Posts Tagged ‘Don’t’

Landscape photography: Don’t miss the moment for the photo

07 Feb

In the pursuit of timeless landscape photography, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. That is, to miss the moment for the photo.

Too often, photographers—myself included—focus on tiny imperfections in their images, yet miss the grandeur of the scene before their eyes. We can scrutinize over every pixel, while neglecting the people who are there with us sharing in nature’s spectacle. We search and yearn for perfect sunsets, only to set ourselves up to feel dejected when our idealized expectations fail to meet ‘mediocre’ realities.

Yet, over time, we begin to discover that the endearing value of landscape photography lays not in the final image itself, but in everything behind it and beyond it. In the effort—the literal blood, sweat, and tears—we exert to capture the image. In the memories forged along the way; the memories preserved decades later through the photo. The lasting value lies in the process itself.

In landscape photography, the means do not merely justify the end. The means are a worthwhile end in and of themselves.

Natural beauty, appreciated

The pursuit of capturing stunning landscapes exposes photographers to moments of wonder the majority of the population will rarely if ever have the privilege of experiencing. It grants us opportunities to witness scenes ignorant observers may dismiss as being ‘photoshopped’. Little do they know, these views do exist beyond the wallpapers of their desktop computers—should they have the curiosity and desire to look for them.

Once bitten by the landscape bug—and for those of you who have been, you know what I mean—the unscratchable itch encourages us to get out there as often as possible. To see the sun rising over Sydney Harbour while the city sleeps. To brave freezing winter nights and gaze up at the tapestry of stars in the Milky Way. To hike through forests, in the rain, in order to experience the torrential fury of waterfalls at full flow.

It encourages us to see the artistic potential in scenes taken for granted by untrained eyes. To look for alluring elements in seemingly mundane scenes—a fallen tree trunk acting as a leading line or a coastal rock channel aligned to catch the rising sun for a few fleeting weeks each year. To truly appreciate when the sky explodes in color on sunset, knowing all too well the countless times it doesn’t.

It’s these moments that open our eyes to the wealth of beauty that our natural world has to offer. Moments that leave those who witness them all the richer for it.

Explore with wonder

Not only does the pursuit grant us picturesque scenes to reflect fondly upon, it also exposes us to an emotion not often felt since childhood: a daring sense of wonder.

When viewing the work of my peers, I’m regularly exposed to fantastical scenes so different from what I know. It leaves me inspired to wander through these foreign lands and see how I might put my own unique spin on capturing them. From the scarred canyons of Iceland to the sandstone monuments carved into the American West.

Yet this act of discovery needn’t—and shouldn’t—only apply to grand overseas adventures. It can be found just as easily closer to home.

There’s a sense of wonder in humbly exploring your local countryside in search for the perfect skeleton of a tree. In researching familiar locations on Google Earth and then driving down ungraded side-roads not knowing what the next bend holds. Or in hiking out under the light of the crescent moon on way to an astrophotography shoot.

Express yourself

Life is full of customs to limit how you behave, to restrict what you can and can’t do. And for good reason. There’d be utter chaos should we wake up wanting to drive on the wrong side of the road…

But in our approach to photography, and the work we create, we can be our true selves. We can pursue the facets we like best while leaving behind those we don’t.

Two photographers can look at the exact same scene, yet walk away with starkly different images. One may focus on the weathered bark of an old tree and produce an elegant black and white, while another captures the entire grand scene, opting for an an ethereal Orton Effect in post-processing. Neither method is wrong. Nor is either more correct. Both are merely personal interpretations by the artist.

Dedication to the ongoing pursuit—the capturing, processing and sharing of work—allows us to experiment with new approaches, gear and techniques. It’s a humble process of trial and error to see what works for us and what doesn’t. Ultimately, through this continual refinement of our craft, we establish a look and feel to our images that becomes uniquely our own.

Personal achievement

Succeeding in landscape photography requires a healthy amount of discipline. Discipline to wake at 4am. To drive for an hour out to location. To battle the elements as we set up our gear. To wait and watch the sunrise fizzle out. And to then return home without taking a single decent image.

All to do it again next week, and the week after that.

It takes grit to push through the disappointment in failing to capture the ideal image you had envisioned. Grit to push on through the lows, so that when you reach the highs of a great image—and you will—you have the perspective to truly appreciate what you have created.

As landscape photographers, we must push ourselves. To reach beyond the known, safe certainties of our comfort zones. Be it leaving the warmth of our bed on a dark winter’s morning or embarking on an overnight hike through the bush. The pursuit allows us to challenge and exceed what we think we can achieve. We persevere with our craft and come through the other side the better for it.

Not just a solo pursuit

Who said landscape photography was a lonely pursuit?

Social media has changed the game for photographers. Instagram in particular has become the default portfolio of work for many. The platform allows us to not only draw inspiration from the works of others, but to directly engage and communicate with them. To discover new locations and new ways of viewing tried and true ones.

This works both ways, too. When you share your unique take on a location, no doubt it encourages like-minded photographers to get out and discover those locations for themselves. While it’s tempting to view their work as piggybacking off your hard work, it needn’t be a zero sum game. Through open sharing, we can teach and inspire one another to work harder, to create more. And as a profession, we are the better for it.

If you’ve ever struggled with the discipline aspect to landscape photography (I know I have) try to arrange meet-ups on location with like-minded peers in the field. Not only will their attendance commit you to venturing out, but it then becomes a shared learning opportunity for you both. Local Instameets and Facebook groups are great opportunities to better know the photographic community in your area.

But the social component isn’t limited to just other photographers. Consider inviting those closest to you on the next location scout. Or offer to act as tour guide for a friend, introducing them to new locations they never knew existed.

Case in point

Consider this photo above. On a recent trip across The Ditch, we were staying on New Zealand’s east coast. I knew I wanted to capture the famed Wanaka Tree under the light of dawn, but we were at the end of our travels and the tree was far away on the other side of the island. So, like all mad photographers, I decided to drive four hours through the night to get there in time.

Beside me on the road trip was my 75-year-old grandma, a former Kiwi-turned Aussie. The drive through the night proved to be a great opportunity to bond with her—a rarer opportunity with each passing year. As we drove through the towns of her childhood, she told stories of her past growing up in NZ. And likewise, I had time to share with her my current creative pursuits.

However, once we arrived in Wanaka, the clouds had rolled in to block out the rising sun. And so too our chance of capturing the image we had sought.

And in the car we waited, laughing to each other after coming all this way to be met by less than ideal conditions. Yet, after some time, a fleeting gap in the clouds lit up the fresh new growth on the foreshore and on the tree itself. Together, we hurried down to the lake and both snapped a handful of shots before the clouds returned again.

We couldn’t stop pinching ourselves on the drive back for having been so fortunate to have those brief few moments to take the shot, but upon reflection, it wasn’t getting the shot that made it worth it. Rather, it was the time spent bonding, and the moment shared. While it turned out to be a pretty picture, for me it was an even more memorable moment.

Take a moment for the moment

The classic adage states that it’s the journey, not the destination, that’s of greater importance. And that’s an apt mantra to keep in mind when we go about our landscape photography—both literally and figuratively.

Landscape photography demands much from the photographers who pursue it. It demands we invest our time and our effort into the craft. That we invest without guarantee we’ll walk away with the stunning award-winning image we so dreamed of.

With that in mind, the next time you find yourself on a beach on sunrise or on a hike through the bush… stop. Stop to appreciate the effort you’ve put into preparing for the photo. Stop to take solace in knowing that you’re in the thick of life, immortalizing the scene in front of you through your art. Stop and take a moment, to appreciate the moment.

And then take the shot.

Mitch Green is a Melbourne based Travel and Landscape photographer. He can be found via his website, through Instagram, or down by the beach at 5am waiting for sunrise.

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Don’t Fear Photo Post-Processing – Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process

14 Sep

You have just bought your new bright shiny camera and you are sure that it is just the thing that will help you create better images. You’re shooting JPG with the camera’s automatic program modes, but you’re not getting the results you wanted. You keep upgrading your cameras thinking that will do the trick, only to find that the quality of your imagery isn’t getting any better. What’s going on?

Lightroom Banner - Don’t Fear Photo Editing - Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process

You may be missing an important part of digital photography, post-processing, with a state of the art processing program like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop.

Before and after

Iceland Light Before - Don’t Fear Photo Editing - Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process

This image of a lighthouse in Iceland was taken on a bright yet overcast day. In a matter of moments with the help of Lightroom, it became a favorite.

Iceland Light After - Don’t Fear Photo Editing - Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process

The role of post-processing in photography is not new

There are several integral parts to digital photography. The technical and creative aspect of using your camera, and the technical and creative application of post-processing your images. Each part is equally important and when all the pieces are put together, that’s when the magic starts to happen.

Unfortunately, many people are still thinking about the days of film when you took it to a lab and the post-processing was done for you. You never had to think twice about how the image was processed. Did you ever notice that different labs gave you different results? That’s because of their level of post-processing.

Now it’s time for you to understand the importance of post-processing if you are going to create better imagery. It will take some time and some dedication to learn, but it will improve your photography by ten-fold.

The first step – shooting with post-processing in mind

First of all, start shooting in RAW format and stop letting the camera make the decisions for you. When you shoot JPG format, it will automatically process your images in camera, even though you may even not be aware of it.

Have you ever taken a JPG and a RAW image and compared the two photographs? The JPG may appear bright and saturated and the RAW file looks flat. That’s because the JPG has been processed by the camera and the RAW file is an unprocessed digital negative.

That RAW file is ready for you to make your own creative adjustments and apply your photographic vision in Lightroom or Photoshop. Only then can you start to recreate that scene you saw when you first took the image.

What kind of post-processing decisions will the camera make for your JPGs? Depending on your camera, it can automatically increase saturation, sharpness, and contrast, but it will also compress your image. There are settings in your camera where you can make blanket adjustments for every JPG (Picture Styles), however, the camera is still making the decisions for you. That gives you zero creative control.

Raw format gives you control

RAW files contain more information and will allow you to have a wider range of tones (called dynamic range) to work with when you bring your images into Lightroom or Photoshop. When shooting in the JPEG format, image information is compressed and lost forever. In a RAW file, no information is compressed and you’re able to produce higher quality images while correcting problem areas that would be unrecoverable if shot in the JPEG format.

The Histogram

Once you start shooting in RAW, it’s very important to be conscious of the histogram. You can bring up the histogram on your Live View shooting screen or after you have taken the shot in your image review screen. Check your camera’s manual for the location of the histogram.

Note: If you shoot with a mirrorless camera you may be able to see the histogram on the screen before you shoot. Check your settings this is very handy.

Why is the histogram important for your photographic success?

If used correctly while shooting, the histogram will give you the information you need to know to bring up the shadows or bring down the highlights and pop out exposure and detail in an image.

The histogram shows you the brightness of a scene and it can be measured as you are shooting, or after you have captured the image. When look at the histogram and see the bulk of the graph pushing towards the right, this means you have an image that may be overexposed (or a really light toned subject).

Overexposed - Don’t Fear Photo Post-Processing - Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process

If the data is mostly on the left of the graph, it’s an image that might be underexposed.

Underexposed - Don’t Fear Photo Post-Processing - Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process

If the graph spikes on either the left or right “wall” of the histogram, that means that “clipping” has occurred. Clipping happens when you have areas in your photo with no information as a result of over or underexposure. When an area has no information, it is either pure white or pure black which is often referred to “blown out”.

Generally, it is undesirable to have large areas of your image that have highlights or shadows clipping. See the image below. The red areas show highlight clipping, and the blue areas show shadow clipping.

Clipping - Don’t Fear Photo Post-Processing - Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process

Because of the limited dynamic range of a camera’s sensor, the area registering as clipped usually leaves the image with no information in the shadows or highlights. A spike touching the left edge of the histogram means that there is shadow clipping. A spike touching the right edge of the histogram means that there are highlights clipping.

What is possible with post-processing?

Many photographers have frustrating results with their images because they don’t embrace digital editing and post-processing. They are doing everything right when they shoot and are good at composition. They know how to expose correctly for the scene, but don’t know where to go with the image once they get home.

For example, maybe they are in a high contrast area and have taken an image with the histogram in mind. Then they open the image on-screen and throw it out because it looks over or underexposed. They don’t know what the post-processing possibilities are even though they may have a viable image. This is where they are missing a large part of the potential in their digital photography post-processing.

Here’s a great example. This image was taken in the Eastern Sierra in California.

Alabama Hills Before - Don’t Fear Photo Post-Processing - Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process

It is obvious that the shadows are way underexposed and it creates an interesting silhouette. But, if you look at the histogram, you can see there is space on the left side of the graph which represents the shadows. This means there is more information there, and a good possibility of bringing up the shadows to create a whole different image.

Here is the result after brightening shadows in Lightroom. This adjustment took just seconds and creates a whole new scene.

Alabama Hills After - Don’t Fear Photo Post-Processing - Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process

Start with Lightroom

Almost every image needs post-processing. Some people think that’s “cheating”. It’s not, it’s all part of the digital artistic process.

With post-processing, you can create the image you saw when you photographed the scene. Your eyes have the capability of seeing a wider range of light and color than your camera does, so the images need help in post-processing to duplicate the full range of light and shadows. The problem with a lot of beginners, is they tend to oversaturate or over-sharpen an image. So this talent comes with time and practice, practice, practice.

Once you have mastered the basics, there is a lot more you will be able to do with your digital post-processing that will add drama and interest to your photos. The above image of Bridal Veil Falls in Yosemite looks rather flat in the RAW version (left). Once you add saturation, sharpening, and a vignette to the whole picture it starts to pop. Then you can enhance the brightest areas by “painting with light”, and it now becomes a much more interesting image.

Start your post-processing journey with a full featured program like Adobe Lightroom. It is the standard in the industry for professionals, but it is also user-friendly for beginners and helps with both post-processing and image organization. Just be sure that your computer has enough memory and RAM to run these full featured programs. Check the requirements at

Check out our guide to LR:  The dPS Ultimate Guide to Getting Started in Lightroom for Beginners

Nothing is more satisfying than when you have a catalog of 30,000 images and you’re able to find your favorites in literally seconds by entering a few keywords and star ratings. Take some time to set it up, add a class or two, and you’ll be up and running!


Photo editing or post-processing is an integral part of the digital photography puzzle. Don’t think that you can skip this part and come away with satisfying images. It’s just as important to learn photo editing as it is to learn the basic functions of your camera. Only then, will you be able to bring that intentional photographic vision into post-processing and create great images

How are you going to start your post-processing journey? Is shooting in RAW and learning Lightroom in your future? Please share your thoughts with me on this subject.

The post Don’t Fear Photo Post-Processing – Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process by Holly Higbee-Jansen appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Don’t buy another lens, buy a flash instead

21 Aug


A bounced, on-camera flash was a quick way for me to take some photo booth snaps in a very dark room without having to set anything up off-camera.

When people really get into photography and start saving their pennies for new gear, one of the first things they buy tends to be a lens, like a telephoto or a fast prime. However, if you’ve already got a lens or two and you’re thinking you’d want another, let me suggest that you pick up an external flash instead.

Why, you ask? What’s wrong with natural light? After all, those insert-name-brand-here flashes are just way too expensive.

With the abundance of cheap flashes pouring out of China these days, you should be able to get a TTL, or ‘through the lens’ metering flash for around $ 50 US. If it’s your first flash, a cheapie one will do just fine, and TTL metering will help you get out and get shooting with it in no time.

If you’re ‘into photography’ enough to have a couple of lenses, then it’s time to consider one of these as well.

Even a ‘natural light’ shooter can benefit immensely from a better understanding of how light works, and what better way to experiment with light than controlling your own? You may even find that, using artificial lights, you can spend less time looking for shade or big bay windows, and sometimes, you can get away with shooting at the ‘wrong’ time of day.

‘Even a ‘natural light’ shooter can benefit immensely from a better understanding of how light works, and what better way to experiment with light than controlling your own?’

Lastly, having a flash simply provides you with another tool with which to create images. It’s just another option you didn’t have before. It can open up new possibilities, and perhaps lead you in a creative direction you never expected. And as you grow, you may find there are some situations that you’d simply never get away with not using strobes.

Getting started using TTL

Even if you tend to use your camera in ‘Auto’ or ‘P’ modes, you can gain instant benefits from a small, inexpensive flash. As stated earlier, it’ll be important to get TTL capability, which is kind of like ‘Auto’ or ‘P’ for flash.

Room a bit dim? A ceiling-bounced flash is one of the easiest ways to brighten it up without looking too unnatural.

So how does TTL work? Before taking the photo, the flash fires a quick burst that reflects off your subject and travels through the lens to the imaging or metering sensor in the camera, which then takes a reading and tells the flash what power it should use. And because this is all happening at the speed of light, there is no perceptible lag in this process.

The best part is that if you’re finding your flash is looking too bright or too dim, you can dial in exposure compensation on the flash itself, just like you can on your camera. These are two separate exposure compensations; the flash exposure compensation value will only affect the flash output.

And TTL isn’t just to be pooh-pooh’d as the ‘amateur’ option either, as it can work incredibly well. Many of Joe McNally’s excellent shoots with both speedlights and bigger strobes are controlled using TTL and biasing them up or down with exposure compensation.

On-camera flash Bounce flash
Taken on a Nikon D3400 in full auto.

One of the best ways to get instantly better pictures as a result of your new flash is to mount it to the top of you camera, point it up at the ceiling, and photograph some friends indoors. Instead of producing portraits with very bright faces and an almost black background, which built-in flashes tend to do, you’re bouncing the light off the ceiling, where it cascades down and lights everything a little more softly.

It’s like the difference between shooting in direct sunlight versus shooting on a cloudy day. In direct sunlight (like with direct flash pointed at your subject), you get pretty harsh shadows and more contrast between those shadows and the highlights. With the flash pointed at the ceiling, it’s spread out more, similar to how clouds will diffuse sunlight, and shadows are much softer as a result.

A practical case for TTL, or ‘How I Shoot Dimly Lit Events’

One of my favorite aspects of TTL metering actually involves keeping my camera in full manual, with the flash doing all of the ‘automatic’ work for me. This is particularly useful at dimly lit events and wedding receptions, where I’m moving around quickly and almost always using bounce flash, as described just above.

Ambient lighting only.

This first shot is a good example of an approximate base exposure for the ambient lighting in the room. By that I mean that the ambient lights aren’t totally blown out, and the background is a little dark but still provides a bit of context. This is important as I mostly want the flash to bring out my main subject without the entire rest of the frame looking horribly under-or-overexposed.

In this particular case, I actually like this dark, moody look for the sax player. But these sorts of ambient, ‘moody’ shots won’t work for everyone all the time. So let’s see what difference a flash can make, and how I like to incorporate it in these situations.

Added bounce-flash with TTL.

This second image has some exposure adjustments to bring up the ambient a little more, but I’ve added a flash mounted to the top of the camera. It was bounced at the ceiling in TTL mode and the flash exposure compensation was adjusted to underexpose slightly.

Of course, these images are extremely different in terms of ‘mood,’ but I’ve found that this method of adding ‘pops’ of bounce flash to subjects at events can allow me to more effectively freeze motion without raising my shutter speed, as well as shoot my lenses a little more stopped down to give me some leeway for focus errors.

What about you?

Image taken with a single off-camera flash through an umbrella.

Are you a flash shooter, or a natural light purist? TTL or all manual, all the time? Let us know in the comments if you’ve got any strobe tips or tricks that have made a difference to the types of photography you enjoy.

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No, you don’t need a $100 permit to take snapshots in Laguna Beach

23 Jun
Photo by Don Graham. Licensed under CC 2.0

The city of Laguna Beach has cleared up some confusion about its photography permit policy. A broad interpretation of one of its two photography permits created a minor uproar recently, as many people took it to mean that the city was requiring a $ 100 permit for anyone taking photos. It seems now that this wasn’t the intention.

As it stands, the city has two permits for two different types of photography: commercial and ‘non-commercial’; the latter has a $ 50/hr rate with a minimum of two hours required. This meant, as the policy was interpreted, that anyone taking photos – including personal photos – in Laguna Beach were required to buy a $ 100 permit.

The non-commercial permit category’s vague description resulted in quite a bit of public complaint, and the city has chosen to rename it as a result, leaving only talk about true commercial photography on its website’s related permit page. The category was never intended to cover casual personal photography, according to a city official speaking to OC Weekly. Rather, the ‘non-commercial’ permit category was created as a cheaper alternative to the primary commercial permit, giving photographers an option for ‘less complicated photo shoots such as engagement photos.’

The city’s website still specifies two different photography permits, but one with a new name: commercial and ‘professional still photo.’ The latter carries the same $ 100/2hr minimum as the former ‘non-commercial’ category, explaining that this option is for ‘single camera shoots such as engagement photos, wedding photos, family portraits, holiday cards, etc.’ Nothing about the permit policy except the ‘non-commercial’ verbiage has changed. However, it is now clear that personal, non-compensated photography doesn’t require a permit.

Via: OC Weekly

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Don’t forget: Challenge of Challenges 2016 voting closes Friday

15 Feb

Nearly 1000 images won DPReview challenges last year. From that pool we chose our favorite 25 images, and now it’s your turn to pick a winner. Our Challenge of Challenges competition closes this Friday, so if you’ve been putting it off now is the time to rate your favorite images. Pick your top five and keep your eyes peeled as we announce winners next week.

Explore and vote for the best
challenge-winning images of 2016

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Study: people don’t actually like looking at selfies

11 Feb

A couple of weeks ago a Sony-sponsored study found that consumers are ready to embrace selfies as a tool. Now a research paper, published by Sarah Diefenbach and Lara Christoforakos of Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich published in Frontiers in Psychology in January suggests that a majority of smartphone users enjoys taking selfies, but very few people like looking at selfies of others.

The paper is titled ‘The Selfie Paradox: Nobody Seems to Like Them Yet Everyone Has Reasons to Take Them’ and is based on a study that surveyed 238 people from Austria; Germany and Switzerland. Of those who responded, 77% said they take selfies at least once a month and 49% said they receive selfies from others at least once a week. While respondents thought of their own selfies as somewhat ironic and playful, they had less favorable views on others’ selfies.

‘Altogether, participants expressed a distanced attitude toward selfies, with stronger agreement for potential negative consequences (threats to self-esteem, illusionary world) than for positive consequences (e.g., relatedness, independence), and a clear preference (82%) for viewing more usual pictures instead of selfies in social media.’

Many respondents also thought selfies could have an adverse effect on self-esteem and create a superficial and inauthentic image of the person taking and sending them. 90% of participants regarded others’ selfies as self-promotion. However, only 46% of respondents said the same about their own selfies. The research team acknowledges that the results are potentially biased towards the surveyed regions, and that other cultures have more accepting attitudes towards selfies. As so often in science, further study is required.

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Don’t Miss Out: These 12 Photography Deals Will Disappear With 2016

28 Dec

Over the last 12 days we’ve presented you with some amazing daily deals on photography training resources in our 7th annual 12 days of Christmas.

12 days

The savings this year were our biggest yet and we had a lot of really positive feedback from readers who picked up some fantastic deals.

As in previous years we did get a few sad messages from readers who missed deals along the way asking if there was any way to get them.

As a result – today we’re opening all 12 deals back up again for one last chance. You can find them all here or listed below.

So if there’s a deal you regret missing or you might have missed one of our emails – you’re in luck. Here they are!

  • Deal 1: Save 50% on this Trade Photography Guide (it’s just $ 5)
  • Deal 2: Save 76% on this Mega Portrait Photography Bundle (course, eBooks and more)
  • Deal 3: Save 70% on our Lightroom Mastery Course (hottest deal of the 12 days)
  • Deal 4: Save 67% on our Lightroom Presets (transform your images in a click)
  • Deal 5: Save 60% on these Professional Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets
  • Deal 6: Save 60% on these Landscape Photography Courses (from two of our favorite photographers)
  • Deal 7: Save 85% on this Drag and Drop Lightroom Collage Tool (includes bonus)
  • Deal 8: Save 65% on this Camera Skills and Light Skills Training (satisfaction guaranteed)
  • Deal 9: Save 77% on this Portrait Photography Training (includes 4 exclusive bonuses)
  • Deal 10: Save 85% on our Our Photo Nuts Courses (PERFECT for beginners)
  • Deal 11: Save 60% on Black and White Photo Artistry Course (this was very popular)
  • Deal 12: All dPS eBooks – just $ 9 (there’s 23 to choose from)

All these will be available until midnight US Eastern time on 31st of December, after that they will be gone for ever (just like 2016) – so get to it and grab yours today!

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How to Find Your Photography Niche: You Don’t Have To Master It All

05 Nov

When it comes to photography, there can sometimes be this strange assumption that we are (or should be) experts in all types of photography. Photography is essentially painting with light, so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to do newborn photography, astrophotography, weddings, family portraits, landscape photography, and food photography, right? Light is light, whether it’s on a newborn or a spider, right? The simple answer is yes, and no. But, there’s good news, you don’t have to master it all. Let’s talk about how to find your photography niche.


Different strokes for different folks

Much like a chef benefits from learning about cooking as a whole, photographers benefit from learning the fundamentals that apply across all types of photography: aperture, shutter speed, ISO, finding light, capturing movement and emotion, and focus. However, much like chefs often break off into different specialties, photographers also tend to break off into different niches. Some photographers find that they love newborns, but hate weddings (raises hand). Others love landscapes, but don’t enjoy photographing humans ever. Some photographers love to work in a studio, while others prefer to work only outdoors with natural light. Finally, some photographers prefer to shoot in digital, while others prefer film.


Do what you enjoy

Whichever type of photography sparks your passion and fills you with joy? Do that. Whether that’s black and white portraits, lifestyle newborn images, macro photography of spiders, or architecture – do what you love.

Then when it comes to post-processing, if there’s a method that transforms your image the way that you’ve always pictured it in your head, do that. If it’s a hipster vintage wash, do it. If it’s a quick curves adjustment and nothing else, do that too. Heck, if it’s black and white with selective coloring that makes you happy when it comes to post-processing, by all means, do that.

Do it even if it isn’t cool, and no one else is doing it. Whether you consider photography to be a craft or an art, it is most certainly an opportunity to have a creative voice. And as corny as it may sound, your authentic voice, whether expressed in cooking or in photography, is important.


It’s okay not to do it all

Just in case no one has ever told you before, it’s okay not to do it all. If you specialize in food photography and someone calls you up and asks if you’ll consider accepting a wedding booking, it’s okay to say, ‘Thank you so much for thinking of me, but no.” It’s okay to love photographing families and have absolutely zero interest in doing macro photography of insects.

Whether you’re an amateur or a professional, it’s really hard sometimes to admit that a particular area of photography isn’t your preference or your strong suit. No one wants to feel incompetent. On the other hand, there’s no shame in telling someone that you are unable to accept a newborn booking because it isn’t your specialty and consequently you aren’t familiar enough with newborn posing safety to feel comfortable with accepting that job.

Say it with me – I do not have to master it all.


Finding your niche

If you’re reading this article and thinking, “Okay great, so how do I find my niche?’ The answer is simply to try everything you can. Trying different types of photography is very different than feeling compelled to master every type of photography. Giving different genres of photography a try in low stakes (often unpaid) environments allows you to experiment, and to discover what it is that you really love.

It also requires possibly humbling yourself a bit and allowing yourself to be taught by someone else. Even if you’re the best wedding photographer in your state or area, you may not know the first thing about being a wildlife photographer. So if you really want to learn, you have to be ready and willing to be taught.


Benefits of trying things

My personal niche in photography is newborns and families. It’s what really makes me excited, and what I really enjoy most. However, every time that I’ve stepped outside that comfort zone, with the goal of learning about another genre of photography, it’s been worth it.

I’ve not been a master of every genre that I’ve tried, nor have I enjoyed them all, but I’ve learned something valuable in every case. When I buckled down and focused on landscape photography, it gave me an opportunity to review techniques of composition, metering, and shooting with a relatively small aperture in ways that I don’t typically use on a daily basis when it comes to people photography.


When I made an attempt to learn about astrophotography (a genre of photography that had always greatly intimidated me) I had the opportunity to learn more about long exposures, and the technique of shooting with a wide open aperture in a different application than portraits. Are my astrophotography images perfect? Absolutely not! I’m not an astrophotography expert, and probably never will be. I have two kids, so staying up all night to photograph the stars is a special kind of sleep deprivation torture that I have no interest in repeating with any frequency.

Yet, there’s also a certain importance in taking something that you have no idea how to do and learning the steps necessary to make it happen. When all the pieces finally fall into place, and you have an image that sort of resembles the gorgeous astrophotography images that you see in magazines, it’s a pretty amazing feeling. Like creating something out of thin air.



The more types of photography you try, the more you’ll find yourself saying both “Yes!” and “Nope, I don’t need to do that ever again.” You may also find that there are several types of photography that you enjoy, which is fine. When I suggest finding your niche, I’m not suggesting that you choose one photography genre and one post-processing style and stick to those for the rest of your life and career.

Your niche in the photography world should grow, shrink, and evolve over time. Give yourself the freedom to identify the types of photography that you really enjoy, and forget the rest of it. You do not have to master it all.

What’s your photography niche? What types of photography do you love? Are there any types of photography that you hate? Chime in below!

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‘I don’t use my camera as my memory’: we interview Graham Nash

18 Oct
 Graham Nash, photographed by Amy Grantham.

From Lancashire to California, Graham Nash’s journey has been a long and winding one, both as a musician and a photographer. 

As he prepares for his keynote talk at this week’s Photo Plus Expo in New York, we spoke to Graham Nash about his career as a photographer, and his role in developing modern digital photographic printing.

Graham – most people probably know you primarily as a musician, but when did you start taking photographs?

I’ve been a photographer for longer than I’ve been a musician. The first portrait I took was a picture I took of my mother when I was 11. And it was at that moment that I knew that I saw differently to most people.

You and I both grew up in Northern England. I was born in Yorkshire and you were raised in Lancashire, in Salford.

It’s alright, I’ll still talk to you!

So you’re from L.S. Lowry country – dark, satanic mills, and all that. How did growing up in Salford influence your visual style?

I think it did wonders for me as a person, not necessarily in terms of any talent I may have. When you grow up in that kind of area after World War II, your feet are on the ground. You’re thankful that you’re still alive, that your friends are still alive, and that your house is still standing. Because when I was younger, that wasn’t always the case.

Once you have this sense of having survived, it’s a sense of accomplishment. And also, you know, don’t complain to me about the room not being the right temperature. Talk to me about something more important.

 Johnny Cash, Nashville, TN. 1960. Photograph by Graham Nash, used with permission. 

So being raised in the industrial north of England, coming to America in the 1960s must have been a mind-blowing experience?

Mind-blowing and joyful. I had sunshine, I had music, David (Crosby) and Stephen (Stills) and I were just forming our relationship and falling in love with each other, and each other’s music. Having all that music to make, and records to make, and sunshine and beautiful weather… it was an extraordinary time.

‘I’m interested in those little surreal moments that happen in front of me’

And just visually – even now, America isn’t like anywhere else…

It’s an incredible country. The first time the Hollies came to America, we came to New York. But where I went to live, and where I really thrived was Los Angeles.

The people are very interesting to look at, the countryside is beautiful, but I’m not really one of those photographers. I’m more interested in those little surreal moments that happen in front of me, and they seem to happen in front of me daily. I’m not interested in pictures of kittens with balls of wool, or making an image to match the color of my couch. I don’t take landscapes, and I don’t use my camera as my memory.

Nash’s bandmate David Crosby. Photograph by Graham Nash, used with permission.

So you’ve been taking pictures now for more than 50 years. What would you say the biggest difference – technically or culturally, between when you started taking pictures, and now?

I think it’s more mindless now. People are taking pictures of everything. And nothing is that important. I don’t want a picture of me at Disneyland, pulling the sword out of the stone, or any of that stuff. I’m not interested. I’m not interested in selfies. I’ve been taking self-portraits since 1968. It’s so mindless now and I experience it daily. There’s not a show when I don’t get approached afterwards by someone with 20 albums to sign and a selfie that they want taken, immediately. And often they don’t even ask for permission.

‘I draw inspiration from moments’

As a photographer, do you draw more creative inspiration from people, or from places?

Neither, actually. I draw inspiration from moments. I’ve had so many pictures taken of me, I know when a lens is being turned on me. I know that look. And I can’t stand it. If I take portraits, I want to take pictures when they have no idea when I’m there.

Girl with Uzi, North Hollywood, CA. 1998. Photograph by Graham Nash, used with permission.

What were your earliest photographic influences?

My father was an amateur photographer. He used me and my sister’s bedroom as a darkroom, and it was his enthusiasm and his passion that remains with me even today. I’m still thrilled by the magic of photography, and it really is magic.

For the last 15-20 years I’ve been collecting daguerreotypes. The world’s first photographic format. Daguerre invented himself into a corner, because there was no negative to reproduce the image. That’s what Henry Fox Talbot did – he invented the negative, and therefore invented himself into the future.

‘Fox Talbot invented himself into the future’

You’ve been very influential in the development of what we now call digital photographic printing. Can you give me some context around that?

It was pure selfishness. I used to live with Joni Mitchell, and Joni always loved my images, but I never shared them because I thought of myself as a musician. She had had a really good experience with a gallery in Tokyo. The Parko Gallery. She said why don’t you send them some of your photographs?

I was very hesitant to do that, but she told me to send some pictures to this gallery and see if they’d be interested in doing a show. So reluctantly I made 5 or 6 prints and sent them off, and forgot about it. And then they called me and said they’d love to do a show. They wanted 50 images, which was fine, but they wanted them printed about 3 or 4 feet square, which was a problem.

Dennis Hopper, Kentucky Derby, Louisville KT, 2002. Photograph by Graham Nash, used with permission.

At the same time as I was pondering how to do that, I was introduced to the Iris Printer. And when I saw what that printer was capable of doing, I asked the owner two questions. Could it print in black and white? And would the inks last more than ten minutes?

I bought the machine, it cost about $ 125,000, and my partner Mac Holbert and I voided the warranty immediately because we were modifying it and forcing it to do what we wanted it to do. We opened Nash Editions in the early 90s after a couple of years of research, and we’re still in business.

At that time, in the late 1980s and 90s, as I understand it, the abilities of computers to generate digital images had exceeded the ability of printers to output the files. Is that right?

Exactly. You couldn’t get them off the screen. The honor of having our first printer put into the Smithsonian Museum of American History was a real thrill.

Graham Nash will appear at the Photo Plus Expo 2016 this week, in a conversation with photographer and musician Mark Seliger on October 20th.

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In Europe? You Don’t Want to Miss Pop_UP Berlin in Three Weeks

11 Oct

At the end of the month, GPP PopUp is coming to Berlin. If you are in Northern Europe, this city is within reach for you. And for a variety of reasons, it’s almost certainly the last time Pop_UP will be held in Europe.

Here’s why you shouldn’t miss it.

A Compact, Info-Filled Weekend

This will be my third time teaching at Pop_UP. Over the course of one weekend—two days—the instructors there work hard to bring you a learning experience that centers on photography, but hits it from four unique and different perspectives.

That’s important, because no two photographers’ environments are the same. And learning from people who have successfully navigated various waters in different ways can be very valuable.

The sessions are all pretty fast paced. We each have a lot to cover and only a few hours to do it. For that reason, we each tend to step back from the daily cacophony and concentrate on things that might spark you to think about your own situation in a different way.

I wouldn’t expect to learn 500 things. If past Pop_UPs are a guide, I think the more likely experience is that you’ll get a deeper look into a couple dozen new concepts—many of which will be things that you have never really considered before.

People don’t learn sequentially. Accumluated knowledge kind of builds up, then something causes that dam to burst and important concepts come together in a very concentrated way. Which is why there are times when you suddenly realize multiple things at once.

Creating those intersections is the main goal of my session at Pop_UP. But more on that in a minute.

Greg Heisler is a One-Off

Consider Greg Heisler. And yes, I realize there is a Joe and a Zack involved. But they each have their own online venues to talk about their approach to Pop_UP. But Greg really doesn’t.

So let’s talk about him for a minute.

First, Greg is one of the world’s pre-eminent portraitists. You’ve grown up seeing his work. And you think there is this gap, for lack of a better word, that separates his work from yours. And in some ways you are right. The technical gaps are there, because he has a mastery of photography and lighting and color that few can match.

But what I have learned, watching him teach in his very open way, is that the camera-related gaps only partly explain the difference between his work as compared to that of the average “good” photographer.

I have learned that there are other gaps. Important gaps. Probably more important than the photography-related gaps that we can easily identify.

His work ethic, his thought ethic, his approach to dealing with the people in front of his camera, his respect for (and knowledge of) the history that came before us as photographers—all of that is at least as important as his mastery of photography or lighting.

Probably more important, actually.

Spending a half a day seeing that is something that is hard to put a value on. You go in expecting F/stops and you coming out realizing the important stuff had nothing to do with F/stops. If you have read 50 Portraits, you already have some idea of what I am talking about.

(And if you own his book, bring it. Get him to sign it. In 100 years, no one is going to remember me. But Greg Heisler will still be alive and well in the lexicon of photographers.)

Yes, he will almost certainly be shooting at Pop_UP. And it will be a learning experience to watch him work. He might use a Profoto light, or he might use a cheap fluorescent tube from a local hardware store. To Greg, it’s all just light. His versatility and unflappability is a lesson in itself.

Lastly, back to the idea of this being a one-time opportunity. Because for the most part, Greg has been taken off of the market.

Syracuse University in upstate New York has very wisely snapped him up to keep largely for themselves. He loves it there. It’s a wonderful college town with a steady stream of curious (and lucky) young minds for him to mold.

Which means he almost never teaches externally these days. And because of his academic schedule, when he does teach it is generally close to home.

If you are in Europe, this might well be the only chance you have to learn from him.

And I Have to Follow That

I have taught in a lot of places—many cities, many countries. And suffice to say that following Greg Heisler in any kind of teaching environment is its own little nightmare. Not unlike the one where you show up at school without pants.

It stems from a deep-seeded fear of relative inadequacy, something I readily confess as a “lighting guy” in the context of Greg. So you can damn-well be sure I won’t be talking about lighting.

“What an amazing cooking presentation by Julia Child! Please stick around for David Hobby, who is next and will show you how to make toast…”


So my class on Sunday afternoon will be more about the things that surround photography:

• How do you find the areas in photography where you are particularly well-suited?

• How do you identify—and create—areas of extreme competitive advantage?

• How do you create the ecosystems that, in turn, create the positive feedback loops you need?

• Which “outputs” from those systems do you optimize for? (Not just money.)

• Is it a good idea to optimize for money? (Not usually.)

• What balance do you need to create to foster sustainability?

• Where do your best ideas come from?

• Is it possible to engineer a stream of strong incoming ideas? (Yes, definitely.)

I have watched for ten years as my particular field—editorial/photojournalism—has largely collapsed. Many assignment fees today don’t even cover the cost of periodic gear replacement. It’s crazy.

So my last ten years have been spent studying and practicing new ways to approach the “new” world of photo and its related professions. To learn to adapt to a world that has completely shifted under my feet, and to anticipate those changes still yet to come.

This is not something I write about on this site, simply because it is way out of the lighting niche. But it is something that I feel is existentially important for photographers to understand.

That’s the deep dive we’ll be taking on Sunday afternoon.

So That’s One Day

Like I said, I’ll let Joe and Zack speak for themselves. Feel free to ping them on Twitter if you have any Q’s. But for those of you joining us in Berlin, this is what’s on tap for your Sunday.

Pop_UP is not a forever thing. We have been to UK, Asia, US—and this month, EU. If it continues, it would almost certainly be in South America or Africa.

If you are in Europe, and you want to attend one, this is your chance. Come join us.

And if you have photo friends in Europe, please help to spread the word. None of us live there, so we would very much appreciate your help in that way.

Thanks—and see you there,

:: GPP Pop_UP Berlin, Oct 29-30 ::

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