Posts Tagged ‘People’

2017 Buying Guide: Best cameras for people and events

30 Nov

Those shooting portraits and weddings need a camera with a decent autofocus system that won’t give up in low light, good image quality at medium/high ISO and great colors straight out of the camera. Read on to see which cameras are best suited to those tasks.

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Why You are not in the Photography Business – You are in the People Business

14 Nov

I did photos for a high school senior recently who remarked that many of her friends were having their class pictures taken by one of the teachers at school. We chatted about this as I snapped away with my full-frame Nikon D750 and accompanying 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, a setup that delivers good results but often gets quite heavy and cumbersome after a long photo session.

As we walked around and continued to take pictures, she told me how much her friends liked the teacher’s photos. She said how happy they were with the results while assuring me that she was enjoying our photo session in the park.

I casually asked if she knew what kind of camera the teacher was using, and her response surprised me. Although in hindsight, I suppose I should have seen it coming a mile away. “Oh, he’s got one of those new iPhones with portrait mode,” she replied as my shoulder cramped up just a bit under the weight of my camera gear.

This story illustrates a painful truth about those of us in the photography business; we can’t think of ourselves as just photographers anymore.

Longtime photography veterans have known this for years. But for people like me who are relatively new to photography or those just starting to get serious, there are a few things we need to keep in mind if we want to pursue our hobby and eventually use it to put food on our tables or gear on our shelves.

You are not in the Photography Business - You are in the People Business

You’re in the People Business

As Liam Neeson might say, you have a very particular set of skills as a photographer. You understand lighting and composition. You know how to choose good locations, you get how colors work, and you might be proficient with off-camera flashes and external light meters. Photoshop is your domain and you know Lightroom like the back of your hand.

You probably have a decent amount of gear in your collection, built up over the years thanks to hard work, saving, and honing your craft. The thing is, your clients don’t care about any of that. They aren’t going to be impressed with your Creative Cloud membership or the fact that you have the newest full-frame camera on pre-order from B&H.

What they want are good photos. You and your skill set and gear (and your high price tag) are competing with mobile phones that in the eyes of your client can make awesome photos. So what option do you think your potential clients are going to go with when it’s time to sign on the dotted line? As technology gets more advanced and the line between professional photographer and rank amateur becomes ever blurrier with the increasing capability of mobile phones, you have to do something to differentiate yourself.

Differentiate yourself

There’s a line in the movie Office Space where the manager of a kitschy all-American restaurant is trying to explain why one of his servers needs to wear what he calls “pieces of flair” on her outfit. In a moment of biting condescension, the manager explains that “People can get a cheeseburger anywhere, okay? They come to Chotchkie’s for the atmosphere and the attitude.”

It might seem silly, but as time marches on we photographers have to adopt the same type of work ethic if we want to survive, pick up new clients, and keep existing ones coming back time after time. Photography, whether we like it or not, has been commoditized to the point that anyone can do it and get pretty decent results. So we have to ask ourselves, what do we bring to the table that would make clients want to use our services if what they want, like the cheeseburger example, is available pretty much anywhere?

Focus on the experience

The answer to this lies in the same movie quote. We have to stop thinking of ourselves as photographers first and make our craft one of fun, excitement, engagement, and ultimately create an experience that our clients will remember.

Advertisers have known this for decades. When you see commercials for cars, clothes, or vacation getaways the focus is rarely on the items being sold but the experiences and emotions those brands attempt to create. You can’t rely on years of training or expensive gear to sell yourself as a photographer.

Instead, you have to work hard to create experiences your clients will remember for years to come and also share with others. Whether you photograph weddings, kids, families, high school seniors, or work with clients to take pictures of real estate, products, or promotional materials, you have to make the whole experience something they will appreciate, enjoy, and remember.

Get personal

This might sound complicated but it’s not all that hard to do, and it often involves many simple things. For example, take time to get to know your clients and call them by their first names. If you’re saying things like, “Hey you over there with the red jacket, I need you to scoot over to your left just a bit” that person isn’t going to care how sharp your photos are or that you shot with a really expensive lens! Instead, he will be wondering why he didn’t just pay the neighbor kid $ 50 to shoot pictures with the Canon Rebel camera that he got on sale at Target last week.

Talk with your clients, have fun with them, play with the kids, and ask for their input. Even if you don’t use the shots, they will at least feel like their contributions were valued. And whatever happens, don’t bark out orders like you’re at a military academy.

Make it fun – keep it light

You might be stressed after hours of shooting a wedding, but don’t let your clients see that. Smile, ask people politely to do what you need, but also don’t be afraid to take charge and direct the shoot the way you want it. People appreciate leadership and professionalism, but you can have that without being rude and obnoxious.

Just like in the movie example, people can get photos from anyone nowadays. But they come to you for the fun, excitement, enjoyable attitude, and all the other intangible elements that come together to create a photo session to remember.

Recommendations go a long way

When my wife and I moved from one part of the country to another, several years ago, we had to figure out all sorts of ways to integrate into our new city; where to buy a house, where to shop for groceries, what church to attend, and even mundane decisions like where to get our car repaired when it broke down. I looked through the Yellow Pages phone book (remember those?) and saw page after page of advertisements for mechanics who were Fast, Efficient, Cheap, Highly Trained, Professionally Certified, and The Best in Town. We were so overwhelmed with choices that we just asked around. Several of our friends recommended a particular place that we still go for all our auto repairs, eight years later.

When we talked to our friends about which shop to use, can you guess what they said about the one we ended up choosing? I’ll give you a hint, it had almost nothing to do with the quality of their work. Any auto shop can replace an alternator or change brake pads, but the reason so many people recommended that one particular shop had everything to do with the friendliness, attentiveness, and respectfulness of the staff.

Perception shapes quality

The hard truth of the matter for those of us involved in any type of service industry such as photography is that there is no objective plumb line by which our clients can consistently gauge quality. Just like choosing an auto repair shop, your clients or potential clients would probably be happy getting their pictures taken by any number of professional or amateur photographers in your area.

How they perceive the quality of the final result won’t necessarily be judged by the sharpness of the images, the intricacies of the editing, or the price of the gear used to take said photos. Instead, they will think about the whole experience of getting their pictures taken and use that as a measuring stick by which to judge the quality of the images. It seems strange and perhaps frustrating to those of us who have spent years or decades honing our craft.

But there’s no getting around the fact that the way in which people judge quality is highly influenced by their perception of the experience.

Research proves it

The concept of consumer perception and its role in shaping quality has been studied by researchers for decades. In 1992 J. Joseph Cronin, Jr. and Steven A. Taylor published a paper in the Journal of Marketing in which they concluded that among other things;

  • “Service quality is an antecedent of consumer satisfaction”
  • “Consumer satisfaction has a significant effect on purchase intentions”
  • “Service quality has less effect on purchase intentions than does consumer satisfaction”

The implications of this and other similar research for photographers is profound! Basically, if your clients had a good time at your photography session and were pleased with your service, they will view your photos as higher quality.

Good experience = they will like you = happy clients

So what can you, the humble photographer, do about all this? How can you deliver high-quality results to clients who might be perfectly happy with any other photographer or mobile-phone-wielding teenager in the area?

Differentiate yourself not by the quality of your photos but by the experience you offer. In doing so, your clients will perceive their pictures as sharper, more expressive, and just plain better than others. This is true even if your photos aren’t actually as good on a technical level – which is a real kick in the head for photographers who have amassed years of knowledge, experience, and gear.

Think of the many times you have seen photos that friends and family have posted on social media or sent out in Christmas cards to which your reaction was one of shock and horror. The lighting is all wrong! The background is so distracting! Aunt Ginny is out of focus! Nevertheless, the pictures are seen by the clients as high-quality because they enjoyed the experience as a whole and received an outstanding degree of service. Photographers who can do that are the ones getting likes, shares, recommendations, and bookings.

Improving Customer Experience

In an interview with NPR, Tony Hseih, the founder of the online shoe retailer Zappos, described his approach to selling shoes which, ironically, had nothing at all to do with shoes. He said that as his company grew, “A big turning point was really deciding we wanted to build our brand to be about the very best customer service and customer experience.”

He really meant it, and if you visit Zappos you won’t see shoes and handbags that are cheaper than other retailers. They don’t even try to compete on price at all but by offering the best service of any clothing retailer in the market today.

Walker Information, a company that studies business marketing and consumer habits, recently released a study that predicted customer experience as being the single most important way for brands to differentiate themselves by the year 2020. And that, I would argue, is the silver lining to the clouds that can easily darken a photographer’s horizon these days.

I honestly wasn’t a huge fan of this image and I think some of the others I delivered to my client were superior. But the mother was thrilled with it because I had her sprinkle leaves on her daughter while I shot photos. She had fun doing it, and as a result, viewed the final image as high-quality even though there are others that I think are probably better. My client was happy with the picture and that’s what ultimately matters.

Customer service is king

Photography has been available to everyone ever since Kodak invented the Brownie camera in 1900, but never have cameras been so powerful, ubiquitous, or easy to use as they are now. With such a crowded marketplace in which almost anyone can take high-quality photos, (even if you might not think they can hold a candle to your high-res, ultra-sharp, professional-style shots) you have to do something to stand out from the crowd and give people a reason to hire you.

That differentiating factor is the complete customer service experience. From the moment you make the first contact with potential clients, to the photography session, to the communication afterward, and even the way in which you deliver photos all matter. (You’re not handing clients a CD-ROM with watermarked JPG files, are you?)

The trump card you have up your sleeve is that you can do the best of both worlds. You have all the skills that make you a highly capable photographer and you likely have a growing collection of cameras, lenses, and software to help you achieve outstanding results. In addition to that, you can also provide a fantastic all-encompassing photography experience that your clients will remember for years while also recommending you to their friends and family.

I actually see the onset of mobile phones and computational photography as an opportunity, not a threat, and a way for me to show others how my work really does stand out.


I started this article by mentioning a photo session for a high school senior. After I delivered her final edited pictures, what really stuck in my mind was how she and her parents talked about the experience as a whole. Her parents told me how much fun she had and expressed appreciation that I was able to bring their normally camera-shy daughter out of her shell a bit to get some gorgeous images of their daughter that they don’t normally see.

I say this to illustrate a point about the core lesson of this whole article. You are in the photography business, but in today’s world, you can no longer afford to be just a photographer. You have to be so much more.

You have to create memorable experiences for your clients, allow them to elevate the quality of your work because of those experiences, and be attentive to their needs throughout the photography process. Even though this might take a bit of work, the results will pay off in the long run and people will see with their own eyes, and hear from their friends, about why your work is a cut above the rest.

The post Why You are not in the Photography Business – You are in the People Business by Simon Ringsmuth appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to Use Negative Space in People Photography

11 Oct

When it comes to people photography, one of the most common pieces of advice is to “fill the frame” with your subject. In general, this is a good rule of thumb that can dramatically improve your photography right away. However, sometimes rules are meant to be broken, and learning how to use negative space in people photography can also be valuable in delivering a varied and useful gallery of images.

People Photography Negative Space

What is Negative Space?

When you’re photographing people, the subject of your image is always the person (or people) in your frame. Similarly, the negative space of an image is anything other than the subject. It’s the foreground, the background, and the visual “breathing room” all around your subject.

Although it can be counterintuitive, allowing a bit of space around your subject helps draw the viewer’s eye directly to the person you’re photographing. This, in turn, emphasizes their importance in the final image.

How to Use Negative Space in People Photography

How Do You Do Negative Space Well?

So, how do you make sure that your negative space looks intentional and not accidental when you’re photographing people? Here are a few tips that will help get you started combining negative space images and people photography.

Think in Thirds

How to Use Negative Space in People Photography

When creating a negative space image in people photography, aim for your subject to take up one-third of the image, and the negative space to take up roughly two-thirds of the image. Following guideline ensures that your subject is large enough to be seen while also creating a ratio that’s visually pleasing to the eye. You’ll also notice that using this ratio as a general framework for your images allows you to implement the rule of thirds in your negative space images, which further helps to ensure that your images are composed well and are aesthetically pleasing.

Face the Space

Rule of Thirds Photography - How to Use Negative Space in People Photography

If you elect to follow the rule of thirds and compose your subject off center, spend some time experimenting with the direction your subject is facing. Is the image stronger when your subject is facing the negative space or facing away from the negative space? As a general rule, try to pose your subject so they’re looking towards the negative space. This is particularly important if the person you’re photographing is walking, running, or playing sports.

By doing so, our brains are able to imagine the subject traveling through the negative space, which creates a more compelling and believable image. In addition, directing the person you’re photographing to look towards the negative space creates an image that looks more candid, which is a great way of adding diversity to some of your posed session images.

Bring it to the Center

How to Use Negative Space in People Photography

Keep in mind that not all negative space images have to be offset! Try bringing your subject to the center of the frame while simultaneously allowing plenty of “headspace” around them in your image. This technique is similar to the idea of white space in graphic design, rests in musical composition, and high-end clothing stores that leave plenty of space between the clothing on the racks.

By limiting the proportion of the image that causes our mind to “think”, we’re emphasizing the importance of the objects that do exist in the frame, thus increasing their perceived value in our brain.

It’s Not All About Neutrals

White Space in Photography - How to Use Negative Space in People Photography

Negative space images don’t have to be all about neutral backgrounds and bokeh that obscures the background beyond recognition. Whether you’re at a favorite lake or their family’s historic farmhouse, negative space images can be a great way to subtly reference location without making it the star of the show!

Look for backdrops that are relatively uniform in color and/or pattern, which will invoke the same visual feeling of breathing room and rest around your subject, while simultaneously visually cueing your location.

Why Does Negative Space Matter?

Now that you know how to create images of people that utilize negative space, it’s also helpful to understand why negative space images are important and why you should consider incorporating at least a few into every photo session.

Emphasizing Scale

Newborn Photography Scale - How to Use Negative Space in People Photography

Using negative space when you’re photographing people can help to emphasize the size of the person you’re photographing. For example, if you’re photographing a newborn and fill the frame in every image you take, you may have missed the ability to convey just how small newborn babies are relative to their surroundings.

By including varying degrees of negative space in your images, you will be better equipped to emphasize the scale of a newborn. Similarly, you could also consider using negative space images to convey how small a bride and groom are compared to the vast beach they were married on.

Give Your Clients Options

Headspace in Portraits - How to Use Negative Space in People Photography

If any part of your business plan includes offering digital images to your clients, keep in mind that many of your clients will want to post the images you’ve taken on social media. Many of the popular social media platforms are not very conducive to typical “fill the frame” portraits, forcing your client to either cut off the top of their head or cut off their shoulders (leaving them looking rather like a floating head as above).

Similarly, if a client requests a certain image printed on a canvas, images with negative space allow you to accommodate that request without worrying about part of the image getting cut off by the gallery wrap. By including negative space in a few images, you’ll be giving your clients more options and less frustration!

Give Yourself Options

Original shot with negative space on the left.

Not only do images with negative space give your clients flexibility, they give you additional flexibility as the photographer as well!

Want to submit your image for the cover of a local magazine? Many editors want images with plenty of negative space to accommodate headline text. Want to start offering a Christmas Card design to your clients? Negative space images help make that easier. Want to advertise mini sessions on Facebook? Try placing the text in the negative space of one of your favorite images.

Using Negative Space in Photos - How to Use Negative Space in People Photography

The negative space in this image allows room to add a text overlay.

Making an effort to utilize negative space every time you photograph people will give you more ways to use your images.

Wrapping it Up

How to Use Negative Space in People Photography

In a nutshell, using negative space when you’re photographing people can help bring attention to your subject. It can also showcase locations in an unobtrusive way. Negative space also helps emphasize movement and scale, add variety to your images, and offers more flexibility to both you and your client. It’s a great technique you can implement right away and it costs nothing!

The post How to Use Negative Space in People Photography by Meredith Clark appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Photo of the week: Shooting portraits of the Himba people in Namibia

13 Aug

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My photography heroes are Steve McCurry, Sebastiao Salgado, Jimmy Nelson and Joey L for his work in Africa, India and Syria. Their work has always inspired me, being at once raw and gritty, and at the same time revealing a bullet-proof dignity in their subjects. I would love to be able to work in this space myself.

I understand that it’s a different era now and that grabbing a job at National Geographic is not a realistic option. I also know that no one is coming to knock on my door to hire me for this sort of work just because I would love to do it. There are no favours in this industry. If I ever manage to make this sort of work my full time job it will be because I have already proved that I could produce quality imagery in this area.

So I recently packed my bags and gear and headed to a country which has always held a special interest for me: Namibia. I went to the tribal homelands of the Himba people and organized through a local guide to head into one of the villages for golden hour, for two evenings in a row, to shoot portraits with them.

On the first evening I went in I found this lovely little girl sitting with her Grandmother. She was shy and watching me as I shot with some of her family, and every time I looked over she hid her face and giggled. After a few minutes though her grandmother called me over and wanted me to take a shot of the two of them together, and after a couple of minutes the little girl opened up and I managed to grab these two shots. For obvious reasons, I try to share them as a pair whenever possible.

I used my trusty Canon 5DmkII and shot with the Sigma 50mm F1.4 lens, which I love for its crisp image. The settings were ISO200 and F2 at 1/100. I was handholding the camera, and the images are both naturally lit with a white reflector to fill.

If you’d like to see a behind the scenes video of this trip check it out here.

Sean Tucker is a professional filmmaker and photographer who is constantly striving to bring his own spark and eye to every project. You can find more of his work by visiting his website, subscribing to his channel on YouTube, or following him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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NatGeo and Airbnb will send two people to view the eclipse from a private jet

08 Aug

Two lucky people will get to view the August 21st solar eclipse from a private jet above the clouds thanks to Airbnb and National Geographic, proceeded by a night in a geodesic dome in the Oregon wilderness. The experience is being offered by the two companies in the form of a contest, which you can enter now on Airbnb’s website. Those who go on the private flight will be among the first to see the solar eclipse.

According to Airbnb, the night before the eclipse will be spent in the geodesic dome located near hiking and rock-climbing destination Smith Rock in the Oregon wilderness. The duo will be accompanied by Yale University astrophysicist Dr. Jedidah Isler and National Geographic photographer and science journalist Babak Tafreshi.

An observation deck on the dome includes multiple telescopes, and as you gaze at the heavens Isler will answer questions related to astrophysics while Tafreshi teaches you how to photograph the night sky… not bad. But that’s not the best part.

On August 21st, the two winners, Isler, and a crew will take off from the Redmond Municipal Airport and fly two hours west, at which point the flight will turn around and head back toward land along the Path of Totality, giving everyone onboard an extended, unique view of the total solar eclipse.

Anyone 21 years old or older from the U.S. or Canada can enter the contest. Winners will need to travel to Seattle, Washington on August 20, and must have passports that are valid for at least six months following the date of the adventure. The full list of rules and conditions are listed on Airbnb’s website.

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5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Help Improve Your People Photography

27 Jul

They say the lines on a person’s face can tell a thousand stories. Getting the photo that tells those many stories is the holy grail of photography. So what can you do to create standout people photography, especially if you don’t already know the person?

The approach that every people photographer takes is different, but below are five questions that all most will have asked themselves. Each photographer may answer the questions differently and yet still produce amazing results, as photography styles are all different, of course. To improve your people photography, take the time to look at these questions, and ask how they apply to you.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Help Improve Your People Photography

This is a photo of a Shaman from Malaysian Borneo. A connection had already been formed with this man after my friend told him I’d photographed for National Geographic. So we were able to use off-camera flash as he posed for us.

1 – Long lens or short lens?

The chances are when you start photographing people you’ll use a longer focal length. This can be true of people who you know, it’s especially true of people you don’t know. Photographers who enjoy street photography will tell you that using a 50mm lens is best. But the truth is that it really depends on the situation.

The long lens

This really means any lens over 85mm on a full frame camera. The nice thing about these lenses is that you can photograph from a distance that’s non-invasive. This is great because you don’t need to interact with the person you’re photographing, and this is terrible because you don’t need to interact with the person you’re photographing.

There are good reasons for and against direct interaction with your subject, something we’ll come to later. The reason you may come to use a long lens is that it compresses the scene, and allows you to focus in on the person, without outside distracting elements.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Help Improve Your People Photography

A longer lens was used in this photo, resulting in a simpler photo.

The short lens

This means lenses 50mm or below, with the 50mm lens being the street photographers go-to lens. Using a lens like this will force you to interact with the person you’re photographing on some level. It’s far better to build a rapport with the person than going with hit and run. Besides the advantages you will gain from building rapport, wider lenses also allow more context to be seen in the frame.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Help Improve Your People Photography

Using a wider lens can improve your portraits. This was photographed at 50mm, and more of the story behind the scene can be seen.

Now, of course, you can get prime or zoom lenses that are both long or short in focal length. When it comes to people photography, the larger aperture that prime lenses offer is a great advantage. Photographing people with prime lenses is, therefore, best and will to improve your portraits.

2 – What technique works best?

There are many different approaches to people photography to improve your portraits. As discussed above, choosing your lens will help. Applying techniques like bokeh can also get you better results. A few ideas that might help you are described here.

Shoot from the hip photography

This means leaving your camera at your hip and photographing without lifting your camera to your eye. How can this be good photography you may ask? Those experienced at this technique know how to use their camera, and can pre-visualise the result without needing to confirm it with their eyes.

  1. To take photos like this focus the lens to a set distance in front of you.
  2. Use an aperture of f/11 or smaller to have more depth of field.
  3. Choose an ISO that allows for a fast enough shutter speed to avoid motion blur.
  4. Make sure your camera isn’t too crooked, although some angles can work for this style of photography.
  5. Walk past the location you wish to photograph, and hit the shutter as you’re walking or with a brief pause.
5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Help Improve Your People Photography

This scene from the New York subway was photographed from the hip.

Use the light

The correct use of light will always improve your people photography. There are occasions when natural or artificial light can drastically improve your photo. At night you will need to look for a strong artificial light that people can stand near, during the day a shard of sunlight through a gap in the roof could also be used.

Here are some tips for using light to your advantage:

  1. Take up position away from the light source. You will want people walking towards you and into the lit up area.
  2. Wait until the magic moment comes, and the person’s face is well lit by the source of light.
  3. Have your camera focused on the area where the person will become lit up, and switch the camera to manual focus.
  4. Expose for the person’s face. This will mean the background appears very dark, or even black. The background may be at a -2 or -3 exposure value.
  5. Wait for people to walk into the lit up area, and then photograph them. You will need to wait patiently for people to walk by, into the correct area.
5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Help Improve Your People Photography

This man was lit up by artificial light, giving the photo a low-key, high-contrast look. Learning how to use light will improve your people photos.


Waiting for people to walk into the light isn’t the only time patience will be needed. You might have a natural frame like a doorway, so you will need to wait for someone to walk through it. This approach is not unlike fishing, and the time spent waiting for the right moment can be calming. The most important thing is to make sure your composition and camera settings are already set. Now it’s just a waiting game for somebody to walk past. Alternatively, you could speed things up by asking a friend to walk into the frame.

Forming relationships

5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Help Improve Your People Photography

The value of building relationships in photography is important, it will improve your portraits. This was the first time I saw the monk, Cheongsan. I didn’t interact with him at all, and this is the result.

The very best way to take photos of people, time permitting, is to form a bond with them. Taking the time to interact, and find out about the person you want to photograph will almost always give you a much better photo. The chances of them giving you permission to photograph will be much higher, and you can control the scene more.

Once you have permission you then have the choice between a staged or candid photo, since you can ask the person to ignore you when you are shooting. The chance to get a great photo that you can share with them can form a lasting connection with you as a photographer. The level of interaction also depends on time, whether it’s 30 minutes or several hours. The types of photos you may get if you’re able to revisit the person on several occasions will also improve dramatically.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Help Improve Your People Photography

The next time I saw Cheongsan, I made the effort to approach him. As a result, he let me take this photo and gave me a business card.

3 – Do you ask for permission?

When the person you’re photographing is your friend or a model, then in most cases asking permission would not be needed, and indeed might be strange to ask. Photographing a stranger is a different proposition though, so to ask or not to ask, that is the question.

There is no one correct answer to this conundrum, but certain situations may dictate your actions. If you want a truly natural moment, with no hint of a staged photos then you’ll want to try and avoid asking permission. The caveat to that statement is that if you have time to build a friendship with those people you wish to photograph in a natural way this is also possible, after getting permission to take the photograph.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Help Improve Your People Photography

The next time I visited Cheongsan, I had contacted him ahead of time and asked if I could take some photos of him. You will improve your people photography even more by setting up a shoot with someone.

Asking permission is the polite thing to do, and will often improve your photos. You need to have thick skin when asking people though, as asking on the spot will lead to many rejections. You need to ask yourself how you can form a relationship with someone even quickly to smooth this process, so you’re more likely to have the person say yes. Is the person you want to photograph a vendor, for instance. Perhaps you need to show some goodwill and buy one of the things they’re selling. If you’re in a country where English is not spoken asking permission may involve the use of body language. So perhaps learning a few polite words like please and thank you for going along with those non-verbal cues would be prudent.

The general rule on whether you should ask permission is up to you. When the photo you’re taking is in that person’s personal space, it’s much better to ask permission.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Help Improve Your People Photography

I loved this man’s glasses and general style, so I asked if I could take his picture. I got a posed photo, but loved the way he posed.

4 – Candid versus staged?

This is related to the question above, but you can get candid photos even after asking permission. If the quest here is for authenticity, can you capture a great moment with your camera that’s natural? This is the aim of many photographers. However, if your aim is to tell a story through a series of photos you should really try and get a mixture of both. On an individual basis, let’s weigh up both the pros and cons of candid and staged photos.

Candid captures

This requires a keen eye, sharp reflexes, but also absolute patience. When walking around taking photos you have to be hyper aware of your surroundings in order to get photographic moments that last the blink of an eye. Photographing split second moments means you need to be utterly absorbed in your surroundings, you need to become the surroundings.

You almost have to achieve an internal meditative state. Staying on the move means you are going to the moment of capture. This means you need to be very quick to catch it. Alternatively, you can find a location, compose your photo, and then wait for the right moment to come to you. This approach can take hours, so you will need a lot of patience!

5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Help Improve Your People Photography

This photo taken was taken in the harbor in Yangon. There is nothing staged about it, I just had to wait for the right moment.

Staged shots

Once the photo is going to be staged, you have a lot of control over how the photo is taken. At this stage the person you’re photographing has consented and will be actively involved in how the photo is produced. When done well, this often leads to a more striking photo than one produced candidly, you are in the realms of a visual storyteller.

The photograph could be a simple head shot, or a more complex photo when your model interacts with their surroundings. As the photo is staged, you can ask your model to stand in the best position for available light, and the background. Your model should be well lit, with the eyes illuminated by the light in the frame. If you have off-camera flash with you, you might even consider using this to really improve your portraits.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Help Improve Your People Photography

In this photo, I asked the lady if she would pose for me. After getting permission, I was able to set up the photo and use off-camera flash to light her face.

5 – Where should you take people photos?

The answer to that is anywhere there are people, which is more or less everywhere. You can also choose a location to visit such as a market. Below are a few ideas you can try, though you may have some better ideas specific to where you live.

  • The market – This is the stock location for many people wanting to take people photos. There will always be people at the market. You can take photos of the vendors, customers, or the vendors and customers interacting. The downside is the people working in the market may not like yet another photographer take photos of them. This is where building relationships with the people in the market can help.
  • Public transport – A great reason to avoid the taxi, and leave your car at home. Getting on public transport is a great way to explore a location, and the people there. Be aware that in some locations you will need to get permission from the transport operator, as well as the people you are photographing.
  • A harbor – Anywhere there is a river will likely have a harbor. The life of people working in these places can produce great photographs. You will need to be prepared to wake up early in the morning to see the fishermen at work. This is another great example of how building relationships help, you might be invited onto one of their boats if you get to know a fisherman.
  • Festivals – This could mean a cultural festival such as Chinese new year, or a rock concert. Festivals will have people dressed in attention grabbing clothes that look great when photographed. You may find people more open to having their photo taken at an event as well, because they’re having a good time, and are often dressed well.
5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Help Improve Your People Photography

Visiting places people work can be good locales for people photography. A sulfur mine is an extreme example, however, going to extremes will improve your photos though.

Getting model releases, and paying your model

Whether or not to pay for a photo is another question many people ask about. It is up to you to judge each situation for yourself. Photos being taken for a specifical commercial usage are the types of images where you should pay the model a percentage of your fee. When the photos you are taking are for personal use, paying the model is at your discretion. Chances are you will find someone who will let you take their photo for free, so it’s a nice gesture to send them an image once you have processed them.

Once you decide to pay the person to take their photo, it’s unprofessional not to get a model release. If the person you’re paying won’t sign a model release then don’t pay them, and move onto somebody else. The reason you are paying for a photo is you intend to use it for promoting your work, or for direct commercial usage. This means you need to get a model release, and there are apps available for smartphones that make this very easy.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Help Improve Your People Photography

This is one of the miners at Kawah Ijen in Indonesia. He signed a model release and was paid for this photo.

It takes practice to improve your people photography

Now it’s your turn. It’s time to go out and practice your people photography in your local area. Are there any ways that you like to take portraits that are different from this article? I’d love to hear your ideas as well, so please share them in the comments below.

What’s your favorite people photo you’ve taken? Again share your great photo with us, and describe how you went about taking it. Finally, get out there and get some new people photos. Hopefully, some of the ideas in this article will help improve your images.

The post 5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Help Improve Your People Photography by Simon Bond appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Study finds most people can’t spot manipulated photos, can you?

21 Jul

A new photography study from researchers at the University of Warwick has found that many people aren’t very good at determining whether an image has been digitally manipulated.

The study, which has an online test component that anyone can take, asks volunteers to look at 10 different images and guess whether each is altered or unaltered. Volunteers are also tasked with choosing the part of the image they think was altered, and rating their certainty about the alteration(s) or lack thereof.

After compiling the results, the researchers found that only 65% of altered images were correctly identified by volunteers; even less unaltered images were identified, at just 58%. Given that chance performance is 50%, the results show that the volunteers did little better than they would have with simple guessing. Furthermore, the team found that age and gender did not affect the results, with the difficulty being notable across all volunteers.

“In the digital age, where photo editing is easy and accessible to everyone, this research raises questions about how vigilant we must be before we can trust a picture’s authenticity,” said the university in a release. “It is crucial that images used as evidence in courts—and those used in journalism—are better monitored, to ensure they are accurate and truthful, as faked images in these contexts could lead to dire consequences and miscarriages of justice.”

The question is, can a bunch of photography nerds wreck the curve? Take the online component and let us know how you did in the comments.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (

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7 Travel Photography Tips I’ve Learned from People in the Industry

20 Jul

Like any profession, over the years and countless hours of working and talking to people in the industry, you will pick up tips, advice and even things to avoid. This will ultimately help you improve and possibly make your photography business more profitable. Here are some of the main tips that I have picked up over the years from people in the travel photography industry.

7 Travel Photography Tips I've Learned from People in the Industry - new zealand

#1 – Blue Sells

If you were to line up a whole load of travel magazines next to each other, you will notice that the vast majority of their front covers have something in common, the color blue. Whether it is the sky or water, magazine covers tend to feature photos of gorgeous sunny days rather than moody, dark and atmospheric conditions.

I had always noticed that my “gorgeous sunny weather” shots outsold the photos with other types of conditions. But it wasn’t until the editor of a travel magazine told me the reason that I understood why. They found that historically, issues with beautiful sunny shots on the front cover sold much better than issues with dark and moody conditions. The reason is that most people going about their day aspire for tranquil and beautiful holiday conditions. So, while a stormy landscape photo might look more dramatic and striking, the average holidaymaker doesn’t want to go somewhere and experience a storm.

7 Travel Photography Tips I've Learned from People in the Industry - Scotland

#2 – Avoid “Tourist” Shots

I remember asking a picture editor once for the single biggest piece of advice they could give me and they responded with, “Don’t send me tourist shots.” But what does that mean? After all, if you are in a city and have to photograph the most famous landmark then how do you avoid tourist shots. Once I delved in a little deeper, I realized what he meant was that he didn’t want just another shot of the famous landmark taken at eye level because he could get thousands of them through any stock agency.

Instead, he wanted to see a photo that demonstrated an experience, feeling or mood. This was a few years back and more and more I have been asked by picture editors and stock agencies I work with to try to show these “experiences” in the photos. So rather than taking a photo of the landmark, it might be worth photographing a couple enjoying an ice cream in its shadow. The key is to look beyond the obvious shot and look for a moment or composition that can convey an emotion.

7 Travel Photography Tips I've Learned from People in the Industry Turkey

#3 – Give Them People

Often the easiest way to capture unique photos that don’t look like tourist shots is to include people. But including people in your photos can also convey a sense of scale, portray an emotion or a feeling and often tell a much more intriguing story. One of the best bits of advice I was given was that including people can also help you capture different types of shots from the same location. That, in turn, means you can maximize your stock shots from a single location.

For example, take any scene in front of you. If you capture that scene with a couple admiring the view holding hands it tells a completely different story than capturing the scene with someone running or cycling. So you suddenly go from one photograph per location to three. Move slightly around the scene and capture a few different scenarios and you can suddenly end up with a whole load of different stories from practically the same spot. As any stock photographer will tell you, it’s a numbers game and the more photos you have the better your chances of selling some.

 7 Travel Photography Tips I've Learned from People in the Industry Turkey

Taken from the same location as the photo above but a completely different message.

#4 – Check Every Photo, Every Time

Photography is a competitive industry. You are often competing with pretty much everyone with a camera to try and get work or make sales. The last thing you want to happen is to have a photo that has been chosen by a client come back to you because it isn’t focused properly or you haven’t removed the dust particles. Not only is it embarrassing, but it can also hurt your chances of working with that client further down the line.

So don’t try and cut corners. You worked hard to capture the photo so do it justice and make sure it looks its best when it’s going in front of someone else. Check every inch of the photos you intend to send out to clients. View them at 100% in post-production and make any corrections or edit as necessary. Be professional in your approach from start to the finish.

7 Travel Photography Tips I've Learned from People in the Industry

#5 – Face the Opposite Way

It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, there will usually be a spot marked “sunset viewpoint” or similar where everyone will go to capture their photos. Often this is because that particular spot offers the best view. But sometimes it is because it is the easiest and most convenient place for lots of people to get to or stand.

One bit of advice that has been floating around for many years and has been said by numerous photographers, is that when you get to one such location, face the other way. Go against the crowd and photograph what is behind everyone. Clearly this advice shouldn’t be taken literally as sometimes photographing the other way wouldn’t give a good photo. The point is to look beyond the first and most obvious location and viewpoint.

If you are prepared to do your research beforehand and are willing to put more of an effort in than the average tourist, you will undoubtedly end up with better photos.

7 Travel Photography Tips I've Learned from People in the Industry

#6 – Step Closer

The world famous war photographer, Robert Capa said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”. This is something that most amateur photographers struggle with for travel photography and photographing people. It often means having to get close to your subject and they then might notice you.

The truth is that usually, the worst that can happen is that the person you want to photograph will just say no. But getting closer means having to be right in the middle of the action and that you also have to engage with that person and build a connection, if even briefly. This, in turn, will transfer into your photographs and give you a much better and more intimate photo than if you were standing 300 yards away with a telephoto lens.

7 Travel Photography Tips I've Learned from People in the Industry - Italy

#7 0 Don’t Be Shy

One of the biggest things that you may realize as a photographer is how accommodating and intrigued most people are about your profession. I have not kept a tally of the number of conversations I’ve had with total strangers all based around photography, but it’s been a lot. One thing I learned is that sometimes when you have a camera on your shoulder it can work to your advantage (and sometimes it can work against you) as people may help you capture the photo that you want to take.

But you have to be willing to ask. If you don’t ask you will not get. For example, one of the best places to take photographs of a city is from your hotel room. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I have been upgraded to a room with a better view by simply asking and explaining the reason for it. This extends to if you want to photograph people, places, and so on. Don’t be shy, just ask. The worst that could happen is being told no.

7 Travel Photography Tips I've Learned from People in the Industry Thailand

I took this photo of the Bangkok skyline from my hotel room.


Over the years you will pick up your own tips and advice that you have been given or have derived from your own experiences. In the meantime, hopefully, the ones above can be as helpful to you as they have been for me.

Do you have any other bits of advice that you have been given? Please share below.

The post 7 Travel Photography Tips I’ve Learned from People in the Industry by Kav Dadfar appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

19 Jul

The worst part about taking photos of monuments and city streets is that you always get cars and people blocking the architecture behind them. It can be very distractive, and they take away from the real subject. In this Photoshop tutorial, you will learn a technique that will allow you to quickly remove people and cars from your photos. You do need to plan ahead and take multiple photos, but the results will be amazing!

Photoshop has this little-known feature that has been around for over a decade called Image Stack Modes.
The Image Stack Modes are sort of like a Blending Mode that blends layers inside of a Smart Object in a certain way depending on the algorithm that you select.

One of those Stack Modes is Median, which takes a statistical average of the content found in all the photos in the stack. It will keep identical areas and remove everything that changes between the different shots. It is very likely that cars and people will move and change locations from one shot to the next. Thus, you can remove people and unwanted traffic when the algorithm is applied, leaving only the background.

The tricky part is to get the right photos for this Stack Mode to work. Ideally, you should take your photos on a tripod so that the images line up better during the blend. However, if you do not have a tripod, hold your camera as steady as possible when shooting your images and you will still get great results.

The pictures that we will be using in this tutorial were shot by hand with a mobile phone. I wanted to use photos that were less than perfect so that you could see the power of this technique.

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

When you take your photos, wait about 20 seconds or so in between each shot. You want to give people and cars enough time to move. In most cases, you will need between 8 to 25 photos.

Bring Your Photos into a Single Photoshop Document

The first step is to bring the image files into Photoshop as layers in a single document. To do so, go to File > Scrips > Load Files into Stack…

In the “Load Layers” window select “Folder” from the “Use” drop down. Then click on the “Browse” button, and look for the folder containing your images. Press OK after you have selected the folder.

The file names will appear within the window (as shown below). If all the files are there, press the OK button. Photoshop will then take all the files and place them in a single document as layers.

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

Auto-aligning Layers

For the Image Stack to work, the layers need to be aligned as best as possible. If you used a tripod when shooting the images, then your layers should already be aligned. The photos used in this tutorial were shot without a tripod, so we will need Photoshop to align them for us.

To align the layers, select them all by pressing Cmd + Option + A (Ctrl + Alt + A on PC). Then go to the Edit menu and select “Auto-Align Layers.” Make sure that “Auto” is selected, and press “OK.” Photoshop will then look through all your layers to find similar pixels and align them accordingly.

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

Put Aligned Layers into a Smart Object

Now that all the layers are aligned, you need to put them into a Smart Object so that you can apply the Stack Mode. Select all your layers again by pressing Cmd + Option + A (Ctrl + Alt + A on PC). Then right-click the space on the left side of any selected layers and choose “Convert to Smart Object.”

You should now only have a single Smart Object in your Layers Panel.

The Median Stack Mode

Now that all the layers are inside a Smart Object you can control how the set blends by using a “Stack Mode.” Go to Layer > Smart Objects > Stack Mode > Median.

This Stack Mode takes a statistical average of the content found in all the photos. It keeps identical areas and removes everything that changes between the different shots, such as people walking through the scene.

Faster Way of Doing This – The Statistics Script

You can get to this point in the tutorial by only using one single command!

The reason that I took the long approach was so that you could see what Photoshop was doing behind the scenes. If you get into trouble, then you’ll know what the steps were to create the effect, and you can backtrack to fix the problem.
To do this whole process in a single command, go to File > Scripts > Statistics…

In the Image Statistics window, select Folder you want to use. Click on the Browse button to find the images that you want to use in the Image Stack.

Once the images load, select Median as the Stack Mode, and check “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images.”

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

This will Auto-Align the images, put them in a Smart Object using the Median Stack Mode. Getting you to this part of the demo all within one window!

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

Fixing Image Stack Errors

Problems may arise when dealing with background elements that are always moving, such as water, clouds, or flags. In this example, the two flags on top of the Tribune Tower disappear. We can bring them back by copying and pasting a flag from one of the original images.

To see the original images, go to Layer > Smart Object > Edit Contents. A new tab will open that contains the contents of the Smart Object. Then look through your layers to see which of the original layers contains the best version of the item you would like to replace.

Select the Lasso Tool and make a selection around the objects. With the selection active press Cmd/Ctrl + C to copy.

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

Go back to the working document and press Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + V to “Paste in Place.” Repeat these steps with any other object that you need to fix.

Create a Smart Object to Hold it All Together

Select the all the layers by pressing Cmd + Option + A (Ctrl + Alt + A on a PC), right-click on the side of any selected layer and choose “Convert to Smart Object.” This Smart Object can now be adjusted or manipulated as if it were a single layer. You can apply the Camera RAW filter non-destructively to enhance the image color and tone.

Camera RAW Filter to Adjust Tones and Color

Select the Smart Object containing all the layers and open Adobe Camera Raw by going to: Filter > Camera RAW. This filter works a lot like Adobe Lightroom. The controls are in a similar layout and do the same things. Lightroom is built from the Camera RAW engine, so it will be familiar to you if you are a Lightroom user.

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

You can create an HDR effect by darkening the Highlights and brightening the Shadows. Slide the Highlights slider to the left, and the Shadows slider to the right. Slide the Clarity slider to the right. Clarity adds contrast to the mid-tones.

Finalize the effect by adding Vibrance which is a controlled saturation. Vibrance adds less saturation to already saturated areas, and it protects skin tones in portraits.

Crop Your Photo

If you did not use a tripod, you will see that the edges of the photo are likely misaligned. To remove these imperfections, you can simply crop them out by using the Crop Tool. Press C on the keyboard, then use the handles to adjust the size of the crop. Press Return when you’re done.

This is how the final image looks:

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop


Give this technique for and go try and remove people and cars from your images. Let me know how you make out and if you have any questions, please post them in the comments area below.

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How Including People or Manmade Objects in Your Landscapes Can Add a Sense of Scale

25 May

My natural instinct as a landscape photographer has always been to keep people and manmade objects out of my images. I want to create images of nature that are pure and free (or at least appear to be free) of human interference. That said, over the past few years, I have started to backtrack on this a bit, especially when the camera fails to show the true scale of a landscape. In this article, I’ll share a small collection of images from my portfolio that include situations where allowing people or objects into the scene made the image a success.

Add a manmade object to show size

Na Pali Coast Sunset Sony A7RII and Sony 16-35 f/4 | ISO 500, f/4.5, 1/800th.

Here is (quite possibly) the most beautiful and rugged stretch of coastline on Earth, the Na Pali Coast of Kauai. I’ve photographed it from land, sea and air and still there is just no way to truly capture how incredible it is in person. On my most recent trip to the Garden Isle, I took my workshop group on a sunset cruise up to photograph whales and the Na Pali Coast.

As we were taking in the incredible scenery, I noticed one of the many helicopters that tour the coastline cutting through the scene. Using my Sony FE 16-35 f/4 lens, I framed a shot with the helicopter (flying right to left) on the right side of the frame (it’s the tiny little white spot) with plenty of space on the left side to see where it was headed. Take away the helicopter and it’s still an incredible scene, but without the helicopter, there’s just no way to accurately communicate how massive these cliffs are.

Use tourists to show scale

Balanced Rock Sunset Sony A7 and Canon 16-35 f/2.8 | ISO 100, f/11, 1/20th.

One of the easiest to reach landmarks in Arches National Park (located in Moab, Utah) is Balanced Rock. You just drive to the parking lot, and you’re pretty much there. But to get the sunset in the background, you’ll need to walk to the other side.

As our group was getting into position for what was turning out to be a beautiful sunset, a tourist climbed right up onto the rocks and started taking selfies. Ugh. Well, instead of getting upset, I decided to make lemonade out of the lemons and yelled over to him, asking if he’d mind throwing his hands up in the air. We were able to get a shot showing just how huge this sandstone rock formation really is, and the pose of the tourist turned out quite nice.

Go with the flow

Grand Canyon Lookout Sony A7RII and Sony 16-35 f/4 | ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/10th.

Like the previous image, sometimes you just have to go with the flow. As Bruce Lee so famously said, “Be water, my friend.”

As the sun set over Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, I was in position to walk away with some really nice shots of the pink glow over the canyon. And just like in Moab, I saw a tourist walk right into the frame as I was about to press the shutter. This time though, he was much closer to the camera and as luck would have it, he was dressed in a cowboy hat, boots, and a leather backpack. Perfect! I never said a single word to this guy, he just stood there looking out over the canyon holding onto the tip of his cowboy hat. I assume he posing for someone else, but I was plenty happy to steal a few frames for myself.

Add yourself into the shot

Delicate Arch Beneath the Milky Way Sony A7S and Sony 16-35 f/4 | ISO 4000, f/4, 30 seconds.

You can’t always have people walk into your frame at the perfect time, wearing clothing that perfectly matches the location you’re photographing. Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands, as I did here at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park.

My workshop group and co-instructor Mike were down inside the “bowl” beneath the arch and I stayed up top to light paint the arch for them during their 30-second exposures. We had walkie-talkies and Mike would give me a countdown to begin painting the arch in different ways. Since I couldn’t really concentrate on getting any of my own shots, I set my Sony A7S on a tripod, put it in time-lapse mode and just hoped to come out with one or two shots at the end of the night.

In the image above, that light shining under the arch is yours truly. I was standing beneath it, wearing a headlamp, so the students could get a silhouette of me looking up at the arch. After the shot, I looked over toward my camera (not on purpose though) and the direct light caused a starburst effect. This turned out to be my favorite image I’ve taken at this location by far. Not bad for the “set it and forget it” method!



Sometimes there just isn’t a good way to transfer a three-dimensional landscape to a two-dimensional photograph. Things always get lost in translation to some extent. At the end of the day, we are part of nature and if including a human or manmade object into an image help give the viewer a more accurate sense of scale, I say go for it.

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