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Updated: 3 hours 43 min ago

31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer – Closing Soon!

Wed, 09/22/2021 - 22:13

The post 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer – Closing Soon! appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

Do you want to learn the skills and master the techniques to take stunning photos like you see in galleries and magazines and other places?

Where do you start? And where do you find the time and the motivation to do this?

That’s why we created 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer.

The beautiful thing about a 31-day period is that it’s long enough for you to learn something really meaningful, but it’s also short enough to stay focused and actually get it done.

31 days gives you the opportunity level up your photography with a powerful burst of learning.

Our series of 31-day courses enables you to take great leaps in your photography and take stunning images. If you’ve been struggling to improve your photography skills, then our “31 Days” course series will help you graduate from auto mode and get you taking beautiful shots you’ll be proud of.

Start your 31 Days course here

In these courses you will learn all about: 31 Days to Get Off Auto
  • Learn how to set up your camera to reach its full potential
  • Take control of the exposure process (metering, ISO and shutter speed)
  • Then nail focus and lighting to make your images tack sharp
31 Days to Better Composition
  • Learn how to find the best locations and light
  • Understand the rules of composition to lead the viewer’s eye and add balance to your photos. 
  • Then bring it all together so you can capture the decisive moment
31 Days to Better Post-Processing
  • Control the light and make adjustments to contrast, highlight and shadow 
  • Learn how to enhance your color and also to work in black and white 
  • Eliminate distractions and ‘digital noise’ to make your images sharper
Great Teaching, Practical Exercises and Mentoring

31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer is our most popular course of all time for good reason – Jim Hamel is one of the most attentive course instructors and mentors we’ve seen and his teaching is so actionable!

In this course you’ll ENJOY learning new techniques each day and this course will give you the motivation to actually get out there, do some shooting and get results you can be proud of.

What are the courses like?

These courses work because we break everything down into really small chunks and keep it really simple. Each module of the course includes a tutorial video, downloadable and printable notes and at the end of each lesson, you have an assignment. These are practical exercises to help you implement the concepts you’re learning in your own photography and master them one step at a time. That way you won’t just be sitting at a computer screen, but you’ll be having fun creating photos as you’re mastering these concepts.

And there’s a Course Group

Inside the dedicated course Facebook Group you can also ask instructor Jim Hamel questions, get more of his tips, follow along with homework assignments, and enjoy giving and receiving helpful feedback and support as part of a group of other like-minded photographers. 

Check out each course outline including all the course modules here

Do I have to complete the course in 31 Days?

No, you don’t. You will get lifetime access to the course modules so you can take all the time you need.

Enrolments End Soon

Hurry – because of the mentoring component of this course spaces are limited and will only be open for enrolments for a short time!

00Days00Hours00Mins00SecsBuy Now!Affiliate Commission Disclaimer

Check out all of the course modules and enrol here.

P.S. As always, we offer a 60 Day Guarantee, so if you find the course isn’t for you, we’ll be more than happy to refund you – no questions asked.

Last Updated 22 September, 2021

The post 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer – Closing Soon! appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

Lightroom vs RawTherapee: Which Editor Should You Pick?

Wed, 09/22/2021 - 06:00

The post Lightroom vs RawTherapee: Which Editor Should You Pick? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Looking for a top-notch photo editor, one that offers a combination of power, user-friendliness, and organizational chops? Lightroom and RawTherapee both fit the bill, but it can be tough to determine which option is perfect for your needs.

And that’s where this article comes in handy. I’ll break down the main aspects of these two programs, from the ease of use to the costs and benefits.

So if you’re ready to determine which program is better, Lightroom vs RawTherapee, then let’s get started.

Lightroom vs RawTherapee: overview

Lightroom and RawTherapee are both photo editing programs with advanced RAW processing capabilities. In fact, Lightroom is one of the most popular choices in the photography world, though many people are put off by Adobe’s subscription model. RawTherapee is less well known, which makes finding learning resources difficult, though the program itself is (get this!) free.

As far as I’m concerned, you can’t go wrong with either option – they both work nicely, though they cater to different types of photographers. Let’s take a closer look.

Ease of use

Is Lightroom the easier program to use, especially as a beginner? Or is RawTherapee the better buy?

Download and installation

To install, purchase, and download Lightroom, you’ll need to set up an Adobe account. You’ll also need to navigate through the different plans available and decide which one works best for you. This isn’t as straightforward as you might like; it can be tough to fully understand the difference between some of the options.

Once you’ve decided on a plan, you can subscribe by providing a Paypal account or a credit card. Alternatively, you can start a free trial. Then you’ll need to follow Adobe’s instructions to install the Creative Cloud – necessary for any Adobe app – and then, from the Creative Cloud window, install Lightroom.

RawTherapee is a free open source program. To download it, simply go to the RawTherapee website, choose your operating system, and click Download. You’ll receive the software, which you can install like any other program. You’ll also get a “manual,” which is actually a link to a page with information and tutorials. And if you want an older version of RawTherapee, just click Downloads on the home page to see the entire set of available programs.

Interface

Lightroom has seven modules, though the most used ones are the Library module (to manage your files) and the Develop module (to edit your images). The remaining modules are for specific uses and are fairly self-explanatory – for example, Book lets you design photo books, Print lets you prepare prints, and so on. Lightroom’s standard tools are clearly marked, but it might take some time for you to fully explore the interface.

RawTherapee is also user friendly, although experienced photo editors may find its lack of similarity to other programs off-putting. By default, it opens in the File Browser section, which is very straightforward and like Lightroom.

On the left side, you’ll find the tabs to change the screen. There’s an Editor screen – to edit your photos – and a Queue option – to export your edited images.

You should be able to apply your first edits without help, but it will take some time and effort to understand RawTherapee’s full potential.

Information and tutorials

Adobe provides a wide variety of Lightroom video tutorials that will guide you from beginner to pro. And since it’s the most popular photo editing software on the planet, you’ll find countless YouTubers explaining how to do practically anything you can think of. Written tutorials are also available from the official Adobe site, as well as third-party websites (such as dPS!).

RawTherapee has a RawPedia with all the information you need to get started and perfect your skills, and the material is available in multiple languages. Like most open-source programs, there’s also a big community behind RawTherapee that’s happy to share its knowledge and help you with any problems.

Cancellation

Lightroom is a subscription-based software, and in most cases, plans are annual. If you cancel before the end of your yearly subscription, you’ll be charged 50% of the remaining months of the membership. After that, you can keep up to 2 GB of storage in the cloud, and you’ll have 90 days to delete any files that exceed the limit. You’ll then have a year to export your edited images from Lightroom, but you can’t make any more changes.

Since RawTherapee doesn’t require a subscription, you can simply delete it from your computer (and re-download it) at will. After deleting the program, you’ll still have your original files, and if you exported your edited photos, you’ll have those, too.

Workflow

Both Lightroom and RawTherapee offer complete workflows; you can organize, edit, and export your files, all within the program.

File management

When you import images, Lightroom creates a catalog, which it uses to save your edits. You can create collections and search for your photos by keyword, EXIF data, tags, etc. The downside to this is that it works independently from your computer and hard drive – if you move a file outside Lightroom, the program won’t be notified and will subsequently fail to find the image.

All Lightroom edits are stored in an LRCAT file, which contains all the catalog data. That’s why moving a file to another location means losing the edits; even if you import it again, Lightroom won’t associate the new file with the original edit.

RawTherapee uses a file browser; this means you don’t need to import files, plus you can move them around outside of the program and still be able to find them again.

Edits are stored in PP3 sidecar files. As long as you copy the PP3 file together with the original image, you’ll always have the edits, even in a new location. Also, you can manage your photos with tags and ratings (the same as in Lightroom).

Photo editing

To edit your photos in Lightroom, you must import them and open the Develop module. Here, you’ll find tools to manage your files and edits along the left-hand side – for example, the Navigator and the History panel. The image is displayed in the center, and you’ll see all edits applied in real-time.

On the right, you can access all the editing tools, starting with the Basic panel and its essential sliders (e.g., Contrast, Exposure, Saturation, and Clarity). The next sections are designed for advanced editing, and Lightroom offers several tools for targeted adjustments as well. If that’s not enough, you can always send the image from Lightroom to Photoshop (assuming you get Photoshop as part of your membership plan).

The RawTherapee Editor module is divided into three panels. On the left, you have Preview, History, and Snapshots; in the center, you have the image; on the right, you’ll find the editing tools.

In RawTherapee, you can do all the standard basic edits and many advanced ones, too. If this isn’t enough and you need to work with layers, you can link RawTherapee with Photoshop, or with GIMP if you prefer to stick with free and open-source programs.

Batch editing

In Lightroom, batch editing is easy. You can use presets, which are automated sets of adjustments, to apply the same edit to multiple images, and there are tons of free and paid presets out there for you to choose from (or you can make your own). You can also batch edit by syncing adjustments from one photo to other photos in the Filmstrip. Another choice is to copy-paste the Develop settings.

RawTherapee also offers batch editing. You can copy and paste the same processing profile to multiple images in the Editor module, or you can batch edit in the Browser module via the batch-adjust option.

Saving and exporting

Lightroom doesn’t have a Save option. To get your edited photos out of Lightroom and save them to your computer or external hard drive, you need to use the Export button in the Library module or select Menu>Edit>Export.

In RawTherapee, you have two ways of saving your images. If you click on the hard drive icon, you can save the image immediately (as you can do with the Save As option in any standard program). However, this can “distract” your CPU resources and slow down your work, which is where the Queue comes in.

If you send the images to the Queue (which you can access from a tab on the left), you’ll have the benefit of processing all of your images at the end, making the most of your time and your computer’s power.

Cost

Technically, Lightroom can’t be bought; you can only purchase a membership that allows you to use it. Depending on the membership plan and the way you pay (monthly or annually), the price can vary, though it starts at $9.99 USD per month.

All Photography plans include Adobe Lightroom, Cloud storage (from 20 GB to 1 TB), Adobe Spark, and Adobe Portfolio. Some upgraded plans may include Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, and other Adobe apps.

With a personal membership, you can download the program on two computers, but you can’t use them at the same time. Whenever you install Lightroom, you also need to download and install Creative Cloud.

RawTherapee is completely free, and you don’t even need to register before downloading. You get the full software, which you can install and use on as many computers as you want. It can also be installed on a portable hard drive.

Lightroom vs RawTherapee: which program should you buy?

As you can see, Lightroom and RawTherapee are both great for processing RAW files and editing pictures. The choice between them comes down to needs and personal preference. Let me go through some example scenarios to help you understand:

If you often edit your photos on your phone and like to easily move from your mobile devices to your computer, you’ll be better off with Lightroom, as there isn’t a mobile version of RawTherapee – though make sure you use Lightroom CC, not Lightroom Classic.

If you have an old computer or you are running low on storage space, you should definitely use RawTherapee. Not only is it lighter, but you only have to download one app, not two (as is required by Adobe).

If you only plan to edit on occasion, you might wish to avoid a monthly fee. In this case, RawTherapee is the software for you.

There are many things to consider when you choose between Lightroom and RawTherapee. Hopefully, this article gave you enough information to make the right decision!

Now over to you:

Have you tried Lightroom? How about RawTherapee? Which did you prefer? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Lightroom vs RawTherapee FAQs Is Lightroom better than RawTherapee?

Neither program is better than the other. They are both excellent tools and the choice really depends on personal preference, budget, etc.

Is RawTherapee a good alternative to Lightroom?

Yes. RawTherapee is a fantastic program, whether you are an editing beginner or you want to switch over from Lightroom.

Do I need to stop using Photoshop if I change from Lightroom to RawTherapee?

No. Using the Edit Current Image in External Editor option, you can send your files from RawTherapee directly to Photoshop. You can also send them to GIMP and other editors.

Can I watermark my images using RawTherapee?

No. To watermark your images, you need to use another free program, such as Darktable.

Is there a free version of Lightroom?

Lightroom offers a free trial before purchase – but after the trial is over, you need to buy an Adobe membership. Lightroom Mobile has a free version, but some of its features are only enabled with a paid subscription.

Can I use RawTherapee if I don’t shoot in RAW?

Yes. RawTherapee not only supports most RAW formats, but also JPEG, TIFF, PNG, and other common image file types.

The post Lightroom vs RawTherapee: Which Editor Should You Pick? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

7 Tips for Gorgeous Glass Ball Photography

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 06:00

The post 7 Tips for Gorgeous Glass Ball Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

Glass ball photography is a fantastic way to create compelling images, the kind that will leave your audience both wowed and curious.

But how do glass ball photos work? How do you set up beautiful images? And how do you use a simple crystal ball to capture such striking effects?

In this article, I share everything you need to get started, including a lensball recommendation, plenty of tips, and even a few crystal ball photography ideas.

Let’s dive right in.

How does glass ball photography work?

Glass ball photography, also known as crystal ball photography, uses refraction to capture unique images. A crystal ball (lensball) is placed in front of a scene; the scene is then refracted in the ball. Thanks to the magic of physics, you end up with an inverted image in the ball, which you can then capture with your camera.

As the photographer, you have ultimate control over your lensball image. For instance, by repositioning the ball (and by repositioning the camera with respect to the ball), you’ll capture different perspectives. You can also adjust the aperture for shallow depth of field effects (where the ball is framed by a blurry background), and you can change the distance from the camera to the ball for an interesting close-up effect. I discuss these techniques in greater detail below.

1. Consider flipping the upside down image

Thanks to refraction, the image inside a glass ball is flipped. Which means you have two options:

  1. You can leave the inverted image and incorporate it into the composition. For instance, you can juxtapose the flipped image with the real scene in the background.
  2. You can rotate the image during post-processing, so that the ball’s image appears right side up. Here, you may want to blur out the background with a wide aperture; that way, the flipped background isn’t obvious.

As you’ll see throughout this article, I use a mix of techniques. Sometimes, I like to keep the inverted crystal ball image. Other times, I flip the image for a less disorienting effect.

By the way, if you want to create a sharp, right side up image but you don’t want to do any rotation in post-processing, there is another option:

You can use the ball to photograph reflections. After all, reflections are naturally upside down, but the ball will invert them for a normal-looking result.

The image inside the ball will be upside down.

2. Get on a level with your subject

It might be tempting to put your glass ball on the ground and shoot into it, but this will actually cause significant distortion, plus it will create less compositional impact.

Instead, I recommend getting your ball up off the ground and on a level with your subject. The key here is to ensure your subject is centered in the ball, so feel free to move the setup around until you get the composition you’re after.

Note that you’ll want to keep your hands out of the frame, so you can either get up close and only photograph part of the ball, or you can perch the ball on an elevated platform, like a rock, a car, or a bench.

Of course, there are exceptions to this advice. Sometimes, it pays to place the ball on the ground, especially if you plan to photograph puddles or leaf beds.

3. Fill the glass ball with your subject

Unless you get close to your subject, it will appear very small inside the ball. So do what you can to close the distance, until your subject looms large in the ball (and consequently the frame).

This might involve careful planning or even some creativity. The ball is like a wide-angle lens, so try to think about your shot as if you’re photographing it at 16mm or so. Would the scene fill the frame at 16mm? If so, you’re golden!

In this photo, the cityscape is captured inside the ball.

4. Choose the correct lens

Yes, you can do glass ball photography with literally any lens, from ultra-wide to super-telephoto. But if you want to maximize the impact of the ball, I’d really recommend using a macro lens (or a telephoto lens with significant close-focusing capabilities).

Thanks to a macro lens, you can get close to the ball, which does two things:

  1. It lets you increase the size of the ball in your shot (in other words, you can get close for lots of detail).
  2. It helps you create strong background bokeh, which is key if you want to flip the image and keep it natural looking (discussed in Tip 1).

A wide-angle lens can work, too, but only if the scene allows it. I recommend experimenting with a macro lens and a wide-angle lens to determine the effect you like best.

5. Choose the correct aperture

The aperture influences the depth of field (i.e., the amount of the scene that’s in focus).

Set an ultra-wide aperture, and you’ll end up with a beautifully blurred background and a sharp foreground. Set an ultra-narrow aperture, and you’ll end up with a crisp foreground and a crisp background.

Neither is obviously better than the other; it just depends on the effect you want. If you’d prefer to create a blurry background (for example, you want to flip the image without a disorienting result), you might try using an aperture of f/4 or so. This will generally blur out the background while creating a sharp image inside the ball.

But be sure to review the image on your LCD afterward to make sure you get the result you want. If you go too wide, even the ball will be blurred, and everything will become an out-of-focus mess. Also, the depth of field depends on other factors as well, such as the distance between the lensball and the camera, so experimentation is always a good idea.

6. Find a safe place to position the ball

This is very important, especially if you are photographing from a high vantage point. Balls are, well, balls, which means that they like to roll, and you certainly don’t want your crystal ball rolling off a bench (or worse, a building). Best case scenario, it’ll end up with scratches – and worst case scenario, it’ll smash and you’ll need to buy a new one.

That’s why I recommend putting the ball on a flat surface, and a crevice is better (if you can find one). Place the ball carefully, then let it sit for a few seconds. Even if the ball seems stable, keep your (or a friend’s) hands nearby, and watch it like a hawk, especially on windy days. You do not want the ball to blow off in the middle of a photo!

If you can’t find a good resting place, you might just ask a friend to hold the ball for you. Or, with some practice, you can hold the ball yourself (though this is always tricky; unless you’re working with a tripod, you’ll need to hold the ball in one hand while focusing and firing the shutter with the other!).

In this photo of the Taj Mahal, there is a reflection in the background, and this reflected image is in fact upside down.

7. Make sure your subject is well-lit

Pretty much every photo can benefit from a well-lit subject, but it’s especially important for crystal ball photography.

Why? A strongly lit subject will shine through the ball while minimizing reflections. (Yes, those pesky reflections that come from in front of the ball and can show unwanted elements such as the camera lens!)

That’s why I recommend you photograph with the sun behind you and striking your subject directly. Alternatively, you can photograph during the blue hour or at night, but aim to photograph buildings with brightly lit facades.

(On the other hand, reflections can create interesting effects, so don’t be afraid to try out different lighting scenarios if you’re feeling creative.)

Glass ball photography vs standard photography

Are you wondering whether it makes sense to pursue glass ball photography? After all, do you really want to play around with a lensball when you could be capturing a beautiful wide-angle shot of the same scene?

In this section, I’ve put together a quick list of pros and cons – which will help you decide whether crystal ball photography makes sense for you.

Glass ball pros
  • A glass ball is cheaper than a lens and allows you to create a unique fisheye effect
  • A ball offers flexibility; you can move it to different positions in your scene
  • You can use a large aperture in conjunction with the ball to create bokeh
  • Scenes created with a crystal ball often have a more artistic feel
  • The ball creates a natural frame for your scene
Glass ball cons
  • Larger glass balls are heavy to carry (in an already heavy camera bag)
  • You need a macro lens to get the best results
  • The edge of a glass ball produces distortion
  • Getting a sharp image inside the ball can be difficult
  • The image in the ball is upside down, which gives you another problem to contend with

In fact, here’s a quick illustration of a crystal ball effect. First, we have a standard wide-angle image of a scene:

And here’s the same scene, but shot with a glass ball:

What do you think? Which shot do you prefer? The choice to use a glass ball is yours to make, though I highly recommend trying it out. Personally, I feel the pros majorly outweigh the cons (plus, you’ve made it this far in the article, which means you know all sorts of helpful tips!)

If you find crystal balls too heavy to carry all the time, you can try scouting scenes in advance, then returning for a second visit with only the equipment you need to get your photo.

Glass ball photography: final words

Well, there you have it:

Plenty of tips to get started with crystal ball photography. You will, of course, need a crystal ball – which you can buy easily on Amazon for around $27 USD. Once the ball arrives, head to a local landmark and start experimenting. The list of subjects really is endless; you can start with a lone tree, a church, or even a cityscape scene.

Now over to you:

Have you tried lensball photography? Do you think you’ll start? Share your thoughts and images in the comments below!

Natural landscapes look great inside the ball. This is a volcanic lake found in Indonesia.

The post 7 Tips for Gorgeous Glass Ball Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

8 Tips for Stunning Car Photography

Mon, 09/20/2021 - 06:00

The post 8 Tips for Stunning Car Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Desmond Louw.

Car photography is tons of fun – but it can also be very intimidating unless you know the tricks of the trade.

Fortunately, as a professional automobile photographer, I’ve developed plenty of techniques for creating top-notch photos of cars. And in this article, I’m going to share eight essential tips, including:

  • The best lighting for car photo shoots
  • Plenty of ideas for amazing car pictures
  • Common car photography mistakes to look out for
  • Much, much more!

So no matter your skill level, if you’re ready to learn how to photograph cars like a professional, then you’ve come to the right place. Let’s get started.

1. Shoot at the right time of day

The most common mistake people make when shooting cars? Heading out during the middle of the day, when the light is harsh, unflattering, and just all-around bad. It’s a surefire way to end up with poor automobile shots, and it certainly isn’t going to impress your clients.

Instead, the best time to do car photography is a few minutes after sunset (or a few minutes before sunrise). The light is soft, there’s no direct sun, and you can capture a beautiful, almost ethereal, effect. Use a tripod – the light won’t be particularly strong, so a remote release is also a good idea – and get that perfect soft light on the paint.

Note that you can also shoot cars during the golden hours – an hour or two before sunset and an hour or two after sunrise – but be careful; the more direct the lighting, the harder it is to create a flattering image. For close-up images, consider using a reflector to deal with pesky shadows.

This photo was taken a few minutes before sunrise:

2. Be on the lookout for reflections

If you’re after professional car photos, you must carefully control what reflects in the car. One of the most important things you want to show in your car pictures is the design lines, yet reflections can spoil these lines very quickly. So before you capture a single photo, have a look around you, then look closely at the car and see what reflects off its surface.

You see, a car (especially a new, shiny one) is like a mirror. So if you shoot with buildings or trees in front of the car, they’ll reflect off its surface and appear in your photos. Instead, aim to have an open space behind you, like a field or an ocean. If you’re stuck in a location with busy surroundings, you can always try to change your perspective; by getting down low, you may be able to get rid of the distractions and instead come away with a sky reflection in the car (which looks way better; see the image at the end of this section).

Pro tip: Be very careful not to include your own reflection in the photo. If you’re struggling, it’s best to put the camera on a tripod, set the self-timer, and move out of the shot. Just look at this photo I took of a dark, shiny BMW 428i; behind me was nothing except the horizon. In fact, you can clearly see the horizon reflecting in the car:

3. Take driving shots

Here’s one of my favorite tips for creative car photography:

Shoot the car out of another moving car. (Please be super careful when doing this; make sure that both you and your camera are well-secured before even thinking about taking a photo.)

A moving car shot looks gorgeous, plus it conveys a beautiful sense of motion. This Audi S3 was shot before sunset; it was driving at 70 km/h (43 mph), and I used a shutter speed of 1/125s:

Unfortunately, you can’t just hop into your car, zoom along, and take some photos out the window. Instead, you’ll need to carefully select your speed, position, and settings. Here are my recommendations:

  • Get a driver, so that you’re in the passenger seat and free to concentrate on the photo shoot
  • Secure your camera to the inside of the car or your body using a strap
  • The two cars should match speeds, with your car slightly ahead and in the adjacent lane; 60 km/h (37 mph) is a good starting point, as you’ll get some nice movement on the road and on the wheels, but you won’t be going so fast the shoot becomes difficult
  • Set your camera to its continuous shooting mode and set your shutter speed to 1/100s or so. A little blur is good, as it communicates movement. You can even decrease the shutter speed further, though this will decrease your ratio of keepers to duds.
  • Shoot on low-traffic roads. You do not want to frustrate or distract other drivers with your photo shoot.

Because this type of shot involves so many (literally) moving parts, you’re going to come away with plenty of failed images. But if you use burst mode, you experiment with different shutter speeds, and you put in the hours, you’ll start to capture some genuinely stunning photos.

4. Pay attention to the color of the car

Different types of paint react differently to changing light. I know I said that you should avoid direct sunlight, and it is true, but you’ll occasionally find colors that handle direct sunlight really well.

Just look at this baby blue Beetle shot in the middle of the day:

So don’t be afraid to experiment with different lighting conditions. And always review your shots carefully afterward, making mental (or physical) notes about the color and how it looks.

Pro tip: If you want to jumpstart your understanding of lighting and car colors, head to a parking lot at different times of the day, then go around and (discreetly) take photos of cars. Obviously, you should use good judgment and be careful; don’t do a full car photo shoot while the owner stands and watches, and look out for cars driving around that might accidentally run you over.

5. Choose your background carefully

A beautiful background adds that perfect finishing touch to a car photo, while a bad and/or distracting background can instantly ruin the shot.

What counts as a good background? Anything non-distracting. Ideally, it should emphasize the main subject and even complement the car (and suit the theme).

Bad backgrounds, on the other hand, are distracting, they draw the eye, and they don’t make sense given the car color, shape, or theme. For instance, dustbins, power lines, and other cars can kill a picture. You can remove these in Photoshop sometimes, but it’s best to avoid them in the first place (plus, it’ll save you time in the long run).

For this Aston Martin shot, I used a simple background. The yellow paint matches the car’s color:

6. Pan for motion blur

I’ve already talked about shooting cars from a moving car. But if you want a beautiful motion blur effect and you don’t like the idea of photographing out a moving car window, why not try panning instead?

Simply stand next to the road and let the car drive past you. Follow the car with your lens in one smooth action and set the shutter speed to 1/125s. You will be amazed by how easy this is!

Of course, you’ll end up with plenty of failed shots, but the good ones will make it all worthwhile (and you can maximize the number of good images by using your camera’s burst mode and firing off a series of shots with every attempt). Also, you can try this technique after dark for some very interesting night car photography results.

This Ferrari was shot at 1/125s at 200mm. The car was driving roughly 37 mph (60 km/h):

7. Let the car interact with nature

Here’s another way to capture a photo that speaks to the viewer:

Don’t just park the car in a parking lot or along a road and snap some shots. Instead, make the car interact with its surroundings.

Examples of this could be a car creating dust or a 4×4 driving over an obstacle. Look at this Chevrolet Trailblazer climbing over a rock:

The car/rock combination emphasizes the ruggedness of the Trailblazer. Plus, by using a wide-angle lens and shooting from down low, I made the car loom, like it’s the king of the mountains.

Here’s another example, this one of a G-Class AMG drifting on loose sand:

Don’t you just love the movement it conveys? The whole photo is packed with energy.

8. Shoot at night

Night car photography might sound daunting, but you will be amazed by how easy and awesome it is! The biggest secret here is to find a spot where it’s completely dark; any streetlights or even a full moon could make life tricky.

Once you’ve found the right spot, set up your camera on a tripod. Set your ISO to 100, the shutter speed to 30 seconds, and the aperture to f/9.

When the shutter opens, take a strong constant light source and walk around the car, “painting” it with the light. A normal household flashlight works for this.

There are no rules here. Paint the car in different ways to get different effects, and you will be blown away by the results! Here are some examples of this technique:

This is an Opel Astra shot next to Table Mountain with Cape Town in the background. This is a Dodge Charger with the skyline of Detroit in the background. The photo took me no longer than five minutes to set up and capture. Tips for taking better photos of cars: conclusion

Car photography may seem difficult, but with these handy tips, you’re well-equipped to take some stunning car photos of your own.

So pick your favorite technique from the article, get outside, and start shooting!

Do you have any additional car photography tips or favorite images you’ve taken of cars? Please share them in the comments below!

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The post 8 Tips for Stunning Car Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Desmond Louw.

Landscape Photography Lighting: A Comprehensive Guide

Sun, 09/19/2021 - 06:00

The post Landscape Photography Lighting: A Comprehensive Guide appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Holly Higbee-Jansen.

By understanding lighting, you can instantly improve your landscape photography portfolio.

It’s true. The quality and direction of the light dramatically affects your landscape photos, which is why it’s essential to master lighting as thoroughly as possible. Unfortunately, landscape lighting can be a tricky topic. Lighting quality, direction, color; it’s enough to give anyone a headache, right?

Well, in this article, I aim to break it down for you – so that, the next time you go out for some landscape photography, you know exactly what to do. I’m going to discuss my favorite types of landscape photography lighting and how to work with them for beautiful results, plus I’ll give plenty of tips along the way.

Let’s jump right in.

Lighting quality and direction

Landscape photographers talk about two essential lighting characteristics: the quality and the direction.

Lighting quality refers to the hardness or softness of the light, where soft light produces limited shadows and saturated colors, while hard light adds lots of contrast and heavy shadows.

And lighting direction refers to the direction at which the light strikes your subject. For instance, noontime sunlight hits the subject from above, evening sunlight hits the subject from the side, etc.

Generally, lighting quality is the bigger deal here. Because while it’s possible to experiment with different directions for beautiful results, if you fail to understand lighting quality, you’ll capture consistently mediocre (or just bad) photos.

At the same time, you should understand how to work with different lighting directions – it’s how you can add depth and dimension to your photos, for one – which is why I dedicate several sections to the topic.

Reflected light

Reflected light, also called bounced or diffused light, occurs when direct sunlight reflects off an adjacent surface. It can make for stunning photos, thanks to its soft, even, beautiful effect.

The canyons in the Southwest are perfect for this type of light, as the sun beams against the rocks and is reflected all around, creating a gorgeous warm glow:

To work with reflected light, you’ll generally need a bright surface such as pale rock walls, a white beach, etc. – otherwise, you’ll fail to get a nice reflection effect. You’ll also need bright sun, ideally toward the middle of the day.

Overcast light

Light on overcast and foggy days is soft, subdued, and bluish. Shadows are negligible, and light directionality essentially disappears.

While cloudy light can work great for landscape photos, thanks to the flattering, soft effect and lack of harsh shadows, you need to be careful; a cloudy sky tends to look boring, so do what you can to block it out with trees, mountains, and other landscape elements.

Cloudy days are also great for colorful landscape scenes, such as fields of flowers. The soft light evenly illuminates your subject and gives colors a subtle, saturated glow.

Backlight

Backlight refers to any light that comes from behind your subject, like this:

Note that you can have partial backlighting, when the sun comes from roughly behind the subject, and you can have total backlighting, when the sun beams out from directly behind the subject.

Backlighting is a landscape photography favorite, especially when the sun is just above the horizon. Why? Backlighting is dramatic, whether it’s combined with HDR effects (such as in the image above), or whether you use it to capture stunning silhouettes.

One tip: Pay careful attention to the position of the sun in your frame. You generally want to partially block the sun with a solid edge; that way, you can capture a beautiful sunstar. Alternatively, you can keep the sun out of the frame or position it behind a solid object, like a tree or a rock, to prevent a blown-out sky.

Direct light

Direct light is strong, harsh, and very unforgiving; you can generally find it a few hours after sunrise to a few hours before sunset, though as the sun moves higher in the sky (i.e., closer to noon), the light becomes more direct and even less flattering.

Because direct light produces such a harsh effect, some landscape photographers avoid it completely. I don’t go that far myself, but I do recommend you shoot in black and white, which works quite well with high-contrast lighting.

Also, if you’re shooting in direct light and your photos keep turning out dull and uninspiring, try looking for subjects that offer significant tonal range (that is, subjects that stretch from deep black to bright white). That’s what I did for the photo above.

Morning and evening horizontal light

Morning and evening horizontal light refers to light in the hour or two after sunrise and the hour or two before sunset; it’s warm, it produces soft shadows, it looks super flattering, and it’s prime light for landscape photography, thanks to its combination of low contrast and beautiful tones.

Photographers often refer to this time of day as the golden hoursbecause the light looks amazing and, well, golden. Check out the photo below, which I took during this special time:

While you can shoot subjects from any angle, I highly recommend sidelight, which will sculpt your subject and add plenty of depth and dimension. In fact, I used sidelight in the photo above to give the mountain plenty of texture and volume (notice how the right side of the peak is in shadow, while the left side is in sun).

Also, quick tip: The golden hours are often followed by another wonderful time for landscape photography, the blue hour – which is when the light starts to fade from the sky, the world becomes ethereal, and you can capture some stunning photos. So don’t pack up when the golden hours are over, even if it seems like the light is gone!

Open shade

In landscape photography, open shade consists of areas not lit by direct sunlight. The light is soft, and you’ll often find it in forested areas, along with steep valleys and mountainsides.

The best part about this type of light? You can shoot all day without stopping, since the light never really declines in quality.

But you’ll need to stay firmly in the shade; step out into the sun, and your shots will become harsh and likely unpleasant.

Combination light: direct and diffused

Combination light refers to situations with both direct and diffused light. You’ll rarely find this in intimate landscapes; instead, look for it in broad, sweeping vistas, especially those with lots of elevation differences (i.e., mountains).

You see, you’ll sometimes get situations where part of the landscape is covered by clouds, but the rest is lit by beautiful sun. I’ve included an example below so you can understand the beauty of this effect. It was shot on Mt. Whitney in the Eastern Sierra, and there were rays of morning horizontal sunlight shining from behind me while a portion of the mountain was shaded or diffused by the clouds overhead. The result? A gorgeous spotlight effect on the mountain peaks!

This was the result of several hours of waiting for the light, and we were greatly surprised and rewarded for our efforts.

Human-made light

Most landscape photographers don’t think about human-made light…

…but it can actually be helpful, especially if you like creative effects in your photos.

For one, you can use the lights of cars to create beautiful light trails. In the example below, taken on the Big Sur coast at dusk, I captured a row of car lights with a long exposure and a sturdy tripod.

You can also use human-made light to carefully illuminate subjects with a flashlight (this technique is known as light painting).

Landscape photography lighting: final words

Well, there you have it:

All the fundamentals of lighting a landscape photo. Start by committing the different light types to memory – and get in the habit of looking at the light, evaluating it, and determining whether it works well for photography.

Pretty soon, you’ll be a lighting master!

Now over to you:

Do you have a favorite kind of landscape light? A least favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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The post Landscape Photography Lighting: A Comprehensive Guide appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Holly Higbee-Jansen.

The Best Camera Settings for Portrait Photography, Explained

Sat, 09/18/2021 - 06:00

The post The Best Camera Settings for Portrait Photography, Explained appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Craig Beckta.

What are the absolute best settings for portrait photography? In other words, what settings can you consistently use to create stunning portraits?

In this article, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about portrait photography settings. I’ll cover both natural light portrait shooting and flash portrait shooting. And whether you’re brand new to photography or a seasoned pro, you’re bound to benefit from these tips.

Let’s dive in, starting with portrait photography in natural light:

The best camera settings for portrait photography using natural light

While it isn’t a requirement, I do suggest you start by setting your camera to Manual mode. That way, you’ll have more creative control over your exposure – and sure, it might take a little extra time to capture your images as you fiddle with your settings, but you are a much better judge of how you want the final image to look than your camera, so you’ll get superior results.

As for your ISO, shutter speed, and aperture:

The best ISO for portraits

I recommend you pick your ISO first, mostly because it’s easy to set and forget. For natural light portrait photography, your ISO should almost always be your camera’s base option (ISO 100, ISO 160, and ISO 200 are three of the most common base values). That way, you avoid excessive noise and capture the best possible image quality.

When shooting in low light, you may need to boost your ISO, but do it conservatively – only bump up the ISO after you’ve widened your aperture and dropped your shutter speed.

The best aperture for portraits

Next, I recommend you decide on the perfect aperture. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach; instead, you’ll need to determine whether you want a blurry background or a sharp background.

If you’re after a blurry background, use an aperture such as f/1.4. But if you’d like more of the background in focus (or you’re hoping to maximize image sharpness), stop down by two or three stops to f/4, f/5.6, or f/8.

In general, portrait photographers prefer a blurry background approach (and all of the images in this article use it, as well). So if you like that style, then a wide aperture is the way to go.

Be careful not to go too wide, however. You don’t want to use such a shallow depth of field that your subject’s nose is out of focus!

The best shutter speed for portraits

At this point, you’ve set your ISO based on image quality considerations, and you’ve set your aperture based on aesthetics.

So what’s the next step? To choose your shutter speed. Here’s what you do: Simply check your in-camera meter, and adjust your shutter speed until you get a center (i.e., well-exposed) reading. Then take a test shot and have a look at your camera’s LCD screen and histogram.

Make sure your histogram is as far to the right as possible without blowing out the highlights. If highlights are blown out, then go ahead and increase your shutter speed. If the image is too dark, go ahead and lengthen your shutter speed.

Once you’ve nailed the exposure, consider the shutter speed duration. And ask yourself: Is this fast enough for a sharp shot? After all, a well-exposed image is worth nothing if it turns out blurry.

A general rule is to set your shutter speed at twice the focal length of your lens (or faster). For example, if you’re using a 100mm lens, then you would set a minimum shutter speed of 1/200s to avoid camera shake and image blur.

There are exceptions to this rule. If you are using a tripod, you have in-camera stabilization, or you are using a lens with built-in stabilization, then you can photograph at slower shutter speeds without issue. Otherwise, however, make sure your shutter speed conforms to this “double the focal length” guideline (and always take a test shot or two, then zoom in on your LCD to make sure everything is sharp).

By the way, if your shutter speed is too slow, then as you raise it, you’ll need to either widen your aperture or boost your ISO to compensate for the loss of light. Either can work, so you need to determine which value you can sacrifice.

The best camera settings for portrait photography using flash

Portrait flash photography might seem overwhelming – but the basic settings are actually quite simple.

Note that these generally stay the same regardless of whether you’re using an on-camera flash, a small speedlight, or a studio strobe setup. Make sense?

Also, for this portion of the article, I’m going to assume you’re using only studio light to illuminate your subject, not a mixture of studio light and ambient light.

Let’s get started.

The best shutter speed for flash portraits

In flash photography, the shutter speed matters little.

Simply set your shutter speed to the flash sync speed, which is generally 1/200s (if you go over the sync speed value, you’ll end up with a dark band running across the edge of your images).

You’re free to go below the sync speed, but I generally recommend sticking to it for your entire photoshoot.

The best aperture for flash portraits

The aperture is one of three variables you can use to control the exposure of a flash portrait (with ISO and flash power as the other two).

Technically, you can select your aperture based on depth of field considerations, but the wider the aperture, the lower the necessary flash power for a good exposure, so you’ll need to be careful not to go too wide.

A good starting point is f/8 or so, but feel free to adjust this depending on your aesthetic (or exposure) needs.

The best ISO for flash portraits

As with natural light portraits, you should keep the ISO as low as possible for optimal image quality.

So set the ISO to your camera’s base option and forget about it. You might consider raising the ISO if you need to boost the exposure but don’t want to adjust the aperture or light power, but in general, the ISO should remain untouched.

Strobe power

When working with flash, you’ll have one more variable to contend with: flash power.

This is where you’ll want to spend most of your time, and you can use your strobe’s variable power settings to achieve proper exposures when shooting portraits.

So first determine your shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Then adjust the strobe power until you get a good result.

One more portrait settings tip

Here’s one last tip: Set your camera’s LCD screen brightness level to 4 or 5 and leave it there. Make sure your LCD screen brightness is not set to Auto. It will be difficult for you to gauge your exposure level if the brightness is constantly changing.

So check your camera’s settings, set your LCD screen brightness level manually, and keep your camera on the same setting for future photo outings.

The best portrait photography camera settings: final words

Well, you should now know exactly what kind of settings to use for beautiful portrait photos. And with a little practice, you’ll be shooting like a pro.

So head out with your camera. Have fun. And practice your exposures!

Now over to you:

Do you have any portrait photography settings advice? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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The post The Best Camera Settings for Portrait Photography, Explained appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Craig Beckta.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Blurry Background

Fri, 09/17/2021 - 16:00

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Blurry Background appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

Welcome to this week’s photography challenge! The aim is to get you to try photographing new things every week, to maybe try photographing things you’ve not tried before, or to get you thinking in a different way to maybe create a different image if you have photographed the theme before.

Be inspired by the photos that others post, try recreate them for yourselves. You can contribute a photograph directly into the comments of this post (Scroll all the way down for the comments section) or you can share them in our Facebook group.

This week’s Theme is Blurry Background what will you do for your photograph?

Via: How to achieve Background Blur or Bokeh [click]

You can call it Bokeh or Blurry Background (Though Bokeh is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in out-of-focus parts of an image.) but this week we want to see your background blur!

Unsure what we mean? Here are some great examples…

Remember to tag us in your photos if you post them on social media!

Closer you get, more chance of background blur you have – Yoda* (*not really) [click]

Good luck with your photograph and most of all have fun!

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Blurry Background appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

Luminar Neo to Offer Advanced AI Photo Editing (and Debut This Winter)

Fri, 09/17/2021 - 06:00

The post Luminar Neo to Offer Advanced AI Photo Editing (and Debut This Winter) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Skylum has announced yet another eye-catching photo-editing program, Luminar Neo, billing the software as “a creative image editor driven by AI technologies of the future.”

As the company behind Luminar 4 and Luminar AI – programs that debuted innovative, AI-based tools such as AI Sky Replacement and Composition AI – Skylum is no stranger to success in the AI photo editing market. And Luminar Neo aims to improve upon the Skylum formula, offering amateur photographers an AI route to pro-level edits, along with higher-level control for advanced shooters.

Yet Luminar Neo isn’t a simple Luminar AI iteration. According to Skylum, Luminar Neo “is a quintessence of all [the company’s] applications released to date,” and “will retain almost all of Luminar AI’s features” but add “all-new, cutting-edge, AI-powered tools.” 

For current Luminar AI users wondering whether it makes sense to upgrade, Skylum spells out the difference between Luminar AI and Luminar Neo:

“Luminar AI is the easiest-to-use image editor fully powered by artificial intelligence for those who prefer a time-saving, Template-driven workflow for quick results…Luminar Neo is for those who want more editing options and more creative control.”

In other words, while anyone – including complete beginners – will feel at home in Luminar AI, the new Luminar Neo pushes in the direction of programs like Luminar 4 and Adobe Lightroom Classic, both offering a slew of tools for enthusiasts and pros alike.

Skylum has already teased a handful of new Luminar Neo tools, including a powerful photo relighting option, intelligent background switching, sensor dust removal, power line removal, and some form of AI masking, but we’ll have to wait to learn precisely how these features work and who they’re for.

Luminar Neo has no release date – the promotional materials merely claim a “winter” launch – though you can expect an announcement sometime in the next few months. An early December release would make sense, given the upcoming holiday season. And if you know you want Luminar Neo, you can preorder a one-time license for $54 USD.

So who should think about buying Luminar Neo? The new program should suit serious hobbyists all the way up through advanced amateurs (and potentially even pros). If you like the idea of creative AI effects but still want to be in control, Neo is likely a better pick than Luminar AI. On the other hand, if you’re looking for an ultra-easy, no-effort-necessary editor, Luminar AI is the better option.

Now over to you:

What do you think of Luminar Neo? Will you purchase it? Does it sound good? Bad? Are you disappointed? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post Luminar Neo to Offer Advanced AI Photo Editing (and Debut This Winter) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

50mm Street Photography: What Makes It Great (+ Tips)

Thu, 09/16/2021 - 06:00

The post 50mm Street Photography: What Makes It Great (+ Tips) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

There’s a longstanding debate about whether 50mm street photography is the right way to go, or if wider lenses are a better choice. Most people who practice street photography prefer lenses with a broader field of view like 35m or 28mm, but that doesn’t mean 50mm is useless. Far from it, in fact.

There are many good reasons to choose this focal length when shooting photos out on the street. Shooting with a 50mm lens also unlocks lots of photographic possibilities – along with adding some creative constraints – and the results you get just might be among your all-time favorite pictures.

Reasons to use a 50mm lens for street photography

The first lens I ever purchased for my DSLR was a 50mm f/1.8, and I still use that same lens today. It’s kind of a jack of all trades option, and it lets me get great shots in a variety of situations, especially when shooting with a full-frame camera.

I have since picked up a variety of other lenses but find myself returning to the classic “nifty fifty” time and again, especially for street photography. It has a charm and sense of character to it that other lenses can’t match, and it’s a great option for beginner street photographers who want to step up from their kit zoom lenses.

In other words: There are plenty of reasons to use a 50mm lens for street photography. Not convinced yet? Here are some of my favorite reasons to stick with a 50mm lens when shooting on the street, starting with:

1. 50mm helps isolate your subject Nikon D200 | 50mm f/1.8G | f/2.8 | 1/1250s | ISO 100

Streets are filled with activity: pedestrians, vehicles, tourists, animals, and much more. Shooting with a wide-angle lens makes it easy to capture an entire scene – but difficult to isolate a single subject.

On the other hand, when you use a 50mm lens, the field of view is constrained, so your subject is often isolated amidst the chaos, hustle, and bustle of daily life.

While you can get a similar effect with a wider lens simply by moving closer to your subject, you may feel like you are imposing on your subject’s personal space. Shooting with a 50mm lens is a great way to make your subject stand out while also maintaining a comfortable distance.

2. 50mm lenses have amazing depth of field Nikon D200 | 50mm f/1.8G | f/1.8 | 1/3200s | ISO 100

Every lens adjusts the depth of field, but it’s much easier to manipulate DoF on a 50mm lens compared to a wider lens. To get pleasing foreground or background blur on a 28mm or 35mm lens, you need to close the distance between you and your subject or shoot with a very wide aperture, which tends to get expensive.

Moving near to your subjects is fine if you are comfortable getting close to strangers, but lots of street photographers like to leave a bit of distance. Thankfully, the large f/1.8 or f/1.4 aperture on most 50mm lenses lets you get sharp subjects and beautiful background blur even while standing back a bit. This depth of field can be the difference between a decent photo and a great one, and it’s a great tool to have in your back pocket for when you really need it.

Of course, longer focal lengths like 85mm or 105mm give you even more control over depth of field, but these options can isolate your subject a little too much. Whereas 50mm hits the sweet spot; it lets you get enough in the frame while also offering fine control over depth of field.

3. 50mm helps you capture fast action

Some might cry foul on this one, since any lens can capture fast action as long as you can get a quick shutter speed – but once again we find that a 50mm lens hits the sweet spot. As long as you have plenty of light and good autofocus, you can freeze a moment in time with any lens, but if you want to do this in a street setting, 50mm is the way to go.

With a wide f/1.4 or f/1.8 aperture, you can easily get a shutter speed of 1/500s or 1/1000s in most lighting conditions, which is plenty for stopping movement and eliminating motion blur. And the midrange focal length is perfect for honing in on one subject while not interfering with the movement that you are trying to capture.

If you want a bit more reach, you can shoot with a 50mm lens on a crop-sensor camera, which will put you even closer to the action when photographing, say, musicians or street performers. The 50mm focal length is ideal for freezing motion on a single subject and focusing your viewers’ attention, which is tricky when shooting with wider focal lengths.

4. 50mm gets you close to your subject Nikon D200 | 50mm f/1.8G | f/2.8 | 1/1250s | ISO 200

Here’s one of my favorite aspects of shooting with a 50mm lens:

It’s not really a wide-angle lens, but also not really a telephoto lens. It exists in the gray middle ground between those two extremes, and as such, lets you tap into the power of both. This means you can get up close and personal with subjects on the street without being too close, especially if you shoot with a crop-sensor camera. You can also stand back and give yourself some breathing room while getting near enough to make a personal image.

I’ve shot street photos with a variety of focal lengths and consistently found that 50mm strikes the best balance. Wider lenses capture entire scenes, while telephoto lenses are great for portraits. But 50mm lens lets you capture scenes that also feel personal by bringing you just close enough to your subject, and the results can be amazing.

5. 50mm gives you a unique perspective Nikon D200 | 50mm f/1.8 | f/4.8 | 1/640s | ISO 200

While some people think the 50mm focal length is boring, I have found the opposite to be true, especially for shooting street photos.

When capturing the image above, I was on top of a three-story parking garage and shooting straight down to get a shot of the pathway light. While I was framing the shot, a pedestrian happened to walk through the image, and I got a picture that wouldn’t work at all with a wider or longer lens.

I frequently come across situations like this with 50mm lenses, where a wider focal length would ruin the shot. It’s this unique perspective that makes 50mm so good for street photography. You get a perspective that takes ordinary scenes and turns them into interesting, creative photo opportunities that can ignite your curiosity and inspire your imagination.

50mm street photography tips

When venturing out with your 50mm lens, it’s important to keep a few tips in mind. While each individual photographer has to find their own style, methods, and approach to photography, here are some lessons I have learned that will help you get better photos, consistently:

1. Don’t always shoot wide open Nikon D200 | 50mm f/1.8G | f/4 | 1/6000s | ISO 200

Wide-aperture lenses are outstanding photography tools, but when not used carefully, they can cause problems.

It’s tempting to shoot wide open at f/1.8, f/1.4, or even f/1.2 if your 50mm lens has that capability. But while the results can be sublime, there are a lot of reasons to stop down to f/2.8, f/4, or even smaller, especially when doing street photography.

For one, a smaller aperture gives you more wiggle room with depth of field, plus it results in better overall image sharpness. Street photographers often use zone focusing, which is extremely difficult when shooting at very wide apertures, especially on a 50mm lens.

Also, shooting wide open can occasionally give you too much background blur, to the point that it’s distracting or downright ugly. My rule of thumb is to use my 50mm lens one or two stops down from its widest aperture for most street shooting, then open it up all the way for those situations where you really need it.

2. Capture action through panning Nikon D200 | 50mm f/1.8G | f/13 | 1/15s | ISO 100

If you really want to take your street photography to the next level, try some panning shots. This is a great way to capture motion using long shutter speeds, especially with a 50mm lens.

Start with a small aperture – try f/8 – and a relatively slow shutter speed, such as 1/30s. Then put your camera in continuous high-speed shooting mode, set your autofocus to AF-C instead of AF-S, and fire away as a cyclist, pedestrian, or automobile zooms past.

It might take a few tries to get the shot you want, but with a little practice, you will soon create works of street art that you will be proud to print and hang on the wall or share on social media.

3. Look for light and shadow Nikon D200 | 50mm f/1.8G | f/4 | 1/800s | ISO 100

This tip isn’t specific to a 50mm lens, but in my experience, it’s easier with one. You see, the constrained field of view at 50mm makes situations of light and shadow easier to find, since it forces your eye to look at a smaller portion of the world compared to a wider lens.

When shooting on the street, look for unique photo opportunities that use light and shadow in creative ways. Try shooting silhouettes or using backlighting to create interesting photo opportunities. Pay attention to the time of day and adjust your shooting accordingly. I really like going out in the early morning or late evening when the sun casts long shadows over everything; you can create amazing photos that you just can’t get at other times.

4. Capture moments, not people Nikon D200 | 50mm f/1.8G | f/2.8 | 1/1250s | ISO 200

This is another tip that’s good for any street photography situation, but one that is often enhanced when shooting with a 50mm lens. Try to capture moments in time that display singular elements of humanity: purpose, decisiveness, intention, drive, and so on. Don’t just get shots of people standing around, wandering aimlessly, or sitting and staring at their phones. Look for emotions like love, caring, compassion, happiness, or fear.

Take pictures that tell a story, such as the one above, which I shot on a college campus on Valentine’s Day. A 50mm lens is ideal for these human moments – you can stand back a bit, get your subjects sharp and focused, and create a sense of three-dimensional space through careful use of aperture and depth of field. This elevates your street photos from flat, boring images of random passersby to slices of life that showcase the best of what humans have to offer in this world.

50mm street photography: conclusion Nikon D200 | 50mm f/1.8G | f/16 | 1/20s | ISO 100

Street photography is all about personal choice and finding a style that works for you. While the 50mm street photography isn’t the first option for many people, it has some distinct advantages and unique qualities that can help you create impressive images and develop your own artistic vision.

If you have never tried shooting street photos with a 50mm lens, give it a try. I think you’ll like what you see!

Now over to you:

What do you think of 50mm street photography? Have you tried it? Do you have any images you’re proud of? Share your thoughts and photos in the comments below!

Nikon D7100 | 50mm f/1.8G | f/2.8 | 1/8000s | ISO 1100

The post 50mm Street Photography: What Makes It Great (+ Tips) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

RAW vs JPEG: Which File Type Is Best?

Wed, 09/15/2021 - 06:00

The post RAW vs JPEG: Which File Type Is Best? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

Which is right for you, RAW vs JPEG? For beginners, it’s one of the toughest questions out there – but I’m here to help you make a confident, informed decision, one that you won’t regret five, ten, or twenty years down the line.

Specifically, I’m going to explain:

  • What RAW and JPEG files actually are
  • The advantages (and disadvantages) of RAW over JPEG
  • The advantages (and disadvantages) of JPEG over RAW
  • Software to consider for RAW and JPEG images
  • Much more!

So if you’re ready to determine the perfect file format for your photos – and put this pesky question to bed, once and for all – then let’s get started.

RAW vs JPEG: What’s the difference?

These days, pretty much every camera – including smartphones – has the option to shoot in RAW, JPEG, or both. These are file formats, simply different ways of rendering and storing your image after you hit the shutter button.

However, while both RAWs and JPEGs will do a decent job of faithfully capturing a scene, they aren’t equally capable and do offer different functionalities, benefits, and drawbacks.

So let’s look at some quick definitions before doing an in-depth comparison:

What is a RAW file?

RAW files are unprocessed, unfiltered, raw data that comes straight from your image sensor.

Therefore, a RAW file cannot be viewed by the human eye (it’s not a visual display!), and must be converted to another file format such as a JPEG or a TIFF for actual viewing.

Because RAW files are unprocessed, they have zero sharpening, chromatic aberration removal, saturation, contrast, etc., applied to them. In fact, when RAW files are initially rendered for viewing, they tend to look quite unimpressive, with low contrast, low saturation, and a touch of softness.

Note that different cameras produce different RAW files, such as .CR2, .NEF, and .CR3. So when processing a RAW file, your software must be compatible with the specific RAW format.

What is a JPEG file?

A JPEG is a standard image file format that’s readable by pretty much every image program on the market, as well as internet browsers. In other words, a JPEG is an essentially universal method of displaying images.

However, unlike a RAW file, a JPEG is a processed version of an image. In fact, a JPEG image always starts out as a RAW file, but then undergoes various modifications, often including:

  • Compression (where some image data is deliberately discarded)
  • Sharpening
  • Increased saturation
  • Increased contrast

This processing occurs in your camera, by the way, not on the computer (though you can certainly further process a JPEG in a program such as Lightroom). So as soon as you put your memory card into your laptop and pull up a JPEG, it’s already been edited in camera.

The benefits of shooting in RAW

Why shoot in RAW over JPEG? Here are the most important reasons:

1. RAW files are higher quality

Remember how I mentioned that JPEG files are compressed and are missing data, whereas RAW files are, well, raw?

This comes with a serious consequence: RAW files can be converted into beautiful, large, detailed images. And while JPEGs can look great, you may end up with unpleasant compression artifacts such as banding, halos, loss of detail, and more.

2. RAW files allow for greater highlight and shadow recovery

RAW files contain information at dynamic range extremes – the brightest highlights and the darkest shadows. So even when an image appears totally blown out or underexposed, you can often recover detail in clipped areas.

But JPEGs discard this information, so if you blow out the sky and want to bring back some detail, you’re probably out of luck.

3. RAW files allow for extensive image adjustments (i.e., post-processing)

RAW files are uncompressed. Therefore, you have plenty of latitude when post-processing your photos. You can tweak contrast, change colors, adjust tones – and a RAW file will take it all in stride.

JPEGs, on the other hand, cannot be modified extensively. And when pushed or pulled too much, JPEGs will start to show banding and other problematic artifacts.

The benefits of shooting in JPEG

Why shoot in JPEG over RAW? Let’s take a look at the primary JPEG pros:

1. JPEGs are small

Remember how RAW files contain all of the information captured by your camera, whereas JPEGs are compressed? Well, it majorly reduces JPEG file size – so while a RAW file might take up 20 MB of storage (or more), JPEGs take up substantially less.

This is a big deal for two reasons:

  1. If you’re working on a computer with limited space and you don’t want to spend lots of money on external hard drives, JPEGs can be a lifesaver.
  2. You can fire off bursts of shots without stopping because your camera can record JPEGs much faster than RAW files. Here, the specifics will depend on your camera; for reference, the Canon EOS R5 can shoot around 350 JPEGs at 12 frames per second, compared to 180 uncompressed RAW files.
2. JPEGs require zero processing time

Don’t want to spend lots of time behind the computer? No problem; JPEGs are instantly viewable and are processed in camera.

Yes, you can process them beyond your camera’s sharpening, contrast, and saturation adjustments, but it’s not a requirement, and you can share JPEGs to social media without stopping for a lengthy Lightroom edit.

So which should you choose, RAW or JPEG?

That depends on you – on what you like to shoot and how you like to shoot it.

If you want to create high-quality prints, or you want to spend time post-processing (i.e., enhancing and correcting) your photos, or you want the ability to do either of those things just in case, then you absolutely must be shooting in RAW.

In fact, if you’re on the fence about shooting in JPEG or RAW even after reading this far, then I highly recommend you just switch your camera over to RAW and leave it there. RAW files are just too darn useful to give up unless you have a really good reason to shoot JPEGs.

And if it helps, nearly all professionals and serious hobbyists shoot in RAW, especially those who photograph:

  • Landscapes
  • Wildlife
  • Flowers
  • Insects
  • Architecture
  • Cityscapes
  • Weddings/events

Of course, as I emphasized above, there are reasons to shoot in JPEG. I’d recommend going the JPEG route if you absolutely hate post-processing and don’t think you’ll ever want to work in Lightroom; that way, you’ll have easily shareable images that require no extra work. And if you don’t have the storage for RAW photos, then JPEGs are the way to go.

I’d also recommend using JPEGs if you’re photographing on a very tight deadline (self-imposed or otherwise) and you need to get your images uploaded and viewable, fast. If you’re shooting a family party, for instance, you could work in JPEG then immediately share all the images on Facebook without a significant delay for editing.

Finally, you might consider using JPEGs if you want to use your camera’s burst mode without restraint. The other option, however, is purchasing a camera with a very deep buffer, and I’d urge you to go this route if possible (that way, you can shoot indiscriminately and you can capture RAW files).

So to recap:

Unless you have a serious reason to shoot JPEGs, then shoot RAW. And by the way: most cameras have the option to shoot both RAW and JPEG files (the RAW+JPEG mode). So if you need shareable JPEGs but also want the option to do in-depth processing or printing, it’s a great mode to try.

What software is good to use with RAWs?

If you do decide to shoot in RAW, you’ll need some form of post-processing software; that way, you can convert your photos from RAW to JPEG for viewing and sharing.

Here are some of my favorite RAW editing programs, both free and paid:

  • Adobe Lightroom Classic
  • Adobe Lightroom CC
  • Adobe Camera Raw
  • Capture One
  • ON1 Photo RAW
  • Darktable
  • ACDSee
  • DxO PhotoLab
  • RawTherapee
RAW vs JPEG: final considerations

Now that you’ve finished this article, you’re hopefully ready to pick your file format and start shooting.

As I emphasized above, RAW is probably the better way to go, unless you’re really drawn to the JPEG format.

And RAW+JPEG can be the best of both worlds, assuming you can handle the extra storage requirements.

The above article on RAW vs JPEG files was submitted by Richard and Rebecca from Finn Productions. You can see their Flickr account here.

The post RAW vs JPEG: Which File Type Is Best? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

9 Reasons Photography Is a Great Hobby (in 2021)

Tue, 09/14/2021 - 06:00

The post 9 Reasons Photography Is a Great Hobby (in 2021) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Stacey Hill.

What makes photography such a great hobby?

People become interested in photography – serious photography, not just the occasional snap or selfie – for many reasons. It might be a major life event, such as a new baby, a wedding, or a special birthday. It might be that your phone’s photo capabilities frustrate you enough that you want to get real about photography. Or perhaps photography just sounds interesting and you want to try it out.

Whatever the reason, photography is incredibly fun, plus it comes with a whole host of benefits you probably haven’t considered. And that’s what this article will share: the 9 reasons you should definitely start doing photography right now!

Let’s dive right in, starting with reason number one:

1. Photography will help you record events and memories

Photography allows you to create images of special events, times, and places. It lets you record the specifics of an event – and it also allows you to share that event with friends and family, long after it’s done and gone.

By capturing a special moment in time, you can always remember it in crisp detail, even as your mental memories begin to fade. Plus, those memories will eventually become part of your history, perhaps even family lore. And they won’t just be passed down through stories; they’ll be passed down through images, too.

As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

This was a photo from a memorable moment: I saw a rare falcon!

2. You’ll have fun

You can have so much fun with a camera.

You can head out with the family to the beach or on a picnic, shoot a local sports games, randomly roam your city streets photographing strangers, stalk wildlife, hike up a mountain for a stunning view, or stand under the stars at 2 AM and watch the Milky Way slowly move across the heavens.

In other words: Photography offers many opportunities to do new, interesting, and fun things with your camera – things you may not have done otherwise.

Plus, all sorts of things become interesting when they can provide you with material for photographic adventures. Cultural festivals, parades, sports events, a wander along the beach, exploring parts of your city previously undiscovered, architectural details on buildings, intricate details of flowers, people-watching, wildlife, meeting people who have different interests and hobbies, and much more; thanks to photography, it’ll be tons of fun.

Hanging out with the zombies at a Zombie Run event.

3. Learning a new skill is good for your brain

Research shows that learning a new skill helps the brain and improves memory. And the more difficult the skill, the more you benefit.

Given that photography has so many elements – the science of light, the technology of the camera, the creative artistic side – there is a lot to learn.

So whatever your age, now is the perfect time to start a photography hobby.

4. Photography will improve your health and fitness

Photography won’t just keep your brain in shape; it’ll keep your body in shape, too!

Getting out of the house, walking, and even hiking are common side effects of interest in photography. Do you like landscape photography? Then you’ll need to go where the landscapes are, and that often means some form of exercise. Do you want to photograph people? Then you’ll need to walk the streets, which requires plenty of physical activity.

Of course, not all forms of photography require strenuous exercise. If you prefer a more easygoing approach, that’s okay, too; genres such as macro photography and portrait photography will get you out of the house, but won’t make you feel like a marathon runner. Make sense?

One caveat: Camera gear is heavy, so it’s important to be aware of any health or safety concerns. Carrying a camera on a strap around your neck (plus a backpack on your back) for a long time can be quite painful. Fortunately, there are many lightweight cameras available, not to mention excellent camera-carrying devices, compact tripods, and other burden-easing equipment.

5. You get to be creative

In her book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about creativity and inspiration. She says that creativity is good for us as individuals, and that the feeling you get when you finally capture an awesome sunrise photo, the feeling you get when you finally capture the image, is a wonderful thing.

But being creative is something we rarely do as adults. Enter photography, which is hugely creative and allows for endless flexibility in shooting and artistic style. That style can grow as you learn more and start to experiment with different genres.

Bottom line: Creativity is fun, and it provides a necessary counterbalance for the stressful demands of a modern lifestyle.

6. Photography will get you traveling

Here’s another likely outcome of taking up photography:

You’ll travel all over the place, from different parts of your own city or country all the way to the other side of the globe. There is so much interesting stuff to photograph in other places, including landscapes, wildlife, architecture, and people from other cultures.

Now, travel broadens the mind and exposes you to new concepts and ideas, plus it’s an excellent learning opportunity. It provides so much creative variety and possibilities for personal growth.

Also, travel is just tons of fun!

So if you do take up photography, make sure you jump on the opportunity to travel, even if you only go a couple of hours away. It can provide entirely new situations and vistas! Be brave and venture forth.

7. You’ll meet lots of new people

Looking to meet new people and make new friends? Well, meeting interesting people during your photographic adventures is pretty common. For instance, you might ask a local for advice on how to find a certain viewpoint – and they’ll end up showing you the way!

Or you might start talking with someone who is curious about your photography, which can lead to a great afternoon of conversation.

Once you get serious, you can even consider organizing a meetup with local photo enthusiasts in your area. And who knows? You might make a new adventure buddy and a new friend!

By the way, if you are friendly and courteous with your camera, many people are often happy to pose. Engaging with other people ensures you make more of a connection, and the resulting images are often powerful and emotional. So while keeping personal safety in mind, be brave and say hello.

8. You can become part of a community

The photography community – both online and in person – can be very supportive. After all, sharing your passion with other people around the world who speak your language, understand your challenges, and have had similar experiences can very helpful.

So I highly recommend you engage with a photographic community of some sort.

What communities are best? Well, online forums and social media platforms can be good places to find those secret local waterfall spots, where certain rare birds might be nesting, etc. People may be willing to give assistance with problems, critique your images, and provide an all-around welcoming place to hang out and chat about your hobby. (The dPS community on Facebook is a great place to start!)

Of course, you can also look at in-person options, such as camera clubs, meetup groups, photowalks, and more.

A photographer in their natural state on a photowalk.

9. You can develop a style that is uniquely yours

No matter your passion, you can explore it via photography in whatever creative way you want. When starting out, it pays to have an understanding of the basic guidelines for composition and light, but don’t let them limit you. Challenge them, break them, and see what happens. It might work, it might not, but either way, it will be a learning experience.

Eventually, you’ll start to approach the world in a way that is specific to you. That’s when you’ll have developed a style of your own (which is a wonderful feeling, by the way!).

There are many different types and styles of photography, and you can adapt whatever you do to your individual desires and needs. There is space for all different approaches, from the classic landscape, nature, wildlife, street, portrait, and sports styles, to all the different variations in between. So don’t feel like photography constrains you – instead, you shape it!

Reasons why photography is a great hobby: final words

Photography adds so much value to our lives – by recording special events, people, and places, while also helping us learn and grow as people. It allows you to share your life and experiences in meaningful ways, and it allows you to engage and have fun with other people.

Photography is a hobby that offers so many possibilities for creative expression and technical expertise. Age is not a barrier to learning a new hobby, and if all you have is the camera on your phone, that’s okay; you can start with that.

So here’s my challenge to you:

Head out sometime today and take your first photo.

Now over to you:

Which of these reasons speaks to you the most? Have you already started photography? What is your favorite photographic genre? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post 9 Reasons Photography Is a Great Hobby (in 2021) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Stacey Hill.

Optical Versus Electronic Viewfinders: Which Is Best in 2021?

Mon, 09/13/2021 - 06:00

The post Optical Versus Electronic Viewfinders: Which Is Best in 2021? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Which is better for photography, optical vs electronic viewfinders? It’s a tough question, one that’s been argued about for years, even as EVF technology was introduced, upgraded, and upgraded some more.

In this article, I aim to give a thorough overview of OVFs vs EVFs. I’ll cover the pros and cons of both viewfinder options, and I’ll explain why you might prefer to use one over the other.

By the time I’ve finished, you’ll hopefully know which viewfinder technology you prefer, and you’ll be able to confidently decide whether EVFs or OVFs are the way forward.

Let’s dive right in.

What is a viewfinder?

A viewfinder is one of the most basic elements of any camera; it’s what you use to look at the scene you plan to capture. When you hold your camera up to your eye, whether you’re photographing with a DSLR, mirrorless, film camera, or point-and-shoot device, the tiny little hole you look through is known as the viewfinder.

Now, not all cameras offer viewfinders. Some forego it altogether and just have a giant LCD screen on the back (in fact, you almost certainly own one of these models – a smartphone!). But it’s common for cameras to include a viewfinder along with the rear screen, especially higher-level models designed for serious enthusiasts and professionals.

Why is a viewfinder useful?

Since most cameras these days include some sort of LCD display, you may be wondering: Why do we even need viewfinders in the first place? Can’t I just compose using the rear LCD?

Well, even in today’s fast-paced, tech-centric world, there is a myriad of reasons why you might prefer to compose your shots with the viewfinder instead of the rear LCD screen. Here are a couple of major ones:

  1. The scene appears much larger in a viewfinder compared to an LCD, which gives you a better sense of how your picture will look, improves your ability to compose, etc.
  2. Pressing and holding your camera against your face makes things more stabilized.
  3. Following a moving subject with a viewfinder is (relatively) easy; following a moving subject with an LCD often feels impossible.

Ultimately, it’s generally worth purchasing a camera with a viewfinder, especially if you take your photography seriously.

Which brings me to the two types of viewfinders popular today: optical viewfinders and electronic viewfinders. Let’s take a look at each option in turn.

Optical viewfinders: the good

Optical viewfinders (OVFs) use decades-old technology, yet still have many staunch supporters. Their most important benefit, and the reason many photographers prefer OVFs over EVFs, is that they present an unfiltered and unaltered view of the scene as you compose your shot.

Looking through an optical viewfinder is no different than looking through a window: nothing is changed in any way, shape, or form. An OVF lets you see exactly what your shot will look like, and the view is not dependent on any type of fancy technology in order to function, plus it shows you a world that’s clear and contrasty and real.

In fact, optical viewfinders work even if your camera is turned off, in much the same way that looking through binoculars, a telescope, or even a paper towel roll can be done without a battery. Consequently, OVFs have no issue with accurate color rendition or screen refresh rates, nor do they struggle in low light; they’re windows, and your eye is simply peering through the glass.

Most optical viewfinders also have information along the bottom of the screen, such as an exposure bar, key camera settings, etc. OVFs also provide indicators for focus points as well as framing guides.

Optical viewfinders: the bad

Optical viewfinders do have some significant limitations, and these may be deal-breakers (depending on the type of photographs you like to take).

One of the most important OVF drawbacks is that you can’t see the image when you take a picture, a phenomenon known as viewfinder blackout. When you press the shutter button, the mirror in a DSLR camera flips up and out of the way to let light pass through to the image sensor. During this process, the OVF goes completely dark.

Viewfinder blackout isn’t very noticeable when using fast shutter speeds, but if you are shooting at about 1/30s or slower, you will see a big, blank box of nothing – just for a brief moment when you take a picture. In most situations, this blackout period is not going to make or break the photograph, but it can cause issues if you are shooting fast-moving subjects. In those cases, the short viewfinder blackout period can be enough for your subject to move around quite a bit.

Another disadvantage of optical viewfinders? They show you the world as it really is, not as it will appear in your final photograph. The OVF sees what your eyes see, which is not necessarily what your camera sensor sees.

Unless you have a solid grasp on metering modes, metering techniques, and how they affect your exposure, you’re at risk of creating pictures that are too bright or too dark. But peering through the OVF, your preview will look great, and it’s only after you’ve taken the photo that you’ll realize your shots are under- or overexposed.

Electronic viewfinders: the good

A handful of years ago, electronic viewfinders (EVFs) couldn’t compete with optical viewfinders – but EVF technology has come a long way, and they’re now used by plenty of professionals. What makes them so valuable?

Well, an EVF is a tiny, high-resolution screen that you hold less than an inch from your eye. Since it is entirely digital, it can show you a wealth of information and data – in addition to a representation of the scene you’re photographing. You can see things like a live histogram and a digital level, highlighted in-focus areas (i.e., focus peaking), focus guides, and more.

Also – and perhaps most important of all – electronic viewfinders show exactly what your scene will look like when photographed, not what the world in front of the lens looks like. Therefore, electronic viewfinders will let you see instantly, in real-time, whether your shot is exposed correctly. That way, you can make adjustments on the fly and fix exposure mistakes before they manifest.

Here’s another cool benefit of EVFs: They let you preview the scene in different modes, including black and white. Set your camera to its Monochrome mode, and the world through the EVF will instantly become black and white.

All in all, EVFs remove much of the guesswork inherent in OVFs. In many ways, this makes the act of taking pictures much easier, especially for new photographers.

Getting the exposure right was easy, thanks to my electronic viewfinder!

Electronic viewfinders: the bad

As you might expect, there are some important downsides to EVFs. For one, they consume a lot of power; cameras that rely on electronic viewfinders tend to have much shorter battery lives compared to their OVF-laden counterparts, and many photographers who use EVF cameras are in the habit of carrying spare batteries.

Also, though electronic viewfinders show you a good representation of what your final image will look like, they’re not perfect. In low light, EVFs can get pretty grainy, which is problematic for frequent night shooters. And while EVF clarity is decent (and getting better all the time), there’s an obvious difference between EVFs and OVFs in every situation.

EVF vs OVF: Which should you choose?

Like many aspects of photography, it all comes down to what will suit you and your needs as a photographer. Some people prefer the analog precision and clarity of an optical viewfinder, while others like the high-tech features offered by electronic viewfinders. At the end of the day, what really matters is that you use the right tool for the job.

So now that you’re familiar with OVF vs EVF technology, ask yourself: does one option suit my shooting style better than the other? If the answer is “Yes,” then by all means, go for that one!

Now over to you:

What do you think about optical vs electronic viewfinders? Do you prefer one over the other? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

The post Optical Versus Electronic Viewfinders: Which Is Best in 2021? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

7 Tips for Stunning Urban Landscape Photography

Sun, 09/12/2021 - 06:00

The post 7 Tips for Stunning Urban Landscape Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Leanne Cole.

Do you want to capture stunning urban landscape photos? While cities often feel chaotic and complex, there are actually a few simple tips you can use to take beautiful images, consistently.

And in this article, I aim to share my best city landscape advice, covering long exposure techniques, urban night photography, urban architecture, and more.

Let’s get started.

What is urban landscape photography?

Urban landscape photography involves capturing photos of cities and towns. Generally speaking, an urban landscape shot has a wide focus – covering more than just, say, a single human subject – and is taken outdoors.

An urban landscape photograph, taken in the early evening from a rooftop looking back toward the city.

As you can imagine, cities, especially bustling metropolises, are popular urban landscape locations. In fact, if you travel frequently, then you’ve probably taken an urban landscape or two without realizing it! Sometimes, this type of photo is referred to as a cityscape or a city landscape (see the shot above), but it’s also an urban landscape.

Of course, it’s also possible to capture urban landscapes in much more subdued locations. A small city, or even a little town, can make for beautiful results!

Now that you’re familiar with city landscape shooting and what it’s all about, let’s take a look at how to get great images, starting with my first tip:

1. Shoot street photos – but in context

Street photography can fall into two categories:

  1. Street portraits
  2. More environmental street photos

While the former doesn’t really work as an urban landscape, the latter definitely does. And by thinking carefully about contextual street scenes, you can capture some beautiful urban shots.

As you’re out shooting, look for scenes with people, but place them in their environment. The goal is to provide context: where the people are and what is happening. For instance, you might photograph a group of people shopping, surrounded by advertisements and window displays. Or you might photograph a single person sitting alone on a bench at the edge of the city.

A street scene showing the landscape and what people are doing in it.

Basically, anywhere that people hang out makes for interesting urban landscape photography. Just make sure you do more than shoot people. The environment matters, too!

2. Photograph from above

Images taken from high vantage points have the power to shock and amaze the viewer – especially where cities are involved.

So I highly recommend you take advantage of that capability, and elevate yourself whenever possible.

But how do you shoot from up above? These days, there are quite a few ways to photograph from high up. Some cities allow drone photography, which is a great way to capture unique, never-before-seen perspectives (though before you start flying a drone in your favorite shooting location, make sure to check for any flight regulations – you don’t want to cause problems or get in trouble).

Alternatively, you can try photographing from observation decks, which often offer great views. They’re not always easy to shoot from – you sometimes have to work through glass or fencing – but if you can make it work for you, the results will be breathtaking.

Finally, you might consider shooting from rooftops. High buildings work, assuming you can get access, but my personal favorite “organic” high-vantage points are parking garages, which often provide gorgeous views and plenty of shooting flexibility.

A view from above! This was taken from the Eureka Skydeck, an observation deck looking over Melbourne. 3. Have fun with long exposures

Long exposure photos pretty much always look stunning – and they look especially gorgeous when combined with dizzying views of buildings, gleaming glass facades, and other city-side delights.

So the next time you’re out, shoot some long exposures. You can feature single buildings as subjects, you can focus on skylines, or you can even shoot busy streets (that way, you can capture plenty of cool blur as people walk by!). You’ll come away with some magical shots.

While it’s possible to do powerful long exposure photos without special gear, I’d recommend grabbing a high-quality neutral density filter. It’ll block out the light so you can use shutter speeds between 30 seconds and several minutes, which is enough time to create beautiful blurry clouds, remove people and cars from streets, etc.

Pro tip: Try to use an extra-long exposure when photographing water. It’ll give you an ethereal result:

A long exposure of Melbourne taken across the river. 4. Shoot urban landscapes at night (including light trails!)

If you’re looking for unique urban landscape shots, here’s my recommendation:

Shoot the city after dark.

You see, urban environments look gorgeous when the sun goes down. The lights come on, the car headlights gleam, windows light up – in other words, the city looks magical.

Plus, you may not need a neutral density filter when shooting the city at night; depending on how bright or dim it is, you may be able to photograph at shutter speeds of a minute, two minutes, or longer.

You can also get great light trails at night. Look for streets that have some nice buildings in the background, then photograph for several minutes while the cars stream by.

5. Photograph interesting architecture

Every city strives to feature interesting buildings. After all, architects like to show off as much as the next person.

So no matter where you are, see if you can find the most beautiful structures in your city to photograph. They’re bound to look incredible.

By the way, if it interests you, try researching why a building was designed for an area, and find out if there’s something special and unique about it. This might provide inspiration for images (plus it can make the photography much more fun!).

Look for buildings that are nestled in with others, yet are the odd ones out. Perhaps there is an old building that is surrounded by new ones. Scenes like that can provide your images with an interesting story.

One of the most distinctive buildings in Melbourne, Flinders Street station. 6. Head back during different seasons (and weather)

People often forget how a city or town can look completely different in each season and during different weather conditions.

Of course, if you only go to a place once, you don’t get a lot of choices. But if you live nearby or visit the location often, then you can experience a wide variety of conditions – which can give rise to a wide variety of shots!

Throughout the year, changing seasons will give you numerous opportunities to capture unique scenes. Autumn has the colors, so trees in the streets or parks can add interesting flashes of red and gold. Winter will provide people bundled up against the cold and empty public places. In summer, everyone is in lighter, happier clothing, and the streets and parks are filled with people.

So consider what type of photos you want, then choose the season accordingly!

And think about the weather, too. Rain, hail, sun, snow – each will give your urban landscapes a different look. Photos of cities that are white from the snow can be magical. Rain will create reflective surfaces and make the city look bigger and shinier. You can’t control the weather, but you can take advantage of it!

Rain gave this cobblestoned street a shiny appearance. 7. Use leading lines

Cities look beautiful on their own, but your goal as a photographer should be about more than just capturing that beauty; you want to create something artistic, right?

That’s where compositional tricks such as leading lines come in. A leading line simply moves the eye through the image, from one area to another, and is a great way to engage the viewer.

But what can you use as a leading line? Honestly, pretty much anything line-shaped, but here are a few of my favorites:

  • Bridges
  • Streets
  • Street lamps
  • Building edges
  • People
  • Outstretched arms
  • Street signs
  • Train tracks
  • Buses
  • Cars

Really, anything that will lead people around an image will work. And you don’t have to rely on stationary elements; you can always use light trails from cars or even clouds blurring across the sky to direct the viewer around a photo. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

I used the bridge as a leading line to take you into early-morning Melbourne. Urban landscape photography: final words

You don’t have to follow all of these tips…

…but memorizing one or two will certainly take your urban landscape photography to the next level.

So head out into the city, look for some beautiful subjects, and have fun!

Now over to you:

Which of these tips do you plan to try out first? Do you have any city landscape tips of your own? Share them in the comments below!

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The post 7 Tips for Stunning Urban Landscape Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Leanne Cole.

Outdoor Portrait Photography: 12 Tips for Beautiful Results

Sat, 09/11/2021 - 06:00

The post Outdoor Portrait Photography: 12 Tips for Beautiful Results appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Guest Contributor.

If you’re looking to capture stunning outdoor portrait photography, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, I’m going to share my absolute favorite tips for outdoor portraits, including:

  • How to choose the perfect focal length
  • How to focus for tack-sharp results
  • The best light for outdoor portrait shooting
  • Key settings and file types
  • Much more!

So let’s improve your images, starting with my number one tip:

1. Never select all of the focus points for portraits

If you want to take beautiful portraits, consistently, then you’ve got to nail focusing.

And a huge, huge focusing mistake I see beginners make? Using either the Auto AF area mode, where the camera picks the focus point for you, or using a large number of focus points in the hopes that one will cover the subject.

Unfortunately, neither of those options works, and you’ll often end up with out-of-focus, blurry shots.

Instead, I recommend two options:

  1. For photographers using older cameras, pick a single focus point (the one in the center of the viewfinder works well). Then use that single point to lock focus (and recompose as necessary).
  2. For photographers with newer cameras, consider using your model’s Eye AF technology. This will hone in on your subject’s eye and (ideally) nail focus. Not all Eye AF is created equal, so before you devote yourself to it, make sure your camera does a good job. But if you do a test and come away with lots of sharp photos, it’s a great setting to use.
2. Always focus on the eyes

The eyes are the windows to the soul and should be the focal point of any good portrait. Plus, the eyes are the most detailed element on the face and should be portrayed that way.

(When you are shooting with a wide aperture and you’re focused on the eyes, the shallow depth of field effect will soften the skin, too.)

As discussed in the previous section, you should be focusing with either a single AF point or your camera’s Eye AF function. If you’re working with a single AF point, place it over the eye and lock focus, then recompose if required. If you’re working with your camera’s Eye AF, then make sure it’s finding your subject’s eye, then shoot with abandon!

3. Shoot with a wide aperture for a shallow depth of field

A wide aperture will produce a shallow depth of field effect, which blurs the background and makes your subject stand out.

So if you can shoot at f/2.8 or even f/1.8, you should. Of course, not all lenses can use such a wide aperture; some fail to go past f/5.6 and beyond. I’d recommend investing in a wide-aperture lens if possible (and there are plenty of wonderful budget options, such as a 50mm f/1.8).

4. Don’t shoot a portrait at less than 50mm; try to stay at 70mm or higher

The last thing you want to hear from a client is, “Why does my head look swollen?”

Which might happen if you insist on shooting at 35mm, 24mm, or wider.

Sure, it provides an interesting effect, but the distortion you get at focal lengths wider than 50mm generally isn’t flattering and should be avoided in nearly all circumstances.

(The exception is in the case of environmental portraits, where you can keep your subject small in the frame and use the wider focal length to provide context.)

Personally, I like shooting at 70mm and beyond. The longer the lens, the greater the compression effect, which in turn creates better background blur (i.e., bokeh). Most of my portraits are done between 120mm and 200mm.

If you’re just getting started with portrait photography, consider purchasing an 85mm lens. There are decently priced 85mm f/1.8 lenses on the market, which are relatively compact and will provide a nice background blur.

5. Always shoot in RAW, not JPEG

These words have bellowed from my mouth a thousand times, and they will surely come out a million more. The RAW file format is an unmodified compilation of your sensor’s data during the time of exposure. It is your digital negative. And it gives you immense post-processing flexibility, not to mention improved image quality.

When you shoot in JPEG format, much of what you capture is stripped away. You lose lots of key information, including color nuance and tonal range. It’s a recipe for disaster.

So stick to RAW files. Yes, they’re larger and require processing. But unless you’re a photojournalist on an ultra-tight deadline, they’re worth the extra effort.

(If you love the shareability of a JPEG and can’t see yourself shooting without it, then consider using your camera’s RAW+JPEG mode, which saves both a RAW file and a JPEG file at the time of capture.)

6. Always bring a gray card or a piece of a gray card for white balance

To avoid confusion, I am going to explain this backward. When opening Adobe Camera Raw or any other RAW image editing application, there is always a way to select a custom white balance. Usually, it is an eyedropper of some kind that you can use to click on what you think is neutral gray in your image.

Now, imagine a world where your photoshoot involved 4 locations and a total of 800 images, and all day your camera was set to Auto White Balance. You might end up with 800 different white balance values, a post-production nightmare.

But if at each location you have your subject hold the gray card on the first shot, you will save hours of work. When you open images in your favorite post-production application, all you have to do is click the eyedropper on the gray card, select all the photos from that location, and synchronize the edit. Precious hours will be saved.

(It may be wise to take a gray card shot once every 30 minutes or so to compensate for the changing light of day.)

7. Avoid direct sunlight in your outdoor portraits

Direct sunlight is harsh, makes your subject squint, and creates hard directional shadows and unpredictable white balance conditions.

Which is why you should avoid direct sun as much as possible.

Instead, shoot in one of three conditions:

  • Shade
  • Overcast skies
  • A low sun (i.e., around sunrise or sunset)

That way, you can lose the harsh shadows and photograph your subject in soft, flattering light. With proper exposure and white balance, you can make such shots look amazing.

8. If you must use direct sunlight, work carefully

In the previous section, I explained why you should never shoot in direct sunlight.

But sometimes you get stuck. A client insists on a particular photoshoot time and place, or the sun comes out from behind the beautiful clouds, and you’re forced to work with what you have.

And in such situations, you can take certain steps to get the best possible results.

First, pay careful attention to the direction of the light. Putting the sun directly behind your subject isn’t a good idea, unless you are trying to make a silhouette. Instead, try putting the sun at your back, then have the subject look off-camera (away from the sun) to prevent squinting. Another great trick is to wait for a cloud to move in front of the sun; this usually creates a very bright-yet-contrasty look.

Also, if possible, use some sort of reflector to minimize shadows on your subject. Invest in a portable, pop-up reflector, or – if necessary, use an existing reflector, which I discuss in more detail in the next section.

9. Work with a natural reflector

While outdoor photography might seem reflector-free, there are actually plenty of natural and human-made reflectors you can use to improve your photos.

Here are just a few outdoor reflector ideas:

  • White delivery trucks
  • White building walls
  • White cars
  • White sand
  • White signs
  • White tables

You get the idea? And if you’re heading into a location where a natural reflector might not exist, then make sure to bring one. As I mentioned above, you can buy a pop-up reflector, though you might also make one out of foam core or white cardboard.

10. Learn the Sunny 16 rule

The Sunny 16 rule is a classic guideline from the film days, one that lets you determine the proper exposure on sunny days – without an exposure meter.

Of course, pretty much every camera comes with an exposure meter these days, but it’s not always accurate, and it can be good to have a technique to fall back on in uncertain situations.

So here’s the Sunny 16 rule:

On a sunny day, with your aperture value set to ƒ/16, your shutter speed will be the inverse of your current ISO speed. If your camera is set to ISO 100 and your aperture value is ƒ/16, your shutter speed will be 1/100s. And if your camera is set to ISO 200 and your aperture value is f/16, your shutter speed will be 1/200s.

On a cloudy day (or when you’re shooting in the shade), you can simply use ƒ/8 instead.

11. Bring a sheet and a few spring clamps from home

You know that cheap old sheet you stuck in the corner of the closet to use as a drop cloth the next time you paint? Add it to your kit and take it with you every time you head out for an outdoor portrait shoot.

(Another option is to buy the cheapest low-thread-count white top sheet you can find.)

What should you do with it? Well, a sheet is an amazing, cheap diffuser – sort of a seven-foot softbox for the sun.

So take note of the sun’s position, then use the sheet to block the light. If you need a sidelight diffuser, clamp an edge of the sheet around a branch. Anchor the bottom corners with rocks to keep the sheet from blowing into your image.

For an overhead diffuser, clamp all four corners to branches above your subject.

12. Avoid powerlines and signs

We have already discussed keeping your camera focused on the eyes – but you must also keep the viewer’s mind focused on the image as a whole, specifically on your portrait subject.

Powerlines, signs, long single blades of grass, single pieces of garbage, and sometimes even trees can be serious distractions in an otherwise great outdoor portrait photo.

So before you take a single shot, look carefully at the area surrounding your subject. Do you see any distractions? Anything that might take away from the photo? If so, either clean it up, or move your subject into a position where such background distractions aren’t visible.

Look at the photo below. Do you see how clean the background is? That’s the goal.

Outdoor portrait photography: final words

Well, there you have it:

12 tips to take your outdoor portraits to the next level. Whether you’re capturing outdoor headshots, full-body shots, or even group shots, these tips should serve you well, so commit them to memory and use them the next time you’re out shooting.

Most importantly, have a great time! Enjoy what you’re doing, and it will show in your work!

This is a guest post by James Pickett.

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The post Outdoor Portrait Photography: 12 Tips for Beautiful Results appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Guest Contributor.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Hands

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 16:00

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Hands appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

We’re going to revisit our challenge ‘hands’ how far have you come since we tried it first time around? How can you photograph hands – yours or someone else’s, that looks unique?

share your photo in the comments or over on social media with the hashtag #dPSHands

Last week I sent you off to photograph feet – this week let’s try the other appendages – hands!

Hands can be young or old, tough or tender, but are always very expressive. What do the hands you’re photographing have to say? Add some storytelling into your hand photos for extra marks!

Need some help posing hands? Check out our tutorial on how to pose hands.

Photo by JORGE LOPEZ on Unsplash

Weekly Photography Challenge – Hands

Simply upload your shot into the comment 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. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge. Sometimes it takes a while for an image to appear so be patient and try not to post the same image twice.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

You can also share your images in the dPS Facebook group as the challenge is posted there each week as well.

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Hands appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

Sigma Releases 24mm f/2 and 90mm f/2.8 Lenses for E-Mount and L-Mount Cameras

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 06:00

The post Sigma Releases 24mm f/2 and 90mm f/2.8 Lenses for E-Mount and L-Mount Cameras appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Sigma has unveiled two powerful lenses for Sony E-mount and L-mount cameras: the 24mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary and the 90mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary.

The lenses slot into Sigma’s “I” lineup, a series of glass featuring top-notch build quality, portable bodies (Sigma claims the I series is perfect for “everyday use”), and high-resolution imaging on par with even the most demanding mirrorless cameras. 

And the Sigma 24mm f/2 continues this I series tradition, offering outstanding build quality in a portable package. The lens is entirely metal, from the barrel and mount to the focus and aperture rings (and yes, the 24mm f/2 does sport a manual aperture ring, for photographers who prefer a more tactile, analogue method of shooting). 

Sigma notes that the 24mm f/2 works well for “night sky photography, events, and interiors,” as well as “day-to-day use.” It certainly should perform well in low-light situations like indoor events (e.g., weddings) thanks to the wide f/2 maximum aperture, though Sigma might be selling the lens short; in addition to the aforementioned uses, I’d also peg the 24mm f/2 as an excellent street photography lens – it’s compact, fast, and sharp, even if its 24mm focal length is wider than the 35mm/50mm street photography standards – a capable landscape lens, especially for photographers looking to lighten their load, and an ideal travel lens.

The 24mm f/2 aims for optical perfection. Sigma explains that “lens resolution is extremely high and is uniform from the center to the periphery of the image,” while the lens features “the highest level of optical performance even at its maximum aperture of f/2.”

And the price is a quite reasonable $639 USD, ideal for budget-conscious photographers in need of a second or third lens.

The 90mm f/2.8 features a similar design – all metal, to match existing I-series lenses, plus a manual aperture ring, a compact build, and a “sleek, stylish finish.” At 90mm, I hadn’t expected the lens to be quite as travel-ready as its 24mm counterpart, yet the 2.4 inch (59.7 millimeter) barrel is ultra-slim and even pocketable.

Who should buy the 90mm f/2.8? Sigma advertises the lens as ideal “for portraits, close-ups, weddings, and events,” and I’d probably add product and still life photography to that list, thanks to the short telephoto focal length, not to mention the “exceptional resolving power that can keep up with the latest ultra-high-resolution cameras.” Plus, the lens offers a 1:5 magnification ratio; it’s no true macro lens, but can certainly get you a close perspective for detail shots.

Like the 24mm f/2, the 90mm f/2.8 sells for a very reasonable $639 USD. And both lenses should begin shipping at the end of September, so if you’re a Sony or L-mount shooter looking for a well-built, compact prime, I highly recommend you take a look.

Now over to you:

What do you think of these new lenses from Sigma? Do either of them appeal to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post Sigma Releases 24mm f/2 and 90mm f/2.8 Lenses for E-Mount and L-Mount Cameras appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

10 Stage Photography Tips (for Beautiful Images)

Thu, 09/09/2021 - 06:00

The post 10 Stage Photography Tips (for Beautiful Images) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

Perhaps it’s time to enter a new stage in your photographic journey: stage photography, where you capture performers on the stage at concerts, plays, dance recitals, and more.

This genre combines some of the skills of studio photography, portraiture, and even sports photography. When light is often dim and the action fast, you will be challenged to make sharp shots and need to understand your camera controls well. Stage photography will test your skills, but when you nail a great shot, the results can be very rewarding.

Let’s cover ten tips to help you achieve that command performance.

1. Get permission

Here’s a key thing to remember when you are shooting a stage performance: The show is on the stage. You are not the show. If your presence disrupts the performers, distracts the audience, or otherwise draws attention to you, you are not only being a nuisance, you run the risk of being thrown out. And even if that doesn’t happen, it is unlikely you will be invited back and other photographers may then be prohibited from future shows.

Don’t be that guy.

If I had to shoot the whole performance from the vantage point of the first shot (above, top), my photos wouldn’t have turned out well. Even cropping in on the second version, I still didn’t have the full backdrop behind the dancers. Fortunately, I always attend the dress rehearsal (which I strongly advocate!) and can position myself pretty much wherever I like with no fear of being a distraction to the performers or the audience.

It is a bad idea to just show up at a performance with a professional-looking camera and long lenses without prior permission. You may not be permitted inside, and if you are, you could be asked to leave your expensive equipment behind. If you do somehow slip inside and get caught later, there will be an ugly scene. And if you somehow do shoot the whole show and later want to post your shots, you risk getting sued because you didn’t have rights to make photos…which is…well…let’s not go there.

Again, don’t be that guy – period.

2. Be a “photo ninja”

When you do stage photography, “minimal disruption” should be your motto. Here are a few things you can do to get your shots while staying invisible to the performers and audience.

These shots date back to 2003, when I was shooting with my first digital camera, a Nikon Coolpix 950. It was a simple 1.92 MP point-and-shoot camera. I got there early, sat in the first row, and used the swivel-body LCD while holding the camera in my lap. There was minimal audience disruption and I captured some decent shots.
  • Dress in dark clothing. Because the house lights will generally be off during a stage performance, wearing dark clothing will help you hide in the shadows and be less noticeable.
  • Be stealthy and silent. Turn off all camera distractions, including beeping, lights, and perhaps even your rear LCD screen. If your camera has a silent shutter mode, then use it. If you must chimp your shots, do it between acts and in a way that your screen isn’t visible to the audience or performers. Do not stand between the audience and the performance, even if that gets you the best angle.
  • Never use flash unless you have obtained prior permission from the stage manager beforehand.
  • Shoot the dress rehearsal when possible. Assuming you can do it, this is the best option. Without an audience, you will have much more freedom to roam, find good angles, perhaps use flash if you check first, and sometimes get multiple “takes” of the same scene, dance, or musical number. Concerts might be the exception to this rule, as the dynamics of the performers and audience reaction to a live performance will be lacking at a dress rehearsal and that typically shows up in the shots. For the most part, however, shooting a dress rehearsal will greatly expand what you can do.
3. Know the show

As with any kind of action photography, knowing what is going to happen in advance will help you anticipate and get the best shots. Read the program, talk to the stage manager, know the plot of the play, and do whatever else you can to better know and plan your shots.

Know the show. If you’re familiar with the story and plot, you’ll know the key points to photograph. (I suspect you’ll know immediately what the story is here without me telling you.) 4. Do a “site survey”

If possible, go beforehand to the theater or venue when the event will take place. Take your camera and find the best vantage points.

Can you shoot from those spots and still be non-disruptive? Are there multiple places you can shoot from, and can you move from one to another without attracting attention? How long or wide a lens will you need to get good shots from those spots? Might there be someone there to show you the lighting before the show so you can gain an idea of what you’ll encounter?

If you can’t be at the location in advance, at least get there as early as you can on the day of the performance. Winging it while the show is already underway will almost always adversely impact the quality of your shots.

5. Take the right equipment A long lens can get you tight shots like this one (taken at 200mm). There have been many times when a 100-400mm lens would not have been overkill.

The two biggest challenges in stage photography typically are:

  1. Getting close enough
  2. Having enough light to work with

And taking the right gear can help. A camera featuring a strong low-light performance with minimal noise will be your best bet. A fast f/2.8 lens makes a difference, too.

I shoot Canon, and the two lenses I typically take when doing stage photography are the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS zoom and the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS zoom. There have been many cases where I’ve wished for a 100-400mm zoom.

Your focal length needs will be dictated by your distance from the stage. Closer is almost always better, and if you can be stageside (and not violate the “minimal disruption” rule), that is almost always best.

Talk to the stage manager beforehand, and you might get permission to shoot backstage from the wings. You can sometimes get some unique angles the audience doesn’t see.

I should also address the readers who might be parents going to their child’s play, dance recital, or other stage performances. It’s likely you’ll be taking a point-and-shoot camera with no interchangeable lenses and shooting from wherever your seat might be in the theater. There’s nothing wrong with that. Hopefully, your camera has good optical zoom and not too much shutter lag. Get there early and sit in the front row if you can. If you don’t need to sit in your theater seat, maybe you can find a better spot to shoot from and be less noticeable.

When little Johnny or Emma makes their stage appearance in their cute little costume, a parent will find it hard to not stand up and do what’s necessary to get the shot. Please don’t be that parent. Try to be as unobtrusive as possible while you make your photos.

Glean what you can from this article, and most importantly, be as unobtrusive as possible while capturing your photos. I know you’ll want to stand up when little Johnny takes the stage in his cute little character costume, and you may forget to turn off the flash and blind everyone with a burst of light in the darkened theater. My simple advice: Don’t be that parent. With luck, a pro will be shooting from the sidelines. Look for that person and give them your e-mail. If you’re nice to them, there’s a good chance they will send you a stellar shot of Johnny.

Play with camera settings like a wide aperture and selective focus and look for reflections on the stage to make your shots more interesting. Don’t make the shot everyone would make. Work at it! 6. Use the right settings and technique

I already mentioned that one of the most challenging things in stage photography is working with low light (especially when action is involved). You’re also likely to be shooting handheld. Maintaining a fast enough shutter speed in low light will require you to either open up your aperture (while being mindful of depth of field), raise your ISO (while being mindful of noise levels), or both.

Dark backgrounds and spotlighted subjects: sometimes the lighting will be dramatic with a wide dynamic range. Understand your metering modes and when you might want to use center-weighted or even spot metering.

The following camera settings work well for me in most cases, though you’ll need to make adjustments depending primarily on how much light you have to work with. It is not unusual to have the lights go from very bright to very dim as a scene changes, the actor walks to a different part of the stage, or (at a rock concert) the lights flash on and off while changing colors. So consider these stage photography settings as a starting point.

  • Aperture Priority mode – (Av on Canon, A on Nikon, varies on other cameras.) You will usually want your aperture as wide open as possible while still getting adequate depth of field.
  • Auto ISO – Let the ISO “float” to deal with various lighting changes. If you find your ISO pretty much stays the same through the performance, you could set it at that spot, but always trying to keep it as low as possible. Learn when your camera produces unacceptable noise and set the Auto ISO top limits just under that value. If you don’t do this, you could later find that the ISO went much higher (and that all your shots are very noisy!).
  • In Aperture Priority, your shutter speed will also float. The amount of action on stage, the focal length of the lens you’re using, and the speed needed to freeze action will dictate what is acceptable. In a play where the actors are standing still and speaking you might get away with 1/30s if you have an image-stabilized lens or in-body image stabilization in the camera. If you’re shooting ballet dancers spinning and leaping and want to freeze them, you might need 1/500s or more to get the job done. See if your camera lets you set a minimal shutter speed when using Aperture Priority.
  • Focus mode – This will again depend on the amount of action you’re dealing with. If the action is slow, single-shot focus is fine. (Remember to turn off the focus lock beep!). If you must track faster movement, continuous focusing can help a lot. Newer cameras may have eye-tracking focus, which can work really well – except when multiple people are performing and in close proximity. Then the autofocus may become confused about which person to lock in on. Learn your camera’s focusing modes so you can choose what is best for the given situation.
  • Metering – This will depend on the lighting you encounter. Usually, I stick to full Evaluative metering, and the camera does a pretty good job. Sometimes, however, when the performer might be brightly lit by a spotlight and the background is very dark, the camera can be fooled and the performer will be overexposed. In those cases, center-weighted metering or even spot metering can be a better choice.
  • Commit it to Memory – I often store different camera settings in each of my camera’s memory modes (C1, C2, C3), so I can quickly change complex settings with the turn of a dial when the situation changes.
7. Composition is always key

As with all photography, composition is king. Use good compositional practices; remember the rule of thirds, leading lines, the rule of odds, and so on. And remember to check your borders for distracting elements.

Shoot wide establishing shots that show the entire stage, then go in for mid and close shots that highlight one actor or performer. Get in tight on facial expressions to capture the emotions of the performer. Don’t overlook really tight shots of details like the shoes of a ballet dancer “on pointe,” or a rock guitarist’s hands really “shredding his ax.”

Sometimes you’ll need to go wide. Medium shots are great when two people are interacting. Tighter shots let you catch the drama and emotion on actors’ faces. Detail shots can tell the story. Being “on pointe” is a hallmark of ballet, and these images of dancers on their toes make for iconic photos. 8. Work with the light

Stage lighting can be tricky, especially when you’re trying to photograph with good color accuracy. Various lighting types will have different Kelvin temperatures. Mood is often created with color gels and other lighting color control.

Sometimes you will want to try and correct for these color changes, sometimes you might want to capture the scene as close to the original color as possible (i.e., a deep blue cast designed to simulate a night scene). And other times, you might want to enhance the color or take it in a different direction.

Now, there is one key item that will give the creative control you need:

Shoot in RAW format! There are a lot of reasons you should be shooting in RAW, but stage photography might be right at the top of the list. During the shoot, you do not want to be adjusting white balance or trying to guess what might be best. Shooting in RAW means that the white balance adjustments can be saved for later in editing. I typically just leave the White Balance setting on Auto and disregard it while photographing. Later, when editing, I can adjust it however I like. If a series of shots were all made under the same lighting conditions, I can adjust the first shot, select all the subsequent shots, and sync the white balance to that first adjusted shot. Bazinga!

White balance can be tricky given the different lighting types and colored gels used in the theater. Always shoot in RAW format and you can fine-tune the while balance when you edit. Left to right: Original white balance; Lightroom-corrected RAW image; black and white version. Which is correct? When shooting in RAW, you get to decide when editing!

There is one thing to keep in mind here: Don’t rely on the LCD screen to judge white balance. It will always show a JPEG image with the camera’s white balance pick, and since you’ll be shooting in RAW, you can make dramatic changes afterward.

For example, in one theater the stage lighting was very warm. I put the camera on Tungsten white balance so the playback on the LCD looked better, but I still shot in RAW. Later, when editing, the Tungsten setting did give better skin tones, so I used that as a starting point. Had it not worked out, however, I could’ve edited my white balance for a completely different result.

Sometimes the scene might start or end with creative lighting. Always be ready to take advantage of creative looks the lighting designer might serve up!

Once, a friend filled in for me at a graduation ceremony on a theater stage. Then they sent me the images for editing, and I saw they’d shot the whole ceremony in JPEG. Arghh! The theater had mixed lighting, some tungsten, some fluorescent. The JPEG images had very little potential for adjustment and the skin tones were awful. I even thought about converting the entire set to black and white.

9. Tell the story

I don’t know if every picture tells a story, but when photographing a play, a dance recital, a performance, or a concert, there is definitely a story on stage. It’s your job as the photographer to tell that story with your photos. Here are some tips that will help:

  • Know the story – If you’re attending a play, know the plot beforehand. The same is true of a dance. Almost all ballet is built around a story. Modern dance numbers usually are designed to evoke a meaning and a mood. A rock guitarist will evoke a mood with their music and the song lyrics may tell a story. How can you bring out those stories in your photos? By capturing expressions, movement, peak action?
  • To freeze or to blur? – Not all motion needs to be frozen. Letting moving people blur can add to the feeling of action in a scene.
  • The mood of the light – Good photographers learn to “see the light” and know how its color, direction, softness, harshness, and other properties affect the mood and story. Good theatrical lighting designers know this, too, and work hard to light scenes to evoke the right mood and enhance the story. Unlike a studio photo session where you as the photographer might set the lights, when photographing a stage performance you will work with someone else’s lighting choices. Pay close attention to what they’ve done and try to capture it in your images.
Capture the shots that tell the story. I’m guessing you can identify the story here with a glance! I wanted to freeze this leap. Even with an ISO of 2000, I had to shoot at 1/160s, though I could have opened the lens up to the full f/2.8 setting for a shorter shutter speed. Here, I wanted some motion blur; the hand motion in an image from Grease, the attack of the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz, and Don Quixote tilting at the windmills. For the bottom right photo, I wasn’t necessarily going for motion blur and was happy to make a fairly sharp shot at a slow 1/13s. Score one for the Canon R6 with both IBIS and lens stabilization. 10. Enhance with good editing

In the film days, after a shoot, all you had were the unprocessed negatives. There were many steps before you could look at your image as a finished print and many opportunities for creative adjustments along the way. Today, with digital cameras, we simply click the shutter and can immediately view the result on an LCD screen.

So you don’t like to edit, huh? That’s the only way to get this kind of looks. The dancers in their flowing gowns and graceful movement made me think of angels, so when editing, I went for that feeling. How’d I do?

My opinion is that too many photographers are content with the straight-out-of-camera (SOOC) image; after that initial click, they believe their work is done. Many skilled photo instructors will preach the importance of “getting it right in camera” and express a distinct distaste for having to spend time behind a computer screen.

As you may have guessed, I scoff at these folks. Ansel Adams didn’t shoot digital, but I think his quote is worthy of consideration:

The negative is the score, and the print is the performance.”

Ansel Adams

My personal belief is that you’re not done with an image until you’re done, and that includes editing. This might be especially true when taking photos of stage performances. You will not have control of the scene that plays out before you, you will have limited options for changing your vantage point or perspective, you will work with someone else’s often fast-changing lighting, the scene may be dimly lit and you will struggle to juggle shutter speed, depth of field, and camera noise. There are also no do-overs. If the shot isn’t everything it might be, editing can be the fix. Even if it is a very good SOOC shot, might some editing make it even better?

(You did shoot RAW, right? So don’t tell me you don’t edit; you have to do at least some editing with a Raw image.)

Okay, I will turn off the rant. Suffice it to say, I personally believe editing your stage photography images is almost mandatory if you want them to shine.

You’ll also need editing and design skills if you want to do these kinds of things with your images. I’ve been shooting this Boise, Idaho troupe for years. I make posters for them, they keep inviting me back. It’s a good relationship. Stage photography tips: final words

How could I write an article on stage photography and not include a famous quote by this guy? You might have heard of him:

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.

William Shakespeare

In this play we call life, you’ve been cast in the role of the photographer. Now go expand your talents and abilities. Hold a mirror up to the other players with the medium of stage photography!

Honing your skills as a stage photographer will keep you on your toes. Stage photography FAQs If I only remember one thing about stage photography, what should it be?

The show is on stage. You are not the show. If you are a distraction to the performers or the audience, you are not welcome, may be thrown out, certainly won’t be invited back, and will probably prevent other photographers from being asked to photograph performances. Get good shots, but be unobtrusive.

What are the biggest challenges in doing stage photography?

Getting close enough. Working with dim and frequently changing light. A long lens or a good vantage point can help with the former. A fast lens (i.e., f/2.8 or faster) and a camera with a good low-light performance can help with the latter.

How can I make more compelling stage photos?

Know the story. Tell the story. Know what the play, dance, performance, song, or whatever you’re photographing is about. Work to capture that story in your images.

What should my camera settings be for stage photography?

This will vary depending on the lighting, type of show, amount of action on the stage, and other factors, but for starters: Aperture Priority (Av, A), Auto ISO (with an upper limit), Continuous/Servo Focus, Evaluative metering (though center-weighted or even spot works for certain situations).

How can I best deal with white balance issues when photographing under different lights and colored gels/lights?

Always shoot in RAW format and be prepared to edit your shots. A RAW file will allow you to adjust the white balance after the shoot, open your creative possibilities, allow some rescue of overexposed and underexposed images, and help you better deal with image noise.

The post 10 Stage Photography Tips (for Beautiful Images) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

Affinity Photo vs Luminar: Which Editor Is Best in 2021?

Wed, 09/08/2021 - 06:00

The post Affinity Photo vs Luminar: Which Editor Is Best in 2021? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Dawn Gilfillan.

Are you struggling to choose between Affinity Photo vs Luminar 4? We’ve got you covered.

In this article, we’re going to take a careful look at these two programs and evaluate their features, prices, user friendliness, and more. So whether you’re looking to buy your first image editing program or you want to upgrade from different software, you’ll leave knowing which of these programs is the better buy.

Let’s jump right in, starting with a quick overview:

Affinity Photo vs Luminar: overview

Both Affinity Photo and Luminar 4 offer a lot of functionality for the price. Interestingly, many of their features are worlds apart, though the programs do offer RAW support and conversion for photographers working with RAW files.

Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo’s goal? To be Photoshop on a budget. The program offers plenty of advanced features and tools (like channel mixing, liquify, and masking options) for fine-tuning and high-level image retouching. Affinity Photo also caters to graphic designers, thanks to its array of text tools and other design-centric features.

(In fact, if you’ve ever used Photoshop, Affinity Photo will certainly look familiar!)

Pros
  • A huge array of tools and adjustment features
  • Batch processing
  • RAW support
  • 90-day free trial
  • Focus stacking, panoramas, HDR, and astrophotography tools
  • Print and canvas options
Cons
  • No image management or organization features
  • Beginners may struggle to make sense of the layout
  • Not many presets, overlays, or LUTs available inside the software; here, the internet is your best bet
Luminar 4

Luminar 4 takes a different approach to image editing. While it offers some similar features, such as layers and blending modes, it’s based around creative enhancements using Luminar Looks (Skylum’s version of presets), LUTs, and AI editing tools.

Unlike Affinity Photo, Luminar packs a photo organization panel. It’s very user friendly and easy for beginners. However, more experienced image editors and retouchers will miss a lot of advanced tools, such as in-depth compositing options, text tools, channel mixers, and LAB color.

Pros
  • Image library and organization
  • Very easy to use
  • Lots of built-in presets (Luminar Looks) and LUTs
  • Creative editing options (AI Sky Replacement, Sunrays, texture overlays, etc.)
  • RAW support
  • Integration with SmugMug, 500px, and more
  • Batch processing
Cons
  • Not many advanced editing tools, and some (like Dodge & Burn) are not the most accurate for detailed retouching work
  • No text or graphics tools
Layout and ease of use

Which has the better interface and ease of use, Affinity Photo or Luminar? Let’s take a closer look:

Luminar 4

The home screen in Luminar is well-designed. Although there is a lot crammed into the space, it isn’t overwhelming. Hover your mouse over an icon to learn what it is, and click to view the workspaces (which are organized into different categories: Essentials, Creative, Portrait, and Professional).

The Luminar Looks presets show up as a film strip along the bottom of the screen, so you can see from the thumbnails how a preset will look before applying it. You will also find different categories of Looks, including Aerial, Portrait, Landscape, and Dramatic. A handy button on the top menu bar lets you see the Before/After split screen, and I find this really useful for determining whether I’ve gone too far with my edits.

There are plenty of tutorials available for Luminar 4 beginners, and the welcome screen gives you a quick run-through on importing images when you open the program for the first time.

Affinity Photo

As mentioned earlier, Affinity seems to have emulated Photoshop’s layout, which is fine if you’re already used to the Photoshop-style interface, as you’ll have an idea where each tool is and what it does. If you’re a beginner, though, it’s a bit of a steeper learning curve compared to Luminar.

Instead of workspaces, Affinity Photo uses something called Personas. There’s one for Photo, Liquify, Develop, Tone Mapping, and Export. Click on your chosen Persona to see the tools you’ll need for the job; for instance, in Develop, the huge plethora of tools down the left-hand side of the screen are replaced by a few editing essentials, perfect for getting basic editing processes out of the way.

You won’t find many presets in Affinity Photo, but you will find tools like Mesh Warp, Pen, Rectangular Marquee, and Clone Stamp. There’s only a limited range of built-in LUTs, but you can always find more on the internet. Plus, Affinity Photo offers every kind of advanced editing/retouching/graphic design tool you can imagine, as well as printing options.

Editing tools

Which program offers superior editing capabilities? It’s a close call.

Luminar 4

Luminar 4 utilizes AI technology for some of its editing tools, including AI Sky Replacement and AI Augmented Sky. With Luminar, it’s all about getting your editing done quickly and with minimum fuss, and the AI tools work okay, but I still have some reservations. At full strength, they often look a bit too strong, though you can always adjust the strength slider for a more natural look.

I’m impressed by the AI Sky Replacement (and had a lot of fun playing around with this!), plus there’s a huge range of skies to choose from, including sunsets, starry skies, and bright blue skies. I used a landscape shot of the beach and sea to test the sky enhancement functions, though you should be careful when applying AI Sky Replacement to images with objects along the horizon.

Interestingly, the Luminar workspaces cater to different types of photographers. In the Essentials workspace, you’ll find all the basic (essential!) adjustment tools like Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, Smart Contrast, Denoise, and Saturation. There are also more advanced tools, including Details Enhancer, Vignette, and B&W Conversion.

The Creative workspace is where you’ll find all the fun special effects, including Glow, Fog, Sunrays, and AI Sky Replacement. The Portrait workspace has tools for enhancing eyes and whitening teeth, while the Professional workspace offers tools like Split Toning, Advanced Contrast, and Adjustable Gradient.

One of the big things missing from Luminar 4 is a set of selection tools, but unless you specifically need these, it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.

Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo has a panel titled Adjustment, which includes basic enhancements such as Brightness, Levels, White Balance, and Contrast, along with advanced tools like Split Toning, Channel Mixer, LUT, and Threshold. Like Luminar 4, you can preview different editing effects before actually applying them.

Plus, you can easily combine adjustments and effects. Affinity Photo treats every adjustment as a layer, allowing you to control the opacity and blend modes for more creative control. One of the cool features offered in Affinity Photo – and absent from Luminar 4 – is the Tone Mapping tool. This creates an HDR image, which opens in a new window with a range of tone-mapped styles to choose from, including Natural, Detailed, and Dramatic.

Finally, the Develop Persona is used for RAW file editing, and it features tools such as Lens Corrections, Noise Reduction, and Chromatic Aberration Reduction.

Also note that exporting is easy with Affinity Photo. You get a big range of options to choose from:

Bottom line: Affinity is bursting with tools for the advanced image editor. Some elements are even as good as Photoshop but at a significantly cheaper price. No, it’s not an editor I would recommend for a beginner, but it will probably suit those looking for more than automatic adjustments and a slew of presets.

Speed and performance

The power of your computer and graphics card make a big difference when using photo and video editing software. Both Affinity Photo and Luminar 4 are processor-intensive programs, so make sure you have enough memory available before hitting the download button.

I use a Windows 10 laptop that is more than capable of running both programs at once, but I trialed each program separately to see how well they performed. Luminar froze on occasion, but was faster to load images and adjustments than Affinity Photo. Affinity froze on me several times, and I did get the dreaded “Program not responding” message, but it was simply a case of waiting for a few moments before it started working smoothly again.

Price

When Adobe changed Photoshop and Lightroom over to subscription-only models, they annoyed a lot of photographers. In response, many software developers created their own one-time-license programs – including the makers of Affinity Photo and Luminar.

Both programs can be bought for a one-off price. Affinity costs just $54.99 USD (great value for the money, in my view). And you can install Affinity on up to two computers for individual commercial use, or up to five computers for home non-commercial use. Bear in mind that, if you have both Mac and Windows devices, you’ll have to buy a separate license for each operating system.

Luminar starts at $79 USD and can be installed on up to two computers (depending on the version you get). A single license can be used on a mixture of operating systems, so if you have both Mac and Windows computers, you’ll appreciate this extra convenience.

Affinity Photo vs Luminar: Which program is right for you?

Both Affinity Photo and Luminar 4 are worth considering. However, you must determine what’s important to you before buying.

For instance, if you like quick, easy fixes, presets, image organization, and a whole workflow from start to finish, then Luminar 4 may suit you best. It’s easy to save your own custom presets for use on multiple images, too (which is a big time-saver if you need to apply the same style and color to shot after shot). Luminar 4 is a lot of fun to use, and it’s also beginner friendly.

If you need to do deeper, more detailed edits or retouching, Affinity Photo is the better option. It’s also good for unique, creative images, thanks to tools such as liquefy, painting, drawing, and text. Landscape photographers, food photographers, and macro photographers will like the focus stacking features, too. It’s also excellent value for money, and you can start with a 90-day free trial, too.

Ultimately, there’s no outright winner, as each program will suit different types of photographers. But hopefully we’ve made your decision easier!

The post Affinity Photo vs Luminar: Which Editor Is Best in 2021? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Dawn Gilfillan.

What Is the Best Focal Length? 5 Important Focal Lengths to Try

Tue, 09/07/2021 - 06:00

The post What Is the Best Focal Length? 5 Important Focal Lengths to Try appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jason Checkla.

What is the best focal length in photography? What are the uses of different focal lengths? And – most important of all – what focal length should you use in your own photos?

In this article, I aim to address all of those questions and more. I’ll share several key focal lengths, and I’ll make sure to explain why they’re great, what you can do with them, and who should consider using them. I’ll also include plenty of examples, so you can see the different focal lengths in action.

Note that whether you shoot with zooms or primes is unimportant. All the focal lengths in this article are achievable through either lens type, so no need to fret if you prefer zooms over primes or vice versa. Instead, just focus on the focal lengths I mention – and how they can improve your images.

Let’s get started.

1. 24mm

The best genres for 24mm lenses: landscapes, astrophotography, group portraits, and event photography

24mm is a beautiful focal length, one that offers a wide-angle field of view without taking you into ultra-wide territory. It’s easy to experiment with, not only because there are many affordable 24mm prime options available, but also because you’ll find this focal length at the wide end of many zoom lenses, such as a 24-70mm f/4 or f/2.8. Also, many kit lenses feature a 24mm wide end once you account for the APS-C crop factor.

A 24mm prime lens will be sufficiently wide and remarkably sharp, making it an ideal candidate for landscape photography. Zooms are wonderful for landscape photography, too, but the locked-in field of view (on a 24mm prime lens) will force you to think carefully about your compositions.

The 24mm focal length also excels in low-light situations. That includes astrophotography, where 24mm lenses with wide maximum apertures (i.e., f/2.8) will facilitate shots of the Milky Way, as well as event photography, where you’ll have an ample field of view for environmental, contextual shots, plus the wider maximum aperture will facilitate sharp shots indoors and at night.

Additionally, the 24mm focal length is wide enough to capture group portraits with minimal perspective distortion. Just don’t get too close and be sure to watch the edges of your frame.

2. 35mm

The best genres for 35mm lenses: street photography, event photography, environmental portraits, and casual portrait photography

35mm is a classic focal length for many photojournalists and street photographers. Why? For one, the field of view requires you to get close to the action for a more immersive perspective, plus it provides plenty of useful context. On the other hand, 35mm isn’t too wide; you can use it to photograph natural-looking people, close-up details, and more.

This same philosophy applies to wedding or event photography, which is why these photographers love the 35mm focal length, especially when combined with a wide maximum aperture such as f/1.8 or even f/1.4. Note that 35mm prime lenses, like 24mm lenses, tend to be impressively cheap – so if you’re on a budget, 35mm is a great place to start.

Another nice thing about 35mm: it’s great for environmental portraits, especially those casual, spur-of-the-moment portrait opportunities that come up at family gatherings and dinner with friends. For instance, I often use 35mm to shoot portraits across the dinner table:

Any wider, and my subject’s face might suffer from feature-exaggerating perspective distortion; any narrower, and I’d have had to get out of my seat to back up for the shot.

3. 50mm

The best genres for 50mm lenses: street photography, full-body portrait photography, walk-around shooting

50mm primes are the lenses for the photography beginner for a whole host of reasons. In fact, if you don’t own a 50mm lens, I recommend purchasing one right now – they really are that useful.

So what makes 50mm primes so special? For one, they’re insanely cheap. You can purchase a brand-new 50mm lens for most camera systems for a little over $100. I’m not talking about shoddy, low-quality optics, either; the 50mm f/1.8 lenses that cost in the $100 USD to $200 USD range tend to offer surprisingly good performances, especially for the price.

Also, 50mm lenses produce an image that is normal (i.e., most like the image that we produce with our own eyes). Therefore, it’s often easy to “see” in 50mm.

The 50mm lens really is a classic, and a big part of it is that the area in the frame is often just right. It’s narrow enough to create balanced compositions with ease, but still wide enough to create interest beyond your subject. That is why you will find a 50mm lens in the bags of most street photographers (and indeed, most portrait and event photographers, as well).

4. 85mm

The best genres for 85mm lenses: portrait photography, event photography, and sports photography

You’ll find 85mm lenses in the bags of many wedding and portrait photographers, and for good reason: they create beautiful portraits that flatten one’s features (this is generally flattering!), plus they offer beautiful subject-background separation.

The field of view isn’t so tight that you’ll need to be outdoors to shoot with an 85mm lens, but you’ll still get a nice working distance that allows you to sneakily capture candids at weddings and family gatherings.

That working distance is great for full-body shots when you’re on the sidelines of a sporting event, too. And 85mm lenses also offer a nice distance for photographing your kids and pets.

Of course, every focal length has its drawbacks, and 85mm is no exception. Such lenses are expensive to get ahold of, and the tighter field of view isn’t ideal for street photography or contextual portraits.

However, for serious portrait and event photographers, 85mm is a must-have.

5. 135mm

The best genres for 135mm lenses: Headshots, portrait photography, and wedding photography

When you need to get in close or you just love bokeh, a 135mm lens is a great pick – especially a 135mm prime with a wide maximum aperture.

You can use a 135mm lens for details and headshots that bring your subject to life. Plus, the background separation is fantastic due to the increased telephoto compression. The flattering flattening effect (say that five times!) makes this lens great for head-and-shoulder shots, senior portraits, candids, and more. You’ll have fun shooting wide open to create magical separation between your subject and the surroundings.

Is there a drawback to the 135mm focal length? Of course.

You do need a lot of working room, and you also need a lot of light. Remember the 1/focal length rule for shutter speed (also known as the reciprocal rule)? Well, you wouldn’t want to shoot a 135mm lens any slower than 1/135s (without a very steady hand or a tripod). So when light or space becomes a problem, it’s nice to have an 85mm lens to fall back on.

The best focal length: final words

Chances are you will love some of these focal lengths and dislike others, but you’ll never know until you give them all a shot!

So think about your favorite options from this list. And see if you can get your hands on each of the focal lengths – by renting, buying, or borrowing lenses (from a friend).

Now over to you:

Which focal lengths do you like best? Are there any focal lengths you’d like to test? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post What Is the Best Focal Length? 5 Important Focal Lengths to Try appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jason Checkla.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Review: A Wildlife Photographer’s Dream Lens?

Mon, 09/06/2021 - 06:00

The post Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Review: A Wildlife Photographer’s Dream Lens? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Tamron just released the 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD lens for Sony E-mount cameras – but while it seems impressive, is it the right lens for you?

In a hands-on Tamron 150-500mm review, we’ll go over the specs, first impressions, and sample photos taken with this zoom lens. It’s Tamron’s first Sony full-frame E-mount lens with Vibration Compensation (VC), and thanks to the built-in image stabilization and the impressive zoom range, it sounds like a wildlife photographer’s dream. But how does it actually perform?

Let’s find out.

Tamron 150-500mm: overview

The Tamron 150-500mm telephoto zoom lens is designed for full-frame Sony E-mount cameras, but it also works with APS-C cameras (for an effective 225-750mm focal length). The lens features a variable aperture of f/5-6.7 to f/22-32 and a front filter size of 82mm.

Pros Solid design and build

Considering its extreme zoom range, the Tamron 150-500mm is relatively compact. It weighs in at 60.8 ounces (1725 grams) and is 8.3 inches (21 centimeters) long. Like many other telephoto lenses, it extends when zooming. There are several physical switches on the lens, including a focus range limiter, AF/MF switch, VC switch, and VC mode switch. The lens comes with a removable hood and a tripod mount.

Built-in tripod mount

The tripod collar was one of my favorite features, thanks to its Arca-Swiss compatible tripod mount. You can quickly and easily mount the lens to a tripod without fiddling around with the usual tripod plate. Also incorporated into the tripod collar are strap attachment loops. And for those who want to save on some weight, the tripod collar is removable.

Moisture-resistant

The Tamron 150-500mm offers moisture-resistant construction for shooting in inclement weather conditions. There are leak-resistant seals on the mount and throughout the edges of the lens. And the front lens element includes a fluorine coating to deter dirt, dust, and fingerprints.

Vibration compensation

Historically, the biggest drawback to buying a Tamron lens has been the lack of image stabilization (i.e., Vibration Compensation). Thus, Tamron’s decision to add VC to the 150-500mm is a big deal and goes a long way toward reducing blur caused by camera shake. There are three VC modes on the lens, including Standard (Mode 1), Panning (Mode 2), and Framing Priority (Mode 3). In fact, the inclusion of VC makes this lens more viable not only for still photography but also for video.

Good macro capabilities

Despite being a super-telephoto lens, the Tamron 150-500mm can shoot at impressively high magnifications. It features a minimum object distance (MOD) of 23.6 inches (59.9 centimeters) at the 150mm end and 70.9 inches (180 centimeters) at 500mm. The lens also offers a magnification ratio of 1:3.1 at 150mm. In other words, you can maintain a reasonable shooting distance when capturing macro and close-up images with this lens.

194mm | f/6.3 | 1/640s | ISO 400 Compatible with Sony in-camera features

Though it’s a third-party lens, the Tamron 150-500mm plays well with Sony cameras, especially when it comes to autofocus. Not only is the focusing snappy and accurate, but eye autofocus is available on relevant Sony cameras. All in all, the Tamron offers a very similar shooting experience to native Sony lenses.

Good price

The Tamron 150-500mm costs $1399 USD, and while this might seem steep, it’s actually a fair price considering the competition (more on that below).

500mm | f/6.7 | 1/250s | ISO 320 Cons Variable aperture

The Tamron 150-500mm uses a variable aperture, which means that the maximum aperture changes based on the focal length. This can be a dealbreaker for those seeking a constant aperture throughout the zoom range – namely, those shooting in low light. However, a constant aperture telephoto lens would cost significantly more and be much larger in size.

Zoom lock

The Tamron 150-500mm has a flex zoom lock that holds the zoom at any focal length by simply pushing the zoom ring forward. Some users might appreciate the convenience, but I found it too easy to activate the flex zoom lock by mistake. My preference is to keep the zoom switch instead, which does the same thing, but is much harder to trigger on accident.

Cannot be used with teleconverters

Many who shoot with telephoto lenses like to add teleconverters for additional focal length reach. Unfortunately, teleconverters are not currently available for use with the Tamron 150-500mm.

478mm | f/6.3 | 1/500s | ISO 640
Image quality

Overall, the photos produced with this lens are crisp and sharp (with peak sharpness at f/8). Shooting at such a slow aperture does require ample lighting, and this can potentially affect image quality if you need to raise the ISO in dark shooting conditions.

Because the lens is long and heavy, it is best to use it with a monopod or tripod for maximum sharpness. Vibration Compensation does help when shooting handheld, but the lens is still hard to stabilize without additional assistance.

500mm | f/6.7 | 1/250s | ISO 100 Tamron 150-500mm alternatives

The closest competitors to this lens are the Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 and the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3. Of these lenses, the Sony is the most expensive (at $2,398 USD), and the Sigma is the cheapest (at $949 USD).

Both the Sony and the Sigma offer a slightly wider focal length compared to the Tamron but lose out by 100mm on the long end. The Sony 100-400mm’s higher price tag is likely due to lens build, performance, and overall optics. The Sony is also compatible with teleconverters.

Who should purchase the Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7?

The Tamron 150-500mm lens is ideal for wildlife, nature, and sports photographers. You’ll need ample light and a monopod or tripod to get the best performance and image quality – but its flexible focal length range and reasonable price tag make this a no-brainer zoom lens for Sony E-mount shooters.

The post Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Review: A Wildlife Photographer’s Dream Lens? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

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