at my own pace while I played with the camera as I was reading through them…Your cards covered many “basic” ideas such as how the exposure triangle works together, yet you also gently covered intermediate topics and even branched into some advanced topics without leaving me on the fringe. Thank you.” – Charlie E.
  • “A very comprehensive way to understand photography concepts.” – Alitza A.

Normally, the Snap Cards cost $100 USD.

But for a limited time, you can grab the Photzy Snap Cards at an insanely low price:

Just $7 (or less than $1 per card).

So make sure you grab the Snap Cards at this ultra-discounted price while you still can. Because the deal certainly won’t last!

Click here to get the Snap Cards at 93% off, right now.

The Travel Photography Course, Plus Photo-Editing Training for Lightroom (80% Off)

Most of us like to take snapshots while traveling…

…and they’re just that: snapshots. They’re not powerful, they’re not eye-catching, and they’re certainly not evocative. 

But in Mitchell Kanashkevich’s Travel Photography Course, you’ll learn to enhance your travel photos – so that the next time you take a trip, you bring back photos that belong in magazines like National Geographic (and they’re guaranteed to impress your friends and family, too!).

The video course covers all the travel photography essentials in just under 4 hours, including composition, settings, mood, and photo editing. And you’ll be learning from the best; Mitchell Kanashkevich has been named a 2015 Travel Photographer of the Year, plus he’s been published in countless books and magazines. 

Normally, the course costs $129.97, but for Black Friday, you can grab it for only $49.95. It even comes with a free second product, Light-Based Presets & Photo-Editing Training for Lightroom, which packs 43 presets and 4 hours of Lightroom training into a helpful bundle.

So if you’re interested in travel photography, Lightroom presets, and/or Lightroom, go ahead and buy this package at 80% off!

A Modern Approach to Photographic Composition, by Contrastly (50% Off)

What’s the difference between a beautiful photo and a blah photo? Often, it’s the composition: the specific arrangement of elements in the photo that achieve a balanced (or imabalanced) effect. 

Unfortunately, learning to compose like a pro can be pretty darn challenging – unless you have an outstanding teacher, that is!

Enter A Modern Approach to Photographic Composition, straight from the experts at Contrastly. The ebook promises to get you composing beautiful photos in no time at all, thanks to its 90 pages of carefully explained tips, tricks, and secrets. And it includes plenty of stunning example images and beautiful diagrams, so the learning never gets boring.

Normally, you can grab the book for $29 – but for a limited time only, A Modern Approach to Photographic Composition is available at over 50% off, for just $14.

So if you’d like to start taking beautifully composed photos, or if you ever struggle with composition, I highly recommend you check it out.

Understanding Your Camera Video Course, by Phil Steele (40% Off)

If you’re just getting started with photography, you’re probably feeling insanely overwhelmed – by all the buttons, the knobs, the dials, and the confusing concepts (exposure compensation, anyone?).

Of course, you could take the slow approach: read your camera manual, play around with your equipment, and see what happens.

Or if you prefer the faster, easier, all-around more helpful route, check out Phil Steele’s Understanding Your Camera course, which explains everything you need to know to get up and running. In only a few hours, you’ll discover the secrets to beautiful, well-exposed images; you’ll learn how to balance aperture, shutter speed, and ISO for artistic results; you’ll learn how to set the proper white balance in camera; and you’ll learn to focus like a pro.

It’s simple, it’s quick, and it’s infinitely more satisfying – plus, for the next few days, it’s 40% off, at just $59 (instead of the usual $99). Check it out here!

All Access Pass to the Photzy Photography Training Guide Vault (95% Off)

Are you a beginner looking to improve your photography skills? Then you’re going to love Photzy’s Photography Training Guide Vault, which contains literally dozens of ebooks, covering topics such as:

  • Getting to know your DSLR
  • How to get off Auto mode
  • How to master editing in Lightroom and Photoshop
  • How to work with light
  • Ideas for creative photos
  • How to capture beautiful portraits
  • How to capture beautiful landscapes
  • So much more!

For the beginner photographer, these materials are gold (and they certainly offer plenty of instruction for intermediate and even advanced photographers, too).

In total, the Photzy Vault costs $1829. But for Black Friday, you can purchase an all-access pass for just $69 per year or $12 per month. Get it here!

Lightroom Mastery, by Contrastly (50% Off)

If you’re hoping to create stunning images, then editing is essential. After all, editing is how you take a decent photo and turn it into a masterpiece.

The problem? Learning to edit is overwhelming, and many photographers give up before getting anywhere at all. They never manage to make their photos shine. 

Fortunately, there’s an easy way forward:

Contrastly’s Lightroom Mastery ebook, which gives you everything you need to start editing your photos in Lightroom Classic, one of the best photo editors for beginners, enthusiasts, and even pros.

Learn from professional photographer Adam Welch, who takes you through the ins-and-outs of Lightroom, from adjusting tones and making colors pop to improving sharpness, using presets, and more. There are over 300 pages of expert content – and by the time you’ve finished, you’ll be a bona fide Lightroom pro.

Under normal circumstances, Lightroom Mastery costs $39. But right now, you can purchase your copy for just $19 (at over 50% savings!).

Photoshop Basics for Photographers Video Course, by Phil Steele (40% Off)

Photoshop is, quite possibly, the most powerful photo editing program on the planet. You can use it to revolutionize your photography – by creating complex color grades, adding cool artistic effects, removing distracting objects from the background, and lots more.

It’s also ridiculously hard to learn, so the majority of photographers stop before they’ve ever really started.

Happily, there is a solution:

Phil Steele’s Photoshop Basics course, which offers a comprehensive yet easy-to-understand overview of Photoshop. In three hours, Phil takes you through all the PS essentials, from the interface and layer-based editing to layer masks, sharpening, portrait retouching, and beyond. You’ll even learn to prepare images for social media – so after you create a breathtaking image, you can immediately share it.

Normally, the course goes for a reasonable $69, but over the next few days, you pay just $39 for complete access.

7 Mastering Photography Ebooks, by the Creative Photographer (46% Off)

If you want to improve your photography fast, then check out this excellent Black Friday deal from the Creative Photographer, which offers 7 first-rate ebooks at $7 each (just $49 in total). 

Each book includes plenty of tips, tricks, and secrets for beginner, intermediate, and even advanced photographers, covering camera operations, lens use, exposure techniques, composition, and more.

And if only a few of the books interest you, no need to worry; you can select individual books at just $7 each, for a perfect custom bundle of photography education.

The deal only lasts until the end of the month, however, so get these ebooks while you still can!

Secrets of Successful Event Photography Video Course, by Phil Steele (40% Off)

Do you want to capture gorgeous photos of events? Do you want to come home from weddings, birthday parties, holiday parties, and even concerts – with a memory card full of outstanding images?

Event photography isn’t the easiest photography genre out there, but with Secrets of Successful Event Photography, you’re in good hands. The video course expertly guides you through the rocky terrain of event shooting, including:

  • How to capture sharp photos in low-light environments
  • How to work with flash for beautifully lit images
  • How to capture stunning candid portraits
  • How to pick the proper gear for pro-level shots
  • Much more!

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner, an intermediate shooter, or even an advanced photographer; Secrets of Successful Event Photography has something for everyone, thanks to the careful instruction of Phil Steele and Julie Kremen, both highly successful event photographers with over 25 years of combined experience.

So grab the course and learn to become a top-notch event photographer! It’s currently available for $89 versus the usual $147.

Cameras and Camera Bundles

Black Friday always features an outstanding set of camera deals, and this year is no exception.

While there are too many great camera discounts to list, here are a few that we think you’ll really love (and for more, check out Amazon’s Camera, Photo, and Video section).

Canon EOS RP With 24-105mm Lens (14% Off on Amazon)

The Canon EOS RP is Canon’s cheapest full-frame mirrorless camera, but don’t let that fool you; it can go toe-to-toe with models that cost far more, thanks to its powerful sensor (26 MP), fully articulating screen, and 4K video capabilities.

For those who are thinking of going full-frame but aren’t sure where to start, the EOS RP is a perfect choice. Alternatively, if you’re a Canon user ready to make the jump to mirrorless, this bundle is a great way to go; you get the powerful EOS RP, plus the ultra-useful 24-105mm lens, which can handle all kinds of shooting, from street photography to landscape photography to walkaround photography and more.

So grab the Canon EOS RP plus the 24-105mm f/4-7.1 while it’s still on sale, because you can get it for an ultra-low $1199 on Amazon!

Canon EOS R With 24-105mm Lens (10% Off on Amazon)

If you’re after a top-notch full-frame camera at an unbeatable price, then check out the Canon EOS R, which features an outstanding 30 MP sensor, beautiful low-light performance, and excellent ergonomics, including a robust grip and a touchscreen.

The EOS R may not be as flashy as the (newer and more expensive) EOS R5 and R6, but it’s certainly capable of pro-level portrait, landscape, and street images, not to mention decent videography, thanks to its 4K/30p recording and a fully articulating screen.

And the included 24-105mm lens offers a wide focal length range for photographers of all stripes; it’s perfect for casual walkaround photography to serious travel shooting and more.

Normally, this EOS R kit goes for $2099 on Amazon – but you can currently grab it for just $1899.

Nikon Z6 (20% Off on Amazon)

The Nikon Z6 may not be the newest mirrorless camera on the block – it’s since been succeeded by the Z6 II – yet it still offers excellent value for money, thanks to a class-leading sensor, along with a tough body and outstanding ergonomics.

Low-light performance is jaw-droppingly good, so you can use the Z6 for beautiful night photos, indoor event shots, and even astrophotography. And if you like to record video, you’ll appreciate the high-quality 4K/30p footage and in-body image stabilization (though you may wish for a fully articulating touchscreen, which is conspicuously absent).

The Z6 is compatible with a slew of incredible lenses, including Nikon’s ever-expanding Z lineup and, via the relatively inexpensive FTZ adapter, Nikon’s huge array of top-notch F-mount glass.

Usually, the Z6 goes for $1997, but you can currently grab it for just $1597 on Amazon.

Nikon Z50 Plus the 16-50mm and 50-250mm Lenses (11% Off on Amazon)

The Z50 is a user-friendly, high-performing APS-C mirrorless model from Nikon, perfect for photography beginners, casual photographers, and Nikon DSLR users looking to upgrade.

While the Nikon Z50 doesn’t include any real standout features, you get a very respectable 20 MP sensor, 4K video, a tilting touchscreen, and decently fast shooting speeds.

And the bundle also includes two highly useful lenses: the 16-50mm, perfect for sweeping landscapes and wider portrait photography, and the 50-250mm, great for tighter portraits, action photography, and the occasional street shot.

Grab the Nikon Z50 plus the 16-50mm and 50-250mm lenses for just $1197 on Amazon, down from its usual $1347 price.

Sony a7 III With 28-70mm Lens Bundle (9% Off on Amazon)

The a7 III is one of Sony’s most popular professional cameras, combining outstanding low-light capabilities, in-body image stabilization, class-leading autofocus, a 24 MP sensor, and 4K recording capabilities into one ultra-powerful package.

If you’re looking for a standout full-frame mirrorless camera that can do just about anything, the Sony a7 III is a great choice – and this discounted bundle includes all you need to get your photography off the ground: a 28-70mm lens, perfect for portraits, landscapes, street photography, and casual shooting, a 32 GB memory card, an extra battery, a handful of filters, and more.

It’s currently available for just $1998 (versus the usual $2198).

Sony a7R IV (14% Off on Amazon)

The Sony a7R IV is a resolution monster, packing 61 megapixels into a gorgeously crafted full-frame sensor; it also boasts a stunning electronic viewfinder, excellent autofocus, and a line of class-leading lenses (see our lens discount section below!).

If you’re a landscape or commercial photographer in need of mind-blowing detail, then the Sony a7R IV is the perfect pick, especially at its current discounted price of $2998, versus its normal $3499.

Fujifilm X-T3 With 16-80mm Lens (20% Off on Amazon)

Despite its age, the Fujifilm X-T3 is one of the best APS-C cameras to debut in recent years; Fujifilm managed to combine a beautiful design, a great shooting experience, excellent autofocus, and blazing-fast shooting speeds for a do-it-all camera that you won’t be able to put down.

If you’ve never tried a Fujifilm camera before, you’re in for a treat. Yes, the X-T3 is geared toward serious photographers and hybrid shooters, but in truth, it doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner, an enthusiast, or a professional – as long as you’re a fan of the retro design, then you’re going to love this model, not to mention the outstanding 16-80mm lens.

This Fujifilm X-T3 bundle normally sells for $2000 – but you can currently purchase it, with the excellent 16-80mm f/4 kit lens, for just $1599 on Amazon.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III With 14-150mm Lens (39% Off on Amazon)

The OM-D E-M5 Mark III is one of Olympus’s most eye-catching mirrorless cameras, packing beautiful images and 4K video into a small yet robust body. It’s perfect for photographers aiming to upgrade from their point-and-shoot models, as well as anyone looking for an affordable entry-level mirrorless option.

And thanks to the articulating screen plus the in-body image stabilization, the E-M5 Mark III is also an excellent choice for vloggers and hybrid shooters.

This discounted kit includes the versatile – and impressively small – 14-150mm f/4-5.6 II lens, which can shoot landscapes, wildlife, and everything in between.

So if you want a nice little camera that packs quite the punch, give this E-M5 Mark III bundle a try. It’s currently selling at 39% off, which puts the price at just $1099 on Amazon.


These are some of the best Black Friday lens deals that you’ll come across:

For Canon For Sony For Nikon For Fujifilm For Micro Four Thirds Software and Presets

Every year, the Black Friday deals on editing software and presets seem to get better and better. Check out the incredibly low prices on these powerful products:

Skylum’s Luminar Neo (45% Off)

If you’re looking for a beginner-friendly photo editor that’s insanely powerful, then I highly recommend you check out Luminar Neo, which will debut this winter but is currently available for preorder. Luminar Neo promises to be Skylum’s greatest program to date, packing all the standard editing features you’d expect, plus plenty of AI-powered extras.

For instance, Luminar Neo includes the all-new Relight AI, which analyzes and adjusts scene lighting for unprecedented flexibility when editing backlit landscapes, shaded portraits, and other poorly lit subjects. You’ll also gain access to AI Power Lines Removal and AI Sensor Dust Removal, so you can clone out power lines and dust spots with zero work, as well as Portrait Background Removal, so you can transform bland portraits into unique artistic masterpieces.

In addition to Luminar Neo’s new tools, you can expect AI offerings included in past Luminar programs, such as Sky Replacement AI (so you can quickly replace skies for more dramatic results), Atmosphere AI (so you can add fog and haze into your photos), and Face AI (so you can enhance portraits with a few easy adjustments).

Luminar Neo normally costs $99, but the Black Friday discount knocks the price down to $59 for a two-seat lifetime license – plus, you get an additional $5 off the price, thanks to our special dPS discount (just make sure to use our link below!).

So click here to grab Luminar Neo for just $54!

The Complete Lightroom Presets Bundle, by Contrastly (50% Off)

Want to give your photos a stunning professional look with a single click?

That’s where the Complete Lightroom Presets Bundle comes in handy, which packs literally every preset you could ever need. (And when I say “every preset, ” I’m not exaggerating; the product includes a breathtaking 1450+ presets, far and away the most I’ve seen in a single package.)

The presets cover a huge number of genres and styles, including:

  • Film simulations
  • Portrait presets
  • Landscape presets
  • Wedding presets
  • Dramatic presets
  • Noir presets
  • So much more!

These presets would normally cost you $99 – but for a limited time, Contrastly is offering the entire bundle for just $49. Buy it before the deal disappears!

Adobe Creative Cloud (40% Off)

We all know Adobe’s products, but did you know that you can currently purchase Lightroom, Photoshop, and all the other Adobe CC apps for 40% off, at just $29.99 per month?

The deal includes both versions of Lightroom – CC and Classic – as well as Photoshop CC, plus Adobe’s industry-standard video editing apps, graphic design apps, and more. 

If you’ve been on the fence about going all-in with an Adobe subscription, then now is the time to do it. Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC are better than ever, thanks to the new masking updates, and Photoshop is on another level entirely. Plus, the video apps you’ll get as part of your Creative Cloud subscription are perfect for vloggers, YouTubers, and videographers. 

So start taking your photos – and videos – to the next level, today. Click here to get your Adobe CC subscription at 40% off!

Capture One Pro (20% Off)

If you’re looking for an advanced program that offers image organization and image editing capabilities beyond even Lightroom, then Capture One is the software for you. Yes, there’s quite a learning curve, but for those after maximum post-processing power, it’s undoubtedly worth the effort. 

For instance, Capture One takes color editing to a whole new level, offering all the standard color grading and HSL adjustments plus an Advanced Color Editor that allows you to make granular changes to skin tones and other colors in your scene. 

There’s also Capture One’s session-based workflow option, where you organize images by photoshoot rather than genre. It’s the perfect way to approach image organization when working with a high volume of clients, which is why I highly recommend portrait and event photographers try Capture One, especially if Lightroom feels too restrictive.

Capture One 21 is the current version of the software. But Capture One 22 is on its way and will be available for all subscribers (though Capture One 21 license holders will need to purchase a second license to access Capture One 22).

Normally, you can purchase a Capture One subscription for $179 per year. However, for Black Friday week only, the subscription price is down to $143 – so if you’re after an advanced photo editor that’ll really level up your image organization and editing, then click here to get your Capture One discount!

ON1 Photo RAW 2022 (25% Off)

ON1 Photo RAW is an easy-to-use, feature-packed alternative to Adobe Lightroom Classic, combining streamlined image organization with pretty much all of Lightroom’s editing functionality and sporting a beautiful interface to boot.

And with the latest version of the software, ON1 Photo RAW 2022, you get unprecedented editing flexibility, thanks to ON1’s No Noise AI, which is “the best noise reduction software for photography” (or so ON1 claims!), as well as Sky Swap AI for automatic sky masking and replacement.

There are die-hard Lightroom fans out there who refuse to consider ON1 Photo RAW, but the software is genuinely great and surpasses Lightroom on a number of fronts. Plus, ON1 Photo RAW 2022 is a pleasure to use; it just feels right, thanks to ON1’s focus on user experience.

Normally ON1 Photo RAW costs $99.99 for a one-time license, and now – thanks to Black Friday – it’s just $74.99. So click here for the deal!

The Best Black Friday Deals for Photographers: Final Words

Well, there you have it:

Our favorite Black Friday deals for photographers in 2021, including training materials, camera gear, software, and more.

I encourage you to grab these great discounts as soon as possible. While there are plenty of amazing deals, they won’t stick around for long. Pretty soon, Black Friday will be over and prices will go back to normal.

So take advantage of these deals while you still can!

Know of any fantastic Black Friday deals for photographers that we missed? Share them in the comments below!

The post The Best Black Friday Deals for Photographers in 2021 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

10 Creative Photography Accessories and Tools Everyone Should Own

Tue, 11/23/2021 - 04:00

The post 10 Creative Photography Accessories and Tools Everyone Should Own appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

Looking for the perfect creative photography accessories to spice up your photos? You’ve come to the right place.

In this article, I share my favorite fun photography tools, all of which practically guarantee creative images. I’m talking about filters, lighting accessories, toys, and more to take your images to the next level. You’ll also find a few basic items on this list, some of which you may already own – but I make sure to explain exactly how you can use it each tool to capture uniquely beautiful images.

So if you’re ready to discover the coolest photography accessories on the planet…

…then let’s jump right in.

1. Strobe

Strobes are a great piece of creative photography equipment. They are a little intimidating to learn, so beginners often gravitate toward natural light – but if you can master the strobe, you can revolutionize your photography.

Don’t just buy a single on-camera flash and call it a day. Instead, invest in radio triggers and receivers so you can do off-camera flash with multiple strobes. And experiment with modifiers like snoots, umbrellas, softboxes, and color gels.

Here are a couple of techniques you’ll need your strobe for:

  • Water droplet photography: You can capture a water droplet in midair by photographing it with a strobe. The idea is to bounce the light off a background behind the droplet, then take a photo as the droplet falls.
  • Low-key photography: Use snoots and a darkened background to create low-key photos. The bright flash will light your main subject, allowing you to underexpose the background until it turns black.
  • Stroboscopic photography: Get repeated snapshots of the same scene with a high-speed pulse. A tripod is essential for this technique.

A strobe is required to take this type of water droplet photo.

2. LED light stick

There are lots of ways you can create beautiful light paintings, but the LED light stick is a game-changer for this genre. It’s such a cool photography accessory that, as soon as you try it, you’ll be hooked.

LED light stick photography is always long exposure, so a tripod will also be required. You can use your light stick to create abstract light paintings, like this:

The great thing about light sticks is that they’re fully programmable. You can input the exact light you want to paint and whether it will feature colors, stripes, pictures, or patterns. At the moment, the two main LED light sticks on the market are the Pixelstick and the Magilight.

3. Tripod

Yes, a tripod is a basic photography accessory, and maybe it doesn’t seem that fun. But I have to mention it, because without a tripod, you’ll fail to pull off many of the techniques on this list – and with a tripod, your creative photography will explode with awesomeness.

Let’s look at some of the techniques a tripod will allow you to try:

  • Digital blending: This technique involves blending multiple images for a beautiful result. You can do it handheld, but your results will be greatly improved by using a tripod.
  • Cloning: You can capture several photos as you move throughout a scene. You can then layer them together to create a single photo with “clones.”
  • Light painting: Use flashlights or external light sources such as car light trails to light paint across your photo.
  • Astrophotography: You can create stunning shots of the Milky Way, but you’ll need lengthy exposure times.
  • Long exposure photography: Long exposures look great at night, and they can look very interesting during the day, too. You’ll need a sturdy tripod to keep your camera steady as water and clouds zoom on by.

Here’s a photo that combines digital blending and long exposure techniques:

Quick tip: Avoid getting a cheap tripod that has unsteady legs, and instead invest in a heavier, sturdier tripod. If you’re traveling and need a light backpack, you can compromise a little. You’ll still want a strong tripod, and preferably a hook on the central tripod pole so you can add more weight once the tripod is set up.

4. Lensballs

The lensball is quite possibly the most fun photography accessory on this list, because it lets you take wild shots that are otherwise impossible. It’s quite cheap, too, and it’s simple – just a crystal ball that you place in front of your lens:

But lensballs are insanely versatile, and here are just a few of the techniques you can try:

  • Floating ball: Capture the ball in midair, as I did for the picture above. This requires some Photoshop work, but the results will be worth it.
  • Portrait: This one’s a little trickier to achieve. You’ll need to avoid showing the background as you focus in on the ball (assuming you want the portrait to appear only within the ball). Alternatively, you can use the ball as more of a prop within a regular portrait photo.
  • Landscape: Use the lensball’s fisheye-like properties to capture a unique lensball landscape; you can give a creative twist to popular locations.
5. Filters

Is there a need for filters when post-processing is so powerful? The answer to that is certainly “Yes,” especially if you wish to spend lots of time photographing (as opposed to post-processing on the computer). Plus, there are some filters that just can’t be replicated by editing software.

Filters can be used for the following forms of creative photography:

  • Infrared: Infrared filters filter out all light except for – you guessed it! – infrared. You’ll need a long exposure, and you’ll probably need to post-process your results. The in-camera photo will appear red, so you’ll need to adjust the color channels in Photoshop so the red areas of the photo become white.
  • Long exposures: The use of a strong neutral density filter will allow you to take long exposures even in the daytime.
  • Adding color: You can use filters to make your photo sepia or add more color to the sky during sunset. This is an area where post-processing is an equally powerful alternative, though.
  • Starburst effects: Some filters make points of light into a starburst. The same effect can also be achieved by using a smaller aperture.
  • Soft shots: Portrait photos can be enhanced with a softening filter; they’ll give your subject a Hollywood glow. Alternatively, you can stretch a stocking over the front of your lens, which will also soften the photo.

Infrared photography can create interesting scenes on a sunny day.

6. Prisms

Like the lensball, the prism refracts light – but it offers a completely different effect.

For one, you can redirect the light to create interesting doubling effects. And you can also use a prism to project a rainbow onto a surface (maybe even someone’s face!). Really, it’s all about experimentation, so grab a prism, hold it in front of your lens, and go wild!

Here’s an example of the prism’s interesting double-exposure effect:

You might also consider fractal filters, which offer all sorts of cool, fun, prismatic results (especially for portrait photography).

7. Steel wool

Steel wool allows you to light paint, but with an urban industrial twist.

You can use the wool to create lots of flying metal sparks, which will light paint across your photo as they hurtle through the air. This is a really fun technique to try out, but you need to be careful; you’re creating thousands of red-hot metal shards, and each has the potential to start a fire. You’ll need to exercise lots of caution when taking this type of photo. Be sure to avoid locations that could start a forest fire.

Steel wool can also be used for portrait photography – but ensure the safety of those involved in your photoshoot by thinking through all eventualities, ensuring the portrait subject stays far away from the sparks, and by making sure water is on hand, just in case.

Steel wool is fun to use, but you need to be extremely careful!

8. Metal tube

What’s another fun photography tool you can hold in front of your lens? The metal tube! The diameter of the tube will affect the result you get, but it’s pretty typical to use a copper pipe (you can get one in the plumbing section of your local hardware store).

The idea is to photograph through the tube, which creates a “ring of fire” within your photo. This ring of fire is actually flare, and you can use it to frame something or someone in your scene.

9. Umbrella

Portrait photographers use umbrellas all the time as props, and for good reason: they look great, plus they’re often full of color.

There are several different ways you might use an umbrella with a model. If you’re photographing your subject’s whole body, the umbrella will take up a small part of the frame. Alternatively, you can use the umbrella as a background, with the model’s head and shoulders featuring in the photo.

Personally, I’d recommend rainbow-colored umbrellas, the traditional paper umbrellas, or transparent umbrellas. Transparent umbrellas can be held by your subject, but they can also be positioned in front of the lens, with the spokes acting as a frame for your main subject.

This photo uses umbrellas to frame the subject.

10. Water

Is water really a creative photography tool? Absolutely!

I recommend you carry water with you at all times, which you can use for all sorts of interesting effects. For instance, if you find a cool building, you can create a small puddle on the ground, then photograph the reflection. Note that the puddle doesn’t need to be large; a good wide-angle lens can make the most of a tiny splash of water.

Water has other uses, as well! Here are a few ideas to try out:

  • Splash: Add dynamism to your portrait work by throwing water at your model (but only with their permission, of course!).
  • Droplets: Create some droplets (with a spray bottle or a syringe, if necessary), get your macro lens out, and photograph some little refracted worlds.
  • Ice: Take photos of objects frozen in ice. It’ll give your still life photos a very different feel!

Creative photography accessories and tools: final words

Hopefully, now that you’ve finished this article, you’re feeling inspired – and you’re ready to grab some cool photography accessories!

So go out and purchase your tools. Then have fun capturing unique photos!

Now over to you:

Do you have any creative photography tools you recommend? Which of the items on this list is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post 10 Creative Photography Accessories and Tools Everyone Should Own appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

Exposure Triangle: Everything You Need to Know

Mon, 11/22/2021 - 04:00

The post Exposure Triangle: Everything You Need to Know appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Melinda Smith.

What is the exposure triangle? How does it work? And how can you use it to capture beautifully detailed photos?

You’ve come to the right place.

In this article, I’m going to share the ins and outs of the photographic triangle of exposure. I’ll identify the three triangle corners, I’ll explain what they do, and I’ll explain how you can use the triangle to instantly elevate your photos.

If you’ve never encountered the exposure triangle, or you’re not sure how it works, then you’re in for a treat. It genuinely is the most revolutionary concept in photography, and by the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll feel like you’ve been struck by a bolt of lightning – I guarantee it.

Let’s get started.

What is the exposure triangle in photography?

The exposure triangle refers to three camera variables, or settings, that work together to determine image exposure.

In other words, these three settings determine whether your image is too dark, too light, or spot on. The settings I’m talking about are:

  1. Aperture
  2. Shutter speed
  3. ISO

By adjusting each setting, you can make your image lighter or darker. And by adjusting all three settings together, you can achieve a beautifully detailed photo – that is, a well-exposed photo.

Note that perfect exposure is a fundamental goal of photography. An image that is too dark looks muddy and loses details in the shadows, while an image that is too bright looks blinding and loses details in the highlights.

But a well-exposed image looks, to borrow the Goldilocks phrase, just right. So if you can master the triangle of exposure, then you can start achieving just-right exposures, consistently.

The triangle of exposure variables

In this section, I’d like to take an in-depth look at the three key exposure variables, starting with:


The aperture refers to a hole, or diaphragm, in your lens. The way it works is pretty intuitive: the wider the aperture, the more light that hits the camera sensor, and the brighter the resulting image.

Aperture is referenced in terms of f-stops, which look like this:

f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22.

This numbering system might seem confusing at first, but it’s actually pretty easy to understand: the lower the number, the wider the aperture (and the brighter the image). So if you’re shooting in ultra-dark conditions, you might use an f/2.8 aperture. But if you head out in direct sunlight, an f/11 aperture might make more sense.

The aperture doesn’t just affect the image brightness, though. It also affects depth of field, which refers to how much of your photo is in sharp focus.

A wide aperture (small f-number) will render less of the image in focus, whereas a narrow aperture (large f-number) will render more of the image in focus. Here are a few photos demonstrating this concept:

With the aperture set to f/3.5 and f/5 (low numbers), the background is very blurry. But narrow the aperture to f/11, and you get less blur:

Narrow the aperture even farther, all the way to f/22, and the blur almost disappears entirely:

Do you see what I mean? As the aperture narrows, the depth of field deepens, and the background blur disappears. (This is handy if you want to shoot landscape images, where a narrow aperture lets you capture the entire scene – though a wide aperture, with a blurry background, is great for artistic portraits.)

By the way, in case you’re wondering, you can generally change the aperture by setting your camera to Aperture Priority or Manual mode, then spinning a dial on your camera. If you’re not sure how to do this, check your camera manual.

Now let’s take a look at the second part of the exposure triangle:

Shutter speed

Shutter speed refers to the opening and closing of your camera’s shutter. You press the shutter button, your camera moves the shutter, and you’ve taken a photo.

If the shutter remains open for a long time, it lets in lots of light, which impacts the sensor and gives – you guessed it! – a brighter exposure.

If the shutter opens and closes in a fraction of a second, it lets in very little light, which gives a darker exposure.

Shutter speed is written in fractions of a second, just like this:

5s, 1s, 1/60s, 1/250s, 1/1000s, 1/4000s.

In the set of example shutter speeds above, 5s is the longest shutter speed, while 1/4000s is ridiculously short. The average shutter speed tends to hover in the 1/100s to 1/2000s range, though it depends on the specific type of photography.

Remember how I said that a longer shutter speed brightens the exposure? If you’re shooting at night and you need a bright image, you could use a long shutter speed – whereas if you’re shooting in bright sunlight and your images keep turning out bright, you could set a shorter shutter speed.

Now, shutter speed doesn’t just affect exposure. It also affects image sharpness.

Specifically, the faster the shutter speed, the sharper the resulting image, especially if the scene contains moving subjects. So if you’re photographing a basketball player slam-dunking the ball, you would need a fast shutter speed to freeze the player’s movement. (If you’re photographing a stationary basketball on the pavement, however, you could use a much lower shutter speed, because there’s nothing you need to freeze).

Check out the two images below. On the left, I used a fast (1/2000s) shutter speed to freeze a moving car. On the right, I used a slow (1/10s) shutter speed, and the truck going across the street was completely blurred.

It’s important to note that the shutter speed works together with the aperture and ISO to achieve the final exposure. That’s what the exposure triangle is all about; variables together achieving a result.

So if you use a fast shutter speed (darker exposure) but use a wide aperture (brighter exposure), they’ll balance out and you’ll often get a nice, middle-of-the-road exposure. Whereas if you use a fast shutter speed (darker exposure) and a narrow aperture (darker exposure), the overall effect will be magnified and you’ll get an ultra-dark image.

To adjust your shutter speed, simply set your camera to Shutter Priority mode or Manual mode, then rotate the corresponding camera dial.

Now let’s take a look at the final exposure variable, ISO:


ISO refers to the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor to light. (This is something of an oversimplification, but for our purposes, it works well.)

ISOs are written like this:

ISO 100, ISO 200, ISO 400, ISO 800.

And the higher the ISO, the brighter the exposure.

So if you’re photographing in the evening and your shots keep coming out dark, you might bump up your ISO from 100 to 1600. And if you’re photographing in the daytime and your shots keep coming out bright, you might drop your ISO from 400 to 100.

Make sense?

Of course, as you already know, ISO, aperture, and shutter speed work together, so you won’t always use the ISO to increase or decrease brightness. Instead, you might increase the ISO so you can increase the shutter speed (to freeze action). Or you might increase the ISO so you can narrow the aperture (for increased depth of field).

By the way, ISO comes with an annoying side effect:

The higher the ISO, the noisier (or grainier) your images will become. Noise decreases sharpness, so it’s often a good idea to keep the ISO as low as you can get away with, assuming you have the exposure you want (and a nice aperture and shutter speed).

Here’s an image taken at a very low ISO (ISO 100). Look carefully at the background, which is delightfully smooth:

And here’s another shot, but with a much higher (3200) ISO:

Can you see the noise? It’s particularly noticeable in the background, but it’s also present on the clock face.

Anyway, choosing the ISO is a balancing act. You want to keep your images sharp and well-lit, but you don’t want to produce too much grain, so it’s generally a good idea to start low and boost the ISO as needed.

That said, certain photographers pretty much always shoot at low ISOs – landscape photographers, for instance – because they work with tripods and don’t require a fast shutter speed in low light. And other photographers shoot exclusively at high ISOs, such as indoor sports photographers; they need fast shutter speeds, and even with a wide-open aperture, ISO 1600, 3200, and higher is absolutely, one-hundred percent necessary for a good exposure.

How do you adjust the ISO? You’ll need to set your camera to Program mode, Aperture Priority mode, or Manual mode, then use the corresponding button, dial, or switch to make the necessary changes.

The triangle of exposure: putting it all together


To brighten an image, you can widen the aperture, lower the shutter speed, or raise the ISO.

To darken an image, you can narrow the aperture, raise the shutter speed, or drop the ISO.

And if you adjust two variables in different directions – you lower the ISO plus you widen the aperture, for instance – the effects will (roughly) cancel each other out.

Therefore, the exposure triangle has two purposes in photography:

  1. Adjusting the exposure so you get a detailed result
  2. Allowing you to adjust the shutter speed, aperture, or ISO while keeping the exposure consistent

It’s important to realize, by the way, that there is no perfect set of exposure variables for a particular situation. As the light changes, you’ll need to adjust your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO accordingly. If you’re photographing a portrait at midday, you might use a fast shutter speed to limit the bright light, but if you’re photographing the same subject around sunset, you’ll probably want to drop your shutter speed – otherwise, the image will end up far too dark.

How to use the exposure triangle when out shooting: a step-by-step approach

Say that you’re out with your camera and you want to capture a nice exposure. How do you use the exposure triangle to get the result you want?

First, you should switch your camera to Manual mode. In Manual mode, you can adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO independently, so you can carefully observe the effects of each variable.

Next, I recommend setting your ISO to your camera’s base option (often ISO 100).

Then dial in your aperture, thinking not in terms of exposure, but in terms of depth of field.

At this point, you’ll need to look at your camera’s exposure bar, which sits across the bottom of the viewfinder. If your camera indicates a Plus (+) value, then the image is overexposed; if your camera indicates a Minus (-) value, then the image is underexposed. Set your shutter speed so that the exposure bar gives a middle value.

Finally, look at your shutter speed and ask yourself: Is it too slow for a sharp image? If the answer is “No,” then you’re golden, and you can proceed with your shot. If the answer is “Yes,” then you should boost the shutter speed, then either increase the ISO or widen the aperture – whichever seems less harmful to the overall image. (Generally, increasing the ISO is the way to go, but if you don’t mind a shallower depth of field, widening the aperture might be the better course of action.)

Finally, once your camera indicates a well-exposed scene and you’re satisfied with the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, take your shot!

The exposure triangle: final words

Well, that’s the exposure triangle in a nutshell! Now that you’ve finished, you’re well-equipped to capture beautiful, well-exposed photos.

Now over to you:

How do you feel about the triangle of exposure? Do you think you can use it for great results? Will it help you with exposure? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post Exposure Triangle: Everything You Need to Know appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Melinda Smith.

Fire Photography: How to Capture Fire Photos Like a Pro

Sun, 11/21/2021 - 04:00

The post Fire Photography: How to Capture Fire Photos Like a Pro appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Guest Contributor.

Fire photography doesn’t have to be scary, and it can be a lot of fun, too – if you know what you’re doing.

As an experienced fire photographer, I’ve discovered all the tips, tricks, and techniques that will guarantee you gorgeous results, including:

  • The proper fire photoshoot settings
  • How to stay safe while photographing fire
  • How to include fire in your compositions

By the time you’re done with this article, you’ll know how to photograph fire like a pro (and you’ll hopefully be inspired by dozens of example images).

Let’s get started.

1. Make sure to photograph fire safely

In the wise words of Frankenstein’s monster, “Fire bad!”

And this is especially true for photographers.

If you want to do fire photography, you must take fire seriously. The heat and smoke can damage your equipment, the flames can quickly get out of control and burn things down, and – most importantly! – fire can flat out kill you.

Plenty of great fire information can be found on this website, but here are some basic safety tips you should memorize immediately:

  • Think ahead and plan your shoot from beginning to end, so you know exactly what will be on fire at any given time and how you’ll be photographing it
  • Have a plan for putting out the fire should it get loose
  • Do not work near anything that you don’t want on fire
  • Work in a well-ventilated area
  • Be sure you’re working in a location where, if the worst happens, everything will be okay

Got it? Please, I beg of you: Take proper safety precautions before capturing fire photos. You might believe the rules don’t apply to you, that you’ll be fine, and so on…but that type of thinking is a disaster waiting to happen.

2. Photograph fire as your subject

Fire photography can be done in three main ways:

With fire as the subject, with fire as an accentuating element, and with fire as the primary light source. (Of course, you can mix several of these elements together, but it’s important to understand them individually first.)

And I recommend you start by photographing fire as your subject, simply because it looks really, really cool.

With such fire shots, the main focus is on the flame (or the effects of it) and the detail that is shown within it. I’m talking about shots like this, which feature clear flame detail:

So how do you capture such well-exposed, crisp flames? First, you’ll need to use a fast-enough shutter speed to freeze the flame’s motion. What counts as “fast enough” is relative to what you’re shooting, but start around 1/250s, then take some test shots and boost the shutter speed as necessary.

(Note: As your shutter speed increases, you’ll need to use wider apertures and higher ISOs.)

Exposure can be difficult, as your camera will often want to underexpose the flames to compensate for their incredible brightness. So don’t be afraid to overexpose by a stop or two for perfect flame detail.

I’d also recommend you take a handful of test shots at the beginning of your fire photoshoot. Don’t think about composition, not at the start; instead, focus on nailing the exposure for the flames.

Then, once you’ve determined the perfect flame exposure, you can bring in helpful composition techniques, like the rule of thirds, to position the most prominent flames and to position any subjects in the flames, like this:

While a fast shutter speed is good for freezing flame motion, you may notice that the fire emits interesting sparks (especially if you’re photographing a sparkler!). If that’s the case, slow your shutter speed way down and consider using a tripod.

Slower shutter speeds were key to capturing this photo (it’s a 1.6-second exposure):

And here’s another shot that required an insanely long (30+ second!) exposure to create an interesting abstract effect:

Bottom line:

Fast shutter speeds are good, but slow shutter speeds can work, too. It’s all about what you want to achieve.

3. Photograph fire as an accent

Instead of shooting fire as the primary subject, you may want to try shooting the flame as one element in a larger scene, like this:

These types of shots can be difficult, because you must show both the flames and the surroundings. (Notice how you can see the Hot Wheels reflection in the image above?)

The key here is to expose for the flame and then add light to the rest of the scene. So meter off the flame (here, spot metering is the way to go), take some test shots to make sure you get the result you’re after, then add in light to brighten up the surrounding elements.

If you’re not able to control the lighting situation (e.g., you’re photographing outdoors), then you’ll need to look for shooting angles where you can put the flame against a contrasting background. A darker, solid area is preferable, but anything that offers some contrast should work.

Note how the gray smoke offers a clean, neutral background to highlight the flames:

4. Use fire as a light source

Fire offers soft shadows and warm color, so it makes for a wonderful light source – especially in campfire situations like this one:

Notice how the fire beautifully illuminates the surrounding trees.

But how do you photograph fire with such a magical result? Here are a few quick tips:

  1. Use a long shutter speed. While fire looks gorgeous, it’s not very bright. To compensate, you’ll often need to work at 1 second, 5 seconds, or even 30 seconds.
  2. Widen your aperture. Again, the goal here is to compensate for the lack of light. If needed, push your aperture to its maximum setting.
  3. Boost your ISO. It’s generally a good idea to start with a low ISO – but if you’ve taken some test shots and they’re just not bright, then push your ISO (and keep pushing your ISO until you get the result that you’re after).
  4. Pay careful attention to where the light falls. If you’re shooting around a campfire, you can get interesting lighting on subjects a dozen feet from the flames – so don’t feel compelled to crop tight. Instead, get creative with your surroundings.

Also, when working with a wide aperture and therefore a narrow depth of field, try setting your focus on objects with high-contrast edges (like the silhouettes of stationary subjects) instead of the main subject. You’ll technically miss focus, but that’s okay; the shifting fire light will blur edges and soften the shadows of the objects it illuminates, so you should do what you can to nail the hard edges.

Oh, and take advantage of the interesting colors that fire offers…

…and consider emphasizing them in post processing!

Speaking of which:

5. Learn to control the color of your flame

Take a close look at a flame, and you’ll see multiple colors, gradients, and intensities depending on temperature, fuel type, oxygen quantities, how well the oxygen is mixed with the fuel, and more.

It sounds complicated, and it kind of is. But when it comes to fire photography, a few simple tips should help you control the color of your flame – and get the shots you’re after.

See, when photographing fire, the most influential factor is the fuel being burned. Wood, paper, clothing, or anything else that puts off a lot of unburned particles (smoke) will probably burn yellowish-orange. Butane lighters, propane torches, liquids with high alcohol content, or other fuels that can more easily mix with the available oxygen will burn more on the bluish side.

Blue and yellow don’t satisfy you? Never fear; there are additives (pyrotechnic colorants, to be precise) you can buy to change the color of the flame at will. I found some pre-packaged powders at my local camping store, and they worked pretty well. Or if you’re into chemistry, this article describes which compounds can be used to create which colors.

And you have yet another option: Simply change the color of the fire in post-processing. Because fire colors are so dominant, it’s easy to select the color and adjust it throughout the entire image. I used post-processing to achieve this interesting green flame:

6. Have fun photographing smoke

Smoke can look very cool, but unless you’re taking steps to make sure it appears in your scene, you’ll probably end up with smokeless shots (or totally underwhelming smoke photos, which is almost as frustrating).

Here are three things you can do to highlight smoke and capture gorgeous results:

  1. Be certain your fire is making smoke. Fuels that burn efficiently (like some gas torches and alcohols) may not emit much smoke at all. Use inefficient fuels like wood or paper to maximize your smoke output.
  2. Light the smoke. A light source shining into the smoke can solidify those lines and help them stand out. Use backlight to create the most powerful effect, while sidelight is better for a mysterious look.
  3. Use a fast shutter speed to freeze the smoke trails (start at 1/100s, but increase this if necessary). Slower shutter speeds will make the smoke appear like haze, not well-defined wisps.

Also, be sure to take plenty of images. Smoke is constantly changing shape and direction, so it’s generally not enough to capture one shot and call it a day; instead, take dozens of shots, delete the mediocre ones, and keep your best.

7. Start with a candle

If you want to get started with fire photography but you’re not quite ready to dive in feet first, I recommend you photograph a candle.

Candles are simple, relatively safe, and easy to work with – so you can do plenty of shooting without any high-stakes compositions.

To practice, try to accomplish the three primary types of fire shots I discussed above (fire as a subject, fire as an accent, and fire as a light source).

Then have some fun experimenting. And as you go along, make sure to write down your settings. In particular, determine the shutter speed you need to freeze the flame, as well as the shutter speed you need to illuminate a subject on a table. Finally, use an artificial light source to photograph both the flame and the surrounding environment in a single frame.

How to photograph fire: final words

Well, there you have it:

My favorite tips and techniques for fire photoshoots. Now that you’ve finished this article, you should know how to photograph fire, and you should be inspired and ready to shoot on your own!

Now over to you:

Which of these fire photography techniques is your favorite? Which do you plan to try? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Jon Beard is an adventurer from the mountains of southwestern Virginia. He organizes the regional photo club, leads photography workshops and guided shoots, and has a passion for shooting in the dark. See photos, workshop dates, and more at

The post Fire Photography: How to Capture Fire Photos Like a Pro appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Guest Contributor.

Holiday Photography: 5 Tips for Magical Holiday Photos

Sat, 11/20/2021 - 04:00

The post Holiday Photography: 5 Tips for Magical Holiday Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Do you want to capture beautiful holiday photos of your children, family, and friends?

Holiday photography can be so rewarding – if you know what to do. Unfortunately, without the right approach, you’ll likely look back at some of your pictures after the holiday season has passed, only to wonder why they’re all blurry, out of focus, or just not that interesting.

That’s where this article comes in handy.

Below, I’ll share the essential techniques you need for magical images of the holidays…

…so that, no matter your equipment, you can be satisfied with your photos this holiday season.

Let’s dive right in, starting with my very first tip:

1. Get down on eye level with the kids

Holiday photos of children are classics: kids playing games, kids opening gifts, kids sleeping beside the Christmas tree.

But beginners often make the mistake of photographing the kids from high above, looking down, which gives a boring, distant snapshot, plus it fails to capture the wonder and magic of childhood.

That’s why you should always, always, always get down on eye level with the little ones.

Yes, it might feel a bit strange to squat down or sit on the floor, at least at first. But you’ll get used to it over time, and the results will be well worth it. Your shots will be more personal, more interesting, and far memorable.

Also, if you get down on a kid’s level, they’ll be more likely to open up to you (whereas you’ll likely feel much more intimidating when photographing from up above).

My friend and her daughter before a Thanksgiving feast. I had to crouch down to get on eye level with the girl, but the angle made for a much more interesting picture.

2. Adjust the ISO instead of using the flash

Most holiday events take place indoors, so you’ll have very little light to work with.

You may be tempted to use your camera’s flash – and if you leave your camera on Auto mode, the flash may go off automatically.

But here’s the problem:

Direct flash from your camera looks, well, bad. It washes out colors, it gives a bright, deer-in-the-headlights effect for portrait subjects, and it casts unnatural shadows across people’s faces. Also, if you’re photographing religious ceremonies, a Thanksgiving concert, or even a family dinner, the participants probably won’t appreciate the constant flashing.

So what do you do? Well, if you switch your camera to Program mode and turn off the flash, then your photos will turn out either very dark or very blurry because of the limited light.

Instead, turn off your flash, and – using the Program mode I mentioned above – boost your camera’s ISO.

You see, the higher the ISO, the brighter the image becomes, and the sharper the image becomes, too, because a high ISO will allow your camera to increase its shutter speed.

Don’t boost your ISO too much, though; a high ISO produces image noise, also known as grain, which doesn’t look very nice. Fortunately, most modern cameras do a fine job even at ISO settings as high as 3200 or even 6400, particularly if you just want to share the photos online or print at smaller sizes like 4×6.

So don’t worry too much about keeping a low ISO, but don’t go wild with it, either.

Using a flash would ruin this photo of a candle-lit Christmas Eve service. I got this shot by bumping the ISO up to 3200.

In fact, I recommend you practice beforehand. You can determine the limits of your camera, and you’ll become comfortable setting the ISO in the process

Bottom line: When used carefully, adjusting the ISO instead of using the flash can result in much better holiday photos. And there’s an added bonus, too: you won’t blind your guests or need to deal with red-eye corrections later on.

Also, if you really want to use your camera to its full potential, ditch Auto or Program mode entirely and try shooting in Aperture Priority (A or Av) mode. Aperture Priority lets you choose the ISO and the lens aperture, while your camera calculates the best shutter speed. The wider (lower) the aperture setting, the brighter your images will become – just the same as if you boosted the ISO – except that you’ll also get a lovely blurred background effect.

I would recommend getting lots of practice with these modes before the holidays, though. You don’t want to try something new for the first time when everyone is opening presents!

3. Shoot moments, not poses

It might be tempting to run around with your camera at holiday parties barking out orders like “Smile!” “Look here!” and “Say Cheese!”

But a better option? Be a little more discreet and shoot moments instead of poses. Ditch the pose-speak, and try to capture the essence of what people are doing: talking, laughing, opening presents, or sharing a drink.

In my experience, this makes for much more interesting photos as well as better memories in years to come.

Of course, there is certainly nothing wrong with posed photos. And there’s nothing wrong with photos of people looking at you and smiling while you take their picture, either.

But aside from the people’s clothes and their immediate surroundings, these images tend to lack context. When looking back at photos, you’ll often have tons of questions: What else was happening? Who else was present? What sort of activities were people doing? And a posed photo probably won’t offer up many answers.

Candid holiday photos, however, will capture people just being themselves, generally with plenty of context. So by taking a documentary-style approach and shooting casual images, you’ll capture memories that will strike a chord years down the road.

This picture of a game of cards over the holidays carries a great deal more meaning to me than if I had told everyone to look at the camera and smile.

4. Know when to put your camera down

This might sound counterintuitive for an article about how to get better holiday photos, but as the saying goes, there is a time for everything under the sun. This includes a time to shoot pictures – as well as a time to just be with friends and family.

So rather than capturing 100 photos of your family opening presents, just take a handful and use the rest of your time to simply be with your loved ones and enjoy your time together. Try to be intentional when taking fewer photos, and you’ll end up with more keepers, anyway, rather than dozens and dozens of images that look exactly the same.

Don’t take a boatload of present-opening photos. Just a handful will likely suffice, and the rest of your time can be used to visit, laugh, and share memories.

5. Invest in a prime lens

If you are still shooting with the kit lens that came with your camera, now is a fantastic time to spend a little money on a prime lens (and get familiar with it before the rush of the holiday season).

While prime lenses don’t zoom in and out, they feature an ultra-wide aperture (often f/2.8, f/1.8, or even f/1.2). A wide aperture lets in so much more light (especially compared to a kit lens); you can capture beautiful, bright exposures, even at low ISO values. You’ll also get the added bonus of smooth, blurry backgrounds that’ll make even the most mundane subjects interesting.

The Nikon 35mm f/1.8 is a fantastic choice as is the Canon 24mm f/2.8, and there are plenty of other options to suit your needs depending on your camera and shooting style. I’d recommend picking a semi-wide lens (24-35mm) or a standard lens (50mm); anything longer will require significant cash and can be overkill when shooting in a house, while anything shorter will be difficult to handle.

Holiday photography tips: final words

Hopefully, you now feel ready to capture some stunning holiday photos! I highly recommend you pick up your camera and practice ahead of time (and if you’re going to purchase a prime lens, do it soon!).

That way, you’ll capture magical holiday images right from the get-go.

Now over to you:

Which of these tips is your favorite? Do you have any holiday photos that you’re proud of? Share them in the comments below!

The post Holiday Photography: 5 Tips for Magical Holiday Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

dPS Weekly Photo Challenge – Stairways

Fri, 11/19/2021 - 14:15

The post dPS Weekly Photo Challenge – Stairways appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

This weeks topic brought to you by Norma Prina Murphy from out Facebook group theme post (Add your ideas)

Use #dPSStairways if you share your images on social media, makes them easier for us to find and admire that way, you can comment in the comments section under this post if you don’t use social media, and upload your photo to your comment directly. As is mostly the case, make a new photograph for the challenge, this is to help challenge your photo skills and your creativity.

Stairways‘ think angles, light and shadow, architecture, movement… This is what I came up with:

I chose a slow shutter to introduce a little movement, and maximise on a dimly lit stairway. I used my new 3LeggedThing Brian V2.0 tripod to keep everything steady and the Camera was my Sony a7r Mk3 with the Sony 35mm f/1.4 lens.

35mm | f/3.2 | 1/3 sec

Stairways provide lots of opportunity for creativity, do an image search for ‘stairways photos’ and get some inspiration, there are loads!

35mm | f/2.8 | 1/5 sec

You can find our Facebook group here: Click if you run into any problems, you can leave a comment in the Facebook group and one of the helpful people over there will be happy to help, or if you need tech support, you can contact support here –

The post dPS Weekly Photo Challenge – Stairways appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.