3 Practical Tips to Improve Your Blue Hour Photography

The post 3 Practical Tips to Improve Your Blue Hour Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

1 - 3 Tips for Blue Hour Photography

Most people are familiar with the term Golden Hour – used to describe that time just after the sun rises or just before it sets. The light is soft, extraordinary and sought out by many. However, if you pack up your gear when the sun drops below the horizon, you are missing out on another magical time!

Also known as twilight, Blue Hour refers to that time of the day just before or after the Golden Hour. Depending on your location, it may be shorter (or longer) than an hour but happens before sunrise or after sunset. If you want to capture images of this amazing time of day, here are a few tips to help you get started.

1. Timing is everything

There is a unique quality of light available at blue hour. The sky has a vivid hue of blue and purple. Perhaps even hints of your fallen sunset, cresting sunrise colors: yellow, orange and red. In either case, the sun is below the horizon, but its light is indirect and still visible. If you are shooting cityscapes after sunset, wait for the lights to come on and for the sky to darken a little, so you can shoot longer exposures.

2 - 3 Tips for Blue Hour Photography

As mentioned above, depending on your location your Blue “Hour” will vary. If you are closer to the equator, both the Golden and Blue “Hours” are shorter. Similarly, you have more shooting time when further away from the equator. Blue Hour times vary by season and, depending on the time of year and location, may not even occur immediately before or after the Golden Hours. There are locations where blue hour happens up to forty-five minutes after sunset!

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When in an unfamiliar environment (e.g. traveling), one option is to get there early and wait. There are also apps and websites available to help you determine Blue Hour based on location. If you use the latter, scouting your environment beforehand still proves useful.

2. Keep it steady

4 - 3 Tips for Blue Hour Photography

Same location as above, but at a different time of the year

You may get away with shooting sunrises and sunsets without a tripod, but it is non-negotiable for blue hour. This is especially true if you want to shoot cityscapes with a smaller aperture (to get those beautiful starbursts). A tripod is a must for long exposures and allows you to shoot at lower ISOs, thus reducing noise in your images.

You can further reduce camera shake by using a remote shutter release. This useful gadget helps you minimize touching the camera. If you do not have a remote, use your camera’s timer, so that the image is taken a few seconds after you press the shutter button.

Bonus tip: Long exposures use more battery power, so pack a few spares.

3. What settings?

There is some flexibility when it comes to Blue Hour photography, depending on your subject.

If you are shooting a cityscape or skyline, most likely you want to keep your buildings sharp. In an image like this, your depth of field (f-number) will determine your settings. You can start at f/8 and go higher – keeping in mind that a higher f-number means a slower shutter speed.

5 - 3 Tips for Blue Hour Photography

If you are shooting light trails from cars against your blue sky, your shutter speed will determine your settings. This interesting subject comes to life with slower shutter speeds. On the other hand, if you want to freeze action in your Blue Hour, you need faster shutter speeds. Due to the lower light available during Blue Hour, this may mean shooting at lower f-numbers and increasing your ISO.

6 - 3 Tips for Blue Hour Photography

Conclusion

Blue hour is a beautiful part of the day that is often overlooked for the more popular Golden Hour. It is an amazing time to experiment with different captures and challenge yourself to work quickly in your limited “hour”. Plan ahead and envision your outcome, so you can maximize this time of day. Cityscapes and other subjects can come alive due to the unique quality of light available. Experiment, have fun and share some of your Blue Hour photography below.

The post 3 Practical Tips to Improve Your Blue Hour Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

Using Photoshop Filters During Post-Processing to Correct and Enhance Images

When you think of filters in photography, your first thought might be those specialized glass pieces you affix to the end of your lens. Most of these filters serve a specific purpose (e.g. a polarizing filter to reduce glare), although some are for artistic effects (e.g. colored filters).

But if you want to apply artistic/special effects in post-processing, Photoshop has a number of filters you can apply during this stage of your workflow. They can also be used to clean up or retouch images.

Recommendation

When working with an image, it’s good practice to work non-destructively (i.e. you don’t change the pixels). Using Photoshop filters directly on a pixel layer will change the pixels, so wherever possible you should use Smart Filters.

A Smart Filter is a filter that’s applied to a Smart Object – a layer that saves the image’s source information with its original characteristics and allows you to edit non-destructively. So before you start applying filters, convert the layer you’re working on to a Smart Object.

Note: Depending on your version of Photoshop, you may not be able to apply some filters as Smart Filters.

Filter Gallery

The filter gallery in Photoshop gives you quick access to a number of filters. From the menu choose Filter, and then Filter Gallery to view them on the screen. It’s an easy way to see the effect a filter would have without changing the original image. Here you can apply one or a combination of filters to your image.

The easiest way to understand what they all do is to select each one and look at the preview. It’s a simple artistic edit that can come in handy when used selectively.

The Filter Gallery showing the options that can be applied.

Adaptive Wide Angle Filter

This is also available in the Filter menu and can be useful for correcting distortion issues resulting from wide-angle or fisheye lenses. These lenses sometimes introduce curves that weren’t actually there. You can also use the adaptive wide angle filter to straighten lines that appear curved in panoramic shots.

To straighten a curved horizon, click and drag from the left side of the horizon to the right. This adds a blue line (called a constraint) around the area of distortion. The constraint marks the area and straightens it.

An image taken with a fish-eye lens

This filter has a number of correction types:

  • Fisheye corrects those extreme curves made with a fisheye lens
  • Perspective corrects converging lines resulting from your angle of view or camera tilt
  • Full Spherical corrects 360-degree panoramas with a 1:2 aspect ratio
  • Auto applies what Photoshop deems an appropriate correction

Image adjusted using Adaptive Wide Angle filter

Note: The Panorama correction type is also available if you apply this filter to a photomerged panorama.

Lens Correction

The Lens Correction filter fixes different kinds of distortions. Similar to the Adaptive Wide Angle filter, it remedies distortion created by wide-angle and fisheye lenses. It can also straighten images taken at an angle and make them appear as if shot straight on. One of the great things with this filter is you can choose to either manually correct the image or have Photoshop correct it automatically.

Angled image.

  • Geometric Distortion is another easy way to remove a fish-eye effect.
  • Chromatic Aberration can remove any colored fringes around your subjects on high contrast edges.
  • Vignette does a good job of adding a vignette.
  • Transform gives you sliders to help you correct perspectives, with options for vertical and horizontal perspectives, as well as rotating to compensate for camera tilt.

Edited with the Lens Correction filter.

Liquify

The Liquify filter can be used to push and pull pixels around and is one of the most powerful filters under the Filter menu. You may associate liquify with body transformations, but it can do much more than that.

Within the liquify filter menu, the forward warp tool (at the top left) is the most popular. The key to using this tool successfully is to use a brush size slightly larger than you think you need. You should also use a lower pressure brush (for more subtlety) and increase your density (to affect a bigger area within your brush circle).

The Liquify Tool used to reshape a piece of fruit.

Vanishing Point

The Vanishing Point filter brings an image in line with the perspective of another. For example, if you want to composite a picture frame into a room, this filter will help you match the perspective of the frame to any wall in the right perspective.

Third-Party Filters

Photoshop lets you easily add hundreds of third-party filters (available via plugins) to your arsenal.

These can help you make the most of your images or get super creative. Many simplify the steps Photoshop is capable of achieving so you can perform them in a shorter time. Some of these include the Nik Collection, Topaz and ON1.

Above Image with two Nik filters applied: Paper Toner and Vignette

Conclusion

Using Photoshop Filters is an easy option if you want to get creative. Photoshop has a few standard ones you can experiment with, and stacking them can create a unique image.

Which filters do you use? Share some of your results with us.

The post Using Photoshop Filters During Post-Processing to Correct and Enhance Images appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Photoshop Smart Objects for Beginners

 

1 - Photoshop Smart Objects for Beginners

When editing in Photoshop, it is nice to know how the edits affect your image. Edits that you make directly to an image write over the original image. Edits also change its pixels. The opposite of editing directly is the practice of non-destructive editing. This is where the edits on the image are on a separate layer, which preserves both the edited and original image.

Using Smart Objects in Photoshop allows you to edit an image in a non-destructive way. A Smart Object is a layer that saves your image’s original state and permits editing without changing or destroying pixels. It also means you can undo any changes you make.

Why Use Smart Objects?

The main reason to use Smart Objects is to perform non-destructive editing. This means you can scale, skew, rotate, or warp an image without compromising its original pixels or quality. Simply put any transformation you do to the image does not affect the original data.

2 - Photoshop Smart Objects for Beginners

By right clicking on the mirror image layer of the hummingbird, you can convert it to a Smart Object.

3 - Photoshop Smart Objects for Beginners

Here the image is resized to be a smaller scale. The red circle shows that only the right side is a Smart Object

4 - Photoshop Smart Objects for Beginners

When the image is returned to its original size, the Smart Object (right) is unaffected, while the left side shows destructive editing and decreased pixel clarity.

Advanced Photoshop users are fans of linking ‘Smart Objects.’ This is where you use a single image or file in several Photoshop projects. This is very beneficial when you make changes to the original file. The changes are instantly reflected across all the linked referenced files. In the design world, this is a huge time-saver! It can be useful to photographers who want to change a logo/watermark across a multitude of images too.

Smart Filters

When you apply a filter to a ‘Smart Object,’ it becomes a ‘Smart Filter.’ What this means is, that the filter is not altering the pixels and you can adjust/change them later on if need be.

To create a ‘Smart Filter,’ select your ‘Smart Object,’ choose your desired filter and set your requirement options. To edit any of the applied filters, simply double-click on it and enter your adjustment. You can also change the order of filters or delete them from here. The ease of adjusting a filter/filter values is another great reason to use Smart Objects.

Note: Within the different versions of Photoshop, there are a few filters that cannot be applied as a Smart Filter

5 - Photoshop Smart Objects for Beginners

The same filter is applied to both sides, but the Smart Filter is highlighted under the Smart Object on the right image.

6 - Photoshop Smart Objects for Beginners

When you uncheck the eyeball next to the filter, your original layer is revealed unaffected.

7 - Photoshop Smart Objects for Beginners

Using Smart Filters, stacking and adjusting filters independently of each other is easy.

Masking Smart Filters

When a filter is applied to a ‘Smart Object,’ Photoshop shows you a white mask thumbnail on the ‘Smart Filter’ line. This Smart Filter mask works the same way that Layer masks work, where you paint black to hide and white to reveal.

8 - Photoshop Smart Objects for Beginners

Filter Masks works the same way as Layer Masks.

How to Create a Smart Object?

Two easy ways to create Smart Objects are:

1. You can open a file as a Smart Object.
From the Photoshop menu, choose File -> Open as Smart Object. Choose your file and click ‘Open.’

9 - Photoshop Smart Objects for Beginners

2. You can convert a layer to a Smart Object.
Select the Layer you want to convert and from the Photoshop menu, choose Layer -> Smart Object -> Convert to Smart Object. The shortcut for this is right-clicking on the layer and choosing ‘Convert to Smart Object.’

Note: Smart Objects can be created on a layer, a layer group or on multiple layers.

Smart Object Shortcomings

Files that contain ‘Smart Objects’ are larger and therefore require more system resources to open, work with and save. So these can certainly slow down your computer while it processes.

While ‘Smart Objects’ work with the different types of transformations, they do not work with those operations that alter pixel data. So you will not able to dodge, burn, clone or paint directly to a ‘Smart Object’ unless it is first converted to a regular layer. This conversion nullifies the effects of using ‘Smart Objects’ in the first place. If you have to alter pixel data, it is recommended you edit a duplicate layer of the ‘Smart Object’ or create a new layer.

10 - Photoshop Smart Objects for Beginners

Smart Filters also make it easy to add and remove applied filters e.g. this vignette added to the image above.

Conclusion

Using Smart Objects is a very powerful tool and a great approach to editing in Photoshop. It allows you to preserve your original image data and work non-destructively. Even though the files are large and can slow down your processing, it retains the quality of your images.

How do you use Smart Objects?

The post Photoshop Smart Objects for Beginners appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

sunset on the water - Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

Over the years, HDR Photography has become synonymous with over-saturated, over-processed, and unrealistic images. Some hear the term HDR and never give it a second thought because of their perception of what it is. Add to that, all the camera dynamic range improvements and many say that HDR has lost its place for good.

So how exactly can HDR photography still be beneficial to you? How can you use it to your advantage?

Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

The oversaturated look that has become synonymous with HDR photography. 

What exactly is HDR Photography?

HDR or high dynamic range refers to the difference between extremes – the brightest and darkest areas of your image. In reality, your eyes can adjust for shadows and highlights in the same scene, but a camera cannot (again this has come a long way over the years).

Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

A more realistic looking HDR image.

Have you ever witnessed a scene that took your breath away, but were unable to capture it as is because you had to choose what your camera captured?

Exposing for the highlights left some of your image too dark or exposing for the shadows left your highlights too light. Or maybe you tried for somewhere in between and ended up with both dark shadows and light highlights?

Well when you want to capture the dynamic range of an area, you sometimes need to take more than one photo. To do that, you need to use bracketing, which is taking multiple images of the same scene at different exposures.

Most cameras now come with auto bracketing modes (AEB) , but you always have the choice to manually adjust your exposures between shots.

house in the trees - Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

HDR Photography usually involves several bracketed images with a minimum of three images to capture the dynamic range. One image is exposed for the darker areas in your scene, another for the mid-tones and the third for the highlights. When you merge these images, you create an HDR image which reveals more detail than a single shot.

Fun Fact: Did you know that HDR photography has existed since the days of film?

How does this work to your advantage?

If you are not interested in creating mind-bending images with HDR, what’s the point? Well, the main benefit is capturing/revealing any lost details and doing so in a realistic way.

Think of it as extending the tonal range of what your camera reproduces to mimic what your eyes see, as opposed to the graphic style that HDR has become synonymous with.

building ruins - Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

Subtle HDR also helps reveal textures in an image.

Steps for a Realistic HDR Photo

Truthfully the steps for making a realistic HDR are not drastically different from one that looks overly processed. The key is to know when to stop processing.

1. Selecting a scene

So what kind of shots are right for HDR photography?

Typically these include scenes that have a lot of contrast, for example, landscape and architectural photography. HDR is not recommended for scenes with a moving subject, or for shooting portraits (as it has a reputation for aging faces).

It is fun to experiment with bending the rules though and seeing the results.

old saloon hotel - Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

2. Capturing your images

To eliminate or minimize movement between your shots, a tripod is an essential tool. This also ensures that each image in your sequence has the same composition.

An HDR image is usually composed of between three to seven bracketed images. Three exposures are sufficient for a more photo-realistic HDR, at two stops (EV) apart. If done manually, this means that your first shot will be metered for the mid-tones of the image (0EV), followed by dialing down your exposure to -2 for your second shot, and lastly where your meter is at +2 for your third shot.

dark image -2 Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

Bracketed image underexposed (exposure -2).

Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

Overexposed (exposure +2).

Bracketed image mid-tones (exposure metered at 0).

Use the HDR or Auto Bracketing (AEB) feature of your camera to accomplish this automatically.

Note: If you are shooting into the sun, you may need to do five exposures at one or two stops apart.

3. Processing your images

Processing HDR photography is essentially combining your images and adjusting your tonal mapping for detail. When it comes to processing, you have a choice of software: Photoshop, Photomatix, Lightroom and Aurora HDR to name a few.

Processed bracketed images – reveals more details (warmth boosted).

Again, processing is the place where you can push your HDR too far or end up with a nice photorealistic image.

Usually, HDR software comes with presets that give you a range of looks. If you want your image to be more on the realistic side, you need to take control of the settings. Some of the settings you want to control include; reducing noise, fixing chromatic aberrations and dialing back your tonal adjustments.

Conclusion

The main benefit of HDR photography is recovering detail in your images. Landscape and architectural photographers often use HDR realistically to portray high contrast scenes.

HDR photography is often associated with overcooked images, but when it’s not overdone it can balance out a scene and makes it more appealing to your viewer. Your objective is to post-process just enough to maintain a natural look.

The post Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Tips for Using Color in Your Photography

Tips for Using Color in Your Photography - boats in a row on the shore

Color is one of those things that you easily take for granted because it is everywhere. Even though you see it every day, not much thought is given to how (or why) it affects your perception or mood. While it is a common part of your life, you can still pay attention to how it affects your images.

Since color or the absence thereof plays an important part in your final product (others include light, shape, form, and texture), give it some more thought. Are you conscious of how you are using color in your photos?

salt and pepper close up shot - Tips for Using Color in Your Photography

1. The Basics

There are three primary colors – red, blue and yellow. Secondary colors are produced when you combine these: green (combination of blue and yellow), purple (red and blue) and orange (red and yellow). If you further combine, you get the next level/tertiary colors.

color wheel - Tips for Using Color in Your Photography

By The original uploader was Sakurambo at English Wikipedia. [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The color wheel is a diagram that shows how different colors relate to each other. They exist along a continuum with each color transitioning into the one next to it. So why are these basics important?

Color Harmony

Color harmonies are combinations that are visually appealing to the human eye. A color harmony is when you have two or more different colors that complement each other. This is a key tool used by both artists and photographers to communicate with their viewers, as it is used to evoke a mood or emotion. There are a few types of color harmonies that you can use.

red boat on the shore and one bird - Tips for Using Color in Your Photography

Monochromatic versus Analogous

While these two color harmonies are similar, analogous offers subtle differences that set it apart. A monochromatic color scheme or harmony uses variation in the lightness and saturation of a single color. An analogous color harmony is composed of colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel. There is still one dominant color, but the second color enhances the overall look.

anise seeds - Tips for Using Color in Your Photography

Example of using color in a monochromatic way.

Both of these color harmonies are easy to create and are very easy on the eyes. Monochromatic color schemes are sometimes used to establish a mood because of their visual appeal and balance.

Tips for Using Color in Your Photography - mountain scenic photo

Example of an analogous color scheme with blue and green being next to each other on the wheel.

Analogous colors flow into each other, creating a more soothing look in your image. When you are outdoors, you are exposed to all the various color harmonies including these two. Think about a lush forest with its varying shades of green or the variances of oranges and red in an autumn scene. These tones are likely appealing to you, now you have a little idea as to why.

Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are directly opposite each other on the color wheel. Thus the color complement of a primary color is a secondary color (as shown on the color wheel) e.g., red and green complementary colors work well together since they are highly contrasting. They can be quite dramatic when used at full saturation, as each color makes the other appear more active.

Tips for Using Color in Your Photography - sunset on the water

Orange and blue are complementary colors, which makes sunsets and other scenes with these colors so appealing to us visually.

2. The Key or Dominant Color

The key color is the main color in an image. Often, the key color in an image is that which is the most dominant. Allowing one color to dominate can lead to a powerful image. This is stronger when a primary color (red, blue or yellow) is the dominant color.

Colors with greater intensity will draw (and hold) your viewer’s attention. Keep that in mind, in relation to how it affects your subject.

Tips for Using Color in Your Photography - red tomato in a red bowl

Red is the dominant color in this image, clearly.

3. Advancing or Receding Colors

Advancing colors are the gamut of colors on the warmer end of the spectrum. These include red, red-violet, yellow, yellow-orange and orange. When advancing colors are dominant, they appear as though those objects are closer to the eye, as if coming towards you. Red is one of those colors that dominates and jumps right at you. Think about a scene that has only a hint of red (e.g., a red mailbox) and yet the red dominates.

Tips for Using Color in Your Photography - sunset photo

Advancing colors can work well in an image or on the other hand, can disrupt your scene by taking away the attention from your subject.

Receding colors are the opposite and take on a more background characteristic. Think about what blues and greens (the cooler colors) add to a landscape. They fall into the distance, add a feeling of depth, and help balance the stronger colors.

cool colors of blue hour - Tips for Using Color in Your Photography

4. Feelings and Color

Color provokes various emotional responses in people. So much so, that we use color to describe different emotions, for example: feeling blue, seeing red, tickled pink, or green with envy.

We connect to the warm colors of a sunset differently than we do to a cool blue morning. Color in everyday life is used as a powerful psychological tool, the same applies when using color in your photographic compositions.

Tips for Using Color in Your Photography - statue and the sky

Remember that color is subjective – the same color can make one person happy but irritate another. Also of note, one color can evoke different emotions, if you change its hue and saturation or change the color you combine it with. Orange for example, can create excitement when it leans towards red and be more calming when it is more on the yellow side.

Conclusion

It is fun to learn how colors work with each other and how we react to different combinations. When creating an image, organize color in a way that is easy and pleasing to the eye. Use strong, bold colors to create impact or generate an emotional response. Do you want to grab your viewer’s attention immediately or prefer if their eyes wander around your image?

buffalo in a yellow field - Tips for Using Color in Your Photography

While people see the world in their own way, experiment with color and try to understand what reaches your audience. When creating images with impact, you can use color and make them feel what you want. Share your colorful world with us in the comment area below.

The post Tips for Using Color in Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

7 Travel Photography Hacks to Get You Going Places

One of the joys of travel is capturing all the new and exciting destination sites from your own perspective. Sometimes you make conscious decisions of what to leave behind and other times you realize you forgot to bring something, only after you got there. Whatever the case, a few travel photography hacks can help you save the day!

view from a cave of the ocean - travel photography hacks

1. Pack Light

Many times, the biggest challenge in travel photography is whether or not you will be able to capture the essence of the place with the gear you packed. If you are going on vacation, you certainly do not want to take every lens you own. Other than adding weight, there is a chance that much of it will not be used.

 travel photography hacks - lagoon with trees and a boat

This is a good reason to research your destination is to help determine what images you want to capture. Are you going to shoot more landscape scenery or trying to capture the people living there? Your decision will affect what gear you take with you.

blue sky and beach -  travel photography hacks

Additionally, a great way to determine what to take is by reviewing your last trip. Look at what you captured then and decide if it is similar to what you hope to capture now. Many times you will find that most of your photos were taken with the same lens. You can use Lightroom’s filtering system to gather that intel.

For example, if you took both a wide and long zoom lens, but took most shots with the wide lens, then you can safely leave your long zoom behind.

2. Pack Smart

When you decide which lenses you need for your trip, pack well to protect them. It helps to remember that lenses are made mostly of glass, even when built with highly durable exterior bodies. An easy packing hack to avoid damaging your lenses is putting them inside thick socks. This cushions your lens during travel, whether inside your luggage (carry-on only, never check your valuable camera gear) or camera bag.

photo from an airplane window -  travel photography hacks

Optional: further secure your lenses by putting them (sock-wrapped) into shoes/boots.

3. Make a Shot List

You do not have to be a professional photographer to make a shot list. As you research your destination, there are no doubt certain things that you want to see and experience there. As you plan your itinerary, you can make a note of what you want to capture in that location.

b/w architecture image -  travel photography hacks

Take a note of your different points of interest and how you plan to shoot them. Sometimes this simple action can keep you from being overwhelmed when you get there. This will also help you determine what gear to pack (mentioned above).

4. No Neutral Density Filter, No Problem

If you did not pack neutral density filters for your trip, there is no need to kick yourself if an opportunity for a long exposure presents itself. It does take a little familiarity and processing in Photoshop, though. Compose your image and take between 15-20 shots with that composition.

beach shot -  travel photography hacks

15 shots taken of the same scene in short intervals.

You need to shoot in burst mode or ensure that the intervals between your shots are as small as possible. Download your images and load them into Photoshop as layers.

Photoshop layers -  travel photography hacks

15 shots loaded into Photoshop Layers.

Select Auto-Align Layers from the Edit Menu and Auto. Click OK when done. Next, convert your layers into Smart Objects. You do this by selecting the Layer menu, Smart Object and Convert to Smart Object. This step may take a few minutes to process.

When that is finished, go back to your Layer menu and Smart Objects. In Stack Mode, choose Mean (or Median also works well). This process also takes a few minutes to run.

15 images stacked in Photoshop - travel photography hacks

The result, silky smooth water as if it had been shot with a neutral density filter and really long exposure.

Bonus Tip: This method can also help you remove people from your photos.

5. Tripod or Not?

A tripod is that piece of gear that you benefit tremendously from, but when traveling you may be willing to concede. Again it comes down to when and what you are shooting. If you plan on capturing nightscapes or moving subjects, a tripod is a necessity. A good compromise is a tripod that converts to a monopod.

shot of leading lines of a theatre seating area -  travel photography hacks
Conversely you can leave the tripod at home. Depending on where you are going, a tripod can become a nuisance to lug around or may not even be allowed. This is when you have to get creative and make a supporting object your tripod. Tables, walls, rocks or anything stationary which supports your camera will stand-in for a tripod.

b/w statue -  travel photography hacks

6. Batch It!

Chances are that you will shoot a number of images in one location with the same lighting and conditions. A quick way to edit a large number of photos with your style is to batch process them. Batch processing is applying the same edit across multiple images. In addition to Photoshop and Lightroom, there is other photo editing software available that can help you achieve this.

7. Let’s Reflect

There is no need to walk with a bulky or expensive reflector on your trip. Buy a piece of foam board to bounce light into your shadows. This cheap trick can save you from packing more and you only need apply it to some situations.

city at night - travel photography hacks

Conclusion

With travel photography, most times you want to walk around with less gear (for both your comfort and safety). Once you have done your research and know what you want to achieve, there is no need to go with equipment that you will not use. Sometimes a few travel photography hacks can save you in a pinch.

Please share some of your favorites with us in the comments area below.

The post 7 Travel Photography Hacks to Get You Going Places appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Post-Processing Workflow Tips for Landscape Photography

Post-Processing Workflow Tips for Landscape Photography

While your in-camera technique is most important, the ability to post-process your landscape images also plays a role in your final product. Each photographer approaches the digital darkroom in their own way. Here are some post-processing workflow tips for your landscape photography.

You don’t need to apply each step. It serves simply as a guide to help you get started.

1. Check your White Balance  or Color Temperature

If you shot your images in RAW, you retain the ability to change the White Balance after the fact. You can adjust the color temperature of your scene to make it either warmer (more yellow) or cooler (more blues).

Post-Processing Workflow Tips for Landscape Photography

Shot with Auto White Balance (AWB temperature 5800K).

Sunsets are often enhanced more to the warmer side, while winter scenes can benefit from both warm and cool tones, depending on what you are trying to depict. The temperature sliders can also be used to remove or correct any color casts captured in your original frame.

Post-Processing Workflow Tips for Landscape Photography

The same image with the temperature adjusted to 6700K to enhance the warmth of the sunset.

2. Expose it!

Check your exposure and fix it if it is too bright or too dark. Most people eyeball this process, but the histogram is a very useful tool for achieving your best exposure. The left side of the histogram represents the blacks or shadow areas of your image. The right side represents the brighter areas or highlights.

If you forget these basics, push your sliders to either extreme and look at how the image and corresponding histogram responds to these changes.

3. Chop Chop

With landscape photography, a good composition is key. Thus getting it right in camera is the best way to maximize your scene. You can apply rule of thirds/golden spiral, leading lines and a foreground interest optimally at this point.

Post-Processing Workflow Tips for Landscape Photography

Original Image

Some photographers shoot with a specific crop in mind, so many times there is a “picture in picture”. If your end result is a square crop, then compose and shoot for your final vision. This is also applicable if you need to print your final image to a different ratio.

Applying your crop early on in the post-processing workflow can alter the next steps you apply. So work out your composition and then continue processing.

4. Clarify This

Clarity is an adjustment available in Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom. When you adjust the Clarity, you are working with the contrasts (edge contrast) in the mid-tones of your image.

Post-Processing Workflow for Landscape Photography

Image prior to clarity adjustment.

This change makes your image look sharper, so you do not want it overdone.

Post-Processing Workflow for Landscape Photography

The subtle changes of Clarity adjusts the mid-tones and apparent sharpness.

5. Shadow Me

Adjusting the shadows can either deepen the darker areas or lift them to retrieve some details. If you are recovering details, be aware of the appearance of noise in the shadows. You need to stop before reaching this point.

6. The Highlights

When you are shooting, an important concern is to retain details in the brightest parts (highlights) of your image. If you have heard the terms “blown out” or “clipped” highlights, they refer to those bright areas that have no detail.

If you are working with a RAW image, you can recover much of your overexposed highlights using the highlight slider. Of note, while recovering these highlights, pay attention to the overall look of the rest of the image.

Post-Processing Workflow for Landscape Photography

Beach image unedited.

Post-Processing Workflow for Landscape Photography

Beach image edited to adjust the Clarity, Shadows, and Highlights.

7. Whites/Blacks

In the simplest terms, the Whites slider adjusts image pixels that are white or have a partial highlight. The Blacks slider adjusts image pixels that are black. The Shadow slider, mentioned previously, covers a smaller range of dark pixels than the Blacks. Similarly, when comparing Highlights to Whites, the White adjustment (like the Black) is more global.

A reason to adjust the Whites/Blacks after the Highlights/Shadows sliders is because of the way they (whites/blacks) affect the overall tone of the image.

8. Saturation/Vibrance

Most people get confused with saturation versus vibrance. Saturation affects all your pixels, making them all either more colorful (saturated) or less colorful (desaturated).

Post-Processing Workflow for Landscape Photography

Saturation adjusts all the colors in the image.

Vibrance, on the other hand, makes adjustments to the pixels that are not as saturated. This means it makes dull colors more vibrant and leaves already vibrant colors unaffected.

Post-Processing Workflow for Landscape Photography

Vibrance adjusts less saturated colors only.

Bonus Tip: The Vibrance slider is used a lot to adjust images with people because it does not affect flesh tone colors!

9. Sharpen Up!

Sharpening increases the contrast between your bright and dark areas. In most post-processing workflows, it is done at or close to the end. This is because many other processes in your workflow, alter the “sharpness” of your image. Thus sharpening may be optional (or selective) when following those steps.

Read this for more on sharpening images: How to Make Your Photos Shine Using Clarity, Sharpening, and Dehaze in Lightroom

10. Vignette

A vignette is when there is light fall-off towards the edge of your image. This is often seen in images shot with wide open apertures or with wide angle lenses. They can also be caused or strengthened by the use of camera additions such as filter holders, lens hoods, or filters. These cause less light to reach the edges of the image than the center.

If you do not get vignettes when shooting, you can add them during your post-processing stage. It is not a necessity, but works well when you want to draw the viewer’s eyes away from distractions in the corners and more towards the middle of the frame.

Post-Processing Workflow for Landscape Photography

Vignette added to draw attention to the sunset and keep your eyes away from highlights at the top of the frame.

In landscape photography, you can either remove natural vignettes, so the viewer’s eyes move around the image or you can add a vignette to draw them in. It all depends on your final objective.

Post-Processing Workflow for Landscape Photography

Conclusion

Developing a post-processing workflow for your images is a great step towards your final output. Keep in mind that less is more and that subtle changes can go a long way to enhance your already beautiful capture.

You do not need to edit every image the same way; take a minute and review each one and determine what it needs to take it to the next level.

The post Post-Processing Workflow Tips for Landscape Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Post-Processing Workflow Tips for Landscape Photography

Post-Processing Workflow Tips for Landscape Photography

While your in-camera technique is most important, the ability to post-process your landscape images also plays a role in your final product. Each photographer approaches the digital darkroom in their own way. Here are some post-processing workflow tips for your landscape photography.

You don’t need to apply each step. It serves simply as a guide to help you get started.

1. Check your White Balance  or Color Temperature

If you shot your images in RAW, you retain the ability to change the White Balance after the fact. You can adjust the color temperature of your scene to make it either warmer (more yellow) or cooler (more blues).

Post-Processing Workflow Tips for Landscape Photography

Shot with Auto White Balance (AWB temperature 5800K).

Sunsets are often enhanced more to the warmer side, while winter scenes can benefit from both warm and cool tones, depending on what you are trying to depict. The temperature sliders can also be used to remove or correct any color casts captured in your original frame.

Post-Processing Workflow Tips for Landscape Photography

The same image with the temperature adjusted to 6700K to enhance the warmth of the sunset.

2. Expose it!

Check your exposure and fix it if it is too bright or too dark. Most people eyeball this process, but the histogram is a very useful tool for achieving your best exposure. The left side of the histogram represents the blacks or shadow areas of your image. The right side represents the brighter areas or highlights.

If you forget these basics, push your sliders to either extreme and look at how the image and corresponding histogram responds to these changes.

3. Chop Chop

With landscape photography, a good composition is key. Thus getting it right in camera is the best way to maximize your scene. You can apply rule of thirds/golden spiral, leading lines and a foreground interest optimally at this point.

Post-Processing Workflow Tips for Landscape Photography

Original Image

Some photographers shoot with a specific crop in mind, so many times there is a “picture in picture”. If your end result is a square crop, then compose and shoot for your final vision. This is also applicable if you need to print your final image to a different ratio.

Applying your crop early on in the post-processing workflow can alter the next steps you apply. So work out your composition and then continue processing.

4. Clarify This

Clarity is an adjustment available in Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom. When you adjust the Clarity, you are working with the contrasts (edge contrast) in the mid-tones of your image.

Post-Processing Workflow for Landscape Photography

Image prior to clarity adjustment.

This change makes your image look sharper, so you do not want it overdone.

Post-Processing Workflow for Landscape Photography

The subtle changes of Clarity adjusts the mid-tones and apparent sharpness.

5. Shadow Me

Adjusting the shadows can either deepen the darker areas or lift them to retrieve some details. If you are recovering details, be aware of the appearance of noise in the shadows. You need to stop before reaching this point.

6. The Highlights

When you are shooting, an important concern is to retain details in the brightest parts (highlights) of your image. If you have heard the terms “blown out” or “clipped” highlights, they refer to those bright areas that have no detail.

If you are working with a RAW image, you can recover much of your overexposed highlights using the highlight slider. Of note, while recovering these highlights, pay attention to the overall look of the rest of the image.

Post-Processing Workflow for Landscape Photography

Beach image unedited.

Post-Processing Workflow for Landscape Photography

Beach image edited to adjust the Clarity, Shadows, and Highlights.

7. Whites/Blacks

In the simplest terms, the Whites slider adjusts image pixels that are white or have a partial highlight. The Blacks slider adjusts image pixels that are black. The Shadow slider, mentioned previously, covers a smaller range of dark pixels than the Blacks. Similarly, when comparing Highlights to Whites, the White adjustment (like the Black) is more global.

A reason to adjust the Whites/Blacks after the Highlights/Shadows sliders is because of the way they (whites/blacks) affect the overall tone of the image.

8. Saturation/Vibrance

Most people get confused with saturation versus vibrance. Saturation affects all your pixels, making them all either more colorful (saturated) or less colorful (desaturated).

Post-Processing Workflow for Landscape Photography

Saturation adjusts all the colors in the image.

Vibrance, on the other hand, makes adjustments to the pixels that are not as saturated. This means it makes dull colors more vibrant and leaves already vibrant colors unaffected.

Post-Processing Workflow for Landscape Photography

Vibrance adjusts less saturated colors only.

Bonus Tip: The Vibrance slider is used a lot to adjust images with people because it does not affect flesh tone colors!

9. Sharpen Up!

Sharpening increases the contrast between your bright and dark areas. In most post-processing workflows, it is done at or close to the end. This is because many other processes in your workflow, alter the “sharpness” of your image. Thus sharpening may be optional (or selective) when following those steps.

Read this for more on sharpening images: How to Make Your Photos Shine Using Clarity, Sharpening, and Dehaze in Lightroom

10. Vignette

A vignette is when there is light fall-off towards the edge of your image. This is often seen in images shot with wide open apertures or with wide angle lenses. They can also be caused or strengthened by the use of camera additions such as filter holders, lens hoods, or filters. These cause less light to reach the edges of the image than the center.

If you do not get vignettes when shooting, you can add them during your post-processing stage. It is not a necessity, but works well when you want to draw the viewer’s eyes away from distractions in the corners and more towards the middle of the frame.

Post-Processing Workflow for Landscape Photography

Vignette added to draw attention to the sunset and keep your eyes away from highlights at the top of the frame.

In landscape photography, you can either remove natural vignettes, so the viewer’s eyes move around the image or you can add a vignette to draw them in. It all depends on your final objective.

Post-Processing Workflow for Landscape Photography

Conclusion

Developing a post-processing workflow for your images is a great step towards your final output. Keep in mind that less is more and that subtle changes can go a long way to enhance your already beautiful capture.

You do not need to edit every image the same way; take a minute and review each one and determine what it needs to take it to the next level.

The post Post-Processing Workflow Tips for Landscape Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

3 Things You Need to Know to Get Started with Infrared Photography

An Introduction to Infrared Photography

Infrared light is not visible to human eyes. The light your eyes see is that within what is referred to as the “visible spectrum” and infrared (IR) lies beyond this band. Thus Infrared (IR) Photography requires special equipment beyond your standard camera, to tap into this “unseen” world.

Over the years, IR photography has not only become more accessible but is also less complicated with more inexpensive options. If you have been exposed to infrared images, you immediately notice how the look stands out. While some find it rather eerie, others are intrigued by the way the ordinary transforms.

An Introduction to Infrared Photography

In this article, we’ll look at a few things you need to know to get started with infrared photography.

1) What gear do you need to shoot IR?

Filters

If you are just starting to explore this haunting genre of photography, a filter is an easy addition to your gear list. It is least expensive and a good way to gauge how much further you want to delve into and invest in infrared photography.

Infrared filters allow infrared light to hit your camera’s sensor, while at the same time prevent visible light from doing so.

3 Things You Need to Know to Get Started with Infrared Photography

Most manufacturers offer infrared filters and they can range from screw-on to slide-in filter systems. The Hoya R72 is a popular screw-on infrared filter. Interestingly this filter allows just a little bit of visible light through as well, which makes it a nice introductory filter to the world of infrared.

If you already have or prefer to use slide-in systems, note that the infrared filter should be closest to the camera body, to avoid any unwanted visible light hitting your camera sensor.

Different brand filters render color differently as they may address specific ranges of the infrared spectrum. The plus side is that you can experiment with different filters until you find the one that suits your vision.

3 Things You Need to Know to Get Started with Infrared Photography

Converted Camera

If you are committed to doing infrared, a more permanent option is having a dedicated infrared camera body. When a DSLR camera is converted, the infrared blocking filter (that resides in front of your DSLR sensor) is removed. It is a more expensive option, but the benefits include using your camera similar to how you usually do, with normal exposure values.

Note: once a camera has been converted, its sole use is infrared photography – you cannot take “regular” images with it any longer.

3 Things You Need to Know to Get Started with Infrared Photography

Film

With film photography on the rise again, infrared film is readily available and relatively cheap. Developing this film though may nullify that cost-benefit, as you will have to find a lab that has the ability to process infrared.

3 Things You Need to Know to Get Started with Infrared Photography

2) Camera Settings

RAW and JPEG

Shoot both RAW and JPEG files in the beginning. As with any images taken with a DSLR, RAW gives you the most scope when processing. If you are just starting out with infrared photography though, you may be horrified when you look at the back of your camera and see a flat pinkish red image staring back at you.

The JPEG option allows you to see a little more differentiation and determine how to adjust your settings. Believe it or not, with time you will be able to look at those dull pinkish RAW files and be able to tell if they are good or not.

3 Things You Need to Know to Get Started with Infrared Photography

Exposure

If you are using infrared filters, you will need longer exposures when you block out the visible light. So on a bright sunny day, you can work with exposure times between 30-120 seconds, at f/8. Thus a tripod is a must!

If your camera is infrared converted, your settings will vary depending on the amount of light as with normal exposures. Using the sunny day example, your settings could be 1/125th or faster at f/8.

White Balance

A topic all of its own, white balance is important in infrared photography. Refer to your camera’s manual on setting custom white balance, as this is your friend when it comes to infrared.

3 Things You Need to Know to Get Started with Infrared Photography

3) Post-processing Infrared

Auto Tone

As previously mentioned, when you shoot RAW images your output is a dull pinkish red image as shown below.

3 Things You Need to Know to Get Started with Infrared Photography

Infrared RAW image straight out of the camera.

There are several methods to start your infrared file processing, including applying a DNG profile conversion tool. One of the more common ways is to import it into Photoshop and apply Auto Tone.

Note: You can also do both of these processes if you wish.

3 Things You Need to Know to Get Started with Infrared Photography

Auto Tone applied to an infrared image.

Channel Swap

Next, to get those blue skies you need to Channel Swap your colors. While channel swapping is an essential part of infrared photography processing, there are mixed views on which channels to swap to what values. The following are some of the values that are used. Experiment until you find which one works for you:

Changing the Red and Blue Channels only:

  • Red Channel: Red=0, Green=0, Blue=100
  • Blue Channel: Red=100, Green=0, Blue=0

Changing all the channels:

  • Red Channel: Red=0, Green=0, Blue=100
  • Blue Channel: Red=100, Green=0, Blue=0
  • Green Channel: Red=0, Green=100, Blue=0

or another option:

  • Red Channel: Red=0, Green=0, Blue=100
  • Blue Channel: Red=100, Green=100, Blue=-100
  • Green Channel: Red=0, Green=0, Blue=100
3 Things You Need to Know to Get Started with Infrared Photography

After Channel Swapping has been applied.

Final Processing

Final touches include adjusting your hue/saturation and your curves and levels adjustment in Photoshop. It all comes down to your personal taste. Then there is the whole other topic of black and white infrared photography. Read more on that here: How to Enhance your Black and White images with Infrared Photography.

3 Things You Need to Know to Get Started with Infrared Photography

Conclusion

Infrared photography is a small but growing niche of photography, that has evolved with time. It offers creative choices and opens a whole new dimension to explore. You can start off simple with filters and then graduate to converting your camera to be a full-time infrared camera in time.

If you have tried infrared photography please share your tips and images in the comments below. If you haven’t, please let me know if you have any other questions.

The post 3 Things You Need to Know to Get Started with Infrared Photography by Nisha Ramroop appeared first on Digital Photography School.

4 Tips for Nature Photography Beginners

4 Tips for Nature Photography Beginners - bear

Nature photography encompasses a range of outdoor photography genres. This includes, but is not limited to, landscapes, weather phenomena, astrophotography, birds, and wildlife. Each of these categories has their respective specialized skills and can be expanded further.

If you are just starting your quest as a nature photographer, here are a few things to consider:

4 Tips for Nature Photography Beginners - seascape

1) What do you want to capture?

Since nature photography is so vast, you can spend a lot of time in each sub-genre. So an important question to ask yourself is what do you want to capture? Do you want to photograph close-ups of plants and insects? Is your love that of the micro natural world or are you more enthralled by magnificent mountain ranges and lakes?

4 Tips for Nature Photography Beginners - birds

Maybe birds and larger animals are more interesting to you than sunsets and sunrises. Knowing what you like and what you want to capture is a great first step.

2) What equipment do you need?

When you know what you want to capture, this feeds into the decision of what gear you require. If you are shooting landscapes, you will go for wider lenses as opposed to wildlife and birds, which need more “zoom” or telephoto lenses.

4 Tips for Nature Photography Beginners - fox sleeping
A tripod is great for landscapes and astrophotography, but if you are trying to get a bird in flight or an animal in motion, knowing how to use your camera is your best asset.

3) Location and planning

What you want to capture drives your choice of location and time of day and season of the year. Scout your landscapes beforehand to see the direction of the sun, any potential safety issues, or terrain considerations. Then return to shoot during a more flattering time of day.

4 Tips for Nature Photography Beginners - fall trees

If you are shooting flowers, note the time of year they bloom. With birds, you need to understand a bit about their habitat and the times of day that they are active. If you want to shoot more dangerous wildlife, it is best to go with someone experienced.

4 Tips for Nature Photography Beginners

A National Park is a great location for both landscapes and wildlife. Make note that you may need to apply for special permits for some parks and that they also have seasonal or time restrictions in some areas. This will impact your planning if those restrictions include your anticipated shooting times.

4) Reading the light

As in the previous tip, the direction of the light can be determined by scouting your location prior. You can also do online research on the area or decipher it from other photos taken there.

4 Tips for Nature Photography Beginners

If you are shooting landscapes, arrive about an hour prior to your sunrise/sunset and position yourself. This way you can focus on your composition and maybe even do some test shots. Play around with your white balance, exposures, and different camera angles.

4 Tips for Nature Photography Beginners - sunset

If you are waiting for wildlife to show up, use the time to work out what settings you need. When the animal shows up, you will find yourself photographing almost continuously trying to nail that perfect moment.

Closer shots and flowers give you more time to experiment, but you don’t want your light to be flat. Walk with a reflector or try to find angles that give you shadow, shape, and form.

4 Tips for Nature Photography Beginners - white flower

Conclusion

Nature photography is not only vast but filled with interesting sub-genres and subjects to shoot. As a beginner, most times research precedes shooting. As you learn more about your intended subject and how to capture it, you will become better with time.

With wildlife, patience is a great asset as you spend more time waiting for a sighting. If you love the outdoors, it’s a great way to explore and preserve those fleeting moments. Determine what you want to capture. Take the gear you need when you scout. Research, plan and try to find the best light. Most of all have fun!

The post 4 Tips for Nature Photography Beginners by Nisha Ramroop appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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