How to Realistically Enhance Light Beams in Photoshop

The post How to Realistically Enhance Light Beams in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

As a general nod to creative decency, in my work, I tend to steer clear of the “influencer” types of photographs. You know the ones I mean. The photos of people standing at the edge of some gorgeous vista, smiling, but, of course, seldom looking at the camera. They usually have some brand name product conspicuously visible in the frame. It’s not that those kinds of images are wrong, neither in execution or intent, but rather slightly tired and overdone.

With that said, there is one type of photo that I find myself producing again and again, that I admit would fall into the category I attempt to keep myself away from most of the time. I love making photos at night time with light beams shining off into the dark of space.

The problem is, that without an enormously powerful light source, achieving highly pronounced light beams is fairly difficult to achieve. In short, your average consumer flashlight or headlamp likely won’t pack enough luminous punch.

This is where a super simple piece of Photoshop magic can make these types of photographs truly stand out. In this tutorial, I’m going to show you an easy way to enhance the light beams in your images using Photoshop.

Before we begin

As with most any type of photography, your finished results are directly dependent on the quality of the starting material. You should always strive to get as much right in-camera as possible before you move to post-processing. This means correct exposure relative to the elements of your images, accurate focus, and appropriate ISO settings.

While this technique can enhance light beams in any photo, the outcome will vary enormously in terms of both quality and realism depending on the solidity of the original digital file.

Alright, now let’s have some fun!

Process first

It’s a good practice to save the enhancing of the light beams in your photos until the very end of your post-processing. This means that you should process all other aspects of the image as you would like them to appear in the finished photo before you apply the steps we’re about to discuss. Here is the RAW file of our example image before any post-processing.

Here is that photo after I have finished the global and local adjustments. In short, aside from the somewhat lackluster beam emitted from the headlamp, the image shown here looks exactly the way I like.

I have completed all exposure, contrast, color adjustments, sharpening and noise reduction. Regardless of what software you use to complete your post-processing, you will need to bring the image into Photoshop to finish your work. Since I use Lightroom Classic CC, I choose ‘Edit in Photoshop.’

How to enhance the light beam

After you’ve kicked your image into Photoshop, it’s time to begin the incredibly easy process of enhancing that beam of light. We’ll do the entire operation with some super simple layer masking. To get started, select the polygonal lasso tool (keyboard shortcut ‘L’).

We’re going to imagine that we are drawing a shape which corresponds to how the light will naturally diverge from the source. In this case, the headlamp. So, beginning at the base of the light beam we’ll create our shape. Simply click and let go, then draw the first line. I recommend extending this first line past the canvas of the image. I’ll explain why in a moment.

Connect the dots

Now it’s just a matter of drawing more lines and connecting them. Click each point to anchor the lines together until you reach back to the beginning point. This will complete the shape automatically. At this point, the shape will also appear to be moving with the so-called “marching ants.” It will essentially look somewhat like a triangle.

It’s this shape from which we will create our first mask. Believe me, this is all about to make perfect sense!

Add a Brightness Adjustment Layer

Click on the Brightness Adjustment Layer icon to add a brightness and contrast adjustment layer. Photoshop automatically creates the mask for this layer based on the shape we’ve just drawn.

This is where the magic happens. Increase the brightness slider.

Boom. Isn’t that cool?! All that has happened is that the brightness increase only affected the shape we created with the polygonal lasso tool.

Feather the mask

There’s still a light problem, though. Look how unnatural the beam emitted from the headlamp now looks. We can fix this by adjusting the feathering of our mask. Click on the mask icon within the adjustment mask window.

Increasing the feathering of the mask makes the edges softer and appear as if they are naturally diverging from a finite point of origin.

Doesn’t that look so much better already?

Create multiple masks

At this point, we could be completely finished, or we could repeat the steps we’ve already learned to “stack” additional layer masks based on shapes we’ve drawn using the polygonal lasso tool. In this particular image, I’m going to create another more intense beam inside the one we’ve already made.

Then it’s just a matter of adding another brightness adjustment layer just as we did before. Then adjust the brightness and mask feathering.

Don’t think that your masks are limited to brightness adjustments. You can add any adjustment that you choose.

In this case, I want to cool down the beam to better match the original color of the headlamp light. To do this, I’ll draw another shape with the polygonal lasso tool, but this time, I’ll select the ‘photo filter’ adjustment and add a cooling filter.

And remember when I said there was a reason we extended the mask past the actual border of the image canvas? We’re going to learn why in the next section. It all comes down to realism.

Fine adjustments

When it comes to this type of adjustment, it’s always crucial you understand the mechanics of the effect you are either simulating or enhancing. In this case, we are enhancing the way light travels from a given source.

As you probably are aware, light diverges as it travels, hence the widening of our light beam. Not only that, but the further it perceivably travels, the less bright it becomes to our eyes. The light essentially disappears into space.

To mimic this natural principle, we will “dim” the light beam as it extends further towards the edge of the frame using the brush tool.

We’ll select each layer, and selectively adjust the masks so that the light appears to dissipate softly. Make sure you set your brush to black.

This is where you will need to exercise your own judgment based on your particular image. Experiment with different opacity and flow rates. If you remove too much, just switch the brush to white and paint the effect back in as needed.

Isn’t Photoshop great?

And that’s it! Here is our final photo with the enhanced light beam.

Considering this is what we started with…

…the overall creative power of this cool edit is obvious.

Let’s recap

When it comes to enhancing (and even simulating) light beams in your images, you’ll want to remember a few key  guidelines:

  • Begin with the best image possible
  • Save your light beam enhancements until the very end of your processing
  • Maintain realism by understanding light – it diverges and dissipates (in our perception) as it travels
  • Stack as many masks as you need
  • Remember to feather your masks!
  • Don’t be afraid to adjust the color of the enhanced light beams

At its core, enhancing light beams in Photoshop is an extremely easy way to add some immediate power to your images. Even though we’ve used the example shown here, you can apply this technique to any scene with point sources of light such as car headlights, street lights or in any scenario where you might want to creatively pump up the luminosity of light beams.

Try it out, experiment and, as always, be sure to share your results with us!


How to Realistically Enhance Light Beams in Photoshop

The post How to Realistically Enhance Light Beams in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

An Easy Hack for Shooting into the Sun and Processing the Images

The post An Easy Hack for Shooting into the Sun and Processing the Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Whether you’re shooting landscapes, street photography, outdoor portraits, or just making a photo of your cat lounging in the window, a great many photos have one thing in common – sunlight. Yes, that big burning ball of fire in the sky can either ruin your photos or make them memorable. Some photographers enjoy the look of the sun shining brightly in the sky with radiant starbursts and flare while others do not. However you happen to feel about it, you will often find it necessary to shoot directly into bright sunlight.


I’m going to show you an easy way to deal with the invasive (yet often rewarding) circumstances of making a photograph when the sun is burning bright directly towards your camera. All this is done without the need for filters and is easily accomplished with some simple work in Photoshop.

Warning: Remember friends, the techniques shown here are intended to help you work in conditions faced when shooting into the sun as it relates to commonly encountered photographic conditions. Prolonged exposures aimed at the sun may damage your camera and purposefully staring directly into the sun will permanently damage your eyes. 

Shooting your images

First things first. You will need at least two photos of the same scene but shot with different exposures. Keep in mind that two photos are the MINIMUM required; one for the foreground elements and one for the desired brightness of the sun. Depending on the complexity and contrast of your scene, it is a good idea (as I’ve done here) to have additional exposures to help your final image look realistic.


If you prefer a prominent “starburst” effect for the sun, it’s a good idea to use a relatively small aperture (large f-number) for at least one of your images. Since we’ll be blending multiple photos together, it is crucial that each of them align as closely as possible. So, of course, using a stable tripod is integral to the outcome of your photograph. I know, I know…you’ve heard it a thousand times.

Try this cool trick

Before we move on to how to actually blend our images together, I want to tell you about an incredibly neat trick to help you reduce lens flare and get a much cleaner result when shooting directly towards the sun. You might have noticed one of my images has a big fat thumb right in the middle of the frame? This is not by accident.


What this allows us to do is block out the most direct light rays so that we have a good spot to blend in the sun from our drastically underexposed photo. Not only that, but it helps to greatly reduce (not always eliminate) the lens flare artifacts which commonly rear their head in these types of photos. It will all make sense in just a second.

Combining the images

As I’m sure you’ve already noticed, the actual acquisition of the photos you need is a very simple operation. The magic lies in how we handle those images in Photoshop. We can bring our images directly into Photoshop, or as I prefer, work with them first in Lightroom and then kick them over to Photoshop as layers. This saves time and makes things much easier, especially if working in Photoshop is new to you. Make sure you don’t crop any of the photos!

Open images as Layers in Photoshop

To open up your images as layers in Photoshop from Lightroom, make sure all of your photos are selected and then right-click on any images. Select ‘Edit In’ and then choose ‘Open as Layers in Photoshop.’


Once Photoshop launches, you will see all of your photos presented as layers in the Layers Panel.

Arrange the layers by dragging and dropping them into place. Sort the layers where the sun blocked with your thumb at the top. Proceed downward by order of decreased brightness with the darkest image at the very bottom.


Auto-Align Layers

Even though we’ve done our best to make sure all of our photos are composed identically, it’s a good practice to allow Photoshop to help out with aligning the layers. That way, they fit as closely as possible to avoid misalignment. Doing this is a snap (Photoshop humor) using ‘Auto-Align Layers.’ Make sure all of your layers are selected either by Ctl+click or Cmd+click (Mac).

If you have a large number of layers, a quicker way to select them all would be to highlight the top layer and then Shift+click the bottom layer (or vice versa). Once all your layers are selected, select ‘Edit’ and then ‘Auto-Align Layers.’


Leave the alignment projection set to ‘Auto.’


After Photoshop is finished cooking up those layers into better alignment, you might notice a small perimeter border around your image. This is due to Photoshop aligning the layers. Don’t worry; you can crop it out later.

Add Layer Masks

You’ll need to incorporate layer masks so that you can paint in and out our layers as you go. Select each layer and add a mask by clicking the layer mask icon. There’s no need to apply a mask to the bottom-most layer in the stack.


For a refresher course on working with layer masks check out this article by Jim Hamel.

Blend the Layers

Now that we have masks added to all of our layers, it’s time to start blending. We’ll start with the sky and remove the obvious digit from the photo. Since the layer mask is set to white, make sure you are painting with black. If you get confused, remember the old adage “black conceals, white reveals.”


Even working with this small number of layer masks can get somewhat unwieldy. I recommend you merge each layer with the next after you’ve finished blending each portion of your photo.

To merge your completed layers, simply highlight them and use keyboard shortcut Ctl+E (Cmd+E for Mac). This helps avoid any conflicts with your masking. Blend your layers as needed based on your particular photos.

After each layer merge, be sure to add a layer mask to the resulting layer.


Eventually, you should have two layers remaining.


It’s here where things can get a little tricky because you will likely be dealing with blending your starbursts with a darker surrounding sky. Just take your time. It’s a good idea to set your brush to a low flow rate of 10-15 and your opacity to around 15 to start. Then gradually build up the effect. A soft brush is definitely required here.

And ta-dah!


With just a little bit of blending, we’ve successfully combined our four images of the sunset. Before leaving Photoshop, I went ahead and removed those few flakes of dust as well as the remaining lens flare artifacts that managed to escape my thumb. After you save your changes and close Photoshop, the newly blended photo will be thrown back to Lightroom for cropping and some final tweaking.


Some final words on overcoming the sun…

There are multiple ways to work around shooting directly into the sun to get great photos. Most involve various filters and careful positioning.

With a little basic knowledge of Photoshop, you can forgo the extra equipment and achieve results which are arguably as good or better than more traditional photographic methods.

This is especially helpful if you happen to be using a camera that sports less than spectacular dynamic range. Sure, you shouldn’t view this technique as a replacement for practicing solid photography techniques, but instead, it provides a way for us to easily bring home the photo we want at the end of the day.

Not too comfortable with Photoshop? We’ve got you covered!

Make sure to check out some of the great resources here at Digital Photography School which will teach you all you could ever wish to know about working with layers, blend modes and masking in Photoshop.

We’d love to see the images you create from this tutorial. Please share with us and the dPS community in the comments below!


The post An Easy Hack for Shooting into the Sun and Processing the Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

K&F Concept TC2335 Carbon Fiber Tripod Review

The post K&F Concept TC2335 Carbon Fiber Tripod Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

I’ve worked with a quite a few products from the folks over at K&F Concept in the last couple of years. Quality has ranged from great to average to the not so spectacular. When I was asked to have a look at their TC-2335 carbon fiber travel tripod, my expectations were at most cautiously optimistic. That being said, I’m happy to report that this little carbon fiber tripod from K&F Concept offers a lot in terms of performance. So, lets talk about K&F Concept TC-2335 carbon fiber tripod; what I liked, what I didn’t like and what you need to know if you happen to be in the market for a lightweight travel tripod.

First appearances

When the box first arrived my immediate reaction was “this is tiny…really tiny.” Not only that, but the entire package was alarmingly lightweight. After opening up the box I realized the logical reason for this: the TC-2335 is really tiny and incredibly lightweight. In fact, it is the most feather-like, compact tripod I have ever evaluated. The tripod itself is housed in its own padded carrying bag.

After removing the TC-2335 from its carrier, I was met with a surprisingly attractive carbon fiber tripod.

In terms of aesthetics, the TC-2335 proves to be one of the better-looking tripods I’ve entertained from K&F Concept. The carbon fiber is well done and is a default matte gray. This particular model comes with a matching orange color scheme, which looks great, But it is also available in an unlikely “thunder” version which features blue lighting graphics on the leg’s of the tripod…yes, really.

All leg locks are the twist type and are rubberized. I was honestly surprised with just how cleanly the leg locks are executed and would compare them to some higher-end tripod models I have handled.

Overall, the appearance of this tripod looks fantastic. But how would it perform in the field? Let’s find out.

In operation

Before we get rolling with how the TC-2335 performs, let’s have a look at a few specifications that you will want to know.

Practical technical specifications

  • Folded Height: 13.6 inches (34.54cm)
  • Maximum Height: 53.1 inches (134.9cm)
  • Minimum Height: 12.9 inches (32.8cm)
  • Weight: 1.85lbs (839g)
  • Maximum Weight Supported: 26.5lbs (12kg)


For such an admittedly small form factor, the TC-2335 is very stable. The terminating leg sections are quite small in diameter and this would lead one to assume that the legs are flimsy. But this is not the case. When locked down, this little tripod is reasonably stable even in high wind and awkward positions.

Speaking of the legs, I’ve mentioned already how impressed I was with the leg lock mechanisms, but there’s more. I was concerned, given the slender legs, that the overall stability would be compromised. However, the leg locks do an excellent job of arresting almost all leg movement.

The leg angle locks are something that I dislike about this tripod. They are not spring loaded; meaning that after you pull out on the locks, you must manually press them back into place to lock the legs. Again, I’m sure this is a weight saving measure, but the added convenience would have been worth the small amount of bulk, in my opinion.

The ball head

I used this tripod with three separate camera’s, ranging from lightweight crop-sensor mirrorless to full-frame DSLR. The ball head had no problems supporting the weight placed on it throughout my tests. K&F states that the tripod is capable of supporting virtually fourteen times its weight. While that may be extreme, I do not doubt that the ball head mechanism could support a camera system upwards of five to six pounds should the circumstances present themselves.

The ball head itself sports only a single adjustment knob which controls both panning and the ball head articulation. I’m sure this is a weight saving measure but can lead to complications when adjusting your camera at times. While panning is silky smooth, the ball head seems to be somewhat rough and quite audible when moved. A small amount of lubrication may help in this area. I feel I should also note that the ball head features not only a bubble level – which is quite useful – but also a magnetic compass.

Again, yes…really.

What’s great

In terms of packability, the TC-2335 from K&F Concept is superb. It’s extremely lightweight and doesn’t take up much room anywhere. It would be ideal for those who do a lot of flying or for anytime space comes at a premium. It looks great and is more than capable of supporting most camera systems that you’ll likely want to be carrying around. The twist locks on the legs also secure with extreme solidity. Overall, for a tripod of this size, the entire platform is oddly stable.

What’s not so great

I can’t get past the angle locks for the legs not being spring loaded, and this is the major gripe I have with this tripod. Granted, this is the first tripod I recall using which doesn’t have this feature. At the same time, I’m sure this would be something that could be a personal preference. Also, the quite serviceable ball head is not exactly smooth in operation, and I would have liked to have seen a secondary knob for panning.

Final verdict

For a tripod which is intended to be a travel companion for the highly mobile photographer, the K&F Concept TC-2335 is a wonderful low-cost option if you are in the market for a compact carbon fiber tripod. It’s good looks and solid stance will be completely adequate for most shooters who understand it’s uses and limitations.

Don’t look for a workhorse tripod here. Rather, I would suggest you view the TC-2335 as a wholly capable shooting platform that will come in handy when weight, size, and portability take precedence over the subtle functionalities found in larger, more dedicated camera support systems.


The post K&F Concept TC2335 Carbon Fiber Tripod Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Four of the Latest Updates to Lightroom Classic CC

The post Four of the Latest Updates to Lightroom Classic CC appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

When it comes to the world of photography it seems as if change is an everyday occurrence. New cameras, new lenses and new ways to make your photographs better, give the feeling that we are never quite standing still. One of the biggest testaments to this fluidity comes from the recent changes made to Adobe Lightroom Classic CC. It seems as if Adobe has been extremely busy over the past year by introducing new features and settings to Lightroom.

F:\DPS Images\Four Updates for LR Article\Lightroom-updates-adobe-adam-welch-digital-photography-school-3-3.png

It’s impossible to list all of the changes here, so I’ve picked four of the biggest and freshest new features to be introduced into Lightroom Classic CC. These range from somewhat complex to some very simple tweaks that might leave you thinking “hey, why didn’t I think of that?!”

Here’s a short list of the new features which are currently available in Lightroom Classic CC v8.2 which was the most current build at the time this article was written.

Customize Develop Panels

To kick things off, we’ll take a look at a very simple yet interesting new feature introduced to Lightroom in December of 2018. Until now the only choice of customization for our Develop panels was to switch to “Solo” (highly recommended) mode. With the release of Lightroom Classic CC v8.1, we can now choose the order we want the Develop panels to appear and even decide which panels we want to have listed at all.


I know, right? Looks a little odd to see all the panels in a different order and a few missing! To customize your Develop panels all you need to do is right-click on the title bar of any panel.


This opens up the customizer dialog box.


From here it’s just a matter of checking or unchecking the panels and/or dragging and dropping them into the order you like.

Show/Hide Develop Presets

Moving over from the far right to the far left side of Lightroom Classic CC, we’ll find another new feature added to the v7.4 (seems so long ago) update which dropped in June of 2018. Beginning with this build, we can now control which Develop Preset groups appear in our Preset panel. This feature is called “Manage Presets,” and it is accessed by right clicking on any Develop Preset group or by clicking the dropdown icon at the top right of the panel.


We are then met with this preset management window.


This is where you can check or uncheck the preset groups you want to appear in the Develop presets panel. Remember, you can always select “Reset Hidden Presets” should you ever decide you want to restore everything to the default configuration.

Preset Compatibility

While we’re on the topic of Develop presets, it’s worth mentioning another brand new aspect to grace the halls of Lightroom Classic CC in 2018. Starting with the v8.1 update, we have the option to determine which presets appear in our Develop Preset folders even more judiciously than before with the ability to hide or show partially compatible presets.

Now, you might be wondering what a partially compatible preset is? Simply put, any Develop Preset that contains a setting not compatible with your current version of Lightroom will now be italicized or hidden depending on your preferences.

Here, let me show you.

First, let’s say this preset was made with a creative profile which you don’t have installed. You’ll notice that its name appears in italics. This means that the preset is still usable, however, it only offers limited functionality.


Alternatively, we can choose to not have that preset appear at all. To do this, we first select ‘Edit’ and then ‘Preferences’


Next, click on the ‘Presets’ tab and then set the preset visibility checkbox to your desired preference. If left unchecked ANY of your presets that feature settings not fully compatible with your version of Lightroom will no longer appear in your presets folder.


This of course can be undone at any time by simply checking the presets visibility box once again.

Single-step HDR Panorama Photo Merge

Don’t worry, just because the title is lengthy doesn’t mean this next feature is overly complicated. For years we’ve been able to tell Lightroom to stitch together our panoramic and HDR images for us. Now, the folks at Adobe have given us an incredibly easy way to combine the best of both worlds with the release of Lightroom Classic CC v8.0 back in October of 2018. We can now merger multiple bracketed photos into a high dynamic range (HDR) panorama in, you guessed it, just a single step. Well, maybe a little more than that – but it is still incredibly easy.


The majority of the work involved in making use of this new feature happens before you ever import your images into Lightroom.

Namely, your photos need to be correctly bracketed and meet a few other criteria. It will be helpful to read the full release notes from Adobe to learn more about how to make sure your images are compatible with Single-step HDR Pano Merge.

In any case, once you have selected the bracketed images for your HDR pano, the actual process is remarkably straightforward. So go ahead and select them first.


Then right-click on any image and select ‘Photo Merge,’ and then ‘HDR Panorama’.


From here, Lightroom will create a smart preview of your HDR Panorama.


You then have options to control the way the final photograph gets cropped as well as how the images combine. This new “single-step” approach to creating high dynamic range panoramas is light years ahead of previous methods. Instead of first needing to merge individually bracketed image sets into separate HDR photos, only then to require further stitching into the final panorama, we can now eliminate virtually half of the effort involved. If you’re an avid landscape photographer, you will absolutely fall in love with single-step HDR Panorama Photomerge.

And that’s not all…

Of course, this is just a taste of the new flavors Adobe has added to Lightroom in the last year or so. It’s nearly impossible to include all of the new features constantly added – and that’s a good thing. There are many more fresh features to be found in Lightroom Classic CC.

Do you have any favorites? Feel free to let us know in the comments!


The post Four of the Latest Updates to Lightroom Classic CC appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Your Photographic Legacy: Realizing Your Power as a Photo Maker

The post Your Photographic Legacy: Realizing Your Power as a Photo Maker appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

I’ve struggled with how to approach the topic at hand and I remain unsure even as I type. How can I begin to talk about such far echoing ideas? I already know that you and I share a common thread: photography.


I’ll further assume that if you’re reading this, you are a person who makes photographs regularly. Perhaps that’s the perfect way to start; by knowing that you’re a camera person, just like me.

Being that we’re the same, I hope you understand the scope of what it means to “be a photographer” in an age when cameras are everywhere. Do you understand the power you hold in your hands? It’s the magnitude of this power that we will discuss.

With any luck, these simple truths about our craft will be nothing new. If anything, hopefully, these ideas will be a gentle reminder of the role you play in the photographic legacy.

On the other hand, if you have forgotten these facts or if you’ve never thought about them before, today is an especially important day for you.

Respect for the work…respect for yourself

It’s oddly paradoxical that photography can be so incredibly personal yet at the same time so impersonal. This is especially true of digital photography when often times the work we produce remains essentially intangible and often untouchable.

Where other creators physically intersect with their craft by either drawing, painting, sculpting or carving, we stand alone in a shared uniqueness. We use a machine to bring our expressions to life. We cannot touch what we capture with any sense of immediacy, and yet photography has become one of the most effective methods for bridging what we see with what we feel.


As photographers, we must grasp the sheer weirdness and complexity of what we do at a basic level. Our work is part science, part soul, part philosophy and as such should be respected for the beautiful oddball of the visual arts that it truly is.

Furthermore, you should have immense respect for yourself and your fellow practitioners of photography. Not through any sense of superiority but rather a feeling of camaraderie.

We compete on occasion, sure. We envy or criticize each other at times. With the internet being the internet, it’s quite easy to pick apart the work of others instead of building it up. We’re only human. Still, the fact remains that we will advance more by positive attitudes and tasteful critique than through thoughtless criticism and negativity.

I can assure you that we’re all in this madness together.

Photography is the servant of history

Imagine for a minute a couple of historic images in your mind. Ali standing over Frazier. That child running from a napalm strike in Vietnam. The aftermath at Kent State. A lone man staring down a tank in Beijing. Einstein sticking his tongue out for the camera.

All these moments, for better or worse, are solidified in history through photographs. Photography carries monumental weight for bringing awareness to the beauty and horrors present in the human condition.

Arguably, photography is the greatest asset for documenting history that the world has ever known.


Every photograph is made by a man or woman who was present at the exact moment these events took place. For better or worse, the presence of a camera has been the catalyst for social, political and environmental change for nearly two centuries.

Where would we be without the photographs which move us to action and change the way we think about the world?

Photographers can strike fire anywhere with a single photograph.

Possessing the ability to potentially impact the entire course of civilization by what we do should fill us with a measure of pride, wonderment and ultimately a sense of apprehension. Think about that the next time you go out with your camera.

You can make a difference through your photography at any time and in any place.

You represent every photographer

If you bear with me, I find it’s necessary to share a quick story about a woodworker friend of mine; a story, which as it turns out, became the reason for me penning this article.

A few weeks ago I witnessed a rather nasty situation play out on social media between my friend and another woodworker. Without injecting my own opinion, it was obvious that the attitude shown towards my friend was met with universal disapproval by most of the commenters.

I was fascinated (and comforted) by the fact that what seemed to trouble people the most was the blatant disrespect which was being exhibited by one craftsperson to another.

My mind immediately jumped to the manner we as photographers conduct ourselves, both on and offline, and how that conduct impacts the public perception of photographers.


As cameras become more and more available to the masses, it’s important to comprehend that we are all practitioners of an art form that dates back to the early 19th century. That’s quite the legacy. What I mean by this is that the way we interact with our subjects and our environment while we practice our craft can be just as important as the photographs we produce.

I have witnessed photographers moving “flying stones” at Racetrack Playa in Death Valley just so their shots couldn’t be replicated. On countless occasions, I’ve watched as cars back up behind a person who parked in the highway to make photos bears.

Perhaps most alarming of all, I have observed shockingly pretentious attitudes exhibited by professional photographers upon those deemed “beneath” their perceived level of skill.


Be courteous and respectful to others, especially fellow photographers. Always be willing to pass on what knowledge you have about the craft. Keep in mind that we are stewards of our art and tend its flame for many generations of photo makers to come.

Never fall victim to the kind of indifferent behavior that would belittle the legacy of photography.

Final thoughts….

So, what’s the endgame here?

The keyword is “realization.”

Realize that the role photography plays in the world cannot be overstated, and your part in that story is just as important.

The way we approach photography is very much a reflection of how we approach life and each share similar outcomes.

Be mindful that you always remember the impact of the photos you make and how far the manner by which you make those photos truly reaches. Photographs carry a unique duality which occupies a cloudy space among other art forms.

Our cameras have the power to make, record and even change history, but without you, a camera is just a camera.

Remember the power you have as a photographer and wield it accordingly.

The post Your Photographic Legacy: Realizing Your Power as a Photo Maker appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Review: DJI Mavic 2 Zoom

The post Review: DJI Mavic 2 Zoom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Photography is an ever evolving medium. New gear, new technology and new ways of seeing the world make it an extremely exciting time to be a photographer right now.

Over the last year or so I’ve become more and more interested in aerial photography and getting new perspectives for my work. And wouldn’t you know it, DJI just released another brand new tool for aerial photography in August of 2018. So when I had the opportunity to test it out, I didn’t hesitate. I give you…

…wait for it…

…the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom.


Out of the box

Sleek, compact and understated; that’s how I would describe the appearance of the Mavic 2 Zoom. DJI has chosen a color scheme that should be familiar to those who have experienced the previous model upon which they have based the Mavic 2 Zoom upon – the Mavic Pro. The drone itself is dark gray with a silver belly and matching silver accents. You’ll notice that while the overall lines have been maintained, the Mavic 2 Zoom is a completely different animal when compared to its predecessor.




The gimbal cover of the Mavic 2 has also been updated to protect the camera during transport. While easy to remove, I have to admit reattaching the gimbal cover was slightly confusing the first time I attempted it. Luckily, DJI has included a quick diagram to help with this.


Who knows, maybe it was just me being clumsy? In any case, once you get the hang of the new gimbal cover, reattaching it becomes essentially like riding a bike.

The Mavic 2 Zoom has incorporated a set of legitimate landing and take-off lights to aid in low-light situations when the bottom-facing obstacle sensors may have difficulty discerning where the ground may be. Speaking of sensors, DJI has enhanced the Mavic 2 Zoom with Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing technology (more on that later) for side, front and rear obstacle avoidance. These sensors are readily visible throughout the breadth of the aircraft yet somehow the body of the drone doesn’t appear overly cluttered.


The controller for the Mavic 2 Zoom has received a light makeover as well. I was happy to see the addition of the fantastic “stow and go” joysticks present on the Mavic AIR controller to this new iteration of Mavic controllers. When not in use, the joysticks can be packed away beneath the folding wings of the controller.

This makes stashing your controller in your bag much easier and less likely to snag or less ideally, break.


Shown with joysticks attached

Most of the contact surfaces are rubberized, and the controller feels great even when using a larger smartphone like my Samsung S8 Active.

Speaking of phones, an incredibly cool feature of the Mavic 2 Zoom controller is that it charges your phone should your phone’s battery level drop to below 40% during flight. How cool is that?

Thanks for having our backs, DJI.

With that said, you will almost certainly need to remove your phone case (should you have one) to make everything fit within the controller. Of course, you might not have to, but keep that in mind before you fly.

Another feature, albeit possibly not as overtly impressive for some as it was to me, is the addition of an integrated charging cable built right into the included battery charger.

This controller is also identical and interchangeable with the controller for the Mavic 2 Zoom

This enables the user to always have a way to charge their controllers should they misplace or not have another cable to charge the controller.

With the introductions complete, let’s get down to business and see how well the Mavic 2 Zoom performs in the air.

Flight performance

In comparison to the Mavic Pro, it’s safe to say that DJI has improved virtually every area of flight performance in the Mavic 2 Zoom. They have increased the maximum speed and the overall flight time and distance capability. Even though descent/ascent speeds have remained the same as the Mavic Pro (impressive in its own right), it’s easy to see that the Mavic 2 Zoom is very much an upgrade in terms of its ability to fly further faster and with more confidence.

  • Dimensions Folded: 214×91×84 mm (length×width×height)
  • Dimensions Unfolded: 322×242×84 mm (length×width×height) with 354mm at diagonal
  • Weight: 1.99 lbs(905g) with battery and propellers attached
  • Maximum flight time: 31 minutes at constant 15.5 mph(25 kph)
  • Maximum hover time: 29 minutes(no wind)
  • Operating temperatures: 14° F to 104° F(-10°C to 40°C)
  • Maximum speed: 44.7 mph(72 kph) (S-mode)
  • Maximum ascent speed: 5 m/s (S-mode), 4 m/s (P-mode)
  • Maximum descent speed: 3 m/s (S-mode), 3 m/s (P-mode)
  • Maximum altitude: 19,685ft above sea level (6000m)

The Mavic 2 Zoom is about 2g lighter in total weight but all other performance statistics regarding speed, dimensions and flight are precisely the same as the new DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone. In fact, it’s safe to say that the Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro use the same drone body. The only difference being their respective camera systems.

Don’t believe me?

Here is the Mavic 2 and Mavic 2 Zoom side by side. If you can’t tell, why should I?


In flight, the Mavic 2 Zoom is nimble with great response time. The propellers have been redesigned to make them quieter when compared to the Mavic Pro. Unfortunately, this also means that the propellers are not interchangeable between the two aircraft. So, you won’t be able to buy a set of Mavic 2 props to quiet down your older Mavic. Sorry folks.

Acceleration is quite impressive, with stops being not overly abrupt. Of course, many of these observations depend on how you have the responsiveness of your controller configured. Speaking of that, DJI has placed the three main flight modes for the Mavic 2 Zoom on the right side of the controller. These modes are Tripod (T), Positioning (P) and Sport (S).


When in T-mode, the speed of the drone becomes greatly reduced as well as the acceleration and deceleration making it great for slow and controlled pans. Also, all of the Mavic 2 Zoom’s Omnidirectional Obstacle sensors are enabled.

P-mode could be called the “standard” flight mode. In P-mode, all of the Intelligent Flight modes are available.

Lastly, we have blazing-fast S-mode. In sport mode, all obstacle avoidance is disabled which means you’re entirely on your own. The fun part? The Mavic 2 Zoom can then hit a top speed of nearly 45mph (72.4kph). The Mavic 2 Zoom can also allow the pilot to select from pre-programmed intelligent flight modes which are great for obtaining footage that would otherwise be difficult for the average user.

Intelligent Flight Modes

  • ActiveTrack 2.0(with improved 3D subject tracking) Capable of identifying up to 16 subjects and track 1
  • Cinematic Mode (dampens the drone’s movements for increased stability) Softens the breaking period for increased video smoothness
  • Hyperlapse Moves the drone through out the acquisition of time lapses
  • QuickShots (outlined below)
  • Points Of Interest (POI 2.0) Allows the user to choose a subject and instruct the drone to keep it in frame based on a predetermined altitude and speed while circling
  • Waypoint Navigation The Mavic 2 Zoom will fly to a series of locations chosen on the map
  • Tap-to-Fly Select a map area and the drone will automatically fly to that spot

QuickShot Intelligent Flight Modes

  • Dolly Zoom An interesting cinematic zoom effect…Hitchcock style
  • Asteroid Essentially contorts your scene into spherical illusion
  • Boomerang The drone will fly in an ellipse around the subject and automatically start and stop filming in the same place
  • Rocket The Mavic 2 Zoom will take off vertically with the camera flowing your subject
  • Circle Enables the drone to fly in a circle around the subject at a predetermined altitude and distance
  • Dronie Pre-programmed upward flight with the drone moving backward all the while tracking the subject
  • Helix The drone will upward and away while maintaining view of your subject

Zoom Zoom

If you’re like me, then I figure you’re extremely interested in the camera of the Mavic 2 Zoom. After all, unless you just like flying a drone around the sky (which is fun too), the real reason you’re doing it all is to get awesome aerial photos and videos.

The elephant in the room is, of course, the zoom feature which is the Mavic 2 Zoom’s namesake. It has a 2x optical zoom plus an additional digital zoom capability (which DJI reports being lossless) when shooting video in FHD 1080p. DJI also reports the Mavic 2 Zoom to be capable of producing images with 13-stops of dynamic range. That’s impressive.

Here’s a rundown of the major camera features from the DJI website:

  • Sensor: 12MP 1/2.3″ CMOS
  • Focal Length: 35 mm equivalent of 24-48 mm
  • Maximum Aperture: f/2.8 (24 mm) – f/3.8 (48 mm)
  • Shutter Speed Range: 8–1/8000s
  • ISO Range: 100-3200 for video, 100-1600 (auto) 100-3200 (manual) for photo
  • Internal Memory Storage: 8GB
  • Image Formats: JPEG / DNG (RAW)
  • Video Formats: MP4 / MOV (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, HEVC/H.265)
  • Video Resolution: 4K: 3840×2160 24/25/30p
    2.7K: 2688×1512 24/25/30/48/50/60p
    FHD: 1920×1080 24/25/30/48/50/60/120p

The camera of the Mavic 2 Zoom also incorporates some flashy new in-camera functionalities. It’s “Super Resolution” feature is incredibly interesting. It is essentially an onboard image stitching tool which can create images with a total resolution of approximately 48MP.

Not only that, but the Mavic 2 Zoom also sports DJI’s new “Hyperlight” mode for increasing image quality during extremely lowlight flights.

Here are a few test images made with the Mavic 2 Zoom.




To give a better understanding of what that 24-48mm focal length actually brings you in terms of zoom capability, here are two frames for comparison. The first shot at 24mm….


24mm at f/2.8

…and the second at 48mm


48mm at f/3.8

Why not two more? Each one is a 1-second exposure which speaks to the stabilization of that 3-axis gimbal.


24mm at f/2.8

Then zooming in to 48mm on that tower the distance.


48mm at f/3.8

I feel it’s worth mentioning that those last two nighttime images were made in a well-known and open area with the drone constantly in site. Be extremely cautious should you operate any aircraft in dark conditions.

Lastly, here is a quick bit of video footage shot using the Mavic 2 Zoom and a few of its features.

Final thoughts on the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom

The ability to zoom with the camera of the Mavic 2 Zoom adds in a new flavor of excitement to an already exciting drone. The aerobatics of the DJI’s latest entry to the Mavic lineup is impressive for any drone. Especially one marketed as a “consumer grade” aircraft.

With a camera capable of all sorts of high-end feats of imagery, it’s hard to draw the line between consumer and professional performance. From the Intelligent Flight features to the increased flight time and speed, refined obstacle avoidance system and compact form factor, the Mavic 2 Zoom is very much a welcome breath of fresh air to the aerial photography and videography community. Not only does it produce excellent still images and video, but the overall experience of operating this little aircraft is an absolutely enjoyable experience.

Have you used the Mavic 2 Zoom yet? Let us know in the comments how you like it and how it compares to any other drones you might have piloted.


review of the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom Drone

The post Review: DJI Mavic 2 Zoom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Lessons from the Masters: Imogen Cunningham

The post Lessons from the Masters: Imogen Cunningham appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

It’s easy enough to develop the illusion that the legendary names venerated throughout the history of photography were somehow so different from ourselves. While’s it’s certainly true that the photographic climate has changed, we still share the same passion for the art as those who clicked shutters fifty years or even a century ago. Many of them faced the same challenges, inspirations, successes and failures as we do. Perhaps that’s why I love learning more about the giants of photography and applying lessons from their work to my photos.

In this installment of “Lessons from the Masters,” we’re going to take a closer look at the work of the estimable Imogen Cunningham. Her determination and herculean achievements placed her working alongside other formative photographers of the 20th century. The contributions she made to photography as an art helped shape the photographic landscape we know today.

Imogen Cunningham


Self Portrait with Korona View, 1933 ©2019 Imogen Cunningham Trust

Named after the heroine of the Shakespearean play Cymbeline, Imogen Cunningham entered this world on April 12th, 1883. Born to rather paradoxical parents (her father a spiritualist and her mother Methodist) in Portland, Oregon she was a self-described “ill-tempered” child.

When she was 18 years old, she saved enough money to purchase (via mail order) her first camera in 1903, a 4×5 type, along with a box of glass plate negatives. She then began teaching herself how to make photographs. Cunningham knew photography would be her life’s work although her path would not be a direct one.

Following her graduation from the University of Washington with a degree in Chemistry in 1907, Imogen worked with Edward Curtis at his Seattle studio. There, she honed her skills in the darkroom while printing his iconic images of Native Americans and the American West.

Two years later, Cunningham received a $500 grant which enabled her to continue her studies abroad in Germany. During this time she developed theories on photographic chemistry still practiced today.

On her return to the west coast from Europe, Imogen made a familiar pilgrimage which other notable artists of the time often made and ventured to New York City for a meeting with the legendary Alfred Stieglitz at his “291” gallery. Stieglitz introduced her to Gertrude Käsebier who was the first professional female commercial photographer at that time.

After this influential meeting, Imogen committed her energy to photography. She opened a studio in Seattle, Washington and soon made a name for herself through portraits.

It was this studio where Imogen made her living while finding time to delve into more personal work before relocating to California in 1917. Unfortunately for us, she left the majority of her photographs and negatives behind, so there isn’t a large wealth of examples from that period of her career. In 1929, the Film und Foto Exhibition in Stuttgart, Germany, included a ten-piece selection of Cunningham’s work. The fabled Group f/64 would form a few years later to which Imogen was a founding member. Other founding members included her friend Edward Weston as well as Henry Swift, John Paul Edwards, Sonja Noskowiak, Ansel Adams and Willard Van Dyke. Over the years, Imogen Cunningham’s body of work would be as eclectic as it was groundbreaking.


Imogen photographing Ansel Adams…photographing Half Dome in 1953. ©2019 Imogen Cunningham Trust

After living an extraordinary life of photography, Imogen Cunningham passed away on June 23rd, 1976 in San Francisco, California at the age of 93.

Now that you know a little bit about the person, let’s dig a little deeper. We’ll look at a few of the many the lessons you can learn from the life, work, and attitude of Imogen Cunningham which can help to improve your photography.

Extend your range

Imogen Cunningham’s choice in subject matter was ‘diverse’ to say the least. From her earliest pictorial work to her self portraits and nudes, it’s safe to say that the idea of sticking to one subject or even one genre for that matter was not something that held back the creative spirit of Imogen Cunningham. She believed that photographs presented themselves to her organically.

She seldom went “looking for things to shoot,” instead preferring to allow the subject matter to appeal to her aesthetic awareness. I mean, come on, she was even one of the early practitioners of street photography before there was street photography!


Hashbury, 1967. ©2019 Imogen Cunningham Trust

Many of Imogen’s most iconic photographs gravitated towards the use of light and shadow to present common scenes in an extraordinary way by accentuating texture and shapes. She could look past what a subject was to see what it could be. This beautifully simplistic aesthetic is one of the reasons so many Cunningham prints carry a timeless appeal.


The Unmade Bed, 1957. ©2019 Imogen Cunningham Trust

Sometimes we find ourselves concentrating so vigorously on obtaining a particular photograph that we overlook other opportunities to produce great work. While it’s true that we can and should visualize how we want the final image to appear, the process is often helped along if we remain flexible.


One of my favorite photographs by Imogen Cunningham, “Callas” from around 1925. ©2019 Imogen Cunningham Trust

Don’t allow yourself to be mired down by one particular subject or location. This is especially true for us today while bombarded by social media accounts producing visually similar photos according to a theme rather than personal expression. This leads to an almost unconscious dulling down of creativity.


My own still life photo of lilies making use of light and texture to bring out the subtle elegance of a simple subject.

Photograph anything and everything that you please – even if might not fit with what you generally shoot.

Feel the fear…then do it anyway

One of my favorite quotes from Imogen Cunningham goes like this:

“…you can’t expect things to be smooth and easy and beautiful. You just have to work, find your way out, and do anything you can yourself.”

Without a doubt, Imogen was a strongly independent, capable and witty woman who pursued her work with an intensity of purpose. At the same time, she was human. She faced challenges, hardships, and fear just as we all do.


The key to overcoming your self-doubt is to keep moving forward. I think that’s what Cunningham was getting at here. It’s not that we should strive to be fearless but instead work to be tireless in the face of fear or our lack of confidence.

When it comes to photography, there will always be areas where we don’t feel as knowledgeable or proficient as we would like. However, that shouldn’t reduce you to thinking you will always feel that way. Take it from Imogen. Work hard and accept that you won’t always find yourself in easy situations. But never, never, never give up.

Interface with other photographers

Surrounded by other photographers, like many other defining artists of her time, Imogen loved discussing all aspects of photo work. As a founding member of Group f/64, she understood the value of sharing ideas and concepts with other photographers who approached the medium with the same zeal as she did. They learned from one another and worked to further the craft.

One of the most enlightening and enjoyable things I have ever done in this regard was to start the ongoing ITOW (In Their Own Words) Project. This project consists of interviewing other photographers that I either know personally or interact with on social media. The insights gained through these discussions continue to help deepen my own appreciation for the way other people see photography.


By Seth Doyle via Unsplash

Whenever possible, take the time to get to know other photographers and discuss photography openly and honestly. This doesn’t mean you have to strike up a conversation with anyone you see is carrying a camera, but it’s always interesting to examine how other people go about making their images and why.

Worldwide communication has never been more extensive or readily available. We have the capability of connecting with people whom we would have never known existed otherwise. One of the greatest assets we have for growth in our work is by interacting with other people who appreciate the value of photography.

Parting thoughts on Imogen Cunningham

Having been fortunate enough to view some of Imogen’s original prints, it’s easy for me to understand why she was, and still is, one of the most influential and accomplished photographers of all time. Along with other pioneering photographers, we owe a debt of gratitude to Imogen for helping advance photography to the incredible medium we know today.

The lessons we can learn from her work extend well beyond the photographic. She helped show that beauty is found in places and objects we see every day and that we can accomplish almost any goal – no matter how distant it may seem.

I urge you to learn more about Imogen Cunningham, her photographs and her wonderful example of living a full life.

Author’s Note: I would like to extend my immense appreciation to The Imogen Cunningham Trust for permitting the use of many of the photographs presented in this article. 


The post Lessons from the Masters: Imogen Cunningham appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Using Color Temperature in Black and White Conversions

The post Using Color Temperature in Black and White Conversions appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Digital photography has opened up enormous possibilities for black and white photography. The ability to first shoot in color and then convert the image to black and white offers photographers a way to express themselves in ways that reach beyond the influence of color. Well, for the most part.

You see, advanced black and white conversions take advantage of the different luminance values present in our RAW files so that we can individually manipulate those values after we have converted the color image to black and white. Usually, this is done via the HSL (BW) Panel in Lightroom or other processing software.


But there is one ingredient of the black and white pie that gets constantly overlooked during the average photographers (let’s pretend) black and white conversion process; color temperature. I know, the operative word here is COLOR and black and white photos…you know…don’t really have a lot of color.

In this article, we’re going to take a cruise aimed at getting a little closer to understanding how much of a role color temperature plays in our digital black and white conversions. We’ll look at how we can leverage this constantly neglected aspect of digital black and white photography so that we have many more opportunities to make even more impressive monochromatic images.

I also intend to make at least one black and white related pun before the end.

Let’s get started!

A quick refresher on color temperature

When we talk about color temperature, we are referring to the hue-based Kelvin scale (there’s a temperature-based one too) which measures the hue of color and thus relates to white balance; which is the theoretical absence of color cast within an image. More blue or “cool” colors have a higher Kelvin number, and more red or “warmer” colors have a lower Kelvin number.

“Adam…but wait! Most image processing software shows lower Kelvin color temperatures as blue and warmer colors as red!”

Yes, you are precisely correct. You paid excellent attention in science class!


In short, the color temperature sliders in most photo editors are in fact reversed from the true Kelvin scale. From what I’ve gathered, this inversion is due to the approach that white balance adjustments in digital photography are based on “compensation” rather than direct cooling or warming of colors. This means that if a photo is “cool” out of the camera, we will tell the software to “warm it up” by increasing the Kelvin value to bring the white balance closer to the original scene. Thereby, making the photo perceptibly warmer.

Yeah, it’s confusing.

Luckily, we don’t have to worry about any of that.

For our purposes, we are just concerned with how the cool or warm the colors are within the image regardless of actual numeric Kelvin temperature.

Thank goodness for that.

How color temperature affects black and white photos

The remainder of this article assumes that you are shooting in RAW format or at the very least in color JPEG.

We need the color information from the image file to exploit the impact of color temperature on luminance values after the black and white conversion. This means it is imperative that you do not shoot in a dedicated monochromatic mode.

Got it? Good.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way it’s time to experiment.

Let’s first convert an image to black and white in Lightroom Classic CC and see what happens when we begin to adjust the color temperature. I just happen to have a photo ready to go right here. It is a RAW file with a relatively well-balanced color temperature that I converted to black and white.


Color temperature slider set to 5050K in Lightroom

First, let’s slide the color temperature slider entirely to the left and “cool” the image.


Color temperature slider at 2000K in Lightroom

Next, we’ll move the color temperature slider all the way to the right to “warm” the image.


Color temperature slider set to 50000K in Lightroom

From this, we can see that there are some readily apparent changes in contrast based solely on the adjustments in color temperature.

So, what exactly is happening here?

Let me show you.

Have a look at the original histogram with conventional white balance:


HIstogram with normal white balance

Now with a much cooler color temperature…


Histogram at 2000K

And lastly, with warmer color temperature.


Histogram at 50000K

When we cool down the image we are causing the colors to become more blue, purple and magenta in hue; hence the shift in the histogram and resulting contrast change. The same is true for the warmer color temperature where the photo becomes more red, orange and yellow.

What we are doing is setting a bias towards certain colors which in turn augments their luminosity when converted to black and white. The benefit here is that these drastic changes in color temperature allow us to make some impressive adjustments to the luminance values beyond what might usually be possible once you have converted it to black and white.

Practical applications

Advanced digital black and white conversions rely heavily on specific adjustments in luminance values based on color information contained within the image file. If we increase the amount of a particular color within an image, we then have more latitude in manipulating the brightness values of that color in relation to the other colors within the photo.

Here are three separate versions of the Golden Gate Bridge photo from earlier. The first photo was processed using the HSL/BW Panel to brighten the bridge and darken the sky.


Next, I went to work on the 2000K version from earlier. Seeing as the blue tones had skyrocketed, I was able to achieve some interesting results.


Last but not least is the warm-toned version which clocked in at 50000K. Which if you recall, would make the photo cooler instead of warmer if we were operating in the world. However, we’re not. This is photography.


These extreme swings in color temperature are useful almost exclusively in the domain of black and white digital photography. Outside of that, the only result will be gruesomely unappealing white balance.


I mean really unappealing (caption)


Just look at it…terrible.

Ok, I’ll admit that maybe I low-key like that last one.

Final thoughts on color temperature and black and white photos

We can get caught up with the idea that there are certain “rules” which must always be adhered to when we process our photos.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

While it’s true that color temperature plays an important role in rendering colors within your image accurately, we must remember that we are still allowed to paint outside the lines whenever we choose. Perhaps the benefit of this free-thinking mentality is no more apparent than when it comes to working with our black and white photos.

Making drastic changes to the white balance of your black and white images is not only allowed, but it can make for some exciting outcomes and boost your creative thinking.

Even though your mind may not immediately jump to color when you think of black and white photography, the fact remains that even though we may not see color within a photo, the inherent color information remains (as long as you shoot RAW) and that information is still wholly adjustable, including white balance. The role color temperature plays in processing your photographs is never black and white. See, I told you I would work that pun in there somewhere.

Experimenting with some interesting black and white conversions using color temperature? As always, we’d love to see what you’ve been up to, so feel free to post your photos in the comments below!

The post Using Color Temperature in Black and White Conversions appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

How to Create Simulated Light Leaks Using Lightroom

The post How to Create Simulated Light Leaks Using Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Recently, we discussed how easy (and cool) it can be to reproduce the basic looks of vintage film stocks with our digital photographs. Sure, this style is not for everyone, but it’s undeniable that the “film look” has made a resurgence in recent years. There’s an especially organic feel to a photograph that has muted tones and funky contrasts which carries an inherent interest that makes people look twice. To go a step further, if you truly want to push the envelope of your digital vintage film simulations, you can go as far as to introduce something which is generally considered to be the sworn enemy of photographers everywhere: light leaks. I know, I know…the horror, right?


Light leaks

Light leaks are less of a problem in digital photography and seldom occur. Still, it can happen. Unwanted light rays can weasel their way into your photos through damaged camera bodies or poor lens fitment in digital and analog cameras alike.

However, when shooting with film the incidence of light leaks skyrocket. Causes range from accidental openings of the camera back to damaged film canisters and general mishandling of the film either before or during processing.


Why make an intentional mistake?

Now, you might be wondering ‘why, oh why, might we want to simulate light leaks in our digital photographs if they are so loathed and avoided in general photography?’ The answer to that lies in the very nature of light leaks themselves; they add uniqueness.

While technically flawed, light leaks can impart a vibe of beautiful realism to a photograph. Because the chances of light leaks increase with the age of a film, it makes perfect sense to learn how to introduce them alongside your digital vintage film simulations in Adobe Lightroom Classic CC.


Don’t get me wrong; light leaks are not practical or even warranted for every one of your vintage film simulations. That said, a judicially placed light leak on the right photo can boost it’s aesthetic appeal tremendously. What’s more, being able to create digital light leaks at will is a handy skill to have in your mental post-processing tool kit.

How to make a Light Leak

The cause of light leaks is the intrusion of light of various intensities interacting with the film. To reproduce this effect digitally in Lightroom we’ll make use of some cleverly simple local adjustments. The graduated and radial filters are the primary local adjustment tools we’ll use for our light leak simulations.


We’ll also use the local adjustment brush – but not in the way you might think. I’ll show you what I mean in just a second.

To get started, we’ll use a photo I have already processed using some of my vintage film presets. It has a faded vibe and a mellow tone. This should work well with our light leak simulations. It’s always a good practice to add your light leaks AFTER you have completed processing your photo.


1. Deciding where to place your light leaks

There are no rules when it comes to creating your light leak simulations but if you’re going for realism remember that your light leaks should look as if they are – well – caused by light leaking onto the film.

Consider where the light might be intruding from when determining where they appear. Is there a crack in the camera housing? Was there a pinhole in the film canister? Perhaps the dark slide accidentally slid back just a tiny bit in the film holder?

For our particular example, we’ll be going for a sort of “first frame” light leak. This simulates a 35mm frame having been exposed to light on one of the first sections of the film while being loaded into the camera. Virtually all 35mm cameras wind the film from the spool to the spindle from left to right, so the light leak will always appear at the right side of the frame. So, that’s exactly where we’re going to put our digital light leak simulation.


2. The Graduated Filter

We’ll use a single graduated filter to produce the light leak. Create the filter and make it wide enough to rotate easily.

It doesn’t matter where it is created on the photo because we will re-position it after we’ve added the adjustments.

For most photos, the core effect is caused but the Exposure and Whites sliders. Begin by increasing the Exposure slider considerably until you lose detail in the highlight areas of the image.


Depending on the overall brightness of your photo even +100 exposure increase might not be adequate. If this is the case, make use of the Whites slider to increase the intensity of the leak. We can always dial back the brightness after the next step.

3. Placing and feathering the Graduated Filter

Now it’s time to re-position the graduated filter and compress it to the appropriate feathering.

Grab the center point and pull the filter to the right of the photo. A good rule of thumb is to place the far edge of the filter even with the edge of the frame.

Next, click and drag the left side of the filter to reduce the feathering. This is when the light leak will begin to really look like a light leak.

The feathering is important in reproducing the circumstances of the particular light leak effect you’re after.

In our case, the light would have interacted with our film up to the point where it was shielded by the film canister. Modern 35mm canisters feature felt lining on the mouth of the canister where the film enters. This will produce a very slight feathering effect in the light leak. So we will reflect this minute amount of feathering with our simulation.


4. Adding fine adjustments

With our light leak placed we can now go to work applying some fine adjustments. Anything is possible! Adjust the intensity of the leak by increasing or decreasing the Exposure and Whites sliders or amplify the color (or take it away) using the Saturation slider. You can even add in custom colors using the color swatch selector. For our example, we’ll add in some yellow.


What a beautiful mistake we’ve made! But we’re not finished yet.

5. The Adjustment Brush

You’ll recall earlier I mentioned we would use the adjustment brush tool but not actually to create the leaks. Instead, we will make use of the Adjustment Brush to ERASE areas of our light leaks. That way, we can selectively control how they appear with more precision.

In our example, we’ll dial back the light in the area of the sky to make it flow more naturally with the rest of the adjustment.


Now that we’ve placed our primary light leak let’s kick things up a notch by adding in some additional ones. Remember that less is usually more when it comes to light leaks. But since we’re having fun, let’s pretend our camera was having a terrible day.

6. Adding extra light leaks with the Radial Filter

Our next light leak will simulate an intrusion at one of the ends of our film canister. Leaks of this type generally manifest themselves at the edges of the film around the sprocket holes. Depending on the severity, the leak bleeds down towards the midline of the film. We’ll pull off this effect using the radial filter tool with the same slider adjustments we used earlier. Again, create the filter anywhere you please in the beginning and then re-position.


Drag the center point of the filter to the top edge of the photo being careful to leave the point itself within reach for easier re-positioning. Once you roughly position the filter, pull the bottom of it downward (or upward depending on position) until it reaches the desired location.


Since this type of leak usually occurs very close to the film, they will exhibit more clearly defined edges which means we’ll use less feathering of the filter.

Of course, this is entirely a judgment call so feel free to adjust the feathering to suit your taste. Add in more radial filters to complete the effect by right-clicking the center point and selecting ‘Duplicate.’


Congratulations! We’re finished making our light leak simulations and we did it all right inside of Lightroom Classic CC using a few simple tools that anyone can use.


But wait, there’s more….

Saving your light leaks as Local Adjustment Presets

As you’ve seen, most light leaks are incredibly easy to make once you understand the basic concepts involved with the effect. Still, it’s a good idea to save yourself some time by saving your favorite light leak simulations as Local Adjustment Presets. That way, you don’t need to create each one anew every time you’re feeling like adding in a leak or two.

Saving your light leaks as presets is as simple as a couple of mouse clicks.

First, select the control point of the filter you wish to save as a preset. Once the filter is active, click the ‘Custom’ drop-down arrow at the top of the filter adjustment section.


Next, select ‘Save Current Settings as New Preset’ from the bottom of the menu.


It’s a good idea to name your preset something that will help you know exactly what effect it produces. In our case, I’ll name this one “Tina”.

Just kidding.

We’ll go with “35mm Canister Leak-Yellow”.


Your new light leak preset will then be available from the local adjustment presets list.

Final thoughts on Leaking Light…

When you think about it, introducing simulated light leaks to your photos is a very funny thing to do. We are purposefully introducing problems to a photograph. With that being said, sometimes beauty can in fact lie within the very flaws we might otherwise avoid. Depending on the type of photograph and the final aesthetic you’re going for, adding in some judicious light leak simulations to your digital photographs can go a long way to enhance their “vintage feel”.

Have you tried your hand at simulating your own light leaks? Feel free to share your work in the comments!

And if you want to learn more about how to add a vintage film look to your photos be sure to check out my other article The Basics of Simulating Vintage Film in Lightroom.

The post How to Create Simulated Light Leaks Using Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

How to Push Past Fear in Photography: A Retrospect

The post How to Push Past Fear in Photography: A Retrospect appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Five years. It doesn’t seem like so long ago that I first sat down to write an article which I hoped would help other photographers overcome some of the fears that we all face at one time or another. So much can change in five years. As I sit here and read back through that piece, “How to Overcome Fear in Photography,” I feel uniquely placed to add some insightful commentary on the things I’ve learned over the years about combating the oddly universal apprehensions that we all have to overcome from time to time as photographers. At the very least, I hope it lends a measure of solidarity to you no matter what stage you happen to find yourself at on your journey on the path of photography.

pushing-past-fear-in-photography-dps-adam welch-2

Fear #1: My work isn’t good enough

Ah, yes. I can personally guarantee that no matter how experienced or accomplished you may become in making photographs there is always concealed within yourself a secret doubt about whether or not your photos are good enough. The idea that we somehow fall short in our efforts is something that is forever in the back of your mind to one degree or another. Good photographers consistently are their own worst critics.

pushing-past-fear-in-photography-dps-adam welch-3

How to beat it:

Like all facts of life, the remedy to this lies not in solving the problem but rather in controlling our reaction. The recognition that we all strive towards an unattainable perfection with our work should not be a source of anxiety but instead should fill us with a sense that there are always new ways to improve. An assurance that we can do better gives us something to aspire to and through our aspirations lies creative growth.

Fear #2: I’ll never “make it” as a photographer

When you think about it, the idea of relying on photography to pay all of your bills is a scary thing. Let’s face it, going “all-in” on any endeavor drags us through all sorts of anxiety and fear. This is especially true if you happen to be leaving an established career which lies outside of photography as I did. Confounding the problem further is if you do decide to make a go of it as a photographer, you may be met with quiet disbelief and polite warnings of caution from your coworkers, your friends, and even your family.

pushing-past-fear-in-photography-dps-adam welch-4

I never saw myself as being anything resembling a teacher…yet here we are.

How to beat it:

Alright, let’s get one thing out of the way first: no one can tell you if you’re ready to be a full-time photographer except for you. However, the point I want to get across to you is that you CAN make it happen if you are willing to put in the work, accept failures with renewed vigor and never give up if it’s something you truly want to accomplish.

I’ll also let you in on another secret: photographers today seldom “make it” solely on income from their photographs alone, although some do. Many lead photography workshops and teach courses, sell books, produce editing presets and otherwise diversify themselves in many creative ways to keep the ball rolling. Sure, carving out a career in photography today is more competitive than ever.

The key to overcoming the fear of not being able to survive is by realizing that being a skilled photographer is not enough. You need to be flexible, persistent and resourceful in creating different sources of income based on your love of photography.

Fear #3: “I don’t know how to do…”

Closely related to that nagging fear of your work not being on par with other photographers lies the dreaded idea that you don’t possess a particular photographic skill which you’re convinced you need to master to take your work to the next level. Whether it’s working with strobes or filters, posing people for portraits, working with particular post-processing software, or simply learning what all those buttons do on your new camera; we all feel a little outmatched at times by our own ignorance.

How to beat it:

pushing-past-fear-in-photography-dps-adam welch-1

Luckily, of all the fears we’ve talked about, this one is the easiest to push past. It’s also the one which requires the highest level of tough love in order to overcome. Here goes…*clears throat*. The only thing standing in the way of you learning a new photographic technique or skill is you. Now, I know that’s a hard pill to swallow but stay with me. We live in a world today which offers arguably infinite knowledge right at our fingertips. The internet, eBooks, YouTube videos, online discussion groups, and photography courses have enabled us to learn virtually anything in the privacy of our homes.

Furthermore, the majority of this enormous wealth of knowledge is available for free!  There is virtually no excuse for us to be worried about not knowing how to do something. Knowledge truly is power.

Fear #4: The great unknown

If there’s one all-encompassing fear that eats at both new and established photographers, it is the fear of uncertainty. I remember back when Instagram changed its algorithm a couple of years ago. Many people, photographers and otherwise, suddenly realized that one of their primary sources of client exposure (and income) could be taken from them overnight. The fear crept in.

The same was true when YouTube reorganized it’s video monetization guidelines for creators causing widespread panic for those who depended on the outlet for a large slice of their work. I make and sell a large number of develop presets for Lightroom. When Adobe changed their file formats for develop presets a couple of years ago, there was a brief moment when I thought that all of the presets I had made thus far would no longer work with the new versions of Lightroom. Do you think that scared me? Absolutely it did. The harsh and inevitable reality of situations occurring which are wholly beyond our control can terrify us.

pushing-past-fear-in-photography-dps-adam welch-6

How to beat it:

There are two ways we can deal with the fear of the unknown. The first is that we can curl up into a ball and hope that nothing negative happens. I don’t recommend that option. Alternatively, we can accept that there are always things that can happen to us that we don’t see coming which spark fear and apprehension in our hearts. For example, your camera battery may die just as the sun breaks over that mountain top. Alternatively, your lens may malfunction just as the bride and groom kiss, or three clients might cancel their engagement sessions in one month.

Moreover, Instagram could change the algorithm for the 100th time, and your connecting flight for that incredibly expensive photo workshop in Patagonia may get delayed. Any number of a trillion problems may arise at any given time. We can’t control everything, especially when it comes to photography. Whatever happens, the only weapons we have to combat the fear of the unknown is preparation and acceptance. Prepare yourself for as many scenarios as you can and then just let go. “Be the ball” as Ty Webb might say. If you continuously operate under the notion that the future holds nothing but bad things not only will your photography suffer but so will you.

Pushing Past the Fear

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. As photographers, we base much of our learning on experience and experimentation. Trial and error is often our best teacher. We grow and evolve in our work as much through failure as we do by our success. The idea that there can be a day when you walk out with your camera without a doubt in your mind and feeling completely free of any degrees of photographic angst may likely never happen. You gain confidence through constant practice. You make gains, take losses and learn new skills by making mistakes. At times the future may hold much uncertainty, but being able to push past your fears is the key to reaching your potential in photography.

The hope I had five years ago when I wrote the first article on overcoming fear in photography is the same hope I carry now. I hope you now know that whatever fear you might be facing with your photography is likely shared by others. Moreover, it is entirely beatable. Push past your fears and allow yourself to be the photographer you know you can be.


The post How to Push Past Fear in Photography: A Retrospect appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

1 2 3 9