Posts Tagged ‘Best’

6 of the Best Smartphone Apps for Travel and Landscape Photography

11 Aug

Ansel Adams, the godfather of landscape photography once said, “A great photograph is knowing where to stand.” Sadly, I stood in all the wrong places when I began. I watched in envy as seemingly everyone else was taking pictures of an epic sunrise, an arching Milky Way, or an ethereal cityscape blanketed in fog.

6 of the Best Smartphone Apps for Landscape Photography

Landscape photography apps are essential tools that help you be in the right place at the right time, like this rooftop in Busan, South Korea. © Pete DeMarco

Eventually, I learned that compelling landscape images are created long before the shutter snaps. Like anything in life, having a plan or vision about what you would like to create will massively increase your chances of reaching your target. The same goes for photography.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely respect chance, or what some may call serendipity. But capturing spontaneous events takes a fair amount of planning. Even the man who coined the term “The Decisive Moment”, the great street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, would plan his frame and then wait for life to happen within his photographic stage.

When Preparation Meets Opportunity

Landscape photography is like going to the casino. You can’t control what cards you get, but by learning the game you can increase your odds of winning.

In photography terms, Smartphone apps are essential tools in the image creation process, right up there with your camera, lens, and tripod. You can literally make the stars align with them.

6 of the Best Smartphone Apps for Landscape Photography

Knowing where to stand (and when) makes all the difference in landscape photography. © Pete DeMarco

Here are six Smartphone apps I use to plan out my landscape photo shoots. Use them well, and it won’t be long before you get comments on your photos like this, “You always seem to be in the right place at the right time.”

#1 – PhotoPills

PhotoPills is the best photography app on the market. Period. It’s the photographer’s Swiss Army knife. It does so many things. I use it to plan my astrophotography shoots. I can easily figure out the phase of the moon, the location of The Milky Way, where it will rise, how high, at what angle, and at what intensity. The best part is the 3D augmented reality for finding The Milky Way in the sky.

6 of the Best Smartphone Apps for Landscape Photography

PhotoPills is an excellent app for astrophotography. I used it to plan this shoot in Penang, Malaysia.© Pete DeMarco

And that’s just the beginning. Whether you are doing timelapse photography, location planning, tracking the sun or the moon, or calculating your hyperfocal distance, this app has it all. The $ 9.99 price tag is well worth it considering all you get in return (available for iOS and Android).

#2 – The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE)

TPE used to be my go-to app before PhotoPills made it obsolete. The best thing is its simplicity. I mainly use it to track the sun and the moon. But since PhotoPills does that and so much more, I rarely use it now. I still included TPE on the list though because you can use it for free through their “web app”. Just go to their home page and click on TPE for Desktop.

6 of the Best Smartphone Apps for Landscape Photography

You can’t control the light in landscape photography, but you can learn how to make the most out of what you’re given. © Pete DeMarco

It also has 3D topographical maps and can help with astrophotography shoots. Still though, PhotoPills offers far more at a lower price. Watch my short video tutorial on how I use this app to find where the sun will rise and set. (Price: $ 11.99 for iOS and Android; browser version FREE)

#3 – Sun Surveyor

6 of the Best Smartphone Apps for Landscape Photography

Sun Surveyor is another helpful Smartphone app to plan the rise and fall of the sun. © Pete DeMarco

Another app similar to TPE is Sun Surveyor. It’s mainly just for tracking the sun, the moon, and how the light will fall. If English is not your first language, the app has been translated into a number of different languages like Korean, Chinese, Turkish, Czech and many others. With limited features though, I’d probably just use the free desktop version of TPE or buy PhotoPills instead. (Price: $ 9.99, iOS and Android)

#4 – Tide Charts Near Me

6 of the Best Smartphone Apps for Landscape Photography

The land bridge in this photo is only visible at low tide. Apps like Tide Charts Near Me are helpful when photographing seascapes like this one. © Pete DeMarco

If you’re into seascape photography, knowing the level of the tide is essential. Some shots you can only get at low tide or high tide. Tide Charts Near Me is a super simple app with a great graphic interface for showing the height of the tide on any given day or time. There’s also a moon phase calendar included as well. (Price: Free for iOS & Android)

#5 –

The most important thing of all is being able to make it to and from your shoot location. Google Maps and Apple Maps are decent. But the problem is that you need to use data to access those maps, which can be costly if you’re traveling internationally.

Also, if you’re in an area with no cell phone service then your map app won’t work. Yes, you can use Google maps offline but you have to download each individual location first.

6 of the Best Smartphone Apps for Landscape Photography

Finding your way around a big city or new country can be daunting. Offline map apps like not only save you roaming data fees, they get you where you need to be. © Pete DeMarco is a fantastic offline map app solution. It’s simple to use and does much more than just help you find your way. Once you install the app, all you do is download the country map for your destination.

Then you can locate the nearest ATM, restaurant, wifi connection, and more with ease, without using any data. It works with GPS, not wifi, so you can find your way anywhere in the world. However, if your device isn’t GPS enabled, like say an iPad or another tablet with only a wifi connection, then it won’t work. Check out the video for more details. (Price: Free for iOS and Android).

#6 – Wundergroud

6 of the Best Smartphone Apps for Landscape Photography

Clouds can add drama to your landscape images. Weather apps that show the hourly forecast like Wunderground can give you a planning edge. © Pete DeMarco

Last but not least, knowing the weather forecast obviously makes a huge difference in photography. Almost any app will do for this. I prefer Wunderground because it gives a detailed weather forecast by the hour, not just the day (Price: Free for iOS and Android).

Beginner’s Guide To Landscape Photography

If you found this article helpful and would like to learn more, check out Pete’s course A Beginner’s Guide to Compelling Landscape Photography. 

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Good, Better, and Best Noise Reduction Techniques

07 Aug

When it comes to noise reduction, you always have two goals. First, obviously, you want to get rid of any digital noise in your picture. But secondly, you want to preserve detail. These often work against each other because increasing noise reduction often leads to a loss of image detail, but if you focus on preserving the detail then you may end up with a noisy picture.

Good, Better, and Best Noise Reduction Techniques

So what can you do about it? Different people have different methods, but for me, there is a good, better, and best way to go about noise reduction. As you might imagine, my good way is simple, the better way involves a little more effort, and my best way requires a lot more effort (and can be rather complicated). In this article, I will walk through my favorite options so that you can decide if one of them is appropriate for your own noise reduction workflow.

“Good” Noise Reduction

Lightroom has very good noise reduction tools. They are powerful and really easy to use. They reduce noise and do a decent job of preserving detail. Further, the noise reduction in Lightroom seems to get a little better with each new iteration. If you want a good noise reduction tool that will take up almost none of your time, simply use Lightroom.

Good, Better, and Best Noise Reduction Techniques

Lightroom noise reduction sliders.

The primary slider is the top one labeled Luminance. I think of that as the amount of noise reduction being adding to your photo. From there, you can fine-tune your noise reduction using the additional sliders below it. Frankly, however, if I am using Lightroom for noise reduction, it is because I want it to be quick and easy, so I usually just use the Luminance slider.

Suggested starting points

You may be wondering about a starting point for the amount of noise reduction to apply. Of course, that is hard to do, and it depends on a lot of things. First of all, it depends on the ISO value you used. It also depends on the low-light performance of your camera. However, I hate the “it depends” answer, so to give you an idea of a starting point taking into account those variables, here is a chart with some suggested values for the Luminance slider.

Good, Better, and Best Noise Reduction Techniques

Suggested starting points for noise reduction settings in Lightroom.

Of course, there are other factors involved as well, which this chart does not take into consideration. For example, dark tones will show noise much more than lighter tones, so you may need to increase the amount where you have darker tones. Just use this chart as a starting point, and don’t take it as a definitive range that you must stay within.  Always do whatever the picture requires, even if it is drastically different than what is set forth here.

Read more on noise reduction in Lightroom here: How to do Noise Reduction in Lightroom

Selective Adjustments in Lightroom

The noise reduction settings within Lightroom will apply to your entire picture. We are going to get into selective noise reduction later, but I should mention here that you can also use the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom to selectively add noise reduction.

Select the Adjustment Brush and find the slider labeled Noise. That’s right – you only have one slider for this, so think of it as the equivalent of the Luminance slider you used above. From there, just set your brush size (you can use your left and right bracket keys for this) and paint in the effect where you want it. You’ll see better ways to selectively apply noise reduction in a minute, but if you aren’t too picky about the selection then the Adjustment Brush might be the tool for you.

Good, Better, and Best Noise Reduction Techniques

Noise reduction slider inside Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush.

“Better” Noise Reduction

Normally, when I want to bring out the heavy artillery in any aspect of post processing, I find that I need to head into Photoshop. That is sort of true here, in that we will be heading to Photoshop, but then again not true in that we won’t be using Photoshop’s noise reduction. I find that Photoshop’s noise reduction tools aren’t that great, and Lightroom actually works better (there are plenty of people that disagree with me though, so make up your own mind about that as you use them both).

Instead, I merely use Photoshop to take advantage of third party noise reduction software that works within Photoshop. Yes, you could also use them from Lightroom, but using them within Photoshop will allow you to take advantage of Photoshop’s powerful masking techniques (which you will see in a minute).

Noise reduction plugins

What are these noise reduction applications that are available?  Let’s take a look.

  • Noiseware: First, we have Noiseware by Imaginomic. I mention this first because it is the application I have used for my own noise reduction for the past several years. It works really well, does a great job eliminating noise, is simple to use, and it preserves a lot of detail. There are several presets to choose from and then a few sliders to make adjustments from there.
  • Nik Define: A free option is Nik Define. It is part of the Google Nik Collection, which is now free. It does a nice job of reducing noise, and if you are looking for a free option this is a good one. The downside is that it appears this software is no longer being updated and its days are numbered.
  • Noise Ninja: This is part of the Photo Ninja Suite by Picture Code. The entire suite costs $ 129. I personally have not used it, but the reports I have heard from others and the reviews have always been positive. Read: How to Reduce Noise with Photo Ninja for more info.
  •  Topaz Denoise: Topaz makes a series of plug-ins that do a variety of functions really well. Their noise reduction software is called Denoise and it costs $ 79 (or you can get the whole suite of apps for $ 500).  I haven’t used this one either, but the reviews have been good and my experience with other Topaz apps has been very good.
  • Macphun’s Noiseless: Inside Macphun’s Creative Kit you will find the Noiseless plugin (you can also buy it alone). Read this for more info on this option: Macphun Noiseless Pro Software Review

Any of these will do a nice job.

Good, Better, and Best Noise Reduction Techniques

Screenshot of Noiseware interface.

“Best” Noise Reduction

The best way I have found to apply noise reduction is exactly the same as the way you just saw, except that you apply it selectively. The reason is that noise reduction reduces detail in your image. It is often hard for noise reduction software to tell the difference between noise and important detail. That is particularly true in night sky photos, where the many stars can resemble the random flecks that constitute noise.

Basic Masking

To avoid having your noise reduction software reduce detail, you can use Photoshop to mask off the more important areas of the sky. To accomplish that, you just create a layer mask so that the noise reduction only applies to certain parts – which will be white in the mask – of your image.

A simple, but admittedly imprecise, way to do this is with a brush. If you start with a “reveal all” (white) layer mask, you will then use the brush (color set to black), which will keep the noise reduction from reducing detail in the areas you choose. On the other hand, if you start with a “hide all” (black) layer mask, you will paint the entire mask with white except the part where you want to preserve detail. You can get as course or fine as you want (or time allows).

An example of masking off noise reduction in an area where you want to preserve detail in the picture. This applies to the cliffs picture at the top of this article.

How to do you do it? First create a new layer copy (Ctrl/Cmd+J if your picture only has one layer, or Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+Alt+E if you have multiple layers already), then apply your noise reduction as you normally would. After that, just click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom, which will create a white (reveal all) layer mask (or press Alt while doing so to create a black layer mask to hide all). Then just use your Brush (B) to paint with the opposite color as your mask.

You can get as involved as you want with masking. You likely have your own favorite ways already, so go ahead and use them. There is no right or wrong way to mask.

Applying Noise Reduction

So those are my three ways to apply noise reduction. You can add some quick noise reduction in Lightroom, which takes only a second. For slightly more involved but also more powerful noise reduction, add the addition application of your choice. For your most important pictures – or the ones with the biggest problems – add noise reduction and then use masking to limit the effect to the specific areas you want.

These are just my ways though. Do you have your own special methods that are different?  If so, let us know about it in the comments below.

If you found this article helpful it is just one of 31 tips you will get if you grab Jim’s new dPS course: 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer.  Enrollment for this course is only opened for a limited time and closes August 11th (5 more days) so get it now.

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The Olympus TG-5 is the best rugged compact you can buy right now

09 Jul

Washington State’s Pacific coastal beaches are quite the contrast to what you usually find around Puget Sound near Seattle. The pebbles, barnacled rocks and copious sickly sea foam give way to pillow-soft sand, waves you can surf and mountainous, craggy rock formations that make for an otherworldly visual experience. As a local, I’ll admit that I love both varieties. But despite how picturesque a trip to the beach can be, I absolutely hate going with a camera in tow. Sand can kill.

Even brief exposure to sand and saltwater can make for a deadly combination for just about any electronic device, so in planning for a three-day, two-night camping trip to Washington’s Second Beach in La Push, I had basically written off any possibility that I’d bring a camera along. Then, I remembered we had the Olympus Tough TG-5.1

The first leg of the journey was a ferry across Puget Sound to get us closer to the ocean.

And in considering the TG-5, I was reminded of a well-worn saying; ‘it’s not the camera, it’s the photographer.’ I happen to think there’s an awful lot of truth in that, but even so, as a nerd as well as a photographer, there are usually lines in the sand (apologies) I don’t cross. One of them is using a dedicated camera with a smartphone camera-sized sensor.

There are usually lines in the sand I don’t cross.

But then again, my smartphone isn’t rugged or waterproof, and doesn’t have an optical zoom. Adding to that, the TG-5 offers Raw capture, GPS logging, good external controls, a more powerful flash and a crazy good macro mode. With the Tough, you’ve got a pretty compelling, compact package without the hassle of endless smartphone apps, clunky waterproof cases and fiddly lens attachments.

The TG-5’s ‘microscope’ mode sounds a little goofy, but it results in very good macro performance. And check out that background blur despite the small sensor!

Besides, I still find some satisfaction in using a dedicated camera as opposed to a smartphone for even casual photography. So, was the TG-5 the absolute perfect camera for this trip? Turns out, it’s got a couple of quirks. But it was still darn good.

What worked

One of the joys of visiting La Push with the TG-5 was access to tide pools at low tide. Then I discovered they were all just occupied by the same green sea anemones. Maybe next time I’ll try snorkeling to get some more variety.

The very first thing I did with the TG-5 when I grabbed it from our camera cabinet was run it under the tap. Of course, it’s fun to do that just because you can, but it also had some sunscreen on it from a previous user that I wanted to rinse off.

So the TG-5 is very well-sealed against both moisture and dust and dirt intrusion. This meant I could comfortably leave it lying around our beachy campsite even though everything was covered in sand.

The very first thing I did with the TG-5 when I grabbed it from our camera cabinet was run it under the tap.

I could put it in my sandy pocket, or deposit it in my sand-filled bag in our sand-filled tent and not have to worry at all. I brought it along on rocky beach hikes where it was likely I would fall into the ocean. This capability alone is pretty much worth the price of admission in my book, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors.2

The TG-5’s resolution and sharpness never blew me away, but the Raw files have at least some flexibility in them for the sensor size, and I ended up with a ton of photos I wouldn’t have taken if I was leaving a DSLR in a bag the whole time for protection.

Every image you’re seeing in this article is the result of a Raw file from the TG-5 processed through a beta version of Adobe Camera Raw (more samples available in the gallery). This is probably my favorite thing about the Tough; even though the images can be noisy even at base ISO, I was able to salvage some clipped highlights and lift some shadows to bring detail back in high-contrast scenes, which you’re likely to encounter in outdoor photography.

The TG-5 is, thanks to an updated processor, also a very responsive camera. Start-up, focus and shot-to-shot times were all very quick, making it easy to whip the camera out for a quick shot on the move (and the well-sculpted grip makes it feel secure in the hand). But sometimes, quick shots on the move proved to be a problem for the TG-5. Let’s explore what Olympus could improve on the next iteration of their tough cam.

The TG-5’s metering did a pretty good job here, but I was able to go into the Raw file and pull down some highlights that had clipped in the JPEG file due to the dark background.

1. Okay, and a Nikon D7200 that stayed safely tucked away in a bag for much of the trip.

2. Some sand will still get stuck around the screen and port doors, but nothing another good rinse under a tap won’t take care of.

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Dronestagram and Nat Geo crown the best drone photos of 2017

07 Jul
Winning images from Dronestagram’s fourth annual drone photography contest. Some of the best drone photos in the world.

Dronestagram just wrapped up its fourth annual drone photography contest. Organized in partnership with National Geographic, the point of the contest is to surface the best drone photos from around the world. Now that the winners have been announced, we’ll let you be the judge of that.

The aerial photography social network awards prizes in three categories: Nature, Urban and People. They also name three ‘most creative’ photos in no particular order.

Scroll down to see them all for yourself, and let us know what you think in the comments down below:


1st Place: Provence, summer trim by jcourtial

Lavender harvest in Provence. Photo © jcourtial

2nd Place: Infinite Road to Transylvania by Calin Stan

Aerial view of a winding mountain road in Transylvania, Romania. Photo © Calin Stan

3rd Place: Ice formation by Florian

Sea ice off the eastern coast of Greenland. Photo © Florian


1st Place: End of line by Martin Sanchez

An abstract photo captured one weekend while driving down the New Jersey coast. Photo © Martin Sanchez

2nd Place: Waterlilu by helios1412

A woman harvests water lilies in a pond in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. Photo © helios1412

3rd Place: La Vijanera by feelingmovie

An aerial photo of La Vijanera, a winter masquerade that takes place in the town of Silió, in Cantabria (Spain), the first Sunday of each year. Photo © feelingmovie


1st Place: Concrete Jungle by bachirm

Aerial view of the Dubai Marina at sunset. Photo © bachrim

2nd Place: Dawn on Mercury Tower by alexeygo

Window washers on the ‘Mercury’ tower in Moscow City. Photo © alexeygo

3rd Place: Peace by luckydron

Aerial photo captured in Madrid, Spain. Photo © luckydron

Most Creative

Two Moo by LukeMaximoBell

Two cows take their morning drink in Paarl, South Africa. Photo © LukeMaximoBell

Next Level by macareuxprod

A funny and original, video game-inspired pregnancy announcement. Photo © macareuxprod

Ugo le marin by rga

A little bit of fun with sand art. Photo © rga

So, what do you think? Best drone photos in the world? There’s definitely room for debate, but if you want to see more great drone shots like these, the Dronestagram website is a great place to start.

All photos courtesy of Dronestagram.

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EyeEm Selects helps you find the best images in your camera roll for posting

23 Jun

EyeEm has rolled out an update to its mobile app for Android that brings the new EyeEm Selects feature. EyeEm Selects helps you find the best photos on your phone’s storage by scanning your camera roll and then using computer vision to suggest photos to upload. Selection criteria is based on aesthetics. The algorithms picks images that are composed particularly well, have the best quality, or highest chance of selling on the EyeEm stock image platform.

EyeEm is already using advanced computer vision technology on its servers for scanning of images that have been uploaded to the service and determine their content, relevant keywords, and aesthetic quality. The app update means that some of those algorithms can now be run on your locally stored images before uploading them. Running the process locally means users save bandwidth and battery power and don’t need to worry about any third parties seeing their images if they decide to not upload them.

Selects is integrated into the image uploader component of the app. Above the camera roll you’ll now see thumbnails of the images suggested for upload. EyeEm says the feature also provides an easy way for finding hidden and long forgotten gems in the depth of your camera roll that weren’t shared right after capture. Android users can download the updated EyeEm app from Google Play now. iOS users will have to wait a few weeks longer.

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Playing a Super Mario Bros. level with Hololens is the best case for AR we’ve seen

23 Jun

Developer Abhishek Singh makes a compelling case for wearing a headset and looking silly – he created an augmented reality Super Mario Bros. level and played through it in New York’s Central Park. Oh, and he dressed as Mario for the demo video below, which is the best thing ever.

Singh tells Upload VR that he had to re-think some of the game elements to make it playable on a human scale – Mario can jump much higher than any plumber we know. Of course, there would be some obvious challenges bringing a game like this to the masses. But we’ve got our fingers crossed for a future of virtual reality includes life-size Koopas and gold coins.

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Photoshop Versus Lightroom: Which is Best for Beginners?

07 Jun

If you’re new to photography, you’re likely wondering how to post-process or edit your photos. There is a wide selection of photo editing software to choose from, but the two that you probably hear debated the most are Adobe Photoshop versus Lightroom. So what are the main differences and which program is best for beginners and for you? Read on for a basic overview!

Photoshop v Lightroom

A Quick Note

While going through this article, please keep three points in mind:

  1. This is not meant to be a thorough comparison review of the two programs. There are endless features to compare between Photoshop and Lightroom, but this article is meant to give beginning photographers a point of reference as to which program to start with first.
  2. Ever since the Creative Cloud rolled out, Photoshop and Lightroom are constantly being updated with new tools and features. So depending on which version of the programs you are using, some of the tools and features mentioned below may or may not be present in your version of Photoshop or Lightroom.
  3. There are many other comparisons written several years ago that aren’t up to date don’t reflect the new features and changes in Photoshop and Lightroom. So if you read other comparison articles (including this one), be sure to double check when they were published and if they have been updated. For reference, I have Lightroom CC 2015.10 and Photoshop CC 2017.0.1

Get both Photoshop and Lightroom here and receive 20% off the Creative Cloud Photography membership now for dPS readers. 

What is Adobe Photoshop?


Photoshop Versus Lightroom: Which is Best for Beginners?

What the photo editing layout typically looks like in Photoshop.

Photoshop is a name that has become synonymous with photo editing. Today, thanks to its extensive functionality, Photoshop is used by not only photographers, but also by graphic designers, web designers, architects, and publishers.

Photoshop is also a pixel-based image editor, giving you ultimate control of every single pixel that makes up your digital photograph. This means you have limitless options when it comes to manipulating your photos. Want to stitch your friend’s head to a frog’s body or swap out gray skies for sunny skies? These are instances when you would turn to Photoshop.

What is Adobe Lightroom?

If you take a look at the main Photoshop interface for the first time, you’re likely to feel overwhelmed. There is a seemingly endless array of tools and options to choose from, and it’s hard to know where to start. This is because Photoshop contains features not only for photographers but also for designers and those of other creative skillsets. So when it comes to easily finding the photo editing tools you need, this is where Lightroom typically excels, especially for those new to photo editing.

Lightroom takes many of Photoshop’s features that are specific to photographers and puts them in an easy-to-find panel. Previous versions of Lightroom lacked extensive editing tools, but today, Lightroom contains many of the main image manipulation tools you need to process your photos.

Another benefit to using Lightroom is that it is also a fantastic image management software. You can use it to import, organize, manage, and edit your photos. In essence, Lightroom is your all-in-one photo management and editing tool. On the other hand, if you want to manage and organize your images with Photoshop, you must use the accompanying software called Adobe Bridge (which automatically comes with Photoshop).

Photoshop Versus Lightroom: Which is Best for Beginners?

What you’ll typically see in Lightroom after you import some photos.

Lightroom versus Photoshop?

Not long ago, you had to purchase Photoshop or Lightroom individually, and it was truly a challenge to figure out which was a more worthwhile investment. Today, you now get access to both programs if you purchase a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud. For around $ 10 a month, you can purchase the Photography Creative Cloud package, which gives you access to both Lightroom and Photoshop (with Bridge). If you need other Adobe software such as Illustrator, InDesign or Premiere Pro, you can upgrade to the $ 50 per month Creative Cloud subscription.

However, the average photographer will be just fine with the simple plan that includes Lightroom and Photoshop. So from a financial perspective, it’s a no-brainer to get both photo editing programs. But in practice, here are some rules of thumb when deciding whether to use Lightroom or Photoshop.

Use Lightroom if…

You are brand new to photo editing

Most beginning photographers will probably prefer the layout of Lightroom. It presents all of your main editing tools in an easy-to-find column, and it is pretty intuitive to figure out. In Photoshop, you have to do a little more customization to set up your workstation exactly how you want; this leads to more flexibility, meaning you can further customize what tools you choose to appear. However, this can be confusing for beginning photographers.

Photoshop Versus Lightroom: Which is Best for Beginners?

For comparison: Lightroom automatically presents your basic photo editing tools in a column.

Photoshop Versus Lightroom: Which is Best for Beginners?

On the other hand, you have to customize which photo editing tools appear in your Photoshop work area.

You want to batch process multiple images

If you have a bunch of photos that you want to batch process, it is much easier to do in Lightroom using presets and its smooth workflow. Batch processing can still be done in Photoshop using Actions, but Lightroom is arguably more straightforward.

 You value a smooth, straightforward workflow

When it comes to workflow, Lightroom is arguably much better than Photoshop. Using Lightroom, you can easily create image collections, keyword images, share images directly to social media, batch process, and more.

Photoshop Versus Lightroom: Which is Best for Beginners?

In Lightroom, you can both organize your photo library and edit photos.

Adobe Bridge - Photoshop Versus Lightroom: Which is Best for Beginners?

If you want to organize or manage your photo library with Photoshop, you must use another program called Adobe Bridge.

Use Photoshop if…

You can’t do it in Lightroom

This is the easy answer since Lightroom will truly meet the photo editing needs of most beginning photographers. With that said, there are a few instances in particular when Photoshop will outperform Lightroom.

Advanced Retouching

While the latest versions of Lightroom do include some basic retouching tools for patching and removing blemishes, you can do much more in Photoshop. Want to make a person look thinner, whiten teeth, and remove small objects? While you can do this in Lightroom, Photoshop’s retouching tools are much more powerful. It might take some extra time to figure out where these tools are within Photoshop and how to use them, but you’ll be able to enhance your photos much more than in Lightroom.


Do you want to combine the elements of multiple images into a single one? This is termed as compositing, and you will want to use Photoshop to combine and further manipulate images.

In Conclusion

If you are a beginning photographer looking for a relatively intuitive photo editing software, Lightroom is generally best, to begin with. You can always add Photoshop to the mix later, if and when you’re in need of advanced photo manipulation techniques.

What do you think? In the Photoshop Versus Lightroom debate, which is best for beginners? Why? Let us know in the comments below.

The post Photoshop Versus Lightroom: Which is Best for Beginners? by Suzi Pratt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Manual Mode or Exposure Compensation – Which is Best?

01 Jun

As you may know, cameras often get exposure wrong. The question is, what do you do when you realize that the exposure settings suggested by your camera are not right?

You have two options. One is to switch to Manual mode and set the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed yourself. The other is to use exposure compensation (and Aperture or Shutter Priority mode).

The best solution depends on the situation in which you find yourself, plus the configuration of your camera’s dials. For example, with a Canon EOS digital SLR it’s easy to apply exposure compensation by moving the Quick control dial on the back of the camera. It’s so simple you don’t need to take your eye away from the viewfinder.

Exposure compensation versus manual mode

The Quick control dial on the EOS 77D.

On my Fujifilm X-T1, the exposure compensation dial is on top of the camera. It’s harder to get at and nearly impossible to adjust without taking your eye away from the viewfinder. But the aperture ring on the lens makes it easy to go to Manual mode and adjust exposure by changing the aperture. An optional live histogram in the viewfinder helps you see if exposure is accurate before pressing the shutter (an advantage of some mirrorless cameras).

Exposure compensation versus manual mode

The exposure compensation dial on the Fujifilm X-T1 is much harder to reach.

These are good examples of how hardware can push you in one direction or another. My Canon SLRs pushed me towards exposure compensation, and my Fujifilm X-T1 pushes me towards using Manual mode.

Using Manual mode

Let’s look at Manual mode first. In Manual, you set the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed yourself. There are certain situations when using Manual mode (as opposed to Programmed Auto, Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority with exposure compensation) is beneficial. Let’s look at a few.

1. Shoot in Manual when the light level is constant

If the ambient light level is steady, you don’t need to change the exposure settings once you have decided which ones to use. Automatic exposure modes are influenced by the reflectivity of the subject and the exposure reading can change even if the light levels don’t.

That makes Manual mode ideal for this kind of situation. Once you’ve set the exposure you don’t need to change it. I like to use Manual mode when making portraits in natural light. Once I’ve set the exposure I’m free to concentrate on directing the model.

Exposure compensation versus manual mode

2. Shoot in Manual when you’re photographing landscapes and using a tripod

In this situation, you have plenty of time to assess exposure. Manual mode is ideal because you can set a low ISO (for image quality), a small aperture (for depth of field) and change the shutter speed to suit the light levels. It’s also easy to make adjustments to allow for any polarizing, neutral density or graduated neutral density filters you may be using.

If you’re shooting landscapes at dusk, while the light is fading, Manual mode also works well. After you take a photo, just check the histogram. As it moves to the left, which it will as the light fades, dial in a slower shutter speed to compensate.

Exposure compensation vs. manual mode

3. Use Manual Mode when you’re using manual flash

If you’re using a flash set to manual the output from the flash is the same every time. In that situation, it’s best to adjust the camera settings manually so the exposure is consistent from frame to frame.

To create the portrait below, I worked with both the camera and flash set to manual. Setting your flash to manual only works when the flash to subject distance doesn’t change.

Exposure compensation vs. manual mode

4. Use Manual mode for long exposure photography

If you’re doing long exposure landscape photography and your shutter speed (exposure time) is longer than 30 seconds then you need to use Bulb mode. This is another form of Manual mode. Except that rather than telling the camera what shutter speed you want it to use, you do so by using the camera’s bulb setting and a remote release.

I used Bulb mode to make this landscape photo with a shutter speed (exposure time) of 82 seconds.

Exposure compensation vs. manual mode

Using Exposure Compensation

The alternative to Manual mode is to set your camera to an automatic exposure mode and use exposure compensation to override the camera’s settings.

The three best automatic exposure modes to use are Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or Programmed auto. Other exposure modes, such as Landscape and Portrait, don’t give you enough control. On some cameras (such as Canon EOS) you can’t adjust exposure compensation when using one of these modes.

These are some of the situations where exposure compensation may be better than Manual mode.

1. Use Exposure Compensation for street and travel photography

If you are taking photos of people in the street the required exposures can vary wildly. One moment you may take a photo of something in the sun, the next you may photograph something in the shade. The sun may also be going in and out between the clouds.

In this situation, you want to concentrate on finding interesting things to photograph and creating a good composition. If you have to stop and think about exposure, then you may miss the shot. Automatic exposure modes help greatly.

Exposure compensation vs. manual mode

2. Use Exposure Compensation when you are using on-camera flash in an automatic mode (TTL)

If you have the on-camera flash set to an automatic mode, then the camera needs to be set to evaluative or matrix metering, the camera’s most advanced metering mode, to take full advantage of that. The camera and flash work together to calculate the correct exposure.

Setting your flash to automatic (TTL or E-TTL) works best when the subject to flash distance is constantly changing. Using automatic means your camera can adjust the output of the flash as it needs to.

3. Use Exposure Compensation when shooting sports or wildlife

This is another situation where the light level is likely to change frequently and you need to concentrate on tracking the action and capturing important moments. You don’t want to be thinking about exposure when trying to capture the peak of the action in sports or photographing fast-moving wildlife. Let your camera do the work, and use exposure compensation if you have to.


Everybody works differently, so the points in this article should be taken as suggestions only. The more experienced you become as a photographer the more you will learn to judge whether you should use Manual mode or Exposure Compensation to take control of your exposure.

It may make it easier to think of it in terms of time. If you have more time to think about your camera settings, then use Manual mode. If you have less thinking time and need to be ready to react quickly to capture the action, then use an automatic exposure mode and Exposure Compensation.

Do you prefer to use Manual mode or an automatic exposure mode with exposure compensation? Please let me know in the comments below,

Want to learn how to get perfect exposure on your digital camera? Then check out my new ebook Mastering Exposure and say goodbye to all your exposure problems!

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This camera is designed to keep only the best photos

10 May

A new device called Trophy Camera uses artificial intelligence to compare its own photographs with the world’s most iconic images. During the comparison, Trophy Camera’s AI looks for specific characteristics common in photographs that have won World Press Photo yearly since 1955. Photos that show at least a 90-percent positive correlation with these notable characteristics are then uploaded to the camera’s own automated website. It’s a bit similar in spirit to Camera Restricta, a concept camera that uses GPS to prevent its user from taking clichéd photos.

Trophy Camera was created by media artist Dries Depoorter and PhD student/photographer Max Pinckers. Speaking to, Depoorter and Pinckers explain that their camera is a sort of commentary on what they see as the redundant photography produced by the ‘more automatized’ cameras that are becoming increasingly popular.

Elaborating on that, Pinckers said:

Press photography appears to be becoming a self-referential medium dominated by tropes, archetypes, and pop-culture references. What implications does this have on how we learn about the world through the images we are being shown? …By making this camera, we try to implicitly comment on the current status of photojournalism–which seems to be becoming more questionable in today’s visual landscape–along with the incredibly fast development of computer vision and the relevance of artificial intelligence in our time.

The camera itself is made from a Raspberry Pi Zero W, the computer’s Full HD camera module, a 128 x 32 monochrome OLED display, and a 5000mAh powerbank. Trophy Camera is currently part of an exhibition where photographs are taken; most of them are blurry and less than ‘notable,’ as shown on the camera’s automated website.


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How to Find the Best Locations for Landscape Photography

28 Apr

Have you ever looked at the work of a good landscape photographer and wondered how they found such beautiful places to shoot? Or would you like to travel to a new place to do landscape photography but are unsure how to find the best locations?

You are not alone. It takes work to find the best locations and most landscape photographers go through this process. The tips in this article will help you.

Landscape photography locations

1. Look at the work of other photographers

The first step to finding great places to take landscape photos is to look at the work of other photographers. There are so many great photographers on 500px, Instagram, and Flickr that it should be relatively easy to find some who have worked in the areas that you have in mind.

Looking at the work of other photographers helps you in two ways:

  1. It helps you find the most iconic, popular, and spectacular places to take photos.
  2. It gives you an idea of the potential of a place for the type of landscape photography you have in mind (for example, perhaps you are looking for somewhere to do long exposure photography, or perhaps you like to work in black and white).

It’s a good idea to look for the work of a local photographer. Locals have a huge advantage over visitors. They know the area better and are familiar with photogenic but relatively unknown locations. They may have lived there for years and built up a substantial body of work. Their portfolios contain photos taken at different times of the year. All these things help build a picture in your mind of the location and its potential for landscape photography.

I went through this process when I traveled to northern Spain last year. Looking at the work of local photographers helped me find locations like this.

Landscape photography locations

2. Go out and explore

Once you’re on location, curiosity is the key to finding interesting things and places to photograph. If you’ve done your research you already know the most iconic and popular locations – they are probably what attracted you in the first place.

But what about other locations? The not so well known ones? You can only find those by exploring. It’s only the desire to see what lies around the next corner, or where a lonely road takes you that allows you to find these places.

I made this landscape photo while walking along footpaths near my parent’s house. This is not a well-known area and you’ll struggle to find other photos taken here. Yet it has a lot of potential and I was able to make photos like this.

Landscape photography locations

3. Make a bucket list of great locations

As you look at other photographer’s work and read about landscape photography on websites like Digital Photography School you are bound to come across interesting places and locations.

My suggestion is that you set up a spreadsheet or word processing file that contains a list of all the places you might like to visit one day. The world’s a big place and there are a lot of photos to look at online. If you don’t make a note when you find something interesting you may forget it and never find it again.

As time goes by you can go back to your list and research the places that seem most interesting to you. For example, let’s say you have the city of Venice on your bucket list. Whenever you find an interesting photo or a good article about photography in Venice, add it to your file. Then, when the time comes that you finally get to go, you’ve already done most of the research required and have a good idea of what you’d like to achieve.

Make your list

Another approach is to write down a list of the places you’d like to visit. Don’t censor the list – they are ideas, not certainties. Then you can research them and make notes as you find out more information. This gives you time to think about how much time you need on location, and how to fit that into your schedule. You can think about time and money and gradually build your plans.

Places on my bucket list include the mountains of Torre del Paines National Park in Patagonia, the Italian Dolomites, and the desert landscapes in the southwestern United States. How about you?

The Picos de Europa in northern Spain, where this photo was taken, were also on my list.

Landscape photography locations

4. Find your personal vision

One of the dangers of looking at the work of other photographers is that it creates a desire to take photos of the same places as other photographers. There’s nothing wrong with capturing photos of iconic locations, and sometimes it’s just an itch that has to be scratched before going on and finding the lesser known places. But the danger is that you forget to look elsewhere for good places to take photos.

Photographer Cole Thompson has an interesting idea he calls photographic abstinence. He never looks at the work of other photographers as he wants to find his own locations and his own way of seeing the landscape. There’s a lot of merit to this idea and it’s something you might like to try for yourself. It’s the opposite approach to the advice given at the beginning of this article, and it may work well for you.

Personalize it

Last year I visited my family in Norfolk, England. Look up the work of local photographers and you’ll find lots of photos of sand dunes, wide beaches, and beach huts – the typical landscape of the local area.

I stayed away from those places and walked around with my camera through the landscapes around the village where my family left. It wasn’t intentional to start, but as I did so I found that I was building a body of work photographing the elements of the landscape that were personal to me. I was ignoring the iconic locations, the ones you see photos of for sale in local galleries, and photographing the landscape in a much more personal and interpretive way.

I ended up taking photos like the one above, and this one.

Landscape photography locations

Wherever you go to take landscape photos, and no matter how well known and iconic some of the locations there are, I encourage you to look for and find your own personal vision.


These ideas are just some of the ways that you can find interesting landscapes to photograph. Do you have any more? I’d love to hear them – please let me know in the comments.

Andrew is the author of the ebook The Black & White Landscape.

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