Creative Photography Exercises: Setting Limitations to Achieve Better Photography

The post Creative Photography Exercises: Setting Limitations to Achieve Better Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.


Every photographer can feel stuck at some point. I find this often happens when you have learned all the technical basics, and it’s time for you to start finding your way. Is this you? Here are some creative photography exercises than can help you shake things up. Keep on reading to see how setting limitations can help you to achieve better photography.

Creative photography exercises

Have you ever been to a restaurant that has a huge menu but you can’t decide what to order? The same thing can happen with your photography. Having the ability to photograph anything can seem daunting. That’s why setting limits before you start shooting can help you focus.

Creative photography exercises

You can set a limit regarding the idea or project you want. In this photo, I decided to limit my idea to fruits as a topic. You can also limit the tools and techniques that you can use – for example, using long exposure times. Here are some creative photography exercises to get you started.

Technical Limitations

Use only one focal length

As you probably know, there are zoom lenses and prime lenses. A zoom lens means that you can change your angle of view in seconds, which gives you great versatility. A prime lens has a fixed focal length, and this will force you to move around and re-compose your images.

Creative Photography Exercises: Setting Limitations to Achieve Better Photography

If you don’t have a prime lens, use your zoom but choose a focal length and stick with it for the entire exercise. Here I used an 18-55mm and put some tape as a reference on 40mm. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use both lenses, it’s just a way for you to practice without buying new gear.

Think in terms of film photography

Pretend you’re using a film camera and set yourself a limit of 12, 24 or 36 images that you can use. I suggest these numbers because film rolls were sold like that, but feel free to set a different limit without overdoing it. This will push you to put more thought into the final image before you press the shutter button.

Creative Photography Exercises: Setting Limitations to Achieve Better Photography

If you want to make it more challenging, try only using the viewfinder and not reviewing your images after shooting. Not having the chance to delete images in order to stay within the maximum amount gives you that extra push.

Project Limitations

Ride the bus

This is a fun project because you can approach it in many different ways. For example, you can choose to photograph the street while riding the bus or the metro. This takes away much of your control over the scene in front of you. You also have to deal with motion and reflections. And most of all, you have to react quick before you’re gone.

Creative photography exercises

You can also choose to photograph the inside of the vehicle. This is very close quarters so it will help you to overcome shyness. It is also challenging to compose and focus on short distances. So you may want to explore a wide-angle lens if you want to capture the full scene. The light probably won’t be very bright so you may need to bump up your ISO. Combined with the fact that you’re moving, you may find it challenging, but give it a try!

Always shoot at the same time

Program an alarm on your phone to remind you to take a picture exactly at the same time every day. If you have a routinary life, it will challenge you to shoot the same thing or place differently. If you have a flexible schedule, and the time, you will find yourself in different places, where you’ll have to deal with a variety of challenges each time.

Creative photography exercises

Either way, it will kick start your creativity. This image, for example, is only the heater from my studio. Try looking for different angles, play with lighting, etc.


These are just some ideas for creative photography exercises. Feel free to create your own according to your interest, gear and even the place you live. You just need to follow the same rule of establishing some guidelines as limitations to strengthen your abilities and creativity. I’ll leave you here some other articles that can give you more ideas:

Feel free to share any other creative photography exercises in the comments. And, as always, we love to see your images, so try some of these techniques, and share your images below.

The post Creative Photography Exercises: Setting Limitations to Achieve Better Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Storytelling in Photography: What It Is and How You Can Improve It

The post Storytelling in Photography: What It Is and How You Can Improve It appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.


From photography contests to job offerings, the term storytelling is becoming more and more popular. But, do you know what storytelling in photography is? In this article, I’ll share with you some facts that help you understand what it is; and some tips on how you can improve it in your photography.

What is storytelling in photography?

I’ve heard many definitions of storytelling in photography from an explanation that compared it to a bowl of ice cream, to the classic “an image is worth a thousand words.” What I got from all of them is that you need to portray a message and convey a feeling.

Storytelling in Photography: What It Is and How You Can Improve It

Let’s get started by clarifying some of the most common doubts.

Types of photography

So, what type of photography uses storytelling? The truth is, if you want to improve your photography, you have to tell a story regardless of the type of photography you do. A wedding photographer tells the story of a couple as much as a documentarian reports an event. Here are some ideas:

Single photos vs. multi-image projects

Think about it this way: in magazines, sometimes you have an entire article spanning pages, and other times just a cover image. Storytelling in photography can be about an entire project, but it also refers to single images. For example, this image was picked as the cover for a compilation of short stories centered around women’s sensuality.

storytelling in photography

Perhaps it’s easier to think about storytelling when you refer to a series of images. This is because we can associate it with a narrative that has a beginning, middle with a climax, and an ending. If you’re not feeling confident about it yet, learn How to Shoot a Sequence of Photos That Capture a Story.

How to tell a story?


First of all, you need to do your research. Each type of photography will have different needs and it’s harder to tell a story that you don’t know. For example, once I was invited to visit a beekeeping farm “whenever I wanted.” At that moment, the extent of my knowledge about honey was simply where to buy it and how much I like to put in my tea.

Storytelling in Photography: What It Is and How You Can Improve It

To make the most of my visit, I had to pick the right time to be there. I learned about the process of honey harvesting and extraction, and the time of the year it happens. Then I learned how it depended on the weather and the type of flowers in the area. Thanks to this research, I was able to capture an image of a fully-capped honeycomb ready for harvesting.


It’s a given that being a photographer means you know how to take a well-exposed photograph, but this isn’t enough when it comes to telling a story. The technique needs to work in your favor, so it’s not just about which settings but why those settings.

Storytelling in Photography: What It Is and How You Can Improve It

Every decision you make changes the final result. A warmer or cooler light gives a different type of atmosphere. Where you put the focus point and how deep you set the depth of field directs your viewer’s eye, and so on.  It’s not only about having a technically perfect photo, but it’s also about making the perfect photo to tell the perfect story.


How to improve your storytelling in photography

Ask for help

Always ask others what they ‘read’ in your photographic images. This will help you understand if the message you want to portray is being received. This scene I witnessed in a local park really moved me, so I decided to photograph it. I later found out that I didn’t manage to capture the feeling of the moment, as the photo wasn’t much appreciated when I asked for opinions.

[Editor’s comment: I don’t agree here – I think this photo says a lot about the connection of a child and their favorite toy that they love to include in everything they do. To me, the child is treating the toy as a friend who is playing on the see-saw with them. Also, while there is a level cuteness, there is also a sense of sadness at perhaps having no one else to play with but a stuffed toy.]

storytelling in photography


Your work will always be more effective if you are passionate about what you’re doing. Find out what interests you and what your style is. If you’re having trouble finding your way, I suggest reading To Specialize or Not to Specialize with Your Photography.

storytelling in photography


Keep your eye trained by looking at how the professionals tackle storytelling. Browse through magazines, go to exhibitions, check the winning images in contests, and follow them on Instagram. While you do this, also start doing your own and keep on practicing. Remember, it’s okay to fail, as long as you learn from it and keep trying.


Storytelling in photography is the ability to transport the viewers into a particular scene and atmosphere. While in there, you convey the message in a way that gets your audience involved, interested and leaves them wanting more. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing a single photo or a full project, a documentary or advertising, tell your story so that you can portray exactly what you want your viewer to know, or leave them to ponder multiple possibilities.

Do you have other tips for doing storytelling in photography? If so, share with us in the comments, along with any images you’d like to share.

The post Storytelling in Photography: What It Is and How You Can Improve It appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Why These are My Favorite Free Online Photo Editing Tools

The post Why These are My Favorite Free Online Photo Editing Tools appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.


Are you looking for a way to keep your photography workflow going without your computer? Fortunately, there are some free online photo editing tools that can help you out. Here are a few of my favorites and why.

Maybe you’re traveling light or your computer doesn’t have enough capacity? Perhaps it just crashed and you sent it to get fixed? Whatever the reason, sometimes you just can’t work with downloadable programs.

Browser Photo Editors

But there are no more excuses because here are some great browser tools to solve your needs regardless of your level of expertise.

Google Photos

With Google Photos, you can have unlimited storage in their Cloud, but your photos and videos are limited to 16 MP in their file size. If you store files that are bigger than that, it eats into your Google Drive quota. Still, you can back up or share your images from anywhere you have Internet access.

If you want to learn more about protecting your work, check the article Are Your Photo Backups Rock Solid?

Back up, storage, archiving, organizing


In order to keep track of all these images, you can organize them by album. But in case you haven’t gotten around to doing it, you can find them by type: video, movie, animations, collages or photos. Furthermore, you can search for them by the things or places featured in them, even if you didn’t tag them.

Albums, Artificial Intelligence, Face recognizion, Format

You can use Google Photos for free; all you need is to have a Google account. In this day and age, most of us already have one anyway.


You can also create photo books to print directly from Google Photos. Other features include movies, collages, and animations.

print, buy, checkout, photobook, photoalbum

It includes some photo editing tools, but it’s mostly filters and very basic adjustments. If you need to do further edits, I suggest to move on to my next favorite on the list.


Fotor is a photo editing and graphic design platform that you can use online or download it to your desktop. There is a free version or a paid pro version. The tools available depend on which of these combinations you’re using. Here, I’ll talk, as the title says, of the free online one.

interface, user experience, home page

Photo editing

I like the Fotor editor because it offers a good balance between customizable adjustments and one-click effects. If you want to do some controlled editing, just go to the Basic tab. If you prefer presets, go to Effects and Beauty. In these last ones, you’ll find some free choices and some premium ones.

post-production, photo-retouching,photo-editing


For the collage feature, it offers many more designs than Google Photos. There are four main categories, and each one has a series of templates. What I find particularly useful is Photo Stitching. With this, you can create a panorama by ‘stitching’ many images into one.

Collage, Montage, Design tools

Graphic Design

However, my favorite part is the ability to do graphic design. From a thank you card to a brochure, you can easily customize the templates with your photos. You can then adjust colors, fonts, and stickers to your liking.

The templates also cover any social media needs as well as the more traditional formats. Some are free and some you have to get the paid subscription.

Design, marketing, templates, social media, documents


If you decide to create an account, you also have free storage in the cloud for your photos and any work you make in Fotor. And, of course, if you go for the paid version, the storage space increases.


Pixlr is a browser photo editor that offers different versions to fit your needs. Again, there are different versions available that offer certain levels of functionality and effects.

The free Pixlr Express is very basic – not much more than any other editor.

Still free, the Pixlr Editor allows you to do more controlled and personalized edits and is the one I prefer to use.

Pixlr X, which is a blend of the first two, is the paid version, and it comes with more professional features.

interface, homepage, photo editor

Pixlr Editor

The interface is similar to Photoshop or GIMP, to explore these more in-depth, you can check my previous articles: A Brief Introduction to GIMP and How to Set Up the Photoshop Interface.

You’ll find a tool panel on the left side, the canvas for your image in the middle, and the panels for history, layers and other options on the right.

photo retouching, adjustments, photo editing


You have all the adjustments you need to correct and fine-tune your image and filters and effects for you to choose from. It also includes two of my most important tools when doing photo retouching – layers and masks.

layers, photo editing, black and white


I hope you liked my list of favorite free online photo editing tools. Remember, there are many solutions out there that are free. I’ll leave you some related articles in case you want to explore some more tools and software.

Please, also share your favorite free online photo editing tools with us in the comments section.

Related Topics:

Your Comprehensive Guide to Photography Post-Processing Software

3 Alternative Post-Processing Applications that Challenge the Adobe Throne

Tips on Choosing a Free Photo Editor for Post-Processing

Free Versus Paid Photography Portfolio Websites – Which is Best for you?

36 of the Best Online Tools to Boost Your Photography Business

The post Why These are My Favorite Free Online Photo Editing Tools appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

9 Ways to use Reflections more Creatively for Stunning Photography

The post 9 Ways to use Reflections more Creatively for Stunning Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Mirrors or windows, ponds or lakes, it really doesn’t matter where you find them, reflections are eye-catching. In this tutorial, I’ll give you some ideas and inspiration on how to use reflections more creatively for stunning photography.

Creative use of reflections for stunning photography tutorial

We’re fascinated by reflections ever since we discover ourselves in a mirror, it’s no wonder we remain captivated by them. If you want to know about the technical aspect of reflections check out Rick Ohnsman’s article Understand Light and Color to Improve your Photography. Here, I’ll tell you nine ways to use them in your photographs.

1. Avoid a dull sky

The first tip to use reflections more creatively is to photograph them during bad weather. After the rain we usually find the sky to be grey and dull. Luckily the rain creates puddles, and water is a great reflector. Next time you find yourself shooting during a rainy day try looking down to the ground instead of up to the sky.

Look for water reflection for bad weather conditions

If you want to take this idea to the next level, you can add a flash to your photo-shoot. To learn how to do it check this article: Using Rain Puddles to Create Unique Reflection Photos.

2. Fill empty spaces

Similar to the dull sky problem, you can have an area that lacks detail or any visual interest. If it’s made of a reflective material the answer is easy, just find the right angle to capture it. What may have been a boring object, is suddenly filled with details that complement your composition.

Search for the right angle to add reflections

3. Create texture

Reflections don’t necessarily have to be mirrored images of reality. The texture of the material or surface will distort the image and you can use that to capture color and shapes. For example, the ripples of water reflecting buildings.

Reflections create textures

Remember that you can also zoom-in and photograph the reflection as a texture to use later in other images.

4. Abstract photography

Speaking of photographing a texture alone, this can give you some inspiration for doing abstract photography. There are many different angles to approach this subject and reflections are definitely a good one. Here’s an example, but if you feel interested in going deeper into it, check out some Abstract Photos to Inspire You.

Textures alone are great for abstract photography

5. Change perspective

Shooting common places or subjects that are not interesting enough is always a challenge. Photographing its reflection can be a great alternative to capture it creatively. This forces you to move, crouch, and generally change your point of view. Also, you’ll be looking at the subject backward, and sometimes just a little shift can make the difference.

Look for the reflection to change perspective

6. Creates symmetric shapes

Symmetry is beautiful and pleasing. On a subconscious level, it gives us a soothing feeling. I don’t mean just placing your subject in the center and make it identical on both sides. Of course, this is an option, but it’s not the only way. Reflections can create symmetric shapes that can help the overall image become more interesting.

Symmetry helps your composition

7. Frame your subject

You can also use reflections as a way to direct the viewer’s attention to your subject. For example, placing your subject as a reflection in a mirror or a window literally frames it. If you want to get more creative you can also use a pair of eyeglasses or a spoon.

Frame your subject

8. Overlapping planes

One of my favorite qualities of reflections is that they show you two, or more scenes on the same plane. When you look at a mirror you are also seeing what is behind you. With a window, you can even add a third plane when you also add the scene from inside the room, and so on. If you compose the subjects from each scene in a harmonic way you can create a surreal or dream-like image.

Compose different scenes in one

9. The reflection IS the subject

Last but not least, a reflection can be a subject in itself. You can make a project or a series just about reflections, it’s just a matter of finding a concept to build upon. If you need some inspiration, I highly advise you to read this Guide to Creating Unique Conceptual Photography.

Use reflections as the main subject

Come up with an idea and just run with it. I hope this article sparked some inspiration so you can use reflections more creatively! Share your reflection photos in the comments section below and, most of all, have fun!



The post 9 Ways to use Reflections more Creatively for Stunning Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

How to do Creative Photography Montages with a Contact Sheet Template in Photoshop

The post How to do Creative Photography Montages with a Contact Sheet Template in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Do you like adding borders to your digital photos? Apps and editing programs offer a wide variety of fun and creative ones for you to choose from. The sprockets from film photography have become very popular because of its vintage look. I’ve decided to bring this idea one step further and make creative photography montages with a contact sheet template in Photoshop. Read on to learn how you can too.



Contact Sheet

Contact sheets come from film photography and are made by placing the film negative directly onto the light-sensitive paper and then exposing light onto it. Because of this, the resulting image was a positive image of the film on a 1:1 scale.


Film comes in different formats: 35mm, medium and large. Furthermore, each brand puts the frame number, name and other information on the film. You can use all of these as different styles for your template. See how the same image can look so different just by changing the type of film border.


Each different film will result in a different contact sheet, and you can use any of them for your montage. There are many styles available for sale on stock photography websites, and of course, you can scan an original one to use. However, if you want to create your own, I’ll show you how to easily design a basic 35mm contact sheet in Photoshop.


Digital 35mm contact sheet created in Photoshop

Film rolls of 35mm were available in 12, 24 or 36 frames. Because of this, it’s easier if the size of your document is a multiple of six on the longest side. For now, I’ll make the artboard 24 cm both in height and width so that I can create 36 frames. Later, I can add some extra space if I see it’s too tight.

Open a new document in Photoshop

To begin, turn on your rulers. If they’re not visible by going to Menu -> View -> Rulers. You can change the measurement units by right-clicking on them and then choosing centimeters. Now draw your guides by clicking on the ruler and dragging it to the place you need it. I’ll put them every 4 cm so that I can design six frames per row.

To put your guides on exact co-ordinates, go to Menu -> New Guide. In the New Guide window, choose Horizontal or Vertical, and then enter your exact position number, and press OK. Your guide will then appear in the exact position you want on your artboard. Repeat the process to have exact guidelines.

Use guides to distribute your canvas

Now you know where to draw your film.

From the toolbox, choose the Custom Shape Tool. Then go to the Options bar and open the shapes menu, where you’ll find the 35mm Film shape.

Photoshop Custom Shapes

You can choose the color in the same option bar. I’ll do a dark grey to simulate the original as close as possible, but you can do something more contrasting if you like.

Drag and drop at the start of each guide, and repeat until you fill your contact sheet.

Use the guides to draw your shape

Now determine the canvas size by going to Menu -> Image -> Canvas Size. Make it to your liking. I’ll only add some space on the sides.

You can turn off your guides now by pressing Cmd+; (mac), or Alt+; (windows).

Contact sheet template

To make your template more manageable, merge all your shapes together, and then rasterize them. You can find both commands by right-clicking on the selected layers to open the pop-up menu.

Merge and rasterize

Make a selection of the frames where the image will show to create your collage. Save it by going to Menu -> Selection -> Save Selection. When the pop-up window opens, leave all the settings as they are and just name it. Then click OK. This way, you won’t have to make the selection every time you add an image.

Make the selection and save it

Add the base image by going to the menu File -> Place and adjust to the right size. You can also do Copy and Paste but then your image won’t be a Smart Object and it can lose quality if you modify it many times. To learn more about this, check out Photoshop Smart Objects for Beginners.

Place the base image

Now the image is visible through the contact sheet, but it’s also coming through the sprockets and on the sides. This is where the saved selection from before comes in handy. You now load the selection by going to menu -> Selection -> Load Selection.

Then click the Create a Layer Mask button from the bottom of the Layers panel.

Use layer masks to shape the image

Add other images into the mix, or use the same one in different sizes and places to create your collage. Just repeat the process for each image you want to add and your montage is ready.

Place more images to compose the montage

If you are having any trouble with the visualization of certain images make sure the layers are in the right order.

Check out this Introduction to Photoshop Layers Possibilities and Properties for help if you need it.

Now let your creativity flow and have fun. Share the results of your creative photography montages with us in the comments section!

Additional reading

For more ideas on creative photography montages, check out these tutorials:

How to Make a Joiner Collage for a Retro Style Panorama

4 Concepts for Collages, Diptychs, Album Pages, etc.

How to Make a Photoshop Collage in 9 Simple Steps



The post How to do Creative Photography Montages with a Contact Sheet Template in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

How to take Great Flower Photos without a Macro Lens

The post How to take Great Flower Photos without a Macro Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Are you interested to try some flower photography but you get discouraged by guides telling you to get a macro lens? I was too at first, but macro is not the only way to get some amazing pictures. Keep reading for some tips on how to take great flower photos without a macro lens or buying any new equipment or accessory.


Flower Photography Detail Close Up

Detail and depth of field

One of the reasons photographers recommend a macro lens is to capture small details with shallow depth of field. Some offer alternatives like extension tubes or reverse rings that allow you to focus while being very close to your subject. This is, in fact, a nice look for flower photography, but if you’re not ready to invest in new gear, there are other ways to get it.


Focal Distance: 55mm, f/13, 1/400th, ISO 640

I shot this image using a 55mm lens with f/13, 1/400th shutter speed and 640 ISO. As you can see, I managed to get reasonably close, so never let the lack of equipment prevent you from practicing.

You can start by using a wide aperture and the longest focal distance you have to experiment from there. In order to make the best out of the equipment you have, check out the article How to Control Depth of Field in Your Photography.

Draw inspiration from nature

Now that we’ve covered the macro effect, let’s broaden the horizon and think big. There’s much more to flower photography than just the details. Flowers come in all shapes and colors, so include all those natural elements and use them to your advantage.

Flower Photography in Nature


There are many rules that you can use as guidelines to create interesting images. To learn more about them I recommend the article How to Apply Compositional Theory to Still Life Photography.

In this photo below, I lowered my point of view so I could create three different segments following the rule of thirds: flowers, trees, and the sky.


The Rule of Thirds and point of view help your composition.

Color contrast

Using color as a compositional element is very easy to do when photographing flowers. Because they are so vibrant, you’ll always find one that stands out. You can put contrasting colors next to each other to make elements stand out while still being in harmony. You can start by isolating a subject against the background and work your way up to include more elements.


Tones or patterns

Another way to use color in your images is to use only one to dominate the image. It may sound easy and perhaps dull, but in reality, if you incorporate different tones of the same color or a pattern, it can become a subject in itself. Megan Kennedy wrote a number of articles here on DPS called Master Colors Series covering the psychology and evolution of each color. Check them all out for inspiration!

Hues and tones from the same color

The cultural aspect

Now that we’ve passed aesthetics and are into content let’s say that flowers are much more than just pretty subjects. They speak their own language as we have given them all sorts of cultural meanings. The color, the season, and even the presentation change our perception. We use them in joyous celebrations and on the occasion of grief, passing through all other kinds of events. When you incorporate this matter on top of the visual aspect, things can become really interesting.

Still life

Defining the line between photography genres is always a tricky subject. Are all flower photography images a still life? No. Are all still life images flower photography? Also, no. But the two genres often intersect, so play within that field to stage your images. You can use different elements, adjust the lighting and even some post-production. To get you started here are some Simple Methods for Creating Better Still Life Images.

Still life is great for flower photography

Still life is great for flower photography


I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t buy a macro lens or any other gear and accessories, especially if you are planning on becoming a professional. However, there’s much versatility in flower photography so you can do without them. Of course, you can also look into many creative techniques like double exposure, light painting, or dynamic zoom.

Do you have other ideas to take flower photos without a macro lens? Share in the comment section!



The post How to take Great Flower Photos without a Macro Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

How to Make an Awesome Pop-Up Card with your Photos

The post How to Make an Awesome Pop-Up Card with your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

If you can cut and fold a piece of paper to make a pop-up, why can’t you make it to an image? A photograph translates our three-dimensional world into a two-dimensional representation. With a pop-up card, you can present it with tridimensionality. Here are some ideas to bring your photos to life by turning them into an awesome pop-up card!


From paper crafting to paper engineering, this creative practice can be as complex as you want. I will show you two basic techniques that you can apply to your own images. Keep in mind that each image will need specific measures and some testing before you get it right, so be patient!

What you need to make your awesome pop-up card

I recommend you print some copies of the photo in black and white on a cheap paper so you can do your testing without spending much. Then get scissors, a precision cutter, ruler or measuring tape, double-sided tape, and a cutting board.


1.Single image pop-up card

Choose the right image

Because you want to give it a third dimension, images that have a clear separation of elements will work best. For some guidelines on this check out the article How to Use Figure to Ground Art Theory in Photography. Print your image at least two times, and one for each layer you want to add.

Foreground and Background are separated for a better pop-up card

Layers and more layers

The more elements you separate into layers, the more interesting and elaborate your card will look. I promised to keep it simple so I’ll just add one layer to show you the process, then just repeat it as many times as you want. Cut out the element of the layer that will pop up. In this case, I’ll cut the house in the front.


Cut also a stripe of paper, either from the photo or any other thick paper that will hold the layer up. The longer you make it, the bigger the separation to the background.

Fold and paste

Now paste the background to the card which can be store-bought or just a piece of colored paper folded in two that you can later write your message on. Place the base of the photo on the crease where the card folds.

paste background into card

Fold the paper stripe into a square. Then paste one side to the background and one to the bottom side of the card. This will serve as support to the pop-up cutout.

piece of paper to hold the pop-up piece

Paste the other side of the square to the background, and the bottom part to the card. Making sure the cutout matches the original image when you position it. That’s it. Do the same for any elements you want popping out.


2. Multiple image pop-up card

This technique is great when you want to showcase many images. For example, an anniversary or a birthday where you want to sum up the highlights of the year. It’s also useful when you want to make a themed card to communicate a concept.

Create the layout

The first thing you want to do is choose your images. Then arrange your images in a grid. To automatize this process you can use Lightroom. If you need some direction just follow the instructions of How to Create Contact Sheets in Lightroom. Set it to the size of the card you’re going to use: for me is an A3 so 4 columns and 3 rows should look nice, but this is entirely up to you.

Print thumbnail images to use

Note that the outer images of the middle row will get folded in half, so use images that fit this crease, or leave it black.


Fold the paper vertically in half, and then each side again in half towards the opposite direction. As a result, you will have an accordion where the folds separate the columns.

Fold contact sheet as accordion


Unfold the accordion and just leave it in half. If you do it in a way that the images are towards the outside, you won’t have to measure and just guide yourself by the images. Cut horizontally between rows reaching the middle of the outer image. Then fold inwards the piece you just cut.



Now put some double-sided tape into the side edges and fix it to the card. Make sure the fold in the middle of the accordion coincides with the fold of the card.

pop-up card with accordion photo album

I hope you enjoyed reading How to Make an Awesome Pop-Up Card with your Photos and that you enjoy making pop-up cards yourself! For future occasions, if you want to go deeper into this craft side of photography I’ll leave you some links to check out.

Additional reading

If you’re feeling creative and want to do other types of cards, check out these amazing tutorials:



The post How to Make an Awesome Pop-Up Card with your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

How to Change a Background in Photoshop for Still Life or Food Photography

The post How to Change a Background in Photoshop for Still Life or Food Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Food photography is all about communicating an ambiance or mood. Plating, styling, and props will help, and using the right backdrop can go a long way to tie everything together. Learn how to use Photoshop to change the background without having to buy new ones.


To have the right background for every shot means having a lot of tabletops, pieces of wood, linen, etc. These things cost and take a lot of space. If you don’t have the budget or storage capacity for it, this article can help you out. By doing a good selection and using layers, I’ll show you how to change your background in Photoshop.

A precise selection is key to change your background

First, you need to be able to work separately on your background, for this, you have to select it. There are many selection tools in Photoshop, feel free to choose the one you want. However, I recommend the pen tool for more advanced selections. If you need some help with it check out: Why Learning the Pen Tool in Photoshop is Worth the Effort.

Image: Use Photoshop selection tools to change your backdrop without affecting your subject

Use Photoshop selection tools to change your backdrop without affecting your subject

Once you’re satisfied you can duplicate the layer by going to Menu-> Layer->Duplicate layer.

Now add a mask by clicking on the Create Mask button from the bottom of the panel. Because you had your subject already selected, it will create the mask with that shape.

From now on, your changes will only be seen on the background that you had selected.

If you would like to understand masks better, check out Photoshop Masks 101.


Photoshop layers mask help you change the appearance of your background for food photography

Modify the colors to simulate a different background

Now you can freely modify the backdrop using any adjustment layers that control color, brightness, hue, saturation etc.

Just click on the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer button from the bottom of the Layers panel to see all the choices.

Since you are working on separate layers, your original remains untouched and you can always go back to it if you do something you are not happy with.

Image: Photoshop have many adjustment layers to choose how you want to change your backdrop in food...

Photoshop have many adjustment layers to choose how you want to change your backdrop in food photography

You can add as many layers as you want. For example, I modified the hue and saturation, then added a warming photo filter. Just be sure to always apply the mask to the layer (not the background) or the adjustments will show in the entire image.

A white background is easier to change

For this option, you need to have a texture ready before you start. You can buy them on stock photography websites, or you can make your own. I find it useful to photograph fabrics, wood, stones or anything I can use later so that I have many options available. For inspiration and details, you can read How to Create Your Own Unique Textures and Apply Them To Your Photography.

Image: A white background allows you to incorporate textures and change the background of your food...

A white background allows you to incorporate textures and change the background of your food photography

Select the background like in the other example, only this time it might be easier because of the contrast created by the white background.

Easy to use selection tools like Quick Selection or Color Range can save you a lot of time, just pay attention to the edges and details.

Always zoom in to fine-tune your selection. Then save it by going to the menu Selection->Save Selection.


A good selection helps you change only the backdrop with Photoshop tools

Apply your texture as the new backdrop

Now add the texture you chose for your new background. You can do this by going to Edit->Place if you want it as a Smart Object. However, if you don’t plan to modify it then just paste it on top. Either way, it will create a new layer on top that will cover your original image.

Place or paste a texture in Photoshop to use as a new background in your food photography

To give visibility to your subject, load the selection you saved by going to the menu Selection->Load Selection. Then click the Add Mask button like in the first example.

Load a selection and add a mask to see the food on top of the background

Integrate your new background

Now you can see the cherries but they look a bit fake. To improve this, change the layer blending mode. I find Multiply does a very good job for this.

If you want to know more about blending layers watch this Comprehensive Guide to Photoshop Blend Modes.

Once you have done that, you can also adjust the opacity. The shadows now make the photo feel natural.

Use blending modes to incorporate the background and make it more realistic

And you’re done.

It’s that easy to change your background in Photoshop!

If you want you can keep on working on it to make it more dramatic or moody. Make use of adjustment layers, filters, and even more textures until you get the effect that you want.


Photoshop allows you to use layers, filters and textures to create special moods in food photography

I hope you liked these ideas and found inspiration to keep on trying different things.

Go out and give it a try, and share your images with us in the comments section!

And to further improve your food photography, I’ll leave you here a list with some great articles.

Recommended readings



The post How to Change a Background in Photoshop for Still Life or Food Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Do’s and Don’ts of Putting Together a Photography Portfolio

The post Do’s and Don’ts of Putting Together a Photography Portfolio appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Are you having trouble landing a job? Do you keep showing your work but are not getting any clients? Maybe it’s time to review your photography portfolio. Whether you’re doing a digital or printed portfolio, here are some do’s and don’ts to improve the way you present your photography.

Travel photography example portfolio

Putting together a portfolio

It doesn’t matter what kind of photographer you are, a good portfolio is the most important tool you have to secure a job. The first thing to understand is that putting together a bunch of nice pictures isn’t enough. Your photography portfolio should be a sample of your work that showcases your technical abilities as well as your personal style.

Flower and nature portfolio

DON’T put watermarks

Let’s face it, if someone wants to steal your photograph, they will find a way to do so. A watermark can be cropped or deleted. Instead, it will make it more difficult for the viewer to appreciate your image. Also, watermarks give an amateurish look to your portfolio as a whole. See at the difference:


Watermarks can ruin a photo and don’t really protect your rights

To legally protect your images, you can have them copyrighted. To get familiar with this concept, read ImageRights – Finding and Pursuing Copyright Infringement. Another safety measure is to never publish or hand out high-resolution images. For this, I recommend my previous article on How to Understand Pixels, Resolution, and Resize your Images in Photoshop Correctly.

DON’T stick to one portfolio

Another big mistake is to collect all of your best photos and display them in one portfolio. You may think this shows quality, as they are a “best-of,” but it can make you look like a master of none. It is also a waste of time for your client. They want to see relevant examples that show how you would do their job, not how good you may be at other things.

You can specialize in different kind of photography

Take these two photos, for example – they don’t even look good together. And let’s face it, someone who needs a food photographer, doesn’t really care about how I can photograph a street fair and vice-versa. If you’re not convinced about limiting your practice, have a look at these 5 Things to Consider Before Deciding to Specialize or Not in Your Photography.

DO feature what you’re selling

I was talking before about the importance of having different portfolios. This means that each one should display a different specialty that you offer. It’s always important to be coherent and properly organize your work. For example, a portrait portfolio shouldn’t just include any kind of photography that features people. Let me illustrate this:

Different kinds of photography. Photography specialization

Take the two photos above, the one on the left comes from a photo-shoot I did for the press kit of a theater play. The one on the right is a behind-the-scenes job I was doing for a short movie. If I’m preparing a portfolio for a movie or theater producer I can include both. If I’m preparing a portrait portfolio then I shouldn’t include the one on the right.

DO ask for help

It’s always helpful to ask for opinions once you’ve shortlisted the images you want to use. If you can reach out to a colleague or an expert it would be great, but if you don’t, at least ask a friend. Often we have an emotional attachment to a photo we took that is actually not great. An external point of view can help you sort out your best images.


Try putting two similar images from the same subject and asking them which one they prefer. A friend can also help you decide if you are putting too many or too few images in your portfolio. Keep in mind that you should never include something that is not good enough just to reach a certain number. Also, don’t overdo it – editors are busy people and have many portfolios to review.


To sum up, there is no specific formula for putting together a photography portfolio that is great, but I hope you found these tips useful and time-saving. DO remember that the most important thing is for you to have a strong body of work.

If you still need to work on that, here are some great readings to help you out:



The post Do’s and Don’ts of Putting Together a Photography Portfolio appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Basic Photo Retouching in GIMP

The post Basic Photo Retouching in GIMP appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Do you feel your photos are good but not great? Do you think something is missing in your images? You may just need a little post-production to give your images the punch they need to become eye-catching. Keep reading to learn some basic photo retouching in GIMP – a free software – that will make your photos pop.

Basic Photo Retouching in GIMP

GIMP is an image manipulation software you can download for free. If you’re not familiar with it, check my previous article, A Brief Introduction to GIMP. There are many things you can do with it. To start you up, I decided to do a quick overview of the most common adjustments for photo editing.


Most times you take a photograph without a tripod, you’re bound to have the horizon line leaning towards one side. You can easily fix this common problem by using the rotation tool. First, you may want to turn on the visibility of the grid. For this go to View -> Show Grid. If you want to make it wider or narrower, go to Image -> Configure Grid.

GIMP. Configure the grid

Now, to straighten the image, click on the rotation button from the toolbox to open the tool’s setting window. Then you can either drag the slider or type the degree of the angle you want. The last two options are there to re-position the rotation center point if you want. You can also do this by dragging the image itself.

Basic Photo Retouching in Gimp. Rotate Tool


After the rotation or other transforming methods like perspective, some parts of the canvas remain empty, and you need to crop them out. For this, click the Crop tool from the toolbox and drag around the part you want to keep. The part that will be cropped out becomes shaded. To fine-tune the selection click, and drag the edges. When you’re satisfied click on the image to apply the crop.

Crop Tool

To keep an eye on the composition while cropping, you can put some guides to use as points of reference. For example, to play with symmetry put a guideline at 50%. Alternatively, put one at 33% and another at 66% if you want to follow the rule of thirds. You can do this by right-clicking the image window to open the main menu. From there, you need to go to Image -> Guides -> New Guide by percent.

Guides by Percent


For retouching, it’s always best to work on layers. That way, you can always go back if you don’t like how things are going. First, make sure the layers dock is visible. If it’s not, open it from Windows -> Dockables.

From there you can add a new empty layer from the blank page icon. Duplicate the current layer with the symbol of 2 squares, or delete it by dragging it into the paper shredder one.

Basic Photo Retouching. Create and manage layers

By the way, if you don’t want to cancel the entire process you’ve done on a layer, you can go to the tab, Undo, and do it step by step. The Undo tab keeps a history dialogue allocated as a dock containing your latest actions. If the dock is not there, you can open it from Windows -> Dockables.

Basic Photo Retouching. Undo

Color Adjustments

If your image is not well exposed, you can find the Adjustment tools to fix it in the Color menu. To access it, right-click on the image window and choose Colors. Then choose the tool that best suits the adjustment you need to do. To see these options more in-depth check the article Make your Photos Sparkle with GIMP. For now, I’ll just show you the Levels tool, which I find to be one of the most versatile.

Basic Photo Retouching in GIMP. Color Adjustment tools


With Levels, you can fix the color balance and tonal range of your image. GIMP gives you different choices to modify the Levels from the same window. You can move the sliders, enter the values underneath, use the eyedroppers to set the brightest, darkest and middle tones, and even use the auto-mode. They all make similar changes, but they can be more or less precise.

Remember to have the preview box checked so you can see the changes take effect before you apply them.

Basic Photo Retouching. Levels


You can also apply a great variety of filters; from correcting ones like sharpening an image, to special ones like coffee stains. You can find all these options in the Main Menu -> Filters.

Feel free to experiment with them.

Basic Photo Retouching in GIMP using filters

Finally, you can switch to the Multiple Windows Mode (in case you weren’t using it) by going to the menu Windows -> Single Window Mode and uncheck it. Then open the original file and a second window will open with the image so you can compare the side-by-side before and after images.

GIMP. Before and After

I hope you learned some useful tips to fix or boost your images.

If you’re interested in doing some more in-depth work on GIMP Check out the tutorials:

Have you used GIMP? What are your thoughts? Do you have any other tips to share in the comments? We’d love to hear from you.



The post Basic Photo Retouching in GIMP appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

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