10 Lightroom Tricks That Will Make Your Life Easier

When it comes to Lightroom, there is a lot to learn, and we tend to pay the most attention to the big things like understanding how to organize images and which sliders to use to improve our photos. But there are also lots of little Lightroom tricks that will improve your workflow and just make your life easier when it comes to working with your photos.

In this video, I’ll show you 10 of my favorite tricks that will make your life easier in Lightroom. There is also a summary of these items below the video for your reference. Enjoy!

1. Build Previews

Have you ever noticed that when you view images full size in the Library Module and you move from one to the next, sometimes Lightroom shows a message that says “Loading…” and it takes a minute for the photo to display properly? You can get around that by building previews before you start working on a group of images.

To do this, choose Library > Previews > Build Standard-Sized Previews.

I generally build standard-sized previews which are just big enough to fit in the Lightroom window. You can also build the 1:1 Previews which means you can view each image zoomed-in at 100% without having to wait, but that takes longer.

Building the previews first does take a bit of time, but you can do something else while Lightroom is busy with this task. Then when you are ready to work on your images, Lightroom will be really fast.

2. Auto Advance

When selecting your Picks or adding a star rating to images in the Library Module, you can have Lightroom automatically move to the next image, making it very quick to go through a selection of photos. To turn this setting on choose Photo > Auto Advance.

3. Solo Mode

In the Develop Module, there are a number of panels which, when expanded, can make it necessary to do a lot of scrolling to move between them. But with “solo mode”, only one panel can be opened at a time which means no more scrolling.

To turn this on, right-click to the left of one of the develop module panel titles (such as “basic”) and choose Solo Mode.

4. Quickly Reset a Slider

When you make a change to a slider in the Develop Module, and you simply want to reset it back to zero, you don’t have to actually move the slider back. Simply double-click on the name of the slider and it will reset.

5. Letter O Key

Did you know there are quite a few different crop overlays you can use to help you crop your photos just right? Click the crop tool in the Develop Module, and then try repeatedly pressing the letter O on your keyboard to rotate through the various crop overlays.

6. Letter F Key

When you think you are done and you want to view a larger size of your image to make sure everything is just right, press the letter F on your keyboard to view the image full screen. Press F again to go back.

7. Letter L Key

Another way to view your image without distractions is to use the L key on your keyboard. Press it once and all the sidebars and your desktop will turn grey. Press it again and everything goes black except your actual photos (this is called Lights Out). Press it a third time to return to normal.

8. Backslash Key

As a final check when you think you are done with your processing, press the backslash key on your keyboard to see the “before” version of your image before you made any changes in Lightroom. Press it again to see the “after” version.

9. Virtual Copies

If you want to make another version of an image without changing the original, you don’t have to actually make a copy of it on your hard drive. You can simply create a “virtual copy” and apply different settings to it. This virtual copy takes up no space on your hard drive and allows you to play with different looks.

10. Sync Settings

After you have finished processing one photo in a group, you can apply those exact settings to all the other photos in the group. This makes it very fast to process a whole group of images.

Go to the Library Module, select all the photos you want to apply the settings to, including the one you have processed, and click the “Sync Settings” button in the lower right corner of your screen. You can then choose whether to sync all or just some of the settings to the selected photos.


Lightroom can be overwhelming! If you want to learn the essentials of Lightroom so you can get started quickly and easily, check out my video course Launch Into Lightroom. In 22 short videos that total a little over 2 hours, you’ll be off and running.

The post 10 Lightroom Tricks That Will Make Your Life Easier appeared first on Digital Photography School.

10 Dos and Don’ts for Mastering Your Tripod

Love ’em or hate ’em, tripods are an essential piece of gear for all photographers. It will keep your camera steady during long exposures, support the weight of those big lenses you need for wildlife photography, and hold your camera in what could otherwise be an awkward position for macro photography.

But just like any other tool, a tripod can be used the right way, and the wrong way.

10 Dos and Don'ts for Mastering Your Tripod - photographer under a rock arch

DO – Get a good tripod that fits your gear

First of all, make sure your tripod is sturdy and solid. There are a wide variety of models available that range anywhere from $20 on into the thousands, and there is a reason for that. A bargain tripod will hold a small point-and-shoot camera steady but is not strong enough to keep your heavy DSLR steady during a long exposure.

Even if you have a high-quality tripod, there are still some things to consider such as its weight limit and maximum height. Make sure your tripod is built to hold the weight of your camera, biggest lens, flash, and any other accessories you might put on it.

You might also want to consider if your tripod should be as tall as you are. If you need to look through your viewfinder, having a tall tripod will mean you can use it more comfortably without bending down. On the other hand, if you have an LCD screen that flips up, a tall tripod is less important.

A good tripod should last decades with proper storage and care, so it’s worth the investment.

photographer on sand dunes - 10 Dos and Don'ts for Mastering Your Tripod

DO –  Make sure your tripod is sufficiently weighted

The weight of the tripod itself is also something to think about. Typically they are made from aluminum which is relatively inexpensive but heavy. For a higher price, you can get one made of carbon fiber, which is strong and lightweight but more expensive.

A carbon fiber tripod is an excellent choice for nature and wildlife photographers who have to walk or hike long distances while carrying their gear. However, they are so light that a stiff breeze could potentially knock the tripod over, taking your camera with it. If you are using a lighter tripod and there is a lot of wind, anchor the legs of the tripod or hang a rock, sandbag, or your camera bag from the center to weigh it down.

I recommend going for a light tripod otherwise it will tend to get left at home. A light tripod is easy to carry and you can always weigh it down on a windy day.

sunset over Canyon de Chelly, Arizona - 10 Dos and Don'ts for Mastering Your Tripod

DO – Extend the thickest sections of the legs first

When a tripod folds up, its legs unlock and collapse into sections (usually three or four). The thickest sections of the leg are the most stable. So if you’re not raising your tripod to full height, extend the thicker upper sections before you bring the thinner lower parts into play.

DON’T – Raise the center column until the legs are fully extended

Raising the tripod using the legs offers much more stability than using the center column, which can sway slightly during long exposures. For maximum sharpness, the center column should be used to gain extra height only after the legs are fully extended.

DO – Remove the center column altogether

Consider whether you are more likely to require additional height, or if you would rather be able to get lower to the ground. Some tripods allow you to remove the center column, which means you can set up your tripod lower to the ground for super low-angle shots.

Gatklettur, or Arch Rock, in Arnarstapi, Iceland - 10 Dos and Don'ts for Mastering Your Tripod

DON’T – Touch the tripod or camera during the exposure

If you’re doing a long exposure, even a slight nudge on the tripod can cause blur. Make sure that nothing touches the camera or tripod while the shutter is open. A camera strap blowing in the wind comes to mind.

Ideally, you should use a remote shutter release or 2-second self-timer to prevent movement when you press the shutter button.

DON’T – Carry your camera mounted on the tripod

Okay, I have to admit I’m guilty of this one! It can be tempting to leave your camera attached to the tripod as you walk from location to location – it makes set-up and take-down so much faster when you need to get the shot.

But the release plates and screws that hold the camera to the tripod assume that gravity will be working with them. They aren’t built to hold the camera at an angle, especially with the bustling and bumping that can happen while walking around outside. By doing this, you risk your precious camera coming loose and taking a bad spill.

DO – Protect your tripod from water, sand and other debris

A good tripod should be fairly rugged, but tiny particles can get inside the tripod and erode the screws that make it move smoothly and fasten securely. Avoid submerging the joints and locks in sand or silty water, and if your tripod does get dirty, make sure it is clean and dry before folding it back up.

I often use my tripod on the beach and sometimes submerge it in salt water. A solution to the problem of getting sand and salt in the tripod is to not collapse it again. I just leave all the legs extended until I get home (or to home base if traveling) and can rinse it off.

Hraunfosser Waterfall, Iceland - 10 Dos and Don'ts for Mastering Your Tripod

DON’T – Over-tighten the screws

Some tripods have spinning screw locks that tighten the legs, and some fasten with clips that are held on with bolts that may need to be adjusted from time to time.

Either way, you want these screws to be secure enough, but you don’t want to muscle them so tight that they can’t be unlocked. Worse, you could strip and damage the threads. Most screws on a tripod should be firmly finger-tight, and no more.

DO – Turn off image stabilization

The image stabilization technology inside cameras and lenses is fantastic when hand-holding the camera, but can actually backfire when used on a tripod.

This is because the stabilization system itself causes vibrations, and when it’s mounted on a stable base such as a tripod, it actually detects its own vibration. It works harder to stabilize this, which causes it to vibrate, even more, compounding the problem.

Therefore, this setting should be turned off when your camera is mounted on a tripod.

10 Dos and Don'ts for Mastering Your Tripod - photographer in a desert valley

Over to you

There’s nothing worse than making a big investment in your photography only to find it isn’t helping very much. So make sure you are using your tripod properly to get those sharp images you are after.

The post 10 Dos and Don’ts for Mastering Your Tripod appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

Photography is all about light. The same scene with the same composition can look completely boring under one set of lighting conditions and very dramatic under different conditions. Good light makes the difference.

But does that imply there is also such a thing as bad light? I don’t think there is such a thing. The key is to understand what kinds of images to make under the lighting conditions you are presented with when you are photographing.

White House in Arnarstapi Harbor, Iceland - Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

An overcast sky creates a soft landscape with no shadows.

Understanding the three characteristics of natural light will help you use the light to your advantage and make images with an impact no matter what conditions you have to work with.

The Quality of Light

By quality of light, I am referring to how hard or soft the light is.

Hard light happens during midday when the sun is high in the sky and there are no clouds to filter the light. This kind of light is harsh and bright, but it can also create interesting shadows and contrast.

Shadow on the Dunes - Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

Harsh mid-afternoon light casts a dramatic shadow on this sand dune emphasizing its shape.

Soft light happens on a cloudy day when the clouds diffuse the light making it even with no shadows or bright spots. It also occurs in the shade.

Even on a day when there are no clouds, when the sun is lower in the sky the light passes through more atmosphere which softens the light. This is why golden light at the edges of the day is softer then midday light.

The Color of Light

The color of natural light from the sun changes during the course of the day. Before the sun rises, when the first light of the day appears in the sky, the light is a cool blue. During sunrise, the light is golden. As the sun gets higher in the sky, it is bright with little color tint at all.

Organ Pipe Cactus - Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

During Golden Hour, the last of the day’s light casts a warm golden light on these cacti.

At the end of the day the opposite thing happens. When the sun is low on the horizon before sunset, you get the golden glow. After sunset is twilight when the light is a cool blue (blue hour).

Saguaro Cactus by Anne McKinnell - Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

Once the sun has set, the light becomes a cool blue and the landscape is soft with no shadows.

The Direction of Light

Front light is when the light comes from behind you and hits the front of your subject directly. Front light can be unforgiving, washing out colors and minimizing textures. So if you are going to use it, it’s best to do so when the sun is low in the sky when it is warmer and softer.

Angel Peak New Mexico by Anne McKinnell - Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

Front light hits the mountain, but it is a soft light since it is also at golden hour.

Backlight is when the sun is directly in front of you and behind your subject, lighting it from behind. I love backlight because the deep contrast between the highlights and shadows is so dramatic.

Backlighting is also perfect for making silhouettes when you have subjects with great shapes.

Organ Pipe Cactus by Anne McKinnell - Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

The cactus is lit from behind creating an interesting silhouette during sunset.

Sidelight is when the sun is beside you, lighting your subject from the side. This kind of light is excellent for emphasizing shape and texture.

The sidelight on this saguaro cactus emphasizes it’s shape and texture.

What to do when …

So how do you use this information to your benefit? When you are out photographing consider the characteristics of the light you are presented with and use that to decide what kinds of photographs to make.

Harsh mid-afternoon light

The light is high in the sky, extremely bright and harsh with only a little color. This is a good time to look for shadows or photograph in the shade.

Shadow Patterns by Anne McKinnell - Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

Harsh mid-afternoon light can create interesting shadows.

An overcast day with dull light

This kind of midday light has little color, but it is soft with no shadows; think soft. This kind of light is perfect for making soft flower photos, close-ups with even light, or waterfall photos where direct light would cause unwelcome bright spots.

If there is any texture to the clouds in the sky, that is good. But if the sky is pure white, eliminate it from the frame.

Skogafoss Iceland by Anne McKinnell - Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

Waterfalls are a perfect subject for an overcast day.

Golden Hour

The sun is low in the sky casting beautiful soft warm light at golden hour, so it’s hard to go wrong in this situation. Think about the direction of light. Front light will create a warm glow on buildings and mountains, sidelight will emphasize the shape of hills, backlight will create dramatic silhouettes and you could create a sunburst by using a small aperture.

Spider Rock, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona - Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

The day’s last light casts a golden glow on the edge of the canyon.

Blue Hour

The sun is below the horizon giving you soft, even, cool light. The direction of light does not apply here. Combine this type of light with a long exposure to emphasize the soft feeling if you have any moving elements like water or clouds. Combine twilight with city lights for more drama.

Li River and Karst Mountains in Guilin, China - Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

There was barely any light in the sky at all during this 15-second exposure.

The best way to learn how different types of light affect your images is to photograph the same subject under various conditions. Pick something that is easily accessible to you and photograph it with front light, sidelight, and backlight. Photograph it at midday, during golden hour and at twilight. Photograph it under harsh mid-afternoon light and on a cloudy day when the light is soft.

Understanding these characteristics of natural light will ensure that you can make the most of the lighting conditions you have and create photos with impact at any time of day.

The post Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

8 Ways to Create More Dramatic Flower Photos

Do you think flower photography is boring? Or even too easy and obvious? I mean, of course, when you point your camera at a pretty flower you’re going to get a pretty photograph. Right?

But a subject that you feel is boring and easy is actually the perfect one to challenge yourself with. Can you make a flower image that is creative and dramatic somehow?

Here are a few ideas to get you started making more dramatic flower photos.

1. Dramatic light

Often flower photos are made under soft lighting conditions, either in the shade or on an overcast day. This is because of the soft and delicate nature of a flower which lends itself to that type of light.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. For a more dramatic image, try to find a flower that has direct light on it and shade behind it. High contrast scenes feel more dramatic and your flower will stand out against a darker background.

Flowers in the Light - 8 Ways to Create More Dramatic Flower Photos

2. Change your perspective

Most flower photos are made from a perspective looking right into the open flower. Try other perspectives for more interesting compositions. You can look at the flower from above, from the side, or from underneath.

To make the image below, my camera was on the ground looking directly up at the flower. Because the sky was so much brighter than the flower, it created a more high-key type of image with light shining through the petals making them appear to glow.

Looking Up flower - 8 Ways to Create More Dramatic Flower Photos

When I made the next image, I was interested in the lines created by the petals of a dahlia the size of a dinner plate. Most photos would include the whole flower, but I only included a small portion of the huge flower taken from a side angle.

Giant Dahlia - 8 Ways to Create More Dramatic Flower Photos

3. Focus through

In one of my favorite techniques for flower photography, I use a telephoto lens and focus on a flower that is around five feet away. Then I position the lens so that another flower is right in front of it. Because the close flower is extremely out of focus, it creates a soft area of color in front of the main subject.

This is especially effective if you can find two flowers that are complementary colors (opposite) on the color wheel.

Focus Through Poppy - 8 Ways to Create More Dramatic Flower Photos

4. Let the wind blow

One of the most frustrating things you encounter when photographing flowers is wind. A little bit of wind you can handle with a faster shutter speed, but sometimes the wind is just too much and your flower is blowing all over the place.

When this happens, just go with the flow! Instead of trying to get a sharp image, go with a slow shutter speed and capture the motion of the flower moving in front of your lens.

Flowers in the Wind- 8 Ways to Create More Dramatic Flower Photos

5. Environmental portrait

Most flower photos contain only the flower with no context. But you can also make an environmental portrait that shows the flower and its surrounding environment, like the one below.

Storm Flowers - 8 Ways to Create More Dramatic Flower Photos

6. Echo

Another of my favorite techniques I refer to as an echo. For your main subject, find a flower that has another virtually identical flower behind it. Use a shallow depth of field and focus on your main subject letting the flower behind fall out of focus. This creates a sort of echo of the main subject.

Yellow flowers - 8 Ways to Create More Dramatic Flower Photos

7. Less than perfect flowers

When photographing flowers, most photographers search for perfect specimens to be the main subject. But perhaps more interesting subjects are the less than perfect flowers. They can be dead flowers, ones with flaws, or even flowers that have fallen over.

In the image below, I was attracted to the raindrops that were on the side of this fallen tulip. Flowers with raindrops are not uncommon, but the tulip on its side is a bit more unusual.

Fallen Tulip - 8 Ways to Create More Dramatic Flower Photos

8. Emphasize edges in post-processing

You can also introduce effects in post-processing to make unique and dramatic flower photos. Try experimenting with textures or edge effects.

For the image below, I added an edge effect in post-processing to draw the viewer’s attention to the shape of the petals.

pink Dahlia - 8 Ways to Create More Dramatic Flower Photos

What else can you think of? Flower photography doesn’t have to be boring or predictable. In fact, any subject that you find boring and predictable is a challenge waiting for you to unleash your own unique perspective. How do you make more dramatic flower photos?

The post 8 Ways to Create More Dramatic Flower Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School.

3 Techniques and Tips for Photographing the Moon in the Landscape

It’s been almost 180 years since the first photograph of the full moon was made by an English scientist, chemist, and historian, John William Draper. Since then, the moon has been a subject that has captivated the attention of photographers around the world. Photographing the moon by itself is one thing, but when you want to include the moon in a landscape photo, you have some challenges to overcome.

Moonrise over Shack Island - 3 Techniques and Tips for Photographing the Moon in the Landscape

The first problem is that the moon is exceptionally bright in the night sky. The second problem is that you want both the landscape and the moon detailed and in sharp focus.

To make a dramatic photo of the moon in a landscape, we’ll be using two techniques in the field and one in post-processing to make the final image.

Moonrise over the ocean in Sidney, British Columbia - 3 Techniques and Tips for Photographing the Moon in the Landscape

1. Exposure bracketing

To make your job a bit easier, photograph the moon when it is close to the horizon. At this time the light from the moon goes through more atmosphere before it reaches our eyes, so it is not as bright as when the moon is high in the sky.

But, under normal circumstances, you’ll still need to bracket your exposures to capture detail in both the landscape and the moon.

Plan to make one exposure for the landscape and another exposure for the moon. You can either use spot metering in both cases, or you can use exposure compensation after your first image to darken the next shot by four or five stops until the moon is properly exposed.

Here is an example of two photos with different exposures: one exposed for the landscape and one exposed for the moon.

3 Techniques and Tips for Photographing the Moon in the Landscape - two exposures for the moon

2. Focus stacking

If you are working with a landscape composition where some elements in the frame are relatively close to the camera, you’ll find that your moon is not sharp if you’ve focussed your camera on the landscape. The only way your landscape and the moon will both be in focus at the same time is if everything in the frame is far way away from the camera.

But the solution is simple. Make your first exposure in the normal way, exposing and focussing on the landscape. Then make your second exposure to not only expose for the brightness of the moon, but also focus on the moon to make sure it’s sharp.

In the two brackets shown in the image above, I not only changed the exposure to expose properly for the moon, but I also changed the focus point so that the moon would be sharp.

Sometimes you may need to use focus stacking without changing the exposure settings. For example, when I made the image below I didn’t need to bracket my exposures because the moon was a dark red color due to the eclipse. However, I still needed to use focus stacking to make both the cactus and the moon appear sharp.

Blue, blood, super moon in Ajo, Arizona, 3 Techniques and Tips for Photographing the Moon in the Landscape

3. Exposure Blending

In post-processing, you can combine your two exposures to make an image with a properly exposed and sharp foreground landscape and moon.

But it’s not quite as simple as just doing a copy and paste if you want it to look natural.

Photo 1: Clone out the moon

In the first photo, notice how the brightness of the moon has caused a strong glow in the sky beyond the moon itself. So if you just paste your properly exposed moon on top of that, the glow will look strange. My first step in post-processing is to clone out the original moon and make the color of the sky look even.

Photo 2: Select the moon

In the second photo, use the Quick Selection Tool to make a selection of the moon. You can then improve your selection by using “Refine Edge” in Photoshop Elements or “Select and Mask” in Photoshop CC. Other post-processing programs have similar tools.

Whichever program you use, the objective is the same. You want to smooth out the edge of your selection so the moon looks natural when pasted onto the first image. If the edges are abrupt, it won’t look natural.

To do this, contract your selection by about 3 pixels and then feather it by 2 pixels. When you are done, save your selection on a new layer.

Paste the moon from Photo 2 on to Photo 1

Finally, you can copy your new layer, go to the first photo and paste it in place.

Super Moon in Ajo, Arizona by Anne McKinnell

If the moon doesn’t look natural, you may need to experiment with blend modes and opacity. Try using the overlay blend mode and reducing the opacity of the layer until you get the look you are after.

Conclusion

Using these techniques will help you create dramatic images of the moon in the landscape – images that more closely match what you are able to see with your own eyes.

To see exactly how I created my moon composite image using Photoshop Elements, watch the video below.

If you have any other tips for photographing the moon in the landscape, please share in the comments below.

The post 3 Techniques and Tips for Photographing the Moon in the Landscape appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Wide-Angle Versus Telephoto Lenses for Landscape Photography

When you arrive at a beautiful scene, open your camera bag, and reach in to pick out a lens for landscape photography, which one do you usually choose and why?

A mid-range focal length lens, say between 35mm and 70mm, is usually the one that gets picked the most because it is closest to what we see with our eyes. When we choose that lens, we come home with photos that look like what we saw and they feel natural.

Chain fruit cholla at Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona by Anne McKinnell

A wide-angle lens is often chosen when we simply want to take in a wider scene, and a telephoto lens is chosen when we want to get closer to something in the distance. While these uses are certainly valid, these lenses can also be used in the exact opposite way.

Let’s take a look at different ways that wide-angle and telephoto lenses can be used to emphasize different aspects of a scene for landscape photography.

Wide-angle of view versus distant details

This is the way most people use wide-angle and telephoto lenses, as follows.

When I arrived at the scene below, I wanted to capture as much of the lake as possible while eliminating a few distractions on the edges. I reached for my wide angle lens and made an image at 14mm.

Convict Lake, California - Wide-Angle Versus Telephoto Lenses for Landscape Photography

This image was shot using a 14mm wide-angle lens.

Then I noticed some interesting details in the distance on the left side of the frame above. I really liked how the colors of the plants seemed to come down the hill at an angle and were reflected in the lake making a triangle shape. To emphasize this detail, I reached for my telephoto lens and made this image at 65mm.

Convict Lake, California - Wide-Angle Versus Telephoto Lenses for Landscape Photography

The same scene with a 65mm lens.

Wide-angle of view versus close-up details

I made this photo of some cacti and the setting sun right in my campground in southern Arizona. To get the foreground rocks, the cacti, and the background in the frame, I used my wide-angle lens at 15mm and set the aperture to f/22 to make the starburst.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Arizona - Wide-Angle Versus Telephoto Lenses for Landscape Photography

Then I became drawn to the lines in the organ pipe cactus. To emphasize the lines in an abstract way I moved around the cactus, so I would be working with side light, and used my telephoto lens at 210mm to capture the details.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Arizona details - Wide-Angle Versus Telephoto Lenses for Landscape Photography

Get close with a wide lens, go wide with a telephoto lens

As I mentioned in the introduction, lenses can be used in the exact opposite way from our usual mode of operation. Sometimes the best way to get close is to use a wide-angle lens. But you have to be really close!

To make this image of a chain fruit cholla, I was only a couple of feet away from it when I made this image at 33mm. Getting physically close to a subject in the foreground makes that subject look large in comparison to the background. The cholla would have looked even larger if I had gotten closer and used a wider angle like 10mm.

Chain fruit cholla at Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona - Wide-Angle Versus Telephoto Lenses for Landscape Photography

33mm

At the same location, I wanted to make an image that captured the huge expanse of cacti and the surrounding mountains. With a wide-angle lens, things in the distance look tiny and you don’t get the feeling I was looking for. So I used my telephoto lens to capture more distant subjects at 122mm.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Arizona - Wide-Angle Versus Telephoto Lenses for Landscape Photography

122mm

Make the background or foreground look large

The two photos below are shots of the exact same plant. I chose this organ pipe cactus with a mountain in the background to demonstrate depth compression and how it applies to your lens choice.

When I was quite a distance away from the subject, approximately 100 feet, I made the photo below using my telephoto lens at 129mm. I would have gone farther away from it, but other cacti prevented me from getting a clear view of my subject from a farther distance. Notice how large the mountain appears in this image.

Organ Pipe Cactus in Ajo, Arizona - Wide-Angle Versus Telephoto Lenses for Landscape Photography

129mm focal length.

Then I went right up to the cactus, only inches away, and made the photo below with my wide angle lens at 18mm. Now you can tell that there are actually two organ pipes that looked like one in the previous image. Notice how small the mountain appears in the image below.

Organ Pipe Cactus in Ajo, Arizona - Wide-Angle Versus Telephoto Lenses for Landscape Photography

18mm

Note that this difference is not a result of the lenses themselves, but rather it is due to the distance between the camera and the subject.

When you want to make something that is the background look larger, get farther away from it and use a longer lens. If you want something in the background to disappear, or at least be minimized, get closer to your subject and use a wider lens.

Depth of Field

The depth of field in your image, which is the amount of the scene that is sharp, is determined by the aperture you use. So if you want the background to be blurry you use a wide aperture like f/2.8 or f/5.6. But the aperture you choose does not have the same result with every lens.

I made the photo below with a wide-angle lens at 20mm and an aperture of f/5.6. The result is that most of the flowers are sharp and the background is just slightly blurred.

Black Eyed Susan, Victoria, BC - Wide-Angle Versus Telephoto Lenses for Landscape Photography

20mm at f/5.6

If you want the background to be extremely soft, it’s better to get farther away from your subject and use a longer lens. In the example below, I wanted to make the flowers stand out and minimize the appearance of a house in the background, so I moved farther away, used my telephoto lens at 250mm and an aperture of f/5.6.

Cherry blossoms - Wide-Angle Versus Telephoto Lenses for Landscape Photography

250mm and f/5.6

Conclusion

Here is a quick summary to help you remember what you just learned.

Use a wide-angle lens when you want to:

  • Get close to subjects in the foreground and make them seem more important than the background.
  • Make subjects in the background appear smaller.
  • Get everything in focus.
  • Photograph in tight areas like canyons.

Use a telephoto lens when you want to:

  • Get closer to subjects in the distance.
  • Make subjects in the background appear larger.
  • Get a shallow depth of field by blurring the background.
  • Make close-up images of details.

The post Wide-Angle Versus Telephoto Lenses for Landscape Photography by Anne McKinnell appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Getting Started with Landscape Photography – 4 Easy Tips for Beginners

One of the things I like most about photography is that there is always more to learn. It keeps the mind active and the creative juices flowing. But the wealth of information out there can be overwhelming for beginners in landscape photography. Where do you start?

There are a few easy things you can do that will have an immediate impact on your photography so you can start making better images right away. Let’s focus on those and leave the more technical stuff for later.

1. Pay attention to the light

There is no such thing as bad light. The key is to understand what kinds of images are suitable under various lighting conditions.

Red Rock State Park, Arizona by Anne McKinnell - Getting Started with Landscape Photography - 4 Easy Tips for Beginners

During golden hour, the day’s last light makes the rocks glow.

The Golden Hour

This is the time right after sunrise and right before sunset when the sun is low in the sky and casts beautiful golden light. Start here! It’s hard to go wrong with golden light, which is the most popular time of day for photography.

Ajo, Arizona by Anne McKinnell - Getting Started with Landscape Photography - 4 Easy Tips for Beginners

The cactus in the foreground is in the shade while golden hour light reflects off the mountain in the background.

Bright Midday Light

The opposite of golden hour, the harsh direct light you find at midday can be the most difficult to work with – unless you photograph in the shade.

Just look for interesting subjects that are in the shade and leave the sky out of the frame. The even soft light is great for close-ups and flower photography.

Bush Lupin - Getting Started with Landscape Photography - 4 Easy Tips for Beginners

Flowers photographed in the shade.

There are more types of light to work with and different times of day to photograph, but start with these for the quickest results.

2. Remove distractions

Pay attention to the things in the background of your images and try to simplify the background as much as possible. Sometimes there is an unwanted object, like a trash can for example, that you might not notice unless you are looking for it. These things can often be hidden behind your main subject simply by moving to one side, photographing from a higher or lower perspective, or getting closer.

Try to simplify your composition as much as possible with fewer items in your scene. Find a way to photograph your main subject on a clean background.

Big surf on the Oregon Coast. Getting Started with Landscape Photography - 4 Easy Tips for Beginners

To make this image, I had to change my perspective to eliminate debris on the sand as well as other rocks and birds from the frame.

Beware of tree branches or other things that poke in to the edge of your frame. Before you take your shot, try to remember to do an “edge check”. Look around the edges of your frame and make sure it looks clean.

3. Look for one thing

Your photograph cannot be about everything. You need to decide what is most interesting in your scene and make your photograph about that. Get closer to it.

One exercise that will get you in this habit is to go on a photo walk with the purpose of looking for one particular element of design. You’ll find that when you set your mind on one thing, you’ll start to see it everywhere. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Textures and Patterns

Often beginning photographers will try to capture an entire vista in one photograph and don’t notice the details. But the more you train your eye to notice the details, the more interesting your photographs will become.

The best thing about photographing textures and patterns is that you don’t have to go far to find them. Your subject can be anything from rocks to grass or peeling paint. I’m sure you can find subjects with wonderful textures close to home. Try to fill your frame with the pattern.

Weston Beach, Point Lobos State Reserve, California - Getting Started with Landscape Photography - 4 Easy Tips for Beginners

Filling the frame with the pattern of colorful rocks.

Lines

Look for horizontal lines, vertical lines or diagonal lines. Try to find lines that lead the way to some interesting subject.

Colors

Take a look at the color wheel and notice complementary colors. Those are the ones that are opposites on the wheel such as blue and orange, red and green, or yellow and purple. Any scene with complementary colors is always striking (which is why so many photographers carry around a red umbrella or a red jacket for their partner to wear in a grassy or forest scene).

Bamboo Forest - Getting Started with Landscape Photography - 4 Easy Tips for Beginners

Complementary colors plus diagonal lines.

4. Make time to practice

It doesn’t take long to develop good habits and learn what makes an interesting photograph. But it can be hard to remember if you only go shooting once in awhile. Try to make a habit of doing it every day, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes. By doing this, you’ll reinforce the habit and find yourself seeing the potential for great images all around you all the time.

Spider Rock, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona - Getting Started with Landscape Photography - 4 Easy Tips for Beginners

Golden hour – there is still enough light to photograph the depths of the canyon while the last of the day’s light reflects off the top of the highest rock.

Conclusion

There are more technical things that you’ll want to start learning soon such as; how the exposure triangle works, understanding depth of field, picking the right shooting mode, focus settings, and more. It’s endless (which is a good thing).

But for now, these tips will get you on the right track so you are happy with your images right from the beginning. Have fun!

The post Getting Started with Landscape Photography – 4 Easy Tips for Beginners by Anne McKinnell appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Getting Started with Landscape Photography – 4 Easy Tips for Beginners

One of the things I like most about photography is that there is always more to learn. It keeps the mind active and the creative juices flowing. But the wealth of information out there can be overwhelming for beginners in landscape photography. Where do you start?

There are a few easy things you can do that will have an immediate impact on your photography so you can start making better images right away. Let’s focus on those and leave the more technical stuff for later.

1. Pay attention to the light

There is no such thing as bad light. The key is to understand what kinds of images are suitable under various lighting conditions.

Red Rock State Park, Arizona by Anne McKinnell - Getting Started with Landscape Photography - 4 Easy Tips for Beginners

During golden hour, the day’s last light makes the rocks glow.

The Golden Hour

This is the time right after sunrise and right before sunset when the sun is low in the sky and casts beautiful golden light. Start here! It’s hard to go wrong with golden light, which is the most popular time of day for photography.

Ajo, Arizona by Anne McKinnell - Getting Started with Landscape Photography - 4 Easy Tips for Beginners

The cactus in the foreground is in the shade while golden hour light reflects off the mountain in the background.

Bright Midday Light

The opposite of golden hour, the harsh direct light you find at midday can be the most difficult to work with – unless you photograph in the shade.

Just look for interesting subjects that are in the shade and leave the sky out of the frame. The even soft light is great for close-ups and flower photography.

Bush Lupin - Getting Started with Landscape Photography - 4 Easy Tips for Beginners

Flowers photographed in the shade.

There are more types of light to work with and different times of day to photograph, but start with these for the quickest results.

2. Remove distractions

Pay attention to the things in the background of your images and try to simplify the background as much as possible. Sometimes there is an unwanted object, like a trash can for example, that you might not notice unless you are looking for it. These things can often be hidden behind your main subject simply by moving to one side, photographing from a higher or lower perspective, or getting closer.

Try to simplify your composition as much as possible with fewer items in your scene. Find a way to photograph your main subject on a clean background.

Big surf on the Oregon Coast. Getting Started with Landscape Photography - 4 Easy Tips for Beginners

To make this image, I had to change my perspective to eliminate debris on the sand as well as other rocks and birds from the frame.

Beware of tree branches or other things that poke in to the edge of your frame. Before you take your shot, try to remember to do an “edge check”. Look around the edges of your frame and make sure it looks clean.

3. Look for one thing

Your photograph cannot be about everything. You need to decide what is most interesting in your scene and make your photograph about that. Get closer to it.

One exercise that will get you in this habit is to go on a photo walk with the purpose of looking for one particular element of design. You’ll find that when you set your mind on one thing, you’ll start to see it everywhere. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Textures and Patterns

Often beginning photographers will try to capture an entire vista in one photograph and don’t notice the details. But the more you train your eye to notice the details, the more interesting your photographs will become.

The best thing about photographing textures and patterns is that you don’t have to go far to find them. Your subject can be anything from rocks to grass or peeling paint. I’m sure you can find subjects with wonderful textures close to home. Try to fill your frame with the pattern.

Weston Beach, Point Lobos State Reserve, California - Getting Started with Landscape Photography - 4 Easy Tips for Beginners

Filling the frame with the pattern of colorful rocks.

Lines

Look for horizontal lines, vertical lines or diagonal lines. Try to find lines that lead the way to some interesting subject.

Colors

Take a look at the color wheel and notice complementary colors. Those are the ones that are opposites on the wheel such as blue and orange, red and green, or yellow and purple. Any scene with complementary colors is always striking (which is why so many photographers carry around a red umbrella or a red jacket for their partner to wear in a grassy or forest scene).

Bamboo Forest - Getting Started with Landscape Photography - 4 Easy Tips for Beginners

Complementary colors plus diagonal lines.

4. Make time to practice

It doesn’t take long to develop good habits and learn what makes an interesting photograph. But it can be hard to remember if you only go shooting once in awhile. Try to make a habit of doing it every day, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes. By doing this, you’ll reinforce the habit and find yourself seeing the potential for great images all around you all the time.

Spider Rock, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona - Getting Started with Landscape Photography - 4 Easy Tips for Beginners

Golden hour – there is still enough light to photograph the depths of the canyon while the last of the day’s light reflects off the top of the highest rock.

Conclusion

There are more technical things that you’ll want to start learning soon such as; how the exposure triangle works, understanding depth of field, picking the right shooting mode, focus settings, and more. It’s endless (which is a good thing).

But for now, these tips will get you on the right track so you are happy with your images right from the beginning. Have fun!

The post Getting Started with Landscape Photography – 4 Easy Tips for Beginners by Anne McKinnell appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Make Storytelling Landscape Photos – 4 Steps

When we think of storytelling images, we immediately think of people doing something in a documentary type of photograph. After all, people make the most interesting stories. But landscapes have stories too.

As a landscape photographer, you can create a collection of images that tell a story about a place without having people as the main focal point in the image.

Salton Sea, California by Anne McKinnell - How to Make Storytelling Landscape Photos

The following steps will help you pull the story out of the landscape and convey it to your viewers.

1. What is the story?

The first thing you need to do is to spend some time thinking about what exactly is the story. Often we go to a place and start making images based on compositional elements in the scene without thinking about what is important to the story first.

Salton Sea California by Anne McKinnell - How to Make Storytelling Landscape Photos - 4 Steps

When I go to a new place, I often do a scouting trip first just to have a general look around and get a feel for it. Then I do some research to find an interesting story. If the place is a park, why is it a park? Who made it a park? What is the history? What interesting things happen there now and in the past? Do any animals live there, and if so which ones?

Once you have some background, you can pick a story to wrap your photographs around.

Egret at Salton Sea, California by Anne McKinnell - How to Make Storytelling Landscape Photos - 4 Steps

2. The first photo shoot – using different focal lengths

Your first photo shoot will help you bring your plan together. Go back to the places that had the most photographic potential from your scouting trip and while there look for elements in the scene that relate to the story you have chosen.

I usually start out with a wide-angle image that takes in the whole scene. Often I don’t end up using this photo in the final collection, but it helps me in my process of making the collection. When you have your photo that takes in everything, think about what are the most interesting things in the scene. Try to pick at least three things and then get closer to each one of them in turn.

Gulls Flying over Pelicans by Anne McKinnell - How to Make Storytelling Landscape Photos - 4 Steps

White pelicans by Anne McKinnell - How to Make Storytelling Landscape Photos - 4 Steps

Example

For example, when I went to the Salton Sea in California (a stunningly beautiful location that was created as a result of a man-made disaster) one feature that is most interesting is a layer of dead fish. But how do you make a good photograph of dead fish?

I started by making an image that took in the whole scene. Then I changed lenses to use a mid-range focal length and then a long focal length from where I was standing. Then I started to get closer and closer to the dead fish looking for elements of design such as lines and shapes along the way.

Salton Sea Tilapia by Anne McKinnell - How to Make Storytelling Landscape Photos - 4 Steps

Dead Tilapia at Salton Sea, California by Anne McKinnell - How to Make Storytelling Landscape Photos - 4 Steps

When I found something interesting, again I tried to use different focal lengths to see how I could convey the feeling of the place in an image.

Make sure you photograph the details of the scene as well as the overall feeling. Finally, when you find a really interesting detail, get really close to it using your wide-angle lens so you have an image with an interesting detail in the foreground that also takes the whole scene into the frame.

3. The second shoot – using the best light

The next step is to pick out your favorite images from your first shoot and think about what kind of light could make them better. Is there a subject with a great shape that would make an interesting silhouette? Is it transparent and might glow with some backlight?

Would it create interesting shadows at a certain time of day? Would it look best with warm light during the golden hour? Does it need a dramatic sky?

Sunset at Corvina Beach, Salton Sea, California - How to Make Storytelling Landscape Photos - 4 Steps

Whatever it is, plan to revisit the location when you have the best chance of getting the conditions you need to make your ideal shot. You may need to go back a number of times, if possible before you get all the shots you want.

4. Putting it together

Whether you are putting the images into a collection display on your wall, using them in a blog post, displaying them on your website, selling them to a magazine (along with your story of course), or simply showing your friends. Having an interesting set of images that are storytelling will always create a larger impact than random photos of a place that are not connected.

Salton Sea Collage by Anne McKinnell

The post How to Make Storytelling Landscape Photos – 4 Steps by Anne McKinnell appeared first on Digital Photography School.

7 Photography Myths Exposed

Photographers, of all people, should know that the world is not black and white. There are many shades of grey between black and white, between good and bad, and between right and wrong. It’s all a matter of perspective and circumstance. Yet photography is full of blanket statements about what you should and shouldn’t do. In this article, I expose (pun intended!) a few of the most common photography myths every photographer should know.

North Algodones Sand Dunes, California - 7 Photography Myths Exposed

1. Full frame cameras are better

A full frame camera has a larger sensor than a crop sensor camera. That means you might get more megapixels or you might get larger megapixels or even both. But there are many more important factors to consider when choosing a camera than megapixels.

First, crop sensor cameras are generally smaller, lighter and much less expensive. Second, if you like to shoot wildlife, you’ll get extra reach with your telephoto lens on a crop sensor camera. A 400mm lens on a full frame camera is equivalent to over 600mm on a crop sensor camera. Also, if you like to photograph wildlife, a more important factor to consider above megapixels is frames per second.

A few years ago I went to Africa to photograph wildlife and took two cameras: a full frame Canon 6D and a crop sensor Canon 7D. I learned that the 7D was much better for my purposes because of the frames per second rate it was capable of shooting. The 6D (at the time) did 4.5 fps and the 7D did 8. That was a huge difference in the field.

Lion and cub at Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania - 7 Photography Myths Exposed

2. Always use a tripod

A tripod is an essential piece of gear for any photographer and usually, you will notice a huge improvement in image quality when you start using one. However, “always” is one of those blanket statements that doesn’t always make sense (see what I did there?). I often notice photographers arrive on a scene, set up their tripod, and then try to find a composition they like. That tends to limit their possibilities since they are already stuck on the tripod.

A better approach is to go free hand until you find your composition. Then, when you find it, try to make your tripod fit in the exact position necessary. Sometimes you’ll find it won’t fit. Either the angle is lower than your tripod will allow you to go, or the tripod is not tall enough, or the position isn’t stable. When that is the case, ditch the tripod in favor of getting the composition.

Plateau lizard by Anne McKinnell - 7 Photography Myths Exposed

3. To make better photos, you need better gear

Undoubtedly, you will reach a point in time when you need better gear to carry out your vision for what you are trying to achieve with your photography. But the most important thing is to have that vision. Before getting new gear, make sure you exhaust your current gear. Use every single function and feature it has and know exactly what it is you need that your current gear doesn’t have before you move on. Blaming crappy gear is just a crutch. A really good photographer can make great images with pretty much any camera.

4. Never put your subject in the middle

Ah, the rule of thirds. The golden ratio. The fibonacci spiral. All good tools when it comes to learning composition. But don’t forget about the beauty to be found in simple symmetry.

When you think about a person’s face, the most beautiful face is the most symmetrical face. It’s all about balance, equality of proportion, and harmony. The key to making a compelling symmetrical composition is in the perfection of the symmetry. A composition that is almost symmetrical will seem off, but one that is perfect will seem awe inspiring.

Baobab tree in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania - 7 Photography Myths Exposed

5. Manual is the best shooting mode

It’s beneficial to all aspiring photographers to learn to shoot in manual mode so you have independent control over every factor in making your exposure including aperture, shutter speed and ISO. It’s no doubt that it’s one of the best ways to learn how your camera works. However, once you’ve learned how to use manual mode, why not let your camera do what it’s good at? Cameras these days are smart and the fewer things you have to do manually, the quicker you will be at responding to a changing scene.

When you are on a scene, decide which factors are important to you before you select your shooting mode. For example, if you are trying to intentionally blur a subject, shutter speed is important. You can use shutter priority mode and let the camera choose the aperture and ISO. That way when you want to shorten or lengthen the shutter speed, you only have one thing to change and the camera will figure out the rest. Similarly you might decide that depth of field is most important, and if you’re using a tripod, shutter speed might not matter at all. In that case, aperture priority mode is most convenient.

Summer flower in Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia - 7 Photography Myths Exposed

6. RAW format is better than JPEG

This refers to the image quality you select in your camera’s settings. You can choose to have your images saved as either RAW files, JPEGs, or both.

RAW is better than JPEG only if you are planning on post-processing your photos, which most people do. A RAW file contains more data and therefore you have more leeway in your post-processing. However, if you are just starting out and you haven’t gotten to the point where you’re processing your photos yet, it’s probably better to shoot JPEGs.

In JPEG mode, your camera will make some decisions for you when it comes to color and contrast and your photos will look better straight out of the camera. Ultimately you’ll likely come to the point where you want to make those decisions yourself. That’s when it is time to make the switch to RAW.

7. Good photography requires good light

All light is good light. The trick is to know what kind of images to make under the lighting conditions that are available. Do you have harsh (hard) light? Look for interesting shadows or photograph in the shade. Soft light? Perfect for macro shots. Looking into the sun? Find subjects with interesting shapes for silhouettes.

Saguaro in silhouette at Tucson Mountain State Park, Arizona by Anne McKinnell

Conclusion

Remember, as an artist, you are free to go about making your art any way you like. You can use your tools any way you see fit. The most important thing is to have a vision and then use your tools and techniques to help you achieve it.

Do you know of any other photography myths you want to expose here? Please share in the comments below.

The post 7 Photography Myths Exposed by Anne McKinnell appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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