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In the Moment, Connecting and Questioning


Jess Dugan’s portraits engage her subjects in a visual conversation and ask viewers to rethink their notions of identity and community.

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In the Moment, Connecting and Questioning

Versatility – Your Guide to Shooting Great Travel Photography


Professional travel photographers realize that the key to their business is versatility: to be able to shoot all styles of photography, and to consistently capture great shots even under very trying conditions. To be a strong assignment photographer you must identify your weakness and then work on it. Instead of concentrating on what you shoot well why not break out of your comfort zone and try something more challenging? Some of the most experienced photographers from The WideAngle network give us their insights into a few of the specialized fields of travel photography. Image by Dale Morris PHOTOGRAPHING WILDLIFE British born wildlife photographer Dale Morris has built a reputation as one of the most widely published photographers in South Africa. His background as a trained naturalist allows him to capture aspects of the natural world that many photographers would miss. I’m a firm follower of the philosophy that wildlife photography is not only about getting a great image but equally about taking time out to observe, and more importantly, really enjoy the experience of being in the company of wild animals. It helps to understand that every animal stands at the center of its own concentric set of invisible circles and if something unusual (a photographer for example) steps across the outermost boundary, the animal will react (usually by becoming more alert to your presence). Move across the next circle in the set too soon and an imaginary alarm is triggered. You are now running the risk of eliciting a flight or fight response. An animal’s rear end vanishing post-haste over the horizon rarely makes for a good photo, nor does a trampled and gored camera. Move slowly and in a non-threatening manner. The secret to wildlife photography is patience, empathy, awe and a true appreciation for your subject matter. SHOOTING MOVEMENT Craig Pusey is a dedicated motoring and expedition photographer, who’s never scared to go the extra mile for a shot. You might see him scaling an Indonesian volcano or lying face down in an Andean stream just to get the perfect angle. Image by Craig Pusey The perfect panning shot takes practice. For people and animals moving perpendicular to you, aim to keep your shutter speed between 1/15th and 1/90th of a second to get a bit of blur. For faster things, like cars or galloping horses, set a speed of between 1/60th to 1/125th. Try to focus just ahead of the moving object and if you have the opportunity shoot a trial pan before your subject even arrives. (This will check exposure and focus but also make sure that no obstacles are going to get in the way of your pan…it also limbers you up!). It’s best to start with a higher shutter-speed and then work down, but it’s also dependant on distance from you to the subject. The farther away, the lower your shutter speed will need to be to show the effect of panning. With practice you can shoot slower, and will be better be able to judge the object’s speed. SHOOTING ARCHITECTURE Laurence Garçon is an experienced Parisian artist, publisher and assignment photographer. She has travelled widely but has retained an unshakeable love affair with her hometown and is recognized as one of the city’s most visionary photographers. Image by Laurence Garçon Firstly, be aware of the highlights. Play with the speed and the aperture of your camera to avoid over-exposing sunlit walls, etc. Secondly, try to frame a composition that will best display the building. Be prepared to wait a while for something to happen (a passer-by, a vehicle): this could be the element that will be capture the soul of the quarter. Be aware that, in some countries you may need specific permission to photograph some particular buildings (especially airports, military buildings, ministries, embassies, sometimes even bridges). If you plan to publish your photograph of a single (isolated) contemporary building, try to always mention the name of the architect. PHOTOGRAPHING INDIGENOUS PEOPLE Axel Fassio left his home in Italy to travel the world (everywhere from Antarctica to Iceland) on assignments. In 2013 he won a first prize at PX3 Prix de la Photograhie Awards in Paris and a 3rd at the International Photographic Awards. He’s currently based in Nairobi. Image by Axel Fassio Ideally, if time allows you should approach a community without a camera and hangout a bit, getting to know the elders and playing with the children. The last thing you would want to do is have to rush to take pictures. Resulting images would lack of spontaneity. A few hours are enough to create a basic ‘relationship’ within the community and the resulting images will benefit hugely. If your time is limited, always contact the elders and ask permission to take photos. A money arrangement is common when time is tight but it’s not desirable. Negotiating to pay for each images tends only to produce aggressiveness among the people, bad memories for you and usually this shows in the shots. Longer zoom lenses can be used to “steal” candid portraits and a wide-angle held at waist level often has the effect of bringing the viewer more intimately into the scene. It is always better to avoid clearly aiming at a person unless he/she is very comfortable and is agreeable to being photographed. In this case, a medium-length zoom is perfect for portraits. Image by Wylie Maercklein SHOOTING PORTRAITS Wylie Maercklein is an experienced Texas-based photographer and videographer with a specific talent for powerful portraits. Portraits are similar to other action shots to me, in that you’re just waiting for the right moment. With a group, that moment is something larger – an externalized emotion. An action. With an individual portrait, it’s an internalized thing – it’s the moment when their defences drop just a little and you see something living behind their eyes. LOW LIGHT AND NIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY British photographer Jonathan Perugia has built a reputation as one of the most prodigiously published assignment photographers in the business. In addition to his freelance work he leads photography holidays with Authentic Adventures. I love the way cities look after sunset, so I shoot a lot in low light. If you want to really explore this kind of photography, then adding a fast prime lens to your collection (if you use a DSLR) is invaluable. I use the Canon 50mm f/1.4 , which is pretty good value. Another invaluable bit of kit is a tripod . Go for something as sturdy, but as light, as you can afford. Carbon fibre is ideal. Try to avoid anything flimsy. There are some good mini tripod options too, with bendy legs that will hook around a handrail at a push. Generally I avoid using flash, so I’m often at high ISOs . I recommend testing or researching your camera to see how high it will go without too much noise. Image by Jonathan Perugia For cityscapes, the best time to shoot is the period after sunset but before dark, when there is still colour in the sky. On a clear night you can get fantastic electric blue skies with all the city lights illuminated. Note that the brighter electric lights will start to blow out as the sky gets darker, so you may want to choose your frame accordingly. If there are no bright lights in the shot, you can use longer shutter speeds to get colour out of a sky that appears dark to the naked eye. Cloudy skies reflect street lights and can look quite surreal. This is the perfect time to do classic long exposure traffic shots with streams of light from the car lights. Smaller apertures give points of light a kind of starburst effect that looks more natural than starburst filters. You’ll notice that you can start shooting into doorways, shops, windows that wouldn’t work in daylight when the light outside is much brighter than inside. Experiment and enjoy the different effects and colour casts you get after dark – even ‘painting with light’ with long shutter speeds and no tripod. Look for pools of light from street lamps, windows, street stalls. SHOOTING LOCAL CEREMONIES Ingetje Tadros is a Dutch-born photographer who emigrated to Western Australia. She spends much of each year on assignment in various parts of Asia. Image by Ingetje Tadros While shooting ceremonies pay close attention to your choice of lens. Personally I like the 35mm prime as I like to be close and look for little moments. But, I also find it important that people feel comfortable with my presence and you need to be aware of personal space. When rituals are taking place it’s important to be aware what the rules are and specifically to know where you should and shouldn’t stand. Take your time and don’t just go in snapping. Try to limit use of flash to an absolute minimum as you should be as unobtrusive as possible. Do you have any tips on versatility? How do you approach travel photography? Please share in the comments below. The post Versatility – Your Guide to Shooting Great Travel Photography by Mark Eveleigh appeared first on Digital Photography School .

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Versatility – Your Guide to Shooting Great Travel Photography

A Beginners Introduction to Using Layers


Using layers in your photo editing software is one of the most important things you can do to create great images. Layers are so powerful, even the most basic understanding of them can improve your photography tremendously. The good news is that using layers is extremely easy, and very quick. If you follow along with this tutorial and incorporate the techniques, you’ll see a huge difference in the quality of your images. While there are countless things you can do with layers, it’s convenient to group them into three main categories: Exposure blending Local adjustments to specific parts of an image Special techniques We’ll go through all three categories in this tutorial. Please keep in mind this guide is meant to demonstrate the power of layers and why you want to use them. It’s not a software-specific guide and the exact mouse-clicks and menu items may vary slightly among the different photo editing packages available. That said, the use of layers is very similar in all software. EXPOSURE BLENDING Exposure blending is one of the best techniques you can use to improve your photos. It’s critical to understand and use this skill. It’s also super-easy! First, let’s understand why you need to blend exposures. We know that a camera has limited “dynamic range”. That means the camera has a hard time capturing very bright parts of a scene and very dark parts in a single photo. As a photographer, you would generally choose to prioritize one over the other. This is a sacrifice photographers have been dealing with for decades. Exposure blending solves this problem. You simply take two or more photos of the scene at various exposures and blend the best parts of each exposure to produce a single image where all areas are exposed correctly. Wait you say, isn’t that HDR? In a way it sort of is. The difference between automated HDR software and this technique is that HDR software uses a computer algorithm to choose the areas of your photo to blend, while using layers gives you complete control over the final image. It can also be a much quicker process than using dedicated HDR software. Both processes can be considered “High Dynamic Range” photography, and both have their place. So how do we do it? It’s very simple, you layer the photos with different exposures on top of each other and then manually blend them. Before we blend exposures, let’s take a quick look at how layers work. Here we see two photos, one of the Brooklyn Bridge and one from Bora Bora. To layer them, I’ll copy-and-paste one photo on top of the other in my editing software. (There are a variety of ways to layer photos depending on the software you use. I use copy-and-paste). After I paste the Brooklyn Bridge photo on top of the Bora Bora photo, you can now see on the right of the screen, where the red arrow points, that the photos are now layered in one document (see image below). If I were to take an eraser brush and swipe it across the top layer, I will erase that top photo and “reveal” the photo below it. Here’s an example after I’ve taken a swipe with the eraser brush. That’s all there is to understanding the very basics of how layers work. With just that little piece of knowledge, your photography can be completely transformed. In the example above, I used the eraser brush to reveal the layer below. That’s one way of doing it, and I showed you that first because it’s an easy way to demonstrate layers. However, most people use what’s called a “layer mask” instead of the eraser brush. Don’t worry, it’s not complicated. A layer mask is just another way of revealing the photo below. Instead of using the eraser brush to reveal the bottom photo, you create a middle layer between the two photos called a “mask layer” and you draw on it with a paintbrush – wherever you paint, the top photo is “erased” revealing the bottom photo. To create a layer mask, just layer two photos on top of each other like I did above, then from the menu click “Create Layer Mask –> Reveal All”. Then you use the paintbrush on the mask to reveal the bottom photo. Painting with the color black reveals the layer below, and if you switch the color to white, it will “undo” wherever you’ve painted black so you can clean up any strokes you didn’t want to make (black reveals, white hides the layer below). Here is the same example below with a layer mask – you’ll see the effect is identical. Notice the new mask layer by the red arrow. The great part about layer masks is that you can save the entire set of multiple exposures along with the masks in a single file, which you can edit later. The original exposures are left completely untouched. That’s the difference between using a mask and using the “eraser brush” directly on your photo. With a mask, you can always go back at any time and paint with the white paintbrush to undo anything you need to. Now that you know how to use layers, exposure blending is very easy. Here’s a photo I took in Grand Teton National Park. Notice that the mountains and sky look properly exposed, but the foreground foliage is way too dark. Without exposure blending, the photo above is the best I could do. However, while I was at the location, I also took another photo with the foreground exposed properly. Notice though how the sky is completely blown out and the mountains are overexposed now. With layers, I can easily blend these two images to create the perfect combination, and it only takes a few seconds. I just take the photo with the good exposure for the mountains and paste it on top of the photo with the good exposure for the foreground. With the properly exposed foreground on the bottom, I use the brush to reveal that bottom photo wherever the leaves are too dark. Here it is after one swipe with the brush. You’ll see the better exposure is revealed below. That’s it. After some practice, you’ll be able to do this very quickly, with the final photo looking like this. Of course there is one key thing to remember: You must take multiple exposures at varying brightnesses when you’re at the scene! If you forget, you can sometimes fudge it and brighten dark areas in your editing software, but you can never darken the overly bright parts if you forget to take a photo with those areas properly exposed. Always make sure at least one photo has the bright areas exposed properly (nothing clipped or overexposed). Here’s an additional example of exposure blending below. How many of us have taken this shot? Sure would be nice to see what’s outside that window. If you took another exposure with the outside properly exposed, it’s simply matter of layering the two photos on top of each other and revealing the bottom photo with the properly exposed window. Here’s the photo for just the outside. …and the final blend looks like this. Let’s talk about the opacity and color you can use with the brush when painting on a mask layer. We know that a black paintbrush erases the top photo revealing the photo below, and that a white paintbrush is like an “undo” that puts the top photo back where needed. In addition to just the white and black paintbrush, you can also use any shade of grey. Using a grey paintbrush blends the two photos together, making the top photo slightly transparent so you see both the top and bottom photo at the same time. The darker the grey the more the top photo is erased. The lighter the grey, the more the top photo is visible. This allows for very subtle and realistic blending of the two photos. You may also see it as “opacity” in your software. When the brush opacity is 100%, the brush is at “full strength”. When you swipe the brush, it erases 100% of the top layer fully revealing the layer below. If you set it for 50%, a swipe of the brush works at half-strength. Here’s an example of a swipe of the brush at 50% opacity or medium grey. Notice how you can see both the Brooklyn Bridge and Bora Bora at the same time. Adjusting the opacity or grey-level lets you apply the effects more subtly and with more control as needed. For example, with the Grand Teton photo in the earlier example, where the foreground leaves meet the background mountains, I might use the brush with 50% opacity so it’s a nice seamless blend, that’s unnoticeable. Another way to create a seamless blend is to use a brush with a low “hardness” — that is, the center of the brush is 100% opacity while the outer edges are less strong, creating a smooth effect. LOCAL ADJUSTMENTS After exposure blending, one of the most important techniques you can do with layers is to make local adjustments. That just means tweaking certain parts of the photo while leaving the rest of the photo as is. Below is a great example of using layers for a quick local adjustment. Have you ever taken a photo where different parts of the photo have mixed lighting and different white balances? In the photo below, you can see that the camera’s flash has cast an unflattering blueish tint onto the people’s faces, contradicting the warm glow of the Eiffel Tower in the background. With layers, you can easily solve this problem. Here is the corrected photo. To do this requires just three quick steps: Create a copy of the original photo and set it aside Adjust the original photo paying attention only to the area that needs to be fixed (in this case adjust the White Balance of the image paying attention to the faces and ignoring everything else) Paste the untouched copy that you put aside on top of the adjusted photo, and “erase away” the top photo revealing the adjusted layer below, just where you want to see the adjustment. In this example, you can see exactly where I “erased away” the bad white balance revealing the better white balance below. If you shoot in RAW format, you can create the two versions of the photo with the two appropriate white balances in your RAW converter. If you don’t shoot raw, just create a second copy of the original photo, change the color balance in your editing software, and layer as described above. Using layers you can selectively apply saturation adjustments, brightness/contrast, sharpening, etc. This allows for an incredible amount of control over the final image. Just create a version of the photo with the adjustments, put it as the bottom layer, and reveal it with the brush just in the spots you choose. For example, in this photo of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in NYC, just the lights on the tree needed a levels and sharpness adjustment. You can see the difference that local adjustment makes to the entire photo in this before and after. Before After SPECIAL TECHNIQUES In addition to using layers for exposure blending and applying local adjustments, you can use layers for a wide variety of additional purposes. I’ve listed some really cool techniques below. Blinking in group portraits: Have you ever taken a group shot and there’s always one person blinking or making an odd face? Next time, mount the camera on a tripod and use your camera’s continuous shooting (i.e. rapid-fire) mode to take a few photos in quick succession. If one person is blinking in the photo you like best, just put that photo as the top layer and put another photo without him blinking underneath, and “erase” the top photo with the blink to reveal the bottom photo below with his eyes open. For cool sports effects, use a tripod and take rapid-fire photos of the action, layer the photos, and “erase” away the top photo to reveal the person moving in the subsequent shots. You can get really creative with this effect – here’s six of me playing a soccer game. For special “flying” effects , take two photos from a tripod, one with a person on a ladder, one with the just the background (ladder and person removed). Then layer the photos and “erase” the ladder. Here’s what it looked like with one swipe of the brush “erasing” the ladder and revealing the background. Many people find that automated HDR software can produce unnatural effects. If you’ve used HDR software to create an HDR image that you like, but there are certain parts that appear unnatural (for example, the sky), blend a little bit of the original non-HDR photo using layers to make it more natural. You already learned that painting with a black brush reveals the layer below. Wherever there is black, the top layer is “erased”. What if we didn’t use a brush at all, and instead used another way to paint black? This opens up a whole new set of possibilities. For example, this is a simple gradient, a pattern that goes from white to black gradually. If instead of using a black brush to reveal the bottom photo, we used this gradient, we get an instant Neutral Density filter ! Apply this gradient using the Fill tool on the mask instead of painting with a brush, and where the black is, the bottom photo will be revealed. Put the black part of the gradient over the area of the photo where you want to adjust exposure and you’ll have a beautiful transition. You can also use other tools to apply black to the mask. In the earlier example with the view outside the window, rather than painting with a brush, you could use the “draw rectangle” tool to place a black rectangle over the window, revealing the view outside. Hopefully you’ve seen just how simple it is to use layers in your work, and how powerful they are. From blending multiple exposures , to adjusting your photos and using special techniques, layers take your images to a whole new level. Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments below. The post A Beginners Introduction to Using Layers by Paul Timpa appeared first on Digital Photography School .

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A Beginners Introduction to Using Layers

5 Tips for a Powerful Picture Every Time


You see plenty of landscape, portrait and commercial photographs every day on the web and in magazines. You can tell by the lighting, staging and seemingly overall perfection of everything in those pictures that days, maybe even weeks of planning were needed to pull of such amazing photographs. With that much planning, all that is left to do when it is time to take the picture is press the shutter. The photographer behind the lens probably even knew exactly what time she was going to press the shutter. In short, the photographer did everything necessary to prepare for the picture. But what about the other side of photography? You have also seen equally powerful pictures that captured something spectacular in the spur of the moment. These are the kind of photographs that you may think you could never plan for because they present themselves with no prior notice or warning. Have you ever heard the saying that “luck favors the prepared” ? No truer statement could ever be said about photographers and photography. It’s true that luck can find anyone at any given time, but if you want to be able to pull off amazing photos with just a moment’s notice you need to be as prepared as a studio or commercial. But this approach to photography takes a completely different type of preparation. Here are five photography tips for a powerful picture every time. These tips will help prepare you to perfectly capture once in a lifetime pictures time and time again. 1. Always have a camera A prepared photographer needs to have a camera close by at all times. It sounds elementary, but any good top five list is going to start off with the basics first. If you don’t have a camera with you, you will not be able to capture that picture of a bald eagle in your backyard. Without your camera, you are left only with your story of a bald eagle. Odds are you have already have a camera on you or near you right now. Your phone! The first tip in photography preparation; always have your camera (any camera) close by. 2. Study light Photography is all about light (and having a camera). Without light there is no photography. But there is so much more to light than just having it. As a photographer you must become a student of light. What color is the light ? How strong is the light? Where is the light coming from? How long until the light changes? Where can you find more light right now ? As you move through your day (camera at your side), take the time to notice the light sources around you. If you are in a meeting, look around the conference room. Is there light coming through the window? What kind of lights are in the ceiling? Are there desk lamps? What about the light coming from everyone’s computer screens? Could you open the curtains to let in more light? By reminding yourself throughout the day to recognize and understand your lighting situation you are learning how to master light rather than have it master you. Then you are on your way to taking better pictures at a moment’s notice. 3. Visualize While you are studying the light around you take a moment and pretend that you are taking a picture. While in that same theoretical meeting, look across the table at your colleagues. Imagine taking a picture of them. Which side of their face has more lighting? Are they backlit? How would you overcome that? Would your picture be better if you moved across the room ? Is there a ray of sunlight that, if you could, you would ask your boss to step into because it would highlight her hair color so well? By taking the time to play pictures out in your mind you are actually training your mind to think like a photographer. You are preparing your mind to be ready. It’s called visualization and athletes do it all the time. Ever wonder why a golfer takes so long to hit the ball? It’s because he is envisioning his swing, and the ball going where he wants it to go before he hits it. Photographers and photography are no different. Train your mind by constantly imagining that you are taking a picture. 4. Think ahead This tip goes hand in glove with tip number 3. You should always be thinking ahead, be it five seconds, five minutes or five hours. To be ready to take a photo at the drop of a hat you have to put yourself in a situation that has yet to happen. It’s like the pre-flight safety instructions you hear before a plane takes off. It does no one any good to get that information when the plane is in distress. Knowing where the exit doors are ahead of time saves lives. Knowing what ISO setting you will need if your kids break out in a song and dance routine for the grandparents can save Christmas. Always be thinking ahead and absorbing your surroundings to better anticipate action that hasn’t yet taken place. Sports photographers may do this better than anyone. The better they understand how the sport is played the more likely they will be to capture the key moments in a game. A photographer covering a baseball game recognizes that there will be a play at first base and he will instinctively put his focus on the first base bag and wait for the play to get to him. To always be ready to capture a picture at the drop of a hat you have to be a student of life, and a student of movement and moments. Learn to anticipate and not just react. 5. Practice The final tip is one that combines the other four and that is to practice being ready at all times. It may sound silly, but why do you think golfers, baseball players and airplane pilots practice? So that when it comes time to hit the ball, catch the ball or avoid a crash they have already placed themselves in that situation and performed the needed mind and body movements over and over again. Come game time (or in an emergency) instincts take over. Luck favors the prepared and trust me, if my plane loses an engine I want a pilot who has already thought through what needs to be done to prevent the plane from crashing. I don’t want him fumbling over buttons and dials trying to figure out how to keep the plane in the air. I want him to instinctively know what must be done to save the plane. As a practical matter, have a friend change your camera settings so that you have no idea how your aperture, ISO and shutter speed are set. Have your friend point at something (it doesn’t matter what because this is practice).Then quickly grab your camera and adjust your settings to best capture that object. Then, do it again with another object or person or passing car. Take your camera on walks with you and have your friends constantly test your skills. Make a game out of it until you instinctively know what to do. To be ready to take a powerful picture at any moment you literally have to be ready to take a picture at any moment. Keep a camera near you at all times. Be aware of your light because it is always changing. Constantly visualize taking pictures. Always be aware of your surroundings to better anticipate action, and to perfect all of this, practice. Remember, luck favors the prepared. Luck is not a strategy. Do you have any other tips you’d like to share? Please do so on the comments below. The post 5 Tips for a Powerful Picture Every Time by Scott Umstattd appeared first on Digital Photography School .

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Grab Them Quick: Amazing Photography Deals and Freebies


Say cheese! We’ve brought you smiles in the form of great deals and freebies. This week, we have for you some fantastic photography deals that include links to discounted online courses, photography gear, and software presets. Oh, and there are cool freebies to grab too. We hope you like them. Photography Education Understanding Composition eBook Kent DuFault’s book will help you improve your photography in just a few short hours, by teaching you the core concepts of composition. You’ll discover how to simplify your image for a dynamic composition, and how to use light as an element of composition. You will also learn about avoiding distracting elements, how to determine the flow of a scene, and how to create balance. Also included are case-studies and assignments so you can learn by doing. Price – $40  $19 (52% discount) Portraits With an On-Camera Speedlight This course by photographer Neil van Niekerk will teach you how to successfully use speedlight flash in challenging natural light environments. You will learn about different lighting effects and how to best utilize automatic and manual flash. Many other innovative tips are spread across the 2+ hours of video tutorials. Price – $59.99 Photography Gear Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens If you’ve been considering to buy this lens, now might be a good time. The telephoto zoom lens, which is great for wildlife as well as sports photography, is currently being offered at $80 mail-in rebate. Price – $709  $629 ($80 mail-in rebate)   Domke Small Shoulder and Belt Bag This shoulder bag is ideal for a DSLR camera with a short lens. If you are looking for a bag that keeps your gear safe during your street photography walks or a general walk-around bag, you should consider this Domke bag. Sand color would be our suggestion. Price – $84.99  $51.61   Presets and Actions 200+ Photoshop Actions from 14 Different Sets This is a huge collection of Photoshop actions that is being offered at an astonishing price. With so many actions from different sets to choose from, you will surely find something that suits your needs. The different sets include wedding actions, vintage, winter, color pop and many others. Price – $243  $17 Landscape Legends Lightroom Presets If you are looking for endless options on choosing how your landscape photographs look after a one-click post-production, this collection of Lightroom presets might just be for you. With 152 high quality presets, you are sure to be spoiled for choice. Price – $39  $14   Freebies The Creative Newborn Photography Studio In a crowded newborn photography market, it’s not easy to stand out. This course by award-winning photographer Julia Kelleher will teach you just that. In this live class, you will learn how to capture portraits that more vibrant, personal and evocative. The course runs from May 8-10, 9AM – 4PM (Los Angeles time). Short Guide to Landscape Photography A beginner’s guide aimed at helping you create beautiful images of the world around you. The guide will cover: elements of composition, leading lines, shadows and highlights, diminishing contrast, scale of known objects, use of a focal point, color temperature changes and much more.   Urban Exploration Photography eBook, by Neil Ta Photographer Neil Ta has been involved in urban exploration photography for quite some time now and through this eBook, he shares everything he has learned over the years. If you are fascinated by urban exploration and looking to learn the ropes, this can be a valuable resource.    Author information Ritesh Saini Ritesh is a professional photographer and image retoucher. Twitter Flickr The post Grab Them Quick: Amazing Photography Deals and Freebies appeared first on Light Stalking .

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Grab Them Quick: Amazing Photography Deals and Freebies

85mm Prime Lens: It’s Not Just For Portraits


The 85mm Prime lens is well known for capturing beautiful portraits. It’s relatively light weight, fast speed and wide aperture also makes it a superb event lens.  However, the 85mm is often overlooked as an effective tool in the nature photography arsenal. In the case of our west Texas cowboy crooner, the image illustrates the character and features we expect when using an 85mm prime lens. Camera and settings used: Nikon D600, 85mm ISO 250, f/10, 1/60 seconds, Nikon 910 Speedlight. West Texas Cowboys…. – ©Sheen’s Nature Photography When photographers take it to the streets, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm prime lenses are out in full force. When venturing to the great outdoors for nature shoots, telephoto zooms, landscape and macro lenses become the norm. The 85mm prime lens is tucked safely and many times, sadly, away in the camera case. 3 Advantages to Using an 85mm Prime Lens in Outdoor Nature Photography   1.  As a prime lens, the 85mm encourages a deliberate, creative mindset in composing images for outdoor and nature photography. 2.  A huge benefit of an 85mm prime lens (or any prime lens, for that matter) is that it forces behaviors that will improve our overall photography skills, including nature photography, regardless of lens type. 3.  Slowing down, savoring the moment. When working with telephotos zoom lenses on wildlife, image composition happens at a rapid rate. Subjects dart, jump, fly, hop and run quickly from sunlight to shade in a matter of seconds. This requires fast movement, quick thinking and quick setting adjustments to effectively capture our subjects. Instead of nature taking the lead, the photographer is in charge. 3 Tips That Are Helpful Triggers When Using an 85mm Prime Lens Outdoor 1. Stop, Look, Listen and Breathe – What do you see from a bigger picture perspective? What is it about the image that captured your eye, your interest? Is it a faded, washed red door on an early century white church nestled in the woods? Or are the shadows from the trees creating an interesting play to capture? The “Faded Door” image had been unnoticed on many previous wildlife photography outings. The 85mm prime lens encouraged a second, third and fourth look using all of these three triggers. Torn between the door up close and the overall image, this one was selected due to the gentle, defined shadows. Settings used: ISO 250, f/10, 1/60 seconds; processed in Lightroom 5. Faded Red Door – ©Sheen’s Nature Photography 2. Step In, Step Out – Working with the fixed focal length, the feet become the zooming action. While framing the subject, walk closer to capture the initial detail or details that initially caught your eye. Walk further back and take in the whole scene. 3. Move Higher, or Lower – When studying your subject, what angles are available? Is there a nearby hill to walk up, or down and view? Best Outdoor Subjects For Your 85mm Prime Lens Anything is fair game when it comes to using your 85mm prime lens. While it’s not going to be the lens of choice for birds and small animals, some of same approaches used with a ‘walk around lens’ on the streets applies with nature photography. Close-up Photography – Even though the 85mm prime lens isn’t a macro, it does allow a closeness to objects that create intimate, interesting perspectives of details. Focus in on an object that stands out from the rest, that’s a different color, shape or size. It could be a flower that’s a different color than the rest, ivy or bark that is scaling up a tree in an unusual pattern. Landscape Photography – The 85mm prime lens really shines with landscape and imagery scenes. While technically a portrait is defined as an depiction of a person, consider that there are other subject opportunities to capture a ‘portrait’ of. The abandoned farm equipment below was captured when walking around the Ghost Town of Terlingua, Texas. Using an 85mm prime lens with settings of ISO 125, f/9 at 1/320 seconds, the dry, rugged terrain was emphasized by further editing in Google’s Nik Collection , Silver Efex Pro Module. How the West Won my Heart – ©Sheen’s Nature Photography Just-Get-Out-There Photography – This is the nature version of walking around with the lens on the street. For the avid bird and nature photographers, it is very hard to leave the telephoto behind. A recommendation would be to go out with the 85mm prime lens on the back end of the trip or later in the day. This would be after the wildlife images have been captured. Revisiting the paths traveled or a nearby area with your 85mm can re-invigorate photography skills and senses. The empty, dilapidated stone house below had the foreboding “ No Trespassing, This Means You ” sign on the left. We had driven by this piece of history several times on the way to nature shoots. Staying at a respectful distance, the 85mm prime lens captured the harsh surroundings against a cloudy, morning sky. Settings used: ISO 250, f/8, 1/160 seconds. Abandoned Past – ©Sheen’s Nature Photography As a portrait lens, the 85mm prime lens captures a portrait of a face, an entire body without distortion. For outdoors and nature, this prime lens is a an effective tool in creatively capturing beauty and imagery with clarity. Happy Shooting! Author information Sheen Watkins Sheen Watkins is a bird, nature and wildlife photographer. A long term birder and nature enthusiast, you can follow her photography on Facebook and her website . She also has a travel and photography blog . Twitter Facebook Google+ Blog Flickr The post 85mm Prime Lens: It’s Not Just For Portraits appeared first on Light Stalking .

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85mm Prime Lens: It’s Not Just For Portraits

Getting the Most Out of a Telephoto Lens With 8 Useful Tips


People seem to possess a natural inclination to want to see things that are far away; it’s not good enough to just catch a glimpse of distant objects, we want to see them in some degree of detail. It’s why we’re all thrilled by our first look through a telescope: we have, in an abstract way, gained access to something that is out of our reach. One of the most captivating aspects of photography is — due in large part to the reason alluded to above — working with telephoto lenses. These “long” lenses provide the visual reach that so many photographers crave, allowing them to experience a perspective that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to. Telephoto lenses do have more uses than just getting close to your subject. They also come with a few notes of caution that should be heeded in order to use these types of lenses effectively. What is a Telephoto Lens? You might already know that a lens with a focal length of 35mm or less is usually considered “wide,” as it has a relatively large field of view. Focal lengths in the range of 35mm-70mm are typically categorized as “normal” lenses; they more or less mimic what we see with the naked eye. Once you move beyond roughly 70mm, you’re entering the telephoto range. To be even more specific, telephoto lenses are sometimes broken down into sub-categories: short telephoto (85mm to 135mm), medium telephoto (135mm to 300mm), and super telephoto (over 300mm). Canon photographer with Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM Super Telephoto Lens by mikebaird , on Flickr   What is a Telephoto Lens Good For? 1. Bringing distant objects up close . This one is a rather obvious and the most sought after use of a telephoto lens. If you can’t get close to your subject, use a telephoto lens and bring your subject to you. The specific applications are virtually endless: sports, landscapes, astrophotography, street photography, architecture, wildlife. Any situation where distance presents itself as a barrier is a situation that calls for a long lens. An Elegant Predator by jDevaun , on Flickr   2. Bringing distant objects and near objects together . This is known as the “telephoto effect.” Due to the optical characteristics of telephoto lenses, you will find that they “flatten” the depth of a scene. In the photo below, the structures on the pier (the near object) and the sun (the distant object) appear to lie somewhat on the same visual plane; the sun seems much closer to the pier than it is in reality. Crazy Mouse by BrightonPiers , on Flickr   3. Isolating your subject . There are many different ways to isolate a subject using other types of lenses, but a telephoto lens makes it that much easier due to its narrow field of view; you can minimize background distractions and emphasize your subject without having to crop too much in post processing. 4. Tight framing of your subject . Telephoto lenses magnify the subject, effectively decreasing the distance between you and it; one of the obvious benefits of this is the ability to photograph things that are out of reach. But beyond the simplest of practical implications, tightly framing your subject allows you to emphasize details that might be less apparent when shooting with a shorter lens. Mack “the Black” Macoco by country_boy_shane , on Flickr   5. Getting shallow depth of field . Yet another way to isolate a subject is by taking advantage of the shallow plane of focus inherent to telephoto lenses. With your subject in focus, a telephoto lens will throw the background out of focus (a trait referred to as “bokeh”) and, thus, further enhance the subject. Mm…Food by jDevaun , on Flickr   6. Panning . Panning is a technique whereby you photograph a moving subject by following its horizontal plane. The goal is to convey a sense of motion or action. Since this is a technique usually used on distant subjects, a telephoto lens is ideal. Panning around by danichro , on Flickr   7. Experimenting with astrophotography . If you want to try your hand at photographing the night sky and the bodies suspended within in, the easiest place to begin is with the moon. It’s big and bright and lends itself to being photographed with a long lens. With a tripod, a dark sky, and a timer or shutter release cable, you’re well on your way to some satisfying shots of the moon. Lune by ComputerHotline , on Flickr   8. Simulating macro photography . A genuine macro lens is capable of reproducing images at a 1:1  or “life size” magnification. Telephoto lenses do not posses this capability but they can be used to get excellent close up shots. You can further approximate a macro lens by using extension tubes in conjunction with your telephoto. Caterpillar Stage – Variable Checkerspot Butterfly caterpillar (Euphydryas chalcedona) Eating a Monkeyflower. by mikebaird , on Flickr   How to Effectively Use a Telephoto Lens for a Variety of Tasks   Telephoto lenses, despite some common misconceptions about them, are useful for a relatively wide range of shooting styles. The weight and optical characteristics of telephoto lenses, however, do present a few challenges that should be addressed. Avoid blur . Given the narrow field of view and relatively high magnification levels of telephoto lenses, it is vital to avoid lens blur. The longer the lens, the worse the blur can be, and the weight of these lenses only compounds the problem. So how do we deal with it? Shutter Speed – A sufficiently fast shutter speed helps prevent camera shake. To determine how fast is fast enough, correlate your shutter speed with your focal length. On a full frame camera, a 200mm lens will require a shutter speed of at least 1/200. On a crop sensor camera, multiply the focal length by the camera’s crop factor. So, for a camera with a crop factor of 1.6, your shutter speed for a 200mm lens should be at least 1/320. Image Stabilization – Many telephoto lenses are equipped with image stabilization technology that is designed to detect and counteract lens shake. All you have to do is flip a switch. Tripod – The classic solution for getting sharp images, make sure your tripod and tripod head are well-built and can withstand the weight of your camera/lens combo. If your lens has image stabilization, turn it off while using a tripod. Shutter Release – Even while a camera is mounted on a tripod, you will introduce movement to your setup by pressing the shutter. To avoid this, use a shutter release cable. There are also wireless shutter release options. If neither of these is available, use your camera’s timer function. Mirror Lock Up – A shutter release will eliminate vibration created by physically touching the camera, but there will still be mechanical vibration caused by the camera itself when the shutter is triggered and the mirror flips. Use your camera’s mirror lock-up feature to prevent this final source of potential movement. Mirror lock-up is a two phase process: trigger the shutter once to flip the mirror up, then again to engage the shutter. Continue to use good composition technique . Telephoto lenses are the ideal tool for getting close to your subjects, but be sure to not let your lens — especially if it’s a zoom lens — make you a lazy photographer. Flattering angles and interesting compositions still count!  Don’t let the lens do all the work. You’re still in charge of the creative process. When reading through all things a telephoto lens is good for, you should come to realize that your lens is just a tool. Use it to its full potential.   Author information Jason D. Little Jason Little is a photographer (shooting macros, portraits, candids, and the occasional landscape), part time writer, and full time lover of music. You can see Jason’s photography on his photography blog or on Flickr . Twitter Facebook Blog Flickr The post Getting the Most Out of a Telephoto Lens With 8 Useful Tips appeared first on Light Stalking .

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Getting the Most Out of a Telephoto Lens With 8 Useful Tips

5 Reasons Why Image Noise is Your Friend


Amazing low light capabilities, or so the marketing screams. It seems the mantra of every camera manufacturer these days – the total elimination of image noise. It is virtually impossible to find noise in a well exposed image that is shot on an ISO of 1600 or less. But is this necessarily a good thing? Some of the greatest images the world has ever seen have significant noise in them. If Capa, Bresson or McCullen had obsessed over noise, the world would be a poorer place photographically. Of course in the days of film it was not called noise. Its commonly used name was grain and perhaps in this modern digital age it would be better to call digital noise grain, to help eliminate some of the negativity surrounding it. What is Grain or Digital Noise? In the pre-digital days, to make a film with a faster ISO, you needed to have bigger particles of silver oxide. As you enlarged a negative from a high ISO film, these particles became more apparent in the print, looking like “grain”. With digital sensors, it’s a little different. As we increase the ISO of our camera, we boost the power to the sensor. This in turn causes greater electrical interference between pixels and hence the engineers term “noise”. To a seasoned photographer, it can still look like grain. The other difference that a digital sensor gives us is that there is two types of grain – luminance and chroma. Chroma noise manifests itself as variations in color whereas luminance noise is restricted only to tone and hence is most like the film grain of old. Whilst it is virtually impossible to determine which type of noise we will get in an image, we can work with both. A quick google search with reveal thousands of articles on how and why you should eliminate noise but very few that suggest noise is good. Lets have a look at some reasons not to be obsessed by noise or grain. A classic film grain. Image by Tyler Allen on Flickr 1. Getting the Shot The reason so many of the great pictures of the past exist is because the photographers had high ISO film that could get the shot in difficult conditions. Imagine an amazing scene unfolding in front of you, the light is low and tricky, do you think to yourself, I wish I had brought a tripod to get this shot or you max out the ISO and just shoot. Do the later, you might get that great award winning shot. Do the former and you might regret it. Sometimes you just need to get the shot. Image by Mike Baird on Flickr 2. Capturing Gritty Realism Film grain has often been used to convey a gritty realism, particularly in documentary photography. There is no reason at all why we cannot use grain to portray emotions in our shots – be it a shot of a homeless person on the streets or a scene of urban decay. The grain in the image conveys to our minds the reality of the situation. 3. Maintaining Sharpness In some respects, this goes along with getting the shot. Most cameras apply noise reduction to their jpg shots. This can be set to varying degrees but all have the same effect, they smooth over the image noise, reducing overall sharpness and in extreme cases, making the image look almost like molten plastic. Switch off that noise reduction or shoot Raw and enjoy the sharpness of a high ISO image. Noisy but sharp. Image by Stuart Richards on Flickr 4. Shooting Realistic Portraits It might seem odd that in an era when everyone wants to take the sharpest, high quality portraits possible that we would suggest grain or noise in a portrait. However, you could argue that the very perfection that portrait photography strives to achieve, never exists in their actual subjects. Rather than concentrate on that perfection, why not show the blemishes, the wrinkles and combine it with some noise or grain to give a sense of reality to that person. Realistic portraiture. Image by Anna Gutermuth on Flickr 5. Photographing Stormy, Black and White Landscapes Tired of the plethora of over saturated HDR landscapes that seem to be everywhere you look these days? Why not buck the trend and shoot some grainy black and white landscapes. Stormy skies, bare winter trees, snow and ice all lend themselves to the grainy landscape look, a look that will make your shots stand out from the rest. Grainy Black and White landscape. Image by Robert Pittman  on Flickr It seems that the elimination of noise in modern photography is almost a metaphor for modern day life itself. We are constantly striving for a perfection that can never exist. There is no perfect camera, there is no perfect subject and there is no perfect photograph. By realizing this and embracing the imperfections, we can free ourselves from the shackles of perfectionism and create images that truly show how wonderful the world, with all it’s imperfections, can be. And one of those imperfections can be noise. Author information Jason Row Jason Row is a British born travel photographer now living in Ukraine. You can follow him on The Odessa Files . He also maintains a blog chronicling his exploits as an Expat in the former Soviet Union . Facebook Google+ Blog Flickr The post 5 Reasons Why Image Noise is Your Friend appeared first on Light Stalking .

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5 Reasons Why Image Noise is Your Friend

Finding and Achieving Your Style in Lightroom


There are so many options for processing photos in Lightroom that it’s no surprise that some photographers get confused. If you’re finding it difficult to decide what to do with your images (in the post-processing sense) you’re not alone. The key is to think about what you want to achieve with your processing. That’s not always easy, but you may find it useful to start by thinking about the following aspects. Your answers will help determine the approach you take. Colour Do you want a bright, colourful image or a desaturated one? Perhaps you’d even like to work in black and white. If you are working in colour do you want the colour to be accurate, or your photo to be predominantly warm or cool toned? The decisions you make about colour will have a big impact on the direction you take once you get to the Develop module in Lightroom. Tonal values Do you want a light image, or a dark one? High contrast or low contrast? Some of this will be determined when you take the photo. For instance, if you decide you want to create a portrait with a dark background, then ideally you would make sure that the background is dark in the first place. But, there are ways of making backgrounds darker that mean you can change the look of a photo quite dramatically in Lightroom if you wish. There’s an example of that later, keep reading. General feel Do you want your photo to be conservative or edgy? Modern or maybe nostalgic, vintage or retro? These concepts may feel a little hard to pin down, but again they will help determine the path you take in Lightroom. If you want to create an image with a nostalgic feel, then how does that affect your approach to colour? Or to contrast? How would it be different if you decided to go for a modern look instead? Portraits With photos of people, do you want them to look stylized or natural? Are you interesting in capturing character or beauty? Or maybe even both? Do you want your subjects to be sexy or sensual, or asexual? Do you want them to be casual or fashionable? Again, some of these concepts are somewhat airy, but thinking about them will help you work out what approach to take in Lightroom. Please note that you don’t have to think about all of these aspects. For most most photos, you will probably only have to consider two or three . Here are some examples: Example 1: Portrait with dark background The inspiration for this approach came from looking at the work of photographers like Tom Hoops , who use dark backgrounds to great effect in their portraits. The first example is a portrait I took of a girl standing in the doorway of a concrete bunker. The light is coming from her left. One side of the photo is already dark, so I decided to reduce the brightness of the other side to match. I used a Graduated Filter to darken the concrete wall, and an Adjustment Brush to make the model’s hair darker. Here’s the result. Possible alternative B&W The logical extension of this thought process is to convert the image to black and white and make the background even darker. I also increased Contrast in the Basic panel and applied Clarity to the model’s eyes with an Adjustment Brush to make them stand out more. Example 2: Nostalgic colour I took this close-up photo in a market in Shanghai, China. There are two thoughts that occur to me here. First, that the two Buddha heads have beautiful textures that I’d like to emphasize. Second, that I’d like to give the image a nostalgic feel. To achieve the nostalgic look, I used the Temp slider to make the photo warmer, and reduced the saturation of the colours with the Vibrance and Saturation sliders. I increased Clarity and Contrast to bring out the texture, and added a vignette using the Radial Filter . The dark shadows this creates add a sense of mystery. Possible alternative add a plugin How about seeing how far I can push the idea of bringing out the texture and reducing colour saturation? Nik Software’s Viveza2 has some excellent tools for this. See the resulting image below. Example 3: Long exposure landscape Finally, here’s a landscape that I took one evening using a shutter speed of 30 seconds . The light is flat and dull, and there is a strong blue colour cast. One option here is to emphasize the late hour and natural blue colour of the light. But I decided to take a different approach and that I wanted to create an image with warm tones. I did this by pushing the Temp slider to the right. Then I increased Contrast to compensate for the flat light and reduced Highlights to bring back some of the subtle detail in the sky. I added Clarity to the rock arch with the Adjustment Brush to emphasize it as the focal point. Possible alternative dark monochrome A darker, monochrome version with a blue tone to evoke the atmosphere of the blue hour when the photo was taken. I applied more Clarity to the rock arch, beach and water to enhance the texture and contrast in these areas, then added a vignette with the Radial Filter .  So as you can see there are many approaches to processing your images in Lightroom. Try different techniques and styles on the same image and you’ll start to learn which ones appeal to you most and are more your “style”.   You can also create as many “Virtual Copies” of your image as you want and apply a different style to each for easy comparison.   You can even save them as a Lightroom Preset if it’s a look you think you may want to use often. What is your approach to processing images in Lightroom ? If you have any tips for our readers then please leave them in the comments. Mastering Lightroom: Book One and Two My  Mastering Lightroom ebooks  are a complete guide to using Lightroom’s Library and Develop modules. Written for Lightroom 4 & 5 they take you through every panel in both modules and show you how to import and organise your images, use Collections and creatively edit your photos.   The post Finding and Achieving Your Style in Lightroom by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School .

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Finding and Achieving Your Style in Lightroom