Why You Should Photograph Like a Movie Director When You Travel

The post Why You Should Photograph Like a Movie Director When You Travel appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.


Part of the movie director’s job is to visualize the screenplay. They must imagine how the story will be told visually. The fulfillment of this task depends entirely on the director’s creative expression.

Travel photographers often seek to tell a story with their pictures. Doing this can enhance the documentation of their journeys. This can be helped by using some techniques movie directors use to achieve their goals. One of the most effective methods of clear visual storytelling is to incorporate three different types of photograph:

  • wide,
  • medium,
  • and close-up.

Why You Should Photograph Like a Movie Director When You Travel

Consider yourself a location scout

I often encourage photographers who take part in our photography workshops to imagine they are a location scout for a movie. Alternatively, think like a reportage photographer working for a magazine editor.

Task yourself with capturing a range of images. Aim to portray each different travel location you visit clearly. One of the best ways to do this is including wide, medium, and close-up photos. You want people who have never been where you are to form a clear picture of the location. What it looked like and what the atmosphere there felt like.

Including only wide-angle photos gives an overall impression, but misses the details. Close-ups could be taken anywhere and will lack a sense of location. Medium photos can show some action and some amount of detail. Often they will not provide a broader awareness of the place.


© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Wide photos

Seek to include as much relevant detail about the location as you can. In movies, this is known as an establishing view.

Pick places to stand where you can see a lot of what interests you about the place. Think about what is unique or iconic in this area. Include these elements in your pictures.


© Kevin Landwer-Johan

In the photo above, I wanted to include some of the hand carts the porters at Muang Mai Markets in Chiang Mai use. They are very recognizable as part of daily life there. By incorporating a few of them in this wide photo, I have helped emphasize the location. People who’ve visited this market will more easily recognize it.

People who haven’t been there will get a clear impression these wire baskets on wheels are very much part of the place.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Capturing an effective wide photo when there’s limited space to work in can be challenging. Sometimes you’ll need to put on your widest lens and back yourself into a corner.

You don’t always need to capture the entire scene. When you can, try and include a feature in your photo. In the picture above, I composed it focusing on the vendor in red and included the street in front of her stall.


© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Looking for an overhead vantage point you can stand on is often helpful, if you can find one. Getting up above the location provides an interesting alternative perspective.

Medium photos

Medium photos will show more general action, but not necessarily give an idea of the broader location. Typically, these compositions will feature one main element and some surroundings.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

This could be the entrance of a building and some of the frontage, but not the whole structure. It might be a car parked in the street, filling most of the frame and giving little clue as to where it is. It may be a vendor selling something at a market, but it could be a market anywhere.

This type of photo helps build a narrative. To make photos with the most meaning, concentrate on what appeals to you. Think about why, and capture that aspect as best you can in your photos.


© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Depending on the location you are covering in your travel story, you may want to include more medium photos than wide or close-ups. Medium compositions include enough detail and one central focus. They are a balance between wide photos with lots of general information and close-ups which include plenty of detail.


© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Close-up photos

People often omit or take too few close-up photos when they travel. Close-up compositions can provide so much information that can be glossed over in wide and medium photos.

Again, look for what you find most attractive and photograph those things. This way, your pictures will contain more meaning and feeling.

During the workshop sessions we have at the local markets in Chiang Mai, many people love to get close-ups of chilis. I think it might have something to do with them being such a major ingredient in Thai cuisine as well as their lovely shape and color.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Getting in tight to your subject, you can often find wonderful patterns. You can also isolate color and make your entire composition a single hue.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

How much does focal length matter?

Does focal length matter when you photograph like a movie director when traveling? Not so much. I often use my beloved 35mm f/1.4 lens for wide, medium and close-up photos. I don’t often carry a lens longer than my 105mm. It’s all a matter of where you stand and how close you get.

Both of the close-up photos above I took with my 35mm lens, as were a number of others I’ve used to illustrate this article. Don’t be constrained by the norms. You can use a long lens to capture a wide scene. Sometimes this works particularly well because a longer lens compresses perspective more. This can create a sense of place in a different way than a wide-angle lens will.

If you’re in a tight spot where’s there’s not much space to back up, you will often need a wide lens. You can also use a wide lens for medium photos. Just get in closer. This will produce more intimate photos than you’ll capture using a longer lens. It also adds character to your image selection.


Next time you’re taking a journey, or even photographing your kid’s birthday party or soccer game, photograph like a movie director by thinking about these three types of photos. Cover the event or location as best you can by incorporating a good mix of them into your final selection. Doing this, you’ll be narrating your visual story in a clear and interesting manner.

Do you photograph like a movie director when you travel or do any type of photography? Do you have any tips or stories you’d like to share? Please do so in the comments.

The post Why You Should Photograph Like a Movie Director When You Travel appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Why Using Smart Previews in Lightroom CC is a Good Idea (and How to Set Them Up)

The post Why Using Smart Previews in Lightroom CC is a Good Idea (and How to Set Them Up) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.


Smart Previews in Lightroom CC will help enhance your workflow. They are a smaller file you can work with rather than working on full-sized RAW files.

One of the biggest advantages of using Smart Previews in Lightroom CC is when you work remotely. You can store your RAW files on your main hard drive and keep the smart previews on your portable drive. So if you have your RAW files imported to your main computer hard disk, you can make smart previews for your laptop or external drive. You can even store them on a flash memory device like a thumb drive, SD card, or the cloud.

Smart Previews Lightroom CC

How to use Smart Previews in Lightroom CC

Creating Smart Previews in Lightroom CC is easy and can be done when you import your files or at a later time. Lightroom makes a smaller DNG file (an Adobe Digital Negative RAW image file.) These are compressed and take up a fraction of the space RAW files do. The DNG files are located in a separate folder than the RAW files of the same images.

To configure Lightroom CC to create Smart Previews when you import photos, go to the File Handling panel. This is on the right of your screen after you have clicked on the Import button. Make sure that the Build Smart Previews box is checked.

Smart Previews Lightroom CC

You can create Smart Previews in Lightroom CC when you’ve already imported your photos.

Select the files you want to make Smart Previews of in the Grid mode. Go to Library in the top menu and choose Previews->Build Smart Previews. When an image has a Smart Preview, there is an icon indicating this in the Histogram window.

Why Using Smart Previews in Lightroom CC is a Good Idea (and How to Set Them Up)

Working on a smart preview in the Lightroom Develop Module, you will be working on the compressed DNG file. This means your computer will run faster. To ensure you have this enabled, go to Edit->Preferences. Check the box ‘Use Smart Previews instead of Originals for image editing.’

Why Using Smart Previews in Lightroom CC is a Good Idea (and How to Set Them Up)

What are the main advantages of Smart Previews

The three main advantages of using Smart Previews in Lightroom CC are:

  1. Speed up your workflow
  2. Save hard drive space
  3. Easier remote editing

Once you have created the Smart Previews, your computer manages the image files using fewer hardware resources. The file sizes are smaller, so they draw less of the computer’s CPU, GPU and RAM.

Working with Lightroom CC on a laptop or with an external drive is better with Smart Previews. You do not need to have all your RAW files on a remote hard drive to be able to keep editing. Your edits will be auto-synced (keep reading to learn how to do this).

Remote editing from a laptop or classroom computer is much easier. This is because catalogs with smart previews are so much smaller. By only exporting the DNG files with your catalogs, you are saving a huge amount of space.

Smart Previews Lightroom CC

How to export and re-sync using Smart Previews in Lightroom CC

Once you have imported your photos and created Smart Previews in a Lightroom CC catalog, you can export the catalog or part of it. Simply go to File->Export as catalog and make sure to check these boxes:

  • Export selected photos only
  • Build/Include Smart Previews
  • Include Available Previews

You don’t have to check the ‘Include Available Previews’. But if you have already made adjustments to some images, it’s a good idea to.

Uncheck the ‘Export Negative Files’ box.

NOTE: If you leave this one checked, you’ll be including all the RAW files. This is what you are wanting to avoid.

Why Using Smart Previews in Lightroom CC is a Good Idea (and How to Set Them Up)

Save the file where you can locate it again easily. Now you can copy it to another storage device or the cloud.

When opening Lightroom on your laptop or another computer, select the catalog from your storage device. You can work from your device or copy the catalog to the drive of the computer you are working on.

If you open the catalog from where it’s stored, all the changes you make in Lightroom will be saved there. Copying the catalog file to the hard drive of the computer you are now working on requires you to export it again when you’re finished.

To bring the files you have worked on back to your main computer, simply connect the portable storage. Copy the Lightroom catalog with the images you’ve been working on back onto your main computer’s hard drive.

To do this, go to File->Import from Another Catalog. Now locate the catalog from your portable storage. From the drop-down box, select ‘Replace: metadata and develop settings only.’ Click OK. Your Smart Previews will appear in your catalog, including the changes you made.

Smart Previews Lightroom CC


Using Smart Previews in Lightroom CC is a game-changer if you often work on your photos from more than one computer. Being able to make use of your laptop because the file sizes are smaller and more portable is a great advantage. It may seem like a little more work to set up to use Smart Previews, but once you have done it a few times, it will seamlessly become part of your post-processing workflow.

Do you use Smart Previews? What are your thoughts? Share with us in the comments.


The post Why Using Smart Previews in Lightroom CC is a Good Idea (and How to Set Them Up) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Create Awesome Reflections in Photoshop with Ease (Step-by-Step Guide)

The post Create Awesome Reflections in Photoshop with Ease (Step-by-Step Guide) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.


Attractive reflections can be challenging to capture naturally in your photographs. Sometimes it’s easier to create reflections in Photoshop. You will have more control over how the photo looks and you can avoid the difficulties that photographing reflections can bring.

Often you can’t find just the right place to stand to catch the best reflection. Sometimes the light is wrong and a natural reflection will look too dark. Choosing to make reflections in Photoshop gives you much more flexibility to get the look you want.

It’s really not that difficult to do. In this article, I’ll walk you through a series of steps you can use to make a mirror image in Photoshop.

Reflections in Photoshop

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Step 1: Selecting your photo

When making reflections in Photoshop, it’s important to start out by choosing a photo that’s suitable. Not every photo will look good or natural when you make a mirror image of it.

When you’re looking for a photo to use with this technique, think about how it will look. You ideally want to use a photo where the main subject has a distinct line along where the reflection will appear.

Open your photo in Photoshop. You may need to crop the bottom of the photo to create a clean line where the reflection can be placed.

Step 2: Adjust the canvas size

You need to adjust the canvas size to make room for the reflection you will create.

Go to the top menu and select Image->Canvas Size. In the pop-up that appears in the box next to the Height option, click the drop-down and choose Percent. Make the Height percentage 200.

Click the top center of the Anchor options grid. This will force the new canvas space you are creating to appear underneath your photo.

Click OK.

Create Awesome Reflections in Photoshop with Ease (Step-by-Step Guide)

Step 3: Duplicate the layer

In the Layers panel, unlock the base layer. To do this, click on the padlock icon. Now you can duplicate this layer by going to the top menu and selecting Layer->New->Layer Via Copy.

Convert both the layers to Smart Objects by right-clicking on each of them and selecting Convert To Smart Object. Now rename both layers to make it easier to keep track of which one is which.

Reflections in Photoshop

Step 4: Position the new layer

Drag the new layer to the space you created under your main image.

Now you need to flip the lower layer. This will be your reflection. From the top menu select Edit->Transform->Flip Vertical and press Enter.

Reflections in Photoshop

Step 5: Add blur to the reflection layer

With your reflection layer selected, from the top menu select Filter->Blur->Motion Blur. Set the Angle to 90-degrees and use the Distance slider to add a suitable amount of blur. How much you add is up to you and will vary depending on the resolution of the photo you are working with. In my example, I have set it to 30.

You may need to reposition your reflection layer by nudging it up slightly if a gap has appeared between your two layers.

Create Awesome Reflections in Photoshop with Ease (Step-by-Step Guide)

Step 6: Make a new file

Duplicate your file by going to the top menu and selecting Image->Duplicate. Crop the image so you are left only with the reflection.

Delete one layer so you are left with a blank canvas. Resize the canvas to 30%, otherwise, it will be too big to manage easily. Select the paint bucket and fill the image with black.

This file you have created will be added to the reflection layer to make it look more realistic like water.

Reflections in Photoshop

Step 7: Add blur and noise for texture

From the top menu select Filter->Noise->Add Noise. Make the amount 350% and check the boxes Uniform and Monochromatic. Click OK.

Now add some blur. Select Filter->Blur->Gaussian Blur from the top menu and set the Radius to 1.5 pixels and click OK.

Create Awesome Reflections in Photoshop with Ease (Step-by-Step Guide)

Step 8: Emboss your texture

In the Channels panel click on the Red channel.

Next, go to the top menu again and select Filter->Stylize->Emboss. Set the Angle to 90, the Height to 5, and the Amount to 500. Of course, you can experiment with any of these amounts. Click OK.

Now select the Green channel and Filter->Stylize->Emboss from the top menu. Set the Angle to 0, the Height to 5, and the Amount to 500. Click OK.

Turn on all the channels by clicking RGB. Go back to your Layers Panel, right-click the layer and Convert To Smart Object.

Create Awesome Reflections in Photoshop with Ease (Step-by-Step Guide)

Step 9: Stretch the perspective of the distortion

Select Edit->Free Transform from the top menu. Right-click inside the image and select Perspective. Make sure you are zoomed out a long way so your image is small in the center of your monitor.

Click on one of the bottom corners of the frame and drag it out horizontally. This will stretch and distort the lower part of the texture. Don’t worry if it looks weird, once you incorporate it into your reflection it will make it look more natural.

Zoom back to 100%. Save this image as a .PSD where you can find it easily and name it something recognizable.

Create Awesome Reflections in Photoshop with Ease (Step-by-Step Guide)

Step 10: Make an adjustment layer on your main image

Click on the reflection layer on your main image and duplicate it by pressing Ctrl (Cmd)+j on your keyboard. Name it “Reflection Copy.” With the new layer selected (which should be above the other reflection layer), from the top menu, choose Filter->Distort->Displace. Set the vertical and horizontal scales to about 10.

You may need to alter these if it does not look good, depending on your image size and resolution. Click OK.

From the window that opens, find and select the distortion image you just created and saved. This will use the texture image as a displacement layer. If the ripple effect is too large or too small, undo that step. Redo the step again, but this time choose a higher or lower number for the displacement scale.

Experiment with this until you are satisfied with the way it looks. It’s entirely up to your taste.

Reflections in Photoshop

Step 11: Adjust the reflection

With your Reflection Copy layer selected, click on the layer mask icon, which is at the bottom of the Layers Panel. Select the Brush tool with the color set to Black and a large brush size and Hardness of 0%.

From the options panel above your image, set the brush opacity to 20%. Select your layer mask, not the main reflection layer. Paint from side to side over the top half of your reflection layer, where it meets the top layer until it looks natural.

What you are doing is erasing 20% of the distortion each time you paint. You want to make the reflection look smoother in what appears to be the distance.

Reflections in Photoshop

Step 12: Merge the reflection layers

Select both the reflection layers in the Layers Panel. Right-click on one of them and select Merge Layers. Make sure your main image is not selected. You should now have one reflection layer and your main layer.

Step 13: Darken the reflection

With the reflection layer selected, go to your top menu and choose Image->Adjustments->Curves. Click in the middle of the curves adjustment line and drag it down to darken the reflection. Adjust it until it looks natural. A reflection in water is typically darker than the scene it’s reflecting.

Reflections in Photoshop


Follow through these steps a few times and experiment with the variables. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Your personal preference and the photos you choose will determine the outcome.

You will find reflections in Photoshop look better on some images than on others.

Try out this technique for making reflections in Photoshop, and share your images with us in the comments below!

The post Create Awesome Reflections in Photoshop with Ease (Step-by-Step Guide) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Why Every Photographer Should be a Teacher

The post Why Every Photographer Should be a Teacher appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.


I love teaching photography – it helps me to be a better photographer as well as those I teach. Every photographer should be a teacher at some point.

Many photographers, including myself, are largely self-taught. This does not mean learning new techniques and methods from someone more advanced than us is not welcome.

Modern life affords you endless resources to become self-taught in many subjects. Certain professions require an academic degree, photography does not. Becoming a doctor or engineer would be impossible without formal education. To learn photography all you need to do is get online and start reading and watching videos. Most of it you can even do for free.


© Kevin Landwer-Johan

There’s no substitute for a competent teacher

Aspects of learning that require a teacher include: receiving clear instruction in person. Having the opportunity to ask and have your questions answered, and being challenged about specifics at your personal level of learning.

Everyone can become a competent teacher. You will always know at least a little more than someone else. Even if you’ve only learned what you believe is a little. You are capable of sharing what you know in a unique way. Your knowledge and experience will be appreciated by someone.

Image: © Pansa Landwer-Johan

© Pansa Landwer-Johan

Finding the right students

Whatever level of photography you are at, you’ll always be able to find someone who knows less than you. Or someone who does things differently than you. Connecting with people who appreciate your willingness to share is important. It’s practically impossible to teach someone who does not want to learn.

Even complete novices can teach each other through practical experience. Going out with another photographer provides you opportunities to talk about the photos you’re taking. Because we all have a unique view of the world, we all see things differently. Sharing this with others can help us become more skilled with our cameras.

More advanced photographers are usually more capable of teaching those with less experience. Having a positive and encouraging attitude towards each other helps. I never tell people they are doing something wrong, instead, I prefer to teach them how to make improvements to what they are doing.

Making yourself available and reaching out to those with less experience is a good first step. Building a relationship of trust will encourage the learning process. Once your students know you’ll not lambast them for an incorrect exposure or out of focus subject, they’ll be more open to learning from you.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Start by asking and looking

Before I run a workshop, I like to see a selection of photos from people who will attend. This gives me a pretty good idea of how they like to use their cameras. It often provides me with a pretty good idea of how to teach them.

I like asking questions, and I love it when people ask me questions. This is a huge part of the learning process. Establishing how a person uses their camera, and what they prefer to photograph, helps me know where to start teaching.

Asking questions and looking at the photos of someone you are teaching makes the whole interaction more personal. It also makes the experience much more practical.

Don’t only look at the best photos someone has taken. Ask to see some recent pictures they’ve made that have disappointed them. Even if you cannot see any obvious reason for the lack of success, discuss the pictures. This will often bring new ideas to life, and you can both learn something new.

Asking a person questions about their photography shows you are interested in them. Most people will appreciate this. Once they know you are interested, they will be more receptive to what you have to teach.


© Pansa Landwer-Johan

Teaching is not only about what you know

You need to become aware of what your students do and do not know. This information is gained both by asking questions and looking at their photos. Once you have this understanding, you can focus on teaching them what will be practical.

Remember that when we hear something we’ve had no prior knowledge about, it’s more difficult to understand it. Building on what students already know and incrementally introducing new concepts is practical.

Understanding what you have to share is important. Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Teaching what you understand well, you will be received more readily by your students.

When you think you have a good grasp of technique and the person you’re sharing it with is looking bored, this is a clear sign you are not hitting the mark. Do you really have such a good understanding of what you are teaching? How can you simplify your explanation to make it more acceptable? Or are you introducing a brand new idea too soon?

Teaching and doing is the best way to learn photography. Having their camera in hand, a student can put into practice what you are teaching them. If, for example, you’re teaching about depth of field, this is better understood when you can see the results different camera settings produce. When photographing the same subject that your student is, you can compare your photos. This way, you’ll see if they understand the teaching.


© Kevin Landwer-Johan

You will reap what you sow

Every photographer should be a teacher because as you teach, you will also learn. Giving out brings back to you many times more than what you contribute. I’ve always enjoyed sharing what I know about photography with others. It wasn’t until about six years ago that I started running regular photography workshops. Because I was teaching, my rate of learning increased incredibly.

Teaching can push you to learn more too. Questions from students or fellow photographers will challenge you to learn more. It feels good to give a clear and understandable answer to someone’s question. Regular interaction like this will inspire you to increase your knowledge, and as a result, your photography will improve.

You don’t need to wait until you believe you’re completely competent. Start now. Build relationships with other photographers who are at about the same level as you and find others who are beginners. Start to share your experiences together and encourage them to share with you what they know about photography. This way, you’ll all benefit from teaching, and you’ll grow together in your photography experience.

I hope you’ve enjoyed Why Every Photographer Should be a Teacher. If you have anything else you would like to add, please do so in the comments.

The post Why Every Photographer Should be a Teacher appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

10 Awesome Photoshop CC Tricks You Wish You Knew

The post 10 Awesome Photoshop CC Tricks You Wish You Knew appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.


All photographers want their photos to look fantastic and part of the path to great images is the post-processing. You can do so much with the right tools if you know how to use them well. Photoshop is such an amazing tool for photographers. The more you use it the more you find that it can do. The more you realize you have to study to be able to make the most of it. In this article, I will share with you ten cool Photoshop CC tricks I love using when I work on my photos in Adobe Photoshop.

1. Photoshop search

10 Awesome Photoshop CC Tricks You Wish You Knew

Photoshop articles like this or video tutorials often suggest tools to use that you may not be familiar with. It’s easy enough to remember the tool but forget its location within photoshop. This is where the Photoshop search comes in helpful.

Up in the top right of the main photoshop window, you will find a search icon. Click on it to search not only to find that tool you want but other things too. You can also search for tutorials, Lightroom and Adobe stock images.

2. Manage keyboard shortcuts

10 Awesome Photoshop CC Tricks You Wish You Knew

When working with any complicated software, it pays to learn at least some of the keyboard shortcuts. Knowing the shortcuts for the tools you use the most will help speed up your workflow.

In photoshop you have the capacity to customize your keyboard shortcuts. It’s easy enough to do. If you’ve been using photoshop for a while you will know which tools you use often and will want to know the shortcuts.

To find them, all you need to do is go to the top menu and select Edit->Keyboard Shortcuts. This opens up a window where you’ll see all the information you need to learn the shortcuts and change them.

Most keys and many combinations have shortcuts assigned. These can be customized to suit your working style.

One key that has no default shortcut assigned is the ‘n’ key. You can assign your favorite tool to it without disrupting any of the other shortcut keys.

3. Temporary tool select

Another helpful trick that aids smooth workflow is being able to temporarily select a tool.

Say you’re working on an image with the Burn tool and you see a small blemish you want to remove with the Clone tool. You can simply press and hold the ‘s’ key to select the Clone tool. Once you’ve removed the blemish, release the ‘s’ key and your cursor will revert back to the Burn tool.

This can be used with most keyboard shortcuts.

4. Open the same image in two windows


Opening the same image document in two windows gives you some great flexibility. You can have one instance of the file zoomed and be working on the details and the other showing the entire frame. This lets you see the changes you make in the detailed view as they happen in the full-frame window also.

To open two image documents, go to ‘Window’ in the top menu and select Arrange->New Window for [the file name of the opened file]. Click on this file, and a new instance of the file will open. Now you can select Window->Arrange and select the display option you prefer. Here I have selected to show 2-up Vertical.

This trick is very cool if you are working with two or more monitors.

5. Creating selections of Highlights and Shadows


Selecting only the highlights or dark areas of an image can give you more control when making certain adjustments.

To do this, choose the type of adjustment you want to make. For this example, I have added a Curve Adjustment Layer. This is from the menu at the bottom of the Layers panel. Once I have the new adjustment layer, I then delete the layer mask.

Here’s where the magic happens. Press Ctrl+Alt+2 (Cmd+Opt+2 on Mac) and all the bright pixels will be selected. When you click on the Curves icon in the Layers panel, you will not only be making adjustments to the brightest pixels. In the Properties panel of the mask, you can choose to invert the selection and work on the darker pixels.

6. Pen tool tips


Learning to use the Pen tool in photoshop is frustrating for many people. At first, it can be difficult to make the line go where you want it to. Here are some tweaks you can make so your learning curve is not so steep.

When you have the Pen tool selected, click the Cog icon on the top menu. Here you can alter the settings for how the line looks and responds. You can determine the weight and color of the line. This can be helpful in allowing you to see where you’re drawing more easily.

Probably the most helpful aspect of the Pen tool settings is the Rubber Band checkbox. With this setting active, you can see where your line is as you draw. This allows you to see where your line will be in real-time. Without the Rubber Band box checked, you will not see where your line will be drawn until you click on a point.

Two more helpful tips with the Pen tool are:

  1. Use the spacebar as you click. Hold the spacebar to allow you to place the point precisely where you want it to be.
  2. Once your line is complete, use Alt+Click to modify the handles on a point so you can alter the curve of the line.

7. Select colors from any application

10 Awesome Photoshop CC Tricks You Wish You Knew

Matching a color you want to use in photoshop with a color in another program or app is easy and can be very useful. Pulling the same color and applying it to text, a brush or fill means you can precisely color match what you are working on.

Shrink your photoshop window and place it over the area you want to select the color from. Simply select the tool for how you want to apply the color. In my example, I want to fill the background of my logo with a specific color from a photo on my website. Click and hold the Alt key as you drag your mouse to hover over the color you want to match.

When you release your mouse, Photoshop will use it as the selected foreground color. Now you can apply it as you wish.

8. Control Color Luminosity


By creating a new black and white Adjustment Layer and setting the Blend mode to Luminosity, you can darken or brighten each color in your image. Simple drag the slider for each color you want to adjust until you are satisfied with its luminosity.

9. Transparency using ‘Blend If’

10 Awesome Photoshop CC Tricks You Wish You Knew

The ‘Blend If’ mode is a powerful tool when you know how to use it. Selecting and manipulating layers using the Blend If functions allow you to alter the luminosity or color channel of a layer.

In this example, I wanted to eliminate the black background from my logo and replace it with an image. The image is on the layer underneath my logo. Bring up the Layer Style panel by double-clicking on the layer you want to work on. With the Blend If mode set to Gray, use the slider below it to remove the darker or lighter pixels. In this example, I have moved the slider on the left towards the right to take out the black background of the logo.

Making the altered layer a Smart Object will make those hidden pixels transparent for even more flexibility.

10. Non-destructive Spot Healing Brush

10 Awesome Photoshop CC Tricks You Wish You Knew

Adding a new layer above the image you are working on allows you to work non-destructively with the Spot Healing Brush. Often with highly textured images, the Spot Healing Brush provides an unsatisfactory result. Adding an extra blank layer gives you more flexibility.

The key to making this work is to ensure you check the Sample All Layers checkbox in the top menu bar.


I hope there are a few new tips and tricks on this list of Photoshop CC tricks that you can find helpful. As with all things Photoshop, everyone works differently. There are also many ways to reach the same end result.

If you know of some other cool Photoshop CC tips or tricks let us know what they are in the comments below.

The post 10 Awesome Photoshop CC Tricks You Wish You Knew appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

10 of the Most Useful Photoshop CC Shortcuts

The post 10 of the Most Useful Photoshop CC Shortcuts appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.


Learning photography well requires a lot of study and practice. Figuring out what the dials and buttons on your camera do takes time and focus. Choosing what to photograph and how you want it to look is challenging for many photographers.

Once you’ve taken some photos, another challenge to face is how to get them looking their best. This is where you need to learn a whole new set of computer skills. The more particular you are about the way your photos end up, the better post processor you need to become.


Adobe makes two of the most popular photography post-processing programs. Lightroom and Photoshop have been industry standards for many years. As the software develops, it becomes more and more complex. There are many built-in tools to make the user experience more fun. But to make use of them you will need to study and practice.

Photoshop CC Shortcuts

Making the most of your keyboard is about the best way to ensure not only greater speed, but more enjoyment when using Photoshop. The software has many cool shortcut keys that speed up your workflow. They also help you maintain unbroken concentration when you are working on a photograph.

With so many shortcuts, it’s not practical to sit down and learn them all at once. Looking at them in the software does little to inspire. This is why I’ve come up with a list of ten Photoshop CC shortcuts that I think you will find helpful.

From time to time, I make a point of learning a few more. I’ll search for five to ten shortcuts and make a list. I place this next to my computer monitor and refer to it when Photoshopping.

If you’re not used to using keyboard shortcuts with Photoshop, they might seem a bit fiddly at first. Like learning to touch type, the more you practice, the easier it becomes, and the less you have to think about where you are putting your fingers. Learning to use shortcut keys in Photoshop is a similar experience, but you can easily break it down and learn a few at a time.

1. Clone Stamp Tweaks

The clone stamp is one of the most used tools in Photoshop. It’s powerful and flexible to do everything from removing small blemishes to recreating whole portions of a composition. Here’s a couple of keyboard shortcuts that make it even more useful.

Use Alt+Shift+arrows (Opt+Shift+arrows on Mac) to offset the selection area.

Alt+Shift+<> (Opt+Shift+<> on Mac) rotates the selection

Using [] scales the source.

These shortcuts only work when you have a North American keyboard selected in your operating system.


2. Last-Used Filter

When you’re processing batches of images, you’ll often want to repeatedly use the same filter. To apply the previously used filter, use Ctrl+F (Cmd+F on Mac). Reapply the last filter used, but display dialog box to alter settings use Ctrl–Alt–F (Cmd+Opt+F on Mac)


3. Lock Transparent Pixels

In Photoshop, using the / key locks transparent pixels. This is helpful when painting or compositing. Working on a layer with transparent pixels, you will avoid affecting them using the keyboard shortcut.

10 of the Most Useful Photoshop CC Shortcuts

4. Color Fills

Use Shift+Alt+Backspace (Shift+Opt+Backspace on Mac). This fills opaque pixels on a layer with the foreground color. Shift+Ctrl+Backspace (Shift+Cmd+Backspace on Mac) fills with the background color.


5. Marquee Tool Tweak

Drawing a marquee by default happens from the edge. To draw a marquee selection from center Alt+drag (Opt+drag on Mac)selection.

10 of the Most Useful Photoshop CC Shortcuts

6. Selection Help

To bring back a selection you deselected, use Ctrl+Shift+D (Cmd+Shift+D on Mac). This will restore the last active selection. It is super helpful if you deselect and then notice something else you need to alter.


7. Layer Mask Speed

Ctrl+\ (Cmd+\ on Mac) switches between Layer and Layer Mask Ctrl+2 (Cmd+2 on Mac) to switch back. This is a pure workflow time saver. It allows you to keep your mouse active on the image rather than dragging it back and forth to the layers panel.

10 of the Most Useful Photoshop CC Shortcuts

8. Brush Tool Cursor

With the Brush Tool selected hitting the Caps Lock shows only the cross-hair cursor. This allows you to position your cursor more precisely. It’s also a good shortcut to know how to undo. If you’ve inadvertently turned caps lock on while using the Brush Tool, you may wonder why you can only see a crosshair. Hit the caps lock again, and your normal cursor will reappear.


9. Revert to Last Saved

F12 reverts the file to the last saved instance of it. This is a quick and easy way to review changes you are making to an image.

10 of the Most Useful Photoshop CC Shortcuts

10. Screen Space Savers

F keys to show/Hide panels. Memorizing these keyboard shortcuts will give you so much more screen space to use. If you are confined to a single monitor, making use of these shortcuts can change the way you use Photoshop.

F5 – Show/Hide Brushes panel

F6 – Show/Hide Color panel

F7 – Show/Hide Layers panel

F8 – Show/Hide Info panel

Alt–F9 – Show/Hide Actions panel

10 of the Most Useful Photoshop CC Shortcuts


I suggest you use this list as a starting point. Not all these shortcuts will be helpful for everyone. Think about the actions you use repetitively when using Photoshop and search to discover if there are keyboard shortcuts to make your life simpler.

Making a note and keeping it near your computer will help you commit these shortcuts to memory. Once you have them, do some more research and make another list of shortcuts you’d like to learn. Making a concerted effort and being consistent with using these shortcuts, you will learn them quickly.

There are over 500 keyboard shortcuts for Photoshop. Master these, and then you can also customize your own.

If you’ve got a few favorite shortcuts you think others may not be aware of, please share them in the comments below.


The post 10 of the Most Useful Photoshop CC Shortcuts appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Diversify Your Gear Options With Old, Manual Focus Lenses

The post Diversify Your Gear Options With Old, Manual Focus Lenses appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.


Photographers like to talk about gear. Discussion about the latest and greatest camera equipment is common. That’s fine to focus on if you think you can improve your photography, or if you like talking about new shiny things. And you have the money to satisfy your desires.

Image: Taken using a 55mm Micro-NIKKOR-P manufactured in about 1970 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Taken using a 55mm Micro-NIKKOR-P manufactured in about 1970 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Photographers who can’t afford to keep upgrading their gear tend not to talk about it so much. It can become depressing. Some of them also understand that purchasing the latest camera gear may do very little to improve their photography. Sometimes using older gear invokes more creativity.

What is it about old, manual focus lenses?

I’ve been taking photos for a long time. It was years before I had a camera capable of autofocus, let alone any autofocus lenses. I had to learn the old fashioned way.

This was my first camera and lens – a Nikkormat FTN with a 50mm f/1.4 attached. I continued to use this lens for 27 years until it finally was not in focus all the time. I think it’s worn out; the glass elements are slopping around inside.


Taken with my phone 🙂 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Manual focusing is not so difficult. It’s like learning to drive a manual shift car. It takes some practice. Once you can, you never forget how. You may get a little rusty if you haven’t done it for a while, but before long, you’ll be driving along and not thinking about it.

Old lenses were built more solidly and feel different in use. Because of their build quality, they can last longer. Many of them are as sharp, if not sharper, than modern lenses.

Take a look back at some of the famous photographers of the last century. Photographers including Sebastião Salgado, Don McCullin, Henri Cartier-Bresson and others did not rely on modern autofocus lenses.

Image: Taken using my Nikkormat FTN and 50mm lens. Scanned from a slide. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Taken using my Nikkormat FTN and 50mm lens. Scanned from a slide. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Using manual focus lenses can help you improve your photography

You have to slow down and think more about what you are doing while using a manual lens. Well, initially, you do. After some practice, you’ll find manual focusing comes pretty naturally.

So much attention in photography is on doing things fast. Manual focus has a bad rap because it’s slower than autofocus. I don’t perceive that this always has to be a negative thing.

Slowing down can help you see more and to think more about what you are doing. Using a manual focus lens can encourage you to become more engrossed in your photography. Without relying on autofocus technology, you have to use alternative means of capturing the photos you want.

Image: Taken using a manual focus 20mm. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Taken using a manual focus 20mm. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Creative thinking becomes more to the fore when you do not have autofocus lenses to use. You must consider more carefully what you want to focus on. This is never a bad thing to master.

Learning to prefocus so your subject will be sharp when it’s time to take the photo is a great skill to have. With a manual focus lens, this becomes less optional.

Any of these methods, when practiced enough, will become second nature. You’ll find yourself using them no matter what lens you have on your camera.


20mm Nikon Lens © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Diversifying your lens options doesn’t have to be expensive

Old lenses are available secondhand almost everywhere at reasonable prices. If you have a new camera with a kit lens and want to add another lens or two, consider buying used.

Picking up an older 50mm lens will not set you back as much as a brand new lens. Depending on what brand camera you have, you may also need to purchase an adapter. This will allow you to mount older lenses to your digital camera. Nikon users have the advantage here.

I was able to keep using my original lens on each camera I upgraded to because Nikon never changed the lens mount. Any older Nikon lens will attach to every Nikon camera. Some very old lenses may lose some metering functionality but otherwise, work very well. Some may also need slight modification.

Adapters are available for just about every camera and lens combination. Once you’ve bought your first old manual focus lens, it may pay to stick to buying the same brand. That way you can use the same adapter.

Image: Taken with a 105mm manual focus lens manufactured around 1973 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Taken with a 105mm manual focus lens manufactured around 1973 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Manual focus lens structure and build are much less complicated than autofocus lenses. The higher quality older lenses are sturdy and robust. There are three main things to look out for in second-hand lenses:

  1. Indications that they have been dropped or otherwise mistreated. Dings and heavy scratches on a lens are not a good sign.
  2. Fungus in the lens is another thing to watch for. Dirt on the outside is easy enough to clean off. A lens with fungus on the outside or any of the inner lens elements can be expensive to clean and may well be damaged beyond repair.
  3. Thirdly, the focusing ring can become stiff and hard to turn, particularly if the lens has not been used for a long time. You can repair it, but repairs can become expensive, depending on where you live.
Image: Taken using a manual focus 85mm. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Taken using a manual focus 85mm. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

I picked up a bag of camera gear at a general household auction years ago. In it was a Nikon FM2 body with an MD4 motor drive. I knew I could sell the drive for $400. The camera had a 135mm lens on it with so much mold you couldn’t see through it. That was worthless. Also in the bag was a 55mm micro Nikkor in lovely condition.

I bought the lot for $250, then sold the camera and motor drive and kept the lens. I made around $350 on the deal, plus I got to keep the lens, which I still love using. If you know what you are buying you can be lucky enough to end up with another lens and it not cost anything.


Taken using a 55mm Micro-NIKKOR-P manufactured in about 1970 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Main drawback of older lenses

Build quality and glass are not often a problem in good-quality older lenses. Coatings of lenses have improved over time. Modern lenses have coatings developed for use with digital cameras.

Chromatic aberration, also known as purple fringing, is more prevalent in old lenses. This is because the lens coatings are different. However, post-processing software can often fix the problem pretty well.

Lack of sharpness at wide apertures can sometimes be an issue with older lenses. Avoiding using the widest aperture setting can often alleviate this problem.


© Kevin Landwer-Johan


Diversifying your gear options with older manual focus lenses is worth considering. If you’re a student on a budget (or anyone else on a budget!), picking up a second-hand lens or two will help you in a number of ways:

  • You’ll be saving money
  • You will have to learn to use manual focus
  • Second-hand lenses keep their resale value more than new lenses
  • Working more slowly will help your photograph in other ways too

When looking to buy older lenses, it’s best to do your research carefully first. There’s no point buying a lens that won’t work with your model of camera. Get on the internet and specifically search for the camera and lens you want to combine. If it can be done, someone has likely blogged about it or posted a video to Youtube already.


Do you use old, manual focus lenses? What is your experience with them? Share your experiences and images with us in the comments!

The post Diversify Your Gear Options With Old, Manual Focus Lenses appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

How Would Your Photography Change if you Couldn’t use any Auto Functions on Your Camera?

The post How Would Your Photography Change if you Couldn’t use any Auto Functions on Your Camera? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.



What if your digital camera had no auto exposure ability? How would you manage? Do you think you’d adapt and learn to make good and creative exposures? I’m sure you would. And you’d enjoy your photography a lot more once you realize it’s not so difficult.

Learn to control your exposures in Manual Mode

I learned on a camera with no auto modes. It was completely mechanical. It only required a battery for the simple exposure meter. My Nikkormat FTN, however, was a film camera, so I had no monitor with which to preview or review photos. There was also no metadata recorded to help me understand the exposure choices I was making. I had to write my settings in a notebook.


© Kevin Landwer-Johan

How much do you rely on any of the auto exposure modes? When you’re learning how to use your camera these modes are helpful. They allow you to capture photographs easily. Not having to think about exposure settings can free you up to pay more attention to other aspects of picture taking.

You can better achieve composition, timing, and relating to your subject when using an auto mode. But what if you didn’t have this option? Do you think you’d learn to manage to set your exposures by yourself, only with the help of a built-in light meter? I think you would.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Once you commit to understanding light and exposure, making manual adjustments is not so difficult. You can become more accurate with them over time. If you are only sometimes bold to use manual settings, you’ll take a very long time to master them, if you can at all.

To be successful at using manual exposure mode you must commit to learning how it works. You need to have an understanding of light and how your camera records different tone values. Using manual mode does require you to slow down at first. But once you’re practiced, you’ll become faster and more accurate.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Discipline is required to learn to photograph in Manual Mode

Learning any creative artform requires discipline. If you want to paint or sculpt you must spend time studying. Making ceramics or wood carving takes time and practice. When learning to play a musical instrument, you must go over and over the basics many times.

Most kids don’t like playing scales ad nauseam when learning a musical instrument. But they are foundational and so beneficial in helping a young musician grow and understand their craft. Photographers are rarely so disciplined.


© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Taking time to practice the essential functions of your camera will allow you to become more proficient. If you are relying on the built-in artificial intelligence, you will often struggle to reach your full creative potential.

By making a point of frequently using manual mode, you’ll be on a journey towards a deeper creative expression. But you have to be disciplined to make it most effective.

Many people who enroll in my photography workshops tell me they use their cameras in an auto mode. They admit to occasional manual use. I encourage them that unless they commit to using it, manual mode will remain difficult.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Slow down and feel the freedom

Often, photographers who prefer using an auto mode express their concern for missing the moment if they are using manual mode. I appreciate this as a genuine concern. However, you can’t always catch great photos on the spur of the moment. They take planning and patience.

Taking time to learn manual mode will also help you develop what you want to photograph. You will look at the world around you in different ways. You will begin to anticipate more when you choose to take photographs, rather than looking for snapshots.


© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Every genre of photography requires patience on the part of the people with the cameras. Whether your photographing landscapes, sports or birds, it’s best if you are not in a hurry. Take the time to study your subject. Know your camera well and how you can control it. Be most familiar with it, and observe and predict when the best opportunity for a photograph will happen.

Landscape photographers can wait for months for the right conditions. Sports photographers must develop lightning-fast reflexes. But these take time to perfect. They are developed with the study of the game and frequent practice photographing it.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Practice often

The more often you practice anything, the better you will become.

Many years ago, I had accreditation to photograph the world cup cricket matches played in Auckland, New Zealand. I was working for a newspaper back then. I had no experience with cricket, other than watching some matches on TV. I turned up on the morning of the first match with my camera fitted with a 2X converter and a 400mm lens.

That day, I hardly managed to capture a single frame with the ball in it. I felt disheartened. I did realize, though, that I had lots of opportunities to practice. Over the next month that the tournament played out, I improved. Each match managed a higher percentage of good photos.

I started with what was simplest – the batsman swinging at and, hopefully, striking the ball. These were not the most impressive photos to aim for, but it was a good place to start. I was envious when I saw the published pictures of more experienced photographers. They showed more dynamic action. However, as I became used to working in the environment with an 800mm focal length, I was able to capture more interesting photos.

I focussed manually, due to using the 2X converter. My exposures were also manually controlled. But this was not so challenging when the light was constant. The repetitive action allowed me to grow used to the flow of the game. I became better at predicting when the best photo opportunities were.


© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Explore and experiment with your photography

If you can discipline yourself to use manual mode and practice photographing the same subject material over and over, you’ll improve. Once you are more confident using manual exposure settings, you’ll become faster.

Doing the same routine many times, you’ll build up your ability to understand your camera. You can reach a level of competence where you make good exposure changes without being fully conscious of your actions.

When the light changes, you will be more aware of it. You will change your aperture or shutter speed a few clicks without having to check your exposure meter. Once you are doing this, you’ll be able to give more of your attention to other aspects of taking photos.

Difficult lighting conditions will no longer be so challenging. Many people who prefer to use auto exposure settings don’t like taking photos in the middle of the day. Especially when the sun is out. Learning to control your camera will help you see the light and make your exposures to manage well in these conditions.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

I took this photo at around 2 pm on a sunny day and tweaked it only slightly during post-processing. The basic light and dark effect was created when I took the photo. Being able to see when the light is right and control your camera gives you more freedom. You will be able to create better photographs.


I know there will always be photographers who prefer to stick to using auto modes. The most common argument is using exposure compensation to override the camera’s choice. I always think if you are taking this extra step, you may as well be using manual mode.


© Kevin Landwer-Johan

I know from experience, learning on a camera with no auto exposure options helped me to understand more about light. It also meant I had to learn the relationships between the exposure settings. I was responsible for getting it right and making my photos look the way I wanted them to.

If you discipline yourself to use your camera in manual mode, you will have a far easier time learning than I did. With digital cameras, you have the advantage of being able to preview and review your photos in real-time. You also have tools like the histogram, highlight indicators, and spot metering. These all make it easier to capture well-exposed photos in manual mode.

The post How Would Your Photography Change if you Couldn’t use any Auto Functions on Your Camera? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop: Rescue Your Damaged Adobe Photoshop Files

The post Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop: Rescue Your Damaged Adobe Photoshop Files appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Have you ever endured the stress of dealing with a corrupted Photoshop PSD file? It’s not such a common problem, but when it happens it can invoke serious mental and emotional hardship. Let me introduce you to a little software tool that can be of great help to photographers, designers, and anyone else who uses Adobe Photoshop – the Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop.

Fully recovered corrupted PSD file

How PSD files become corrupt

Imagine spending hours post-processing a photo you’ve captured or graphic you have created. It’s one of your best. You’ve worked through some tutorials, and been inspired to create a masterpiece of digital art.
You’ve put the final touches to it and hit Save, and then the power goes out. Your file has not saved correctly. Or you’ve saved it to a hard drive with bad sectors. Even when you revive the drive, the PSD file will not open. These are events that create nightmares.
There are other ways PSD files become corrupted and Photoshop won’t open them. At times, all you’ll see is an error message.
Other times the file will open but will be incomplete. Layers may be missing, or the file may have been flattened. Maybe all you’ll see is digital noise.
Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop: Rescue Your Damaged Adobe Photoshop Files
You may have encountered similar file retrieval problems with bad memory cards or hard drives. These situations require specialized software that can recover files and rebuild them.

Adobe Photoshop Repair Tool

Adobe Photoshop Repair Tool from Recovery Toolbox is specifically designed to reclaim and repair damaged Photoshop PSD files. It’s not a tool you will use every day (hopefully), but when you do need to, it can save you considerable stress and maybe hours of work.

This small piece of dedicated software opens and restores PSD files. Often it will manage to completely restore a file which Photoshop refuses to open. Other times it will work partially. You might get most of your layers back, but not all of them. At this stage, however, it is only available for users of Windows 98 and above.

How it works

Step 1:

Open Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop and select the file you are having issues with. Click ‘Next’.

Step 2:

The ‘View Data’ window will open. Here you have a breakdown of what the Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop can see in the corrupted file. If the file has multiple layers, click on the ‘Layers’ drop-down in the left-hand panel to view them.
In the right-hand panel, there are two tabs. Click on the ‘Picture’ tab for a preview of each layer.

Step 3:

Choose your target file and the layers you want to recover. In this step, you can also select or deselect certain layers you want to recover.
Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop: Rescue Your Damaged Adobe Photoshop Files

Step 4:

Click ‘Recover’ and the software will work its magic. Once the recovery process is completed, click the ‘Show Result’ button to open the recovered file in Photoshop. It’s as easy as that.
Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop: Rescue Your Damaged Adobe Photoshop Files


Whether you’re a keen amateur or a professional photographer, this software will help you out when Photoshop fails to open a file. This might mean the difference in saving time rebuilding an image, or it might save your skin and keep a valuable client.
This Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop works on any PSD file saved from Photoshop version three or later, and recovers files with .psd and .8bps extensions.

Working through the easy steps is fast and allows for some control in the layers you choose to repair. I found that when testing this software, it was not necessary to do this, but the feature allows for flexibility with more problematic files.

This software is specifically designed to read, analyze, and recover your PSD files.

When testing this software, I purposefully produced a series of damaged PSD files, corrupting them in different ways. While saving a multi-layered PSD file, I rebooted my computer while the file was in the process of writing to a hard drive. I also saved the file to a thumb drive which I removed before fully saving the image. I did this at various stages in the process of saving. In these instances, the Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop was not able to restore my files even when they’d been nearly through the saving process.

Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop: Rescue Your Damaged Adobe Photoshop Files
The software was sent to me with a number of test files. Each of these appeared to be corrupted in different ways. Some of them opened with Photoshop, but incompletely. Others failed to open and Photoshop displayed an error message.


  • Dedicated to repairing PSD files.
  • Easy to use.
  • Well laid out user interface.
  • Detailed information and controls.
  • Price.


  • Doesn’t repair all damaged PSD files.
  • Only available for Windows Users
If you don’t like the idea of installing software onto your computer, Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop also has an online repair service where you simply upload your damaged file. The benefits of using the online version include:

  • Helps to repair Photoshop files on all Operation Systems: macOS, iOS, Android, Windows and so on
  • Work on any devices: PC, tablet, phones
  • Affordable price: $10
  • No need to install any software

In this review, the online version was not tested.


Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop is a great tool and will help you out where Photoshop fails to. However, there is never any substitute for having a disciplined backup routine. Saving your work often and backing it up on a separate drive, device or in the cloud is the most sure-fire way to ensure your precious files are safe and usable.
Disclaimer: Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop is a paid dPS partner.


The post Recovery Toolbox for Photoshop: Rescue Your Damaged Adobe Photoshop Files appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

How Using Props in Portraits Can Make Your Photos More Interesting

The post How Using Props in Portraits Can Make Your Photos More Interesting appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

There are many ways using props can make portraits more interesting. Often photographing a person can be challenging. This can be so for both the photographer and the person being photographed. Using props can not only add interest to the portrait, but it can also help your subject relax more.

What are props and how can you use them effectively?

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

A prop is any element you add to a photograph which adds interest or meaning to your subject or the concept you’re creating. What you can use is up to your imagination. They can be anything from an ancient tree stump to a melting ice cream cone.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Props can add humor to photographs. Using a prop well with a nervous subject can help them relax. You can use props effectively to help contextualize your subject. Without a prop, a portrait may not convey much or any concept. With the addition of a prop, a portrait can take on a whole new meaning.

A prop is often used to add visual information about the person;

  • their occupation
  • hobbies
  • character
  • or location

Using props to help illustrate a story

When you’re illustrating a story using a portrait, adding a prop can add depth and meaning. A prop incorporated into a photo will tell more of a person’s story than a caption, or even a whole paragraph.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Making a series of travel portraits with a visiting friend I asked her to bring along her backpack. She was going to the station to purchase a ticket for a later date and would not have brought her luggage. Having it with her for the photographs helped to create more of a visual story.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

The location and the train tell part of the story. Having her backpack in the pictures lets you know she was traveling, not just there to meet a friend. The more relevant visual information you can include, the more interesting your portraits become. Well-used props help stimulate the viewer’s imagination.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Isolated studio portraits using props

Isolating your subject on a plain background is a popular method of taking a portrait. A subject on their own can produce great character portraits. But for many people, it can be somewhat intimidating.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Using a prop can help them relax and enjoy the experience more. Having something in their hands to concentrate on distracts them from your camera. Feeling less intimidated by it, they are more likely to give you vibrant expressions.

I took a series of photographs for a small drama school. Using props helped the students feel more at ease. They were confident performers, but many of them were not so comfortable in front of the camera. Including props allowed their tutor, who was assisting me, to encourage them into character.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

A single prop keeps a studio portrait simple and adds meaning that would not be evident without it. Creating concepts for stock photography in this manner it’s possible to facilitate a whole series of photos.

Including props will add depth and interest to a series of photos of the same person. It can be challenging to take more than one or two different portraits of a person on an isolated background. Using props will give you more diverse options for what you can achieve.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Bring your own props or use what’s available

Often asking a person to bring along their own props can help create a meaningful portrait. Using items that they relate to and tell something about themselves will add genuine feeling to the portraits.

I asked this friend if I could photograph her and also what she’d like to use as a prop. Immediately she replied, “ice cream.” She loves ice cream so it was appropriate and meant she’d enjoy the photo session. The weather was so hot that even with the air conditioning blasting the ice cream melted quickly. We went with the flow and used the prop for additional makeup as well. It was a fun session.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Any well-established portrait studio has a diverse selection of props. Your subject doesn’t have to own a prop. If they can choose from a selection you have, they might find something that lights up their imagination.

Even simple things that are common can work as props. Having someone read a book or make a phone call can help them focus on what they are doing and not on your camera.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Finding props on location helps to incorporate your subject in the place. Having them pick up some produce at the market, or interact with some part of the environment can make for a more illustrative portrait.


Working with props definitely adds diversity to photographing people. Use the props to support your subject. Having the prop and subject in the same frame is not enough. Encourage them to interact with the props in different ways. The way your subject relates to the prop is important. This will influence the feel of the photo.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Work to develop a healthy relationship between your subject and their props. This is part of your job as a photographer. Doing this, you’ll create more entertaining portraits.

Have you tried using props for a portrait session? Let me know in the comments below the props you have found helpful during the session. Also, what type of props help make the most interesting portraits?



The post How Using Props in Portraits Can Make Your Photos More Interesting appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

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