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Exploring the Fundamentals of Light to Improve Your Photos

19 Feb

Let me point out from the start, it doesn’t matter what camera you use. From a fancy DSLR to your phone you can use these lighting tools to improve your photographs.

Photography and light go hand in hand. Simply put; if there is no light, there is no photograph.

Sunrise - Exploring the Fundamentals of Light to Improve Your Photos

Light is so important to great photography I’m going to ask you to put your camera down for a moment and observe. Really look at the light. The color of it, the way it’s falling on people and things. What shadows are being created?

Try looking at these different times of the day:

1. Early morning before the sun rises and while it rises

The color of light - Exploring the Fundamentals of Light to Improve Your Photos

You’ll see the light change from a cool blue to red, orange, and yellow light in the early morning. It will shift from a soft shadowless light to one that gives shape and texture to everything it touches. If the weather is right, you’ll witness the same in reverse, going from warm to cool at the other end of the day (sunset)!

Shape texture - Exploring the Fundamentals of Light to Improve Your Photos

Budding photographers tend to photograph the actual sunrise or sunset. It is beautiful to be sure. Instead, try looking at what the sun is doing to the trees or the plants or a person’s face and clothing. When the sun is low in the sky it creates gorgeous shapes and textures. On a beach, look at the texture of the sand or the shape of rocks and shells scattered here and there.

2. High noon

Raccoon eyes - Exploring the Fundamentals of Light to Improve Your Photos

High noon is a time better left to gunslingers! This can be the worst time for photography. It is the same light you see in office spaces with overhead lighting. It will give your portraits unflattering raccoon eyes like the image above.

What are you to do then? There are two easy solutions. Turn on your flash is one possibility. The second is head into the shade outside and use window light indoors.

3. Window light

Window light is beautiful directional light. What’s directional? This means the light is coming from one direction, one source.

What we too often see is a person standing with their back to a bank of windows with their faces dark or the outdoors completely white. Instead, place your subject perpendicular to the window using the light to illuminate one side of their face. You can use window light with equally effective results whether photographing a person or an object.

Window light - Exploring the Fundamentals of Light to Improve Your Photos

You’ll want to try using this kind of light when the sun is not shining directly through the window. Pick a cloudy day, use a north-facing window, or shoot after the sun has moved overhead away from the window.

4. Stormy weather

The light changes as you move into and out of a storm. Watch how the color of flowers, leaves, and even cars comes to life during these times of shifting weather. You can add saturation in Photoshop to images today, but you will find it far more realistic if you can capture the saturated color you enjoy at the end of a rainfall.

After the storm - Exploring the Fundamentals of Light to Improve Your Photos

And don’t be shy about heading out into a snowfall or rainstorm with your camera in tow. You will discover a whole new world most folks hideaway from. You will bear witness to people and scenes not normally seen. I guarantee people will exclaim, “Wow, how did you get that shot?!”

5. The Seasons

Your observations of light will inform you of many things. I imagine you will start to see things I don’t see as well. That’s my hope. One other thing you might observe is that light changes over the course of the year too.

Fall color - Exploring the Fundamentals of Light to Improve Your Photos

For example, the sun’s position in the sky changes. During the summer here in southern Ontario the sun rises directly out my back door facing east. Come November, that same ball of fire is rising about 45 degrees further south or to my right. So, it is now lighting things from a very different angle than it was in June, creating different shapes and textures on objects in the same space. How cool is that!

Another piece of the lighting puzzle I’ve discovered is the light becomes clearer and sharper almost overnight moving from August to September. The muggy air of August creates a softer light because it is filled with particulate scattering the light around. As the air cools in September the air is fresher and cleaner giving us a sharper light. This is in southern Ontario, but I guarantee the same effects will occur at some time in your neck of the woods.

Brave the weather

People in these parts complain when it hits -20 Celsius. That’s the time to grab your camera and head out into the world. We get a lot of gray weather during our winters. Ninety percent of the time when it’s very cold we get crisp, clean, beautiful light with these gorgeous blue skies.

Cold morning - Exploring the Fundamentals of Light to Improve Your Photos

I recognize I’m talking about my home, but I ask you to start observing what effect the seasons and the weather have on the light in your area. Which times excite you visually? When does the color jump out at you? Perhaps you like the softer light?

Conclusion

I encourage you to observe and then explore different light to discover your preferences. If you’re excited, you will start creating stronger images you want to share.

Let’s finish with a challenge to share. It’s hard to put your photographs out there. The thing is, with whatever medium you choose to express yourself, you bring a unique vision to the world.

What is truly fantastic about photography is that seven or 70 of us can photograph the same scene, and we will typically all come up with a different perspective. When we share, we learn. My recommendation? Be yourself and share. Start by posting an image in the comments below and tell us about the light you used to create it.

The post Exploring the Fundamentals of Light to Improve Your Photos by David McCammon appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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3 Bad Habits You Need to Break to Improve Your Photography

31 Jan

Teaching our photography workshops over the years, my wife and I have come to recognize there are three things many people do habitually which do not help the advancement of their photography experience. Here are three bad habits for you to break in order to improve your photography.

Man who works making gold leaf in Mandalay, Myanmar - 3 Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Photography

1. Don’t always stand when you take photos

Most beginner photographers do this. They stand at their full height to take a photo. It’s very natural to stand upright and take photos, but it is incredibly limiting. Sure, you see the world from a standing position most of the time, but it’s not always, (or even often,) the most interesting point of view from which to photograph something.

Climbing up on a chair or lying down on the ground will often give you a far more interesting perspective. Getting low or getting up high will afford you a different view of your subject which may be far more interesting because it is not how your subject is typically seen.

Parents and young daughter working in a field in Myanmar - 3 Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Photography

Squat down to make eye contact with your smaller subjects.

Look around you for opportunities

I am always looking around for opportunities to get above my subject to make photographs. But you don’t have to go to extremes. Just squatting down or even bending your waist slightly and you will see your subject differently than when you’re standing upright – as will the viewers of your images (that is the key to standing out from the pack).

Snacks on a blue table in Myanmar. - 3 Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Photography

Getting up higher, above your subject can create a more interesting photo.

Think about it each time you go to make a new photo. Consider getting lower or higher up than your subject. If you can, make a series of photos at each position and compare them all later on your computer. If you do this, pretty soon it will become a new habit.

men sitting having breakfast in a market in Myanmar - 3 Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Photography

A lower perspective and using the man’s arm in the foreground created this interesting portrait.

2. Research and understand your subject

Starting to photograph something new and not knowing anything much about your subject is limiting. If you don’t have some understanding of what you are creating photos of they will be more likely to look like anyone else’s photos of the same subject. Getting to know and understand your subject, even a little, before you take any photos will help improve your photography.

I am often surprised when we begin a day photography workshop here in Chiang Mai, Thailand, how little our customers know about the location. We don’t spend a lot of time teaching about the history or the economy. But some essentials about culture and way of life are so beneficial to help people have some understanding of what they are photographing.

For example, knowing that it’s okay to politely photograph monks, knowing a few phrases in the local language, knowing which direction the traffic moves on the road, etc. These are all simple things that can help you have a richer photography experience if you know about them in advance.

Young novice monks in a morning market in Mandalay, Myanmar - 3 Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Photography

Monks in a morning market in Myanmar.

Connect with people

Getting to know a person before you photograph them will help you relate to one another and certainly alter the type of images you will make compared to having no communication with them beforehand. Photographing someone you already know is often easier, unless they are adverse to having their picture taken. But when you meet a stranger and want to photograph them it’s often best to connect with them first, even on some level (a smile can work too).

Happy market vendor in Mandaly, Myanmar. - 3 Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Photography

It does not often take much to encourage a smile.

A smile and saying “Hello”, (preferably in their language) are the best icebreakers most of the time. Often when I am photographing in the streets or markets I will just smile, say hello, and nod at my camera. If the person smiles back I go ahead and make a few pictures. I will then show them the back of my camera so they can see their photos. If I get a favorable response I will turn the camera around and continue to make some more photos.

When I find a person who enjoys the interaction and the experience I will spend more time. This relationship is valuable. Taking the time to relate to and get to know your subject even a little, will help you to make more creative photographs of them because they will be more relaxed and happy that you are showing an interest in them.

A quick internet search on anything you are want to photograph will provide you with more reading than you’re willing to do in a single sitting. You don’t have to go overboard with it, but do spend some time finding the essential information about your chosen subject so you are more informed and more interested in the location and/or person.

blue yellow and green painted boat on the water. 3 Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Photography

3. Use Manual Mode

Learning to use Manual Mode consistently when you are photographing will help your photography more than anything. Having your camera set to any of the Automatic or semi-automatic modes means your camera is in control of the exposure.

Photography is so much about light. The word “photography” literally means drawing with light. If you have no light you cannot make a photograph. The more you can appreciate and understand light, the better you can learn to control the exposure settings on your camera, and the more you will develop as a photographer.

Worker in a field in Myanmar - 3 Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Photography

Learn to master your camera

I know there are a lot of hard-core photographers who prefer using auto modes, but it’s really not that difficult to learn to master your camera in Manual Mode and gain the maximum amount of control and creativity with your exposures.

Your camera is incredibly intelligent and capable of making even exposures in many situations. But your camera is not creative. You are!

Kayan long neck woman cooking outdoors in Myanmar - 3 Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Photography

Taking the time to study a little about how cameras function to capture an image will help you to control your camera more precisely. It doesn’t matter that much which camera you study as they have not essentially changed how they make an exposure since they were first invented.

Practicing in Manual Mode, (and not cutting corners and slipping back into an auto mode,) will help you build your confidence and speed every time you come to make photographs.

Kayan long neck woman in a house in Myanmar - 3 Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Photography

Conclusion

Stepping out of your comfort zones and breaking some (bad) habits will help you to develop your style and you will come to enjoy your photography experience more and more.

Move around, look for alternative locations to make your photos. Learn about your subject. The more interested you are and the more knowledge you have will enhance your experience and you will therefore also produce more interesting photographs. Take the time and practice in Manual Mode. You may be frustrated at first because it is more difficult, but the results you will achieve will be well worth your effort.

The post 3 Bad Habits You Need to Break to Improve Your Photography by Kevin Landwer-Johan appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Improve Your Photography in 2018 with These 6 Deals (48 Hours Only)

26 Dec

This year’s 12 days of Christmas was huge with some amazing savings on some great photography training and software.

However – because it’s a busy time of year – we know some of you missed out.

So for the next 48 hours only we’re brining all 6 deals back!

That’s right – all of our ebooks, presets, and courses are rarely all on sale at once, so now you can create your dream learning library – but only for 48 more hours.

We also have 3 amazing partner deals so be sure to check those out too while you still can.

Here are all the deals one last time…

  • 23 dPS Photography eBooks, only $ 9 each
  • THIS WAS HOT > 44 printable photography field guides, only $ 29, Save $ 191
  • 60% on All dPS Lightroom Presets
  • 70% Off ‘Behind the Scenes’ Travel Photography Course
  • 62% on All dPS Photography Courses
  • 67% on the Ultimate Lightroom Workflow Toolkit from 3 Colors

Don’t miss out.

Access our exclusive Partner Bonus Offers from New York Institute of Photography, KelbyOne, Perfectly Clear and ON1 when you purchase any dPS Christmas Deal. Check your purchase receipt email for the access link!

The post Improve Your Photography in 2018 with These 6 Deals (48 Hours Only) by Darren Rowse appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Improve Your Photography Today with all dPS Courses 62% Off for 48 Hours

22 Dec

We’re nearly at the end of our popular Christmas sale and we’re really excited to offer you today’s deal, because we love helping people discover how to take great photos.

We’re offering our entire range of online photography courses at a massive 62% OFF.

These courses are normally $ 99, but today you can get any of our five courses for just $ 37 (USD) each. That’s incredible value!

5 Practical Courses Designed to Improve Your Photography

These step-by-step courses created by some of our talented photography experts include:

  • Night Photography by Jim Hamel – released just this year so that you can take amazing photographs at night
  • Lightroom Mastery by Mike Newton – every photographer should have a copy of this to create perfect photos!
  • Lightroom Mastery: People & Portraits by Mike Newton – will help you transform dull headshots into stunning portraits
  • Photo Nuts and Bolts by Neil Creek – the ideal course for the beginner photographer
  • Photo Nuts and Shots by Neil Creek – creative photography advice from a pro so you can get off auto

Each course is packed with tutorials and demonstrations shot in high-quality video by professional photographers. They’re designed so you can binge and do it all fast or slowly digest it at your own pace.

You get lifetime access to these courses, so you don’t have to rush to finish them and you can go back and review topics anytime you like.

Check out all the discounted courses here.

These courses are the perfect way to set you up for a great year of photography in 2018.

Bonuses from our Partners

This year we’ve arranged some exclusive partner bonuses for anyone who makes a purchase during our Christmas promotion. Thanks to New York Institute of Photography, KelbyOne, Perfectly Clear and ON1 for partnering with us. Check your purchase receipt email for the access link to the bonuses!

Christmas Deals:
Bonus Offers

Bonus Offers

Brought to you by

ON1
Athentec Perfectly Clear
KelbyOne
New York Institute of Photography

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Improve Your Composition by Changing Your Point of View

03 Nov

There are many rules, guidelines, suggestions, and ideas around what makes a good photographic composition. Every person has their own particular aesthetic and way of seeing, and it can be difficult to find your way through all the information to a concept that works for you.

Improve Your Composition by Changing Your Point of View

However, there is one simple tip that may be the easiest and quickest way for you to improve your images. It’s free and doesn’t usually require you to buy anything. All you need to do is stop, think, and make a different choice. What is that choice? The choice of changing your point of view.

The vast majority of images are taken from a standing position, looking out at, or down onto the subject. So, instead of doing what everyone else does, why not try something different?

Change Your Point of View

#1 – Go Low

Get down on the ground as low as you can get (depending on your physical capabilities or what might be in the way). This can give you a much more intimate connection with any creature you might be shooting – being at eye level with the subject is always ideal.

Being on the same plane as a ground-based subject is unexpected. Too often we view the world from a standing position so this viewpoint challenges us.

Improve Your Composition by Changing Your Point of View

I crouched as low as I could get without scaring this curious bandicoot.

Improve Your Composition by Changing Your Point of View

Lying flat on the damp sand at 6 am on a tropical island isn’t a bad way to start the day.

Improve Your Composition by Changing Your Point of View

I spent a couple of hours crawling around on my hands and knees on the edge of a cemetery, capturing these Fly Agaric in full bloom.

2. Go High

Climb onto a fence, up some stairs, a tree, or a ladder and use that height to better effect. Looking straight down on your subject is a very alien view for most people. This is a big part of why drone photography is so popular, it allows us to see our world in an entirely different way.

Improve Your Composition by Changing Your Point of View

3. See from a different angle

How many times do you point the camera straight or straight down? Most people rarely look immediately up above themselves, so that is quite a different image. If you combine adding height with looking down you can be very creative as it is unexpected by viewers who normally have their feet planted firmly on the ground.

Improve Your Composition by Changing Your Point of View

Vertical flat lay overhead still life shot.

Improve Your Composition by Changing Your Point of View

Pointing the camera directly down the stairwell from the top floor provides a unique angle.

Improve Your Composition by Changing Your Point of View

Stalactites in a limestone cave right above my head.

4. Make a Different Lens Choice

Changing from your standard lens to a different one can also make a big difference.

Try using a macro lens, or an ultra wide-angle. Even better, don’t use them conservatively. Use the ultra-wide to take macro shots, and use the macro lens to take portraits.

Get a cheap vintage lens, one that has all sorts of interesting visual effects inside the glass (they usually need to be focused manually). Play with a Lensbaby or another specialty type lens. Don’t be afraid to experiment. After all, whats the worst that could happen?

Improve Your Composition by Changing Your Point of View

The only way to fit this really wide piece of farm equipment into the frame was to shoot up close with an ultra-wide-angle lens. It also allowed the creative choice of including all the wonderful clouds in the sky as well.

Improve Your Composition by Changing Your Point of View

Macro lenses offer a window into a world we cannot normally see with standard eyesight. Fascinating tiny details become visible.

Improve Your Composition by Changing Your Point of View

Shot with an antique Russian lens, it has a lot of circular distortion around the edges, which when used creatively can be effective. The bonus is that these lenses are very cheap and easy to find in antique shops. Usually manual to operate though.

5. Shoot Tight

Stick that lens right up close to your subject, get in tight. Fill the frame with the subject, as much as you can. Go completely abstract if you like, but push yourself out of your comfort zone. Get in as close as you can, and then go closer still.

Improve Your Composition by Changing Your Point of View

Improve Your Composition by Changing Your Point of View

6. Take Your Time

Long exposures can be a lot of fun and give you a very different image. Soft flowing water effects are nice, but what about a really long exposure where the water looks like smoke and mist? Night shots of fire dancers making patterns in the darkness? Playing with light painting? ICM or Intentional Camera Movement? Slowing down the action and capturing it can offer a lot of creative fun.

Low light or night time photography offers lots of opportunities for using long exposures in creative ways. Astrophotography is very popular at the moment and requires you to use a tripod and take often several long exposure frames. Light trails from traffic on busy city streets or a car climbing its way up a mountain road in the distance.

These kinds of images take time to make, which requires you to think about and plan it in advance. It can be frustrating to have to wait to achieve them but the pay off for creating an image under difficult conditions is very rewarding.

Fire dancers on the beach

Fire dancer using a colored light bar and taken with a longer exposure to capture the spinning movement

A tree draped in strands of lights becomes a very different image when Intentional Camera Movement is applied. Just a slightly longer exposure time and a wiggle of the wrist and you get this.

7.  Be Abstract

Going really close to a subject or selecting just a part of it to include in the frame is a great way to bring abstract concepts into your work. You tease the viewer with just enough of the subject that they wonder what it is. This often makes them engage longer with the image as they think more about what it could be.

There is a fine line between enough and too abstract, depending on your subject. Of course, you may want to go all the way into very abstract which is perfectly valid, although might challenge your audience and lose engagement.

This is the very battered toes of a pair of ballet pointe shoes

Summary

Putting some effort and thought into the way you use your camera gear is one of the most effective ways to improve your images in my opinion. Strong and eye-catching compositions can be achieved with any kind of camera provided you put some thought and time into making it.

Yes, for some kinds of shots you might need special gear, like a macro lens for those really good close-ups. In general, though, you can still see a noticeable improvement in your images by just taking the time to stop and think BEFORE you shoot. Ask yourself the following questions before you press the button:

  • What is the obvious angle here?
  • What other options could I use instead?
  • Do I have time to experiment?
  • Is there space and opportunity for me to physically move to a different viewpoint?
  • Is it safe/legal?
  • Will I do any damage to property or environment by changing position?

Learning to see in a different way was a critical step in my photography path. By expanding my options and developing new styles, my work was noticed and commented on much more. This prompted me to experiment even more and really challenge my own preconceived boundaries.

Having the ability to shoot in many different ways adds flexibility and depth to your skillset. Cold rainy day? Break out the macro lens and raid the pantry for something different to shoot. Pick a flower from the garden and bring it inside. Wander the city streets looking for the small interesting details and focus on them. Be abstract, tell a story from your point of view. Get shots of people’s feet crossing a zebra crossing or panning shots of a cyclist dodging traffic.

Your turn

Take your time to look and see what is around you, then think about how you can frame it up. Be creative. Don’t be afraid to try something new. It might take a few goes to get the hang of it or you might fall in love with seeing the world around you in an entirely different way immediately.

Challenge yourself to grow and improve. And please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

The post Improve Your Composition by Changing Your Point of View by Stacey Hill appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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How to Use Soft Light Blend Mode in Photoshop to Improve Exposure and Contrast

19 Oct

Do you have an overexposed sunny side and an underexposed shadow on the other side of your image? Or maybe a well-exposed photo that needs more vibrancy? There’s a tool so versatile that can help you fix any of these problems and more: the Soft Light Blend Mode.

What are Layers?

Imagine your photo as a printed one. Then you take a sheet of acetate and draw on it. Then you take another sheet and you put it on top of the others and obscure a part of it; and so on, and so forward. Each acetate sheet is a layer and you can make as many alterations as you want on top of your original this way.

To create layers in Photoshop you need to go to Menu > Layers > New. A pop-up window will appear where you can name your layer, choose the color, the blending mode and the opacity. When you click OK the new layer will appear on the Layers panel window on top of the background, which is the original image.

Layers - How to Use Soft Light Blend Mode to Improve Exposure and Contrast

What is the Blend Mode?

The default setting of a new layer is normal blending mode. This covers the background or the layer underneath. However, Photoshop gives you the option of choosing a different Blend Mode, which changes the way your edit affects the pixels. You can change it in the pop-up window of the new layer.

Blending Modes - How to Use Soft Light Blend Mode to Improve Exposure and Contrast

In the case of the Soft Light blending mode it is similar to using the dodge or burn tool. In other words, every color that is lighter than 50% grey will get even lighter, like it would if you shine a soft spotlight to it. In the same way, every color darker than 50% grey will get even darker. However it will never reach pure black.

So, why not use dodge and burn instead?

First of all, when you work in layers you don’t lose any information. You can always discard the layer and start over because there is no damage to the original image.

With layers, you can change the opacity or transparency of each one, which allows you to control how evident your edit is in the final image. You will find the opacity tool on the Layers panel with a slider that goes from 0 to 100 %.

Note that there is another slider next to it called Fill. There are 8 blending modes in which these two sliders make a difference, however, Soft Light is not part of these “special 8” so the Fill opacity and Standard opacity have the same result when using this Blend Mode.

Opacity - How to Use Soft Light Blend Mode to Improve Exposure and Contrast

Another advantage is that you can change the blending mode of each of the layers. In this article, we are exploring the use of Soft Blend, however, each mode offers different possibilities. One blending mode can have different uses, here are three of them.

3 ways to use Soft Light Blending Mode

1. Add punch to your image

Increase the contrast and saturation to have more vivid colors and give a punch to your image. You can do this by duplicating the background layer: Menu > Layer > Duplicate Layer and changing the blending mode from normal to Soft Light. Finally adjust the opacity until you are happy with the result.

Duplicate Layer - How to Use Soft Light Blend Mode to Improve Exposure and Contrast

BeforeSoftLight - How to Use Soft Light Blend Mode to Improve Exposure and Contrast

AfterSoftLight - How to Use Soft Light Blend Mode to Improve Exposure and Contrast

2. Gradient tool to balance the lighting

If you have an image that is underexposed on one side and overexposed in the other you can easily even it out with a Soft Light blend layer. First go to Menu > Layer > New Layer. Pick the Gradient tool and draw a line from the brightest side to the darkest one. The gradient will look like this:

Gradient How to Use Soft Light Blend Mode to Improve Exposure and Contrast

Then change the layer blending mode to Soft Light and lower the opacity to find the best results.

Before Gradient - How to Use Soft Light Blend Mode to Improve Exposure and Contrast

Before gradient

After Gradient - How to Use Soft Light Blend Mode to Improve Exposure and Contrast

After gradient

3. Dodging and burning with a Soft Light layer

The past workflows altered the entire image, however, if you need to do a more precise job you can also do that using Soft Light. First, add a new layer with Soft Light blending mode like you did in the previous procedure. Only this time instead of the gradient tool, you are going to use the brush tool. When you select it you can choose the size of the brush on the top menu and the color on the bottom.

Brush How to Use Soft Light Blend Mode to Improve Exposure and Contrast

If you paint with black you will darken the image:

Darken - How to Use Soft Light Blend Mode to Improve Exposure and Contrast

Painting with white will lighten certain areas, and with different shades of grey, you can also control tones of your image.

Painting - How to Use Soft Light Blend Mode to Improve Exposure and Contrast

Keep going until you are happy with the contrast and exposure of your image.

Before Painting - How to Use Soft Light Blend Mode to Improve Exposure and Contrast

After Painting - How to Use Soft Light Blend Mode to Improve Exposure and Contrast

Conclusion

Now you know that blending modes have a lot of potential, so keep exploring. How do you use Soft Light Blend Mode? Please share your ideas and tips in the comments below.

The post How to Use Soft Light Blend Mode in Photoshop to Improve Exposure and Contrast by Ana Mireles appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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7 Steps to Improve Your Closeup Candid Street Photography

01 Oct

Many people want to improve their street photography or get involved with this genre for the first time. But the major aspect that holds them back is the issue of taking close candid pictures of people without their permission. While I promise that it gets much easier over time, it can very difficult to get over the hump early on.

7 Steps to Improve Your Closeup Candid Street Photography

However, there are some steps you can take that will help ease you into the world of street photography if you do it right. Here are a few important tips that I believe will make shooting candid street photography much easier for you.

1. What to do if you get caught

Before we talk about how to get closer to your subjects, the first step is knowing what to do if something happens. The toughest aspect of getting into street photography is the fact that you will feel very uncomfortable with the idea of someone catching you and asking what you are doing, at first. However, while those situations are usually rare, if you handle them the right way, they don’t have to be all that bad.

7 Steps to Improve Your Closeup Candid Street Photography

To help ease your fears, it is important to know what to say if anyone should stop you and ask you if you took their photo. Smile, own up to it and say that you are a photographer or photography student doing a photo project on the area and the people in it. Tell them you thought they looked great and wanted to add them to it. Just be honest and open about it. If they then seem uncomfortable, offer to delete the photograph. It can even help to carry a business card with your photography information and to offer to email them the photograph after. The more direct and pleasant you are, the more disarming it will be.

To further keep yourself out of trouble, pick and choose the people you photograph carefully. It can help to stay away from photographing anyone who looks like they are in a bad mood, anyone with some sort of mental disability, or anyone who is homeless.

2. Light camera and prime lens

Street photography can certainly be done well with an SLR and a zoom lens. I shot for a long time with that setup. However, using a smaller camera such as a mirrorless, micro 4/3rds, or a Leica will make you much less noticeable. In addition, it will be lighter, which will make you faster and can only help with street photography. The difference is night and day.

By using a prime lens you will get used to the fixed focal length which will make you much more spontaneous. You will be able to intuitively know what your camera can capture before you even bring it up to your eye. That, and your camera will be smaller since zoom lenses are usually very large. With a light camera and lens, you will eventually notice yourself capturing images so quickly that your subject barely even notices you. This is the type of thing that is much tougher to do with an SLR and big zoom lens.

3. Picking a spot / getting in the middle

7 Steps to Improve Your Closeup Candid Street Photography

The next tip, which is often the most important, is to go where the action is and get right in the middle. It will be important for you to eventually photograph in all types of situations, from less busy to very crowded, but particularly when you are learning, go where a lot of action is happening. Go to fairs, get out at busy times, shoot from busy corners. The more that is happening, the more invisible you will be, and the less you will be noticed by other people. This will help a lot with your comfort level.

By picking a spot and letting your subjects come to you, you change up the dynamic of the situation. Instead of you entering their personal space, they will be entering yours. You will seem less creepy and intrusive because you will already be there with a camera. It will look like you belong.

In addition, when a moment occurs, you will already be the right position. You will be able to spend more of your energy watching your surroundings for a good moment to occur. This, of course, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t photograph while you are walking and exploring, just that you should carve out some time to linger in a specific spot.

4. Acting

7 Steps to Improve Your Closeup Candid Street Photography

There are some photographers who will run up to people and get right in their face. If that’s your thing, more power to you, but many photographers prefer to be less conspicuous about it. We want to capture an interesting moment, we love to people watch, but we want to try to make the situation as comfortable as possible for both parties, and we want to be inconspicuous enough to not ruin the moment.

This is where a little acting can come into play. The most important thing is to act like you don’t notice the person you want to photograph that much. Look at things behind them, and to the side. They just happen to be in your way. Play the role of tourist, looking around. The more you do this, the more you will be able to get away with taking the photo unnoticed.

5. The camera snap and the way you move your camera

7 Steps to Improve Your Closeup Candid Street Photography

Similar to the last point, the way you move your camera can play a big part in keeping the situation candid. There is one thing that most photographers do, called the camera snap, where they take the camera away from their eye instinctively right after they take an image. Of course, there will be shots that you take so quickly that people won’t notice. But for other moments when the people notice you, this will often give away the fact that you were taking their photograph. Instead, take the picture and keep the camera up to your eye. Then move the camera away like you were taking a picture next to them and slowly remove the camera from your eye.

Similarly, you do not always have to point your camera directly at people right away to capture the image. Instead, point the camera above or to the side of your subject as if you were taking an image of something behind them. Then at the last second, move the camera over them, take the image, and move on.

6. Hold the camera up high

7 Steps to Improve Your Closeup Candid Street Photography

Whenever possible, try to keep your camera in your hands and at attention when you are photographing. If you allow it to hang off your neck, then when an amazing moment occurs you will have to locate and grab the camera before putting it to your eye. This is the least conspicuous way to capture an image.

Instead, try to keep the camera up high as much as you can. Then, when you take an image you will stand out less. It will feel much less conspicuous.

7. Zone focusing

7 Steps to Improve Your Closeup Candid Street Photography

Zone focusing is the technique of turning your camera to manual focus mode, pre-focusing it to a distance of about 8-10 feet, and then capturing your subject once they are in the range of sharpness for your camera. This is easier to do with a wide-angle lens with a medium to small aperture such as f/8 to f/16 so that there is more area of your image in focus. Keep in mind that this is a skill that can be improved – there are many photographers who can zone focus well even at f/2.

You can read more about zone focusing here, and while it is a little difficult to learn at first, you will quickly get much better at it. The main benefit of this type of focusing is so that you no longer have to lock the autofocus in on your subject. This allows you to be a little more spontaneous with your shooting, and it will give you an added split second to take the photograph. That, in turn, will allow you to better capture those very fast moving moments.

Most importantly, it will allow you to be a little more candid than you can be using autofocus. Since you won’t have to point the camera directly at your subject to lock in the focus nor will you have to look through the viewfinder to make sure you are focusing correctly, you can be much more inconspicuous. This will allow you to shoot from the hip and still know that your shots will be sharp.

Conclusion

I hope these tips help you do better candid street photography, and with more confidence.

So get out there, get close, and capture some amazing and spontaneous photographs!

The post 7 Steps to Improve Your Closeup Candid Street Photography by James Maher appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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11 Quick Tips to Improve Your Drone Photography

30 Sep

In this short video from the people over at COOPH, they bring you 11 tips to help improve your drone photography,

If you enjoy drone photography check out these dPS articles as well:

  • Tips for Getting Started Doing Photography with Drones
  • How to Use Drones to do Stunning Aerial Photography
  • Side by Side Drone Comparison – DJI Mavic Pro Versus the Phantom Pro 4
  • Review of the Epson Moverio BT-300FPV Smart Glasses for Drones
  • Overview of the ThinkTank Airport Helipak V2.0: More Than Just a Drone Case

Drone photography?

So we’re curious here at dPS, how many of you are using drones now or getting one soon? Tell us in this quick poll.

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

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5 Non-Gear Related Ways to Improve Your Work and Take Better Photos

19 Sep

I have lost track of the number of times I have heard complete strangers compliment me on having a great fancy camera that takes “great pictures”. Initially, I used to be quick to the defense and try and get a word in on how I am a professional photographer and hence have some level of skill in my craft. But now I just nod, smile and quickly move away. Unfortunately, the reality is that a lot of photographers (and others) think that by having the latest and greatest fancy camera, they have the ability to take better photos.

The truth of the matter is that you don’t need the latest equipment or fancy qualifications to be a good photographer. Photography is a creative art form and like any art form, it takes a lot of hard work, practice, and perseverance to get really good at taking great pictures. Sure, you need to really understand your gear and what it can and cannot do. But there are loads of simple, non-technical stuff you can do to improve your photography as well.

Here are some non-gear related tips that will help you take better photographs.

#1 Take your camera everywhere

You never know what might be around the corner, be it close to home or on your far away travels. Life is unpredictable and things change in a split second. There’s always something interesting to photograph. You just need to open your eyes, look around and be ready to snap that shot. And additionally, make sure your phone or camera of choice is within easy reach ready for that shot.

5 Simple Non-Gear Related Ways to Improve Your Work and Take Better Photos

Cows hitching a ride inside trucks is quite a sight especially on narrow streets in India!

5 Simple Non-Gear Related Ways to Improve Your Work and Take Better Photos

These migrating pelicans found the most electric resting places…hopefully, they got re-charged for their next flight.

#2 Take pictures every day

Overnight success is a myth. The sooner you realize that the more at peace you will have on your photographic journey. We all know that to get really good at anything, we need to practice and practice a lot. After all, practice makes perfect. The more pictures you take, the better you will become.

Don’t get hung up on what you’re using to take the pictures, either. Many times I only have my iPhone with me and take a shot if it catches my eye. Be confident that if done correctly, you can make good pictures with any camera.

5 Simple Non-Gear Related Ways to Improve Your Work and Take Better Photos

Cupcakes and coffee = great food editorials shots.

5 Simple Non-Gear Related Ways to Improve Your Work and Take Better Photos

Other times it is just a bowl of fresh fruit that can spark an inspiring photo. Don’t get hung up on the perfect scenery – let your imagination be your guide for your everyday shots.

#3 Analyze other photographs

Seek inspiration in other photos. Look at pictures you like and ask yourself what you like about those pictures. What makes it interesting to you and why? Also question how you could make it better or do it differently.

Don’t be afraid to try something similar and put your own creative spin on it. Take an old idea and make it your own. That makes it different, new and in turn, you just might make it better than the original.

5 Simple Non-Gear Related Ways to Improve Your Work and Take Better Photos

A recent obsession in the study of effectively capturing movement in photographs led to a multi-exposure frame – one of my personal favorites to showcase my creative journey.

#4 Study your images

Become your own best critic. Question everything. Look at your pictures and ask yourself what you like and what you don’t like. Be completely honest with yourself as this will really help you improve your craft. Sometimes it is also beneficial to repeat the shot and change it up to make it better than your own original.

And when something works, celebrate your success. It is very important in your creative journey to celebrate your own milestones – it makes the journey that much more fun.

5 Simple Non-Gear Related Ways to Improve Your Work and Take Better Photos

This is the view from my home in Bombay and I love photographing the sea bridge – one of the technological marvels of the modern world – at different times of the day and in different weather conditions. It is amazing to analyze how light and color changes the whole perspective of an image.

5 Simple Non-Gear Related Ways to Improve Your Work and Take Better Photos

Of course, night shots have their own charm. Next time I shall remember to take my tripod along for some car trails!

#5 Stop, look and then click

Most of today’s fancy cameras have a continuous shooting mode where you can fire away at six to eight frames per second. But I find that this tends to make us lazy as photographers. We take on the mentality of the “spray and pray” theory that if we take 20 shots of something, chances are at least a couple will be worthwhile.

Yes, taking loads of pictures is great. But if you pause and take a few seconds to really observe your surroundings, you will be able to visualize your shot. Think about how you want your picture to look and do what you need to do to achieve that look. It might mean moving position, waiting for the light to change or the crowds to dissipate, but it could be the difference between a good photo and a great one.

5 Simple Non-Gear Related Ways to Improve Your Work and Take Better Photos

We were walking along the narrow street of Vridhavan in India and this cow was ahead of us. We just stopped to see what he was doing and also to give him a wide berth as he was a very big bull. He calmly walked into this abandoned house and just made himself at home. It’s not every day that you find cows lounging inside your house.

Conclusion

I hope these simple yet powerful tips help you take better photos and improve at your skill and craft. Remember it is not the camera that takes a great picture but the skill of the person behind the camera that gets the money shot.

The post 5 Non-Gear Related Ways to Improve Your Work and Take Better Photos by Karthika Gupta appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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How to Use a Reflector to Improve Your Natural Light Portraits

20 Aug

Reflected light can add depth and a fresh dynamic to your natural light portraits. Sometimes naturally occurring reflected light can be used, but by far the easiest way is to use a reflector. The most important thing is to learn to see the light falling on your subject and then control the strength and quality of the reflected light you are adding. Here are some tips to help you learn to use a reflector.

Hmong woman drying skeins of hemp thread outdoors - How to Use a Reflector to Improve Your Natural Light Portraits

Hmong woman drying skeins of hemp thread which are reflecting light back onto her face.

Naturally reflected light

When making candid portraits, I’m always looking to see if some reflected light is affecting my subject. At the right angle, any surface can bounce light back onto your subject. You can train your eye to see it.

It may be light bouncing off a nearby wall or pavement, an open newspaper or skeins of yarn (as in the photo above). With the strong sunlight behind the lady as she hangs out her skeins of washed thread, the light is reflecting softly back into her face.

Thai woman holding a bamboo tray of steamed fish - How to Use a Reflector to Improve Your Natural Light Portraits

A fish vendor at the fresh market with light reflecting onto her from an adjacent white wall.

Naturally reflecting light is easier to make use of if you are posing your subjects and have some control over where they are positioned. Finding a location where the sun is hitting a large light-toned neutral surface can provide you suitable reflected light for portraits.

In this photo of the fish vendor at the local fresh market, the light is reflecting off a white painted building behind me. Behind her is an open entrance to a room with no windows, providing a dark background to nicely isolate my subject.

Types of reflectors

Close up of a Kayan long neck girl with traditional face painting, make-up

Close up of a Kayan long neck girl with traditional face painting makeup.

When there’s no naturally occurring reflected light, a folding reflector is a fabulous accessory to have on hand. These reflectors are relatively inexpensive and come in various shapes, sizes, and colors. The most efficient are the ones which have multiple reflective surfaces.

Note: you can even DIY and build your own reflector.

These reflectors typically have a sleeve which covers a translucent fabric attached to the foldable frame. The sleeve is removable and reversible with four different surfaces (5-in-1 reflectors). Normally they are white, silver, gold, and black. Some even have more complex reflective surfaces. Learning to use this type of reflector well can take some practice, but it’s worth while for the fresh dynamic lighting it will bring to your portraits.

How to Use a Reflector to Improve Your Natural Light Portraits

One of my models assisting me during a portrait session.

How to use a reflector

Having someone to hold the reflector is the best way to use it as the direction of light and angle of the reflector in relation to your subject is important. If the reflector is not at the best angle you will have too much or too little light bouncing onto your subject. You may need to coach whoever is assisting you and demonstrate the effect the reflector has, so they can hold it precisely right for the best lighting.

Careful choice of reflective surface for whatever light you are working in is important too. If you are making portraits outside in full sunshine the use of the white reflector surface may be best. It’s likely the silver or gold surfaces will reflect too much light back onto your subject. Don’t be afraid to experiment though, as that is a great way to learn.

KAren Woman Smoking Her Pipe against a black background

Karen Woman Smoking Her Pipe against a black background.

Using a reflector in bright sunlight

In the bright sunshine, the person holding the reflector needs to be careful not to bounce strong light into your subject’s eyes as they are searching for the best angle to hold the reflector. That can be most uncomfortable for your subject. It’s a good idea to instruct your subject not to look directly at the reflector. If they have not seen a folding reflector before many people will look at it as it is unfolded.

Two long neck Kayan ladies laughing together in a village in Thailand - How to Use a Reflector

With this photo of the two laughing ladies, my wife was using a medium sized gold surfaced reflector. She is an expert assistant and photographer so she knows how to get the optimal reflected light in most situations. My subjects were standing in the shade of a tree and the reflector was also in the shade, so it was not bouncing back full sunshine.

I find the gold surface works well with Asian skin tones. With the strong back light, the bounce light fills in the shadows nicely reducing the over all tonal range in the photo. Because the reflected light is stronger on the ladies faces, (where I was taking my light reading from,) it is more balanced with the light in the background. The bright sun reflecting off the light colored ground also adds nicely to this photo. If my wife had been standing so the gold reflector was in the full sunshine the light would have been too bright and harsh, blinding our models and creating hard shadows on them.

How to Use a Reflector

Reflecting light to balance with the ambient light can reduce shadows without eliminating them.

Using a reflector in soft light

On overcast days a silver reflector will bounce a clean, soft light onto your subject. If you can position your reflector so it balances with the ambient light, gently filling in shadows on the face but not completely eliminating them, you can obtain some very pleasing results.

Varying the angle of the reflector in relation to the light source and your subject will vary the amount of light affecting your subject. You do not need to always have the reflector blasting out the maximum amount of light as this can look very unnatural. Using the white surface rather than the silver side will also reduce the amount of reflected light.

Senior Pwo Karen woman smoking a pipe against a black background - How to Use a Reflector

With the sun behind the model, an overhead diffuser and reflector to my left and the ground also reflecting light.

Other uses for reflectors

Black or white surfaces of very large reflectors can make great backgrounds and the translucent inner part can be used as a screen to hold above your subject to block direct sunlight. In the past, I have used this method but now prefer to use my *portable daylight studio to provide a black or white background and filtered back lighting, (in principle it’s the same thing.) I then use my large folding reflector to help control the light on the front of my subjects.

Sunlight also reflects off the ground. Typically in a northern Thai village, the earth is a light color and creates a pleasing reflection. But if I have to work on grass we lay down some large sheets of white plastic to avoid having a green color cast in the images.

*Reading Irving Penn’s book “Worlds In A Small Room” was the inspiration for my portable studio which I have used in many locations in the mountains of northern Thailand and occasionally when teaching our workshops.

Portrait on a black background of a senior Pwo Karen man - how to use a reflector

A careful balance of reflected and diffused light.

Conclusion

As you practice using a reflector you will learn to manipulate just the right amount of light onto your subject. At times you might prefer hard light and other times soft light will be more pleasing. Learning to see how light affects your subject and learning to control it will greatly improve your portraiture.

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