Posts Tagged ‘into’

How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop

17 Feb

Photography can be traced back all the way to the camera obscura; which was an aid for artists who could then draw their subjects from the projection created by the light passing through the pinhole. Following that tradition, in this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to create a drawing by outlining the subject from your digital photo to create a fun, cartoon-like image.

Deer cartoon - How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop

Getting started

You can use this technique on any photo you want and apply it to any subject you like. However, I find it best, especially for your first attempt, that the subject is well defined or isolated so it’s easier for you to outline it. I also personally prefer and recommend that the image is not too busy. So, once you have chosen your photo, open it in Photoshop.

Outline the subject

To trace your subject you are going to use the Pen tool. The way it works is that you create anchor points with each click. A straight line then connects those points. Do this all around the subject.

Once you have this, change the Pen tool to the Convert Point Tool, which you can find by holding down on the Pen until the drop-down menu opens. With the Convert Point, you can curve the straight lines to make it fit the silhouette best. Just click on the anchor point and start dragging it. From each anchor point, you will have to handles, each one to control the line in each direction of the anchor.

Pen Outline - How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop

This will help you get a smoother silhouette and avoiding unnecessary bumps that you would get if you only trace by adding anchor points.

Straight lines - How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop

A straight line.

Curve - How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop

Using curved lines.

Create your outline

Once you have outlined the silhouette of the subject, create a new layer. You can do this by going to the top Menu > Layer > New Layer. You can rename it as “silhouette” or “outline” just to keep things tidy, as you will be creating more layers further along.

What you’re going to do next is turn this path into a drawing, more precisely, the line that borders your drawing. Therefore, you can choose which color it will be and how thick you want it. To set it you need to go to the Brush tool and select a hard brush as thick as you want. I’m doing 8px in this case.

You can also choose the color by clicking on the foreground color at the bottom of the tool palette, for this example, I’m using black. Turn off the background layer (click the little eye icon) so you can see how it will look like and then choose your settings.

Silhouette - How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop

Now that you have this ready, leave the new layer active go to the path palette. If it’s already opened you can open it by going to the top Menu > Windows > Path. In there you will see that a Work Path has been created, the icon will show the image as a grey rectangle and the path is the silhouette you traced.

Next, right-click on the Work Path and choose Stroke Path. A pop-up window will appear, make sure the Brush option is selected and click OK.

Stroke Path - How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop

Adding details

You have a border or a silhouette now, but you still need details. Each one will be a new layer and a new path, that way you have it separated and can, therefore, control it more precisely.

If you want two details on the same layer, for example, to keep the two ears in one layer so that any changes apply equally, then you keep working in the same layer. But you do need to create a new path for each one.

Notice here that I have my background layer which is my original image; a Layer 1 that corresponds to the Work Path which is the outline; and a Layer 2 that contains Path 1 and Path 2 which are the two details of the ears. This is why I suggested earlier that you should rename the layers and the paths to keep track of them easier. Continue doing this as many times as you need to finish your drawing.

Layers and Paths - How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop

Apply a filter

Once you’re finished with this, duplicate the background layer. With this new layer active, go to the Work Path (the one that has the outer line of the drawing) and right-click it. From the drop-down menu, choose Make Selection. This will select your subject so that the filter you’ll apply next doesn’t affect the background, otherwise the entire will turn into a cartoon.

Now go to the top Menu > Filter > Filter Gallery. A window will appear with all kind of filters that you can apply and a preview image. In this case, you’re going to select the one called Cutout from the Artistic Filters. On the right side there are sliders to refine the effect, just move them around until you are satisfied. I’m going to do it as Number of levels 7, Edge simplicity 5 and Edge fidelity 2. When you’re done just click OK.

Cutout - How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop

Other tricks

You can also multiply your cartoons, apply modifying layers to change colors or saturation, and anything else you can think of! And the best part is that you can do this to any kind of photo, here are some other examples; share yours as well in the comments!

Three deers - How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop

The post How to Turn Your Photo into a Cartoon Drawing Using Photoshop by Ana Mireles appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Kodak Scanza is a portable, budget film scanner that turns negatives into JPEGs

14 Jan

Kodak has launched a new budget scanner that digitizes film and slides. The scanner, called the Kodak Scanza, is compact at just 12cm x 12.7cm (4.7in x 5in), and features: a 3.5-inch color screen, an integrated SD card slot for saving scanned content, adapter trays for different types of film, and an HDMI port for viewing scanned content directly on an external display.

Kodak Scanza, which was introduced at CES 2018, supports 35mm, 110, Super 8, and 8mm film negatives and slides via inserts and adapters. Content is scanned as 14MP JPEGs, though users can enlarge the resolution up to 22MP.

The integrated screen, which is hinged for tilting, provides access to pre-scanning options, such as exposure and color adjustments.

Both Windows and macOS are supported out-of-the-box, and scanned content can either be saved to a compute, or directly to an SD card inserted into the scanner’s built-in card reader. Kodak Scanza will be available to purchase from Amazon for $ 170 USD. Availability and pricing in other regions is unclear at this time.

To learn more about the scanner, visit the Kodak Scanza landing page.

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Kodak didn’t get into cryptocurrency and bitcoin mining, “Kodak” did

12 Jan

Kodak’s CES announcements tell an interesting tale of the power of brands, and what happens to those brands when you start licensing them to other companies.

A lot of people still have positive associations with the Kodak brand and its iconic logos, but it’s worth clearing something up, especially in light of all the cryptocurrency madness that Kodak unleashed at CES: not everything with the Kodak name on it has much connection to a bunch of clever people in Rochester New York.

The parent company, Eastman Kodak, left the consumer photography business in 2012 following court-overseen ‘Chapter 11’ restructuring. Its remaining consumer photo businesses were sold to Kodak Alaris, which continues to sell photo film and printing kiosks.

So it’s worth keeping your fond memories of that company at arms length when you read about its apparent embrace of the blockchain.

The “Kodak” KashMiner, yours to rent for just $ 3,400 and a two year contract.

At CES this year ‘Kodak’ announced both blockchain-based IP protection and cryptocurrency projects, and a scheme that apparently lets you buy a Bitcoin-mining farm for them. However, the KodakOne project appears to be as much a rebranding of an existing project called RYDE as it does a “partnership between Kodak and [RYDE owner] Wenn Media”. Meanwhile, the Kodak KashMiner scheme, which lets you rent the hardware to mine the more famous Bitcoin cryptocurrency appears to be entirely separate: essentially an unconventional investment scheme using industry-standard hardware with the Kodak logo stuck on the side so that there’s something to show at CES.

Essentially, these look a lot like Kodak licensing its name to other companies in much the same way as the current holders of the Polaroid, Rollei and Vivitar names accept fees to let those names get emblazoned on, well, pretty much anything.

Eastman Kodak still makes film, but it appears to have only two customers: Hollywood and Kodak Alaris.

The Kodak PixPro Orbit360 4K VR camera, by JK Imaging

Then, of course, there are the cameras. You can still buy ‘Kodak’ cameras: JK Imaging, a California-based company, sells cameras under the Kodak brand. Interestingly, JK Imaging shares and address with General Imaging, which licensed the General Electric brand for its photo products.

Given the way that even the largest names in photography regularly use third-party ‘OEM’ manufacturers to produce some of their models, it’s senseless to try and draw a line between ‘real’ Kodak and licensees of the brand name. That the red and yellow logo doesn’t necessarily tie anything back to your fuzzy memories of Kodachrome, or brilliant developments such as the Bayer color filter.

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Modular PITTA camera transforms into drone, action, and security cameras

04 Jan

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PITTA, a modular ball-shaped 13MP camera that transforms into a drone, is currently blasting its way through a campaign on Kickstarter. The small, sphere-shaped modular camera launched on the crowdfunding platform with a $ 50K goal, but as of this writing it has already raised well over a quarter million dollars.

Eyedea, the company behind PITTA, describes its product as a multi-purpose device:

It’s not just aerial, not just handheld, not just wearable or mountable, it’s all of these. It’s a complete system packed into a single device.

Here’s a quick intro video from the company’s Kickstarter:

In its most basic form, PITTA looks like a simple black sphere, which is the 200g/7oz camera body. The sphere-shaped body features a 13MP sensor, support for 4K/30fps recording, and “software image stabilization.” Additionally, the body contains various sensors including GPS/GLONASS, gyroscope, accelerometer, barometer, magnetometer, object detection and visual tracking hardware, and optical flow positioning sensors.

Joining that is an Action Cam Module, Charging Cradle, and Drone Module. When docked in the Charging Cradle, PITTA can be used as a stationary security camera or livestreaming camera.

When used with the Action Module, PITTA can be attached to a tripod or other mount and used as an action camera that supports burst shot, 60fps slow-motion recording, livestreaming, and time lapse, as well as direct sharing to the major social media platforms.

The Drone Module, meanwhile, transforms the camera sphere into a drone via a snap and twist-to-lock design. The resulting camera drone is controlled using a smartphone and companion app, which itself offers several operation modes. PITTA as a drone supports taking panoramas, hovering in place, orbiting around the operator, auto-following the operator, as well as a “Come Back Home” function, terrain awareness, auto-landing, and GPS. The slow-motion and time lapse functions aren’t available in drone mode.

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PITTA is being offered to Kickstarter backers who pledge $ 290 for a Kickstarter Exclusive Basic Kit or $ 320 for a Kickstarter Exclusive Full Package, though other pledge packages are also available. Shipments to backers are expected to start in May 2018, though as with any crowdfunding campaign, plans could change, so proceed with caution.

To learn more or pledge for your own, head over to Kickstarter by clicking here.

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Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography

18 Dec

“Fine Art” when it comes to travel photography is not an often used term and few photographers define themselves as “fine art travel photographers”. Genre definitions in photography can be highly subjective, and the fine art line can be very fine indeed. For me as a travel shooter, the fine art approach is just a natural extension of who I am and how I see and share the world through my images.

Vietnam is one of my favorite places to photograph, not only because of its remarkable aesthetic qualities but because of my great fondness for its people. And so when asked talk about my photography through the fine art lens, using Vietnam as the focal point was an easy choice to make.

Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography - Vietnam rice terraces

Flower H’mong mother and daughter walking a rice terrace berm in Mu Cang Chai, northern Vietnam. Exposure settings: f/4, 1/2000th, ISO 400, 70mm lens.

fishermen resting on Boats - Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography

Fishermen resting. Shot from a bridge near Lang Co Bay. Exposure settings: f/8, 1/320th, ISO 800, 56mm lens.

The Fine Art of Travel Photography – People and Landscapes

Fine art photography, at least the way I see it, is about focusing on a specific style or look that reoccurs in every image with a goal to create aesthetically pleasing and engaging work.

Fine art travel photography implies that each travel-themed photo is of a very high artistic standard with consistent consideration to an effective composition, use of tonal range (lights and darks), and a balanced or focused color scheme throughout the photo.

Personally, I use natural light, and again, approach a photo to be a work of art. The goal is to create a visually striking image that looks similar to what a painter might have created, while still also looking completely like a photograph.

Fishermen in Halong Bay - Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography

Fishing amidst the thousands of karst limestone formations of fabled Ha Long Bay. Exposure settings: f/9, 1/200th, ISO 800, 35mm lens.

Fishermen Ballet - Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography

Four fishermen raise their nets on the Perfume River in Hue, central coastal Vietnam. Exposure settings: f/11, 1/160th, ISO 800, 30mm lens.

Showcase the people and culture

I aim to do this while still faithfully representing a country’s culture, with the goal to accurately, if ideally, portray the personality and lives of the people within the photos. I have always been most interested in the artistic side of travel photography, and less so in the traditional or documentary approach.

That said, I can see myself taking on more singularly focused projects in the future, where I can apply my artistic sense to the challenges of documentary storytelling within the travel space.

Vietnamese Monk - Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography

A Khmer-Vietnamese monk daydreams at his monastery window in the Meklong Delta region. Exposure settings: f/4, 1/125th, ISO 640, 40mm lens.

Set your intention of making art

Although it may seem obvious, I think it’s critically important when adopting the fine art style to have the intention of making art throughout the process – from preparation to post-production. I take this mindset into the field and shoot a variety of subjects in various ways.

Portraiture is my first love, but I also enjoy landscape, wildlife, and cultural documentary photography. The purpose is to showcase scenes of life and culture for others to observe and enjoy. And of course I enjoy it as well, or I wouldn’t be doing it!

Playing in the River - Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography

Ladies from the Cham ethnic group in Phan Rang having their own water festival. Exposure settings: f/36, 1/15th, ISO 400, 90mm lens.

Lady in Conical Hat - Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography

Vietnamese lady wearing the traditional white “Ao Dai” and Non La (conical hat), Saigon. Exposure settings: f/4, 1/125th, ISO 640, 70mm lens.

Have a vision and shoot with a purpose

In each work, I try to have a vision and understand what the photo will be about and how it will look in my mind before I take it. There is nothing in the frame that shouldn’t be there – everything included serves a purpose.

I also like to look for patterns in the scenes and feature these in the composition. Careful composition allows for clean backgrounds, no unnecessary distractions from the subject, and a clear focal point that is immediately identifiable against a complementary background that helps to tell the story or set the mood for the piece.

Below is some insight into how I approached photographing some of my favorite Vietnam images taken over the last few years.

Forever in Love

Forever in Love - Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography

“Forever in Love” – A loving couple in Hoi An share a moment of joy and happiness together in their garden as the sun sets. At the time of photography, they had been married for 66 years. Exposure settings: f/7.1, 1/200th, ISO 500, 50mm lens.

I met a fellow travel photographer who now resides in Vietnam, Réhahn Croquevielle, and he generously invited to show me around his hometown of Hoi An. I was lucky to meet a lovely old couple who live in his village. When I met them they were smiling widely and happy be photographed by us.

To take this photo, I first observed the direction of light. Then I made sure to position them in front of the setting sunlight so their faces would be bright and the details on their skin well exposed.

I also had to consider the background and overall scene, and I found an area near one of their vegetable patches which was clean (consistent colors and even patterns without clutter) while also providing context and a backstory for the couple. So I asked them to sit there. They found this all very funny and were laughing constantly as we kept the mood light and fun, which I think is important to help make subjects enjoy a portrait session.

Interesting subject matter is the most important element to a successful photograph, in my opinion, followed by good composition and lighting. But a background that complements and doesn’t distract from the focal point is also crucial for a powerful photograph, and perhaps too often overlooked.

Playing in a Sea of Fishing Nets

Playing in a Sea of Fishing Nets - Playing in a Sea of Fishing Nets

A happy boy playing in a blue sea of fishing nets in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam. Exposure settings: f/8, 1/250th, ISO 500, 24mm lens.

I was in search of a workshop where fishing nets are made by hand in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. When I arrived, I noticed a boy and his friends were curious about my presence and wanted to meet me and help out if they could. They led me to the net weaving shop, which was a large open-ended structure with a corrugated tin roof.

Inside were seated ladies spread about busily creating these nets. I was immediately struck by the blue color and knew it would be very photogenic, but it was important to get the right light to make them come to life. I noticed all the ladies were in shaded, darker areas where the light wasn’t strong enough. There was an area that was close to an opening in the rooftop, under a natural skylight. I saw that the light was good there, but without a human subject the photo wouldn’t be so interesting.

Since I had created a rapport with the boy and his friends and they were still hanging around, I encouraged them to play in the fishing nets. Demonstrating myself, I ran and jumped into the nets, making everyone laugh, and the kids started to do the same themselves. I captured this photo knowing that the frame had to be filled with the blue fishing nets to bring attention to the boy. It’s his genuine smile and action that makes this photo all the more interesting and enjoyable to view.

Patterns on the Streets of Hanoi

Patterns on the Streets of Hanoi - Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography

A busy street scene in Hanoi photographed from a bridge on a rainy morning. Exposure settings: f/14, 1/40th, ISO 1250, 35mm lens.

It was raining one morning that I was to be exploring the city of Hanoi, which could have been considered a problem for photography. I went to the Long Bien Bridge after visiting a nearby market and observed the traffic passing by underneath me. I saw the potential for a really interesting pattern of cyclists with the high volume of motorbike traffic and the occasional bicycle. The rain had stopped, but the wet roads were creating reflections which would ultimately be beneficial and make for more dynamic lighting in the picture.

I waited a long time and photographed many combinations and patterns of commuters. I felt it was important to have an interesting focal point that was different from the rest of the scene. That was either going to be a person walking across the road or riding a bicycle amongst the sea of cars and other traffic.

I decided to use a slightly slower shutter speed to blur the traffic and capture the human subject sharper than the surroundings. It took a lot of patience and time on the bridge to finally capture an interesting pattern. It was fun to find the art in simple, everyday life.

Old Man with a Lute

Old Man with Lute - Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography

Exposure settings: f/4, 1/160th, ISO 1000, 70mm lens.

I met this old man in the small idyllic village of Ninh Binh where he was walking by a lake. When he learned that I would like to make his portrait, he invited me into his home close by. We drank some tea and I spent some time together with his family.

Before I photograph someone, I always look around the scene and try to find the right place where I will take their picture, depending on the lighting and the background. I noticed near a window there was strong natural light coming into his otherwise dark home, and I placed a chair in this spot for him to sit. There was enough light on the man to not require a tripod in this position.

I noticed an old lute hanging on the wall. I found out that it was his and he could play, so I asked if he could show me. As he played, I took some pictures, but I noticed that the light would be stronger on his face, which is the main focal point if he were looking out the window. The breeze from the window blew his beard gently to one side, creating some movement in this portrait of an interesting, old and very friendly Vietnamese man who I was privileged to meet and photograph.

Here are a few more example images of my fine art travel photography.

Fisherman at Sunrise

Girl with Blue Eyes

Lady with Fan

Mekong Breakfast

Running and Playing

Salt Harvesters


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How to Take the Pain Out and Put Personality Into Assembly-Line Photos

04 Dec

Taking the Pain Out and Putting the Personality Into Assembly-Line Photos

Assembly-line photos are a whirlwind of craziness and fun. These can include school dance photos, team sports, drill team, preschool, business headshots, and anything else that involves a whole lot of people that you have to photograph the same way in a short period of time.

These sessions can be a nightmare if you aren’t prepared, and can be boring if you aren’t creative. I’m going to share some of my secrets for making these sessions some of your favorites and delivering photos that will please moms, coaches, teachers, and kids alike.

Taking the Pain Out and Putting the Personality Into Assembly-Line Photos

1. Make a List

Before the day of your big assembly-line session, write out a list of exactly what you need to capture that day. Do not deviate from this list, especially if you have a large group. If you are working with teens especially, you’ll get requests for “just one more” picture, or requests to see what they look like in their photo. You might get requests to take photos not on your list, like best friends, or for a clothing change. If you want to keep your sanity, you have to smile, express how sorry you are, but give them a firm, “No”.

Taking the Pain Out and Putting the Personality Into Assembly-Line Photos

My lists might look something like the following. You can use this list as a starting point, and adapt it to your needs.


  • Close-up face, horizontal
  • Reading a book, vertical
  • Holding an apple, vertical
  • Entire class – with teachers and without


  • Close-up face, horizontal
  • Name o a chalkboard, vertical
  • Graduation gown, vertical
  • Entire class with teachers and without

Taking the Pain Out and Putting the Personality Into Assembly-Line Photos


  • Individual couples; up close, full length, something fun (they choose)
  • Group photos; smiles, serious, silly
  • All girls together, all boys together

Taking the Pain Out and Putting the Personality Into Assembly-Line Photos


  • An individual photo in team jacket on the “blocks”
  • Entire team smiling, hugging, serious, silly
  • Each class (seniors, juniors, etc.) smiling, silly
  • All girls together, all boys together
  • Coaches together and individually
  • Individual fun photo (off the diving board, in pool, they choose ONE)

Taking the Pain Out and Putting the Personality Into Assembly-Line Photos


  • Individual horizontal, vertical, and something fun (they choose)
  • Shots of “big sister” and “little sister” together
  • Entire team smiling, hugging, “model pose” with coaches and without
  • Each class (seniors, juniors, etc.) smiling, one more their choice

Taking the Pain Out and Putting the Personality Into Assembly-Line Photos

2. Stay Professional and Organized

Let everyone know right at the beginning how things will go, and keep everyone moving through quickly. It’s always good to have an assistant helping you line everyone up, and get the next in line prepared before they get in front of your camera. I usually use one of the coaches or teachers to help guide their kids, but you could bring a friend along too.

Taking the Pain Out and Putting the Personality Into Assembly-Line Photos

Things can become chaotic quickly, especially with kids and teens. Be firm, decisive, and even a little bit loud if necessary. Let everyone know what is coming up next, and have them line up and wait for their turn so you aren’t trying to gather people every time you need to do the next photo.

If there’s something they need to decide (like what their class “silly” pose will be) warn them ahead of time, so they have time to prepare and think of something before it’s their turn.

Taking the Pain Out and Putting the Personality Into Assembly-Line Photos

3. Give them a Chance to Show their Personality

Whether I am photographing the entire class, a team, a group together, or photographing each individual, I like to give them a chance to show a little bit of who they are.

If it’s a younger group, like preschool, the teacher and I collaborate to have something fun for at least one of the photos. We’ve done holding apples, writing their name on a chalkboard, graduation caps and gowns, reading a cute children’s book, sitting on a stack of books, etc.

Taking the Pain Out and Putting the Personality Into Assembly-Line Photos

For organized team photos, I let them know that after we do all of the basic photos, I will let them each do one fun photo. For example, for the swim team, I give them two location options, either jumping off the diving board or in the water at the end of the pool.

Everyone who wants the diving board option lines up there, and everyone who wants in the pool lines up at that location. I don’t let them do both because if you start that, they all want to do both, and there’s just no time for it. Once they are at their location I let them do whatever they’d like to do, but they only have one chance, and only a few seconds to set it up.

Taking the Pain Out and Putting the Personality Into Assembly-Line Photos

When school dance couples start to arrive, I let them know that they will be doing one “fun” pose together, and to start thinking of what to do. Many of them are “regulars”, and know that’s what I’ll be doing, so they come ready with ideas. If they can’t think of something, I give them a few ideas. They might go back-to-back, or make serious faces. Maybe one wants to pick the other one up. They could dance together, or make silly faces.

When I do the group silly pose, I don’t give them time to plan. There are too many kids, and they’d be there all day trying to agree on something. Instead, I take the regular smiling photo first, then a serious face photo, then I say, okay, on the count of three, something crazy! Then, I count to three as they hurry and do their thing, and then I snap about 10 photos or so and choose the best one later.

Taking the Pain Out and Putting the Personality Into Assembly-Line Photos

4. Relax and Have Fun

It’s easy to forget to breathe, let alone remember to have fun when you are photographing 60 kids at the same time. However, it’s important that you don’t get too robotic with your assembly-line photos. If you can have a little bit of fun interaction with each person, you’ll get much better photos.

Help them relax, and you’ll get some genuine smiles that will be much better than those old school photos we used to get, where half of the time you were mid-blink, looking away, or not smiling. Assembly-line photos are a great way to get to know a whole bunch of wonderful people at once. Smile at them, and forget about the cheese.

Taking the Pain Out and Putting the Personality Into Assembly-Line Photos

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How to turn household lights into cheap DIY lighting modifiers

27 Nov

This article was originally published on Jake Hicks blog, and is being republished in full on DPReview with express permission from the author.

There is an almost endless supply of lighting modifiers available on the market right now—some are cheap, and some of the better ones are certainly a lot more expensive. But does cost directly relate to quality?

Well, a lot of the times yes it does, especially if you’re referring to build quality. In general, the more you spend, the better-made and more durable the modifier will be. But does that extra money you spend mean you’re getting a better lighting modifier overall? I would have to say no; in fact, for less than £15/$ 20 you can get some stunningly beautiful light from a homemade lighting modifier.

Read on to see examples of the stupidly cheap DIY lighting modifiers I’m referring too.

I’d like to think that my work is known for its creative approach to lighting. The reason for that is because I strongly believe lighting is the single most important subject in a shot.

I can honestly say that I’ve ‘saved‘ some frankly awful shoots through engaging lighting alone. Terrible locations, inexperienced or even no experience in the model/subject can certainly make a shoot hard, but far from impossible to pull off engaging results. Dynamic lighting can bring a boring room to life and flattering lighting can enhance any subject, lighting really is the one and only tool you need and should have complete control and mastery of.

So what makes good lighting? Well that is probably a topic/article/book/anthology for another day as there are certainly a lot opinions on the subject, but I think no matter how experienced or inexperienced you are as a photographer, we all know what we don’t like and we definitely know what we do like when we see it.

In this article I aim to show you a couple of very cheap alternatives to professional lighting modifiers that I think create some beautiful light that are very functional in a lot of situations.

Regular Household Lights

The lighting modifiers we’ll be taking a look at are the dome-like frosted globes. These can be fantastic at lighting a scene in a shot, as they spread light everywhere very evenly. It also turns out that, not only do they spread light everywhere, but they also create a beautiful portrait light as well. Let’s take a closer look at the lights in question.

I purchased two white frosted dome lights from IKEA. One was small and the other was far larger. The smaller one is intended to be used as ceiling light in a bathroom. The reason it’s intended for this is because it casts light everywhere from a very small source close to the ceiling making it ideal for small rooms and corridors.

Small bathroom ceiling dome light.

The second one I purchased was far larger and is actually originally intended as a table lamp. Again this dome-like design is perfect for casting light over a large area without being overly harsh.

Large table lamp dome.

Where can you get them?

I got mine from IKEA and they are silly-cheap.

The small globe is a ceiling light called VITEMÖLLA and it can be found here for £13. The one in the picture looks slightly different as it has a white base compared to my silver one but the dome (the important part) is the same.

The large dome is a table lamp called FADO and that can be found here for £15. It’s worth pointing out and making sure that you get the white one. There are several of these FADO’s in a variety of tones so just make sure you choose the white one as the others will be fairly useless.

Regular Photographic Modifier

I also wanted to get a bit of a gauge on how the light from these domes looked compared to a regular photographic lighting modifier. For the sake of this test I actually compared them to a few shots taken with a 22″ white beauty dish.

There’s a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, it’s probably my most used lighting modifier so I have a very good idea of how the lighting looks with it. And secondly, the beauty dish is pretty pricey compared to these domes so I thought it would be an interesting comparison.

The image above also gives a nice size comparison and it clearly shows how all three of the modifiers used in the test look when side-by-side.

Getting the Domes ‘Shoot-Ready’

Obviously the domes are designed for an alternative purpose to a photoshoot, so I needed to do make a few adjustments before they were ‘shoot-ready’.

Small Dome

The smaller dome was fairly simple: I just removed the inner wiring and bulb housing and then I simply rested it atop one of my standard dish reflectors. I could have taped it on but there was no fear of it moving or tipping out so I just left it as it was and it was fine.

The small dome was easily made shoot-ready by removing the inner workings and then simply resting it in a current reflector dish.

Large Dome

The larger dome took a little more work, but not much. I simply removed the inner workings once again and then found an old speed-ring to attach it too.

A speed-ring is the metal rotating mount that attaches modifiers like softboxes to your flash head. I’ve acquired a few over the years that I no longer use so I simply taped one of them to the dome. With strong tape like gaffers tape it was surprisingly snug and there was no fear of it coming loose even when mounted on its side.

The large dome was taped snugly onto an old speed-ring which enabled me to attach it to my light horizontally if needed.

The Setup

The actual lighting setup was nothing fancy, but I also wanted to try out some alternative colouring ideas at the same time.

The model was positioned about 5 feet from the white wall behind her. I had the main lights positioned about 2 feet in front of her and above eye level, and then I also had a small softbox on the floor at the models feet with an orange gel* in place for the entirety of the test.

*Obviously you don’t need to the orange gel but I was seeing how much the gel was washed out by the modifiers so that’s why I had it in place.

A very simple setup that involves two lights; a key and orange gelled fill light.

The Results

After I had taken a few shots with the beauty dish, I switched that out for the larger dome. Then, after a few more frames, I changed it too the smaller dome. The resulting images should speak for themselves.

Beauty dish Images

Beauty Dish Shot – Click to Enlarge Beauty Dish Shot – Click to Enlarge

The Small Dome Images

The small dome setup
Small Dome Shot – Click to Enlarge Small Dome Shot – Click to Enlarge

Large Dome Images

The big dome set-up
Large Dome Shot – Click to Enlarge Large Dome Shot – Click to Enlarge

CAUTION: I’m using LED modeling bulbs in my flash heads which produce very little heat. If your flash heads have tungsten modeling bulbs, these globes will get VERY HOT as there is nowhere for the heat to escape when the globes are in position on the heads. Be sure to turn them down or off entirely.


I think you guys can draw your own conclusions from the images above and however you feel about the three looks, I think one thing is very clear that we can all agree on: you don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of money on expensive modifiers to produce beautiful light.

The beauty dish obviously produces a more directional light, and you can see that by how dark the background is compared to the other setups. The other dome shots throw light everywhere so more light is spilling onto the background. Because of this beauty dishes directionality and lack of spill, you should notice that the shadows on the models face are darker too. In contrast, the domes are bouncing light around the room and that spilled light is filling in a lot of the shadows on the models face. This gives the appearance of a far more flattering light as a result.

This dome spill is far from being a bad thing either; in fact, if you’re using the domes in a small space you can use that spill and bounce to really blend the subject into a scene with just a single light. This type of modifier is perfect for location shooting or environmental shots, and it’s certainly something I’ll be using for that type of work.

The small dome actually produced a far better light than I expected. Its small source creates a contrasty light that falls off quite quickly, leaving brighter highlights and darker shadows as a result. I also found that this creates some nice shimmering effects on the skin and makeup as a result of the hard-light properties.

I was really excited to try the big dome, as I thought it was going to be far and away the best looking lighting. Although I wasn’t disappointed, I still feel the resulting light didn’t look like I expected. The light was very clean in that there was a very smooth transition from shadow to highlight, which was nice, but it was still darker overall than I expected.

As a singe beauty light I think the small dome won for me with its look. If I was shooting in a larger area and wanted to illuminate more of the subject in a scene then the big dome placed a little further away would surely be the best choice.

In hindsight, I think I know where I went wrong with this test and what I would like to do differently next time.

You’ll notice that the light stand did not move the entire time, so from the small dome setup to the big dome setup the angling of the flash head caused the light source to get a lot closer to the model, which required me to turn the power of the head down. That’s not a problem normally, but when I turned the power of the head down, I also reduced the amount of light that bounced around the room. This in turn reduced the amount of light falling back into the shadows making the light appear darker than it actually is.

I would like to try this big dome again, but move it further back from the model, thereby allowing that light to bounce around the room and giving a far softer impression to the lighting—perfect for environmental shots.

Closing Comments

So there you have it: a couple of great lighting modifiers and at the cost of just over £25 for the both of them! That’s pretty damn impressive in my book, and you’d be crazy not to grab at least one of them and give them a go. Of course, if you really wanted an excellent dome modifier then you can always grab the Profoto frosted dome one here for a cool $ 177! I’m sure that’s miles better 😉

As always, if you have any questions then let me know. If there was something that didn’t make sense and you wanted clarification on then let me know. Also if you’ve ever tested a DIY modifier that has provided excellent results, I’d love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments!

Jake Hicks is an editorial and fashion photographer specializing in keeping the skill in the camera not just on the screen. To see more of his work or read more tutorials, be sure to visit his website, like his Facebook page, and follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

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AI-powered ‘Google Lens’ is being integrated into Assistant on Pixel phones

25 Nov

With the Pixel 2 smartphone, Google introduced an exciting new software feature called Google Lens. Google Lens uses Artificial Intelligence to power its visual recognition algorithms and provides information about whatever your smartphone’s camera is pointed at—for example, what type of flower you are looking at or reviews and other information about a restaurant. You can also identify landmarks, look up movies, books or works of art and scan barcodes/QR codes and business cards.

Unfortunately, in its first implementation the feature wasn’t terribly easy or straightforward to use. You had to take a picture, then go to Google Photos and tap the Lens icon which would trigger the Google Lens scan. That’s too many steps to make the feature as useful as it could potentially be.

Thankfully, Lens will be integrated into Google Assistant soon. When you open the latter, there’ll now be a Lens icon near the bottom right of the display. Tapping this opens up a Google Lens camera. You can tap on any object of interest in the preview window and the app will provide any available information.

As usual, the new feature will be rolled out gradually. English-language Pixel phones that are using Assistant in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, India, and Singapore will be served first over the coming weeks, but we’d expect the new feature to make it other regions soon after.

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VNTG8 turns old 8mm film canisters into SD card holders

11 Nov

A new Kickstarter project wants to provide photographers with a retro storage solution for their SD and microSD cards. Called VNTG8, this project takes old 8mm film canisters and transforms them into SD card holders via a foam insert. This foam insert features six large pockets for full-size SD cards and six small pockets for microSD cards.

The foam insert has a somewhat clever radial design clearly inspired by the film spool it replaces. VNTG8 comes in two varieties, one that features a new Goldberg Brothers canister from remaining stock produced in the 1970s, the other featuring used canisters sourced from various places throughout the US.

In addition, the polyethylene foam insert will be offered as a standalone option for buyers who have their own 8mm film canisters, but only if the Kickstarter campaign reaches its $ 7,000 stretch goal. A Goldberg canister VNTG8 with foam insert is offered to backers who pledge at least $ 19. Delivery is estimated to start in February 2018 if the campaign is successful.

Via: Kickstarter

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Olympus EyeTrek smart glasses pack a tiny 2.4MP camera into an AR wearable

08 Nov

Olympus has launched a wearable, augmented reality system that positions a tiny screen and camera near the wearer’s eye. Called EyeTrek Insight, this open source device resembles Google Glass, but is larger and intended for enterprise applications rather than general consumer use. The wearable features a 2.4MP forward-facing camera and the maker’s own Pupil-Division Optical System.

EyeTrek Insight is designed to attach to the ear pieces of a pair of glasses, whether they’re prescription frames or safety glasses. The unit has an integrated touch bar enabling users to control the device using their finger, as well as an optional microphone attachment for issuing voice commands. Both WiFi and Bluetooth enable EyeTrek to connect with various networks and devices, and while the device has only a 1hr run time per charge, Olympus has an optional adapter for plugging the smart glasses into a USB power source.

The integrated camera is fairly low resolution, capable of capturing content at up to 1992 x 1216, though the device’s tiny OLED display has a 640 x 400 resolution. Olympus describes the display, which is semi-transparent, as measuring half the width of a human pupil. Despite its small size, the maker says its display offers clear images even in outdoor and otherwise bright environments.

While Olympus markets its wearable toward industries where employees could benefit from visual access to data, the unit runs Android and provides development tools for devs and businesses to create their own applications, leaving the door open to a wide range of potential abilities and uses. The EyeTrek Insight is listed on Olympus’s website as a ‘Developers Edition,’ though it is unclear whether the company plans to offer a different edition in the future.

The EyeTrek Insight EI-10 is listed as available to purchase on Olympus’s website for $ 1,500 USD. The optional microphone attachment is $ 90 and the power adapter is $ 110; some other select accessories are also available, such as safety glasses, a larger battery pack, and a battery wall charger.

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