21 Tips to Help You Create Better Panoramas

Panoramas are a great way to approach photographing landscapes. By allowing you to capture a larger amount of the scene in front of you, it is easier to portray what you actually saw with your eyes in your photographs. Software has made it stupidly easy to stitch your photos into panoramas; however, there are still some considerations you can take to get the most out of your landscapes and make better panoramas.

panorama of mountains and a lake - 21 Tips to Help You Create Better Panoramas

This article presumes you already know how the basics of capturing a sequence of images and to how to stitch them together as panoramas in Lightroom or another dedicated software package.

Part 1 – Gear

Such a specialized technique may seem like it requires a lot of specialist gear to get right, but that’s not the case. Of the three items listed below, only two are absolutely necessary and as someone interested in landscapes, you probably already have the most important one.

1) Tripod

21 Tips to Help You Create Better Panoramas - camera on a tripod

A tripod is an absolute necessity if you want to create better panoramas.

This first one is probably obvious, but it’s the most important when it comes to creating better panoramas. All of the images in your sequence need to line up perfectly and the only way to ensure that is with a good, sturdy tripod. The tiniest of movements between your photographs can cause Lightroom to fail when stitching your photos together.

failed panorama - 21 Tips to Help You Create Better Panoramas

You never know when an image might not get through the stitching software. Do your best to get it absolutely right in camera to avoid situations like this one (notice the disconnected railing).

Disheartened may be the feeling you get when you see the words “Unable to merge the photos. Please cancel and review the selection.” So, please, for your own sanity, use a tripod when shooting panoramas.

2) Panoramic tripod head

21 Tips to Help You Create Better Panoramas - tripod head detail

If you have a tripod head that can turn in measured increments like this one, attach your lens to the tripod if you can (using a tripod collar), rather than your camera body.

This is an optional piece of kit, but I promise you, if you plan on doing panoramas often, make sure you have a panoramic head on your tripod. These heads rotate on the center axis of your camera and help minimize distortion in your final image.

Panoramic heads are also marked with numbers from 0 to 360 degrees so you can make your camera movements with absolute accuracy. There are a lot of good panoramic tripod heads available and you will be able to find one in the same price range as other styles of heads.

Now, to be absolutely clear, I’m talking about the cheap kind that you can find in a normal price range. There are panoramic heads with motorized components made for the explicit purpose of stitching together photos. I’m not talking about those. If you can afford one, by all means, go for it, but unless you specialize in panoramas, it’s unlikely that you would ever need to even consider one.

3) Spirit level

spirit level - 21 Tips to Help You Create Better Panoramas

Spirit levels will help you guarantee that all of your shots line up in the stitching software.

While you can still achieve good results without one, using a spirit level will help you make sure that your panoramic sequence stitches together with a minimal amount of distortion. This is important when you have compositional elements at the edges of your frame. If those elements get distorted too much, they will wind up (either partially or fully) outside of your crop.

You may already have one or more built into your tripod, but if not, you can buy one that fits your cameras hotshoe for a reasonable price.

Part 2 – Capture

Camera craft is easily the most important aspect of capturing better panoramic images. From getting a correctly aligned sequence of images, to focus and exposure, there are a lot of elements that you need to get right in camera to ensure that your images come out well.

4) Practice your movements

To be fast, you should be able to operate your camera and your tripod without thinking about them. In fact, these movements should be ingrained as muscle memory. How do you do this? Practice, lots of practice.

21 Tips to Help You Create Better Panoramas - panorama of a scene outside

Practice your camera and tripod movements when it doesn’t count. For example, I had an hour of down time in a hotel, so I took a few sequences through the window.

One of the best ways to go about getting that practice is to make some time to set up in a low-value environment. So when your practice images are (inevitably) bad, you won’t have missed any images that were worth taking. It can be as simple as going into your backyard and setting up there for an hour.

Once you’re set up, go through the motions of taking a panorama in slow, deliberate steps. Make sure that every action from focussing through to the actual camera movements is perfectly executed. Go through the motions a few times and when you are sure that you have it down, speed up a little. Again, repeat this until you’re satisfied that you have it down. Then speed up again.

Keep practicing like this until you’re performing all the actions without even thinking about them. Doing this for just an hour will reduce your chances of a mistake when you are standing at the edge of a lake in that once in a lifetime perfect light.

If you really want to hammer it down, don’t just practice like this once. If you have some downtime, try using that time to reinforce these skills instead of, say, scrolling through your phone.

5) Take notes

21 Tips to Help You Create Better Panoramas - notes on paper

Notes don’t have to be complicated, they just need to be clear enough that you understand them without much effort.

Taking notes will ensure that you are an organizational genius. It doesn’t matter how you take your notes, whether it be on a notepad, your phone, or in voice recording app such as Evernote. As long as you can annotate the file numbers where each of your panoramas starts and stops, you’re on to a winner.

Editor’s tip: You can also take a shot of your hand in front of the lens before and after your pano shots so you can mark the beginning and end of the series that way as well. 

6) Longer lenses

Instead of using your wide-angle lenses, use longer focal lengths when making panoramas. 35mm, 50mm and 85mm are all good choices depending on the scene in front of you. The longer focal lengths allow a different perspective by bringing everything forward in the frame, unlike wide-angle lenses that push everything back.

Because you are both shooting in portrait orientation and stitching together multiple images, you will still get a wide view of your scene with the sky and foreground intact.

Create Better Panoramas - using a longer focal length

Long lenses are great for panormas. The images for this panorama were shot at 200mm. However, 50mm, 85mm and any focal length above that, will help to bring your subject forward in the frame.

7) Manual exposure

For the best results, set your camera to Manual mode for the duration of your sequence. If your exposures don’t match from frame to frame, then the software may not be able to merge your panorama.

If your scene is simple and has relatively few elements in it, you may get away with Aperture Priority mode. However, if one half of your image has a mountain or a building and the other half a clear sky, the difference in exposures will result in unusable images for the panorama merge.

8) Small aperture to help with stitching

Another way to make sure the stitching software performs well is to use a small aperture to keep everything in the frame as sharp as possible. Using apertures like f/11 and f/16 will go a long way in helping you to get sharp panoramas.

You can use larger apertures if you’d prefer, but just be aware that it might result in the software being unable to merge your panorama.

9) Focus somewhere inside your frame

Create Better Panoramas - wide shot of a path in the forest

In this image, I focused two-thirds of the way down the path, set the lens to manual focus, and then reframed the camera to start at the left.

When focusing, it seems easy enough to set your focus somewhere in the first frame of your sequence. If you’re focusing to infinity, that’s fine, but if you’re focusing on a point closer to you, your focal point may not wind up in your final crop.

It takes longer and requires you to be careful not to jar the camera, but consider setting the focus on your main focal point of the image. Then switch to manual focus and recompose the camera to your starting position.

This does create an extra chance for things to go wrong. However, you have to ask yourself whether it’s better to have an out of focus image because of a mistake or an out of focus image because you didn’t bother to take the necessary steps in the first place?

10) Portrait orientation

camera on a tripod shooting vertically - Create Better Panoramas

When shooting panoramas, you have access to all the information in the horizontal aspects of a scene. Maximize your information in the verticals by shooting in portrait orientation.

Because you will be creating one big image out of many smaller images, it’s a good idea to maximize the amount of real estate you have to create the final photo. Instead of keeping your camera in landscape (horizontal) orientation, put it into portrait (vertical) orientation so that you get as much information as possible on the vertical axis of your scene.

As far as the horizontal, you can always take more photos at either end of the sequence to make sure you get the most information, but this isn’t the case with the vertical.

11) Excessive overlap

example of image overlap - Create Better Panoramas

In this sequence of three images, you can see just how much overlap there is. With the left and right images lined up, the middle image is barely visible. Overkill? Maybe, but it’s worth it for peace of mind.

When you are taking the images that you will stitch together, be overly generous with the amount you leave as overlap from one image to the next. Yes, this will result in you needing more frames for a complete sequence and it will require more processing power as well. But it also gives you more leeway in the stitching process and it will result in better final images.

12) Overshoot

Create Better Panoramas - panoramic scene

Taking more images than you need for your final panoramas will provide you with a wealth of options for composition once you’re back at the computer.

When creating panoramas, there’s only one hard and fast rule (apart from the tripod) that I adhere to. That is to take more images in a sequence than I think I need. For example, if you’re trying to create an image of a church and you get all the images you think you need in five frames, shoot five more.

If you allow yourself excess on either edge frame, you will have far more compositional choices later. On top of that, you will also negate any potential distortion that may cause your focal point to be cropped during merging. Trust me, the wiggle room this provides is well worth the tiny bit of extra time and space on your memory card.

13) Be fast

Because you are taking multiple images for each panorama, there is a chance that elements in your scene may be moving. Water and clouds can prove to be a huge headache in the stitching process. You can alleviate this to a degree by being fast. Once your first shot is created, your hands should be already moving to change the camera to its next position.

14) Bracket for HDR

HDR pano shot - Create Better Panoramas

Merging to HDR and stitching panoramas in Lightroom works really well. Merge each individual frame to HDR first, then stitch them together as a panorama.

Should you find yourself in a high contrast scenario, feel free to bracket your exposures for HDR blending. I have had good results in Lightroom with blending each frame (from a bracketed set of exposures) into HDR individually and then merging them all together as a panorama.

If you try this, make sure you don’t use the Auto Tone function in Lightroom’s Merge to HDR dialogue box. It will treat each image as an individual and will make it next to impossible to stitch your images together as a panorama. Instead, wait until your panorama is merged and then make your adjustments manually.

15) Use your GND filters

Create Better Panoramas - pano of a mountain scene

When creating panoramas, use your GND filters to your heart’s content.

Likewise, you can use graduated neutral density filters to your heart’s content. If you have a tricky horizon line, such as a mountain range, just move your filter into the appropriate place between taking the images. As long as you are careful to not move your camera, this will work just fine.

Part three – Post processing

Because you are stitching together your images in software, the post-production stage of creating panoramas cannot be ignored.

16) Create a system to differentiate sequences in Lightroom

After a heavy session of shooting images for panoramas, you may find yourself inside Lightroom utterly confused. Triple that confusion if you were shooting HDRs and panoramas together. With so many similar images, it can difficult to figure out what starts and stops where.

An easy way to deal with this at the time of shooting is to devise a way for you to know when a sequence starts and when it ends.

All I do is wave my hand in front of the lens for the first image, then I take the first frame again having removed my hand. At the end, if I’m starting another panoramic sequence, I do it again. Inside Lightroom, all you have to do is look for the images that fall between the shots of your hands.

thumbnails of pano shots in Lightroom - Create Better Panoramas

It doesn’t matter how you differentiate your sequences, but you definitely need to do something. It will save you hours of frustration and confusion.

I also use the color label system in Lightroom. After identifying a panoramic sequence, I select them all and right click and select “Set Color Label > Blue” from the menu.

Other options include taking a photo with the lens cap on or holding a piece of paper in front of the lens. You could do anything for this as long as it helps you figure out where things begin and end.

If you combine this with taking notes, then you should never find yourself in a state of confusion.

17) Do Lens Corrections and Chromatic Aberration removal first

Create Better Panoramas - lens correction panel in LR

An important step to take before you start the stitching process is to apply any Lens Corrections and removal of Chromatic Aberrations before you stitch the images together. Any vignetting or distortion caused by your lens can have drastic effects on your panoramas and it’s best to deal with them before they have a chance to become a problem.

18) Use boundary warp

merge to panorama in LR - Create Better Panoramas

Using boundary warp in LR Merge to Panorama can help ensure that you get everything you intended in your frame.

The Auto Crop function often works well to get rid of the white space around a stitched panorama, but sometimes elements in your scene (foreground elements most of the time) can wind up cropped out of the composition. You can use the boundary warp slider in the Merge to Panorama dialogue box to adjust how your image is cropped.

It doesn’t always work, but if you are unhappy with how things appear, remember to try the boundary slider as it may fix your problem.

19) Crop

If you’re at all like me, then cropping is a bit of a dirty word. You know, get it right in camera and don’t sacrifice the resolution and all that jazz. In terms of panoramas, throw that out of the window. Not only should you crop to your heart’s content, but you should revel in it.

If you have overshot a scene, you probably have a really wide image. The thing is, those really wide panoramas often aren’t very pleasing. Go in with the crop tool, and find a strong composition inside of your stitched frame.

Try to think about it like this – your image, straight out of the stitching software is what you saw at the scene. Instead of composing your image while behind your camera, you’re now composing it with the crop tool. Because you (hopefully) took more images than you needed and you have far too much information to best present your subject. Just get rid of the excess and leave only what needs to be there.

20) Consider standard crop ratios

Create Better Panoramas - ultra wide panorama shot

Here is the original panorama straight out of the stitching software. While cool, the format is a bit wide for most uses.

As mentioned, ultra-wide panoramas are a hard sell. They are cool from a technical standpoint, but in terms of composition, they tend to fall short. Instead, consider using crop ratios already associated with panoramic images. These include 16:9, 16:10, 1:3, 6:17, 1:2.

The first two of these are already crop presets in Lightroom. The last three are all aspect ratios native to dedicated panoramic cameras. In order, they are the Hasselblad Xpan, the Fuji GX617, and the Lomography BelAir.

16:9 Ratio

16:10 Ratio

1:3 Ratio

6:17 Ratio

1:2 Ratio

As you can see, there are plenty of options for established crop ratios.

Bonus round

21) Shoot panoramas of normal scenes for bigger files

Not every scene needs to be shot as a panorama. In fact, there is more than enough for you to accomplish as a photographer if you never so much as touch the technique.

However, panoramic stitching offers you another tool that may not be as obvious.

Create Better Panoramas

Shot normally, the resulting PSD file is about 35mb.

If you approach a normal scene (let’s say in a 2:3 ratio) and shoot it in a panoramic sequence, the extra information you capture in the vertical means that your final image size will be quite a bit larger than just a straight shot from your camera.

If, for example, you suspect that you will want to make a huge print of a particular image, this technique will give you some extra resolution to work with.

Cropping in from the panoramic sequence gave me a PSD file of 55mb, nearly twice the size of the original.

Conclusion

That’s a long list, but it’s not exhaustive. If you’ve stuck with me this long, you’re probably pretty serious about getting the most out of your panoramas.

If you’re just starting out with this technique, remember not to be too hard on yourself if you forget to use every one of these tips. Take it slow and before you know it, you’ll find that all of this becomes second nature with only a little bit of effort and practice.

The post 21 Tips to Help You Create Better Panoramas appeared first on Digital Photography School.

827 A Selfish Challenge

Chris talks about taking pictures out of a flying plexiglass (perspex) window at 150 mph. It’s also the reveal of the latest Slack Challenge. Let’s look at the winner photos (links below). Also someone tried to sell Jay a new camera, which made him wonder about sensor size. Chris goes into why a bigger sensor isn’t the goal.

RECEIVE EMAIL FOR NEW EPISODES

Links:

Photo tours with Chris Marquardt:
» May 2017: Svalbard — Arctic (sold out)
» Oct 2017: Bhutan — The Happiness Kingdom (only 1 spot open)
» May 2018: New York Tilt-Shift
» Aug 2018: Ireland — Giant's Causeway
» Sep 2018: Norway — Lofoten Fantastic Fjords
» Oct 2018: Morocco
» all photo tours

The post 827 A Selfish Challenge appeared first on PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS FROM THE TOP FLOOR.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

Every photographer’s kit needs to include both a wide and ultra-wide lens. These lenses provide the flexibility to shoot a variety of subjects such as portraits, landscapes, astrophotography, and food. Wide lenses provide a unique and fresh way to portray subjects and are a great way to shoot contextual scenes that emphasize foreground elements. New to the market in 2018 is the Sigma 14-24mm f2.8 DG Art Series Lens.

It provides a constant fast f/2.8 aperture and a zoom that transforms your field of view from wide (84.1 degrees) to ultra-wide (114.2 degrees).  I took this lens for a test-drive to give you a glimpse of its performance.

I will save my very positive overall numerical rating for the end. So let’s get into some of the nitty-gritty findings of this functional and flexible piece of glass.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG Art lens on a Nikon D800.

First Impressions

There’s always a thrill the first time you unroll a lens from its packaging and lift it from the box. I immediately noticed the weight of the lens (officially ~40oz; 1,150g) giving it a quality feel. The metal construction of this lens is on display and the only plastic parts are the lens cover and lens hood.

I was struck by the large size of the lens – it is much larger than my Sigma 24mm f/1.4. However, this makes sense as the extra size is necessary to accommodate the zoom from 14-24 mm. Overall my first impressions on the look and feel of this lens were excellent.

Sigma 14-24, Nikon D800 - Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

I tested the Sigma 14-24mm f2.8 on a Nikon D800 and Nikon 810 body. It fit that body well and has a good feel on the full frame body.

Build Quality

Sigma did not cut any corners when constructing this lens. The all-metal build gives it a sturdy feel and results in the weight I eluded to in my first impressions.

The metal construction includes the rear mount to give the lens longevity and life. The zoom ring and focus ring are textured for a solid grip and operate very smoothly. I was happy to note that the construction of this lens is dust and splash resistant which are valuable traits to me as a landscape and nature photographer.

The lens cap has a snug fit and amply covers the aspherical lens.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

The outer element of the Sigma 14-24mm f2.8 lens has a aspherical, dome-shaped glass.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

The lens is large (5.3 inches long) and well built. Texturing on the focus and zoom rings provide a good grip.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - rear element

Metal mounts will provide longevity for this lens. A large rear element helps with light collection .

Image Quality

In the Lab

To conduct sharpness tests, I took the lens into a variety of conditions both indoors and outdoors.

Let’s first take a look at the results of a traditional test using the pages of a book to determine sharpness and chromatic aberration. For that test, I adjusted the camera to Aperture priority mode and adjusted the aperture throughout its range (f/2.8 – f/22). All images were shot with a tripod with the exact same lighting in a lightbox.

Individual results for each setting are available below showing a 1:1 ratio crop of the same numbers at the edge of the lens. I found the lens too soft when wide open at f/2.8. That is an expected result, but the softness was very noticeable. It was very sharp all the way to the edge of the image at f/8 and f/16. Sharpness declined at f/22. Image sharpness was maintained to the edge of the lens – impressive for an ultra-wide lens.

I found there to be a limited chromatic aberration that is easily correctable in Lightroom. Particularly in the corners of the image there was distortion at 14mm, but that is a common result in ultra-wide lenses.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

Here is a test of the lens for sharpness at f/2.8 at the edge of the image. You can see blurring along the edges of the numbers which is expected at the edge of an ultra-wide lens when shot wide open.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

The lens became much sharper at f/8. You can see clear, crisp lines out to the edge of the image.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

At f/16 I found this lens to be even sharper than f/8. Very crisp lines out to the edge of the image.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

At f/22 the lens lost some of its sharpness. This is not unexpected with a lens fully stopped down.

In the Field

Similar to the lab test results above, I cropped images at 1:1 taken in natural lighting conditions to look at the sharpness of this lens. The results showcase sharp images even when taking hand-held photographs.

In particular, you can see the lens is extremely sharp in the middle and how the stars become distorted at the edge of a crop after a long exposure.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

Stars shot with the Sigma 14-24mm. This is a crop at the edge of the lens and you can see due to the long exposure that some star trails are seen. This is due to the distortion that occurs to the image’s edge at 14mm

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - sharpness test

This 1:1 crop is at the center of the lens and shows off how sharp this lens is in the middle.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - zoom showing image sharpness

This 1:1 crop of an eagle passing overhead shows good sharpness in the wing edges – even at the edge of the image.

Focus, Accuracy and Speed

As is my experience with other Sigma Art Series lenses, the autofocus is fast, accurate, and does not produce much (if any) noise. This lens integrates a hyper sonic motor (HSM) to pull off the noiseless focus.

A huge benefit of the lens is the small minimum focusing distance of 10 inches. That gives you, the photographer, unlimited options on what foreground element to leave in focus. In low-contrast situations such as a cloudy day the autofocus did not hunt for the subject, and focusing from 10 inches to infinity was very fast.

Shots from the Field

The images below are meant to show off the flexibility of this lens ranging from 14-24mm, the shallow depth of field you can achieve with an open aperture, and its usefulness for different subjects. I’ve featured some landscapes, people, and food that I was able to photograph.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - sun burst between wooden pier

I was really happy to have the maximum f/22 aperture to create brilliant starbursts. This is a nice creative technique for landscapes, and the ability to stop down to f/22 gives flexibility for shooting flowing water as well.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - sunset through a metal ring

The ultra-wide angle and close minimum focusing distance allow you to put foreground elements in perspective.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - b/w photo of a tree

This tree is nearly 50 feet (15m) tall and I needed a wide angle to capture the whole thing. The ultra-wide lens tilted the tree creating a slight distortion which is characteristic of ultra-wide lenses.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - logs near the water

Using the wide-angle to capture a whole scene along the beach. I took this image at 14mm and stopped down to give sharpness to the logs and distant mountains.

sunset over a hill and wooden walkway view - Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

A ship, sunset, eagle, and beach house captured in a single frame thanks to the wide-angle lens.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - low light photo at a dance

The wide aperture helped me shoot this shot in low light during a local dance.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - food photo

The minimum focusing distance is helpful for food photography and the shallow depth of field can draw your eye to foreground elements.

food shot with beer - Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

Increasing the f-stop can capture the depth of an entire scene. I found this useful in this food scene to emphasize the food and show off some Alaskan Brewery products, too.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - blue hour

This image was captured at 14mm. The next image was captured at 24mm with the camera mounted in the same position. These images give you insight into the field of view at a wide and ultra-wide focal length.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - blue hour 24mm

This image was captured at 24mm to compare to the 14mm image above.

Pros and Cons of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Lens

Pros:

  1. Close minimum focal distance – I found the 10″ focus distance to be very helpful in creating interesting landscapes and in scenes where a foreground element needed to be emphasized and placed in context with its surroundings.
  2. Fast and accurate autofocus – A solid autofocus system can be a photographer’s best friend!
  3. Flexibility – The 14-24mm zoom range gives you the flexibility to transition between a wide and ultra-wide lens. Effectively replacing two lenses is a huge benefit.

Cons:

  1. Large size – I was pretty surprised at how big the lens is, and it’s worth noting that it will take up quite a bit of space in your kit as well. Fortunately, it can replace an ultrawide and wide lens perhaps saving you space in the longrun.
  2. Lack of sharpness at wide open apertures – The weakest part of this lens is the softness at open apertures. Fortunately, it is a very sharp lens when stopped down.
  3. Aspherical glass – As a landscape photographer I like to use neutral density filters and polarizers to make the most of a scene. The aspherical dome of glass requires carrying a separate filter set.

Final Rating and Product Value

Sigma 14-24m, Review

Overall Rating : 9 out of 10 – this lens provides some excellent features, great build, and overall quality. Sharpness in the center of the image is excellent and the edges maintain sharpness as well.

My main reason for pulling this lens down to a 9 is the size of it. Those looking for a concise and smaller kit may benefit from a prime ultra-wide to decrease the lens bulk in their kit.

The value of this lens on Sigma’s website is $1,199 USD (check here for pricing on Amazon). Although that figure seems a bit high, the build quality warrants the price. You also have peace of mind knowing that the lens is effectively replacing the value of two other lenses in your kit.

The post Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Look inside the factory where Kodak Ektachrome is (re)born

Kodak has restarted production of one of its most famous film emulsions - Ektachrome. Popular Science editor Stan Horaczek recently go to take a look inside.

Launched in 1946 and discontinued in 2012, Ektachrome owes its rebirth to a relatively recent resurgence of interest in film. Easier to develop than its more famous cousin Kodachrome, Ektachrome should be back in the hands of today's film photographers before the end of this year.

You can scroll through the images above to take a brief look into Kodak's factory in Rochester New York, and for more information, we recommend reading the full article, linked below.

'Inside the facility where Kodak brings film back to life' (popsci.com)

DPReview TV: Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 Di III RXD hands-on field test

The Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 Di III RXD is an affordable F2.8 standard zoom for full frame Sony E-mount cameras. It's one of the first third-party zooms designed to take full advantage of the short Sony mount, resulting in a small, light carry-everywhere lens. What are the trade-offs, compared with the alternatives? Chris and Jordan take a closer look...

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What Makes Great Photos? 5 Factors That Can Take Your Images From Good to Great

Have you ever heard the phrase “light is everything” or perhaps “composition is everything”? I know I have many times. But they can’t both be everything, that’s not possible. So what is really going on? Obviously, there is at least a grain of truth to both expressions. But are there other factors that make great photos?

tunnel with art work - What Makes Great Photos? 5 Factors That Can Take Your Images From Good to Great

As it turns out, there are and things are not quite as simple.

A photo with very poor composition will fall apart and it will never be a great photo. But a decent composition capturing the most fantastic light can be a good photo, if not a great one. On the other hand, a great composition in poor light can make a dull photo.

Creating a photo almost always includes some sort of compromise. Either the light is not great, the timing is not perfect, or it is not possible to get to the ideal location, because you can’t walk in thin air or on water. Or maybe the prime elements in the scene are not arranged perfectly.

There are so many factors that have to come together at the exact same time, that it seems impossible to make a perfect photo. And that is part of your life, as a photographer, but knowing what counts, can make your success rate of making great photos higher.

canals in Venice at night - What Makes Great Photos? 5 Factors That Can Take Your Images From Good to Great

What makes great photos?

It is a number of things that make a great photo and composition and light are obviously on that list, but what is the rest?

I find that there a five important factors that combine to make great photos. If you can maximize all five you will have a perfect photo. However, creating such a photo is really rare even for the very best photographers.

Let us have a look at them and then discuss in more detail.

5 factors that help make great photos

What Makes Great Photos? 5 Factors That Can Take Your Images From Good to Great

 

You don’t have to maximize all five to make a great photo. A decent composition with fantastic light and timing, with fantastic post-processing, can make a great photo. The same goes for an outstanding composition. You will be able to make up for the lack of light to some extent. So you just have to balance the five factors without dropping any completely.

If one of the factors is somewhat lower, it can be compensated by one or more of the others if they score high. You could see it as the sum of the five pillars, that gives an indication of how great a photo is, as long as you don’t have any hitting the bottom.

What Makes Great Photos? 5 Factors That Can Take Your Images From Good to Great

They all work together

A completely failed composition, bad light, completely missed timing, non-existent story and poor image processing will tear a photo into pieces.

The factors are very often interconnected. For instance, the composition is often connected to the timing of capturing a moving object. And the light is connected to the timing, in the case of the natural light. The composition can also be connected to the light, a shadow or some light beam or another light source.

They are all dependent on each other, which increases the complexity. No wonder it is hard to create great photos! And no wonder some types of photographers, like those who do commercial studio and model photography, try to control some of the factors – namely the light – to be able to get a larger success rate on their photos.

Factor #1 – Composition

The composition is something that comes naturally to some people while others have to learn it. It is a fundamental skill to master as a photographer. If it doesn’t come naturally to you, try to copy other compositions you like, in your own way at different locations. That will quickly improve your skills.

What Makes Great Photos? 5 Factors That Can Take Your Images From Good to Great - a city shot at night

Factor #2 – Light

The light can be many different things. There’s hard light, soft light, defused light, warm light, cold light, studio flash, the natural light just to mention some of the most commonly known types. Light is a big topic and it requires some research to get the full understanding. But that is not required to create great photos.

If you are into landscape photography, you will increase the quality of your photos by avoiding a blue sky in the middle of the day. Instead, go for sunrise and sunset times. The time after sunrise and before sunset is called the Golden Hour. Blue Hour also provides excellent light for landscape photography.

What Makes Great Photos? 5 Factors That Can Take Your Images From Good to Great - sunset photo of fog over a mountain pond

If you are into flash photography you would do well by experimenting with an off-camera flash, rather than on-camera. As well try high-speed sync flash which opens doors for creative flash photography.

My advice is to learn about the type of light that is relevant to the kind of photography you enjoy doing.

What Makes Great Photos? 5 Factors That Can Take Your Images From Good to Great - canals in Amsterdam

Factor #3 – Timing

The timing, depending on the type of photography you do, can be a matter of capturing that instant of a second that makes a difference. You have to capture a moment – the magic moment.

The moment of a fleeting kiss, the instant a football player kicks the ball, the moment the wave crash onto a rocky shore with a huge splash. Or as in this case, the instant four people put the same foot on the ground while walking at the same distance.

b/w photo of 4 people walking in a city - What Makes Great Photos? 5 Factors That Can Take Your Images From Good to Great

Other moments are more slow, like a sunrise. Nevertheless, it is still about timing.

You have to get up early, very early sometimes, to get to the location. That is timing. Or as in this case, getting a photo without any people, at the central station at blue hour is about timing too.

What Makes Great Photos? 5 Factors That Can Take Your Images From Good to Great - train station Copenhagen

Empty Central Station in Copenhagen.

Factor #4 – The Story

The story of a photo can be anything ranging from “what delicious crumbles sitting on top of that cupcake”, to “what a fantastic round boulder on that beach” to a “touching relation between people”. A story can be somewhat abstract, yet there has to be a purpose of why you choose to include what you do in the photo.

Sometimes a story is complex and deep, while at other times it is simple “that is a nice boulder sitting in a beautiful landscape“.

You may not be equally good at telling all kind of stories, through your photos. This is perfectly alright and it is fine to stick to what you do best.

I find that story and timing can be very tightly connected as in this case of the image below. Capturing a gondola on a super busy Canal Grande in Venice, and making it seem like a peaceful romantic moment is not as easy as it may sound.

What Makes Great Photos? 5 Factors That Can Take Your Images From Good to Great - canal in Venice with one gondola

If you can get a spot, you can literally stand on the Rialto bridge for hours, while you enjoy the view. The view is full of activity and happy people.

Factor #5 – Image Processing

The last and fifth factor could raise some discussion. One that I do not want to get into here. And if you are a strong believer in Straight Out Of Camera (SOOC) photos, this point will not be relevant to you.

If you believe in photo editing, you may also know that it is often the thing that transforms a photo from flat to an image that pops. In some cases, that is what makes or breaks a photo.

Image editing or post-processing is by no means easy and there are a lot of opinions out there. But even simple things like, adjusting white balance, exposure and contrast can be the difference that makes a photo pop.

If you are into documentary photography, there are certain things you are not allowed to do. You do not meddle with reality. But if you don’t do that kind of photography, it is in the post-processing phase that you can make your artistic interpretation.

What Makes Great Photos? 5 Factors That Can Take Your Images From Good to Great - before and after editing

Before and After. A creative interpretation.

What to look out for

Image editing is a race car without a seatbelt. There are a number of things that can totally ruin your image and if you are not careful. Some of the classic problems from over-processing include halos, too contrasty and over-saturation, but there are many others.

What Makes Great Photos? 5 Factors That Can Take Your Images From Good to Great - example of image processing for creativity

This wedding photo of Alexander and Mia was shot in the worst possible light of midday with a blue sky. In post-processing, I have created a softer and warmer feeling to compensate.

A reason to build up your skills in image processing is that you can compensate to some degree for the other factors. You can enhance the good bits, and hide the less desired parts. Remove unwanted objects to present your photo is the best possible way, from what you captured in your camera.

A great side effect of upping your editing skills and paying some real attention to your photos is that you will get a better understanding of what make great photos. You will find things that degrade your photo (why did I include that dustbin?) and learn to avoid them next time you are on location shooting.

You learn by making mistakes and trying to fix them. The more times you fail, the better photographer you will end up being.

make great photos - Paris at night

Final remarks

In photography, there are no absolutes. Not two people have the same opinion. We do not all like the same, things so what some people would deem a perfect photo, others may not deem perfect. Yet, there are some tendencies and you could do worse, than paying attention to what people like and don’t like if you want to create successful photos.

Any critique is an opportunity to learn something new.

The post What Makes Great Photos? 5 Factors That Can Take Your Images From Good to Great appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Easily Make a LUT in Photoshop

If you’ve ever done any video editing then you’re probably familiar with a little something called “color look-up tables”. These look-up tables are lovingly referred to in the industry as a “LUT”.

At the basic level, a LUT is a preset that performs color grading and various other visual effects. Each is based on a blindingly complex set of mathematical sorcery that luckily for you (and me) doesn’t need to be explained in this article.

How to Easily Make a LUT in Photoshop

But wait…this is Digital Photography School, not Digital Video School. So, why are we talking about LUTs if they only help us when editing video?

Well, with Adobe’s recent release of Lightroom Classic v7.3 and Adobe Camera RAW 10.3 we now have the ability to use the awesome new Creative Profiles feature which, you guessed it, makes LUTs usable in our photo editing. It’s safe to say more and more photographers will be incorporating custom-made LUTs into their own Creative Profiles. For more information on making Creative Profiles check out this excellent tutorial by Spyros Heniadis.

So how can you make your own LUTs? There are a number of ways and most of them require purchasing software exclusively engineered for creating a LUT. But what if I told you that Photoshop is capable of exporting LUTs if you don’t want to spend any extra money on new software? And what’s more, making basic LUTs in Photoshop is insanely simple.

In this article, I’m going to show you just how easy it is to make and export your very own LUTs right inside Photoshop.

Create Your Edits

To get started you need an image file. This image can be either RAW or JPEG. If you’re planning on using your LUT in video processing then it’s a good idea to use a screen capture from your video file. For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll be using a previously processed JPEG.

How to Easily Make a LUT in Photoshop - original image already processed

Starting image already processed.

Once your photo is opened in Photoshop you can begin to make the edits that will be exported as a LUT. You’ll have the power of all the options located in the adjustments panel at your fingertips.

How to Easily Make a LUT in Photoshop - adjustment panel in PS

While you change the fill and opacity of the adjustment layers you won’t be able to add in any masking or more advanced filters. This is somewhat of a bummer, but given the fact that we’re doing all of this in Photoshop it’s a limitation we’ll have to live with for now. For this image, I’ve added three adjustment layers: Color Balance, Curves and Black and White.

How to Easily Make a LUT in Photoshop - 3 adjustment layers

With all of the edits applied, it’s time to actually export the adjustments in the form of a LUT which can then be used for creating profiles to play around with inside v7.3 Lightroom Classic or ACR 10.3 and a host of other awesome uses.

Exporting the LUT

You’ll be happy to know that exporting the adjustments as a LUT is ridiculously easy. Under the main menu at the top click File  > Export > Color Lookup Tables…

How to Easily Make a LUT in Photoshop - where to find it in the PS menu

This brings up the export dialog and you now find yourself faced with a few options before you can export the LUT. First, you have the choice to name the LUT. Make it something descriptive.

If you want, you can bypass this step as you will give the LUT its own filename in just a moment. Personally, I don’t always name the LUT at this time. You can enter in any copyright information you choose.

How to Easily Make a LUT in Photoshop

The last two options are the most important. Choosing the quality of the LUT and its file format is essential to be able to efficiently apply the LUT later in whatever application you might be using. Leave the quality set to Medium which will give a good balance between load times and quality.

The file format you choose will depend on what you’ll be doing with the LUT. For example, if you will be using your LUT to make profiles for Lightroom be sure to save it as a CUBE file. When you’re finished, click OK.

This brings you to the final step of the LUT manufacturing process. All that’s left to do is to choose where you’ll save the LUT.

How to Easily Make a LUT in Photoshop

You’ll notice that you now have the opportunity to again name your LUT. It’s here where you’ll want to make sure you give it a name that is easy to find. Once you’ve decided on file name and destination just click Save to store your brand new LUT!

Final Thoughts….

If you need a quick and easy way to make your own color lookup tables then you needn’t venture any further than your old friend Adobe Photoshop. While there are a few limitations when compared to dedicated color grading programs the ability to create LUTs directly from Photoshop can save you time and money.

If you’re like me and do a lot of work on the road, knowing how to make your own LUTs on the go will come in handy and make your life a LUT (haha) easier.

The post How to Easily Make a LUT in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Nikon D850 sensor confirmed as Sony-made

It can be interesting, for the more tech-inclined photographer, to speculate about where camera makers are getting their sensors from. However, to be truly certain, you'd need to tear the camera apart and see what's printed around the edge of the chip.

ChipMod - a camera modification company - has done just that, and has posted its findings on the AstroCN forum, showing that the D850's sensor has a Sony product code stamped on the back of it.

This will come as no surprise to anyone who's been curious about the issue: DPReview forum user Bobn2 (a computer science professor whose areas of expertise include imaging) pointed out immediately that all the published images of the chip showed a wiring pattern consistent with previous Sony designs. The sensor's performance then revealed it to have a dual-gain design that's been a feature of recent Sony chips (something we believe was licensed from Aptina, making Sony one of the only companies able to offer it).

Nikon's D850 is one of the most capable DSLRs on the market, boasting class-leading image quality from its 46MP full-frame sensor.

However, claims by Israeli chipmaker TowerJazz that it supplies to "a DSLR manufacturer" were taken by some to be evidence that it was the source of this chip. We still don't know which company TowerJazz was referring to, nor how precisely it were using the term 'DSLR.'

What's interesting, though, is that this news confirms what Sony told us about the way its semiconductor company deals with external clients: other companies can commission Sony Semiconductor to make them a sensor and can include their own intellectual property in the design, without that information (or the rights to use it) being available to Sony's camera division. Hence the D850 features the BSI and dual gain designs that Sony uses in many of its own cameras but is also able to provide an ISO 64 mode that allows the Nikon to rival some of the latest medium format cameras, but that Sony cameras don't offer.

This would also help explain how Nikon justifies its statements that the sensor is "designed by Nikon."

Photography Challenge – Street Photography

Street photography is a fun and popular genre of photography that anybody can do. But it’s not as easy as it looks to get really good, storytelling images.

street photography challenge - shot on a street in Colombia

I shot this in Retiro, Colombia a little town not far from Medellin. It had a very old-world feel so I processed this image to match that style.

For this week’s photography challenge you’ll need to hit the streets and show us your best. If you need some tips, here are some ideas:

Weekly Photography Challenge – Street Photography

Simply upload your shot into the comment 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 favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge. Sometimes it takes a while for an image to appear so be patient and try not to post the same image twice.

Get some people in your street photography.

Try panning for something different.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

You can also share your images in the dPS Facebook group as the challenge is posted there each week as well.

The post Photography Challenge – Street Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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