Posts Tagged ‘mode’

Gear of the Year 2017 – Allison’s choice: Google’s HDR+ mode

16 Nov

I was told. And I believed. But I didn’t quite understand how good Google’s Auto HDR+ mode is. After shooting with the Pixel 2 in some very challenging lighting conditions, I’m a believer.

Google’s HDR+ mode is really, really good. And I’m prepared to defend it as my Gear of the Year.

Like I said, I was told. Our own Lars Rehm was impressed with Auto HDR+ in his Google Pixel XL review of last year. In his words: “the Pixel XL is capable of capturing decent smartphone image quality in its standard mode but the device really comes into its own when HDR+ is activated… The Pixel camera is capable of capturing usable images in light conditions that not too long ago some DSLRs would have struggled with.”

So heading out with the Pixel 2 in hand, I knew that was a strong suit of the camera. I was looking forward to testing it on some challenging scenes. Things didn’t look too promising though as the day started off pretty miserably.

The afternoon forecast looked better, but any Seattlite can tell you there are no guarantees in October. I figured I had a day of dull, flat lighting ahead of me that I’d have to get creative with. I was happily proved wrong.

The clouds started to thin out mid-afternoon. On a long walk from the bus toward Gas Works Park, I came across this row of colorful townhouses. The sun was behind them, and I snapped a photo that looked like a total loss as I composed it on the screen – the houses too dark and lost in the shadows. I didn’t want to blow out the sky to get those details in the houses, so I just took what I figured was a dud of a photo and moved on. So what I saw on my computer screen later was a total surprise to me: a balanced, if somewhat dark exposure, capturing the houses and the sky behind them.

Am I going to print this one, frame it and put it on the wall? No. But I’m impressed that it’s a usable photo, and it took no knowledge of exposure or post-processing to get it.

Gas Works used to be a ‘gasification’ plant owned by the Seattle Gas Light company and was converted into a park in the mid-70’s. Some of the industrial structures remain, monuments to a distant past surrounded now by green parkland and frequented by young families with dogs and weed-vaping tech bros alike. On a sunny afternoon in October it was, both literally and figuratively, lit.

I was convinced my photos were not turning out, but I kept taking them anyway. It’ll just be a deep shadows, blue sky kind of look, I thought. Little did I know that the Pixel 2 was outsmarting me every step of the way.

Back at my desk with the final photos in front of me, I was genuinely impressed by the Pixel 2. Did it do anything that I couldn’t with a Raw file and about 30 seconds of post processing? Heck no. But the point is that this is the new normal for a lot of people who take pictures and have no interest in pulling shadows in Photoshop. They will point their cameras at high contrast scenes like these and come away with the photos they saw in their heads. If you ask me, it’s just one more reason why smartphones will topple the mighty entry-level DSLR.

Apple’s catching on too. HDR Auto is enabled by default in new iPhones and veteran photographer/iPhone user Jeff Carlson is also impressed by how the 8 Plus handles high contrast scenes.

While smartphone manufacturers have been increasingly implementing HDR as an always-on-by-default feature, they’ve also been making these modes smarter and the effect more aggressive. What previously took technical know-how, dedicated software, and multiple exposures is now happening with one click of a virtual shutter button, and it’s going to keep getting better.

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How to Shoot in Manual Mode Cheat Sheet for Beginners

16 Nov

The “Manual Photography Cheat Sheet-Reloaded” by The London School of Photography is a clean-cut, visual way of showing you how to step-up your photography game from automatic to manual shooting. Not only does shooting in Manual Mode enable you to produce sharp well-composed imagery – but you’ll also gain a stronger understanding of the inner workings of your camera and just how all those curious settings work in synch with each other.

How to Shoot in Manual Mode Cheat Sheet for Beginners

By shooting in Manual Mode you have full control of your shutter speed, ISO, and aperture, among an array of other settings that can further fine-tune your images. Manually controlling the aperture, for example, can help you achieve those beautiful portraits with blurred bokeh backgrounds. It’s also highly useful for changing shutter speeds, enabling you to achieve amazing shots of those fast-moving subjects like cars or cyclists in crystal clear motion without sacrificing quality.

You may often find yourself in a tricky lighting situation where everything appears far too dark, too light, or very grainy. Unfortunately, automatic mode can’t always hack these extreme conditions and often activates your camera’s flash at the smallest hint of darkness (making some photos appear positively awful). This is where learning to shoot in Manual Mode can be a lifesaver.


One of the most talked about settings on a camera is the ISO; a numerical value on your camera that controls light sensitivity. Your camera’s ISO allows you to adjust its light-sensitivity and allows it to pick up more light. Or on the flip side, to reduce your exposure on those bright sunny days for a well-balanced result.

I highly encourage experimenting with different lighting conditions to find your ideal ISO. But be wary of making your ISO too high in dark conditions as this will increase the amount of noise in your final images.


Another common term you may have come across is aperture. This is essentially an opening in the lens that affects your exposure. It is also responsible for controlling the depth of field.

Generally, the lower the number (or f-stop), the larger the opening of the lens will be which will result in less depth of field – ideal for those blurry backgrounds. On the other hand, the higher your aperture the sharper the background will be – making it great for capturing all the tiny details in your scene (great for landscapes).

Shutter Speed

How to Shoot in Manual Mode Cheat Sheet for Beginners

Shutter speed is another key player that determines your image’s final outcome. It is essentially the exposure time of the camera’s inner shutter that stays open to allow light to enter and hit the sensor.

Generally, if you’re after blurred shots that illustrate an object’s motion (for example a racing car or cyclist) then a slow shutter speed will keep the shutter open for longer, allowing for a longer exposure time. A faster shutter speed, however, is perfect for a pristine action shot with no motion blurs.

White Balance

Another setting on your camera which also directly affects your images is your White Balance (WB). The process of setting your White Balance involves removing unrealistic color casts and ultimately using a setting that produces more naturally toned images.

It is especially useful in removing harsh yellow tones or redness on the skin. Alternatively, White Balance can be used in unconventional ways to refine your photographic style. For example, for edgier photos, the Tungsten White Balance preset can be used in an overcast setting to produce blue hues and enhance contrasts. With this in mind, it’s highly beneficial to experiment with the various White Balance modes to achieve your desired results.

Things to note for shooting in Manual Mode

Keep in mind that when you’re ready to shoot in Manual Mode your settings will not adjust to your shooting conditions. You have to adjust them, manually. By keeping this in mind you’ll ensure your exposures are consistent throughout a shoot. The process of changing your settings may sound tedious at first, but it will actually ensure your images are consistent.

This is what shooting in an automatic mode lacks, as it calculates how much light is being measured through your camera’s light meter. As good as this might sound to you, you’ll probably find that as you adjust your shooting position, the subject moves, or the lighting condition changes to overcast – you’ll eventually have a set of very inconsistently exposed images.

Other shooting modes

camera modes - How to Shoot in Manual Mode Cheat Sheet for Beginners

As much as I love to shoot manual, don’t forget about the other letters on your mode dial that are sparking your curiosity. In fact, I even recommend shooting in these semi-automatic modes as practice to help you understand exposure compensation.

  • Program mode (P) is a great transition mode when stepping out of the auto-shooting world. It governs similar shooting to auto but allows you to adjust the exposure by controlling compensation through a dial. If any of your photos appear dark, then using this simple feature can increase the brightness.
  • Aperture priority is another great transitional mode to shoot in that allows you control over aperture as well as the ISO. It gives you control over your depth of field as well as the exposure compensation to control brightness.

If you think you’ve mastered these settings then you’re ready to go manual!


In addition to camera settings, we highly recommend the following tips that will further enhance your experience of migrating to manual shooting; such as the use of a tripod, golden hours, and the top photographic golden rules to keep in mind for capturing stunning imagery time and time again.

How to Shoot in Manual Mode Cheat Sheet for Beginners

Download the full cheat sheet infographic all-in-one here.

The post How to Shoot in Manual Mode Cheat Sheet for Beginners by Antonio Leanza appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Real-world test: Long exposures with Panasonic G9’s high-res mode

12 Nov
Out-of-camera 80MP JPEG using the Panasonic G9’s high-resolution mode. Lots of detail, and some strange-looking pedestrians.
Panasonic Leica DG 12-60mm F2.8-4 | ISO 200 | 1/500 sec | F4

New to Panasonic’s G9 flagship is a high-resolution mode, which shifts the sensor by half-pixel increments eight times, and generates an 80MP final image. As with similar technologies from Ricoh and Olympus, it’s not necessarily recommended for scenes with moving subjects in them. But we wanted to see if we could make it work.

You’ll notice in the above image, the pedestrians are sharply ‘ghosted’ in the foreground; this is due (obviously) to the eight exposures being taken, but also partially the 1/500 sec shutter speed. What if we purposely chose a slower speed, so that they would blur more naturally into each other?

These are only initial findings on a gray Seattle day, but we’ve got some interesting results.

Panasonic Leica DG 8-18mm F2.8-4 | ISO 200 | 1/30 sec | F8

For this situation, in order to get a proper exposure without either an ND filter or stopping down to diffraction-inducing levels, I figured I’d give 1/30 of a second a try. As you can see, there’s a little ‘repetition’ around portions of the pedestrians in the foreground and across the street, and while there’s lots of detail in the scene, you may want to just use the normal 20MP file for this one.

What if we go with a little longer of a shutter speed, though?

Panasonic Leica DG 8-18mm F2.8-4 | ISO 200 | 1/8 sec | F8

This looks to our eyes to exhibit some improvement. We overall found that a shutter speed between 1/4 sec and 1/8 sec gave a reasonably natural look to the average pedestrian in motion – of course, for faster and slower moving objects, you’ll have to adjust accordingly. Do take note, though, that there are some interesting colorful streaks in our moving subjects, and a reduction of resolution in static objects that can be seen behind them.

If you’re thinking about an even slower shutter speed, once you get down to 1/2 sec or so, pedestrians largely just disappear from your frame, leaving barely a shadow for you to notice. Of course, this could be an advantage if you’re wanting to eliminate people from your photos, without necessarily needing an ND filter and a 30-second exposure.

There were some people on these stairs, I promise.
Panasonic Leica DG 8-18mm F2.8-4 | ISO 200 | 1/2 sec | F8

We tried an even longer exposure to see if we could get the motion artifacts to ‘disappear’ with subjects moving fast enough across the scene, but we still could see some – check out the car taillights and the ground surrounding them in the below image. The rest of the image, predictably, shows good detail, but once you start inspecting the areas of motion too closely, the image starts to look a little strange. That said – you’d probably have to have someone point it out to you to really notice it in real life.

Panasonic Leica DG 12-60mm F2.8-4 | ISO 200 | 1.3 sec | F4

In any case, the high res mode on the G9 is something we want to continue to look into as we progress with our review. Raw support is coming shortly, and we’re looking forward to examining the Raw files from both real-world shooting as well as our test scene.

For now, we’ve added these images and their corresponding ‘normal’ 20MP equivalents onto the end of our existing image gallery for you to inspect.

Scroll to the end of our sample gallery to see our updated high res images

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Google rolls out ‘Saturated’ mode to address Pixel 2 XL display issues

10 Nov

The Google Pixel 2 might sport one of the best smartphone cameras around, but when it comes to the display—particularly on the larger XL—model, Google has had nothing but trouble. Reports of everything from burn-in, to blue tint off-axis, to ‘dull’ colors have left the tech giant playing catch up, and today it finally … well… caught up. Or at least it tried.

A promised software update released on Tuesday (and rolling out to all users by the end of the week) addresses the issue of burn-in with some minor tweaks, and adds three total color saturation modes under the phone’s Display settings to hopefully quiet down the complaints about ‘dull’ colors.

Here’s a quick summary of the update in Google’s own words:

This update includes some of the enhancements we posted about on October 26, such as the new Saturated color mode for Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, a fix for the faint clicking noise heard in some Pixel 2s, and other bug and security updates. As we mentioned in our deeper dive, this update also brings planned UI changes which extend the life of the OLED display, including a fade out of the navigation buttons at the bottom of the screen and an update to maximum brightness.

According to Android Central, the updated saturation settings come in three flavors: Natural, Boosted, and Saturated. Natural should provide the most accurate color reproduction; Boosted takes the place of the “Vivid Colors” setting previously available, which boosted saturation by 10%; and, finally, Saturated will put the display in an “unmanaged configuration” that will make colors “more saturated and vibrant, but less accurate,” according to Google’s deep dive on the topic.

Unfortunately, this mode throws away one of the most important things about Android Oreo: color management. In ‘Saturated’ mode, all apps, images and video will first render to sRGB (for now) and then be stretched to the display’s wider color gamut.

This will make for inaccurate colors across the two devices, but there is hope for us color nerds. As Seang Chau, VP of Engineering at Google, says in his blog post: due to color management under the hood in the new OS, “an Android app developer can now make use of the wider Display P3 color gamut precisely for a wider range of colors. Google apps will take advantage of wide colors in the future.” We’re hoping this means that future apps will render either to P3 or straight to a display profile provided by Google, which would allow for saturated colors when appropriate, but not at the cost of accuracy.

Finally, no comment was made on the poor viewing angle of the XL model that introduces a strong blue-tint off-axis (see picture above of the Pixel 2 XL vs the original XL). This can make photos with warmer tones look even more desaturated by shifting toward blue. But while Google was able to address some of its display complaints this week, this seems like a hardware problem that will be difficult to fix via software.

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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


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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How to Use Bulb Mode for Long Exposure Photography

09 Oct

Most DSLR and mirrorless cameras have a feature called Bulb Mode. If you’re like me, you probably saw that in one of the menus or buttons when you first got your camera and have promptly ignored it ever since. Even the name sounds weird, and at first glance, you might think it has more to do gardening than photography. But it’s actually a very useful option that can unlock all sorts of creative possibilities with your camera.

Learning to use Bulb Mode does take a bit of practice though, and it helps to understand how it got its strange name in the first place. But I think you’ll find that the payoff is worth your time.

How to Use Bulb Mode for Long Exposure Photography

Lightning shot using Bulb Mode.

History Lesson

Way back in the early days of photography, long before digital image sensors existed, and autofocusing lenses were little more than science fiction, the act of taking a picture still worked in many ways like it does today. Hidden inside the sealed innards of a camera was a piece of light-sensitive film onto which an image would be projected when the camera’s shutter was opened, thus letting light pass through the lens and onto the film.

It’s the same principle that DSLRs use today. The only major change is how the shutter is constructed and the manner in which the timing is controlled. A hundred years ago there was no such thing as computer-powered cameras or precise mechanical actuators that could open the shutter for a long period of time (typically longer than one second). Instead, the photographer held a small bulb in his or her hand which was attached to the camera’s shutter by a piece of tubing.

Squeezing the bulb opened the camera shutter and releasing the bulb closed it, which meant the timing of the shutter was entirely up to the individual taking the photo. As long as the bulb was squeezed, the shutter would stay open. This method continued to be used on cameras for years to come, and it’s even possible to find bulb-style shutter releases for cameras today.

In short, think of Bulb Mode as Time Travel Mode. It basically makes your camera function like a camera from 100 years ago, when you had to squeeze a bulb to open the shutter, and then release the bulb to close it. The only major difference is that unless you literally have a bulb-style shutter release like the one pictured below, you will press the shutter button to open the shutter and release your finger to close it. Pretty neat, isn’t it?

How to Use Bulb Mode for Long Exposure Photography

Squeeze the bulb to open the shutter on this Pentax 35mm film camera. Release the bulb to close the shutter. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Bulb Mode Today

Most modern cameras allow you to set the shutter speed anywhere from 1/4000th of a second and 30 seconds, which gives you an incredible range of creative photographic possibilities. These shutter speeds work in tandem with a camera’s light meter, as well as the ISO and lens aperture, to help you get properly-exposed images with little to no fuss or hassle. With that in mind, the idea of squeezing a bulb to keep the shutter open seems more than a bit anachronistic. Why would anyone want to hold the shutter open manually when you can just dial in a preset value for the shutter speed and not worry about anything else?

The benefit of Bulb Mode is that it lets you keep the shutter open for as long as you want. The timing is not specified by you, the camera, or anything else which means it’s entirely your decision whether to use a fast, slow or extremely slow shutter speed. Using Bulb Mode, it’s possible to leave your shutter open for one, five, 10 minutes or even longer. The only limitation is your camera’s battery and your own degree of patience, which opens the door for some amazing photographic opportunities.

How to Use Bulb Mode for Long Exposure Photography

Finding Bulb Mode

Shooting Mode Dial

Canon mode dial, B is Bulb.

The first step in using Bulb Mode involves figuring out how to access it on your camera, especially if you did not have even known it existed and have never tried to look for it. Because Bulb Mode involves controlling the shutter you might think that you need to first put your camera in Shutter Priority mode, but that’s generally not the case.

For most cameras, you actually need to use Manual Mode and then set your shutter speed to as low as it can go. You will likely see decreasing speeds of 5 seconds (your display may show that as 5″), 10 seconds, and so on, all the way down to 30 seconds at which point one more click of the dial will put your camera into Bulb Mode. If this doesn’t work for you it’s possible your camera simply doesn’t have Bulb Mode (most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras do have it, on some Canons, it is on the Mode dial as B). If you really aren’t certain just Google the brand and the model of your camera along with the words “bulb mode,” which will likely turn up some useful results.

How to Use Bulb Mode for Long Exposure Photography

Instead of showing a shutter speed along with a light meter, my camera’s LCD screen now displays the word “bulb” to indicate that I have entered Bulb Mode.

Understanding Bulb Mode

Once your camera is in Bulb Mode a couple of things go a little haywire and you may think your camera is broken. Before you send it in for service, just know that everything is fine…but different. Right away you’ll notice that your camera’s light meter no longer works, and there is no indication of what exposure settings you should be using to get a properly-exposed image.

This happens because your camera has no idea how long you want to leave your shutter open, and without that information, it doesn’t know whether to indicate if the final image will be overexposed, underexposed, or just right. This can make Bulb Mode positively primitive territory, and if you have ever wanted to know what your photographic forebears had to deal with when taking pictures 100 years ago you now know firsthand.

The best way to figure out which settings to use is to simply start experimenting. The more you use Bulb Mode you will start to figure out what settings like aperture and ISO might be appropriate given the scene you are photographing. However, there are some general tips that can be applied, which I will cover in the next section.

Holding the button

The other weird thing about Bulb Mode, which directly hearkens back to the earliest days of photography, is the manner by which the shutter is controlled. To open the shutter you press the shutter button (a sentence which is most likely eliciting rolled eyes due to how obvious it sounds). However, there’s a catch.

The shutter stays open only while your finger is pressing the shutter button. It’s just like squeezing a pneumatic bulb in the early days of photography. As you might guess by now, the way to close the shutter is to take your finger off the button. It’s a strange feeling, and if you have a DSLR handy I invite you to give it a try right now. Go get your camera, put it in Manual, spin the control dial until you’re in Bulb Mode, and take a picture. I’ll wait.

How to Use Bulb Mode for Long Exposure Photography

Using Bulb Mode

Did you snap a photo? I bet it felt kind of strange to have the shutter open and close only when you pressed and then released, your finger from the button. This, of course, brings up the next logical question of how do you actually use Bulb Mode to get good pictures? While each person will use it in their own way, there are a couple of guidelines to think about if you want to get good results.

Low light

Bulb Mode is most useful when you have little to no ambient light. It is almost worthless in daylight or in a well-lit room (unless of course, you are using really good ND filters to block some of the light) The best time to try it is at night when everything is pitch black except what you are hoping to photograph.

Setting up to use Bulb Mode

It’s important to keep your camera steady with a good tripod. You are typically dealing with really long exposures, and even the vibration from your finger pressing the shutter button can affect the resulting image. So the sturdier your tripod is, the better your images will turn out. If you have a cable release or some kind of remote shutter trigger for your camera, now is a great time to use it. Make sure you have one that either locks or counts the exposure for you (if you’re using the small wireless one that camera with your camera, you may need to click it once to open the shutter in Bulb Mode and click it again to close the shutter).

Note: You cannot use the 2-second self-timer in conjunction with Bulb Mode, it will not work.

Finally, try using a small aperture of f/8 or f/11 and a low ISO setting like 100 or 200 since the shutter speed is the independent variable in most Bulb Mode photography. This isn’t a requirement, but depending on your subject you might need a wider aperture or higher ISO, particularly if you want to shoot images of stars or capture star trails or other astrophotography phenomena.

How to Use Bulb Mode for Long Exposure Photography

I was able to capture a bolt of lightning by holding the shutter open, and the long exposure also shows movement in the clouds too.

When to use Bulb Mode

Now it’s time to experiment and really have fun with Bulb Mode. Everyone will use it in a different way, but here are a couple of ideas to get you started.

  • The next time a thunderstorm rolls in, use Bulb Mode to capture lightning strikes. The longer you leave the shutter open, the more lightning bolts you may be able to capture.
  • Try light painting, and experiment with using different kinds of light on familiar subjects you might already have just laying around.
  • Set up your tripod next to a road and shoot light trails as traffic passes by at the night.
  • For a variation on light trails, get a friend have some fun with fire spinning. Note that safety must always come first in these situations, so be sure to keep yourselves, your gear, and the environment around you safe from damage. The best place is a beach with no one around.
  • You don’t need fireworks either, and you can get great results with different sources of light from flashlights to sparklers to twirling glow sticks.
How to Use Bulb Mode for Long Exposure Photography

Using a long exposure helped me turn this ordinary jar of pasta into a surreal glowing work of art.


These ideas are just scratching the surface of what Bulb Mode can do. The best way to learn is to try it for yourself. If you have any particular tips for using Bulb Mode that you think others would enjoy, or some ideas to try that I didn’t mention here, please leave your thoughts in the comments below!

The post How to Use Bulb Mode for Long Exposure Photography by Simon Ringsmuth appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Google unveils Pixel 2 phones: Adds OIS, Dual Pixel powered Portrait Mode and more

05 Oct

Ever since the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X were announced, we’ve been waiting for Google’s response. When the original Google Pixel came out, it quickly became one of the most raved about smartphone cameras in the world… would the Pixel 2 follow suit? The short answer, at least according to Google, is yes.

Just this morning, we sat down in the SF Jazz Center and, after an hour of other updates, Google finally unveiled the 5-inch Pixel 2 and 6-inch Pixel 2 XL.

The new phones house a 12.2MP sensor with 1.4um pixels, Dual Pixel phase detect autofocus and an F1.8 lens on the back, and an 8MP camera with 1.4um pixels, fixed focus and an F2.7 lens on the front. The newer 1/2.55″ sensor is smaller than the previous-gen’s 1/2.3″ sensor, but the brighter aperture nearly perfectly compensates.* Video specs for the rear camera max out at 4K 30fps (sorry, no 4K/60p like the new iPhones) while the front camera can do up to 1080p at 30fps. The camera units are now raised above the back glass surface, which remedies the nasty flare issues the previous Pixels had.

As we hoped, the whole phone is encased in an IP67 water and dust resistant aluminum unibody, and is powered by the latest and greatest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor.

More impressive than the base specs are how Google uses its hardware in concert with software and machine learning technology to deliver a better photography and video experience.

Instead of opting for a dual camera on the back of the phone, the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL uses just one camera, and combines this with Dual Pixel technology (split left/right pixels) and computational photography to create the now-ubiquitous fake bokeh Portrait Mode effect. And since stabilization is incredibly important, they’ve worked out how to use both optical and electronic image stabilization at the same time when you’re shooting video, which should deliver incredibly smooth footage. (more on that from San Francisco shortly…)

Unfortunately, in our brief time with the cameras so far, we discovered that Portrait mode is still not rendered live on either camera… it seems there are downsides to using a single camera instead of a dual cam setup, or in Google’s (we think correct) choice to use a more computationally intensive ‘lens’ blur as opposed to the more Gaussian (smooth) blur that Apple opts for.

Finally, no modern smartphone is complete until you look at the display your photos and videos will be viewed on.

Unfortunately, Google made no mention of color management or proper display profiles—which caused issues with the previous Pixel smartphones—but the new AMOLED (for the 5-inch model) and pOLED (for the 6-inch model) displays are wide-gamut. The Pixel 2 claims 93% DCI-P3 coverage while the Pixel 2 XL claims full 100% coverage of the same standard.

We bring this up because last year’s Pixel phones also offered a wide color gamut and high contrast ratio, thanks to their OLED display technology, but often displayed wildly inaccurate colors due to the lack of color management. It’s still possible the displays will come calibrated properly for the P3 or sRGB color spaces, but without any explicit mention of calibrated display modes that the OS automatically switches between based on the color space of the content (as Apple claims to do), we remain skeptical.

The lack of any talk of HDR display of video or photos was also a disappointment after the announcement of iPhone X’s support for HDR10 and Dolby Vision video, and HDR display of photos. The latter should make HDR photos pop on the bright contrasty OLED display of the iPhone X, rather than give them the flat tonemapped look we’re often used to. It seems Google has chosen to go the traditional method of compressing a high contrast scene into a flatter image, rather than take advantage of the HDR display capabilities of its OLED display.

We’re currently spending some time with the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL in person today at the Jazz Center, so stay tuned for our hands-on impressions as the designated photography nerds at this event.

In the meantime, you can find out more about either of these phones on the Google Store, check out our Live Blog to see what we were thinking as the announcements were going up, or argue about your Apple vs Google allegiance in the comments.

* At least for low light performance, but perhaps not dynamic range. The discussion is complicated by the use of computational photography, of course, so it’s difficult to speculate on the overall impact of the smaller sensor / brighter aperture.

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DJI releases offline mode to calm fears over privacy and security

16 Aug
Photo by Aaron Burden

Earlier this month, drone maker DJI took a huge PR hit when the US Army abruptly stopped using the company’s drones due to ‘cyber vulnerabilities.’ The decision was revealed in a leaked memo, and DJI was left defending its privacy and security practices to a suddenly skeptical public. Today, the company takes its privacy efforts a bit further with the release of a ‘Local Data Mode’ that allows pilots to fly their DJI drones without an internet connection.

The mode was announced yesterday, and it does exactly what it sounds like: when enabled, it stops all data transfer and connectivity between DJI’s apps and the internet. It’s like incognito mode for drones.

DJI uses that internet connection to “ensure a drone has the most relevant local maps and geofencing data, latest app versions, correct radio frequency and power requirements, and other information that enhances flight safety and functionality,” but the company understands that not all customers need or want this functionality to be on all the time.

“We are creating local data mode to address the needs of our enterprise customers, including public and private organizations that are using DJI technology to perform sensitive operations around the world,” DJI Vice President of Policy and Legal Affairs Brendan Schulman says in the press release. “DJI is committed to protecting the privacy of its customers’ photos, videos and flight logs. Local data mode will provide added assurances for customers with heightened data security needs.”

Despite the timing of the release, DJI has told the New York Times that the company has not been in touch with the US Army about its security concerns, and besides, this update seems to have been in the works since before the memo in question went public. Still, this ‘offline’ option feels like a win for privacy advocates and the military alike.

Local Data Mode will be available in DJI’s fleet of apps “starting in the next several weeks”—these include DJI GO, DJI GO 4, DJI XT Pro, DJI Pilot and Ground Station Pro. But be warned, due to some local regulations and/or requirements, it might not be available in all areas.

To find out more, read the full press release below:

Press Release

DJI Develops Option For Pilots To Fly Without Internet Data Transfer

New Local Data Mode Provides Enhanced Data Privacy Assurances

August 14, 2017 – DJI, the world’s leader in civilian drones and aerial imaging technology, is developing a new local data mode that stops internet traffic to and from its flight control apps, in order to provide enhanced data privacy assurances for sensitive government and enterprise customers.

DJI’s flight control apps routinely communicate over the internet to ensure a drone has the most relevant local maps and geofencing data, latest app versions, correct radio frequency and power requirements, and other information that enhances flight safety and functionality. When a pilot enables local data mode, DJI apps will stop sending or receiving any data over the internet, giving customers enhanced assurances about the privacy of data generated during their flights.

“We are creating local data mode to address the needs of our enterprise customers, including public and private organizations that are using DJI technology to perform sensitive operations around the world,” said Brendan Schulman, DJI Vice President of Policy and Legal Affairs. “DJI is committed to protecting the privacy of its customers’ photos, videos and flight logs. Local data mode will provide added assurances for customers with heightened data security needs.”

Because it blocks all internet data, use of local data mode means DJI apps will not update maps or geofencing information, will not notify pilots of newly-issued flight restrictions or software updates, and may result in other performance limitations. However, it will provide an enhanced level of data assurance for sensitive flights, such as those involving critical infrastructure, commercial trade secrets, governmental functions or other similar operations.

“We are pleased about how rapidly DJI’s customer base has expanded from hobbyists and personal drone pilots to include professional, commercial, government and educational users,” said Jan Gasparic, DJI head of enterprise partnership. “As more of these customers have asked for additional assurances about how their data is handled, DJI has moved to address their needs by developing local data mode to provide enhanced data management options for customers who want to use them.”

DJI recognizes the importance of data privacy to its customers. DJI does not collect or have access to user flight logs, photos or videos unless the user chooses to share those by syncing flight logs with DJI servers, uploading photos or videos to DJI’s SkyPixel website, or physically delivering the drone to DJI for service.

DJI publicly committed to protecting its customers’ data privacy in April 2016. In a March 2017 white paper, DJI became the first major drone manufacturer to advocate for protecting the privacy of drone users as the United States and European governments develop regulations to monitor drone flights. No other civilian drone manufacturer there has been as vocal as DJI in protecting the operational and data privacy interests of drone users.

“Local data mode will allow customers to get the most out of their DJI flight control apps while providing added assurance that critical data is not inadvertently transmitted over the internet,” Schulman said. “We are pleased to be able to develop local data mode as part of our drive to serve our customers’ needs as well as advocate for their interests.”

Local data mode has been in development for several months and will be included in future versions of DJI apps, starting in the next several weeks. DJI’s apps include DJI GO, DJI GO 4, DJI XT Pro, DJI Pilot and Ground Station Pro, which run on smartphones and tablets that control the drone or connect to the drone’s remote control unit. The local data mode feature may not be available in locations where an internet connection is required or highly advisable due to local regulations or requirements.

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Motorola Moto Z2 Force Edition comes with dual-cam and depth mode

26 Jul

Motorola has unveiled its 2017 flagship smartphone, the Moto Z2. Unsurprisingly the design is quite similar to the original Moto Z and comes with electronic contacts on the back, allowing for the attachment of Motorola’s Moto Mod accessory modules, such as the Hasselblad TrueZoom camera module.

At 6.1mm the device is very thin and comes with a full-metal shell that features a water-repellent nano-coating. In addition, the 2560×1440 Super AMOLED display is shatterproof, making the Z2 more rugged than most of its competitors in the premium segment of the market.

Android 7.1.1 is powered by Qualcomm’s current top-end chipset Snapdragon 835 but at 2730mAh is smaller than on many other high-end phones, which is probably owed to the thinness of the device.

The Moto Z2 is Motorola’s first smartphone to feature a dual-camera setup. Similar to the concept used in Huawei’s recent top-end phones the Moto combines a Sony IMX 1/2.9″ RGB sensor with a monochrome imager and uses image-fusion technology to optimize detail, noise levels, dynamic range and other aspects of image quality.

A depth-mode for simulating a shallow depth-of-field is on board as well and, compared to previous high-end Moto models, Motorola has significantly improved the panorama mode which can now produce much larger image output and fewer ghosting artifacts on moving subjects.

In video mode the Moto Z2 camera is capable of recording 4K footage and 720p slow-motion video at 240 fps or 1080p clips at 120 fps. The front camera offers a 5MP resolution and comes with a wide-selfie mode. A Pro mode provides manual control over shutter speed and other camera parameters and the DNG Raw format is supported with third-party camera apps.

With the dual-cam, improved panorama and slow-motion modes and new features, the Moto Z2 looks like a very promising update to the original Z2, especially in the camera department. You will be able to pre-order the Moto Z2 Force Edition from tomorrow. The device will be available from August 10 launch at a base price of $ 720.

Key specifications:

  • 12MP dual-cam with Sony IMX 386 1/2.9″ RGB and Monochrome sensors, 1.25µm pixel size
  • F2.0 apertures
  • Dual-LED flash
  • Laser and phase detection AF
  • Depth mode
  • Manual camera controls
  • Raw-support with third-party apps
  • 4K video
  • 240fps/720p and 120fps/1080p slow-motion video
  • 5MP front camera
  • 2560×1440 Super AMOLED ShatterShield display
  • Snapdragon 835 chipset
  • 4/6GB RAM (depending on region)
  • 64/128GB of storage (depending on region)
  • microSD slot up to 2TB
  • 2730mAh battery
  • Water-repellent nano-coating
  • Fingerprint reader

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Firmware v1.1.1 for Canon 5DS and 5DSR fixes HDR mode and level display

20 Jun

Canon has released firmware version 1.1.1 for its EOS 5DS and 5DS R full-frame DSLR models. The new firmware fixes a number of user-reported bugs, including an issue in HDR mode that prevents the camera from completing a full bracket with certain settings.

Other fixes include:

  • Err70 display which with certain combinations of settings
  • Correction of level display when the camera is held in vertical orientation with the hand grip pointing downward
  • Correction of a power-up delay of approximately five seconds when using certain CF cards

You can download firmware version 1.1.1 for the Canon EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R now on the Canon website.

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