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5 Reasons to Use Lightroom for Portrait Retouching

24 Mar

There are some photographers who use Photoshop or plugins such as Portrait Pro to do portrait retouching. There is nothing wrong with this and these programs can do an excellent job, especially if you retouch portraits at a high level.

But you may be surprised at just what an excellent job Lightroom also does at developing portraits. There are compelling reasons to do all of your portrait retouching within Lightroom. Here are some of them:

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

1. You can use Lightroom Presets to create different looks

Whether you buy presets made by other photographers, download freebies from the internet, or make your own, presets can open up new worlds. There are presets that emulate film (such as those from VSCO and Mastin Labs), presets for black and white photography and ones that create just about every type of look you can imagine.

It’s possible to buy or put together an entire preset system – a set of presets that is designed to make developing portraits much faster and simpler than going through the right-hand panels in the Develop module individually.

Retouching portraits in Lightroom

The same portrait, processed with three different Lightroom Develop Presets to create three different looks.

2. You can easily bulk process portraits in Lightroom

Another benefit of using Develop Presets in Lightroom is that they make it easy to bulk process your portraits. In any portrait session, it is natural to take lots of photos, possibly hundreds, as you explore a variety of poses, clothing, and settings. If you want to spend as little time on a computer as possible processing those photos, then Develop Presets are the key.

I’m particularly impressed by the SLR Lounge Lightroom Preset System which I’ve seen in action on a Creative Live class. Designed for high volume wedding and portrait photographers it really does make bulk processing easy. It is not difficult for advanced Lightroom users to come up with a similar system themselves.

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

Sets of similar portraits that share the same lighting and background are the easiest to bulk process. All you have to do is develop the first image, then copy and paste the settings to the rest. Leave local adjustments like retouching until last as those need to be applied to portraits individually.

3. You don’t need to leave Lightroom to smooth skin

The main selling point of portrait plugins is that you can use them to make anybody’s skin look beautiful. The danger of these plugins, if overused, is that they remove skin texture and make it look over-processed and plastic.

But what you might not know is that the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom is an excellent tool for portrait retouching. The Soften Skin preset helps you smooth skin while retaining texture when used with the Adjustment Brush tool.

You can reduce the opacity of the brush after you have applied the effect, giving you full control over the strength. Combined with the healing brush tool, which is perfect for eliminating blemishes, you can retouch nearly any portrait.

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

This before and after view shows how Lightroom’s Soften Skin preset smooths out skin while still retaining texture.

4. Saves hard drive space

I always recommend that you do as much work in Lightroom as possible, and only export photos to Photoshop or a plugin when absolutely necessary. The main reasons are hard drive space and workflow.

Every time you export a photo, Lightroom has to convert it from Raw to a file format the program understands. For maximum quality, you should use 16-bit TIFF – a file that is much bigger than Raw. 16-bit TIFF files are very large and rapidly fill your hard drives.

Retouching Raw files in Lightroom is much more space efficient. The workflow is also much smoother when you keep everything within Lightroom.

5. Lightroom helps you create a natural look

One of the biggest dangers associated with using Photoshop or plugins is that you can go too far and over-retouch your portraits. It’s common in movie posters, which make the actors almost unrecognizable, and expensive advertisements. The search for perfection results in a lie and realism goes out of the window.

We’ve all seen those epic Photoshop fails, where the retoucher takes a few inches off a waist or thigh, enlarges the model’s eyes or changes the shape of her face. This takes great skill and restraint to do realistically. Most people fail. A model once told me about another photographer who enlarged her eyes and altered the shape of her face in Photoshop. She didn’t like the results at all and felt they were no longer photos of her.

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

Lightroom is well suited for processing portraits with a natural look.

The benefit of Lightroom here is that it doesn’t have the same capability of Photoshop so there is no temptation to use it to distort the shape of the model’s face. Lightroom helps you keep it real and go for the natural look.

What happens when you can’t rely on Photoshop to slim somebody’s face or figure? You have to learn how to do it through lighting and posing. Using Lightroom indirectly helps you become a better portrait photographer.

Conclusion

Photoshop and portrait retouching plugins are powerful tools but Lightroom is just as good, maybe even better as it stops you from over-processing portraits. But what do you think? Do you have a favorite retouching application for your portraits or do you prefer to use Lightroom? Let us know in the comments.


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

The post 5 Reasons to Use Lightroom for Portrait Retouching by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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DIY Hack 2-for-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

23 Mar

Can we really have enough camera bags? In this article, I will show you a DIY hack to easily convert a small travel bag with wheels into a camera roller bag. Basically, you get two bags for the price of one.

DIY Hack 2-in-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

A piece of luggage with wheels on the left and with a padded camera insert on the right – and voila it’s now a camera roller bag!

The one main drawback to being a photographer is the amount of gear you have and what type of bag to store your equipment in. This is especially true whether you are a professional, semi-professional or hobbyist photographer. There is no getting around it, once you invest in any type of camera with interchangeable lens, the add-on extras are similar to lego…you just keep building!

And herein comes the next must-have for any photographer, the camera bag.

DIY Hack 2-in-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

A very inexpensive luggage bag on wheels H54.5 X W34 X D20cm

So much choice

peak design everyday backpack

Courtesy of Peak Design – Everyday Backpack.

With such a plethora of camera bags on the market, it can become a bit of a quandary to know which bag to choose. For me, the one that proves the most comfortable in hauling around gets my vote. Although that said, I do love to see what company is launching the next must-have-camera-bag.

Peak Design’s marketing campaign video for their Everyday Backpack was just brilliant. I had to physically sit on my hands to stop myself pressing the buy button. Oh, I was so tempted!

Assess your needs

My main focus when going to a location shoot is to try and limit the amount of gear I bring. At the same time, I can’t afford the risk of not having that one extra bit of kit that may be crucial to a shot. As I do a lot of location shooting, there have been many occasions where I had to improvise and change the direction of the shoot. This was only possible as I had the extra camera gear with me in my bag. It is about good planning and being professional.

I also find it’s the non-camera gear that is really useful to have with you on a shoot. Even an elastic band comes in handy.

Look at options in non-camera stores

I was at my local shopping center recently and browsing at travel luggage bags. I was on the lookout for one of those carry-on size bags with wheels. Whoever thought of putting wheels on a travel case is a genius.

DIY Hack 2-in-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

This bag from itLuggage proved a great solution for my dual combo – a travel bag that converts into a roller camera bag!

My thinking was two-fold. I needed a small travel bag for trips away, plus I could use the same bag as a camera roller bag. I have always loved the idea of dual functionality with one product, especially when it’s not marketed as such. Plus, storage space in a house can be a premium, so the idea of doubling up on my bags to save space seemed an obvious solution.

The average camera roller case is expensive. One can range from €250 – €500 ($ 265USD – $ 530USD) here in Ireland (Europe). If you are a hobbyist photographer, this price tag may seem pretty high and way above your budget range.

DIY camera roller bag

The simple idea of turning a travel bag into a DIY camera roller bag is just brilliant. What I really liked most about this hack is there is no DIY or customization to be done to the actual bag and it looks great.

travel bag with wheels - DIY camera roller bag

An in-expensive travel bag from itLuggage.

I first saw the concept of turning a luggage bag into a DIY camera roller bag on Fstoppers a few years back. So, I’m in no way claiming this as my idea. However, it is so simple and easy that it is worth sharing the idea again in case you missed it.

This bag which caught my eye was ridiculously cheap at €39, approximately $ 41 USD. It is extremely lightweight and the size was perfect. H54.5 x W34 x D20cm (21.4 x 13.8 x 7.8”). Plus, this size of the bag meets the strict dimension requirements of European budget airlines.

Customize or DIY the bag

I was able to source this padded camera divider with an egg crate foam from B&W International. Even with the Sterling conversion to euros plus shipping. It cost me €50 ($ 53 USD) and in my opinion, was well worth it.

The dimensions of this padded camera divider were perfect for my travel bag:  H43 x W30 D12.5cm (with the egg foam 15cm). (16.9” x 11.8” x 4.9”). Do a search on Amazon for padded dividers by B&W or Pelican to find more size options to fit your bag snugly.

DIY Hack 2-in-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

Inexpensive travel bag with wheels with a padded camera insert and egg crate foam from B&W International. DIY camera roller bag. 

I was impressed with the overall quality and robustness of the material. The dividers are all easily removable and can be configured to your own setup.

padded camera insert

Padded camera divider insert with modifiable velcro attachments, typical of most camera bags.

DIY Hack 2-in-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

Quality padded camera insert from B&W International.

The whole camera bag insert fits snugly into the travel bag with ease.

Try it out

I brought my new roller camera bag to a local event recently and it worked a dream. More importantly, my shoulders were not screaming at me the next day, as those little wheels did all the work.

DIY Hack 2-in-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

Camera gear packed into the padded camera insert with lots more room to spare.

Now, I can’t wait to go away on a trip and use my new travel bag with wheels. I’ll keep you posted!

Have you already done this DIY camera bag hack? Would you consider doing it? If so, please leave your comments in the section below.

The post DIY Hack 2-for-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag by Sarah Hipwell appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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5 Tips for Photographing Water

23 Mar

Water is a beautiful subject to photograph. It can be as dramatic as a waterfall, predictable as a fountain, vast like the ocean, or just a winding exciting river. Whatever the source, it can be a point of interest in your image or an element of your composition. If you are enchanted with photography water, here are a few tips you can use to improve your final image.

5 Tips for Photographing Water

1. Capture Motion

Firstly, think about what you want to convey and how to add that characteristic to the shot. This may be as simple as choosing the right shutter speed. A fast shutter speed freezes motion and works well for crashing waves to show the activity of an ocean. Sometimes when using faster shutter speeds, your camera may indicate that you are getting insufficient light – this is where adjusting your ISO can come in handy. When using shutter speeds of 1/500th and above, timing is key for spectacular shots.

On the opposite side of fast shutter captures are long exposures. If you want to show greater motion or get that silken effect, slowing down your shutter speed gives you that cool effect. A few key things; aim for an exposure between 0.5 and 10 seconds which means that your camera needs to be absolutely still (a tripod is a definite, you can also use a shutter release cable/remote if possible). Dusk and dawn are great times for long exposures but there is no need to limit yourself to these times of day if you have a neutral density filter (discussed lower down in this post).

Bonus Tip: Getting closer to the water makes the blurring effect of moving water more noticeable.

2. Mirror Mirror

Water is a natural mirror. Seek out reflections and classify them. Is the reflection enhancing your image or distracting from it? In the latter case, move around a bit to eliminate reflections where possible or return to your location when the sun is at a different angle. A polarizing filter can help eliminate some of the reflections and give you nice contrast (rotate the filter and check out what’s possible).

Reflections can also add to an image and are used a lot where water is calm and still. That being said, ripples can also be interesting as they add texture and effect. There are also abstract reflections that look great in moving water such as the lights of a cityscape.

With reflections you can go for a symmetrical composition or not, depending on what you want to portray. You can even just shoot the water reflection and not the subject itself; the possibilities are endless.

3. Filter it

Using a polarizer was mentioned above, but it is worth a second thought as it is quite a useful tool to have in the field when photographing water. In addition to removing reflections (when they’re not wanted), a polarizer is very helpful in cutting out glare. By eliminating glare, it helps bring out any color details of the water and what lies below the surface.

Neutral Density (ND) filters are quite useful for creating long exposures during the day as they give you better control over your exposure. They do this by stopping/restricting light from reaching your camera sensor, thus allowing you to leave your camera with a higher aperture for a longer amount of time.

Note: ND filters do not affect the color in your photo in anyway, while the same cannot be said for a polarizer filter.

4. Underexpose when photographing water

Perfect exposure in-camera is your ideal goal. When water is your subject though, too many highlights can make it look white and it is difficult to recover the details in large areas that are blown out or clipped. If water is the dominant subject in your frame, it will benefit you to underexpose by 1/3 to 1/2 a stop.

Bonus Tip: Shooting waterfalls in overcast conditions is something many landscape photographers would recommend. There is no direct sunlight on the water itself.

5. Get your feet wet

If you can get into the water safely with your tripod, it’s a perspective worth trying. Use extra caution when setting up on slippery rocks and be aware of your surroundings. Make sure your equipment is insured, and you’re all set to try something different.

If this is not an option for you, grab a zoom lens for some close up details. It is worth the time to experiment with unusual angles.

Conclusion

Water is indeed a fascinating subject and with so many ways to capture it, why not give it a try? Are you drawn to the dreamy motion of long exposures, or do you find yourself caught up in a reflection? What other fun tip would you share to help improve other’s water photography?

The post 5 Tips for Photographing Water by Nisha Ramroop appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

23 Mar

A magnifying glass is a handy little tool, popular with intrepid detectives and bug collectors. As the name suggests, the convex lens produces a magnified image of an object, but it can also be used to make some unusual and eye-catching imagery. Pairing a photographic lens with a magnifying glass will probably not create a flawless alternative to a macro lens, but the unique properties of a handheld convex lens mean that there are endless combinations of optical effects to exploit.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

What you will need:

  • DSLR camera
  • Magnifying glass
  • Subject to photograph
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Tripod

Getting Started

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

The first thing to remember when using this technique is that the glass in your average, run-of-the-mill magnifying glass will be of far lesser quality than that of the glass inside your camera. The nature of the cheaper quality glass lends a softening effect to an image so sharpening in post-production (using software like Photoshop or Camera Raw) will help to add a bit more definition to the photographs. But don’t worry if you aren’t getting pin-sharp precision, the softness can actually add to the image overall.

Using a tripod to photograph subjects through the lens of a magnifying glass is a good idea too. Without a tripod, camera shake will add another layer of difficulty to a process that can be slightly tricky at times. For the purpose of this tutorial, I’ve chosen flowers as my subject. They make good subjects for this technique because they are colorful, interesting and they don’t move around. Getting the hang of this technique on a static subject will save you a bit of frustration when moving onto more animate subject matter later

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

This leaf was photographed against a window with the afternoon sun pouring through from behind. The light illuminated the veins in the leaf and the magnifying glass helped capture the detail in its intricate fibers.

Magnification depends upon a magnifying glass’s distance relative to the subject or camera, so there are endless angles and distances to experiment with to create imagery with soft light and diffused bokeh-like effects.

Method

First, clean the glass of the magnifying glass with a tissue or cleaning cloth to avoid dust spots. Maneuver your camera up close to the subject. If you are using a zoom lens, zoom in as far as possible. Your autofocus will most likely get confused by the additional glass between the lens and the subject, so set your lens to manual focus instead.

Hold the magnifying glass over the front of the lens with your hand.  Notice that it will either make the subject appear bigger or just extremely out of focus. With one hand you will need to either adjust the camera focus manually or move the magnifying glass forward and backward between the camera and subject. Trying to find a sweet spot where part or all of the image looks focused can be tricky – but be open to how the magnifying glass alters the photograph. The results can often surprise you.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

Keep in mind that the extra layer of glass will cut down the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor so you may have to adjust the exposure compensation, depending on the available light of your setup. Don’t forget to experiment with depth of field by adjusting the aperture as well. Taking control of the aperture will guide the viewer’s eye around the photograph. That can be crucial in more abstract images like these floral landscapes.

Experiment!

The best bit about this technique is that it rewards experimentation. Once you have a feel for photographing your subject through a magnifying glass, why not use two taped together for greater magnification? Or take a chance at photographing a friend or pet? Or why not try including the loop of the magnifying glass to create a framing effect? With even the slightest adjustment in angle or distance a magnifying glass can render some unique results. Take the time to experiment and have fun.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

Experiment with black and white images to highlight shape and form.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

Tape two magnifying glasses together for greater magnification.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

Create unusual framing effects by incorporating the loop of the magnifying glass in your photograph.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

After you get the hang of photographing still objects, why not move onto something more animated.

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Studio Starter Kit: How to Design a Starter Portable Studio

22 Mar

In this article, I will give you some tips for creating your own studio starter kit. A portable studio that doesn’t break the bank or the budget.

For many new photographers, the idea of using strobes and portable flashes may seem too daunting. Once you get over that fear, however, you will realize that it is not as difficult as you once thought, nor it is completely unaffordable. I’m sure many of us see famous professional photographers use top brand names such as Profoto, Broncolor, Westcott, Pocket Wizard, Elinchrom, Bowens, Manfrotto, and Lastolite, just to mention a few. We look at the price tag and quake in our boots. That kind of gear is worth its weight in gold for sure and would last many many years, even with daily use, as long as they are used appropriately and with care.

But fear not! These are not the only brands that work and if you are after a starter kit, there are plenty of other more affordable options out there that do the job just fine.

Studio Starter Kit: How to Design a Starter Portable Studio

So, I will share with you some alternatives to top brands for a studio starter kit especially if you just what to try it out. Of course you can go the full nine yards and shell out for the best brands, or alternatively you could rent a few items first to test them out.

#1 Know your subject and understand your audience

First of all, assess what you need your portable studio for. What will you be shooting; headshots, photobooths, full body shots? Knowing your usage requirements will dictate the height your light stands, the power of your strobes or capabilities of your speedlights, for example.

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Secondly, how often will you need to use your portable kit as you need to take into consideration the wear and tear on your equipment. This has more to do with the quality of the materials used in manufacturing. You don’t want your umbrellas and softboxes to rip from frequent use, for example, or the screws of your stands to come off so quickly.

Thirdly, what backdrop will you be using? Your stands need to be sturdy enough for the weight of your backdrop.

Studio Starter Kit: How to Design a Starter Portable Studio

#2 Do your research and read reviews

When you have a clear idea of your needs, allowing room for improvement and progression into other subjects, get on the internet and read reviews of various brands and compare them. It is a good idea to stick to a budget and if you can manage it, not to get into debt when acquiring equipment, although I know that sometimes that is not an option.

For the most basic studio starter kit, all you need is a light and one stand. That’s it. Of course, you do need a subject and a camera with a memory card. But, you don’t even need a remote trigger if you can use the built-in creative lighting system of your camera and flash. This works using infrared so that your camera and off-camera flash can communicate with each other for as long as both are within line of sight. For a better starter kit, though, I suggest you add a light modifier and a transceiver.

Studio Starter Kit: How to Design a Starter Portable Studio

Portable studio wish list

This would be my list for a good portable starter studio:

  • Backdrop stands x 1 set (a set will have two stands and a bar from which to hang the backdrop)
  • Clamps for your backdrop x 12 or depending on length of bar and number of clamps needed
  • Sandbags (one for each your stands)
  • Transceivers (or remote trigger and receiver system)
  • Light stands (preferably air-cushioned, as many as your lights)
  • Reflectors (preferably foldable and at least a 5-in-1)
  • Speedlight x 1 minimum (either the same brand as your camera or a third party compatible brand) or …
  • Strobe x 1 minimum (preferably with a battery pack so you won’t have to worry about power sockets on location)

Left image: background stand (Photosel) and clamps (Neewer)
Right image: Manfrotto Monopod with ballhead, Gorillapod, stands by: Neewer, Pixapro, and Photosel. I can’t remember the brand of my tripod (far left).

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  • Adaptors for speedlight to stands x 1 minimum (you need this so that your speedlight can be connected to your light stand)
  • Light modifiers which can be any of the following; an umbrella (silver, white, black on the outside, silver on the inside, all white diffusion), octabox umbrellas (with or without grid), foldable softbox (with a speedlight mount)
  • Tripod or monopod (preferable but not essential)
  • Light meter (preferable but not essential)
  • Plenty of Gaffer tape
  • Spare batteries for your camera, speedlight, and/or strobe (whichever you are using)

Left image: A studio strobe by Pixapro, transceivers (Yongnuo on the left, Paul Buff Cybersyncs on the right), Nikon SB 910 Speedlight, and a Sekonic L-358 lightmeter on the far right.
Right image: Ring Flash by Neewer, video lights are Yongnuo, and the magic tube is by Travor.

Third party options

Alternative cheaper brands that offer an astonishing array of photographic accessories at a fraction of top brand name prices.

  • Pixapro (UK)
  • StrobePro (Canada)
  • Neewer
  • Fotodiox
  • Photoflex
  • Yongnuo
  • Paul C Buff – (Alien Bees and White Lightning)
  • Rogue Photographic Design
  • Godox
  • Walimex

These are only some of the many alternatives easily accessible nowadays through the internet. The photos shown within this article have been taken with my portable studio starter kit made up the Pixapro, Yongnuo, Neewer, Paul C Buff, Rogue Photographic Design, Sekonic, Nikon, and Manfrotto. Sometimes I use just one light, other times two, and sometimes I include a reflector as well.

Left image: The flash softbox is Westcott. The flat rectangular modifiers are Rogue flash benders and the mini-versions on the left (one is rolled up into a black tube which I use as a snoot) are from Kaavie, again from Amazon. 5-in-1 reflector showing in gold is Neewer.
Right image: The collapsable gray card is by Lastolite, next to it are light stand adaptors as well as spare batteries.

Continuous lighting

In addition to strobes, you might also want to include some continuous lighting in your arsenal.  There are many types of continuous lights, the most popular of which are video lights, ring and tube lights. The usually come with filters too, which is handy. The great thing about continuous lights is not only their portability but the price tag – they are super affordable nowadays with various brands competing in an already saturated market. Personally, I only use these occasionally and cannot justify spending much on them.

Backdrop

For backdrops, you can use paper or fabric. A good tip is to use fabric that doesn’t crease and doesn’t need ironing. There is nothing worse than having to Photoshop all the creases from a backdrop. Trust me, I have done it before!

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Studio Starter Kit: How to Design a Starter Portable Studio

#3 Use your new studio

Having a studio in a box that never sees the light of day is a waste of your precious time doing all the above, not to mention money. Use your new kit and try out what works for you and what doesn’t. You will learn new things by experimenting and actually using your gear, rather than just reading what other people say. You will learn how to troubleshoot, and how to pack and unpack in the quickest time. If you don’t have a live subject to photograph, then take pictures of still life subjects to practice and find things out.

While there is no doubt that there are differences in the quality of the material used between brands, I believe that the difference in the quality of light is debatable and I’m pretty sure these differences are not life-changing. Ultimately, it’s not about the gear but how you use what you have.

Studio Starter Kit: How to Design a Starter Portable Studio

When it comes to light, the important thing to remember, more than the brand name, is that the bigger the light the better the quality, the closer the light to the subject the softer it is. When it comes to a portable studio kit, make portability a priority so that everything is easily collapsible. Don’t forget to consider the weight of your portable studio too as well as how much room it will take when transported. Many of the materials nowadays are made of lightweight durable metal, alloys or steels. You want a portable starter studio that really folds into a pocket!

Do share here any tips for starter portable studios especially if there is anything I haven’t included on the list above.

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Rim Light – A Simple Way to Create Powerful Images with a Single Flash

22 Mar

In this article, I will introduce you to creating a rim light using a single flash. While not so common, it is extremely easy to put in place and will allow you to get very interesting and powerful images. To do this kind of photography you just need a flash with the ability to place it off camera. A welcome accessory, the only one you may need, is a light stand or tripod to easily keep the flash in place.

Rim Light - A Simple Way to Create Powerful Images with a Single Flash

Learning flash doesn’t have to be hard

If you are just getting started in portraiture, chances are you have been faced with the “flash versus natural light” dilemma, and you probably went with natural light. I find many amateur and beginning photographers are intimidated by lighting equipment because they think that in order to get something good, they have to use complicated setups where many pieces of equipment are required.

In my opinion, the problem with learning to use flash is that the easiest possible setup, i.e., a single flash used off-camera, is often presented only as a way to create a basic image that needs to be improved by adding more gear and by creating more complicated lighting setups. As if nobody would seriously use just one light. So, I can see why flash photography is intimidating.

If you are a beginner, you probably want to know how to use your single, entry level, flash and how to create images that will stand out from the gazillion of portraits out there.

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Keep it simple

My solution was to forget about the magazine and fashion style portraits. I wanted to take advantage of the limitations of my single light setup to create strong and moody portraits by combining the hard light from the bare flash with a low-key style. Note; this style will better suit male models.

Rim lighting 01

Self-portrait using a single flash on my right, without any light modifiers.

By changing the output power and the zoom setting of the flash, you can get a more gentle and intimate portrait, like the one below.

Rim lighting 02

A single light setup can produce less punchy and contrasty images by changing the flash output power and the zoom settings.

Creating a rim light

This is all nice and good, but you can get a very different look by using a rim light. This kind of light highlights only the contours of the subject, and I love it.

Rim lighting 03

Rim light and low-key style; a powerful combination.

The setup is extremely simple. Just hide the flash right behind the model or the object, and point it back directly at the subject.

In practice, we could see the rim light as the opposite of a silhouette, where the subject is seen as a black shape against a brighter, often white, background. In the studio, the light setup for a silhouette is, in fact, the same of as that used to create a rim light, except that the flash is pointing at the background instead of at the subject.

Rim lighting 04

Self-portrait in silhouette.

Ideally, you want to have only the rim light in the scene and not record any ambient light. But this does not mean you have to work in a dark room. The only thing you need to be careful about with rim light setup is to ensure that the flash output power is such that the light does not spill over and around the subject edges. You want to have only the light running along the subject contour.

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Rim Light - A Simple Way to Create Powerful Images with a Single Flash

It is all about that thin light running along the subject’s edges.

Refine it a little

If possible, the editing is even easier. Make sure that the blacks in your image are deep and the highlights are bright. Do this and you have pretty much done with the editing.

What I like about this technique is that the resulting photo has a mysterious look that captures the viewer’s imagination. I guess it has all to do with the “see/not see”.

If you like props, you can also use them with a rim light to better convey a message, like in the photo below.

Rim Light - A Simple Way to Create Powerful Images with a Single Flash

Addiction. Here I have allowed the light to spill a bit more, so as to light my hands and the mobile screen.

We all live, most of the time, with our noses inside a smartphone screen, somewhat unaware of the reality around us. That and a feeling of addiction is the message I tried to attach to the photo.

Adding emotion

Emotions can also be easily conveyed in an interesting way by using rim light. We had a new baby girl a few months ago, and a few weeks before the due date, I experimented with a rim light in the living room when my pregnant partner passed by. I decided to take the usual very cliché photo of the father kissing the belly of the mother. While kissing her baby bump, I had the vision of the sun rising from behind the Earth, seen from space and thought, “Use a rim light!”. This is the result:

Rim Light - A Simple Way to Create Powerful Images with a Single Flash

Rim light can change a cliché image into a very moody and interesting one.

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I think this simple light setup transformed the same old same old photographic cliché into a much more powerful and interesting image.

Special effects

Finally, because the scene is backlit, an easy way to add interest is to include in the shot smoke or aerosols. Both will capture and scatter the light around, creating some interesting effects.

Rim Light - A Simple Way to Create Powerful Images with a Single FlashSince I do not smoke, I sprayed water around to make this self-portrait shot more interesting.

Finally, try to turn the model towards the light and allow the flash to light them a bit more for some interesting variations.

Rim Light - A Simple Way to Create Powerful Images with a Single FlashTurning the model to face the light can be an interesting variation on the theme.

To conclude, I hope I have given you some ideas to start playing with a single off-camera flash in a simple and non-intimidating way using a rim light. The bonus is creating some particular and interesting photos in the process.

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21 Images That Sing – Photos of all Things Musical

22 Mar

Music fills the soul – it also makes for a great subject for photographers.

Singers, concerts, musicians, bands, instruments, and more. See if you can hear the music in thees images!

By John Finn

By Ronald Rugenbrink

By Brian Tomlinson

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By Mike Morbeck

By Bill Couch

By David

By dion gillard

By Eleonora Albasi

By Nate

By Mats Edenius

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By Micha? Koralewski

By Sam Cox

By Arnold Manillier

By Marco Evangelisti Crespo

By Flavio~

By Brandon Giesbrecht

By Susanne Nilsson

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By Machrouh Med Sami

By Grodenaue

By Alex de Haas

By ericzim

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Weekly Photography Challenge – Music

21 Mar

Sing, play that funky music, listen and look at these 21 images of all things music.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Music

Think of all the things you can photograph related to music:

  • An individual instrument
  • Musician with this instrument
  • Full band
  • A concert or show in a bar
  • An orchestra or quartette
  • A singer
  • A sheet of music
  • Speakers or a stereo

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By Freaktography

By Gia Willow Alexa Annermarken

So get out and find something musical to photograph this week for the dPS challenge. Here are some tips to help you get started.

  • 5 Tips for Portraits of Musicians That Will Help You Hit All the Right Notes
  • 10 Must-Have Camera Settings for Concert Photography
  • Concert Photography: Choosing the Best Camera Settings
  • How to Shoot a Sequence of Photos That Capture a Story

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By Geoffrey Froment

By Ignacio Bernal

By K ~ The Eternal Spirit

By kennysarmy

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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.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

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

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Creative Use of the Radial Filter in Lightroom

21 Mar

Back in 2013, which is about two thousand years as far as digital photography is concerned, the folks at Adobe introduced a brand new tool into the kit of Lightroom 5. That tool is the Radial Filter and it has become not only one of my favorite tools in Lightroom but is one of the most versatile and powerful mechanisms we have for selectively applying edits to our photographs.

The Radial Filter tool has evolved and changed to where we find it becoming more and more useful in the latest version of Lightroom CC. In this tutorial, I will show you just how strong the Radial Filter has become. Most importantly, you will learn some of the great things it can do for you and your work.

What is the Radial Filter?

The term “radial” implies that the tool is circular of course but it goes quite a bit further than that. The Radial Filter is best considered as a virtually infinitely manipulable ellipse; meaning that the user can change the size and shape of the filter up to (and even beyond) the view window of the Develop Module.

Creative Use of the Radial Filter in Lightroom

Access the Radial Filter by clicking it on the toolbar in the Develop Module (is the second from the right, next to the Adjustment Brush). You can also open it by using the keyboard shortcut (shown above) Shift+M or by going to Tools > Radial Filter from the menu at the top of Lightroom.

The edits that can be applied using the Radial Filter with the current version of Lightroom CC include virtually all the develop options from the Basic Panel plus the recent addition of the “dehaze” feature from the Effects Panel. So essentially the Radial Filter allows you to apply edits to specific areas of the frame where you need them. You can set the filter so that the edits are applied to either the inside or outside of the filter margins (more on inversion later.) You can even use multiple Radial Filters together in order to achieve some impressive effects.

Applying and Manipulating the Radial Filter

Of course, the shape and position of the Radial Filter are the largest parts of the usage pie. To apply the filter, drag the cursor while holding down the left mouse button. You will see the filter expanding as you drag. There will be a placement indicator in the form of an opaque circular dot. This dot represents the location of each Radial Filter within your image. You’ll notice that there are also four square shapes around the perimeter of the ellipse. These are points where you can change the shape of the filter as you please.

Creative Use of the Radial Filter in Lightroom

Grab any of these points to expand the Radial Filter in that direction.

The entire filter can also be rotated by placing your cursor around the edge until it turns into a curved double-headed arrow (shown below).

Creative Use of the Radial Filter in Lightroom

You can rotate the Radial Filter around the center point when you see this symbol.

Left click to change the position of the filter.

Seeing Red – the Mask Overlay

One of the great things Adobe has included for you is a way to see where your edits are being applied by its filters and brushes. When using the Radial Filter, hover your cursor over the center dot indicator for about a second and you will see a wonderful bit of magic. Wherever the radial filter has applied its edits will now be highlighted in red.

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Well, it’s not exactly magic, but it sure is close.

Note: If you want this mask to show all the time just hit O on your keyboard. You can change its color, or you can rotate through white, black, green and red by pressing Shift+O. 

Feathering, Duplication, and Inversion

There are some other tips when it comes to applying the radial filter. The most basic of these is feathering, duplication, and inversion.

Feathering

Feathering determines how hard or soft the border around the radial filter is, and in turn how noticeable the transition will between the edits applied and the rest of the photo.

Here we have a very abrupt transition….

Creative Use of the Radial Filter in Lightroom

Feathering at 0 the transition is harsh and very obvious. There is a definite line where the filter ends, and the unedited images begins.

Now you can see the softening of the border brought about by maximum feathering (+100). Depending on your needs feathering can make all the difference.

Creative Use of the Radial Filter in Lightroom

Feathering at +100 the transition is very gradual and less obvious.

Duplication

Now, let’s say you find yourself in a situation where there is more than one area which needs a similar adjustment to one that you’ve already applied with a Radial Filter. This happens frequently when working with groups of people or in a scene that has multiple elements such as a landscape.

Take this image for example; a shot of two people with similar lighting. I want to brighten both of their faces and add a little sharpness.

Creative Use of the Radial Filter in Lightroom

I created a Radial Filter using some slight exposure and sharpness increases and applied it to the man’s face. Instead of starting from scratch and creating a separate Radial Filter for the woman, I simply duplicated the Radial Filter. To do this, simply right click on the locator dot in the middle of the filter, then select duplicate (as shown below).

Creative Use of the Radial Filter in Lightroom

What this will do is copy all the settings of your current filter into a brand new Radial Filter which you can then move about and change as you see fit. It saves a lot of time and ensures you have a great starting point for your next edit.

Creative Use of the Radial Filter in Lightroom

The duplicated Radial Filter moved into place over the woman’s face.

I also added a third radial filter to add a little more contrast to the couple.

Creative Use of the Radial Filter in Lightroom

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Inversion

On the other hand, inversion is something very different than duplication because you’re still working with the same filter and the same edits but in a completely different way. You’ll find the Invert Mask checkbox at the bottom of the Radial Filter panel.

Creative Use of the Radial Filter in Lightroom

Click the Invert Mask checkbox to invert the Radial Filter.

When left unchecked, all your edits will be applied OUTSIDE the filter. This is great for applying brightening and sharpening to faces and small areas of a frame as well as creating sunspots. Conversely, when the invert mask box is checked all your edits will be applied INSIDE the filter. This is great for creating custom vignettes and bringing down bright skies or overexposed areas within the image.

Integration of the Brush Tool

A wonderful advancement that is now included with the Radial Filter is the ability to adjust the filter’s edits using the brush tool. While the brush tool has been a standby in Lightroom for some years it has only recently been included as an advanced edit option for the Radial Filter tool. What the brush tool allows you to do with the Radial Filter is to tailor its effects more than ever before. You are now able to use the brush to apply the settings of the Radial Filter free-handed to extend outside or inside of the filter.

Creative Use of the Radial Filter in Lightroom

Here I have painted in the same edit selections with the brush tool that I used in the radial filter.

Creative Use of the Radial Filter in Lightroom

Creative Use of the Radial Filter in Lightroom

You can still hover to better see your edits while in brush mode (or click O on your keyboard to show/hide the Mask Overlay).

Furthermore, the brush has all the functions of the dedicated Adjustment Brush tool which includes the ability to erase edits.  If you’re like me and find yourself saying, “Oops, I went too far with the brush!” all you need to do is select erase and paint over it again.

Creative Use of the Radial Filter in Lightroom

Erase switches the brush into erase mode. Now you can erase the edits you don’t want.

Pretty great!

A Few Tricks

Sunspots

I mentioned sunspots a little earlier. They are a great way to add depth and interest to an image. While creating a sunspot where no sun exists isn’t always a good idea, the Radial Filter tool really helps to enhance the brightness (or darken) and warmth of a preexisting sunrise or sunset.

Here are two examples of using the Radial Filter to increase the impact of sunspots: First without the Radial Filters…

Creative Use of the Radial Filter in Lightroom

Original before adding the Radial Filter.

And now with two radial filters applied for brightness and warmth.

Creative Use of the Radial Filter in Lightroom

One more.

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Three radial filters were used here to brighten the branches and add warmth to the sun in the background.

Tame the Moon

Another nifty way to use the Radial Filter tool is for toning down an overly bright or dull moon. Here we have a before and after split-view of the moon after some sharpening and clarity was applied with a single Radial Filter.

Creative Use of the Radial Filter in Lightroom

I also brought ought the shadows by darkening the blacks and then cooled the image a bit.

Simulating Depth of Field

It doesn’t stop there. The radial filter can also be used to simulate extremely shallow depth of field. This works great if you want to give an image a very old-time tintype feel. This is the original image:

Here I have used multiple Radial Filters to blur out the background, along with some other edits to give the image an antique feel.

Some Final Thoughts

The Radial Filter tool has come a long way since its introduction. Now you have the power to use the virtually all of the basic edit tools in Lightroom very selectively. The integration of the brush option takes the possibilities even further by adding versatility like never before. With a little creativity, the Radial Filter can do so much more than simply adding vignettes to your images. After some practice, it will likely become your workflow’s best friend.

How do you use this tool with your images? Please share your thoughts and images below.

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15 Photography Ideas to Boost Your Creativity

21 Mar

Doing photography exercises brings forth new opportunities to improve your skills, hone in on your craft and who knows, even guide you in the direction of finding a new genre that you love more than anything in the world! Here are 15 creative ideas to take you out of your comfort zone, and guide you in your quest to boost your creativity.

Get out there and put your own spin to each of these prompts. Bonus points if you have never tried any of these before. When you push yourself to get comfortable being uncomfortable, to step outside your comfort zone, to try new things, and to give yourself the permission to fail – you also give yourself the chance to figure out who you want to be when you grow up!

#1 – Add emotion to your images

15 Photography Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

I absolutely adore this image. There’s nothing like laughing with unabashed happiness on your wedding day!

Choose to evoke emotion in your images – either in the eyes of the beholder or in the eyes of the beheld (a.k.a your subjects). When you want emotion from your subjects, ask for it. There is nothing more uncomfortable for your clients than a photographer who is silent behind the camera while continuously clicking the shutter.

Most clients are not professional models and generally, they are quite camera shy and self-conscious. It is our responsibility as the photographer to direct, educate, and interact with our clients to make them comfortable in front of our lens.

If you are shooting landscapes or still lifes, aim to create emotion in your images that move your audience to feel something. Be it a serious case of wanderlust viewing a travel photo from an exotic locale, or insane hunger when looking at your food images!

15 Photography Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

Sometimes staged photos take a turn of their own and present opportunities for different perspectives!

#2 – Try some motion blur

There are many different ways to achieve motion blur. I associate motion blur with the effect of capturing movement in a frame. You can either capture movement in your subject or by moving yourself or the camera (e.g. panning). For me, the easiest way to achieve motion blur is to slow the shutter speed and show some movement of the subject. Motion blur adds an interesting artistic element in your images if done right. One tip, use a tripod for optimal effect.

15 Photography Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

When fog was our constant companion on a beach camping trip in the pacific northwest, I chose to use it to my advantage to create an eerie effect with motion blur – in the waves and the people walking along the beach!

15 Photography Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

Panning image courtesy of dPS Editor, Darlene.

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#3 – Go macro

Traditionally macro photography has been associated with floral and fauna. But resist the urge to get out into the garden to find the smallest ant to photograph. Instead, think of macro as a great way to isolate details in an image.

15 Photography Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

As a wedding photographer, I love using my macro lens to capture unique ring shots for my couples. And of course, nothing like highlighting the snow (I live in Chicago!).

#4 – Find reflections

As the name suggests, try and find mirror images or reflections, either with mirrors or with water, of your subject and shoot creatively.

Reflections of people in water image - 15 Photography Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

It really helps if your subjects are great sports and willing to get into the water for a shot like this!!

#5 – Shoot out of focus

Whether it’s an unlucky accident or intentional, I love out of focus images. Remember these creative exercises are simply an attempt to create something you are proud of. There are no right or wrongs, they are all just ways to stimulate your creative juices.

#6 – Wabi-sabi – embracing imperfection

As per Wikipedia, wabi-sabi represents Japanese aesthetics and a Japanese world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.

There is something innately beautiful in imperfections. That feeling of being alive and being human and living life to the fullest, versus living in the proverbial glass house where nothing is out of order. The best way to think of wabi-sabi is to look for imperfections in your everyday.

15 Photography Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

I love everything old and vintage. They always tell me stories of a different, more interesting time and place!

15 Photography Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

#7 – Double exposures

Ding a double exposure is a carry-over from the old film days and it is a super creative way to take your images from boring to wow! In its simplest form, it is a way to superimpose two images onto a single frame. The good news is that you don’t need a film camera to create double exposures. Some of

Some newer DSLRs have a multiple exposure setting as a tool for creative photography. It takes a little bit of reading but once you get the hang of it, I promise, you will be hooked. We also have a great article in the DPS archives that talks about the techniques of multiple exposures How to do Multiple Exposures In-Camera.

15 Photography Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

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#8 Diptych

A diptych is a concept of placing two images side by side so that they add context to each other and tell a complete story. When choosing images to form a diptych, pay close attention to light, tones, and exposures. Typically I compose my diptychs to include a big picture image and a detail shot of an element of that image.

15 Photography Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

My focus with dyptics is to dig deeper into my stories…focus on the details along with the big picture.

#9 – Triptych

Similar to diptych, a triptych is a concept of placing three images side by side so that they collectively tell a story.

15 Photography Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

Especially with tryptics, pay special attention to the order and orientation of the images. At times this might limit the placement of the images in a certain order.

#10 – Shooting through objects

I love shooting through objects, it adds an element of interest and depth in the foreground. You can really take this up a notch by using every day elements like leaves, branches, fabric pieces and ever glass to create some cool artistic effects in your images.

15 Photography Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

15 Photography Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

#11 – Different perspective

The next time you find yourself shooting the same subject the same way, take a step back and rethink your strategy. Are you a 100% vertical shooter like me? Then force yourself to take a horizontal frame. Are you always looking at details? Then use a wide-angle lens and force yourself to take in the big picture. Do you always shoot at a narrow aperture so as to get everything in focus? Then dial down your aperture and shoot at the widest possible setting (based on your lens) to focus in on one detail of the whole image.

15 Photography Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

Personally, I tend to shoot closeup and focus on the details a lot more than I do the big picture. So I have been forcing myself to do just that…and I love when I get diversity of 50-50 in my vertical and horizontal orientation shots! Bonus point to you if you can spot the subject here!!

#12 – Burst of color

It’s a beautiful, colorful world out there. Get out and photograph it. Don’t be afraid of the bold bright colors, but definitely be aware of which colors work and which ones don’t quite translate well in imagery. Train your mind to look for certain colors and patterns and before you know it, you will have a collection of colorful images that make you happy.

15 Photography Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

15 Photography Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

I just loved the pop of color from my husband’s red jacket as he walked along the lakeshore with the Olympic mountains in the background.

#13 – Monochromatic

This is the exact opposite of #12 where your challenge is to look for and shoot a black and white image. You can either convert the image to B&W in post-processing or change the setting on your camera (depending on the make and model) to shoot monochromatic in-camera.

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The key here is to look for patterns and compositions that work well in black and white. A point to note is that processing is very subjective, as is black and white imagery. There are no right or wrong images, but here are a few articles to help you take great monochrome images.

  • How to Create Good Black and White Portraits
  • 6 Tips to Help You Make Better Black and White Landscape Photos
  • Avoid These 5 Common Mistakes in Black and White Photography
  • A Guide to Black and White Conversion in Photoshop
  • A Guide to Black and White Conversion in Lightroom
  • Improve Your Middle of the Day Photos By Doing Black and White

15 Photography Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

15 Photography Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

#14 – Pattern play

Take the time to look around and see if you are able to find any natural patterns around you. These can be either man-made or natural. Facades of buildings, windows, parking lots, and landscapes all provide many opportunities to capture repeating patterns. Capture them in an interesting way to highlight those patterns.

15 Photography Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

#15 – Shadow play

Shadow play is most prevalent in situations when the sun is high in the sky creating harsh shadows on the ground, on buildings and directly unto the subject. But magic with light also happens indoors. Learn to embrace this high contrast between shadow and sun and try to capture some creative angles.

Dramatic light Images Shadow play - 15 Photography Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

Conclusion

I hope these exercises have proven to you that there isn’t any lack of creativity prompts in and around you. You just have to look for them anytime you feel stuck or find yourself creating the same or similar images again and again. Keep these prompts in the back of your mind, use them, combine them, mix them up – the possibilities are endless!

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The post 15 Photography Ideas to Boost Your Creativity by Karthika Gupta appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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