Weekly Photography Challenge – Backlighting

25 Nov

Light is the key to photography – without it, we’d be pretty hard pressed to make any images at all. They are also many kinds of light – hard light, soft light, front light, side light, overhead lighting and one that I use often to add more drama to my images – backlighting.

Backlighting can be used to create dramatic shadows.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Backlighting

This one is pretty straightforward. Find a subject where the light is behind them – voila you have backlighting. While that part is easy, make sure you get a good exposure. If you want a silhouette, underexpose the subject a little. If you want the subject properly exposed you might want to increase exposure a little.

Here are some tips and ideas:

  • Using Backlight in Nature Photography
  • Three Types of Light: Diffused, Backlight and Reflected – What are They and When to use Them
  • How to Create Backlight or Hairlight outdoors with Natural Light
  • Rediscovering Backlit Subjects

Foliage and flowers make great subjects for backlighting.

More use of shadows and backlighting.

Any translucent objects look great with backlighting – it enhances their colors.

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge. Sometimes it takes a while for an image to appear so be patient and try not to post the same image twice.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

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

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Backlighting by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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TIME calls Sony a7R III ‘one of the best mirrorless cameras ever made’

25 Nov

When we finished our full review of the impressive Sony a7R III, we wrapped it up with a conclusion that started:

The sheer capability of the Sony a7R III is hard to overstate […] Like the Nikon D850, the a7R III is a camera that you can shoot just about anything with, from landscapes to fast action.

But it seems we weren’t the only ones blown away by Sony’s newest flagship mirrorless full-frame camera, because TIME just named it one of its Top 10 Gadgets of 2017, and crowned it “one of the best mirrorless cameras ever made.”

TIME’s Top 10 this year included everything from the DJI Spark to the iPhone X, but the Sony a7R III has the distinction of being the only true-blue camera to make the list. Combine this with the fact that demand for the camera is so high Sony Japan had to issue an apology about pre-order delays, and you see why the Sony shares the top spot in our over $ 2,000 category for 2017.

To learn more about the Sony a7R III, why people are lavishing the camera with such praise, and what its weaknesses are despite this praise, check out our full review below:

Sony a7RIII Review

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What is Flash High-Speed Sync and Why Do You Need it?

24 Nov

Using flash is already complicated enough, but adding in a fast shutter speed makes it even harder. In these two videos, you will learn about your camera’s flash sync speed and why it’s limited. Then you’ll see what you can do to solve it and use faster shutter speeds using something called high-speed sync.

Flash sync speed and high-speed sync explained

In this first video, Matt Granger explains the mechanics of what is going on inside your camera and why it has a maximum flash sync speed. With the use of some great slow-mo clips, you will see inside the camera to learn exactly what happens when you press the button.

High-speed sync in action on location

In this next video, J.P. Morgan from The Slanted Lens will walk you through exactly what high-speed sync is and why it’s needed. You’ll learn how your camera shutter works and why your camera sync-speed won’t let you use fast shutter speeds with flash without high-speed sync (often referred to as, HSS).

He is using the some of following gear:

  • Dynalite Baja B4 battery powered strobe
  • SpiderPro camera holster
  • A medium-sized softbox 
  • Tamron’s 15-30mm lens

Conclusion and more learning

If you need more help using your flash check out these dPS articles:

  • How to Understand the Difference Between TTL Versus Manual Flash Modes
  • 4 Beginner Tips for Creating Dramatic Portraits with One Flash
  • Why Off-Camera Flash Isn’t as Scary as You Think
  • Flash Shopping Guide – Things to Consider When Buying a Speedlight
  • How to Use Your On-Camera Speedlight to do Bounce Flash Effectively
  • 9 Steps to Get Over Your Fear of Off-Camera Flash

The post What is Flash High-Speed Sync and Why Do You Need it? by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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LG V30 camera review

24 Nov

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The LG V30 is the Korean manufacturer’s latest flagship smartphone and offers a dual-camera setup that combines a main camera with a 71-degree angle of view with a secondary 120-degree super-wide angle lens. On the main camera, a Sony IMX 351 1/3.1″ sensor is coupled with a very fast F1.6 lens.

The super-wide-angle lens, by contrast, comes with a smaller Samsung sensor that features a 13MP resolution and 1.0um pixel size. There is an F1.9 aperture but no OIS, which is easier to live without on a super-wide-angle anyhow.

The V30 sets itself apart from the competition with a comprehensive video mode that provides manual control over shutter speed and sound recording levels, among many other parameters. You can also choose from 15 new Cine Effect color presets that are based on film genres and the Point Zoom mode allows for stable zooming into a target in the frame rather than the center.

Images and videos can be viewed on the phone’s 6″ QHD+ OLED HDR FullVision display with a 18:9 aspect ratio that occupies almost the entire front of the device’s dust and water sealed metal body. Read on to find out how the V30’s impressive specs translate into real-life camera performance.

Key Photographic / Video Specifications

  • Dual-camera with 70 degree main camera and 120 degree super wide angle
  • Main camera: 16MP 1/3.1″ Sony IMX351 CMOS sensor, F1.6 aperture, OIS
  • Super-wide-angle: 13MP Samsung sensor with 1.0um pixel size, F1.9 aperture
  • 4K video
  • 720p slow-motion at 120 fps
  • Manual photo and video control
  • 5MP F2.2 front camera

Other Specifications

  • 6″ QHD+ (1440 x 2880) OLED FullVision display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset
  • 64/128GB storage, 4GB RAM
  • microSD card slot
  • 3,300mAh battery with quick charging

DPReview smartphone reviews are written with the needs of photographers in mind. We focus on camera features, performance, and image quality.

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Top 10 sample galleries of the year #1: the Nikon D850

24 Nov

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As 2017 winds down, we’re counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of the year. Finally, we’ve made it to the top spot. With images viewed nearly 3 million times and counting, by far our most popular gallery of the year belongs to the Nikon D850.

This is another gold award winning product and staff favorite. DPR staffer Carey Rose feels strongly that it ‘could be the only DSLR you’ll ever need,’ and a quick peek through our sample gallery should prove why. After all, it’s got 45.7MP of resolution, a capable autofocus system, fast burst shooting and offers great image quality under almost any situation.

That’s it for 2017, see our full list of top galleries below. And happy shooting!

Top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017:

#10: Sigma 14mm F1.8 Art
#9: Fujifilm GFX 50S
#8: Nikon D7500
#7: Olympus Tough TG-5
#6: Sigma 85mm F1.4
#5: Fujifilm X-T20
#4: Leica M10
#3: Fujifilm X100F
#2: Sony Alpha a9
#1: Nikon D850

Articles: Digital Photography Review (


The 19 Most Popular DSLRs Among our Readers

24 Nov

Every few months we like to report back to the dPS community which cameras (and other gear) are most popular with our readers. Today we’re going to take a look at the highest selling DSLRs among our readers over the last 4 months (as ranked by the reports that Amazon gives us*).

popular dslrs

As usual you’ll see it is largely a battle between Canon and Nikon (who dominate this class of camera) and that at the top of the list we see entry level DSLRS most popular (mainly due to their price). Further down the list we see more serious (and expensive) contenders.

1. Canon EOS Rebel T6i


2. Nikon D750

Nikon D750 popular dslr

3. Nikon D850

Nikon D850 popular dslr

4. Nikon D3400

Nikon D3400 popular dslr

5. Canon EOS 6D Mark II

Canon 6D Mark III

6. Canon EOS Rebel T5


7. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV popular dslr

8. Nikon D5500

Nikon D5500 popular dslr

9. Canon EOS 80D

Canon 80D DSLR Popular

10. Nikon D5300

Nikon D5300 DSLR Popular

And here are the next 9 most popular DSLRs.

  1. Canon EOS Rebel T7i
  2. Canon EOS Rebel T5i
  3. Nikon D5600
  4. Canon EOS 77D
  5. Nikon D7200
  6. Canon EOS Rebel SL2
  7. Nikon D500
  8. Canon EOS 6D
  9. Nikon D3300

Updated 23 November 2017

*Note: this list was compiled from reports supplied to us from where we are affiliates. One of the ways dPS is able to cover its costs and be a sustainable business is that we earn a small commission when readers make a purchase from Amazon after clicking on our links (including those above). While no personal details are passed on we do get an overall report from Amazon about what was bought and are able to create this list.

The post The 19 Most Popular DSLRs Among our Readers by Darren Rowse appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Throwback Thursday: the ups and downs of running DCResource

24 Nov

My friends would (hopefully) say that I’m not one to toot my own horn, but since this weekend marks the 20th anniversary of my foray into the world of digital photography websites, I’m taking the liberty. Over Thanksgiving weekend in 1997 I founded the Digital Camera Resource Page, aka DCResource. The site is no longer updated (that probably wouldn’t go over well with my current employer), so it remains as a sort of time capsule to days past.

In this Throwback Thursday I’m going to share my story of how I stumbled into the world of digital photography and the rollercoaster ride that followed.

I’m fortunate to have been an early adopter of many technologies. Prior to my first year of college I spent a summer working in a research lab at UC San Francisco, where we had a computer connected to this Internet thing. On it were copies of NCSA Mosaic 0.86, TurboGopher and Eudora (for e-mail). When I started college at UC San Diego in Fall of 1994 I was selected to test out a “cable modem,” which back then was larger than a VCR and had a five figure price tag. Goodbye 28.8kbps dial-up, hello sort-of-high-speed Internet.

The combination of three different thing resulted in the creation of DCResource. First and foremost, thanks to my job at the UCSD Bookstore, I was able to get my hands on early consumer cameras from Kodak, Apple and Casio that were up for sale. Second, I had already dipped my feet into running my own website, in the form of PowerWatch, which covered Mac ‘clones’ made by Power Computing, which (after the return of Steve Jobs) eventually closed down. Using the successful model of PowerWatch and noticing the lack of any sites covering digital cameras, in November 1997, in my college dorm, the Digital Camera Resource Page was born.

The original site design by Delane Barrus, who was involved in the website for the first few years.

The goal of DCResource wasn’t to be the most technical site out there (Imaging Resource and DPReview would arrive a year later to handle that), but to be the most accessible to the average person. Even now, I still get feedback from folks who thought that the site succeeded at doing that.

The early years of DCResource were pretty busy, with more and more companies entering the market with their plasticky, VGA-resolution cameras. In addition to the big names, companies such as Agfa, Sanyo, Sharp and Toshiba were all in the market at the time. If you ever owned any of those, consider yourself old. At the time, your camera either used SmartMedia (ugh), CompactFlash or floppy disk. I wrote about new ‘4X’ speed CF cards and troubles getting the FlashPath SmartMedia-to-floppy adapter to work on Macs.

Back then there was no content management system to hold reviews, so everything sat in static HTML files. Users e-mailed their camera reviews to me, which were often cross-posted on on Usenet.

In the first couple of years it felt like the site just wasn’t taking off. I considered closing it down, but kept it going, working on it in my spare time in and after college. As people started to gravitate away from film and toward digital, I realized that I was just a little early.

The purple version of DCResource launched in 2000. I made a mobile version of the site around then, designed for Palm VII PDAs. I still think that’s pretty awesome.

When it came to camera reviews, I quickly established a standard that lasted for the entire life of the site. Besides being accessible, I wanted to be as consistent as possible. The layout was always the same: intro, what’s in the box, software, look & feel, how many photos fit on a memory card, menu options, photo tests and conclusion. (I always use the term ‘tests’ loosely, since there was never any DPReview-level science involved.)

In every sample gallery I included the same set of photos taken in SF’s Chinatown as well as at Stanford University about 40 minutes to the south. I’d take out groups of cameras at a time (my record was 10 at once) since the weather in SF is so unpredictable. I’d do my best to arrive at the same time on each visit.

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Around 2001, I realized that keeping my site open was a good idea. Digital cameras were selling, and traffic was going up. I finally had good access to cameras to review, and back then, you could have a full review published on launch day. In the early days, it felt like the cameras manufacturers needed websites like mine (and others) a lot more than they do now. I quit my day job and started to run DCResource full-time.

The year 2004 was the beginning of what I (and probably many of my peers) called the glory days. Technology moved so quickly that some photographers were upgrading cameras every year, and that’s in addition to first-time buyers. Business was booming.

You know what they say about ‘all good things,’ right?

Unique visitors over time, minus the actual data. Traffic peaked during the 2006 holidays.

On June 29th, 2007, consumer digital photography changed forever. That’s when the original iPhone was announced, and for most of us in the publishing world, it was all downhill from there, though I didn’t know it at the time. Manufacturers didn’t either, because in January 2008 they collectively released 80 cameras at CES, again, most of them being compacts, with little to differentiate them. They still hadn’t gotten the memo a year later, with 75 cameras announced.

While DCResource’s traffic was slowly slipping, it didn’t really hit home until after the 2009 holiday season, when I saw that my unique visitors were 60% of what they had been two years prior. It wasn’t panic time yet – I kept going without worrying too much about it, because as long as I was still making a good living, everything would be fine…

The ‘orange’ version of the DCRP website launched in 2004. I still think it looks great today.

2011 was panic time. The time to sell the site for anything except peanuts had long since passed (DPReview was acquired by Amazon four years earlier), and regret set in. I remember thinking “if only I had hired a salesperson while times were good,” – not that it would’ve made a difference at that point. While I still took most of my photos with my DSLRs, I was reaching for my smartphone more and more often.

The next year, manufacturers announced 55 cameras at CES. The problem was, nobody was buying them, and since DCResource leaned toward the consumer end of the spectrum, it was starting to hurt. I starting tapping into my savings (gotta pay the mortgage) so it became obvious that it was time to get back into the workforce and resume running my website on the side. While Silicon Valley had tons of tech companies to choose from, running a digital camera website for almost 15 years was an unusual thing to have on your resume.

The sheer ridiculousness of the number of point-and-shoot cameras on the market inspired me to make a family tree of Canon’s ELPH ultra-compacts.

Around that time I was in touch with none other than Simon Joinson, who, along with Phil Askey, I’d known for several years as friendly competitors. Simon had expressed an interest in adding me to the DPReview team for a while, which was both a good opportunity for me and an excuse to move to Seattle, one of my favorite cities. Later that year, I accepted a position at DPReview, took a 3+ week trip to South America and Antarctica, and then drove myself and two partially sedated cats to Seattle. Since then, my brain has been stuffed with technical details (thanks Rishi and Richard), and my photography has improved as well (my old ‘work’ now makes me cringe).

Naturally, I feel very fortunate for the opportunity that I had to leave the corporate world behind and build one of the original, and for a time one of the biggest photography websites from the ground up, almost entirely on my own. Sure, in retrospect I would’ve done a few things differently, but it was a good ride while it lasted.

As 2017 comes to an end, I’m concerned that smartphones are following the same path as compact digital cameras, since they’re so good now that there’s less need to upgrade every year. That said, there is still a lot of innovation in this space, and smartphone photography is a lot more advanced than it was just a few years ago. While I don’t know (yet) whether computational photography is the next big thing, I’m strapped in – ready for another ride.

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How to Use the Background to Create More Storytelling Images

24 Nov

Sometimes you’re so focused on capturing the moment that you forget to pay attention to what’s in the background of your photo. When you look at your photos later, you realize that there are all sorts of distractions in the background. One way to overcome these distractions is to use the background to help with storytelling in your photo.

Even though “the moment” is likely the most important part of your photo, good moments always happen in a place. Use the background to show where your moment or story takes place.

Think of People as Characters

The first thing I recommend is thinking of the people in your photo as characters. When you’re going to take a picture of somebody ask, “Who is this character and what are they doing?” When you answer these questions you’ll be able to choose a good background to help tell that story.

Storytelling background 15

This is a photo of my son. I wasn’t thinking of him merely as my son, but rather as a “hiker.” Thinking of him as a hiker helped me choose a background that portrayed the story of a hiker.

Two Ways to Choose a Background

There are two ways to choose a background for your photo.

  1. You can begin with your character and then choose the right background for them.
  2. Or, you can begin with a good background and then look for a character to put into the scene.

Finding a Background that Matches Your Character

Keep in mind the two questions to ask yourself; “Who is this character and what are they doing?”

In this photo, the character is my infant son and he is sleeping in a carrier on my wife’s back. It’s a cute picture, but there is no way to tell from the background where we were when this took place.

Storytelling background 01

This is a nice photo, but the background doesn’t add to the story.

We were on a camping trip and I knew I wanted a collection of photos that would show that. So I repositioned myself to find a better perspective and show the camp trailer in the background. This added a sense of place to the photo.

Storytelling background 02

The camp trailer in the background adds context to the photo of the sleeping infant.

Later on that summer it came time to chop wood for the winter. My little guy wanted to help daddy!

Naturally, I wanted a photo of him trying to chop wood. Depending on the perspective I chose there could have been trees, water, or a wood pile in the background. Since this is a photo about chopping wood, I chose to have the woodpile in the background.

There is even some wood in the foreground, reminding me of what a big job we had that summer!

Storytelling background 03

The huge pile of wood is a natural background for the little wood chopper. Plus it emphasizes how small he is comparatively.

Next time you’re about to snap a photo of somebody, stop and consider your background. Can you move around in order to get a good background to help with storytelling?

Finding a Character to Fit the Background

There may be times when you want to photograph an interesting scene but feel that there is something missing. Perhaps it is the character that is missing. When you come across an interesting scene, go ahead and photograph it. But also wait and allow that scene to become a background for some interesting characters.

When we visited Halls Harbour in Nova Scotia, the rugged shoreline was an obvious feature to photograph. I experimented with different angles and perspectives, but I knew I needed some good characters in the scene. Finally, a couple with their dog came walking down the shoreline. When the man began skipping stones out into the water I knew that these were the characters I was awaiting.

Storytelling background 04

These people and their dog were the perfect additions to the rugged shoreline.

Instead of just a photo of a beautiful landscape, this has become a story about a family on an adventure. To me, skipping stones into the water is a nostalgic sort of moment, so I decided this story looked best in black and white.

Make a story

When the tide was low we could walk out into the harbor amongst the ships that were now resting on the ground. Again, this was an interesting scene that just seemed to be missing a character. Then my son came tip-toeing through the mud and became the perfect character to fit the scene.

Storytelling background 05

When I let my imagination carry me away, I pretend that my son has pulled the plug in the harbor and all the water has drained out. He better sneak away before he gets caught!

Using framing

On a trip to Niagara Falls, we ducked into a building to get some relief from the cold wind and mist from the falls. Through the windows, we could see the falls and a rainbow that was produced through the mist. I wanted to take a photo but waited until my kids went and stood in the window. This allows the falls and rainbow to make up the background while my kids are the characters in the scene.

Storytelling background 06

The characters in the foreground allow the viewer’s attention to be drawn to the falls and rainbow in the background.

Plan ahead

In these next two examples, I used our house as a background for the photo. We were getting ready to move in the spring and I knew we needed a few more photos, by which to remember this old house. So I was determined to use our house as a setting and photograph more scenes with it in the background.

That winter, we built a snow hill nearly as tall as the house itself. That was a perfect opportunity to photograph an exciting event with our home in the background.

Storytelling background 07

A low angle helped to capture this epic moment right in our front yard. The snow hill towers in front of the house in the background.

Storytelling background 08

Our kids will always remember their first childhood home (and the fun they had there) when they look back on these photos.

Next time you come across a nice scene, go ahead and photograph the scene by itself. Once you have done this, you can look for a character to add to the scene, allowing it to become a background for their story. This is a perfect approach for both landscape and street photography. Choose the background and then wait for the character to come along.

Symbolic Backgrounds

So far, all of the backgrounds in these photos have been literal scenes. But you can use a background to give your story some symbolic meaning as well. You do this by finding a background that makes you think deeper than the literal object itself. For example, a sunset in the background isn’t just about the sun, perhaps it’s about “romance” or “a happy ending.”

In this example, my wife is tying up vines in a vineyard. This is a job that needs to be done in the spring before any green actually appears on the vines. There really wasn’t anything nice near her to use as a background, except golden light from the setting sun.

To me, vineyards are about long days of outdoor work, and the romance of shared wine. The warm setting sun was the perfect symbolic background to express these feelings.

Storytelling background 09

The golden sun in the background of this photo is symbolic of the day’s end, and the romance of wine and vineyards.

When you’re photographing a character doing something interesting, ask yourself if there is anything in the background that adds symbolic meaning to what they’re doing.

I have lots of photos of my kids reading books. The following photo is an example of a very boring background that does not help to tell a story.

Storytelling background 10

This background is distracting. The bed leg is growing out of their shoulders and pulls our attention away from what the kids are doing.

You can come up with some great backgrounds for people reading books. A library or a coffee shop would be two good choices for your background. But these are obvious choices and perhaps you could choose a symbolic background instead. Think about the nature of reading and how a person grows as they learn.

Storytelling background 11

This is exactly the sort of place that many people would sit and read a book. There is something about old leather chairs that invite you to nestle in and read. Behind the chair is a wood grain wall. Wood is something that grows. Wood is symbolic of the “growth” that happens when a child learns and reads.

Keep your eye open for backgrounds that are symbolic of the story you want to tell.

Using the Background to Tell a Story in Multiple Photos

When you find a good background, go ahead and use it in different ways to expand on your story.

The following photos are all from Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick. Every tourist who has ever been there, walks away with the same photos from the same perspectives, so I challenged myself to come away with something different. I wanted photos of the rocks, so I used them as the background for the scene and then waited for interesting characters to come along.

The first thing I noticed was lots of tourists rushing around snapping pictures of the rocks. They were always getting in the way of the photo I was taking, so I gave up and took pictures of them instead.

Storytelling background 12

I like how this tourist blends into the rocks. As they reached out their arms to take a photo, their arms mimicked the circle shapes in the rocks.

Two-year-olds are notoriously difficult to photograph. I wanted to take a photo of my daughter with the rocks in the background. But all she wanted to do was chew on saltwater stones. She had been doing this on our entire trip. We were constantly telling her to get the rocks out of her mouth.

Storytelling background 13

If you’re going to photograph a two-year-old, you might just as well photograph her doing what she loves. And what better background for her photo than the massive rocks?

The tide was rising quickly and would soon cover the massive rock formations. In our last moments there something spectacular happened. A park ranger made his own rock formation by balancing several odd shaped rocks on each other.

Storytelling background 14

What a contrast between the massive Hopewell Rocks and the man-made formation. The force of the tide eroded one set of rocks over a long period of time and will quickly topple the rocks that have been so carefully balanced by the ranger.

When you stick with a scene long enough wonderful things happen and your mind will find symbolic meaning that you otherwise might have missed.

You’ll Enjoy Your Photos More When Your Background Adds to the Story

Don’t let your backgrounds be a disappointing afterthought. Instead, consider how the background in your photo can add storytelling elements to your character.

Remember the steps:

  • When you’re going to take a picture of somebody, first ask yourself, “Who is this character and what are they doing?” When you answer these questions you’ll be able to choose a good background for storytelling.
  • You can choose a background for your character, or find a good background and wait for the perfect character to come along.
  • Try using backgrounds to give symbolic meaning to your photos.
  • Use the background in different ways over several photos.

When you pay attention to the background your photos will become less sloppy and more meaningful. Please share some of your images with storytelling backgrounds in the comments below.

The post How to Use the Background to Create More Storytelling Images by Mat Coker appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Why Lightroom Keywords and Star Ratings are Important for Your Photography Workflow

23 Nov

Lightroom has long been the “go-to” program for organizing images and has come into its own as an editing powerhouse as well. If you haven’t been using Lightroom for organizing your images, you are missing a big part of the digital photography pie. The secret to your organization success in Lightroom is using keywords and star ratings effectively.

Why Lightroom KeyWords and Star Ratings are Important for Your Photography Workflow

That doesn’t mean that you need to keyword every last image you import into Lightroom. But you can label batches of images and then eventually cull down the keywords to easily find your best images. With over 30,000 images in my Lightroom catalog, I’m pretty happy about being able to find an image in a matter of seconds with the use of this simple system. It’s well-suited for beginners and combines keywords and star ratings.

Set up a consistent naming system for your folders and images

For example, a file name could be; “Iceland_2015_03”.

Many people name their folders by date or location. I prefer location, then date, as it’s much easier for me to remember that way. Whatever naming system you use, just be sure that it’s consistent, and makes sense to you. If you decide “Location_Year_Month” is the best way for you to set it up, make sure that every folder is done the same way.

For example, these folder titles could fall into the Iceland_2015_03 category. Don’t make the mistake of creating random titles like this: Winter 2015, Iceland 2015, Iceland March 2015, Reykjavik 03_2015.

When you first import your images into Lightroom, you can rename the whole set of images, or rename them after import. It is much faster and easier to rename them upon import. Follow the import prompts and enter as much information as you can when you first are bringing images into Lightroom. It will save you loads of time later on.

keywords upon Lightroom Import - Why Lightroom Keywords and Star Ratings are Important for Your Photography Workflow

I usually keep the original file number of the image assigned in-camera and then add the location or another identifying label to the front end of the name. You can batch rename and keyword a series of images in the import module. You don’t have to keyword each image individually, but keyword in batches to make it easier.

My other secret tool is the star rating tool. When the images are first imported, I cull through the images quickly and add a one-star rating to the images that I would like to come back and edit. At this point, I don’t try and add any more stars than just a simple one-star.

Use the Paint Can Tool in Develop

Another easy way to add ratings to an image after import is to use the “Paint Can tool”. With this tool, you can set a parameter (like a star rating, keyword, or set of keywords) to “spray” on to an image or a collection of images. If you would like to “spray” a star to your favorite images, this is a fast way to do it.

The Paint Can tool is located on the bottom left of the grid view and it looks like a spray can. Click on it and you will see a selective panel, choose “rating”. After you select “rating”, on the right side of that panel is a series of dots. Click on one of those dots, and it will turn into a star.

Why Lightroom KeyWords and Star Ratings are Important for Your Photography Workflow

Paint Can Tool

Then you can quickly go through your images in the grid view and “spray” a one-star rating on all of the images that you like. At this point, don’t apply any more than a rating.

If something really merits a better star rating, go back and review the images again. Once you do your second pass of the images, set the spray can to a 2-star rating. Then repeat the same method for those images that you might like to go in and apply Lightroom adjustments.


You can also use it to paint in a color label, flat, metadata or any of these things.

Reserve the 3-star ratings for those images that you might use for an article or blog post and the 4-star ratings are only reserved for the best of the best which you would put in your portfolio. Keep your star ratings consistent, so you know that if an image has a 4-star rating, that it reflects your best work.

Now that you have set up the keywords and star ratings to your images, you have the ability to search or filter images in your catalog. In the Filter Bar in the Grid View, choose the Text option and the drop down box to select keywords, and start entering specific keywords.

Using the Spray Can tool to add metadata

The Spray Can tool can be used for a variety of options to add information to your images. You can “spray” not only star ratings but keywords, metadata information, labels, presets, or assign target collection images.

The next option is to add a series of keywords to your images. We already know that the files you are importing will be from Iceland. Use that as the keyword that applies to all of these images. Then consider where you were on your trip to Iceland. Are your images from the North Coast or the South Coast? Do you have pictures from Reykjavik? Do you have images from Vik? Who is in the images?

The idea here is to start out broad and then narrow your focus. Perhaps your whole shoot is from Iceland. Perhaps another broad category would be winter, ice, or arctic.

Select the Spray Can tool and go to the drop-down menu to the right of the icon. Select “keyword” and enter the word or words you would like to apply. “Spray” your series of images that are from the North Coast and apply that keyword. Change your keyword, and then spray your series of images that are from the South Coast. Continue to narrow down your focus. Then spray just those images from the South Coast that were taken in Vik and so on.

What Keywords Should You Use?

The keywords you should apply will depend on what you would like to use your images for in the future. Are you submitting to a stock agency? Are these images for personal use only? When will you use the images?

The best plan for creating keywords would be to apply basic information that will remind you about the subject, in order to help with locating images later. Start your keywording upon import and use the broadest subject that will apply to all of the images, and then narrow down your keyword focus.

Once you have started to create keywords, Lightroom will suggest keywords that might work with the current set of images in the Keywording panel. The suggested keywords help you to create cohesive words that can be used on multiple sets of images.

Notice at the bottom of the Keywording panel, there is an area with keyword sets. Lightroom automatically gives you some presets to use in this module. Click on the keyword set for “outdoor photography” and see the keywords that are suggested. If there are keywords you would rather use, right-click on the down arrow of the keyword set and you will see the option to “edit set” where you can add and remove words from that set.

The list of keywords from the preset will come up and you can add or subtract those keywords that apply to your images. Then, when you are keywording a certain genre of photography, you can select your keyword set of “outdoor photography” or “portrait photography” and rapidly choose from those sets of keywords. This will also prevent you from creating multiple keywords that mean the same thing. This is useful when you are using specific keywords to search for an image.

Use the Filter Bar to find images

Why Lightroom KeyWords and Star Ratings are Important for Your Photography Workflow

Then you will see Lightroom begin to sort images based on the keywords you entered. You can then add another dimension to the search, and a star rating.

This is when you can go back into your Lightroom catalog of 30,000 pictures to find the 4-star rated image in “Iceland” that has a keyword “Eagle Rock”, and find it in a second. Then you’ll see how great this system works. You can also limit your search to specific folders or collections when those are selected in the left-hand column of the Library Module.

Have you tried to organize your images in Lightroom? What kind of naming system works for you? What kind of challenges are you experiencing? Feel free to share your comments below.

The post Why Lightroom Keywords and Star Ratings are Important for Your Photography Workflow by Holly Higbee-Jansen appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Top 10 sample galleries of the year #2: the Sony Alpha a9

23 Nov

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As 2017 winds down, we’re counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of the year. In the #2 position we have another staff favorite in the Sony Alpha a9. Images in this gallery have been viewed nearly 2 million times, so it seems our readers are as fascinated by this camera as we are.

In fact, we’ve probably written more about the Sony a9 then any other product this year, simply because there was a lot to say (and test)! It got a gold award in our review and we’ve used it to shoot everything from parkour to the Presidents Cup. So peep our gallery and see what this top tier sports camera is capable of. Our parkour gallery is below:

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Top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017:

#10: Sigma 14mm F1.8 Art
#9: Fujifilm GFX 50S
#8: Nikon D7500
#7: Olympus Tough TG-5
#6: Sigma 85mm F1.4
#5: Fujifilm X-T20
#4: Leica M10
#3: Fujifilm X100F
#2: Sony Alpha a9
#1: To be revealed on 11/24

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