Archive for January, 2021

Adobe Camera Raw vs. Sony Imaging Edge Desktop: Which is your best bet?

31 Jan

For most photographers, the digital darkroom is based around payware or subscription software from the likes of Adobe, Capture One, DxO or one of their many rivals. But if you’re a Sony shooter, there’s an option which is available entirely free of charge along with your camera purchase: Sony Imaging Edge Desktop.*

Sony Imaging Edge Desktop version 3.0’s user interface.

In this article, we’ll take a look at how Imaging Edge Desktop compares with the 800-pound gorilla in the room, Adobe Camera Raw, whose algorithms also underpin the company’s popular Lightroom Classic application. As with previous articles in this series, I’m limiting myself only to still image editing in the interests of keeping things to a readable length, and won’t address features like image management, tethering or printing.

*Sony does include a version of Capture One, called ‘Express,’ with camera purchases, which we’ll investigate in a future article.

The ground rules

This comparison is based upon the most recent versions of each application at the time of writing. For Adobe, that’s Camera Raw 13.0 and Bridge 11.0. For Sony, it’s Imaging Edge Desktop 3.0. My computer is a 2018 Dell XPS 15 9570 laptop running Windows 10 version 1909.

To ensure neither Adobe nor Sony had any advantage out of the gate, I’ve aimed to reproduce, as closely as possible, the look of already-processed images from our galleries, without any prior knowledge as to the recipes behind them.

Adobe Camera Raw version 13.0’s user interface.

I’ve chosen images from the Sony A7 III (ILCE-7M3) for use in this comparison, as its been available for long enough for Adobe to fine-tune its rendering, while its price tag and resolution are broadly similar to those of the Canon EOS R and Nikon Z6 used in my previous manufacturer software comparisons.

Sharpness and noise reduction were left at their default settings to avoid overcomplicating things, while lens corrections were enabled for both applications. Images processed in ACR were saved at JPEG quality 11, just as used in our galleries. For Imaging Edge Desktop, which offers a choice of just four different compression levels, I used the maximum quality.

The main differences

Of course, the most immediately obvious differences between ACR and Sony’s Imaging Edge are their camera support and price tag. You already paid for Imaging Edge when you bought your Sony camera, so it’s effectively free. While it only supports Raws shot by the company’s own cameras, you can expect full Raw support for every Sony camera to be available pretty much immediately upon release.

Imaging Edge’s shadow and highlight sliders don’t give you as much latitude as the same sliders in Adobe Camera Raw, so shadows can only be lifted so far – even with D-Range Optimizer enabled.
Download the full ACR image here; the full Imaging Edge image here.

By contrast, ACR requires a recurring subscription fee. It supports a vast range of cameras from many manufacturers – including every single interchangeable-lens or large-sensor Sony camera made to date – but that support can sometimes take a while to arrive after the release of new models. It’s also sometimes more limited than that in first-party software, especially for older models.

For example, while Adobe offers ‘camera matching’ profiles for most recent Sony cameras, it’s not yet available for the recently-launched A7C. Nor has it been provided for any Translucent Mirror model made before 2014, or any Sony DSLR model at all.

A clean, modern interface with good multi-monitor support

Imaging Edge Desktop offers a twist on a modal interface. The initial install is merely a launcher which in turn installs and then launches separate viewer, editor and tethering apps. These can run separately or simultaneously, and can span multiple monitors. The editor app can’t browse entire folders of images, but you can open individual shots directly from within and stay out of the viewer app entirely, should you choose. Web help is available through the menu system, but it’s quite abbreviated.

We’ve found that Imaging Edge uses a bit stronger noise reduction by default, though in some cases its finer-radius sharpening will tease out the finest details a bit better; but ACR has a ‘punchier’ look.
Download the full ACR image here; the full Imaging Edge image here.

The user interface is really quite straightforward and very clean, although it does involve a lot of scrolling. Buttons in Imaging Edge and the individual apps launch the other apps, and the editor sports a single scrollable toolbar whose 14 sections can be rearranged or hidden. Thumbnails of currently-opened images line the bottom of the screen, but they’re tiny and not terribly useful even at Full HD resolution, and lots of space is wasted on the filenames. Nor can you move them to the side of the screen, unfortunately.

Unlike most rivals, Imaging Edge doesn’t treat your Raw files as sacrosanct

Sliders move smoothly, but some control names are a bit unintuitive like “overshoot” / “undershoot” for the sharpness control, or “magnification chromatic aberration correction”, neither of which are explained in help. There are also no automatic controls other than those for white balance, dynamic range and noise reduction.

A risky data strategy and not the best standards compliance

Sadly, while Imaging Edge plays nicely with pens and touch screens, it doesn’t support 4K monitors terribly well. Many user interface elements are too small for comfortable use, and Windows’ scaling setting is mostly ignored. Imaging Edge also doesn’t follow Windows keyboard conventions like tabbing between controls, and you can’t customize the keyboard shortcuts at all. And there are some occasional bugs; for example on canceling processing of a brief six-image batch, the program stopped functioning for multiple minutes and had to be force-closed.

Overall, I did find it easier to get more pleasant foliage and sky color out of Imaging Edge than Adobe Camera Raw.
Download the full ACR image here; the full Imaging Edge image here.

That’s doubly worrisome because unlike most rivals, Imaging Edge doesn’t treat your Raw files as sacrosanct. Instead of using a database to store its edits, or putting them in sidecar files in the same folder, Sony instead saves them in the headers of the original raw file.

The company has already been bitten by this approach once in the past with a separate application, PlayMemories Home, and in 2018 had to release a tool to correct that app’s corruption of Raw files. To avoid this issue, I recommend using Imaging Edge solely with copies of backed-up images.

Curiously, batch processing is not available in Edit mode, even if you have multiple images open. It’s available only from the Viewer window, and provides fairly limited possibilities for renaming your output images. Imaging Edge also only has a choice of four compression levels, and there’s a huge gap in quality between the highest (~15MB/image) and second-highest (~5MB/image) levels.

Reasonable if pedestrian performance

Compared to ACR, Sony Imaging Edge’s performance is reasonable, but it’s not going to light any fires. Where ACR takes just 12 seconds to process six images, Imaging Edge takes around 21.5 seconds when saving highest-quality JPEGs. Admittedly, dropping the quality level one step reduces this to just a hair under 20 seconds, but it also slashes files sizes by two-thirds.

You can see here how much more highlight detail Adobe Camera Raw is able to save in the windows, though the softer overall tonality of the Imaging Edge version isn’t unpleasant.
Download the full ACR image here; the full Imaging Edge image here.

While previews are two-pass, they update fairly quickly, usually within a second or two of releasing the control. This is still nowhere near as quick as Adobe’s near-real time previews, however. And they sometimes don’t update the whole screen at once, with a tile or two of the overall result occasionally needing a few additional seconds to finally fill in.

Very similar controls to ACR, but not all as effective

Sony Imaging Edge Desktop’s editing controls are broadly similar to those on offer in Adobe Camera Raw, including the highlight and shadow sliders that many other apps lack. It also allows display not just of clipped highlights and shadows, but out-of-gamut colors. It foregoes ACR’s texture and vibrance controls, but adds a D-Range Optimizer slider with auto mode.

In many cases, it’s just hard to balance dynamic range and contrast in Imaging Edge.
Download the full ACR image here; the full Imaging Edge image here.

D-Range Optimizer does a pretty good job of lifting shadows, but the highlight and shadow sliders are nowhere near as effective as their Adobe equivalents, and the highlight slider in particular didn’t seem capable of recovering much detail at all from blown highlights, even when ACR could do so with ease. I found the best results with more difficult images tended to send me to the curves tool, whereas Adobe could get the results without needing to fiddle with curves.

Sony’s noise reduction is rather more heavy-handed

By default, Imaging Edge uses higher levels of noise reduction than Camera Raw, and Adobe produces crisper results out of the box. With that said, you likely won’t notice the difference unless you’re pixel peeping or making large prints, where Adobe’s NR has a finer-grained look.

Noise reduction levels in both apps can be dialed back from that default. Imaging Edge also offers an “off” setting, but Sony’s app still applies more noise reduction than Adobe’s, even when that’s used. Setting NR to off definitely applies less noise reduction than simply zeroing out the sliders in manual mode, though, especially when it comes to chroma noise.

I found ACR to do a better job with skin tones. Imaging Edge tended a bit towards the magenta, but in turn delivered more convincing skies and foliage than ACR. Of course, you can improve color in either app by fiddling with the sliders, but ACR has an auto mode to get you in the ballpark, whereas Imaging Edge requires you make corrections manually.

Another example where Adobe Camera Raw is able to take advantage of remaining highlight information better than Imaging Edge.
Download the full ACR image here; the full Imaging Edge image here.

Final thoughts

Sony Imaging Edge Desktop looks and feels more modern than some of its rivals from other camera manufacturers, but I still found Adobe Camera Raw more pleasant to use. And Adobe also wins in terms of performance, although Sony certainly doesn’t trail in this respect as badly as some of its rivals.

In terms of image quality, things were rather closer, however. Imaging Edge is capable of delivering good results with most images, although Adobe clearly still has an edge when it comes to recovering blown highlights and blocked-up shadows. And Sony’s highlight slider, in particular, proved rather less effective than I’d hoped.

But if you’re trying to slash your budget to a minimum, Imaging Edge Desktop delivers pretty decent image quality for most shots, and does so with reasonable performance and versatility. There’s definitely money to be saved by switching away from a monthly subscription, especially if you tend to stick with just the basic tweaks and don’t often make major edits to your photos.

Sony Imaging Edge Desktop

Pros Cons
  • Available free with a Sony camera
  • Excellent support for Sony’s cameras from launch day
  • Good foliage and sky color with minimal effort
  • Tames noise well
  • Good lens corrections
  • D-Range Optimizer makes it easy to lift shadows
  • Only supports Sony cameras
  • Doesn’t treat Raw files as sacrosanct
  • UI requires lots of scrolling
  • Doesn’t follow Windows standards
  • Doesn’t support 4K monitors well
  • Minimal help documentation available
  • Highlight / shadow sliders aren’t very effective
  • Skin tones tend towards magenta
  • Denoising robs some fine detail even if switched “off”

Adobe Camera Raw

Pros Cons
  • Clean, clear and modern interface
  • Supports a vast range of cameras from many brands
  • Great performance
  • Allows fine-grained adjustments with accurate real-time preview
  • Great image quality
  • Extracts more fine detail than Imaging Edge with minimal fuss
  • Does a great job with highlights/shadows
  • Recurring subscription fee with no perpetual license option
  • Camera support can take a while to arrive for more obscure features or even fairly big ones like camera matching profiles
  • One-click auto control produces overly contrasty, saturated results
  • Tends to leave more noise in images by default

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65 Films About Photography: Our Picks to Watch

30 Jan

Photography and movies have a lot in common. While one is the art of capturing a frame, another is capturing moving frames. However, both are powerful creative mediums to tell a story. Apart from practicing photography yourself, one of the easiest ways to learn and improve your photography skills is to watch other people’s work and be inspired. And, what’s Continue Reading

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10 Tips for Doing Your First Family Portrait Session

30 Jan

The post 10 Tips for Doing Your First Family Portrait Session appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Louise Downham.

family portrait tips

Photographs from a good family portrait session will be treasured for many years to come. It’s an incredibly rewarding area of photography, but it can also be a little daunting for new photographers. You need to build a rapport with the family, keep the children on board, and meet the parents’ expectations with gorgeous photographs.

Family portrait family group

So where do you start? Which camera settings should you choose?

Here are some important pointers to make your first session go smoothly, and to help you take great family portraits every time!

1. Get down on their level

If you’re photographing children, get down on their eye level. This will lead to far more engaging photographs, and will also help you interact better with the child.

Family portrait girl with flowers

2. Use the center AF point to focus

Different focus settings suit different photographers, but using the center point to focus tends to be the most useful for family portraits. As you take more and more family images, you’ll get a feeling for whether this setting suits you.

But it’s a great starting point for your first session.

3. Choose an appropriate aperture

Your aperture settings will be influenced by the style of photography you prefer.

As a starting point, many lifestyle family photographers choose to shoot wide open for individual portraits (f/2.2 works really well if you’re after beautiful background bokeh), and around f/5.6 for group shots to ensure everyone is in focus.

Here’s an example of the effect you get with a wide aperture:

girl in the park family portrait
This image was shot at f/2.2.

And here’s what you get when shooting at f/5.6:

Family portrait dad and son black and white
This image was taken at f/5.6.

4. Choose a fast shutter speed

Children move fast, and sometimes unpredictably.

That’s why you generally want a faster shutter speed, at least compared to your average portrait settings. A good place to start is 1/250s, which will still deliver sharp photos, even if children are rolling over or waving.

If you have a situation where someone is moving very fast, such as a child jumping or racing off into the distance, choose a much faster shutter speed (such as 1/800s).

family portrait baby held up high
To capture a sharp shot of this child being tossed in the air, I shot at 1/800s.

5. Use Auto ISO

While you’re familiarizing yourself with the apertures and shutter speeds that work for family portrait sessions, consider setting your ISO to Auto. The results are usually satisfactory, and it’s one less thing to think about when shooting.

As you gain experience and confidence, you can start to select the ISO manually.

6. Experiment with metering modes

Certain metering options suit some photographers better than others. As you take more family portraits, you’ll soon see which mode works best for you.

To start with, try using Spot metering for individual portraits, and Evaluative metering (also known as Matrix metering) for group shots.

family portrait mother and baby
This photo was taken using Evaluative metering mode.

7. Shoot in RAW format

If you shoot in RAW, you’ll have a far greater range of colors and details in your images – which you can then use for stunning edits in Lightroom.

8. Use Auto White Balance

Set your white balance to Auto if you’re doing a location shoot.


Because you’ll be working with a variety of scenes with different lighting, and you won’t have much time to change the white balance as you go.

Plus, correcting white balance is an easy edit in Lightroom, so you’d be better off spending the time engaging with the family you’re photographing.

9. Choose your lenses carefully

Carefully consider which lenses to take to the family portrait session.

If you don’t have several lenses, consider renting some. This can be surprisingly economical, and it’ll give you the opportunity to try out different focal lengths to see which suit your style of shooting.

Family portrait baby at 85mm
This baby photo was taken with an 85mm lens.

Using several lenses in a family portrait session will also help you vary your compositions, and it’ll ensure you can cope with most locations. A zoom lens like a 24-70mm will give you lots of flexibility, while a popular prime lens for family portraits is an 85mm lens (it creates very flattering photos!). A wide lens, such as a 35mm prime, will help you set the scene.

As you gain experience photographing families, you’ll develop a sense of which lenses work best for your style. And once you know what you like, I recommend you invest in the highest-quality lenses you can afford.

family portrait siblings at 35mm
This sibling photo was taken with a 35mm lens.

10. Set limits

Limit yourself to capturing five versions of each scene. This will train your eye to look for the details and expressions you want to capture, and will teach you to include everything you need in a single photograph.

Family portrait photography tips: Conclusion

So there you have it – family portraits in a nutshell!

Practice makes perfect, though, so be prepared to work hard and hone your camera skills. Above all, a friendly and professional attitude combined with careful preparation for each family portrait shoot should make for happy clients and repeat business.

Do you have any family portrait photos you’re proud of? Share them in the comments below!

The post 10 Tips for Doing Your First Family Portrait Session appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Louise Downham.

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Trees

30 Jan

The post Weekly Photo Challenge – Trees appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

Where would we be without them! I left the weekly challenge topic to my 11yo today, his first choice was “Piranhas” I’m thankful he got the idea from my facial expression that his first topic choice wouldn’t fly… ‘Trees’ he said, thoughtfully.

Tag your photograph #dPSTrees if you share it on social media.

Black and White Photo of a Tree

Still trees, silhouetted trees, reflected trees, trees with lots of movement and a slow shutter… As ever, your options are endless and this is where your creativity must rear up and show itself! A tree is an easy thing to photograph, there it is, sitting there keeping you alive, click, job done right? No no no… take some time and show us something we haven’t seen before, detail, angles, the life of a tree.

Missed a challenge? Catch up here!

Tree Photograph

The two trees above couldn’t be any more different, the first one on Coombe Hill, in London, this one just above in Tilba Tilba, Australia, an old Oak and an old Gum… Moody was what I was going for there! Below’s tree, in London again, for a spot of reflection. Well, don’t just stand there, make like a tree and leaf…. (yes, I know, that was terrible)

Sports car reflecting a tree

Great! Where do I upload my photos?

Simply upload your shot into the comments field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see. Or, if you’d prefer, upload them to your favourite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Looking Up

The post Weekly Photo Challenge – Trees appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

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Leica’s Noctilux-M 50mm F1.2 is an homage to one of its most iconic lenses

29 Jan

The last Leica Noctilux 50mm F1.2 lens was produced 46 years ago. Now, nearly half-a-century later, the iconic lens has been reborn in the form of the Noctilux-M 50mm F1.2 ASPH, a ‘new’ lens from Leica that pays homage to a classic.

An advert for the original Noctilux 50mm F1.2 lens (note it uses the same six-element, four-group optical construction as the new Noctilux-M version).

The original Noctilux 50mm F1.2 lens was the first to feature aspherical elements in its optical design. This, along with its large maximum aperture, made for a unique aesthetic that’s become synonymous with the Noctilux line. Leica says the original lens’ ‘visual signature embodies the original essence of the “Leica look” and has helped shape the landscape of Leica’s iconic reputation for the best lenses.’

So, rather than go back to the drawing board, Leica stood atop its own shoulders and based the new lens so similarly to its predecessor that Leica says the resulting images are ‘nearly identical.’ Despite that, Leica says ‘the purpose of this lens is by no means limited to nostalgia or trips down memory lane,’ going on to say that when ‘stopped down to F2.8 or further, the Noctilux-M 50 f/1.2 ASPH delivers impeccably sharp images that live up to the quality expectations of modern-day digital photography.’

The lens is constructed of six elements in four groups, including two aspherical elements. It features a 16-blade aperture diaphragm, has a 1m (3.3ft) minimum focusing distance and uses a 49mm front filter thread. The lens measures 61mm (2.4″) in diameter, 52mm (2″) long (without lens hood) and weighs 405g (14.3oz).

This lens marks the third in the Leica Classics Range, which has seen reissues of the Summaron-M 28 f/5.6 of 1955 and the Thambar-M 90 f/2.2 of 1935. To further pay homage to Leica’s lens history, the Noctilux-M 50 f/1.2 ASPH will come in both silver and black versions — a nod to Leica’s transition from silver to black anodized lenses over the years.

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The silver chrome edition of the Noctilux-M 50 f/1.2 ASPH ‘features a brass lens barrel, a front-ring engraving that reads LEITZ WETZLAR (distinguished from the contemporary LEICA engraving) and along with the clear lens container is packaged in a vintage-inspired box that even further recreates the 1966 original.’ The silver chrome edition is limited to just 100 units worldwide and will retail for $ 16,395.

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The black anodized version of the Noctilux-M 50 f/1.2 ASPH will come in packaging ‘inspired by the box of the original [Noctilux].’ Leica doesn’t specify how many of the black anodized versions it will be making, but it doesn’t appear to be a limited edition. Units are available now through Leica Stores and authorized dealers for $ 7,695.

Leica has shared a number of Raw photos captured with the lens that you can download and play around with on its product page.

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Sony Announces the a1, Its Best Mirrorless Camera to Date

29 Jan

The post Sony Announces the a1, Its Best Mirrorless Camera to Date appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Sony a1 announcement

Sony has announced its latest full-frame mirrorless offering, the Alpha 1.

A groundbreaking camera that offers a shocking combination of speed, resolution, and video capabilities, the a1 somehow manages to speak to action photographers, wildlife photographers, and even all-around professional shooters without sacrificing on, well, anything.

For several years now, Sony has maintained the same four full-frame camera lineups:

  • The a9 lineup, geared toward professional sports and action photographers
  • The a7R lineup, geared toward landscape and commercial photographers
  • The a7 lineup, geared toward all-around professionals and advanced hobbyists
  • The a7s lineup, geared toward serious videographers (plus the occasional hybrid shooter)

(Sony also recently released the a7C, a compact full-frame model.)

Note the division of labor here, with one camera tailored toward action photographers, another tailored toward videographers, and yet another tailored toward landscape shooters.

But now, with the launch of the Sony a1, the division between action photography, landscape photography, and even video seems to have crumbled, leaving Sony users with a camera clearly more capable than the a7 III, and even offering a leg up over the a7S III, the a9 II, and more.

Sony a1

So what does the Sony a1 offer?

First, check out the sensor:

50 MP for intense cropping abilities, plus it gathers enough detail to satisfy professional landscape shooters.

Then there’s the autofocus, which packs “improved real-time Eye AF for humans and animals, and new real-time Eye AF for birds.” Sony is well-known for its top-tier autofocus algorithms, so don’t be surprised if the bird Eye AF makes the a1 a hot choice among serious bird photographers.

You also get in-body image stabilization (Sony claims up to 5.5 stops), as well as a lightning-fast continuous shooting speed (30 frames per second using the electronic shutter).

The a1 also boasts one of the most impressive electronic viewfinders on the market. With a whopping 9.44M-dots of resolution, you should have a clear view, even in low light, which is always a plus for event photographers, night street photographers, and wildlife photographers, to name just a few.

Sony a1

Finally, there’s the video capabilities. The a1 can record at 8K/30p, as well as 4K/120p; the former capability is what puts the camera above the Sony a7S, at least in terms of raw recording power. While 8K is likely overkill for casual videographers, I can highly recommend the a1 for serious videographers and true hybrid video/stills shooters.

Sony a1

Of course, you should also consider the price: $ 6499.99. In other words, the a1 costs more than the Nikon Z7 II, more than the Canon EOS R5, more than the Sony a9 II, and more than every other full-frame mirrorless camera on the market.

But the a1 really is one heck of a camera, and those who can afford it are bound to be impressed (to say the least!).

Now over to you:

What do you think about the Sony a1 announcement? Are you excited? Apprehensive? Frustrated? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post Sony Announces the a1, Its Best Mirrorless Camera to Date appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

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How to Shoot Images for Book Covers: The Essential Guide

28 Jan

The post How to Shoot Images for Book Covers: The Essential Guide appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

how to shoot images for book covers

There’s lots of information out there about making money shooting stock images. However, the most successful stock photographers have a secret – they’re shooting niche content for specialist agencies! There are lots of different specialist fields that you might consider, but in this blog post, I’ll walk you through how to shoot images for book covers.

Let’s get started.

How to break into the book cover industry

There are several specialist book cover stock agencies that exist purely to match clients with photographers and illustrators. These agencies can be a great way to get into shooting book covers.

However, book cover stock agencies do require a good portfolio as part of your application. If you don’t already have a portfolio suitable for a book cover agency and you want to get started right away, you can try networking with potential clients on social media – Instagram is a great place to connect with other creatives.

Think about format and layout

One of the most important things to think about when it comes to shooting book cover images is the aspect ratio. Book covers are almost always produced in a vertical format, so landscape images generally won’t be of interest to book cover designers.

shoot images for book covers examples
Left: Canon EOS 5D Mark II| Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM | 100mm | 1/125s | f/8.0 | ISO 100 | Window Light + Reflector
Right: Canon EOS 5D Mark II| Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II USM | 70mm | 1/640s | f/2.8 | ISO 800 | Available Light

Books can be printed in all different sizes, meaning that no single aspect ratio is the best for shooting cover photos. Therefore, book cover designers will usually need to crop images to make them fit on a cover.

Keep this need to crop in mind when you shoot images for book covers, and make sure you don’t place any interesting parts of the subject or composition near the edge of the frame. This will give a designer more options when using your images in different book cover layouts.

Leave some blank space

When you shoot images for book covers, you can’t just think about the photo. You also need to leave room for the title of the book and the author. In other words, there should be at least one place in your book cover shot that is plain enough to place text.

book cover layout examples
Left: Fujifilm X-T20 | Fujifilm XF 35mm f/1.4 R | 35mm | 1/280s | f/1.4 | ISO 200 | Window Light
Right: Fujifilm X-T20 | Fujifilm XF 35mm f/1.4 R | 35mm | 1/3500s | f/1.4 | ISO 200 | Available Light

You can achieve these plain sections by using simple colors, by shooting areas with less detail, or by using a shallow depth of field to blur backgrounds and foregrounds.

There’s no rule dictating where book cover designers must put the title and author text. However, it’s good practice to shoot several variations of each image, including compositions that leave room in the middle of the photo, as well as compositions that leave room at the top and bottom.

Plan your images out

If you’re finding it hard to shoot compositions that allow for text placement, then go old school and get out your sketchbook.

Take a pen and paper, draw some empty rectangles, and start imagining all the different places a designer might put the title and name of the author. You can then start to imagine how and where you might leave blank space.

book cover sketches
These are a set of sketches based on the bestseller listings of a popular bookseller. The boxes show the text location on the cover of each book.

To take your shots to the next level, think about the props you’d like to use in your photos and how they might fit into the sketches you just made.

Playing around in a sketchbook can really improve your images and save you lots of time.

Finding inspiration

If you’re trying to come up with ideas for potential book cover images, I highly recommend browsing through a bookstore. You don’t have to do this in person; there are plenty of opportunities to browse book covers on the internet, as well!

You’ll quickly get a feel for the different styles of cover images across various genres.

shoot images for book covers
Left: Fujifilm X-T20 | Fujifilm XF 35mm f/1.4 R | 35mm | 1/450s | f/2.0 | ISO 200 | Window Light + Reflector
Right: Fujifilm X-T20 | Fujifilm XF 35mm f/1.4 R | 35mm | 1/640s | f/1.4 | ISO 200 | Window Light + Reflector

It’s also a good idea to follow the social media feeds of publishers in your favorite genres. Many publishers regularly post pictures of upcoming books, which will give you a sense of industry trends.

If you’re an author, but not a photographer

So you’re a self-published author who wants to do the design work for your book yourself? That’s great, and all of the tips above still apply. However, you might find some of our beginner’s articles helpful; these will help you understand the creative potential of your camera.

It’s also important to be realistic when shooting images for your book cover; photography isn’t instinctive for everyone, and the best photographs are usually the result of years of hard work and practice.

However, if you put your mind to it and you learn the basics, there really is no reason why you shouldn’t shoot photos for your own book cover. Though it’s always worth asking a few trusted friends for their opinion when it comes to the final layout – especially if you have friends who buy and read a lot of books!

How to shoot images for book covers: Conclusion

Whether you want to diversify your photography business and start shooting images for a book cover agency, or you simply want to create your own book cover for your self-published book, the tips above should get you started. Follow traditional rules of composition, make space for titles and other text, and seek out inspiration in your genre.

Ultimately, if you’re looking to start shooting images for book covers, the best advice is to jump right in. Put together a portfolio, then get it out there for people to see. Ask around to determine which stock agencies work best for photographers you know, and see if you can get your pictures on a new bestseller!

The post How to Shoot Images for Book Covers: The Essential Guide appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

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Fujifilm GFX 100S initial review

27 Jan


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GFX100S product photography by Dan Bracaglia & Richard Butler

The Fujifilm GFX 100S is the logical next step in the development of the company’s medium format lineup: a 100MP sensor in a single-grip DSLR styled body. But don’t mistake predictability for complacency: the GFX 100S is an awful lot of camera.

Inside its comparatively compact body, the GFX 100S carries the 102MP BSI CMOS sensor from the original GFX 100 mounted within a smaller, more powerful image stabilization mechanism. By blending technology from the GFX 100 with components from the APS-C sensor X-T4, Fujifilm has created a very powerful camera at a comparatively affordable price.

Key specifications

  • 102MP BSI-CMOS 44 x 33mm medium format sensor
  • Image stabilization system rated at up to 6EV
  • Continuous shooting at up to 5 fps with C-AF
  • 4K video at up to 30p with HDMI output of 10-bit 4:2:2 or 12-bit Raw footage
  • Multi-shot 400MP mode for static subjects
  • 2.36M-dot rear touchscreen with two-axis tilt
  • Fixed 3.69M-dot OLED EVF with 0.77x equiv. magnification
  • Lossy, lossless or uncompressed Raw in 16 or 14-bit
  • Twin UHS-II SD card slots
  • NP-W235 battery, rated at 460 shots
Out-of-camera JPEG using the Provia film simulation.
ISO 6400 | 1/100 sec | F11 | GF 120mm F4 Macro
Photo by Carey Rose

Despite offering most of the capability of the twin-grip GFX 100, the smaller camera is significantly less expensive. It should be available around March with a recommended price of $ 5,999.

What’s new

More compact body

The use of a smaller battery and fixed viewfinder have helped significantly slim-down the GFX100S (left), relative to the original 50MP GFX 50S (right).

Fujifilm says the addition of the image stabilization system meant that it was more practical to make the GFX 100S into a DSLR-shaped camera, rather than the more rangefinder-like layout of the GFX 50R. But a lot of the downsizing efforts that went into the 50R have been applied here, resulting in a camera that’s appreciably smaller than the original GFX 50S.

The GFX 100S has a control layout very similar to that of the original, dual-grip GFX 100, with a large LCD top plate display and a comparable number of custom buttons. A conventional mode dial and movie/stills switch replace the button-within-a-dial arrangement on the camera’s left shoulder.

Image stabilization

Core to the GFX 100S is the inclusion of in-body image stabilization. Just as Fujifilm has been able to continue to miniaturize the IS systems used in its X-H1, X-T4 and X-S10 models, it’s also been able to reduce the size of the mechanism from the original GFX 100 to allow it to fit in a smaller body.

Despite the size reduction, the new mechanism is more effective than the one that precedes it: rated to correct up to 6EV of shake. This is half a stop more than the GFX 100’s rating and is achieved with more lenses, giving a rated 1EV improvement with most combinations. On top of this, the new system can synchronize with OIS lenses to maintain this level of correction even with longer focal lengths. This Sync IS system uses both lens and body IS to correct pitch and yaw, just as Panasonic, Olympus and Canon systems do.

Fujifilm has managed to create an IS mechanism for the GFX 100S that is both smaller and more effective than the one in the original GFX 100.

As usual, we find CIPA ratings (which only asses pitch and yaw correction) tend to over-state the benefit somewhat, but a 6EV rating should make it much easier to obtain the full benefit of the GFX 100S’s resolution. You can see the effect of this in our sample gallery, where we’re consistently getting high levels of resolution, even at relatively slow shutter speeds.

The image stabilization mechanism is also used to provide an eight-shot high-resolution mode. This moves the sensor between each shot, first to ensure that a red, green and blue pixel has been captured for each location, then to do the same again at a slight offset. This both boosts the chroma resolution and the overall pixel count of the image. However, in our experience with the GFX 100, we found that the lack of any motion correction means it really only works for completely static subjects, such as artwork reproduction.

Eight-direction control nub

The eight-way rubber control nub sits within easy reach of your thumb as you grip the camera.

The four-direction joystick that’s featured on previous GFX cameras has been replaced by a wider, flatter textured nub, that allows diagonal control as well as vertical and horizontal.

Its lower profile makes it easy to nudge the AF point around or navigate menus without too much risk of accidentally pressing it inwards which, as before, resets the AF point or accepts the current menu setting.

Additional Film Simulation mode

The GFX 100S gains a 13th Film Simulation mode: Nostalgic Neg. Fujifilm says this is based on the distinctive look achieved by American color film photographer Stephen Shore.

Out-of-camera JPEGs.
ISO 100 | 1/500 sec | F4 | GF 120mm F4 Macro
Photo by Carey Rose

‘Nostalgic Neg’ aims to offer slightly amber-tinted highlights, cyan-ish skies and saturated reds along with deep shadows to provide another option for retro-looking images. As usual, the effect is relatively subtle, giving an attractive option without spilling into overly intense ‘Instagram-filter’ territory.


The GFX100S uses the smaller NP-W235 battery from the X-T4 but still boasts a decent battery life rating.

The move to the smaller body format also sees the GFX 100S make use of a smaller battery, compared to the GFX 100. It uses the same W235 battery first introduced with the X-T4. It’s a fair bit smaller than NP-T125 used in the previous GFX bodies. Despite the reduction in physical size and electrical capacity, the GFX 100S is rated at a pretty reasonable 460 shots per charge using the LCD, per CIPA standard tests.

As always with CIPA ratings, the number reflects very demanding use, and we’ve found we regularly get more than twice the stated number of shots from most cameras. However, the numbers are broadly comparable between mirrorless cameras, so it’s reasonable to expect you’ll get more than 1/2 as many shots out of the GFX 100S as you would from the 800-shot-per-charge rated twin-battery GFX 100. This is likely to be enough for a lot of situations, though wedding photographers are likely to find themselves wanting to pocket a spare. A two-battery charger is available for such users.

The X100S will recharge over its USB-C socket but there are no electrical contacts to allow a vertical grip option to enhance the battery life or provide a more substantial portrait grip: there’s the GFX 100 for that.

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How it compares

Beyond this, much of what the GFX 100S offers is a match for its larger sibling: 102MP Raw files in 14 or 16 bit with a choice of lossy, lossless or no compression, DCI or UHD 4K video at up to 30p and up to 400Mbps, with the option to output uncompressed 10-bit 4:2:2 or a 12-bit Raw stream over HDMI. Impressively, for a camera with a 100MP sensor, the GFX 100S can shoot at up to 5.0 fps with continuous autofocus, despite the continued use of UHS-II SD card slots.

As always, the key consideration is that the GFX has a sensor that’s 68% larger than a full-frame sensor, which means it receives around 2/3EV more light when shot at the same exposure values as a full frame camera. The ISO system means those images appear the same brightness, but the additional light provides better quality.

Fujifilm GFX 100S Fujifilm GFX 100 Hasselblad
X1D II 50C
Sony a7R IV
MSRP $ 5999 $ 9999 $ 5750 $ 3500
Sensor size 44x33mm
(1452 mm2)
(1452 mm2)
(1452 mm2)
(864 mm2)
Pixel count 102 MP 102 MP 51MP 60MP
Image stabilization Yes (up to 6EV, and lens sync) Yes (up to 5.5EV) No Yes (up to 5.5EV)
Continuous shooting 5.0 fps 5.0 fps 2.7 fps 10.0 fps
Viewfinder size/res 3.69M dot OLED / 0.77x 5.76M dot OLED / 0.86x 3.69M dot OLED / 0.87x 5.76M dot OLED / 0.78x
Rear screen Two axis tilt 3.0″ 2.36M-dot touchscreen Two axis tilt 3.2″ 2.36M-dot touchscreen Fixed 3.6″ 2.36M-dot touchscreen Tilting 3.0″ 1.44M-dot touchscreen
Max shutter speed 1/4000 sec 1/4000 sec 1/2000 sec (leaf shutter) 1/8000 sec
Video 4K/30p up to 400 Mbps 4K/30p up to 400 Mbps 2.7K/30p 4K/30p up to 100 Mbps
Battery life
460 800 Unspecified 670
Weight 900 g 1320g 766g 665g
Dimensions 150 x 104 x 92mm 156 x 164 x 103mm 148 x 97 x 70mm 129 x 96 x 78 mm

Although the GFX 100S’s maximum shutter speed, durability rating and 1/125 sec sync speed all match the GFX 100, Fujifilm says the new mechanism reduces shutter lag from 0.09 sec to 0.07 sec.

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Body and controls

The camera is primarily controlled by two clickable command dials, front and rear. You get a decent level of control over which dial accesses which function and, of course, you can directly control the aperture using the ring on the lens, if you prefer.

The GFX 100S uses a similar control approach to that of previous GFX cameras, primarily relying on its twin command dials for most control, and using an exposure compensation button rather than a dedicated dial (though, with a bit of work, you should be able to assign it as an option when you press the rear dial).

The GFX 100S fits nicely in the hand, with a thin layer of dense rubber providing a good amount of traction to a well-shaped hand grip, though photographers with larger hands may find the middle-finger indentation a little too small and close to the front of the camera. The solid grip is important because although the camera is smaller than the likes of a Nikon D850, it can start to get quite heavy once you’ve mounted something like the GF 110mm F2 lens on the front.

The top display panel can be set to show shooting information, a graphic representing shutter speed and ISO dials or a histogram. The camera maintains separate settings for stills and video, and can show black on white if you find it clearer than white on black. A small ‘lamp’ button on the side of the viewfinder illuminates the panel.


The GFX 100S, unlike the GFX 100 or GFX 50S, has a fixed built-in viewfinder. It’s a 3.69M-dot OLED panel with 0.77x magnification (with a 50mm equivalent lens mounted). This is a pretty big display with pretty decent resolution. ‘Boost’ modes in the camera’s power settings let you increase either the refresh rate or the resolution.


The rest of the interface is very similar to that of recent Fujifilm models. Buttons can be customized by holding down the ‘Disp/Back’ button, and the ‘Q’ menu can be modified without the need to delve into the full menus. Menu options let you decide whether the Q menu is displayed on a grey background or overlaid on top of the camera’s live view. Different contrast levels for the interface and menus are available, including a night vision preserving red and black color scheme for working in extreme low light conditions where it’s easy to get dazzled.

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Initial impressions

The GFX100S (left) is a significantly smaller camera than the original GFX 50S (right), and it gives up the shutter speed and ISO dial to help with this downsizing. In return you get a significantly larger, customizable, top-panel display.

We’ve been impressed with what Fujifilm has achieved with the GFX system so far: most of the lenses are superb and the cameras bring a level of mass-market polish and usability that hasn’t always been a feature of medium format cameras (Pentax’s digital ‘645’ models being the notable exception). But the GFX’s have almost risked being a victim of their own success, in that this level of usability has invited comparisons with more mainstream cameras.

In testing we found that the 50MP sensor of previous GFX cameras didn’t offer a major image quality benefit over the best full-frame cameras of the time, but the move to a 100MP chip changed that. In use, we’ve found the smaller size and more powerful IS of the GFX 100S means it offers nearly all the capabilities of the original GFX 100 in a package that’s more accessible and more usable.

Out of camera JPEG using the Nostalgic Neg film simulation.
ISO 100 | 1/320 sec | F4 | Fujifilm GF 45mm F2.8
Photo by Carey Rose

It’s still not cheap, of course. Larger sensors are harder (and thus more expensive) to produce, they require larger, more expensive lenses, and the consequent lower sales volumes just serve to push up the unit price in what risks becoming a vicious cycle. But our experience of the GFX 100S is that you do gain something recognizable for that extra expenditure.

Getting the GFX 100S down in size (and price) does mean you lose out in a couple of respects, compared with the full-sized GFX 100, but none that are overly detrimental. For instance, the battery is significantly smaller than the ones the larger camera uses, though the battery life rating appears pretty solid and doesn’t appear to be achieved by being over-keen to drop into battery saving mode, or anything else sneaky that might undermine performance or user experience.

The viewfinder is perhaps the other significant step down in spec, compared to the GFX 100. A total of 3.69M dots is fewer than in the finders of the cameras such as the Panasonic S1R and Sony a7R IV, but it’s the same as the 50MP GFXs had, but Fujifilm appears to make good use of that resolution, rather than only using the full resolution in playback mode, as some cameras do.

While the GFX 100S won’t match full-frame cameras for autofocus responsiveness, it’s autofocus can be very accurate, especially with portraiture and eye-detection.
ISO 320 | 1/60 sec | F3.2 | GF 80mm F1.7
Photo by Richard Butler

Fujifilm’s lenses, while optically impressive, aren’t always the fastest to focus (though there’s some variability within the range). So, despite the inclusion of on-sensor phase detection, the GFX 100S won’t offer the levels of AF responsiveness you’d get from a Canon EOS R5, and Sony A7R IV or Nikon Z7 II, for portraiture, for instance.

But the fact that the GFX 100S offers only a slight reduction in responsiveness compared to mainstream full-frame cameras, and outputs not just usable but excellent out-of-cameras JPEGs is another major step forward for medium format usability. Add in image stabilization that means you don’t have to obsess about stability to realize the camera’s full resolution potential, and you have a camera that can be used in a wider range of circumstances than has previously seemed possible for medium format.

In-body stabilization that syncs with lens IS means you can get 100MP worth of detail without a tripod, without stopping to control your breathing or having to agonize over a steadiness/detail loss trade-off of using a higher shutter speed.

We’ve seen plenty of posts questioning whether cameras such as the Nikon Z7 II or Sony a7R IV will offer an appreciable upgrade over last-generation high-res DSLRs such as the Nikon D850 or Canon EOS 5DS R. In general that’s a difficult question to answer, because while there are benefits to the newer cameras – they tend to be are smaller, provide access to the latest lenses (and manufacturers’ future lens developments), offer better video and include features such as eye AF – we don’t usually see major IQ benefit from the cameras themselves. The GFX 100S appear to provide that image quality benefit, as well as all those other things that the latest mirrorless cameras offer.

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Sample Gallery

Photos are from a pre-production camera. At Fujifilm’s request, original Raw files are not available for download.

Please do not reproduce any of these images without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review).

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Vanishing Point in Photoshop: The Essential Guide

27 Jan

The post Vanishing Point in Photoshop: The Essential Guide appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

The essential guide to Vanishing Point in Photoshop

Have you ever used Vanishing Point in Photoshop? If you’re only using the Transform tools to give perspective to image elements, you’re missing out on a fantastic opportunity.

The Vanishing Point filter is often overlooked; most photographers believe it’s only useful in a 3D workspace.

But here’s the truth:

Vanishing Point is actually a hugely useful tool, one that I absolutely recommend you learn how to use.

In this article, I’ll explain what the Vanishing Point filter is – and how you can use it to simplify and improve your photography.

Let’s get started!

What is Vanishing Point in Photoshop?

Vanishing Point grid in Photoshop

Vanishing Point is a Photoshop filter that allows objects and edits in your image to be scaled and oriented according to the image’s perspective.

You can find Vanishing Point under the Filter menu (simply click Filter, then Vanishing Point).

Once you’ve selected the Vanishing Point filter, Photoshop opens a special workspace for all your in-perspective edits.

Why is Vanishing Point important?

A vanishing point is what gives depth to an image.

For example, if you photograph a wall parallel to your camera’s sensor, the wall (and the overall image) should look flat.

But if you instead photograph the wall at an angle and you capture the way it vanishes toward a point in the distance, the wall – and the scene – appears three-dimensional.

Perspective and Vanishing Point

Take a look at the arrows in the image above.

The wall is flat, with no depth.

But the railing moves toward the horizon, where (if it continued to stretch onward) it would vanish.

The Vanishing Point filter allows you to make adjustments to your photos in perspective, so that you achieve a realistic final result that perfectly mirrors the scene’s perspective.

(Do you see how the arrow stretching along the railing appears to fade into the scene? That’s because I added it with Vanishing Point!)

Working with Vanishing Point: The basics

When you launch the Vanishing Point filter, you might be wondering what to do and how to use it.

It looks similar to the normal Photoshop interface, but where do you start?

Here are the answers to some of the most common Vanishing Point questions:

How do you create a perspective plane?

Click the Create Plane Tool at the top of the toolbar on the left.

Then click on the corners of the plane you want to create.

(Here, you need to carefully follow in-perspective elements.)

Photoshop will immediately add your plane to the image, like this:

Create a Vanishing Point in Photoshop

Now, when the lines that form the plane are blue, it means everything is working well. Yellow or red lines mean that Photoshop doesn’t accept the plane you’re tracing.

Once you’ve created a plane, try moving the corner points until you get it right. You can zoom in if you need to be more precise.

Everything you paste and everything you edit inside that plane (while you’re in the Vanishing Point workspace) will be put into that perspective.

How do you save a perspective plane?

When you’re done working inside Vanishing Point, click OK (in the top right) to accept the changes. This will add the perspective plane as part of your file.

If you save and close your image, the perspective plane will be saved, too. When you open your file again, you can launch the Vanishing Point filter, and the perspective plane(s) that you created will be present and editable.

How do you delete a perspective plane?

To delete a plane, simply select it, then press the Backspace key.

To select your plane, just click on it using the Edit Plane Tool. You’ll know your plane is selected if you can see the edge nodes around it.

Can you create more than one plane?

Yes, you can create multiple planes. And these can be separate or connected.

If you want to create a separate second plane, just finish working on your first plane, then click another part of the image and start afresh.

If you want to have your two planes connected, you need to tear the second plane off from the first. To do this, press the Ctrl/Cmd key and drag one of the edge nodes to create the next plane.

By default, the second plane will be at a 90-degree angle from the first. If this is not the way you want it, you can use the Angle controller you’ll find in the toolbar at the top of the Vanishing Point window:

Connecting perspective planes

How do you use Vanishing Point in Photoshop to paste objects in perspective?

First, make sure the object you want to add in perspective is present on a layer. Select the object (you can use Ctrl/Cmd + A to select all), then hit Ctrl/Cmd + C to copy it to your clipboard.

Once you have the object on your clipboard, add a new blank layer above the background image. This is because anything you do inside the Vanishing Point workspace will be applied to the layer that is selected when you actually open the filter.

Next, open the Vanishing Point filter and create a perspective plane that follows the perspective you want to give to the new element.

Once this is done, paste the new element into the Vanishing Point workspace by pressing Ctrl/Cmd + V. It will be pasted as a floating selection without perspective, but that’s okay.

Paste using Vanishing Point in Photoshop

Feel free to scale or modify the object. Then, once you’re satisfied with its shape and size, click on it and drag it inside the plane.

You’ll notice that the object will change shape and size according to its position in the plane. It will get smaller as it gets farther away from the camera, and bigger as it gets closer to the camera.

Place objects in perspective

That’s it – now you can click OK to get back to the normal workspace. You’ll find the pasted element (in perspective) on the new layer. You can then use the Layer Style options to add shadows and create more realistic composites.

You can use this paste-in-perspective technique to showcase your photos on a billboard, create graffiti on a wall, or apply logos to product packaging photographs.

Advanced tips and techniques for working with Vanishing Point

Pasting elements in perspective is one of the most common uses for the Vanishing Point filter in Photoshop.

However, there are some other cool things you can do with the feature, including:

Painting in Vanishing Point

Paint in Vanishing Point in Photoshop

Inside the Vanishing Point workspace, you’ll find a Brush tool. With it, you can paint, write, or draw in perspective.

Therefore, the brushstrokes will get smaller as they move farther away from the viewer (to simulate depth).

You can choose the size of the brush, the hardness, and the color. Unfortunately, you can’t use brushes you’ve loaded into the normal workspace.

Cloning in Vanishing Point

You can also clone with the Vanishing Point filter. This is very useful, because the Clone Stamp tool will follow the angle and the size of the perspective plane.

Choose the size and hardness of your Stamp Tool in the top toolbar. Make sure that Heal is turned off.

Then source the pixels that you want to clone. To do this, hold the Alt/Option key and click on the target pixels (note that you must click somewhere inside the perspective plane).

Finally, clone the pixels onto a different part of the perspective plane.

You can clone the same way you’d use the regular Clone Stamp tool. However, the results will be very different.

Look at the composite below, which shows an original image, the image modified with standard Clone Stamp methods, and the image modified with the Stamp Tool in Vanishing Point.

Clone in Vanishing Point in Photoshop

When I sourced the pixels from the top of the brick wall using the regular Clone Stamp tool, the bricks had a different angle; when I cloned them from the side, they had a different size.

However, when I used the Vanishing Point Stamp Tool, I was able to add pixels in-perspective.

You can also use the Vanishing Point Stamp Tool as a Healing Brush by turning on the Heal option in the top toolbar.

Using the Marquee Tool in Vanishing Point

The Marquee Tool is the only selection instrument available inside the Vanishing Point workspace.

It’s very straightforward to use; just click and drag around the area that you want to select.

If you have two connected planes, the selection will “bend” to follow the perspective in both planes.

Select and Duplicate in Vanishing Point in Photoshop

This is extremely useful if you want to duplicate elements that run through two planes. Look at the example above – I just selected an area, copied it, and pasted it again. It behaved according to the perspective of the plane, which allowed me to keep any depth and make the entire duplication job look more natural.

For better blending, you can feather the selection, just as you would in the regular workspace.

How to use Vanishing Point in Photoshop: Conclusion

Vanishing Point in Photoshop can make your work easier and faster when you’re dealing with perspective.

So make sure to give it a try!

Now it’s your turn:

What do you think of Vanishing Point? Is it a tool you plan to use in the future? Share your thoughts, questions, and tips in the comments below!

The post Vanishing Point in Photoshop: The Essential Guide appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

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6 Reasons Why Photography Matters

27 Jan

The post 6 Reasons Why Photography Matters appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Guest Contributor.

6 reasons why photography matters

Why does photography matter?

It’s a question that we all ask at one time or another. After all, why do we keep waking up at 4:00 AM to photograph the sunrise, when we could be warm and comfortable lying in bed? Why do we spend long hours tweaking our compositions and learning about photography fundamentals when we could be watching television or out with friends?

And some days, when we have no creativity at all and pressing the shutter button seems like the hardest thing in the world, we continue to persevere – but why? What is it about photography that’s so compelling?

What motivates us to keep going?

In this article, I’m going to share six reasons why I think photography matters. Hopefully, these ideas will help you find clarity and motivation – and will encourage you to capture images, even when it feels like everything is pointless and you should put down the camera forever.

Let’s get started.

1. Our photographs tell us what is important to us

When you ask people what possessions they would rescue from their burning house, one of the most frequent answers is a photograph album or a computer with all their digital images.

Interesting, isn’t it? We would grab photos over valuable jewelry, even in moments of panic.

This impulse to save our recorded memories is a powerful force, one that tells us much about the role of photography in our lives – and speaks to our constant desire to distill our most precious moments into images.

Why photography matters tree with spotlight

We preserve the important events and people in our lives. The ceremonies of birth and birthdays, marriages and anniversaries, holidays and new houses are all recorded because they matter.

Photographs are our personal story, a timeline of our lives filled with faces and places that we love. They are our story, which we can then share with others.

Ultimately, the thousands of images we take come together to form a narrative of our lives.

2. Photographs are part of our legacy

I remember sitting on a train as it passed a playground where children were standing at attention for the annual school photograph. In the front row sat the teachers, and behind them, hundreds of children were neatly preened and uniformed. For the briefest second, the entire assembly was motionless. We passed just as the photographer clicked the shutter.

Then, as if in slow motion, the huge group scattered as children escaped their enforced immobility. The neat rows dissolved and broke down into individuals who were kicking balls or huddled with friends.

None of those children realized that the photograph was probably going to outlive them. A couple of generations later, the school photo might resurface among old papers in an attic, and someone would search for their grandfather among the fresh, young faces.

Photographs matter because they freeze moments of our lives that pass unremarkably and which seem to have little importance to us at the time. The significance of a photo might not even be ours – instead, it might be for others who search for the person we once were or the places we once knew.

Each photo can be a small piece of a jigsaw that completes the larger picture of our lives.

misty mountains

3. Photographs allow us to share and to communicate

Images are much more than a simple record. Photography speaks to the best and most generous part of our human nature – the desire to share what we find beautiful and interesting with others.

You only have to look at the multitude of photo-sharing sites to see this impulse at work, where millions of people share their personal, passionate, and sometimes quirky take on the world around them.

In other words, our images can share our lives with strangers. How powerful is that?

mountain landscape

4. Photography makes us artists

Photography allows us to express ourselves through an art form. We notice a beautiful landscape or an old man’s lined face and we want to capture it.

Each of us will have a different specific reason to take a photo, but we all want to create something.

However humdrum our nine-to-five lives may be, the creation of an image makes us an artist. It feels good.

5. Photography is a complex language

Our images can express joy and sorrow, wonder and sympathy. Every human emotion can find a place in photography.

For many years, I never valued my photographs of overcast landscapes, because I believed there was no beauty in a land with muted colors and a leaden sky. I wanted the land to be alive with color and vibrancy.

However, the lack of color in a landscape makes you search for other things that often go unnoticed in bright sunlight. This could be the symmetry of hills or a tree standing out from a forest of thousands.

To expand this further:

I have suffered from depression for most of my adult life, and photography gives me a language to express feelings for which I can find no words. We have a miserably poor vocabulary for mental illness, but photography has allowed me to develop a visual language for some of my most difficult emotions.

foggy mountains

6. Photography has the power to move us

Photographs can grab our attention and speak directly to our emotions. There are plenty of powerful photos – such as Nick Ut’s photograph of a crying Vietnamese girl whose clothes have been burned away by napalm – that can make us feel things.

On a more subtle level, photography teaches us lessons about a whole range of emotions. Grief has the power to wash away the brightness and color of our lives. There is no magic way to restore these. We have to be patient. But while waiting, we can search for the shapes and patterns that are still present in the grayness. They will lead us back to color eventually. During moments of great sorrow in my life, I have used images to express that hope of returning color.

Why photography matters sunbeams in a forest

Photography, at its best, is a powerful language that speaks to our emotions. It allows us to tell our story and shows others our framing of the world around us.

Why photography matters: Conclusion

Hopefully, you now have a better sense of the different reasons people pursue photography – and why photography is important.

Now I’d love to know:

Why do you do photography? What motivates you to keep taking pictures? What is it about photography that inspires you?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Declan O’Neill is a professional photographer who lives in the South Island, New Zealand. He travels extensively, capturing the beauty of New Zealand’s extraordinary landscape. The photographs that accompany this article are part of a series entitled “The Anatomy of Melancholy,” which is dedicated to the memory of his sister, Ann, who died from Multiple Systems Atrophy.

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