Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

7 Different Ways to Approach Macro Photography

19 Jul

Macro photography is one a genre that many people love. But the expense of buying a top lens to take close up photos can make it restrictive or impossible to do. However, there are many ways of approaching this kind of photography, and not all of them have to break the bank.

Here are seven different approaches to macro photography. We’ll start with what most people think of, and cover other ways to help you do macro photography when you don’t have a big budget to do what you love.

7 Different Ways to Approach Macro Photography - orange flower

105mm Macro lens with auto-focus. I have used the same flower for all the photos. They were taken as close to the flower as the lens would allow for focusing. A full frame camera was used to take the images, except for the last one.

#1 – Dedicated Macro Lens

Getting yourself a macro lens is one if the best ways of doing close-up photography. These lenses are specifically designed to allow you to focus very close to your subject. With most macro lenses, you can get as close as about four inches or 10 centimeters (compared to “regular” lenses which close focusing distance is usually around 12 inches or more). That is with autofocus on, but if you turn it off you will be able to focus even closer.

Manual focusing seems to be the preferred way of doing macro photography. If do some reading, you will find a lot of photographers prefer to use their macro lenses this way. It allows them to get even closer. This, then, might be where you ask the question, “Why should I bother buying a macro lens that has autofocus?”

Many of the top lenses manufacturers make options for macro photography. They are high-end, and the quality is as you would expect those brands to produce. However, they are also very expensive and you can expect to pay quite a bit for a dedicated macro lens.

Many other companies are now also making macro lenses. Some don’t have autofocus, but if you are happy using manual then they may be a better (or less expensive) alternative for you. They are often around half the price of the big brands, so if you can’t afford one of the top models, then this could be a much better fit for you.

7 Different Ways to Approach Macro Photography

Shot with a 105mm Macro lens using manual focus.

#2 – Zoom Lenses

When many people start doing macro photography they often start with a zoom lens and do their best to get as close as possible. Depending on the focal length of your lens you can get pretty close to your subject. You may not get tiny bugs on your flowers from the garden, but you will get whole flowers.

There are some zoom lenses that also have a macro ability which makes it easier for you to get great photos and it allows you to focus in closer. Often zoom lenses will only focus if you are a few feet away from your subject. If you have one with the ability to get closer, then you will be able to get fairly good “almost macro” images.

7 Different Ways to Approach Macro Photography

Image taken with a zoom lens and the focal length was 300mm.

#3 – Lensbaby Velvet 56

The Velvet 56 by Lensbaby is a special lens that can be used for taking normal photos, but what a lot of people use it for is macro photography. It looks like a normal prime lens, but it has a very short depth of field, which makes it ideal for macro photography. You can change the aperture to give you very little in focus or a lot.

A lot of macro photographers who start using the Velvet 56 fall in love with it and find it difficult to use other lenses again.

7 Different Ways to Approach Macro Photography

This image was taken with the Lensbaby Velvet 56.

#4 – Lensbaby Composer Pro and Optics

This is a unique system where the first part, the Lensbaby Composer Pro, fits onto your camera like a lens. It is made up of two parts which are connected by a ball-like socket so you can move the outer part around to put your focus point and plane where you want. Into this, you put an optic that will give you the desired effect you want. There are many different types of optics, however, the Sweet 35 and Sweet 50 are the most popular ones for macro photography.

The Composure Pro and optics gives you a lot of opportunities to get some interesting and different effects. You can change the point of focus to anywhere you want in the image. You can also decide what depth of field you want to get. Macro images that are very different to what you can achieve with other types of macro lenses are possible with this system.

Read my overview of the Lensbaby system here: Overview of the Lensbaby System – Is it for you?

7 Different Ways to Approach Macro Photography

This image was achieved by using the Lensbaby Composer Pro with a Sweet 50 optic.

#5 – Extension Tubes

You can also get extension tubes that will fit in between your camera and your lens. These will make your lenses get closer to your subjects (and shift the focusing distance). Your 50mm lens with extension tubes, and you can start taking photos that are very close to those from a macro lens. It should be noted that there are differences though, and a dedicated lens for close ups is easier to use.

Extension tubes are usually bought in a group of three, you get a 12mm, 20mm and a 36mm. You can use them individually, or combine together. You can get one that will not allow the lens to communicate with your camera, they are usually much cheaper. So look for what they call automatic rings, with Autofocus. I use Kenko Automatic Extension Tubes.

You have to be careful with the rings as they are not very heavy and if you put a big hefty lens on your camera and don’t give it enough support, then you risk damaging the connection between the lens and camera.

7 Different ways of approaching macro photography

Shot with a 50mm lens on its own.

7 Different Ways to Approach Macro Photography

Shot with a 50mm lens and a 36mm extension tube.

#6 – Close-Up Filters

There are many filters available for your lenses and you can also get ones that help you get really close to subjects. They are called close-up filters and are like magnifying glasses. You are quite limited in what you can do with them, and they can be hard to use.

When you go looking for close-up filters you will find different levels of magnification. It would be tempting to get lots of them, but you really only need a couple. The one I have is a +5 from B+W.

I also use the close-up filters on my macro lens as it allows me to get even closer to the flowers I’m trying to photograph. Sometimes you have to use everything you have to get as close as possible.

7 Different Ways to Approach Macro Photography

105mm macro lens with a +5 close-up filter.

#7 – Phone

Most cell or mobile phones have quite good cameras now and you can get some really good images with them, including macro photography. You can find the option for macro photos in your settings. Though my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge doesn’t have a specific macro one, there are some that will help you get better photos.

With the phone, you can get just as close to your subject as you can with most macro lenses. That makes it great, however, it can be much harder to get a good image. It is very hard to hold the phone steady enough to get good photos. It takes a lot of practice to get good images.

Many companies now produce lenses that you can use with your phone including a macro lens which can be a great way for doing this kind of photography.

7 Different Ways to Approach Macro Photography

This macro image was taken with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Phone.

In the end

There are so many different approaches, and while seven have been mentioned here, there may be a lot more. Whichever way you choose to go, you have to find the method fits within with your budget and the amount of time you want to spend photographing subjects at a macro level.

What do you use to do macro photography? Do you have a different approach you can share with us?

The post 7 Different Ways to Approach Macro Photography by Leanne Cole appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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19 Lush Green Images of Summer

19 Jul

Summertime is here in many parts of the world. The grass is green, as are many things in nature.

Here are a few examples:

By Tatiana T

By Jackie Allen

By Tokkes

By Appalachian dreamer

By Rolf Brecher

By Jaros?aw Pocztarski

By Matthew Fang

By Cheng I

By Neville Nel

By Hammad Asghar

By fs999

By Toni Martín

By tanell_85

By Rodney Topor

By Carolina Valtuille

By Eileen McFall

By Andreas Levers

By Etienne

By eLKayPics

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Weekly Photography Challenge – Green

19 Jul

Take a look at these 19 bright and colorful images of green things.

By Ram Yoga

Weekly Photography Challenge – Green

This week your job is to seek out anything green and photograph it. Find some good light, make a creative composition, and do your best for this week’s challenge.

By PicturesFromWords

By VirtualWolf

By Hamish Irvine

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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How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

19 Jul

The worst part about taking photos of monuments and city streets is that you always get cars and people blocking the architecture behind them. It can be very distractive, and they take away from the real subject. In this Photoshop tutorial, you will learn a technique that will allow you to quickly remove people and cars from your photos. You do need to plan ahead and take multiple photos, but the results will be amazing!

Photoshop has this little-known feature that has been around for over a decade called Image Stack Modes.
The Image Stack Modes are sort of like a Blending Mode that blends layers inside of a Smart Object in a certain way depending on the algorithm that you select.

One of those Stack Modes is Median, which takes a statistical average of the content found in all the photos in the stack. It will keep identical areas and remove everything that changes between the different shots. It is very likely that cars and people will move and change locations from one shot to the next. Thus, you can remove people and unwanted traffic when the algorithm is applied, leaving only the background.

The tricky part is to get the right photos for this Stack Mode to work. Ideally, you should take your photos on a tripod so that the images line up better during the blend. However, if you do not have a tripod, hold your camera as steady as possible when shooting your images and you will still get great results.

The pictures that we will be using in this tutorial were shot by hand with a mobile phone. I wanted to use photos that were less than perfect so that you could see the power of this technique.

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

When you take your photos, wait about 20 seconds or so in between each shot. You want to give people and cars enough time to move. In most cases, you will need between 8 to 25 photos.

Bring Your Photos into a Single Photoshop Document

The first step is to bring the image files into Photoshop as layers in a single document. To do so, go to File > Scrips > Load Files into Stack…

In the “Load Layers” window select “Folder” from the “Use” drop down. Then click on the “Browse” button, and look for the folder containing your images. Press OK after you have selected the folder.

The file names will appear within the window (as shown below). If all the files are there, press the OK button. Photoshop will then take all the files and place them in a single document as layers.

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

Auto-aligning Layers

For the Image Stack to work, the layers need to be aligned as best as possible. If you used a tripod when shooting the images, then your layers should already be aligned. The photos used in this tutorial were shot without a tripod, so we will need Photoshop to align them for us.

To align the layers, select them all by pressing Cmd + Option + A (Ctrl + Alt + A on PC). Then go to the Edit menu and select “Auto-Align Layers.” Make sure that “Auto” is selected, and press “OK.” Photoshop will then look through all your layers to find similar pixels and align them accordingly.

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

Put Aligned Layers into a Smart Object

Now that all the layers are aligned, you need to put them into a Smart Object so that you can apply the Stack Mode. Select all your layers again by pressing Cmd + Option + A (Ctrl + Alt + A on PC). Then right-click the space on the left side of any selected layers and choose “Convert to Smart Object.”

You should now only have a single Smart Object in your Layers Panel.

The Median Stack Mode

Now that all the layers are inside a Smart Object you can control how the set blends by using a “Stack Mode.” Go to Layer > Smart Objects > Stack Mode > Median.

This Stack Mode takes a statistical average of the content found in all the photos. It keeps identical areas and removes everything that changes between the different shots, such as people walking through the scene.

Faster Way of Doing This – The Statistics Script

You can get to this point in the tutorial by only using one single command!

The reason that I took the long approach was so that you could see what Photoshop was doing behind the scenes. If you get into trouble, then you’ll know what the steps were to create the effect, and you can backtrack to fix the problem.
To do this whole process in a single command, go to File > Scripts > Statistics…

In the Image Statistics window, select Folder you want to use. Click on the Browse button to find the images that you want to use in the Image Stack.

Once the images load, select Median as the Stack Mode, and check “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images.”

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

This will Auto-Align the images, put them in a Smart Object using the Median Stack Mode. Getting you to this part of the demo all within one window!

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

Fixing Image Stack Errors

Problems may arise when dealing with background elements that are always moving, such as water, clouds, or flags. In this example, the two flags on top of the Tribune Tower disappear. We can bring them back by copying and pasting a flag from one of the original images.

To see the original images, go to Layer > Smart Object > Edit Contents. A new tab will open that contains the contents of the Smart Object. Then look through your layers to see which of the original layers contains the best version of the item you would like to replace.

Select the Lasso Tool and make a selection around the objects. With the selection active press Cmd/Ctrl + C to copy.

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

Go back to the working document and press Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + V to “Paste in Place.” Repeat these steps with any other object that you need to fix.

Create a Smart Object to Hold it All Together

Select the all the layers by pressing Cmd + Option + A (Ctrl + Alt + A on a PC), right-click on the side of any selected layer and choose “Convert to Smart Object.” This Smart Object can now be adjusted or manipulated as if it were a single layer. You can apply the Camera RAW filter non-destructively to enhance the image color and tone.

Camera RAW Filter to Adjust Tones and Color

Select the Smart Object containing all the layers and open Adobe Camera Raw by going to: Filter > Camera RAW. This filter works a lot like Adobe Lightroom. The controls are in a similar layout and do the same things. Lightroom is built from the Camera RAW engine, so it will be familiar to you if you are a Lightroom user.

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

You can create an HDR effect by darkening the Highlights and brightening the Shadows. Slide the Highlights slider to the left, and the Shadows slider to the right. Slide the Clarity slider to the right. Clarity adds contrast to the mid-tones.

Finalize the effect by adding Vibrance which is a controlled saturation. Vibrance adds less saturation to already saturated areas, and it protects skin tones in portraits.

Crop Your Photo

If you did not use a tripod, you will see that the edges of the photo are likely misaligned. To remove these imperfections, you can simply crop them out by using the Crop Tool. Press C on the keyboard, then use the handles to adjust the size of the crop. Press Return when you’re done.

This is how the final image looks:

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop


Give this technique for and go try and remove people and cars from your images. Let me know how you make out and if you have any questions, please post them in the comments area below.

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Pixel, the Water Corgi, 2007-2017

18 Jul

Related posts: – Stand Up Paddling with Pixel, the Water Corgi – Paddling with Pixel, the Water Corgi – Paddling Workout with a Dog – Pixel First Time in Sea Wind Canoe – Dismal River 2009 – Slideshow from Paddling […]
paddling with a camera

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5 Guidelines of Minimalist Photography to Help Improve Your Work

18 Jul


Minimalism is one of those movements that some people see as a recent fad or newfangled things, like fidget spinners or man buns. In reality, minimalism is a true case of making what was once old new again, and unlike the aforementioned man bun, that’s a good thing.

In photography, minimalism is an obvious visual statement; the story of the photograph is simplified, elements are reduced, and clean space is added. Not only has minimalist photography become its own genre (you can see some excellent examples of minimal imagery here), but photographers specializing in the discipline have come into their own, creating a revitalized, attractive space of art for us all to enjoy.

5 Guidelines of Minimalist Photography to Help Improve Your Work

Minimalism (even in photography) isn’t new. Before the term became ubiquitous and synonymous with “new” and “clean”,  the style existed in various forms under other names. It has had a profound and positive influence on photography as it exists in the modern world.

But do you have to fully embrace specializing as a minimalist photographer to benefit from the advantages of the style? Absolutely not! Each of the tips below can work for almost any kind of photography. Let’s explore some of the guidelines and see how you can apply them to your own work, regardless of genre or type.

#1 – Make the story concise

As with any photo, the story is the most important thing to convey to your viewer. In minimalism, you want to tell that story as efficiently as possible. That means clean backgrounds, negative space where appropriate, and a well-defined subject.

We will discuss background and separation of the subject in more detail below, but generally, you don’t want any distracting elements in ANY photograph. Keeping your background clean, whether through blurring, or using a solid color or simple texture can remove any unwanted distractions.

5 Guidelines of Minimalist Photography to Help Improve Your Work

Negative space is defined as the margin around your subject and other important objects in your composition. Properly used, this space accentuates what you actually want the viewer to deem as most important in the photo.

When looking through the viewfinder at a potential shot, take a moment to get a feeling of the complexity of what you’re seeing. If the composition feels muddy or hard to discern, recompose your image to include some extra negative or white space around your subject.

#2 – Isolate the subject

Wide-open apertures along with proper positioning of the subject to background tend to make smooth, creamy backgrounds, separating it from the subject of the photo. This is right up the minimalist’s alley. Having a solid or smoothly blurred background really isolates what you want to highlight in the photo, and keeps the viewer’s eye from being overrun by more complex patterns to distinguish.

5 Guidelines of Minimalist Photography to Help Improve Your Work

In some photos, you may not want that blurred effect on your background. Many landscape photos, for example, are shot using stopped-down apertures such as f/11 or f/16, because you want most of the scene in focus. This is because, in those situations, the entire scene can be the subject. In those situations, using color or patterns are other ways of separating the subject from your background.

But many other types of photos, especially nature and portraiture, benefit greatly from a wider aperture and using that to create separate layers in the image. Experimenting with the effects that aperture and distance have on that separation can provide many different looks for the same composition.

#3 – Use color to your advantage

One of the most powerful methods of constructing a minimalist image is by using color to create a contrast. While you don’t necessarily have to go to the extremes that you would in a completely minimalist photo, picking two or even three colors that juxtapose well with each other and featuring them prominently in the textures of the image can improve the attractiveness of the shot.

While minimalist photographs tend to use large areas of solid contrasting colors to establish simplicity, other photography can benefit by keeping the color palette small and using colors that work well together or invoke a particular feeling in the viewer. For example, I find one of the most intriguing and pleasing color combinations to the eye to be blue and red, as in this example of the old red rowboat on the shore (bel0w).

5 Guidelines of Minimalist Photography to Help Improve Your Work

Using a color wheel (as shown below), you can identify color harmony, which are complementary color combinations that are pleasing to the eye. Then try to use those color combinations in your images.

Color wheel

Diagram by Wikipedia contributor Jacobolus

#4 – Embrace leading lines

Because minimalist photography tends to feature very simple compositions, lines and textures are often used to improve upon storytelling and point the viewer in the right direction. Finding natural leading lines in your compositions can help guide the eyes of the viewer where you want them to go, which allows you to minimize the number of elements in your photo needed to tell the story.

5 Guidelines of Minimalist Photography to Help Improve Your Work

Lines can be found everywhere; train tracks, roads, sidewalks, and buildings are just a few examples. While they are easy to find, it is just as easy to misuse them and confuse the viewer. If the line is easy to pick out, then it should lead the eyes somewhere relevant. Lines should not lead the viewer randomly away from the subject, or out of the frame with no real destination.

#5 – Find texture and use it

Texture can be a powerful element in a photograph, especially when an entire image is built around it. Obviously most often used when shooting subjects in the natural world around us, textures are a tool that can communicate many things to the viewer, including emotions, mood, light, and darkness.

Because of the limited language of minimalism, texture itself is often used as the subject, usually in the form of repeated patterns. All photography, however, can benefit from its strategic use. What is the effect when the subject features a consistent, repeating texture, as opposed to one that consists of an uneven texture made up of objects of varying size and smoothness?

5 Guidelines of Minimalist Photography to Help Improve Your Work

Texture is a great way to put a large, consistent element in your image without introducing too much distraction.

Can millions of grains of smooth beach sand, saturated with ocean water, serve as a different backdrop than a large area of broken shells and sand mixed together? What type of effect will this have on the viewer’s perception of the image?


As photographers, regardless of skill level, we are destined to be students of an innumerable amount of subjects. We must constantly keep learning, and apply the things we learn to our work, to keep innovating our style, invigorating our images, and keep our viewers interested.

While minimalist photography is very popular today and is an intriguing discipline, it’s not the chosen style for us all. But the ability to take the most important points from that genre and apply it to your own work is what elevates you as a photographer, and keeps you on top of your game.

What are your thoughts on the current state of minimalism, and its influence on art and photography? Is minimalism your favorite photography style? Have some minimalist images of your own to share? Let’s discuss this and more in the comments below.

The post 5 Guidelines of Minimalist Photography to Help Improve Your Work by Tim Gilbreath appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Clear or UV Filters – Essential or a Waste of Money?

18 Jul

In this video from Phil Steele he discusses the debate over whether or not you should use clear or UV filters on your lenses. It’s a highly heated topic, and Phil makes some very good points. See what he has to say, and then tell us your opinion.

What are your thoughts?

Please fill in this quick poll and tell us if you use UV filters on your lenses or not. Add your comments in the discussion area below – we want to hear from you.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s poll.

If you want to learn more from Phil check out some of his video courses covering topics like event photography, Lightroom, headshots, and more on Steele

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3 Creative Exercises for Using a Slow Shutter Speed

18 Jul

The reason I’m a big fan of experimenting with different shutter speeds is that the opportunities seem endless. By only using a fast shutter speed you’ll limit your photography and miss out on so many great images. In my opinion, shutter speed is the setting which allows you to be the most creative and to capture unique and visually interesting images.

By changing the shutter speed only slightly (let’s say from 1/120th of a second to 1/60th) the image can look completely different and tell a whole different story.

3 Creative Exercises for Using a Slow Shutter Speed

A typical use of a slow shutter speed.

If you are already somewhat familiar with using a slow shutter speed, you’ll know that it’s highly recommended to use a tripod for this technique. Doing so will lead to sharper images and you’ll most likely avoid camera shake (at least if you use a delayed shutter or remote trigger as well). I’ll be the first to say that I use a tripod for 99% of my images, but every now and then, I choose to break this rule as I know that leaving it behind will, in that case, be the best choice.

In this article, we’ll look at three creative exercises you can do using a slow shutter speed. They may not be typical or the most logical but the results can be stunning.

Creative Exercise #1 – Tilt and Pan

As I said, one of the main reasons for using a tripod when photographing with a slow shutter speed is to remove any vibration and movement from the camera, leading to crisp and sharp images. This creative exercise goes against those guidelines and instead of leaving the camera on a steady tripod, you’re going to tilt or pan it while taking the image.

The use of a tripod is not necessary for this technique and it’s easy to do without one. If you’re using a shutter speed slower than one second, I do recommend using a tripod though as you’ll most likely get a better result.

You’ll get the best results when your subject contains different colors and also has texture and patterns. When you’ve found the subject you wish to photograph, let’s say a treeline or a patch of grass, slow your shutter speed down to between 1/15th and 1/4th of a second. You can use an even slower shutter speed, but I’ve found that the best results are in this range, as you’ll still get some good texture and detail in the image.

Now, when you press the shutter button, quickly tilt or pan the camera in one direction – make sure that you’re quick enough though! As you can see, the result is an abstract image with lots of lines. This technique doesn’t work for all scenes though and I recommend zooming in on your subject to avoid including the sky.

shutter speed exercises

Photographed with a Nikon D800, Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at f/11, ISO125, 1/15th.

Continue repeating this technique and try moving the camera both slower and quicker, as well as making small changes to the shutter speed. You’ll soon see that even small adjustments will have a huge impact on the final image. It may take quite a few attempts before you get an image you’re truly satisfied with, so keep playing.

Creative Exercise #2 – Zooming

Exercise number two is similar to the first in that it will create an abstract image with a lot of movement. Also this time you will forget about the guideline of keeping your camera still when photographing and will deliberately create motion, this time by zooming your lens.

This is a technique you can experiment a lot with, as the results can vary greatly. You may also want to use a longer shutter speed than you did above. For a more detailed description of this method, you can also read: How to Create a Dynamic Zoom Burst Photograph

Let’s try this first. Set your shutter speed to five seconds and place the camera on a tripod. Press the shutter button and wait two seconds before you slowly start zooming your lens, continue until the exposure is completed. As you can see, it appears as if two images are put together into one. The background is sharp but the ghost-like lines going away from it creates a sense of motion and can add a lot of extra depth.

shutter speed exercises

Image courtesy of dPS Managing Editor, Darlene Hildebrandt.

Again, as with all of these creative exercises, trial and error is your friend. Don’t just do it once and leave. Try this multiple times with different settings, vary the exposure, try a different tempo of the zoom (go fast, then try slow), zoom in then try zooming out, zoom and stop at varying intervals, etc. After a while, you’ll hopefully capture something that has potential!

This method can result in fascinating images taken at night. By capturing two images (one where this technique is used and one that’s normal) and blending them together you can get a quite interesting result. The landscape will be normal while the stars look like their shooting out of the image. It’s all about trying the unknown and take a moment to disobey the “rules”. For more on this technique read: How to Create a Dynamic Zoom Burst Photograph or Intentional Blur- How to Create it and Why It’s Awesome

shutter speed exercises

Image courtesy of dPS Managing Editor, Darlene Hildebrandt.

Note: if you want to try this on a bright daytime scene you may need to use a Neutral Density filter to cut down on the amount of light. Otherwise, your image will just be overexposed. 

Creative Exercise #3 – Close-up

This last exercise for practicing using a slow shutter speed is quite different than the other two. For this one, you will use a tripod and delayed shutter or remote trigger to capture a sharp image. Then, you will be zooming in on some details in the landscape and using a slow shutter speed to capture it.

shutter speed exercises

For many years I rarely used anything other than an ultra-wide-angle lens, as I wanted to capture everything in the same image. As I became more experienced and my art began evolving, I realized that I found a much greater pleasure in viewing abstract and intimate shots. In many ways, these simple scenes result in more powerful images that better tell a story.

So, for this exercise, you’ll need to go outside and search for something that includes a moving element, such as a waterfall, river, or perhaps waves. The composition isn’t crucial yet as you’re mostly going to be experimenting with different shutter speeds but if you’re able to find a good one that’s a benefit.

Once you’ve found the subject you wish to photograph, set your shutter speed to 0.5 seconds. Capture an image and start lengthening the shutter speed until you reach somewhere between 5-10 seconds (you might need to use an ND filter and compensate with ISO/Aperture for this to work). By scrolling through the series of images you’ve taken you will see just how much it changes by making only small adjustments. I bet that the 0.5-second exposure looks nothing like the 5-second exposure, right?

slow shutter speed

What fascinates me with this exercise is that every now and then you’re going to find patterns or shapes in the image that you couldn’t see with the naked eye. The motion creates these shapes and in some cases, it can even be scary. Can you see all the screaming faces in this image?


So now it’s up to you to go out and try these shutter speed exercises. Share your results in the comments section below as well as any questions you may have.

Note: If you want more info, my eBook The Ultimate Guide to Long Exposure Photography, covers the basics of using a slow shutter speed and shares multiple case studies on how changing the shutter speed can affect your image.

The post 3 Creative Exercises for Using a Slow Shutter Speed by Christian Hoiberg appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse

18 Jul

On the afternoon of August 21, 2017, an event will take place in the United States that has not happened in almost 100 years. A total solar eclipse will be visible for a huge swath of the mainland population. While total solar eclipses aren’t an entirely uncommon phenomenon, it is highly irregular for one to be seen by such a large portion of the country and it won’t happen again anytime soon.

How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse

Image via Wikimedia Commons

In 2019 a total eclipse will be viewable for people in Chile, Argentina, and Uraguay and after that, the next one will not happen until June of 2020 which will be visible for a large chunk of Africa and southern Asia. This means that anyone who wants to get some good photographs of the upcoming event will need to spend time preparing, getting some essential gear, or even traveling to the USA if you live in another country.

Fortunately, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to get a good shot of the eclipse. This guide is designed to give you a good idea of what you will need without breaking the bank.

What is a solar eclipse?

To understand a bit about photographing a solar eclipse, it’s important to know just what it is you will be looking at on the afternoon of August 21st.

The moon orbits the earth once every 28 days, but the plane of the moon’s orbit is not quite even with the plane of earth’s orbit around the sun. Because of this disparity, the moon does not usually block out our view of the sun, except for once every few years. If the earth gets between the sun and the moon it’s called a lunar eclipse, but if the moon scoots between the earth and the sun it results in a solar eclipse which is rarer and, in my opinion, more spectacular to watch.

The fun part happens when you are lucky enough to be in the path of totality, which is where you will experience a complete blackout of the sun during the middle of the day. Keep reading to find out what gear you will need to photograph the eclipse, and how to locate the path of totality so you know where to be on this eventful day.

How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse - diagram

A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes directly between the sun and the earth. This diagram is most definitely NOT to scale.

How can I see the eclipse?

The most important thing to remember when viewing the eclipse of 2017, or any solar eclipse, is that you do not want to look directly at it unless you are in the path of totality – that is, unless the moon is completely covering the sun.

I need to make this abundantly clear: do not look at the solar eclipse with your naked eyes!!

Even if most of the sun is covered up by the moon, the light streaming out will be much too bright for your eyes to handle. NASA’s website has more detailed information, but suffice it to say if you want to watch the eclipse unfold in real time you will need something to protect your eyes like these solar eclipse glasses or a strong piece of welding glass. Sunglasses are far too weak to be effective and don’t ever just try to squint.

Protect your eyes properly, they’re the only ones you’ve got.

How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse - photo

Image via Wikimedia Commons

How do I take pictures of the eclipse?

Here’s where things get a little tricky since you will probably need to spend a bit of money, though hopefully not as much as you think. If you want to get the kind of close-up images you’ve already seen in this article, you will need the following camera gear:

  • A zoom lens, preferably one that has a focal length of at least 400mm.
  • A solar filter to protect your lens and camera.
  • Solar glasses so you can watch the eclipse unfold as it happens.
  • A tripod to hold your camera steady.
  • A place to view the eclipse, free of obstructions.

Here’s a bit more information about each of those so you can make sure to get the best photos possible.

Lenses and Cameras

Most consumer-level zooms such as the Nikon 55-200mm lens or Canon 18-200mm do a good job at covering a variety of focal lengths. But shooting at 200mm isn’t going to handle an event like the solar eclipse with as much resolution and detail as you may want.

That’s where a longer lens such as the Tamron 150-600mm (or the Sigma version) really comes in handy. It will allow you to get a much closer view and to take the kind of pictures you might see on blogs and magazine covers. The downside is that these longer lenses are quite expensive.

Fortunately, there are several places online where you can use to rent lenses from for a few days at a time, which I highly recommend. BorrowLenses, LensRentals, and LensProToGo are popular sites that all carry a similar lineup of lenses, but it’s also a good idea to check with your local brick-and-mortar camera shop too. Many of these stores will let you rent lenses for a very short period of time, which is good since you only need one day to photograph the eclipse.

Tamron’s 150-600mm lens is ideal for shooting a solar eclipse, and you can find it online at places like or  B&H Photo Video.


Another alternative is to look into buying or renting a teleconverter that will increase the focal length of your existing lenses. A 2x teleconverter can be rented for about $ 35 depending on your location. While the resulting images won’t be quite as sharp as if you were using a dedicated zoom lens it should be more than adequate to give you enough reach to photograph the eclipse with a lens you already own. (Note: Some point-and-shoot cameras have impressive zoom lenses but I would advise against using these for the eclipse because there’s not a good way to attach a solar filter to them, which I describe in the next section.)

Finally, it’s worth noting that crop-sensor cameras such as the Canon Rebel T6 Series or Nikon D3400, D5500, and D7200 are ideally suited for this type of event because they will give you more reach out of your lenses. A 200mm lens on a Nikon crop-sensor camera effectively becomes a 300mm lens, and the same holds true for Canon. Micro-four-thirds models have a 2x crop factor so shooting with a 200mm lens on the Olympus OM-D EM-10 is like using a 400mm lens on a standard full-frame DSLR. So for shooting the eclipse, if you have both crop-sensor and full-frame cameras you will be better off using the former instead of the latter.

You don’t need an expensive camera to get good shots. Even an older crop-sensor model like the Nikon D3200 will work great, provided you have a telephoto lens or a teleconverter.

Solar Filter

You wouldn’t look directly at the sun during an eclipse without proper protective equipment for your eyes, and the same holds true for your camera. If you are lucky enough to be in the path of totality you can look at, and take pictures of, the eclipse without needing any special gear. But if you are anywhere except the line of the complete blackout, or want to take pictures of the eclipse as it begins and ends, you will need certain equipment to keep your camera safe.

A special solar filter that attaches to the end of your lens is a great way to protect against damage to your camera. Not to be confused with standard neutral density filters, which are not at all strong enough for this type of situation, solar filters are specifically designed to photograph eclipses and other solar events. Make sure to find one that screws on, or fits over, the end of your lens and not one that goes between your camera and the lens. If it’s the screw-on kind it needs to actually fit your lens too, so double check that the thread size of the filter you get matches the thread size of your lens (look inside the lens cap for your lens, that is the filter size).

You will need a solar filter like this one from Amazon if you plan on pointing your camera at the eclipse at any point other than when the sun is completely covered by the moon.

Solar Glasses

These function much in the same way that a solar filter does, but are designed to protect your eyes instead of your camera. They are not expensive and look like the old style of 3D glasses you might have used in a movie theater decades ago, except these block out virtually all light except what comes from extraordinarily bright objects like the sun.

While wearing solar glasses won’t help you take better photos of the eclipse, it’s good to wear them as the Eclipse waxes and wanes so you can see it with your own eyes instead of through your camera’s viewfinder.

Solar glasses like these are required if you want to look directly at the eclipse as it begins and ends.


Unless you have very steady hands or an impressive image stabilization system on your camera, a tripod is essential for shooting an eclipse. While you don’t need anything fancy or expensive, it will help to have a larger one that can keep your camera and lens rock steady. This is why I would recommend against small mount-anywhere tripods that you can find rather cheaply online.

If you are using a zoom lens with a built-in tripod mount, make sure to attach your tripod to that instead of your camera. Otherwise, you will put a great deal of stress on the mount where the lens attaches to the camera. Finally, any time you use a tripod make sure you disable your lens’s vibration reduction system because it can backfire on you and actually make your images more blurry when mounted to a steady surface.

A place to view the Eclipse

If you have all your gear ready, solar glasses on your face and your friends and family gathered to witness this historic event, it could all be for naught if you don’t put yourself in the proper location. The best spot to view Summer 2017’s Eclipse is by finding a location along the path of totality–the geographic line where you will see an entire blackout of the sun for as much as two full minutes. Places not on the path of totality will still see part of the eclipse, but the effect will not be nearly as pronounced.

Many towns and cities located on or near the path of totality have been taking hotel reservations for August 21st and are planning community events to promote the Eclipse. So if you haven’t started looking for lodging yet I would recommend making those plans now. This site has an interactive Google Map with all the information you need to get a good viewing location. Try to find a park, field, or another open area free of obstructions so that you can have a clear view of the eclipse. Though of course, weather plays a big role in this too and it’s entirely possible that your best-laid plans will result in rain or even just a lot of clouds.

Image via NASA’s Eclipse Map site.

Shooting Techniques

Finally, it’s important to keep a few essentials in mind so you can actually get the kind of pictures you are hoping for when the eclipse happens. Here are some tips that can make the difference between a blurry almost-had-it shot and a brilliant glowing halo that you would be proud to print and hang on the wall.

  • Use a fast shutter speed. It’s not about stopping the vibration of your camera, which is what a tripod is for, but freezing the motion of the moon as it travels across the sun. 1/125th of a second will be more than adequate, and going faster than that won’t really give you much of an advantage. Once again, make sure you have a solar filter or else you will damage your camera, and get a pair of solar glasses for your eyes too.
  • Use a small aperture, but not too small. Each lens is different, but in general f/8 or f/11 is going to give you a sharp image without much diffraction or chromatic aberration. Go much larger than that (i.e. f/4, f/2.8) and you risk getting an image that isn’t as sharp as it could be. Much smaller than that (i.e. f/16, f/22) will likely result in weird optical artifacts that happen as the light enters such a small opening and is reflected throughout the glass elements of your lens.
  • Shoot in RAW, not JPEG, and correct your white balance afterward in Lightroom, Photoshop, or another similar program
  • Use a two-second delay timer (if you’re shooting with a tripod) so you don’t get any vibration from your finger pressing the shutter, which can cause the image to appear blurry.
  • Use Live View to check for focus. Alternatively, you can use autofocus but make sure to check your pictures on the LCD screen right away to make sure they are properly in focus. However…
  • …Don’t spend all your time chimping, or looking at the LCD screen on the back of your camera after you take photos. You will only have a few minutes at most to take pictures of the total eclipse, and you will have plenty of time to admire them after it’s all done.

If you want to know more, PBS has a fantastic short video about the upcoming eclipse and you can find all sorts of information by searching online including NASA’s page dedicated to the event.

Do you have any other tips for getting photos of the upcoming eclipse? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below, and be sure to revisit this article after the eclipse to share your photos!

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6 Tips for Posing Hands in Wedding and Portrait Photography

18 Jul

One of the most challenging and misunderstood elements in posing hands and how to use them correctly. Hands are so important in an image because they can say so much. They can convey masculinity, femininity, strength, softness and between couples, they can show love and affection.

6 Tips for Posing Hands in Wedding and Portrait Photography

So the big question is what can we do with hands? How can we make them look elegant and soft? Where should they be placed to convey the most realistic emotion and feeling? Here are a few helpful tips and ideas to keep in mind for your next wedding, portrait, or fashion shoot that may help correct the most common hand posing issues.

#1 – Avoid showing the widest part of the hand

To help make hands look elegant, simply avoid having the back of the hand facing towards the camera as that is the widest part of the hand. This is important because the hands in proportion to the subject’s face can make the hands look larger than they actually are, or can make feminine hands look quite masculine. A simple twist of the wrist, so the smallest part of the hand is showing, is all it takes to change the look and feel of an image from average to wow.

Tips for Posing Hands in Wedding and Portrait Photography

#2 – Soft hands

Female hands need to appear soft, delicate, and elegant. To achieve this, it’s a matter of conveying to your bride or model to relax or soften their hands. A simple way of demonstrating how to do this is to hold your hand out then fully tense it up and then allow it to drop and relax slightly even wiggle the fingers so they are loose. Think of it like a big balloon, you’re just letting out a little air so they don’t look so hard and stiff.

Tips for Posing Hands in Wedding and Portrait Photography

#3- Bend the wrist

Bending the wrist (a slight bend so it’s not straight) is such a simple method to break a straight line and create more shape and texture in a shot. Remember the female form looks best when we can see beautiful natural curves, this includes the wrists.

Tips for Posing Hands in Wedding and Portrait Photography

#4 – Have the hands doing something that appears natural

People often ask, “What can I get my model or bride to do with her hands? I’m stuck for ideas.” This one is one of the simplest issues to address. You could have her holding the flowers, her veil, her dress, fixing her headpiece, adjusting her engagement ring, putting on perfume, touching her man softly, the list goes on. Just make sure it’s something she would normally do so it appears natural, otherwise, it may look a little posed and stuffy.

Tips for Posing Hands in Wedding and Portrait Photography

#5 – Posing hands with couples

When photographing the bride and groom, think about where you would place your hands if you were cuddling your wife, husband, boyfriend, or girlfriend. Have the bride’s hands touching the groom’s hand, forearm, chest, or face in a way that says, “I love you”.

Have the groom’s hands on the bride’s waist or on her hands while saying, “I love where your hands are”. This can really change the feel and emotion of your photos.

Tips for Posing Hands in Wedding and Portrait Photography

#6 – Don’t amputate hands or fingers

When you have two hands overlapping each other it can appear that a hand is missing due to your angle and/or crop. This can happen when the bride has her hands around the back of the groom’s neck or you’re shooting a portrait side-on (as pictured below). The hand closest to the camera is on the other hand making her look like she has no hands or the fingers are amputated. To avoid this just switch hands over so you can see finger tips from one of the hands.

Tips for Posing Hands in Wedding and Portrait Photography


With all these tips in mind, the most important thing to remember is that hands should be placed in a natural realistic location doing something they would naturally do. So I suggest getting a friend or model and going out and just practicing for an hour or so to see what works and what doesn’t. This way you’ll have confidence on your next the wedding day or portrait shoot.

6 Tips for Posing Hands in Wedding and Portrait Photography

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