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!

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5 Reasons Why You Might Want to Try Black and White Photography

5 Reasons Why You Might Want to Try Black and White Photography

There are different schools of thought when it comes to black and white photography. Some believe it was a technical limitation of the past that you need to get over and move on. While others see it as a creative choice, that needs to be explored in great depths.

As camera technology gets better, with more emphasis on improved color ranges, why would you choose to shoot or process your images in black and white? In this article, we’ll look at five reasons why you might want to shoot or convert your images to black and white.

5 Reasons Why You Might Want to Try Black and White Photography

1. B&W Helps you see differently

The old “Masters” of photography shot in black and white initially, because they had no choice. Even with the advent of Kodachrome, which introduced the world to color photography, there was still a pursuance of black and white. This was because black and white was (and still is by some people) seen as photography in its the purest form.

5 Reasons Why You Might Want to Try Black and White Photography

When you remove color the emphasis shifts to the other compositional elements of the image. These include lines, shape and texture, contrasts and tones.

With this in mind, it is obvious that not all images will translate well to black and white. So, look at all the elements and deduce what else you have to work with, besides color.

5 Reasons Why You Might Want to Try Black and White Photography

Many times black and white helps you develop a different perspective from what you are used to seeing, which nurtures your photographic eye.

2. B&W Eliminates distractions

You are used to seeing the world in color and there nothing is wrong with that view. Sometimes this contributes to other elements or details being lost or taken for granted. Some of the elements (highlighted before) required for a great photo include contrast, texture, lighting, shape, and form.

When you shoot for black and white, you challenge yourself to remove the distraction of color. These include color casts and differences in color temperature (ambient light sources), as well as specific colorful elements that are strong, which may reside in the background or take away from your story.

5 Reasons Why You Might Want to Try Black and White Photography

Monochromatic imagery forces you to focus on form, shape, and texture while composing. If your emphasis is on making colors work together, these elements are sometimes overlooked. With black and white, distracting colors are now translated into shades of gray that add to your image.

3. B&W Offers creative choice

Since your world is in color, it is safe to say that color photography depicts reality and is more realistic. Thus, black and white photography is viewed as a rendition of reality – or how you interpret what you see.

When you remove color, you not only isolate the different elements, you are compelled to find how they relate to each other. This helps you explore and create different ways to tell your story.

When you take away color, you remove what your viewer is used to seeing. Now you are charged with finding the stronger elements in the scene and figuring out how to use them to convey what you want to depict.

5 Reasons Why You Might Want to Try Black and White Photography

4. Adds emotion or mood

Something about the variance of tonal ranges, rich blacks, and deep contrasts appeal to us psychologically. It creates a connection that makes you stop and pay attention to what is being presented.

5 Reasons Why You Might Want to Try Black and White Photography

Many photographers use black and white for storytelling in travel and street photography, as well as when portraying religious or cultural activities. Monochrome in some genres connects, enhances and strengthens emotions and mood.

5. Timelessness

Even though this is lower on the list, it is one of the more common reasons why some photographers shoot in black and white. Monochromatic photography adds what is seen as a timeless quality to your images.

Black and white photos seem to transcend reality and take you back to a time gone by. Historically there were color schemes that were specific to types of film or trends in digital photography that can date your image. The removal of color makes it tougher to figure out when the image was taken/produced.

5 Reasons Why You Might Want to Try Black and White Photography

Bonus

You no longer have to imagine what your scene will look like in black and white, as current camera technology allows you to try this on the spot and see if it works. While some photographers prefer to shoot in black and white, others prefer to shoot in color and then process or convert their images to black and white to get a different or better tonal range.

Note: If you shoot RAW format and set your camera to its version of the monochrome setting, you will see a black and white preview on the LCD when you review your images. But you will still have all the color data available in the RAW file at the post-processing stage. This gives you the best of both worlds – a quick b/w preview and ability to convert later.

5 Reasons Why You Might Want to Try Black and White Photography

This image was shot in black and white using the camera’s monochrome settting.

5 Reasons Why You Might Want to Try Black and White Photography

This image was shot in color and then converted to black and white in the processing stage.

Conclusion

While black and white photography still has an important role in photography, please note that not all subjects translate well to this mode. Even though a strong composition is not color dependent, sometimes the power of the photo is its color. This is why it is good to know when to use black and white.

5 Reasons Why You Might Want to Try Black and White Photography
If you are interested in pursuing the monochromatic, look for the other elements of composition like texture, shape, form, lines, and contrast. Experiment with shooting and processing black and white images and figure out which resonates with you more.

The post 5 Reasons Why You Might Want to Try Black and White Photography by Nisha Ramroop appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Simplifying Manual Mode to Help You Take Control of Your Images

As the owner of a DSLR camera, you may have heard the pros encouraging you to graduate to Manual Mode or M on your camera’s dial. While there are different schools of thought on which mode to use, Manual Mode allows you the greatest control over your settings.

Simplifying Manual Mode to Help You Take Control of Your Images

So why are so many people still daunted by it and how do you take next step to start working with Manual Mode? In this article, I’ll try to simplify it for you so you can understand how to use it and take better images.

Simplifying Manual Mode to Help You Take Control of Your Images

Why Manual Mode?

If you use the other modes, the camera helps you figure out some or all of the settings. For example, if you choose Aperture Priority mode, the camera works out the shutter speed and vice versa if you choose Shutter Priority. So if it already does all this, why bother with manual?

Sometimes these automated or semi-automated settings are not always in line with your vision. They may even be incorrect or tricked by unique lighting situations. This is where you take back control by using Manual Mode. You tell the camera how you want your output and your photos to look.

Simplifying Manual Mode to Help You Take Control of Your Images

Understanding the Big Three

As stated before, with Manual Mode you have control over “everything”- but what exactly does this mean? Well simply put, there are three variables that determine the exposure of your photograph and Manual Mode puts you in control all of them. These variables are the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, which together make up what is known as the Exposure Triangle. The balance of these three points of the exposure triangle is what Manual Mode is all about.

Aperture

Also known as f-number or f-stop, aperture refers to the size of the hole in your lens that lets in light. With a larger aperture (smaller f-number like f/2.8), more light hits your camera sensor. The reverse is also true (a larger f-number like f/16 lets in less light).

NOTE: It is often confusing for beginners because the smaller the number, the larger the hole. Just remember that the aperture is a ratio or fraction so f/2 is like 1/2 and f/20 is like 1/22. So remember that one half of anything is larger than 1/20th. 

Your control of aperture determines the depth of field in your photo – or how much of your image is sharp. A wider aperture (like f/2.8) results in a shallow depth of field. This means that only a part of your image is sharp, leaving the rest blurred or out of focus. Portraits are a good scenario to use wider apertures.

Simplifying Manual Mode to Help You Take Control of Your Images

Here a shallow depth of field has been combined with a fast shutter speed to get this shot.

If you want most of your image to be sharp, use a smaller aperture. Smaller apertures (higher f-numbers like f/16) are commonly used when shooting outdoor or landscape scenery.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed refers to the length of time that the shutter inside your camera is opened and light is allowed to hit the sensor. So to double the amount of light, you can double the length of your exposure.

If you want to freeze motion, use faster shutter speeds to limit the amount of time that light hits the sensor. Conversely, if you want to blur motion in your scene, use slower shutter speeds (or long exposure photography).

Simplifying Manual Mode to Help You Take Control of Your Images

Taking control of your shutter speed can change your usual day shots. Here a long exposure was used to add a motion blur to the moving water.

ISO

To keep the definition of ISO simple, it is the way your camera controls its sensitivity to light. Increasing your ISO value allows you to shoot in lower light conditions without a tripod. Note that higher ISO values add digital noise to your image which affects image quality. Fortunately, most cameras now handle digital noise better that those of times gone by, so experiment with it as it can be quite useful.

Simplifying Manual Mode to Help You Take Control of Your Images

Higher ISO values can add noise (grain) to your image but it is sometimes necessary to do this.

How to use Manual Mode

Now that you are familiar with what Manual Mode controls, how do you start working with it? Well, after you decide what you want to shoot, pick one the points of the exposure triangle as your starting point.

To shoot a landscape, for example, decide how much you want in sharp focus. Let’s say you choose an aperture of f/16. After your aperture is set, turn your shutter speed dial until the exposure is balanced. You can use the camera marker on your exposure chart as a guide. Theoretically, you have just balanced your aperture and shutter speed.

Start with your ISO at 100 and take a shot. Is your photo too bright or too dark? Based on the results, adjust your settings and retry. When working with the exposure triangle, most times when you adjust one setting, you usually have to adjust one of the other two (in the opposite direction) to get a balanced result and a proper exposure.

Simplifying Manual Mode to Help You Take Control of Your Images

Conclusion

Manual Mode may seem daunting, but as you learn more about controlling light, it becomes easier with time. While nothing is wrong with using the other available modes of your camera, the ability to control the final output of your vision is a great skill to develop.

If you have any tips or tricks that worked for you when you were learning Manual Mode, please share with us in the comments below.

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4 Tips for Better Nightscape Photography

4 Tips for Better Nightscape Photography

A nightscape is a representation of any place or scene at night. If you are venturing into this area of photography, you will quickly realize that there are some other things to consider along with getting your exposure right. Here are a few tips to help you.

1. Settings and Gear

Shooting nightscapes is a very cool way to teach yourself shooting in low-light conditions. The location and conditions will vary your settings, but there are a few things you can keep in mind. For example, digital noise is detected easily in darker areas. So, while newer cameras are handling noise better, it is a good practice to keep your ISO setting as low as possible.

4 Tips for Better Nightscape Photography
Since light is at a premium at night, it is a good time as any to work with more open apertures (smaller f-number), to let in more light. At night, sometimes your background details are lost anyway, so there are few added benefits of having a large depth of field. Star effects are a nice exception to this (created when shooting point light sources with a smaller aperture like f/11).

It’s also a great time to experiment with longer shutter speeds. During the day, keeping your shutter open means you need to add filters to cut the light. At night you need to add light and can use shutter speed to be more creative.

4 Tips for Better Nightscape Photography

Before you frown on High Dynamic Range (HDR) images, consider what value it adds. Bracketing is a good way to deal with the very contrasty reality of night photography.

Note: Long exposures also add noise as your sensor heats up (known as thermal noise). This makes it a good time to check that Long Exposure Noise Reduction box on your camera menu.

2. Location Scouting

As with other genres of photography, your location is important. Start with a plan of what you want to capture. Maybe it’s the city at night, that elusive Milky Way; exciting light trails left by cars or some sort of nightlife action. While some of these coexist, most times they are independent of each other and require their own unique conditions.

4 Tips for Better Nightscape Photography

Since photography means thinking about your light source(s) at all time, night photography needs added consideration for obvious reasons. What are the light sources in your location? Is it a street lamp, the moon, building lights, traffic or do you have to walk into the scene with your own light (light painting)?

When shooting landscape images at night, you could get there before nightfall and observe how the light changes. If you do not have the luxury of time, there are phone apps that help you figure out the light direction of your location. Scouting for a location can be as simple as a google search, someone’s recommendation or making an actual trip to understand the environment. Familiarizing yourself with your destination in advance gives you a photographic advantage and even keeps you safer.

Bonus Tip: Water can be an asset to night photography especially where there are light reflections.

4 Tips for Better Nightscape Photography

3. Moonwatching

The moon is a fascinating subject. Since it is a light source, you need to take it into consideration when scouting and planning your nightscape shots.

If it is your subject, then you may want it at its peak for drama (full moon, supermoon, or harvest moon) and shoot on a clear night to capture as much detail as possible. After you have worked out the correct exposure for shooting the moon, try composing it into a scene.

4 Tips for Better Nightscape Photography
On the other hand, if you are shooting other celestial objects (e.g. the Milky Way, meteors, or star trails), it might be preferable if the moon is barely there or not so dominant (new moon to the first quarter). Like sunrise and tides, there are many apps that can help you figure out moon phases and direction in relation to your location.

4 Tips for Better Nightscape Photography

4. Other Environmental Notes

Condition your gear!

Since temperatures usually drop at night, you need to be aware of moving your camera from warmer to colder conditions (the reverse is also true). Any seasoned night photographer can attest that “lens fog” is a nuisance as it blocks/cuts the light passing through your lens. Lens hoods help a little with reducing moisture build-up on your glass.

So another bonus of arriving at your location a little earlier is giving your gear time to acclimate to your shooting conditions.

4 Tips for Better Nightscape Photography

Walk with a flashlight

A flashlight is an asset for several reasons. You can use it to ensure proper footing for yourself or your tripod. It also helps when you need to make changes to your camera settings (knowing your controls off-hand is very useful in the dark).

More than these practical uses, it can play a part in your night photography as well. Use it to light paint areas in your image or even create a light spot to help with focusing.

4 Tips for Better Nightscape Photography

Conclusion

Night photography provides a great learning environment and gives you the opportunity to play around with your settings. Depends on what you are shooting, your available light is not changing quickly (if at all) and this gives you more time to experiment and get it right. You can take advantage of less traffic around or use it to your advantage (shooting nightlife).

Be safe while you’re out there and scout beforehand if possible. If you are an avid night photographer, share with us some of your night photography tips in the comments below.

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