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How to do Post-Processing of Focus Stacked Images

22 May

Let me take you on a short walk through Lightroom and Photoshop. There are relatively few steps required to process focus stacked images. In a previous article (How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking), I went through what I think you will find is the best and easiest way to take the required photographs.

focus stacked image

My Melbourne tea cup

This image is acceptably in focus from the front to the back. You can only achieve this sort of large depth of field by taking, and computationally combining, several photographs. You can work through the image, taking photographs which are focused on different points, then combine those photographs with software. Photoshop does the job well, but there are also other specialized programs for doing focus stacked images. Zerene Stacker and Helicon Focus are the ones which seem to be mentioned most often.

I hoped that the tea cup made a bright, attractive image, and gave a clear illustration. However, it is hardly a great photograph, is it? Being a little more aspirational, I have mostly used this technique to produce images of palm leaves. It would really be great if you could find your own project, your personal muse to apply this technique.

focus stacked image

Palm leaf

I confess that I am not always the most patient person when it comes to processing. Every now and then, I have spent hours on one image, but I generally like to get things done quickly. However, with focus stacked images, working in Lightroom, then Photoshop, I actually rather enjoy the process. I think part of the reason for that is that I am happy with the final product, but it is also quite a pleasant, simple routine, which can be almost relaxing.

Stage One – Lightroom

One of the joys of photography, and computers too is that there is often more than one way of doing things. This is my approach, it is probably not the only approach, but it works well.

Firstly, I import the RAW files into Lightroom.

focus stacked image

Import to Lightroom

The images to be focus stacked

The images below have not been processed, just converted to jpegs. I thought you should have some idea what I started with, and that it might be helpful for you to see where each individual shot was focused.

focus stacked image

Image #1

The next shot was focused on the other side of the frame, on the left. In the actual situation of taking the photographs, it was easy to see which part of the leaf was furthest from the camera, and which was just a little closer.

focus stacked image

Image #2

This is moving forward, with focus along the left edge of the leaf.

focus stacked image

Image #3

If you are photographing a subject which has a distinct edge, like this leaf, something running from the back to the front of the object, it can be very useful. It makes focusing easier, and it gives you something which you can work along in equal increments.

focus stacked image

Image #4

For the next shot, I moved to the other side of the leaf.

You may notice that I like to be extra careful to make sure that the front part of the photograph, where the viewer’s eye will go first, is extra sharp.

focus stacked image

Image #5

Three shots cover the front section at slightly different depths.

focus stacked image

Image #6

Lightroom adjustments

For these shots, I knew what my goal is for the final image. To that end, I did a modest amount of processing, using only the Basic panel in Lightroom. I certainly would not do anything like lens corrections, or transformations, or local adjustments – nothing beyond the basics, only global adjustments. The real work is going to be done by Photoshop, and we should give it the best possible chance to do its job.

It might be leaves, your favorite possessions, or even be a landscape (I would love to try and make a focus stacked portrait, a tight portrait with focus from front to back) the point is that your project will require your own individual processing. This is what I did for the highly-textured leaves.

focus stacked image

Lightroom settings

This processing revealed a few details and gave the images a little more bite or edge. That seemed to work well, and move towards what I had in mind for the final image. I then synchronized all settings in Lightroom.

focus stacked image

So far so good?

With all the images selected, in this case just six, press G and then CTRL/CMD + A. You can then move to the second stage, by going to Photo > Edit in > Open as layers in Photoshop.

focus stacked

Select Photo > Edit In > Open as Layers in Photoshop

Stage Two – Photoshop

You may well have Photoshop set up in your own individual way. This is what you should see in the Layers panel once your images are opened.

focus stacked image

The first step in Photoshop is to select all the layers. My habit is to do this by clicking on the top layer, holding down shift and clicking on the bottom layer.

focus stacked image - layers selected

All layers, all six images, selected.

Another confession? There is a part of me which would like to make this sound much more difficult, at least a little bit cleverer. There would then be more chance of you being impressed. However, the next two steps are too easy.

Align the images

Because the point of focus has moved through the image, the size of the object in the frame will have shifted slightly. But, Photoshop can handle this for you.

focus stacked image

Edit > Auto-Align Layers has always worked perfectly for me.

You could choose to go to great lengths to resize the images by hand, making the actual object the same size in each image, being careful to align parts of the subject in each of the photographs. I have never found it necessary, and any extra steps to achieve alignment, would probably be best covered by a video. For the moment, I am happy that Photoshop has never let me down using Auto-Align Layers.

focus stacked image - auto-align layers

The auto-align layers dialog box

Under the Projection area, I have found that Auto works perfectly well.

For the Lens Correction section, I have found it best to uncheck Vignette Removal and Geometric Distortion (as shown above). Those choices gave me a couple of strange results and did not provide any discernible benefit. I like to think that the secret for this smooth progress is having taken good images in the first place. Push OK, and Photoshop does its thing and does it very well.

Of course, you are welcome to try whatever settings you like. In fact, I would very much encourage you to experiment, have a play! However, the old KIS acronym, of Keeping It Simple, seems to work well enough.

Blend the layers

Next, go to Edit > Auto-Blend Layers. I do wish I could make this sound more difficult.

focus stacked image

Auto-Blend Layers…

As I am sure you will realize, you should choose the Stack Images option in the Auto-Blend Layer dialog box that pops up. With the images I have been feeding to Photoshop, I have chosen to put a check mark next to Seamless Tones and Colors.

But, if that does not produce a result you are happy with, it costs you very little time to experiment. This is what has worked well for me. The images which you have loaded into Photoshop may have been created in different circumstances to mine, and your desired final image may be very different too. The important thing is that the main steps will be the same.

focus stacked image

Auto-Blend Layers dialog box.

Below, you can see the layer masks which Photoshop has created. On a layer mask white reveals, so the white areas are where Photoshop has determined that the focus is good. The white areas are the parts that are allowed to come through and contribute to the final image. In this example, looking at the masking of the layers, you can see the focus stepping forward.

focus stacked image

I think the masks are quite interesting, pretty even.

Merge layers

Finally, right click on any layer and choose either of the Merge commands.

focus stacked image

Merge the layers.

What you see now, in your main Photoshop window, is your single, focus stacked image.

focus stacked image

Final focus stacked image result!

You might see the marching ants indicating a selection by Photoshop of part of the image. My advice is simple. It seems random in its placement, I have never found it helpful, so just ignore it.

When closing the image in Photoshop, simply click save, and you will find a file added to your Lightroom library. In this example, where there were six files to start with, there are now seven (the new focus stacked image has been added).

This extra file will be in TIFF or PSD format (whatever you have setup in your LR preferences).

That is just about it. Stages Two and Three, fulfill our initial brief. You have produced a focus stacked image. All that remains is to export the image from Lightroom.

However, I think you might find it a little unsatisfactory to leave the process at that point, to walk away with the job not completely finished. I think you might want to see what happened next.

Stage three – final processing

I chose to so some further processing to the TIFF file in Lightroom. Using the Adjustment brush I added some positive clarity, +20, on to the top section of the image. By pushing the ‘O’ key, you can see the red mask where painting has been applied.

focus stacked image - location adjustments

The red area is where a local adjustment has been applied of +20 Clarity.

I added a graduated filter with the exposure pulled down 2 stops to the left side of the image.

focus stacked image

A Graduated filter of -2 Exposure was added to the left side of the image.

Another was added to the bottom too, as I really like the black to be unquestionably pure black.

focus stacked image

Another Graduated filter with -2 Exposure was added to the bottom of the image.

I then took that image back into Photoshop, where I used the bucket to fill some more bits of black around the bottom left corner of the leaf.

Then I spot retouched some bits of nature which were a bit too real. In particular, I think any white spots are very distracting. Then I turned to one of my long-term favorites, Nik’s Silver Efex Pro.

focus stacked image

Sadly, it seems likely that Google is going down the route which it has gone down many times before. Having purchased the German company Nik Software a few years back, it seems it is now allowing the software to die through lack of attention. However, I still like the results I get from Silver Efex Pro and still use it. In this case, I applied the High Structure – Smooth preset.

I then cropped the into a square. The final result is below.

focus stacked image

Final focus stacked image.

Conclusion

I hope the first article helped you take photographs for focus stacking and this one helps you with the processing. Most of all, I hope that you might have a go at this. I hope you do not mind me repeating the same point, it would be great if you could find your own project and apply these techniques. For me, that is a major reason to write these articles.

Please share your questions, comments and focus stacked images in the section below.

The post How to do Post-Processing of Focus Stacked Images by Richard Messsenger appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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4 Tips for Capturing Beautiful Seascapes

22 May

Seascape photography can be both incredibly rewarding and incredibly frustrating at the same time. The entire process of photographing seascapes is slightly different than regular landscape photography and there are a few extra factors you need to keep in mind.

4 Things to Know Before Capturing Beautiful Seascapes

Coming from inland Norway it wasn’t until I moved to Northern Spain that I really got a taste of photographing seascapes. It took a while for me to adapt and feel comfortable with waves crashing around me (I know those who come from coastal towns might be laughing now!) However, after living along that coast for nearly a year, and revisiting several times since, I’ve picked up several tips and tricks that can make a huge difference in your seascape photography.

#1 – Know the Tides

Understanding how the tides will impact the location you’re photographing is most likely the most important factor of capturing beautiful seascapes.

I remember the first time I visited Playa de Barrika, a stunning beach outside of Bilbao in Spain, I didn’t take one single image. It was a warm and beautiful day but the beach looked nothing like what I had expected. In fact, there wasn’t much of a beach at all. Since the tide was high, the waves went almost up to the cliffs, leaving only a thin strip of beach left. In my defence, the main purpose of this trip wasn’t photography but I had hoped to at least see what all the fuss about this place was about.

Tips for Seascape Photography

Playa de Barrika during low tide.

A few weeks later, I revisited the beach and this time I made sure that the sunset was during medium to low tide, which is ideal for this location. What met me was a completely different beach which was nothing but spectacular.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that you need to familiarize yourself with the beach you’re visiting and learn what tide is optimal to photograph that spot. Some places are interesting during high tide only while others offer opportunities regardless of the tide. Just make sure that you’re aware of this so you don’t miss out on a potentially great image.

Rising tide at Los Urros, Spain

How to Research the Tides

There are several methods to research and learn about the tides but I prefer to do this via a website such as Tides4Fishing or Tide Forecast. What I like about these pages is that you’re able to see the tides for a long period into the future, making it possible to plan trips that are months ahead.

Even though I prefer to research the tides from my computer or on a web browser, smartphone applications such as My Tide Time will also do a great job.

#2 – Accessories for Seascape Photography

We can’t avoid talking a little about accessories, can we?

Quite honestly, the accessories I recommend for seascape photography is more or less the same as the ones I recommend for landscape photography in general. The requirements are pretty similar even though the conditions by the coast might require a heavier use of cleaning products!

Lens Wipes

If you don’t already have a couple lens cloths and pre-moisturized wipes in your camera bag I strongly recommend you get some right away. These cheap and small tools are essential in keeping your lens clean and free for unnecessary dust spots.

4 Things to Know Before Capturing Beautiful Seascapes

Zeiss lens cleaning wipes.

Pre-moisturized wipes are even more important for seascape photography. If there’s a little wind, or you’re standing close to the waves, it’s quite likely that salt will gather on the front of your lens or filters. By having a pre-moisturized wipe and a microfibre cloth nearby you can easily remove this dirt from the lens and continue to take smudge-free images. This will also save a lot of time in post-processing.

Filters

Filters aren’t an essential part of seascape photography but they do have an even greater impact than they do when photographing motionless landscapes. A slight increase in the shutter speed can benefit the image a lot, but we’ll come back to this in a few minutes.

4 Things to Know Before Capturing Beautiful Seascapes

There are many filters to choose between but if you are just getting started with photography I recommend starting with a Circular Polarizer, a medium strength ND Filter, and a Soft Graduated ND Filter. This combination is all you’ll need in most scenarios and will be a great start to capturing beautiful seascapes.

Keep in mind that the use of a slow shutter speed also requires the use of a tripod!

A Remote Shutter

When you’re working with shutter speeds of approximately 0.5 seconds you’ll want to use a remote shutter to avoid camera shake. This doesn’t need to be an expensive accessory; a cheap remote shutter from Best Buy will do the job.

A remote shutter can also be useful when your tripod is placed close to the water and you don’t want to get wet. You can stand on a rock next to the camera and take pictures exactly when the waves look the best. Just take care of your camera and watch out for big waves. You don’t want the tripod to fall over!

#3 – Choosing the Perspective

The perspective often plays a great role in an image’s composition regardless of what you’re photographing. But when working with seascapes and the water’s motion, I’ve found it to be even more impactful.

Changing from a high to low perspective can make a great difference to the image, especially the depth. When photographing with a low perspective you’ll get the sensation that the waves are actually surrounding you. In addition, you can benefit from the leading lines that the waves create, which also will greatly benefit your composition.

4 Things to Know Before Capturing Beautiful Seascapes

On the other hand, using a higher perspective, or even an overview of the beach, can impact the image in a completely different way. You might not feel like your standing in the water but you get a better look at the beach and its surroundings. Some of my favorite images of beaches are taken from above rather than at sea level.

#4 – Choosing the Right Shutter Speed

The last factor you should keep in mind when photographing seascapes is the choice of shutter speed. Since I first began photographing with filters I’ve been fascinated by how great an impact a slight adjustment can have.

4 Things to Know Before Capturing Beautiful Seascapes

There are no right or wrong choices for shutter speed. It depends on your preference and what you wish to convey through that specific image. However, I’ll share some of my thoughts about this topic:

When photographing close to the water, with waves rolling in and leaving trails as they go back out, I prefer to use a shutter speed of approximately 1/2 second. I’ve found this to be the spot where I capture both the textures of the waves but still get the nice lines as the waves recede.

As I adjust to a higher perspective I tend to slow down the shutter speed more (longer exposures). Exactly how much depends on the specific scene, but normally I use an exposure between 5-30 seconds.

Again, that’s just my preferences and even I don’t follow them strictly. The best way of finding what you enjoy is to explore with different shutter speeds. If you want to learn more about the use of slow shutter speeds I’ve shared everything I know about the topic in The Ultimate Guide to Long Exposure Photography.

The post 4 Tips for Capturing Beautiful Seascapes by Christian Hoiberg appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Side by Side Drone Comparison – DJI Mavic Pro Versus the Phantom Pro 4

22 May

Drones are becoming more and more popular and there is more competition on the market now. Phantom isn’t the only game in town anymore. But does the DJI Mavic match up?

DJI Mavic Pro Versus the Phantom Pro 4 – Drone Comparison

In this video, Colin Smith from PhotoshopCAFE shows you footage from each drone and a summary of his points. Each has their pros and cons, and ultimately it comes down to your needs.

Do you have a drone? Which one? What was the deciding factor for you in choosing yours?

Shop for the DJI Mavic Pro or the Phantom 4 Pro on Amazon.com.

The post Side by Side Drone Comparison – DJI Mavic Pro Versus the Phantom Pro 4 by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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How to Create a Beautiful Bokeh Background

22 May

Have you ever thought that a sheet of aluminium foil can be used as a backdrop in order to create stunning bokeh effect? Before we start talking about El Bokeh Wall and how it can be achieved, let us first get to know what exactly the term bokeh means.

Assuming that you may not be aware, bokeh is a term which comes from a Japanese word “boke”, which means blur. You can capture a photo with the blur effect, which makes the background out of focus by shooting at smaller aperture values (larger openings) such as f/1.8 or f/1.4.

Bokeh background or El Bokeh Wall

El Bokeh Wall is basically a technique in which you can capture a photo with the backdrop full of bokeh, which makes your photo eye-catching.

El bokeh background wall 01

Things required to prepare El Bokeh Wall:

  • An sheet of aluminium foil
  • A fast lens, an a maximum aperture of at least f/2.8 or larger
  • At least two speedlights or studio lights
  • A sheet of colored gel

Step 1

El bokeh wall - bokeh background

Take a sheet of aluminium foil long enough to fully cover the background in your frame. Now crumple the foil sheet gently and make a ball out of it, but do not press it too hard.

El bokeh wall - bokeh background

Step 2

Now open the foil ball that you just made and in doing so, make sure that you do not remove the crumples. These crumples on the aluminium foil sheet will be used to create the bokeh effect.

Simply lay the sheet on a flat surface and move your hand gently over it, without removing the wrinkles formed on the foil sheet.

El bokeh wall - bokeh background

Step 3

Once you have flattened the aluminium foil sheet, put it on the wall or hang it in such a manner that it fills the frame. Make sure that the crumples are evenly distributed and the sheet fills your entire frame in order to capture perfect results.

Step 4

Now place your subject in such a position that there is a gap of at least 2-3 feet between the foil sheet and the subject. This will allow you to capture shallow depth of field and make the background out of focus. In order to create a bokeh effect you need to allow some distance between the subject and the background.

Step 5

The last step is where you light up your subject and the foil sheet in order to create a well-lit photo. Start with lighting the aluminium foil sheet, you can either use a flash, studio light or even a table lamp. In order to make the bokeh appear colorful, you can place a colored gel in front of the light source.

El bokeh wall - bokeh background

Now light up the subject as per your desire. Make sure that the light source being used on the subject does not spill too much on the background which can make your background appear overexposed. This is another reason why you should maintain some distance from the background.

Some tips before you start clicking

Once you have positioned your subject and set up the lighting, take out your camera and start clicking. But before that, keep these tips in mind in order to capture a photo full of beautiful bokeh.

El bokeh wall - bokeh background

Try using a lens which allows you to shoot at low aperture value such as f/2.8 or f/1.8. The smaller the aperture value, the more bokeh effect you can achieve.

Use a telephoto lens with focal length of 50mm or more in order to get shallow depth of field and you will need a smaller foil sheet as well.

Using flash or studio lights will give you better control over the light and you can capture much better-quality results. On the other hand, if you are using a table lamp or a bulb, you might have to bump up the ISO sensitivity which will introduce noise.

Conclusion

This is an easy technique to create some stunning bokeh-licious images. Please share your questions, comments and bokeh background images in the section below.

The post How to Create a Beautiful Bokeh Background by Kunal Malhotra appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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5 Things Every Newbie Photographer Must Learn and Practice

21 May

There are certain things as a photographer you should know regardless of if you are an expert or a novice. These simple yet powerful lessons not only differentiate you but also help you grow in your art and your photographic career. For every newbie photographer, these are essential lessons to learn and practice.

Note: For the purposes of this article, all the images used here are SOOC (Straight out of camera). This is done to demonstrate key concepts highlighted here. My camera of choice is Canon 5D MKIII with a few common Canon L-series lenses like the 50mm and 85mm.

#1 – Know your gear inside out

This almost seems like a no brainer but I am surprised by the number of people who say that they have a really fancy (and expensive) DSLR camera but still shoot in auto mode 100% of the time. Now before you get all upset and say that there is nothing wrong with shooting in auto, I will raise my hand and say that yes, I also shot in auto when I got my first DSLR camera. But very quickly I realized that my camera (a Canon 5D MKII at that time) was a fantastic and sophisticated piece of equipment that was capable of some incredible shots if I only knew how to operate it.

So take the time and really know the ins and outs of your gear. The user manual is a great place to start to not only familiarize yourself with what all the buttons do but also where they are located on the camera. You should be able to adjust settings without removing your eye from the eyepiece/viewfinder when you are composing your frame. Think about it this way, would you like to own a convertible and always drive with the top up (i.e. closed), even on the most gorgeous of summer days?

Here are some ways to learn the ins and outs of your gear.

ISO – Play around with various ISO settings to understand how it affects exposure and what is an acceptable ISO grain (for you). This will help you make photography decisions in low light situations. Some of these ISO decisions may be limited to the kind of camera you have. Regardless, you should know the upper limits of your gear.

5 Things Every Newbie Photographer Must Learn and Practice

The quality of light at the stables where my kids ride is terrible. Even though they have lots and lots of flood lights, there isn’t enough light just because of the sheer size of the barn. These images were shot handheld at ISO 3200 – the one on the left was at 1/60th shutter speed whereas the one on the right was at 1/400th. That was because of the natural light coming in closer to the wall that illuminated my son and gave me a higher shutter speed to capture the motion of the horse.

Sweet spot – Find the sweet spot for your lens. Every lens has an aperture setting where the image is sharper overall than others. This will help you analyze what is the widest aperture (smallest f-stop) you can shoot in and still have the image in focus. This is different than the depth of field (which is how much of the scene is in focus) in that the actual resolution of the image is sharper at the sweet spot.

Minimum shutter speed – Find out what is the lowest shutter speed you can handhold your camera and get a sharp image. This will also help in low light situations as well as in creative motion blur type shots when you don’t have a tripod handy. The general rule of thumb is to shoot at one over the focal length of your lens.

5 Things Every Newbie Photographer Must Learn and Practice

Here I was shooting in a dark canyon with dark stone walls. I was using a 35mm lens at f/1.4 (completely wide open aperture) because I wanted a very low ISO (100) to eliminate any noise. My shutter speed dropped to 1/30th – which I clearly could not hold steady…the image is completely blurry and out of focus!

Weight – Find out what is the maximum weight you can comfortably carry without hurting yourself or almost passing out because of discomfort from carrying excess weight (true story!)

#2 – Know and understand light

There are some photographers who only shoot in natural light while others only shoot using some form of artificial light. Then there are photographers who shoot in any type of light and do a fantastic job at that. There is no right or wrong answer here in terms of preference but it is important to know how to shoot in any form of light. That might be the only thing that stands between you and the shot of your dreams.

Knowing how to read, analyze, and play with light is one of the most basic and important skills every newbie photographer should know, in my opinion. Keep in mind that not all light is equal from a purely technical standpoint (tungsten versus fluorescent versus white-balanced light). Certain types of light are good and others are not so good. Experiment with many different kinds of light so you know how to read light, then learn how to shoot in each.

These three images were all shot within the hour just before sunrise.

Here my settings are as follows ISO1250, f/2.8, 1/60th shutter speed. I LOVE the blue in the sky falling on the snow covered Pike’s peak in Colorado.

5 Things Every Newbie Photographer Must Learn and Practice

The warm sunrise cast such a magical glow on the mountain and surrounding areas. My settings here were ISO 320, f/5.0, and 1/500th. The sky filled with so much light that I had to stop down my aperture to be perfectly exposed.

5 Things Every Newbie Photographer Must Learn and Practice

The overcast sky with little spots of blue took my breath away. My settings here were ISO 320, f/5.0, and 1/800th to get a perfectly exposed photo.

5 Things Every Newbie Photographer Must Learn and Practice

I do not like indoor yellow tungsten light…everything become so orange! (A custom white balance or correction in processing is necessary)

5 Things Every Newbie Photographer Must Learn and Practice

But neutral natural light is so much easier to work with and to get even natural-looking skin tones.

3 – Practice good ethics

Be respectful of the people, places, and things you photograph. I cannot tell you how much it pains me when I see photographers (both amateurs and professionals) disrespect their surroundings. Be it climbing where they are not supposed to, keeping heavy equipment on delicate surfaces, overcrowding and overstaying their welcome in public places and not giving other general tourists the opportunity to enjoy the scenery.

Pay special notice to other photographers. These are folks in your industry even if they are beginners. They are all in it for the same reasons you are – love for the art! Leave that sense of entitlement behind, just because you have more expensive gear does not make you a better photographer or a creative artist. Take the extra effort to find out what the photography rules are in the places that you intend to photograph and stick to them.

5 Things Every Newbie Photographer Must Learn and Practice

I belong to several groups of photographers and we regularly meet to shoot the breeze, photograph together and just generally geek out about all things photography. There is no pressure, no tension and everyone plays nice! Community over competition!

4 – Safety

Be safe when you are out and about. Always be aware of your surrounding especially if you are a female photographer who tends to travel alone. Check out this article  Safety Tips for Travel Photographers (Particularly Women) that addresses this issue. Remember safety always comes first, art next.

5 – Be your true self and be patient

Whether you choose to be in business or not, be true to your art. Get inspiration not just from other photographers but also from daily life. There are many amazing things around us at any given point in time. Just because no-one else photographs it does not make it boring. Similarly think outside the box, just because everyone photographs something a certain way does not mean you have to follow the pack.

When you are starting out, don’t obsess over clients, getting work, and making money. Yes, they are absolutely important, I will not disagree, but take the time to perfect your art (to the point where you are confident charging money for your photography) and then the money and fame will follow.

Also give out as much as you can, be helpful and uplift others who are on this journey with you. The more you put out there the more you will receive from the universe! I truly believe in that mantra across all walks of life.

5 Things Every Photographer Must Learn and Practice

I am always coming up with shoot concepts and ideas to keep experimenting. Some work and some fail miserably but that’s okay. I take everything as a learning experience and try to stay positive in my game. An editorial shoot with my daughter captured on film was a complete disaster as I got all the setting wrong and ended up with grainy, grudge frames! – but I learned a whole lot about film and light and how different it is to digital!

5 Things Every Photographer Must Learn and Practice

Leftover florals from Valentine’s day gave me a chance to practice some styling as well as a more moody, contrasty way of editing – which I sort of like and dislike at the same time! But no money was lost and I only used 10 digital frames and spent 30 minutes in editing experimentation.

Conclusion

Are there any other life lessons that photography has taught you? In the spirit of building this community of creatives, feel free to share it with others.

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Review of the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack

20 May

Ask most photographers and they will tell you that one of the hardest things to find with respect to photography gear is the perfect camera bag. One that will suit your every need. We search and search, but in the end, we all come to the realization there isn’t one bag that will be great for every situation. Though, sometimes you can find one that comes close, for me it was the Benro Ranger 400 Pro backpack.

Review of the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack

Lots of options

One of the things to look for in a bag is one that gives you lots of options when using it. One that can handle most photographic situations that you might encounter.

I was looking for a bag that would hold my camera, my filters and holder, plus up to three lenses. Also ideally one that would take my laptop from time to time. It was also very important that it would hold my tripod.

The Benro 400 Pro backpack is lightweight and has a lot of protective elements. The outside of it measures 14 in (35cm) wide, by 19 in (50cm) high, and 8 in (20cm) in depth. It isn’t a large bag, but it’s big enough for most people. The inside is 12(W) x 17(H)x 6(D) inches, or 30(W) x 42(H) x 15(D) cm.

Review of the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack

Sitting next to the Benro Tripod.

Space in the bag

The bag has three separate ways to enter it. The main zipper, that allows full access to the inside of the bag. There is a side zipper to allow easy removal of the camera with the lens attached. There is also a small zipper on the back near the top to help you get to your lenses faster for quick changes.

Review of the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack

The side entrance to get your camera.

Inside the bag, you can move the dividers around to suit your needs. It is like most camera bags in that respect. It will take the camera, and more importantly large cameras fit easily. There are plenty of sections for your lenses, and  it will also allow you to take up to three others (besides the one on the camera), filters, and other smaller accessories you may need for your trip. You do need to be careful that you don’t carry too much, think of your back.

Review of the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack

The inside of the bag.

The bag is deep and you can put your lenses in length ways, unlike other bags where they need to lay down and take up more room. For most lenses you can put them in this way.

There are also places to keep memory cards and batteries. If you want to carry your laptop it will take up to a 14-inch one. A 13-inch Wacom MobileStudio Pro also fits into it fine.

Review of the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack

The area at the back so you can easily reach your lenses.

Materials

The Benro 400 Pro backpack is made with a black water-resistant nylon. It has a hard bottom, so for a backpack it will stands up really well when you put it down. When moving around you can just place it down and not worry about it falling over as many other bags do. It is very hard and gives the bag a lot of support with the structure of the bag as well.

Comfortable to wear

It is very comfortable to wear and the smaller size makes it a good bag for most people. The straps are thick and provide a lot of padding which make it good to carry on your shoulders. When the bag is full of gear you can carry it with ease.

Review of the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack

The bag sits well on the back and is comfortable.

Waist band strap

It does come with a waist strap that you cannot remove from the bag. The sides that come around your waist to sit on your hips also have small compartments with zips. When you get the bag, one of the pockets holds the strap for the tripod and the other side has the rain cover. You can remove both and use them as pockets for easy access. I use one to store my car keys. The zip means they will be safe there.

Tripod attachment

The strap that is found in the side waist strap pocket is used to put across the front of the bag, and another pocket from down the bottom at the front pulls out so you can attach your tripod. The strap is fiddly and can take a bit to put your tripod on it.  I found it frustrating, and instead, choose to attach it a different way.

Review of the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack

How the tripod fits to the front of the bag.

You can also attach it on the side of the bag as well, There is a strap at the bottom of the side that doesn’t seem to have much purpose, and then the strap that is used to keep the front section to the back section, extra security at the top of the side. You can use them to hold the tripod onto the bag. It is, in some ways, a much easier way to attach it. It is nice that you get a couple of choices.

Review of the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack

The tripod attached to the side.

In the end

Since getting the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack I’ve used it continuously. The only time I change bags is when I want to use one on wheels. It has been to many places and has not let me down so far. It has been comfortable to wear for hours and the tripod is easy to get on and off. For me it is almost the perfect camera bag.

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Beyond Human Vision – Seeing More With Photography

20 May

Have you ever been frustrated because you don’t seem to be able to photograph a scene the way it looks to you, with your vision? Maybe you can’t get a sharp image even though the scene is perfectly clear, or perhaps the camera fails to capture the beautiful variety of light in a landscape.

It’s possible that you’re having technical trouble in getting the most from your camera, but it might also be because the human eye and the camera aren’t the same, despite their compelling similarities. For instance, our eyes have a much broader dynamic range than any sensor or film, and our binocular vision gives us amazing depth perception.

But have you ever thought of the ways in which cameras can outperform the vision of your eyes? These aspects of your favorite tool are not obscure quirks, but commonly used techniques that broaden your perception of the world around you.

So let’s dive into the mysteries of the camera! Maybe realizing how photography expands your worldview will make you look at photography (and reality) in a slightly different way.

1. Capturing time

With the camera, you can capture time in different units than your eye does. This, of course, is done by choosing a shutter speed. There isn’t a direct counterpart to shutter speed in human vision, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of the camera’s ability to observe the passage of time beyond our own vision.

Beyond vision 01

A long shutter speed of several seconds lets you see movement that isn’t discernible at all or in the same way by vision alone. Exposure: 1/3rd of a second, f/14.0, ISO 100.

Beyond vision 02

Controlling shutter speed is also what makes light painting possible. Exposure: 134 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 100.

Beyond vision 03

Using a really fast shutter speed lets you transform continuous motion that you see as a blur into a frozen instant. I thought I was photographing a bird sitting on a snowy branch, but all I got was a miniature snow flurry. Exposure: 1/500th, f/2.8, ISO 800.

2. Capturing light

Even though your eyes are better than cameras at distinguishing a wide range of light levels in the same frame, the camera can extend your observation of very dark and very light scenes. You can accomplish this by carefully balancing shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Modern cameras allow for ever higher ISO levels, which increase the light sensitivity and allow you to capture images in really dark scenes.

Beyond vision 04

If you’re lucky, you can see The Milky Way with your naked eye. Capturing it with a camera, though, allows you to see even more details of our galaxy. Exposure: 35 seconds, f/4.0, ISO 1600.

3. Field of view

The human field of view is static, about 190 degrees depending on the anatomy of your face. By using lenses, you can vary that field of view from slightly larger to much smaller.

Beyond vision 05

A wide field of view, but still not as wide as that of most humans. Exposure: 1/13th, f/7.1, ISO 400.

Beyond vision 06

A very small (narrow) field of view. This close-up, or macro, shows the tiny details of a fungus growing. Exposure: 1/25th, f/6.3, ISO 100.

4. Depth of field

Although you can’t control it, your eyes do have a changeable aperture called the pupil. It’s difficult to find information on exactly what kind of apertures the human eye can pull off. But whether the camera can do more or less, the effects of a small or large depth of field differ between eyes and cameras.

Examples of this are bokeh, which is achieved by a large aperture (small depth of field), and the starburst effects caused by a very small aperture (large depth of field).

Beyond vision 07

Snow and ice crystals creating bokeh. Exposure: 1/100th, f/4.0, ISO 160.

Beyond vision 08

Starburst over a snowy sea. Exposure: 1/500th, f/20.0, ISO 100.

5. Color

Although cameras have been designed to capture the same colors that we see, some can detect color in a very different way, including sensors used mainly by scientists to detect ultra-violet, infrared, or other parts of the non-visible spectrum.

The ability of some film to capture black and white offers us a new way to see the world, focusing on tones rather than colors. You can also make black and white photographs with a digital camera, though this is almost always a conversion from color to monochrome, either in-camera or in post-processing (there are a couple of monochrome digital cameras available on the market, but they are neither common nor cheap).

Beyond vision 09

A monochrome vision – this photo was taken as a color image, then converted to black and white in post-processing. Exposure: 1/80th, f/4.0, ISO 1250.

Conclusion

Can you come up with more things that the camera can do but you can’t? Do you think your camera helps extend your vision – both literally and metaphorically? I’d love to hear from you and see some of your creations in the comments section below.

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How to Photograph Your Museum Visits – Turn Limitations Into Creative Challenges

20 May

Do you feel frustrated that you are not allowed to make selfies in museums? Did a light reflection ruin the photo of your favorite artwork? Are the other visitors always in the way of your perfect shot? Then this article is for you, to help you photograph your next museum visit!

Museums are a great place to get inspiration, however, the great teams behind every exhibition have to be more concerned with the preservation of the artworks than about your photo. Therefore, photographing in a museum poses two big challenges.

First, the multiple rules that you have to follow, remember to always be respectful of them because they exist for a reason. Second, the fact that you can’t alter the conditions in which you have to shoot. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t make great photos, actually, you can turn it around and use these limitations to take your photography to the next level.

Every museum has different rules so I’ll cover some of the most common:

NO SELFIE-STICK

Many museums of the world like the Palace Museum in Beijing, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and many others have banned the selfie-stick. Not to worry, this shouldn’t stop you from making a memory of yourself with your favorite artwork.

Whether it’s in a frame or a display case, most objects in museums are protected by glass. So, you can use your reflection on the glass to make a selfie. You can also use mirrors and other reflective surfaces you can find.

How to Photograph Your Museum Visits - Turn Limitations Into Creative Challenges

Crystals, Teylers Museum, Haarlem, The Netherlands.

How to Photograph Your Museum Visits - Turn Limitations Into Creative Challenges

Albergo Diurno Venezia, during the exhibition Senso 80 by Flavio Favelli, Art Week Milan 2017, Milan, Italy.

In order to work with reflections, you need to understand how light works. Without going into a complicated physics lesson, what you need to know is that light travels in straight lines.

Light Diagram How to Photograph Your Museum Visits - Turn Limitations Into Creative Challenges

Which is also why you can get those annoying light flares that can ruin your photos. So you need to be very aware of all the other objects in the room to avoid unwanted reflections.

Reflection Mistakes - museum

Me As Mapplethorpe, 2009. Gillian Wearing RA, (based upon the Robert Mapplethorpe work: Self Portrait, 1988) exhibited at Gemeente Museum, The Hague, the Netherlands.

Now that you know how it works, you know how to move around the space in order to control your reflection. A few tips to consider though:

  • The darker the background, the better you will see the reflection. For example, if you are doing the selfie in front of a black and white photo, position yourself in a way that you will be reflected in the darkest part of the photo, so you will stand out more. If you are wearing white or a light color shirt that’s even better.
  • Try different positions so that you are not blocking an important part of the artwork. You can even try interacting with it.
  • If there is a metallic surface or a mirror in the piece, use it to your advantage, and acknowledge your presence (smile, wave, etc.) so that it doesn’t look like a mistake.
  • Locate the light source and then position yourself in a way that the bouncing trajectory doesn’t hit the lens of your camera, but it does hit any objects you want to reflect.

NO FLASH

This is one of the most universal rules in museums. This is because the hundreds of thousands of visitors that some artworks attract would sum to a great amount of light that some materials cannot take without damage. So you’ll have to make the best with the lighting of the museum that is designed to either preserve the delicate artworks, or to set a mood that complements a whole concept of the exhibition.

In other words, more often than not it will be very dark. This is where the settings of your camera (and even some smartphones) come in.

Since this article is not about exposure I won’t go into a lot of detail, but I will give you a quick guide to adjust it to better photograph in low light. The correct exposure depends on three things:

ISO

In photography this stands for International Standard Organization just like every other ISO that you’ve heard about. What it standardizes in this case is a scale for measuring sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO number you choose, the higher sensitivity your device will have. A lot of people are afraid to go very high because there is the risk of getting noise in your image, which is like the grain that used to be in film photography.

Nowadays most cameras can keep the quality even at higher numbers, so try all the settings out to determine which one is the highest you can go with your own equipment. However, in my experience, you get less noise from a high ISO than going lower and then trying to correct the underexposure in Photoshop later. Here is an example:

ISO 320 museums

This image was taken at ISO 320.

Versus . . .

ISO 3200 museums low light

This image was taken with an ISO of 3200.

Aperture (f-number)

The simplest explanation I can offer is that the aperture is the hole in your lens that lets in light. Therefore the bigger the hole, the more light will enter.

But here is the tricky part, the aperture reference scale is inversely proportional. So, contrary to what you might think, a smaller number means a bigger hole and therefore more light. For example, a photograph taken with f/8 will be lighter than the photo taken with f/11.

This setting also controls the depth of field of your image (the area that will be in focus). So be careful moving this one because you might loose some sharpness in areas that are farther away from your point of focus if you use smaller f-numbers. Notice in the image below how the objects are loosing focus towards the back.

Depth of field museums

Crystals, Teylers Museum, Haarlem, The Netherlands.

Shutter Speed

This setting controls how much time you expose the sensor to light. Since the sensor (or film) is accumulative, the more time you expose it, the lighter your image will be. Shutter speed is very straightforward and it could be your best choice, except that anything moving will look like a blur if you go too slow.

Even if everything is still, if you are not using a tripod, YOU are the one moving. So don’t let it stay opened too long. In some museums you’re allowed to use a tripod if you pay an extra fee, so feel free to ask.

It is also useful to know that telephoto lenses need a faster shutter speed to avoid blur than the wide angle lenses. So you can also consider re-framing your image like the next example.

Shutter speed 1/8th, f/5.6, ISO 800, focal length 55mm.

Shutter speed 1/8th, f/5.6, ISO 800, focal length 22mm.

You can also use this setting in a creative way. For this photo I wanted the tram passing in between the two pieces of the sculpture to leave a blurry line to have a more dynamic result and also show more context on how the sculpture was meant to interact with the space.

Shutter speed 1/2 second, f/11, ISO 400; focal length 18mm.

Shutter speed 1.3 seconds, f/11, ISO 400; focal length 18mm.

Now that you know what each setting does, you can adjust them to your needs. Keep in mind that they are interrelated, so if you move one you need to correct the others accordingly. For example, if you close your aperture because you want more depth of field, remember to compensate it by leaving the shutter open for a longer time, or by making your ISO more sensitive (higher number). Always keep an eye on your exposure meter!

NO TOUCH

Given that you can’t change your surroundings or rearrange the artworks, you will have to be extra creative and flexible.

Take care of composition.

When photographing an artwork in a museum, don’t try to just reproduce it. To do that it’s always better to buy the postcard or the catalog. What you do want is to capture what it’s transmitting to you. Use the architecture of the gallery, make it interact with the other pieces of the exhibition, try to capture the ambiance. In other words, make it your own. Notice how in this example I didn’t photograph any specific artwork, just the space and the atmosphere.

Composition museums

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden, the Netherlands.

Change your position.

Retaking the topic from the No Selfie-stick, if you need to avoid reflections and you can’t move the artwork or the lighting, then reposition yourself. Do this also to play with perspective, to include or exclude objects from your frame, and just try as many angles as you can.

For this next image, I was playing with perspective and the position of the circular lamps in order to make them look like the aura of the statue.

Position museums

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Be aware of other visitors.

It will be very difficult for you to have the museum to yourself, so try to be respectful of others and don’t get in the way. Don’t be afraid to include people in your photo as well, just be sure to wait until the right moment so that they complement your image.

Mirrors museums

Het Dolhys, Haarlem, the Netherlands.

Silhouette museums

Museo de la luz, Mexico City, Mexico.

COPYRIGHT

Last but not least, there is one rule that you won’t see on the museum signs, but it exists and it’s very important – the issue of copyright.

While getting inspiration from other artists it’s great, remember that you are photographing the work of a fellow artist so it is covered by copyright. This can apply from the artwork being exhibited to the architecture of the museum so it can be a very complicated issue to understand.

I advise you inform yourself about it in more depth. A general rule of thumb that you can always follow is that you can’t use the image for commercial purposes without permission and/or retribution from the creator. And in any other context for educational purposes (e.g. this tutorial or giving a conference) you should always give the credits. Let’s be respectful of one another.

Next time you go to a museum you can both get inspired and creative. Enjoy and share your photos!

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How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

20 May

The ability to combine images together is a very useful skill for photographers. Although most want to get the image right directly in the camera, there are instances where merging images together prove useful (and necessary). As well as this, the image we have in our mind may not always be physically possible to produce during the shoot, and merging multiple photographs together can bring that vision to life!

There are many different ways to merge images together. Of the hundreds of approaches to this task, the best one is the method that works for you. This tutorial will showcase my personal, manual preference of merging images. There are ways to automate image merging in software, but it is better to know the manual method before doing so (as they say, learn the hard way to be able to use the easy way!). The manual method also offers significantly more control.

Before we begin with the tutorial, there are several key concepts to keep in mind:

  • Make sure that the images are the same resolution. If one image is 300 dpi (or dots-per-inch), and the other is 72 dpi, you will need to convert one of them to match the other.
  • Try to pick images with a similar light source. Although you can add artificial shadows and highlights, it is quite difficult to ensure that these simulated sources look natural (although absolutely possible). It is far more convincing to find images that already have a very similar lighting situation.
  • Try not to over-complicate the merge. Attempting to add elements that are extremely convoluted (due to having very fine outline details or other types of intricacies) can be frustrating to blend realistically.

How to Combine Images

I can think of many instances in which a photo shoot could be better enhanced by combining different images together. When merging from the same location, the benefit is that, presumably, the lighting and shooting settings are the same (or similar). As well as this, the location being the same makes for an easier merge. If you are merging images from a different location, try to pair elements that can blend in well together! Burning edges can be a great way to blending images together.

On to the steps:

Begin by planning what elements of the individual photographs you will want to combine together (see two images below).

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Source image #1.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Source image #2.

Make a selection – then copy and paste

Secondly, take the lasso tool in Photoshop and draw around the object, model, or animal you want to add to your base image. You can also utilize the selection tool or quick selection tool to do this. In this particular image, because the colors and tones are all very similar to one another, I found the lasso tool to be a much faster way of selecting the part of the image I need. Other photo editing software will likely have very similar tools.

Note: You cannot do this kind of work inside Lightroom. A program that utilizes layers is needed, and that is a function which Lightroom does not offer.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Image with a selection made around the part to copy to the other image.

Next, paste the image into the spot it belongs in the other image. I like to lower the opacity when placing so that I can see exactly where the subject should be positioned. You can then raise the opacity back up.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Pasted area at lowered opacity to aid in placement.

Blend using a layer mask

Fourthly, to blend the image into its rightful place, I utilize layer masks and the brush tool. The benefit to these two tools used in unison is that if you accidentally erase a part of the layer that you want to keep, you can always undo your mistake. Likewise, if you find later that you would like a certain part of the first layer to show, you can do that without issue.

All you need to do is select the top layer, click “add layer mask”, and then select the brush tool. When utilizing the brush tool, the black color will act as an eraser and remove the top layer, while the white color will bring the top layer back. Make sure that the brush is very soft, as that helps blend. Change to a harder edged brush for straight edges.

Note: Make sure you paint on the mask not on the actual layer!

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Paint on the layer mask to blend the two images smoothly.

Keep blending until the image looks to be a natural part of the frame.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

The final blended image – two combined into one.

Repeat the steps as many time as necessary.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Adding or Changing a Background

Adding a new background is quite possibly the most common use of the image merging skill. Whether you shoot your subject in a studio or just a snap out in nature, changing the background can add an entirely different feel to the photograph.

The same steps apply to this type of merging as with the aforementioned. If you’re working with hair or fur, a tip is to try to pick backgrounds whose light and dark areas match with the original background, as that allows you to not have to work around those very fine details (and can leave them untouched). In the photo example here, the new background elements were matched to the dark parts of the photograph, which allowed me to not have to select the fine fur details (see the ear and snout fur).

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Original image.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Edited image with a new background.

Changing Animal Heads

Animals are notorious for not sitting still, blinking, looking away at an inopportune moment, or otherwise being uncooperative for photographs. A very common practice in animal photography is to swap the heads out.

Similarly to the aforementioned merging methods, follow all of the same steps. Make sure you pay attention to how the fur flows, and use that to your advantage when blending! In the photo example case here, the wolf’s neck and head were placed onto the body of the base image. After some basic additional retouching (cloning out the leash and lightening the eyes), I got the finished result.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Original image.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Second source image for left wolf’s head.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Final image of the two combined.

Swapping Human Heads

Like animal photography, sometimes it is necessary to take a head from one image and put it on the body of another. Occasionally, you will like the model’s pose but not her facial expression, or like the model’s expression but not her pose. The key is to make sure you align the neck correctly, or else your model will look disfigured.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Image #1 – I used her face from this shot.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Image #2 – combined with her body from this shot.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

To make this final image.

For a more detailed look at head swapping check out: How to do a Head Swap using Photoshop

Conclusion

There is a good overview of how to merge and combine images in Photoshop. If you didn’t know that the final images in the article had been altered could you tell they weren’t shot that way?

What other applications can you think of to use this technique? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

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Review of the Interfit Fluorescent Ring Light INT812

20 May

What is a ring light?

Interfit Fluorescent Ring Light

Even if you don’t know what a ring light is, it is probable that you have seen photos made using them. As the name suggest, they are a light source in the shape of a ring, often, your camera is mounted on the light so the lens points through it. This on-axis lighting provides even, shadowless illumination on the front of your subject. It is a very distinct style most often seen in fashion photography.

In the past, ring lights were expensive or required a solid set of DIY skills to build your own.

The effect is not to everyone’s taste, and that’s fair enough. Sometimes, the light can appear flat and lifeless, which puts some people off. Also, a lot of photographers don’t like the distinctive ring-shaped catch-lights. That is also fair. If, however, you do like what can be achieved with a ring light, but you’ve been put off by price in the past, then the Interfit Fluorescent Ring Light may just be for you.

Pros of the Interfit Fluorescent Ring Light

Interfit Fluorescent Ring Light

There are a lot of things to love about the Interfit Flourescent Ring Light. In no particular order, they are:

Cost

At $ 100, the Interfit Fluorescent Ring Light is cheap. No, it’s not a strobe, but when you compare it to, say, Bowens’ dedicated Ringflash Pro (listed for $ 2021 on B&H), the Interfit is close to $ 2000 cheaper. This makes ring lights accessible to almost every photographer who wants to use one.

Weight

The unit itself is quite large, but at 1.3 kg it’s light enough to carry anywhere without much trouble. If you often shoot in a studio or space that isn’t your own, throwing the Interfit ring light in the back of your car is not going to be a logistical issue.

Size

Interfit Fluorescent Ring Light

The ring light itself is rather large. But because you are not attaching the lens to the light, it gives you a lot of space to move around with the camera while still being able to see your subject through the light’s aperture. It also means that you can use a longer lens, such as 200mm while keeping the light really close to your subject.

Continuous

Interfit Fluorescent Ring Light

With the Interfit INT812 being a continuous light source, you gain a few advantages. The first of these being that replacement bulbs are cheap, despite the size, they are only around $ 14 each.

Another is that after being on for about an hour, the bulb never gets particularly hot. This is great if you’re photographing people as you don’t have to worry about that aspect of your subject’s comfort.

Finally, there’s the matter of your subject’s pupils. With strobe lighting, you are usually in dark environments with periodic bursts of bright light. As we all know, our eyes adjust to the dark and our pupils dilate to allow us to see. In bright light, such as this ring light offers, it’s the reverse and your subject’s pupils contract, revealing more of the color in their eyes.

Bendable arm

Thanks to a bendable arm, the Interfit INT812 is able to be put in almost any position, making it a very versatile light.

The real beauty of this light is the bendable arm that it is mounted on. This arm, combined with the fact that the light is not mounted to your camera, means that you are not limited to using it as a traditional ring light. You can use and position it as you would any other light source. It’s also possible to point it straight down, a feat usually reserved for boom arms.

At one point I found myself using it as a hair light, alongside a softbox fitted to a strobe as my key light. The versatility all of this provides is more than worth the price tag, even if you never use it on-axis as a traditional ring light.

Interfit NG-65c ring light

Placed at a 45-degree angle, the narrow edge creates interestingly shaped highlight and shadow areas.

Interfit NG-65c ring light

Positioned straight down and a few inches above, the Interfit Ringlight provided some much-needed fill on an all black subject.

Cons of the Interfit Fluorescent Ring Light

As much as I like this light, it does have a few problems as outlined below.

Build quality

As I’ve mentioned already, the Interfit Fluorescent Ring Light is not an expensive piece of equipment. In terms of build quality, it’s reasonable to not expect too much from it. The entire casing is made out of lightweight plastic and does feel a bit flimsy at the best of times. That said, both the bulb and the bendable arm seem to be of good quality. So far, I’ve used it about a dozen times and I have yet to have an issue.

Low intensity

Because this is a continuous light at the cheaper end of the market, the intensity of the light isn’t exactly the brightest. Because of this, you will be limited to working with large apertures and high ISO settings. Depth of field is unforgiving at apertures like f/1.8, so I would encourage using a tripod and taking your time focusing.

At the other end of the scale, it is very bright to look directly into from less than a foot away. This may be uncomfortable for your subjects if you have them in front of it for a long period of time.

If you’re used to using high powered strobes, you need to keep an eye out for other light sources that may affect your images. As the ring light isn’t very high powered, any ambient light around will add unwanted color casts to your images.

Chromatic aberration

When used on axis, chromatic aberration appears around the catch-lights in almost every photo. This isn’t much of a problem as Lightroom will make short work of the aberrations, but it is important to know about.

Chromatic aberration appears around the catchlight from the Interfit INT812; however, this easily fixed in Lightroom.

Color temperature

In terms of mixing multiple light sources, The Interfit INT812 does pose a few problems. It is not daylight balanced, nor does it match the fluorescent light balance preset in camera or in Lightroom. If this is the only light source present, you can eyeball the sliders in Lightroom or use a simple grey card to solve the problem.

Interfit Fluorescent Ring Light

The Interfit Right Light works well as a fill/hair light, although it does take some time to fix the resulting color casts.

However, when you’re mixing light sources, for example, if you use the ring light in combination with studio strobes, you will have to overcome unwelcome color casts. With the white balance set to flash, the color from the ring light is an unpleasant green. It’s an easy fix with all of the color correction tools in Photoshop and Lightroom, but it’s a problem easily avoided if you’d rather not spend the time correcting it. Of course, you could just use this as an excuse to shoot in black and white.

Interfit Fluorescent Ring Light

Extra equipment

So far, I have only come across one real problem while using the Interfit ring light. Because it is so light, I was happy to put it on one of my cheaper light stands. When I started using the bendable arm to put the light at weird angles, it became top-heavy and off balance and started to fall over. Putting it on a heavy duty light stand solved the problem. However, watching one of your lights start on its way to the floor is not an experience that I recommend anyone replicating.

The problem here is that good quality, heavy-duty light stands can start at around half the price of the ring light. If you don’t already have a good light stand before you consider purchasing the Interfit INT812, please be sure to include that into your pricing considerations.

Overall Impressions

Interfit Fluorescent Ring Light

For $ 100, I love this thing. No, it isn’t perfect, but it does add an awful lot of versatility to my toolkit. I like it so much, that as long as there’s a place to plug it in, I will be going out of my way to take it with me from now on.

It might be obvious, but I do like the ring light effect a lot. However, even if you hate ring lights, the Interfit Fluorescent Ring Light INT812 brings a lot to the table and does so in a price range that doesn’t make it cost prohibitive to give it a try.

The post Review of the Interfit Fluorescent Ring Light INT812 by John McIntire appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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