How to Replace Colors in Your Images Using Photoshop

The post How to Replace Colors in Your Images Using Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Have you ever taken a photograph and wondered what it would look like in a different color? Or perhaps you find a particular color distracting and want to swap it for a more subtle tone? Maybe you want to ramp up the impact, using more vibrant colors to make your image pop?

With the help of Photoshop, swapping the colors of different elements in a photograph is quick and easy. Here are two ways to switch the colors in your image to make them more dynamic.

Method one – Using the Replace Color Panel

The Replace Color panel is a simple tool designed to tweak color selections. When you select a specific color in the image, the Replace Color function grabs similar colors, allowing you to change them within the same action.

Step 1 – Preparing your image

First, open your image in Photoshop. To edit non-destructively we need to duplicate the layer. That way, we can go back to the original image at any time. Select your image in the Layers Pallet, then go to Layer -> Duplicate Layer. Alternatively, you can right-click on your image in the layers panel and click Duplicate Layer or drag your layer onto the New Layer icon.

Step 2 – Selecting a Color to Replace

With your duplicate layer selected in the Layers Pallet go to Image -> Adjustments -> Replace Color and the Replace Color panel will pop up. Check the Localized Color Clusters and Preview options. The cursor will automatically be converted to an eyedropper icon, so click on the color in the image that you want to replace. This highlights the color in white in the preview thumbnail, so you can see how much of the color is selected.

Go to Image -> Adjustments -> Replace Color to open the Replace Color panel


Click on the color in the image that you want to replace. This highlights the selection in white in the preview thumbnail

Step 3 – Adjusting the range

The next step is to add further shades of your chosen color to the selection so it looks more natural. With the Replace Color panel still open, hold down the shift key and click on more shades of your selected color in the image. This adds new shades of your selected color to the preview thumbnail.

If you accidentally select an area, hold down the alt key and click the area again to deselect the selection. You can adjust the edges of the selection with the Fuzziness slider, this dictates the sharpness of the edges in the selection.

Step 4 – Swapping the color

In the Replace Color panel, use the Replacement Hue slider to adjust the color of your selection. Once you’re happy with the color, use the Saturation slider to increase or decrease the intensity of the replacement color. You can also adjust the Lightness slider which tweaks the shade of the replacement color.

Use the Replacement Hue slider to adjust the color of your selection

To make sure the edges of the selection have adequate coverage, you may need to readjust the Fuzziness slider.

Once you’re happy with your results, click OK. Your adjustments will be applied to your image and you’re good to go!

Method two – Using the Color Replacement Tool

The Color Replacement Tool is an alternative to using the Replace Color panel. With the Color Replacement Tool, you can apply a replacement color to a more targeted area in the image.

Step 1- Preparing Your Image

Just like in the first method, we need to duplicate the original layer so we can return to the original image if required. Select your image in the Layers Palette then go to Layer -> Duplicate Layer or right click on the layer in the Layers Pallet and click Duplicate Layer.

Step 2 – Selecting the Color Replacement Tool

Accessing the Color Replacement Tool is a little tricky. Click and hold the cursor over the Brush Tool on the left toolbar and several brush options will appear. Select the Color Replacement Tool.

Step 3 – Setting your foreground color

With the Color Replacement Tool selected, set your foreground color to the color you want to replace your current color with. So if you want to change a red subject to blue, select blue as your foreground color.

Set your foreground color to the color you want to replace your current color with

Step 4 – Applying color with the Color Replacement Tool

With the Color Replacement Tool selected, brush over the area of color you want to replace. You can adjust the settings of the brush (size, shape, tolerance) in the top menu bar.

With the Color Replacement Tool selected, brush over the area of color you want to replace


Color is a wonderful and versatile element of composition. But sometimes the right color scheme is elusive. That’s where the Color Replacement tools come in handy. Now you’ve read the guide, why not give it a go? Post your results in the comments below!

The post How to Replace Colors in Your Images Using Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

9 Pioneering Women Who Shaped Photographic History

The post 9 Pioneering Women Who Shaped Photographic History appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

The history of women photographers dates back to the beginnings of photography itself. Yet while names like Ansel Adams and Man Ray have floated to the top of the photographic vernacular, the contribution of women in photography has been diluted or erased from history altogether. In this, photography is no less guilty than other forms of art. Yet there is no doubt that the omission of women, both unintentionally and intentionally, leaves a gaping hole in the narrative of photography.

In this article, I turn the spotlight on women who shaped photographic history. These 9 women (and many more) asserted their presence through both technical and artistic ingenuity. Here is a brief recount of their stories.

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815 – 1879)

A portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron. Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Julia Margaret Cameron received her first camera as a gift from her daughter in 1863. Cameron threw herself into photography, crafting portraits and staged scenes inspired by literature, mythology, and religion.

Cameron rejected the meticulous photo-reality sought after by her contemporaries. Instead, she favored a dreamlike softness saying “…when focusing and coming to something which, to my eye, was very beautiful, I stopped there instead of screwing on the lens to the more definite focus which all other photographers insist upon.”

The revolving door of luminaries in Cameron’s home provided her with ample opportunity to produce piercing character studies of some of the most famous people of the period. Her portraits represented some of the earliest examples of art meeting formal practice.

Cameron was a prolific photographer. Over 16 years, Cameron created more than 1,200 images – a staggering amount considering the laborious process involved to create each finished piece.

Mary Steen (1856 – 1939)

Mary Steen excelled at indoor photography. Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Mary Steen was a photographer and feminist from Denmark, Scandinavia. She excelled at indoor photography, a particularly difficult field due to the lack of electrically powered light sources available at the time.

In 1888, Stern became Denmark’s first female court photographer, a role that involved photographing both Danish and British royals. In 1891, she became the first woman on the board of the Danish Photographic Society.

Steen was also a member of the Board of Directors for the Danish Women’s Society. Together with Julie Laurberg, she photographed leading figures in the Danish women’s movement. In 1896, Steen started working as a photographer to Alexandra, Princess of Wales, the later Queen of England.

Steen encouraged other women to take up photography. She campaigned for better conditions at work, including eight day’s holiday and a half day off on Sundays. Leading by example, she treated her staff well, paying them fair wages.

Imogen Cunningham (1883 – 1976)

“Succulent” by Imogen Cunningham. Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Known for her botanical, nude and industrial photography, Imogen Cunningham was one of America’s first professional female photographers.

After studying photographic chemistry at university, Cunningham opened a studio in Seattle. Cunningham drew acclaim for her portraiture and pictorial work. Subsequently, she invited other women to join her, publishing an article in 1913 called “Photography as a Profession for Women.”

Cunningham never confined herself to a single genre or style of photography. In 1915 Cunningham’s then-husband, Roi Partridge posed for a series of nude photographs. The nudes achieved critical appraise, despite being a taboo subject for a female artist at the time.

A two-year study of botanical subjects resulted in Cunningham’s opulently lit magnolia flower. She also turned her lens toward industry and fashion.

It was Cunningham who said “which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.”

Gertrude Fehr (1895 – 1996)

An example of solarization, a darkroom technique used by the New Photography movement in Paris that can now be emulated in Photoshop

After studying at the Bavarian School of Photography, Gertrude Fehr apprenticed with Edward Wasow. In 1918, Fehr opened a studio for portraiture and theater photography.

During 1933, the political climate forced Fehr to leave Germany with Jules Fehr. Settling in Paris, the couple opened the Publi-phot school of photography. The school specialized in advertising photography, a pioneering program at the time.

Fehr participated in the New Photography movement in Paris. Exhibiting artists alongside Man Ray, Fehr explored the artistic boundaries of photography, producing photograms, photomontages, and solarized prints.

During the 1930s, Gertrude and Jules Fehr moved to Switzerland. There, they opened a photography school in Lausanne, now known as the Ecole Photographique de la Suisse Romande.

Fehr gave classes in portrait, fashion, advertising and journalistic photography at the school until 1960 when she dedicated herself to freelance portraiture. Both her teaching and photography paved the way for contemporary photographic art.

Trude Fleischmann (1895 – 1990)

Trude Fleischmann with her work. Image courtesy of Wikimedia

After studying art in Paris and Vienna, Trude Fleishmann apprenticed with Dora Kallmus and Hermann Schieberth.

Fleischmann opened a studio when she was 25. Working with glass plates and artificial light, Fleishmann created deftly diffused portraits of celebrities. Her studio quickly became a hub for Viennese cultural life.

In 1925, Fleishmann took a nude series of dancer Claire Bauroff. Displayed at a theater in Berlin, the images were confiscated by police, winning Fleischmann international fame.

The Anschluss forced Fleischmann to leave the country in 1938. After settling in New York in 1940, she established a new studio where she resumed photographing celebrities, dancers and intellectuals including Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt. Her introspective and atmospheric portraiture is viewed as art suffused with technical prowess.

Dorothea Lange (1895 – 1965)

Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother”. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Known for her work documenting the depression, American photographer Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” became a symbol of hardship and resilience in the face of economic collapse.

The majority of Lange’s early studio work centered around portraits of the social elite of San Francisco. With the commencement of the Great Depression, however, Lange transitioned from the studio to the streets.

Applying techniques she had developed for photographing portraits of wealthy clientele, Lange’s unapologetic studies led to her employment with the Farm Security Administration. There, she continued to document the suffering of victims of the depression. Soon, her powerful images became an icon of the era.

Described in her own words, Lange used the camera as “…an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera”. Her unflinching study of the human condition in the 20th century shaped photojournalism in a way that continues to resonate today.

Grete Stern (1904 – 1999)

A self-portrait by Grete Stern. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Originally a graphic designer, Grete Stern studied under Walter Peterhans in Berlin where she and Ellen Auerbach opened a well-regarded studio, ringl+pit.

Emigrating to England in 1933, Stern then traveled to Argentina with her husband, Horacio Coppola. They opened an exhibition literary magazine Sur hailed as “the first serious exhibition of photographic art in Buenos Aires.”

By the mid-1940s, Stern was well established in Buenos Aires. She worked with women’s magazine Idilio, illustrating reader-submitted dreams through photomontage. Stern incorporated feminist critiques into her pieces which became popular with readers.

In 1964, Stern traveled Northeast Argentina, producing over 800 photos of Aboriginals in the region. The body of work is considered to be the most significant Argentinian record of its time.

“Photography has given me great happiness,” said Stern in 1992. “I learned a lot and [said] things I wanted to say and show”.

Ylla (1911 – 1955)

Ylla photographing a toucan. Image courtesy of Wikipedia – ©Pryor Dodge at the English Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (]

Animal photographer, Ylla (Camilla Koffler) originally studied sculpture under Petar Palavicini at the Belgrade Academy of Fine Arts, moving to Paris to continue her studies in 1931.

Working as an assistant to photographer Ergy Landau, Ylla began photographing animals on holiday. Encouraged by Landau, Ylla started exhibiting, opening a studio dedicated to pet photography shortly after.

Ylla’s first major book, Petits et Grands was published in 1938. That same year she collaborated with British evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley for his book Animal Language.

During 1941 Ylla immigrated to the United States. She opened a new studio in New York, photographing a miscellany of animals from lions and tigers to birds and mice.

In 1955, Ylla fell from a jeep while photographing a bullock cart race in India. She was fatally wounded. Her New York Times obituary read that Ylla “…was generally considered the most proficient animal photographer in the world.”

Olive Cotton (1911 – 2003)

“Teacup Ballet” by Olive Cotton. Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Describing her process as “drawing with light”, Olive Cotton’s Teacup Ballet has become synonymous with her artful command over light and shadow.

After studying English and Mathematics at university, Cotton pursued photography by joining childhood-friend Max Dupain at his studio in Sydney.

Besides assisting Dupain, Cotton also perused her own work. Cotton and Dupain were married briefly and she ran the studio in his absence during the war. She was one of the few professional women photographers in Australia at the time.

In 1944, Cotton married Ross McInerney, moving to a property near Cowra, NSW. Cotton gave up work as a professional photographer until 1964 when she opened a small photographic studio.

In the early 1980s, Cotton reprinted negatives she had taken over the past forty years or more. The resulting retrospective exhibition in Sydney in 1985 earned her recognition as a key figure in the development of Australian photography.


It’s impossible to cover the sheer number of women that have embodied the tenacity and creativity of a photographer’s spirit in a single article. With this piece, however, I hope to have encapsulated some of the resolves of the generations of women who have shaped photographic history. And although we aren’t all the way to achieving equality yet, thanks to the female photographers of the past and present, we’re a lot closer than we used to be.


The post 9 Pioneering Women Who Shaped Photographic History appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

5 Tips for Photographing Flowers with Impact

The post 5 Tips for Photographing Flowers with Impact appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

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If like me, you live in the southern hemisphere, you’ll be well amongst the season of spring. Although this can mean the onset of the dreaded hay fever season, it’s a great time of the year for photographers to capture an amazing diversity of flowers that bloom in the warmer months.

Flowers make beautiful subjects for photography. In fact, they’re probably one of the most photographed subjects in history. An abundance of colors, species, and sizes means that flowers provide an endless array of photographic opportunities.

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However, floral photography isn’t limited to spring either. If you aren’t currently living it up in the southern hemisphere, now is a great time to show some self-love and buy yourself a beautiful bouquet of flowers…because you deserve it! And for photography purposes, of course.

No matter if you are in the thralls of spring or living vicariously through this post, this quick list is a great way to load up on ideas for that next floral shoot.

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Macro photography

Macro photography is the photographic reproduction of small subjects at a size that is larger than real life. Through macro photography, a photographer can take extreme close-up photographs of small subjects, reproducing them at a much larger size. Macro photography is often used to photograph flowers because it reveals attributes that can’t be seen by the naked eye. It’s easy to observe a flower in passing. But it takes a photographer to reveal the hidden details of a flower’s complex shape and structure.

A variety of dedicated macro lenses, as well as extension tubes and filters, mean that macro photography gear is becoming more and more accessible. For my macro flower photography, I use a set of extension tubes. They’re simple, don’t break the budget and they produce lovely results.

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Abstract photography itself is a little hard to describe. Wikipedia defines abstract photography as “…a means of depicting a visual image that does not have an immediate association with the object world”. Abstract photography relies on compositional aspects like form, shape, color, line, and texture without worrying too much about depicting identifiable subject matter.

It’s a complicated subject, but flower photography is a great excuse to explore abstract photography for yourself. Try focusing on the details that make up the network of organic shapes in a flower, or home in on the subtle lines that form the flower’s shape. Don’t worry too much about the bigger picture. Go for it – it’s a lot of fun!

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In this abstract image, the flowing lines and natural color lend the impression of an organic subject


Focusing on a colorful subject matter is a great way to form a dialogue between a photograph and viewer. Flowers are known for their abundance of color and variety. Their beautiful and sometimes surprising hues make them wonderfully diverse photographic subjects.

For vibrant color in your floral photography, you want to photograph a well-lit subject. If you are photographing outside, aim to shoot on a day with a good amount of sunlight. If you are inside or shooting on a particularly cloudy day, try incorporating on-camera flash into your photography. Direct flash will usually blow out a subject, so try using a diffuser or bouncing your flash for a softer effect that will lift a flower’s color without washing it out.

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Taking advantage of the color in floral subjects will allow you to build up a body of diverse botanical photography by relying on the natural features of the flower

Black and White

Of course, not all flower photography has to be in color. Color photography can have the drawback of directing attention away from the subject itself. Black and white photography, on the other hand, enhances form and texture by minimizing distraction.  And because flowers are associated with color, black and white photography also lends a timeless, surreal angle to your floral imagery.

To photograph flowers in black and white, you can set your camera to shoot in monochrome mode. Or, you can convert your images to black and white in post-production with programs like Photoshop or Lightroom. Either way, black and white photography is a great way to add a unique perspective to your flower photography.

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This photograph of was taken using a process called Scanography. The black and white scheme accentuates the subtle details in the subject


Perspective dictates the way a viewer places themselves in a photograph. As a basic example, a high perspective can remove the viewer from the scene, inviting them to asses a photographic environment clinically. It introduces a sense of unease, as height is considered innately dangerous. A low perspective amplifies the height of subjects, lending a sense of grandeur to an environment. At the same time, it can also instill a feeling of ‘smallness’ in the viewer, as if they were an ant inspecting an impossibly tall building.

Viewers get drawn to images that are out of the ordinary. Creatively utilizing your camera’s point of view challenges the way a viewer sees their surroundings. For a unique twist on perspective, try photographing floral subjects down at their level. It’s amazing how much a subject can be transformed with a quick change in perspective.

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Focusing on color, black and white, perspective, macro, and abstract photography are only some of the ways to approach flower photography. Even the smallest flower poking its head through the cracks in a path can bring a smile to someone’s face. So, combining photography and flowers is sure a sure-fire way to create beautiful imagery. I’d love to see your results below!

The post 5 Tips for Photographing Flowers with Impact appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Going Back to Basics – My Week With a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens

The post Going Back to Basics – My Week With a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

The demise of my first Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens was an unfortunate one.

First, I dropped it – which is OK.

It happens. Still recoverable, I know.

Until, clumsily, I stood on it too.

And, just to be sure it was finished, what was left of the lens then rolled down a small hill. When I caught up, I scooped it up in my hands, all scratches and broken glass. It was my first, and I was gutted.

Nevertheless, after what seemed like an appropriate period of mourning, I did what any photographer would. I bought something newer, and shinier.

I decided to graduate to a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM. From there it was all systems go, zooming in and out of those hard to reach spots and enjoying the freedom that a versatile medium-range workhorse affords. And despite the occasional bashing here and there, its been my go-to lens ever since.

Recently, however, I acquired another Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II. Just like my old one, but much less crunched. So I decided to see what going back to a prime lens would be like. Especially after relying so heavily on the reach of the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM. Here’s a quick rundown on my week with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II and why a break from your old favorite can be surprisingly beneficial.

Suddenly lighter

The first difference I noticed after clicking the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II into place was the weight, or should I say, the lack thereof? The bulk of the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM was enormous compared to the little ‘plastic fantastic’ (as the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II has come to be known). Photographing with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II, I had a lot less neck pain, which meant I could stay out shooting for longer without needing some painkillers.

Ditching the weight of the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM had another benefit too. Without swinging around a heavy lens, I was able to move a lot more freely. I could crouch, jump up and down, do some parkour…

Okay, I’m not that athletic.

However, being able to move allowed me to line up shots with more ease.

A lighter lens meant I could easily sneak my camera under this umbrella for a photograph

Slowing it down

The technical differences between Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, and the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II took some getting used to – zoom being one of the most pronounced. Instead of getting closer to a subject in-camera, I needed to reassess what I wanted to achieve. This meant strategically positioning my body to get the shot. Sure, I walk around seeking out subjects to photograph all the time. But, with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II, I needed to be just a little more active to get the image I was after.

Sticking with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II got me thinking about the physical and mental elements that come together to create a successful shot. It made me slow down and appreciate the machinations of photography and the tactility of the image-making process.

Lots of light

One of the biggest differences between the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM and the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II is written in the name of the lenses themselves. It’s aperture. While the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM can manage a valiant F/4, it doesn’t quite cut the mustard compared to the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II, opening up to an aperture of f/1.8.

What does this all mean? Basically, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II can allow a lot more light to pass through to the camera’s sensor. That’s a big deal in low lighting conditions. For example, shooting at night with the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM may require a much slower shutter speed or higher ISO value to achieve the same exposure the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II can at a faster shutter speed and a lower ISO. This means that the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II can produce much better image quality in low light.

Photographing in darker environments can be challenging. But the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II allowed me to experiment at different times of the day without having to worry about available light. Of course, its a consideration when calculating exposure, but I was a lot less concerned about clogging up my images with insane amounts of noise than I would be with the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM in the same conditions.

The f/1.8 aperture of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II allowed me to take this shot with a lot less noise and a faster shutter speed

Extension tubes

Another benefit of the ample aperture of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II is its versatility when coupled with a set of extension tubes. Extension tubes physically move your lens away from the focal plane. This makes the minimum focusing distance (the shortest distance at which a lens can focus) smaller, meaning you can get closer to your subject while still maintaining focus. It’s a way to shoot macro photography without an expensive dedicated lens.

However, extension tubes do have their drawbacks. One of them being diminishing the available light in a scene. With the addition of each extension tube, less light is able to reach the camera sensor. This drop in light can be difficult to contend with if you don’t have a tripod and a perfectly still subject. A fast lens like the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II is ideal in this situation. Even on a terribly overcast day, I was able to get some nice, sharp shots at a decent shutter speed. It meant that I could hand-hold my camera to take macro shots that may have required a tripod with the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM.


One aspect of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens that I was eager to experiment with was its capacity for bokeh. A Japanese word meaning ‘blur’or ‘blurry’, bokeh refers to the quality of the out of focus parts of an image. The term is often used to describe how unfocused bright points in a scene are rendered as disks of light in a photograph.

While all lenses are capable of bokeh effects, zoom lenses tend to smooth a background over rather than shape it. Prime lenses, on the other hand, deliver a more defined disk-like bokeh result. In addition, bokeh requires the lowest possible aperture value to take full effect. This makes the maximum f/1.8 aperture of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II ideal for some sweet bokeh magic.

Seeking out opportunities for bokeh made me re-evaluate my surroundings. I had to quickly develop an eye for points of light that I could use to disperse into globes of color. But with the ease that a small camera lens affords, the little ‘nifty fifty’ produced some really fascinating results with little effort on my part.

Testing bokeh out on a rainy night in the city


There are plenty of other comparisons to explore between the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II and the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM. I know, a week isn’t a very long time to truly get accustomed to a new piece of equipment, but challenging myself to a week of prime-lens-only photography was a lot less difficult than I thought it would be.

In fact, it was pretty fun!

Up until now, I’ve been a one-camera-one-lens kinda gal.

But playing around with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II made me think twice about my equipment repertoire. And with the weight and maneuverability of a small mammal, captivating bokeh and such a tight performance in low light conditions, I think I might just add it to the camera bag too. Just in case.

Without stepping on it this time.


Do you use the nifty fifty? What are your thoughts?

The post Going Back to Basics – My Week With a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

How to Duotone a Photograph in Photoshop

There is an incredible array of color in our world, so it’s no wonder that it plays such a significant role in photography. However, have you ever considered narrowing your pallet down to just two colors? A duotone image is just that – an image made up of two individual tones. A duotone scheme can highlight subtle detail or boast a vivacious color combination that can make an image pop! Here’s how to make use of Photoshop’s Duotone tool to create a beautiful duotone look.

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Select an image with a good tonal range so that the duotone can take full effect.

How to Duotone a Photograph

Step 1 – Preparing an Image

First, select an image with a good tonal range and open it in Photoshop. I chose this image of a flower because it has a range of dark shadows through to bright highlights.

In order to apply a duotone effect to your photograph, you convert it to a greyscale image first. Select ‘Image’ in the top Photoshop menu bar, followed by ‘Mode -> Grayscale.’

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A prompt will appear, asking if you want to discard color information. Click ‘Discard’ and your image will be converted to Grayscale.

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Click the ‘Discard’ button and your image will be converted to grayscale.

After you have converted your image to grayscale, you may notice that your image looks a bit flat. Open a ‘Curves’ adjustment layer by clicking on the ‘Curves’ icon in the Adjustments tab.

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Adjust your contrast with the ‘Curves’ adjustment layer until you are happy with the level of contrast in your image.

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Adjust your contrast with the ‘Curves’ adjustment layer until you are happy with the result.

Step 2- Converting to Duotone

The next step is to convert your image to duotone. Make sure you have your original image layer selected and click on ‘Image’ in the top Photoshop menu bar. Select ‘Mode ->Duotone.’

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Once you’ve selected ‘Duotone’ from the menu a Duotone Options window will open.

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If it isn’t already set, click on the ‘Type’drop-down menu and select ‘Duotone.’ Selecting ‘Tritone’ and ‘Quadtone’ will allow you to add three and four colors respectively, but we’ll just stick with the two colors for now.

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Click on the ‘Type’ drop-down menu and select ‘Duotone.’

Step 3 – Making Adjustments

Once you’ve selected ‘Duotone’ from the ‘Type’ drop-down menu, you’ll see two channels are available: one for ‘Ink 1’ and one for ‘Ink 2’. Traditionally ‘Ink 1’ is set to black, as it defines the shadows in your image, so start with that. Ink 2 is for filling in the mid tones and highlights with your selected color.

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The ‘Ink 1’ and ‘Ink 2’ channels.

There are two ways to go about applying a Duotone effect to your image. The first method is to click on the ‘Preset’ drop-down menu and select a color scheme from the available options. To preview your adjustments as you go, make sure the ‘Preview’ box is checked.

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Click on the ‘Preset’ drop-down menu and select a color scheme from the options available.

However, if you aren’t keen on the preset options, you can always select your own custom colors. Click on the colored box for ‘Ink 2’ and you will bring up the ‘Color Libraries’ window.

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Click on the color box for ‘Ink 2’ to bring up the ‘Color Libraries’ window.

The ‘Color Libraries’ window groups colors into certain printing prerequisites, so have a browse and find a color you like. You can also click the ‘Picker’ button to bring up the standard ‘Color Picker’ window. Once you have found a color you like, click OK.

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You can adjust the contrast of each channel individually. Click on the curve window to the left of the color boxes and fine-tune your contrast as you would adjust a Curves adjustment layer.

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Click on the curves windows to adjust the contrast in each channel.

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Fine-tune your contrast as you would adjust a ‘Curves’ adjustment layer.

Once you are happy with the result, give a name to each channel (I usually just name them Ink 1 and 2) and click OK!

Step 4- Experiment!

Now you have the basics down, its time to experiment! Here are a few of my own examples below.

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Here is a more traditional application of the duotone tool. I added this sepia tone by selecting a deep brown from the Color Library.

17 - How to Duotone a Photograph in Photoshop

This evocative color scheme was made up of a deep red color for the shadows and a blue tint for the midtones and highlights.

18 - How to Duotone a Photograph in Photoshop

Traditionally, a duotone image is toned with black for the shadows. But that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment! I got this rich, pop-arty effect by combining red with magenta.

Please share your creations below!

The post How to Duotone a Photograph in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School.

What I Learned From 30 Days of Black and White Photography

Color is an amazing phenomenon.

Most of us can appreciate color, even if we don’t understand the complex nature of light. Color Illuminates the landscape of our daily lives, and naming them is one of the first things we learn in childhood. We use them as a language and a way of expressing emotion. They affect both our brain and our bodies and fill our world with variation and even the occasional surprise.

So why would I ditch color for black and white for an entire month?

Up until the mid-1930s, color photography wasn’t widely accessible. And color printing wasn’t an affordable option until the 1960s. Pioneer photographers such as Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier Bresson set the standard in black and white photography. They emphasized composition and the controlled use of light without color, revealing the artistic merits of black and white photography that resonate to this day.

As a photographer, I shoot predominantly in color. But with such a wealth of modern photographic history steeped in black and white photography, I thought it would be interesting to prioritize monochrome instead.

So, I set myself a challenge: to photograph in black and white with my digital rig at least once a day for a month.

Here’s how it went.

Getting Started

Setting the Camera to Monochrome Mode

Okay, first things first. I wanted to shoot black and white images in-camera, so I needed to put my camera in Monochrome mode. In this mode, the camera records photos in black and white when photographing in JPEG. The LCD also previews photographs in black and white in Live View and the gallery.

While shooting in this mode does encourage a bit of ‘chimping’ (checking the photo after every shot), being able to review your pictures in black and white is very useful. It helps your eyes adjust to seeing your surroundings in black and white.

I’m using a Canon 5D MKII, so in ‘Shutter Priority’ mode (‘Aperture Priority’ and ‘Manual’ work too, depending on your preference) I selected the ‘Picture Styles’ tab on the main menu.

I then selected the ‘Monochrome’ (or M) option from the ‘Picture Styles’ menu.

Pressing the ‘Info’ button with ‘M’ selected in the ‘Picture Style’ screen allows further adjustments to ‘Monochrome’ mode such as ‘Sharpness,’ ‘Contrast,’ ‘Filters,’ and ‘Toning.’ I increased the Contrast parameters a tad, as using the Monochrome Mode by itself can make the images seem a little flat.

For Nikon or other camera brands, check the manual to find out how to set your camera to Monochrome mode.

Changing Your Quality Settings

The next step was to set my camera to photograph in dual RAW and JPEG modes. Why? Because even in Monochrome mode a RAW file will revert to color when uploaded to the computer. Whereas, a JPEG file retains the monochromatic scheme used in-camera.

Unfortunately, a JPEG retains less quality than a RAW file. So what do we do? We shoot both! If you take a fantastic black and white shot as a JPEG, you’ll also have the quality RAW file to edit in post-production.

But make sure you have some decent space on your memory card.

On my Canon 5D MKII, I set dual RAW and JPEG mode by selecting the ‘Quality’ tab on the main menu.

I adjusted my settings with the ‘Main’ and ‘Quick Control’ dials so I had both RAW and JPEG selected, and pressed the ‘Set’ button.

Again, for Nikon or other camera brands check the manual to find out how to change the Quality settings.

Ready, Set, Go

With my camera settings sorted, I was ready to begin my 30-day challenge. Here are a few things I learned during my ‘Month of Monochrome.’

Adding a New Layer of Interest

One thing I quickly realized was the power a stripped back color scheme has in lending a unique atmosphere to an image.

Having worked in black and white before (both with film and digitally), I know how evocative an excellent black and white image can be. But working digitally in black and white with no other option was new and refreshing. It hammered home the way a black and white photograph can separate the everyday world and its portrayal. This separation presents subjects in a new and thought-provoking light that generates a significant connection between the viewer and the image.

Minimizing Distraction

When you work in ‘Monochrome’ mode, you appreciate the dominance color can have over a photograph. While confining myself to black and white photography, I could experiment within a gradient, free from the distraction of color. Black and white photography strips an image back to the basics of composition and light. Without the color distraction, I had space to hone in on what makes a compelling story – creating a visual study of a subject.

Learning How Light Behaves

A lot of photography is about observation: watching people, landscapes, light, and shadows. And most photographers have a basic knowledge of how light behaves from these observations.

But black and white photography highlights the fragility of light in every environment with higher acuity than a lot of color photography.

The way an image gets read is affected by degrees of light. Hard light creates a highly contrasted image with dark, hard-edged shadows. It emphasizes drama and immediacy. Soft light is more subtle, rendering a soft, lower-contrast image.

Black and white is all about degrees of light versus shadow. My 30-day challenge encouraged me to take more notice of the light. In each environment, I embraced different lighting situations as a chance to test out my skills and experiment.

Seeing Differently

After the fourth day of my 30-day black and white challenge, I started scrutinizing everyday things with more of a photographic eye. Walking down my street, I began noticing plant life that would look interesting in black and white. The texture on the path I was dawdling along stood out. Because I deliberately made time for my photography each day, my mind started working creatively to seek out more photographic opportunities.

I felt more inspired. There was a greater impetus to hang out to get the best shot rather than the most shots. I felt in the zone.


Photographing in black and white for 30 days was a fun and rewarding challenge. It helped me to rediscover a freshness in photography and inspired me to experiment.

Sure you can convert any photograph to black and white in post-production, but to go out and photograph in black and white in the moment is a different process.

If you ever find yourself in a photographic rut, why not challenge yourself to a month of black and white photography? You never know what you might discover.

Do you have some black and white photography you’d like to share? If so, put them in the comments below.

The post What I Learned From 30 Days of Black and White Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Two Ways to Transform Old Photography Magazines Into Coasters

Photography magazines are one thing I can’t seem to throw away. My fascination with photography has culminated in a library of magazines filled with beautifully dated galleries, equipment reviews, tutorials and advice. They accumulate on my bookshelves, and quickly migrate to desktops, the tops of fridges, assorted drawers and nightstands.

While having a cup of tea the other day, I realized I’d forgotten to put down a coaster. I quickly grabbed a magazine and rested my cup on it, sparing my furniture. And it got me thinking. Could I transform some of my magazines into coasters themselves? Surely the thousands of pages I’d accumulated could be put to use as an interactive dining accessory. After all, who wouldn’t want a cute photography-themed coaster to admire while having a cup of tea?

Here are two simple ways to create striking coasters out of your old photography magazines.

The cut and paste method

You will need

  • A photography magazine or two.
  • Some coasters to stick your magazine images to. (I used simple round cork coasters from IKEA.)
  • Mod Podge (a glue and sealant) available at art supplies stores.
  • A pen or pencil.
  • A brush.


First, find an image you’d like to incorporate into your coaster design. The choice here is endless. You could focus on text, photographs or whatever catches your eye.

Once you’ve selected an image, trace a circle around it (using your coaster as a template) and carefully cut it out.

Next, apply a generous amount of Mod Podge to the coaster and spread it around evenly with the paintbrush. (I put some newspaper down for this bit to protect my work surface from spills.)

Place your image face up on the Mod Podged side of the coaster and smooth out any wrinkles.

Once your coaster has dried (allow an hour or two), you’ll need to seal it. Spread a layer of Mod Podge evenly over the image with the brush. (Don’t worry, it dries clear.)

Once it has dried (again, allow an hour or two), repeat this step four times. Make sure you let the coaster dry between coatings.

Once the last layer of Mod Podge has dried, your coasters is ready to use.

The coiling method

You will need

  • A magazine.
  • A ruler and scalpel (or a paper shredder).
  • Glue. (Mod Podge works well for this project too.)
  • A paintbrush.


Tear out a few magazine pages – the more vibrant the better. Cut each page lengthways into 7mm strips. (If you have a strip-cut paper shredder, you can use it instead.) You’ll need to cut up at least six pages.

Once you’ve cut your strips, its time to start curling. Select one strip of paper and curl it over itself to create a coil. Once you’ve completely curled the first strip, add a dab of Mod Podge to the end and glue it down.

Now you need to add a new strip to build on the last. Add a dab of Mod Podge to the end of a new strip of paper, and press it Mod Podge side down onto the coil where the last strip ended. Wind the fresh strip around the coil, keeping the paper nice and taut. Once you’ve completely wound it on, add a dab of Mod Podge to the end of the strip and secure it to the coil.

Keep winding your strips of paper onto the coil. For every fifth strip, add a thin a layer of Mod Podge down its entire length and wind it Mod Podge-down, around the coil. This will keep the coil together as it grows.

Keep adding strips of paper until you’re happy with the size of your coil.

It may take you a couple of hours, but the results are striking. And it’s really fun to watch it grow.

Whichever method you choose, it’s a great way to get those stunning images out of the bookshelf and onto your coffee table.

The post Two Ways to Transform Old Photography Magazines Into Coasters appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Find Opportunities for Abstract Photography Anywhere

Abstract photography, otherwise known as non-objective, conceptual, or experimental photography, is a tricky subject. According to Wikipedia, abstract photography is “a means of depicting a visual image that does not have an immediate association with the object world and has been crafted through the use of photographic equipment processes or materials”.

So basically, abstract photography is image-making that doesn’t aim to represent reality but rather visually explores the components that construct conventional subject matter.

To seek out abstract photography in any opportunity, you must shift your focus away from describing the world in a literal way, focusing on line, shape, form, space, color, contrast, pattern and texture instead. These elements come together to create an image that explores the way you appreciate your visual environment.

Here are a few tips to finding opportunities for abstract photography, wherever you are!


How to Find Opportunities for Abstract Photography Anywhere

Previsualization in photography is a skill where a photographer “sees” the outcome of an image before it is taken. By breaking down a potential image in your mind’s eye, you can dissect a scene, prioritizing the best possible visual results.

This is especially useful in abstract photography, where the outcome of a photograph sometimes isn’t immediately obvious.

Previsualizing will help you make the most of any potential photographic opportunity. Imagine encountering a fence for example. You could easily photograph the fence line and move on, but your photograph won’t be very engaging. Or, you could mentally analyze the fence’s structure, breaking it down into abstract categories (color, shape, line, pattern, etc.) to take advantage of the scene and exploit it to its full potential.

Go macro

macro flower - How to Find Opportunities for Abstract Photography Anywhere

Macro photography is an especially unique form of photography, illuminating what often goes unseen to the naked eye. Provided you have a macro lens, extension tubes, or even a magnifying glass, one of the best things about abstract macro photography is that you can get an interesting result photographing just about anywhere.

Abstract macro photography is a great opportunity to focus on subtle details in a scene without being overly concerned about representing a specific subject. Focusing on abstracted aspects such as color and shape rather than the subject means you can explore the building blocks of an image visually.

Look for lines

Abstract photography focuses on the naked ingredients of image making, but sometimes this means a change-up in your photographic approach. One great way to tease out abstract photographic opportunities is to focus on a compositional technique. For example, focusing on lines will reveal opportunities you may have passed over before.

How to Find Opportunities for Abstract Photography Anywhere

As one of the most basic elements of composition, lines are an extremely powerful tool in visual art. Lines that guide a viewer’s eye around an image (also known as leading lines) are a way to point towards a specific subject or highlight the geometry of a scene. They can also add a sense of urgency with straight, abrupt lines or lend a sense of calm or peace with softer, curved lines.

Concentrating on lines will reveal new opportunities in any environment, all you have to do is look.

Seek out texture

Texture in photography is one of the most under-utilized compositional tools. Exploring texture creates an image that people can “feel” in their mind. The feeling of touch appeals to a viewer’s understanding of the world.

By incorporating texture into an abstract photograph, you are connecting to an audience’s knowledge of how the world behaves under the sense of touch. And because most things feel like something, there are plenty of opportunities for textural abstract photography. Try looking for peeling paint, roughed up wood or dried leaves.

How to Find Opportunities for Abstract Photography Anywhere

Investigate color

Color is all around us, it’s a universally powerful tool of communication. For example, psychologically, yellow has associations with joy and energy, whereas green is associated with nature and calm. It’s just the same in abstract photography.

Focusing on color investigates our associations with the environment around us. It transcends abstract subject matter to connect with a viewer on a psychological level.

Making color the center of interest in your photography will reveal new and unusual abstract subject matter too. Objects that may seem boring or mundane come alive with a bit of color, creating unusual and interesting abstract photography.

How to Find Opportunities for Abstract Photography Anywhere - color


The scope of abstract photography is exciting and endless. Although it’s exact meaning is hard to define, abstract photography provides space for creativity and experimentation.

It’s the perfect excuse to shake up your photographic practice, all you have to do is look! Please share some of your abstract photos in the comments below.

The post How to Find Opportunities for Abstract Photography Anywhere appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Create Abstract Photos with Colored Paper

Developed in China, paper as we know it has been around for at least 2000 years. Originally made by pressing the wet fibers of plant-derived cellulose together and dried in sheets, paper’s ability to be mass produced resulted in the advancement of the written word as a means to pass information down through time. This accelerated exchange of information triggered a revolution in cultural and technological advancements that have shaped the way we live today.

Artists paint and photographers print on specialized paper. Books, magazines, and newspapers distribute information across the world. Important documents are filed away on paper, ready to be pulled out at a moment’s notice. Even with today’s abundance of computer screens, paper has endured as an indispensable material.

Creating abstract photos is another wonderful use of paper. With a few bulldog clips, some colored paper, and a bit of creativity, you can create beautiful abstract images to enjoy and use as desktop wallpapers or backgrounds.

Creating Abstract Photos with Colored Paper - orange and red abstract image

What you will need

  • Your camera
  • A macro lens or set of extension tubes
  • A selection of different colored paper (I used a packet of variously sized one-color per piece origami paper I found at a dollar shop).
  • Several medium or large bulldog clips.

Selecting a space

First, you’ll need to choose a space to set up in. This is important because your paper needs to be exposed to plenty of natural light. Otherwise, your shadows will be too dark, and your photographs will look flat or awkward.

Set up outside, or near a large window with a decent amount of light flooding into your space. I work on a desk outside, with plenty of room to move and shoot from different perspectives.

Creating Abstract Photos with Colored Paper - orange circle abstract

Setting up

Setting up for this project is can be a little tricky. Once you’ve settled on a space to work in, you’ll need to arrange your colored paper. First, select a piece of colored paper that will serve as the background for the image. You’ll want this background to cover the frame, so choose a size that has adequate coverage. The background color is up to you, so choose whatever catches your eye.

Next, add a second layer of paper to sit on top of the background. This will be your foreground subject. Again, the color is up to you. To make an interesting image, you need to separate the foreground layer from the background. You’ll do this by physically adjusting the orientation of the foreground paper.

Creating Abstract Photos with Colored Paper - bulldog paper clip

Generally, sheets of paper want to stay flat and straight, so shaping your foreground paper can take a little bit of coordination. An easy way to control the orientation of the paper is to add weight to its edges. Attach a bulldog clip to each side of the piece of colored paper and lay it down so that there is a gap between the foreground and background paper.

Photographing your creations

Once you’ve attached your bulldog clips and arranged your paper, it’s time to get busy photographing. There are no hard-and-fast rules here, just photograph what you think looks best.

Try sitting your foreground paper vertically or horizontally in relation to the background paper for different depth effects. You can also try focusing your lens on different areas of the paper, or for a smooth, featureless gradient, unfocus your lens altogether. Focus on a small section of your paper or zoom out to include the whole arrangement.

You can modify the shape of your foreground paper by manipulating the location of the bulldog clips on the paper. Moving them closer together creates a nice S or U bend in the middle of the paper for soft organic lines. For harder lines, move the bulldog clips further away from each other to tighten the paper.

blue and yellow abstract - Creating Abstract Photos with Colored Paper

Paper has a thousand uses, the great thing about this project is that there is no right or wrong way to do things. Just take some time to relax and experiment. If you have kids or grandchildren, get them to help you – they’ll have fun helping to arrange the paper.


The post How to Create Abstract Photos with Colored Paper appeared first on Digital Photography School.

A Few Common Photography Abbreviations Explained

For a visual medium, photography is a bit of an alphabet soup when it comes to abbreviations. AWB, DOF, RGB… Even for the seasoned photographer, photographic abbreviations can be a confusing encounter. Here are a few of the most common photography abbreviations to help you tell your TIFF’s from your TTL’s.


Aperture priority commonly abbreviated to A or Av (for aperture value) is a setting on your camera that allows you to adjust the aperture value (otherwise known as the f-number or f-stop) while the camera automatically selects a shutter speed to produce an image with the correct exposure.

As you adjust the aperture for different photographic effects, the camera’s internal light meter measures the lighting conditions of the scene and adjusts the shutter speed accordingly.

Read more here: Getting off Auto – Manual, Aperture and Shutter Priority modes explained


AF is an abbreviation for autofocus. The AF feature automatically adjusts the camera lens to focus on a subject, creating a sharp image.

There are several types of AF focus modes. Single focus, known as AF-S (Nikon) or One Shot AF (Canon) will cause the camera to lock focus on a subject and the camera won’t re-focus while you keep the shutter actuator depressed half way. Continuous or tracking focus – AF-C (Nikon) or AI Servo (Canon) on the other hand, continuously readjusts the focus if you keep the shutter button half-depressed. This maintains focus on moving subjects. Some cameras also have a mode called AF-A (Nikon) or AI Focus AF (Canon) that switches between the two modes automatically.

Read more here:  5 Beginner Tips for More Autofocus Success


Auto is short for automatic and is sometimes signified by a small green rectangle on the camera’s shooting mode selector wheel. In this mode, the camera calculates and adjusts all camera settings for correct exposure, taking into account shutter speed, aperture, focus, white balance, ISO and light metering automatically.

Some cameras have automatic modes programmed to specialize in taking photographs of a particular subject. For example, action or sports mode prioritizes a higher ISO value and faster shutter speeds. It is represented by a running figure on your dial if your camera offers such modes.

A Few Common Photography Abbreviations Explained - camera mode dial

Auto mode is sometimes signified by a small green rectangle on the camera’s shooting mode selector wheel.


Light is different under different conditions. AWB or Automatic White Balance works in-camera to measure the white balance (WB) of a scene and remove any color casts that may impede on a photograph. In short, it tries to automatically analyze and color correct your scene. It works fairly well in most cases but can be tricked.

Note: if you shoot in RAW format you can easily tweak the White Balance later in post-production.

Read more: Auto White Balance: Yay or Nay?


B stands for Bulb, a mode designed for longer exposures like those often seen in time-lapse photography. In Bulb mode, when you depress the shutter button, the shutter will remain open until the button is pressed again (or until it is released, depending on your camera).

This mode is usually used in conjunction with a tripod and a remote shutter release and is necessary to achieve exposures longer than 30 seconds (the maximum exposure time on most cameras).

Read more: How to Use Bulb Mode for Long Exposure Photography


CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Black is referred to as K which is shorthand for the key plate – a printing tool which makes the artistic detail of a picture in black ink. CMYK is the color space used for most color reproduction printers (magazines, posters, business cards, etc.). This four-color mode utilizes each color in set amounts to create a color print. It is a subtractive process, so each additional color means more light is absorbed to create colors.

Because RGB (the color space in which your camera records an image) provides a larger range of colors available on the digital screen, a printed image will be inconsistent with the image you see when you press “print”. Converting an image to CMYK in Photoshop or Illustrator before printing will produce an image on the screen that is much closer to the printed product, allowing you to print an image accurately.


Depth of Field or DOF is the zone of focus in a photograph. Depth of field is affected by the aperture. A large aperture creates a shallow depth of field with a small amount of the image will be in focus. A small aperture creates a large depth of field with more in focus. Depth of field is also defined by lens focal length and the distance from the subject to the camera.

Read more: Seeing in Depth of Field: A Simple Understanding of Aperture

A Few Common Photography Abbreviations Explained

A small aperture creates a large depth of field with more in focus


DPI or dots per inch is often used interchangeably with PPI or pixels per inch. Technically, DPI measures the number of dots that can be printed in a line within the span of one inch. PPI also measures the number of dots in a line within the span of an inch but on a computer screen instead. Printers and screens with higher DPI or PPI values are clearer and more detailed.

You need to know the DPI of your printer or lab to correctly size your images for printing. Read more: How to Choose Your Lightroom Export Settings for Printing


DSLR stands for Digital Single-Lens Reflex camera. A DSLR camera has a mirror that reflects the light coming in from the lens and directs it through a prism or set of mirrors to the viewfinder. This arrangement allows you to see what you are shooting by looking through the viewfinder. When the shutter button is depressed, the mirror flips up and allows the light coming through the lens to reach the camera sensor.

Canon 5D Mark IV full-frame DSLR camera – Image by dPS writer Mark Hughes. 

Read more: The dPS Ultimate Guide to Photography Terms – a Glossary of Common Words and Phrases

F-stop or f-number

The f-stop or f-number is a term that indicates the size of the aperture opening on your lens. Every aperture is expressed as an f-stop or f-number, like f/8 or f/2.8.

Read more: How to Take Control of Aperture and Create Stronger Photos


IS stands for Image Stabilization. This technology goes under several names; Vibration Reduction, SR, VR, and VC are a few. Image stabilization is a feature in your lens (not all lenses have it!) that enables you to photograph sharper images when shooting handheld at lower shutter speeds, in dark conditions, at longer focal lengths.

Note: Some cameras have the stabilization inside the camera body. Read your user manual to be sure.


ISO stands for International Standards Organization. In film photography, ISO (or formerly ASA) was an indication of how sensitive a roll of film was to light. In digital photography, ISO measures the relative sensitivity of the camera sensor. This value can be adjusted in-camera.

The higher the number, the more light the sensor can capture. However, the greater the sensitivity of the film or sensor, the grainier the image will be (in digital photography it’s called noise).

Editor’s Note: Before you jump up and down and add a comment below about the fact that the sensitivity of the camera sensor does not actually change, let’s agree to keep it simple for the purpose of this article and these definitions. No, it isn’t that simple, but people new to photography need to take baby steps in understanding these terms, so please accept that we’ve simplified it here.

A Few Common Photography Abbreviations Explained - digital noise and bokeh

The graininess in this image is caused by a high ISO value.


JPEG (sometimes shortened to JPG) is an image file format. It stands for “Joint Photographic Experts Group” – the name of the group that created the format. It’s one of the most common image formats saved by digital cameras, the other being RAW.

JPEG files are lossy which means that images in this file format are compressed. Lossy formats are smaller and easier to handle, but they suffer from a loss of quality.

Read more: RAW Versus JPEG – Which one is right for you and why?


M or Manual Mode is a shooting mode on your camera that when activated, means that you have complete control over every setting on your camera. This includes the aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, metering mode, and more.

Note: Manual Mode and Manual Focus are NOT the same thing and are not exclusive of one another. Meaning you can shoot in Manual Mode using Autofocus, or in an Automatic mode using Manual Focus.

Read more: Simplifying Manual Mode to Help You Take Control of Your Images


M4/3 is short for Micro Four Thirds and it is also known as MFT. Developed by Olympus and Panasonic in 2008, the M4/3 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens system for digital cameras and lenses. This mirrorless system means that the camera does not have an optical viewfinder system like conventional SLR/DSLR cameras, but an electronic viewfinder (EVF) instead. This system is simpler, lighter and allows for smaller cameras than DSLRs.

Read more: The 19 Most Popular Compact System and Mirrorless Cameras with Our Readers

The Olympus OM-D EM-10 is a micro four-thirds camera which means it has a smaller sensor size but is every bit as capable as most other cameras on the market.


P stands for Program Mode. This shooting mode has the camera adjust aperture and shutter speed automatically, while allowing you to adjust other settings like ISO, flash, white balance and focusing functions.

Read more: Your Guide to Understanding Program Mode on Your Camera


Based on the human perception of colors, RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue. RGB is an additive color space designed for viewing imagery on digital displays (see CMYK above).

Read more: Adobe RGB Versus sRGB – Which Color Space Should You Be Using and Why


Shutter Priority Mode (also known as SP or TV for Time Value) is a setting that allows you to select the shutter speed while the camera automatically adjusts the aperture for proper exposure. As you adjust the shutter speed the camera’s internal light meter measures the lighting conditions of the scene you’re shooting and adjusts the aperture accordingly.

This mode is best used for shooting fast moving objects or when you want to blur or freeze a moving subject.

Panning a moving target is a good time to use Shutter Priority Mode.

Read more: Getting Your Priorities Straight – A Guide to Selecting Your Shot Priority


SLR or “single lens reflex” refers to a non-digital camera with single-lens reflex capabilities (see DSLR).


Short for Tagged Image File Format, TIFF is a file format for digital images that does not lose color and detail in the way that lossy compression formats such as JPEG files do. This type of file format is described as lossless.


TTL stands for Through the Lens and refers to an automatic flash metering system. The flash fires a short burst prior to the actual exposure, the camera reads the amount of light coming through the lens, and sets the power of the flash according to the selected aperture. This mode is most often used with the flash on the camera.

Read more: How to Understand the Difference Between TTL Versus Manual Flash Modes

TTL versus manual flash – image by dPS writer Kunal Malhotra.


USM stands for Ultra Sonic Motor, a type of autofocus motor in lenses trademarked by Canon. Equivalent systems include Nikon’s SWM (Silent Wave Motor), Sigma’s HSM (Hyper-Sonic Motor) and Olympus’ SWD (Supersonic Wave Drive Motor). They are designed to have the lens’s autofocus work as silently as possible.


WB stands for White Balance, the act of balancing the color cast found in different lighting conditions for an accurate image (see AWB). White Balance can be set in-camera and adjusted in post-processing if you have shot in RAW format.

Read more: How to Use White Balance as a Creative Tool


There you have it. Of course, there are plenty more photography abbreviations where they come from. But knowing these basics will get you on the right track to navigating the alphabet soup that is photographic lingo! Be sure to add any extra abbreviations you’d like to see in the comments below.

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