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A Beginner’s Guide to Long Exposure Street Photography

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 06:00

The post A Beginner’s Guide to Long Exposure Street Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

You may have done some long exposure photos and perhaps a bit of street photography. But have you combined these two genres for long exposure street photography?

Consider this: Photographs are frozen slices of time, and your camera is a time machine capable of freezing or stretching a moment. A short shutter speed can freeze things that happen far too fast to see. With a long shutter duration, motion is blurred, stretching time. When photographing in busy urban environments where people, vehicles, and other things are on the move, long exposures can create a sense of motion in a static photograph.

Late in the day when the light was fading, by dropping the ISO to 50 and stopping down to f/22, I was able to get a 1.3-second shutter speed, enough to blur this subject walking past the camera. Note the degree to which he is blurred compared to other people farther away in the shot.

I’d never before considered this quote from the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to have photography implications, but considering what we’ll explore here, I like what it says:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Ferris Bueller

Taking photos is one way we “stop and look around.” It’s also a way we share what we see with others. But a limitation of still photographs is they are a 2D, static representation of a 3D, moving world. So how can we better communicate motion in a still photo? A long exposure that leaves the shutter open for an extended period will cause moving images to be rendered as blurs. That look communicates motion to the viewer.

So let’s talk about the mechanics of how to do long exposure street photography.

Midday and in full sun; even at the minimal ISO of 50 and an aperture of f/22, I had to use a variable ND filter to cut the light for a 1-second shutter speed. Note the difference in blur between the moving subjects and those seated. Where to go for the best long exposure street photography

If you’re going to depict motion, you want to go somewhere where things are moving. Busy locations where people, vehicles, and other things are on the move will work well. A busy city street or intersection might be a perfect spot. You could also try a sporting event where the participants are in motion.

For long exposure night photography (which we’ll discuss in greater depth), locations with moving lights and illuminated vehicles work well. Also, consider the interesting looks that can be created when your photograph combines static and dynamic elements. One person standing still in a crowd of moving people can make for an impactful image using the long exposure technique.

When people walk, their feet are temporarily still – just for a moment – with each step. Even with a 2-second shutter speed, as in the photo above, while the bodies blur, the steps are visible. Low evening light, a low ISO, and a small aperture allowed for the 2-second shutter (no ND filter was needed). A still camera in a moving world

You likely want the motion in your photos to be created by the movement of your subjects, not by the movement of your camera. Handholding your camera and keeping it still during a multi-second exposure will be very difficult, so a tripod is a good idea.

(Though consider if you will be able to use a tripod on a busy city sidewalk or other crowded environments. Creating a hazard where someone could trip over a tripod leg is not something you want to do.)

There is also the “attraction of attention factor.” I will confess: I have not done a lot of street photography because of my personal trepidation about having to engage with strangers who want to know why I’m taking their photo on a street corner. Should I decide street photography is something I want to pursue further, that’s something I’ll need to get past.

A high vantage point off a pier assured no one was paying much attention to me as the photographer. A 6-stop ND filter, a low ISO of 50, and a small aperture of f/18 were all needed to deal with the bright sun and get this 8-second exposure.

That said, I guarantee that you will attract even more attention and possible questions if you set up a tripod and a professional-looking camera on a busy street corner and start taking photos of passersby. Perhaps you could find other ways to brace your camera aside from a tripod. Maybe even figure out how to do long exposures with your cell phone to reduce the attention factor.

(If this isn’t a concern for you, more power to you; you’ve already dealt with a major barrier to being a great street photographer.)

What is a long exposure?

Your objective here is to make “long exposures” so that your subjects move during the shot. So how do we define long exposure photography?

An object will render as blurred in a photograph if it changes position from the time the shutter opens until the time it closes. Two factors will determine the amount of blur:

  • The speed of the moving object relative to the duration the shutter is open
  • The relative distance the subject moves during the exposure.

Let’s use a moving car as an example. Say you have a shutter speed of 1/30s. You are taking a photo of a car moving at 40 mph. If the car is relatively close to the camera, it could move completely across the frame and thus be rendered as a complete blur. But if the same car, still traveling at 40 mph, was in the distance and relatively small in the frame, it would only move a relatively short distance across the frame in that same 1/30s – and thus wouldn’t show as much blur.

The car in this shot was moving quite slowly, so I needed to drop the shutter speed to 0.6 seconds for some noticeable blur. This car moved perpendicular to the camera, stayed fairly close, and moved completely across the frame during my 1-second exposure, thus rendering as nothing but a blur.

So to simplify, the distance an object moves across the frame during the exposure is what will determine its blurriness. Even relatively slow-moving objects can be blurred if the exposure time is long enough. Take a close-up of a snail with a 5-minute exposure, and you could quite possibly have it appear motion blurred, too!

It’s that exposure triangle thing again

I hope you know what I mean when I speak of the “exposure triangle” – the relationship between ISO, shutter speed, and aperture when making a properly exposed photograph. If you’re not completely familiar, I’d recommend you stop what you’re doing and read all about it here.

Now, if you’re going to make long exposures that are well exposed, you’ll need full control over your shutter speed. There are two basic modes you can use to achieve this: Shutter Priority mode (Tv on Canon cameras, S on Nikons and some other cameras), or full Manual (M) mode.

In either case, you will be able to pick a shutter speed and lock it in. (We’ll talk about choosing a shutter speed in a minute.)

1/60s isn’t what we’d normally consider a “long exposure,” but panning the camera with a fast-moving subject blurs the background while keeping the subject sharp.

Let’s assume you decide to make a 2-second exposure. Let’s also assume you are in Shutter Priority mode.

When you meter the scene, your shutter speed will be 2 seconds. Your aperture and ISO (if you are using Auto ISO), will “float,” automatically switching to a setting for a proper exposure. Depending on the ambient light, you might get something like 2 seconds at f/11 and ISO 1000. Locking the shutter speed and letting the camera determine aperture and ISO will allow you to get a proper exposure at the shutter duration you choose.

Using Manual mode can give you even greater creative control. Say you set your shutter speed for the same 2 seconds but stop down to f/16 for some additional depth of field. Your ISO can be adjusted to maintain the right exposure, and you’ll get the same 2-second exposure but at f/16 and ISO 2000.

If you are in Manual mode, you get to do all the adjustments yourself. Assuming you want the same 2-second shutter speed, you dial that in. Then you can adjust either the aperture, ISO, or both to center the exposure bar indicator and get a proper exposure. Should you decide to capture multiple shots from the same spot and the light remains constant, you shouldn’t need to make any additional adjustments.

Two important factors

How you choose your long exposure street photography settings will depend on two important factors:

  1. Your desired shutter speed
  2. Ambient light in your scene

So ask yourself:

  • What shutter speed do I want? Like so much of photography, the answer here is probably “it depends.” How much are the subjects in your shot moving? How fast? How close are they to the camera? What is your desired look? On a crowded street with lots of pedestrians scurrying about, you might be able to make everyone completely disappear in your photo if you use a several-minute exposure. Is that the look you want? Experimentation is the best way to learn the perfect shutter speed for this kind of photography. Try different things, “chimp” your shots, adjust and try again. You will get a feel for what you like and what works best in different situations.
  • What are the ambient light conditions? You might decide you’d like a 30-second exposure but are out shooting in the middle of the day in bright sunshine. Even stopping down to f/22 and ISO 50, a 30-second exposure might not be possible without drastically overexposing the image. Long exposure night images, taken when you don’t have much ambient light to deal with, are much easier. At night, instead of lowering the ISO, you might need to raise it. The same 30-second night image might be something like 30 seconds at f/4 and ISO 1600.

The amount of light you have to work with will impact what you can do. Long exposures in low light are usually easier, as you can always open up your aperture to its widest setting and crank up the ISO (noise is still a consideration but less so thanks to improved sensor technology). But how do you make a long exposure when there’s too much light and the smallest aperture and lowest ISO won’t get you the shutter speed you want?

A cloudy day, an ISO of 50, and an aperture of f/32 coupled with panning the camera along with the action enabled me to get this impressionistic image of kids playing soccer. Reach for the “sunglasses”

On a bright, sunny day when the light becomes too intense for our eyes, we’ll often reach for a pair of sunglasses to reduce the brightness. We can do the same for our cameras with neutral density filters (ND filters), which offer different levels of darkness. We can use ND filters to reduce the light hitting the camera sensor, and thus get long shutter durations even in bright conditions.

Here’s an example: You meter the scene, and at your smallest aperture of f/22 and an ISO of 50, the slowest shutter speed you could use and still get a proper exposure is 0.8 seconds. So grab your 6-stop ND filter, add it to the front of your lens, and you’ll be able to use an 8-second exposure. (A 10-stop ND filter could take you all the way to a 2-minute exposure!)

Even with a minimal ISO of 50 and an f/10 aperture, a variable ND was needed to reduce the midday sun and get a 1/8s shutter speed, not a particularly “long” exposure.

Using ND filters and calculating exposures takes a little study and practice, but the advantage is being able to take long exposures in bright conditions where it would otherwise not be possible. (A nice app to have on your cellphone is an ND filter exposure calculator like this one from Lee, a filter manufacturer: for Android/for iOS).

Lights at night

We’re very accustomed to seeing nighttime long exposures, and light trails caused by moving vehicles are quite easy to photograph, so long as you have a tripod or way to stabilize your camera.

Decide how long you want your exposure to last. Then in Shutter Priority mode, pick an aperture. If you’re set to use Auto ISO, the camera should pick the ISO setting for you. Of course, if you’re in Manual mode, you get to pick all three settings.

Again, determine your desired shutter speed, pick an aperture, and then adjust the ISO to a setting where you get a proper exposure. It could take some trial and error, but once you get everything dialed in, you will be able to make repeated shots without too much need for further adjustment.

I made a lot of shots to get the look I was after with this image of rush-hour traffic in Boise, Idaho. During the “blue hour” with limited light, I was able to keep the ISO at 100, the aperture at f/13, and a 15-second shutter speed. Nighttime long exposure is often easier than daylight long exposure (as you now know, too much light requires the use of neutral density filters). A different way to create some motion: Put the camera on a tripod in the back seat of your vehicle. Strap it down (or bring an assistant). ISO 100 helps keep down the noise and f/7.1 is a good sharp spot, at least for my Tamron lens. Take a downtown drive and trigger the camera with a 6-second exposure. Try different shutter speeds and take lots of shots. You might get one you like! Freeway traffic with a 2.5-second shutter speed… I then stopped down to f/22 and tried a 15-second shutter speed. You will find it beneficial when doing long exposure images to experiment with different shutter durations. You will get different looks depending on the speed of your subject, proximity to the camera, and various other factors. A passing car adds some additional interest to this 10-second exposure of the Idaho Capitol building in Boise. Beyond the mechanics

Working out the camera mechanics when making long exposures is a matter of determining how to get a long exposure in any given lighting conditions. The rest of making an interesting image is no different than with other kinds of photography. Determine if there’s a “story” you want to tell. Decide how to compose your shot. Use compositional guidelines, vary your perspective, and try different shutter speeds to create different looks.

For street photos of people, it can be interesting to go out with a model, someone who will work with you and pose as needed. Put them in a busy location, but instruct them to stay still while you make your shot. They will remain sharp in the shot while the moving passersby will blur. The contrast of static and dynamic between your frozen model and the people moving and blurring can create some dramatic looks.

The woman on the corner was not my model, but this illustrates the concept. She remained relatively still during the 0.6 second exposure, while the other people walked across the crosswalk. It’s a good example of the static/dynamic image you can make, particularly if you take a model with you. Add a flash

Here’s something else you can try:

Put a speedlight on your camera and set it up for second-curtain sync. (If you’re unfamiliar with the technique, make sure to read up on it!)

What you’re after is a long exposure that will motion-blur moving people or objects – but then, just before the shutter closes, the flash will fire. Moving elements will have a blur of motion behind them but be frozen by the burst of flash, like this:

Here, 1/8s was long enough to blur the action. A pop of flash using second-curtain sync was enough to freeze a part of the image. The final result is both dynamic and static at the same time.

Just be aware that, if you thought shooting with a tripod on a busy city street might attract attention, firing a flash will make it clear you’re taking photos. What’s nice about having a model with you is that people will assume you’re making photos of the model and not be as concerned about you making photos of them. You’ll even get lots of apologies from people who say, “Sorry, I got in your shot,” not knowing that was your intent all along.

In early evening without much light, I reduced the ISO to 50 and stopped down to f/16. With a 1.6-second shutter speed, you might get a look like this. The camera was mounted on a tripod, and I tripped the shutter nonchalantly as these people walked by. Go hit the streets

Learning the mechanics of long exposure street photography is the easy part. Getting out on the streets and making photos, particularly with people in them, is the bigger challenge, especially if you haven’t done much street photography before.

If you pride yourself on being a people person, that will come in handy in this genre of photography. The rest, as they say, is practice. Best wishes!

Now over to you:

Do you have any favorite tips or techniques for long exposure street photography? And do you have any long exposure images you’re proud of? Share them in the comments below!

The post A Beginner’s Guide to Long Exposure Street Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

How to Whiten Teeth in Lightroom (Step-by-Step Guide)

Wed, 07/14/2021 - 06:00

The post How to Whiten Teeth in Lightroom (Step-by-Step Guide) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Are you wondering how to whiten teeth in Lightroom? Lightroom makes teeth whitening easy, thanks to a pre-installed preset that you can fine-tune to your liking.

Not every smile needs the same amount of whitening, though. That’s why, in this guide, I’ll show you how to use Lightroom’s preset, but also how to customize it and create different presets of your own.

Let’s get started!

How to whiten teeth in Lightroom: the basics

Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to teeth whitening (using Lightroom’s pre-installed preset):

Step 1: Import your image

Unless you’ve already imported your image into the Lightroom catalog, this should be your first step. Select File>Import Photos and Video, then look through your files and import the one you need.

Alternatively, you can drag and drop your image into the Library workspace.

Regardless, remember that Lightroom is non-destructive – so no matter how you import your file, you’ll be adjusting a copy, not the original.

Step 2: Move to the Develop module

Importing occurs in the Library module. So once your photo has been added to the Lightroom catalog, it’s time to switch workspaces and enter the Develop module.

Simply hit the Develop button at the top:

In the Develop module, you’ll find all of Lightroom’s photo-editing tools. If you want to add any general edits to your photos or you’re thinking of applying a preset, you’ll do it in the Develop module. It’s also where all the teeth-whitening magic will happen.

Step 3: Enable the Adjustment Brush

On the righthand side, you have your tools inside different editing panels. Toward the top, between the Histogram and the Basic panel, you’ll find the selective adjustment tools.

Click to enable the Adjustment Brush (or hit the K key):

Lightroom will open the Adjustment Brush panel, where you can create masks, adjust the Brush options, and edit the selected area.

Step 4: Select the teeth

You’ll start by preparing to select the teeth. First, scroll down until you find the Brush settings, then adjust the size and feathering (the best settings will depend on your particular image).

Note that you’ll probably need a smaller Brush when selecting near the edges of teeth. Fortunately, you can create two saved Brushes (with the A and B choices). Otherwise, you can use the bracket keys to enlarge or shrink the Brush size while working.

I recommend you enable Auto Mask. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a tool that helps you select a specific area by recognizing edges.

You can also enable Show Selected Mask Overlay – you’ll find it under the image, and it will allow you to see where you’re actually painting the mask.

Finally, brush over the teeth. Zoom in if necessary and make sure you work very carefully.

Step 5: Apply the Teeth Whitening preset (optional)

Once you’ve brushed over the teeth, go ahead and disable the Selected Mask Overlay; now it’s time to apply adjustments to the selected area.

Because teeth whitening is such a common retouch, Lightroom already has a Teeth Whitening preset. If you want to use it, open the Effect drop-down menu and select Teeth Whitening. Your subject’s teeth should get whiter, and if you like the effect, great! It may be all you need, in which case you can hit Done.

Alternatively, you may want to use the preset as a starting point, then make further adjustments (as discussed in the next section).

Notice that once you apply the preset, sliders will change. The exposure will increase to 0.40 and saturation will be set at -60.

Step 6: Adjust the edits

If you don’t want to use the preset, or if you want to fine-tune the preset’s effect, you can manually move the sliders.

First, adjust the exposure and saturation to fit your image. You’ll also want to check the temperature – if the teeth are looking too yellow, slightly move the Temp slider to the left.

Keep zooming in and out to check the overall result because you don’t want the white to look fake. You can see a before and after version by selecting View>Before/After.

Remember that the Before view will show you the imported image. So if you make general adjustments to your image, whiten the teeth, and display the Before view, the preview will be stripped of all its edits, not just the teeth whitening.

Step 7: Save the preset (optional)

If you like your whitening effect, you can save it as a preset. Head to the Presets panel, then click the plus sign and select Create Preset.

A dialog window will pop up where you can check the elements that you want to include in your preset. Then all you have to do is name the preset, and it will be saved for you to use on other photos!

When should you whiten teeth? When you’re applying presets or making color adjustments to your photos, keep an eye on how it affects the teeth. Use the Adjustment Brush as shown in this guide to correct the color.

Now that I’ve explained how to whiten teeth in Lightroom, let’s see when you should do it. Teeth aren’t naturally fully white, and each person has different tones of teeth. So you shouldn’t add teeth whitening as a default part of your workflow. Instead, use it in specific situations:

When your edits changed the original color of the teeth

If you apply a color filter, change the white balance, or move the color settings of your entire image, you might end up with unnatural-looking teeth, in which case whitening is a good idea.

That said, when you whiten the teeth, make sure they still match the overall mood and ambiance of the picture. For example, if you apply a vintage filter and then make the teeth super white, they will stand out…in a bad way.

When the teeth weren’t lit properly

Sometimes, an unflattering shadow makes the teeth look dark or stained. But you can easily fix this problem by adding more light with the Exposure slider.

Also, certain lighting might cause yellowish teeth. For example, using tungsten light or a golden reflector might give a pleasing warm tone to the skin while also causing the teeth to look yellowish. In this case, a white balance adjustment selectively applied to the teeth will go a long way.

Another common problem: teeth reflect colors from objects that are nearby. So if your model has a colorful prop or object close to their mouth, the teeth might show a hint of color.

When your model asks you

As I was mentioning before, teeth might be underexposed because of a light problem during the photoshoot or because of color editing during post-processing. If you’re whitening the teeth to correct any of these issues, then there’s not much conflict.

However, sometimes the person has natural discoloration – and if that is the case, don’t automatically add teeth whitening as part of your workflow. Wait for your model to ask (and if they don’t ask, then don’t make any changes!).

You should never alter how a person looks without their consent. If the client hasn’t asked you for any aesthetic changes, you shouldn’t assume they want them.

5 tips for whitening teeth in Lightroom

By following the step-by-step teeth whitening guide shared above, you’ll be able to retouch your images without any problems.

But these extra tips will help you get even better results, starting with:

1. Understand editing pins

When you’re using the Adjustment Brush, you’ll notice that a gray dot (i.e., an editing pin) appears when you click on the image.

Anytime you need to go back to edit that selection, just click on the pin to make the selection active once more. (If the pins are distracting, you can press the H key to make them invisible.)

If you overcorrected or you’re somehow unhappy with the results, you can reactivate the selection by clicking on the corresponding edit pin. 2. Fix a selection

If you accidentally select the gums, lips, or anything that’s not supposed to be affected by the teeth whitening, don’t worry – you can always use the Erase tool!

Inside the Adjustment Brush panel, next to the Brush A B presets, you’ll see the word Erase. After clicking it, you’ll be able to erase your selection. (Alternatively, you can hold the Alt key, which will toggle the Eraser option.)

3. Keep in mind the person’s age

Remember that teeth discoloration is part of the natural process of aging. If you want to keep your photo retouching realistic, don’t overdo it. Consider that a younger model should probably have whiter teeth than an older one (this is one of the reasons you can’t use the same settings for every photo).

4. Take a break

This advice is useful for any type of retouching – whenever you’re done, take a break and come back later.

Sometimes you’re so focused on a specific part of the image that you lose track of the bigger picture. So close the computer for a while or go outside to get some natural light and rest your eyes. Then come back and see the photo again. If you’re satisfied, that’s great – but if you’re not, then just make some more adjustments!

5. Download presets

If you don’t love post-processing, or if you want to improve your post-processing without extra work, remember that you can always buy presets or download freebies from professional photo retouchers and fellow photographers!

How to whiten teeth in Lightroom: conclusion

Okay, now you know how to whiten teeth in Lightroom – and I hope you agree that it’s super easy!

So practice your teeth whitening. Improve your photos. And if you run into any problems while adjusting your pictures, don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments section.

Now over to you:

Do you have any tips for teeth whitening? Have you tried to whiten teeth before? How did it turn out? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post How to Whiten Teeth in Lightroom (Step-by-Step Guide) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

What Is ISO? A Simple Guide to ISO in Photography

Tue, 07/13/2021 - 06:00

The post What Is ISO? A Simple Guide to ISO in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

What is ISO? Why does ISO matter? And most importantly, when should you use a high ISO vs a low ISO for the best image quality?

In this article, I’m going to answer all of these questions – and more. ISO might seem like a complex topic, but by the time you’ve finished, you’ll be an absolute master (and you’ll be able to confidently choose the perfect ISO for every shooting situation).

Sound good? Let’s get started.

What is ISO in photography?

ISO refers to your camera’s sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive your camera sensor becomes, and the brighter your photos appear.

ISO is measured in numbers. Here are a few standard ISO values: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200.

That said, pretty much every camera offers intermediate ISO values (for instance, ISO 125 and ISO 160 between ISO 100 and ISO 200). And most cameras these days include additional ISOs on the high end of the range, such as ISO 6400, ISO 12800, ISO 25600, and beyond.

Note that, while ISO is mostly discussed in a digital context, film cameras use ISO, as well – every roll of film has a particular ISO, or sensitivity, that contributes to the image brightness.

What does “ISO” stand for?

ISO refers to the “International Organization for Standardization.”

Technically, it’s not an acronym – the International Organization for Standardization has different names in different languages, so to make things easier, they adopted the shortened “ISO” moniker, designed to be used across all languages.

For the purposes of photography, the name isn’t important. Just think of ISO as your camera’s sensitivity to light, and you’ll do just fine!

ISO and exposure: why ISO matters

By increasing the ISO, you make your photos brighter.

That’s why ISO is important.

In other words, ISO works alongside the other two exposure variablesaperture and shutter speed – to determine the overall brightness level of an image.

Dial in an ISO of 100, and your image might look dark. Boost that ISO to 200, and your image will become brighter. Boost it to 400, and your image will become brighter still.

Your ISO setting could be the difference between a dark image like this:

And a much brighter image like this:

Can you see why this might be useful? If you’re shooting a scene in low light – outside at night or at an indoor event – your photos might keep turning out dark. But boost the ISO, and your shots will brighten right up.

Even in decent light, boosting the ISO can be beneficial. You might need an ultra-fast shutter speed to capture a moving race car, yet raising the shutter speed lowers the exposure and can create a too-dark image. So instead of raising just the shutter speed, you increase the shutter speed (causing your image to darken) but also increase the ISO (counteracting the darkness by brightening the image).

When shooting race cars, the light might be good – but it often pays to increase the ISO, regardless.

But ISO comes with one major drawback, which I’ll address in the next section:

The problem with high ISOs: noise

Boosting the ISO is insanely useful. But it also comes at a serious cost:

The higher your ISO, the more noise or grain that will appear in your photos, which looks like speckles of color and light randomly strewn across your image.

I’ll illustrate this below with two enlargements of a flower photo. The image on the left was taken at ISO 100, and the image on the right was taken at ISO 3200.

The image on the left was shot at ISO 100, and it’s noise-free. The image on the right was shot at ISO 3200, and it’s plagued by unwanted noise. Note that the exposures are identical (when I boosted the ISO, I raised the shutter speed to keep the brightness levels consistent).

Can you see the difference? Look at the middle few petals. The high-ISO photo (right) is full of unpleasant noise, whereas the low-ISO photo (left) is completely clean.

So raising the ISO, while useful, is part of a tradeoff. Yes, you get a brighter image, but you also get increased noise.

It’s the reason you can’t just shoot with a high ISO all the time. Instead, you keep the ISO low when you can, and you increase the ISO when you must.

That said, camera sensor technology is always improving. A decade ago, ISO 800 may have resulted in huge swathes of noise across your images (depending on your camera). But in 2021, you can shoot at ISO 1600 or 3200 and come away with nearly noise-free files, assuming you’re using a full-frame camera with the latest sensor technology, and that you used good exposure technique.

How to use ISO for the best results

Boosting your ISO gives brighter images as well as noise. Keeping your ISO low maintains image quality but may result in an underexposed or blurry shot. So what do you do?

Really, it all depends on the situation. I recommend leaving your ISO at its base value (probably ISO 50 or 100), except in three situations:

  1. The light is low and you’re struggling to get a well-exposed photo.
  2. You need to freeze motion and/or you’re struggling to get a sharp photo.
  3. You’re struggling to get a photo with adequate depth of field.

Let’s take a closer look at each scenario:

1. The light is low and you’re struggling to get a well-exposed photo

This is the most common reason to raise your ISO. You need to increase your exposure, but you’re shooting indoors or at night.

A concert is a classic low-light scenario where you need to increase the ISO.

So you raise the ISO to brighten up your shots.

Of course, ISO is just one of three exposure variables. If your shot is looking too dark, you can always widen the aperture or decrease the shutter speed instead. (And indeed, I recommend considering whether you can make aperture or shutter speed adjustments before you think about boosting the ISO.) But this isn’t always feasible; widening the aperture will narrow the depth of field (see my discussion in the next two sections). And decreasing the shutter speed risks sacrificing sharpness unless you use a sturdy tripod and proper technique.

In the end, if you size up the situation and decide that you can’t widen your aperture or drop your shutter speed, then there’s no way around it: you should boost the ISO.

2. You need to freeze motion and/or you’re struggling to get a sharp photo

If you’re working with a fast-moving subject, you’ll need a correspondingly fast shutter speed.

But if the light is limited, or you need an extremely high shutter speed (e.g., 1/4000s), then you’ll often need to boost the ISO and raise the shutter speed together. (Why can’t you just boost the shutter speed? Because your shots will turn out underexposed!).

Unless the light is very powerful, you’ll often need to increase the ISO to photograph birds in flight.

As I mentioned in the previous section, widening the aperture is always an option. But again, it’s not always feasible. Sometimes, you’ll need to maintain a deep depth of field; other times, your aperture will already be at its widest.

Bottom line: A sharp shot is better than a blurry shot, even if you need a high ISO to make it happen.

3. You’re struggling to get a photo with adequate depth of field

If you’re shooting a landscape or an architectural scene, you’ll often aim for a deep depth of field – but depending on the situation, you may need an aperture of f/11, f/13, and beyond. In good light, you may struggle to capture a detailed exposure at f/11. In bad light, your shots will definitely turn out far, far too dark.

(Why? To produce a deep depth of field, you narrow the aperture. And narrowing the aperture darkens the exposure.)

That’s where raising the ISO comes in handy. Instead of shooting at ISO 100, you can switch to ISO 200, 400, or even higher while maintaining your f/11 aperture.

A shot like this needs a deep depth of field. To maintain a narrow aperture while handholding, you can dial in a high ISO.

To avoid noise, you might consider dropping the shutter speed instead of boosting the ISO. But if you do decide to go that route, make sure you get a tripod or use proper handholding technique. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a blurry image, which is counterproductive!

Make sense?

Setting your ISO: practical examples

In this next section, I’d like to share a few common photography scenarios when you’d need to raise or lower your ISO for the best photos.

When to raise the ISO

You should probably raise the ISO if:

  • You’re shooting at an indoor sports event, especially if your subject is moving fast
  • You’re shooting a landscape without a tripod and you need a deep depth of field
  • You’re shooting a landscape at night (or doing astrophotography) and you need a reasonable shutter speed to freeze the stars
  • You’re photographing portraits in a dark room or in the evening/night
  • You’re shooting an event indoors with limited window light (such as a party)
  • You’re photographing a dark concert
  • You’re photographing an art gallery, a church, or a building interior (you might also consider using a tripod, but this is against the rules in a lot of spaces)
  • You’re photographing wildlife in the early morning or evening (especially if you need a fast shutter speed)
  • You’re photographing fast-moving subjects and you need an ultra-fast shutter speed
Dark parties can’t be photographed without a high ISO. When to keep the ISO low

Here are a few times when you should shoot at your camera’s base ISO:

  • You’re shooting motionless landscapes and your camera is mounted on a tripod
  • You’re photographing portraits in good light
  • You’re photographing an event, and you have plenty of window light or you’re using flash
  • You’re photographing products with a powerful artificial lighting setup
A portrait in good light? Stick to your camera’s base ISO! ISO in photography: conclusion

Now that you’ve finished this article, you should be an ISO master.

So pick up your camera. Practice working in difficult situations. Consider when you should or shouldn’t boost the ISO.

Now over to you:

When do you raise your ISO? Do you struggle to determine when it’s better to keep the ISO low? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post What Is ISO? A Simple Guide to ISO in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

What Do the Numbers on Your Camera Lens Mean?

Mon, 07/12/2021 - 06:00

The post What Do the Numbers on Your Camera Lens Mean? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darlene Hildebrandt.

Camera lenses include quite a few numbers – and many of these are often confusing or obscure, especially for beginners.

That’s why, in this article, I’m going to run through all the important camera lens numbers you’ll encounter. I’ll explain what the numbers actually mean, and I’ll also explain why they matter for your photography.

By the time you’re finished, you’ll be a lens number expert, and you’ll never find yourself confused by your lens markings again.

Let’s jump right in.

Common numbers on newer digital lenses

Depending on the age of your lens, you’ll run into different markings. In this section, I’ll discuss numbers frequently found on newer lenses (though note that many will apply to old lenses, as well!).

Focal length

Zoom lenses feature a zoom ring; twist it, and your lens will zoom in and out.

Next to this ring, you’ll generally find focal length numbers. For example, if your lens is a 70-200mm zoom like mine (below), you’ll see markings that span from 70mm to 200mm. I’m currently at around 100mm:

A lens will never display every focal length but will instead offer a few useful intervals, as you can see in the image above.

If you are using a prime or fixed lens, you won’t have a zoom ring. Your lens will simply indicate the focal length on its barrel, as you can see on my 85mm lens:

Maximum aperture

The maximum aperture is the largest aperture opening your lens is capable of achieving. Note that the larger the aperture opening, the smaller the f-number (so f/2.8 corresponds to a very wide aperture, while f/22 corresponds to a very small aperture).

Larger apertures like f/2.8 or even f/1.8 are highly desirable because they allow you to shoot in low-light conditions while maintaining a fast shutter speed. So the best lenses – and the most expensive lenses – tend to offer a very wide maximum aperture.

(Note that some zoom lenses have a variable maximum aperture, where the maximum aperture will change depending on the focal length; this is represented as a range of numbers, such as f/3.5-6.3.)

Now, pretty much every lens has the maximum aperture written somewhere on its body. You can usually find this information in one of two places (or perhaps even in both):

  1. Right on the end of the lens barrel
  2. On the front of the lens inside the filter ring area

In the photo below, you can see two different lenses: my Tamron 17-35mm and my Canon 85mm. On the Tamron, you should see “1:2.8-4,” and on the 85mm, you should see “1:1.8.”

What does this mean? It’s simple: the maximum aperture on the 85mm lens is f/1.8, and on the Tamron zoom, the maximum aperture changes from f/2.8 to f/4 as you zoom the lens. (At the lens’s widest, 17mm, I can open the aperture to f/2.8. But if I zoom all the way to 35mm, my maximum aperture becomes f/4.)

These variable maximum apertures are pretty common with kit lenses, and especially kit lenses with a large focal length range such as 28-300mm or 18-200mm.

Focusing range and distance scale

On some – but not all! – lenses, you will see a range of distances, usually marked in two scales, feet and meters. These lens numbers indicate the distance at which your lens is currently focused.

So at one end of the scale, you’ll find the infinity symbol, and at the other end, you’ll find the lens’s minimum focusing distance (i.e., the closest the lens can focus).

Check out the two lenses below. The distance scale on the 70-200mm (left) is under a cover, and you can see that the lens is focused somewhere between 10 meters and infinity. The distance scale on the 17-35mm (right) is on the lens’s focus ring, and you can see that the lens is focused quite close, at around 0.5 meters.

Note that, as you focus your lens, the distance scale will change to reflect your new point of focus.

Lens diameter (filter size)

Every lens has a diameter, the distance across the center of the lens. This diameter also corresponds to the filter size (if the filter’s diameter doesn’t match the lens diameter, it won’t properly screw onto the front of the lens).

You’ll find the lens diameter written on the end of your lens (often on the edge of the barrel), preceded by a symbol that looks like a zero with a strike through it:

So for the lens pictured above, the diameter is 77mm. And if I wanted to use a polarizing filter or a clear filter, I’d need to grab one with an equivalent diameter.

By the way, you can also find the lens diameter on the back of the lens cap, as displayed above.

Less common lens numbers (often seen on older, manual focus lenses)

Now that you’re familiar with all the common camera lens numbers, let’s take a look at some of the less common markings. These numbers are pretty rare on lenses designed for digital cameras, but you may come across them if you purchase older, manual focus glass.

Aperture ring

Most newer lenses set and control the aperture through the camera. But back in the days of film, you would set the shutter speed on your camera and the aperture on the lens (via an aperture ring).

So while newer lenses rarely include aperture rings, you’ll find them on plenty of older lenses. An aperture ring displays different aperture settings, like this:

And by rotating the ring, you widen or narrow the aperture.

Note that some modern lenses do include aperture rings; Fujifilm is known for this, as are other brands that offer manual focus lenses (e.g., Samyang).

Hyperfocal distance scale

A hyperfocal distance scale helps you determine the depth of field for a scene, given a particular focal length, point of focus, and aperture.

Most zoom lenses don’t offer hyperfocal distance scales (because depth of field varies with focal length). But if you have a prime lens – especially an older model – you may see an extra ring of numbers on the barrel, such as in the image below:

Note that, in the image, you can see three sets of numbers:

  • the distance scale
  • the hyperfocal distance scale
  • the aperture ring that actually sets the lens aperture

And this is by design. The hyperfocal distance scale uses the distance scale to display the expected depth of field. Here’s how it works:

First, focus your lens and set your aperture. Then look at the hyperfocal distance scale and find your chosen aperture on either side of the red line. Finally, look at the focusing distances that correspond to the apertures – these will be your near and far depth of field limit.

Make sense?

Camera lens numbers: final words

Well, that’s it for lens numbers! Hopefully, you now feel much more confident (and much less confused) when looking at your lens.

And if there are any lens numbers I missed, don’t worry – just share pictures in the comments below, and I’ll see what I can do to help out!

The post What Do the Numbers on Your Camera Lens Mean? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darlene Hildebrandt.

10 Summer Landscape Photography Tips (+ Examples)

Sun, 07/11/2021 - 06:00

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

Summer is a welcome period for landscape photography, as it offers fully-leafed vegetation, the prospect of warm, sunny days, fields carpeted with flowers, and the opportunity to capture dramatic images of our natural environment.

But how can you create beautiful summer landscape photos? That’s what this article is all about; in it, you’ll find plenty of tips, tricks, and secrets for amazing results.

So whether you’re new to landscape photography and are looking to do some fun summer shooting, or you’re an enthusiast aiming to improve your images, here are some tips and ideas to help you on your way!

1. Start with an idea or a theme

To capture successful images of summer, start by thinking about the types of themes and subjects you want to photograph. Ask yourself: What subjects interest me most?

Of course, what you shoot largely depends on what is around you; for example, in the UK, summer is a brilliant time to see wildflowers in bloom. There is always an explosion of reds and pinks, as fields are often carpeted in poppies. There are also bursts of purple as lavender fields flourish, and this can also make great subjects for summer landscape photography.

Summer also provides a great opportunity to capture fully leafed vegetation such as trees and hedgerows, as well as gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, plenty of joy, and beautifully dramatic weather.

2. Think both wide and abstract

Water – such as lakes, rivers, and streams – as well as dramatic weather, make great subjects for wide-angle summer landscape photography.

But in addition to capturing the sweeping vistas of gorgeous landscape scenes, don’t forget to look for the finer details. You may find stunning gems, such as insects or animals hidden in the landscape, or intimate aspects of wider scene, such as individual flowers emerging from the soil.

3. Don’t forget to location scout, if possible

A great way to identify good places to shoot? Do some location scouting!

Of course, you may already know places in your local area that are great for photography, but make sure to look at them with a photographer’s eye; consider where the sun will be at different times of the day, how the location will be affected by the weather, etc.

In addition to relying on locations you already know, do some research. You can simply walk around and explore – you never know when you’ll stumble across a great scene! – or you can do a bit of Googling. Look for places other photographers have shot, recommendations from locals, and lists of the best landscape photography spots near you.

Then, the next time you’re ready to head out with you’re camera, you know exactly where to go.

4. Check the weather (in advance)

When undertaking summer landscape photography, be sure to always check the weather conditions before heading out. Although the weather can be more stable in summer, there are often periods of heavy rain and dramatic conditions that can severely impact the outcome of your images.

Aim to shoot on the days when the weather suits what you would like to achieve. For example, if bright landscapes are your preferred shooting subject, go out on sunny days. Alternatively, if dark, brooding skies or rain is your thing, then look for overcast, gloomy, stormy days to capture the shots you’re after.

5. Consider the time of day

Days are longest and nights are shortest during the summer, with the day length decreasing after the summer solstice. There is therefore a longer period between first and last light compared with the spring or autumn.

Consequently, the sun will stay higher for longer during the summer, which means you will have more daylight time to do summer landscape photography. On the other hand, it makes night photography difficult, plus it pushes the golden hours (see the next tip!) into the early morning and late evening.

So make sure you always think about the changing light before heading out, and always check a sunrise and sunset calendar; that way, you can maximize your shooting time and get the type of shots you’re after.

6. Shoot when the light is best

Consider the light you like best for summer landscape photography. Do you prefer harsh light? Soft light? Dramatic light? Make sure you get out to shoot when the light fits your interests.

Generally speaking, the best light is at the start and end of the day – because as the sun rises and sets, the light offers golden hues and magical contrast. The vibrant colors at this time are amazing for summer landscape photography, so aim to set your alarm early and stay out late to maximize the best of the summer light.

In contrast, the light at midday is usually a lot harsher, especially when you have direct sunlight. So make sure to take this into consideration when photographing the landscape.

If you are out doing summer landscape photography in the middle of the day, be aware that the midday heat brings haze, which can make images look flat. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s important to be aware of the effect so you can use it – or avoid it – in your photos.

7. Make the most out of the conditions

Often, you have limited time at your chosen location to do summer landscape photography, so make sure you get the most out of the conditions you are presented with. Whether you’re dealing with rain or bright sunlight, you’ll have ample opportunities to capture the landscape at its best.

For instance, you can use overcast skies and rain to your advantage. There are still subjects that you can photograph; woodlands are great areas to shoot under cloudy skies, as are waterfalls. The rain can increase waterfall fullness, and both waterfalls and woodlands tend to look more photogenic in overcast light.

8. Use leading lines

One thing you can utilize in your landscape images during summer is leading lines. It’s a pretty popular technique because they’re a great way to lead the viewer’s eye into the frame.

In summer, there are specific things you can find in the landscape that you can use to lead the eye, such as roads, walkways, hedgerows, lines of flowers and vegetation, coastal paths, and trees.

9. Keep your gear protected

If you like to capture dramatic weather, make sure you keep your camera protected at all times. Always bring a rain cover and look to capture your summer landscape images in the period just after a storm has passed. You may even get lucky and see a rainbow.

10. Select your settings carefully

I am often asked about the best camera settings for summer landscape photography, but in truth, it really depends on what you are trying to achieve and what you want to emphasize in your scene.

As a general rule, an aperture of around f/8 to f/16 will help create more depth in an image and keep your entire scene sharp. If you want to keep parts of the frame out of focus, an aperture of, say, f/4-f/5.6 is the way to go. And a low ISO will give a sharper image (such as ISO 100-400).

As for the shutter speed: If you’re shooting handheld, stick to 1/50s or above. Of course, a sturdy tripod will let you go much lower, and you can create all sorts of interesting artistic effects, such as motion blur in waterfalls.

Summer landscape photography tips: final words

Although the high sun can be harsh during the summer, wildflowers such as poppies and lavender can bring color and freshness, plus you have other subjects such as hedges, trees, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and woodlands to add interest to your scenes.

It’s important to remember that landscape shooting should be enjoyed, so have fun with your summer landscape photography and appreciate being out in nature.

With these tips in mind, go and explore the landscape near you. See what you can capture!

Now over to you:

Do you have any tips for beautiful summer landscape photos? Do you have any summer images you’re proud of? Share your thoughts and photos in the comments below!

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

Depth of Field for Beginners: The Essential Guide

Sat, 07/10/2021 - 06:00

The post Depth of Field for Beginners: The Essential Guide appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Bruce Wunderlich.

You may have heard the term depth of field (DoF), but what actually is depth of field, and how can you control it for artistic results?

In this article, you’re going to discover all of the depth of field fundamentals, including:

  • A simple definition of depth of field
  • Why depth of field really matters in photography (and why it’s a concept you must understand)
  • The factors affecting depth of field in your photos
  • How to adjust the depth of field for insanely artistic results
  • Much, much more!

Let’s dive right in.

What is depth of field in photography?

Depth of field is the zone within a photo that appears sharp and in focus. In every picture, there is a point of focus (where you actually focus your lens). But there is also an area both in front of, and behind, your point of focus that also appears sharp – and that area corresponds to the depth of field.

The sharp zone will vary from photo to photo depending on different factors, such as aperture and distance to the subject (discussed in more detail below).

So by adjusting your camera settings and your composition, you can determine the amount of your image that turns out sharp and the amount of your image that ends up blurry.

Deep vs narrow depth of field: a few DoF examples

Images that are sharp from front to back are said to have a deep depth of field. A deep depth of field is popular in landscape photography, where you often want to show every little detail from the scene.

Here’s an example of a deep depth of field photo; notice how the sidewalk is sharp, the trees are sharp, and even the distant background appears sharp:

And here’s another deep depth of field example, with complete sharpness from foreground to background:

On the other hand, some images have very small zones of focus, known as shallow depth of field. Shallow depth of field photos are immediately noticeable because the subject will remain tack-sharp, while the background renders as a smooth, creamy blur:

This effect is especially popular in portraiture; photographers use it to draw attention to their subject while preventing background distractions. But you’ll also see shallow depth of field macro photography, as in this photo here:

And you can also find shallow DoF street photography, photojournalistic photography, and even landscape photography.

(Looking for more depth of field examples? Here’s a collection of images with a very shallow depth of field, and here’s a collection with a much deeper depth of field.)

Why is depth of field important?

The amount of a photo that’s sharp is a key artistic component of photography.

Whether your image has a shallow depth of field or a deep depth of field can make a huge difference (and can often make or break the composition).

For instance, if you’re photographing a portrait subject with a distracting background, failure to create a shallow depth of field will often result in a very snapshot-esque, mediocre photo.

And if you’re photographing a landscape with a beautiful foreground, a stunning midground, and a jaw-dropping background, failure to use a deep depth of field will prevent the viewer from appreciating the entire scene.

Getting the right depth of field for your shot can make all the difference. Look at how a shallow depth of field (right) creates a much more pleasing, non-distracting background compared to a deep depth of field (left).

Bottom line:

Depth of field matters. Learn to control it, and your photos will immediately improve.

Factors affecting depth of field

There are three main factors that determine depth of field. They are:

  1. Aperture (f-stop)
  2. Distance between your lens and your subject
  3. Focal length of the lens

By understanding these variables and how they work, you can produce a deep or shallow depth of field at will.

Aperture (f-stop)

Aperture refers to a hole in your lens through which light enters the camera.

And the larger the hole, the shallower the depth of field.

You may be familiar with f-stop values, which look like this: f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, etc. The smallest f-numbers correspond to the widest apertures and therefore the shallowest depth of fields. And the larger f-numbers correspond to the narrowest apertures and therefore the deepest depth of fields.

In other words:

Large aperture = Small f-number = Shallow (small) depth of field
Small aperture = Large f-number = Deep (large) depth of field

Now, adjusting the aperture (f-stop) of your lens is the simplest way to control your depth of field while setting up your shot.

The image on the left was captured at f/5, which resulted in a relatively shallow depth of field (note the blurred leaves). The image on the right was captured at f/32, which created a deep depth of field and a sharper background.

So if you’re photographing a landscape and you want a deep depth of field, just set your aperture to f/11 or so, and you’ll generally get foreground-to-background sharpness. If you’re photographing a portrait and you want a shallow depth of field, set your aperture to f/2.8 and you’ll produce a beautiful, blurred background.

Distance between your lens and your subject

The closer your subject is to the camera, the shallower your depth of field becomes.

(Note that I’m using the terms “subject” and “point of focus” interchangeably here – if you accidentally focus behind your subject, then the depth of field will be completely different.)

So if you get up-close and personal when photographing a flower, the depth of field will shrink. And if you take ten steps backward, the depth of field will increase.

When you get very close to a subject, the depth of field shrinks – regardless of your aperture! Focal length

The longer your focal length, the shallower the depth of field.

So if your subject is 33 feet (10 meters) away and your aperture is set to f/4, a focal length of 50mm will give you a depth of field range from around 22-63 feet (6.7-19.2 meters) for a total DoF of 41 feet (12.5 meters).

But if you zoom into 100mm while standing in the same spot, still using an aperture of f/4, the depth of field changes to about 29.5-37.5 feet (9-11.4 meters) for a total DoF of 8 feet (2.4 meters).

Putting it all together

Aperture, distance to your subject, and focal length together determine your depth of field.

Which means that these three factors can combine to produce a very extreme depth of field effect, or they can cancel each other out.

For instance, if you shoot at f/2.8, and you get close to your subject, and you use a telephoto lens, you’ll achieve an ultra-shallow depth of field.

But if you get close to your subject while using a wide-angle lens, the two factors will generally cancel out, resulting in a medium depth of field.

Make sense?

This image of a swan hiding in the tall foliage was captured from about 16 feet (5 meters) at 300mm. This combination of focal length and distance created a depth of field of approximately 2 inches (5 centimeters), which is why the foreground and background appear so blurry. How to work with depth of field: a step-by-step approach

While knowing the theory is great, you must also understand how to apply depth of field when out shooting.

Here’s my quick step-by-step approach to achieving perfect depth of field:

Step 1: Set your camera to Aperture Priority or Manual mode

Most cameras only offer two modes where you can easily control the aperture and therefore the depth of field:

Aperture Priority mode and Manual mode.

So the first order of business is to switch your camera Mode dial over to one of these modes.

(If you’re a beginner, Aperture Priority mode is probably the better option – it’ll let you input the aperture, while your camera determines the best shutter speed for a good exposure. If you’re more advanced, Manual mode will let you select the aperture and shutter speed independently for greater creative control.)

Step 2: Determine whether you want a deep or narrow depth of field

Carefully observe your scene. Ask yourself: Do I want to blur out the background? Or do I want to keep the entire shot sharp?

Generally speaking, if your background is distracting, it’s best to use a shallow depth of field. But if the background adds to the scene – for instance, it contains beautiful clouds, a stunning mountain range, or it contributes valuable context – then use a deep depth of field.

If you’re aiming for a shallow depth of field look, you generally don’t need to calculate the depth of field precisely. On the other hand, if you want to keep the entire shot sharp, you may want to calculate the hyperfocal distance (see the section on hyperfocal distance below) to determine the best point of focus.

Step 3: Adjust your aperture, distance to subject, and focal length

Now that you know the depth of field effect you want, it’s time to make the relevant changes to your composition and/or camera settings.

If your goal is a shallow depth of field effect, set your lens to its widest possible aperture. Then get as close as you can to your subject and take your shot.

If your goal is to achieve a deep depth of field effect, use a wide-angle lens (if possible) and get as far back from your subject as you can without sacrificing the composition. Then dial in a narrow aperture – often f/8 or beyond is ideal, though see the next section on hyperfocal distance if you’re not sure what’s best – focus a third of the way into the scene, and take your shot.

(Quick tip: When you look through your camera’s viewfinder, you’re generally seeing a preview of the image at your lens’s widest aperture. But many cameras offer a depth of field preview button; press this, and you can preview the actual depth of field in real-time before hitting the shutter button. Check your manual to see if it’s an option on your camera!)

Step 4: Check to make sure you got the depth of field right

After you’ve taken an image, especially when you’re just starting out, I highly recommend you check your camera’s LCD to ensure you’ve nailed the depth of field.

Take a quick look at the image in playback mode. If your goal is to keep the entire shot sharp, magnify the photo to check the nearest foreground object and the most distant background object, just to be sure everything looks good.

If you notice an error, you can always reshoot before the light changes.

Hyperfocal distance: how to get everything in focus

The hyperfocal distance is a special point of focus in your scene. It’s the point for a given aperture and focal length that allows you to maximize depth of field.

Specifically, when you focus at the hyperfocal distance, your depth of field will extend from half your point of focus all the way to infinity.

As you can imagine, this is useful when you want to keep the entire scene sharp; you just dial in your preferred aperture, then set your point of focus at the hyperfocal distance.

An image like this one – with a clear foreground and a distant background – can benefit from focusing at the hyperfocal distance.

But how do you determine the hyperfocal distance when out in the field? You have a few options. First, you can use a hyperfocal distance calculator like the one offered by PhotoPills, which will let you dial in your focal length and your selected aperture before spitting out a hyperfocal distance.

Alternatively, you can focus a third of the way into the scene, which is a good rule of thumb – assuming you’ve used a relatively narrow aperture (f/8 or beyond is good) and a wide-angle lens.

Doing precise depth of field calculations: charts, calculators, and apps

Most photographers don’t need to gauge depth of field exactly while in the field, so doing quick estimates or using easy rules of thumb works fine, especially if you check your LCD afterward.

But you may find yourself in a situation where depth of field matters a great deal – for instance, if you’re a landscape photographer dealing with a very deep scene, you’re a macro photographer shooting at extreme magnifications, or you’re a product photographer and you don’t have the opportunity to reshoot if you mess up the depth of field.

In such cases, I’d recommend turning to some type of depth of field “helper.” You have a few options:

  1. Depth of field charts. These show you depth of field ranges across different apertures and lens-to-subject distances. You can print them off and laminate them if you want a physical copy, but you’ll need a different chart for each lens focal length, which can get frustrating if you’re using multiple primes or even a single zoom.
  2. Depth of field calculators. These let you input your focal length, your distance to the subject, and your aperture, then they’ll spit back out your depth of field range. They’re very flexible, but you’ll need to keep one handy on your phone. They’re also less helpful than charts (because a chart lets you see how your depth of field changes as you make small adjustments to aperture and subject distance).
  3. Depth of field apps. There are many free and paid depth of field apps, most of which offer a combination of the above two DoF helpers. For instance, PhotoPills offers both a calculator and a chart (plus, the chart is adjustable – you can dial in your focal length and it’ll immediately recalculate your depth of field ranges). And PhotoPills includes other helpful photography aids, such as sunrise/sunset times and directions, hyperfocal distance charts and calculators, and more. Of course, you need to carry your phone with you at all times, but this is still the preferred solution of most landscape photographers.
The depth of field chart offered by PhotoPills.

Ultimately, the DoF aid you choose depends on your preferences – so feel free to try each option out and see which one you like best!

When to use a shallow depth of field

A shallow depth of field will make your subject stand out from the background. Here are a few situations when a shallow depth of field often makes sense:

  • In portrait photography, when you want to emphasize your subject’s features
  • In wildlife photography, when you want the animal to stand out
  • In sports photography, when you want to bring attention to the athlete
  • In macro photography, when you want to focus the viewer on a flower, plant, or insect
  • In event and street photography, when you want to isolate an individual in a chaotic environment

Note that using a wide aperture for a shallow depth of field will also increase the amount of light hitting your sensor, which will in turn let you boost the shutter speed. This is a major benefit if you’re shooting in low light or you need ultra-fast shutter speeds to freeze the action.

Here, I used a shallow depth of field effect to make the bird separate from the background. When to use a deep depth of field

A deep depth of field provides context, highlights small details, makes scenes appear more lifelike, and – when combined with certain composition techniques – increases depth. Here are some situations when a deep depth of field is best:

  • In landscape photography, when you want to lead the viewer from foreground to midground to background, or you want to emphasize both interesting foreground features and stunning background features
  • In macro photography, when you’re working at high magnifications, but you want to keep your entire main subject sharp
  • In street photography, when you want to emphasize the busyness and chaos of a city
  • In architectural photography, when you want to show off an entire building
  • In real estate photography, when you want to highlight an entire interior
A landscape shot like this one often requires a deep depth of field; thanks to the f/16 aperture, the road, the fallen leaves, and the distant trees all remain sharp, and the viewer feels like they could walk into the scene. Depth of field: final words

Depth of field is an essential concept for photographers of all stripes.

So grab a camera and practice working with depth of field. Look at photos you admire and consider the depth of field used by the photographers. And most importantly, understand how depth of field can improve your images!

Now over to you:

What questions do you have about depth of field? What depth of field do you most often use in your photos? After reading this article, do you plan to change your approach? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Depth of field FAQs Is depth of field equally distributed in front of and behind my focus point?

No. Depth of field is usually about one-third in front and two-thirds behind your point of focus, though as your focal length increases, the DoF distribution does become more equal.

How will understanding depth of field improve my images?

Keeping your images sharp is an essential skill, and knowing how to make parts of your images sharp and parts out of focus is a key artistic tool for creating stunning results.

How can I set the depth of field precisely for each photo?

You can use a depth of field chart, calculator, or app to determine your exact depth of field given a particular focal length.

Can depth of field be adjusted to get everything in focus?

Yes. You must use a concept called the hyperfocal distance; when you focus at this point, you’ll maximize depth of field and generally keep all of your image sharp.

What is bokeh?

Bokeh means “blur” in Japanese. A strong bokeh effect is produced in the out-of-focus areas of your image (i.e., in areas beyond the depth of field). For the best bokeh, you’ll need an ultra-shallow depth of field, though you can also maximize bokeh quality in other ways, such as by increasing the distance between the subject and the background.

The post Depth of Field for Beginners: The Essential Guide appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Bruce Wunderlich.

The Weekly Photography Challenge – 2021 So Far

Fri, 07/09/2021 - 16:00

The post The Weekly Photography Challenge – 2021 So Far appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

We’ve passed the half-way mark for 2021 already, almost hard to believe really… This week your photo challenge is super easy – Share your favourite photograph (that you’ve taken) from the first half of 2021.

  1. Must be your own photograph. (Do I need to say this?!)
  2. Must tag your photo #dPS2021SoFar
  3. Has to be from this year. (Obviously haha)
  4. Share a note about why it’s your favourite.

Your photo can be amazing from a photographic perspective or a special moment for you personally. Mine, below, was a moment that the sun almost poked through when we went for a trip down to the 12 Apostles, what was supposed to be a quick, hand-held family memory turned into a capture of the (on that trip) seldom seen light on the stunning Apostles. The trip was a good one amidst lockdowns, so t’was a special moment.

Upload your photograph into our comments field under this post (you’ll see the little camera icon in the Disqus comments area) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see. Or, if you’d prefer, upload them to your favourite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them.

If you do get stuck, you can contact our friendly (mostly!… ok, well.. after coffee he’s ok!) support guy. He’s on the email and he likes talking about himself in the third person…

The post The Weekly Photography Challenge – 2021 So Far appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

College Photography Instructor Bans Kit Lenses, Cites “Subpar” Quality

Fri, 07/09/2021 - 06:00

The post College Photography Instructor Bans Kit Lenses, Cites “Subpar” Quality appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

How do you feel about kit lenses? Are they capable of good photos? Or are they an utter waste of time, the type of lens that should be discarded at the earliest opportunity?

According to one college photography instructor, who banned the use of kit lenses in her editorial photography course, kit lenses aren’t just poor quality; they simply shouldn’t be used – at least not by photography students. As the instructor explains in her syllabus, “You are talented enough by this point to not compromise your image quality by using these subpar lenses…You should do everything within your power to never use these lenses again.”

Here’s the full quote, as posted to Reddit by a frustrated student:

The 18-55mm kit lenses that come with entry-level, crop-sensor DSLRs are NOT good quality. You are required to have the insurance for this class, and since most assignments require a trip to the cage for lighting gear, I am also blocking the use of these lenses. You are talented enough by this point to not compromise your image quality by using these subpar lenses. Student work from this class has been licensed commercially as stock photography, but if you shoot with an 18-55mm lens, you are putting your work at a serious disadvantage, quality-wise. You are not required to BUY a different lens, but you are required to use something other than this lens. You should do everything within your power to never use these lenses again.

The student went on to explain that the class is designed for second-year photography undergraduates, and that the “cage” – where students can borrow lenses to complete assignments – “is only accessible two hours a day, two days a week.”

In other words, while students who don’t own acceptable equipment (i.e., non-kit lenses) can technically continue the course without purchasing additional lenses, they’ll need to show greater dedication than their peers, put in extra hours on campus, and compete with other students for access to school-owned equipment.

While this lack of course accessibility is bound to frustrate plenty of current and would-be students, it’s the instructor’s sweeping criticism of kit lenses that has photographers up in arms.

As the Reddit community was quick to point out, plenty of beautiful photos, including work published in top-notch newspapers and magazines, have been taken with kit lenses or similar. And furthermore, there are high-quality kit lenses available, many of which are perfectly adequate for pro-level photos. Sure, some kit lenses do offer soft image quality, but you can often correct the problem by stopping down to f/8 or so.

And as the original poster explained, even “older full-frame kit lenses are more than adequate for all but the most demanding of applications,” and the class assignments involve “shooting with big strobes – mostly [at] f/8+ and ISO 100.”

For me, kit lenses are one-hundred percent adequate for a whole host of situations. Their image quality is often decent, and with the right technique, you can come away with some very nice results. Plus, kit lens focal lengths tend to be very useful. At 18mm, you can capture scene-setting wide-angle images; at 25-35mm, you can do some impactful street and photojournalistic photography; and at 45-55mm, you can do intimate portraits, headshots, and more.

That’s not to say that kit lenses are superior to their much more expensive prime counterparts. Kit lenses aren’t as sharp, as fast focusing, or as effective in low light as, say, a high-quality 50mm f/1.4 lens. But the point isn’t that kit lenses are the best, it’s that they’re good enough – and that both students and professionals can use kit lenses to great effect.

Now over to you:

What do you think about kit lenses in photography? Do you like them? Dislike them? Do you think they should be banned from photography classes? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

(Via PetaPixel)

The post College Photography Instructor Bans Kit Lenses, Cites “Subpar” Quality appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

14 Senior Picture Ideas to Get You Inspired

Thu, 07/08/2021 - 06:00

The post 14 Senior Picture Ideas to Get You Inspired appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

High school senior portraits are some of the most exciting and rewarding projects for any photographer. Stress levels are low (compared to wedding photography, anyway!), and these young seniors are happy, excited, and looking forward to the future.

You are photographing your subject at a unique point in their lives, and even after doing this for years, it’s still one of my favorite types of photography. If you have never done a high school senior photo session, or you’re a seasoned photographer seeking some inspiration, here are 14 senior picture ideas to jumpstart your creativity and give you some new directions to try.

1. Get the classic headshot Nikon D750 | 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II | 200mm | f/2.8 | 1/250s | ISO 360

Creativity is always good, but I recommend making sure your bases are covered before really cutting loose.

So start your session with some classic headshots. This has several key benefits; first, it puts your client at ease and helps show them you are a serious professional who knows what you’re doing. Additionally, headshots can help break the ice and serve as the jumping-off point for some more fun ideas later on.

Plus, a headshot gives the senior a nice photo to use in the yearbook or as a social media profile picture. Headshots won’t win awards for originality, but they serve a valuable purpose, and no high school senior photo session is complete without a few!

2. Use backlighting to spice up your portraits Nikon D750 | 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II | 165mm | f/2.8 | 1/180s | ISO 200

In a studio setting, it’s generally a good idea to position the primary light source, also known as the key light, behind you so that it’s illuminating the face of your subject. However, it’s also nice to have another light source behind your subject to provide a bit of backlighting and create a glowing effect around their head.

When you’re out in nature, you can accomplish this by shooting late in the day and positioning your subject so the sun is behind them. This creates a fun, dynamic look that can really elevate your portraits – and it’s an effect that can’t be easily faked with a social media filter.

3. Involve the senior’s four-legged friends Nikon D750 | 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II | 200mm | f/4.8 | 1/180s | ISO 1000

When I’m doing portrait photography, I like to be in control of the situation, so including pets always adds a bit of stress that I don’t really appreciate. However, high school senior pictures aren’t about me – they’re about the clients! And if you can learn to loosen up a bit and let these young students bring their pets along for the shoot, you’ll get some great results.

After all, pets put people at ease, and they also add a fun element of serendipity to the situation. You won’t always get award-winning shots, especially if the pets aren’t cooperating, but you will get pictures your clients will love. Just make sure someone else is with you, such as the senior’s parent or friend, to help corral the animals and then take them home after their part in the photoshoot is over.

4. There’s no place like home Nikon D200 | 50mm f/1.8G | f/1.8 | 1/180s | ISO 200

I almost always do high school senior pictures out on location, but you can also get great results in the senior’s backyard. In fact, you’ll often find some interesting options at their home for sitting, posing, or family member involvement that just don’t materialize at parks or on bridges.

I don’t recommend doing all the pictures at the senior’s home, but you might be surprised at the results you can get if you keep your eyes open. Also, starting the photoshoot at the student’s house helps build a sense of trust and can lead to some great conversations; this can be helpful down the line if you need things to talk about while shooting elsewhere.

5. Bring on the band Nikon D200 | 50mm f/1.8G | f/1.8 | 1/125s | ISO 200

Many high schoolers play instruments, which can easily be incorporated into a senior photo session. Some of my clients have told me that these shots ended up as their favorites, and I often feel the same.

Therefore, when you sit down with seniors to discuss the session and explain your process, let them know that they are welcome to bring their guitar, clarinet, trumpet, or even a drum set! It might add an unexpected challenge to the session, but the results are worth it, and it’s a great way to build a positive reputation among your clients and their friends.

6. Get formal with a cap and gown Nikon D7100 | 85mm f/1.8G | f/4 | 1/750s | ISO 200

Much like headshots, cap-and-gown photos won’t win awards for creativity, but they’re classic images your clients will appreciate years down the line.

So ask your client to bring graduation regalia to the photo session and get a variety of shots with them all dressed up. The pictures will look great on invitations and announcements, and parents love to buy prints and hang them on the wall.

7. Show some sibling love Nikon D750 | 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II | 125mm | f/4 | 1/180s | ISO 180

Do your high school senior clients have brothers or sisters? If so, ask them to take part in the photoshoot! You probably won’t want them for the whole session, but bring them in at the beginning or the end to add variety.

Get some shots of your subject and their sibling hugging, joking, or just talking; this can add a great deal of levity to what is sometimes a stressful situation, and you might also capture some candids that everyone really likes.

Plus, these sibling shots are always a favorite among parents, which will lead to more business for you down the line when the other children need photos as they grow up.

8. Invite their parents Nikon D750 | 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II | 175mm | f/3.3 | 1/350s | ISO 100

Lots of photographers focus solely on the high school seniors, but if you’re looking for an added element to make memorable pictures, then ask the parents to pose for a few shots, too!

You don’t have to go overboard; just grab a few shots at the beginning or end of the shoot, and parents will love it. After all, the adults in these students’ lives always appreciate the chance to be involved. In a few short months, their babies will be off to college, and these photos will create some powerful memories that will be cherished for years.

Group photos also help build a sense of trust between you and the parents and send the message that you know what you are doing and are serious about your craft. That leads to repeat business and can help generate some powerful word-of-mouth advertising, too.

9. Take a stroll for great shots Nikon D750 | 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II | 200mm | f/2.8 | 1/500s | ISO 100

If you’ve run out of ideas and aren’t sure what to do with your high school seniors, here’s some simple advice: just have them take a walk!

Find a spot with good lighting – like an alley or covered pedestrian path – and have your subject walk toward you while you capture a series of photos. This technique works great with a telephoto zoom; start by zooming in all the way and then slowly zoom out as your subject closes the gap (you can slowly step backward if you need to).

You’ll end up with a lot of pictures to wade through, but even if you only keep two percent of the walking-style shots, they’ll likely be extremely memorable.

10. Showcase the senior’s talents Nikon D750 | 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II | 175mm | f/2.8 | 1/500s | ISO 200

Many high school seniors have special talents and skills they like to share with others, and these are great to keep in mind for photo sessions.

Invite your client to bring their skateboard, scooter, or unicycle to the shoot. Get some photos of them hitting a golf ball, swinging a tennis racket, or shooting a basketball.

Even if the talent doesn’t involve a lot of physical movement – e.g., writing computer code – you can still find creative and interesting ways to showcase it, and it’ll give the senior some photos they’ll cherish years down the line.

11. Explore the downtown Nikon D7100 | 85mm f/1.8G | f/2.8 | 1/750s | ISO 200

You might be surprised at how many great shots you can get by wandering through the downtown of any city. From small towns to suburbs to large metropolitan areas, downtowns are rife with brilliant colors, interesting backgrounds, and great lighting conditions (even in broad daylight).

You can usually find a building or an awning that provides plenty of shade; that way, you can shoot photos without your subjects being blown out by harsh sunlight.

12. Visit the classic local spots Nikon D750 | 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II | 200mm | f/2.8 | 1/250s | ISO 400

Where I live, there’s a spot that’s always brought up when I’m discussing photo sessions with clients: a set of metal steps next to a certain building downtown. Clients love to get their pictures taken on these steps, but when I first started out, I saw them as a crutch. A cliché. A relic of the past that should be forgotten. Why go to the downtown steps when there are so many other interesting picture locations? Then I got over myself, embraced the idea, and my clients have loved the results.

There’s probably a similar spot where you do senior portrait sessions, too: an overused location that makes you roll your eyes when it comes up in conversation. My advice is to embrace the tradition and just go there anyway, at least for a few shots before heading elsewhere. Even though you might not personally think it’s a great spot for senior photos, your job is to get the best possible photos of your clients.

13. Explore a botanical garden Nikon D750 | 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II | 160mm | f/2.8 | 1/180s | ISO 360

Most urban areas have some type of public garden, and these always work great for high school senior photos.

Of course, don’t just take the same standing-in-front-of-flowers shots as everyone else. Get off the beaten path a bit and try to find new ways of looking at familiar spots! Search for greens and oranges that will make your client stand out, or work with the seniors beforehand to plan their wardrobe accordingly.

Take a stroll by yourself or with a friend before you do the photo session and look for interesting lighting conditions or hidden locations that people normally ignore.

Finally, look on social media for hashtags commonly used at these locations for fun portrait ideas to try, or – better yet! – so you know the cliché shots to avoid.

14. Above all else, have fun! Nikon D750 | 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II | 200mm | f/2.8 | 1/180s | ISO 280

When I first started doing high school senior pictures, I was so focused on the images that I left out the element of enjoyment. I was a serious photographer with a serious job to do. I quickly learned to loosen up, laugh a lot, and have fun with my clients. These young students are on the cusp of a very important time in their lives, and as a high school senior photographer, you have the incredible opportunity to catch this critical moment before it slips away.

So enjoy it! Laugh with your clients, talk with them about college or other post-high school plans, and get to know them throughout the session. Your photos will look better, your clients will enjoy their time with you, and you’ll get lots of referral business as a result. Studying techniques, locations, and posing tips is great, but if you and your clients aren’t having fun, then you’re doing something wrong.

Senior picture ideas: final words

These senior picture ideas are a good way to get inspired, but ultimately the success of your photo sessions is up to you. Use this article as a starting point but try your own ideas, find your own style, and do what works for you and your clients.

It also helps to find a friend or family member who can help you practice so you’re better prepared during the actual photo sessions, and this article should give you some good ideas to try!

Now I’d love to hear from you:

What tips have you found that work well when you are photographing high school seniors? What pitfalls or mistakes have you made that you want others to avoid? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Senior picture FAQs What should I tell my clients to wear for high school senior pictures?

Don’t get too picky. Solid colors are great, but I have had the best results when my clients are relaxed and enjoying themselves. Instead of colors, think of styles: formal, casual, etc., and have your clients dress appropriately or give them the opportunity to change outfits. And of course, make sure to have them bring their cap and gown if they have it!

How long should my high school senior photo sessions last?

This can depend on many factors, but in general, your photo sessions should be about an hour. That’s almost always enough time to get the photos you’re after, though you can take longer if you need to factor in location changes, different outfits, etc. Just remember that the longer things go, the more likely your clients will become tired or bored, and you risk losing the energy and excitement that happens early in the session.

What time of day should I do high school senior photos?

I like to shoot these types of pictures in the evening when the sun isn’t high overhead. The lighting is usually softer, and you will have an easier time finding locations that are evenly lit.

How can I find new and exciting spots for high school senior photos?

If you’re struggling to find new locations for your photo sessions, just get in your car and drive around. Start with parks or other public spaces. Have you examined them from every angle? Are there new spots in these locations you haven’t considered? I have found some of my favorite photography spots completely by accident (all it took was a little driving around town). Just make sure photography isn’t prohibited, and that you have permission before you start taking pictures!

The post 14 Senior Picture Ideas to Get You Inspired appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

12 Tips to Master the Clone Stamp Tool in Photoshop

Wed, 07/07/2021 - 06:00

The post 12 Tips to Master the Clone Stamp Tool in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jim Hamel.

The Clone Stamp tool is one of Photoshop’s most useful editing options. After all, it can get rid of all sorts of unwanted objects! Yet for beginners – and even more experienced photo editors – it can be intimidating, frustrating, and discouraging.

That’s why, in this article, I’m going to share everything you need to know about the Clone Stamp tool, including how it works, how to use it to remove unwanted items from your photos, and the simple tips and tricks that will make you a Clone Stamp master.

Let’s dive right in.

When should you use the Clone Stamp tool in Photoshop?

Photoshop offers several tools for making minor adjustments to your photos (e.g., the Healing Brush tool and the Spot Healing Brush tool). But while such tools are great for minor edits – such as removing spots and power lines – when it comes time for serious, intensive surgery on your photos, the Clone Stamp tool is the way to go.

You can use the Clone Stamp tool to:

  • Remove people standing in the background of a portrait
  • Remove people walking through your travel shots
  • Remove cars that are positioned in awkward places
  • Remove distracting street signs
  • Remove distracting shadows
  • Remove distracting reflections

And those are just a few of the many applications of the Clone Stamp tool.

You will not often find the stairs of the Palais Garnier in Paris free of people, so you will need to put the Clone Stamp tool to work if you want a clean picture. This applies at many other tourist destinations, as well. How to use the Clone Stamp tool: the basics

Getting started with the Clone Stamp tool is simple. You just tell Photoshop two things:

  1. The area you want to target for removal (i.e., the target area).
  2. The area Photoshop should use to supply replacement pixels (i.e., the source area).

So if you were removing a person from a staircase (as I did in the example above), you would set the source area as some nearby stairs, and you would set the target area as the person you wanted to remove.

Here’s the step-by-step process for using the tool:

Step 1: Select the Clone Stamp tool from the Tools panel

You’ll find the Tools panel on the left-hand side of your screen (the Clone Stamp tool looks like a rubber stamp):

Once you have the tool selected, click on the Brush menu dropdown:

And set both the Size and the Hardness.

Step 2: Select the source area

Remember, the source area refers to the portion of the image you will use to source replacement pixels.

So hover your cursor over the source area, hold the Alt/Option key (your cursor will now become a target), and do a single click.

Step 3: Paint over the target area

Release the Alt key and move your mouse over to the area you’d like to remove. Hold down the mouse button and carefully paint in the new pixels.

And that’s it. You’re done! But while the process sounds simple, there’s a lot to understand, especially if you want to become a Clone Stamp expert.

So let’s take a look at some tips and tricks to help you conquer this important Photoshop tool, starting with:

1. Work on a new layer

Before making changes with the Clone Stamp tool, always create a new layer. Then make sure your adjustments all happen on the layer (you can flatten the image when you’re done).

Why should you do this?

There are many reasons. First of all, Photoshop layers are nondestructive – so changes to the layer won’t change the underlying pixels of your image. In addition, if you don’t like where the changes are going, you can always delete the layer and start over.

And if you later decide there are portions of the Clone Stamp changes you don’t want, you can always use a layer mask to selectively delete those changes. Plus, you can apply adjustments specifically to cloned areas if they are on a new layer (as will be explored in more depth below).

Now, creating a new layer is easy. Simply press Ctrl/Cmd+J to create a duplicate of your current image layer, or press Shift+Ctrl/Cmd+N to create a new blank layer.

Note: If you do create a new blank layer, make sure you have All Layers selected as your source in the Clone Stamp tool settings.

I personally prefer working on a new layer (as opposed to a duplicate layer), but either way will work.

2. Zoom in (way in)

When working with the Clone Stamp tool, you should always zoom in – in fact, I recommend you zoom way in (potentially to 100% and beyond).

I tend to do my Clone Stamp work zoomed in to 100% or more.

Zooming in will help isolate the area you are working on, and it will allow you to work with far more detail and precision than would otherwise be possible. Make your changes look as good as you can with this higher level of detail, then when you zoom back out, the changes will blend in perfectly.

A shortcut for zooming quickly is to hold the Alt/Option key with your left hand while using the scroll wheel on your mouse to zoom in and out. You can also use Ctrl/Cmd and the + or key on the keyboard. That way, you can zoom in and out with speed.

3. Set your brush size using shortcuts

When working with the Clone Stamp tool, you’ll need to change your brush size often.

Why? You should always make sure your brush size fits the changes you’re making. Big changes require a big brush, whereas small changes require a fine brush for detail work.

Unfortunately, changing the size through the Brush panel is cumbersome, but there are some easy keyboard shortcuts:

  • The left bracket key [ makes the brush smaller
  • The right bracket key ] makes the brush larger

Thanks to these shortcuts, you’ll be able to rapidly tailor the tool to your specific circumstances.

4. Set the proper brush hardness

The Clone Stamp tool can be set to whatever hardness you desire. Simply open the Brush panel, then adjust the Hardness slider:

Now, hardness determines the extent to which your cloning will blend in with the surrounding pixels. If you set the hardness toward 100%, the cloned edges will be hard and definite:

If you set the hardness toward 0%, the edges will blend in with the surroundings:

In general, keep the hardness at 0%. It will help you seamlessly blend in your effect. There will be times, however, where you are working near a defined edge, in which case you should increase the hardness. Even then, around 50% will usually do. Setting the hardness any higher creates harsh transitions, and these often look unnatural (they’ll also make it very clear you’ve used the Clone Stamp tool).

5. Clone before making other adjustments

Here’s a quick Clone Stamp tool tip:

Do your cloning before making adjustments (via adjustment layers) to contrast, color, etc. If you apply the Clone Stamp tool after creating those adjustment layers, you’ll bake the changes permanently into your picture when you clone – which can be a problem if you later decide you want to remove some of your earlier adjustments.

However, in some cases, you’ll need to clone, yet you will have already made changes on an adjustment layer. So what do you do? Photoshop actually lets you decide whether to include adjustment layer changes in your cloning, and I generally recommend you don’t include these changes.

Simply select the circle with a line through it in the Clone Stamp tool Options bar:

And Photoshop will ignore adjustment layers when you clone.

6. Grab the low-hanging fruit

Most of the time, your pictures will have some easy items to clone out – along with some harder items.

Clone out the easy items first, such as small blemishes on a portrait subject, dirt in a landscape, trash in a street scene, etc.

For one, this will give you confidence in your Clone Stamp tool abilities (always a good thing!). Plus, removing unnecessary items will help when the time comes to make hard changes.

How will it help? When using the Clone Stamp tool, the cleaner the space you have from which you can draw pixels, the better. So by making the easy changes first, you’re cleaning up the areas that may feature in your more difficult clone jobs later.

Make sense?

7. Watch for patterns

Sometimes, it’s a good idea to include patterns in your cloning; for instance, if you’re removing a person from in front of a building, you’ll want to use a similar building as your cloning source.

However, there are often times when you don’t want discernible patterns in your cloned areas. For instance, if you get rid of a bird in the sky, you don’t want to replace it with an obvious set of repetitive clouds – that would look super unnatural and would immediately indicate to viewers that you used the Clone Stamp tool.

There is an easy way to avoid patterns: as you clone, frequently choose a new source point. Sample from one area and clone one part of your image, then sample from another area and clone another part, and so on. Keep it up until you’ve finished all the necessary cloning, and you’ll end up with an image featuring zero repetition and an invisible clone job.

The right side of this image was filled with distractions, and the Clone Stamp tool eliminated them. But I had to be careful not to create patterns in the rocks or in the trees/water! 8. Follow the lines

A key to the successful use of the Clone Stamp tool is making all the lines in your picture match. Even slight deviations from the correct lines will look fake and destroy the effect you are trying to achieve.

For example, if you’re cloning parts of a landscape, make sure the edges of the tree branches match up. In an urban context, follow lines on buildings such as roof edges, doorways, and brickwork.

When you’re using the Clone Stamp tool, I recommend you start with – and stay focused on! – the lines. Let the rest of the pixels fall where they may. Afterward, if you need to go back over other areas, you can do so.

Here, I’ve zoomed in on a portion of an architectural shot. As you can see, I’ve used the patterns on the floor and door to recreate the space behind the distracting person. 9. Avoid selecting from adjacent areas

As previously mentioned, a dead giveaway of the Clone Stamp tool is repetition.

Of course, in a sense, the Clone Stamp tool is all about repetition – you’re repeating a part of your image to cover up a part you don’t like – but you need to do it in such a way that the viewer doesn’t notice. If you draw pixels from an immediately adjacent area, you risk the viewer noticing the repetition. So take the pixels from somewhere else in the image instead.

Inadvertently creating a pattern is an easy trap to fall into when using adjacent areas, but at the same time, using non-adjacent areas can be tricky. The immediately adjacent areas are usually the closest in color and tone to the area you want to replace, and as you move farther away, tones and colors change so the pixels get harder to match.

So work hard. Find a way to use pixels from somewhere else in your photo, especially when the adjacent pixels contain obvious patterns. It might take extra time, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

10. Muddle through (and accept the messiness)

Once you’ve made the “easy” changes to your photo, it’s time to tackle a bigger problem – a crowd of people, for instance, or a car that takes up a large portion of the scene. And I get it: it’s the scary part of using the Clone Stamp tool.

The key is to just dive in. Don’t try to figure it all out beforehand (you never will). You can use a couple of different approaches:

  1. Go big first. Set your brush a little larger than is strictly necessary and just replace the entire area in one fell swoop. You should then go back and clean up with a smaller brush.
  2. Go small and steady. Stick with the smaller brush and paint over the problem area gradually. Here, the key is to keep going. Remember that you can go over the area again if necessary. Whatever you do on your first pass, while probably not perfect, will undoubtedly look better than what you started with.

You’ve just got to do it. There is a tendency to freeze up and to try to map out the entire clone job, step by step, before actually doing anything. But this just causes you to stare at the computer screen for long periods of time and isn’t especially helpful.

Remember, you can always undo what you’ve done! In addition, because you hopefully followed the first tip in this article and are working on a new layer, you can always mask out certain areas or even delete them if you don’t get the result you want.

11. Mirror your source pixels

The Clone Source panel contains lots of adjustments you can make to your brush when cloning.

To access the panel, go to Window, then click on Clone Source:

Once in the panel, you can change the angle of the replacement pixels, you can give the tool an offset, and more.

One of the most useful features in the Clone Source panel is the Flip Horizontal option:

Click on this, and the pixels will be replaced in the opposite horizontal direction to the source.

Confused? Don’t be. You’re basically just mirroring source pixels. For example, in the crop below, I selected the road line on the right as my source, then cloned it off to the left. You can see how the pixels are flipped horizontally:

While this may seem like a pointless trick, it can actually be very useful. Imagine you’re dealing with a symmetrical object; instead of sourcing pixels from above or below the clone target, you can simply use pixels from its opposite (reflective) side.

Here’s a typical example: A person is covering one side of a doorway, and you want to get rid of them. By clicking on Flip Horizontal, you can use the other side of the doorway as your source, and you don’t have to scramble for pixels all around the frame.

12. Change the cloned areas with adjustment layers

Sometimes, your cloned areas just won’t look exactly like the surroundings. Perhaps the source areas you used were too bright or too dark, or perhaps the colors were just a bit off.

But don’t worry; you can fix this without affecting the surrounding pixels. You just need the power of adjustment layers.

Simply create a new adjustment layer (e.g., Levels, Curves, or Hue/Saturation):

Make sure it’s positioned above your cloning layer. Then hold down the Alt/Option key and click on the spot between the two layers:

This will clip the adjustment layer to your cloning layer. Now any adjustments you apply will only change the layer below it, and you’re free to brighten, darken, add contrast, adjust colors, etc.

Mastering the Clone Stamp tool: final words

Remember: Using the Clone Stamp tool can be a messy process. So don’t worry if you find yourself having to redo changes or make things up as you go along. There is no magical “clean” method – instead, the Clone Stamp tool involves a lot of experimentation, a lot of problem-solving, and a dose of determination.

Take your time and just keep moving. You can always undo your changes (or, if you are working on a new layer, you can delete the changes without losing the rest of your work).

And have fun!

Now over to you:

Do you have any tips or tricks for using the Clone Stamp tool? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post 12 Tips to Master the Clone Stamp Tool in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jim Hamel.

Aperture in Photography: A Beginner’s Guide (+ Examples)

Tue, 07/06/2021 - 06:00

The post Aperture in Photography: A Beginner’s Guide (+ Examples) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

What is aperture in photography? How does it work? And how can you use it to capture photos like the pros?

Aperture is an essential camera setting; in my opinion, it’s where the magic happens in photography. So in this article, I’m going to take you through all the ins and outs of aperture, including:

  • What aperture actually is (in simple, easy-to-understand terms)
  • How you can use aperture to capture artistic images
  • How to choose the perfect aperture for landscape photography, portrait photography, and more
  • Plenty of other tips and tricks!

If you can master aperture, then you’ll gain a huge amount of creative control over your photography.

Ready to take your photos to the next level?

Let’s dive right in, starting with the most important question of all:

What is aperture?

Aperture is the opening in the camera lens. A larger hole allows more light to hit the sensor, lightening your photos. A smaller hole allows less light to hit the sensor, darkening your photos.

And by adjusting the aperture setting on your camera, you can adjust the size of the aperture (and, in turn, affect a photo’s brightness).

The aperture is that (bladed) hole inside your lens! Aperture and f-stops

Aperture is measured in terms of f-stops, also known as f-numbers. Like this: f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/22, etc.

As shown in the diagram below, the smaller the f-number, the larger the aperture hole:

As the f-number increases, the aperture size decreases.

Now, each full stop corresponds to a halving of aperture size. So when you go from f/2.8 to f/4, you cut the aperture in half. And when you go from f/4 to f/5.6, you cut the aperture in half again.

(Of course, to double the aperture size, you just go in the reverse direction: from f/5.6 to f/4, and from f/4 to f/2.8.)

So f/2.8 is a much larger aperture than f/22. And f/11 is a much smaller aperture than f/4.

Does that make sense? It can be confusing at first, especially because large aperture sizes correspond to smaller f-stop numbers and vice versa. But stick with it, and it’ll become second nature.

How does aperture affect your photos?

At this point in the article, you should know what aperture is: a hole in the lens that increases and decreases depending on your camera settings (i.e., your f-stop value).

But what does aperture actually do? How does it affect your photos?

In the next two sections, I’ll discuss the primary effects of aperture:

  1. Exposure
  2. Depth of field
Aperture and exposure

As you may already know, exposure refers to the brightness of a photo.

In general, the goal is to end up with a photo that’s not too dark and not too bright; instead, you want a shot that’s just right, one with lots of detail.

So where does aperture come into play?

Aperture is one of the three key variables that affect your exposure. (The other two variables are shutter speed and ISO.)

Remember what I said above? By widening the aperture, you let in more light, which brightens your image. And by narrowing the aperture, you let in less light, which darkens your image.

So if you’re photographing a beautiful sunset and your photos keep turning out too bright, you can always narrow the aperture to darken down the image. (In fact, using a narrow aperture is often a good idea when shooting sunsets!)

A sunset scene like this will often benefit from a narrow aperture.

And if you’re photographing a forest and your photos keep turning out dark and shadowy, you can always widen the aperture to brighten up the image. (As you might expect, this is a standard low-light photography practice.)

If you’re photographing a subject in the shade, a wider aperture will brighten things up.

Of course, aperture isn’t the only variable that affects exposure. If you want to brighten a photo, you can also lower the shutter speed or boost the ISO. And if you want to darken a photo, you can raise the shutter speed or drop the ISO.

In terms of exposure, widening your aperture by a full stop has the exact same effect as lowering your shutter speed by a full stop or boosting your ISO by a full stop. A key consequence of this: different exposure variables can cancel each other out. Increase your ISO by a stop while decreasing your aperture by a stop, and you’ll end up with an identical exposure.

The point here is that, while aperture does determine exposure, you can’t think about it in isolation. Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO work together to give you a well-exposed (or poorly exposed) image.

Aperture and depth of field

Aperture also affects the depth of field in your photos.

What exactly does that mean? Well, depth of field (DOF) is the amount of your shot that is in focus. So a photo with a large depth of field will have most of the image in focus, like this:

Do you see how sharpness stretches from the foreground to the background? That’s thanks to the large depth of field.

A photo with a small depth of field, on the other hand, will have only a sliver in focus, like this:

As you can see, the effect is pretty artistic; you get a sharp subject but a blurry background. Neat, right? Because a blurry background helps the subject to stand out, this is an effect you’ll often see in portrait photography.

As for aperture, the wider the aperture (and the smaller the f-number!), the shallower the depth of field.

So an image with an f/2.8 aperture will have very little in focus:

And an image with an f/16 aperture will have all of the scene in focus:

Got it? If you’re still struggling to understand – and if you are, don’t be embarrassed! – let me illustrate using two pictures I took in my garden:

The first picture was taken with an aperture of f/22, while the second picture was shot at f/2.8. The difference is obvious, right? The f/22 picture has both the flower and the bud in focus and you’re able to make out the fence and leaves in the background. Whereas the f/2.8 shot has the left flower in focus, but the right flower is less in focus and the background is completely blurry.

That’s all thanks to aperture, which controls the depth of field.

4 simple aperture examples

Here are a handful of additional aperture examples to help you wrap your head around its effects – in particular, how aperture affects the depth of field.

First, take a look at this landscape shot. It was captured with a narrow aperture, which resulted in a deep depth of field and sharpness throughout:

Now take a look at this street photo, which was taken with a wide aperture; it has a shallow depth of field:

And here’s a third example, which has a midrange depth of field. The entire photo isn’t sharp, but the main subject plus some of the surrounding area look crisp:

Finally, here’s one more example with an ultra-wide aperture for an ultra-shallow depth of field:

What’s important to know is that the aperture offers you creative control as a photographer. Want to create a blurry background? Pick a wide aperture. Want to keep your shot sharp throughout? Pick a narrow aperture.

Of course, you also have to remember the effect of aperture on exposure, which is what makes things a bit more complex (but a lot more fun!).

Adjusting the aperture on your camera

Now that you’ve made it this far, you might be wondering:

How can you actually change the aperture on your camera? What do you have to do?

Fortunately, adjusting the aperture is easy. You just set your camera’s shooting mode to Manual or Aperture Priority. Then rotate the relevant camera dial to change the f-number. (The specific dial will depend on your camera model; if you’re struggling, consult your manual.)

Which aperture is best?

When photographers first learn about aperture, this is a question that crops up constantly.

But as you’ve hopefully gleaned from the sections above, there is no single best aperture that you can use all the time. Sometimes you’ll want a deep depth of field or you’ll want to darken down a too-bright shot, in which case you’ll need to use a narrow aperture. Other times you’ll want a shallow depth of field or you’ll want to brighten up a too-dark shot, in which case you’ll need to use a wide aperture.

That said…

There are apertures that get used consistently in certain genres. I’ll cover them briefly below, starting with:

The best landscape photography aperture

Landscape photographers gravitate toward small aperture settings, such as f/8, f/11, and even f/16.


When you’re shooting a sweeping photo of the land, sea, or sky, you often want to keep the whole shot sharp. That way, the viewer can appreciate every little detail of your majestic scene.

Landscape photos like this one generally require a narrow aperture.

Plus, a deep depth of field makes the shot feel more real, like the viewer could physically step into the scene.

The best portrait photography aperture

In portrait photography, it can be handy to have your subject perfectly in focus but the background nice and blurry. That way, your main subject stands out and the background doesn’t become a distraction.

Wide apertures work great for portraits!

In other words, use a large aperture to ensure a shallow depth of field.

It’s a trick used by family portrait photographers, headshot photographers, fashion photographers, and more.

The best macro photography aperture

Macro (i.e., close-up) photographers tend to disagree over aperture.

Some macro photographers use a very narrow aperture because depth of field gets shallower at high magnifications. And by using a narrow aperture, a macro photographer can ensure that their entire subject is in focus, even if the background is blurred.

This macro photo was shot at f/13; at such high magnifications, keeping an entire insect in focus is tough.

Whereas other macro photographers embrace a shallow depth of field. They use a very wide aperture for a soft-focus effect.

A soft-focus effect looks great in macro photography.

Which is the way to go? That depends on your preferences! Both approaches work well, and there are plenty of professionals using each technique, so don’t stress about it too much.

Aperture in photography: final words

Hopefully, you now have a good understanding of aperture in photography and how you can use it to gain creative control over your photos.

But if you’re still a little confused, that’s okay. Grab your camera and do some experimenting. Find a subject – an apple works great! – and shoot it with different apertures. Watch as the depth of field changes.

Pretty soon, it’ll click. And your photos will (genuinely!) never be the same again.

The post Aperture in Photography: A Beginner’s Guide (+ Examples) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

10 Best Lenses for Landscape Photography (in 2021)

Mon, 07/05/2021 - 06:00

The post 10 Best Lenses for Landscape Photography (in 2021) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

If you want to take beautiful landscape photos, you need to choose your lens carefully. After all, a lens determines the quality of your image; pick a good lens, and you have the potential for amazing results. But get the lens wrong, and your images will be consistently unsatisfying.

That’s why, in this article, I’ll take you through all the best lenses for landscape photography you can buy today – including options for Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Fujifilm, as well as choices at every price point.

So without further ado, here are our recommendations of top-notch landscape lenses, starting with the number one pick:

1. Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM

If you use Canon full-frame DSLRs, then the 16-35mm f/4L IS USM is an excellent choice; it carries the prestigious L-series label and features a very nice focal range and sharp image quality.

There is an f/2.8 version of this lens, but the f/4 version gives equally stunning results and comes with a cheaper price tag. It’s a fast and dynamic lens with an ultrasonic focus system and a minimum focusing distance of 11 inches (0.28 meters), perfect for photographing close foreground subjects. Plus, the 4-stops of image stabilization and great in-built weather sealing allow you to capture sharp landscape photos in all lighting and weather.

If you want to create stunning images of expansive scenes, then this is one of the best landscape lenses on the market in 2021.

2. Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM

The Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L is the ultimate lens for landscape photographers looking to give their images a professional edge. It’s a great match for Canon mirrorless users, although there is a huge hike in price compared to the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 (featured above).

The 15-35mm is a joy to use, and photographers will love its edge-to-edge sharpness, amazing image quality, and superbly silent and fast autofocus. The lens promises image stabilization of up to five stops, which is a big deal if you plan to shoot landscapes handheld in low light.

Overall, the RF 15-35mm f/2.8L is a landscape photographer’s dream, thanks to its ideal focal length and great all-around performance.

3. Nikon AF-S 16-35mm f/4G ED VR

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4G is one of the best landscape lenses for full-frame Nikon DSLR users, and a perfect match for photographers in search of that beautiful wide-angle perspective.

The lens is both portable and durable, plus it packs great Vibration Reduction for low-light handheld photography. The 16-35mm focal length range is ideal for landscape photography and allows you to shoot stunning near-far compositions for pro-level results. It is also (relatively) inexpensive, compact, and much lighter than most f/2.8 zooms (at 24 oz/680 g).

The lens accommodates filters with a 77mm thread – a standard filter size that will please a lot of photographers. And the lens optics are beautifully designed to enhance sharpness and contrast.

4. Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S

The Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 lens was Nikon’s first ultra-wide-angle zoom for Z-mount cameras, and it remains one of the best landscape lenses for Nikon full-frame mirrorless cameras in 2021.

The 14-30mm f/4 is lightweight, and it’s also extremely portable. It supports direct filter attachment to the front of the lens, which expands the creative possibilities for ultra-wide landscape photography. It’s well designed with resistance to dust and water and features fabulous optics for clear and sharp shots.

Ultimately, the compact design and incredible corner-to-corner sharpness make the Nikon 14-30mm f/4 a lens worth considering.

5. Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS

The Fujifilm 10-24mm f/4 lens is one of the best lenses for Fujifilm X-mount cameras, and an excellent landscape photography lens for many reasons.

Key features include enhanced optical image stabilization, an elegant design, improved weather sealing, an ultra-wide-angle view and focal range, and silent shooting. This wide-angle zoom feels and looks fabulous and offers great image sharpness across the focal range. The construction is good quality, and you get a minimum focusing distance of 9 inches (0.24 meters).

Thanks to the ultra-wide angle of view, the 10-24mm f/4 provides gorgeous landscape possibilities for APS-C users.

6. Sony E 10-18mm f/4 OSS

Coupled with Sony’s E-mount cameras, the 10-18mm f/4 is a super wide-angle zoom lens, though bear in mind that it’s designed to work with APS-C cameras only (its focal length equivalent is 15-27mm).

The superior glass provides optimal optical performance, with excellent contrast and sharp image quality, even at the 10mm focal length. It is one of the best-quality landscape lenses for APS-C Sony mirrorless users out there, plus it’s small and lightweight (it only weighs 7.9 oz/225 grams).

The Optical SteadyShot feature keeps handheld shots blur-free, and the constant f/4 maximum aperture is decent enough for noise-free shooting in low light. Its minimum focus distance of 10 inches (0.25 meters) and attractive zoom range let you capture expansive landscapes with precision.

7. Fujifilm XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR

One of the biggest reasons to grab the Fujifilm 16-55mm f/2.8 for landscape photography is its versatility – it features a fantastic focal length range, from wide-angle to short telephoto, along with an excellent maximum aperture for astrophotography.

It also offers the opportunity to capture the landscape with real accuracy; as you can imagine, optical performance is top-notch, and thanks to the f/2.8 aperture, sharp results are practically guaranteed, even in low light.

The Fujifilm 16-55mm f/2.8 is suitable for landscape photographers in search of an all-around performer, especially someone who requires quality, precision, and sharpness across a wide focal range.

8. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

Yes, it’s on the pricey side, but the greatest benefit of the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens for landscape shooters is the versatile focal range offered for shoots. At 24mm, you can capture beautiful wide-angle images; at 70mm, you can shoot intimate landscapes, close-up scenes, and more.

Astrophotographers will love the f/2.8 maximum aperture, which allows for a low ISO when photographing the night sky.

Bottom line: The 24-70mm f/2.8 is an incredibly sharp lens, and if you can afford it, buy it. For those who want to spend less cash, Canon offers a cheaper f/4 version.

9. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II

With a versatile zoom range that extends beyond the 24-70mm lens featured above, the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L packs a punch in terms of focal length range, image quality, and edge-to-edge sharpness.

Thanks to the extra reach on the telephoto end, you can zoom in to highlight specific landscape features and create more intimate, even abstract images. But you can always capture standard landscapes in the 24-35mm range, and the image stabilization ensures you can shoot in lower light without a tripod.

10. Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS

If you’re a Sony mirrorless shooter, the 70-200mm f/4 G is a great choice; it’s a telephoto zoom lens with a constant f/4 maximum aperture, and it delivers great image quality with wonderful background bokeh.

While the focal length range sits squarely in the “telephoto” arena, you can use the 70-200mm to hone in on various elements of the landscape (and potentially even wildlife, too!).

It is a fast lens and performs well out in the field, especially when coupled with its image stabilization and f/4 maximum aperture, both of which allow for improved performance in low light.

The best lens for landscape photography: final words

There are quite a few excellent lenses for landscape photography, far too many to list – but I hope this article has been helpful, and that you can now confidently choose the best landscape lens for you.

Ultimately, the ideal lens comes down to your own individual needs and budget, so don’t feel pressure to choose the most expensive or most popular option. Instead, think about your camera model (and its corresponding lens compatibility), as well as features such as image quality, build quality, image stabilization, focal length, and more.

Briefly, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L and the Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S lenses are excellent choices for those looking for a mix of price and quality. The Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS II and the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G are great if you love to capture a range of landscape shots from wide-angle to telephoto. Finally, for anyone looking for a budget-friendly landscape lens, the Sony E 10-18mm f/4 OSS is a reasonable buy.

Now over to you:

Do you have a favorite landscape photography lens? Which lens on this list was your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post 10 Best Lenses for Landscape Photography (in 2021) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

Macro Photography: The Complete Guide to Breathtaking Macro Images

Sun, 07/04/2021 - 06:00

The post Macro Photography: The Complete Guide to Breathtaking Macro Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Barrie Smith.

What is macro photography? How can you get started capturing macro photos? And what are some easy tips and techniques to take your macro images to the next level?

That’s what this article is all about.

I’m going to share everything you need to know about macro photography – so that, by the time you’ve finished this article, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an expert. Specifically, I’ll discuss:

  • The two pieces of gear you need to take stunning close-up shots
  • The best lighting for vibrant colors
  • How to create a scrumptious, creamy background blur
  • How to capture consistently sharp macro images
  • So much more!

Let’s jump right in.

What is macro photography?

Macro photography refers to photographing at high magnifications. This may involve the use of a specialized macro lens, which is designed to capture detailed, close-up photos.

Technically speaking, a true macro photo creates an image on the camera sensor that’s the same size as the scene in real life, also known as 1:1 magnification. So if you were to photograph an inch-long flower, the flower would need to take up an inch of your camera sensor.

This image was captured with a macro lens at or near 1:1 magnification (in real life, those anthers were tiny!):

But in general, the term “macro photography” is much broader. It includes true macro photos, but also general close-up images of flowers, insects, leaves, food, and more.

For instance, here’s a photo of a relatively large flower:

Is it a close-up photo? Yes, definitely. Would most photographers happily refer to it as “macro photography”? I think so. But it certainly didn’t involve 1:1 magnifications (and it probably could’ve been taken with a non-macro lens).

The same is true of the succulent image below. It’s close up, it’s not “true macro photography,” but I’d still call it “macro photography:”

The two essential pieces of macro photography gear

Getting started with macro photography is easy, and you don’t need thousands of dollars worth of gear.

Instead, I only recommend two items:

  1. A camera
  2. A close-focusing accessory

Let’s take a look at both these pieces of equipment in greater detail:

Choosing a camera

It may seem blatantly obvious, but every macro photographer needs a camera.

What kind of camera is best? I highly recommend a camera that offers interchangeable lenses; they tend to produce the highest-quality photos, and as you become more experienced, you can upgrade your lenses without needing to purchase a new camera. Plus, interchangeable lenses will just make your life a lot easier if you ever decide to shoot landscapes, portraits, architecture, etc., because you can buy lenses specifically for those purposes.

But as long as your camera can change lenses, you don’t need to be picky. Any DSLR or mirrorless model from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, Panasonic, Olympus, or Pentax will work just fine (and there are plenty of other brands not mentioned on that list that will work, too).

And if you don’t want to shell out for a DSLR or mirrorless camera, that’s okay, too. Even a smartphone will let you shoot macro photos, provided you have the right close-focusing accessory, as discussed in the next section:

Choosing a close-focusing accessory

Most cameras cannot automatically focus up close. So in order to capture macro photos, you’ll need some sort of magnifier.

Here, you have a few options. If you already own a lens (such as an 18-55mm kit lens or a 50mm lens) you can purchase a close-up filter, which will mount to your setup and let you shoot at high magnifications. Extension tubes are another option, which go between your camera and your lens and allow for closer focusing.

But while close-up filters and extension tubes do work, they come with some serious drawbacks. Close-up filters tend to reduce image sharpness, and both options reduce your shooting flexibility. That’s why I recommend a macro lens for the best shooting experience.

Which macro lens you choose doesn’t make a major difference; as long as the lens can get you close – 1:2 or 1:1 magnification is ideal – then you’ll be able to capture stellar images.

Is any other gear necessary?

If you’ve done any reading on macro photography, you’re probably wondering: What about artificial lighting? What about a tripod? What about a focusing rail? Aren’t those important for good macro photography?

Honestly, while artificial lighting, a sturdy tripod, and a macro focusing rail can certainly be helpful for some types of macro photography, they’re definitely not a requirement. (I rarely use those items, myself.)

So I’d recommend getting started without such accessories. Then, if you decide you want greater stability, you can grab a tripod; if you decide you want precision focusing, you can grab a focusing rail; and if you decide you want to modify the light, you can grab artificial lighting. But they’re not always necessary, and there are plenty of professionals who work handheld with only natural light.

Make sense?

Macro photography settings

Macro photography is a technically demanding genre. So you need to pay careful attention to your settings when shooting.

Here are my three essential recommendations:

1. Set your camera to Aperture Priority or Manual mode

Pretty much every camera offers a series of modes: Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Program, etc.

And I highly recommend choosing either Aperture Priority or Manual mode.

Aperture Priority lets you choose your aperture and ISO setting, while your camera chooses the shutter speed. I discuss aperture more in the next section, but taking control over the aperture goes a long way toward creating stunning macro photos.

Manual mode lets you choose the aperture, the shutter speed, and the ISO. Personally, I shoot almost exclusively in Manual mode, as I find it offers the most flexibility and creative control. It can take some getting used to, though, so if you like the idea of shooting in Manual mode but don’t feel comfortable adjusting all your camera settings, start with Aperture Priority, then switch to Manual as you become more experienced.

2. Carefully choose your aperture for perfect depth of field

The aperture is a hole inside your lens that opens and closes depending on your camera’s aperture setting.

Aperture is a key part of exposure (along with shutter speed and ISO). But aperture also affects the depth of field: the amount of your image that’s sharp.

By selecting a small aperture (also known as a high f-number, such as f/16), you’ll end up with a result like this one, where most of the subject is in focus:

And by selecting a large aperture (i.e., a small f-number, such as f/2.8), you’ll end up with an image like this, where very little of the subject is in focus:

Because macro photography occurs at such high magnifications, depth of field is already pretty limited. (The closer you are to your subject, the smaller the depth of field, all else being equal.)

So it’s pretty tough to get a shot with a sharp subject and a sharp background, even if you shoot at f/22. However, you’ll still need to carefully consider your aperture. Certain macro photographers like to keep their entire subject sharp from front to back, and they’ll often shoot at f/13 or f/16.

Whereas other macro photographers like to create a so-called soft-focus effect, where you only get a sliver of your subject in focus.

Neither choice is wrong, and both types of macro photography can look great when executed properly. Just make sure you’re thinking about the aperture for every shot you take. That way, you get the artistic result you’re after.

3. Use manual focusing for the sharpest results

These days, cameras and lenses offer amazing autofocus systems. You can capture birds in flight, cars at high speeds, airplanes taking off, and so much more.

Yet even the best autofocus systems come with a major weakness:

High-magnification focusing.

Unfortunately, autofocusing on objects at macro magnifications is just really hard. Which is why, for the best macro photos, you’ll need to focus manually.

This may sound intimidating, but it’s actually quite easy. Simply switch your lens from autofocus to manual focus (most lenses have a switch on their side). Then turn the focus ring until you achieve the point of focus you’re after.

You’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. And pretty soon, you’ll want to focus manually all the time!

(Quick tip: If you’re struggling to focus on a close-up subject, try setting your focus first. Then let go of your focus ring and rock your camera back and forth until the plane of focus is exactly where you want it.)

Macro photography lighting

For macro photography, I recommend you start with natural light. Don’t buy any flashes or studio strobes or ring lights, especially not at first.

Instead, take advantage of the sun and all it offers. Here are the two best times of day to do outdoor macro photography:

Cloudy midday

Cloudy light is great for macro photography. It’s soft, it’s flattering, and it makes colors look super vibrant.

Here’s a photo I took on a cloudy afternoon:

Do you see how the colors really pop? That’s thanks to the cloudy lighting.

Unfortunately, cloudy light early and late in the day doesn’t work so well – the sky will be dark, and you’ll struggle to get a nice, bright image. So if the sky is cloudy, make sure to head out toward the middle of the day.

Sunny mornings and evenings

The golden hours – that is, the first hour or two after sunrise and the last hour or two before sunset – are beloved by pretty much all photographers, and for good reason:

They offer soft golden light that looks magnificent.

Thanks to golden hour lighting, I love doing macro photography early in the morning and late in the day. Colors look beautiful, and you can create all sorts of interesting lighting effects. Here’s an image shot around sunset (the orange color of the setting sun provided a beautiful backdrop):

The one caveat is that the sky needs to be clear. Too much cloud cover, and you’ll lose the beautiful light. Then you’ll have to cope with dim, cloudy light – and as I explained in the previous section, it doesn’t work so well for macro shooting.

Don’t do macro photography when the light is harsh

This is probably the number one mistake I see beginner macro photographers making. If you head out when the light is harsh, you’ll end up with bad exposures, ugly colors, and unflattering shadows, no matter how skilled you are as a photographer.

When is the light harsh?

Basically from a couple of hours after sunrise to a couple of hours before sunset, assuming you have no cloud cover. Midday (i.e., high noon) is the absolute worst for macro photography, but a few hours to either side is also pretty bad, at least at most latitudes.

(If you do have lots of cloud cover, then shooting at midday is completely fine.)

So shoot when the light is good, as discussed above. And avoid shooting when the light is harsh.

Tips for macro photography beginners

Now that you’re familiar with the macro photography basics, I’ll share a few tips and tricks to improve your macro photos.

1. Carefully position your subject for maximum impact

I’ve talked a lot about macro settings and lighting, but I’d also like to emphasize a third corner of the macro photography triangle:


Composition in macro photography is a huge deal; by positioning your elements in different areas of the frame, you can achieve very different end results. In fact, composition can be the difference between a boring, snapshot-like image and a stunning, please-let-me-print-this-and-hang-it-on-my-wall image. (No joke.)

But how can you create stunning compositions?

I’d recommend starting with the rule of thirds. By positioning your subject a third of the way into the frame, you can achieve a nice harmony while maintaining plenty of visual movement (also known as dynamism).

You might also experiment with centered compositions, where you place your main subject right in the center of the frame. Centered images tend to look pretty intense, and they work especially well if you have a symmetrical subject.

Once you’ve learned the basic composition guidelines, such as the rule of thirds and symmetrical symmetry, I’d recommend playing around with different image layouts. Find a nice macro subject, then position it in various parts of the frame. You might think about doing macro minimalism, you might try including diagonals, you might consider incorporating triangles or the rule of odds; basically, there are all sorts of different options, so have fun with them!

2. Increase the distance between your subject and the background

At the start of this article, I promised to explain how to achieve beautiful, blurred macro backgrounds. Part of it has to do with using a wide aperture for a shallow depth of field. But there’s another key part, too:

Make sure your subject is as far from the background as possible.

It’s a simple trick, but it makes a huge difference.

Now, you can increase the subject-to-background distance in two main ways:

  1. You can find a subject that’s far from the background. So if you want to photograph a tulip, find one that’s far from the trees or fence or grass behind it.
  2. You can change your position so that the area behind your subject recedes. For instance, by getting down low to the ground, the area behind your subject will often change from the grass (near to your subject) and become distant trees or distant flowers (far from your subject). And you’ll get a much better blur.

For the image below, I wanted to create a nice background blur while shooting some grape hyacinths. I didn’t have too many flowers to choose from, so I got low to the ground – I was practically lying face down in the flower bed! – and I shifted my camera back and forth until there was a nice distance between my main subject and the flower behind it. This was the result:

3. Shoot into the sun for beautiful lighting effects

I’m a huge fan of creative macro photography. And one of my all-time favorite ways to generate jaw-dropping creative effects is to position my subject between the camera and the sun so I can shoot straight into the light.

It’ll give you images like this, with lots of cool lighting effects in the background:

All you have to do is find a nice subject, get up close, and make sure it’s in front of the sun. I do recommend trying this technique around sunrise or sunset – that’s when the effect tends to look the best.

A note of caution: Don’t look through your camera directly at the sun, especially at high magnifications. If you’re using a DSLR, I’d really recommend switching to Live View (where you shoot with your camera’s rear LCD).

But as long as you’re shooting safely, you’ll have a lot of fun!

Macro photography: conclusion

Macro photography is an incredibly rewarding genre of photography – and if you remember these tips, you’ll be well on your way to some great shots.

So grab your camera, make sure you get a close-focusing accessory, and head outside!

Now over to you:

Do you have any questions about macro photography we didn’t answer in the article? Do you have any macro photography tips or pointers? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post Macro Photography: The Complete Guide to Breathtaking Macro Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Barrie Smith.

Female Poses: 21 Posing Ideas to Get You Started Photographing Women

Sat, 07/03/2021 - 06:00

The post Female Poses: 21 Posing Ideas to Get You Started Photographing Women appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Guest Contributor.

Looking for some female poses to use during your next photoshoot? Want to pose women like a pro?

Below, I’ll share 21 of my favorite poses. If you ever run out of ideas, have a creativity rut, or simply need some guidance when shooting female subjects, whip out this article; feel free to use it as your personal posing cheat sheet, even in the middle of a shoot.

(In fact, many pro photographers use a “cheat sheet” technique before and during a photoshoot, so you’ll be in good company!)

Note that the poses in this article are meant as starting points; you can absolutely modify them depending on your model’s comfort level. So before using a complex pose, I’d advise you to talk with your subject, especially if they’re less experienced. Perhaps you can develop an easier version of the pose – that way, you get the shot you’re after, and your model still has a great time.

Without further ado, let’s look at the 21 female poses to take your portraits to the next level!

1. Over the shoulder

Here’s a very simple portrait pose to start with. Have the model turn away from you so that her shoulder is prominent in the frame. Then ask her to look back at the camera.

You can experiment with different angles; try shooting from slightly to the right or left, as well as slightly above her face. This is a classic female pose and one that works great in most situations.

2. Hands on face

If you’re after a more intense, glamour-type image, try this pose. Start by having your model put one hand against her face, while the other hand rests lightly on her jawbone. Ask her to stare straight into the lens.

To take this pose up a notch, have the model play around with her hands. She can try different positions around her head or face. Keep in mind, though: No flat palms, and the hands should only show their sides!

3. Resting on a diagonal

Want to create dynamic portrait compositions? Try incorporating diagonals into your poses, which act as leading lines and can create lots of visual interest.

For instance, find a railing and ask your model to lean against it. If no slanted surfaces are available, you can always create one yourself through a little camera trickery: have your model put her arms on a flat surface, then tilt your camera until you achieve the effect you’re after!

4. Sitting with elbows on knees

Here’s a really nice and lovely female pose, where the model sits on a chair, stool, or bench. She should lean forward, elbows on her knees (and the knees should touch one another).

Shoot slightly from above for the most flattering result. You can experiment with different hand positions, but make sure the focus remains on your model’s face.

5. Lying against the ground, hand on head

This one’s pretty easy to pull off, so it works well with less comfortable subjects (assuming they’re comfortable lying on the ground, that is!).

Simply ask your model to lie on her side, facing the camera, with her hand propping up her head. I recommend letting her elbow go past her head. Test out other head turns for a more mysterious vibe.

Also, make sure that you get down low – you should take your shot from ground level or just above. To add a little extra spice, try shooting through a foreground object, such as grass.

6. Lying in the grass, facing forward

This pose is a variation of the one I shared above. Instead of asking your model to lie parallel to the camera, ask her to face forward at a slight angle. You want to be able to see her feet.

Ask her to prop herself up using her elbows, though you can experiment with different hand positions (for instance, she can try resting both hands against the ground).

This one works very well outdoors – on the grass, in a wildflower meadow, etc. But as with the previous pose, make sure you get down low so you’re on your subject’s level. That way, you’ll be able to capture a suitably intimate perspective.

7. Lying on back, parallel to the camera

Here’s a basic, easy pose, one that works for beginners, but looks absolutely stunning on pretty much anyone.

Just ask your model to lie on her back, parallel to the camera. Have her turn her head to face you. You can test out different hand positions, though the one shown in the example above is a great starting point. Also, watch her hair – you want it to be arranged nicely – and make sure her head turn looks natural.

Get down and shoot from ground level. Then move gradually around the model while taking photos. You can even try a few from directly overhead for an unusual perspective.

8. Lying on back, perpendicular to the camera

This female pose is pretty easy to pull off, even for beginner subjects, but it’s on the glamorous side, so I don’t recommend using it for a standard portrait session.

Here, you ask your subject to lie with her head toward the camera, feet pointed away (though her body should be angled slightly to the side). Try different hand and leg positioning – for instance, ask her to tuck in her legs, lay them flat, etc.

Make sure you get eye contact, and be sure to focus on your model’s eyes!

9. Lying face down, head toward the camera

Here’s a really lovely pose, one that works well in different settings, no matter the surface. Your model could lie on a bed, on the ground, in the grass, or on a sandy beach; the key is that she is face down, but with her legs up in the air and her head pointed toward the camera.

Make sure to shoot from a very low angle and nail focus on her eyes.

10. Sitting parallel to the camera, hand on knee

This is another pose that’s easy to do but looks absolutely gorgeous.

Just ask your subject to sit parallel to the camera with one knee up, her weight resting on her back arm. You can experiment with different positions for the other arm/hand, and ask her to tilt her head in different directions: down, toward the camera, away from the camera, and more.

11. Sitting with hands around ankles

Here’s another simple and friendly pose for a model sitting on the ground. Ask her to cross one leg while tucking the other under her body. Make sure she faces the camera with her hands around her ankles.

Try different camera angles, though I recommend crouching down to start (eye-level portraits generally look great).

12. Sitting with back arched

If you’re after a more glamorous pose, this is a great option, and it does a nice job of demonstrating a model’s physique.

Ask your subject to sit down parallel to the camera, with her legs pointed forward and her arms behind. Her back should arch slightly upward.

Try different head positions: back, facing slightly forward, facing the camera. And work with different leg positions, too.

If you’re after an especially striking image, position your model in front of the sun, then capture a well-defined silhouette.

13. Standing with hand on hip

This is a simple and casual-looking pose, perfect for pretty much any situation.

Ask your model to stand with one hand on her hip. She should shift her weight so her body appears slightly s-shaped, and the other hand can sit in a number of different places: her hair, her face, or across her chest.

Your model can have fun experimenting with different head turns. Also, feel free to test out other hand positions.

14. Standing with hands in pockets

This one’s amazingly simple but looks super elegant.

Ask your model to start by facing the camera, then have her put one leg out in front and angle her body slightly to the side. She should put her hands in her back pockets (though you can try the front pockets, too).

You can also try different head turns as well as different camera angles for a unique perspective.

15. Leaning forward

This one is a glamour classic. Have your model lean slightly forward, while keeping her body generally perpendicular to the camera.

You can try out different hand positions and head turns; you might also consider shooting from different angles.

16. Hands above the head

Here’s another glamorous, slightly sensual pose. Ask your model to hold her hands above her head (one hand can clasp the other wrist).

You can do this one standing up, though it also works with the model lying down (you just have to find a high vantage point to shoot from).

17. Standing with hands on hips

Full-body poses can be pretty tough, but this one offers a good starting point. Have your model stand with her feet together, one slightly in front of the other, and her weight on one leg.

Her hands will look good on her hips, though you can ask her to put them above her head, in her hair, and more. Also prompt her to change head and eye directions to create interesting variations on this pose.

18. Leaning back against a wall

If you’re looking for a more relaxed, casual pose, why not ask your model to lean against an object?

I’d recommend having her put her back against a wall, though she should be standing relatively upright. Ask her to angle her body slightly toward the camera and cross her arms over her chest (though other hand positions can work well, too).

She might also experiment with resting her foot against the wall.

19. Standing in an s-shape

The s-shape is a classic women’s pose, though it can be a bit tough to get right, especially when you’re doing full-body portraits.

The posing guidelines are simple: Your model should shift her body into an s-shape (ask her to put her weight on one foot and lean her hip into it), and her hands should be relaxed. You can test out different hand positions – in fact, the next pose on this list offers a nice variation. Also test out different leg positions (for instance, she can raise one leg off the ground, bend her knee, etc.).

20. One hand on the hip, one hand behind the head

Here’s an exquisite pose for slightly more glamorous shots, though many variations are possible.

Start by asking your model to shift her weight for an s-curve. She should face the camera, with one hand on her hip and the other behind her head.

For the best posture, ask her to slowly move her hands and constantly twist her body. When you see a good variant, ask her to hold still while you take some pictures. Repeat for a full set.

21. Turned away but looking back over the shoulder

Here’s your last pose for photographing women, and it’s absolutely romantic and delicate. It’s popular for glamour and boudoir, especially when your subject has a bare back, though you can always add clothes for a more classical look.

You’ll need to have a cloth of some sort, but anything will work, even a curtain. Ask her to wrap it around her waist and hold it in place while turning her head back over her shoulder. You might consider experimenting with different head positions: her nose parallel to the camera and her eyes down for a more subdued look, or a stronger head turn and clear eye contact for a bolder result.

21 female poses: final words

Well, you now have plenty of female poses to work with, and you’ve hopefully seen at least a couple that you liked.

And remember: each pose is meant to be a starting point, and each one offers endless variations.

So be creative. Adjust the poses as needed.

And you’ll capture some stunning portraits in no time!

Kaspars Grinvalds is a photographer working and living in Riga, Latvia. He is the author of Posing App, where you can find even more poses and posing ideas!

The post Female Poses: 21 Posing Ideas to Get You Started Photographing Women appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Guest Contributor.

Nikon Launches the Z fc, a Film-Inspired Mirrorless Camera

Fri, 07/02/2021 - 06:00

The post Nikon Launches the Z fc, a Film-Inspired Mirrorless Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Nikon has announced its latest mirrorless camera, the Z fc, which combines top-notch APS-C mirrorless technology, Z-mount compatibility, and a beautiful, retro design.

While the Z fc is anchored firmly in the world of digital photography, the “heritage design,” as Nikon calls it, hearkens back to Nikon’s film cameras – specifically the FM2, an “iconic…SLR film camera released in 1982.”

Nikon explains, “The Z fc is the first Z-series camera to adopt a heritage design, while simultaneously supporting various advanced features. In addition to the enjoyment of shooting great stills and videos, it is designed with particular attention paid to delivering the pride and joy of ownership.”

This isn’t a first for Nikon; back in 2013, Nikon launched the Df, a high-end, full-frame DSLR with a film-inspired design. But unlike the Nikon Df, the Z fc isn’t aimed at advanced enthusiasts. Instead, the Z fc will slot into Nikon’s “entry-level” category, despite its impressive capabilities and a near-$1000 USD price tag.

In fact, the Nikon Z fc closely mirrors Nikon’s current (and only) entry-level mirrorless camera, the Z50. Like the Z50, the Z fc packs a 21 MP APS-C sensor, which strikes a nice balance between resolution and low-light shooting (the Z fc’s sensor likely comes straight from the Z50). The Z fc also features the Z50’s respectable 11 frames-per-second continuous shooting, a decent 2.36M-dot electronic viewfinder, and 4K/30p video.

But the Z fc and the Z50 differ in several important ways. For one, the Z fc includes a fully articulating screen – one that flips out to the side – while the Z50 screen tilts but doesn’t flip. This is a big deal for vloggers; you can mount the Z fc on a tripod, flip out the screen, and monitor the video as you record.

There’s also the retro design, which promises Z fc users an engaged, down-to-earth shooting process. Instead of adjusting shutter speed, ISO, and exposure compensation via your camera’s LCD screen and back dials, you’ll be able to make adjustments via three dedicated top dials. No, it’s not for everyone, but if you’ve shot film and liked the feeling, or if you’re a fan of Fujifilm mirrorless cameras, then the Z fc is certainly worth a look.

The Z fc is remarkably compact, making it a perfect option for travel photography, casual walkaround photography, on-the-go photography, and more. At just 14 oz (390 g), you can carry it in a backpack, camera bag, or around your neck for hours on end – especially when used alongside Nikon’s just-announced kit lenses, the 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR and the 28mm f/2.8.

So while the Z fc isn’t the most conventional camera on the market, it should certainly appeal to many photographers. If you’re after a lightweight, compact camera and you appreciate (or don’t mind) the retro design, check out the Z fc. You can currently preorder the body for around $950 USD; expect shipping to begin at the end of July.

Now over to you:

What do you think of the Nikon Z fc? Do you like it? Will you buy it? Were you hoping for a more groundbreaking new camera? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post Nikon Launches the Z fc, a Film-Inspired Mirrorless Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Creative Phone Photography: 8 Tips for Artistic Mobile Photos

Thu, 07/01/2021 - 06:00

The post Creative Phone Photography: 8 Tips for Artistic Mobile Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

A phone with a camera is great for photography. But it can be tough to break away from a “snapshot” mindset and start taking images that are truly creative.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some tips to help you capture creative phone photography. Specifically, I’ll share:

  • Key settings to make the most of your phone’s camera
  • Several tips to get you creating unique, artistic compositions
  • A simple secret for surreal-looking phone photos
  • Much more!

So if you’re ready to shoot some creative images, then let’s get started.

1. Shoot in RAW

Familiarizing yourself with the ins and outs of your phone camera is an important way to expand your creative options. Modern camera phones have a surprising range of capabilities that you can use for better photos.

For example, it’s a good idea to shoot in a RAW file format (an option now offered by many native camera apps). While JPEGs are the default format on many phones, they experience a loss in image quality thanks to compression – whereas RAW files are uncompressed and therefore tend to look better.

RAW files also offer greater post-processing versatility. You can adjust colors and tones and recover lost details in a natural, realistic way.

So if you’re after high-quality photos – which allow for extensive enhancement during post-production – then try switching to RAW. (Even if your mobile phone doesn’t offer RAW in its native camera app, you should still be able to find a third-party app that produces high-quality RAW files.)

RAW activated in Pro mode on an Android device. 2. Make the most of Manual mode

As with a conventional camera, Manual mode allows you to take control of your phone’s camera’s settings when capturing a photo. In Manual mode, you can adjust shutter speed, ISO, and white balance – and this additional control allows for greater creative input.

To activate Manual mode (also known as Pro mode) on some devices, open your Camera app and look at the camera mode tray. You should see settings like Timelapse and Panorama, and if you’re lucky, you’ll also have a Pro option.

Simply tap the Pro mode icon, and you’ll be good to go; you’ll gain access to numerous options for adjusting your phone camera’s functionality.

If your phone doesn’t offer a Pro mode, don’t worry. Simply download a third-party app such as ProCamera, Camera+ 2, or Obscura 2. All of these apps feature a Manual mode of sorts, and you can use it to harness your phone camera’s creative potential.

3. Don’t forget about composition!

Over time, plenty of guidelines have been developed to help photographers compose effective images. While none of these guides are inflexible laws, if you’re familiar with some basic compositional concepts, your photos will come a long way.

Of course, compositional knowledge translates to creative phone photography, too! For example, by activating your phone camera’s grid function, you’ll get a useful visual overlay, perfect for positioning key points of interest.

Learn about the rule of thirds, leading lines, the rule of space, triangular composition, and more; each of these will be helpful tools that’ll aid in your creative phone photography.

4. Make use of editing apps

I’ve already mentioned how third-party camera apps can give you increased control over your phone camera. But did you know that editing apps offer a whole other world of creativity?

For instance, Snapseed (Android and iOS) is a (free!) Google-owned application with plenty of tools for tweaking images and applying filters. VSCO (Android and iOS) offers some editing functions for free, including artistic, film-like filters. Adobe Lightroom (Android and iOS) supplies image editing tools similar to its desktop counterpart for free, and it can also be upgraded to a paid premium version for additional functionality.

(Unlike VSCO and Snapseed, only the paid version of Lightroom will edit RAW files.)

There are plenty of fun, creative apps available for both iOS and Android devices. Need a retro aesthetic? Afterlight (above, left) provides users with an advanced toolkit to add light leak effects to an image. Want to combine two images into a single photograph? Snapseed (above, right) allows you to quickly and easily merge image layers to create a double-exposure effect.

There are a multitude of apps that suit a huge variety of purposes and capabilities. The fun part is trying them all out!

5. Try different perspectives

One of the great things about creative phone photography is the mobility of a small photographic device. A camera phone isn’t just an accessory; it’s a pocket-sized machine capable of capturing stunning photos.

So take advantage of the size and portability of a phone camera by physically experimenting to create intriguing perspectives. Place your phone close to the ground, try a high angle, or shoot from off to the side. Just make sure to get a non-conventional perspective, and you’re bound to end up with interesting results.

6. Go abstract

Also known as experimental, non-objective, or conceptual photography, abstract photography avoids depicting immediately identifiable subject matter.

In fact, creative phone photography and abstraction are a good mix. The accessibility of the phone camera allows you to snap abstract images anywhere, anytime. For instance, when you’re out in a city, you might capture abstract images of puddles on the ground, posters torn off a wall, or reflections in a glass building.

And thanks to readily available editing apps, unique abstract perspectives can be rapidly captured, edited, and shared – or even saved as inspiration for a later shoot with a dedicated camera.

7. Photograph details

If you have your phone in your pocket all the time – and let’s face it, most of us do! – you’ll be ready to capture even the smallest occurrences at a moment’s notice.

Even when it’s tough to find inspiration, focusing on the details that shape an everyday environment can make for beautiful photos. Try activating your phone’s close-up or macro function, then get close to a subject. You can even purchase little lenses that attach to your phone for close-up photography. A small tripod or a sturdy surface can help keep the camera phone steady.

8. Experiment!

It may sound obvious, but doing great phone photography can take a little experimentation. Many people assume (due to the advanced and accessible nature of phone camera technology) that every shot will be successful.

But in reality, practice and experimentation are the keys to effective creative phone camera photography. Familiarize yourself with your phone camera’s capabilities and make time to shoot. The more you experiment, the better your images will turn out.

Creative phone photography tips: conclusion

Phone photography is a great way to create stunning photos, especially if you want to be artistic without investing in a heavy camera.

Plus, with such a huge variety of apps available, doing creative phone photography has become a much more streamlined process.

There is an old saying: “The best camera is the one you have with you.” And while this might not always be the case, if you take advantage of your phone camera, you can create some truly outstanding images!

Now over to you:

Have you done a lot of phone photography? How do you like it? Which of these tips do you plan to use first? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post Creative Phone Photography: 8 Tips for Artistic Mobile Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Where Are My Lightroom Photos, Presets, and Catalogs Stored? (2021)

Wed, 06/30/2021 - 06:00

The post Where Are My Lightroom Photos, Presets, and Catalogs Stored? (2021) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Helen Bradley.

Are you struggling to determine where Lightroom stores your photos? Looking for your Lightroom catalogs? Need to identify the location of your presets?

In this article, I’m going to share quick, easy ways to determine where Lightroom has stored all of these items – photos, catalogs, presets, and more.

And by the end, you’ll know exactly where to find your files.

Let’s dive right in.

Where is my Lightroom catalog stored?

To find the storage location of your current Lightroom catalog, simply select Edit (Lightroom, if you’re on a Mac), then tap Catalog Settings:

Lightroom will display where your catalog is stored:

To open your catalog’s location, click Show:

You’ll be taken to your catalog folder. And if you look inside, you’ll see your .lrcat files, which contain your catalog data.

You can also find the location of your catalog by right-clicking on the Lightroom title bar, then selecting Show Catalog location:

Your catalog file will pop open (though note that you’ll be one level deeper in the folder hierarchy compared to the previous method).

Where are my Lightroom presets stored?

There are two simple methods of finding your Lightroom presets; the first will take you to the folder containing all of your presets, while the second will take you to the location of an individual preset.

Method 1

To find where your Lightroom presets are stored, select Edit>Preferences (Lightroom>Preferences if you’re on a Mac):

The Preferences window will open. Select the Presets tab:

Finally, select the Show Lightroom Develop Presets button (depending on your version of Lightroom, this might instead say Show Lightroom Presets Folder):

And you’ll immediately be taken to your preset storage location.

Note: You’ll need to click to see each individual preset folder:

Method 2

To find the location of an individual preset, here’s what you do:

First, open the Lightroom Develop module:

Then navigate to your Presets panel on the left-hand side:

Right-click on a preset, then select Show in Explorer:

Lightroom will instantly open the preset in its corresponding folder:

And you’ll be able to see many of your other presets, as well.

This is useful for situations when you’ve created your own preset and want to share it with others. You simply need to find the preset file, then share it!

Where are my Lightroom photos stored?

Lightroom is a catalog program, which means that it doesn’t actually store your images – instead, it simply records where your images are stored on your computer, then stores your edits in the corresponding catalog.

In other words, the images you import into Lightroom are located exactly where you chose to store them on your hard drive, USB drive, etc., and not in your Lightroom catalog.

So to find the location of a photo, simply right-click on its thumbnail, and select Show in Explorer (or Show in Finder for Mac users):

The relevant folder will appear with your image selected.

You can also see where an image exists inside Lightroom by right-clicking on that image, then selecting Go to Folder in Library:

This will switch you over to the Library module and select the folder in which your image is stored:

(Note that the selected folder corresponds to the actual hard drive location of your file.)

Why are my images stored in that location?

When you import photos into Lightroom, you’re given three broad options:

Copy, Move, or Add.

You can copy the photos, which creates a copy of each file in the selected location but leaves the originals alone. Then, when you ask Lightroom to show the location of the images, it will display the location of the copies.

You can move the photos, which deletes the originals and copies the files into your new selected location.

Or you can add the photos, which leaves the originals in place and makes no copy of the files; instead, Lightroom just records where you’ve stored your images. In this case, the images will stay where you initially stored them.

Where are Lightroom backups stored?

When you back up your Lightroom catalog, the actual catalog is backed up, but not your photos.

By default, the backup of your catalog is stored in the same location as your Lightroom catalog (in a folder called Backups).

However, if you want the exact backup location, or you’re struggling to find your backup folder, simply select Edit>Catalog Settings (or Lightroom>Catalog Settings on a Mac):

Then switch the Back up catalog option to When Lightroom next exits:

That way, the next time you exit Lightroom, you’ll see your backup folder location:

And you can also change the backup location if you like (by selecting a different folder).

Lightroom photos, presets, and catalog storage: conclusion

Hopefully, you now know the exact location of your Lightroom files.

So you should be ready to do anything you might need – such as move catalogs, find photos, and more.

Good luck!

The post Where Are My Lightroom Photos, Presets, and Catalogs Stored? (2021) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Helen Bradley.

12 Tips For Gorgeous Indoor Natural Light Photography

Tue, 06/29/2021 - 06:00

The post 12 Tips For Gorgeous Indoor Natural Light Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Dena Haines.

Feeling frustrated with indoor photography? Want to know how you can capture beautiful indoor photos with only natural light?

Working with natural light indoors can be tricky. So in this article, I’m going to share plenty of tips and tricks I use in my own photography. And I’ll also share plenty of examples along the way – so that you can see my advice in action!

Let’s dive right in.

1. It’s all about the windows

Indoor photography comes with a significant problem:

A lack of light. And without light, you can’t get beautiful, well-exposed photos.

So what do you do? Some photographers turn to artificial lighting, such as studio strobes and flashes. But I prefer to keep things natural, which is why I look for light coming through windows, and I use it to illuminate my subject.

In fact, as soon as you’ve chosen a subject, walk around your indoor space. Think about the quality of light that the different windows provide; does it flood the room softly? Does it beam in, bouncing off the walls and floors? How would it look when illuminating your subject?

Soft light will add a soft glow, and harsh light will give a dramatic or moody look.

Also recognize that the color of light changes throughout the day. Light looks warm at sunrise, cool at midday, and warm at sunset.

Once you know indoor lighting well, you’ll be able to use it to achieve the perfect effects.

2. Turn off the lights

Natural light doesn’t like competition.

Specifically, natural light doesn’t like electric lights, which cause two problems:

  1. Electric lights cast unexpected shadows and will interfere with the directionality of your main window light.
  2. Electric lights produce warmer or cooler illumination, which contrasts with the color of the natural light.

In particular, skin tones can look odd when artificial and natural light start to mix.

The easiest way to fix this?

Just turn off all electric lights! That way, you can keep your colors looking natural while focusing on a single light source.

3. Shoot in Aperture Priority mode

In Aperture Priority mode, you choose the aperture while your camera chooses the shutter speed. This gives you flexibility over your exposure without stepping over into the Wild West of Manual mode.

Aperture Priority is generally marked with an AV or an A, as shown below:

So what settings should you dial in for the best indoor natural light photography?

I’d recommend starting with a wide-open aperture to let in lots of light. Choose a low f-number such as f/2.8 or f/1.8 to keep your exposure nice and bright.

Plus, when you use a wide aperture, your depth of field will be shallow. So your subject will stay in focus while your background is left soft and blurry. This adds a beautiful effect to portrait, nature, and product shots.

Note that, for portraits, an aperture of around f/5.6 or f/6.3 will keep the entire face in focus (though this will depend on your focal length and your distance from the subject). Focus on your subject’s eyes for best results.

Also, shoot in RAW. A RAW file will give you a lot more to work with when editing – so you can enhance your indoor photos for stunning results.

4. Choose your white balance in advance

Some photographers like to select their white balance during post-processing (so they’ll leave their camera set to Auto White Balance when shooting).

But while this can work, it’s often easier to get the white balance right before taking a photo (plus, it’ll save you lots of time during editing).

So take your camera off Auto White Balance. Observe the light and consider which white balance preset works best for your situation.

For instance, I generally use Daylight for indoor portrait photography, though you might also pick Cloudy for a warmer look. And the other white balance presets can work, too, depending on the effect you’re after.

Honestly, I’d recommend you try several different white balance settings when first starting out – that way, you can determine which looks you like and which looks you’d prefer to avoid.

(Always bear in mind, however, that the white balance results will change depending on the quality of the light. Applying a Cloudy white balance to a shot lit by cloudy light will give a neutral look, while applying a Cloudy white balance to a shot lit by warm evening light will actually enhance the warm effect.)

And remember:

If all else fails, you can always adjust your white balance while editing.

5. Use a light-catching backdrop

Remember how I said that indoor settings tend to lack light?

That’s why you’ll need to maximize existing light. And a simple way to do this is with a reflective backdrop.

Specifically, a white backdrop will help catch the light and bounce it back onto your subject. Here’s the type of setup I’m talking about:

The white material helps cradle the light around the flowers:

And creating a simple light-catching backdrop isn’t hard, either. The one featured in the above photo was made with a freestanding collapsible clothes rack and a long piece of white material.

(It’s very easy to set up and very easy to move around!)

6. Use a light box

A light box will create a similar effect as a reflective backdrop, but it will help control the light even more.

In fact, you can construct a light box with lots of cloth – but instead of putting it behind your subject, wrap it all around. Here’s a makeshift light box I used for this food still life:

And here’s the final image:

7. Use a reflector

A reflector bounces light back toward your subject.

And it’s a great way to keep your entire subject nicely lit.

For the shots below, I set up a backdrop and positioned my daughter so that her left side faced the window. She held a reflector in her right hand, which helped lighten the shadows:

And here’s a behind-the-scenes photo:

8. Use a mirror

A mirror is another great way to control natural light. Simply hang a mirror in the window; I used a large suction cup with a hook to hang the mirror pictured below:

Then have your model look in the mirror. As you take your shot, make sure your reflection doesn’t appear. (It can take some patience to get the angles and reflections under control, but it’s worth it.)

I used a small handheld mirror for this shot. A larger mirror would require less cropping:

9. Tidy up

There are often things lying around the house, especially if you have kids. And this clutter can be distracting in a photograph. It’s worth taking a couple minutes to tidy up before you start shooting.

In fact, a backdrop can serve a double purpose here: it can control light, while also covering up all the background clutter! It can help make a small space more workable.

For most of the photos in this article, I pushed our sofa and table into the middle of the living room, then I set up in front of our largest window. Without the backdrop, this location would look far too busy.

10. Place your subject close to the window

Earlier in this article, I talked about the importance of windows when doing indoor photography.

But it’s not enough to just use windows. You also need to carefully position your subject.

Specifically, place your subject a foot or two away from the light source. That way, you’ll make use of the natural light, and you’ll also avoid the harsh contrast that comes from being too close to the window.

One more tip:

Experiment with lighting effects. Try backlighting, sidelighting, and frontlighting (just have your model face in different directions and follow them with your camera!).

11. Use the curtains

If the light is harsh, you’ll get unpleasant shadows and contrasty subjects – unless you can diffuse it!

So here’s what I recommend:

Use curtains or blinds!

If you have translucent curtains, let them cover the window completely. If your curtains are opaque, consider closing them partway, then let the light feather onto your subject.

Alternatively, if your curtains aren’t suitable for diffusing the light, you could hang a piece of diffusive material over your curtain rods.

12. Shoot reflective objects

Natural light can turn the most common thing (like the moisture on the window pictured below) into something beautiful.

Personally, I think reflective objects look gorgeous when hit by sunlight. Here are just a few examples:

So have fun playing around with reflective objects and natural light. The light will create all sorts of interesting reflections, and it’ll even glisten off shiny objects:

Indoor natural light photography: You’ve got to love it!

It’s easy to love indoor natural light photography.

The setup is inexpensive, portable, and easy to use, plus you can create beautiful photos no matter the weather or time of day. 

Don’t forget to have fun and let that inner beauty shine through!

Now over to you:

Have you tried indoor natural light photography? Let me know how your natural light shoots go by commenting below!

The post 12 Tips For Gorgeous Indoor Natural Light Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Dena Haines.

The Best ND Filters You Can Buy in 2021 (9 Picks)

Mon, 06/28/2021 - 06:00

The post The Best ND Filters You Can Buy in 2021 (9 Picks) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Choosing the best ND filter isn’t just about buying whatever option is the most expensive. While some pricier filters certainly use higher-quality components than their cheaper counterparts, there are a variety of factors to consider when looking at neutral density filters.

These small pieces of dark glass can work wonders for your photography and are a great way to add a splash of creativity to your shots or see things in a way you never thought possible. But if you are overwhelmed by the options and aren’t sure where to start, this list of the nine best ND filters should help point you in the right direction.

Shot with a 10-stop ND filter.
Nikon D750 | 50mm f/1.8G | f/16 | 15s | ISO 100

Before we get too far into the list, know that there are many ND filter varieties and options that can suit your needs. ND filters perform a specific task, but they go about it in different ways – and what works for one person might not always work for another. So this list is designed to help you determine the best ND filters for specific needs, budgets, and quality levels.

It’s also important to know that ND filters come in many sizes, designed to suit different lenses. Most lenses have a screw-on thread size (you can find this printed on the lens itself). When purchasing an ND filter, you’ll need to ensure that the filter thread size matches your lens thread size.

Generally speaking, smaller filters will be less expensive, so think of the prices of the filters featured in this article as a rough estimate. The exact price of a filter for your lens will vary. To facilitate easier comparisons in terms of price, most of the filters here are 58mm, but don’t just buy a 58mm filter (or any other size) without checking your lens first.

1. Best ND filter for new users: Tiffen ND Filter Kit

If you are just getting started with ND filters and aren’t sure what you want to do with them, you can’t go wrong with Tiffen’s basic set. It’s inexpensive and includes three separate filters that let you block a small – but not insignificant! – amount of light.

The 4-stop filter is great for trying longer exposures in well-lit situations, whereas the 2-stop filter is nice if you want to use a prime lens wide open in bright light but your camera can’t support ultra-fast shutter speeds like 1/8000s.

Construction quality on Tiffen filters is decent but not outstanding, and while these filters might produce an unsightly color cast, it can be corrected easily in post-processing (just make sure you’re shooting in RAW).

  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Contains three separate filters
  • Includes carrying case
  • Subpar image quality
  • Average build
2. Best inexpensive ND filter: Neewer ND Filter Kit

For photographers who are more concerned about price than anything else, this set of Neewer ND filters is the way to go. Neewer is well-known in the photographic community for producing decent-quality-yet-inexpensive gear, and this filter set is no exception.

The Neewer ND Filter Kit won’t win any awards for quality, but the variety of filters included in the kit leaves room for a great deal of experimentation. Also, you can stack filters to produce even longer exposures; simply put one on your lens, then screw another onto that filter. This lets you test out very long exposures in bright light, with the significant caveat that your image quality will take a big hit (expect your pictures to take a major dip in sharpness and have a deep green or red color cast when stacking).

However, for budget-conscious photographers, these tradeoffs might be well worth it considering the cheap price.

  • Very inexpensive
  • Kit includes four filters, which is great for learning and experimenting
  • Filters can be stacked to block out even more light
  • Subpar image quality
  • Average build quality
  • Stacking filters results in a severe loss of sharpness
3. Best midrange ND filter: Hoya 3-Stop ND Filter

Why purchase a single ND filter when you can buy multiple filters for an equivalent price? The answer really comes down to two things: image quality and construction quality.

This Hoya filter is only three stops, so it won’t let you get super long exposures in bright daylight, but image quality is superior compared to some of the less expensive options on this list. It also has a special coating to reduce glare and other image artifacts, plus it undergoes a higher level of quality control to minimize problems more common in cheaper filters.

  • Good image quality
  • Good build quality
  • Negligible color cast in final images
  • Coating does not resist dust and scratches as effectively as more expensive filters
  • Can be difficult to attach and remove if not careful
4. Best semi-professional ND filter: B+W 6-Stop ND Filter

B+W filters strike a nice balance between image quality, construction of materials, and price. So while this 6-stop filter isn’t the most expensive option out there, it’s a significant upgrade from the cheaper ND filters on this list in a few key areas.

For instance, image quality is improved; you will see almost no green or magenta color cast in your images, unlike cheaper filters that often come in kits. And six stops of light-blocking power give you the freedom to create interesting images and play around with longer exposures without stacking several filters on top of each other.

  • Reduces light transmission more than less expensive filters
  • Great image quality
  • Very good build quality
  • Easy to screw on and off a lens
  • High price may dissuade beginner and casual photographers
5. Best budget 10-stop ND filter: B+W 10-Stop ND Filter

If you really want to go all-out with longer exposures but don’t want to go broke in the process, I highly recommend this 10-stop filter from B+W.

Image quality is excellent – you’ll notice a slight color cast that can be easily fixed if you shoot RAW – and build quality is outstanding. 10 stops of light-blocking power let you shoot in broad daylight for several seconds even at larger apertures. You can get creative with long exposures, and by closing down your aperture and leaving the shutter open for 20 or 30 seconds, you can eliminate moving objects and passersby.

I really enjoy using this filter, and it’s a great step up from other less expensive options on this list.

  • Relatively inexpensive compared to other 10-stop ND filters
  • Good build quality
  • Slight color cast to images compared to more expensive options
  • Can be difficult to remove from the lens if over-tightened
6. Best budget variable ND filter: Bower Variable ND Filter

Variable ND filters solve an interesting problem faced by many photographers: how to block different amounts of light without physically altering your gear. Variable ND filters let you turn a ring on the filter itself to adjust its light-blocking power, so there’s no need to buy multiple filters or attempt filter stacking.

The Bower Variable ND filter is a great entry point for people who want to use this type of filter without spending much money. Image quality on variable ND filters like this one is not as good compared to a solid ND filter, but if you value convenience over sharpness, then the tradeoff is worth it. I wouldn’t recommend doing professional work with this inexpensive filter, but for new users who want a good option without spending a lot of money, this Bower filter fits the bill.

  • A great way to explore variable ND filters without spending too much money
  • Pretty good image quality
  • Very versatile, with adjustments from 2 to 8 stops of light
  • Build quality isn’t as good as more expensive options
  • Overall image sharpness is lacking
7. Best 10-stop ND filter: PolarPro QuartzLine ND Filter

If money is no object and you value image quality above all else, this PolarPro filter is the perfect choice. Like its less-expensive B+W counterpart, it blocks 10 stops of light for very long exposures in bright light, but it also comes with several quality-of-life improvements that many photographers will appreciate. These include rock-solid image construction, thickly-knurled edges to help grip the filter as you screw it on and off, and special coatings to reduce problematic image artifacts as well as protect against damage from dust and water.

I don’t recommend this ND filter for beginners, but if you are looking for a significant step up from the less-expensive options on this list, the PolarPro is a stellar buy.

  • Outstanding build quality
  • Big, chunky knurled edges make it easy to attach and remove
  • Excellent image quality
  • Very high price
8. Best graduated ND filter: Hoya Graduated ND10

Normal ND filters have one key limitation: they block light uniformly across the entire lens, which can be problematic in some scenarios (e.g., when a scene features a significantly brighter foreground than background or vice versa). Enter graduated neutral density filters, which block varying degrees of light across the frame.

This Hoya Graduated ND filter is a great option for landscape photographers who want a darker sky but a lighter foreground (and other such tricky scenarios). The Hoya blocks light gradually from three stops to one stop, is built from quality materials, and won’t break the bank like other, more expensive options.

  • Smooth, even gradations from dark to light
  • Very good image quality
  • Direction of gradations can be easily altered after the filter is attached to a lens
  • Price is a bit higher than what some beginners would want to spend
9. Best 15-stop ND filter: Lee ProGlass IRND 4.5

The Lee ProGlass IRND is big, expensive, and won’t work without a special holder that attaches to the front of your camera lens. It’s impractical for most people, but it’s also the best option available for photographers who want to block out a lot of light.

This 15-stop filter lets you capture extraordinarily long exposures in broad daylight; shutter speeds are measured in minutes rather than seconds. Moving objects will disappear from your final shots, and the surface of any body of water will be transformed into smooth glass.

This 15-stop filter is not for the faint of heart – but for those willing to spend some money and put in the time and effort to learn how to use it, the results are phenomenal.

  • Excellent build quality
  • Outstanding image quality
  • Comes with an exposure guide for calculating very long shutter speeds
  • Very expensive
  • Requires the use of a filter holder (which must be purchased separately)
  • Not as convenient or easy to use as a screw-on filter
Best ND filter: conclusion The setting sun combined with a 3-stop ND filter made it possible for me to shoot a long exposure and smooth out the surface of the water while capturing motion in the clouds.
Fuji X100F | 23mm | f/16 | 30s | ISO 200

Neutral density filters are a great way to experiment with fun, creative ideas and explore new photographic possibilities. If you’ve never used an ND filter, I recommend getting one of the less expensive options on this list to see what you have been missing, and if you are a seasoned professional, you might consider a graduated ND filter or even a Lee 15-stop filter to really expand your horizons.

No matter what type of photographer you are, there should be at least one option on this list of best ND filters that is right for you.

Now I’d love to see some of your long-exposure shots and hear your thoughts on your favorite ND filters. Leave photos and share your opinions in the comments section below!

Best neutral density filter FAQ My camera has a built-in ND filter. Can I use that instead of buying a separate ND filter?

You can, of course, use the ND filter that is built into your camera, but these typically only block 2-3 stops of light. That’s enough to do some experimenting, but you won’t be able to get ultra-long exposures in broad daylight. For that, you will need a separate ND filter such as one of the options on this list.

When are the best times to use an ND filter?

This is really a matter of personal preference, but I like to use ND filters to get smooth motion with water. Some people use them to remove moving objects when shooting static subjects, like a monument or a sculpture. Another great option is to use them when shooting portraits in bright light; you can then work with wider apertures without reaching the limit of your camera’s shutter speed.

Will an ND filter protect my lens?

Yes, but that’s not their primary purpose. If you want to shield your lens from dirt and scratches, look into a UV filter or a clear filter. You can then attach an ND filter on top, though image sharpness will decrease just a bit as a result.

Do I have to shoot in RAW when using ND filters?

No, but I do recommend it. Shooting in RAW makes it easy to adjust the exposure of your image, fix green or magenta color casts, and clean up spots from dust on the lens. The latter is usually not visible with larger apertures, but when shooting long exposures it’s common to stop down your lens, which makes small imperfections on your lens easier to see in the final image.

The post The Best ND Filters You Can Buy in 2021 (9 Picks) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

10 Landscape Composition Techniques for Breathtaking Photos (2021)

Sun, 06/27/2021 - 06:00

The post 10 Landscape Composition Techniques for Breathtaking Photos (2021) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

In this article, I’m going to share 10 simple landscape photography composition tips – so that you can start creating beautiful, flowing, dynamic, balanced landscape images.

Specifically, you’ll discover:

  • How to draw the viewer straight into the scene (and keep them wanting more!)
  • How to position your horizons for maximum dynamism and balance
  • A simple trick for minimalistic landscape shots
  • A cool technique to focus the viewer exactly where you want them
  • Much more!

So if you’re ready to take your landscape compositions to the next level, let’s dive right in, starting with my number-one most useful technique:

1. Include a main subject to engage the viewer

To instantly level up your landscape compositions, here’s how you should start:

By including a clear, identifiable subject in each photo.

The subject can be anything: a rock. A mountain. A river. A shell on the beach. Waves crashing on the shore. Lightning in the sky.

The point is to include at least one element in your photo that the viewer can grab onto – something that sucks them into the frame and piques their interest. Otherwise, your viewer will become confused. They won’t know where to focus, so they’ll move on to a different image and never look back. (Not good!)

Here, the main subject is the waterfall – it’s what really captures the viewer’s attention.

Is it okay to include multiple interesting subjects? Absolutely! In fact, many landscape photographers these days specialize in packing both a foreground subject and a background subject into a single photo (more on that later). But be careful not to include so many subjects that the viewer no longer has a place to focus. When in doubt, simplicity should win out.

2. Use the rule of thirds to position your key elements

The rule of thirds is one of my favorite landscape composition tools. It’s a great way to get started with composition, and it’ll give you an easy way to arrange key elements within the frame, like your main subject, your horizon, and other supporting elements.

For those unfamiliar with the rule of thirds, here’s a quick explanation:

The rule of thirds tells you to split your composition into vertical and horizontal thirds, so you end up with a series of gridlines. Then, for the most powerful compositions, you should place compositional elements along those gridlines (and at their intersection points).

This often comes into play when working with horizon lines. Instead of putting the horizon smack-dab in the center of the frame, you can put it along the top rule of thirds gridline (a good idea if your foreground is especially interesting) or along the bottom rule of thirds gridline (a good idea if your sky is colorful or dramatic).

For this image, the blowing sand in the foreground is stunning – so the photographer chose to put the horizon along the upper gridline:

You can also use the rule of thirds to position your main subject. You might put the subject along one of the vertical gridlines, or – even better – at an intersection point.

A quick word of caution, though:

The rule of thirds is a helpful technique. But despite the name, it’s not a landscape composition rule – rather, it’s a guideline, so you don’t need to follow it all the time. Instead, use it when it works, break it when it doesn’t.

Make sense?

3. Use foreground interest to create depth

Most landscape photos, even the mediocre ones, include background interest (such as a distant mountain, a dramatic sunset, or a house on a cliff).

But if you want to really take your landscapes to the next level, I highly recommend including foreground interest, which should sit somewhere between your camera and the background. (It’s also referred to as the near-far composition technique.)

This is a powerful tool, one that’s insanely popular among today’s professional landscape photographers. And the reason it’s so popular? It helps create the illusion of depth in a scene.

For instance, a photo of a distant mountain can look nice, but it often appears rather flat.

But add some grass close to the camera, and the whole composition immediately deepens. The viewer first focuses on the foreground grass, then moves into the midground, then finally sees the stunning mountain in the background:

So the next time you find a beautiful background subject, like the mountain I mentioned above…

…take a few moments to look for foreground interest. Then include both foreground and background in a single shot.

Note that the foreground interest can be a discrete subject, like a patch of grass. Or it can simply lead the eye into the frame, as I discuss in the next tip:

4. Use leading lines to suck the viewer into the scene

Leading lines are lines that draw the viewer into the scene. They generally start in the foreground of the composition, then move back, back, back…until they reach a distant subject.

In the photo below, the road acts as a leading line, which moves the viewer toward the beautiful sunset:

The road isn’t really a discrete subject, but it does provide foreground interest, and it moves the viewer toward the background.

By the way, you can make leading lines out of pretty much anything. I highly recommend you take a look at some of your favorite landscape photography and see how it incorporates leading lines; you’ll find all sorts of creative compositions, with lines created out of roads, rivers, fallen trees, ferns, lines in the dirt, and much, much more.

The river leads the eye toward the mountains in the background. 5. Use lots of negative space to create minimalist landscape compositions

These days, minimalism is all the rage in landscape photography. Here’s how it works:

First, find a scene full of negative space. (Negative space refers to emptiness in a composition, like a long stretch of blue sky, a swathe of green grass, a smooth, barren beach, etc.)

Second, find a small, isolated, lonely-looking subject, like a tree in a field, a rock jutting out from a flat landscape, or even a person.

Third, position your isolated subject so it’s small in the frame, and it’s surrounded by plenty of negative space. Here, it often pays to break the rule of thirds; instead of putting your subject at a rule of thirds intersection point, you put it closer to the edges of the frame, which serves to emphasize the emptiness.

The person walking alone provides a focal point and is surrounded by plenty of negative space.

You’ll end up with an attention-grabbing shot, one that feels both contemporary and timeless.

6. Don’t be afraid to go tight

Most photographers do landscape photography with wide-angle lenses. And in general, this works really well; you can capture the vastness of the scene while emphasizing foreground and background subjects.

That said…

It sometimes pays to zoom in tight using a telephoto lens (a 70-200mm or 100-400mm will do a good job).

This works especially well on relatively flat subjects with graphic lines: a distant waterfall, cracks in a canyon wall, overlapping mountains. Zooming in will compress the scene, so advice about adding depth tends to fly out the window, and that’s okay.

Instead, focus on using landscape compositional tools like the rule of thirds to create balance and flow. And as I emphasized at the beginning of this article, make sure to include a clear point of interest!

A telephoto lens compressed these mountains, so you get a beautifully layered composition. 7. Use layers to help simplify the scene

Layers are one of my absolute favorite landscape photography composition techniques, because they make scenes simpler, easily digestible, and all-around beautiful.

When you’re out with your camera, just look for a clear bottom layer, middle layer, and top layer (though more layers is fine, too!).

One of the great things about layered compositions is that they work regardless of your focal length or subject of interest. You can create layered wide-angle shots by incorporating clear foregrounds, midgrounds, and backgrounds into the composition.

Note the grasses in the foreground, the water in the midground, and the sky in the background.

And you can create layered telephoto shots by compressing distant elements (as I mentioned in the previous tip, overlapping mountains look great, but you can also layer trees, sand dunes, and more).

Here, the layers are more subtle – the mountains are layered, though the final layer is the sky.

Not every composition is amenable to layering. But when you find a scene with repeating or overlapping elements, that’s a good sign you can get a layered shot – and when possible, I recommend you go for it.

8. Incorporate diagonal lines to add movement

This one’s a more advanced landscape composition tool, and the effect can be subtle – but when done right, it can level up a good photo to a great one.

You see, diagonal lines are an effective way to move the eye around the scene and add flow to a shot. They’ll carefully push the viewer toward the main subject, while also prompting them to have a fun little journey around your photo.

To get started, I’d recommend first identifying your main subject. This should be the focal point of your image, and the place you want the diagonal lines to lead.

Then walk around, looking for potential diagonals that point toward – not away! – from your subject. You’ll often need to get creative. Consider all your options: paths, lines of trees, fences, rivers, a shadow, even clouds!

Finally, compose your photo, including at least one diagonal line moving toward your subject (and feel free to use two, three, or four lines if you can find them).

The clouds provide diagonal lines that move the viewer toward the mountain.

Note that diagonal lines can be foreground leading lines, but they don’t have to be. It’s perfectly acceptable to find a diagonal line that starts far off in the distance, as long as it moves toward your main subject.

9. Use geometry, especially triangles, to add flow and stability

In landscape photography, geometry is your friend.

Specifically, you can incorporate shapes, such as triangles, squares, and circles, into your compositions. These will help create both flow and stability, plus they just look very cool (especially when done with subtlety!).

For instance, consider the triangle, one of the most powerful shapes available to the landscape photographer. It includes diagonal lines and therefore adds plenty of movement. It also tends to be very stable, thanks to its strong edges and wide base.

The mountain creates a clear triangle – and it makes the composition far more powerful.

Circles are great, too – partial circles create nice curves for plenty of flow. And complete circles create eye-catching points of interest.

You don’t need to find full shapes in the landscape, by the way. It’s okay to use a somewhat circular rock, a vaguely triangular mountain, and so on. The point is to include shape-like elements when you can, without stressing too much about whether you have a complete shape or an implied one. That way, you create strong compositions that still feel natural.

Make sense?

10. Find natural frames to focus the viewer

As emphasized earlier in this article, foreground interest is a great way to add depth to landscape compositions.

But sometimes, you run into foreground elements that can’t quite work as a discrete compositional element…

…yet can still sit around the edges of your photo as a frame.

This is the landscape photography framing technique: You include tangential elements around the outside of an image and use them to direct the viewer toward the interesting midground and background.

For instance, you might include an overhanging branch toward the top of the image, in order to guide the viewer toward the subject in the middle of the shot:

Or you might find a tunnel of rocks that leads the viewer toward the sunset in the background.

In wide-open spaces, finding frames can be tough. But if you’re shooting in a more chaotic landscape, you can often find trees or rocks to create a frame. In fact, it’s often these simple frames that take a good composition to the next level; they provide much-needed focus by showing the viewer exactly where to look (and when positioned carefully, they can also block out distracting elements).

Landscape photography composition: final words

Well, there you have it:

10 techniques to enhance your landscape compositions.

Practice these techniques, and above all, have fun!

Now over to you:

Which of these composition tips is your favorite? Which are you going to try first? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post 10 Landscape Composition Techniques for Breathtaking Photos (2021) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.