Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

How to Break the Rules with a Central Composition

22 Sep

When you started your journey to become a photographer, it’s likely you quickly encountered the famous Rule of Thirds. This rule is a fantastic guide for how to achieve a balanced and visually-pleasing composition, which is why most photographers use it – from newspaper editorial images to action shots to portraits.

It’s also a very safe way to take photos. However, a central composition has a fascinating way of catching the viewer a little off-guard.

Portrait of man sitting at a bench, photographed with center composition and off-camera flash - How to Break the Rules with a central composition

At its core, photography is about boldly pushing limits and demanding attention. And the centrally composed image is one that definitely demands attention – although not always necessarily for the right reasons.

Give a camera to someone unfamiliar with photography and they tend to put the subject right in the exact middle of their picture. Interestingly enough, it’s almost our default position. But over time we learn to compose according to the “rules” and a central composition then becomes a “mistake”.

A shot showing the rule of thirds - How to Break the Rules with a central composition

A clear example of the rule of thirds being followed to a “T”

But why is it that the same style of composition can look so amateurish sometimes, and then so dramatic or fascinating at other times? Let’s take a closer look at some of the challenges – and benefits – of breaking all the rules and giving a central composition a shot.

A portrait of a man walking through the woods - How to Break the Rules with a central composition

Using Symmetry

One of the strongest reasons to use center composed images is to exaggerate or make use of the symmetry in a setting. Symmetry is when both sides of a picture look like a mirror image of each other – or at least very similar.

A man walked on a trail in the forest in a center composed image - How to Break the Rules with a central composition

Humans are naturally drawn to patterns – and the art of photography is a way to capture or display a pattern. Showing symmetry requires a bit more thought when choosing your camera angle so that the different elements of the picture function together as one.

One thing about using symmetry in photos is that it quickly creates a very distinct style. Filmmaker Wes Anderson is famous for his use of center-composed, wide angle, symmetrical shots. It’s a distinct flavor that makes his movies instantly recognizable and adds a charm that his audiences love.

Square Shoulders

An interesting quirk of using central composition for your image is that you can more easily get away with portraits where the subject’s shoulders are square to the camera – in other words, their body is facing the camera directly.

A portrait of a man in the woods - How to Break the Rules with a central composition

The model is square to the camera, but it isn’t distracting as it matches with the central composition and vertical lines of the trees.

Typically, a model can slightly turn their body or drop one shoulder to appear more flattering in the image. Because center composed images accentuate lines so strongly, your model can be completely square to the camera without it detracting from the picture.

Lines That are Lines

Center composed images benefit from having strong lines. These can be either strong horizontal, vertical, or leading lines that pull towards the center of the image.

Recognizing the natural lines in a setting and using them to your advantage is important for keeping your center composed shot from looking unintentionally amateurish.

How to Break the Rules with a central composition

The lantern is in the center of the image, but the lines of the steps aren’t horizontal. As a result, the image looks unbalanced.

How to Break the Rules with a central composition

The lantern is still in the center of the image, but this time the lines are horizontal and work to support the style of the shot, rather than to detract from it.

Paying attention to the lines isn’t important only for a central composition. Generally speaking, it’s a good rule in photography to make sure lines that are horizontal in real life are horizontal in your pictures.

A Touch of Minimalism

The center composed image thrives on being simple, clean and clear. Your subject is the singular focus in the shot. Cluttered backgrounds or distracting foregrounds may often hurt your image.

A lantern on a forest path How to Break the Rules with a central composition

With a wide aperture, the background turns into smooth out-of-focus bokeh, eliminating any distracting details.

Using a wide aperture to achieve a narrow depth-of-field goes a long way to decluttering an image. By letting the background fall into soft and creamy bokeh, it pulls more attention visually to your subject.

busy background - How to Break the Rules with a central composition

This shot shows the messy and distracting background that the previous effectively removes with selective use of aperture.

Trying out Different Subjects

A central composition isn’t just for portrait shots. You can try it out in nature photography, car photography, detail shots or whatever your heart desires. All of the same rules apply.

Hunting out interesting symmetrical patterns in nature, whether they are in the veins of a leaf or a straight forest path through a tunnel of trees, can make for a very satisfactory center composed shot.

Editing a Central Composition

Trying to figure out if your subject is smack dab in the center of your frame? This is a good time to break out the cropping tool in your photo editor. Your preferred photo editor will come equipped with a grid that will let you carefully ensure that your subject is in the right spot.

LR showing how to crop an image - How to Break the Rules with a central composition

This is the interface in Lightroom for cropping an image. Notice the grid lines which give a clear indication of when the subject is centered.

Having your subject just a hair off of the center line could be an irritating little distraction for your audience. So it’s best to get it right!

To Each Their Own

Photography is heavily subjective – it depends on personal taste. A picture that doesn’t earn a second look from one person could be another person’s favorite shot.

A nighttime portrait of a man on a dock, photographed with central composition

The key for becoming the best photographer you can be is to continuously learn and explore. Discover new methods, tools, and skills that give you the creative freedom to approach a familiar subject from an unfamiliar direction or a new perspective.

That’s why it’s a great idea to keep central composition handy in your photography toolbag, for those moments when you can use it to demand your viewer’s attention.

Who knows? Maybe it will even become your distinctive style as a photographer!

The post How to Break the Rules with a Central Composition by Frank Myrland appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to be Better Prepared for Your Next Photo Shoot

21 Sep

Greater success with your event, street, travel or any other genre of photography can depend a lot on how prepared you are before you leave the house and how observant you are at the location you are making pictures. Here are some tips to help you be better prepared for your next photo shoot.

senior Thai woman taking part in a street parade holding a painted parasol - How to be Better Prepared for Your Next Photo Shoot

A participant in the annual Chiang Mai Flower Parade enjoys having her photo taken.

I’ve based this article on street and event photography so I can use my photos to illustrate specific situations.


Planning your photography session in advance can make it a much more rewarding experience. You don’t necessarily need to start making spreadsheets and contingency preparations if you’re going out to photograph a local farmers market or craft fair. But a little groundwork can make times you are out with your camera significantly more enjoyable.

Having some prior knowledge of your subject, the location, and the type of activity that happens there (if any) will increase the opportunities you have to capture better photos. Even the way you dress and the footwear you choose can potentially have an influence on your photos. Certainly, the amount and type of camera equipment you choose to carry will have an effect on the outcome of your photography excursion.

Women in traditional Thai costume prior to the start of the Flower Parade in Chiang Mai, Thailand - How to be Better Prepared for Your Next Photo Shoot

Girls talking before a parade starts.

For example

Performers rest prior to the start of a Chinese New Year parade in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Performers rest prior to the start of a Chinese New Year parade.

Before heading out to photograph the Chinese New Year Parade I checked so I knew the starting time, location, and the route it would take. I arrived at least an hour early for some behind the scenes moments when the morning light was rich.

Some prior knowledge of the type of subjects and activity I would encounter enabled me to anticipate the flow of action. So I was able to capture the dragon as it moved through the streets and received cash gifts from locals in its mouth.

A woman places money in the mouth of a Chinese New Year dragon during a street parade in Chiang Mai, Thailand. - How to be Better Prepared for Your Next Photo Shoot

A woman places money in the mouth of a Chinese New Year dragon during a street parade in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Prepare yourself too

I was wearing a good pair of sports shoes as I knew I would need to run at times to keep ahead of the parade. With many parades and festivals in south east Asia, there are often few restrictions for photographers assertive and considerate enough to just go with the flow of things.

I traveled light, without an abundance of camera gear. There’s always a choice between carrying more and having it weigh you down and making your movements more difficult and not having the right lens with you. I typically prefer to take two lenses so I have one on the camera and the other in a small belt bag. This way I am free to move and can often get closer to the action than if I was weighted down with a shoulder bag or backpack full of gear.

Chinese New Year parade and photographers - How to be Better Prepared for Your Next Photo Shoot

Photographing the dragon during a Chinese New Year parade.

Researching is easy these days. So planning and being prepared before you head out with your camera takes very little effort but can make a huge difference to the photos you’ll make and how much you enjoy your experience.


Once you’re on location it pays to take a little time to observe and anticipate how you can obtain the best photos.

  • Walking around, watching people, and considering what you think will be the best spots to take photos from is an important first step. Think about lighting and composition.
  • How many places will you be able to clearly see your subject?
  • What will the background be like?
  • Will the lighting work for the style of photo you want to make?
  • Are there any vantage points that allow you to get above your subject?
  • Is there some place safe to get down and lie on the ground for a low perspective?
Chinese New Year parade with a ceremonial dragon - How to be Better Prepared for Your Next Photo Shoot

Try to position yourself where there will be a good background.

Find a good vantage point

Once you’ve found a good location it can often pay to stay there for some time. Consider the flow of the action and if you can get a good variety of photos from your position, don’t rush off. This is particularly relevant when you have a pleasing combination of good lighting and a background you can incorporate into strong compositions.

If you are constantly changing locations you may find that you have to adjust your exposure frequently and your background is different which will require more attention to your framing.

Sometimes moving around is necessary to follow your subject. It’s good to be aware of your surroundings and considerate of who else is around you, especially if you are on the move a lot. At events with a lot of spectators, you don’t want to block their view but you also want to make sure you and your equipment are safe.

How to be Better Prepared for Your Next Photo Shoot

Watching dancers practice prior to the start of a parade I observed the pattern of their movement and positioned myself so the background and light were best, and then made a series of photos. The image on the left illustrates reasonably well what’s happening. But because I had paid attention to the dance I knew the girl would arch her back and I would be able to photograph her face and a more interesting pose.

Get out of the flow of traffic

Putting yourself in position a little away from the traffic flow, when there is one, will allow you to work more freely also. I made this series of photos of cheese vendors at Istanbul’s spice market by standing in between two of the stalls where there were no other people. I got the nod from the men selling the cheese nearby that I was okay to be there and was even offered a slice of very tasty cheese to try.

Vendor selling cheese at the Istanbul spice market - How to be Better Prepared for Your Next Photo Shoot

It’s good to get out of the traffic flow so you can take photos without being bumped or disrupting business.

As I savored the flavor of the cheese I observed the action of the vendors offering cheese to passers by and got a feel for the rhythm of activity.

close up of cheese being sold in a Turkish street market - How to be Better Prepared for Your Next Photo Shoot

Once you find a good location make a series of photos.

Being out of the flow of foot traffic (which was very busy) allowed me to take my time without being bumped and jostled. I made a series of photos that illustrate this part of the market better than I could have with a single image taken as I was just passing by. This series of photos were made with my 50mm prime lens.

Istanbul spice market cheese - How to be Better Prepared for Your Next Photo Shoot

A few tips for taking the photos

  • Concentrate. Don’t hesitate or be distracted from your task. Stay focused and single-minded about getting the photos that you have come to make.
  • Don’t worry about making mistake. These will help you learn. Keep all your photos on your card so you can compare them once you have them loaded to your computer.
  • Choose your moments carefully. Machine gunning your subject will result in an overwhelming number of bad photos which can be discouraging.
  • Use a narrow aperture and a fast enough shutter speed to avoid blur. You might need to raise your ISO even if you are working in bright conditions.
  • Use manual focus and zone focus to ensure greater success.

Kebab Seller, Istanbul, Turkey - How to be Better Prepared for Your Next Photo Shoot


With a little research and planning, you’ll be better equipped mentally to approach your chosen subject with confidence. Observing your surroundings and the flow of activity once you’re on location will help you find the optimal spots in which to position yourself to obtain the best photos. Then, employ some solid photographic technique to ensure you make some great photographs.

The post How to be Better Prepared for Your Next Photo Shoot by Kevin Landwer-Johan appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to do High-Speed Photography – the Fundamentals

20 Sep

What is high-speed photography?

High-speed photography is capturing the moments that happen in a fraction of time which you can’t see with the naked eye, like a bursting balloon or a splash of water. This photography is different from other kinds because it requires almost 1/20,000th of a second exposure time to freeze these moments. Most DSLR cameras don’t have such a high shutter speed, so how can you take these kinds of shots? In this article I will explain how to do high-speed photography.

Dancing Colors - Fundamentals of High-Speed Photography

What camera and lens do you need?

Let’s talk about the gear you need for high-speed photography first. Of course, you need a DSLR camera and the good news is that any DSLR will work. If you have any other camera that has manual controls, it will also work fine. Next is the lens and just like the camera, any will work. I use a 100mm macro lens for close-up shots like liquid sculptures and a 24-70mm zoom for balloon shots.

The only lens requirement is that the focal length should be long enough so that you have sufficient distance between your camera and the subject, to keep your gear safe from colors and water splashes. I found that 100mm macro is the best lens as it has 1:1 magnification so you can fill the frame with your subject. Because of the 100mm focal length, your camera will also be far enough from the subject.

Punch - Fundamentals of High-Speed Photography

Other equipment needed

Next, you need flashes and you need a lot of them. In some shots, I’ve even used four flashes together. The next requirement is a tripod because you need to do lots of work simultaneously, so it’s better that camera is fixed on the tripod. You also need a shutter release cable or remote to release the shutter.

Have patience

The most important requirement for this kind of photography is practice and lots of patience. Sometimes you’ll take hundreds of shots and none of them will be good, and you may think that it’s not your cup of tea. But don’t give up, as with practice and patience you can get desired results easily.

When I was trying to take following water drop shot, it took me almost 3 months and over 3,000 shots to get my first accurate shot. Eventually, I discovered a trick that made everything easy for me. I’ll share that trick later in this article so keep reading.

Fundamentals of High-Speed Photography

Get a helper as well

You may also need an assistant as you have to do lots of tasks all at the same time, and you can’t do everything on your own. Also, there will be a lot of mess after your shoot and it’s very boring to clean it up all alone. Last but not least, you need to find some creative hacks. For example, for “Dancing Colors” shots I made this setup using a soap dish, a plastic pipe, a black swim cap, some Velcro and fixed this in the air vent of the subwoofer of my computer speakers.

Fundamentals of High-Speed Photography

Along those lines, one day I also discovered that it’s much easier to fire flashes instead of releasing the shutter to capture an accurate moment. So I used some wire and a push button switch to make a switch to fire the flash manually.

Camera settings

Before we talk about camera settings, I am going to reveal a shocking truth. Are you ready for this? Okay, the reality is that camera shutter speed doesn’t matter in high-speed photography. In fact, in this image, my shutter speed was 1/10th of a second.

Fundamentals of High-Speed Photography

What, have I lost my mind? I just wrote that you need 1/20,000th of a second to freeze the moment and now I am saying that shutter speed doesn’t matter. Relax, I’ll explain everything.

In such photography, we usually shoot in a dark room with a narrow aperture and using bulb mode. We open the shutter and fire the flash at the right time to expose the image. So, regardless of whether the camera shutter speed is 1/10th or 1/250th, the exposure time is only when the flashes fire (for the duration of the flash).

Color Injected in Water Fundamentals of High-Speed Photography

Color injected into water.

Hence, these are the camera settings required:

  • Camera mode: Bulb
  • Aperture: f/11 – f/16
  • ISO: 100 – 400
  • Focus: Manual
  • Flashes with the lowest power setting possible.

Why do you need to use your flashes on the lowest power setting? Because that will give you the shortest flash duration. If you fire a flash on full power the flash duration is around 1/1,000th of a second. But at 1/128th power, it comes down to almost 1/35,000th of a second, which will freeze the subject completely.

Color Injected in Water Fundamentals of High-Speed Photography

Color injected into water.

Work flow

Set your camera on a tripod with a shutter release cable. Set the lowest possible ISO, go for 100 and increase it only if you don’t have enough flash power. Then, set the aperture between f/11-f/16, focus manually, and leave the camera. Now you need to train someone to press the shutter release button on your mark and release it as soon as the flash has been fired.

Your job is to do the action using one hand (like bursting the balloon, playing the beats or releasing the water drop) and fire the flashes using a switch at the perfect moment. You’ll need some practice but eventually, you will do it accurately.

Fundamentals of High-Speed Photography

Points to remember

Shoot in dark room: You should always shoot in a dark room as you are using bulb mode and sometimes your shutter speed will come down to 1/10th or 1/5th. So, if the light in the room is bright, it’ll affect the shot. The room should only have a small (low) light source so that you can see everything.

Small Aperture: Always shoot between f/11 – f/16 so you can get deep depth of field and everything comes into focus. Also, with a narrow aperture, the ambient light won’t affect the shot as much.

Made For Each Other - Fundamentals of High-Speed Photography

Manually Focus: Manual focus is a must as a camera can’t focus in the dark and you may miss the action if the camera keeps attempting to focus.

Flashes: Use the lowest power and slave mode on your flashes so you don’t need to attach all the flashes using wires. With slave mode, you need to fire only one master flash and the others will fire automatically.

The secret trick

Liquid Sculpture Fundamentals of High-Speed Photography

Now sit back and relax, because I am going to reveal a super easy way that you can shoot high-speed photography and get such pictures without much effort. Your chances of getting an accurate shot will increase tenfold. Are you ready?

The secret is to use burst mode on your camera. Set your camera to high-speed burst mode. You also need to change the camera mode to manual and the shutter speed to 1/125. Plus, you need to attach your master flash to the camera so that it’ll fire with the camera simultaneously.

Now when you press shutter release button, the camera will start taking photos and keep clicking until you release the button. Depending on your camera model, it will click between four to 10 shots per second.

Water Galaxy - Fundamentals of High-Speed Photography

With one hand, press the shutter release button and with your other hand do the action. Once the action is finished, release the button. By using this trick, you can get your first perfect shot in just 5-6 trials.


High-speed photography is a lot of fun. It can be tricky to get right. But don’t give up, keep trying until you get the desired results and share your photos in the comments below.

Refraction Fundamentals of High-Speed Photography


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Review: Nikon D7500 with 18-140mm Kit Lens

20 Sep

The 7000 series of cameras from Nikon have been very popular since they were first introduced in 2010. It is a mid-range camera in their lineup but sits at the top end of the amateur level cameras. As with many of these cameras the new one in this series, the Nikon D7500 can also be purchased with a kit lens, this one came with the 18-140mm lens.

Review: Nikon D7500 with 18-140mm Kit Lens

The Nikon D7500 with the 18-140mm kit lens. Image courtesy Nikon Australia.

The new D7500 is in the DX format or crop sensor camera. It has a 20.9 megapixel CMOS sensor and is said to be “equipped with a high-performance EXPEED 5 image-processing engine.” Nikon also claims that it is a good camera for video and that it supports 4K UHD. For more technical information please go to the Nikon website.

Nikon D7500 out of the box

When you first get the camera out you’ll notice it’s surprisingly light. I use a D800, so most cameras are light compared to that. However, the D7500 is a good size and feels nice in the hands. There is some weight to it, but it’s comfortable. When you have the camera, with the kit lens attached, hanging around your neck the weight doesn’t hurt you.

They have made the grip deeper so it is easier to hold onto, and also more comfortable to hold. With some models, it feels like you are digging your nails into the camera, but that hasn’t happened with this one.

Review: Nikon D7500 with 18-140mm Kit Lens

Holding the Nikon D7500. Image courtesy Nikon Australia.

Easy to use

When it comes down to it, what you really want from a camera is one that is easy to understand and use. There is no doubt that you will find both of those with the Nikon D7500. In previous models you had to go into the menu to change some settings, a lot of them are now buttons on the camera. ISO is changed with one up near the shutter button. You can change aperture with the scroll wheel at the front and the shutter with the one at the back. It is easy for your fingers to find everything you need.


It has a high range and will go up to 51200 and the slowest speed is 100. It has enough of a range that would suit most people who want to take photos in both low light and on sunny days.

With images taken at 12800 during a night show at Sovereign Hill you can see noise in the images, which is to be expected, but the amount isn’t that bad that the images are not useable. When compared with what older cameras did at ISO 3200, this camera takes a good image at the higher ISOs with much less noise as on other models. It fits in with many of Nikon’s cameras for using in low light.


The Winter Wonderland at Sovereign Hill was dark and to get images the ISO was put up to 12800.


Nikon has worked on the autofocus features with the D7500 and it is fast. You can track subjects and get fast focusing to get sharp images of whatever you are trying to capture. It doesn’t take long to get any subject in focus. It means you can work quickly, especially if you like doing street photography or something else where fast autofocus is needed.

Touch screen

Like most new cameras it does come with a touch screen which makes accessing sections in the menu easier and faster. You can just click on what you need. You can also use your fingers to scroll through the images you have taken. It turns the menu into a series of buttons, so you can move around it much faster and find what you need to make any necessary adjustments.

Review: Nikon D7500 with 18-140mm Kit Lens

Another night image that was hand held and taken with ISO 128000.

LCD screen

The screen at the back is tiltable (it’s not full articulating) so you can change it when you want to use Live View. This is especially good for places where you have strange camera angle, for example, when you are photographing something that is close to the ground. You can put the camera in Live View mode, and then tilt the screen so you can see what you are shooting without having to get down on the ground as well.

Live View is really good, though you always need to be careful with how quickly it can drain the battery. Without a doubt, you will use the battery faster if you use this mode all the time. If you use the viewfinder instead the battery will last a lot longer and you will get plenty of photos.

Review: Nikon D7500 with 18-140mm Kit Lens

This image was taken at Abbotsford Convent.

DoF preview button

It has been pointed out that the current model, the D7500, does not have a depth of field preview button (shows you what your image will look like with your selected aperture). Though it seems that many cameras are now removing this feature. It is not something that I either use or have looked for in a camera, but if it is an important aspect in your photography then it may be a problem for you.

Long exposure photography

You can use any DSLR camera for long exposures, and this one is no different. The images come out very sharp and you get the great effects that you would normally expect. One part that was surprising to me was using Live View with an ND filter on the camera, I could still see the scene. Many Nikon cameras do not do that. When the filter is on you can’t see anything, and you need to remove it to refocus and recompose. This is a great added advantage and makes taking long exposure images that much easier.

Review: Nikon D7500 with 18-140mm Kit Lens

Long exposure taken at Banyule Flats using the D7500 and the 18-140mm kit lens.


The camera has wifi, Bluetooth and Snapbridge. You can now connect your camera to your phone and get photos to instantly publish on social media. In other cameras the Snapbridge hasn’t worked well with Android phones, but with the D7500 I had no trouble getting my phone to find it and download images. It worked really well, and so far the best experience I’ve had with this app.

The 18-140mm kit lens

This is an interesting lens to include in a kit and many people would be really interested in it. The usual 18-55mm has been replaced with this one. It is a good choice for most people who are starting out with photography.

It has an aperture of f/3.5 at 18mm and when you zoom to 140mm the aperture range starts at f/5.6. It is much the same as other lenses of this type. For most photography, you are not going to want to go wider than those. It is a kit lens and you aren’t going to get something really amazing. If you want higher quality you need to buy the body separately and then get a lens separately.

Review: Nikon D7500 with 18-140mm Kit Lens

The kit lens takes pretty good images of flowers up close. Not quite as close a macro lens, but fairly good.

Most lenses for cropped sensors are of a similar quality. The images from this lens appear sharp and the quality is good. While testing this camera and lens the combination was used for night photography, long exposures, walking around, and some macro. It performed well in all circumstances.

The lens does have Nikon’s Vibration Reduction or VR, which a lot of users now want. Though you can choose to turn it off, which you should do if you are using the camera on a tripod. You also don’t have to use this function.

I tend to turn VR off on my lenses so I don’t leave it turned on when using my tripod. I haven’t found it a problem, but if find that your images have some movement, or you have trouble holding the camera very still then you may find it easier to keep it turned on.

Review: Nikon D7500 with 18-140mm Kit Lens

This image was taken as walking around the city.

Who would buy this camera and lens?

The Nikon D7500 is the top level amateur or non-professional camera that Nikon makes. It is for serious amateurs who want to get the best out of their photography, but can’t quite justify the extra expense of a full frame camera.

It would suit someone looking for a second camera after learning how to take photos with one of the entry level Nikon cameras, like one of the D3000 series models. It is a good step up and there are many features that the D7500 is capable of that the others aren’t.

There is no reason why someone who is new to photography shouldn’t purchase it either. It would be an ideal camera to learn and experiment with as you grow into the camera. The kit lens will also give you a lot of room to advance as well.

Review: Nikon D7500 with 18-140mm Kit Lens

Another long exposure that was taken with the D7500 and the 18-140mm lens


Amazon has the Nikon D7500 body listed at $ 1246.95, and if you want to buy the kit with the 18-140mm you can get it for $ 1546.95.


Overall, the Nikon D7500 would suit someone who is fairly serious about their photography and wants to get the most out of their camera. Someone who wants to take a lot of photos and also wants a model that is capable of doing many different types of photography. It is a camera that will do everything you want it to and you won’t be disappointed.

The post Review: Nikon D7500 with 18-140mm Kit Lens by Leanne Cole appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Video: 10 Hot Tips for Better Landscape Photography

19 Sep

Do you enjoy landscape photography and want to take your work to the next level? Here are 10 hot tips to help you do that.

10 Landscape Photography Tips

Recap of the tips

  1. Planning is key – How to Find the Best Locations for Landscape Photography
  2. Location – arrive early to be prepared.
  3. Composition – try the rule of thirds or advanced techniques.
  4. Use a tripod.
  5. Prepare your camera gear – take care of it when on location.
  6. Focus using the hyperfocal distance.
  7. Set your exposure – use the histogram, exposure compensation, or even bracket if necessary.
  8. Aperture – set it to get a wide depth of field.
  9. Avoid camera shake by using a remote or the self-timer in your camera.
  10. Filters – using a polarizer and/or ND graduated filters can enhance your landscape photography.

Do you have any other landscape tips you could add to this list for any newbies? Please share in the comments below.

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Weekly Photography Challenge – Landscape

19 Sep
photography, tips, apps, landscape, iOS, Android, Pete DeMarco

Landscape image by  © Pete DeMarco

Weekly Photography Challenge – Landscape

Landscape is one of the most popular genres of photography. So it should be easy to participate in this week’s photography challenge. Show us your favorite landscape photos, use all your skills and techniques to make the best images possible.

Here are links to a few articles if you need help:

  • 6 of the Best Smartphone Apps for Travel and Landscape Photography
  • 5 Composition Tips for Landscape Photography
  • The dPS Ultimate Guide to Landscape Photography
  • Tips for Processing Landscape Photos – from Basic Edits to Artistic Interpretation
  • How to Process a Black and White Landscape Photo Using Lightroom

Share your images below:

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.

Photo by Rob Bates on Unsplash

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

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

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Review of Macphun’s Aurora HDR 2018

19 Sep

HDR, or High Dynamic Range, photography is a technique that has been around for decades but really started making waves in the modern digital imaging scene around 2005. It involves combining multiple exposures of a picture, usually taken with a technique known as bracketing, to create one final single image with bright parts that are not overexposed and dark parts that are not underexposed.

Review of Macphun's Aurora HDR 2018

In recent years the software required to do this has gotten more powerful, less expensive, and so much easier to use. With just a few clicks anyone can make beautiful HDR images. Aurora HDR 2018 is the latest arrival in this category, created by Macphun, a developer rooted in photography and digital image manipulation. It’s a program that caters to casual users who want a fun creative outlet while also meeting the demands of professionals who make their living from designing beautiful works of photographic art.

If you want a single program that can handle all your HDR needs no matter your skill level, Aurora HDR 2018 may be just the tool for you.

What is HDR photography?

HDR photography is all about getting the best of both worlds when taking photos, particularly of static subjects like landscapes or architecture. If you’re taking a picture with extraordinary bright spots like a sunrise or sunset, you can expose for the highlights (i.e. the bright spots) which mean the dark parts get really dark and underexposed.

Alternatively, you can expose for the shadows (i.e. the dark spots) which leave the bright parts extra bright and overexposed. HDR photos are created when a photographer takes multiple shots, usually three or more, of the same scene: one underexposed, one properly exposed, and one overexposed. Then software such as Lightroom, Photoshop, Photomatix, and others can be used to combine all the images into a single picture that has detail in both the highlights and the shadows.

Before and after image showing what is possible with HDR.

How Aurora HDR is different

Compared to other offerings on the market, Aurora HDR’s brilliance lies in its simplicity. It’s far easier to use and just as capable as other HDR applications, and also very competitive in terms of its pricing. (Unlike some other apps, it’s available as a one-time purchase instead of with a monthly subscription.) When you open the program you are greeted with one large button that lets you load a single image or multiple exposures of the same image, which is all you need to do to get started. If you dig just a bit deeper you will notice two additional options: Batch Processing and Load Sample Images.

The former is useful if you want to quickly apply specific HDR processes and presets to many images at one time. While this can be useful if you have several images to go through I don’t recommend it for beginning users.

Aurora HDR 2018’s bread and butter is the incredible degree of control it gives you over the entire process of creating a High Dynamic Range image. This is where most people will get the maximum value out of the software.

What’s New in Aurora HDR 2018

Whether you are new to the world of creating HDR images with Aurora or are a longtime user of this software, many of the changes in the 2018 version will bring significant improvements to your workflow. The program has been rewritten from the ground up to focus on things like speed improvements, better RAW image handling, and a more user-friendly interface.

There is now a History panel which lets you see all the edits you have made to an image, and functions very much like the same option in programs such as Lightroom, which many photographers already use. The 2018 version also adds a Lens Corrections Tool and a host of other minor but noticeable tweaks while keeping the bedrock foundation of powerful yet easy-to-use HDR tools for professionals and beginners alike.

The lens correction tool is a welcome addition to the 2018 version.

These types of improvements mean a lot to me as a longtime Aurora HDR user since it sends the message that Macphun is committed to developing its apps. I’ve been burned before by companies that stop iterating on software I have come to rely on, such as Apple’s Aperture editing program, but it’s clear that Macphun is not going to leave photographers high and dry.

They have been making software for over a decade and are now even releasing some of their more popular programs for Windows users as well, including Aurora HDR 2018. It’s nice to see this commitment to continual improvement from developers, and it’s one of the reasons I enjoy using Macphun software so much.

Aurora HDR 2018 is open for pre-ordering now and will be available for purchase September 28th. Get more info here.

Other new features in Aurora HDR 2018 include:

  • A Transform Tool
  • Dodge & Burn Filter
  • Image flip and rotate
  • HDR Details Boost Tool
  • Rewritten tone-map engine to deliver more natural initial results
  • HDR Enhancer
  • Improved HDR Structure
  • Additional Blend modes

Getting started with Aurora HDR

If you are new to HDR processing and don’t know where to begin, click on Load Sample Images and you’re off to the races. The program will show you thumbnail previews of three separate pictures: one underexposed by two stops, one properly exposed, and one overexposed by two stops. When the program combines all three it will essentially give you a stunning HDR photo that you can then tweak and edit to your liking using a myriad of controls, filters, and effects.

Using your own JPEGs instead of the sample images results in a similar process, with Aurora HDR 2018 loading thumbnails of your images before you confirm that you want to proceed with combining them.

While using a tripod is ideal for creating perfect bracketed photos, sometimes horizon lines and other elements within the picture may be slightly misaligned. Click the Alignment button to have the program automatically correct for that. Additional Settings gives you options such as removing chromatic aberration and moving objects that might have changed position between each shot.

Keen dPS readers might be wondering whether Aurora works with RAW files, and thankfully they are fully supported by the program as well. You can work with one properly-exposed RAW file or use multiple bracketed RAW files to get even more room to experiment when creating your HDR images. The 2018 version includes a complete retooling of the RAW handling engine which results in improved color rendition and accuracy, which is a welcome change from previous iterations of the software.

Tools and first impressions

Once you have your pictures loaded into the main interface, creating a stunning HDR image can be as simple or as complex as you’d like. This is another aspect of Aurora HDR that I really enjoy. I have used other programs and workflows to do the same basic task of combining multiple exposures into a single image, none are as simple and yet as powerful as this program.

The interface might seem overwhelming at first but after a few minutes, I felt right at home. The non-destructive nature of the editing meant that I soon felt free to experiment with all sorts of different presets, sliders, and options without ruining anything.



From a workflow standpoint, Aurora HDR 2018 is designed to be quick, efficient, flexible, and familiar to those who have used other image editors.

When I edit photos in Lightroom I usually head straight for the sliders on the right-hand side to tweak parameters like white balance, exposure, clarity, and sharpness. Aurora HDR 2018 gives you many of those same options. However, I have found that it is more efficient to start with a preset and then edit from there, much in the same way that Lightroom allows you to click a preset such as Aged Photo, Bleach Bypass, or Antique Black and White.

Using these presets in Lightroom just applies pre-determined values to various sliders like saturation, grain, clarity, and color which you are then free to change as much as you want. Aurora HDR 2018 works in exactly the same way. Choosing a preset like Foggy Morning, Realistic Dreamy, or Sleepy Forest results in nothing more than changing the values of Tools sliders on the right-hand side of the screen which you are then free to alter as desired.

Review of Macphun's Aurora HDR 2017

Some of Aurora HDR presets previewed at the bottom of the screen inside the program.

Aurora plays nicely with most other image editors on the market including Lightroom and Photoshop. You can easily use it as a plug-in which means you can do all your normal work in Lightroom, then quickly send an image over to Aurora HDR for additional editing, and save it right back to Lightroom when you’re done.

Aurora HDR presets

If you have ever used Instagram’s photo filters you will feel right at home in Aurora HDR. In a way, you can think of the program like an extraordinarily powerful version of that rather basic social sharing app.

Once your photos are loaded you can click on a preset (each of which shows a small preview of how your final image will look) and then save your photo with no additional work or hassle required. The presets are even subdivided into categories like Basic, Dramatic, Landscape, and a few that were designed with input from professional photographers like Trey Ratcliff, Captain Kimo, and Serge Ramelli.

I must admit I don’t actually use Instagram filters because I find them to be distracting and unhelpful for my own style of photography, but I rather liked using Aurora HDR’s presets even though some were a bit too over-the-top for my taste.

You can take things one step further if you like, and create your own custom presets which can also be applied to any HDR image. This has come in handy for me on several occasions when I wanted to combine options from a few existing presets, tweak the values of a preset, or just create my own from scratch.

Simple interface

On the right side of the interface is a list of all the various tools used by Aurora HDR to control the parameters of your image. Some of them like Color, Tone Curve, and HSL will feel right at home if you have used Lightroom, Photoshop, or other image editors as these contain the same basic sliders you would expect.

When you click on a preset at the bottom of the screen the name of the tools used by that preset are highlighted in orange, which I found to be highly useful during the editing process. Since I knew immediately which values were being changed I could then use that as a starting point for my own experimentation which often led me down a rabbit hole of creativity that I didn’t expect but always enjoyed.

The only issue I had when experimenting with presets and sliders is that the program does tend to slow down when processing your changes, though this is much less noticeable in the 2018 version. While you still get a preview of what your edits will look like I did encounter several times when the “Image Processing…” alert would show up in the lower-left corner a bit more often than I would have liked.

Before and after mode

As you make changes, whether through presets or changing the values in individual Tools sliders, you can easily see how your work is progressing by using the Before/After view which I found to be handy. Clicking on this option gives you a vertical bar that you can slide back and forth to reveal the original image on one side and your changes on the other. You can also hold the \ key to quickly see the complete original and then release it to return to the current version with your edits.

Before and After slider in action showing how your edits are affecting the image.

It’s this sort of editor-centric workflow design that I really appreciated about Aurora HDR 2018. It makes the whole process of creating and editing an HDR image as straightforward as possible and easy to understand. I have used some programs where I felt hopelessly lost as if I had to change my own mindset and wrap my head around how the program wanted me to function.

With Aurora HDR it feels like the program was designed to meet my needs and my style. I never had one of those all-too-common moments of panic when I couldn’t remember where a critical button or tool was located or figure out how to replicate something I did a week ago.

Professional features and masking

Once you dig deeper into Aurora HDR 2018 you will find tools that appeal to even highly demanding artists who want precision control over their creations. A collection of edits such as applying a preset and then tweaking additional Tools sliders can be saved as a Layer, and then additional Layers can be added on top of it similar to Photoshop.


Masks can also be used on layers. You can even apply them with a brush tool which I found extraordinarily useful if there was a preset or set of edits that I just wanted to apply to a single portion of an image. If you want to get really specific with your editing you can even apply masks based on ten discrete levels of luminosity (luminosity mask), which means your adjustments will be implemented only on the brightest or darkest portions of the image instead.

Layer masks can also be applied as radial or linear gradients which can be very useful depending on the type of HDR image you are creating. And just like Photoshop and other image editors, your changes are non-destructive so you can revert back to any editing state any time you choose. You can also return to your edits if you save your file in the native Aurora HDR format before exporting to JPG, TIFF, or another file type.

Review of Macphun's Aurora HDR 2017

Blend modes

New in Aurora HDR 2018 you can also change the layer blend mode. Here it is applied to a layer that is applying selective darkening and lightening to specific areas of the image using the new Dodging and Burning Tool.

The Dodge and Burn Tool has been used to lighten the little cottage and bridge and part of the hill, and to darken the sky and parts of the reflection in the water.

Use the little Eye Icon to turn the effect on and off to see a Before and After.

New in Aurora HDR 2018 – Blend Modes! The default is Normal. Notice with this image the colors have become more saturated after dodging and burning.

By switching to Luminosity Blend Mode the colors are preserved and appear more natural.

Batch processing

One final arrow in Aurora HDR’s rather considerable quiver, which I briefly mentioned earlier, is the ability to quickly apply presets and other defined values to a batch of images. This saves you an enormous amount of time if you have dozens or even hundreds of photos that you want to edit at the same time, using the program’s built-in presets or your own custom ones.

I do wish the Batch Processing option allowed users to specify parameters on a tool-by-tool basis to combine presets with other options like Structure and HDR Denoise, but the workaround is to create your own custom preset and just apply that in Batch mode. Of course, this method doesn’t give you the sort of fine-grain control you would get from editing each HDR image individually, but the trade-off can be worth it in terms of overall time saved if you have a large number of images.

Conclusion and rating

During my time using Aurora HDR I was impressed with the simplicity of its interface as well as the sheer depth of HDR tools at my disposal. Macphun has clearly invested a great deal of time creating and refining Aurora HDR to appeal to demanding professionals and curious hobbyists alike. Having used previous versions of this program I found this iteration to be a welcome refinement in many areas.

In terms of value, it’s a phenomenal piece of software that doesn’t require a subscription and will serve HDR photographers very well. The one quibble I still have with Aurora HDR 2018 is that it’s a bit on the slow side when implementing some presets and manipulating certain sliders. But that was a minor issue with an otherwise stellar program.

Aurora HDR 2018 isn’t for everyone, and unless you specifically work with HDR images you might be frustrated that it doesn’t have features like Dehaze and Red-Eye Removal that you may be accustomed to using in other image editors. But then, it doesn’t claim to be an all-in-one editing program and instead abides by the age-old mantra of, “Do one thing, and do it well.” If HDR photography is what you’re into, then Aurora HDR will serve you very well indeed.

Disclaimer: Macphun is a dPS advertising partner.

The post Review of Macphun’s Aurora HDR 2018 by Simon Ringsmuth appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Using Lightroom Alongside Photoshop: Working with Smart Objects

19 Sep

What software do you use to process your digital images? As of the writing of this article, Adobe Lightroom sports over 1.4 million Likes on their official Facebook page. And Photoshop? That Facebook page is pushing 7.7 million Likes. If those numbers are any indication of the overall use of the editing software, then it’s safe to say that you are likely using one of the two programs right now (you’re reading this after all). Lightroom and Photoshop arguably set the standard for all other post-processing software platforms.

If you’re like me you use both of them, in tandem, to edit and process your photos. There are literally limitless possibilities when it comes to using Lightroom and Photoshop together. Out of those possibilities comes the idea of “Smart Objects”.

Do you know about Smart Objects? Have you ever used them before in your workflow? If not, I’m going to show you exactly how useful (or not) working with Smart Objects between Lightroom and Photoshop can be. Don’t worry, it’s all easy to understand. Let’s have a look at what Smart Objects can do for you and your photography when it comes to working with both Lightroom and Photoshop.

What are Smart Objects?

Think of Smart Objects as being a larger suitcase. All your edits in Lightroom are non-destructive. This is because you aren’t actually editing your original file in Lightroom. Rather, you are working with a virtual copy of your image. When you go from Lightroom to Photoshop, like this…

Using Lightroom Alongside Photoshop: Working with Smart Objects

You package everything into the suitcase and send it off to Photoshop Land. What do you put in your suitcase? You might put your Lightroom edits, the original file information, or a mix of the two. The key is that you don’t want to do anything to your photos that you can’t take back. While you can edit your images between Lightroom and Photoshop non-destructively, there are ways to remain more flexible than others. One of these is by using smart objects.

While you can edit your images between Lightroom and Photoshop non-destructively, there are ways to remain more flexible than others. One of these is by using smart objects.

Using Lightroom Alongside Photoshop: Working with Smart Objects

Smart Objects pack more into the suitcase when you move your editing between Lightroom and Photoshop. When your image opens as a Smart Object in Photoshop, you’ll notice a special little icon on the layer thumbnail.

Using Lightroom Alongside Photoshop: Working with Smart Objects

This lets you know that you are now working with a Smart Object layer. From here, work with your image in Photoshop as you do normally.

The benefits of using Smart Objects

The great thing about using Smart Objects when jumping from Lightroom to Photoshop is that you are taking an original version of your image with you so that editing becomes much more versatile once in Photoshop. Not only can you change the edits you made in Lightroom but you can also work more effectively when transforming or resizing your photo.

This all sounds a little complicated, but I can assure you it’s not. Let me show you some of the perks of using Smart Objects when working between Lightroom and Photoshop.

Real-time edits of Lightroom adjustments

Using Smart Objects, you can make dynamic changes to your Lightroom edits using Adobe Camera Raw just as you would in Lightroom itself. This lets you augment your Lightroom edits on the fly and when you save your image back to Lightroom there will be less need to make those final tweaks. Double click the Smart Object thumbnail and your photo will open in ACR.

Using Lightroom Alongside Photoshop: Working with Smart Objects

Apply any edits you want while in ACR and they will go back with you if/when you bring your photo back into Lightroom.

Smarter resizing and transforming

There’s a problem that plagues editors when it comes to downsizing and upsizing images in Photoshop. It’s pixelization. Because, spoiler alert, digital images are made up of pixels (except vector images). When you scale an image down in Photoshop, the program removes pixels to make the image smaller. This is all well and good until you decide you want to make the image larger again. Since you’re missing pixels, the photo can lose a lot of quality and look pixelated. Let me show you what I mean.

Here we have that same photo that we imported to Photoshop. I’ve duplicated the image with the one on the left being our regular “Pixel Image” and the one on the right is the same photo only converted to a Smart Object (select layer>layer menu>convert to Smart Object.).

Using Lightroom Alongside Photoshop: Working with Smart Objects

I scale both photos down to 10% of their original size.

Using Lightroom Alongside Photoshop: Working with Smart Objects

Then, being the hypothetical indecisive photographer that I am, I decide to then bring the photo back to its original 100% size. Which gives us this.

Using Lightroom Alongside Photoshop: Working with Smart Objects

Not much difference, right? Wrong. Let’s take a closer look. Here’s the regular image after scaling it back to its larger size.

And now look at our Smart Object…

The smart object image has kept its clarity and sharpness because Photoshop didn’t touch the pixels when it was downsized and used the additional information in the Smart Object to edit non-destructively. This is the power of working with Smart Objects when using Lightroom and Photoshop together.

The Downside

No, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows when working with Smart Objects. The biggest problem is that since you are including the RAW file information when you jump from Lightroom, the final file sizes can become rather large after you edit your image in Photoshop. Depending on the size of your original image file this can make for a lot of hard drive real estate being consumed resulting in poor performance during your processing.

Final thoughts on Smart Objects

Using Lightroom alongside Photoshop essentially gives you the best of both editing worlds. You have the simplistic adjustment capacity Lightroom while being able to perform more intricate edits using Photoshop. Smart Objects simply sweeten the pot. Using Smart Objects allows you to edit your images more efficiently and completely non-destructively.

Resizing images from Smart Objects means no loss of quality when you upscale or downscale. Throw in the fact that you have the fluidity of accessing and changing your Lightroom edits while in Photoshop using ACR and you quickly begin to run out of reasons not to incorporate this into your editing workflow. The increased file size, in my opinion, will be well worth the added benefits Smart Objects will bring you.

Have some of your own processing tricks while using Lightroom and Photoshop together? Please share them in the comments below.

The post Using Lightroom Alongside Photoshop: Working with Smart Objects by Adam Welch appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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5 Non-Gear Related Ways to Improve Your Work and Take Better Photos

19 Sep

I have lost track of the number of times I have heard complete strangers compliment me on having a great fancy camera that takes “great pictures”. Initially, I used to be quick to the defense and try and get a word in on how I am a professional photographer and hence have some level of skill in my craft. But now I just nod, smile and quickly move away. Unfortunately, the reality is that a lot of photographers (and others) think that by having the latest and greatest fancy camera, they have the ability to take better photos.

The truth of the matter is that you don’t need the latest equipment or fancy qualifications to be a good photographer. Photography is a creative art form and like any art form, it takes a lot of hard work, practice, and perseverance to get really good at taking great pictures. Sure, you need to really understand your gear and what it can and cannot do. But there are loads of simple, non-technical stuff you can do to improve your photography as well.

Here are some non-gear related tips that will help you take better photographs.

#1 Take your camera everywhere

You never know what might be around the corner, be it close to home or on your far away travels. Life is unpredictable and things change in a split second. There’s always something interesting to photograph. You just need to open your eyes, look around and be ready to snap that shot. And additionally, make sure your phone or camera of choice is within easy reach ready for that shot.

5 Simple Non-Gear Related Ways to Improve Your Work and Take Better Photos

Cows hitching a ride inside trucks is quite a sight especially on narrow streets in India!

5 Simple Non-Gear Related Ways to Improve Your Work and Take Better Photos

These migrating pelicans found the most electric resting places…hopefully, they got re-charged for their next flight.

#2 Take pictures every day

Overnight success is a myth. The sooner you realize that the more at peace you will have on your photographic journey. We all know that to get really good at anything, we need to practice and practice a lot. After all, practice makes perfect. The more pictures you take, the better you will become.

Don’t get hung up on what you’re using to take the pictures, either. Many times I only have my iPhone with me and take a shot if it catches my eye. Be confident that if done correctly, you can make good pictures with any camera.

5 Simple Non-Gear Related Ways to Improve Your Work and Take Better Photos

Cupcakes and coffee = great food editorials shots.

5 Simple Non-Gear Related Ways to Improve Your Work and Take Better Photos

Other times it is just a bowl of fresh fruit that can spark an inspiring photo. Don’t get hung up on the perfect scenery – let your imagination be your guide for your everyday shots.

#3 Analyze other photographs

Seek inspiration in other photos. Look at pictures you like and ask yourself what you like about those pictures. What makes it interesting to you and why? Also question how you could make it better or do it differently.

Don’t be afraid to try something similar and put your own creative spin on it. Take an old idea and make it your own. That makes it different, new and in turn, you just might make it better than the original.

5 Simple Non-Gear Related Ways to Improve Your Work and Take Better Photos

A recent obsession in the study of effectively capturing movement in photographs led to a multi-exposure frame – one of my personal favorites to showcase my creative journey.

#4 Study your images

Become your own best critic. Question everything. Look at your pictures and ask yourself what you like and what you don’t like. Be completely honest with yourself as this will really help you improve your craft. Sometimes it is also beneficial to repeat the shot and change it up to make it better than your own original.

And when something works, celebrate your success. It is very important in your creative journey to celebrate your own milestones – it makes the journey that much more fun.

5 Simple Non-Gear Related Ways to Improve Your Work and Take Better Photos

This is the view from my home in Bombay and I love photographing the sea bridge – one of the technological marvels of the modern world – at different times of the day and in different weather conditions. It is amazing to analyze how light and color changes the whole perspective of an image.

5 Simple Non-Gear Related Ways to Improve Your Work and Take Better Photos

Of course, night shots have their own charm. Next time I shall remember to take my tripod along for some car trails!

#5 Stop, look and then click

Most of today’s fancy cameras have a continuous shooting mode where you can fire away at six to eight frames per second. But I find that this tends to make us lazy as photographers. We take on the mentality of the “spray and pray” theory that if we take 20 shots of something, chances are at least a couple will be worthwhile.

Yes, taking loads of pictures is great. But if you pause and take a few seconds to really observe your surroundings, you will be able to visualize your shot. Think about how you want your picture to look and do what you need to do to achieve that look. It might mean moving position, waiting for the light to change or the crowds to dissipate, but it could be the difference between a good photo and a great one.

5 Simple Non-Gear Related Ways to Improve Your Work and Take Better Photos

We were walking along the narrow street of Vridhavan in India and this cow was ahead of us. We just stopped to see what he was doing and also to give him a wide berth as he was a very big bull. He calmly walked into this abandoned house and just made himself at home. It’s not every day that you find cows lounging inside your house.


I hope these simple yet powerful tips help you take better photos and improve at your skill and craft. Remember it is not the camera that takes a great picture but the skill of the person behind the camera that gets the money shot.

The post 5 Non-Gear Related Ways to Improve Your Work and Take Better Photos by Karthika Gupta appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to do a Themed Photo Walk to Break out of a Photography Rut

19 Sep

In simple terms, the more photographs you take, the more experience you gain. As they say, “the more the clicks, the better the pics”. It seems like an inevitable formula, right? But like many things, it’s easier said than done. Maintaining a constant flow of photographic material, let alone inspiration is hard work.

The dreaded photographer’s block means you can find yourself shooting one minute and stuck in a creative lull the next. Fortunately, there are plenty of small tasks you can set for yourself to break out of a rut. Doing a themed photo walk is a great way to get those creative juices flowing, with the added bonus of getting your daily step-count up in the process as well.

What is a themed photo walk?

A themed walk is just that. First, you select a theme. Then, armed with a camera, allow yourself to be guided by wherever your photography legs may take you. When you see a subject that fits your theme, take a quick snap and move on. The goal is to accumulate a body of photographs pertaining to the theme you preselected before you set off.

While taking a few random shots to shrug off a creative lull works well. But pot-shots make it hard to build up a series to revisit later. By taking on a themed photography outing, you’ll quickly fall back into the habit of actively seeking details and subjects, focusing your creative energies into a body of work with greater substance.

How to do Themed Photo Walks to Break out of a Photography Rut

Themed projects are a great excuse to document the world around you. Under the theme “desire paths” I photographed this series of pebbles – unearthed on a well-worn trail I take home.

Choosing a theme

The first step in this exercise can prove to be the hardest. Selecting a theme will define what you’ll be photographing on your walk. There are so many options to choose from, it can be hard to settle on a single one. Good themes are built on a strong idea of the target subject. A single color, shape, or pattern are simple yet effective choices, as are subjects that you’ll encounter frequently on your walk.

You may be tempted to choose a few themes at once, but focusing on a single idea will help construct your series with much greater detail. Plus, this project is about easing back into photography, not racing around madly trying to photograph as much as you can in a day.

Themes I’ve chosen in the past include dumpsters, traffic lines on roads (look out for traffic if you choose this one), spent cigarette packets, and squashed aluminum cans. As long as you don’t choose subjects like rain on a sunny day, you can’t go wrong. Once you make your selection and set off, you’ll be amazed how quickly you develop a discerning eye for your topic.

How to do Themed Photo Walks to Break out of a Photography Rut

For this photo walk I initially planned to photograph trees, though I let the theme evolve into a study of tree trunks instead. To draw greater attention to the form in each unique profile, I converted the images to black and white. Having the images arranged in a grid highlights the subtle differences in the subjects photographed.

Setting Off

Once you’ve settled on a theme, you’re ready to go. Start by having a good look at your surroundings. Depending on your theme, you may encounter photographic subjects as soon as you step out the door. Others may take a little more searching. Take your time and enjoy the process.

There are no hard and fast rules here. If you realize you’ve chosen a difficult subject, select a different one and start on that instead. This process is for easing creativity-fatigue and taking the time to see detail in your environment. Although this exercise is rewarding when used to create a series, the action of taking some downtime to work on your personal photography is what matters most.

How to do Themed Photo Walks to Break out of a Photography Rut

If, like me, you often find yourself time-short, try taking just a few snaps over the course of the day. I put this brief “yellow” themed series together while getting some fresh air on a lunch break. Once I had decided on my theme, it was a lot easier to pick out subjects to photograph.

Pulling it together

After you feel satisfied you’ve taken a solid amount of photographs, you’re ready to head home. Once you get back to your computer, it’s time to check out your handy work. So far, this project may have seemed a little sporadic, especially if you’ve chosen a broad theme. But this part of the project involves pulling all the images together to form a cohesive body of work.

Upload your images to the computer as you would normally and have a look over them with your preferred viewing software. Open a new document in Photoshop, select a few of your favorite images from your themed photo walk and drag them onto your canvas. Carefully resize each image so that they fit together in a neat grid. Make sure you hold down the Shift key while resizing images to maintain the aspect ratio of your photograph.

How to do Themed Photo Walks to Break out of a Photography Rut

Select your favorite images from your themed photo walk and drag them onto a new document in Photoshop. Remember to hold the Shift key down to maintain the image’s proportions.

As you build up the images in your grid you’ll start to see how easily your hard work comes together in a series. Although you may want to experiment with the order of your photographs, your overreaching theme will make a big difference in tying your series together. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to use every image you took on your walk. Just pick whatever you feel works. Once you have your images sorted into the one canvas, you are ready to share and can post the results in the comments below for us to see.

How to do Themed Photo Walks to Break out of a Photography Rut

Experimenting with the order that your images are arranged highlights the subtlety involved in creating a successful series of images. Working on a particular theme simplifies this process, leaving you to focus on the details that make the layout work.

How to do Themed Photo Walks to Break out of a Photography Rut

Another variation of my road signage themed walk. Don’t be afraid to change up your layout and experiment until it feels right.

The benefits

Aside from the exercise, themed photo walks help channel your photographic energy into a body of work. No matter how broad or focused, taking photographs within a specific theme widens your photographic experience and enhances your eye for detail. Hunting down subjects within a deliberately selected theme will help you create images you might never have considered before.

This will also help you to visualize future projects and help you pick out elements in photographs that work cohesively in a series. It’s a great way to improve your practice and get your head back into the photography zone.

How to do Themed Photo Walks to Break out of a Photography Rut

I took these images under the theme “looking down”. I plodded around with my camera pointed toward the ground for a few hours just to see what I could find. The results made a unique series built upon an unusual perspective.

How to do Themed Photo Walks to Break out of a Photography Rut

Another themed walk collage.

The post How to do a Themed Photo Walk to Break out of a Photography Rut by Megan Kennedy appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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