Why I’m Downsizing from a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens to the f/4 Version

The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens has been one of my most used since purchasing it several years ago. It’s a perfect lens for photographing either abstract, intimate or obviously, zoomed in landscapes. However, after borrowing the f/4 version from a local camera store during a trip to the Faroe Islands, I’ve decided to sell my current lens and replace it with the smaller and less expensive (almost $1000 less) f/4 version.

Before we get into why I’m replacing it, let’s look at why I went for the f/2.8 lens, to begin with:

Why I Purchased the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8

When I purchased my first full-frame camera several years ago (the Nikon D800), I started out with only one lens: the 16-35mm f/4. At the time, that was all I could afford and it was my main setup for close to a year.

By that time I had saved enough money to add another lens to my backpack (only having the 16-35mm was quite limiting so I wanted to add more range before heading out on a two-week journey to the US).

Why I'm Replacing my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens with the f/4 Version

Though there are several other brands to choose between, I had already made up my mind that I’d go for Nikon’s 70-200mm. The harder choice, however, was whether I should go for the f/2.8 or f/4.

After much back and forth, and long discussions with other photographers, I ended up with the f/2.8. Despite it being heavier and more expensive, it seemed like the right choice as it has a wider maximum aperture. Even though I’m a landscape photographer (I don’t do much wildlife or portraits, etc), I figured the wider aperture might come in handy and be more important than the weight.

I’d say this is the perfect lens if you’re photographing:

  • Wildlife
  • Portraits
  • Macro
  • Concerts/events
  • Under low light
Why I'm Replacing my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens with the f/4 Version

Captured with my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.

Why I’m Changing to the f/4

When looking through the images I’ve shot with my 70-200mm, only a fraction of them were captured at f/2.8. In fact, the majority of those are images I captured at concerts or other events for a local magazine, which I very rarely do anymore.

The fact that I rarely use an aperture of f/2.8 on this lens, combined with the fact that I’m spending more time hiking and need a lighter backpack, made it an easy decision to replace my current lens with the lighter 70-200mm f/4 lens.

Why I'm Replacing my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens with the f/4 Version

Captured with the 70-200mm f/4 lens.

As a landscape photographer, it’s rare that you need f/2.8, especially for the type of images I tend to capture.  It’s more important for me to save weight (1540 gm/3.2 lbs versus 850 gm/1.9 lbs) since my backpack gets quite heavy when carrying all my lenses and cameras, a tripod, and other accessories.

Though I only tested the lens for 10 days, I found it’s not a sacrifice of much image quality by choosing the f/4 over the f/2.8. Both the sharpness and autofocus are just as good in the former.

These are the main benefits I’ve found with the 70-200mm f/4 lens:

  • It’s almost half the weight of the f/2.8.
  • It’s smaller in size and takes less space in the camera bag.
  • Autofocus is just as good (in fact it’s better than on my old f/2.8).
  • Sharpness is just as good.
  • It’s nearly half the price of the f/2.8 ($2800 versus $1400 roughly).

The Consequences of Changing

Of course, sacrificing one stop of light is something worth mentioning, as this does come with a few consequences. While it might not be a big difference between f/4 and f/5.6, there is a significant difference between f/2.8 and f/4, especially in low light situations.

Why I'm Replacing my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens with the f/4 Version

If you use a tripod for all of your photography and you avoid photographing wildlife and other scenarios with a shallow depth of field, the sacrifice is minimal and most likely not even notable. However, if you tend to photograph handheld in low light situations and enjoy photographing with a shallow DoF, you might want to reconsider replacing the f/2.8.

Here are some of the sacrifices you’ll make when changing from f/2.8 to f/4:

  • You won’t get as good of a “bokeh” effect nor achieve as much of a shallow depth of field.
  • You’ll need to increase the ISO instead of opening the aperture in low light situations.
  • You will be more dependant on a tripod in low light situations.

That being said,  this was an easy decision and one that I wish I’d made many years ago. Do you have a 70-200mm lens? Which version do you have and why?

The post Why I’m Downsizing from a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens to the f/4 Version appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Working with Different Shutter Speeds for Landscape Photography

There are three fundamental settings in landscape photography: the ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed (known as the Exposure Triangle). While all of these are equally important to understand in order to create technically correct images, there’s one that’s extra important when it comes to an image’s visual impact. Adjusting the shutter speed makes a big difference and is often what can make your image stand out from the crowd.

Choosing the ideal shutter speed is not an easy process though. There rarely is a single correct shutter speed but there certainly are scenarios that benefit from a specific one. In this article, we’ll look at a few different scenes and how the shutter speed affects each of them.

Working with Fast Shutter Speeds

The easiest shutter speed to work with is a fast one. Working with fast shutter speeds doesn’t require a tripod and you can easily photograph subjects that quickly pass by. This is also the most common choice for most beginning photographers as it doesn’t require much effort (and most auto functions choose a relatively fast shutter speed).

Below you have a typical example of when you need to use a fast shutter speed. In order to freeze the motion of the deer, I had to increase the shutter speed to 1/320th of a second. Had the deer been moving at a higher tempo I would have to increase the shutter speed even more to avoid any motion blur.

deer in a field - Working with Different Shutter Speeds for Landscape Photography

Photographing animals is not the only time where you should use a fast shutter speed though. In the image below, I used a shutter speed of 1/1600th.

Why did I use such a quick shutter speed for that scene? By the looks of it, the water is quite still, there are no moving subjects and there’s still enough light to use a slightly slower shutter speed, right? Yes, however, this shot was taken from a boat and even though the waters were relatively still, I needed a very quick shutter speed in order to freeze the scene without any blur from camera movement.

iceberg and water - Working with Different Shutter Speeds for Landscape Photography

Use the ideal settings not perfect ones

Had I been standing on land, I could have easily used a slower shutter speed and achieved a similar look. In fact, the overall quality could have been even better as I could have used a lower ISO and an ideal aperture. However, the purpose of photography isn’t to always have the perfect settings; it’s having the ideal settings that allows you to get the shot within the given conditions. The most important is to actually capture the image.

For too long I was too focused on always having the perfect settings. The truth is that this often leads to missing the shot as you focus too much on the technical aspect rather than working with the conditions you’re given.

For example, using a slower shutter speed when standing on a boat (such as in the image above) would have led to the icebergs being blurry due to the motion. What would you prefer? A blurry picture which is “technically” perfect, or a sharp picture that doesn’t have the technically perfect settings?

Before we move on to slower shutter speeds, let’s look at a few more scenarios where a fast shutter speed is recommended:

  • When photographing handheld.
  • Photographing quickly moving subjects.
  • When aiming to freeze motion.
  • When photographing from a vehicle.

Working with Slow Shutter Speeds

In landscape photography, the difference between slow shutter speeds is much bigger than between fast shutter speeds. While you won’t see a huge difference between 1/320th of a second and 1/640th of a second (in most cases) you may see a big difference between 10 seconds and 60 seconds. Because of this, I’ll split this section in two parts: less than 30 seconds, and more than 30 seconds (Bulb Mode).

dark image with moving water - Working with Different Shutter Speeds for Landscape Photography

The definition of a long exposure is somewhat vague but in my Ultimate Guide to Long Exposure Photography eBook, I describe is at the shutter speed where you no longer can capture a sharp handheld image. Typically, this is in the range of 1/50th of a second, depending on your camera and focal length (a longer focal length requires a quicker shutter speed to capture a sharp handheld image than a wide-angle).

Shutter speeds up to 30 seconds

While the difference between a 1 second and 30-second shutter speed is big, it’s more natural to put these together in one section to keep this easier to follow. Still, I’ll try to break it up a little to give you an idea of which shutter speeds you should experiment with in different situations. Again, there’s no correct choice and it often comes down to your preference and the tools you’ve got to work with.

When photographing beaches and seascapes where waves are crashing onto the shore or forming around rocks, I often work with a shutter speed of 0.5-1 second. I find that this creates a nice blur in the water while still keeping enough texture. A slower shutter speed such as 8 seconds blurs the water but not enough to give it the “silky” effect you often see with long exposure photography (we’ll come back to that in a bit).

waves crashing on a rocky shore - Working with Different Shutter Speeds for Landscape Photography

This also applies when photographing waterfalls and rivers. I tend to use a semi-slow shutter speed rather than an ultra-slow shutter speed when working with these scenes, as I prefer to keep some textures in the water.

As you lengthen the shutter speed you’ll see that moving elements become more and more blurry. In the image below, I used a shutter speed of 20 seconds to blur the water and give some motion to the sky. If you look at the clouds, you can see that they have been moving and it’s starting to have the “dragged sky” effect.

seascape scene - Working with Different Shutter Speeds for Landscape Photography

Keep in mind that the speed of the clouds determine how slow the shutter speed needs to be in order to pick up this motion. When clouds are moving quickly you can pick up their motion even with a shutter speed of 5-10 seconds, but to really get the “dragged sky” effect you often need to use a shutter speed (or exposure time) longer than 30 seconds.

Shutter speeds longer than 30 seconds (Bulb Mode)

In order to achieve a shutter speed longer than 30 seconds you most likely need to activate Bulb Mode.

When I first got into long exposure photography and purchased my first 10-Stop ND filters, I immediately got hooked on these ultra-slow shutter speeds. I’ll admit that I don’t do as much of it anymore (as it rarely fits with the vision I have for most locations) but it’s certainly a lot of fun to play with.

The main reason to use a shutter speed longer than 30 seconds for landscape photography is to achieve the “dragged sky” effect and to completely blur out moving elements such as water. It can also be a good way to remove people from your images (if they walk around during your 2-3 minute exposure they most likely “disappear”).

sunset on a coastal scene - Working with Different Shutter Speeds for Landscape Photography

For the image above I used a shutter speed of 180 seconds. As you can see, this has completely blurred the water and the sky is dragged across the frame.


Working with longer exposures can be a lot of fun but it’s not something that’s always beneficial. For example, when photographing a scene that doesn’t have any moving elements (and no clouds), there’s no need to use an ultra slow shutter speed, as it will most likely look exactly the same with a slower one.

So knowing how to select the best or most appropriate shutter speed takes practice, and comes down to what you want to achieve in your image.

For more information about this and other aspects of this type of photography, check out my Ultimate Guide to Long Exposure Photography eBook,

The post Working with Different Shutter Speeds for Landscape Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Raya Pro Photoshop Plugin – How to Simplify and Speedup Your Workflow

For a long time, my solution for a faster workflow was to create my own Photoshop Actions. But in the last couple of years, I’ve implemented another third-party software into my workflow, the Raya Pro Photoshop plugin.

The challenge

Let’s face it, Photoshop can be an overwhelming and time-consuming photo editor. However, it’s also one that plays an important part in most photographer’s work. Either they use it for simple color corrections or more advanced techniques, most professional photographers put their images through Photoshop at some point.

I’ve been using Photoshop for the last 10-or-so years, so I would say that I’m pretty familiar with the software. My biggest challenge, or rather annoyment, since I started using Photoshop was the fact that several of the techniques I used took a lot of time to create. Even if I’m only talking about a few minutes, it accumulates when I use it several times in each picture, and I process several pictures a day.

Raya Pro Photoshop Plugin - How to Simplify and Speedup Your Workflow

I’ve used a Luminosity Mask to create local adjustments to the highlights in this image.

What is Raya Pro?

Spending time repeating the same techniques over and over again can be quite demotivating and even lead to you being sloppy in your post-processing. That’s why Raya Pro has become a part of my workflow. It’s a Photoshop Panel which allows you to make several advanced and professional-looking techniques with a simple click.

It’s a tool that’s useful for both experienced Photoshop users (to save time) and complete beginners (to learn to create professional effects).

Raya Pro consists of seven panels:

  • Raya Pro HUB
  • InstaMask
  • Precision Mask
  • Quick Blend
  • Colors
  • Dodge & Burn
  • Filters/Finish

Raya Pro Photoshop Plugin - How to Simplify and Speedup Your Workflow

Each panel contains several Actions which you easily can use to create professional-looking effects or techniques, such as Luminosity Masks, Dodging & Burning, the Orton Effect and Web Sharpening.

Most Important Features

I’m not going to lie and say that it doesn’t take some time to understand all seven panels. It’s quite a lot to get into but along with each panel, there’s a button that takes you to a series of video tutorials specifically for that panel. These tutorials are easy to follow and if you’ve already got some knowledge of Adobe software, it won’t take long for you to master the panels.

While it may seem a bit overwhelming, you’ll most likely not use all the Actions. In my experience, you’ll find a handful of Actions you use on a regular basis and mostly stick to using those. Let me make it a little easier for you and point out the ones I use in my workflow.

Exposure Blending & Luminosity Masks

One of the main features and uses of Raya Pro is to easily blend multiple images and create Luminosity Masks. (If you’re not familiar with Luminosity Masks I recommend reading this article by Raya Pro creator and dPS writer Jimmy McIntyre).

Raya Pro Photoshop Plugin - How to Simplify and Speedup Your Workflow

There are three ways to blend images with Raya Pro:

  1. With the QuickBlend Panel
  2. Using the Precision Mask Panel
  3. With the InstaMask Panel

The easiest option is to use the QuickBlend Panel. Here you can simply blend multiple exposures with one single click. However, being the easiest it’s also the most restricted so you might need to tweak it a little for optimal results. That being said, it does a good job most of the time.

The Precision Mask Panel is slightly more advanced and is divided into three sections: Exposure Blending, Color Zones and Fix Dark Blend. With this panel, you can create precise masks and further refine them by subtracting a specific color from your selection, for example.

InstaMask is the most advanced of the three but also the most flexible. Its main purpose is to create Luminosity Masks so if you want to do exposure blending you’ll need to create and apply the masks. This is my preferred panel as I’m able to further refine selections and apply either apply them to a mask or use them to create an adjustment layer.

Dodge & Burn

While creating a Dodge & Burn layer doesn’t take much time, it’s an effect that I often apply multiple times on an image; which is why I prefer having an Action (or Raya Pro) to create it quickly.

Raya Pro Photoshop Plugin - How to Simplify and Speedup Your Workflow

The Raya Pro Dodge & Burn panel.

Raya Pro has its own panel dedicated to Dodging & Burning where you’re able to create much more than only the traditional 50% Grey layer (though this is what I use the most). In this panel, you can create Dodge & Burn layers that specifically target only the highlights, shadows, or mid-tones. This is a great option to have when you’re working on local adjustments.

In addition to Dodge & Burn layers, you’re also able to create different styles of the Orton Effect; a glow effect that creates a dreamy atmosphere.

Correcting Color Cast

Raya Pro is also a great tool when it comes to working with colors. Whether you want to saturate, desaturate, convert to B&W or add warmth to the highlights, it’s all done with one simple click.

Correcting color cast is done with one simple click as well. In fact, you’ve got four options to use in case one doesn’t give you a good result: Correct 1, Correct 2, Correct 3 and Manual Correct. The three first make use of different techniques that automatically remove color cast. But should those not work, you can use the Manual Correct button for better results.

Filters & Finish

The last panel I use in my workflow is Filters & Finish. While I only use this panel for the Web Sharpening tool that doesn’t mean I don’t recommend playing around with the other effects as well.

Raya Pro Photoshop Plugin - How to Simplify and Speedup Your Workflow

You’re also able to add your own Actions if there’s a specific technique or effect you regularly create, that’s not already on the panel.

Final Words

Raya Pro has been a part of my workflow for the last couple years. While I still make the majority of the techniques, effects, or edits manually, I do use it at some point for most of my images.

It’s a plugin that is great for both complete beginners and advanced users as each panel is built differently. After some trial and error it’s pretty straightforward to use and, in my opinion, it’s never been easier to create professional looking techniques.

The post Raya Pro Photoshop Plugin – How to Simplify and Speedup Your Workflow appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Choose the Right ISO for Landscape Photography

In this article, I will give you some tips on how to choose the right or best ISO for landscape photography.

The challenge as a beginner

Choosing the ideal settings in different scenarios is quite challenging as a photography beginner. We’ve all been there and I certainly know your frustration when your images don’t look as good as you want.

There’s so much to think about including; the composition, the perspective, the camera gear, do you need filters? And what about the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO? Don’t worry, though. It takes some trial and error but soon enough it will be a piece of cake!

How to Choose the Right ISO for Landscape Photography

Since my camera was mounted on a tripod I could use a low ISO of 80 for this image.

I hope to make one of these questions a little clearer through this article, though. Choosing the ideal ISO is crucial for the image quality, and it has a direct impact on both the shutter speed and aperture.

Always use the lowest possible ISO

I won’t go too much into detail regarding how the ISO works in this article, but to simplify, the ISO expresses your camera’s sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive it is to light, while a lower ISO makes the camera less sensitive to light.

Please note: This is a simplification for beginners. It is actually much more complex than this but you don’t need to understand all the science behind the scenes to use ISO correctly.  

While a higher ISO is good when aiming for a quick shutter speed, it also introduces a significant amount of grain or digital noise into the image. That’s something you want to avoid, and it’s the reason that you’ll often hear that you should always use ISO100.

How to Choose the Right ISO for Landscape Photography

To achieve the longest possible exposure I could use an ISO of 64 here.

Now, I agree that you should aim to use ISO100 for most stationary landscapes, you shouldn’t make the mistake of only using that setting. It took me several years before I managed to accept that there’s not only one correct ISO in landscape photography. In fact, I was pretty much an ISO100-nazi, and except for night photography, I stuck to it.

In later years I’ve learned that this isn’t necessarily the best practice.

First of all, you aren’t always able to use ISO 100. Here are a few scenarios where you might need to bump up the ISO:

  • Photographing handheld.
  • When trying to freeze moving subjects.
  • When photographing at night.
How to Choose the Right ISO for Landscape Photography

ISO 640 was the lowest ISO I could use here in order to achieve a quick enough shutter speed to get a sharp handheld image.

These are just some of the scenarios where ISO 100 might not be possible. However, there are other, and less talked about, times where you need to increase the ISO as well:

  • When adjusting the shutter speed for capturing the perfect motion/flow in water.
  • If you need to freeze elements moving in the wind (such as bushes, branches etc.).
  • When you’re using a telephoto lens handheld.

In other words, you should always aim to use the lowest ISO possible but that doesn’t always mean ISO 100 (even though that’s the “ideal” ISO quality-wise).

Adjusting the ISO at night

I briefly mentioned that ISO 100 is not ideal for night photography. Let’s look a little closer at that and find the best option. Remember that a higher ISO is more sensitive to light. In other words, that means you need less time (a shorter exposure) to achieve a correct exposure when it’s increased.

Now, at night there’s not a lot of light which means that you need more time to capture a well-exposed image. However, just setting the shutter speed to 30-seconds and leaving the ISO at 100, will still result in an underexposed image.

How to Choose the Right ISO for Landscape Photography

I had to increase the ISO to 4000 to get a well-exposed shot of this night scene.

Instead, you need to sacrifice some image-quality and increase the ISO. Exactly what ISO you need depends on the moon phase and overall brightness of your scene (for example, being close to city lights or other light sources will have an impact on your choice).

The first steps in my night photography workflow are to set the Aperture and Shutter Speed I’m going to use. Next, I use my base ISO for night photography, 1600.

However, just as with ISO 100, it’s not the only one you should use. ISO 1600 works as a starting point and after taking a test shot I’ll often make small adjustments. Most of the time you’ll use an ISO between 1200 and 3200 for night photography (though a full-moon or Aurora session might allow for an ISO as low as 800).

Adjusting the Aperture or ISO for a Quicker Shutter Speed

The most difficult part of manually adjusting settings is to learn what adjustments you need to make in certain situations. Should you adjust the ISO, Aperture, or Shutter Speed? I remember this being one of my biggest frustrations when first making the switch to Manual Mode.

How to Choose the Right ISO for Landscape Photography

ISO 100 – f/10 – 0.4 seconds.

While leading photography workshops I often tell the participants to adjust the settings as they normally would before I help them. I often notice that many are photographing with an aperture of f/22 and ISO 100. However, when they need a faster shutter speed, their first instinct is to increase the ISO.

That’s when I ask the question; “Do you really need an aperture of f/22? Will an aperture of f/16, f/11 or f/8 give you similar results? If so, then leave the ISO alone.

Remember, always use the lowest ISO possible. In this scenario, the image will benefit from using a wider aperture and maintaining a low ISO.

Let’s Summarize

I hope that I haven’t made you even more confused than what you were before. Understanding the ISO and choosing the correct one is a little tricky, as there isn’t always one correct choice. However, what I hope you take away from this article is that you should aim to use the lowest ISO possible in each given scenario.

For regular daytime photography, I typically use an ISO between 64 and 400 – the latter is when I’m using a telephoto lens handheld, which requires a quicker shutter speed to keep sharp. For night photography, I typically use an ISO between 1200 and 3200.

How to Choose the Right ISO for Landscape Photography

I used ISO 400 to capture this sharp handheld shot with my 200mm.

Most DSLR cameras are able to take relatively noise-free images at ISO 400 but I recommend spending some time getting used to your camera and finding its limit.

So, as the final word, there isn’t one single correct ISO for each and every scenario but aim to use the lowest possible.

Learning how to choose the ideal settings takes some trial and error to learn. In my eBook, A Comprehensive Introduction to Landscape Photography, I teach the techniques you need to know in order to capture beautiful images, and how you easily can master them. 

The post How to Choose the Right ISO for Landscape Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography Towards the Sun

Avoid photographing towards the sun is one of the most common tips you’ll hear for landscape photography. In fact, it’s a tip that I’ve shared previously myself.

While it’s not without a reason that’s it’s a well-known tip, it might not be as relevant today as it was several years ago. Today’s sensors and post-processing opportunities are much more forgiving and what once was a bad idea can now be an opportunity.

In this article, I’ll show you how including the sun in the frame can enhance the atmosphere and add an extra dimension to your images as well as sharing my best tips for doing so.

Why you should include the sun in your images

I’m sure that many of you are ready to jump straight into the comment section right now and tell me how much of a bad idea it is to shoot towards the sun. But give me a minute to explain a few reasons why it’s something you might want to consider doing with your landscape photography.

Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography Towards the Sun

The greatest benefit of adding the sun in the frame is that it adds depth to the image. Take the image above as an example. Remove the sun and the image becomes flat and much less interesting. With the sun included, the image comes to life and drags you into it.

Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography Towards the Sun

Compositionally it can also be beneficial. Of course, this depends on where you place the sun. In the example above, the bright sun serves as a focal point. Naturally, the viewer’s eye is guided along the cliffs and up towards the bright area.

Keep in mind that our eyes are naturally attracted to the brighter parts of the image.

Another benefit of shooting towards the sun is that you often get beautiful shadows striking towards you. This serves as additional leading lines and benefits the composition.

Tips for including the sun in your images

Now, there’s one thing I need to make clear; including the sun in an image won’t always be beneficial. There are certain conditions or methods you should take advantage of for this to work. Here are some tips.

The time of day matters

While there are exceptions, the best images come when the sun is low on the horizon. The sun then creates a soft glow and gives a nicely balanced light.

Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography Towards the Sun

During midday when the sun is positioned higher in the sky, the light is harsh and less pleasing to the eyes. Generally, this is something you want to avoid.

Consider the sun’s placement within the frame

I’ll start by saying this, there’s no one single correct spot to place the sun within your image. Sometimes it’s beneficial to place it in the center, while other times it’s better to place it on the side.

This is where trial and error, and experience come into play.

Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography Towards the Sun

In the image above, I chose to place the sun at the very edge of the frame. Partly obscured by the clouds, it doesn’t take too much attention but instead, you’re drawn to the beautiful light hitting the landscape.

If you are familiar with semi-advanced post-processing techniques, you might be aware of a processing style called light bleed. This is a technique that involves heavy dodging and enhancing/creating a light source that strikes through the image. However, this is an effect you’re able to get in-camera as well by placing the sun at the corner or edge of your frame.

Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography Towards the Sun

Other times, you want to place the sun in the center of the image. In the image above, placing the sun in the center adds a light source that your eyes naturally go toward. Had I instead placed the sun to the side, this image would be less balanced.

Obscure the sun

In my opinion, one of the most efficient ways of including the sun in your image is by partly obscuring it. Combining that with a narrow aperture, you get a nice sun-star or sunburst.

Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography Towards the Sun

Use a Graduated ND Filter

Since the sun is so much brighter than the surrounding landscape, it can be hard to capture a well-exposed image when including it in the frame. By using a Graduated ND Filter you’re able to darken the sky in your image – meaning that you can capture a well-balanced image even with the sun in the frame.

Unfortunately, a Graduated ND Filter is not always ideal. Since the transition between darkened and transparent parts of the filter is a straight line, it can create some unwanted effects if you’re photographing a scene where something is projecting above the horizon.

Graduated ND Filters are better to use when the horizon is flat, such as the image below:

Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography Towards the Sun

… Or bracket multiple exposures

Another more flexible method of capturing well-balanced images with the sun included is to bracket multiple exposures and blend them in a photo editor. This is the better choice when the sun is at the highest position in the sky, as the contrast is even greater.

For the image below, I captured three images; one exposed for the landscape, one exposed for the sky and one even darker to balance out the brightest parts.

Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography Towards the Sun

Your turn

Hopefully, I’ve been able to convince you that shooting towards the sun isn’t a complete no-no anymore. Have you captured any images that are shot towards the sun for your landscape photography? I would love to see them in a comment below!

The post Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography Towards the Sun by Christian Hoiberg appeared first on Digital Photography School.

5 Tips for Better Winter Landscape Photography

Born and raised in Norway, my opinion might be slightly biased but winter is my favorite season for photography.  Sure, it’s a cold and harsh season but there are so many opportunities to capture beautiful winter landscape images both during the day and night.

I haven’t always been a fan of winter photography, though. In fact, it took me several years after purchasing my first camera before I brought it with me on skiing and hiking trips. Needless to say, it didn’t take many trips before I was hooked and began looking forward to next winter. I quickly realized that photographing during winter is in many ways different than any other season.

There are several new challenges you need to handle and, quite often, everything is white. How do you handle that? Here are five tips to capture better winter landscape images.

5 Tips for Better Winter Landscape Photography

1 – Look for Color Contrast

After a few days of heavy snowfall, the landscape here in Norway is completely white. White trees, white lakes, white mountains and normally a white sky. When everything is white, it’s quite challenging to find a focal element as nothing really stands out.

During days like this, you should be searching for elements of color that stand out in the otherwise white landscape. Here’s an example of a house captured the morning after a heavy snowfall.

5 Tips for Better Winter Landscape Photography

The red cabin is what makes this picture interesting. Without it, the scene lacks a focal element and the viewer’s eyes have no place to rest.

I find red to be a particularly pleasing color in situations like this but search for any dominant color. Perhaps there’s an autumn leaf laying on top of a thin layer of snow, or maybe it’s a few skiers wearing red jackets. Just find a dominant color in the otherwise white landscape and use that as your focal element.

2 – Bright is Better than Dark

When you’re not able to find a colorful focal element that stands out in the frame, overexpose your image. If it’s snowing and there’s no contrast in the sky, winter images can often benefit from being a stop or two brighter. Just avoid clipping the highlights.

5 Tips for Better Winter Landscape Photography

This isn’t something I always do but whenever it’s a whiteout I tend to lean that direction. The slightly overexposed image enhances the whiteout and helps convey just how cold you were when taking the picture, yet it still shows a sense of calmness.

3 – Choose a Cold White Balance

You can either choose White Balance in camera or in post-processing if you’re photographing Raw, a cool color balance is often the most suitable for winter scenes.

Unless it’s a colorful sunset, there’s no reason to use a warm White Balance. Snow is white and the shadows are cool. Using a cold White Balance will help enhance the winter mood while keeping the image more realistic.

5 Tips for Better Winter Landscape Photography

4 – Photograph During Bluehour

Winter is a season with lots of opportunities throughout the entire day; even a sunny winter day is worth taking your camera out for. However, during the last years, I’ve begun to appreciate the blue hour more and more.

The moments before the sun rises or after it sets creates a magical, soft light in the winter landscape, especially near the mountains. This is a time where you should be out with your camera. Even if it’s freezing cold and you’d rather stay at home underneath a blanket, you’re doing yourself a favor by going out with the camera at this time of day.

5 Tips for Better Winter Landscape Photography

If I was only able to choose one time of the day to go photographing during winter it would be the blue hour (well, night-time and aurora chasing might be preferred…)

5 – Bring Extra Batteries and Keep Them Warm!

The last tip is perhaps the most important when it comes to photographing cold climates in general – bring extra batteries. Batteries drain much quicker in winter and if you’re like me and use Live View for most shots, you need to bring at least a few extra batteries – just in case.

I tend to keep at least one spare battery in an inner pocket of my jacket to keep it from draining or failing in the cold temperature. I’ve also found that doing so will result in the battery lasting longer when you do start using it.

5 Tips for Better Winter Landscape Photography

A self-portrait I took on a hike in rough conditions last winter

Lastly, related to keeping the batteries warm, you need to stay warm as well. Always be prepared and rather bring a layer too many than too few. You always want to have the opportunity to dress down, especially if you’re going on a hike.

Over to you

Do you get winter weather where you live? Get out and take some winter landscape shots and share them in the comments below. We’d love to see them.

The post 5 Tips for Better Winter Landscape Photography by Christian Hoiberg appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Enhance Colors Using Photoshop’s Color Range Tool

Luminosity Masks have become a go-to technique for many photographers wanting to make selective adjustments on their images. While it’s a great way to create precise masks, it’s a mask solely based on the luminosity of a pixel and it may not be ideal when you only want to make adjustments to a specific color. Perhaps you want to enhance that beautiful sunset you photographed last night or maybe you want to change the color of your subject’s eyes. Regardless of what color based adjustment you want to make, there’s a simple and quick method of creating a precise selection based on the color value using Photoshop’s Color Range Tool.

Why Use Selective Adjustments

Before we jump into how you can create a precise selection based on a color, I quickly want to talk about why you should be using selective adjustments in your post-processing.

My area of expertise is landscape photography but this topic is important no matter what type of images you capture or your ambitions. If you have a desire to make your images look better, you need to be making some selective (local) adjustments to them.

It doesn’t need to be anything super-advanced, but start by at least making some selective color adjustments. The main reason you’d want to do this is to get rid of the unwanted color cast. The color cast can come as a result of your previous post-processing or it can come straight from the camera and it’s something that sticks out as a negative when viewing the image (the exception is when it’s a deliberate color cast that serves a purpose).

How to Enhance Colors Using Photoshop's Color Range Tool

I used Selective Adjustments to keep the shadows cold in this image.

It’s also quite common that you’ll want to make an adjustment only to a specific area of an image (known as a local adjustment). A normal adjustment will affect the entire image (known as a global adjustment). Instead, create a mask that selects only the part of the image you want to affect (for example the highlights, a color, or maybe just a specific subject) and make your adjustment. Now, you’ve kept the majority of the image untouched but have made a visible adjustment to that particular area – no global color cast and no unwanted effects.

Create a Mask Based on Color

Okay, let’s jump into it and start making a few adjustments based on a color. In the example below, I want to increase the saturation and brightness of the yellow flowers in the foreground. A typical way of making a similar adjustment would be to use the Hue/Saturation adjustment and increase the saturation of the yellows. Yes, the flowers are saturated and brighter now but so are the cliffs, areas in the sky, and even some of the water.

How to Enhance Colors Using Photoshop's Color Range Tool

First of all, make sure that you’re on a Stamp layer – in other words, one which is all the layers below it merged into one (you can delete this layer later but you’ll need it for the next step). Now, go to Select > Color Range… A new box should now appear and it’s here that you’re going to create the mask.

How to Enhance Colors Using Photoshop's Color Range Tool

For the best results, make sure that Sampled Colors is selected in the top drop-down menu. It’s possible to work with the other options as well but I find the mask to be much more accurate by manually sampling the colors you want. Next, with the Eyedropper Tool selected, click on the color in your image that you want to select. For me, that’s one of the yellow flowers in the foreground. Notice that the image within the Color Range box now has changed and it’s mostly black. This represents the selection we’re making (only the white parts of the mask will be affected).

Refine the mask

The Fuzziness slider is a useful tool to make the selection more or less refined. By pulling the slider towards the left, you’re creating a more restricted mask and it affects less of the similar colors to what you’ve selected. Pulling it towards the right has the opposite effect and the mask starts including similar colors. I prefer to use a fuzziness of approximately 70-80 but I recommend you play around with it for each shot.

How to Enhance Colors Using Photoshop's Color Range Tool

That’s it! Click OK and you’ve created a precise mask based on that color. Now, you choose the adjustment you want to use – I’ll use the Hue/Saturation slider for now.

Adding Colors to the Selection

Before we continue and start enhancing the image, I want to show you how you can add more colors to the mask. Let’s say that I also wanted to make the same adjustment to the bright parts of the sky. Before clicking OK and creating the selection, I would simply hold shift (or select the second Eyedropper Tool named “Add to Sample) and click on the sun. You’ll see that the mask has changed and the area around the setting sun is also whited out.

How to Enhance Colors Using Photoshop's Color Range Tool

Unfortunately, this step also included some of the cliffs in the lower right corner which I don’t want to be affected. The best way to remove that from your mask is to paint directly on the mask with a black brush after creating an adjustment layer.

Making the Adjustment

The last thing I’m going to do is to increase the saturation and brightness of the flowers. With the mask we created active (you know it’s an active mask when you see the marching ants around your selection), create a new Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Since we’ve already created a mask that targets only the yellow flowers, we don’t need to go into the yellow channel, instead, we continue using the Master channel.

Now just drag the Saturation slider towards the left until the colors are saturated to your taste. I also increased the Lightness slightly to make the flowers pop even more.


How to Enhance Colors Using Photoshop's Color Range Tool


This technique of creating a precise mask can be used with any adjustment layer that you want. I often combine it with any color-based adjustments such as Hue/Saturation, the Photo Filter, and Color Balance. For adjustments that affect the brightness and contrast of the image, I prefer using Luminosity Masks.

The post How to Enhance Colors Using Photoshop’s Color Range Tool by Christian Hoiberg appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Choosing the Correct ND Filter for Your Desired Long Exposure Photography Effects

Long exposure photography has quickly grown to become one of my favorite styles of photography and it’s quite clear by looking through the images I’ve captured the last few years. More and more images use a shutter speed slower than half a second and it’s further between the handheld shots.

Which ND Filter to use?

One of the reasons I’ve grown to become such a big fan of long exposure photography is that it opens so many doors. You’re much less limited in your work and you have endless of options when it comes to how you want your image to look. However, it’s exactly this benefit which also becomes a challenge for many: how do you choose the right shutter speed and ND Filter? 

Choosing the Correct ND Filter for Long Exposure Photography Effects

I don’t believe that there’s one correct shutter speed or filter when it comes to landscape photography. A big part of the creative process is to do what you prefer and go for the look you want to achieve. However, if you want to be able to achieve the look you want, you’ll also need to know how to get there and that’s why it’s important to understand how each of the different ND filters will affect your image.

In this article, we’ll look at how each of three different (three, six and 10-stop) ND filters will affect your image and in what scenarios they are each most beneficial.

3-Stop ND Filter

If you’re familiar with Neutral Density filters you may already know that a 3-stop filter won’t have a huge impact during brighter hours. Compared to the six and 10-stop filters, the 3-stop is not particularly dark and it won’t allow you to use those extremely slow shutter speeds of several minutes.

That being said, the 3sStop ND Filter remains one of my personal favorites. I particularly enjoy working with it when photographing waves from a low perspective.

Choosing the Correct ND Filter for Long Exposure Photography Effects

The picture above was taken a couple hours after sunrise but due to the sun’s low position on the Arctic sky, it still wasn’t daytime-bright outside. However, without using a filter, the shutter speed would have been too quick to capture the motion I wanted in the water. So I knew that a 3-stop ND filter would do the job. Using it allowed me to lengthen the exposure time to 1/3rd of a second, which was just enough the get some motion in the rushing waves and to achieve the look that I wanted for this shot.

Had I used a 6-stop ND filter instead, the image would look quite different since the longer shutter speed would blur the water and lose the texture that I was aiming for.

6-Stop ND Filter

As the name indicates, a 6-stop ND filter lets you lengthen the exposure time by six stops (not six times – six stops is 2x2x2x2x2x2 = 64 times). If you’re already using a relatively slow shutter speed due to the sun’s low position in the sky, this means that you can achieve a very slow shutter speed when using this filter.

Choosing the Correct ND Filter for Long Exposure Photography Effects

For the image above, I used a 6-stop ND filter to blur the water and create an overall softer feel to the scene. Using the filter allowed me to lengthen the exposure time to 15 seconds, which was just enough to blur the water and create some motion in the sky. As you can see, however, the iceberg in the foreground is already blurring out when using a 15-second shutter speed.

Had I instead used a 10-stop ND filter and an exposure time of a few minutes, all the ice would be blurry due to them constantly moving. On the other hand, a 3-stop ND filter wouldn’t have allowed me to slow down the shutter speed enough to blur the water and I wouldn’t be able to achieve the look I wanted.

10-Stop ND Filter

The 10-stop ND filter is perhaps the most popular filter for many who are just getting started with long exposure photography. The effect is extremely visible and the images created with it can grab attention right away. Even though there are darker filters available (such as a 16 and 20-stop), the 10-stop filter is often what people think of when talking about long exposure photography.

Choosing the Correct ND Filter for Long Exposure Photography Effects

The image above is a typical example of how a 10-stop ND filter can create a surreal look to the image. With the filter placed in front of my lens, I was able to use a shutter speed of four minutes to completely blur the lake and get a soft, dramatic look in the sky as the clouds were dragged out.

While it does require some more planning and patience than the other two filters, it is also the one that has the biggest visual impact straight out of the camera.

Choosing the Right One

As I mentioned earlier in this article, there isn’t necessarily one correct filter that you should use. Instead, you should be aware of how the different filters will affect your image and then choose the one which will get you closest to your envisioned image.

Choosing the Correct ND Filter for Long Exposure Photography Effects


Long exposure photography opens many doors and gives you several new creative elements to work with. As with anything else, a big part of this technique is trial and error but as you continue learning you’ll also begin seeing what you need to do in order to capture the images you want.

If you want to learn more about Long Exposure Photography I’ve shared everything I know in my eBook The Ultimate Guide to Long Exposure Photography. This eBook is for those who are ready to take their images to the next level and expand their creative vision.

The post Choosing the Correct ND Filter for Your Desired Long Exposure Photography Effects by Christian Hoiberg appeared first on Digital Photography School.

My Top Recommended Equipment for Night Photography

Being a Norwegian it’s hard not to be somewhat fascinated with night photography. Our winters are long and dark and when the skies are clear that means great opportunities for night photography. However, it wasn’t until I moved to Spain that I got even more obsessed with photographing the stars and I’ll admit that it’s slightly more comfortable doing so wearing shorts than three layers of clothes.

My Preferred Equipment for Night Photography - milky way shot

A lot can be said about the essential camera equipment for night photography, but in this article, I’d rather look at the equipment that I rely on in order to capture the images that I prefer. Photographers who execute more niche techniques such as star trails and deep space photography would probably add an item or two to this list.

That being said, I strongly recommend using the equipment mentioned in this article. I believe it will be hard for you to capture great images of the night sky without (most) of them.

The Camera…

The camera is your most important tool as a photographer – there’s no way around that. While upgrading your camera is expensive there are certain elements that you should consider if you desire to do better night photography.

Since you’re dealing with low-light at night you depend on using a high ISO in order to capture both the beautiful stars and the details in the landscape/scenery surrounding you. Unfortunately, entry-level cameras have a tendency to not rate well at higher ISO values. Already at a lower value such as ISO 800, they begin introducing a How to Avoid and Reduce Noise in Your Imagessignificant amount of noise. There are a few workarounds for this such as the median technique, but I won’t be getting into that in this article.

Wide Angle Lens

Besides the camera itself, you’ll also need a lens in order to capture an image. There are many different types of lenses available on the market but to get the best possible images during the night, make sure that you choose a lens with a large maximum aperture. This means that you can use an open aperture such as f/2.8 (which lets in more light).

My Preferred Equipment for Night Photography

A subtle display of Northern Lights in Lofoten.

While it might be a personal preference, I find that wide-angle lenses give the best results for night photography. Somewhere between 14-24mm is typically the best.

A Tripod

The last of the three most expensive tools is a tripod. Since you’ll be working with shutter speeds of 15-30 seconds, or even several minutes if you’re making a star trail, you depend on keeping your camera still for that long. This is hard to do without a tripod.

Unless you’re planning on photographing in harsher conditions, you don’t need to buy the most sturdy and solid tripod. However, I still recommend that you choose one that is somewhat solid and will last for a while. Low-end tripods have a tendency to break more easily and in the long run, it will cost you more than one of a higher quality.

Remote Shutter

If you plan to photograph star trails or do exposures longer than 30 seconds (i.e. use Bulb Mode), a remote shutter release is required. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on this and a simple one will do the job. However, I prefer to use one that has a small LCD screen that shows the time of your exposure and allows you to lock up the remote button.

When working with exposures shorter than 30 seconds a remote shutter release isn’t essential. In those cases, you can simply use a 2-second timer or delayed shutter release.

Natural Night Filter

The last of the tools I keep in my bag when doing night photography is a filter that I’ve grown to become a fan of during the last few months – especially when photographing in areas with light pollution.

The Natural Night Filter (I use NiSi’s but other brands such as LEE also have similar products) is made to reduce the amount of light pollution and give you a crisp image. Yes, this is relatively easy to fix in post-production but I find that the more light pollution there is the better the filter works.

Other non-camera related tools

Besides the tools mentioned above, there are a few more items I won’t leave home without when doing night photography. While all of them aren’t used in combination with a camera and don’t have a direct impact on the image itself, they are essential to get the shot:

  1. Extra layers of clothes (at least when photographing in the Arctic!).
  2. Powerful headlamp.
  3. Extra batteries for your camera (if it’s cold keep one on the inner pocket of your jacket).
  4. PhotoPills app – a great tool for planning your night sessions

My Preferred Equipment for Night Photography

What are your preferred tools for night photography? Let me know in a comment!

The post My Top Recommended Equipment for Night Photography by Christian Hoiberg appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Tips and Tricks for Night Photography of the Starry Sky

During the last year, I’ve become a big fan of night photography and the night sky. I’ve always enjoyed it but my hometown in Norway doesn’t have the most interesting landscape. So I rarely bothered to go out during night – unless there was a rare show of Northern Lights or meteorite showers. After packing up my stuff and moving to the north of Spain, however, I’ve found myself spending more and more time photographing the stars. What appears pitch black to the naked eye can be beautiful scenery through the camera.

In this article, I’ll share some tips and tricks on how you can photograph the various states of the night sky including The Milky Way, new moon, or northern lights.

Camera Settings for Night Photography

Light is the most important part of photography; without light, there’s no picture to be taken. During the night it is dark and the light is sparse, making it challenging to photograph. In fact, in order to capture an image during the night, you’ll most likely have to sacrifice some image quality – forget about using a narrow aperture and low ISO.

Unlike regular landscape photography, night photography requires less than ideal settings in order to capture enough light to properly expose the scene. Since there’s not a lot of available light, that means opening the aperture, increasing the ISO and lengthening the exposure time (shutter speed).

Tips and Tricks for Night Photography the Starry Sky

There isn’t one correct setting for each and every scenario as it depends on many factors (such as the brightness of the moon). But as a rule of thumb, you want to use the widest aperture your lens allows in order to get the sky as detailed as possible. Lenses with an aperture of f/2.8 are widely popular amongst nighttime and astrophotographers and if your lens allows for such an open aperture, this is where you should begin.

ISO and shutter speed

The ISO also needs to be increased quite a lot for night photography. For regular landscape photography, I always stress the importance of shooting with the lowest possible ISO. Even though we still want to shoot with the lowest possible setting we’re now looking at an ISO of at least 1600 at night. It’s not uncommon to use an ISO of 3200 or 6400 during the night. Still, to maintain as much quality as possible, try to use the lowest possible option.

Tips and Tricks for Night Photography the Starry Sky

Choosing the shutter speed is slightly more challenging as it depends on the focal length of your lens, but I recommend not going longer than 30 seconds unless you want to photograph star trails (I’ll come back to this later in the article). The 500 Rule is a good guideline when choosing the shutter speed. Basically, divide 500 by the focal length of the lens you’re using and you’ll know the maximum shutter speed you can use (to avoid star trails). If you’re using a crop sensor camera you’ll need to calculate the equivalent focal length of a full-frame lens (for example 20mm on crop sensor = 30mm. 500/30 = 16.6 seconds).

Remember that a tripod is essential for night photography in order to get a sharp image. It’s simply not possible to hold your camera still for several seconds!

Planning to Photograph the Night Sky

Scouting can be hard during the night so it’s often beneficial to have familiarized yourself with the area before going there in the dark. I know this isn’t always possible but the very least use an app such as PhotoPills to learn the phase of the moon, its position, as well as the time of sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moonset and anything else related to your shoot. The more you’ve prepared, the higher the chance you’ll get a great image.

Tips and Tricks for Night Photography the Starry Sky

Let’s summarize what you should know before going out photographing:

  • Time of twilight
  • Time of Nautical and Astronomical dark
  • Phase of the moon
  • Moon’s position in the sky
  • Time of moonrise and moonset
  • When The Milky Way is visible (if applicable)
  • The Milky Way’s position (if applicable)

All this information is easy to find in an app such as PhotoPills or by doing a quick search online.

General Ideas for Night Photography

If your goal is photograph stars and the natural night sky, I think it’s fair to guess that you want to see as many stars as possible. In order to get the best possible view of the stars, you’ll need to position yourself at a location that’s away from larger cities and light pollution.

Tips and Tricks for Night Photography the Starry Sky

A subtle display of Northern Lights in Lofoten.

Website and maps such as DarkSiteFinder are great resources when searching for areas with less light pollution. If you live close to a major city you’ll probably have to travel a little further than if you live near a small town. There are filters, such as NiSi’s Natural Night Filter, that help reduce the light pollution but it won’t magically remove it all and give you a starry sky – it simply neutralizes the color of the light pollution.

For the most detailed night sky, it’s also ideal to avoid the weeks closest to a full moon. During that period, the sky is brighter and there are fewer stars visible to both the camera and the naked eye. However, that doesn’t mean that you should stay home; there are many interesting subjects during the full moon as well.

The Milky Way

Norway is known for Northern Lights, dark and starry nights, as well as the overall beautiful landscape but what we don’t have is The Milky Way. Let me be a little more specific; the Galactic Center (the brightest most visible part of The Milky Way that you see in most photos) is never visible in Norway – we only see the edges of it. So, you can imagine my excitement every time I get a chance to photograph the Galactic Center and The Milky Way in its most beautiful display.

Milky Way photography - Tips and Tricks for Night Photography the Starry Sky

The techniques for photographing The Milky Way are mostly similar to other types of night photography. You’ll want to use an open aperture, high ISO and a shutter speed of no more than 30 seconds. I find that a slightly higher ISO and a shutter speed of around 25 seconds (when shooting at 14mm @f/2.8) gives the highest amount of detail when photographing The Milky Way. By using a slower shutter speed, the camera starts picking up slight movement in the stars (due to earth’s rotation) and it begins to get blurry.

It’s also best to photograph The Milky Way during the new moon or before the moon has risen. The darker the sky, the more stars you see and the more detailed The Milky Way becomes.

Photographing a Meteor Shower

Whenever there’s a meteor shower, such as the recent Perseids Meteor Shower, I keep my fingers crossed for clear skies. There’s nothing more magical than being outside in the pitch black, looking up at dozens or even hundreds of shooting stars during a span of several hours.

Northern Light Meteorite - Tips and Tricks for Night Photography the Starry Sky

Since most the shooting stars last for only a second or two, it can be hard to capture them in an image. In order to capture as many of them as possible, I set my camera to interval shooting and I let it go continuously. To pick up even the smaller shooting stars I increase the shutter speed slightly to approximately 15 seconds (depends on the brightness of the night).

Photographing the Northern Lights

Northern Lights is a phenomenon that we’re lucky to have in the northern hemisphere. It’s unlike anything else and I can guarantee that once you see it, you’ll want to witness it again.

The challenges when photographing the Northern Lights is that it often moves quite quickly and it can be rather bright. In order to freeze the motion, you’ll need a quicker shutter speed such as 1-10 seconds. Exactly how quick depends on the intensity of the lights. Just keep in mind that if they’re moving quickly, you should use a quicker shutter speed.

Northern Lights Iceland - Tips and Tricks for Night Photography the Starry Sky

Also, pay attention to the histogram as it’s easy to blow out the highlights. Since it’s a bright phenomenon in the otherwise dark night, the contrast can be great. I recommend always exposing for the highlights and if needed take a second exposure for the landscape that you can blend in later during post-processing.

Slow it Down and Photograph Star Trails

Due to the rotation of the earth, your camera registers movement in the stars once the shutter speed becomes too long. This creates a blurry and soft sky and can be quite displeasing to watch.

That being said, every now and then this is something you want to use as an advantage rather than viewing it as a problem. By lengthening the shutter speed to several minutes or even an hour (this lets you use a low ISO and narrow aperture but may result in hot pixels) you’re able to capture what’s known as star trails. This effect can be really interesting but make sure that the shutter speed is long enough so that the stars don’t just look blurry.

Tips and Tricks for Night Photography the Starry Sky

Stars over the Sahara desert – image by dPS Editor Darlene Hildebrandt. Series of 30-second exposures over 45 minutes, stacked using StarStax, blended with a couple of light painted images of the tent.

Alternatively, you can capture a series of images using a shorter shutter speed and merge them together in Photoshop or a software such as StarStax.

Full Moon and Bright Moon Phases

As I’ve mentioned previously, nights, when the moon is small, are best for night photography as it’s during this period you’ll see most stars. However, when the moon is up there are still many interesting images to be captured.

moonrise in lofoten - Tips and Tricks for Night Photography the Starry Sky

First of all, since the moon is a bright source of light, you can get away with using a slightly lower ISO or narrower aperture. It can also be easier to find a composition as the landscape is brighter. Use this light to your advantage and pay attention to the shadows in the landscape. Perhaps the moon lights up a mountain? Perhaps it creates a nice reflection in a lake? During this period, it can be wise to compose your image to include more landscape than sky as that’s where the most interesting things are happening.

Personally, I prefer to photograph the moon when it has a low position in the sky as I find the shadows to be slightly more interesting during that time. Note: This is for the same reasons shooting at sunrise and sunset are best for daytime landscape photography.


Have you tried night photography before? If not, grab your camera and tripod (and maybe a buddy for some company) and get out and give it a go. Share any other night photo tips you have in the comments below as well as your night sky images. We’d love to see them.

The post Tips and Tricks for Night Photography of the Starry Sky by Christian Hoiberg appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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