Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

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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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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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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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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The 19 Most Popular Compact System and Mirrorless Cameras with Our Readers

23 Nov

Earlier in the week we revealed the DSLRs that were best selling among our readers over the last few months. While DSLRs are still the most popular type of readers among our readers this last quarter has seen a big rise in the number of you using compact system/mirrorless cameras.

popular compact system cameras

In fact if we combined the two lists we’d now see compact system cameras in the top 20 cameras bought by our readers with the Sony Alpha a6000 and the Sony Alpha a7II both making that list.

Also an indication of the growth of sales in the compact system camera class of camera is that today we’re listing 19 of them while last time we created this list we only saw enough sales to justify making it a list of 9 cameras.

Here are the most popular compact system cameras among our readers!

Note: we’ve included cameras with interchangeable lenses and fixed lenses in this list.

This post was last updated 23 November 2017

1. Sony Alpha a6000


2. Panasonic LUMIX G7


3. Sony Alpha a6500


4. Sony a7R III

Note: this camera made the list based purely upon pre-orders – it’s one of the most anticipated mirrorless cameras ever.

sony a7r III

5. Sony a5100


6. Sony Alpha a6300

91SK7Lmn0GL SL1500

7. Fujifilm X-T20


8. Sony Alpha a7II


9. Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G85

81Y920s19 L SL1500

10. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

81Y920s19 L SL1500

That’s our top 10 – here are the next 9 most popular compact camera systems.

  1. Sony a7
  2. Panasonic Lumix GH5
  3. Panasonic Lumix GH4
  4. Sony a7R II
  5. Sony Alpha a7S II
  6. Canon EOS M100
  7. Fujifilm X-Pro2
  8. Fujifilm X-E3
  9. Samsung NX500

*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 Compact System and Mirrorless Cameras with Our Readers by Darren Rowse appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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5 Tips for How to Photograph in Any Kind of Weather

23 Nov

If you live anywhere in the northern hemisphere, you must have realized by now that fall is over and winter is slowly but surely creeping up on us. The days are getting shorter, the leaves are changing color (or gone) and here in Chicago, the rain is your constant companion until it gets replaced by snow!

Now if you are primarily an outdoor natural light photographer, you quickly understand that one of the most challenging aspects of your work is the fact that you are so dependent on the weather. You have very little control over it in spite of what the weather man says!

Photographing landscapes in any weather - fog

The weather can change almost instantly and ruin some of the best-laid plans for photography excursions and photoshoots. One of the best things you can do is to be prepared to photograph in any kind of weather. With these few simple tips and prep-work, you can continue working in the natural outdoor light as opposed to indoor studio light.

#1 – Full Sun / Bright Light

The sun in all its glory is a beautiful light source and can make any subject pop. Regarded by some as the ideal photographing conditions, bright sun can create a scenario where you have beautiful light and the ability to experiment with shadows.

Sure, some people may think that bright light is bad for portraits, but it all comes down to how you use the light. A great tip for photographing in the bright midday sun is taking pictures in open shade. This is when you position your subject in a shady part of the frame that’s closer to the light. You can also use a reflector if needed to bounce light from the sun onto the subject.

Add a fill light

You can also choose to use a flash to light your subject. In a pinch, use a natural reflector like a bright sidewalk or light color building to do the same if a flash or reflector is not handy. When you are photographing landscapes, it is likely that the whole scene is evenly fit. Here you can try exposing for the whole scene or even underexpose a tad in order to not blow out the sky and retain some detail in the clouds.

Of course, if you are photographing in raw these edits can be done in post-processing also.

Photographing portraits in any weather - full sun

This image was taken at the brightest time of day during a visit to the Coliseum in Rome. There was no open shade and I just couldn’t place the subject in any other spot because it was so crowded. Plus the intent of this image was to showcase my daughter in Rome for her class project that was all about ancient Rome. So this is the best I could do given my limitations. You can see the shadows on her face and on her shoulder!

Photographing landscapes in any weather - bright sun

I wanted to capture the essence of the Tuscan countryside – rolling hills, vineyards and tiny villages. There was no real shade or even too many clouds in the sky so I just took this wide angle shot to showcase the expanse of the countryside and the hills that make up the beauty of Tuscany.

#2 – Cloudy / Overcast skies

Photographers love overcast skies. Here the clouds act as a large natural diffuser and spread the light from the sun evenly all over the surface area. Overcast days are known for their diffused light. For some photographers, these are ideal conditions for shooting portraits as your subject will be evenly lit and there are no undesirable shadows or harsh lighting. If you find this type of light too flat and lacking dimension, you can always add an external flash to add some drama to your images.

Photographing in any weather - cloudy skies

The day was cloudy and overcast with rain predicted in the forecast for this family photo shoot. I had to add some warmth in post-production because everyone was looking a little washed out. The positive to the overcast sky is that there were no harsh shadows to deal with.

If you’re shooting landscapes in this type of weather, you will soon realize that a gray sky doesn’t add much to the scene. This is not to say that these types of images are bad. I try and photograph architecture shots with some creative negative space when dealing with overcast skies. I find that this sort of weather is great for bringing focus to the subject alone without any distraction from a blue sky and puffy clouds.

If you want to add some drama to a landscape shot during overcast conditions, perhaps you can wait for some dark, stormy could to roll on in and capture the weather-related drama in your landscape shot.

Photographing landscapes in any weather - cloudy skies

It had just rained in Vrindhavan, India and the dark clouds were slowly moving out. The day was overcast and since I did not have too much time at the banks of the river, I chose to showcase the temple with a reflection in the water to add some interest and drama.

#3 – Rain

A rainy day presents its own challenge in terms of keeping expensive gear and your subject dry and comfortable. You can always use an umbrella to protect your gear and as a creative prop in your portrait shots by simply using it as part of the shoot. As an alternative, look for areas that are shielded from the rain, such as alleyways, tree canopies, building overhangs, and other such elements.

Try taking a wide-angle shot that takes in the area, subject, and the atmosphere to tell your story and make it a little bit more interesting. The biggest challenge you face is the need to protect your gear as well as be creative in your shots. There are many options out there to protect your gear but sometimes just a simple grocery bag over the camera will do the trick!

Photographing landscapes in any weather - rain

Driving through Theodore National Park just after the rain rendered the landscape such a vibrant array of green and yellow.

Photographing portraits in any weather - rain

Photographing in the rain or snow for that matter presents another challenge in that the rain/snow may cause your autofocus to change mid-shoot. A good tip would be to focus on the subject and then lock it. Also, try using a lens hood so no rain/snow falls on the actual lens surface. My feathered friend was either having a bath in the rain or waiting patiently for me to leave so he could get back to his hunting! I lost focus a couple of time but then used the focus lock (or you can use back button focus) and the lens hood to eliminate that problem.

Photographing portraits in any weather - rain

I absolutely love photographing these birds and luckily for me, they come often to the pond behind my house. My lens was well protected but I got drenched during this shoot.

#4 – Fog

I don’t know about you, but the fog is probably my favorite kind of weather in which to photograph. I love the way fog adds an element of mystique and interest without doing much. In technical terms, on a foggy day, the water particles in the air redirect the light rays, spreading them out more evenly. This almost acts like a giant softbox along the area in the fog giving you beautiful diffused light.

Experiment in the fog to find the camera settings that best suit your needs but I have found that foggy conditions require longer exposures than normal since you are essentially dealing with overall less light. You can use a tripod to help reduce any camera shake. Keep in mind that like snow, fog is reflective, and it can fool your camera’s meter into thinking that there’s more light in the scene there actually is. Use exposure compensation just as you would when shooting a snowy landscape and even overexpose by a few stops if needed.

Other considerations

Again, if you photograph in RAW you can always edit to taste in post-processing. But I have found that when your image is underexposed, increasing the exposure in post-production adds noise in the shadows.

Another thing to note is that on foggy days finding focus might be an issue because everything around you is hazy and not quite clear. Here you can use manual focusing if your camera is having trouble focusing on the subject among all the fog.

Photographing landscapes in any weather - fog

Fog adds just the right kind of magic to any landscape in my opinion. I have been known to stop the car, stand in the middle of the road to document landscapes such as these….don’t judge!

bad weather - fog

The best kind of fog is when you have a deserted beach, sea stacks and tiny humans having fun exploring the tidal pools!

#5 – Snow

If you’re taking pictures as it’s snowing, be sure to cover your camera as it is essentially the same as shooting in rain. If you are out and about after it has snowed, keep in mind that the road conditions and walkways can be treacherous.

I have slipped and fallen a couple of times in the snow with my gear and it always makes me very nervous. The worse was when I fell in Yellowstone National Park right before attending a Winter Landscapes workshop. My wide angle lens suffered some damage and I was unable to use it during the class because let’s face it, Yellowstone is in the middle of nowhere so no chance of an urgent repair!

Another thing to ensure is adequate protection for yourself from the elements. Being outside in the snow can get quite uncomfortable especially if you are outdoors for an extended period of time. Make sure you cover your extremities from overexposure to the elements. Hand warmers and foot warmers are great for keeping fingers and toes warm and cozy when out photographing in the cold.

Also, keep in mind that camera batteries tend to drain faster in colder weather, so ensure that you have fully charged spare batteries handy. From a technical standpoint, snow is a very reflective surface, so ensure that your camera is metering effectively and not blowing out the snow if it is part of your frame.

Photographing portraits in any weather - snow

My biggest tip for photographing in the snow – wear layers and thermals. Then the sky is the limit in terms of the amount of fun you can have! I tend to underexpose just a tiny bit so that I don’t lose all detail in the snow.


I hope you have realized by now that mastering photography in any weather conditions really boils down to being prepared and knowing exactly what to expect. Go out and practice in each of these situations so that you know all the things that you need to be aware of. Then the next time the weather gods decide to have a little fun at your expense, you will be well prepared.

Do you have any other tips to help master photography in any weather, feel free to let the community know in the comments section below.

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10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

22 Nov

When I first purchased my tripod it sat unused for several months. In some ways, I was a bit afraid of it, all the effort of having to carry it around and set it up, etc. Would people look at me funny? Was it heavy to carry around? Setting it up properly looked complicated and seemed to take ages. Did I really need one?

How to Learn to Love Your Tripod

After a trip in what turned out to be a low light environment where I wasted a day of travel by coming back with no sharp shots, I bit the bullet and dusted off that tripod. Now it pretty much goes wherever my camera goes and is my go-to accessory in many situations.

Eventually I learned to love my tripod, hopefully, you will too. Some people think having a tripod limits your capabilities. Yes, you do have to carry it, which may limit where you go, or how far you can carry it. But it is my opinion that even with those limitations, the benefits of using a tripod far outway the issues.

Reasons to Love your Tripod

#1 – Slowing Down is a Good Thing

Having to position your tripod, take the time to set up the camera, get the angle and framing right all take time. This means you often need to think about where you will position your gear before you actually do so. Then it means you need to think quite specifically about your composition so you can put your gear in the right place to achieve that.

All this careful consideration gives you time to look at your subject, to really take time and properly see it, to see the possibilities beyond the first initial obvious frame you might take. Taking the time to think about your composition also offers opportunities to be creative and experiment.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod - food shot

An overhead flat still life shot takes a lot of fiddling to get set up correctly.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Camera set up in an overhead position, pointing straight down. Not all tripods allow this movement with the center pole, so check before you purchase.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

An L Plate tripod mount makes it much easier to change between portrait and landscape orientation, but they are an extra cost. Provided your tripod head has drop notches, this is easy to achieve.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

A quick release lever tripod mount is my preferred option. Other choices include screw mounted closures instead. Note the included spirit level.

2 – The Tripod Carries the Weight

If you have a large or heavy lens (and camera body) it can be very tiring to lift and hold and shoot with for extended periods. Bird and wildlife photographers often use long lenses that can be very heavy. A tripod will take the weight for you, allowing you to shoot for longer without fatigue. If you need more flexibility in capturing birds in flight, or animals on the move, a gimbal head allows freedom of movement and support at the same time.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

This is the wrong way to be using the center column, it adds the opportunity for vibration and is not very stable.

3 – Video

I am not a videographer myself, but there is nothing worse than watching a wobbly handheld video. Keeping it steady on a tripod with a fluid head is a good way to start.

4 – Sharpness and Stability

Of course, the whole point of using a tripod is to ensure you get sharp shots by removing any camera movement or vibration. Additionally, you can use a remote or self-timer to limit further physical contact when taking the shot and maximize sharpness. My camera has a custom setting for landscapes that flips up the mirror and pauses for 2 seconds for the vibrations to flatten before the shutter clicks.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Using an L plate makes it easier to mount the camera in either landscape or portrait orientation.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

L Plate with the camera set up in Portrait.

5 – Macro

When dealing with a small subject and a very limited depth of field, getting focus on the right spot can be hard. It is even harder when you are hand holding to keep the focus steady. Just breathing is enough movement to throw the line off and end up with blurry shots. Using a tripod combined with manual focus is often a good way to improve your keeper ratings with macro photography.

Additionally, if your camera supports it, using live view and zooming in to fix the focus more accurately could improve your keeper rate a huge amount (it did for me). My final tip is to use a wireless remote as well.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

6 – Landscape and Panorama

Lugging a tripod on a hike for a day seems like a huge effort, but being able to set up your camera and take sharp shots is worth it in my opinion. Should you want to experiment with hyperfocal distances a tripod is recommended. Using filters to tone down a bright sky? Need a tripod.

Landscapes often lend themselves to a panorama, where you take several shots and blend them into one big (usually long) one. It is important to get your horizontal or vertical lines straight so the frames match up when you are stitching them together in software. You also need to make sure the camera is oriented flat on the rotation as well. Some people even work out the parallax point and may shoot using a nodal rail.

All these elements require a tripod to ensure they happen correctly.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

This 7-minute long exposure absolutely required the use of a tripod.

7 – Low Light

All cameras struggle when the light situation is low – astrophotography, light painting, timelapse, light trails or just generally limited lighting circumstances. To counter the limited light, the camera will be required to hold the shutter open for longer. It is very difficult to hold a camera perfectly steady in your hands for even one second, let alone 20 seconds, or even several minutes.

The only way to guarantee sharp shots is to hold the camera still, in other words, use a tripod.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

A long exposure shot of around 20 seconds to try and remove the crowds of people attending the event, instead I have blurry ghosts.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Night shot of a fire dancer – the tripod allowed me to take a longer exposure time and capture the trails of fire.

8 – Special Effects

Focus stacking, HDR (High Dynamic Range) and exposure blending are reasonably commonly used special effects these days. The common factor is several frames are taken but the camera itself stays perfectly still (or may only move in tiny increments). The multiple images are then blended together later using post-processing techniques. Therefore in order to keep the camera perfectly still from frame to frame, you must use a tripod.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Two frames are blended for this shot, the berries in one and the falling icing sugar in another.

9 – Long Exposures

Those lovely foamy waterfalls and swirls of whitewater in streams or smoke like waves around rocks and shorelines require exposures of that are much longer than usual. They could be tenths of a second, a few seconds or several minutes, depending on the lighting conditions. To keep your camera that still for that long, demands a tripod must be used.

Often, to simulate the limited lighting conditions required to give the very soft flowing effect, filters will also be used, which are mounted on the front of the lens. It is very difficult to load and mount the filters if the camera is not sitting on a tripod, leaving your hands free to add the extra equipment.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Shot at 1/15th of a second, too long to handhold steady, but long enough to capture the colored lights on the trees.

10 – Self-Portraits

Not the quick snap up the nostrils at arm’s length which is the best you can hope for with a cell phone usually. Instead, using a tripod allows you to be very creative with your self-portraits. Adding in a wireless remote, and shooting fine art self-portraits becomes easy and fun.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Top view of a camera with a wireless remote trigger mounted on the hot shoe and plugged into the camera.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Back view of a camera with a wireless remote trigger mounted on the hot shoe and plugged into the camera.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Wireless remote and a camera trigger ready to be plugged into the camera.

This self-portrait was taken with the camera in an overhead position pointing straight down. The remote was in my hand.


Tripods require some effort to use. They must be taken with you, whether that be in the studio, a wander in the gardens or several hours long hike in the mountains. It is extra weight and an awkward shape to carry. For many people, they prefer to go without and successfully manage to do so.

Personally, I believe the benefits a tripod offers are invaluable. By forcing me to slow down and think more about my photography, my composition skills improved a great deal with my landscape work.

Being prepared to use and experiment with a tripod allowed me to move into macro photography. Adding in manual focus and a wireless remote improved my sharpness and accuracy with very limited depth of field.

Having the capability to set the camera up at unusual angles and heights, and keeping my hands free for other things gave me the freedom to try out food photography, still life shots and creative self-portraits.

Anytime you need the camera to hold still for just a bit longer than you can (or want to) hold it is when you need a tripod. There are lots of fun things you can shoot but they might be difficult if your hands aren’t very steady or your gear is heavy.

So learn to love your tripod, soon it will be your best friend.

The post 10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod by Stacey Hill appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Review of the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD Zoom Lens

22 Nov

Tamron has been specializing in super-zoom lenses for the last few years. You may be familiar with their 16-300mm, 18-270mm or 150-600mm lenses. Their newest super-zoom is an even more astonishing focal length, the Tamron 18-400mm. I recently had a chance to review this lens for a few weeks so I thought I’d give you an idea of who this lens is for, the good, the not-so-good, and my overall recommendation.

Review of Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD Zoom Lens - Hibiscus

Hot pink hardy hibiscus bloom. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 400mm, f/9, 1/160th, ISO 100, handheld.

About this review

I know you already know this (because you read ALL my pieces for dPS, right? Right?!) but my lens reviews are pretty real world. I don’t sit in a lab or use techy gizmos to measure sharpness. I actually hold a lens in my hands and shoot with it. This lens was tucked in my favorite bag for most of August.

That said, my intention was to see how a lens holds up for an actual shoot. I used this lens to photograph Lipizzan horses at a dressage performance as well as at the racetrack. Then I used it on a mission to photograph old barns and finally to make some macro flower images.

Tamron 18-400mm lens -  Lipizzan Foal

Lipizzan foal at Tempel Farms, Old Mill Creek IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 300mm, f/6.3, 1/640th, ISO 500, handheld. 

The goal was to make images at most focal lengths with a variety of apertures, but a few might have been skipped because I was really out there shooting. I shoot at the focal length, shutter speed, ISO and aperture that each situation calls for. So let’s just say I apologize in advance if I’ve skipped something important to you. Give me a shout in the comments if that’s the case. I’ll dig through my notes and image archives to see if I can answer your question.

Lens specs

Let’s start off with a quick overview of the lens specs. This lens is for Nikon and Canon APS-C (crop sensor) cameras only. I tested the lens on a Canon 7D Mark II.

The Tamron 18-400mm super-zoom is a variable aperture lens. Meaning that at 18mm, the maximum aperture (largest opening) is f/3.5. But when you zoom into 400mm, the maximum aperture is f/6.3. The minimum aperture (smallest opening) is f/22 at all focal lengths.

Tamron 18-400mm - Red barn

Dilapidated red barn, McHenry County IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 71mm, f/9, 1/250th, ISO 200, handheld.

The lens has an HLD Autofocus Motor that is quick and quiet for a consumer lens at this price. It also has Tamron’s standard VC Image Stabilization. This feature enables you to get sharper shots while hand-holding at longer focal lengths. The lens also has what Tamron calls Moisture-Resistant Construction. I’m relieved to tell you I didn’t get to test this feature.

The minimum focusing distance – important especially if you want to try your hand at making macro images – is 17.72″ (45 cm). Macro is usually a 1:1 ratio and this lens only produces 1:2.9, but I was pleasantly surprised with my macro results.

Tamron 18-400mm - White bud

White hardy hibiscus bud. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 400mm, f/13, 1/320th, ISO 320, handheld.

If you use screw on filters, like a circular polarizer, the front thread is 72mm. The lens is 1.56 pounds (710 g) and approximately 3.11” in diameter by 4.88″ in length (79 x 123.9 mm). It’s an incredibly compact lens for this focal length range.

The price, at the time of publication of this article, is $ 649.00 USD.

Who is this lens for?

I would describe the ideal user of this lens as an amateur or enthusiast. If you’re an amateur photographer who travels but doesn’t want to carry more than one or two lenses, this is the perfect choice for you.

With an 18-400mm focal length, you might not need to ever change the lens, except in a dark indoor situation, when you need either flash or perhaps the fast f/1.8 maximum aperture of a nifty fifty.

Tamron 18-400mm - racehorse portrait

Low-key portrait of a racehorse, Arlington Park IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 400mm, f/6.3, 1/250th, ISO 250, handheld.

This lens would also be great for a busy parent who needs more than a smart phone to capture pictures of soccer matches and dance recitals but who doesn’t have a ton of extra room in her carryall bag. The compact size and weight of the Tamron 18-400mm make it an easy addition to any parent’s standard kit.

What’s good about this lens

The size of this lens just can’t be beat. At only a pound and a half and less than 5 inches long, it’s a lot of focal length in a very small package. I was really taken with how small it was since I normally shoot with such large neck-and-shoulder-busting glass.

Hand-holding this lens for an afternoon at the race track wasn’t even remotely painful. With the insane focal length capabilities, I didn’t even bother to carry a second lens with me (or even my camera bag!) and that made for a really care-free afternoon.

Tamron 18-400mm - size comparison

The Tamron 18-400mm lens, attached to the Canon 7D Mark II, with the Canon 100-400 lens alongside for size comparison.

Tamron 18-400mm lens comparison - extended

The extended Tamron 18-400 lens, attached to the Canon 7D Mark II, with the extended Canon 100-400 lens alongside for size comparison. Clearly you can see what a compact size this lens is and how beneficial that could be when you travel.

Great for landscape images

It’s also a pleasure to catch a pretty landscape out of the corner of your eye and to simply zoom out to 18mm to capture it. Typically if you’re shooting with a long lens, you have to take the time to switch over to your wide-angle lens, take the shot and then switch back to your longer focal length lens again. Well, actually, if you’re me, you see that landscape and think ooh, pretty and then walk away without taking the shot.

Tamron 18-400 - at the track

Arlington Park Racetrack IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400 @ 18mm, f/13, 1/100th, ISO 320, handheld. Processed in Lightroom.

I’m lazy that way so this was the first time I’ve actually made images of the racetrack itself. The lens performed really well in the 18-50mm focal range. It was both sharp and relatively distortion free. Lightroom’s Lens Correction easily managed the slight distortion there was too.

Things to be careful of

Remember I said we’d talk about the not-so-good too? It is a touch tricky to twist the lens in order to zoom in past 200mm to get to the 400mm focal length. First, your hand gets a bit “stuck” since anatomically, your wrist only twists so far before you have to reposition in order to continue the twisting motion.

Tamron 18-400mm lens - racetrack

Headed to the gate, Arlington Park IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 209mm, f/6.3, 1/1000th, ISO 250, handheld. 

Second, the lens has what I call a “hiccup” where you need to exert more pressure to push it past this point. I missed a few shots because the twisting motion wasn’t smooth enough and I jerked the lens a bit as I zoomed in from 200mm to 400mm.

Tamron 18-400mm lens - white hibiscus

White hardy hibiscus bloom. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 227mm, f/13, 1/400th, ISO 320, handheld.

Softness around the edges

There is a definite softness (or loss of sharpness) at the longer end of the lens, especially when your aperture is wide open, e.g., 400mm at f/6.3. If you crop in too much during post-processing or print too large, you’ll start to see the loss of fine details in your image since they weren’t tack sharp to start. You won’t see this loss of detail in a small 5×7″ print, or if you post to social media – so for many people, this actually won’t be a big issue.

Tamron 18-400mm lens Review - Riders up

Riders up at the paddock, Arlington Park IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 18mm, f/5, 1/500th, ISO 640, handheld.

Use the center focus point

The lens tends to be softest in the corners so sharpness improves if you use your camera’s center focus point. It also improves if you close down your aperture to f/8, f/9, or smaller. Because the lens is not tack sharp all the way through the focal length spectrum, I’m not recommending this lens for super serious wildlife shooters or anyone who likes to print really large. For you guys, I’m going to suggest sticking with a more standard zoom lens like a 100-400mm or 200-400mm. (I apologize in advance for the wear and tear this recommendation will cause your shoulders.)

If you predominantly shoot wide-angle images, like landscapes, and only occasionally shoot long, this lens will be a good fit for you when you don’t want to carry a ton of gear.

Final thoughts

Ultimately there were a number of things I really liked about this lens. The small size and super-zoom focal length make it a very practical tool to have in your bag. At $ 649.00 USD, it’s also a great value.

However, the softness at the long end of that focal length can become a real issue if you’re not careful. Because of that, I’m cautiously going to rate this lens 3.5 stars out of 5.

Tamron 18-400mm lens running foal

Running Lipizzan foal at Tempel Farms, Old Mill Creek IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 400mm, f/6.3, 1/640th, ISO 100, handheld. 

I’d love to hear your opinions too. Have you tried super-zooms lenses? Do they work for your type of photography? Which is your favorite one and how does it compare to the Tamron 100-400mm lens? Please share your thoughts with the dPS community in the comments below.

The post Review of the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD Zoom Lens by Lara Joy Brynildssen appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to Process Real Estate or Architectural Photos with Aurora HDR 2018

21 Nov

If you’ve ever tried your hand at real estate or architecture photography, you know that these are two of the most complicated forms of photography out there. The challenge is due mostly to having to balance out shadows created by harsh or uneven lighting. Thus, it’s no wonder that High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography is one of the most-used techniques for capturing real estate and architecture photos.

Before I go any further, let’s make it clear that this article is not about defining what HDR photography is or debating its merits. There is a myriad of arguments for and against HDR, but let’s save those are for another article. For now, let’s talk about Aurora HDR 2018 and how it might help you capture and process better HDR images.

How to Process Real Estate or Architectural Photos with Aurora HDR 2018

Simple, intuitive interface

If you’ve made HDR images using other photo editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop, you’ve probably had trouble figuring out how to use the software. One of the best features of Aurora HDR is that it is very stripped down, presenting you with only a few essential options that you can select to create your image. This greatly reduces your learning curve and makes it easy to get started immediately.

Use as standalone or with other programs

Speaking of other photo editing programs, you can use them in conjunction with Aurora HDR. It’s very easy to do. When you install Aurora HDR 2018 you can set it up to work both as a standalone program, or as a plugin for Lightroom, Photoshop, and others.

You don’t need a tripod

Historically, you’ve always needed to shoot bracketed images with a tripod to make sure they’re all aligned before merging them into a single HDR image. Not so with Aurora HDR. Thanks to their handy Alignment feature, Aurora HDR can automatically align your bracketed images (more on this in #2 below). This means that you don’t necessarily need to capture brackets with a tripod.

Of course, your images should be relatively aligned beforehand, but you don’t need the pinpoint accuracy that you used to need with other HDR photo editing programs.

Macphun Aurora HDR Photo Editing

Getting started with Aurora HDR

1. Open Aurora HDR and load images

When you first open Aurora HDR, you’re presented with a straightforward dialogue box that offers you three options (as seen in the screenshot above).

a) Open Image – In the very center is a button labeled “Open Image.” You can click on the button to select your images, or drag and drop them.

b) Batch Processing – If you have multiple sets of bracketed shots that you want to process all at once, drag and drop them into the Batch Processing dialogue box! Aurora HDR is intuitive enough to sort through the batch of files for you and automatically detect and match up your bracketed images.

Aurora HDR Batch Processing

c) Open Sample Image – This is a blue hyperlink below the “Open Image” button that you’ll probably only use the very first time you’re getting your feet wet with Aurora HDR. It exists mainly for demonstration purposes.

2. Set additional settings

For now, let’s assume you chose to Open Images (or, in the demo screenshots below, Load Sample Images). After doing so, another dialogue box appears with just a few options. The Alignment option is visible, and the others pop up when you click on the “Additional Settings” button.

Aurora HDR Brackets


As mentioned above, checking the Alignment box will make sure all of your bracketed images line up properly. This means that you could possibly hand hold your camera while taking bracketed shots. But if you’re shooting a paid job, I’d still recommend shooting on a tripod to make sure you get the right shots, in perfect registration.

Ghost Reduction

If you happen to have a moving subject in your HDR brackets, enable the Ghosts Reduction setting. This can minimize the effect of ghosting in which moving objects may appear translucent or ghost-like in your final image. For real estate and architecture photography, you’re unlikely to have moving subjects unless you’re incorporating people in your photo or you can see moving tree branches through a window.

Aurora HDR Options

Get to Ghosts Reduction, Color Denoise, and Chromatic Aberration Removal by clicking on the gear icon (seen here in orange).

Color Denoise

Reduces the low-light noise in color pixels that can sometimes occur when merging photos together. This option is automatically enabled (as seen above), but you can shut it off if you wish.

Chromatic Aberration Reduction

It’s not unusual for real estate or architecture photos to have chromatic aberrations. Luckily, Aurora HDR has an option for minimizing the appearance of the purple and green glow along your image edges that is a clear indication of chromatic aberration.

3. Merge your photos

After checking the settings, click on the blue Create HDR button, and wait for your images to merge. This is perhaps the only downside to Aurora HDR (or, the whole HDR process in general). It takes a minute or two for the images to be merged together, so sit tight!

4. Select a preset or edit with the tools

Once Aurora HDR is done merging your photos, you’ll be presented with a more robust workspace where you can edit your HDR image further.

At the very bottom of the screen are a bunch of presets that you can choose to automatically adjust your image to a certain style. The Basic presets are selected by default, but if you click on the yellow “Categories” hyperlink, a bunch more will appear. For real estate, the Architecture presets are particularly helpful. Once you select a preset, you can adjust the amount to lessen or magnify the effect to your taste.

If you prefer to manually edit the photo with or without presets, use the far right panel where you’ll find basic photo editing tools. Scroll down to find even more editing tools such as Adjustment Layers and Dodge and Burn (more on these below).

aurora HDR

Preset categories here.

Aurora hdr

Lessen the effect of a preset by lowering the slider.

5. Add Adjustment Layers

Another fantastic feature of Aurora HDR is the ability to easily add Adjustment Layers in order to make targeted, non-destructive edits to your image. This is extremely useful in real estate and architecture photography, as you often need to make color and tonal adjustments to your image without inflicting permanent changes on the pixels.

For example, the image below illustrates the addition of an Adjustment Layer that targets the blue tinge in the staircase and chairs in the middle of the image, with the goal of color correction. Adjustment Layers also exist in Photoshop, and they function very similarly in Aurora HDR. The best part is that it is much more intuitive and easier to find in Aurora HDR than they are in Photoshop.

Aurora HDR Adjustment Layers

Adding an Adjustment Layer for local color control in selected areas.

6. Dodge and Burn

If you’ve upgraded to the brand new Aurora HDR 2018 version, you’ll find a couple of essential real estate photo editing tools that are much handier to access: Dodge and Burn Tools! If you’re unfamiliar with dodging and burning, you can read up on these photo editing processes in this dPS article.

In short, dodging helps you brighten targeted areas of an image while burning lets you darken them. Both techniques are essential for real estate photography retouching. In the new version of Aurora HDR, these tools are easily accessible in the right-hand panel. Simply scroll down to the “Dodge and Burn” panel and click on “Start Painting.” This will activate a few settings right above your image.

Aurora HDR Dodge and Burn

Use the Dodge and Burn tools to do special localized tone control in your image.

In Conclusion

If HDR photography sounds interesting to you and you’re looking for an easier way to post-process your images, give Aurora HDR 2018 a shot! Its intuitive, clutter-free interface is relatively easy to learn and you can begin enhancing your real estate photos in no time.

Disclaimer: Macphun is a dPS advertising partner.

Aurora HDR Final

Final image edited with Aurora HDR 2018.

Aurora HDR Sample Images

Before – a single image of a series of brackets.


01 Macphun Aurora HDR Photo Editing



01 Macphun Aurora HDR Photo Editing

01 Macphun Aurora HDR Photo Editing

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