Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Lighting 103: Greg’s Assignment: Results

23 Jun

Reporting in from our last assignment, in which you were asked to shoot a portrait in three different ways: clean white light, warm/cool light, and warm/cool light with the shadows muddied up with a little green. I did this one along with you—twice—and learned a lot in the process.

Which brings up a valuable point. You can read about this stuff all you want. But until you actually get off your ass and do it, you're not going to learn it.

In other words, learning to use color in your lighting is just like anything else. Read more »

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7 Tips for Finding Inspiration When You’re Stuck

23 Jun

Artists are funny creatures and many of us struggle with creativity. Working out what we want to do, how to stand apart from others. What is really needed is to find your muse, or in other words, finding inspiration.

It is a rare artist that doesn’t need inspiration to work. For the rest of us, we need help and we need to find what will inspire us to create our work.

7 Tips for Finding Inspiration When You're Stuck

One of my very first responses to the environment, the idea of cities becoming unlivable and animals taking them over.

1 – Movies and television

Movies are just moving images and they can provide a lot of inspiration. Think about the locations where they are shot. You can find new places in the world to take photos. Through films like Lord of the Rings, I have decided that I want to travel to other places and see them.

Look at the way they are filmed and processed. The angles they use can give you great ideas, but sometimes the processing is even better. Pay attention to what they do in the films and how color is used, and what special effects are done.

The Matrix has been a great inspiration to me and how they used color in the films. When they are in the Matrix it is different than when they are out of it. You can see that there is a lot of yellow in the highlights, while they have put blue and green into the shadows. In the other parts, there is almost no color at all. With a film like this, you don’t have to like the story to find inspiration, it is about the special effects. See what you can learn, and use in your own work.

Television shows can be just as inspirational and often it will be the least likely place that helps you. Recently I was watching, don’t judge me, Project Runway. My mind was racing after watching several series. The way they had to come up with a concept, work out how to do it, design and construct it, then finally present it. It was amazing, and throughout watching it, I started thinking about my own work. For the first time in ages, I find myself feeling incredibly inspired to do new work.

7 Tips for Finding Inspiration When You're Stuck

Dark lanes, creepy shadows, almost no color, were all inspiration from movies that have shown up in my photography.

2 – Fine Art

Painters from the past really were early image manipulators and we can learn a lot from looking at what they did. Look at the colors in their paintings and how they used them to emphasise what they saw in the scene. Find out what methods they used to add drama to their images, along with the lighting.

It doesn’t have to be just painters from the past, you can also look at modern ones as well. But also look at what other artists are doing, printmakers, drawers, and sculptors. They are potentially good sources of inspiration. It may not be specifically the work they are doing, but their motivations for doing what they do. If you find out why they work it may give you clarification for your own.

It is so important to find artists whose work you love and read about them. Make it your mission to find out where they get inspiration, why they do what they do. You don’t want to copy them, but you can get something from them. Often if there is an artist that I love I will look at their work, decide what aspect of it I like, then go away and start my own.

Painter Edward Hopper has been a big influence on my work. I think what he paints is incredible and while my work is nothing like his, what I get from his work is the sense of drama. It is like he is creating scenes everywhere. He puts people in his paintings, which I never do, but I do like to imitate that sense of drama.

7 Tips for Finding Inspiration When You're Stuck

Like movies, paintings can control the light and create moody images.

3 – World Events and History

There is a wealth of information available on what has happened in the past and is occurring now. Watching what is happening in the present can give you a lot of inspiration. You will find many artists who have used politics and world events to get ideas for expressing themselves. It is often their way of responding to what is going on around them. They will use their art to lend their voice to what is happening.

There are many artists that do this and one that I thought of first was an Australian artist, George Gittoes. His work is really raw and quite confronting, but he has created it in response to what he had seen in many war torn countries. That may not be what you are interested in doing, but he is inspirational in that he isn’t afraid to show the devastation that has happened in the places he has visited.

This website showcases The 50 Most Political Art Pieces of the Past 15 Years.

7 Tips for Finding Inspiration When You're Stuck

II created this image was in response to the world changing and how they want to put a freeway through this area.

4 – What happens in your day to day and memories

It can sound a little weird, but what you do every day can be very important in finding your muse. The trick is to be observant. Look to see what you can observe and what you could use in your work. It could be the area you live in, the architecture, you just never know until you look around.

I was going over a bridge once and one of the people I was with looked at me and said, “You’re trying to work out how to photograph that aren’t you?” She was right, that is exactly what I was thinking about. For me Melbourne is most definitely my muse. It is the base, my blank canvas for everything I want to do.

7 Tips for Finding Inspiration When You're Stuck

The bridge where I was trying to work out how to do a shot in my head. This is what I ended up creating.

5 – Environment

The environment can be more than just what you see around you. As many in the world become more concerned with what is happening environmentally, it can be political, but it doesn’t always have to be. You can help highlight what is happening in various places by photographing them.

You see a lot of photographers that photograph abandoned places. The images can show you how much a place deteriorates once no one is using them, or they can be a reflection on our society and how everything is changing.

7 Tips for Finding Inspiration When You're Stuck

The environment and the impact of coal on it is a big reason to photograph power stations. They look amazing, but they are destroying the world we live in.

6 – Social Media and Instagram

There are so many platforms for social media and they are all flooded with images. One in particular that shows a lot is Instagram. You can find images there that cover so many topics. You can pick the ones you are interested in and follow them. They will give you ideas and fill your head with inspiring images. There are many other sites that will do that, but being able to just flick or scroll through them quickly on Instagram is amazing.

You can look for images that have certain appeal by searching certain hashtags. For example, you could look for #moody, #environment, or even #inspiration.

I find it really inspiring, perhaps not for my fine art work, but as a location finder it can be brilliant. I’ve discovered a lot of places in Melbourne while scrolling through hashtags in Instagram.

7 Tips for Finding Inspiration When You're Stuck

A few months back someone had an amazing shot of Flinders Street Station at sunset, and I was inspired to see if I could do something similar. Mine isn’t the same, but I still got something interesting.

7 – Peers

There is nothing more satisfying than having a group of like-minded peers that you can talk to and go out and take photos with. Having people in your circle who have the same passion and understand what you are trying to achieve is really important. People think that artists have to work on their own, and perhaps for the most part they do, but peers are essential.

When I was studying I was surrounded by people that I could discuss ideas with and get inspiration. When I left school it was hard to get that same interaction and is something that I have really missed. Slowly over the years, I’ve found new people to hang out with. We go out and take photos together, discuss our plans and ideas, and help one another.

Another aspect of hanging out with peers is watching how they create their own work and what drives them. While you shouldn’t copy them (if you do you may find you are no longer one of their peers) you can watch and learn. See if there is anything they do that could help you with your own work.

7 Tips for Finding Inspiration When You're Stuck

I went to Craig’s Hut with a friend and we both got a very similar shot. I saw her processed image and it inspired me to do mine. In the end mine looked completely different, but that’s okay. 

In the end

These are all tips that have helped me to get to where I am in my art practice. There is no reason why they can’t help you as well. Opening yourself up to finding inspiration around you can help you create some amazing images.

Where do you find your inspiration? Has something inspired you so much that you went on to do some amazing work? Please share with us what your inspirations are, from this list or from your own.

The post 7 Tips for Finding Inspiration When You’re Stuck by Leanne Cole appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

22 Jun

Are you running out of space on your hard drive? If you’re both a prolific photographer and a Lightroom user the answer may be yes. A hard drive that’s close to being full is bad news because it slows down Lightroom and just about every other application that you use on your computer. So how can you boost your Lightroom performance and make your computer run faster?

Luckily, there are ways to both minimize the amount of hard drive space Lightroom uses and to free up some space that is being used unproductively. As a result, Lightroom will run faster, as well as your entire computer usually.

So, how much spare hard drive space is required for Lightroom?

Ideally, you need at least 20% of your hard drive space to be free. If you have a 1TB drive, that means you should aim to keep at least 200GB free. If you have a smaller drive, such as the 256GB solid state drive I have on my iMac, then you need less. In my case, I need to keep at least 50GB free to keep Lightroom happy.

So, here are some tips to help improve Lightroom performance:

1. Store all your photos on an external hard drive

This has nothing to do with Lightroom per se, but it’s important because your photos are likely to take up a lot of hard drive space (especially if you shoot in Raw). The best approach is to use a separate hard drive for your photos, either an external drive or another internal drive added to your computer (if this is possible on your machine).

For example, my Raw photos take up 1.96TB of hard drive space. I keep them on a 3TB external hard drive like the one shown below.

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

It’s important that the hard drive on which your photos are saved also has at least 20% of its space free. Otherwise, it might slow Lightroom down as well.

It’s good practice to use the external drive for photos and Lightroom catalog backups and nothing else. That means it won’t get cluttered up with other files. It’s easier to backup to other hard drives.

2. Save fewer LR catalog backups

It’s important to backup your Lightroom catalog regularly in case it becomes corrupted or the hard drive it is saved on fails.

Many photographers recommend that you set up Lightroom to backup the catalog every time you exit the program. The only problem is that the hard drive space occupied by those catalog backups can soon add up to a considerable amount.

It’s less of an issue in Lightroom 6 and Lightroom CC, which compress the backup catalogs than it is with older versions of Lightroom. But even compressed backups take up a lot of hard drive space. For example, my backup folder currently has six backups in it and is 2.94GB in size.

There are two steps to take to minimize this problem:

1. Save catalog backups on an external hard drive. The same one you use to store your photos is ideal.

Each time you quit Lightroom the Back Up Catalog window appears. Click the Choose button to select the folder where you want it to save the Catalog backups. NOTE: this is the only time this option appears!

Also worth noting is that you want to save your backups on an external drive anyway because if your main hard drive crashes, both your main catalog and all the backups are gone. That is not good and defeats the purpose of having backups.

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

2. Delete old backups. You don’t need to keep anything older than the two most recent catalog backups.

I deleted my four oldest backups and freed up nearly 2GB of hard drive space. It may not sound like much if you have a 1TB or larger hard drive, but it does make a difference on a 250 GB solid state drive.

It may be tempting to move your catalog to an external drive, but this will slow Lightroom down. It’s best to keep the working catalog on your internal hard drive.

3. Keep an eye on the Preview Cache

If you go to Lightroom > Catalog Settings (Mac) Edit > Catalog Settings (PC) and click on File Handling you will see something like this.

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

Lightroom gives you a lot of useful information about how it uses hard drive space here. First, it tells you the size of your Preview Cache. This is where Lightroom stores all the previews it builds which enable you to view your photos in the Library module.

As you can see, my Preview Cache is currently 36GB, which is a large chunk of a 250GB hard drive. It’s less of an issue if you have a bigger hard drive.

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

If your Preview Cache is too large, there are some tips for reducing its size in the next two sections.

4. Regularly delete 1:1 Previews

Of all the Library module previews Lightroom uses the 1:1 Previews take up the most space. But they are essential for zooming into your photos at 100%, which is why many photographers build them.

You can manage 1:1 Previews by setting Automatically Discard 1:1 previews to After 30 Days. You can also set it to After One Week or After One Day. Just pick the one that works best for you. Avoid the Never option, otherwise, your Preview Cache will grow out of control.

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

Set your File Handling Preferences in the Catalog Settings to automatically delete 1:1 Previews after 30 days.

There’s another way to delete 1:1 previews:

1. Go to the Catalog panel in the Library module and click on All Photographs.

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

2. Go to Edit > Select All (or click CMD/CTRL+A for the keyboard shortcut).

3. Go to Library > Previews > Discard 1:1 Previews (click the Discard option in the next window).

There are a couple of things you should be aware of, though:

  • Lightroom doesn’t delete the 1:1 previews from the Preview Cache right away. There is a delay, so in case you change your mind you can use the Undo function. You may have to wait a day or so to see the benefit.
  • Lightroom only deletes 1:1 previews that are at least double the size of your Standard previews.

5. Build Standard Previews that aren’t too large

You can set the Standard preview size in your Catalog Settings as well. If you select Auto Lightroom sets the smallest size required for your monitor resolution. You can also set Preview Quality to Medium or Low to reduce the space the previews take up.

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

6. Build fewer or dump Smart Previews

The Catalog Settings also show you the amount of space occupied by Smart Previews. If that is too large, you can delete them.

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

  1. Go to the Catalog panel in the Library module and click on All Photographs.
  2. Go to Edit > Select All.
  3. Go to Library > Previews > Discard Smart Previews (click the Discard option in the next window).

7. Regularly dump the Camera Raw Cache

Lightroom creates more previews to use in the Develop module when you process your photos. These previews are saved in the Camera Raw Cache.

You can set the maximum size of that cache by going to File Handling in Preferences. The larger the number you set the more hard drive Lightroom’s Develop module previews will potentially take up. But, Lightroom may run slower if you set it too low – so you need to find a balance between too big and too slow. Try around 20GB to start with and see how you go.

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

You can delete the Develop module previews by clicking the Purge Cache button. It’s probably a good idea to do this every now and then to free up hard drive space. The last time I did it I gained over 20GB of space (see below).

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

If you edit or view video files in Lightroom you can also gain space by purging the Video Cache (below).

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed


Lightroom is essential for most photographers but it can use up a lot of hard drive space. The tips in this article let you take back control of your hard drive. Any questions? Let me know in the comments below.

If you’d like to learn more about Lightroom, then please check out my popular Mastering Lightroom e-books.

The post How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to Create and Shoot Night Portraits

22 Jun

If you limit your portrait photography to daylight, you’re missing out on a chance to get some really cool people photos. Whether you just want something better from your camera automatically, or you want complete control of the light in the scene, there’s something in this article for you. Read on to get some tips to help you create and shoot night portraits.

Get off Automatic Mode

If you’re using your camera in Automatic mode, you’ll find one of two things will happen. With the flash off, you get a really blurry photo because the camera needs a longer exposure time at night. Or with the flash turned on, the camera restricts the shutter speed and while your subject is well lit by the flash (but is flatly lit), the background has gone black. It’s a lose-lose situation, especially if you want to mix a photo of your subject with a cool background.

How to Create and Shoot Night Portraits - automatic mode

With Auto Flash, the background gets rendered quite dark, and even fully black later in the night.

Night Scene Mode

Fortunately, most cameras have a set of helpful scene modes. On the command dial, there are modes like M for Manual and P for Program (or professional as some of my buddies like to joke). But you’ll also find a series of picture icons, like a mountain or a sprinter. The one you want here is the Night Scene mode (you may have to go into your menu to find it). It usually has the moon or a star with a person. This mode allows for a longer exposure, but your flash fires as well.

Night scene mode.

Set the mode and remember that because you’ll have a longer exposure, you need to hold the camera steady. Your flash will freeze the subject, but they need to stay still for the shot as well, to avoid going transparent. You’re not shooting ghosts here! Sometimes this mode will be called Slow Synchro instead of Night Scene Mode.

How to Create and Shoot Night Portraits - slow synchro or night scene mode

Slow Synchro/Night Scene mode exposes for both the flash and the background, although it can result in image blur from camera shake.

Moving to Manual

When I shoot nightclub portraits, I’m emulating this mode, but I have the camera set for Manual control. I use an aperture and shutter speed on the camera so the background scene looks good, maybe a little under exposed, then I use an automatic flash on-camera to capture my portrait.

How to Create and Shoot Night Portraits

A nightclub shot taken with the camera set to Manual mode, with exposure set to expose for the background. A mix of high ISO and a large aperture helped prevent camera shake. The flash was in TTL mode, setting flash exposure was set automatically.

Let’s look at how you can take even more control now. As you probably tell from how Night Scene mode works, you’re effectively taking two shots in one picture. The first is of your subject, the second is of the background.

Lighting the Subject

For complete control of light on your subject, you need to use a light that’s off-camera. This doesn’t have to be a flash. In fact, it can even be a street light, something we can touch on later in the article. It can also be a continuous light that you’ve brought with you, like an LED or video light. But before this, we’ll look at using flash.

To get your flash off-camera, you need a trigger to fire it. If you have a flash like the Godox V850II, it has a receiver built-in, so you just need a trigger like the XT-16 or the X1. The same applies to the Cactus RF60X flash paired with the V6II trigger. You’ll also need a light stand or someone to hold the flash and aim it for you. To get an idea of where you can point the flash to achieve great lighting, check out my article on lighting positions. If you want to control the look of the light, have a look at this article 4 Value Speedlight Modifiers that Won’t Break the Bank.

The Background

The background just needs a longer exposure to render on the sensor. If you want to avoid blurring your background, use a tripod. Even with a tripod, you can opt to use a higher ISO to make the shutter speed shorter.

How to Create and Shoot Night Portraits

This shot was in Manual mode, and the exposure was set for the background. The off-camera flash was set to manual and was dialed up or down as needed to suit the exposure for the background.

Getting the shot

The first step you need to make is how much of the shot you want in focus. A wide aperture like f2/.8 means the background will go out of focus, but you can use a shorter shutter speed to expose the background. When using flash, the shutter speed isn’t important for the subject, so you should get the subject flash exposure right first.

Set your aperture and your ISO first, 400-800 should be fine. If you’ve got a prime lens, you can even try wider aperture’s which will give a creamy out of focus background. The shutter speed can be anything below 1/200th (or your camera’s sync speed, which will be in your camera manual). Tip: If you can’t focus properly, use your phone flashlight to illuminate the face enough to focus, then switch the lens to manual focus.

Aim your flash at the subject at a low power like 1/32 or 1/16. Take a shot and check it. Firstly, if the subject is too bright, turn the flash power down. Alternatively, if they’re too dark, turn it up. Finally, if it’s still too bright at the lowest flash setting, move the flash further away from the subject.

This image was shot at 1/250th, which is the sync speed of the camera. Flash power is tied to the aperture below the sync speed of the camera, so you can safely open up the shutter speed to add more light in the background. 

With that working, you probably have a black background, like the image above. Have no fear, you’re only halfway there. Next, bring your shutter speed down. If you’ve got live view on your camera, use it. Make sure it’s set to Exposure Simulation or Preview Mode On. As you lower the shutter speed (make it slower), you’ll see more and more of the background. When you’re happy with how the background looks, you’re ready to shoot.

This lighter image was shot at 1/30th. Notice that the flash exposure on the subject is the same in both pictures. Both shots are at ISO 1600 and f/4.0. As a final note, the subject was completely dark, so to focus I had him use his phone to light his face. I used autofocus to lock focus, then switched to manual and indicated he should stay still.

If your shutter speed is really slow, like 1/15th of a second or below, encourage your subject to stay still so they aren’t blurred in the image.

Background Ideas

Your background can be an interesting building, a bridge or even just a street. For a really cool look, find somewhere with loads of lights. By using a really shallow aperture these look fantastic out of focus.

Bokeh background

Using Continuous Light

If you bring a something to light your subject other than a flash, there’s a different juggling act that needs to happen. First, you’ll probably need a higher ISO. For these shots, set your background exposure first and then introduce the light on the subject.

In the image below I brought in a $ 35 Godox LED video panel. The panel has both brightness and white balance controls from Tungsten to Daylight. It gives a nice soft quality of light and looks natural. Even better is that what you see in the viewfinder is what you’ll get when you shoot, not like flash, where you’re always guessing.

How to Create and Shoot Night Portraits - LED panel

Using an LED panel instead of a flash can be a great option. You can see the shot in the viewfinder and focus easily.

If your light doesn’t have a brightness control, you can move it closer or away from your subject to change the intensity on the subject instead. This applies to using a street light as well. If your subject is bright compared to the background, move them further away from the light to get a better balance.

How to Create and Shoot Night Portraits

Street lights can also be used for night portraits.

For this shot, I used a street light across the road as my key light. I moved my subject until I could see a triangle of light on the side of the face opposite the light. A slight tilt of the head helped as well. I chose this spot so I had the railway bridge and cars in the distance out of focus, but the background still retained interest.

Shooting with Style

To go the whole hog, you could get someone to do hair and makeup, as well as getting really stylish clothes to make the shot look even better. You can just use friends and clothes borrowed their wardrobe, but it makes it look properly professional.

How to Create and Shoot Night Portraits

Here’s a selection of night portraits that I’ve done and details about how they were made.

How to Create and Shoot Night Portraits

The band, Drown, photographed for The Thin Air Magazine. Here I used the Godox AD360 with a 120cm Octa box off to camera right. This post-sunset scene was exposed to capture a good exposure for the clouds, then the flash was set to expose the band correctly. Without flash, the band would have been silhouetted

How to Create and Shoot Night Portraits

This photo doesn’t contain a background, but I wanted to create the feel of a busy road. I used two bare-bulb speed lights to give the effect of passing cars lighting from the front and back. In reality, we were on an empty road with no traffic. The backlight was positioned as both a rim light and to add flare.

How to Create and Shoot Night Portraits

I’ve been doing a series of portraits with a red tulle skirt, so it’s appropriate that I include them here. This was shot using a speed light and a 120cm Octa box. The light was off to camera left to create a loop lighting pattern. I’ve balanced the flash and ambient light to get this exposure. There is a mistake in it though. I really should have used a CTO gel (Color Temperature Orange), or at least a half CTO gel to warm up the color of the flash a little. The flash can look quite blue when shot against tungsten lighting, especially the sodium vapor lights in the background here.

Get out there and try some night portraits

Nothing here will make any difference if you don’t get out there. If you’ve got no gear, you should start with a battery powered LED work light or even one of the Godox LEDP 120C panels (make sure you get a battery as well). Get your camera off automatic too, and give yourself more control!

The post How to Create and Shoot Night Portraits by Sean McCormack appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Should You Switch from Photoshop to Affinity Photo?

22 Jun

If you are considering the switch from Photoshop to Affinity Photo, you might wonder how it will affect your photo editing workflow. And how will just a tiny loss in features (for a big drop in price) affect your options for photo editing? Keep on reading to find out how your workflow will change, what you will miss and what Continue Reading

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Water Splash Photography Made Easy

22 Jun

How exciting is it to freeze things in action? High-speed photography and water make the perfect recipe to get stunning images – and creating them is incredibly fun and easy too! Here are some tips for doing your own water splash photography.

Water Splash Photography Made Easy

What will you need to do splash photography?

You will definitely need an assistant. He/she will make your life much easier. It’s true that you can do everything by yourself but it’s way more productive if you have some help, a person who can throw the objects into the water, get them out and then throw them again. And again. And again.

Water Splash Photography Made Easy

  • Next you want a glass aquarium with a minimum size of 24x12x16”, preferably made of transparent glass.
  • Set up a table covered in black fabric.
  • Use a black background (paper or textile) standing at a minimum of six feet away from the aquarium.


Fill the aquarium with tap water, half or 2/3 full, depending on how deep you prefer the subjects to fall. Please keep in mind that if you fill the tank too high, every splash will probably result in water spilling. Please be careful with both flashes and your camera, when working with water.


Setup Water Splash Photography Made Easy

Any decent camera will be okay, but to obtain better quality you would probably like to use a crop-sensor or full-frame DSLR – or a mirrorless camera, with a good lens. Shooting from a distance, I used a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at 200mm in order to obtain as much depth of field as I could.

As subjects you can use anything you like. I personally prefer fruits and vegetables because they vary in size, shape, and color.

Water Splash Photography Made Easy

Always use a tripod for your camera. Set the camera at a position where you have the desired framing of the aquarium, leaving enough space up, down and on both sides to capture most of the splashes. After you have positioned the camera, set the focus manually.


For this step, ask your assistant to hold the subject in the water approximately where you want to make the splashes happen. Leave the camera on manual focus (or use back button focus). This way, the camera won’t need to refocus every time you make a picture, and you’ll know that the subject will be in focus every time the object is thrown into the same location.

Freezing the water splash

You have to know that freezing the motion (in this case) is done by the flash and not by the camera. Here’s a little bit of theory to explain this.

You have probably already made pictures where you stopped a human or an animal in motion. You’ve achieved that result by using a really quick shutter speed, somewhere between 1/4000th or 1/8000th of a second. But in the studio, where you use flashes or strobes, things change.

Water Splash Photography Made Easy

Your camera has to be in sync with the flashes (sync speed) and in most cases, this results in a shutter speed of 1/125th – 1/200th which is way too slow to freeze fast action. Luckily, there is this magic word called “flash duration”. This is the short period of time when the flash emits light which, if short enough, gives you the freezing effect you wanted.

You can use hot shoe flashes (speedlights) as they generally have pretty short flash duration, but only at very reduced power settings of 1/32 or 1/64 of full power. That results in low light, but you can compensate for that by increasing the ISO and opening the aperture.

The other option I prefer is using strobes with short flash durations. Most manufacturers make the flash duration of their strobes public information and the power at which you get the shortest flash duration. For the pictures of this article, I used Elinchrom ELC Pro HD 500 strobes, which have the shortest flash duration – 1/4000th of a second – at power 3.1.

Setting up the flash and camera

For your water splash setup, you will need two flashes, one on each side of the aquarium, aimed directly at your subject. I prefer to use light shapers which restrict the light to hit only the subject, so it doesn’t spill all over the scene, thus avoiding unwanted reflections and highlights.

For this shoot, my camera settings were ISO 100, 200mm, f/16, at 1/125th of a second.

Water Splash Photography Made Easy

Taking the pictures

This is the fun part! If you an assistant you’ll have to synchronize your movements. As he drops the objects in the water you’ll need to capture the perfect moments. In practice, this means that you will count to three, after which he’ll drop the object while you press the shutter release and pray to get the moment just right!

I sincerely suggest you repeat these four steps for a few hours. I prefer to set my camera to continuous or burst mode (my flashes recycle very fast) and record three or four pictures per drop. That way I increase the probability of capturing the subject and the splash of the water.

Water Splash Photography Made Easy

Some quick tips:

  • Use subjects with vivid color, this way you will have good separation of the subject from the black background and the white/blueish splash. This makes your pictures really pop.
  • If you photograph small subjects, try to use a minimum of 6-10 pieces at once.
  • Try to combine subjects of different sizes, colors, and shapes.
  • The heavier the subject, the faster it will fall, making it harder to capture at the right moment. So take that into consideration.
  • To get larger splashes, use subjects with a larger surface are, or let them fall from a higher position.
  • Wash the fruits and vegetables well before you use them, this way you can keep the water cleaner for a longer period of time.
  • If the water starts becoming dirty, change it. It’s pretty unpleasant as the tank is heavy and you’ll have to do that a couple of times. But the good news is that by doing so, you’ll have to work less in the post-processing phase, while also getting sharper, more cleaner images.
  • Frequently clean the front glass of the tank to get rid of the water drops that tend to accumulate on it.

Water Splash Photography Made Easy

Post-processing tips

This part is crucial! Despite all the efforts you have made to capture the perfect splash, the raw images you’ll get will definitely still need a little bit of polishing and processing.

Water Splash Photography Made Easy

Raw unprocessed image.

I only use Lightroom and Photoshop for post-processing, but you can achieve the desired effects in any preferred image processing application.

Clean up the water

After you’ve selected the image you want to retouch, you’ll first need to clean the water. I suggest that you use the Adjustments Brush, with Blacks set to -100. Apply this brush everywhere on the image except the subjects (that would make the subject too dark).

Water Splash Photography Made Easy

Adjustment Brush settings to apply to the water.

You can use the brush even on the splash itself, because this will make it cleaner and sharper, but be careful not to over do it because you can lose some details on the splash.

Water Splash Photography Made Easy

After the Adjustment Brush has been applied.

Final touches

Now open the image in Photoshop, create a new empty layer, select the brush color black, and start painting the new layer black. Be careful near the subjects, to avoid painting them also. This way you can achieve a clean black background around the subject. You can even paint away small drops of water that you consider unnecessary. Try to preserve a little bit of the surface of the water though.

If you like the painting you applied, it’s time to add sharpness to the image using the Unsharp mask at the level of your taste. You can also add some contrast or saturation depending on the final look you want to get.

Water Splash Photography Made Easy

Water Splash Photography Made Easy

Water Splash Photography Made Easy

Your turn

Are you ready to give water splash photography a try? Here’s another dPS article that can give you some more splash tips, How to do Creative Water Splash Photography with Off-Camera Flash.

If you have any questions please post them in the comments section below, and also share your images so we can see your results.


Stefan Mogyorosi is a photographer based in Oradea, Romania. He works mostly on commercial projects for the beauty industry, but also likes to do personal projects photographing still life, macro, fashion, portraits, or glamour. Experimenting with freezing motion and working with liquids are his top priorities right now.

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Quick Review of the Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art Lens

22 Jun

In this quick review of the Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art Lens, I will go over some of its features and give you my overall impression of this lens.

Photographers like gear

I belong to several photography groups, both online as well as within my local area, and often times when we meet, we end up talking about our gear. Conversations typically revolve around the gear we have, what we would like to have, and what we want to sell off. On several occasions, I have heard my fellow photographers talk about the Sigma Art series of lenses. They always start the conversation with, “Oh, I absolutely love my Sigma Art lens. The bokeh is so dreamy!” Now, I am a Canon shooter – always have been and always will be. But that does not mean that every once in a while, I don’t like to test out gear from other companies to compare performance, specifications, and price.

Quick Review of the Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art Lens

The Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art Lens comes with a case and a lens hood.

So when I had the opportunity to test out the Sigma 135mm 1.8 DG HSM Art lens, I jumped at the chance. I spent about three weeks with this lens and used it for a variety of photography assignments – both indoors and outdoors. Here is my review based on my personal experiences with this lens.

Technical Specifications

As per Sigma’s website, the Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art is a medium range telephoto prime lens designed for modern high-megapixel DSLRs. A new large Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) delivers ample torque to the focusing group for outstanding speed, ensuring exceptionally stable performance even at lower speeds. This state-of-the-art prime lens touts a dust and splash proof mount for guaranteed performance in any condition and its large 1.8 aperture allows for more creative control over imagery.

Quick Review of the Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art Lens

The Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art Lens attached to my Canon 1V film camera.

My telephoto lens of choice is my Canon EF 70-200L lens. It’s heavy and bulky but gives me some of the best picture quality in its class. Compared to that lens, the 135mm felt lightweight and comfortable to carry around all day. Being a fixed lens, there are no moving parts, unlike the zoom ring on the 70-200mm. While this meant that I had to move around to get shots at various distances, it was not an inconvenience. I just used pretended to have a zoom lens by moving my feet!

The lens looks very sharp and clean. The smooth matte black finish of the lens gives it a certain visual appeal. The build quality is very clean and it feels like a solid piece of glass. The lens is a little heavy (at about 2.56 pounds or 1.2 kg) but if you are used to walking around with other telephoto lenses, it’s not any different compared to using those.

Sharpness of the Sigma 135mm F1.8 Art Lens

The legendary quality of having the dreamiest bokeh is very true with this lens. It is super sharp even when shooting absolutely wide open. I typically shoot very wide opened with all my Canon L-lenses which fits my style of photography. The aperture of f/2.0 is my personal sweet spot – the one that I really trust to give me a shallow depth of field and dreamy bokeh (blurry background). This lens did not disappoint at my favorite f-stop.

But even at f/1.8 (the widest aperture on the Sigma 135mm), the lens was tack sharp with very shallow depth of field. Once it was stopped down to f/16, there was some softness on the edges of the frame but it’s not very prominent. With a lens of this quality, the best aperture would be between f/1.8 to f/4 (in my opinion) to get the best of the shallow depth of field and bokeh that we all love.

Quick Review of the Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art Lens

Shot at ISO 200, f/1.8 – wide open – look at that dreamy bokeh.

Quick Review of the Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art Lens

ISO 200 at f/2.0

Quick Review of the Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art Lens

ISO 200 at f/9 – more of the entire scene is clear and visible – with a wider (deeper) depth of field here.


The Sigma 135mm at f/1.8 Art Lens showed slight edge vignetting when shot wide open. But for my style of photography, it’s minimal and nothing I could not fix in post-processing. I was very impressed with the number of tack sharp images that I could keep even when I used the lens completely wide open at f/1.8.

Quick Review of the Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art Lens

The image above left was shot at ISO 200, f/2.0 and on the right, the same scene was shot at ISO 200, f/9. There is no visible softness or vignetting at either aperture. The bokeh at f/2.0 is so dreamy (shallow depth of field) and at f/9 more of the background is visible.


The Sigma 135mm has an electronic hypersonic motor. This makes the autofocus very fast and smooth. I found that the lens locked focus easily and did not hunt while focusing. The AF motor was also relatively quiet and smooth as compared to other telephoto lenses like the Canon 85mm f/1.2L II USM that is really slow while hunting for focus in the AF mode.

Quick Review of the Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art Lens

While hiking my two boys decided they would lead the pack. I really wanted to capture this independent streak and both images are shot less than 2 seconds apart. The Sigma 135mm had no problems tracking focus as they moved up the trail. Both images were shot at ISO 200, f/2.0 and both have the subjects tack sharp and in focus in spite of the movement.

Macro capabilities

While the Sigma 135mm is not described as a macro lens, it did offer 0.2x magnification with a minimum focusing distance of just under three feet. Since I have a dedicated macro lens that I use for my detail shots, I did not pay much attention to this feature. However, in a pinch, this lens could be used to provide some magnification.

Karthika Gupta Memorable Jaunts DPS Article - Sigma 135mm lens review-11

The 135mm zoom was a little tight when I had to take in-studio headshots but once I got the focus locked, it turned out beautifully. Both images were shot at f/2.0 ISO 640, 1/125th.


Overall I was really very impressed with the Sigma 135mm 1.8 DG HSM Art lens. It is a superbly built piece of gear that was incredibly fast, easy to carry, handle, and use.

The only thing I needed to get used to was the fact that it was a prime lens and not a zoom, unlike my favorite 70-200mm telephoto lens. This meant I had to move around to get shots at different angles and different focal lengths, but I don’t consider that a con. Instead, I feel that shooting with a prime lens makes you more careful and thoughtful about your compositions since you have to physically move around to get a diverse range of shots.

The Sigma 135mm lens is definitely something to look into if you are in the market for a good quality telephoto lens.

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10 Reasons Why it’s a Good Idea to Start Producing Video Content

22 Jun

If you spend any amount of time online you’ll be well aware of the rapid expansion of access to video content that has happened over recent years. Being largely user driven, this content varies from professionally produced through to home videos of cats, puppies and everything in between.

With the increase in internet speeds and processing power of viewing devices, we have the ability to watch countless hours of video content where and when we like. This provides some interesting opportunities for you as a photographer to consider, either through creating video content, or using video as a platform to show your work in a different way.

Ultimately it allows you to connect with people differently, using elements of storytelling and emotional connection that can only exist through the use of motion and sound. Here are some reasons why I have embraced video as a way of communicating.

Reasons to produce Video 01

1. Video allows you to tell stories in a more immersive way

Anyone who has been to see a film or documentary and become heavily invested in the story and its characters will be able to relate to this. While still images can communicate much of a subject, the depth of which you can tell stories through motion is effective in a different way.

Hearing the person’s voice rather than reading a quote, listening to them describe a situation or speak to another person and feeling the emotion in what they are saying and how they are presenting it. There is the element of moving images that cannot be replicated through stills. It is not to say that motion is a better way, just a different way to tell stories.

It also allows the viewer to have a different experience in seeing environments through motion. Seeing the elements that exist move and interact is again difficult to replicate through stills. Wildlife photos versus wildlife footage is an excellent example of how your understanding of an environment can shift based on the way you are viewing it.

Case study: Karma Coffee

2. Music can introduce a different kind of emotional pull

Music plays a significant role in every piece of film or TV content, from the news to drama to documentary. It has incredibly strong pulling power with our emotions and this is something anyone can take advantage of. The immediate tone that is set with music helps to identify what we can expect to feel, the anticipation of a lion hunting its prey, the feeling of accomplishment for a climber reaching a summit, or a family coming together after a long time apart. The ability to pull your audience further into a story with the emotive power of music is something we should look at seriously if producing video content.

While we may not have the budget for commercial music or large-scale productions, there are a lot of options available through stock music sites that will give you the style of music you are after. By using music that is available for licensing, you are free to have your video projects available for public viewing with no concern of copyright infringement as long as the music is licensed for the correct use.

Case study: Mates in Construction – Kokoda

3. Creating slide shows of your images adds a more dynamic element to your portfolio

This is a great way to bring a collection of images together and show them in a more dynamic way. The collection of images may simply be your portfolio, or it could be from a wedding you have shot, an overseas trip, or a family event. There are many benefits to presenting still images in this way as it allows you to include music and some animation or movement of your images within the frame as opposed to just a static position.

It also means your photographic portfolio can now be viewed on platforms that would otherwise be unavailable for still images, such as YouTube.

Case study: Damian Caniglia Photography Slideshow

4. You can bring together a collection of images and video that are connected

Producing video content doesn’t have to include exclusively just video. Incorporating stills and animation can help tell stories in a more complete way, as well as utilizing content that may already exist.

An example of this may be a short story telling project about a person’s life growing up. Using old photos as part of the visual elements means you are able to give greater context to that person’s life, their story, and what they were like at this time. It also brings a greater level of authenticity to the person’s story as the viewer is able to see a visual representation of what they are talking about.

Another example of this is you may be telling the story of an artist. Using images of their art as they describe their motivation, process, and aims allows to help show their work as they are discussing it. Again, giving better context to who they are as well as a visual representation of their work within the video piece.

5. You can develop character-driven stories and documentaries

Many documentaries have a narrator or voice-over directing the flow and narrative of the story. Character driven stories only allow the voice and vision of the person the story is about, to appear.

While often there is an interviewer involved, the voice of the person asking the questions is removed from the final edit leaving only the people appearing in the video as the ones directing the story.

This has some considerations when asking questions during an interview, and more specifically, the way in which the person being interviewed responds.

Case study: Kokoda 2013

6. Most social media channels favor video content

A quick look across the most popular social media platforms will show how much video content is being favored. In fact, doing a few tests will show you that the current algorithms being used by these platforms favor video content above almost all others.

While YouTube is still the king of video, other platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are definitely showing great reach and interaction with its users and video content. This can be a big advantage for those producing video as you have the potential to reach a bigger audience based on this shift.

Case study: Preserving the Ancient

7. You can offer more options to existing clients including time-lapse videos

It used to be the case that if a client wanted photographic work done, they hired a photographer and if they wanted video content produced, they hired a video producer or production company. But, there has been a shift in recent years with clients having the option of choosing one person who is capable of producing both. This has a number of benefits for the client as well as the supplier.

For the client, they only have to deal with one person or company. This is especially important if the styled approach needs to match across different content (photo still and video, for example. For the producer of content, it means you are able to offer more solutions for your clients, giving them a turnkey solution for production and more reasons to use you instead of anyone else.

Case study: PODS time-lapse

8. You can produce video for stock licensing

There has never been a greater demand for video content. That demand is only set to rise as video content is embraced across all sectors of our society and more online platforms.

Here lies the opportunity for content creators. While there is nothing better than custom footage made specifically for a story, film, or documentary project, there is not always the budget or easy access to what is needed. Stock content is an excellent way for producers to obtain content for their respective projects. This is not a new concept as stock content has been around for a long time.

By looking through the libraries of some of the larger stock libraries, you can quickly determine the style of content that is accepted by stock libraries, and what is the most popular for purchase and download. There are many options for your approach to creating stock video content. However, maximizing your existing connection or access to local areas or industries means you can take a more strategic approach to what you produce based on your knowledge of said industries or areas.

Case study: Sample Footage, Tasmania, Australia

9. You can start doing a regular vlog (video log) to showcase your work

This is almost like a behind the scenes process of telling your story. It is a great way for your audience to get a better idea of who you are as an artist and producer. It will allow your followers to become better invested in your work and your story so they become better connected to you.

By understanding your process in a transparent way, your followers can not only understand the amount of effort and resources that go in to producing your work, they will also develop a better understanding of what it takes to be a successful artist.

10. Producing video is a good skill to have

Even if you are not using video production within your business or work, it is a good skill to develop for the future. As mentioned earlier, there is no doubt we are consuming more video content than ever before.

Organizations that traditionally would not consider producing video content in-house are starting to do so. Developing the skill and understanding for what is needed to produce this content will give you a better understanding of the strategy needed, whether you are producing it personally, or engaging the services of an external producer.

This will often lead to better planning and execution of a project, which results in better quality outcomes.


If producing video content is of interest then get out there and start experimenting with this medium. As most, if not all cameras for photography also shoot video now, it means there is little or no investment in equipment to get started. Be sure to check out some articles on how to get started shooting video and hit the record button and start experimenting.

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How to Have Fun with Shutter Speed and Added Motion Blur

21 Jun

If you think learning is a boring task, you definitely haven’t studied photography. To make this point, I decided to explain the relationship between shutter speed and movement by spending the day at a theme park.

Image blur – unwanted or not

When you get an unwanted blur in your photograph it can be very frustrating. However, this shouldn’t stop you from experimenting with your camera’s shutter speed. Perfectly sharp images can be great for composition and color but they don’t really reflect everything that’s going on and can fail to convey the atmosphere.

Composition - shutter speed

Shutter speed 1/640th, f/9, ISO 200.

Movement shutter speed

Shutter speed 1/50th, f/22, ISO 200.

Theme parks can be the most fun, but even so, they can appear a bit dull in still images. However, just adding a little movement can do the trick. Don’t you agree?

Still shutter speed

Shutter speed 1/1000th, f/3.5, ISO 200.

Moving shutter speed

Shutter speed 1/15th, f/22, ISO 200.

If you are comfortable using Manual Mode on your camera, then please do so. However, if you are not used to adjusting your settings you can always do these exercises by using Shutter Priority Mode. To do this you have to set the dial of your camera to the S (Nikon, Sony) or Tv (Canon) symbol on your mode dial. This mode gives you the flexibility to choose the shutter speed that you want, and the camera figures out the rest of the settings for you in order to have a well-exposed photo.

However, there is one thing that you do need to know first . . .

What is shutter speed?

The shutter is a curtain inside your camera that opens to allow light to enter the camera and hit the digital sensor (or film) in order to create your photo. Shutter speed refers to how fast or slowly it opens and closes. The longer you leave the shutter open, the more light will come in.

Therefore, as long as it’s opened everything in front of your lens is leaving an imprint. In the case of a moving object, this results as a halo or a ghost and is why you get blurry photos when using slower shutter speeds. The longer the exposure time, the blurrier the subject will be.

Faster shutter speed

Shutter speed 1/60th, f/22, ISO 200.

Slower shutter speed

Shutter speed 1/30th, f/29, ISO 200.

Creative effects of shutter speed

#1 Blurry subject sharp background

Now that you have that clear, let’s dive into the fun part and start doing some creative effects with this knowledge. First, we’ll start with a sharp background and a blurry object/subject, as this is the easiest one to achieve. For this one, you need to be standing still and have something or someone in motion in the scene in front of you. As for your camera, you need to use a slow shutter speed. How slow depends on the speed your subject is moving, so just make a few tries.

Note: All movement gets registered in the image when you are using slow speeds, including your own. So if your subject requires for you to shoot lower than the length of your lens (i.e. slower than 1/50th with a 50mm lens) it’s better if you use a tripod or else your fixed background will look blurry as well.

Cars shutter speed

Shutter speed, 1/6th, f/22, ISO 200 and an 18mm lens.

Twirls shutter speed

Shutter speed, 1/50th, f/29, ISO 200 and a lens focal length of 33mm.

#2 Blurry background sharper subject

For the second effect, let’s do the opposite; a blurry background and a sharper subject. You don’t want the moving subject completely sharp because then you can lose the purpose and it will look dull or worse, fake (as in Photoshopped into the image). So it’s always better for the subject to have a small halo around it that shows its movement, direction, and speed.

This one is a little bit trickier because, on top of choosing the correct shutter speed, you also need to follow the moving subject with your camera, matching its speed (this is called panning). So please don’t get frustrated if you don’t get it right on the first try because the results are worth the effort!

Follow Circular shutter speed

Shutter speed, 1/50th, f/29, ISO 200. The camera was moved in a circular motion to follow the subject.

Follow Vertical shutter speed

Shutter speed, 1/40th, f/32, ISO 200. The camera was moved in a vertical motion to follow the subject.

Follow Horizontal panning shutter speed

Shutter speed, 1/60th, f/22, ISO 200. The camera was moved in a horizontal motion to follow the subject.

#3 Mix it up

When you feel comfortable with the previous techniques, try introducing some mixed movements. In other words, your subject moving one way and you in another.

Mix shutter speed

Shutter speed, 1/50th, f/22, ISO 200.

Mix shutter speed

Shutter speed, 1/40th, f/32, ISO 200.

#4 Still objects

Liking it so far? It gets better! You can even put some movement into photos of still subjects.

Ducks shutter speed

Shutter speed, 1/50th, f/22, ISO 200 with an 18-35mm lens.

To achieve this effect you need to use a zoom lens. What you have to do is to twist (zoom) so that you go from one focal length to another while the shutter is still open. The bigger the zoom, the more intense the effect.

Barrel zooming shutter speed

Shutter speed, ½ a second, f/29, ISO 200, focal length 18-28mm.

Barrell shutter speed

Shutter speed, 1/50th, f/29, ISO 200, focal length 18-45mm.

Barrell shutter speed zoom

Shutter speed, ½ a second, f/29, ISO 200, focal length 18-55mm.

Your turn to go try it

There you go, you are ready to enjoy your day in the park while making some amazing looking shots. Take a ride, have fun, and let all your problems all blur away!


Shutter speed, 1/15th, f/22, ISO 200.

Please share your comments, questions, and motion blurry images below.

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How to Practice Low Impact Nature Photography

21 Jun

In many parts of the world, spring has blossomed into summer, furry and feathered babies were being born and summer is on its way. Photographers are pulling out their camera gear and finally heading back outside for some nature photography. I am so ready to get out and photograph the bounty that warm weather brings, I bet you are too. Before you head outside though, here are a few tips on having a little lower impact on the nature you’re photographing.

Low Impact Nature Photography - nature in bloom

Spring has sprung so let’s all get outside and shoot. Canon 5DIII, 70-200 @ 121mm, ISO 500, f/4, 1/750th.

Reduce your carbon footprint

When you do head out to do nature photography, consider your carbon footprint. We lead such comfortable lives these days that’s it’s easy to forget that hopping into the car for a two-hour drive isn’t all that great for our environment. Car-pooling with two or three of your friends is an easy way to reduce emissions. It’s a lot more fun to spend the day shooting with friends, too.

Low Impact Nature Photography - shoot with friends

Planning a day trip or holiday to shoot with your friends is not only more fun, it also helps to reduce your carbon footprint when you carpool and share vehicles.

Doubling up

Another way to reduce your carbon footprint is something I call “doubling up.” Whenever you fly somewhere, research what else you can easily see while you’re there. For example, this fall I’ll be a special guest photography teacher for Big Sky Yoga Retreats “Yogatography,” a combined yoga and photography retreat in Montana.

The ranch I’m staying at is only about a 90-minute drive from Yellowstone National Park so it makes perfect sense to add a few days in the park after the retreat ends. Of course, I also save money by combining my visit to Yellowstone with the Yogatography retreat but more than that, I reduce emissions by flying to Montana once instead of twice.

Low Impact Nature Photography - Mammoth Hot Springs

The last time I was in Yellowstone I was only carrying a little point and shoot while I hiked so I’m pleased to be able to “double up” this fall when I’m in Bozeman teaching and have another crack at shooting Mammoth Hot Springs with some beefier gear.

Heed the signs

Once you arrive at your location, heed the park signs. Often, the signs are meant to protect you from harm. But sometimes they’re meant to protect the wildlife around us.

How to Practice Low Impact Nature Photography

On the left, a sign from Antelope Island in Utah requesting that cars and hikers stay on the road to avoid aggressive wild buffalo encounters. On the right, a funny and scary bathroom sign from a Nevada park. For heaven’s sake, don’t slip. There are rattle snakes!

Several years ago in Utah, I left the trail while I was shooting in Arches National Park. My guide quickly pulled me back and pointed out what I hadn’t seen. Right next to where I’d planted my foot was a type of very slow growing fungal plant life that, when crushed, will not revive for hundreds of years.

How to Practice Low Impact Nature Photography - Arches National Park

It’s hard to see, but tucked in and around the rocks and bushes are delicate fungal plants that are easily crushed when stepped on. Canon 5DIII, 24-105 @ 22mm, ISO 100, f/16, 1.5 seconds.

We all want the best, most unique photographs but if we all leave the trail, our combined impact can destroy the beautiful environments we are trying to capture not to mention causing a lot of potential injury to ourselves.

Share special locations judiciously

While I greatly admire photographers who openly teach and share, consider very carefully whether you should share every amazing location you stumble upon with every photographer you know. Unfortunately, delicate environments can’t handle hordes of photographers. The wear and tear of too many people hiking in and out can destroy the natural beauty of the location itself, even if everyone stays on the trail.

Low Impact Nature Photography - secret location

Canon 7DII, 70-200mm with 1.4xIII extender @ 280mm, ISO 1000, f/5.6, 1/250th.

I love to photograph the tiny Key Deer on Big Pine Key in Florida. When I drive the island, I know just where these little creatures like to hang out. I don’t tell very many people about this location though, because the deer have become too habituated to humans, frequently approaching people and begging for food.

Too many human visitors can also frighten wildlife, disrupt nesting, and impact natural reproductive cycles. While complete secrecy about a magical location seems stingy, consider sharing more environmentally fragile places only with photographers who know and understand the impact they have on where they shoot.

Look, don’t touch!

When I see a lush, velvety plant growing at the Chicago Botanic Garden, all I want to do is run my fingertips across its surface. The rule at the garden, however, is to look and not touch. Sometimes I practically have to put my hands in my pockets to stop myself from touching the amazing specimens on display!

Luckily, they have a wonderful Sensory Garden where visitors are encouraged to physically touch the plant life. The Sensory Garden is mainly a teaching and learning area. But by allowing visitors to touch the plants there, it also helps prevent wear on the rest of the garden, leaving it pristine for the thousands of weekly visitors, many of whom are photographers.

Low Impact Nature Photography - velvet leaf

These broad velvety leaves beg to be touched. Canon 5DIII, 24-105mm lens @ 105mm, ISO 1000, f/4, 1/2000th.

If you’re shooting in a wild and remote place, use the same rule as that applies at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and don’t touch the plant life. Imagine hundreds of people walking through that same wild area and touching the same plant you’re touching. It wouldn’t take much before the plant started to wither around the edges, and ultimately turn brown and die. Next time, before you touch, ask yourself whether you’re truly leaving no impact on the plant. If you are impacting it, perhaps reconsider your actions.

Don’t pick the flowers

It probably goes without saying that when you pick wildflowers you’re impacting the environment in a negative way. Acres and acres of wildflowers are a breath-taking sight. A field left with only one or two flowers standing? Not so much.

Low Impact Nature Photography - field of tulips

Like a field of wildflowers, a picked-over field of tulips wouldn’t be nearly as stunning to photograph as this lush bed was. Canon 5DIII. 70-200mm lens @ 111mm, ISO 250, f/4, 1/1000th.

In some locations, it’s also illegal to pick wildflowers. It’s also illegal to remove shells, bones, pottery shards, and petrified wood from many state and national parks. While we humans seem to have a knee jerk reaction to gather and collect things, leaving plants and artifacts alone preserves them so that all of us can visit, enjoy and photograph them.

Avoid leaving tracks

Is that mud flat, playa or sand dune you’re photographing absolutely pristine? If it is, take care not to walk on it or leave footprints. Don’t drive on it or leave tire tracks either. Environmental recovery from this sort of carelessness can take decades before there will be enough wind or rainfall to smooth out your tracks. You’re not only wrecking the image-making opportunity for the next photographer that comes along, you’re destroying the beauty of the location for everyone who visits it.

Low Impact Nature Photography - Cumberland island boardwalk over dunes

On Cumberland Island, in Georgia, the National Park Service has constructed boardwalks so that visitors can view the dunes without damaging them. Canon 5DIII, 100-400mm lens @ 100mm, ISO 12800, f/8, 1/6000th.

Keep wild animals wild

Because I mainly photograph wild horses, I’m frequently asked if I touch, pet, or ride them. These questions always strike me as naive but, because most people are used to domesticated horses, perhaps they think that wild horses tolerate or accept humans more readily than other wild animals. They don’t.

Low Impact Nature Photography - cautious wild horse

Does this wild stallion look like he wants to be petted? He doesn’t. His ears are pinned back and he has an eagle eye on me too. Canon 5DIII, 100-400 @ 400mm, ISO 1250, f/6.7, 1/500th.

The same rules apply to wild horses that apply to any other wild animals. No matter how sweet or cuddly a wild animal seems, never approach, feed, touch, hug, or pick it up. Wild animals are often so much bigger than we are and even if they fearfully strike out with mildly aggressive behaviors, you can be seriously injured. Always keep a safe distance between you and the animal you’re photographing and, in some cases, shoot from the car or another protective structure like a blind. If, as a photographer, you’re afraid you’ll be too far away, buy or rent a bigger lens.

If you’re afraid you’ll be too far away to get a good photo, buy or rent a bigger lens.

Low Impact Nature Photography - don't feed wild anmals

Visitors to Big Pine Key often get too close to the Key Deer that live there. This woman fed the deer her lunch leftovers (!!) and then tried to pet them. This is the perfect example of what not to do when you’re photographing wild animals.

These rules may not seem like much “fun” but they are for the animals’ safety as much as for yours. Animals that become too accustomed to humans become less wild, more dependent on humans for their food, and ultimately nuisances when they start to forage for food in suburban areas. When too many wild animals invade populous areas, they are often culled, which is just a more politically correct word for killed. Keep your distance and keep wild animals wild, free, and alive.

Pack it in – pack it out

You’ve probably heard this bit of advice before. Whatever you carry in with you when you head into a refuge, preserve, or wilderness area, you should also plan to carry out with you. Garbage littering the landscape doesn’t make a very pretty picture. Of course, you can just “Photoshop it out in post-processing” but for the environment’s sake, and for the safety of the animals who might ingest any garbage left behind, take everything you brought in with you back out when you leave.

Low Impact Nature Photography - trash in water

The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group volunteers do an amazing job of regularly cleaning up the river but too many people toss their trash into it rather than carrying everything out with them when they leave. Even the day after a massive clean up effort, these wild horses were drinking next to floating trash. Canon 5DIII, 100-400 with 1.4xIII extender @ 560mm, ISO 1250, f/8, 1/500th.

An even nicer thing to do is to leave the area cleaner than you found it. On your way out, pick up the garbage other less savvy hikers and photographers have left behind and dispose of it appropriately once you get back home.

Leave Fido at home

If you’re a weekend warrior type of photographer – and many of us are – it might seem like a natural thing to bring your faithful pup along with you. In a very few situations, bringing your dog (or any domestic animal) may work out just fine, but at best bringing your dog along is a distraction from making images. At worst, your dog can wreck a field of flowers or scare off wildlife (or get injured).

Low Impact Nature Photography - dogs on boat

These two dogs are having a much better time relaxing at sea than they would be out hiking while you photograph wildlife. Canon T3i, 55-250 @ 240mm, ISO 200, f/6.3, 1/320th.

Perhaps if you’re a macro flower photographer, your well-behaved and leashed dog won’t a problem. He can rest on the path while you shoot. A puppy however (at least any that I’ve ever met) probably won’t be content to relax on the trail. Instead, he’ll be crashing through the flowers, possibly damaging them, and rendering them less likely to be image-worthy for the next guy that comes along with a camera.

Domestic animals affect the behavior of wild animals

If you’re photographing butterflies, birds, or wild animals, your dog should really stay at home for his safety, as well as the other animals. I’m sure that some of you are scratching your heads right now and exclaiming how well-behaved your dog is, but seriously… I’ve been out there on the range photographing wild horses when someone shows up with their “amazing dog.” The horses’ behaviors always change as they become aware of the dog.

Low Impact Nature Photography - alert wild stallion

This stallion has just sighted a hiker and her two dogs on the river bank. He’s alert and ready to protect his family. Canon 5DIII, 100-400 @ 241mm, ISO 500, f/4.5, 1/3000th.

Your dog might be cool with wild animals but the wild animals are immediately on alert. Remember, dogs are instinctually predatory animals and other animals recognize that. The behavior dynamic shifts when you bring your dog, no matter how amazing he is. Yell at me all you want, but please, leave Fido at home. Your dog impacts the environment and not in a good way for photography.

Reduce nature’s impact on yourself

I was in North Carolina a few weeks ago hiking on Shackleford Banks and photographing the wild horses. The first thing I did when I got back to my rental house was to shower off the sweat, sand, sunscreen and bug spray. As I toweled my hair dry, I kept itching my ear. That’s when I discovered the tick. Thankfully it wasn’t attached yet and I could just pick it off my skin but, ugh, so gross.

Low Impact Nature Photography - wear protective clothes

Photo Credit: Eden Halbert. Here I am in on Shackleford Banks in 80F+ degree weather, covered head-to-toe in UPF 50 quick dry clothing. Depending on your environment, wear a hat, sun- and bug-protective clothing, sunscreen and bug spray. Don’t forget to bring and drink plenty of water.

To reduce nature’s impact on you, my recommendation is to wear a hat, sun- and bug-protective clothing, sunscreen, and bug spray. Plus, remember to do what I forgot to do. After your photography hike and before you get into your car, check yourself, your clothes and your camera bag for ticks, burs and other clinging critters.

Teach others

Finally, set yourself up as a good example for your fellow photographers. More often than not, when another photographer crashes around like King Kong, it’s not with the intent to be destructive. It’s usually because he/she doesn’t know any better. If you model more appropriate behaviors, and explain why all these strategies are so important to preserving nature, your friends will follow your lead.

What strategies do you use to lower your impact on the nature and wildlife you photograph? Please share your thoughts in the comments. The dPS community would love to hear from you.

The post How to Practice Low Impact Nature Photography by Lara Joy Brynildssen appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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