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Updated: 5 hours 1 min ago

Zone Focusing: How to (Always) Capture Sharp Street Photos

Sun, 08/01/2021 - 06:00

The post Zone Focusing: How to (Always) Capture Sharp Street Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by James Maher.

Do you struggle to capture consistently sharp, in-focus street photos? You’re not alone.

In street photography, consistently nailing focus, especially if you don’t have the opportunity to look through your camera’s viewfinder, can be insanely difficult (and often seems impossible).

That’s where zone focusing comes in.

You see, zone focusing lets you set your focus in advance. And then, when your subject steps into the frame, snap – you get the shot.

Not every street photographer zone focuses, but the ones who do swear by it. And while I use autofocus when I can, I swear by zone focusing, too.

So what, specifically, is zone focusing? How does it work? And how can you learn to do it for sharp photos?

All will be revealed in this article! Let’s get started.

Canon 5D Mark II | 17mm | f/11 | 1/320s | ISO 1800 What is zone focusing?

Zone focusing is a technique where you manually prefocus your lens to a certain distance and adjust your aperture for a deep depth of field. Then, when you’re confronted by an interesting subject, you don’t need to focus through your viewfinder; instead, you wait for your subject to enter your acceptable zone of focus and capture the photo.

Note that zone focusing is very flexible. If you like to shoot intimate portraits, you can zone focus just a few feet in front of your lens. And if you prefer wider shots with more distant elements, you can zone focus 10+ feet away.

Why is zone focusing so useful?

Zone focusing works to varying degrees in plenty of photography genres, but it’s most commonly used by street photographers for two major reasons:

  1. When shooting on the streets, the world happens fast. Gorgeous photo opportunities slide by in the blink of an eye. If you take the time to focus, you’ll often miss the shot.
  2. In street photography, putting a camera to your eye often makes your subject (and you) uncomfortable. So if you can focus without looking, you’ll be able to keep discomfort to a minimum while capturing more honest scenes.

In other words, if you’re a street photographer, zone focusing is an easy way to increase your keeper rate while keeping your photos perfectly candid.

Zone focusing and depth of field (dof) Canon 5D Mark II | 28mm | f/4 | 1/250s | ISO 3200

Before I explain how to zone focus, it’s important that you understand the factors that go into creating a zone of sharp focus, also known as a deep depth of field.

As you may already be aware, depth of field refers to the zone of acceptable sharpness in a scene. So when you focus on a subject and you create a deep depth of field (more on how to do that in a moment!), your subject will turn out sharp – but so will a certain area in front of and behind your subject.

For instance, if you focus on a subject that’s 10 feet away, a deep depth of field would ensure sharp focus from around 8 feet to 14 feet, depending on your specific camera settings. Keep in mind that the area behind your subject that is acceptably sharp will always be greater than the area in front of your subject, and in many cases, it will be much greater.

What affects your depth of field? Three simple factors:

  1. Aperture. The smaller your aperture, the greater the depth of field. So if you’re shooting at f/16, you’ll have far more in focus than if you shoot at f/2.8.
  2. Focal length. Wider focal lengths create a deeper depth of field. So if you are shooting at 28mm, much more of your scene will be in focus than if you are shooting at 100mm. (This is why I rarely zone focus with lenses longer than 35mm.)
  3. Distance to the subject (or point of focus). The further away you focus, the more depth of field there will be in a scene. So if you focus on a person 10 feet away, then you’ll have a deeper depth of field than if you focus on a person 3 feet away.

If you want to test out these different factors and see how they affect the depth of field in real life, check out this website, which offers a handy depth of field calculator.

How to zone focus: step by step Canon 5D Mark II | 17mm | f/8 | 1/400s | ISO 1600

You can zone focus in three simple steps:

  1. Adjust your camera settings for a deep depth of field
  2. Prefocus your lens in the right area
  3. Hit the shutter button when your subject moves into range

Let’s take a look at each step in greater depth:

Step 1: Adjust your camera settings for a deep depth of field

When zone focusing, you want the range of sharpness (i.e., the depth of field) as large as possible. That way, you have the most room for error, and you’ll end up with the most keepers. Plus, a deep depth of field will allow you to keep multiple subjects sharp, which is useful if you’re capturing a more complex, layered shot.

First, you’ll need to choose a wide-angle lens, such as 24mm, 28mm, or 35mm. My personal go-to focal length is 28mm, but any of these options work for zone focusing. Unfortunately, if you zoom any closer (50mm, for example), you’ll struggle to get a usable depth of field range.

Next, make sure your camera is set to Manual mode, and dial in a narrow aperture. I’d recommend working at f/8 and beyond – so depending on the light levels, you might use f/8, f/11, f/13, or even f/16.

Because zone focusing is often done with moving subjects (and you might be moving, too!), make sure your shutter is at least 1/250s, though higher is better, if you can afford it. And adjust your ISO to keep your exposure sufficiently bright.

Really, it’s the combination of the wide focal length and narrow aperture that’ll give you the deep depth of field you need, but it’s important not to neglect your other settings.

Step 2: Prefocus your lens in the right area

Now that you have your camera settings dialed in, it’s time to determine where you want to focus your lens.

Part of this should be personal preference and may depend on the context. For instance, if you prefer more intimate street portraits, you’ll want to focus a few feet in front of you. Or if you’re shooting in an environment where people are passing at a distance, you’ll want to focus farther away.

But it’s not just about artistry. Recalling the discussion of depth of field, you know that a closer point of focus decreases the range of acceptable sharpness. So if you want to maximize the chances of a sharp shot, it’s a good idea to focus far off in the distance.

Regardless of where you plan to focus, a lens with a manual focus display is a huge benefit here. I’m talking about something like this:

That way, you know exactly where your lens is focused (and you can consistently prefocus in the same spot).

If your lens doesn’t include a manual focus display, that’s okay, but you’ll need to spend extra time learning to estimate distances.

Step 3: Hit the shutter button when your subject moves into range

You’ve got the right settings, and you’re prefocused in the right spot.

Which means that all you need to do is take the photo.

Keep an eye out for interesting photo opportunities. Estimate your range of focus.

Then, when something interesting happens, wait until the subject comes into your focusing zone, then take a photo. The closer your subject gets to the center of your range of focus, the better (and don’t be afraid to capture multiple photos to maximize your chances of nailing a sharp shot).

A zone focusing tip: learn to guess distances

Zone focusing works really well, and if you’re shooting in bright light with a narrow aperture, you’ll have a lot of leeway.

But if you’re like me, then you often do street photography in less than ideal lighting, such as on the subway. And thanks to the poor light, you’ll need to widen your aperture – to f/2.8 and beyond.

What does this mean? Well, even with a wide-angle lens and a relatively distant subject, you’ll need to be very careful; your range of sharpness will be quite small.

Fujifilm X100 | 35mm | f/2 | 1/250s | ISO 3200

For this reason, you must learn to estimate the distances away from your camera’s lens, all the way up to around 12 feet. I suggest using a tape measure and measuring out the distances. Then just go out and practice.

Find different objects and try to guess their distance. Then, before you head out to shoot, pick an object at a known distance, focus on it, and use it as a sort of “calibrator” for all your future photos.

The other reason to get good at guessing distances? People move and scenes develop. You might want to capture a person walking toward you at 10 feet, then again at 5 feet. To nail both those shots, you’ll need to have one hand on the focusing ring, and practice manually focusing back and forth, from 10 feet to 8 feet to 6 feet and so on.

Eventually, you’ll be able to capture someone walking toward you at both 10 feet and 6 feet, without even having to look through the viewfinder. It’s an incredibly effective technique, and you can use it for some gorgeous results.

Canon 5D Mark II | 28mm | f/5 | ISO 1600 How to zone focus: final words

Now that you’ve finished this article, you should be a capable zone focuser – though I certainly recommend you spend some time really getting to know different distances (and how to accurately prefocus at those distances, too).

So head out with your camera. Have some fun with zone focusing. You’ll love the results!

Now over to you:

Have you tried zone focusing? What do you think? Do you like it? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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The post Zone Focusing: How to (Always) Capture Sharp Street Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by James Maher.

5 Tips for Musician Portraits (So You Can Hit All the Right Notes)

Sat, 07/31/2021 - 06:00

The post 5 Tips for Musician Portraits (So You Can Hit All the Right Notes) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Melinda Smith.

If you’re looking to capture beautiful, flattering musician portraits – the kind that every musician will appreciate – you’ve come to the right place.

As an experienced portrait photographer, I’ve done quite a few musician photoshoots. And over time, I’ve picked up some tips that will make a huge difference to your photography.

Specifically, I’m going to explain:

  • How to ensure you create natural, realistic portraits of musicians
  • Some unorthodox image ideas that musicians will really appreciate
  • Quick research you should do before the session to make sure you’re prepared
  • Much, much more!

Let’s get started.

1. Trust the musician (and ask lots of questions)

As a musician myself, I love photographs with gorgeous instruments in them – but I am especially bothered by photos that don’t capture those instruments naturally. Sometimes I’ll come across a photo that makes me cry out, “Why? Nobody would ever hold their instrument like that!”

Because here’s the thing: You can still be creative with your photos without making them awkward. There are plenty of easy ways to capture stunning musician portraits, and you don’t need to rely on ridiculous posing gimmicks (like a flute on top of the head, cellos held under the chin, etc.).

And it all starts with trusting the musician, especially if you’re not familiar with the instrument you’re photographing.

So start your session by asking your subject how they hold their instrument. You might ask how they hold their instrument while playing, and how they hold it when they’re relaxing between songs. If it’s a big instrument, like a piano, ask them how they stand next to it before they perform, or how they sit by it when they’re thinking about what to practice or while waiting to play. If it’s a small instrument, like a violin, ask them to demonstrate how they carry it from one place to another.

These might seem like silly questions, but you can really get a sense of what positions and holds are natural. Then you can build from there.

As an example, a violinist may tell you she holds her violin under her right arm when resting. So you could ask her to sit on a chair in a formal pose, position the violin under her arm, and get a beautiful portrait of a girl and her violin.

The key is to remember that the musician knows how to naturally pose with their instrument, and that you are much less familiar. Of course, if you do happen to know the instrument well, feel free to use your knowledge to get beautiful natural poses, too.

2. Do your homework

While I definitely recommend asking the musician how they hold their instrument (it can vary slightly from musician to musician, after all), you can take steps ahead of time to become knowledgeable (that way, you can start thinking of posing ideas before the session even starts).

For instance, you could watch some videos on YouTube of a musician playing the instrument you’ll be photographing. Pay careful attention to how the musician sits/stands, as well as how they position their head and hands relative to the instrument.

You might also find a professional musician who plays the same instrument, then look at their website to see what kind of photos they feature.

You may have a client who is very shy and needs more guidance posing, so it’s helpful to have a few ideas in mind ahead of time.

Also, as part of your research process, look at photos of the instrument (and do a bit of reading on instrument care, as well). Consider challenges that it might bring, such as unwanted reflections in brass, the immobility of harps or pianos, sensitivity to temperature or weather, and so on. Then make a plan to counteract these issues; that way, neither you nor the musician feel uncomfortable or uncertain during the session.

3. Ask the musician to play for you

Posed musician photography is nice…

…but if you can get your subject to give you a little performance during the photo session, you’ll get some stunning action shots. It usually helps loosen your subject up a little bit too, and will bring out natural smiles.

Some musicians are self-conscious, especially when playing without preparation. So remind them that it doesn’t matter if they make mistakes; your camera won’t catch any audio. Emphasize that you’ll only capture the perfect physical movements of their playing. And remind your subject that you aren’t there to judge their skill. You just want to capture the relationship they have with their instrument.

As they begin to play, move around the scene, catching the beautiful moment from every possible angle. Get down low, try to find a higher vantage point, get in close, move back far – all of it can make for outstanding images!

4. Get close-ups of the action

For most musicians, hands are a big deal. After all, the hands generally play the instrument, so they’ll offer a window into the musician’s engagement with the music.

So focus on the hands. Capture some close-ups, where you zoom in close on the hands as they play. Shoot the hands from every angle: above, from the side, from down low, from behind. Try focusing on the hands as you shoot down the neck of a guitar, highlight the fingers on a flute, or shoot hands that are frozen in midair during a drum solo. Getting in close on these details can create beautiful action photos that really tell the story.

In fact, hand photos often end up being some of my very favorites (and the musicians love them, too).

Pro tip: If your subject’s hands are moving too quickly for you to focus, ask them to freeze while you get the shot, then instruct them to continue playing.

5. Make the instrument the star

With musician portraits, you’re expected to photograph the person – but I highly recommend you also capture a few photos of the instrument on its own.

Why? Well, musicians love their instruments, and they will love photos that show their beauty. (These photos often make for great website and social media cover photos, as well.)

Of course, if you need to adjust or move an instrument while shooting, be sure to ask permission. You can even ask the owner to do all of the touching and moving, while you walk around the instrument to get the photos that you’re after. Instruments can be extremely expensive, and even more importantly, they can have sentimental value that can never be compensated.

Keep this in mind throughout the session, whether your subject is in the photo with the instrument or not. And never ask the musician to do something that could harm or damage the instrument; it’s a very easy way to lose the musician’s trust, make them feel uncomfortable, and cause the session to go up in flames.

So when you’re ready to take some instrument photos, simply tell the musician what you have in mind, and they will most likely be happy to help you get some amazing instrument photos. If they’re not – or if they seem uncomfortable – don’t push it. A good photo isn’t worth upsetting your subject.

Musician portrait tips: conclusion

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

And by following the tips I’ve shared, you can do the same!

Now over to you:

Which of these tips do you resonate with the most? Do you have any musician portrait tips of your own? Share your thoughts (and photos!) in the comments below.

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The post 5 Tips for Musician Portraits (So You Can Hit All the Right Notes) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Melinda Smith.

dPS Weekly Photography Challenge Mirrors

Fri, 07/30/2021 - 16:00

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

We asked for your suggestions for our weekly photo challenge over on Twitter, and Todd replied with ‘Mirrors‘ which is always a fun challenge! Most people have access to one (My 11yo needs to use one more before going to school haha) and the creativity factor is high on this one – be in the frame, don’t be, it’s your choice!

‘Morning’

#dPSMirrors is the theme, make sure you use the hashtag if you’re posting on social media, and pop across and thank Todd for the theme this week (Feel free to suggest a theme in your comment!)

‘Moving Pictures’

Angling the mirror to show a different scene within a scene as above, how did I do it? Guesses welcome! Was it one frame or two?

‘Worlds beyond your phone’

Obviously I didn’t venture out of my bathroom for my series of images, and that’s fine – you can do the same! I had an idea for another photo, but I got ‘that look’ when I asked my wife if I could take her full length mirror to the park… bah! Anyway!

As ever, some help with sharing your photo in the comments below (don’t click on this photo to upload your photo, scroll down to the Disqus section, log in, THEN click on the little camera icon in the comments)

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

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

The Canon EOS R3’s Megapixel Count Revealed By EXIF Data

Fri, 07/30/2021 - 06:00

The post The Canon EOS R3’s Megapixel Count Revealed By EXIF Data appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

For months, Canon has teased the upcoming EOS R3 and its groundbreaking features, but – as with the release of the EOS R5 and R6 last summer – the company has remained silent regarding resolution. 

Speculation and rumors have abounded, at times suggesting a 30-megapixel sensor like the Canon EOS R or even a 45-megapixel sensor to match the EOS R5. But thanks to Canon Rumors, we now have what appears to be a definitive answer:

The Canon EOS R3 will be 24 megapixels.

This specification is backed by significant evidence coming out of the Tokyo Olympics, where the Canon EOS R3 has made an appearance. First, Canon Rumors reported “multiple mentions, likely from people in and around the Tokyo games, that the resolution is ‘closer to’ or ‘around’ 24 MP.” This 24 MP rumor was followed by an EXIF data report showing 6000px by 4000px (i.e., 24 MP) dimensions on EOS R3 Olympic files.

Yes, it falls short of the lofty resolutions suggested above and will slot in behind several of Canon’s top mirrorless cameras, but 24 MP is certainly respectable and hardly unprecedented. After all, the EOS R3’s closest DSLR sibling is the Canon 1D X Mark III, Canon’s flagship DSLR, which features a “mere” 20 MP. And “fast processing, low megapixels” has long been the name of the game for sports-focused models, where high-resolution sensors threaten continuous shooting speeds, camera buffer depths, and more.

A 24 MP sensor also assures superior noise performance over higher-resolution models like the EOS R5; the lower megapixel count (and consequently larger pixel size) combined with Canon’s new backside illuminated sensor technology should be a sight to behold.

At present, here’s what you can expect from the EOS R3:

  • A fully-articulating touchscreen
  • 30 frames-per-second shooting (using the electronic shutter)
  • In-body image stabilization
  • 4K video
  • Eye Control AF
  • Top-notch weather sealing
  • Dual card slots

While pricing information is yet to be released, don’t be surprised if the EOS R3 surpasses even the Canon 1D X Mark III, which debuted at a whopping $6500 USD.

Fortunately, you won’t have long to wait; Canon Rumors promises an official announcement in September, and I’d wager that the camera itself will ship before 2021 is out, if not significantly sooner.

Now over to you:

What do you think of a 24 MP EOS R3 sensor? Is the resolution disappointingly low? Is it just right? Too high? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post The Canon EOS R3’s Megapixel Count Revealed By EXIF Data appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

12 Tips to Capture Stunning Vegetable Photography

Thu, 07/29/2021 - 06:00

The post 12 Tips to Capture Stunning Vegetable Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Are you interested in vegetable photography? Then you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, you’ll find plenty of tips and tricks for photographing vegetables; if you’re a food photography beginner, you’ll learn how to get started, and if you’re already a food photography enthusiast, you’ll discover easy ways to improve your results.

Now, I’m not a botanist or a chef, so I apologize in advance if my example photos contain food that’s not technically a vegetable. And in photography, the categories are more flexible. (If you think of the most famous vegetable photographs, you’ll probably think of Edward Weston’s Pepper series, and peppers are technically a fruit!)

In any case, feel free to use these techniques with raw produce in general: fruits, vegetables, legumes, mushrooms, etc.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get started.

1. Handpick your produce Canon 70D | 55mm | f/4.5 | 1/250s | ISO 100

If you were taking a professional portrait, you would cast your model, right? Well, the same should be true for vegetable photography – before getting out your camera, you need to carefully pick your “hero” subject.

If you’re photographing for commercial purposes, you might want to look for the shiniest, roundest, most perfect vegetable you can find.

However, if you’re doing a personal project or a still life, you can take some liberties. You don’t need to use the best looking product; instead, aim to find produce that looks interesting. Find a vegetable that complements the props you’re using or that features a noticeable texture, etc.

No matter what individual item you end up using, the point is that you take the time to choose. You should find a market or a store that allows you to pick the produce yourself (don’t order online!). And try to get to the store early in the day so you can have first pick of the produce. Also, avoid peak hours so that you can take your time.

Consider talking to the seller. Explain what you usually look for in products. Once you make friends, they can be of great help and may even give you some insider tips on how to treat the produce.

2. Pay careful attention to composition Canon 70D | 38mm | f/8 | 1/100s | ISO 100

The composition is the way you organize the items inside the frame. And the right composition will help the viewer navigate your picture.

There are many guidelines that can help improve vegetable photography compositions, but the most basic tip is to use the rule of thirds, which suggests that you position key elements a third of the way into the frame. And because most cameras and smartphones have a handy rule of thirds grid overlay, it’s an easy way to get started.

There are many other compositional guidelines you can follow, ranging from simple leading lines to more complex triangles and the rule of odds, so make sure you familiarize yourself with these composition tips.

3. Choose the right shutter speed, aperture, and ISO Canon 70D | 55mm | f/8 | 1/100s | ISO 200

Your camera settings will determine both the exposure and the final look of your photos. So while getting a correct exposure is important, you also need to consider the impact that each setting will have on your shot.

Specifically, you’ll want to think about your three primary settings: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.

A fast shutter speed is key when you have a moving element. In the case of vegetable photography, this could be a splash of water or even a hand that’s chopping the produce. Shutter speed is also helpful if you’re shooting handheld; the faster your shutter speed, the more likely you are to eliminate camera shake.

The aperture helps determine the depth of field. Smaller apertures give a deeper depth of field, while larger apertures will give you a nice background blur. Keep in mind that the focal length and the distance between the camera and the subject influence depth of field, as well.

Finally, there’s the ISO. This setting is often overlooked by beginner photographers, but a small ISO value will ensure a smooth image while a high ISO will introduce noise.

4. Change the angle of view Canon 70D | 42mm | f/4 | 1/100s | ISO 100

The position of the camera in relation to the subject is very important – it affects the composition, the depth of field, and it helps define what you are communicating with your picture.

There are three common angles used in food photography: down from above, table level, and a 45-degree angle that mimics the way you see food when you’re sitting down to eat. So use these as your starting points (though bear in mind that they are just guidelines, so feel free to move around until you find the perfect viewpoint.)

I advise you to get your main shot the way you initially envisioned it. Then experiment with other angles. You might happen upon a great perspective that you hadn’t considered!

5. Use color to make your photos stand out Canon 70D | 55mm | f/5.6 | 1/80s | ISO 100

Color can be a great way to improve your vegetable photography. The great thing about natural subjects such as vegetables is that they already have colors that work wonderfully together, so use these to your advantage. Find orange carrots with their green leaves or a colorful variety of chili peppers, then arrange them in striking compositions.

That said, you don’t necessarily need to use contrasting colors that make the subject pop – you can also go monochrome to create a mood or to help the viewer focus on shape and texture.

And you can always use the color wheel to discover new color palettes and color palette inspiration. Adobe has a wonderful tool called Adobe Color, and it’s available even if you don’t have a membership. It can even show you color trends and color palettes based on concepts and ideas.

6. Experiment with close-ups Canon 70D | 55mm | f/8 | 1/50s | ISO 800

One of the things I enjoy most while shooting vegetables is getting up close and capturing wonderful textures and patterns.

If you’re shooting for commercial purposes, close-ups may be less feasible, but they’re great for personal projects. You don’t need lots of specialized gear, either; a macro lens is a big help, but you can also work with a telephoto or wide-angle lens and focus as close as possible.

Then, you can create your final result with some cropping in post-production. Keep in mind that you will be losing pixels with this process, so use the highest resolution camera that you have available.

7. Use light modifiers (and a tripod) Canon 70D | 45mm | f/8 | 1/100s | ISO 800

You can do great vegetable photography with natural light and a handheld camera. However, adding some accessories to your setup can help you achieve better results.

Light modifiers make a big difference whether you use artificial light or natural light. Use diffusers or lightboxes to soften the light and avoid hard shadows. And reflectors can bounce back the light to fill in the shadows, while flags can help you block and direct the light. All of these can be purchased for cheap, or you can DIY them.

A tripod is important when there isn’t lots of light for handholding. Plus, it can help with your compositions and special techniques like focus stacking.

8. Think about lighting direction and contrast Canon 70D | 55mm | f/8 | 1/3s | ISO 100

Careful use of lighting will shape your photos the way you want them. In vegetable photography, you’ll often work with natural light, though you can also use artificial light to achieve a specific mood (or when you don’t have enough natural light available).

Either way, there are two main aspects of light you need to consider: its direction and its contrast. In other words, where is the light coming from and how harsh does the light appear?

If you want dark, defined shadows, you need hard light. If you prefer even lighting with diffused shadows, you need soft light.

As far as the lighting direction, backlighting offers many creative choices. Sidelighting helps to highlight texture and add depth. Frontal lights flatten the elements, which is great for flat-lay shots.

Feel free to experiment with different setups. And make sure you study the work of other photographers to determine what you like and how it’s done.

9. Use a complementary (or non-distracting) backdrop Canon 70D | 55mm | f/2.8 | 1/6s | ISO 100

As with any type of photography, the background is just as important as the subject. You should choose a background that complements the subject – or, at the very least, doesn’t distract from it.

You can’t go wrong with neutral, solid backgrounds. However, they can be a bit limiting for your creative vision. Wood backdrops are a nice match for vegetable photography, especially if you’re going for a rustic, just-harvested look. You can also use marbled tabletops or tiles if you want to create a kitchen feel.

The background will help you create the mood. Unfortunately, not everybody has the budget and the space to have a lot of backdrops at home, but you can always use printed sheets or digital backgrounds displayed on your TV or your computer.

10. Style before you shoot Canon 70D | 28mm | f/8 | 1/80s | ISO 100

Styling is a big part of food photography, including vegetable photography. Even if you decide to isolate a single vegetable, that’s a styling choice, as is the decision to position it whole, chopped, peeled, etc.

If your vegetables aren’t isolated and you decide to introduce props, these will also require careful consideration. Do you want to present the food in a wicker basket or on a designer plate? Do you want to add cutlery? Do you plan to introduce a human element?

Different stylistic elements will help you to create your chosen ambiance and convey a specific message with your photos.

11. Enhance your vegetable photography with editing

If you want to really take your vegetable images to the next level, I highly recommend you do some editing.

Start by fine-tuning the composition using the Crop tool. Most programs like Photoshop or Lightroom even include some composition overlays to guide you while cropping.

You can adjust the white balance and exposure, if necessary, though I recommend you do the best you can while shooting in-camera to avoid having to fix problems in post-production.

(That said, try to shoot in RAW to maximize the amount of information you have to work with when processing.)

When editing vegetable photography, I recommend keeping it on the realistic side. Of course, you can add your own aesthetic style – by giving the file a vintage look or using warm tones to simulate the golden hour – but make sure you don’t overdo it.

One more tip: If any of your vegetables have a dent or a damaged spot that’s distracting, feel free to fix it with the Clone Stamp or Healing tools.

12. Have fun with levitation (and other special effects) Canon 70D | 38mm | f/6.3 | 1/80s | ISO 100

If you want to spice things up in your vegetable photography, try adding some special effects.

There are different choices that you can make – for example, you can do splash photography or chiaroscuro photography – but today I’d like to talk about levitation photography.

This is really trendy right now and it looks very impressive, but it all comes down to a simple composite. I’ll give you the basic steps, and you can then make your shot as elaborate as you want.

The levitation shot

You’ll need props to hold up the vegetables and arrange them in a pleasing composition. There’s no hard rule about this as you’re going to remove the items in Photoshop later; you can use toothpicks (like I used in the example image above), or you can use threads if you want to hang the food from outside the frame.

If you’re just starting out with levitation photography, try to use a very soft light. That way, you won’t have to deal with toothpick shadows (shadows are usually the hardest part of any composite). A dark background can provide a little extra help.

Once you have all the elements where you want them, position your camera and set the exposure. Make sure you adjust your settings manually as they need to be the same in all the pictures you use for the composite.

Once you capture the first photo, take away the subject and snap a picture of the empty background (remember, the settings and focus should stay the same!). For a simple shot like the one above, you’ll only need two images, but you can always take a picture of each element to achieve a more professional result.

Editing your photo

Start by opening both images as layers in Photoshop. Make sure the image with the subject is on top. Then add a Layer Mask and grab the Brush tool. Using black, paint over the toothpicks or threads that you used to hold up the vegetables.

The mask will hide the props and reveal the empty background from the other layer, creating the levitation effect. If part of the produce is covered by a holding prop, use the Clone Stamp tool or the Healing Brush to subtly remove it.

Vegetable photography tips: final words

Well, there you have it:

12 tips to take your vegetable photos to the next level.

All that’s left to do now is practice – and have fun!

Now over to you:

Which of these tips do you plan to implement in your own vegetable photography? Do you have any vegetable photo tips? Share your thoughts (and photos!) in the comments below!

Vegetable photography FAQs How do you make vegetables look fresh?

Photograph them while they’re still fresh! Keep them away from heat while you prepare the scene and maybe spritz some water on them before the shot.

Can you photograph fruit in the same way as vegetables?

Yes. The same tips and techniques apply for fresh fruits, herbs, tubers, mushrooms, vegetables, and other types of raw produce.

Is vegetable photography only about fresh produce?

The most common use of the term vegetable photography refers to raw produce – once it’s cooked, it’s normally classified as “food photography.” However, you might run into a client or a photographer who also includes cooked vegetables in the “vegetable photography” category.

Is vegetable photography a kind of still life photography?

Yes, normally vegetable photography refers to a still life composition using raw produce. Although you can also do lifestyle photography shoots with vegetables.

Can you use cooked ingredients for vegetable photography?

You can use a cooked dish as part of the composition. However, vegetable photography normally has raw produce as the main subject.

The post 12 Tips to Capture Stunning Vegetable Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

How to Blur the Background in Photoshop: Step-By-Step Guide

Wed, 07/28/2021 - 06:00

The post How to Blur the Background in Photoshop: Step-By-Step Guide appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Do you want to know how to blur the background in Photoshop? While it’s generally best to create a shallow depth of field effect in camera, there are ways to create a realistic blur in Photoshop.

In this article, I’ll share two easy methods to produce a Photoshop blur effect, and I’ll also discuss when and why you should think about blurring the background in the first place.

Let’s get started.

How to blur the background in Photoshop: Field Blur

Photoshop’s Field Blur filter allows you to place pins on an image, which will introduce a blurred background effect.

To begin, open an image in Photoshop. For this example, I’m using a starter image with a relatively even degree of sharpness. The image also has room for significant foreground and background blur, so with the right tools, the effect should look very realistic.

Canon 5D Mark II | Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM | f/8 | 1/40s | ISO 200 Step 1: Convert the layer to a Smart Object

First things first:

Before you create any blur, convert the Background layer to a Smart Object. In a moment, you’ll be applying a Field Blur filter – and if your layer begins as a Smart Object, you’ll be able to adjust your blur filter at any time (long after it’s been added to the image).

So right-click on the Background layer (in the Layers panel) and select Convert to Smart Object:

The layer name will change from Background to Layer 0. The Smart Object icon will also appear in the bottom right corner of the layer’s thumbnail preview:

Step 2: Add the Field Blur filter

With Layer 0 selected, click the Filter menu, select Blur Gallery, and then Field Blur.

The Field Blur window will open, and you’ll see an initial pin positioned in the center of your image, creating a uniform blurred effect.

To start customizing the blur, reposition the initial pin by dragging it around the image. Also, by dragging the outer ring clockwise and counterclockwise, you can increase or decrease the intensity of the effect.

A Field Blur pin.

To build up the Field Blur effect in the background of a photograph, you’ll likely need more than one pin. In the Field Blur window, position your cursor over an area in the image and click once; this will add a new pin.

Then move the pin and/or adjust the intensity of the blur accordingly. To maintain sharpness in the foreground, place a pin over a foreground subject or zone and set the blur to 0.

(Note: You can delete pins by selecting them with the mouse and hitting the Delete key.)

As you work with the Field Blur filter, Photoshop will automatically assess the space between each pin to create an even result. In the example below, the difference in blur between the foreground pin (with the blur set to 0) and the background pin (with the blur set to 25) is blended to create a smooth effect that transitions across the entirety of the image.

However, some images will require more pins than others (depending on your desired outcome), so don’t be afraid to experiment a little.

Also, the Filter Gallery screen does contain a few extra adjustment panels, including Bokeh sliders and a Blur slider. The Bokeh effect is a little hit and miss, but it can be used to enhance the appearance of points of light, while the Blur slider works the same as adjusting Blur on a pin. And noise can be adjusted through the use of sliders on the Noise tab.

Once you are happy with the Field Blur effect, click OK. To make additional adjustments to the filter at a later time, simply double-click on the Blur Gallery effect in the Layers panel. The Field Blur window will open again, and you’ll be able to add further refinement.

Here’s my result:

How to blur the background in Photoshop: Iris Blur

The Iris Blur filter is another tool included in Photoshop’s Blur Gallery. It enables the selective blurring of an image, and it offers a more customizable range of depth of field controls compared to Field Blur.

Step 1: Convert the layer to a Smart Object

As with the Field Blur effect discussed above, start by opening your image in Photoshop and converting it to a Smart Object.

First, right-click on the image layer and select Convert to Smart Object. The name of the layer will change from Background to Layer 0, and a Smart Object icon will appear in the bottom right corner of the layer’s thumbnail preview.

Here’s the image I plan to blur; it has a bit of background blur already, but we can make it more impactful with the Iris Blur filter:

Canon 5D Mark II | Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM | f/4 | 1/125s | ISO 200 Step 2: Apply the Iris Blur filter

With Layer 0 selected, click on Filter>Blur Gallery>Iris Blur.

The Iris Blur window will open, and the first Iris Blur pin will be positioned in the center of your image.

You’re free to reposition the Iris Blur by dragging the pin. You also have a number of options for customizing the effect; by carefully manipulating the various handles surrounding the central pin, you can introduce a realistic background blur. I’ve labeled the handles below:

And here are the corresponding effects:

  1. A = Roundness Adjustment. Dragging makes the blur shape either circular or square.
  2. B = Blur Ring. Controls the degree of blur applied to the image.
  3. C = Feather Points. Dragging adjusts where the blur effect begins.
  4. D = Ellipse Handle. Dragging makes the ellipse rounder or more oval in shape.

As with Field Blur, multiple Iris Blur pins can be placed on the image to exaggerate or limit the spread of the blur effects. However, unlike Field Blur, the amendments made to each Iris Blur pin are global, so every pin’s blur level is adjusted to match the active pin.

To customize the blur of an individual pin, adjust the Focus dropdown slider located at the top left of the Blur Gallery window:

The Focus slider is located toward the top left of the Blur Gallery interface.

When you are finished, click OK. If you want to go back and edit any Iris Blur effects later, double click on the Blur Gallery filter layer (beneath the main image layer) in the Layer Panel. The Iris Blur window will open, allowing you to rework your edits.

Here’s a slightly exaggerated example of the results obtained with Iris Blur:

When is blurring the background a good idea?

The Field and Iris Blur filters are simple and impactful Photoshop tools. But when should you use them to blur the background in Photoshop, and when should you leave the background as-is?

You might want to use Iris or Field Blur if

  • you want to draw attention to a subject;
  • you want to delineate between a foreground and background;
  • you want to convey depth;
  • you want to create an abstract effect.

Of course, there are plenty of other times when a Photoshop blur effect will do the trick. In general, look for images that feature a strong subject and/or exhibit a degree of open space or perspective that helps differentiate between foreground and background. You might even select an image already exhibiting a moderate amount of blur and enhance the effect in Photoshop.

How to blur the background in Photoshop: conclusion

Now that you’ve finished this article, you should be able to produce a realistic background blur using Photoshop.

Of course, it’s generally best to create blur using in-camera effects (e.g., a wide aperture for a shallow depth of field). But the Iris Blur and Field Blur filters offer a simple and effective way to create beautiful effects in post-processing.

So experiment with the Blur filters. Test out different effects. And your photos are bound to turn out great!

Now over to you:

Do you have any tips for blurring the background in Photoshop? Do you have a favorite background blur method? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post How to Blur the Background in Photoshop: Step-By-Step Guide appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Square Photography: 6 Reasons the Square Format Is Amazing

Tue, 07/27/2021 - 06:00

The post Square Photography: 6 Reasons the Square Format Is Amazing appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Andrew S. Gibson.

What’s so great about the square format in photography? And how can shooting square compositions help your photos?

In this article, I’m going to share 6 important reasons to use the square format. And by the time you’re done, you’ll fully appreciate the value of square photography!

Let’s get started.

Square versus rectangular photography

Every photo aspect ratio – square, 3:2, 4:3, 16:9, and more – features a slightly different view of the world.

And these different views lend themselves to different types of compositions.

Therefore, composition in the square (1:1) format is a different process than composition within a standard 3:2 or 4:3 rectangular frame.

Is the square format always better than a wider format? Absolutely not. There are times when you’ll want to shoot with a 3:2 format, for instance, or a 16:9 format (especially when you’re dealing with wider or longer scenes).

But the square format is very well-liked by photographers, and I highly recommend you keep it at the back of your mind when out shooting.

Let’s take a look at why the square format is so great, starting with:

1. Square compositions feature balance and flow

A square is a perfectly balanced shape. Each side is equal in length. Therefore, neither the vertical nor the horizontal direction is emphasized.

Why does this matter? Well, in a rectangular frame, the viewer’s eye is encouraged to move from side to side (in the landscape format) or up and down (in the portrait format).

But in a square frame, with every side equal in length, the viewer’s eye is encouraged to move, not from side to side or up and down, but in a circle. This creates visual flow, always a good thing in photography.

Of course, there are many factors that influence the way the eye moves around a photo, including the use of line, texture, color, selective focus, and negative space. But the shape of the frame is a major factor.

In the landscape below, composed with the 3:2 aspect ratio of my 35mm camera, the eye is encouraged to move from side to side, thanks to the shape of the frame (as well as the horizontal lines):

But in this square format photo, the eye is encouraged to move around the frame in a circle:

Useful, right? It’s especially important when you’re dealing with near-far compositions (as in the shot above) and you want to push the viewer from foreground to background and then to the foreground again.

2. The square format gives the perfect amount of negative space

Negative space is the term used to describe any empty space around a subject. For instance, if you photograph a barn surrounded by a snowy field, the field will often constitute negative space.

Now, it’s common knowledge that you can improve your compositions by getting close to your subject – that is, by eliminating negative space. But when used carefully, negative space can create a wonderful sense of atmosphere. And it can also help emphasize the shape of the subject (i.e., the positive space).

Unfortunately, negative space can be somewhat finicky. Including lots of space in a rectangular frame may not turn out so great, as you’ll end up with too much space and not enough focus on your subject. But negative space often works very well in the square format, as I demonstrate below.

Here is a photo of a lizard in the 3:2 aspect ratio:

And here is the same photo cropped to a square:

Which do you prefer? The square format offers a more balanced composition – featuring lots of negative space, yes, but also a powerful splash of positive space.

3. A square will force you to simplify your compositions

The square format lends itself to a simple approach. It pushes you to pare down your compositions and make every element count.

Why? Because there is less room in a square frame than in a rectangular one. So before you include another element in the frame, you’re forced to ask yourself: What is really necessary? And what can I do without?

Generally speaking, creating a simple composition is hard – but after a bit of time working with the square format, you’ll find it becoming easier and easier.

Remember: for your photos to have impact, you should eliminate as many distractions as possible. The focus should be on your subject. Other unnecessary elements within the frame will simply pull the viewer’s eye away from the subject and reduce the strength of the image.

This photo is about as simple as you can get:

And the square format forced me to keep the strong, simple, in-your-face composition.

4. The square format works great with shapes

Take a look at the images below. How many shapes can you see?

There are dozens – circles, squares, diamonds, rectangles, and more.

Now, shapes tend to look great in photographic compositions. They help stabilize and balance the frame, plus they can create powerful, eye-catching scenes.

And the square format really lends itself to shape-based compositions.

Why? I’m not completely sure, but I think it’s because the square is such a powerful shape that it emphasizes other shapes within it. This is linked to the ideas of balance and simplicity, as discussed above – simplifying the composition emphasizes shapes, which in turn makes shape-based compositions more powerful.

Whatever the reason, just know that geometry looks great in square photos. So if your plan is to shoot (or crop) square, the more shapes, the better!

5. You can create beautiful square centered compositions

Photographers tend to avoid positioning the main subject in the center of the frame. And in most cases, this is a good idea. As the rule of thirds points out, off-center compositions are the way to go.

But did you know that centered compositions actually work well with the square format?

It’s true! With square photography, you can often place the subject in the center of the frame for an effective composition. You can ignore the rule of thirds. And you can get some very unique photos.

Centered compositions work especially well when the image is simple. The fewer distractions present in the frame, the more effective a central composition becomes. If the subject has a strong shape, the balanced empty space around it emphasizes that shape. And the square format provides the perfect frame:

6. The square format works beautifully with black and white

Take away color and what do you get? An image that relies on tonal contrast for impact and that emphasizes visual elements such as lines, textures, and shapes.

In other words:

A composition that looks amazing in a square format.

Honestly, the square format and black and white seem made for each other, which perhaps explains the square format’s popularity with fine art photographers.

So the next time you’re shooting in a square format, consider switching to your camera’s monochrome mode. You’re bound to capture some stunning photos! Alternatively, you can shoot in color and convert to black and white in post-processing (it can be helpful to switch back and forth between color and black and white to see what works best for your shot).

Square photography: final words

Now you know all about the power of the square format – and why you should definitely try using the 1:1 aspect ratio in your photography.

It doesn’t matter whether you shoot with the intention of cropping to a square, or you go back over your old images with the aim of making some square compositions; the important thing is that you have fun with the process, and that you appreciate the usefulness of square photography!

Now over to you:

What do you think about the square aspect ratio? Do you use it frequently? When does it look best? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post Square Photography: 6 Reasons the Square Format Is Amazing appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Andrew S. Gibson.

How to Use a Ring Light for Gorgeous Photos (+ 5 Creative Ideas)

Mon, 07/26/2021 - 06:00

The post How to Use a Ring Light for Gorgeous Photos (+ 5 Creative Ideas) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

A ring light is a simple, relatively inexpensive way to get started with studio photography – and with the right approach, it can look really, really good. Here are just a few photos I’ve taken using a ring light:

Ring lights can create bold and vibrant images.

But how can you use a ring light to create portraits like these? And furthermore, how can you go beyond standard ring light photography to capture photos that stand out from the crowd?

In this article, I’m going to take you through all the ring light basics. I’m going to explain what a ring light is and how to use it. Then, for those who are interested in more advanced ring light applications, I’m going to share five unconventional approaches (such as using a ring light as a prop).

So by the time you’re done with this article, you’ll know how to use a ring light like a pro – and you’ll even have a few tricks up your sleeve for the next time you’re after unique images.

Let’s jump right in.

What is a ring light?

A ring light is a circular, ring-shaped light designed to be placed directly in front of a subject. You then position your camera in the center of the ring and capture your photos.

Here is a standard external ring light, photographed from the back (left) and front (right):

Generally speaking, ring lights are used as on-axis, even lighting. Because the subject is illuminated from every direction, ring light photography tends to be a bit flat.

Check out the example below, where the bright ring illuminates the subject from all sides:

To create a standard ring-lit portrait, I would simply move my camera forward until it fits through the ring.

Ring-lit portraits don’t feature interesting shadows – for that, you’ll want to look at options such as Rembrandt lighting and loop lighting – but they have a certain flat, vibrant, in-your-face charm. Some photographers love the flat look, and other photographers hate it; it’s really all about personal preference, and it’s certainly possible to use a ring light to great effect.

By the way, continuous ring lights offer a major bonus for portrait photographers: Because the output is constant, your subject’s pupils get constricted. That way, you’ll see more of the color of their eyes in your photos – which generally looks great!

Thanks to the brightness of a continuous ring light, your subject’s pupils will be constricted, allowing you to see more of the color in their eyes. The two types of ring lights

There are two types of ring lights you should be familiar with:

Off-camera ring lights, which attach to an external light stand, offer a wide band of illumination, and include a large aperture into which a camera can fit. This is the type of ring light featured throughout the article.

And on-camera ring lights (sometimes called ring flashes), which mount to the front of your lens and provide a narrow band of light.

For portrait photography and videography, off-camera ring lights (as pictured throughout this article) are more versatile; you can position them however you like, plus they offer a wider band of light, which is helpful for larger subjects. Off-camera ring lights also generally offer continuous lighting only, which makes them highly useful for videography and studio photography, but less useful for situations where you need a powerful burst of light in a dark setting (e.g., when photographing a frog at night).

On-camera ring flashes are more commonly used by macro photographers or for scientific purposes (you’ll sometimes see crime-scene photographers shooting with a ring flash on TV!). You mount an on-camera ring flash to the front of your lens, then you can easily carry the entire setup into the field (to photograph insects and flowers or, yes, dead bodies). Because a ring light sits on the end of the lens, there’s no concern about the camera or lens barrel casting shadows on your subject, and it lets you shine light in dark, shadowy places.

Note that ring flashes often offer some sort of flash (i.e., strobe) setting, and some of them only work as flashes. If you’re after a powerful burst of light, this is ideal. But be careful before purchasing a ring flash for videography, as you won’t be able to use it unless it offers a continuous setting.

How to do ring light photography: the basics

As you’re likely now aware, using a ring light is insanely easy. It can be boiled down to a simple, four-step process:

  1. Mount the ring light to a light stand or on the front of your lens (depending on the type of ring light you own).
  2. Position the ring light in front of your subject (and if you’re using an off-camera ring light, put your camera through its center).
  3. Manually dial in your camera’s exposure settings (I recommend f/5.6 at 1/160s as a good starting point).
  4. Take a shot. If it looks good, then fire away. If it’s too bright or too dark, make the necessary adjustments, either by darkening/brightening the ring light output, or by increasing/decreasing your aperture, shutter speed, or ISO.

And that’s it!

But what if you want to take your ring light photography to the next level? What if you want to create unique, more unusual ring-lit photos?

As long as you own an off-camera ring light, one with a continuous output, you can use the 5 unconventional ring light techniques I share in the next section:

5 unconventional ideas for ring light photography

It’s time to get a bit experimental – and have lots of fun with ring lights in the studio! Starting with option number one:

1. Use your ring light as a standard studio light

Despite their circular shape, ring lights work great as normal lights; simply raise the light, angle it toward your subject, and it essentially becomes a small softbox!

A standard 45-45 lighting pattern looks great:

Placed at a 45-degree angle and angled downward, ring lights work well as a normal light source.

Though you can also use other basic lighting patterns, such as loop lighting:

If you have more than one ring light, you can use them together to create just about any two-light setup that you can imagine. And if the ring lights you own offer an adjustable output, managing your key-to-fill ratios should be pretty easy.

You are not limited to the shape of the ring; use flags to block off portions of the light and create whatever shape you like! 2. Use your ring light as a prop

LED ring lights don’t get very hot – so if you own one, test out the temperature, then feel free to let your subject pose with the ring for some unique images.

Having your subject pose with the light can create some interesting and fun portraits. It can also help to lighten the mood during a session.

The results will vary with ring lights of different sizes, and you do have to worry about the plug and the cables, but it’s still a fun technique. Just make sure not to overuse it (the light has a tendency to illuminate your subject from below, which isn’t the most flattering angle).

3. Use your ring light as ambient fill

These days, ring lights are pretty darn powerful – so you can add them into a studio lighting setup as a gentle, natural-looking fill light.

Modern ring lights are quite powerful. It is more than possible to use them as fill lighting in conjunction with a studio flash.

A couple of things you’ll want to keep in mind:

While ring lights are powerful, your strobes will probably blow them out of the water if left unadjusted, so set the power (both on the strobes and on the ring lights) accordingly.

Also, if you’re going to be mixing light sources, you’ll probably want a ring light with an adjustable color temperature.

For an even more experimental approach, you can try using the ring light as your primary light source and your strobes as fill. To make this work, however, you’ll need to take the strobe power way down, so make sure the power on your strobes can drop that far before committing to the technique.

4. Use your ring light as a compositional device

I love creating compositions that actually include the ring light in the shot; check out this photo, where I framed my subject’s face with the circle of light:

Putting the light behind your subject creates an interesting compositional element. Also, it may just be me, but I love that rim light!

And you’re not limited to putting the light behind your subject. You can place it anywhere in your frame to create cool effects – try putting a ring light above your subject for a halo effect, or placing a ring light at an angle just inside your frame for a curved band of light running through the composition.

5. Try dragging the shutter When you’re mixing a ring light with studio flash, it opens the door to some interesting techniques like dragging the shutter. Here, my shutter speed is set to 1/15s.

Dragging the shutter is a fun technique that can result in beautiful photos, but it generally involves the use of both a flash and some ambient light.

However, with a ring light and a strobe, you can let the ring light act as ambient fill, fire your strobe, and decrease the shutter speed for some stunning effects.

This technique is not for everyone, but it can produce some interesting results.

A little warning: If you’re a technically-minded photographer, you’re probably going to hate this tip, as the results tend to be a little soft. Also, while dragging the shutter can be used for some striking photos, you still have to be careful with controlling the movement of your camera.

You must manage camera movement while using this technique. When in doubt, use a tripod.

Because the power output on your flash is not affected by shutter speed, you can drop the shutter as low as you need to make this work. You may want to use a tripod for really slow shutter speeds, though.

Ultimately, it’s a technique that produces cool effects in its own right, but no two attempts are going to be the same.

How to use a ring light for gorgeous photos: final words

Well, there you have it! You can now confidently use a ring light – and you can even create unique photos with some unconventional techniques.

So go have fun with a ring light or two!

Now over to you:

Do you have other ways that you use a ring light? Do you have any tips for ring light photography? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post How to Use a Ring Light for Gorgeous Photos (+ 5 Creative Ideas) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

6 Tips to Improve Your Black and White Landscape Photography

Sun, 07/25/2021 - 06:00

The post 6 Tips to Improve Your Black and White Landscape Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Andrew S. Gibson.

Are you looking to take your black and white landscape photography to the next level?

You’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we share six easy-to-follow tips that’ll improve your black and white landscapes; we also share plenty of examples, so you can understand exactly what goes into a good black and white photo.

Specifically, you’ll discover:

  • The best camera settings for black and white photography
  • How to enhance your b&w landscapes with filters
  • What to look for in a landscape scene
  • Much, much more!

So if you’re ready to capture black and white shots like the pros…

…then let’s get started!

1. Learn what scenes work well in black and white

When shooting in color, you can rely on the strength of hues to create drama and interest. Often, the key to good color landscape photography is to find a dramatic scene and photograph it in the most beautiful light possible. That’s why so many color landscape photos are taken during the golden hour or just after sunset.

Black and white landscape photography is very, very different. Without color, you have to work to create strong compositions. You can’t rely on color contrast and golden light; instead, you need to learn to look for the building blocks of photographic composition, such as leading lines, shapes, patterns, tonal contrast, and texture. In other words, you must learn to see in black and white.

For example, this photo works well in black and white because of the contrast between the twin waterfalls and the dark rocks:

Educate yourself about black and white landscape photography by looking at the work of masters, like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, who worked predominantly in black and white. Also, look at what modern-day photographers are doing on Instagram and 500px. Some names to search for include Cole Thompson, Rob Dweck, Arnaud Bertrande, Thibault Roland, Joel Tjintjelaar, and Nathan Wirth.

When you look at their work, ask yourself: What makes their black and white landscape photos so dramatic and powerful? What light are they shooting in? What photographic techniques are they using? How do they approach composition? The answers will teach you a lot about black and white photography and will help you understand which elements and scenes lend themselves to black and white and which are best avoided.

2. Look for tonal contrast and texture

I touched on this in the previous tip, but I want to emphasize it here because it’s so important.

Tonal contrast is the term used to describe variations in brightness between different parts of the image. Take the photo below as an example; the jetties are dark and the sky is much lighter. That is tonal contrast. And it looks amazing in black and white.

The alternative – low tonal contrast – tends to look very mushy and flat. Tones don’t separate out, key elements fade into one another, and the composition loses impact. Remember: You can’t rely on changes in color to differentiate key elements, so it becomes all about the tones.

Texture (and contrast between textures) is super helpful, as well. If you think about the elements that appear in landscape photos – cliffs, rocks, grass, trees, mountains, oceans, along with human-made objects like piers, jetties, and old barns – you’ll notice that they all have distinct textures. Some feature rough, heavy textures, while others are intensely smooth.

In the photo below, the arch, the cliffs in the distance, and the rocks in the foreground are all heavily textured. The sea and the sky are much smoother. There is a strong contrast between the roughness of the rocks and the smoothness of the sea and the sky.

And thanks to that textural contrast, the photo is much more impactful!

3. Shoot in black and white mode

Did you know that your digital camera can teach you to see in black and white?

All you have to do is set it to its black and white (monochrome) mode. Your camera’s rear LCD will show you a black and white Live View feed – and if your camera includes an electronic viewfinder, it’ll turn black and white, too (you can literally look at the world in black and white – how cool is that?).

As you can imagine, constantly looking at the world through a black and white LCD or viewfinder helps you see how black and white scenes are rendered. This, in turn, makes it easier to see how a photo will turn out in black and white. And it’s also just far easier to compose black and white shots in black and white because you can see how tonal contrast, texture, lines, shapes, patterns, and light will affect the landscape.

One note, though: Don’t forget to set your camera to shoot in RAW. RAW files contain all the information captured by your camera’s sensor, including color – so if you decide you don’t like an image in black and white, you can always convert it to color and process it that way instead.

4. Learn to use neutral density filters

Neutral density filters are the secret weapon of the black and white landscape photographer. Grab one (or more) of these accessories, and you’ll be able to capture jaw-dropping images beyond your wildest dreams.

(Am I exaggerating? Honestly, I don’t think so. Neutral density filters are a huge deal.)

But what makes ND filters so special?

ND filters are basically dark pieces of glass that go in front of your lens and prevent too much light from hitting your camera sensor. In other words, ND filters block out the light.

Now, as a landscape photographer without an ND filter, you’ll often be using a shutter speed between 1/2s and 1/125s, assuming you’re shooting with a relatively narrow aperture of f/13 or so (which is generally a good idea).

But what if you want to increase your shutter speed for creative effect? By lengthening your shutter speed, you can blur water, stretch clouds, and create all sorts of other cool effects that look amazing (especially in black and white).

Unfortunately, in most situations, dropping the shutter speed beyond 1/2s or so just can’t be done. The light is too strong; if you try it, you’ll end up with an overexposed image.

Unless you have an item that can block out the light – such as a neutral density filter! The ND filter keeps your camera from overexposing the scene even when you’re dealing with lots of light. That way, you can get the stretchy clouds and blurry water that you’re after.

For an example, check out the photos below. The first was taken at dusk with a shutter speed of 1/5s; slow enough to introduce some blur into the water, but not slow enough to really flatten out the water while making the clouds turn into interesting streaks:

Then I added a neutral density filter and made the next photo using a shutter speed of 180 seconds. The water is completely blurred, and the clouds have moved across the sky for a streaking effect:

Bottom line:

Neutral density filters give you control over your shutter speed, which you can then use to enhance your black and white landscapes.

5. Don’t just take photos like everyone else

Black and white landscape photographer Cole Thompson has an interesting idea. He practices what he calls “photographic abstinence,” where he doesn’t look at the work of other photographers. The theory is that it enables him to see the landscape through his own eyes without being influenced by other people’s photos.

I’ve never taken this idea to its extreme; I believe it’s important to research an area before you go to find its most photogenic parts. But the problem is that the most powerful images you see during your research tend to stick in your mind. The natural tendency is to want to create similar images – which then end up looking like everybody else’s.

Resist this urge. Instead, take some black and white images that are truly you.

Let me give you an example. A few years ago, I visited the Playa de las Catedrales (Cathedral Beach) in northern Spain. Search for it on Google or 500px, and most photos will look something like this, showing the cathedral-like arches for which the beach is named:

Anybody who visits the beach will naturally want to take photos of those arches. They’re the reason the spot is famous, after all. But this can be a hindrance when it causes you to miss other possibilities.

So after getting my rock arch photos (such as the shot displayed above), I really started looking. I saw some rocks in the sea that made an interesting minimalistic composition. I made the following photo:

It doesn’t feature the arches the beach is famous for. But it’s more personal to me and was more satisfying to make.

6. Travel when you can

All the photos that I have shown you so far were taken while traveling – and unless you are lucky enough to live in a breathtaking area, it’s likely that, like me, you need to travel to find inspiring landscapes to photograph.

Even if you do live somewhere with spectacular landscapes, you will need to travel to expand your experiences and add depth to your portfolio. All my favorite landscape photos were taken while traveling, and the two activities really do go together very well – travel is more interesting and exciting when there’s a purpose behind it, and landscape photography can give you that purpose.

Without travel, I would never have experienced and photographed places like this (taken in Bolivia):

At the same time, I recognize that traveling is costly and time-consuming. So even if you can’t travel, try to cultivate a traveling mindset – where you see the world around you with fresh, new eyes. Tackle more familiar scenes with this newfound excitement (and you’ll be amazed by what you start to see!).

Black and white landscape photography: final words

Hopefully, this article has given you plenty of helpful tips and tricks for black and white landscape photography.

So get outside. Give black and white shooting a try! It’s a new way of seeing the world – and one that can be a lot of fun.

Now over to you:

Do you have any tips for black and white landscape photography? Share them in the comments below!

The post 6 Tips to Improve Your Black and White Landscape Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Andrew S. Gibson.

How to Create Stunning Wide-Angle Portraits (Using an Off-Camera Flash)

Sat, 07/24/2021 - 06:00

The post How to Create Stunning Wide-Angle Portraits (Using an Off-Camera Flash) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ken Koskela.

Wide-angle portrait photography is unique, it’s fun, and it can make for some outstanding photos. But how can you capture great wide-angle results? What’s the secret to powerful portraits like the one below?

In this article, I’ll provide plenty of guidance, taking you through the ins and outs of wide-angle portraiture. By the time you’ve finished, you’ll be able to shoot like a pro.

Also, before starting, I’d like to let you in on a little secret:

Creating photos like these? It’s not actually that difficult. You just have to pay careful attention to your camera settings, your technique, and your lighting.

Let’s dive right in!

1. Use a (relatively) wide-angle lens

Lens choice is critically important in portraiture. Most portrait photographers reach for their 85mm or 105mm lens when heading out because these focal lengths give a nice, realistic look to the subjects.

However, I find myself drawn to portraits that have a surreal look to them and that include extra context to help tell the story. Also, wide-angle lenses require you to shoot close to your subject, which also draws your viewer into the scene.

So the first step is to leave your 85mm or 105mm lens in your camera bag and grab a wide-angle lens instead. Most of the portraits you see here were created at 24mm on a full-frame camera (use a 16mm for the same view if your camera has a cropped sensor). For me, this focal length is the perfect blend of reality and distortion.

In fact, if you go wider than 24mm, elements closer to the lens, such as arms and hands, look big or elongated. Also, wider focal lengths require a much bigger background, which isn’t always desirable or convenient.

2. Choose a compelling subject

In wide-angle portrait photography, your subject is paramount. The Indonesian dockworker above was an amazing subject; I spent 20 minutes photographing the guy and had a difficult time choosing the best image.

On the other hand, you could spend all day photographing me on the same dock, in front of the same ships, and have nothing but terrible images at the end of the day.

The point? Make sure your subject is genuinely interesting.

I look for people who have experienced life. The ideal subject has some sort of interesting quality, something that makes them stand out from the rest, though my subjects do have an everyday person quality about them. Finding subjects can be challenging, especially if you live in the suburbs (like I do). I am a travel photographer and usually find my subjects in rural areas overseas, but there are great subjects everywhere – you just need to look!

Clothing is critically important. If your 90-year old rural villager is wearing a hat that says, “I Love New York,” then you will probably want to politely ask them to take it off, or at least turn it around for the picture. Don’t let out-of-context clothing ruin or weaken your shot!

3. Choose a complementary background

Your image is only as strong as its weakest part – which is often the background. This is because, as photographer Jim Zuckerman puts it, “The world is a compositional mess.” So unless you deliberately choose a beautiful background, you’re going to be stuck with, well, a mess.

There are two important qualities you want to focus on:

First, at the very least, your background must be non-distracting. Before snapping a wide-angle portrait, carefully scan the scene and make sure nothing draws the eye. Beginners, and even intermediate photographers, can overlook obvious distractions in the background, such as trees that look like they are growing out of the subject’s head, patchy spots of bright light, colorful objects, straight lines, and geometric shapes. You don’t want anything that competes with your subject for attention, so make sure to simplify your composition until you get what you’re after.

The background in the image below isn’t at all distracting; the man is standing in front of a shipping container, which won’t win any awards for beauty, but gets the job done. Plus, it’s a good picture because of the strength of the subject.

Second, whenever possible, include a background that complements your subject by providing context. I’ve shot many images with simple, non-distracting backgrounds. But my favorite pictures include a background that tells a story about the subject.

It’s the reason I love shooting in places like rural China and Indonesia. The countries have many ancient villages that provide opportunities for amazing backgrounds, like the path in the photo below:

A quick piece of advice: I like to keep all evidence of modernity out of the background. I don’t like plastic stuff in my pictures, and I don’t include modern-looking buildings or cars. Instead, I prefer rural areas with weather-beaten buildings. If you’re like me, and you want to create more rustic, pure wide-angle portraits, then I’d recommend you do the same.

4. Shoot in the right lighting conditions

Great wide-angle portrait photography requires great light.

Try shooting either early or late in the day (when the sun is low in the sky) or in overcast conditions. I actually prefer a soft, overcast day (though I still shoot relatively early or late).

5. Put your subjects at ease

I don’t hire models, so some subjects work well and others less well. What you want to avoid is a picture of your subject standing flat-footed, straight up and down, and holding a fake smile.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to start your session by gaining their interest and confidence. If you have some images you’ve shot and processed, show them to your subject to give them an idea of what you are looking for (and hopefully pique their interest).

Plus, showing past photos will help communicate immediately that you are not looking for your subject to just stand and smile. It should also show that your posing expectations are basic.

6. Work the scene for the best compositions

Once you’ve found the perfect subject, don’t just take one photo and pack up. Instead, take quite a few (assuming your subject has the patience). And as you take your shots, make sure to work the scene.

I like to get quite close to my subjects. For me, the eyes are a critically important part of the picture and must be very sharp. I focus on the closest eye, though I re-focus frequently as I move around the subject.

I generally ask the subject to look directly at the camera and not to smile, although not always. I then start moving slightly left or right. I ask them to keep their head still and just follow the camera with their eyes. I usually shoot from slightly below eye level, and I have them stand or sit at an angle to the camera. If the subject is standing, I ask them to put their weight on the back foot.

I like to include the subject’s hands in my compositions. With a wide-angle lens, hands in the foreground will look large, so try to strike a balance (make sure the hands are prominent but not too large). Simply position the hands closer to or farther away from the lens.

7. Make sure you have the right equipment and settings

For the best results, you’ll need a camera, a lens, and a single off-camera flash. Your camera should be equipped with an internal or external flash trigger to control your off-camera flash.

Here is how I set things up:

  1. Start by leaving your flash or trigger initially turned off.
  2. Set your camera to Manual mode.
  3. If the session is outdoors, dial in some basic settings – I usually aim for an aperture of f/7.1, a shutter speed of around 1/160s, and an ISO of 100. You can adjust your f-stop and shutter speed, but keep in mind that you cannot shoot faster than your camera’s maximum flash sync speed.
  4. Make the necessary adjustments to slightly underexpose the background by 1/3 to 2/3 stops. I usually start by adjusting shutter speed, but go no slower than 1/60s and no faster than 1/160s. If necessary, adjust the aperture to f/5.6 (at the absolute widest). Then, and only then, should you start bumping up the ISO.
  5. If you are indoors, begin with a higher ISO as a first step, and then make your adjustments to shutter speed and f-stop in the same manner.
8. Carefully position your flash for the best results

For 90% of my portraits, I use a single off-camera flash diffused with an umbrella or softbox. I recommend you do the same (while natural light can work, it generally won’t be as sculpted or as dramatic).

The most important rule with flash is “Don’t ruin your shot,” which is usually done by putting too much flash on your subject. Instead, you want to get a decent balance of natural and artificial light, so that the flash is undetectable to the untrained eye but lights your subject brighter than the underexposed background.

Now, turn on your flash and trigger. Here are some starting points:

  • Set your flash to Manual mode.
  • I typically position the flash at a 45-degree angle to the subject, about 2-3 feet (slightly less than a meter) away, higher than their head, angled downward.
  • I usually start with 1/16 flash power when outdoors. Then I adjust from there until the subject stands out from the background but does not look like they’ve been blasted with flash.
Wide-angle portrait photography: conclusion

As you hopefully gathered from this article, capturing wide-angle portraits isn’t hard, and it can look incredible.

So grab your camera, your lens, and your flash, and get out shooting. Remember the tips from this article. And have fun!

Now over to you:

Do you have any tips or tricks for wide-angle portrait photography? What are your favorite lighting setups? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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The post How to Create Stunning Wide-Angle Portraits (Using an Off-Camera Flash) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ken Koskela.

The dPS Weekly Photography Challenge – The Street

Fri, 07/23/2021 - 16:00

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

This is a pretty broad theme, I’m sure you’ll agree! “The Street” or #dPSTheStreet has but one goal and that is to get you, at some stage in this next week to take your camera with you when you leave the house and head down the street. Find a scene and make it interesting. This photo is of my friend Elly who owns a coffee shop around the corner from my house, we’re all back in lockdown here in Melbourne, but a cafe can operate and so I head around to support them and grab my morning coffee. Today I took my camera with me (A Sony a7RMk3 and a 35mm lens) with the goal of making a frame for this challenge. I was going to go with the front window cakes (We have to order through the door and stay outside) display, but when I brought the camera up to my eye and half-pressed my shutter to focus, the camera had other ideas! My focus point was set to single and was slightly off the middle and just caught Elly in the frame and the photo was made. I like the image, despite it being a little less sharp than I’d have liked, because of the various elements in the frame, kinda takes me on a bit of a journey.

Anyways! Find a street scene and make it interesting! Looking forward to seeing what this week’s images have in store.

Find your photograph and share it with us in the comments under this post, or share it to social media and tag us!

“Stillman Street”

Carry your camera everywhere and make some photographs!

As ever, some help with sharing your photo in the comments below (don’t click on this photo to upload your photo, scroll down to the Disqus section, log in, THEN click on the little camera icon in the comments)

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

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

Tamron Launches Gorgeous 18-300mm Zoom for Fujifilm (and Sony)

Fri, 07/23/2021 - 06:00

The post Tamron Launches Gorgeous 18-300mm Zoom for Fujifilm (and Sony) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Earlier this week, Tamron unveiled the 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD, an all-in-one lens designed for both Sony E-mount and Fujifilm X-mount cameras.

While Tamron has spent several years perfecting mirrorless lenses for the Sony E-mount, the company has not yet launched glass for Fujifilm users. The announcement hints at a new direction for Tamron; assuming the X-mount version is sufficiently popular, you can expect future Fujifilm-compatible lenses, a major win for Fujifilm’s dedicated fanbase.

The lens itself draws on Tamron’s experience with flexible zooms and will sit alongside products such as the 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6. According to Tamron, the 18-300mm “is the world’s first all-in-one zoom lens for Sony and Fujifilm APS-C mirrorless cameras featuring a 16.6x zoom ratio,” and indeed, the zoom range is remarkable. At 18mm, you can capture landscapes, wide street shots, and architectural shots. And at 300mm, you can photograph tight telephoto landscapes and even some birds, thanks to a near-500mm field of view (with the crop factor applied). Then there are the midrange focal lengths, and you can use these for portrait photography, sports photography, and much more.

If you enjoy capturing the occasional close-up shot of insects or flowers, then you’ll love the 18-300mm’s close-focusing capabilities. You can shoot at up to 1:2 magnification, perfect for casual macro photography (and you’ll even be able to capture an abstract close-up or two for variety).

Tamron also promises “extremely fast and precise autofocus – the highest level in its class.” As you can imagine, this is a big deal for fast-paced travel and street shooting, not to mention bird and wildlife photography. Users will need to be content with a relatively narrow maximum aperture (f/6.3 on the long end, f/3.5 on the wide end), but the Vibration Compensation should offset this problem somewhat when shooting in low light.

Of course, when purchasing a lens, a lot hinges on optical quality, and superzooms are notoriously finicky – though Tamron promises “high-resolution performance” and “high image quality that is among the best of all all-in-one zoom lenses.” Bottom line, the 18-300mm is bound to work for photographers aiming to keep their backpack lightweight and minimalistic. For the right shooter, this lens could genuinely replace an entire bag of glass, saving on space, money, and more.

So if you like the sound of a convenient superzoom and you’re a Fujifilm or Sony user, keep an eye out for the 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3. While the price hasn’t yet been revealed, bank on a Fall 2021 release date and prepare for some fun photoshoots!

Now over to you:

What do you think about the Tamron 18-300mm? Is it a lens you’d be interested in? What would you use it for? Share your thoughts (and images) in the comments below!

The post Tamron Launches Gorgeous 18-300mm Zoom for Fujifilm (and Sony) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Positive Space in Photography: A Guide

Thu, 07/22/2021 - 06:00

The post Positive Space in Photography: A Guide appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

As a photographer, you may have heard of negative space, which refers to the more subtle areas surrounding the main subject in a photograph. However, positive space, the populated or focal point of an image, is a term that tends to fly under the radar.

In this article, we’ll take a look at positive space in composition and how you can use it to improve your photos.

What is positive space in photography?

Positive space refers to the subject matter or areas of peak interest in a photograph. It’s the key component of almost every great photo.

That said, like all compositional elements in photography, positive space is influenced by other aspects of a photo. Perhaps one of the most significant of these aspects is negative space – positive space is often sculpted by negative space and vice versa. You see, when photographing a clear subject, there is usually “occupied” or positive subject matter contrasted with negative elements that are not key focal points. Therefore, when discussing positive space, it’s hard not to mention the role of negative space, too.

Canon 5D Mark IV | Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM | f/5.6 | 1/200s | ISO 100

While positive space may constitute the main show, negative space serves as the stage. And although the word negative seems to imply a lack of content, the term doesn’t just refer to areas completely devoid of subject matter. In fact, negative space only has to be visually quieter, less populated, more subtle, or restful compared to the main subject.

A brief history of positive space

Positive space – and the interaction of positive and negative space – has been used in art throughout history. Painters, sculptors, architects, potters; all have balanced positive and negative dynamics to allow for tactical areas of visual rest, rhythm, focus, activity, atmosphere, etc.

For example, negative space in traditional Japanese art styles is often embraced to accentuate or balance the weight of the expressive and spontaneous brushstrokes that constitute positive subject matter.

Another example is Edgar Degas’s careful use of negative space in his scenes depicting ballet dancers. The negative space imbues the photos with a greater sense of movement, context, and contrast, creating interesting juxtapositions and framing detail.

With the invention of photography, the artistic possibilities of positive and negative space expanded to the photographic image. From Anna Atkins, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, and Robert Frank to Diane Arbus, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Steve McCurry, and Didier Massard, photographers have used negative space to support key (positive) focal points.

Why is positive space important?

Positive space matters because it can steer the narrative of an image or draw a viewer’s eye. Without positive space, negative space often looks directionless. In turn, a photograph lacking negative space may seem crowded or overwhelming.

Positive space creates momentum, narrative, and visual climax. Negative space can provide context, emphasis, isolation, and breathing room, funneling the viewer’s eye toward positive space and allowing the focal point to flourish.

In this image, a plant tendril makes up the central, positive component in the image, framed by the negative space of the unfocused background.
Canon 5D Mark IV | Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II with extension tubes | f/2.8 | 1/250s | ISO 100 Working with positive space: the basics

There are many ways to approach photographing positive space. Here’s what I recommend to get started:

  1. First, identify the positive areas of the scene – the elements of the composition that immediately stand out.
  2. Next, evaluate the negative space (you can use the viewfinder or your LCD for this). What does the negative space do? Does it uphold the positive space? Does it add context? Depth? Atmosphere? Narrative? Beauty?
  3. Finally, consider the technical aspects of your photo, and how they might affect positive and negative space. For example, adjusting the aperture will create a shallow or deep depth of field, where a shallower depth of field will often create more negative space.

These basic considerations will help you improve your use of positive space.

Canon 5D Mark IV | Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM | f/11 | 1/250s | ISO 200 Advanced tips and techniques for working with positive space

If you want to take your compositions to the next level, here are a few tips and tricks to help capitalize on positive space:

Tip 1: Apply compositional techniques

Positive space is a fundamental part of photographic composition, but it doesn’t exist in isolation. It can work alongside other compositional techniques, such as leading lines, depth of field, framing, symmetry, and perspective, to create beautiful photos.

So the next time you’re out with your camera, think about positive space. And also think about how you can use positive space in conjunction with composition principles to get the most impactful results.

Canon 5D Mark II | Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM | f/10 | 1/200s | ISO 100 Tip 2: Be mindful of both negative and positive space

The key to striking a successful positive/negative balance (or intentional imbalance) often lies in awareness. When composing a photograph, make sure you carefully check the negative space that surrounds a positive space, and ask yourself whether it works as it is – or whether it needs to be modified.

(A quick visual scan through the viewfinder or on the digital screen is a small action that can save time and many wasted shots!)

Canon 5D Mark IV | Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM | f/5.6 | 1/1600s | ISO 500

Furthermore, when framing a subject, running through a quick checklist can be helpful. Ask yourself: What is the negative space contributing? What is the positive space contributing? Does the positive space benefit from the negative regions that surround it?

Briefly pausing to consider the positive/negative dynamics in a photograph can increase the chances of capturing a successful image.

Tip 3: Use your camera settings

Positive space can hinge on negative space that occurs naturally (i.e., the sky, shadows, etc.), or on negative space that is deliberately created through camera settings.

For example, in a busy urban environment, a slow shutter speed can blur the flow of traffic to create negative space (and this will, in turn, emphasize static subjects like buildings and sculptures that constitute positive areas of interest).

ICM (intentional camera movement) can sometimes create blurry and abstract negative areas that highlight positive focal points. Selective focus can emphasize or deemphasize visually positive areas, and by adjusting the aperture settings, you can blur the background and/or foreground surrounding a positive subject. Zooming in or out in-camera or cropping with post-production can also manipulate the dynamics of positive and negative space.

In other words:

If you want more negative space, you can create it yourself! Just tweak your camera settings to achieve the effect you’re after.

Canon 5D Mark IV | Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM | f/4 | 1/25s | ISO 200 Tip 4: Know your narrative

Like all compositional tools, positive space can evoke emotions and tell stories. By determining your narrative in advance, you can use positive and negative space to create an impactful, coherent image.

For example, a smaller positive subject set within a large amount of negative space can evoke a sense of scale, isolation, simplicity, grandiosity, and distance. Negative space in the form of a bold, dark vignette can frame a positive subject for added impact. An image with predominantly positive space can generate immediacy and energy. Evenly distributed positive and negative space can lend to the impression of harmony and balance.

(The list goes on!)

Tip 5: Experiment!

Any positive (and negative) space bends to an endless amount of compositional variables. Experimenting with creative techniques, subjects, and conditions broadens the creative potential of any positive subject.

And although the term “negative” suggests “nothingness,” negative space, as we have seen, is just as versatile and important as its positive counterpart.

So while experimenting with positive space through the mindful manipulation of negative space can be a balancing act, gaining a good grasp on both forms of space will result in the best photos overall.

Canon 5D Mark IV | Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM | f/22 | 1/4s | ISO 100 A guide to positive space: conclusion

Positive space is a critical part of photographic composition. While the discussion of negative space is more common, positive space is the driving force behind countless photographic images.

Consciously working with positive space encourages a greater connection with the subject matter, and it’ll also help you create better compositions.

Now over to you:

Do you have any favorite ways to work with positive space? How do you balance positive and negative space? Share your thoughts (and images!) in the comments below!



The post Positive Space in Photography: A Guide appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Capture One vs Lightroom: Which Editing Program Is Best? (2021)

Wed, 07/21/2021 - 06:00

The post Capture One vs Lightroom: Which Editing Program Is Best? (2021) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Dawn Gilfillan.

Not sure whether to use Capture One or Lightroom for your image editing? Both programs have plenty of fans, but which option is best for you?

This article aims to give you a clear, unbiased assessment of the pros and cons of Capture One vs Lightroom. By the time you’re done, you’ll know all about these two programs – and you’ll know which one is right for your needs.

Let’s get started.

Capture One overview

Thanks to its advanced tools, Capture One is often the choice of professional photographers and retouchers. It’s a high-end program that offers powerful tethered shooting, in-depth image editing, and a robust image-organization system that’ll satisfy even the most demanding of photographers.

Pros
  • A vast range of image-editing tools and features
  • Tethered shooting option that performs well
  • Designed for professional workflows
  • Superior RAW image processing
Cons
  • The user interface can be confusing – it’s not always easy to find the tools you need
  • Not beginner-friendly
  • Expensive
  • Image organization/library feature is clunky and difficult to use
  • No simple one-click presets or filters
Lightroom overview

Lightroom offers image organization and library features, as well as RAW, TIFF, and JPEG image processing. Thanks to Lightroom’s smooth integration with Adobe Photoshop, many photographers use both programs for image editing. Lightroom is easy to use and includes a range of one-click presets to speed up your workflow.

Pros
  • Easy for beginners to use
  • Simple and effective image library/organization
  • Good range of one-click presets available online
  • Good for beginners and advanced photographers
  • Affordable
Cons
  • No image adjustment layers
  • Subscription-only model
  • Tethered shooting performs poorly
  • Image editing tools not as advanced as Capture One
Capture One vs Lightroom: in-depth comparison

Now that you’re broadly familiar with these two programs, let’s take a closer look at how they stack up, starting with:

Editing tools

While both Capture One and Lightroom offer a near-identical range of basic image editing tools, there are some key differences worth considering.

First, Capture One offers adjustment layers, while Lightroom does not.

Adjustment layers in Capture One.

Lightroom is designed to be used alongside Adobe Photoshop, an advanced layer-based editor. So if you want to use adjustment layers, you do have the option to send your Lightroom-adjusted files across to Photoshop, though this can be inconvenient compared to Capture One’s more comprehensive, one-stop-shop approach.

Both programs offer lens corrections and profiles, as well as the usual cropping and rotating features, etc. As a quick aside, the Crop tool in Lightroom is simpler to use than the one in Capture One – and it’s also far easier to find!

Crop tool in Lightroom.

Capture One and Lightroom can process RAW files, but Capture One does have the edge here, especially considering the amount of fine-tuning you can do with the shadows and highlights. Capture One offers high dynamic range editing of your RAW files, which lets you make significant adjustments to the highlights, shadows, blacks, and whites:

High Dynamic Range tool in Capture One.

While Lightroom offers RAW exposure adjustments of its own, the options are clunkier and less sophisticated compared to Capture One.

What’s one area where Capture One really beats Lightroom hands down? Color adjustments. The Capture One Color Editor doesn’t just offer Basic and Advanced options, but also a tool to fine-tune skin tones, plus an outstanding interface that serious color editors will love.

Color Editor in Capture One.

Capture One also offers the Color Balance tool with Master, 3-Way, Shadow, and Highlight options. If color grading is your thing, Capture One blows Lightroom out of the water; its sophisticated tools are capable of performing even the most demanding of color edits.

Color Balance tool in Capture One.

Lightroom does offer color adjustments, of course, but nothing comparable to Capture One:

HSL panel in Lightroom.

Tethered shooting is also where Capture One excels. I have used it extensively, and it’s fast and efficient. Although Lightroom does offer tethering, it’s not reliable, and it’s slow and glitchy at times. It just doesn’t cut the mustard for a pro photographer, especially one who has clients waiting to see the RAW shots during an in-progress session.

Ease of use

As far as I’m considered, Lightroom is much easier to use; the interface is simple, and you can view all the tools and features on one screen. 

Capture One, on the other hand, uses a series of tabs, cursor tools, menus, and sub-menus, and it’s easy to get lost or spend ages hunting for something you need.

The Lightroom Library system is also clear and simple, while Capture One makes this unnecessarily complicated. 

The Lightroom Library.

Using presets in Lightroom is easy. Download your presets, import them into Lightroom, and they’ll appear on the lefthand side of the Develop module. Hover your mouse over a preset to see how it will affect your image, click to select a favorite, and you’re done. Just look at the simplicity of Lightroom’s Preset panel:

Capture One doesn’t do presets – sort of. It does have preset equivalents, but they’re called Styles, and you’ll have to go into the Adjustments tab and follow the sub-menu to find and apply them:

Also, Styles packs are expensive, whereas there are plenty of free Lightroom presets on the market.

Supported file formats

Capture One supports the following file formats:

  • RAW
  • DNG
  • JPEG
  • TIFF
  • PNG
  • PSD (read-only)
  • HEIF/HEIC
  • DNG files are supported in Capture One Pro, but not in brand versions (e.g., Capture One for Fujifilm, Capture One for Sony, etc.)

Lightroom supports these file formats:

  • RAW
  • Digital Negative format (DNG)
  • HEIF/HEIC
  • TIFF 
  • JPEG 
  • Photoshop format (PSD)
  • Large Document format (PSB)
  • CMYK files
  • AVI
  • MP4
  • MOV
  • AVCHD

If you want to use PSD or PSB formats, then Lightroom will be your best choice. It’s also best for those who want to import the supported video files listed here. As noted with Capture One, DNG files from all cameras are only supported in the Pro version, whereas all DNG files are supported in Lightroom, regardless of which camera they came from.

Is there a mobile version?

Lightroom offers a totally free app for your device, downloadable from both iOS and Android app stores. You will need an Adobe subscription to access several advanced features, but once you’ve purchased Lightroom, this will take care of itself. Also, note that images and edits from your Lightroom app will sync across your Lightroom CC programs – so you can edit on your phone, then see the changes on your desktop (and vice versa).

Unfortunately, Capture One doesn’t currently offer any kind of mobile app. If you want to edit images taken on your smartphone, you’ll need to transfer them to your computer (and if you want to edit images on your phone, you’re out of luck, though you can always grab the free Lightroom app).

Pricing

As with all Adobe apps, Lightroom is only available as a monthly subscription. You can purchase Lightroom CC on its own – with 1 TB of cloud storage – for $9.99 USD per month, or you can grab Lightroom as part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud Photography Plan, which includes access to Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic, and Photoshop CC and starts at $9.99 USD per month, though you can pay extra for additional cloud storage.

Unfortunately, Capture One is quite expensive, and the pricing structure can be confusing, too. You can buy the program outright or rent it via a monthly subscription, and you can buy plans for specific camera brands, such as Sony, Fujifilm, or Nikon (these camera-specific plans are cheaper, but can only be used on images from certain cameras).

Capture One Pro is $299 USD for a new perpetual license, and subscription plans start at $19 USD per month. An annual prepaid subscription for Capture One for Fujifilm, Nikon, or Sony is $149 USD (which comes to around $12.50 USD per month).

Capture One vs Lightroom: final thoughts

Ultimately, the software you choose will be a reflection of your preferences, your skill level, and your budget.

Therefore, if you are a professional photographer who requires an integrated workflow from tethered shooting through to finished images, then Capture One is the best choice. It’s also the program to choose if you like advanced editing and color grading on adjustment layers. 

Lightroom, on the other hand, is great for beginners, intermediate, and pro photographers who don’t need the huge array of features and tools available in Capture One. Lightroom is also less expensive, plus it’s more pleasant to use.

I’ve used both programs extensively, and each has its own strong and weak points. If you’re still on the fence, I’d recommend you take the time to determine the features that are important to you in an image editor. That way, you can make an informed decision regarding the best program for your editing needs.

Now over to you:

Which program do you like better, Lightroom or Capture One? Which do you plan to purchase? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post Capture One vs Lightroom: Which Editing Program Is Best? (2021) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Dawn Gilfillan.

Leading Lines in Photography: The Essential Guide

Tue, 07/20/2021 - 06:00

The post Leading Lines in Photography: The Essential Guide appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anne McKinnell.

What are leading lines in photography, and how can they improve your compositions?

In this article, you’ll discover everything you need to know about leading lines, including:

  • Why every photographer should learn how to use leading lines (hint: they can majorly increase a photo’s impact)
  • Plenty of easy places to look for leading lines
  • How to use lines for beautiful, three-dimensional images
  • Much more!

So if you’re ready to become an expert, then let’s get started!

Leading lines in photography: a definition

Leading lines refer to lines that lead the viewer’s eye from one part of a composition to another. Usually, these lines start at the bottom of the frame and guide the eye upward, from the foreground of the image to the background.

When used as a compositional technique, leading lines generally move toward the main subject of a photo. For instance, a river might lead the eye toward a fog-covered mountain in the background, or a log might lead the eye toward a stunning sunset.

Note that leading lines can be anything: rivers or logs, as mentioned in the examples above, but also marks on a road, pointed rocks on a beach, lines in the sand, the walls of a house – if it looks like a line and is capable of guiding the viewer’s eye, then it can work!

Why are leading lines important?

Leading lines guide the viewer through a composition.

So by carefully positioning leading lines in the frame, you can draw attention to areas of a photo that matter, like a beautiful mountain or sunset on the ocean. In other words, you can use leading lines to get the viewer to look where you want them to look – and avoid areas you’d prefer they avoid.

You can also use leading lines to create flow, often referred to as dynamism, throughout a composition. Leading lines naturally take the viewer on a journey around the photo, which keeps them engaged (always a good thing!).

Plus, leading lines are a great way to create three-dimensionality (i.e., depth) in an image. By emphasizing the start of a line before letting it fall away into the backdrop, you create a 3D illusion that looks incredible in scenic landscape photography.

How to use leading lines: the basics

Working with leading lines requires two simple steps:

  1. Find a leading line
  2. Incorporate that leading line into your composition

Of course, this is easier said than done, but neither of the above steps is actually difficult; they just take a bit of perseverance. Let’s look at each step in turn.

Step 1: Find leading lines

No matter where you live, and no matter where you like to take photos…

…leading lines are all around.

It might not seem likely, but it’s true. After all, remember that leading lines are just lines, and plenty of those exist, right? The key is to find them (and incorporate them creatively into your compositions, as I discuss in the next section).

So where, specifically, should you look for leading lines?

Personally, I think the best place to start is with a path; paths are inherently leading because they go somewhere, and the path edges often create a vanishing point on the horizon (the place where two or more lines converge at theoretical infinity). Plus, you can find paths all over the place – in forests, at parks, in the city, even in the countryside (roads count as paths!).

The leading lines of this road converge at a vanishing point.

But you can find plenty of other leading lines, too. While photographers certainly use paths in their compositions, they also work with patterns in the sand, fallen logs, bunches of flowers, interesting rocks, bridges, fences, and more. Here’s a whole list of items to consider:

Human-made leading lines

  • roads
  • fences
  • boardwalks
  • bridges
  • bricks
  • anything in a row, such as lamp posts
  • buildings
  • doorways
  • window panes

Natural leading lines

  • rivers
  • shorelines
  • waves
  • sand dunes
  • trees
  • tall grass
  • cliffs
  • rocks
  • sunrays

Of course, the list is hardly exhaustive; there are always more leading lines out there just waiting to be found! So the next time you’re setting up a shot, take a moment to examine the scene for prominent lines. You’re bound to find some good ones, even if it takes a bit of searching.

The logs on the beach lead the viewer’s eye into the frame and lead up to the house. Step 2: Incorporate leading lines into your composition

So you’ve found a leading line or two. Well done – but the work isn’t complete! Now it’s time to actually incorporate the leading lines into your composition, a deliberate, thoughtful process.

First, ask yourself: Where do I want this leading line to take the viewer? Oftentimes, the answer will involve an interesting feature in the background – such as a sunset – so you’ll need to adjust your camera position until the leading line points roughly in the right direction.

(If the leading line isn’t going where you want it to, you can try moving forward and backward or side to side along the line, or you can find another leading line that works better in your composition. A leading line that points away from your main subject is likely counterproductive.)

Next, ask yourself: Is the leading line interesting enough that it can act as a foreground subject? And can I get close enough to make it large in the frame?

If your leading line is interesting and you know you can get close, do it. The best photos often involve a strong leading line, one that draws the viewer into the foreground then leads them from foreground to background, like the stones in the photo below:

The soft leading line of the river’s edge creates depth.

Of course, some leading lines just can’t hold the viewer’s attention, or they’re not accessible, and that’s okay – leading lines are always powerful, even if they aren’t showstoppers. You can still use them, but make sure you find an interesting foreground subject that catches the eye or really tighten up your composition to focus on the main subject.

Finally, once you’ve roughly positioned your subject and any leading lines, evaluate the scene one more time. Think about ways that you could enhance the effects of the leading lines, perhaps by changing your camera position, by getting lower or higher, or even by using a wider or longer focal length.

Then take your shot!

Tips and tricks for working with leading lines

Now that you’re familiar with the basics, let’s discuss a few tips to improve your compositions with leading lines, starting with:

1. Use the widest lens you have available

You don’t need a wide-angle lens to create stunning leading line compositions.

But it really, really helps.

Why? Well, a wide-angle lens lets you capture an expansive scene – so you can position leading lines toward the bottom of the frame, then let them flow into the shot, slowly getting farther and farther away until they disappear (or reach your main subject).

Compare this to a telephoto composition, where the leading lines generally start close to the subject, then quickly terminate. Less dynamic, less interesting, and less three-dimensional.

Many landscape photographers shoot with ultra-wide focal lengths for this exact reason. They often find a leading line, use a wide-angle lens to emphasize it, and create a stunningly deep composition.

Make sense?

2. Don’t be afraid to incorporate multiple leading lines into a single composition

A single leading line is nice…

…but if you can find multiple leading lines, all guiding the viewer toward your main subject, your composition will be insanely strong.

For instance, you might use both edges of a road to point toward a distant mountain. Or you might use two lines in the sand – one starting in the bottom right, and one starting in the bottom left – to point toward a blue ocean.

Note that all of your leading lines should point toward the subject as much as possible. If the lines deviate from your subject, they’ll guide the viewer in the wrong direction, which will prevent them from fully appreciating the image. Getting two or more lines to converge toward your subject may take some creativity, but the end result will be worth it.

3. Use the near-far technique to create plenty of depth

The near-far technique is especially common in landscape photography. It’s a simple way to create tons of depth in your photos, and it’s how you can capture powerful photos like this one:

It’s also really simple to use. Here’s what you do:

First, make sure your leading line is suitably eye-catching. It should act as a subject in its own right – like an interesting rock or a patch of colorful flowers.

Second, make sure you use a wide focal length. I’d recommend working with at least 35mm (on a full-frame camera), but 24mm, 18mm, or even 14mm is better.

Third, mount your camera to a tripod and get down low over your subject. You want to make the leading line prominent in the frame, even if it means getting a few inches from your subject. And you’ll want to dial in a narrow aperture, such as f/8, f/11, or even f/16, in order to keep both the foreground and background sharp.

Your final shot will look incredible – with an interesting foreground subject, a line that leads the eye, plus (hopefully!) an interesting background subject to complete the composition.

How to use leading lines for better compositions: final words

Leading lines are the key compositional elements that carry our eye through a photograph. They can be used to tell a story, place emphasis, and draw a connection between two objects.

So start thinking about leading lines wherever you go. Practice finding leading lines in the chaos of everyday life. Your compositions will get very good, very fast!

Now over to you:

What do you think about leading lines? Do you plan to incorporate them into your photos? Do you have any examples of leading line photography? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post Leading Lines in Photography: The Essential Guide appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anne McKinnell.

Reverse Lens Macro Photography: A Beginner’s Guide

Mon, 07/19/2021 - 06:00

The post Reverse Lens Macro Photography: A Beginner’s Guide appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Andrew S. Gibson.

If you want to capture beautiful close-up images but don’t want to spend hundreds (or thousands) on a macro lens, then you’ve come to the right place.

Because in this article, I’m going to explain everything you need to know about reverse lens macro photography. It’s a simple technique that lets you turn a standard lens into a macro lens so you can capture photos like this:

In fact, if you already own a 50mm prime lens or a standard kit lens (in the 18-55mm focal length range), then the reverse lens macro technique is the least expensive way to capture magnified images.

So let’s dive right in, starting with the absolute basics:

What is reverse lens macro photography?

Reverse lens macro photography is a method of capturing highly magnified images using an interchangeable lens camera, a lens, and a cheap adapter. You turn your lens around so the rear element points outward, then use an adapter to attach the reversed lens to your camera body (or to another lens).

In other words: You take your lens. You flip it around. And you’ll be able to shoot at macro magnifications.

If you’ve never seen the reverse lens macro technique, it may seem a bit strange – after all, why does reversing a standard lens let you shoot at high magnifications?

But it really does work, and the diagram below shows why. In normal use, a 50mm lens focuses light from far away to create a much smaller image, one that fits onto film or a digital sensor (which is often around 35mm wide). Reverse the lens and the opposite occurs: the 50mm lens magnifies what it sees, giving near life-size reproduction:

How to do reverse lens photography

There are two ways you can use the reverse lens macro technique:

1. Single lens reverse macro

This method involves reverse-mounting one lens to the front of your camera. First, purchase a reversing ring (also known as a reverse ring) like this one:

You can buy these adapters for cheap on Amazon. One side screws onto the end of your lens like a filter, while the other attaches to your lens mount. Here’s a reversing ring in action:

Note that the reverse macro technique works best if you use a lens with a manual aperture ring. That way, you can stop down to increase the zone of sharpness (which is very helpful because depth of field decreases as you get closer to your subject).

Unfortunately, if your reversed lens doesn’t have a manual aperture ring, you won’t be able to make any f-stop adjustments and you’ll be forced to work at your lens’s maximum aperture. But while this can be inconvenient, don’t let it stop you – you can use a reversed lens at its widest aperture to take some beautiful photos. You just have to get creative!

2. Twin lens reverse macro

This reverse lens macro technique is less popular but will get the job done. Instead of reverse-mounting one lens to your camera, you mount one lens normally, then reverse mount a second lens on the front of the first, like this:

I’ve attached a reversed 50mm lens to my 85mm prime lens. In this setup, the 85mm lens is called the primary lens and the reversed lens is called the secondary lens.

The actual mechanics are nearly identical to the single lens technique discussed above; simply purchase a coupler ring (shown below). Then use it to mount the second lens to the first.

Now, when using the twin lens reverse macro technique, the reversed lens acts like a powerful close-up filter, except that it’s much stronger than any filter I’ve encountered. In fact, the twin lens technique offers two major benefits over the single lens technique:

  1. It offers insanely close magnifications. Depending on the focal lengths you use, you can achieve up to 3x life-size reproduction. (That’s three times as close as most professional macro lenses!)
  2. It increases your depth of field flexibility. You can leave the reversed lens open at its widest aperture, while stopping down the primary lens to increase depth of field (even if you don’t have a manual aperture ring).

Note that you can do this technique with essentially any lenses, though the longer the focal length, the more magnification you’ll achieve. What’s most important is that the filter thread sizes on the two lenses match – that way, you can buy a coupler ring that will easily join them together.

(If your lenses have different filter threads, you do have the option of purchasing a step-up ring in addition to your coupler ring, but this can be inconvenient.)

Caring for the reversed lens

The reverse macro technique does leave the rear element of your reversed lens open to the elements, regardless of which method you use. So you should always work carefully to avoid scratching the exposed element.

If you have an extension tube, you can attach it to the back (now front) of the reversed lens, as I did in the photo above. This helps protect the rear element and also acts as a lens hood.

Also, because of the risks to the lens, I’d recommend using relatively cheap glass, like a 50mm f/1.8.

Image sharpness

The reversed lens technique gets you so close to your subject that it’s virtually impossible to handhold the camera. For the sharpest results, use a tripod to keep the camera steady and use a cable release to fire the shutter.

I find it best to use a reverse lens macro setup indoors, especially for delicate subjects like flowers. If you try it outside, the slightest breeze can move the flower and spoil the photo.

Of course, you can always embrace a blurry result and create some interesting abstract shots – but if your goal is to create magnified-yet-sharp photos, you’ll need to follow this advice closely.

If possible, stop down your primary lens to at least f/4. That way, you’ll get increased depth of field, and if you’re using the twin lens technique, it’ll help you avoid the softening that may happen when the first lens is at its widest aperture setting.

How to light reverse lens photography

As long as you don’t mind using a tripod and long shutter speeds to obtain the required exposure, natural light will work just fine.

However, flash is also an option. And you don’t need a specialized macro flash – I use a Canon Speedlite with a small softbox (though you’ll probably want to make sure you’re using an off-camera flash to avoid shadows cast by the lens).

A flash and a softbox were all I needed to take the photo featured above. Here’s a diagram of the setup:

In general, I’d recommend you start with natural light, unless you’re relatively familiar with artificial lighting. That way, you can experiment with different lighting qualities and directions and you don’t have to worry about complex lighting techniques.

What lens should you use for reverse macro shooting?

I’ve used a 50mm prime lens for the photos featured throughout this article. And a nifty fifty is a great way to get started with reverse lens macro photography.

But don’t forget that you can try this out with just about any lens (though I do recommend using a cheaper option, just in case your lens gets damaged). Kit lenses like the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II (pictured above) work great.

Reverse lens macro photography: conclusion

Now that you’ve finished this article, you should be able to confidently create a macro photography setup (without spending lots of money on a dedicated macro lens).

Reverse lens macro photography is a lot of fun, so order your reverse ring and get shooting!

Now over to you:

Do you prefer the single lens reverse macro technique or the twin lens reverse macro technique? Do you have any tips for improved macro photography? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post Reverse Lens Macro Photography: A Beginner’s Guide appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Andrew S. Gibson.

10 Rural Landscape Photography Tips (+ Examples)

Sun, 07/18/2021 - 06:00

The post 10 Rural Landscape Photography Tips (+ Examples) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

Have you ever wondered how you can capture stunning images of rural landscapes? Whether you live and shoot in rural areas or you’re simply taking a trip to a rural location, this rural landscape photography guide is for you.

Specifically, you’ll discover:

  • The best lighting for rural landscape photos
  • Key tips to take your compositions to the next level
  • Ways to use weather for dramatic results
  • Much more!

Let’s dive right in, starting with…

What is rural landscape photography?

Rural landscape photography refers to “photography in the countryside” and covers the rural environment.

While rural landscapes often contain architecture – much the same as urban landscapes – rural landscape photography is more about capturing the life and elements found in the countryside. This can include humans in the landscape as well as elements of human influence.

Rural landscape photography can also encompass rural scenes including buildings, animals, and stunning countryside scenery.

Now that you understand what rural landscape photography actually is, here are some tips to help you capture your own rural landscapes:

1. Experiment with different rural subjects

Rural landscape photography offers you the chance to capture a whole range of interesting subjects, including:

  • Old barns
  • Towers
  • Churches
  • Machinery
  • Buildings in disrepair

You might also include modern rural elements, such as houses, working farms, and more.

When doing rural photography, don’t confine yourself to a single subject. Instead, experiment with all these different options. If you find an old barn, take the time to photograph it – and if you find a shiny new farmhouse, photograph that, too!

2. Shoot when the light is soft

You can photograph rural landscapes at any time of the day…

…but golden hour, blue hour, and nighttime offer some of the best times to get out with your camera. The light tends to be soft and flattering, perfect for rural subjects.

Golden hour provides a magical glow that can elevate your images, while blue hour adds a cool tone that works well with subjects such as old houses and derelict buildings.

If you prefer to photograph at night, you may need to be more creative, as the building lights will likely be switched off. I recommend taking a flashlight and painting light on your subject to make it more visible in the final photo.

3. Think about the sky (and the weather)


Want to capture creative rural landscape photos? Make sure you spend plenty of time thinking about the sky, which has the power to elevate – or ruin – your images.

Ask yourself: What type of atmosphere do I want to capture? For moody photos, you can head out during rain, snow, or fog. And for upbeat, colorful images, shoot in strong sunlight.

By the way, you’ll want to consider whether the sky should be included in your photo. On overcast days (where you don’t have much cloud moodiness, but you also don’t have any nice sky color), you may want to leave out the sky completely. But on stormy days, or during dramatic sunrises and sunsets, the sky will add an extra dimension to your photos.

4. Use architecture to anchor the viewer


I find that architecture makes for a great focal point in rural landscape photography; it often contrasts beautifully with nature.

Traditional structures can work great, especially barns with rugged, weathered facades. They’ll create a rustic look and feel, which can really capture the viewer’s imagination. For instance, take a look at this image of an old barn:

Other architecture that makes for interesting rural landscape images includes abandoned houses, old farms, and buildings that have been left behind by people moving to cities. You can capture their aging, rundown characteristics within the surrounding countryside.

5. Don’t be afraid to include people


People often make great subjects in the countryside! After all, they are an integral part of the rural landscape.

One great thing about rural settings is that there is always human activity. At farms, people can be seen tending to their land and farm animals. And people may be out riding horses, exercising, or operating machinery, all of which can make for beautiful images.

6. Animals and the rural landscape


When you go out into the countryside, you will always come across animals. These might be wild animals, which are often well hidden and harder to photograph. Or they might be captive animals, such as horses, cows, and sheep.

Take advantage of these photo opportunities. Experiment with different forms of lighting to create unique farm-animal images. And don’t be afraid to shoot when the weather gets foggy; it’ll offer plenty of stunning atmosphere to play with:

7. Carefully position your subject for better compositions

As with all landscape photography, composition is an essential part of the best rural photos – so it’s important you get it right.

Start by asking yourself: What is my main subject? What is it that interests me most about this scene? Then determine where you want to place that main subject in the frame.

You might put it right in the center of the shot, or you might put it off to one side. It often pays to remember the rule of thirds, which suggests you position your main subject about a third of the way into the frame (either vertically or horizontally).

Also consider whether you want to capture the entire countryside or if only part of it appeals to you. Wide-angle lenses are great for landscape shots, but don’t be afraid to go tight for a more intimate perspective, one that highlights details within the scene.

8. Use the right settings for sharp photos


For rural landscape photography, the best camera settings vary depending on the shots you’re after as well as the weather.

Generally speaking, a mid-range aperture of f/8 will give you an adequate depth of field to keep everything in focus, and this often works well. But if you want to throw parts of the frame out of focus, go with a wider aperture – f/4 is a good starting point, with f/2.8 decreasing the in-focus area even further.

You will want to keep the ISO fairly low, so go for an ISO of anything between 100 and 400. Any higher, and you’ll be risking unwanted noise – but if you’re shooting in low light, an ISO of 800 and beyond may still be necessary.

As for shutter speeds: If your scene includes moving subjects (such as a swaying horse), you’ll need at least 1/100s and probably more. For scenes without significant movement, I’d still recommend keeping your shutter speed above 1/60s or so (though you also have the option of using a tripod).

Of course, shutter speed often does involve experimentation. So don’t be afraid to test out different speeds and see what works best.

9. Head out when the weather is bad

It’s true:

Bright, sunny days – especially around sunrise or sunset – offer great conditions for rural landscape photos.

But shooting in bad weather can bring another level of drama to the scene. For instance, fog can add tons of atmosphere, rain can look gloriously dreary, and snow can take your photos to new heights.

So don’t confine yourself to good weather. Instead, be prepared to shoot whenever the rural landscape looks dramatic (which is often on the most unpleasant days!).

10. Take a walk in the landscape


Here’s your final rural landscape photography tip:

Take a walk. Head out with your camera. Have fun.

After all, the countryside is a beautiful place, and you never know what you may find. You might come across wildlife, blooming flowers, hay bales, and more – all great subjects for photography!

Rural landscape photography tips: conclusion


I hope you found these tips on rural landscape photography helpful. The countryside truly is a wonderful place to explore!

Now over to you:

Do you have any favorite rural landscape subjects? Do you have any tips for composition, lighting, or subject choice that we missed? Share your thoughts (and images!) in the comments below.

The post 10 Rural Landscape Photography Tips (+ Examples) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

How to Take Better Beach Portraits at Any Time of Day

Sat, 07/17/2021 - 06:00

The post How to Take Better Beach Portraits at Any Time of Day appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Are you struggling to work with light during beach portrait photoshoots? You’re not alone.

But while doing beach photography can be tough, don’t worry – because there are a few simple tips and tricks you can use to keep your beach portraits looking gorgeous, even at high noon. And that’s what this article is all about.

Specifically, we’ll share:

  • The best times of day to do beach photography
  • How to shoot in bright sunlight and still come away with flattering shots
  • An easy way to use the light for artistic beach portraits
  • Much more!

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

1. Know where the sun is at all times

To capture stunning beach portraits, you need to know where the sun is, no matter the time of day. That way you know when to schedule a photoshoot, where to set up your camera, where to position your subject, and how the light will change over the course of your session.

The easiest way to do this is to use an ephemeris app (I personally use this one). It’s a tool that can help you see where the sun will be at all times. Note that an ephemeris can show you the position of the sun anywhere in the world, so simply plug in the location of your photoshoot, and you can see all of the important details.

Using an ephemeris app, you can see where (and when) the sun will move across the sky.

So before – or even while – you’re scheduling your session, quickly check this tool to see the sunrise, midday, and sunset positions and times.

This is really helpful since no beach is alike and the direction of light differs from one side of the world to another. For example, in California, the sun sets behind the beach, whereas on the East Coast, the sun sets in the opposite direction.

Also, different beaches may face different directions, so it’s good to know where the sun will be during your session.

2. Morning light is a great time to do beach portraits

Morning light on a beach is magical. It has a whole different color temperature than evening golden hour, and it can provide a nice soft glow if you have your session early enough.

The light is a little bluer in the mornings, and depending on the beach where your session is taking place, the sun can rise over the ocean or peek through the trees. A beach on the East Coast may let you catch the sunrise while photographing.

Alternatively, on a beach in California, you’ll catch the sun hitting the water from the land side. This will give you a beautiful yellowish-blue glow on the water if your session is within a few hours of sunrise.

On the left, we see the sun rising behind the bay. At right, the sun casts shadows around midday.

If the morning light is causing unwanted shadows, use a simple reflector to bounce light back onto your subject. This is especially useful if sunrise is behind the water at the beach.

3. Use flash or reflectors to deal with midday light

Midday light at a beach is pretty harsh. Therefore, it’s good to have some kind of additional lighting equipment to help with shadows. You can use an external flash, pop-up flash, or a reflector.

Seeing the shadows in front of your clients means the sun is behind them. This family is lit with an external flash, one that’s mounted on-camera (and pointed straight ahead).

You can also go without an additional light source. If you choose this route, however, it’s good to underexpose your photos a bit so you can bring up the shadows in your editing software. Otherwise, you’ll end up with blown-out skies. Of course, this all depends on your style of photography.

When the sun is at its highest point during the day, it might be a good time to take your clients under the shade of some trees or opt to capture playful photos of the family. Have your clients walk, run, splash in the water, build sandcastles, or just have a bit of fun together.

The sun is at its highest at different times around the world, so make sure to check the ephemeris to know exactly when to expect high noon.

Same session, same beach, one photo with flash and one photo without.

Once the sun passes the highest point, it will be at a bit of an angle as it starts to go down for sunset. That’s the sweet spot for photographing during the midday hours at the beach.

Here, I used flash to correctly expose the photo and fill in shadows caused by the sun.

When the sun is at a bit of an angle, you can pose your clients with the sun behind them to keep the light out of their eyes. This means you’ll be in the sun, but it’s better than having your clients facing the sun directly; that way, you can avoid unflattering shadows, uneven lighting, and squinting. The sand can also work as a natural reflector, bouncing light back into their faces.

The sand can act as a natural reflector and bounce light back onto your clients. 4. Keep your portrait subjects facing away from the sun just after midday

Light after midday can be different in the winter compared to the summer, but the sun will always sit lower in the sky compared to high noon. I recommend you position your clients so they’re looking away from the sun; that way, the sun starts to fall behind them (and this will prevent the issues I discussed in the previous section).

After midday is actually a pretty great time to do beach portraits. Depending on the angle of light, you can get some really interesting light, and it’ll get more and more golden as you approach sunset.

If you angle your subjects away from the sun but you’re still getting harsh, unflattering light, you may want to consider using a reflector or some fill flash to deal with those unwanted shadows.

5. Use a flash or a silhouette technique during the golden hours (sunset)

Actual sunset only lasts about 5-10 minutes. However, golden hour begins about an hour before the sun dips below the horizon, which means the angle of the light is pretty low and directional. And while golden hour light is beautiful and warm, it also makes it difficult to capture your clients evenly against the background.

It can be especially troublesome if the sun sets over the water because you’ll struggle to capture the beautiful colors while also lighting your clients.

So to light your clients while including the sunset in the background, bring along a flash or external light source. You can also underexpose your photos a bit, then bring up the shadows later without compromising the sunset.

You can also try silhouetting your clients with the sunset light to offer a different look to the final images:

One more quick tip: Golden hour is the perfect time to turn your clients toward the setting sun. That way, you can capture that beautiful golden color cast on their skin and hair, plus it’ll contribute to the overall look of the photos.

6. Use a slow shutter speed (and potentially a tripod) during blue hour

Blue hour is the 20 to 30 minutes (sometimes less) after the sun has completely disappeared from view. Blue hour is a great time to photograph because of the beautiful colors like blue, orange, pink, and purple that come out after sunset. The lighting is a bit darker, so you may need a tripod.

During the blue hour, you can get some additional light on your clients by facing them toward the spot where the sun has set.

Ask your clients to hold still and attempt some slow shutter speed photos. Capturing movement in water can create a more fine-art beach portrait result.

7. Try these beach portrait ideas… Cloudy days are perfect for beach portraits. However, you might not get an especially bright sunset (compared to a clear day).

It doesn’t matter the time of day; it’s good to include variety in your beach portraits. For that, try some of these ideas:

  • Use rock formations/caves as backgrounds and also as shelter from harsh light.
  • Trees can provide shade if the light is harsh and the day is particularly hot.
  • While you’re waiting for the midday sun to angle a bit, the nearby town can also serve as a nice background.
  • Getting up high can keep clients out of harsh sunlight. For example, you could use a balcony in a hotel room, a higher terrace with some shade that overlooks the ocean, etc.
  • Photographing lifestyle-type photos with the family playing, getting in the water, and just having a “beach day” is a good way to spice up the photoshoot.
If you are waiting for the sun to go down a bit, you can take some portraits near trees that aren’t on the beach. This also adds variety to the final set of images. Beach portrait tips: conclusion

Now that you’ve finished this article, you’re ready to capture some beautiful beach photos – so get out with your camera and have fun!

Over to you:

Do you have any tips for shooting at the beach? What’s your favorite beach photography lighting? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post How to Take Better Beach Portraits at Any Time of Day appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

The Weekly Photography Challenge – Patterns

Fri, 07/16/2021 - 16:00

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

We see patterns in many places, repetition in shapes and objects, buildings, fences, patterns are everywhere! This week we want you to find and photograph a pattern a pattern a pattern a pattern! (sorry, dadjoke)

You must take a new photograph for this weekly challenge, how else are you going to sharpen your skills! Make sure you post it on social media and share it with the tag #dPSPatterns or share it in the comments below this blog post.

Make sure you revisit any weekly challenges that you haven’t been able to complete, you can see them all over here

Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash

Patterns come in many shapes and sizes, above on a building, in architecture you’ll generally find patterns, and below, in the sand at the beach… Where will you go to find your pattern for this week’s challenge?

Photo by Maria Afanasyeva on Unsplash

Or this epic pile of tyres! Some great photos by the myriad of creators on Unsplash, I’ve had to resort to that website this week as none of mine were any good! I pledge to find and photograph a ‘pattern’ this week! — Simon

Photo by Imthaz Ahamed on Unsplash

As ever, some help with sharing your photo in the comments below (don’t click on this photo to upload your photo, scroll down to the Disqus section, log in, THEN click on the little camera icon in the comments)

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

Thanks for joining in! We can’t wait to see your photos!

–Simon

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

Canon May Release a “$799 Full-Frame Camera” in 2022

Fri, 07/16/2021 - 06:00

The post Canon May Release a “$799 Full-Frame Camera” in 2022 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

A full-frame, RF-mount camera for the price of an entry-level, crop-sensor model. Could it be done?

It sounds outlandish, but according to Canon Rumors, such a camera may not be far off. As CR reported earlier this week, while Canon’s plans aren’t yet set in stone, the company “is aiming to release a full-frame, RF-mount camera for under $800 in 2022.”

Of course, Canon Rumors is all about, well, rumors, and any official confirmation from Canon is many months out. But this $799 camera tidbit comes from “a pretty solid source with a decent track record,” and CR notes that they “do believe there is something to this just by what [they] have been shown.”

And if the rumor is true and Canon does succeed in creating a full-frame mirrorless camera for $799 USD? It would be a revolutionary move, pushing the boundaries of affordable, entry-level models beyond anything done before.

At the time of writing, a significant divide exists between full-frame cameras on the one hand and APS-C cameras on the other. With few exceptions, APS-C cameras are aimed at the beginner-to-enthusiast crowd, as reflected in their prices, lens offerings, and other specifications; most of Canon’s APS-C cameras, for instance, debut for less than $1000, including recent mirrorless models such as the M50 Mark II and M6 Mark II (body only).

Full-frame cameras, on the other hand, start where APS-C cameras leave off. Canon’s cheapest full-frame mirrorless model to date, the EOS RP, clocked in at $1299 when released. And Canon’s cheapest full-frame DSLR, the Canon EOS 6D Mark II, currently goes for $1399, body only. For plenty of beginners and even many serious enthusiasts, these price points are prohibitive, especially when factoring in the cost of full-frame lenses.

Sure, the crop-sensor models of 2021 are powerful. And there are reasons to pick crop-sensor models over full-frame models, as cameras like the Canon 7D/7D Mark II show. But APS-C cameras struggle to compete with their full-frame counterparts in one key area, and it’s a big one:

Image quality.

Because that’s what this is all about: full-frame sensors are larger, which means (all else being equal) better high-ISO performance, improved dynamic range, and the opportunity for higher resolutions. If Canon could pack full-frame quality into an entry-level-priced body, it would open up the advantages of full-frame imaging to everyone, beginners and professionals alike.

As Canon Rumors points out, “Even launching a new full-frame camera at $999 would be quite welcomed…If Canon could get the camera and a kit lens for under $1000 USD, they’d have themselves a winner.”

2022 is a long way off, and plans can fail, but let’s hope that Canon forges ahead. Keep an eye out for more information, and in the meantime, share your thoughts in the comments below!

What do you think of a sub-$800 full-frame, RF-mount camera? Would it interest you? And if Canon is successful, would it be the beginning of the end of APS-C cameras?

The post Canon May Release a “$799 Full-Frame Camera” in 2022 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

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