How to Use an Art Gallery Visit to Inspire Your Photography

The post How to Use an Art Gallery Visit to Inspire Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.


We’ve almost all done it. We’ve gone to an art gallery to look for inspiration for our photographic work and ended up just snapping some pictures of paintings we like on our phones for later reference.

How to Use an Art Gallery Visit to Inspire Your Photography

While that is one way to approach the task of finding inspiration for photography in art galleries, there are other ways that you might find more success.

In this article, I’m going to explore some different ways that you can use an art gallery to find inspiration for your photography. And they’ll all result in a more original result than if you just photograph the actual work of art itself.

Visiting a gallery

When you visit an art gallery, make sure you allow yourself enough time. Ideally, set aside a whole morning or afternoon for a larger gallery.

When going to a new gallery that I’ve never been to before, I love to take a trip around the whole thing. Then I go back and visit rooms or artworks that I loved to see them in more detail. At very large galleries or museums, you might want to look on the floor plan ahead of time and identify a smaller section to see on that visit.

How to Use an Art Gallery Visit to Inspire Your Photography

After you’ve viewed works of art for an hour or so, take time to visit the cafe and relax a bit. This will give you time to think about what you’ve enjoyed so far. Use this time to make some notes if you want to.

Of course, it’s not possible for everyone to visit a gallery, or to do so regularly. Instead, perhaps ‘visit’ the online archive of a museum or gallery on their website. Some museums and galleries offer themed collections that you can browse. Others have lists of the artwork in each room so that you can ‘tour’ it virtually!

Take a sketchbook

So many photographers don’t use a sketchbook, but I think they’re vital to inspiration-gathering. You don’t have to be good at drawing to use a sketchbook. My sketching abilities extend to a fraction more than stick figures. But it isn’t your drawing ability that counts; your sketchbook will just be a place to record ideas for your own reference.


As you make your way around the different rooms of the art gallery, stop in front of any work that catches your eye. Ask yourself why that piece of art caught your attention. Perhaps it was the:

  • pose
  • colors
  • concept
  • composition

This approach for finding inspiration is applicable to all types of photography. You could be interested in still life, landscapes, architecture, or any other kinds of photography!

Record what you see

Take out your sketchbook and record those thoughts. Draw a sketch of the pose or the composition. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate or detailed sketch. Just a thumbnail to serve as an aide-memoire in the future when you’re planning shoots.

If it was the concept or the colors that caught your eye then make a note of them. Write down the things that you particularly liked about it. Perhaps pink roses against a blue background seemed particular striking for you. Or maybe a bright blue gown gave you ideas for something in the future.

Image: These six thumbnail sketches were done at the Tate Modern in London to record down quick idea...

These six thumbnail sketches were done at the Tate Modern in London to record down quick ideas of pose and composition.

It might not even be important to you to record the name of the artwork or the artist. If it’s just a pose you like, then who cares who originally painted the picture?

This approach is nothing new in the art world. The eighteenth-century British painter, Sir Joshua Reynolds, allegedly had a book where he would sketch down poses that other painters had used. When you commissioned him to paint your portrait, you could pick your pose from the book!

When you come to create new photographs, go back and look at your sketchbook. Pull together your ideas from these notes, and you’ll soon find yourself with some interesting inspiration for your photography that doesn’t rely heavily on a single source.

Taking inspiration from single works of art

If there’s a particular artwork that you love then start to analyze that piece and see what it really is that you love about it. You might surprise yourself.


Researching Van Gogh’s paintings of sunflowers revealed themes of hope and gratitude as well as life and death. I created my own interpretation which I wrote about here.

I always start with a blank page in my notebook, where I sketch out the pose or composition of the work of art. Then I identify different elements. Perhaps the colors that seem particularly strong, the mood of the image, or the concept. There might be a key prop or costume piece that I like, and I’ll note that down too.

Try doing the same and then use that information, rather than the original artwork, to shape the photoshoot you have planned. You’ll almost certainly find that your ideas take on a life of their own that is quite different from the original piece of inspiration.

Taking inspiration from a whole exhibition

It can be an interesting creative exercise to take inspiration from a whole exhibition rather than a single artwork. And it often results in the creation of some very different photographs that don’t resemble the exhibition at all!

See the exhibition and, again, take out your notebook or sketchbook. Write down the themes of the exhibition that you can identify. Look around and see if you can find any compositions, styles, or techniques that reoccur in the work of the artist and make sketches or notes about those.

Image: This image was created on a visit to Monet’s home in Giverny in France where he painted...

This image was created on a visit to Monet’s home in Giverny in France where he painted. The day before I had seen the incredible display of his impressionist water lilies paintings at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.

Don’t be afraid to put your notes to one side for a while. I often wait for weeks or even months before creating an image inspired by the art I have seen.

Sometimes it can be good to wait a while – you’ll be using the concepts and ideas as a starting point for your own work rather than just copying what you have seen. A break can help you to interpret the themes of the exhibition in your own way.

Venture outside your comfort zone

Be bold and try something new! Experiment with taking inspiration from different genres of art. Use the process of creating new photographs to motivate you to visit the kinds of galleries and exhibitions that you might not have visited before.

But most of all, try and interpret the artworks and exhibitions that you see into something original. Focus on bringing a part of yourself to the work that you create, no matter where your inspiration comes from, and you’ll be well on the path to originality.

How to Use an Art Gallery Visit to Inspire Your Photography

And while you’re there, don’t forget to take some photographs of the gallery itself and the people around you! There’s no reason why you can’t be finding inspiration for future image-making while also practicing your street photography.

The post How to Use an Art Gallery Visit to Inspire Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Are Photography Competitions Good for Your Soul?

The post Are Photography Competitions Good for Your Soul? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.


Are photography competitions good for your soul? The idea of diving headfirst into the promising ocean of photographic competitions is one that can be appealing. Imagine yourself surrounded by admirers – fame, and accolades aplenty for your work. The thought is pretty appealing, isn’t it?


But for most of us, that cool blue water of success turns out to be little more than a dream. Most competitions for most photographers and artists end with little more than a rejection letter, or a place on the shortlist if you’re very lucky.

What is there to gain?

Well, to be quite frank, there’s an awful lot to gain from entering your photography work into competitions. And pretty much all competitions will help you grow and improve as a photographer if you put some thought into the images you’re selecting.

Image: Internet competitions can be a good way of working out which are your better images.

Internet competitions can be a good way of working out which are your better images.

You can use competitions for different purposes. For instance, local club competitions or some of the online competition sites can be good for working out which variations of images appeal to people more. If you’re a little stuck with an image, then entering a local club competition might help you see some of the flaws in your shot.

Prizes, notoriety, or self-improvement?

At the top of the scale, there are huge cash awards and even residencies to win through photographic competitions. Of course, you can’t just make a living by winning competitions with your photos, but the kind of cash prizes that some competitions award will certainly pay a good chunk of your living expenses for a while!


But for most of us, what we gain is a wider audience and a better sense of our work. And these things are both important to photographers in their own way.

Having an audience isn’t just important for pros, it can open all kinds of doors for amateurs too. Plus, as much as we sometimes loathe to admit it – nice comments and ‘likes’ can go a long way to making us feel good about our work.

The process of selecting images to enter into a competition can be extremely powerful for your work. Trying to narrow all the photos you’ve taken into just a small handful that fit a brief is a difficult process. But this process should tell you something about yourself and your work, and perhaps even push your future work in a particular direction.

Entering competitions can be a great learning experience.

Protecting your mental health

We don’t always win competitions. Of course, it would be impossible for everyone to win every competition that they entered. Not placing in shortlists time and time again can be tough on our mental health.

Are Photography Competitions Good for Your Soul?

You must make sure you’re entering competitions for good reasons, and not those that end up lowering your mood when you face rejection. Finding these reasons can be difficult even for seasoned photographers.

So how can you change bad reasons to good?

Think about why you’re entering competitions

Every now and then I like to reassess where I am with my competition goals to make sure I’m on track, and I invite you to do the same right now. Take a notepad and a pen and spend no more than five minutes jotting down the reasons that you might want to enter competitions.

Once you’ve taken some time to make that list, grab a coffee and review it. Take particular note of reasons that relate to your self-esteem. They could be reasons such as “I want to win competitions to prove I’m not a bad photographer,” or “I want to win competitions to show that time spent on my hobby is worthwhile.”

By framing your ambitions in this way, you’re dangerously close to resting your photographing (and personal) self-esteem on the result of the competition. Screw up the competition, and your photographic self-esteem drops. Photography should be pleasurable and fun to participate in, and competitions should support that.

Setting better goals

Instead, try to focus on goals that aren’t tied to your self-esteem. Hone in on more positive reasons to enter competitions such as “I want to enter competitions to help me develop my photographic voice” or “I want to enter competitions to encourage me to shoot a wider variety of subjects.”


These goals are not only much more achievable, but we don’t face the same kind of mood drop if we end up not winning. We have met our goal because our goal was simply to refine our work or shoot more variety. Anything additional, like placing on a shortlist, is a bonus.

Don’t forget to be kind to yourself

It’s important when entering competitions to be kind to yourself. Winning a competition can be a glorious feeling, but allow yourself to fail too. Failing is a very human trait, and it’s not something you will be able to escape.

Have compassion for yourself when the lows happen. Treat yourself to something you enjoy photographically and then go back out and get those goals on track.

Ultimately, you mustn’t allow competitions to have power over you. If the results of competitions become tied to the worth of your photography, then you’re on a rocky path that could end up with you falling out of love with photography. And you wouldn’t be here on this site if you didn’t love taking pictures.

Finding competitions to enter

If you start building your network of photographers who also enter competitions, you’ll start hearing about opportunities via word of mouth. But that’s not the only way to find new places to enter your photographs.

Are Photography Competitions Good for Your Soul?

I use a service by Google called Alerts to keep up to date with what competitions are opening for entries. All you need is a Google account, and you can set the service up to send you regular alerts every time it picks up new content using the keywords you define.

These alerts have led me to hear about some interesting photography competitions that I wouldn’t have otherwise found.

So are photography competitions good for your soul?

In my opinion, they certainly can be. I feel that they help me develop my practice as a photographer, allow me to experiment freely, and allow me to be judged amongst my peers. Those three things are very important to me.

Competitions can also be a great chance to meet new photographers and discover new work. Going to your local camera club, or even the exhibition from a larger competition can be both productive and exciting!

But you must take steps to understand why you want to enter competitions with your photography and if you’re entering for good reasons. When stepping into the competitive photography arena, you first of all need to take steps to protect your mental health and ensure you’re not putting yourself at risk.

Do you think photography competitions good for your soul? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

The post Are Photography Competitions Good for Your Soul? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

How to Use Photoshop Blending Modes for Fine Art Portraiture

The post How to Use Photoshop Blending Modes for Fine Art Portraiture appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.


Layering images experimentally in photoshop can be an exciting way to bring a fine art feel to your photography. It is spontaneous and unpredictable, with different outcomes each time.

The layering technique I talk about in this article is a way you can explore and get inspired by the work of Victorian art photographers like Julia Margaret Cameron. They would have used long exposures because of the limitation of their cameras, which added a dream-like quality to their images.

Instead of long exposures, I have used multiple images shot of the same subject, layering them and using Photoshop blending modes. It gives a different kind of ethereal feeling to the images which you can use on any subject, not just portraits.

Start with a portrait

Your portrait doesn’t have to be sophisticated, but it should be able to be repeated over a dozen shots or so. I opted for simple natural window light, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t use flash instead.


The image I found worked best was one with strong colors and features with a simple background. I opted to take inspiration from Julia Margaret Cameron’s photography by using simple historical clothes, and an instantly recognizable prop.

You want to try to end up with a dozen or so slightly different images of your subject. Take far more images than you need so that you have lots of choices when it comes to selecting images for your layering effect.

Between each shot, ask your subject to move just a small amount – perhaps their head or their hands, but just a fraction. Try to avoid any dramatic pose changes.

Layering the images in Photoshop

When it comes to selecting images and editing them, there are many different software packages and options. I’m going to talk about how I use Lightroom Classic and Photoshop to achieve this effect. Even within these two software packages, there are other ways you can accomplish the same effect. As long as you end up with a photograph that you love, then you haven’t done anything wrong!

I start by importing my images into Lightroom Classic and then selecting the ten or so images that will make up the layers of my final image. At this point, I try to choose a ‘base’ image that will be at the bottom of the layer stack in Photoshop and will show through the strongest. Generally, this is my favorite image out of the set.

How to Use Photoshop Blending Modes for Fine Art Portraiture

When you’ve got your images selected in Lightroom Classic in the Develop module, open the ‘Photo’ menu and select ‘Open as Layers in Photoshop.’

This will save you having to manually stack all of the images together. You’ll end up with a single file open in Photoshop with all of your selected images placed on layers.

How to Use Photoshop Blending Modes for Fine Art Portraiture

The next stage is to place your ‘hero’ image (the one that you want to show through the most) at the bottom of the layer stack by dragging and dropping it. Then select all the layers above and reduce their opacity.

Playing with Photoshop Blending Modes

This is when it starts to get interesting. Playing with the different photoshop blending modes for the layers will give you all kinds of different results. Dark images will suit different blending modes to lighter images. You can check out a comprehensive guide to photoshop blending modes here!

You’ll want to turn down the opacity of the layers quite far so that the original ‘hero’ image shows though. The other layers should then become more of a fuzzy halo rather than a focal point for the shot.


Once you’ve found a blending mode and opacity that looks good, you can start to fine-tune the image.

Begin by identifying parts of the images that don’t really work, and work out which layer they’re on. Then create layer masks and use a black paintbrush to gently fade those unwanted parts away.

I decided to remove almost all of the layers from the face of my subject since it was a portrait, and I wanted to be able to see her clearly. I also took away some distracting echos of hands, which I felt made the final image stronger. Since you’re working using layer masks, you can always undo any of your choices at this stage – just simply paint over the bits you want to see again on the layer mask with a white paintbrush!

How to Use Photoshop Blending Modes for Fine Art Portraiture

As you can see from my layer masks, they don’t have to be neat. Just use a fairly large brush with soft edges and a low opacity and you won’t be able to see the brushstrokes of your mask in the final image.

Finishing your image

Once you’re happy with the basic image you’ve achieved through layering, I’d suggest saving a copy of your work. Then you can experiment further with different techniques.


Once I’d saved my image in Photoshop, I closed it and went back to Lightroom Classic to work on the shot further. Here, I simply changed the toning of the image slightly with a preset and applied some sharpening to key areas of the picture.

The result was a warmth that always makes me think of Old Masters paintings in galleries. Together with the effect of the layers, it creates a rather painterly fine art image.


But, of course, there’s absolutely no harm in processing the same image in a different way. This is one of the reasons I love Lightroom Classic – you can create virtual copies of a single shot and work on them all differently!


This variation I processed in Nik Analog Efex Pro 2, which you can use straight from the Lightroom Classic interface in the same way that you can take photos to Photoshop. The software itself is very similar to Lightroom Classic with its adjustment panels on each side but instead specializes in replicating old film effects.

It is a great way to create an image that pays homage to the great Victorian art photographers.

You could get a similar effect by layering wet plate textures and dust and scratch layers in Photoshop before adding a black and white conversion.

There are many ways to get all these different effects – please try some and post your results in the comments. I’d love to see what you did with this technique and how you achieved it!

The post How to Use Photoshop Blending Modes for Fine Art Portraiture appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

10 Photographic Exercises to Kickstart your Creativity

The post 10 Photographic Exercises to Kickstart your Creativity appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

We’ve all had those days, weeks, or months where we’ve felt photographically stuck in a rut. There could be many reasons for feeling like you just can’t shoot anything worthwhile and it often looks like there’s no way out. But simple creative photographic exercises might just be the thing that gets you back out shooting.

With that in mind, here are some of my favorite creative photographic exercises for those moments when I’m just not feeling good about my photography work. They’re adaptable for most subjects too, so shoot what suits you!

Of course, if you wanted to challenge yourself with a new kind of photography or different subjects, they might come in handy for that too.

Set your camera to black and white

10 Photographic Exercises to Kickstart your Creativity

Most digital cameras will have the option to shoot in black and white. Shooting black and white, and viewing your shots that way on the back of the camera, will force you to see images in a different way.

When you shoot in black and white you see everything without the distractions of color. That means you can focus on composition, areas of light and dark, and the contrasts between different areas.

It’s a whole new way of seeing the world around you!

Shoot with a single focal length

I’ve always been a huge advocate for photographers using prime lenses wherever possible. Not only are they generally better quality than a similarly priced zoom lens, but they often have a faster aperture too! Having a couple of primes can really round out your photographic toolbox.


Shooting with a single focal length means that you have to work a little bit harder to find a great composition. That, in turn, will make you see things a bit differently. And if you need to zoom, then you’ll have to use your feet – no shortcuts here I’m afraid!

If you don’t have a prime lens, then pick a focal length on your zoom and stick to it. Check it after every few shots to make sure it hasn’t moved.

And now do the same, but with aperture

Picking an aperture, and experimenting with the kind of images it will produce, can be a good way to start thinking about more advanced composition. Using depth of field as a compositional tool can be a powerful way of taking your photos to the next level.

If you pick a very wide aperture to work with, you’ll want to think about how you can make the best use of features like negative space in your images. You’ll want to look for interesting subjects that look good isolated away from their background.

However, if you choose a very narrow aperture, you won’t be able to isolate a subject as easily. You’ll be looking for whole compositions that work from edge to edge without anything being blurred out. You’ll need to look for scenes that don’t have distractions in the background – such as bright blobs of color or unsightly objects.

And shutter speed!

Limiting your shutter speed can be a good way of experimenting with different kinds of movement-related effects. Long or short, both offer different challenges.

If you pick a short shutter speed, try to find movement that you can capture. A skateboarder in mid-air perhaps, or a dog leaping to catch a ball. Freezing motion is tricky and requires practice. It also needs some planning; you may have to pre-focus and predict your subject’s movement.


On the other hand, a long shutter speed can lead to experiments that show movement. You could practice panning, light trail photography, or intentional camera movement.

Limit the number of shots you take

Think back to the days of film (or imagine it if you’re not old enough to remember). Film was costly, and so was developing! If you were shooting medium format, you had just twelve images per roll of film, and one of them really had to be a keeper.

I’m not saying you have to limit yourself to just twelve photos, but try a few hours of shooting where you really think about each shot you’re taking. Ask yourself why you’re taking it and make sure it’s the best it can be.

Before you press the shutter button, check all the edges of the frame, be sure of your composition, and make sure it’s the right moment to make your subject look their best. You might be surprised at how much your photography improves when you take this much care over every shot!

Now shoot a thousand images in a day

Sometimes you just need to recognize that practice makes perfect. And for some subjects, that means shooting hundreds or even thousands of images.

Take a day out to practice your technical skills, and make sure you take enough images that the technique becomes second nature. The better you know your way around your camera, the easier it will be to nail the shot next time inspiration does strike.

Shoot from the hip

Street photography is usually about being unseen and blending into the background. If your subject has noticed you taking pictures, it’s often too late to get the shot you initially saw.

Many street photographers like to ‘shoot from the hip’ to remain unnoticed. You’ll want to use a narrow aperture to get a large depth of field and prefocus your camera to where you think your subjects will be.

10 Photographic Exercises to Kickstart your Creativity

Then…go for it! Carry your camera in your hand (don’t forget a wrist strap), and whenever you see anything you like the look of, just point and shoot. You’re going to have a pretty low success rate, at least at first, but over time you’ll learn to use your camera to capture what your eyes see without looking through the viewfinder.

Limit yourself to available light

No flashes, no studio lights, no reflectors, no bounce cards. Just get out there and watch how the natural light falls on your subject. Move yourself or your subject around to find the most pleasing light and then capture that.

For an additional exercise, try to capture several different moods simply by moving your subject into different kinds of light. You should start to discover that our brain interprets different kinds of light in different ways. You can use this knowledge to start conveying more feelings and emotion in the future, which will improve your storytelling ability.

Shoot ten photos without moving your feet

Finding a great shot is often harder than actually taking it! To challenge yourself to see shots that you’d otherwise miss, plant your feet in one place and hunt out ten shots without moving.


Make it easier for yourself by using a zoom lens. But if you want to make it even more of a challenge, start limiting your focal length, aperture, or shutter speed. The more rules you give yourself the harder you’ll have to work creatively.

You’ll soon start to consider subjects and compositions that you’ve never thought of before as you try hard to find shots number nine and ten!

Reprocess your old images

If all that fails and you can’t face going out and about with your camera then take a look back through your archives. You’ve almost certainly improved in skill since you processed your old shots, and you may have changed your taste too.

Revising your old work and reprocessing it gives you a chance to practice your post-processing skills. Pick something you want to learn and read some articles or watch a video on it. Then practice what you just learned on images from your archive.

You might end up discovering some old images that you missed at the time. Whenever I dive back into my archive, I usually end up finding something new for my portfolio!

10 Photographic Exercises to Kickstart your Creativity

Hopefully, these creative photographic exercises will give you a starting point when you’re not sure what to shoot. Just remember, creative ruts aren’t forever! You have to come out the other side sometime!

Do you have any other photographic exercises you’d like to share? Please do so in the comments!



The post 10 Photographic Exercises to Kickstart your Creativity appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

How to Use a Pinhole Body Cap for Awesome, Creative Photography

The post How to Use a Pinhole Body Cap for Awesome, Creative Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Making a pinhole body cap is a rite of passage on any digital photographer’s journey. It’s a great way to get some of the unpredictability of analog photography without spending loads money on film or having to wait for the results to come back from a lab.

pinhole body camera image

But how do you make a pinhole body cap? And what do you shoot once you’ve made your pinhole body cap?

That’s what you’ll discover in this article.

What is a pinhole body cap and how do you make one?

First things first:

Let’s talk about pinhole body caps and how you make one. For that, you need to know what a pinhole camera is.

A pinhole camera is essentially a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. Light passes through the hole and projects an image on the opposite side of the box. It’s a tiny camera obscura – an optical phenomenon that has been known and used for hundreds of years. If you put photographic film or paper inside the box, you can record the image that the camera obscura produces!

So by modifying a camera body cap, you’re essentially creating a digital version of the camera obscura.

It’s very easy to do! You just need to buy a cheap body cap for your camera (don’t worry about it being on-brand and don’t destroy the one that came with your camera) and put a hole in the middle of it.

drilling into a camera body cap

I use a tiny drill bit (and a holder meant for model-making) to put the smallest hole I can create in the center of the body cap. Then I take a small piece of black construction paper and put a hole in it with just the very tip of a skinny sewing needle.

Next, tape the construction paper into place on top of the hole you’ve just drilled, lining up the two holes as carefully as possible.

Finally, place the body cap directly onto the camera body and you should be ready to go!

(Note: On some digital cameras, you may need to use a setting that allows you to shoot without a lens attached. If you’re struggling to find this, check your camera manual.)

What’s so special about pinhole shooting?

There are a few great features of pinhole camera photography that you might want to think about as you plan what to shoot. Using a pinhole body cap is completely different than shooting with a traditional lens.

creative pinhole shot of shapes

Concentrating on shape and texture can create striking pinhole body cap images.

Almost infinite focus

The first thing to note is that pinhole cameras have an incredibly large depth of field. You can’t focus a pinhole body cap, but that’s okay. You don’t need to. You’ll get images that are sharp throughout.

(However, this means you’ll lose any shallow depth of field or bokeh effects.)

Instead of blurring out any inconvenient backgrounds, you need to work with your surroundings in mind when you compose images.

No distortion

If you’re using a wide-angle pinhole body cap (the focal length of your pinhole body cap is the distance from the pinhole to the sensor), then there will be no lens distortion. When you are shooting architecture, the walls of the building will appear completely straight rather than curved as they would with many wide-angle lenses.

building against sky

Using hard light to create contrast can be a way to make images appear sharper.

It is possible to increase the focal length of your pinhole body cap by using extension tubes and the like (or a cardboard toilet roll with the inside painted black).

Test out different focal lengths and see what you can achieve!

Long exposure times

The downside of all that depth of field is that you’ll generally need a pretty long exposure time for most shots. This does mean that you can work with interesting blur effects. If you’re shooting urban spaces you can also blur out most of the people in the image, too.

On the other hand, you generally need to take a tripod with you when you go out shooting with your pinhole body cap. The exposures will probably be too long to handhold your camera.

blurry portrait pinhole body cap camera

Asking your subject to move while photographing them can produce interesting effects.

It can be interesting to explore either intentional camera movement effects or long exposures on moving subjects with a pinhole body cap. I particularly enjoy using a pinhole body cap to shoot portraits of people.

Try looking at the portrait work of Victorian photographers who used wet plates, or the more modern long exposure portraits (with a large format camera) by Sally Mann. These can provide some inspiration for your pinhole photography of people.

Help! All my images are soft!

The sharpness of a pinhole image depends largely on the size and accuracy of the pinhole you create when building your pinhole body cap. Unsurprisingly, putting a hole in a piece of construction paper is a pretty inaccurate way to build photographic equipment.

The smaller the pinhole, the more accurate the image will be. And the neater the edges of the pinhole, the more perfect the circle around your image will be.

comparison of sharp portrait and pinhole portrait

These two images are a direct comparison of a 35mm lens on a Fujifilm body (about a 50mm equivalent) and a pinhole body cap on the same body. The camera wasn’t moved between shots, and both images were cropped the same.

Ultimately, you’re going to need to embrace the heavy imperfections of this style when you plan what you’re going to shoot. Images will be in focus, but they will be very soft – and that’s not something you can correct afterward! If you really enjoy digital pinhole photography then you may want to explore some of the laser cut pinholes that are available on the market. They are very tiny, accurate circles and will create a more technically perfect image.

Of course, the smaller the pinhole, the longer the exposure you’ll need. This is because less light is hitting the sensor, so everything is a trade-off. With extremely tiny pinholes you can be looking at exposures of many minutes rather than a few seconds.

Seeing the world differently

I find that using a pinhole body cap forces me to approach photography differently. Because of the soft quality of the images and the large depth of field, I tend to focus on things like color and shape rather than the subject matter itself. It’s a great way to think about different kinds of composition rules.

tree in pinhole shot

If you end up with a pinhole that isn’t quite circular (like most of mine), that can also be a good thing to experiment with. Finding objects that fit inside the pinhole shape you’ve made can create some really unusual images.

What are you waiting for?

Time to get out and shoot! One of the best ways to improve your pinhole body cap photography is simply to head out and start capturing a ton of images. You need to learn how the things around you will translate into pinhole images. It’s only then that you’ll start to see the possibilities for pinhole photography.

Don’t be discouraged at first. It takes time to hit your stride with this style of photography. You may need to let go of some ingrained inhibitions and embrace the imperfections and flaws instead of aiming for technical excellence.

But eventually, you’ll be capturing some stunning photos!

We’d love to see your pinhole images! Share with us in the comments section.


The post How to Use a Pinhole Body Cap for Awesome, Creative Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

How to Shoot a Self Portrait to Support your Brand Identity

The post How to Shoot a Self Portrait to Support your Brand Identity appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Personal branding has become more and more important over the last few years. As photographers, we often carefully curate the image that we present to the world, even as amateurs. Our brand and image are usually closely linked to the kind of photographs we shoot.

Photographers will often carefully curate the look of their website. They’ll spend hours contemplating the images and text that they use to express their photographic hopes and dreams. They want their websites and online portfolios to give people an insight into their creative working process and the kind of photos that they intend to take.


I often start with natural light when shooting self-portraits. It’s how I prefer to shoot most of the time!

And yet, I often look at the ‘about me’ page on a photographers website, portfolio page, or social media, and front and center is a photograph of them taken by someone else. The image on your “about me” page, or your portfolio profile picture, is a great piece of marketing real estate. You can use this space to express yourself and tell a story. So why let someone else take that photo?

So what’s the solution? Shoot a self portrait! Put your own work in that valuable space, and express yourself and your photographic style clearly and coherently – even on your “about me” page.

What is a brand identity?

Now more than ever, photographers are the face of their brand. Almost everywhere you go on the internet, you’ll have the option to upload an ‘avatar’ image that represents you in digital format. This avatar image is a space to tell the world something about you and your photography.

A brand identity is the way you present your work to the world. It’s the visual and textual elements that differentiate you from other people in the minds of your audience. Since photographers are usually the main (and often only) person in the creative process when it comes to image-making, they are often the embodiment of their brand.

Image: A single large beauty dish for this portrait reflects one of my usual lighting styles.

A single large beauty dish for this portrait reflects one of my usual lighting styles.

Generally, for a photographer, their brand identity will be heavily tied up with their style in which they usually work. A photographer who creates beautiful fine art portraits inspired by the Old Masters may have a brand identity that embodies timelessness, heritage, and classical values. On the other hand, someone creating cutting edge contemporary portraits may embody qualities such as innovation, diversity, and courage.

The key is to get your values into the images you’re shooting. You’ll probably find it happens naturally once you’ve been shooting a while and have developed a style. However, creating a self-portrait for your “about me” page and avatars is a good time to brainstorm what your work is about. The challenge is to see if you can capture these ideas in a single shot.

Got a fear of shooting self-portraits?

Self-portraits are hard. They’re hard technically, creatively, and emotionally. It’s no surprise really that photographers often shy away from self-portraiture. Portraits can be hard enough to get right when you’re shooting other people, let alone when you’re photographing yourself!


Experimental tricks like this shallow depth of field combined with fairy lights can add an artistic side to a self-portrait while covering up any perceived flaws in the way we look.

That aside, a self-portrait or two is also a great way to improve your skills, try new things, and make sure that the entirety of your personal branding works together coherently. You are likely to be your most patient subject, and if you set aside a day to create your self-portrait then you have time to get it exactly right – even if you’re trying something new.

Go light on the retouching. When you’re working on a self-portrait in post-processing, it’s easy to be super-critical of everything you don’t like about yourself. Stick to your usual workflow and only retouch as much as you normally would.

Start simple

If all else fails, start like you would any other portrait. If you’d usually start with a simple two-light headshot in your studio, then give that a go first. Review your images and then make adjustments. Once you’ve found a shot that works then try something a bit different. You might find a completely new direction for your work!

Image: This self-portrait was shot with natural light against a grey paper background. Often simple...

This self-portrait was shot with natural light against a grey paper background. Often simple pictures can be really effective!

It’s easy to think about self-portraits in the context of a studio, but don’t limit yourself! Take your camera outside into natural light if that’s a place you enjoy taking portraits usually. You can even buy stands to hold reflectors so that you can take advantage of all the usual light modifiers that you’d use.

But if you’re going out on location to shoot self-portraits, consider taking someone with you. It’s easy to get distracted while shooting self-portraits out and about. Having an extra pair of eyes can help protect you and your equipment. You can also get your assistant to hold the reflector or a flashgun too!

And if you want to really show off what you do, consider an environmental portrait in your own studio and surrounded by your tools of the photographic trade.

Think about the context

Where is your self-portrait going to be placed? Will it be on your own website or will it be on social media?

In traditional media, you usually want to have the subject facing the viewer or looking towards the center of the book or magazine. There’s a reason for this. It helps direct the readers focus back to the content rather than off the edge of the page into the wider world. It’s a simple trick to help keep the readers’ attention where you want it.

Image: The “about me” page on my portfolio website showing my self-portrait in relation...

The “about me” page on my portfolio website showing my self-portrait in relation to the text block.

You can apply this to your website too. Think about the placement of your self-portrait on the page of your website. Does it fit better on the left or the right of the “about me” text? When you’re working out your poses, keep this in mind and make sure you’re either looking straight ahead or towards the text block.

It’s possible to break the rules, of course, but make sure you shoot both options if you’re going to be adventurous!

What about the practicalities of self-portraits?

If your camera connects to a phone app that can assist with exposure and focusing, then make sure you take full advantage of that. Self-portraits used to be a lengthy process that involved sitting my mannequin on a chair in my studio to get the focus and lighting right.

Now I can see everything in real-time, including exposure and focus adjustments, using the Fujifilm Cam Remote app that connects to my camera.

Image: Using the Fujifilm Cam Remote app to set up the lighting and exposure, and the resulting self...

Using the Fujifilm Cam Remote app to set up the lighting and exposure, and the resulting self-portrait a few minutes later. (Lighting was a single large beauty dish).

If you don’t have a camera that connects to your phone, get yourself a remote trigger and consider shooting tethered to a laptop so that you can see the images as you trigger the camera. You can look at software such as Lightroom or Capture One Pro for tethering. That way you can make small adjustments to your pose and settings as you go along to make sure that you really nail everything and create your best work.

Using a good tripod will also save you some frustration when you’re shooting portraits. Balancing the camera on a stack of books can work (believe me, I’ve done it before), but a tripod will help you compose a shot more effectively. Don’t forget to try unusual compositions too. Raising the camera up above your eye level can be very flattering while shooting from down low can create a powerful pose.


A profile self-portrait recalls the kinds of images that you often see historically on coins and medals. Don’t be afraid to experiment with unconventional poses when photographing yourself.

Keep your standards high

And lastly, be as thorough and rigorous with your standards as you would when shooting a portrait of anyone else.

Make the effort to do your hair, press your clothes, and get a great expression. Just because it’s a self-portrait it doesn’t mean it’s an excuse to be lazy and “fix it in post.”

I’d love to see how you get on with shooting your self-portrait to support your brand and expressing your values through them. Drop a comment below with the results, and don’t forget to update your avatar with your new portrait!



The post How to Shoot a Self Portrait to Support your Brand Identity appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

How to Shoot Abstract Flower Photography using Close-Up Filters

The post How to Shoot Abstract Flower Photography using Close-Up Filters appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Shooting flowers is a passion for many photographers. Time spent out in the garden with your camera can become almost a form of meditative practice as you compose images surrounded by nature. It’s no wonder that so many photographers long to shoot beautiful flower images. But shooting close-up images of flowers can be an expensive business. Many tutorials will tell you that you need specialist macro lenses, proprietary macro extension tubes, or converters to reverse a lens that you already own. However, using close-up filters are a great alternative.


Close-up filters are an option for macro photography that rarely makes it into the tutorial list. Many will tell you that they degrade the final image too much; they cause distortion and focus issues. However, in this article, I’m going to make the case that these filters can enable you to think in a more abstract way as you embrace their unique and imperfect properties!

What are close-up filters?

Close-up filters can also be called close-up lenses or macro filters. They are essentially a magnifying glass that screws into the filter thread on the front of your lens.


When you buy a set of close-up filters, you need to know what lens you’re going to use them on. This is because you buy them according to the filter size of that lens. I suggest picking either a standard zoom or a prime lens in the 50mm to 100mm range and purchasing your filters for the thread size of that particular lens.

Close-up filters differ to budget extension tubes in one key way – you don’t lose electronic control of your lens. That means the autofocus will (just about) still work, and the aperture control in your camera settings will still work. Because budget extension tubes do not carry an electronic signal between your camera and your lens, you have to use it manually. For that reason I prefer close up filters – it makes changing your settings on the fly much easier!


The image on the left was shot with just the Fujifilm 35mm f1.4 lens. The image on the right had a +10 close-up filter screwed onto the front of the lens.

The last thing to know about close up filters is that they have different magnification strengths – just like buying a magnifying glass. The higher the number, the more you will magnify your subject and the closer you can get. All of the images in this article have been shot using a +10 close-up filter on a Fujifilm 35mm f1.4 lens (roughly equivalent to a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera).

Why shoot abstract photos?

Abstract photos can really help to free you up from the common “rules” of photography. You can start to think outside of the box without wondering if an image is sharp enough all over, or if the colors are perfectly rendered.

How to Shoot Abstract Flower Photography using Close-Up Filters

That’s not to say that abstract photography is a way to “save” a bad photograph. As much thought and consideration should go into an abstract as it would a more traditional image.

Once you’ve learned to let go of the rules you might find that expressing yourself through color, shape, and texture can be relaxing. Experimenting with abstract photography can bring a whole new dimension to your work. It can even make you think about other kinds of photography differently. You’ll be much more careful when placing colors and lines in images in the future if you spend some time creating abstract compositions.

Tips for photographing flowers

Once you’ve got your close-up filter screwed to the front of your lens, head outside for a play. You won’t need a tripod at first – bump up your ISO and try handholding some close-up shots on a day with bright but overcast light (or shoot in the shade, of course).

Get the shot in focus

I recommend turning your autofocus off. We’re going to be working with some really shallow depth of field and that means your camera will often lock the focus on to something you don’t want it to.

How to Shoot Abstract Flower Photography using Close-Up Filters

Instead, you can use your body to move the subject in and out of focus. Carefully lean a fraction closer or further away, and you’ll see different parts of the images go in and out of focus. It takes some practice to get the hang of, but after a while, it’ll feel really natural.

If you’re a little unsteady and struggle to get the right part of the image in focus, try shooting a burst of three or five images and select the best one later. You can also use a tripod if you want to (if it is a very still day with no wind). However, I find that a tripod can often hinder creativity when you’re trying to think fast and look for new and fascinating angles and compositions.

Select an aperture

The aperture setting that you choose can change the whole feeling of an image. When you’re working this close to a subject, the depth of field can be as thin as a few millimeters.


By using a very shallow depth of field, you can draw attention to just one part of a scene and throw the background and foreground completely out of focus. However, when shooting close up, it does mean that the whole flower or object might not be all in focus. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing – just picking a small part of the flower to be in focus can be a stylistic choice.

What can be interesting though is the way that the close-up filters interact with a wide-open lens. You begin to get these hazy, dreamy images that are somewhat unpredictable. It’s almost like a Lensbaby Velvet in some respects – or possibly a bit like smearing vaseline on your lens!

Composition is key

Since abstract photography often takes a subject and then makes it unrecognizable, all you have left is the composition and colors. That means you need to start thinking about how to mix shape, lines, form, textures, and colors to express emotions or tell stories. You cannot rely on recognizable and familiar objects anymore.

There are many compositional rules out there to study and put into practice. I have always found it helpful to spend as much time as possible looking at other peoples art (both in galleries and online) and trying to understand what makes a composition pleasing. You don’t have to know all of the rules of composition by name. But having a sense of how the position of elements in the frame and the color wheel work together to create interesting compositions can be a huge help when shooting abstracts.


If you are shooting digital, don’t be afraid to shoot multiple images of the same scene and resist subjects. Try placing the main focus on different parts of the image, (including blurry foreground elements), and seeing how different aperture settings look.

You can also think about editing your photographs afterward to change the colors in the image. A slight shift in color, some noise added, or a touch of contrast on the focal point can really change the mood of the shot.

So for a very small investment (certainly compared to the rest of your camera gear), you can open up a new world of artistic abstract photography by using close-up filters. Also, better than that, it can happen entirely in your front garden!

Let us know if you shoot any images inspired by this article – post the results in the comments below!



The post How to Shoot Abstract Flower Photography using Close-Up Filters appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Should You Purchase Lightroom Presets?

The post Should You Purchase Lightroom Presets? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

The discussion of using presets or not comes up time and time again on various photography groups and websites. Some people are for them and others are against. Just like camera brands, it seems there is no clear answer, and everyone believes that their way is correct! For or against, it’s undeniable that presets are here and they’re not going anywhere. Many people find them useful in their workflow and so they will keep using them. So, should you purchase Lightroom presets?

The case for buying presets

A quick search online will give you hundreds of places you can buy presets and they will all have varying quality. Before you make your purchase, be sure to read some reviews to see if others are happy with their purchase. Remember that your style of images will heavily affect the way presets look when applied, so expect some trial and error!

But why would you buy presets rather than make them yourself from scratch? Here are some reasons to help you decide if buying presets is for you.

It will save you time

There’s no doubt about it, buying presets will save you time in your workflow. You won’t have to spend time coming up with looks that you like. Instead, someone else has completed the initial hard work for you.


In reality, using presets in this way is no different from choosing what film stock and developer you’d like to use if you’re shooting analog. You’re using someone else’s color toning ideas to achieve the images you want to produce.

Being able to quickly apply lots of different looks to your photo can help you quickly make decisions about how it will look. And then you can set about refining it and doing the fun part of processing.

It gets you away from the computer

Not everyone loves the digital darkroom. During the summer, I’d rather be taking advantage of the good weather than sitting at my computer developing images. Having a set of presets available to me that someone else has created means each shot takes less time to process. That way, I’m spending more time doing the things I love.


I can share stylish images that I’m proud of within minutes of loading my images into Lightroom thanks to my preset library. That’s a big draw for me, and that’s why I love having a bank of presets ready for me to choose from.

You can borrow the best of other peoples ideas

Everybody sees the world differently. You might never have thought to put a pop of pink in the shadows or add just enough grain to make your black and white conversion look like it was shot on fast film.

By purchasing a library of presets, you can see how other people might have chosen to process your images. And that might give you a few ideas for a new direction that you want to head in. Purchasing Lightroom presets really can boost your creativity and help you see new possibilities for your images.


Some people would say this is ‘cheating’ somehow, but I think of it as gathering inspiration. It’s like an artist going to her friend’s studio, finding the most beautiful custom blue paint and then asking if she can have the recipe to use the color in her own work. The two artists won’t be producing the same artwork even if they use the same color paint!

Your photos will still have your own touch and your own style even if you use other peoples ideas to help you shoot or post-process your images.

Some people are just better at post-processing and color grading than you

Face it – you can’t be amazing at everything. Even the best photographers often employ other people to help create their vision. Buying presets is like a real cheap version of having your own digital tech assistant available for your shoots. If you have a vision of light and airy photos but your post-processing skills aren’t quite up to it, then presets can help you get there – just like a digital tech assistant would on a high-end shoot.

Over time, you can learn more about this side of photography. But you can start getting great results now by taking advantage of other peoples knowledge and creativity.

The case for making presets yourself

Of course, if you love working in the digital darkroom, then the idea of buying presets to save time or get ideas might seem completely alien to you. Moreover, if you like spending the time to make your own presets, then that’s great! You should absolutely continue to do what makes you happy.

There are other reasons too that you might want to make your own presets. The most obvious one is that presets available to purchase may not be exactly what you’re looking for. When you make your own, you can have exactly what you want rather than just getting close.

You might have other considerations too. For instance, some camera clubs do not allow you to enter images into competitions where you have used purchased presets in their post-processing. Or you may feel that ethically a picture cannot be truly called your own unless you created every single part of the image.

Perhaps try a combination?

Personally, I use a combination of both. I have a large library of presets that I’ve purchased. I use this library to quickly see what images could look like with different color grading applied to them.

When I’ve found a look that I love, I tweak it slightly to suit the mood of my images even more. If I think I’ll use the preset again, I then save my new custom preset in a folder with the others that I’ve tweaked to suit my style!


I like this way of working because I enjoy getting inspiration from other peoples presets, and then finishing the images off to achieve something that is genuinely my own.

What do you think about buying presets? Should you purchase Lightroom presets? Perhaps you have a library of your own that you’ve already purchased? Or do you prefer to make all of yours from scratch? Maybe you don’t use presets at all, instead preferring to start each time with a blank slate when it comes to post-processing images?



The post Should You Purchase Lightroom Presets? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Alternative Automotive Photography: Capturing the Details

The post Alternative Automotive Photography: Capturing the Details appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Cars and photography often seem to go hand in hand. Whether you’re a car owner with a camera or a photographer with a passion for the classics, the perfect automotive photo can often seem just out of reach.

Automotive photography can be both tricky and expensive. To get catalog-ready images of cars, the top commercial photographers often utilize huge specialist studios with large banks of powerful lights and massive pieces of equipment to block or reflect light. Each shot can take days to set up even with a team of assistants.

Realistically, most car enthusiasts don’t have this kind of space or equipment at their disposal. Instead, we seek out opportunities to photograph cars at racetracks or other gatherings. These events rarely offer “perfect” conditions to create flawless images of cars, so a bit of creative thinking is usually required!

The Rallye Monte Carlo Historique stops in Banbury every year so that enthusiasts can see these classic cars up close. But the backdrop is far from ideal for beautiful photos!

Car meets can often be busy affairs with cars parked close together, uninspiring backdrops, and lots of people milling around. Concentrating on the details is one way to get around some of these problems and still come away with shots that you love and can feel proud adding to a portfolio. Detail shots often do well on platforms like Instagram too where the small format allows close-up images to shine.

So with that in mind, here are some ideas for bagging great pictures of the cars you see on your travels if you can’t shoot them in a location of your choice.

Get up close… closer than you think!

By getting in close you eliminate many of the problems that would otherwise sneak into your picture; other cars in the background, or people in the corner of your shot. Focussing on just one small part of a car can remove all of those distractions.


Not having to take into consideration the background also frees you up to concentrate more on composition. No more worrying about if the backdrop will compliment the car, or what the sky is doing!

You can also use a shallow depth of field to blur out distracting elements in your photographs. Use just enough depth to highlight the detail that you’re photographing. Everything else will then melt away into the background, keeping your viewer looking just where you want them to.

Pick a theme

At some point over the years, I’ve picked up a habit of shooting the wing mirrors on cars. I don’t know which one was my first, but I soon started noticing the way that they were all different. Each mirror was only a small part of the car, but they pack a big punch when it comes to design! Now I can’t seem to walk past a classic car without taking a photograph of its mirrors!


By picking a theme, it will challenge you to go looking for shots that are different from what everyone else is shooting. Also, you’ll start to notice other details as you train your creativity. Before long, you will seek out creative and different images without even really having to think about it.

Shoot iconic details

Pick out just one detail to highlight and then try to take the perfect shot of just that part. Perhaps it’s a classic Cadillac fin or an elegant Rolls Royce grid that catches your eye. Whatever it is that you love most about a car, or is most iconic and well-known, use that as your starting point when you’re working out what pictures you want to take.


Cars are more than just machines that get us from A to B. The most iconic are beautiful and remarkable pieces of design that the original designer has spent hundreds of hours perfecting. Nothing on a great car is an accident; everything was designed to be exactly how you see it.

The good thing about iconic details is that they’re often instantly recognizable. It tells people what the photograph is of, even though it might be an abstracted close-up.

Portray the luxury

Beautiful cars are a luxury; there’s no debate to be had there. So challenge yourself to convey the luxury through your photographs.


Lifestyle photography with shallow depth of field, out of focus foregrounds, and toned colors are really in vogue right now for luxury brands. Now is the time to try this style out if you can get up close and personal with some top of the range machines!

Make sure that your focus is right on the nail if you’re attempting shots with a shallow depth of field. If you miss the focus even slightly, the shot won’t be worth keeping.

Stick to a neutral focal length

Extreme wide-angle photographs can look cool, there’s no doubt about it. And I know every car photographer has, at least once, got down at the front corner of a car with a wide-angle lens to try and make it look more imposing and dramatic.

But wide-angle focal lengths distort cars and change the carefully designed, and often iconic lines and features. Instead of grabbing the easy (and predictable) win when it comes to creating a dramatic image, try sticking to a neutral focal length and challenging yourself.

Keeping to a focal length like 50mm means shooting images that are much closer to how the human eye naturally sees the world. Using a focal length around 50mm means that you keep the cars much closer to the designer’s original vision when you photograph them.

This might mean that you have to work harder to look for different ways to produce impact with your photographs. However, it also means that you represent the cars in the way that they’re meant to be seen. It gives an element of authenticity to your images.

I’ve never been one for believing that photography is simply about recording the world around you exactly how it is. But when it comes to the design of cars, I’m pretty sure that the original designer knows more about how the car looks best than I do. So distorting it with wide-angle lenses is rarely high on my priority list!

Embrace reflections… and wear black

In ideal conditions, you’d be able to use black and white cards, and lights, to block and place reflections exactly where you want them on a car before you took a photograph. Realistically, though, you’re rarely going to get the opportunity to work with this kind of precision in the great outdoors.

Carry a 5-in-1 reflector in your kit by all means. Sometimes you just need to lift a shadow on a bit of paintwork or cut out a reflection in some chrome. But instead of trying to eliminate every reflection you dislike, try embracing them instead!

Reflections of the sky or foliage around you can make some interesting patterns when they reflect in the glass of a car. In the right conditions, with a well-polished car, they can even reflect in the bodywork. Use the reflections to add interest to your shots. They can focus the viewer’s attention exactly where you want them to look. Also, a well-placed reflection can blank out something messy that you don’t want to distract.

On that note, wear black when you go out with your camera to photograph cars! Too often have I ruined my own photographs by shooting the perfect image and then noticing afterward my own reflection while wearing a bright colored jacket. Wearing black won’t remove you from the image completely, but it will make you an awful lot less distracting when you do manage to capture yourself in a reflective surface.

Next time you head out to a car show to take some pictures, think smaller and capture the details for alternative automotive photography! And share them with us in the comments below.

Do you have any other tips you’d like to share?



The post Alternative Automotive Photography: Capturing the Details appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

The Best Photographers Make Time To Practice

The post The Best Photographers Make Time To Practice appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

The 10,000-hour rule is often quoted as the magic number of hours that you need to practice in order to master an activity. Now, I’m not saying that after 10,000 hours of practice you’ll definitely have mastered photography. But I do think it’s true that the more you practice, the better you will get!

The secret of practicing to improve your skills is to have a plan. You need to know what you’re practicing, you need to set goals, and you need to find a way to somehow measure your improvement.

Recently, I spent the day practicing with a new lens at Silverstone motor racing circuit. I just wanted to improve my panning to show speed and learn more about my equipment. I was reminded at the time that many photographers can find real joy in just practicing their craft and trying to improve. So with that in mind, here’s my guide on how to make a plan to make your practicing more productive!

Decide what to improve

It sounds obvious, but you need to start with something in mind that you’d like to improve. Wanting to improve your photography is too general. Try and narrow it down more. I wanted to improve my automotive photography and identified that shooting moving objects was a real weak spot in my technique.

Once you’ve narrowed it to something specific you can begin to research. Start here on Digital Photography School. There’s a handy search bar on every page to help you find articles that might be useful. Read those articles and make some notes on things to keep in mind when you’re next shooting. Start building your own instruction manual in your own words to take with you.

Plan your practice

When you’ve decided the things you want to improve, you need to start planning a subject, time, and a place to shoot. This could be as simple as photographing food in your kitchen, or as complicated as a week-long road trip. Put your plans in your diary and make a note of how long you’ve got to prepare. If you get organized, you’ll be far more likely to stick to your plan.

Make sure what you plan is something you find interesting too. Don’t plan for a day of photography (or even a few hours) that you’ll find boring and won’t enjoy. It’ll only put you off photography in the future.

Source the right equipment

If you need a piece of equipment that you don’t currently own, now is the time to decide how you’re going to get it. Hiring lenses can be a cheap way to try new options before buying (but borrowing from friends is even cheaper). Sometimes a piece of new equipment can be just what you need to kickstart your photography, but you need to practice and learn how to use it.

For some pieces of equipment, there are even DIY solutions. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try things out. It doesn’t matter if your shots aren’t perfect; this is an exercise in practicing, not perfection!

Take your notes with you

When you go out shooting to practice, make sure you take your notes with you. It doesn’t matter if they’re in a notebook or on your phone, but make sure you’ve got that research that you did while you were planning.

If you’re trying something new, then you may well have questions as you practice. Even if you’re an old hand at photography, it’s still good to refresh your knowledge before you start taking pictures.

Practice as much as you can, for as long as you can

The costs of film and developing don’t limit you in this digital age. This means you have the opportunity to shoot lots of images when you practice.

Digital storage is cheap, so take a couple of memory cards and keep shooting until you get it right.

Make the most of your time out practicing photography and shoot as much as you can. You never know which image you’ve taken will teach you something new. It could be the first, or it could be the last!

I like to make a day of it when I go out practicing, stubbornly shooting images long past everyone else has left, and my friends have got fed up. It feels like the more I practice, the more I learn, so I try to make the most of the opportunities I get to practice.

Don’t worry about perfection

The aim of practicing isn’t to get images for your portfolio or to take pictures to publish on social media or show your non-photographer friends. The aim is to improve your technique or your creativity.

Check your images as you shoot. The displays on the back of digital cameras are good enough to see if you’re on the right track.

You should be taking the opportunity to try new things and be experimental. Don’t just write off an idea that you’ve had because it won’t work – take the pictures and prove to yourself that it won’t work! You never know what you’ll learn from a failed experiment until you’ve got back home and reviewed the pictures.

Review your shots

Sometimes your practice will be over when you finish shooting. You’ll have learned enough about the technique that you don’t need to review the images.

However, while the experience is fresh in your mind, it’s worth sitting down at a piece of software such as Adobe Lightroom and reviewing the images in conjunction with the EXIF data to try and work out exactly what worked and why (and what didn’t work and why).

The Library module in Adobe Lightroom has the ability to view all the data from your images including shutter speed, ISO, aperture, and focal length. Start pulling up your images one by one, marking the ones that you like, and then reviewing the EXIF data for them.

Make some notes

Ideally, with the research notes that you made before you went shooting, make some notes on how your practice went. Look for patterns in the EXIF data to tell you what was successful and what wasn’t. Write down how you feel about the images, and perhaps make a note for other related techniques that you’d like to work on in the future.

Research how to correct your mistakes

If you consistently made the same mistake over and over while you were practicing, then you’ll want to work out how to fix that for next time.

Read some more articles or even try and find a mentor. Ask questions to your friends who seem to already have the technique nailed (or see if you can go shooting with them for some practice).

Make notes on how to improve for next time using everything you’ve learned so far. If you try and keep it all in your head, then I promise you’ll forget most of it before you get your camera out again!

Plan more practice

Practice makes perfect, after all. And you don’t learn everything on your first attempt.

Using the notes and research that you’ve gathered plan another time to practice. Perhaps this time you’ll work on something related that you’ve identified as a weak spot in your technique. Perhaps you could try the same technique but in a different setting (I’m planning a day out shooting moving wildlife next having now practiced on cars at a racing circuit).

Whatever you plan next, don’t stop practicing. Not even after you’ve reached over ten-thousand hours of practice because there’s always something new to learn.


The Best Photographers Make Time To Practice

The post The Best Photographers Make Time To Practice appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

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