Posts Tagged ‘Using’

How to Create Stunning Wide-Angle Portraits (Using an Off-Camera Flash)

25 Jul

The post How to Create Stunning Wide-Angle Portraits (Using an Off-Camera Flash) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ken Koskela.

how to create stunning wide-angle portraits

Wide-angle portrait photography is unique, it’s fun, and it can make for some outstanding photos. But how can you capture great wide-angle results? What’s the secret to powerful portraits like the one below?

wide-angle portrait of girl in the dirt

In this article, I’ll provide plenty of guidance, taking you through the ins and outs of wide-angle portraiture. By the time you’ve finished, you’ll be able to shoot like a pro.

Also, before starting, I’d like to let you in on a little secret:

Creating photos like these? It’s not actually that difficult. You just have to pay careful attention to your camera settings, your technique, and your lighting.

Let’s dive right in!

portrait of a man smoking a cigarette

1. Use a (relatively) wide-angle lens

Lens choice is critically important in portraiture. Most portrait photographers reach for their 85mm or 105mm lens when heading out because these focal lengths give a nice, realistic look to the subjects.

However, I find myself drawn to portraits that have a surreal look to them and that include extra context to help tell the story. Also, wide-angle lenses require you to shoot close to your subject, which also draws your viewer into the scene.

So the first step is to leave your 85mm or 105mm lens in your camera bag and grab a wide-angle lens instead. Most of the portraits you see here were created at 24mm on a full-frame camera (use a 16mm for the same view if your camera has a cropped sensor). For me, this focal length is the perfect blend of reality and distortion.

In fact, if you go wider than 24mm, elements closer to the lens, such as arms and hands, look big or elongated. Also, wider focal lengths require a much bigger background, which isn’t always desirable or convenient.

man crouching by ships

2. Choose a compelling subject

In wide-angle portrait photography, your subject is paramount. The Indonesian dockworker above was an amazing subject; I spent 20 minutes photographing the guy and had a difficult time choosing the best image.

On the other hand, you could spend all day photographing me on the same dock, in front of the same ships, and have nothing but terrible images at the end of the day.

The point? Make sure your subject is genuinely interesting.

I look for people who have experienced life. The ideal subject has some sort of interesting quality, something that makes them stand out from the rest, though my subjects do have an everyday person quality about them. Finding subjects can be challenging, especially if you live in the suburbs (like I do). I am a travel photographer and usually find my subjects in rural areas overseas, but there are great subjects everywhere – you just need to look!

Clothing is critically important. If your 90-year old rural villager is wearing a hat that says, “I Love New York,” then you will probably want to politely ask them to take it off, or at least turn it around for the picture. Don’t let out-of-context clothing ruin or weaken your shot!
4 Smiley Guy

3. Choose a complementary background

Your image is only as strong as its weakest part – which is often the background. This is because, as photographer Jim Zuckerman puts it, “The world is a compositional mess.” So unless you deliberately choose a beautiful background, you’re going to be stuck with, well, a mess.

There are two important qualities you want to focus on:

First, at the very least, your background must be non-distracting. Before snapping a wide-angle portrait, carefully scan the scene and make sure nothing draws the eye. Beginners, and even intermediate photographers, can overlook obvious distractions in the background, such as trees that look like they are growing out of the subject’s head, patchy spots of bright light, colorful objects, straight lines, and geometric shapes. You don’t want anything that competes with your subject for attention, so make sure to simplify your composition until you get what you’re after.

The background in the image below isn’t at all distracting; the man is standing in front of a shipping container, which won’t win any awards for beauty, but gets the job done. Plus, it’s a good picture because of the strength of the subject.

dockworker smoking wide-angle portrait

Second, whenever possible, include a background that complements your subject by providing context. I’ve shot many images with simple, non-distracting backgrounds. But my favorite pictures include a background that tells a story about the subject.

It’s the reason I love shooting in places like rural China and Indonesia. The countries have many ancient villages that provide opportunities for amazing backgrounds, like the path in the photo below:

cheerful man in a hat

A quick piece of advice: I like to keep all evidence of modernity out of the background. I don’t like plastic stuff in my pictures, and I don’t include modern-looking buildings or cars. Instead, I prefer rural areas with weather-beaten buildings. If you’re like me, and you want to create more rustic, pure wide-angle portraits, then I’d recommend you do the same.

4. Shoot in the right lighting conditions

Great wide-angle portrait photography requires great light.

Try shooting either early or late in the day (when the sun is low in the sky) or in overcast conditions. I actually prefer a soft, overcast day (though I still shoot relatively early or late).

5. Put your subjects at ease

I don’t hire models, so some subjects work well and others less well. What you want to avoid is a picture of your subject standing flat-footed, straight up and down, and holding a fake smile.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to start your session by gaining their interest and confidence. If you have some images you’ve shot and processed, show them to your subject to give them an idea of what you are looking for (and hopefully pique their interest).

Plus, showing past photos will help communicate immediately that you are not looking for your subject to just stand and smile. It should also show that your posing expectations are basic.

woman with a cat posing on a chair

6. Work the scene for the best compositions

Once you’ve found the perfect subject, don’t just take one photo and pack up. Instead, take quite a few (assuming your subject has the patience). And as you take your shots, make sure to work the scene.

I like to get quite close to my subjects. For me, the eyes are a critically important part of the picture and must be very sharp. I focus on the closest eye, though I re-focus frequently as I move around the subject.

I generally ask the subject to look directly at the camera and not to smile, although not always. I then start moving slightly left or right. I ask them to keep their head still and just follow the camera with their eyes. I usually shoot from slightly below eye level, and I have them stand or sit at an angle to the camera. If the subject is standing, I ask them to put their weight on the back foot.

I like to include the subject’s hands in my compositions. With a wide-angle lens, hands in the foreground will look large, so try to strike a balance (make sure the hands are prominent but not too large). Simply position the hands closer to or farther away from the lens.

girl laughing wide-angle portrait

7. Make sure you have the right equipment and settings

For the best results, you’ll need a camera, a lens, and a single off-camera flash. Your camera should be equipped with an internal or external flash trigger to control your off-camera flash.

Here is how I set things up:

  1. Start by leaving your flash or trigger initially turned off.
  2. Set your camera to Manual mode.
  3. If the session is outdoors, dial in some basic settings – I usually aim for an aperture of f/7.1, a shutter speed of around 1/160s, and an ISO of 100. You can adjust your f-stop and shutter speed, but keep in mind that you cannot shoot faster than your camera’s maximum flash sync speed.
  4. Make the necessary adjustments to slightly underexpose the background by 1/3 to 2/3 stops. I usually start by adjusting shutter speed, but go no slower than 1/60s and no faster than 1/160s. If necessary, adjust the aperture to f/5.6 (at the absolute widest). Then, and only then, should you start bumping up the ISO.
  5. If you are indoors, begin with a higher ISO as a first step, and then make your adjustments to shutter speed and f-stop in the same manner.
woman standing next to building

8. Carefully position your flash for the best results

For 90% of my portraits, I use a single off-camera flash diffused with an umbrella or softbox. I recommend you do the same (while natural light can work, it generally won’t be as sculpted or as dramatic).

The most important rule with flash is “Don’t ruin your shot,” which is usually done by putting too much flash on your subject. Instead, you want to get a decent balance of natural and artificial light, so that the flash is undetectable to the untrained eye but lights your subject brighter than the underexposed background.

Now, turn on your flash and trigger. Here are some starting points:

  • Set your flash to Manual mode.
  • I typically position the flash at a 45-degree angle to the subject, about 2-3 feet (slightly less than a meter) away, higher than their head, angled downward.
  • I usually start with 1/16 flash power when outdoors. Then I adjust from there until the subject stands out from the background but does not look like they’ve been blasted with flash.

Wide-angle portrait photography: conclusion

As you hopefully gathered from this article, capturing wide-angle portraits isn’t hard, and it can look incredible.

So grab your camera, your lens, and your flash, and get out shooting. Remember the tips from this article. And have fun!

Now over to you:

Do you have any tips or tricks for wide-angle portrait photography? What are your favorite lighting setups? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Table of contents

Portrait Photography

    • 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid
    • 10 Ways to Direct a Portrait Shoot like a Pro
    • How to Photograph People: 7 Tips for Photographers Who Never Photograph People
    • 10 Crucial Things You Need to Think About for Portrait Photography
    • 5 Portrait Photography Rules You Should Probably Ignore
    • Five Budget Portrait Photography Hacks to Save You Money
    • 8 Lessons Learned from My First Attempt at Portrait Photography
    • How Self-Portraiture Makes You a Better Photographer
    • The Photo Critique: Portrait Edition
    • 10 Shots, 10 Portraits, 1 Focal Length: Take this Photography Challenge
    • How I Got The Shot: Portrait Style
    • Tips for Preparing for a Portrait Session
    • 8 Tips to Help Make People Comfortable for Their Portrait Session
    • Clothing for Portraits – How to Tell your Subjects What to Wear
    • How to Plan a Successful Sunset Portrait Session
    • 5 Secrets for Finding Great Indoor Photoshoot Locations
    • 10 Christmas Portrait Locations (with Bonus Lighting and Composition Tips)
    • How to Build a Bench Prop for Great Portrait Photos
    • A Beginners Guide to Taking Portraits of Elderly Clients: Part 1 – Preparation and Rapport
    • How to Scout for Portrait Shooting Locations
    • The Importance of Location for Outdoor Portraits
    • How to Choose Urban Landscapes for Portrait Photography
    • The Best Camera Settings for Portrait Photography
    • How to Achieve Blurred Backgrounds in Portrait Photography
    • How to Bypass the Portrait Mode on Your Digital Camera and Get Great Portraits
    • Understanding the Focus and Recompose Technique
    • Overcoming Depth of Field Problems in Portraits
    • 9 Ways to Ensure You Get Sharp Images When Photographing People
    • Stunning Portraits: Manipulating White Balance
    • Shooting for HDR Portraiture
    • How [Not] to Take a Self Timer Portrait
    • How Focal Length Changes the Shape of the Face in Portraiture
    • 5 Tips How to Set Up a Home Studio for Dramatic Portraits
    • Simple Portrait Setups You Can Create on a Tight Budget
    • How to Eliminate Reflections in Glasses in Portraits
    • Portrait Photography: How to Photograph People in the Harsh Midday Sun
    • 4 Ways to Shoot Portraits in the Middle of the Day
    • 6 Portrait Lighting Patterns Every Photographer Should Know
    • 3 Lighting Setups for Photographing Headshots
    • 6 Ways of Using Reflector to Take Better Portraits
    • How to Create and Shoot Night Portraits
    • How to Make Beautiful Portraits Using Flash and High-Speed Sync
    • How to Make a Low Key Portrait (Step by Step)
    • Fill Flash Photography: How to Get Beautiful Portraits (Even in Bad Light)
    • A Lighting Ratios Guide: How to Make (or Break) Your Portraits
    • How to Mix Ambient Light and Fill-Flash for Outdoor Portraits
    • How to Photograph Fantastic Portraits with One Flash
    • DIY How to Build and Use a Reflector to Take Better Portraits
    • Understanding Light for Better Portrait Photography
    • Tips for Doing Natural Light Headshots and Portraits
    • 3 Reasons to do Headshots with Natural Light
    • A Beginners Guide to Taking Portraits of Elderly Clients: Part 2 – Lighting and Posing
    • How to Create Stunning Wide-Angle Portraits (Using an Off-Camera Flash)

    • Tips for Making the Most of Morning Light for Portraits
    • 5 Ways to Use a Beauty Dish Light for Portraits
    • Beginners Tips for Sunrise Portraits : Part I
    • Getting to Grips with Fill Light in Portrait Photography
    • How to Use Flash for Night Portraits
    • What Size Beauty Dish is Right For Your Portrait Photography?
    • How to Create Catch Lights in Your Natural Light Portraits
    • Tips for Using Golden Hour Light for Portraits
    • Side-by-side comparison between reflectors and diffusers for portraits
    • 6 Tips for Taking Better Natural Light Classic Portraits
    • How to Use a Small Softbox With Your Flash to Transform Your Portraits
    • Simple Tips for Positioning Your Portrait Subject to Leverage Natural Light
    • The Importance of Shadows in Portrait Photography
    • So You Have No Model? Here are Ways to Practice Your Portrait Lighting With Toys
    • How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Portraits
    • 3 Steps to Professional Looking Headshots Using One Flash
    • How to Use Two LED Lights to Achieve Moody Portraits
    • Made in the Shade – Why Taking Portraits in the Shade Can be Ideal
    • What Is Good Light? (And How to Use It for Beautiful Portraits)
    • How to do Accent Lighting for Portraits
    • Tips For Great Indoor Portraits Using Natural Light
    • 5 Reasons for Doing Natural Light Portraits
    • Review of the Westcott Eyelighter for Headshots and Portraits
    • How to Use Angle of Light in People Photography for Added Punch
    • High Speed Sync Versus a Neutral Density Filter to Overcome Bright Sunlight in Portraits
    • 5 Creative Portrait Lighting Tricks Using Only Phone Light
    • How to Use Off-camera Flash to Fix Lighting Problems for Outdoor Portraits
    • How to Create Awesome Portrait Lighting with a Paper Bag an Elastic Band and a Chocolate Donut
    • Tips for Using Speedlights to Create the Right Lighting for Outdoor Portraits
    • How to use a Gobo to add Depth to Your Portraits with Subtractive Lighting
    • How to Use Hard Lighting to Create a Dramatic Portrait
    • Portrait Comparison – Flash Versus Natural Light
    • Stealing Light – Using Street Lights for Portraits
    • Five Places for Perfect Natural Portrait Lighting
    • How to See the Light for Portraits: A Quick Tip for Beginners
    • Shooting with Available Light – Lifestyle Portraiture
    • 5 Ways to Light Your Christmas Tree Portraits This Festive Season
    • A Simple Lighting Technique for Couples Portraits
    • Awash In Light: High Key Portraiture
    • A Portrait Lighting Project for a Rainy Day
    • Simple Portrait Lighting Setup: Gorgeous Result
    • How to Achieve Great Portraits with Window Light
    • A Simple Exercise on Working with Natural Light in Portraits
    • Small Flash Portraits on Location with Adorama TV
    • Portraits on an Overcast Day? Use a Reflector
    • Tips for Using Flash for Beach Portraits
    • How to Find and Use Natural Reflectors for Portraits
    • How to Create Dramatic Portraits with Shadow Photography
    • Tips for Portrait Photography in Overcast Weather
    • How to Photograph People Outdoors Without Using a Reflector
    • How To Use an Outdoor Studio for Natural Portraits
    • Female Poses: 21 Posing Ideas to Get You Started Photographing Women
    • Glamour Posing Guide: 21 Sample Poses to Get You Started
    • Posing Guide: 21 Sample Poses to Get You Started with Photographing Men
    • Good Crop Bad Crop – How to Crop Portraits
    • How to Pose and Angle the Body for Better Portraits
    • Posing Guide: 21 Sample Poses to Get You Started with Photographing Groups of People
    • Posing Guide: 21 Sample Poses to Get You Started with Photographing Couples
    • Your Guide to the Best Poses for Engagement Photos
    • How to do Gentle Posing: A Collection of Prompts to Get You Started
    • Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups
    • How to Pose People for Headshots
    • Tips for Posing People in Outdoor Portraits
    • 20 Tips for Getting People to Smile in Photos
    • How to Avoid Fake Smiles in Your People Photography
    • Tips for Posing Muscular Female Body Types
    • Your Posing Guide for Maternity Sessions
    • Handiwork: How to Pose Hands
    • Your Guide to Posing Bands in Photography
    • Posing Tip for Portraits – Which Way Should Your Subject Lean?
    • Posing Tips – Waistlines, Thighs and Bustlines
    • 3 Posing Tips for Young Siblings
    • What Everybody Ought to Know About Posing for Portraits
    • Poser: Achieve Perfect Portrait Expression
    • Capturing Better Portraits Between Poses
    • A Posing Technique from A Girl With a Pearl Earring
    • Tips for Posing Men
    • 6 Types of Portrait Backgrounds for Creative Images
    • 6 Tips for Perfect Composition in Portrait Photography
    • How to Find Great Backgrounds for Outdoor Portraits
    • How to Make Colors Pop in Your Portraits – Without Using Photoshop
    • How to Use Foreground Framing to Improve Your Portrait Photography
    • How to Use Negative Space in People Photography
    • 3 Simple Ways to Use Framing and Layering in Portraits
    • Is Portrait Formatting always best for Portraits?
    • Portrait Tip: Don't Fill the Frame
    • How to Use Portrait Angles More Creatively: A Visual Guide
    • How to Use Facial View and Camera Angle to take Flattering Portraits
  • GEAR
    • Comparing a 50mm Versus 85mm Lens for Photographing People
    • Comparing a 24mm Versus 50mm Lens for Photographing People
    • 3 Tips for Taking Portraits with a Kit Lens
    • Best Fujifilm X-Series Kit for Urban Portraits
    • 3 Ways to Get Killer Portraits Using a Tripod
    • Photographing Portraits with Classic Lenses (includes Example Images)
    • Portrait Photographers: Do You Really Need a 70-200mm Lens?
    • Essential Portrait Photography Gear You Need When Starting Out
    • Portable Portrait Studio in a Bag: Now You Can Take Portraits While on the Road
    • How to Choose the Perfect Portrait Lens
    • Which 50mm Lens is Best for Portraits?
    • 13 Tips for Improving Outdoor Portraits
    • Create Beautiful Indoor Portraits Without Flash (NSFW)
    • 10 Tips for Photographing Great Headshots
    • 3 Simple Ways to Create Stunning Eyes in Your Portrait Photography
    • 11 Tips for Photographing High School Senior Portraits
    • Tips for Doing Fall Portraits
    • 6 Tips for Photographing Large People
    • 7 Tips for Black and White Portrait Photography
    • How to Create Environmental Portraits (Tips and Examples)
    • Capturing Unenthusiastic Teens: Forget the Perfect Pose and Get Photos You Truly Love
    • Tips for Taking the Torture out of Extended Family Portrait Sessions
    • Self Portrait Photography Tips
    • What the Mona Lisa Can Teach You About Taking Great Portraits
    • 5 Tips for Musician Portraits (So You Can Hit All the Right Notes)
    • 5 Tips to Help You Take More Natural Looking Portraits
    • 15 Tips for More Powerful Portraits
    • How to Create Dramatic Portraits in Your Garage
    • 9 Tips that Make Couples Happy During a Portrait Session
    • 5 Tips for Taking Better Portraits in Nature
    • Snow Portrait: Behind the Scenes
    • Tips for Creating Dance Portraits
    • How to Take Better Beach Portraits at Any Time of Day
    • The Introverts Guide to Photographing People
    • 6 Ways to Take a Candid Portrait of Somebody You Know
    • 3 Body Language Hacks to Improve Your Portrait Photography
    • 5 More Tips for Making Better Black and White Portraits
    • Tips for Planning and Capturing a Creative Portrait
    • 5 Tips for Creating Romantic Portraits of Couples
    • 10 Tips to Create Emotive Portraits
    • 7 Tips for Photographing a Bridal Portrait Session
    • 3 Lessons I Learned by Doing a Self-Portrait Project
    • The Ultimate Guide to Photographing People for the Shy Photographer
    • Tips for Getting Yourself to Relax as a Photographer and Have More Successful Portrait Sessions
    • Tips for Taking More Natural Engagement Portraits
    • 6 Tips for Better Portraits on Location
    • 7 Ways to Take Advantage of Autumn in Your Portrait Photography
    • 7 Tips and Etiquette for Taking Portraits in Public
    • How to Make a Unique Portrait in the City at Night
    • 3 Tips for Creating Outstanding Portraits, Inspired by the work of Dutch Artist Van Gogh
    • 5 Keys to Taking Beautiful Maternity Portraits
    • Photographing People: To do Styled Portraits or Not?
    • 7 Steps to Capturing Truth in Your Portraiture
    • Engagement Portrait Shoots: 7 Professional Tips to take your Engagement Shoots to the Next Level
    • Personalities and Portraits – and Getting Them to Mix
    • 3 Reasons to Have Your Own Portrait Taken
    • 5 Tips for Photographing Portfolio-Worthy Costume Portraits
    • 3 Critical People Skills Portrait Photographers Need
    • The Essence of Masculinity – Portraits of Men
    • 5 Corporate-Style Portrait Techniques
    • 5 Tips for Doing Portrait Photography in Busy Locations
    • Tips for Great Beach Sunset Portraits
    • How to Create Portraits with a Black Background
    • How Using Props in Portraits Can Make Your Photos More Interesting
    • How to Take Unique Crystal Ball Portraits
    • How to Create a Hollywood Film Noir Portrait
    • How to Create this “Fight Club” Inspired Portrait using One Light
    • Dragging the Shutter for Creative Portraits
    • 5 Secrets for Creating Perfect Silhouette Portrait Photography
    • How to do Tilt-Shift Portraits
    • Copper, Prisms, and Orbs, Oh My! – 3 Creative Techniques for People Photography
    • Portrait Tip: Add Interest and Movement into Your Shots with Wind
    • Glitter Portrait: How I Took It
    • How to Create a Unique Bokeh Portrait for Under $ 10
    • 5 Ways to Use a Piece of Glass for Unique Portraits
    • Room with a View: How to Create this Window with Blinds Portrait Anywhere
    • 7 Steps to Perfect White Portrait Backgrounds in the Studio
    • How to Make Unique Portraits Using Light Painting
    • 11 Steps for Basic Portrait Editing in Lightroom – A Beginner’s Guide
    • Five Common Portrait Retouching Mistakes to Avoid
    • How to Create a Dramatic Cinematic Style Portrait Using Photoshop Color Grading
    • How to Edit Corporate Headshots in Lightroom
    • How to Create a Dark and Moody Rembrandt-Style Portrait In Lightroom
    • How to Retouch a Portrait with the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom
    • Photoshop: Red Eye Fix for Difficult Cases in People and Pets
    • 3 Steps to Photoshop Retouching for Natural Looking Portraits
    • How to do Frequency Separation Portrait Retouching in Photoshop
    • Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized
    • How to Add a Grunge Effect to Your Portraits Using Lightroom
    • How to Create Twinkle Lights for Christmas Tree Portraits in Photoshop
    • How to Enhance Portraits Using Gray Layers to Dodge and Burn in Photoshop
    • How to Blur the Background of a Portrait Using the Magnetic Lasso Tool in Photoshop
    • How to Use Photoshop Blending Modes for Fine Art Portraiture
    • Stylized Techniques for Editing Portraits Using Lightroom
    • How to Make a Bubble Portrait using Photoshop CS3
    • Creating a Black and White High Contrast Portrait Edit in Lightroom
    • How to Create a “Soft Portrait” Preset in Lightroom 4
    • Basic Photoshop Tutorial – How to Add Creative Overlays to Your Portraits
    • 3 Essential Photoshop Tools for New Portrait Photographers
    • How to Make Creative Lightroom Develop Presets for Portraits
    • 5 Reasons to Use Lightroom for Portrait Retouching
    • Advanced Portrait Retouch on a Male Subject in Lightroom 4 – Part 1 of 3
    • 3 Ways to Make Selective Color Portraits Using Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro 2
    • Correcting For Under Exposure and Boosting Dynamic Range with an Environmental Portrait in Lightroom 4
    • How to do Portrait Retouching With Luminar
    • Tips for Portrait Processing with ON1 Photo RAW 2018.5
    • 5 Tips to Cut Your Portrait Editing Time in Half
    • Portrait Consultations: Two Questions That Make A Big Difference
    • How to Shoot a Self Portrait to Support your Brand Identity
    • 5 Examples of Beautiful Simple Portraits
    • DISCUSS: When you Photograph People in Black and White, you Photograph their Souls
    • 21 Inspirational Natural Light Portraits
    • 24 Photos of Perfectly Posed Portraits
    • 19 More Creative Mirror Self Portraits
    • 18 Stunning Self Portraits
    • Interview with Fine Art Portrait Photographer Bill Gekas
    • 11 Influential Portrait Photographers you Need to Know
    • Black and White Portraits a Set of Images to Admire
    • Nadav Kander on Portrait Photography [VIDEO]
    • 21 Spooky Portraits
    • Inspiring Portraits of Women – a Collection of Images
    • 12.5 Years of Daily Self Portraits [VIDEO]
    • Interview with Self Portrait and 365 Photographer – Anna Gay
    • Triptych Portrait Series
    • 8 Striking Portraits from Photograph Einar Erici [Shot in 1930]
    • An Interview With Underwater Portrait Photographer Sacha Blue
    • Masters of Photography – Yousuf Karsh Portrait Photographer
    • 21 Fun Images of People Laughing
    • Portrait Photography: Secrets of Posing & Lighting [Book Review]
    • The Luminous Portrait: Book Review
    • The Portrait Photography Course by Mark Jenkinson – Book Review
    • The Perfect Portrait Guide – How to Photograph People – Book Review
    • Improve Your Portraits with these Courses from Ed Verosky
    • People Photography and Portraits: Best Resources Toolbox

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The post How to Create Stunning Wide-Angle Portraits (Using an Off-Camera Flash) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ken Koskela.

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Ultimate Guide to Using Lightroom Presets in Photoshop

27 Mar

Ansel Adams once said, “you don’t take a photograph, you make it.” Fortunately, with tools like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, producing that perfect image is a much less daunting task nowadays. Still, it can be hard to keep up with all the updates and changes. Have you ever fallen in love with a preset that you want to use in Continue Reading

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How to Make Beautiful Portraits Using Flash and High-Speed Sync

14 Mar

The post How to Make Beautiful Portraits Using Flash and High-Speed Sync appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sean McCormack.

how to use flash and high-speed sync for stunning portraits

The scene: Outdoors with full sunlight.

The gear: Your camera, lens, and flash.

The problem: You find that your flash only works at 1/200s or below, so you need to be at f/16 or f/22 to get a well-exposed shot. And at f/16-f/22, everything is in focus, including all the cars and other distractions in the background. (Those dust spots you keep meaning to clean are also perfectly visible.)

Why can’t you shoot with a higher shutter speed so you can have a wider aperture?

Well, it’s all down to the issue of sync speed.

More specifically, it’s about using flash and high-speed sync.

Generally speaking, to overpower the sun and stay below your camera’s sync speed, you’re forced to use a narrow aperture. Here I’m at f/20 just to stop the backlight overpowering the hair and the sky from blowing out:

Woman shot with off-camera flash

The resulting aperture means that everything is pretty much in focus, leaving the background looking cluttered.

(This shot is for example only; you should generally make a point of choosing clutter-free backgrounds.)

What is sync speed?

Sync speed is the fastest shutter speed for which the camera can expose the whole frame at once.

It’s a bit technical, but when you fire any shot below the sync speed, the first shutter curtain opens fully, revealing the entire sensor to light. At the end of the exposure time, the second shutter curtain moves across the frame to finish the capture.

(Generally, the sync speed varies between 1/125s and 1/250s; it depends on your camera.)

When you go above the sync speed, the second curtain starts to move before the first one has completed its journey. As your shutter speed gets shorter and shorter, the gap between the curtains narrows to a tiny slit. Despite this, all parts of the sensor receive light and a full exposure is made. On a bright day with a prime lens, you can easily shoot at 1/8000s at f/1.4 and have a perfect exposure. All parts of the frame still receive light, because ambient (non-flash) lighting is continuous throughout the exposure.

So why does the sync speed actually matter?

The sync speed problem

It’s when you introduce flash that you start to have problems.

You see, when a flash is fired (which usually happens when the first curtain is opened), all the light from it comes out in a very short space of time (in the order of milliseconds).

When you go above the sync speed, the position of the curtains doesn’t reveal the entire frame at the time the flash fires. So the shutter curtain blocks part of the flash and prevents it from reaching the sensor.

Any ambient light will expose normally, but the flash gets hidden in part of the frame. As your shutter speed gets faster and faster, more and more of the flash is blocked until it’s no longer visible in the shot (i.e., your exposure is what you’d get if you never fired the flash at all).

Below is a set of images taken at 1/3-stop increments with a flash. The first photo is at 1/250s, the native sync speed of my Fujifilm X-T2 camera. The other shutter speeds are, in order from left to right (and top to bottom): 1/320s, 1/400s, 1/500s, 1/630s, 1/800s, 1/1000s, and 1/1250s. Note that 1/320s is potentially usable if the subject is away from the edge of the frame.

portraits with flash and no high-speed sync

Everything in focus

Normally, when you use flash outside in daylight, you end up having everything in focus.

Remember the Sunny 16 Rule? If your subject is in direct sunlight during the day, you can set your aperture to f/16 and your shutter speed will be one over your ISO value.

So if your ISO is set to 100, your shutter speed would be 1/100s (at f/16). If your ISO is 200, then the shutter speed would be 1/200s.

Now, to get a darker, richer sky while using flash, you’d really need to be at f/22. Because you can’t get faster than 1/250s (remember, it’s the sync speed!), you have to increase the aperture to expose the shot correctly.

portraits with flash and no high-speed sync
I shot at f/20 and 1/160s to get a richer sky for this band promo shot. It’s quite an old photo, so there were limited options for widening the aperture at the time. Even the hills in the background are in clear focus. The beach isn’t exactly pretty, either.
portraits with flash setup
A behind-the-scenes shot showing my two flashes set to full power.

As you can see from the photos above, this is a huge problem. Shooting at an f/22 aperture just doesn’t give you the creamy bokeh that portrait photographers love, and it can leave you with unpleasant, distracting backgrounds.

So what do you do?

The solution: high-speed sync

There is a solution: high-speed sync, also known as focal-plane sync.

No, it’s not perfect, but it does work. You see, instead of firing the flash at the start of the shot, high-speed sync pulses the flash throughout the whole exposure, trying to simulate the effects of a continuous light.

flash set to high-speed sync
My flash set to high-speed sync. Usually, there’s a single-button hold or a double-button combination to turn HSS on.

It looks good, but it comes at the expense of power and heat, because HSS works the flash really hard. After a few shots, the flash may even shut down for cooling.

Now, for high-speed sync to work, you need the camera to transmit a signal to the flash and for the flash to have high-speed sync built in. Cactus Image makes a trigger called the V6 II, which allows you to use any HSS flash with any camera.

a flash trigger
The Cactus Image V6 II offers power and zoom control over a wide range of speedlights, and it also offers high-speed sync capabilities.

The look of high-speed sync

You can use high-speed sync to go over the sync-speed barrier, so settings like 1/4000s at f/1.4 are achievable with flash. You get complete control over the light, but while using the wide apertures you usually associate with natural-light photographs. Yes, please!

By shooting wide-angle photos with a shallow depth of field, you can even create images that look like stills from a movie.

Settings for high-speed sync

Let’s look at a typical setup and settings for a photo using high-speed sync. This particular shoot was done in the evening when the light was relatively low, but I really wanted a shallow depth of field – and therefore required high-speed sync.

I set my camera to f/1.4 for a super-shallow depth of field. To get the clouds properly exposed, I had to boost the shutter speed to 1/4000s. To get the flash to work, I had to set it to high-speed sync. Using a Cactus V6 II trigger, I could easily get my Fujifilm X-T10 to shoot with high-speed sync.

portraits with flash and high-speed sync
An evening HSS photo shot at 1/4000s, ISO 200, and f/1.4. Notice the shallow depth of field.
portraits with flash and high-speed sync behind the scenes
The behind-the-scenes shot, showing an octabox in front of a model (photo by my assistant, Ola).
close-up portrait
Using high-speed sync, I captured this shot at about 3:00 in the afternoon with the sun high in the sky. I worked with an 85mm lens at 1/2000s, f/2.5, and ISO 100 on a Canon 5D III. The sun acted as a second light in the shot. Again, the background is nicely out of focus.

Another high-speed sync portrait example:

portrait with high-speed sync
An issue with shooting outdoors on overcast days is that your shutter speeds can be low enough to cause camera shake. By bumping up the ISO, you can get a faster shutter speed, keeping you safe from blur. Using high-speed sync then lets the flash do the work. Here, I’ve shot to keep the flash looking as natural as possible.
1/1000s | f/4 | ISO 800

The alternative

Note that high-speed sync isn’t the only way to shoot with a wide aperture and flash.

For one, you can always head out at the beginning or the end of the day when the light is pretty low; then the ambient lighting won’t add much to the shot, and you’ll be able to get a nice exposure at 1/200s. Plus, you can get great sky color and you won’t be fighting against strong sunlight.

portrait with high-speed sync flash
A shot of the band Drown for Thin Air magazine. The evening light made the shot. I needed a higher aperture to get the whole band in focus, so I opted not to use high-speed sync here.

Of course, if you’re doing any photoshoots with clients, you often have to work with the subject’s schedule rather than your own. So you may have to shoot at midday to suit them.

And that leads to the next option.

Using a neutral density filter

If you shoot landscape photography, you will be familiar with neutral density (ND) filters. This filter type allows you to slow the shutter speed down to get nice, silky water.

Neutral means that it adds no color, while density refers to blocking light. You can get ND filters in a range of values from 1 stop to 16 stops.

For portraits, neutral density filters allow you to widen the aperture instead of dropping the shutter speed. So a 4-stop ND filter would take you from f/16 to f/4.

The drawback is that, as you block light, focusing can become harder.

Another potential issue is that not all ND filters are actually neutral. Some tend to have a color cast. (I have a Firecrest 10-stop ND for landscapes, which is neutral, but the older 4-stop filter I own – also from Firecrest – is slightly pink.)

portrait without a neutral density filter
Without the ND filter applied, I was forced to use a narrow aperture; note how the entire scene is in focus.
1/250s | f/16 | ISO 200
portrait with flash and high-speed sync
With the 4-stop ND filter applied, the background can be rendered out of focus. The flash is still at the same power as the unfiltered shot above. The filter does have a color cast, which is hard to remove completely.
1/250s | f/4 | ISO 200

Flash and high-speed sync: conclusion

As you now know, you can make outdoor portraits even when the sun is bright – simply by using flash and high-speed sync.

So make sure you get a flash that has HSS capabilities.

And start practicing!

Now over to you:

Have you ever used high-speed sync? Have you ever struggled to get nice bokeh in bright sunlight? Share your thoughts (and high-speed sync images!) in the comments below.

The post How to Make Beautiful Portraits Using Flash and High-Speed Sync appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sean McCormack.

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How to Take Creative Landscape Shots Using Intentional Camera Movement

21 Feb

The post How to Take Creative Landscape Shots Using Intentional Camera Movement appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Richard Beech.

how to take creative landscape shots using intentional camera movement

If you’re looking to capture some unique, creative photos, then I highly recommend trying out intentional camera movement photography.

Now, many photographic situations rely on ensuring your camera is still as possible during exposure for pin-sharp images. But is keeping your camera still always a good thing?

Instead, why not throw caution to the wind, move your camera while the shutter is open, and explore the range of creative opportunities this offers you as a photographer?

In this article, I’ll show you how to do exactly that!

What is intentional camera movement and why should you use it?

Intentional camera movement (or ICM for short) is a photographic technique where you move the camera as the image is taken.

bluebell woods intentional camera movement

One example of ICM is panning. The camera follows a moving subject in order to keep the subject sharp and the background blurred.

But while panning can get some great results, it’s actually a pretty tame form of ICM. Moving your camera during the exposure can open up many more creative options for you to try out.

In particular, intentional camera movement can be used to take some truly unique landscape shots. The technique can be exceptionally liberating, and by reducing the number of sharp details in a landscape, it allows you to concentrate on line, form, and color in your images.

In fact, with ICM, a scene that you may ordinarily consider too cluttered might just come to life – by letting you blend colors and shapes for an interesting abstract shot.

intentional camera movement on a beach

One of the reasons I have grown to love ICM is that it enables you to capture a landscape in a unique and personal way that cannot easily be reproduced. It can even breathe new life into overly familiar scenes, letting you see and capture something unique about a location you may have photographed many times before.

If you’re struggling to find inspiration for your next photographic project, or you want to get your creative juices flowing, intentional camera movement is a technique that you should try at least once.

In fact, it’s relatively easy to take some striking shots with ICM.

Plus, it can be a lot of fun!

So let’s take a look at how intentional camera movement photography actually works:

The best settings for intentional camera movement photography

A key factor to get right when using ICM is your shutter speed.

You see, the exposure needs to be long enough to capture significant motion blur (though different shutter speeds will give different effects).

In general, I recommend anything from 1/3s or 1/2s all the way down to multi-second exposures. Of course, you’re always free to experiment with faster or slower shutter speeds; the core of a creative technique like ICM is simply playing around.

Because of these lengthy shutter speeds, shooting in low-light conditions is ideal for ICM. During the daytime, it can be harder to achieve the required shutter speeds, even at your camera’s lowest ISO setting and your lens’s smallest aperture (i.e., highest f-stop number).

If you do decide to shoot in the day, you may need to use a polarizing filter, a neutral density (ND) filter, or a combination of both. Personally, I prefer to use a polarizing filter as a starting point, as this helps to boost colors and cut down on reflections and glare. I will then add a 2-stop or a 4-stop ND filter if the shutter speed needs to be slowed down any further.

When starting out with ICM, it can help to shoot in Shutter Priority mode. Set the shutter speed to around half a second to start, then turn the ISO to the lowest available setting on your camera.

intentional camera movement abstract

Once you have practiced at this shutter speed, you can use longer exposure times thanks to a combination of low light and filters.

Make sure you focus manually in advance, and turn off the autofocus to prevent the camera from searching for focus during the long exposure.

Also, if you are using a lens that has image stabilization, remember to turn this off.

How to move your camera

Once you have taken control of the shutter speed, the next step is to determine how you’ll move the camera after pressing the shutter button.

Get creative; there are no rules! You can move the camera vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. You can move it fast or slow. Alternatively, you can rotate the camera 360 degrees to create a spiral effect, or change the focal length on a zoom lens during exposure to create a zoom effect.

tree at sunset ICM

With practice, you can combine two or more of these movements to create something truly unique. The look and feel of your final images will be determined by the speed, direction, and smoothness of your chosen movements.

Note that you can always use a tripod to control the camera movement. This will help you to capture a smoother result, which can be useful if you wish to retain a straight horizon line.

(Personally, I prefer to work handheld when moving the camera, as it offers greater flexibility and provides more opportunities to experiment with different movements.)

Bold movements can sometimes be more effective, as there is a risk that subtle movements may end up looking like camera shake in the final image.

So bear in mind:

While waving your camera around may not come naturally and may result in you getting some funny looks from amused onlookers, the end results will definitely be worth it!

What to shoot for the best results

Now that you know how to capture beautiful ICM photos, all that’s left is to pick your ICM subjects.

A good place to begin is by looking for locations that offer striking colors, lines, or patterns.

Forests are a favorite ICM subject of mine, particularly during the spring and autumn seasons. Clean, parallel lines provided by the trees, as well as the vibrant colors of nature (created by flowers in the spring and fallen leaves in autumn), lend themselves to a vertical camera movement shot. The movement can be from the top down or from the bottom up, and it can be fast or slow; it really just depends on the effect you wish to capture and how experimental you want to be.

intentional camera movement in bluebell woods

Seascapes can be a good starting point for side-to-side camera movement, where you pan the camera in line with the horizon. Alternatively, in rougher waters, you can try to match the movement of your camera to the movement of the waves for an altogether different effect.

Shooting at sunrise or sunset can provide you with a greater variety of colors to work with, and shooting city lights after dark can also offer a wide range of creative options.

Once you’ve identified a suitable location, you will probably find yourself taking multiple shots with various different movements.

(I should warn you that intentional camera movement photography can sometimes be quite addictive, and you’ll often find your memory cards filling up quickly!)

You may find it useful to set your camera to shoot in burst mode so that you can take a series of shots in quick succession while moving the camera in a particular direction.

That way, you’ll end up with a lot of images to choose from – plus, every new shot will offer you a slightly different composition and effect!

A few intentional camera movement tips

As with any type of photography, images created using intentional camera movement are not going to be to everybody’s taste.

It’s a highly subjective art form, and what works for you will not work for others.

Also, keep in mind basic principles of photography, such as composition and exposure – these are still very important!

Also, while the ICM technique will give you a very abstract result, you may find it helpful to have at least one element of the scene sharp or recognizable in the final image.

river weeds ICM

Finally, there is an element of trial and error when starting out with intentional camera movement. You’ll quickly find out what works for you and what doesn’t; this will help you develop your own style.

And don’t be too concerned if you do not get an effect you like right away – the technique can be quite hit-and-miss sometimes. Take a lot of shots, and don’t be too quick to delete images that you feel haven’t worked. There is a chance that, after a few days, you may take another look and see something that you like, after all!

Intentional camera movement photography: The next step

One of the great things about intentional camera movement photography is that it is all about how you express yourself!

Think of your camera as your paintbrush.

Get creative, have fun, and start seeing landscapes in an exciting new way.

Now over to you:

Do you have any intentional camera movement photos you’d like to share? Please feel free to display them in the comments below!

The post How to Take Creative Landscape Shots Using Intentional Camera Movement appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Richard Beech.

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How to Create Cool Effects Using Displacement Maps in Affinity Photo

17 Feb

The post How to Create Cool Effects Using Displacement Maps in Affinity Photo appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

create cool effects with displacement maps in Affinity Photo

Adding natural-looking text to a photo can be challenging. But with displacement maps in Affinity Photo, you can easily produce awesome-looking text blends.

In fact, it takes just a few clicks to merge text with a second photo, so that it looks like the text was there all along.

There are a couple of different ways to achieve this look in Affinity Photo. If you’re used to other image manipulation software, you may be familiar with some of the steps. And if you’re new to Affinity Photo, you may not be aware of the features that make creating cool effects using displacement maps even easier.

So let’s dive right in!

Blend overlay example of displacement maps in Affinity

What are displacement maps in Affinity Photo?

Displacement maps in Affinity Photo allow the texture of an image to be mapped onto another layer.

Displacement maps are commonly used to add natural-looking text to an image. You can use them when you want to place a logo or text on a t-shirt or make text look like a natural part of a scene.

example of displacement maps in Affinity

How to create a displacement map: Step-by-step instructions

As with pretty much any editing effect, there is more than one way to reach your end goal.

In this article, I will show you a simple, step-by-step method I use to create displacement maps in Affinity Photo.

Specifically, I’ll use Affinity Photo’s Displace filter.

Using the Displace filter is a great way to work with displacement maps. It’s quick, easy, and non-destructive.

This means you have a great deal of control. You can apply your Displace filter and tweak it as much as you like – without permanently altering the underlying photo.

Step 1: Open your mapping image

Select the image you plan to modify. Open it in Affinity Photo.

Locate the file with your text or logo, then drag and drop it onto the underlying image file.

You can use a TIFF or PNG file with transparency. Alternatively, type in the text you want to use, as I’ve done in my example file (below).

Position your image or text where you want it to appear. If you’ve chosen to type your text, pick the font and color you think will best suit your needs.

Screen grab from Affinity Photo showing displacement maps in Affinity

Step 3: Create a live filter layer

In the top menu, choose Layer.

Then go down to New Live Filter Layer>Distort>Displace Filter

Screen grab from Affinity Photo

In the Layers panel, you will now see a live displacement map filter added to your logo or text layer. 

Screen grab from Affinity Photo showing displacement maps in Affinity

Step 4: Choose a displacement map

In the displacement map dialog box, you will have the option of loading a map from a file or loading it from other layers. Sometimes you may have a separate image you want to use as your mapping layer. In this example, I will show you how to use the lower layer to create a displacement map, because this is what will typically provide you with a great result.

Click on the option to Load Map From Layers Beneath. At this point, depending on the resolution of the photo you are working with, you may begin to see the effects of the mapping filter.

(But don’t worry if you can’t yet see this; we’ll work on the effect in the next steps.)

Step 5: Adjust the displacement strength

Use the slider in the Displace filter dialog box to increase or decrease the strength of the filter.

Adjust the filter intensity until your top layer merges naturally with the image below.

Note that this is just the first level of adjustment. In the next steps, you’ll discover how to fine-tune the result, so don’t be concerned if you can’t yet get your image looking exactly how you want.

Screen grab from Affinity Photo

Step 6: Rasterize the text layer

At this point, if you are working with a text layer or some other non-rasterized layer, you need to rasterize it so the next step will work.

Right-click on the text layer and select Rasterize.

Step 7: Control your blending options

Now it’s time to further adjust how your text or logo blends with the layer beneath it.

Click on the cog icon in the Layers panel. (It’s between the blend mode drop-down and the padlock icon.)

A new dialog box will appear; this lets you control the blending options for your layer. Note the two curves graphs:

Screen grab from Affinity Photo

You’ll want to use the rightmost curve, labeled Underlying Composition Ranges. But before you start, make sure to uncheck the Linear box below it. 

Now click and drag from the top left of this curve. Watch as your text or logo further blends with the layer beneath. Continue to click and drag on the curve until you have a look you’re happy with.

Step 8: Tweak the displacement amount

If you’ve merged an image rather than text, you can now go back and tweak the Displace filter.

(If you merged text, this option won’t be available, because the filter is combined with the text layer when it’s rasterized.)

Step 9: Change the blend mode

For further control, you can select a different blend mode for your text or logo layer.

Scroll through the options in the blend mode drop-down box until you find one that best fits the look you want.

You can also decrease the opacity of the top layer so the underlying texture shows through more.

displacement maps in Affinity example

Using displacement maps in Affinity Photo: Conclusion

The key to success in all photo manipulation is experimentation.

So if you want to create a stunning result, use these steps as guidelines, but don’t be afraid to play around. Push the boundaries!

Using displacement maps in Affinity Photo is fun and non-destructive. This means you can try as many options as you like without permanently affecting your images!

Now over to you:

How do you plan to use displacement maps? Share your thoughts (and images) in the comments below!

The post How to Create Cool Effects Using Displacement Maps in Affinity Photo appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

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Video: Brendan Barry makes 20″ x 24″ wildflower image using camera obscura and color reversal process

12 Feb

UK-based photographer Brendan Barry has used his lockdown to grow closer to nature. He’s been taking regular neighborhood walks with his daughter and learning more about the area surrounding their home in Exeter and the city’s surprising nature. They have regularly picked wildflowers on the journey, which Barry has been photographing using a color reversal process he has been developing over the last few years.

Barry’s process is ‘long and laborious and the photographs hard to achieve.’ He tells us that it can take up to eight hours to create a successful exposure, and due to the nature of the toxic chemicals he uses, he often shoots at night to protect his toddler daughter. Plus, as he says, ‘it is so peaceful and quiet then.’

Barry shoots directly to 20″ x 24″ photographic paper using a camera obscura. He has been using a color reversal process that he’s developed over the last few years to make his images.

In a project commissioned by Maketank and filmed by Chen Liu (Lynd), we go behind the scenes with Brendan Barry as he creates a 20″ x 24″ color still life of wildflowers captured directly to photographic paper. Barry uses a camera obscura and his color reversal process, which he has been working on for the last few years. The image is from his series, ‘Wildflowers picked on walks with Bea.’

The ongoing photo series is a very personal project for Barry. The subjects are collected during walks with his daughter, and the images are time-consuming and difficult to make. The images are also a reflection of the times. The lockdown is very difficult for many, and the ongoing pandemic is even more challenging in and of itself. With that said, the lockdown has also given people like Brendan Barry the chance to connected differently with their neighborhoods.

Brendan Barry carefully arranges wildflowers for a new image. Each shot can take upwards of eight hours to create from start to finish.

For Barry, he feels it is ‘vital to capture and appreciate what is here, to remind ourselves of what we have all around us, literally on our doorsteps, in the hope that we may seek to retain some of this when normality, whatever form that will take, returns.’

If Brendan Barry’s name sounds familiar, there’s a good reason. He has created many fascinating cameras and photographic projects over the years, many of which we have featured. Last October, we shared how Barry was commissioned by the Exeter Canal and Quay Trust to convert an entire room into a camera obscura. If you’d like to learn how to do that, we also covered a tutorial from Barry about this topic last spring.

During the lockdown, Barry converted his backyard shed into a camera and darkroom, which he has used as part of his wildflower series.

In 2019, Barry transformed the 46th floor of the 101 Park Avenue skyscraper in New York City into a massive camera obscura. That same year, he also converted a shipping container into a camera, which he called ‘the world’s biggest, slowest, and most impractical Polaroid camera.’

If you’d like to see more of Brendan Barry’s work, visit his website and follow him on Instagram. He’s always up to something awesome.

Image credits: All images used with kind permission from Brendan Barry.

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Adobe Camera Raw vs. Nikon ViewNX-i and Capture NX-D: Which should you be using?

19 Jan


Recently, I kicked off a new series of articles comparing the software provided by camera manufacturers with one of their most popular third-party alternatives, pitting Canon Digital Photo Professional head-to-head against Adobe Camera Raw. Now, I’m back with the second in the series, in which we’ll take a look at how Adobe’s raw processing rivals that offered for free with Nikon’s cameras.

Nikon ViewNX-i version 1.4.3’s user interface.

There’s a bit more to discuss this time around, as Nikon offers a choice of two different raw processing apps for free — the somewhat inconsistently-named ViewNX-i and Capture NX-D. As in the previous article, I’ll be limiting discussion mostly to each application’s user interface and image quality in the interests of keeping things to a readable length, and won’t be addressing features like image management, tethering or printing.

The ground rules

In this article, I’m comparing Adobe Camera Raw 12.4 alongside Adobe Bridge 10.1.1 versus Nikon ViewNX-i 1.4.3 and Capture NX-D 1.6.3, all of which are their current versions. My computer is a 2018-vintage Dell XPS 15 9570 laptop running Windows 10 version 1909.

To level the playing field as much as possible, I’ve once again aimed to reproduce the look of already-processed images from our galleries, without any prior knowledge as to the recipes behind them. I’ve chosen images from the Nikon Z6 for use in this comparison, since it’s similar in price and resolution to the EOS R used in the first article, and has been around long enough for Adobe to fine-tune its support.

Adobe Camera Raw version 12.4’s user interface.

To avoid getting too far into the weeds, sharpness and noise reduction were left at their defaults, while lens corrections were enabled for all three apps where possible.

Adobe Camera Raw doesn’t allow built-in corrections to be disabled at all. ViewNX-i doesn’t allow you to change whether or not distortion correction is enabled, and just abides by what’s set in the raw file. Only Capture NX-D allows corrections to be enabled/disabled (although even it prevents disabling distortion correction for certain lenses).

Images processed in ACR were saved at JPEG quality 11, just as used in our galleries. For NX-i and NX-D, I saved at JPEG quality 86, producing similarly-sized files.

The main differences

Click or tap for the full-sized ACR version; here for ViewNX-i version

Of course, the most immediately obvious differences between ACR and NX-i / NX-D are their camera support and price tag. You already paid for NX-i and NX-D when you bought your Nikon camera, so it’s effectively free. While it only supports Raw files from the company’s own cameras, you can expect full Raw support for every Nikon camera to be available pretty much immediately upon release.

By contrast, ACR comes with a recurring subscription fee. While it supports a vast range of cameras from many manufacturers – including every single interchangeable-lens Nikon camera made to date – 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 Coolpix compacts. While Adobe offers ‘camera matching’ profiles for almost every Nikon ILC, for example, it’s not available for a fair few compacts, including the relatively recent Coolpix A1000.

As for the differences between ViewNX-i and Capture NX-D, we’ll describe those in more detail when we look at NX-D on the next page. Suffice it to say that NX-i is the simpler, more approachable of the pair, however.

ACR is a little cleaner, but NX-i is approachable too

Click or tap for the full-sized ACR version; here for ViewNX-i version

For the remainder of this page, we’ll focus solely on ViewNX-i. Although its interface isn’t quite as modern as that of ACR, it’s still pretty clean overall, with relatively few controls on offer. Some features like sharpening are combined into a single easy-to-use slider, while others like noise reduction are controlled entirely automatically.

The selection of controls available to the user is sometimes a bit odd, though. For example, I’d wager that most NX-i users won’t have the first clue what “axial color aberration” means, nor will they find any tooltip explaining it if they hover over the control. Yet several more common (and easily-understood) attributes like distortion and vignetting corrections cannot be controlled by the end-user.

The selection of controls available in ViewNX-i is sometimes curious. For example, there are controls for more obscure functions like aberration and diffraction, but none for more easily-understood variables like distortion and vignetting.

The good news is that, with fewer controls on offer, Nikon gives you access to everything up front. Editing functionality isn’t hidden behind buttons or under menus. Nor is it strewn across multiple tabs of controls, as in some applications.

Instead, you’ll find all available editing tools grouped together in a single, relatively short scrollable panel. And sliders move smoothly rather than in large steps, so making fine-grained adjustments is easy.

Like ACR, modern features like support for 4K displays, touch-screens and pen control are pretty good, although if you switch between 4K and Full HD displays — especially while NX-i is running — you’ll often have to resize panels or perhaps even restart the application entirely so it redetects the screen resolution before you can get to work.

ACR is still the speed champ, but ViewNX-i isn’t that far behind

Click or tap for the full-sized ACR version; here for ViewNX-i version

ViewNX-i isn’t quite as fast as ACR, especially when it comes to previewing changes as controls are adjusted. Still, it trails Adobe by only around a third in terms of final rendering times, which is much better than some rivals. All six images in this preview took ViewNX-i around 26 seconds to batch-process, compared to 19.5 seconds for ACR.

And while image previews aren’t adjusted in near real-time as in ACR, they never take more than a second or less to catch up to your changes, and render in a single pass. The accuracy of that preview isn’t perfect when viewing full images, so for the finest adjustments you’ll want to switch to a 1:1 view instead, but it’s certainly good enough to get you close.

Unfortunately, there’s no indicator to show when the preview is updating, which is a bit frustrating when making more subtle adjustments.

ACR gives you much more control, especially over shadows and highlights

Click or tap for the full-sized ACR version; here for ViewNX-i version

As noted previously, ViewNX-i offers a smaller selection of controls than does Capture NX-D, and the same goes doubly when compared to Adobe Camera Raw. A particularly surprising omission in an app aimed at less-experienced users is the lack of a one-click auto control to help get everything in the ballpark. Much like ACR, ViewNX-i includes slider control over brightness, contrast, shadows and highlights.

NX-i also has D-Lighting HS and Color Booster sliders, the latter replacing the separate saturation/vibrance sliders offered by Adobe, and providing a choice of people or nature modes for some control over skin tones. Sharpening control is likewise limited to a single slider with no fine-tuning possible. And Nikon’s app lacks ACR’s sliders for texture, clarity, dehazing or black-points and white-points entirely, as well as its noise reduction and curves controls.

The D-Lighting HS slider makes it really easy to recover shadow detail, but I found its interactions with the shadow protection and contrast sliders in particular to be a bit difficult to predict and control. With D-Lighting HS set in the upper half of its range, as little as a 2-3% change in the contrast slider could have a pretty major effect overall and badly block up deeper shadows. This was particularly true of the shots inside the aircraft hangar, as well as the backlit model shot.

The fixed noise reduction is too heavy-handed by far

Click or tap for the full-sized ACR version; here for ViewNX-i version

With less challenging scenes, though, I thought ViewNX-i did a pretty good job in most respects. It yielded pleasingly lifelike color with relatively little effort, and I found myself preferring its rendering of foliage and skies in particular over those of ACR.

The fly in the ointment is that its noise reduction – which, remember, can’t be disabled – is quite heavy-handed. This is particularly noticeable in portrait shots, where much fine detail is lost in things like hair or thread patterns in clothing, and skin can end up looking unnaturally plasticky. This, more than anything else, will push more experienced photographers to either Capture NX-D or a third-party alternative like ACR.

ViewNX-i’s default noise reduction can lead to slightly plasticky-looking skin.

If your shot doesn’t have much noise to start off with, though, ViewNX-i can extract about almost as much detail as can ACR. (And can appear a little crisper at default settings, thanks to slightly stronger unsharp masking).

Final thoughts on ViewNX-i

Click or tap for the full-sized ACR version; here for ViewNX-i version

Less experienced photographers might, perhaps, find ViewNX-i to be a bit less intimidating than Capture NX-D or Adobe Camera Raw, and it’s certainly capable of providing decent results if you can live with its noise reduction performance. Performance is decent too, especially in terms of final rendering, although Adobe still takes the win handily in this respect. But for many, the limited controls on offer and the heavy-handed noise reduction will push them to Capture NX-D or a third-party alternative instead — and rightly so.

Nikon ViewNX-i

Pros Cons
  • Available free with your camera
  • Excellent support for Nikon’s cameras from launch day
  • Realistic color with minimal effort
  • Impressive shadow recovery from D-Lighting HS
  • Decent performance, albeit still not as good as ACR
  • Only supports Nikon cameras
  • Lacks many controls offered by ACR and other rivals
  • Selection of controls doesn’t make sense for less-experienced shooters
  • No one-click auto control
  • Can’t use distortion correction if it wasn’t enabled at capture time
  • Denoising robs fine detail and can’t be disabled
  • Interactions between controls can prove challenging

Adobe Camera Raw

Pros Cons
  • More modern user interface
  • Supports a vast range of cameras from many brands
  • Great performance and accurate real-time preview
  • Great image quality overall
  • Holds onto more fine detail than ViewNX-i
  • Does a great job with highlights/shadows
  • Recurring subscription fee with no perpetual license option
  • Camera support can take a while to arrive
  • Less pleasing color than Nikon’s software by default
  • Leaves significantly more noise in images by default

And with our Nikon ViewNX-i vs. Adobe Camera Raw comparison complete, it’s time to see how Capture NX-D fares against its third-party rival. Continue reading on the next page!

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Adobe apps not officially supported on Apple’s M1 chips using Rosetta 2, but native versions are coming

14 Nov

Earlier this week, Apple announced the first trio of Mac computers built using Apple’s own silicon. The new MacBook Air, 13″ MacBook Pro and Mac mini devices all use Apple’s new M1 chip. During the event, Apple announced that Adobe, among many other developers, is working on releasing new versions of its software that are compatible with the M1 chip.

As it turns out, these new M1-compatible versions will be critical for Adobe Lightroom users on the new Apple silicon Macs. On a dedicated page about Lightroom Classic compatibility with the upcoming macOS 11 operating system, Adobe warns that ‘Adobe apps run under Rosetta 2 emulation on Apple devices with Apple Silicon M1 processors is not officially supported.’ The company continues, ‘Native support is planned.’

Click to enlarge

Early adopters of the M1-powered Apple computers will have to do without official support for now. It is worth noting that at this point, Adobe hasn’t discovered any issues with running Lightroom Classic 10 under Rosetta 2 emulation, but as it is not officially supported, the user does assume non-zero risk. The MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac mini computers powered by the M1 chip are all available for order now ahead of a November 17 release.

In Apple’s presentation, embedded below, Senior Vice President, Craig Federighi, said Adobe is bringing Lightroom CC to its M1 computers in December and following it up with Photoshop in early 2021 (around the 18:10 timestamp).

While Photoshop and Lightroom are the primary apps for photographers in the Adobe ecosystem, the company has many other heavily-used apps, such as Premiere, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, and much more. As of writing, Adobe has not offered a timeline for other Adobe apps built for the M1 chip.

In case you missed Apple’s event on Tuesday, you can watch a replay of the stream below:

The Apple M1 chip promises massive performance gains over prior Intel chips. In the case of the M1-powered MacBook Air, Apple promises up to 3.5 times faster CPU performance and up to 5 times faster graphics. The MacBook Air also ditches a fan, offering a ‘silent design.’ The 13″ MacBook Pro maintains an active cooling system, offers up to 2.8 times faster CPU performance and up to 5 times faster GPU performance. With the M1 chip, the new Mac mini also sees massive gains. Its CPU is up to 3 times faster and the GPU is 6 times faster. The new computers start at $ 999 USD, $ 1,300 and $ 699 respectively. For the full details on the new machines, check out coverage from earlier this week.

Adobe has been hard at work developing native versions of its applications, including Photoshop shown here during the Apple presentation on November 10. In the presentation, seen further above, Adobe states that it has observed massive performance gains on Apple silicon.

The move to Apple silicon is a major one for Apple. The promised performance gains are hugely impressive on paper, and the foundation being built appears to be a strong one. Of course, software must be designed to take full advantage of the new silicon. Adobe certainly has the talent and resources to do so.

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This $95 lens attachment turns the world around you into a globe using a little glass marble

11 Nov

We’ve come across a number of weird lenses and lens accessories over the years, but the Soratama from Zenjix certainly stands out from the crowd, for better or worse.

The lens attachment features a 72mm filter thread and is designed to go in front of nearly any lens you can find step down/up rings for. It uses a single sheet of glass with what is effectively a clear marble to turn the world around you into a little globe of sorts.

These globe-style shots aren’t new, per se, but unlike photos that use larger glass orbs, this attachment is smaller and means your hand won’t be in the image. We can’t attest to image quality, but the above video shows what kind of shots are possible with the Soratama. There are multiple versions of the Soratama being sold on eBay, starting around $ 95 with shipping.

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6 Ways of Using Reflector to Take Better Portraits

07 Nov

The post 6 Ways of Using Reflector to Take Better Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Dennis Drenner.

I’ve been making my living as a photographer for over 20 years, and I have accumulated thousands of dollars of gear in the process. I have the latest Canon DSLRs, a full complement of lenses, strobes, light stands, gels, filters, softboxes, tripods, and even some video and audio gear.

But the one thing that often makes the biggest difference in the quality of my portraits is a simple $ 20 reflector. I never leave home without one, and neither should you.

When shooting outdoor portraits, the first thing many photographers think about is the background – but first and foremost, the pros consider the quality of the light. They know, for example, that a portrait with nasty overhead lighting is not going to work, no matter how cool the background.

using a reflector examples

A reflector can help you salvage bad light, and turn okay light into something magical. You can use your reflector from below to fill in shadows, or from above to block distracting light. You can bounce the sun from a silver reflector to create a main light, or you can use a reflector with a black side to create deeper shadows. You can even sit on your reflector to keep your pants clean when shooting outside, or pop it open dramatically to dazzle young children.

Most of the photos in this article were shot with a 5-in-1 reflector you can buy for less than $ 20 USD. 5-in-1 refers to the fact that the reflector and cover can combine to give you five different options: white, silver, gold, and black sides, as well as a diffuser.

Here are six tips to help you use a reflector to transform your photos.

1. Use a reflector for fill light

The most traditional use of a reflector is to simply reflect light into the shadows. I took my wife, Karen, out into our local park to demonstrate this.

using a reflector

In the photo on the left (above), Karen is photographed in nice soft light, but there are still pretty deep shadows under her eyes and chin. In the photo on the right, however, she is holding a reflector at her waist. The shadows on her face are noticeably lighter and there is a subtle catchlight (a reflection of the reflector) in her eyes. If she were an older person with more textured skin, the contrast would be even more dramatic.

subject holding a reflector

Of course, you may not always want to fill in the shadows in this way, but if you are trying to flatter someone it almost always helps.

You don’t even need an official photo reflector. Anything that reflects light will work. In a pinch, I’ve used everything from old newspapers to a nearby person wearing a white shirt.

2. Use a reflector as the main light source

This is one of my go-to reflector moves, and it’s an easy way to wow your friends and family.

You position your subject with the light hitting them from behind, then use a reflector to bounce the light back into their face. You will get nice soft light on your subject’s face, with a dramatic rim light on the back of their head. The only trick is positioning yourself so the light doesn’t go straight into your lens and create lens flare (unless you like that look, of course).

using a reflector

In the photo above, the sun is hitting the left side of my subject’s face and arm. The light from a reflector is bouncing some of the sun back to light up her face.

You may also notice the shallow depth of field in the photo above. If you are lighting with a reflector, you can jack up your shutter speed as much as you like to allow for a wide aperture (this photo was shot at 1/1250s at f/2.0 with a 50mm lens). If you were using flash to create this same effect, you would have to lower your shutter speed (to 1/250s or whatever matches your camera’s sync speed) to sync with the flash, requiring a narrow aperture and a greater depth of field (which will kill the whole look).

Yes, yes, some of you are no doubt thinking, “What about high-speed sync?” Well, yes, that could give you the same effect if you had the right equipment (and know how to pull it off). Or, you know, you could just use an old newspaper as a reflector.

using a reflector

For the example above, I positioned Karen against a tree and had her cousin, Claudia, reflect a spot of sunlight on her from about 10 feet away. At this distance, the light from the reflector looks more like it is coming from a grid spot or snoot (hard light) – in other words, it’s a focused and dramatic beam (notice the fall-off of light on her legs). It’s a cool look that you can recreate with a reflector, a few feet of aluminum foil, or your bathroom mirror. Your friends will be wowed and ask what fancy gear you used for the shot (and your family will ask what happened to the bathroom mirror).

For a slight variation on this technique, we moved the reflector slightly behind the subject (relative to the camera) to create a dramatic rim light on the face in a profile shot (see below).

using a silver reflector

3. Use a reflector to block light

Sometimes you’ll find yourself in beautiful, shady light under a tree, except for that pesky sunbeam that finds its way through the leaves to light up your subject’s left ear. When this happens, turn your reflector into a light blocker (sometimes called a flag or gobo).

A few years ago, I was doing a maternity portrait in a local park when a newspaper photographer snapped my picture while I was using my reflector as a gobo (shown in the image below). If you look at the reflector, you can see the bright spots of sunlight that it’s blocking (imagine how those spots would have ruined the final image if we didn’t block them!).

using a diffuser
using a reflector

4. Use a black reflector to create more dramatic shadows

Sometimes, you actually want to deepen the shadows. I use this technique all the time in my headshot studio. Below is a photo of me with a white background. In the first shot, I have a silver reflector opposite the main light, sending light back towards my left cheek. In the second shot, the reflector has a black cover on it, gobbling up reflected light to leave a dark shadow on the cheek.

using a reflector
using a reflector

Except for the small change of literally flipping the reflector from one side to the other, the lighting setup is identical, but the effect is pretty dramatic. (For you studio lighting enthusiasts out there, my key light here is a large softbox, and there are two bare heads pointing at the background to make sure it is a nice, bright white).

This is the same technique used in the famous Steve Jobs portrait where he has his hand on his chin. In addition to creating a little drama, you can also use this technique to give someone a photographic face-lift by trimming pounds from the dark side of their face and under their chin.

5. Who holds the reflector?

You may be saying to yourself, “But I don’t have an assistant! Who’s going to hold the reflector for me?” I usually don’t have an assistant, either, but there is often someone nearby who is more than happy to help, be it a family member, passerby, intern, wedding guest, etc. Sometimes, you can even have the subject of the photo hold the reflector themselves. Of course, if you’re in the studio, or outside on a day without too much wind, you can just pop your reflector onto a light stand (like in the studio shots of me above).

In the photo below, I was shooting wedding portraits on a beach in the Florida Keys. My reflector assistant that day was one of the bridesmaids, who truly enjoyed helping her friends out with their portraits.

using a reflector
using a reflector

6. Reflectors in the environment

Once you get the hang of reflectors, you’ll probably start noticing reflected light everywhere. Ever see a white building getting blasted by the sun? Well, that’s nothing but a giant reflector! Depending on what’s around it, you may have found yourself a giant studio with no rental fee.

Mind you, anything that reflects enough light can work as a reflector. A brick building, a large truck, or a flock of seagulls flying by at just the right moment – it all works!

Using a reflector: final notes

Although they may not be as sexy as strobe kits, reflectors can often yield similar or superior results for your portraits and are cheaper and easier to use. I will leave you with a few more example photos, shot using nothing more than a reflector.

In the child portraits below, note that there is light behind the kids in both cases, but there is still beautiful light on their faces. Same goes for the athlete portraits.

using a reflector child portraits

As a final image, I leave you with a group of wedding guests who were so enamored of my reflector that they wanted a picture with it. Hopefully, you will soon have similar feelings toward your own reflector!

using a reflector

Do you have any additional reflector tips to add? Please share them in the comments below!

The post 6 Ways of Using Reflector to Take Better Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Dennis Drenner.

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