Best Vlogging Cameras for 2019

The post Best Vlogging Cameras for 2019 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

What’s the best vlogging camera for 2019? That’s a tough question to answer given the wide variety of cameras on the market. In this article, I’ll talk about traditional vlogging camera rigs. I’ll also introduce three non-traditional cameras that also serve as modern vlogging options. Which is the best for you? Read on for some ideas, and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

best vlogging camera

Traditional vlogging cameras

Before we go any further, let’s define vlogging as a video blog. The traditional way to film a vlog is to point the camera at oneself, while also inserting B-roll (supplemental footage). Thus, most modern vloggers need a camera that allows them to film themselves, and also gather alternative shots.

Popular vloggers such as Casey Neistat and Peter McKinnon use traditional vlogging tools: a DSLR camera with a wide angle lens and shotgun mic, all attached to a Gorilla Pod. This is a tried and true vlogging rig, but it can also be modernized or made simpler by switching out the camera. Mirrorless cameras such as the Panasonic GH5 and Sony a6400 offer a slightly smaller footprint while also giving you a flip screen to monitor yourself. Or you can opt for even smaller point and shoot cameras such as the ever-popular Canon G7X or Sony RX100.

Modern vlogging cameras

While the traditional vlogging cameras mentioned above are still ubiquitous among vloggers, there are newer, more modern cameras worth considering. Here are three fairly new cameras that might fit the role as best vlogging camera of 2019.

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review

Contender #1: GoPro Hero 7 Black

GoPros are traditionally known as action cameras. However, many people use GoPros for everyday usage, including vlogging. This actually makes a lot of sense given GoPro’s tiny footprint, and its wide-angle lens that is perfect for capturing the first-person perspective. The brand new GoPro Hero 7 Black also adds several new features that work in a vlogger’s favor.

HyperSmooth and Timewarp

First, HyperSmooth. GoPro claims gimbal-like stabilization when HyperSmooth is in use, and it’s hard to argue. When shooting in HyperSmooth, bumpy footage is nearly completely eliminated. This means you can walk, run, drive, or perform just about any movement and get buttery smooth video. You can also shoot at up to 4K 60 frames-per-second with HyperSmooth enabled. Second, Timewarp. This is basically a timelapse video with HyperSmooth applied, resulting in a stabilized moving timelapse. It’s perfect for shooting B-roll and transitional scenes for a vlog or video.

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review

Vastly Improved Sound

GoPros have always had atrocious sound quality. For a long time, this was due to the fact that GoPros had to be put into a plastic cage to become waterproof. All of this changed with the Hero 5, which was the first GoPro camera to be waterproof without the cage. The Hero 7 Black is also waterproof without a cage, and it adds much-improved sound. There are now 3 microphones dispersed throughout the camera, and they do a pretty good job at picking up voices. The Hero 7 Black is still without a built-in microphone jack, but if you really need one, GoPro sells a (rather ridiculous and expensive) mic jack adapter.

Contender #2: DJI Osmo Pocket

Brand new to the camera world is the DJI Osmo Pocket. Made by the same manufacturers of DJI drones, the Osmo Pocket employs nearly the same camera found on the Mavic Pro drone. The camera has just a 1/2.3-inch sensor with a f/2.0 aperture. It can shoot at up to 4K/60fps at 100 Mbps. It can even shoot 12-megapixel photos. Best of all, the camera comes mounted on a 3-axis gimbal so that you can record buttery smooth footage.

There are a host of other features worth mentioning about the Osmo Pocket. But two features in particular that relate to vlogging are FPV and Active Track. FPV allows you to quickly reorient the camera to face yourself, while Active Track is intelligent in-camera tracking. Both of these features are incredibly handy for vlogging. And just in case the Osmo Pocket screen is too small for you, you can also plug in your phone for a much bigger touchscreen interface.

best vlogging camera DJI Osmo Pocket

Two Downsides

There are two major downsides to the Osmo Pocket as they relate to vlogging. The first is that the built-in sound quality is bad. No matter what side of the camera you’re on, it doesn’t pick up voices very well, especially if you’re filming in a noisy area. Currently, there are also no adapters or ways to install a microphone to enhance the sound. The second downside is the Osmo Pocket’s fixed 24mm camera lens. While 24mm is great for taking more cinematic footage without distortion, it’s not the best focal length for vlogging. You have to hold your arm out pretty far to get yourself in the frame, and even further if you have a buddy.

Contender #3: Modern Smartphone

A third camera to consider using to vlog is any modern day smartphone. Phones today are jam-packed with impressive camera specs with both front and rear-facing cameras. Many phones such as flagship Apple and Samsung phones also have in-camera stabilization, and the ability to shoot 4K video. They also have superior built-in sound since they are still phones, after all. You can also purchase a few accessories to take your smartphone photography and videography a step further. Investing in a smartphone gimbal gives you added stability, while Moment lenses increase image sharpness and offer wider angles.

The only real downside to using your phone to vlog is that you can’t use your phone to do other tasks while filming. Smartphone videos can also take up tremendous space on your phone, eating into your storage.

best moment lens for smartphone review

In Conclusion

So what is the best vlogging camera? It comes down to your shooting preferences. Personally, I find myself oscillating between the GoPro Hero 7 Black and my Samsung Galaxy S8 with a fisheye Moment Lens. These two cameras are so compact and easy to take anywhere, and they have been great for spontaneous vlogging.

If you’re looking for the best vlogging camera in 2019 and beyond, the good news is that you have lots of options. You can opt for tried and true DSLR or point-and-shoot rigs. Or you can look at modern, super compact options such as the GoPro Hero 7 Black or DJI Osmo Pocket. Or you can use the camera you have on you – a modern-day smartphone – and buy a few extra accessories to make your phone a pretty awesome vlogging rig. The choice is yours!

 

You may also find this articles helpful:

Essential Tools for Making Videos on Your Mirrorless Camera

Equipment List for Making Better Smartphone Videos

The post Best Vlogging Cameras for 2019 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review – 5 Things I Love and Dislike About this Camera

The post GoPro Hero 7 Black Review – 5 Things I Love and Dislike About this Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

The GoPro Hero 7 Black is hands down the best action camera on the market right now. With meaningful updates such as incredible stabilization, improved built-in sound, and better app integration, GoPro makes a compelling case for even its most loyal user base to upgrade to the latest model. If you’re on the market for an action camera, read on to find out 5 big reasons why the GoPro Hero 7 Black is the best one for you.

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review

Specs

GoPro released three new action cameras in September 2018: the Hero 7 Black, White, and Silver. The Hero 7 Black is their most premium model at US$399, with the other two being stripped down versions. GoPro’s mid-tier camera is the Hero 7 Silver. Priced at US$299, the Silver has most of the features of the Hero 7 Black minus Hypersmooth; it’s also capped at taking 10-megapixel photos compared to the Hero 7 Black’s 12 megapixels. GoPro’s new entry-level camera is the Hero 7 White. At US$199, you get the same 10-megapixel sensor as the Hero 7 Silver. Most features are retained except for the ability to shoot in 4K video.

Besides the price difference, the Hero 7 Black is also the only model to receive three new key features: HyperSmooth, live streaming, and TimeWarp video. More on all of these features below.

Look and feel

The Hero 7 Black retains the same rubberized design that was first introduced with the Hero 5 Black. Side-by-side, it looks almost identical to the Hero 6 Black. Both cameras have the same 2-inch touchscreen, button placement, and the same ports (USB-C and micro HDMI). They even use the same replaceable batteries.

Before you gripe about GoPro retaining the same camera design, consider this: reusing old designs means you can keep using the same GoPro accessories. This is key as GoPro, and many third-party manufacturers such as Joby have created some truly helpful accessories to get more use out of the camera. So if you have mounts, cages, or adapters for the Hero 5 or 6, rest assured that you can use them all with the Hero 7 Black as well.

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review

5 things I love about the GoPro Hero 7 Black

1. Hypersmooth

Hands down the best feature about the GoPro Hero 7 Black is Hypersmooth. GoPro claims it is the very best in-camera video stabilization on the market, adding gimbal-like stabilization to video footage. After profuse testing, it’s hard to argue. Shooting with Hypersmooth enabled does indeed produce ultra-smooth footage akin to what you would get if you used a gimbal. In turn, this seems to kill the GoPro Karma Grip gimbal as it seems the Hero 7 Black can record video just fine without it.

You can shoot in Hypersmooth even when shooting at 4K 60fps at full resolution. Just be mindful that Hypersmooth can’t be enabled when shooting in 4:3 aspect ratio, and also when shooting in Full HD at 240fps and 120fps.

2. TimeWarp

Also new on the Hero 7 Black is a feature called TimeWarp. In a nutshell, this is timelapse video with HyperSmooth applied. The resulting effect is being able to capture timelapse videos that are ultra stable. This is key for time-lapsing anything with movement, such as driving, hiking, walking, running, or biking. When using TimeWarp, you have the option to record at several different speeds including 2x, 5x, 10x, 15x, and 30x.

3. Same form factor as Hero 5 and 6

On the outside, GoPro made almost no change to the Hero 7. It looks exactly the same as the Hero 5 and 6, and even uses the same batteries. This is actually a good thing. If you’ve invested in GoPro cages or batteries before, you can reuse them with the Hero 7. Also, many third-party companies have created accessories for the Hero 5 and 6. You can use these just fine with the Hero 7.

One design change I’d love to see in future GoPros: a camera that comes with its own mount and doesn’t need to be put in a cage.

4. Touchscreen with revamped UI

While GoPros have had touchscreens for several models now, the user interface has been revamped in the Hero 7 Black. Key information such as resolution and framerate are condensed at the bottom of the screen, while battery life and remaining memory card space are in the upper portion of the screen. Portrait mode has also been added, allowing you to shoot vertical photos and videos for platforms such as Instagram Stories or IGTV.

Speaking of social media, the Hero 7 Black now allows for live streaming. Using WiFi or cellular service, you can conduct a 720p live stream on Facebook. At this time, live streaming to other platforms (ie. YouTube) isn’t yet enabled.

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review

5. Seamless smartphone integration

One of my biggest gripes about modern cameras is how terribly unreliable their smartphone integrations are. While most cameras offer Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity for remote control via smartphones and easily transferring images, it’s always hit or miss whether or not these features will work. With the GoPro, connectivity is the most responsive and reliable I’ve ever seen on a camera. This makes it very easy to use your smartphone to control the GoPro and review photos and videos immediately after capture. Well done, GoPro.

5 things I dislike about the GoPro Hero 7 Black

For all of the things that GoPro improved in the Hero 7 Black, there is still room for improvement. Here are 5 features in particular that I would like to see refined and improved in future generations.

1. Unresponsive screen

While the Hero 7 Black’s touchscreen is largely improved, it has one major shortcoming: it’s not very responsive! This problem also extends to GoPro’s other two buttons. In general, it’s hit or miss whether the GoPro will react to buttons being pushed or the touchscreen being swiped. This can be very frustrating, especially when trying to shoot spontaneously.

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review

2. Voice commands are unreliable

Another feature that is hit or miss is voice control. New on the Hero 7 Black are two voice commands that can control the GoPro: “GoPro capture,” and “GoPro Stop capture.” While useful in theory, these voice controls seem to work about half of the time.

3. No mic jack

In the past, GoPro was notorious for having awful built-in microphones. All of that changed with the Hero 7 Black, which offers remarkably improved in-camera sound. However, there are still instances that require enhanced sound capture via a lavalier (lapel) microphone or shotgun mic. Unfortunately, GoPro has withheld the mic jack from the Hero 7 Black, opting instead to give us USB-C and micro HDMI ports. GoPro does offer a solution in the form of a mic jack adapter. However, it is bulky and expensive, and you must use GoPro’s adapter (other brands will not work).

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review

4. Battery life

Of all the things GoPro improved in the Hero 7 Black, one thing that remains unchanged is battery life. It’s hard to give an estimated battery life as it depends on how you are using the camera. But in general, one battery lasts about an hour when shooting in 4K. Luckily, all three Hero 7 models come with a USB-C port to allow for charging via a wall socket or external battery. However, it is still a wise idea to carry several spare batteries with you.

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review

5. Low light performance

All three Hero 7 models have an f/2.8 aperture. This means they are decent at shooting in low light, but the video and photo quality still leaves room for improvement. In the case of the Hero 7 Black, it also seems that HyperSmooth is automatically disabled in low light conditions, further worsening the low light performance. In general, you’ll get the best photo and video performance out of your Hero 7 if you use it in daylight or good lighting conditions.

In Conclusion

Despite some shortcomings, the GoPro Hero 7 Black is easily the best action camera on the market right now. GoPro made significant and actually useful improvements on this camera and it is worth using not only for action scenarios but everyday use as well. Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments below!

GoPro Hero 7 Black Review

 

You may also like these reviews from Suzi:

Moment Smartphone Lens Review for Photography and Videography

Fujifilm X-T3 versus Fujifilm X-H1: The Best Mirrorless Camera for You?

Essential Tools for Making Videos on Your Mirrorless Camera

Gear Review: Lensbaby Sol 45 Field Test

Equipment List for Making Better Smartphone Videos

The post GoPro Hero 7 Black Review – 5 Things I Love and Dislike About this Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

How to Move from Auto to Manual Modes Using Camera Semi-Automatic Modes

The post How to Move from Auto to Manual Modes Using Camera Semi-Automatic Modes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Are you tired of the auto mode of your camera but don’t feel confident enough to go full manual? In this tutorial, you’ll learn how exposure works and how to use your camera semi-automatic modes to make the transition easy and smooth.

 

The Exposure Triangle

The first thing you need to know is that you control exposure by three factors: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. They are all interconnected, meaning when you move one of them, you have to adjust the others to compensate. This connection is known as the exposure triangle.

So, if the correct exposure can be achieved with many different values, as long as it’s compensated, what’s the problem with letting the camera choose those values? Because they control more than just the exposure. Let me show you with a visual explanation. Below is the same photo shot with different settings:

This photo was shot in Auto Mode meaning the camera decided what shutter speed to use, what aperture and what ISO. I had no control whatsoever about which would take priority:

Here I decided the shutter speed so I could control how long the light would come into the camera, which translates into freezing moving objects or capturing movement. The aperture and ISO were then automatically decided by the camera.

Left image – SHUTTER PRIORITY:1/250, f/3.5, ISO 800 = Freeze Subject. Right image – SHUTTER PRIORITY:1/30, f/10, ISO 800 = Motion Blur.

In this case, I chose the aperture because this controls how much of your photo is in focus. This technique is called Depth of Field. Shutter speed and ISO were then automatically decided by the camera.

Left image – APERTURE PRIORITY:1/200, f/2.8, ISO 800 = Shallow depth of field. Right image – APERTURE PRIORITY:1/6, f/22, ISO 800 = Deep depth of field.

In this last one, I changed the ISO, and the result gets reflected in the amount of noise you find in your photo, especially in the darkest areas. I’ll show you a zoomed in comparison for you.

Left image – AUTO ISO:1/200, f/16, ISO 6400 = Much noise. Right image – AUTO ISO:30, f/2.8, ISO 200 = No noise.

Now, if you go from Auto Mode into Manual Mode, suddenly you’re changing from no control into full control, and that can be difficult at first. Especially if you’re shooting scenes where you might lose the perfect shot if you take a long time figuring out the correct exposure. Fortunately, camera manufacturers know this, and they’ve created different semi-automatic programs for you to choose from.

Aperture Priority Mode

Aperture Priority Mode is marked as A or Av. It’s the same thing, but it changes according to the brand. With this setting, you can manually choose your ISO and your aperture number, which leaves the shutter speed up to the camera. This setting is handy when you are photographing still objects or landscapes. Just make sure to use a tripod if there’s low light because with a low shutter speed even your own movement can be recorded. However, if you don’t have a tripod, you can increase the ISO. But be mindful that the higher the number, the more noise you’ll have. Why would you want to control the aperture? Because it controls the depth of field.

Left image – APERTURE PRIORITY:1/60, f/2.8, ISO 200. Right image – APERTURE PRIORITY:1/50, f/22, ISO 4000.

The smaller the aperture number is, the wider the plane of focus becomes. However, most lenses have a sweet spot around f/8 that gives you the sharpest image of all. You can use this Aperture Priority Mode to experiment with your lens.

Shutter Speed Priority Mode

Shutter Speed Priority Mode can be marked as S or Tv, again depending on the brand. You control the shutter speed and ISO, while the camera takes care of the aperture. You’ll want to use this setting when there’s movement involved in your shoot, such as sports photography. In this case, you need a high-speed value if you want to freeze the moving object, or a slower speed if you want the moving object to leave a trail. Another situation in which this is useful is night or dark scenes, and you don’t have a tripod. In this case, you need to make sure to put your shutter speed fast enough so that the natural movement of your body doesn’t register with the camera.

Top image – SHUTTER PRIORITY:1/8, f/2.8, ISO 200. Lower image – SHUTTER PRIORITY:1/30, f/2.8, ISO 800.

Auto ISO

Finally, automatize the third factor of the exposure triangle, Auto ISO. There’s no program mode on the mode dial as such, but there is a setting. While being in Manual Mode, adjust your ISO sensitivity to AUTO so that you can decide the other two factors (aperture and shutter speed). However, you can also pair Auto ISO with any of the semi-automatic modes listed before, and then you only have to think about one factor. What you have to consider in this case is that the higher the ISO, the more noise you’ll have in your photo.

*A couple of extra considerations:

-Always check the results as your camera may misread the scene, especially in scenes with high contrast.

-When using the priority modes, the settings values start to flash if you’re out of reach (if it doesn’t have a way to compensate what you’re adjusting.) In this case, depending on what your shoot requires, you may have to solve it by adding a flash, raising the ISO or adding a filter.

Have fun using the semi-automated modes and remember to switch to full manual once you feel more comfortable with the entire exposure triangle. That way you’ll always keep learning!

The post How to Move from Auto to Manual Modes Using Camera Semi-Automatic Modes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Godox XPro TTL Flash Trigger Review with Phil Steele [video]

The post Godox XPro TTL Flash Trigger Review with Phil Steele [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this video, photography educator Phil Steele reviews the Godox XPro TTL Flash Trigger. While reviewing the Godox unit, he also makes a comparison to other flash triggers he uses; the Yongnuo YN622 and the Phottix Odin. The unit is available for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Fuji, and Pentax.

So, if you are looking to do more flash photography, you should watch this handy review. You may be surprised at the features this unit packs, especially the cross-brand compatibility. Find out more in the video.

 

You may also find the following articles helpful:

How to Trigger an Off-Camera Flash with the Pop-up Flash

8 On-Camera Flash Tips: How To Get Better Lighting From Your On-Camera Flash

Bounce Flash Secrets – Bouncing Your Way to Better Photography

DIY Lighting Hacks for Digital Photographers

How to Understand the Difference Between TTL Versus Manual Flash Modes

How to Make Beautiful Portraits Using Flash and High-Speed Sync

 

If you want to learn more from Phil, check out some of his video courses covering topics like event photography, Lightroom, headshots and more on steeletraining.com.

The post Godox XPro TTL Flash Trigger Review with Phil Steele [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

5 Secret Tips to Take Sharp Photos Using Any Camera

The post 5 Secret Tips to Take Sharp Photos Using Any Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kunal Malhotra.

How to take sharp photos is one of the most common issues a beginner photographer faces. In order to suggest a few important tips, I went back a few years and recalled the issues I used to come across.

Here are five tips I learned over the years to ensure I always take sharp photos using any camera.

1. Select Maximum AF Points

1 - 5 Secret Tips to Take Sharp Photos Using Any Camera

Every digital camera has a certain number of focus points, which are used by the camera to lock focus. By default, you can either allow the camera to use all the focus points or reduce them to a specific number such as 11, 9 or even one point.

I make sure that I am making use of all the focus points, to minimize the use of ‘focus and recompose.’ Keeping all the focus points active ensures that you get to use the entire focusing area on the sensor. Whereas, reducing the active focus points makes you focus and recompose the frame, resulting in soft focus.

2. 1-point AF

2 - 5 Secret Tips to Take Sharp Photos Using Any Camera

In the majority of situations, using single-point autofocus can help you nail the focus. Because if you allow the camera to lock focus as per its functionality automatically, there are chances that the focus might go off.

Assume you are taking a portrait, and in order to achieve crisp focus, you wish to focus on the eye of the subject. While using autofocus point selection, chances are, the camera might focus on the nose or the lips. The reason this happens is the camera does not know that you want to want to focus on the eye specifically.

Now by using the single-point autofocus feature, you can manually select the point where your eye is in the frame. Doing so, allows you to get the accurate focus on the eye, without any hit and trial method.

3. Back Button focus technique

3 - 5 Secret Tips to Take Sharp Photos Using Any Camera

There are some situations when you try to focus on a subject and the camera takes some time before you can fully press the shutter release button. Alternatively, when you want to take photos in Burst Mode the camera misses focussing on a few shots. You can eliminate these issues and achieve accurate focus by using the back button focus method.

The Back Button focus technique allows you to assign a button placed on the rear side of your camera to focus, and the shutter release button when pressed fully, captures the image.

While using this technique, you will realize that on pressing the shutter release button halfway, nothing happens. This is because another button using your thumb is now controlling the focusing.

4. Use of Shutter Priority

4 - 5 Secret Tips to Take Sharp Photos Using Any Camera

If you are a wildlife, action or sports photographer, there might have been instances where you were not able to freeze the motion of your subject. Moreover, if you shoot in low-lighting conditions, you might have encountered shake in your photos.

In any of the above situations, I make sure that I am using my camera on Shutter Priority mode. The basic rule that I start with is using the shutter speed 1/2x of the focal length. For example, while shooting at 50mm, I ensure that I start shooting by using 1/100 sec (1/2×50 = 1/100). In the worst situations, I reduce the shutter speed by 1-2 stops if my lens supports Image Stabilization.

Using the Shutter Priority mode ensures that your camera is using a specific shutter speed that results in no or minimum shake in the image. If you wish to freeze the motion of a moving subject, you can dial a fast shutter speed like 1/2000 sec and let the camera do the remaining math.

5. Take backup shots

The last important tip to get sharp photos would be to take a few backup shots during your shoot. Imagine if you are doing a commercial shoot and when you return to your editing desk you realize that the subject is out of focus or the image is not sharp.

Make sure that after clicking the desired photo, you take a few extra photos of the same frame. These backup photos reduce the risk and increase the possibility of getting sharp photos.

In the past 8-9 years, these five tips have helped me to nail focus in almost any situation and deliver quality work to my clients.

Do you have other tips? Do share your views in the comment below.

The post 5 Secret Tips to Take Sharp Photos Using Any Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kunal Malhotra.

3 Top Cell Phone Photography Apps (Android or iOS)

The post 3 Top Cell Phone Photography Apps (Android or iOS) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

One of the nice things about photography is that you don’t need an expensive camera or exotic lenses to produce good photos. Although such gear ensures the best image quality, to some degree that need has been nullified by the way today’s photos are shared. When viewed on a high-res smartphone or tablet, the technical imperfections of a phone image all but vanish. Cell phone photography is as legitimate as any other form of photography. Or is it?

In recent years, as the Internet has grown in power and influence, cell phone photography has become widely accepted by picture libraries and agencies. A huge market exists for web pictures, and it doesn’t always take DSLRs or even compact cameras to supply it. After inheriting an iPhone a few months back, and acquainting myself with various apps, I began sending phone photos to picture libraries.

When it comes to cellphone photos, libraries are surprisingly open-minded about the use of filters and effects. A conservative approach to editing is not necessary and may even be unhelpful. This article looks at three of the apps I use most for preparing images: MIX, PS Express, and Snapseed. Any of these three allows basic manual adjustments of color and tone. So instead of attempting repetitive in-depth reviews of all three, I aim to show you some of their individual features.

Three top cell phone photography apps

The opening screens of MIX by Camera360, Adobe PS Express and Snapseed by Google. All three are available for iOS or Android phones.

MIX by Camera360

MIX is filter-oriented with 100+ free filters and some in-app purchases. Of course, it also lets you make straight edits to your pictures (e.g. brightness, saturation, contrast, sharpness, spot removal). I’ve always liked presets and filters. If other photographers know exactly what they’re going to do with every photo, I’m not one of them. Sometimes it’s fun to try out different stuff and hit a few buttons.

Cine Filters

When you want to apply a color cast to an image, the Cine filters in MIX work well. They have various effects, including warm-up, cooling, and a classic orange & teal combo for movie-style color contrast (try Googling “orange and teal photography” to discover more). Using these filters is a bit like tuning the temp and tint sliders in Lightroom. They affect the white balance of the image.

Three top cell phone photography apps - teal and orange Cine filter from MIX

This orange (warm-up) and teal look is similar to an effect used in modern movies and comes from one of several Cine filters in MIX.

Slide Film Filters

As my photography predates the digital age, filters that imitate last-generation slide films appeal to me. I can’t testify as to their accuracy, but if I want a deep blue sky or just a bit more punch in color and contrast, MIX gives me an easy solution.

Three great cell phone photography apps - MIX Slide Film filters

These deep-blue skies were achieved with the Fuji Velvia Slide Film filters in MIX and are true to the effect often seen in Velvia transparencies.

Holiday Sky Filters

Being an old-school slide shooter (or old at any rate), I struggle with the idea of grafting new skies onto photos, but then photography rarely tells the whole truth. MIX offers a range of Holiday Sky filters that might just rescue disappointing photos. To make artificial skies seem realistic, you must take notice of how the light falls in your photo and make sure it doesn’t blatantly conflict with the new background. There’s also a MIX “Magic Sky” filter series for more dramatic effects.

3 top cell phone photography apps - MIX holiday sky filters

Sky grafting might be anathema for some, but Holiday Sky filters in MIX make it easy to replace a dull sky.

Adobe PS Express

As a long-time user of Photoshop, I tried PS Express hoping for a level of familiarity. I wasn’t disappointed. You can adjust photos using the same editing sliders found in other Adobe products: much of the toolbox seems intact.

Transform

If you shoot architectural photos, one of the best things about PS Express is its ability to easily correct the verticals and/or horizontals of a building. This avoids the “falling over” effect you get when pointing a camera at architecture. It helps if you leave space around the building when photographing it, otherwise, the transform tool will slice the edges off it.

Three top cell phone photography apps - transform tool in PS Express

The verticals in this photo of Florence were corrected with the Transform tool in PS Express.

Filters

PS Express has a decent selection of filters. I’m fond of the ones that apply a vignette, such as Basic/Autumn or B&W/pinhole. These give photos a sense of drama, and like all vignettes focus attention on the middle of the photo. You can give your photos a lot of mood with these filters.

Three top cell phone photography apps - PS Express pinhole filter

The PS Express B&W Pinhole filter focuses attention on the face of this effigy in Rouen Cathedral.

Text

Adding text to photos can seem a complicated process in some apps and programs, but PS Express makes it easy. You can easily create website graphics, greetings cards or memes and have plenty of control over fonts and opacity. As well, you can send your creations as layered PSD files to Photoshop CC on a computer.

Three top cell phone photography apps - PS Express text

Adding text with different fonts, opacity and colors is easy in PS Express.

Snapseed by Google

Developed by Google, Snapseed is an intuitive app that offers single-click “Looks” (filters by another name) and “Tools” for adjustable edits. It’s capable of great results with as little or as much input as you want. Among the tools, you’ll find anything from regular brightness, contrast or saturation sliders to more adventurous edits like “Double Exposure” or “Grunge”.

Looks: Fine Art

For black and white conversions, I find the “Fine Art” filter in Snapseed particularly pleasing. There is always a full range of tones to pack plenty of punch without much loss of shadow or highlight detail. The pictures are also very clean—no mid-tone noise in skies like there is with some B&W edits.

Three top cell phone photography apps - Snapseed fine art filter

The Snapseed Fine Art filter gives a well-balanced B&W conversion with a pleasing range of tones. I use it as my B&W cell phone default.

Tools: Drama

The Drama tool can easily produce overcooked results if you’re not careful, but it’s useful for bringing out the detail in clouds and/or lifting an otherwise dull photo taken on an overcast day. You can adjust the filter’s contrast effect as well as saturation to fine-tune the result.

Three top cell phone photography apps - drama tool

The Drama tool emphasizes mid-tone contrast and bleaches saturation on its default setting, often resulting in more dramatic skies.

Tools: Lens Blur

Snapseed’s Lens Blur tool lets you emphasize a particular area of a photo by controlling background blur and vignetting. The “Transition” slider lets you control the feathering area between the main subject and background, enabling natural-looking results.

Three top cell phone photography apps - Snapseed lens blur tool

The Snapseed Lens Blur tool emphasizes the face of this wooden sculpture of Christ in Venice.

Summary

The apps in this article will not be new to seasoned smartphone photographers, but I hope I’ve inspired others to use their cell phone cameras creatively. Phones have their limitations for some genres of photography, but that’s true of any camera and lens combo. They offer unrivaled portability. And while cell phones aren’t often seen in pro photography, they don’t rule out the chance of publication. Smartphones and their apps let you express yourself in countless ways.

The post 3 Top Cell Phone Photography Apps (Android or iOS) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

Our Two Tamron Contest Winners Announced

The post Our Two Tamron Contest Winners Announced appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

The Winners of the Tamron 100-400mm (model A035), and a Tamron 45mm (model F013) lenses are…

A HUGE Thank You to everyone who entered our recent contest from our friends at Tamron. Again, this was not actually a photography competition, but so many of you shared your beautiful photographs. We encourage you all to go back and scroll the comments section for some wonderful photos and links to reader pages and sites.

Yet again, the response was AMAZING with thousands of shares and over 100 entries!

But now, onto the winners! Drum roll please…and the winners are:

Grand Prize

The grand prize winner is: Andi S.

Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD Ultra Telephoto Zoom Lens – Value $799.
Winner’s choice of Canon or Nikon mount.

Second Prize

Second Prize Winner is: Shannan F.

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD with Hi-Resolution and image stabilization – Value $599.
Winner’s choice of Canon, Nikon or Sony-A mount.

 

We were all thrilled with the entries. You tugged at our heartstrings, made us laugh, made us smile, but most importantly, you made us keep wanting to do more of what we are doing; providing you quality information and guidance to become a better photographer. We were so pleased to see that you came from every part of the world, young adults to grandparents, and everyone in between. Thank you all for your entries!

The winning entries

Here are the posts from the winners of the Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD, and Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD, respectively.

Andi – The zoom is EXACTLY what I need right now. My daughter, who has cerebral palsy, has been a swimmer since she was 7. I have always been able to get decent action shots indoors in dim lighting using either a 50mm or 85mm prime lens, but,,, She has been in development camp with US Paralympics coaches and decided this year to commit to swim because she wants to make the US Paralympic Team (and she has a shot – she became the first paraswimmer in state history to compete in breaststroke two weeks ago in our state’s high school swimming championships and will swim in the Canadian-American Paraswimming Championships and probably the World Para-swimming World Series in 2019). Because she is now swimming in much larger venues, I need a lens with better reach than the primes I’ve used in the past, but these venues also have better lighting so I can get away with an f4.5-6.3 and still get decent action shots.

Shannan – It would be DREAMY to win either of these fantastic lenses! A decade ago I learned about an organization called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. My daughter had been given a fatal diagnosis and NILMDTS sent a photographer to the hospital to take photos of our sweet baby as she died. I cherish those photos and am so grateful to have them. I have been working toward volunteering as a photographer for NILMDTS and the 45mm F013 would be a go-to lens to give these families the photos that they will cherish as much as I do. Hospital rooms are tight, between the equipment, staff and families and I don’t have the space for a tripod. Tamron’s fantastic VC will help me offer tack sharp images of these sweet babies and the Ultrasonic Silent Drive will help me melt into the background so I don’t disturb the event.

Both lenses would be a great addition to my backpack as well! I love shooting nature and backpacking off trail on rugged terrain to capture the fog rolling in or a babbling brook. I have been putting off buying a telephoto lens for a while because every once counts when you are backpacking! But Tamron has made it accessible without losing quality. The VC and the moisture resistant construction are also a must. I sometimes leave the tripod at camp if I have to climb to a vista. The VC on the 100-400mm A035 is amazing and would allow me to leave that tripod back with more confidence. And, like I said, the moisture resistant construction will let me focus on the shot instead of bagging up!

Thank you for making quality glass and giving me the opportunity to get my hands on some!

Honorable Mentions

We had so many wonderful entries, we have chosen ten people to receive an “Honorable Mention” prize of the Living Landscapes eBook, by dPS. The ten winners are listed below:

* Marianne R.
* Jimmy D.
* Julianne H.
* Todd M.
* F. Tyler B.
* JoJo R.
* Paul B.
* Matt C.
* Chris
* Bill A.

We simply had to share this haiku comment, written by Pete M. Thank you. It made us smile.

Lovely lens; this Prize…
Tamron ZOOM best once again!
(Great Honor to win.)
– my 1st attempt at Haiku… that was fun.

Special offer for dPS readers

Now, for those of you that didn’t win, Tamron has invited ALL dPS readers to download their eBooks. You can find them here.

The winners will be emailed with details of how to collect their prizes.

Please make sure to look for our email. Thank you again for all the wonderful submissions and to Tamron for sponsoring this competition.

Tamron Rebates

For all of you residing in the USA, when you do purchase your next Tamron Lens, make sure to take advantage of the rebates* up to $100 off through March 2, 2019. Find additional information HERE!

*Current rebate offers end March 2, 2018. US RESIDENTS ONLY.

About Tamron

Disclaimer: Tamron is a paid partner of dPS.

The post Our Two Tamron Contest Winners Announced appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Review: Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5 – 6.3 DG OS HSM for Wildlife Photography

The post Review: Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5 – 6.3 DG OS HSM for Wildlife Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ian Johnson.

Out of the box I was impressed with the build quality and features (particularly the Arca Swiss foot) of this lens.

In 2019, Sigma is bringing a new lens to their line up. The 60-600mm f/4.5 – 6.3 DG OS HSM (available for Nikon and Canon) offers flexibility and quality as a portrait and super telephoto lens. The lens, optimized for DLSR cameras (DG), features optical stabilization (OS) and Sigma’s Hyper Sonic Motor technology (HSM). This review focuses on the applications, strengths, and weaknesses for wildlife photography. In short, I found the image sharpness, build quality, and versatility of the lens to be good. The lens may not be suitable for a full professional looking for amazing bokeh of an f/4 or f/2.8, but many will find its flexibility and image quality to be more than satisfactory. For the nitty-gritty details read the rest of this article and view my final rating below.

First impressions

Out of the box, this lens has a great feel. At a little under 6 pounds (2.7kg), the weight lets you know the majority of its construction is from metal. The only pieces of plastic were the hood and lens cover. The weight is not surprising considering they have to pack in the elements to give you a 60-600mm focal length. I was surprised at how short the total length of the lens was considering its impressive ability to have a 10x optical zoom.

Here, the lens is mounted to a Nikon D810, which I used to test the lens

Build quality

There are some features out of the box that I noticed and appreciated immediately. Aside from the plastic pinch-style lens cap, the lens came with a padded Velcro hood cover. It was a quick way to protect the camera’s front element and provide some padding while in the case. The foot of the lens had Arca Swiss mounts built in removing the need to purchase a 3rd party plate if you use Arca Swiss tripod mounts. The hood mounted to the camera with a sturdy set screw rather than a twisting-lock design like many lenses have. Last, all mounts were metal, and the front element was large with very nice looking glass.

The rear element of the camera has all metal mounts

The front element of the lens has very nice looking glass

Image Quality

In the lab

To examine the sharpness of the lens I took a series of images at 60, 220, and 600 mm and throughout the range of apertures (wide open to closed) at each of the focal lengths. All images were taken from a tripod and in natural lighting. The images below are entirely unedited, and I have provided samples of a 2:1 crop at approximately the center edge of each image to examine sharpness. The captions of each image dive into my observations at each particular setting, but the trend was the same throughout the tests. Edges of images were soft up to about four f-stops over wide open. The lens had a predictable sweet spot between f/10 – f/16 where edge sharpness was excellent. Sharpness tapered off from f/16 to the maximum aperture.

At 60mm and wide open (f/4.5) there was noticeable softness in the edge of the image.

The sweet spot of the lens was at f/14 which provided sharp edges at 60mm.

When set at the smallest aperture there was some softness in the edge, but not nearly as much as shooting wide-open.

Set at wide open (f/5.6) and 220mm there was noticeable softness in the edges.

At 220mm, f/14 the edges were very sharp

While set at 220 mm and the smallest aperture (f/29) the edges were slightly soft, but not as soft as wide open.

At 600mm f/6.3 there was noticeable softness in the edges.

While at 600 mm the lens was sharpest at f/16

There was some softness in the image at 600mm and the smallest aperture (f/32)

I brought the lens into the field to make wildlife images and test out some of its qualities. I shot all of these photos and found them to be sharp and well stabilized. Sharpness would only improve with the use of a tripod. I will use the images to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the lens.

I began to appreciate the incredible versatility of the broad focal range in this lens while in the field. Zooming out to 60mm allowed me to shoot contextual shots and wildlife portraits without moving my feet. The images of these swans were taken back to back – one at 60mm and the other at 600mm. The group of swans was about 40yards (~40m) away. These images are uncropped and unedited and show how the lens is capable of contextual and portrait scenes.

This image of a Trumpeter Swan was captured at 600mm. I was able to isolate it from the group thanks to the super-telephoto lens.

This image of a group of Trumpeter Swans was taken at 60mm and are about 40 yards away. You can see the sleeping swan on the left side of the ice that I zoomed in on for the image above. This image really shows off how much range you have between 60 and 600mm!

I was surprised by how close I was able to focus on a subject. At 600mm I was able to focus on subjects about 6 feet away. This was a huge, huge benefit for getting near-to full frame shots of small birds. The minimum focusing distance was noticeably shorter than other telephotos I have shot. The image of this small Black-capped Chickadee I shot at 500mm at a distance of about 7 feet. It is uncropped.

This Black-Capped Chickadee was perched about 7 feet away, and I was impressed that I was able to focus on it being that close.

As expected with a larger minimum f-stop (f/6.3 at 600mm) it was more difficult to get amazing bokeh and subject separation. To achieve the lens sweet spot it was necessary to shoot at an aperture between f/8 – f/14. Shooting at the sweet spot resulted in background elements being more noticeable. Even at 600mm and f/6.3, it was challenging to get subject separation. When photographing small birds, this often meant distracting sticks were left relatively in focus in the shot. Although I did not shoot in twilight conditions, it would be difficult to stop moving wildlife because of slow shutter speeds related to the minimum aperture.

This image was taken with the lens at 600mm, f/6.3. The relatively large minimum aperture left sticks in the background of the image.

600mm is a great reach, but what if you want to go even further? I used the internal 2x (DX) crop of my Nikon D810 to double the focal length for some shots. Even though I was effectively shooting at 1,200mm handheld, the optical stabilization (OS) system in the lens allowed me to shoot clean and sharp shots. I did not test this lens with any telephoto converters.

This timid Trumpeter Swan was shot using the DX crop built into my camera at an effective focal length of 1,200 mm. I was happy with the OS of the lens.

Focus, accuracy, speed

You may have noticed by now I was shooting in winter conditions while testing this lens. Even though temperatures were between 15-30F (-9 to -1degrees), the autofocus remained fast and quiet thanks to the HSM technology. I was impressed with the speed of the autofocus system in capturing moving birds.

I relied on the fast autofocus of the lens to lock onto this passing flock of Trumpeter Swans. This image was taken at 280mm and is uncropped.

Shots from the field

Here are a series of shots that I made with the Sigma 60-600 during my trials. Although I’m not using these to illustrate a specific point, I think the portfolio below can help you make your own deductions on what this lens can achieve and whether it is a good fit for you.

A Trumpeter Swan swims in an open lead of water during a bright sunset.

Two White-tailed Deer observe their surroundings before moving through a tallgrass prairie.

A White-tailed Deer walked through tall prairie grass in a native prairie restoration project.

A Trumpeter Swan stands on the ice after preening itself.

A White-breasted Nuthatch shows off its neck geometry.

A wild Turkey struts across a field of snow.

A Downy Woodpecker extracts a sunflower seed from a drooping head.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Good OS for shooting handheld
  • Incredible versatility from 60-600mm
  • Can replace a couple lenses in your kit for traveling efficiency
  • Excellent build quality and Arca Swiss plate as a default

Cons:

  • Sacrifice bokeh due to relatively large minimum f-stops
  • Edge sharpness is pretty soft at open apertures
  • It is heavy for its size and relative to comparable lenses

The bottom line, final rating and product value

Overall I was impressed with this lens for its versatility. I think there is a lot of appeal in having one lens that can “do it all”. However, fully professional photographers may shy away from the lens because of its minimum aperture and resulting depth of field. This lens sells for US$1,999 dollars. This value delivers a very nice lens with good capability. My overall rating: 8.5 out of 10.

The post Review: Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5 – 6.3 DG OS HSM for Wildlife Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ian Johnson.

How to Choose the Right Photography Backdrop

The post How to Choose the Right Photography Backdrop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

So, you’ve picked up some strobes to help light your subjects and are in the process of setting up your studio. This is a very exciting time: so much to photograph, total control of the lighting, what an opportunity…. but how to choose the right photography backdrop? How you shoot and what you shoot will affect your decision, as will your budget.

1 - How to Choose the Right Photography Backdrop

Model with a black seamless paper backdrop

Photography backdrops make your photographs pop

If you haven’t figured it out already – you soon will – most photographers realize that one of the essential features of a good photograph is the thing that nobody notices: the background. When it works, people “oohh” and “aahh”. However, if it doesn’t work, people can’t figure out why they don’t like your image. One of the secrets of any successful photographer is paying attention to what’s behind your subject. This applies to any photograph, not just those taken in the studio. You might want to consider purchasing commercial backdrops that can significantly improve the quality of your shots.

2 - How to Choose the Right Photography Backdrop

Model with a white seamless paper backdrop

Beyond lighting

Assuming you already know what’s involved in lighting a studio (if not check this out), the next question is what to use as a backdrop. There are multiple types and sizes with pros and cons for each. Backdrop mounting and portability are also necessary.

It is one thing to have a backdrop for use in your studio, but what if you are asked to set up somewhere else? How do you make your backdrop portable? What goes best with the subject? If you are shooting a white subject, you probably don’t want a white backdrop because the white may disappear into the background (same with black on black). The color doesn’t need to be complementary (although it helps if it is) but should provide contrast. Lighting tricks can alleviate some of this, but sometimes it’s just easier to use a contrasting backdrop.

3 - How to Choose the Right Photography Backdrop

Model with a white seamless paper backdrop

Types

There are multiple types of backdrops but they all function similarly. They all tend to be relatively thin and only intended as backgrounds (not designed for subjects to interact with). Then can be constructed of seamless paper, muslin, hand-painted canvas or vinyl. The most expensive, least flexible, and the fanciest backdrop is the cyclorama or cyc studio.

Seamless paper

Seamless paper is a versatile and inexpensive backdrop and is a staple for many studios. They are available in many colors, with the most common being black or white. You can produce gray from white backdrops by altering your lighting setup, so a dedicated gray backdrop isn’t necessary. You can also modify white backgrounds with gelled lighting to created colored backgrounds.

4 - How to Choose the Right Photography Backdrop

Product photo on a seamless white paper backdrop

There are pros of using seamless paper: the look is clean, you can modify the background colors with lighting, and the images can be cut out for background replacement. The cons of using seamless paper are: the rolls can be awkward to transport if a wide size (even just from the store to the studio), the paper can be easily damaged, and the backgrounds have no texture. In addition, if you have colored paper, the background colors can seep into the edges of your subject.

Seamless paper provides flooring as well as the backdrop without a visible interface between the floor and the background. This makes it ideal for product photography as well as studio shots. The lack of a seam makes the image appear to float with an infinite background.

Muslin

Muslin backdrops are constructed from a cotton fabric. They come in various weights and sizes and can be dyed in a single color, have color splotches, or be hand painted. Because muslin backdrops have been in use for a long time, some photographers don’t pay much attention to them. They are, however, very portable and generally look good. Another great feature is that you can easily wash them if soiled. However, you may need to clean larger sizes in a commercial machine. Muslin backdrops can look modern or retro, depending upon the style of lighting. They are a great addition to every photographer’s arsenal of backdrops.

5 - How to Choose the Right Photography Backdrop

Model in front of dyed muslin backdrop

Similar to paper, you can use longer muslin as flooring for the subject. Solid colors function much like seamless paper, but you need to be cautious about folds in the muslin as they can be distracting from the subject. Muslin backdrops produce many of the same effects as a seamless paper but are much easier to transport.

6 - How to Choose the Right Photography Backdrop

Dog in front of muslin backdrop showing flooring

There are a few downsides to muslin backdrops. Depending upon how you light them, you may see folds in the fabric behind your subject. As your subject moves, the backdrop may also move, disrupting your background. People may even trip over the material as they walk across the muslin. If you are not careful, solid colored muslins will wrinkle, detracting from the appearance of the background. Because muslins were popular for so many years, certain styles appear particularly old or dated. Photographers need to take care in choosing the style of the muslin backdrops.

7 - How to Choose the Right Photography Backdrop

Dog in front of muslin backdrop

Hand-painted canvas

If you have ever flipped through a copy of Vanity Fair or seen images from Annie Leibovitz, you know the look of a hand-painted canvas backdrop. They look amazing. These studio backdrops are hand painted onto large sheets of canvas. The paint is done in multiple layers to give the perception of depth and texture. The ones used in many of the fashion or movie-star photoshoots tend to be specialty canvases that are custom made. The effort to paint the backdrops, and the large space required to create them, tends to make these expensive.

8 - How to Choose the Right Photography Backdrop

Cat in front of hand-painted canvas backdrop

Hand-painted canvas backdrops provide a vibrant appearance. A lighting change does not generate this richness, but purely because of the reflective surfaces on the backdrop. The paint adds texture, and the various layers of the paint add depth and tonality you cannot achieve with seamless paper. Because they are hand-painted, each canvas tends to be unique.

9 - How to Choose the Right Photography Backdrop

Hand-painted canvas backdrop

The downsides of hand-painted canvas backdrops are cost and care in handling. You don’t want people stepping on your canvas backdrops because they are easily damaged and difficult to clean. That said, the visual effect of a hand-painted canvas backdrop can be stunning.

Vinyl

Vinyl backdrops consist of large images printed on pliable vinyl. Many images are suitable for a vinyl backdrop, but this form is limited to the vertical surface in the background. Flooring is separate. You can purchase separate vinyl sheets for flooring to simulate flooring (such as hardwood floors).

10 - How to Choose the Right Photography Backdrop

Unimpressed dog in front of a vinyl backdrop

Vinyl backdrops can feature unusual or creative backgrounds. They are great for children, parties or events and are washable, so they work for different types of cake smash, food fight or spray images (be careful about the rest of your studio). Also, they are quite pliable so they can be moved about without much difficulty. Finally, they can feature images that appear three dimensional (like a bookcase).

On the other hand, vinyl backdrops are a little reflective, so you need to be cautious about how your lights are set up. You also need to be aware that the backgrounds are two dimensional even though they can appear to be three dimensional.

Cycloramas or Cyc Studios

A cyclorama or cyc studio is a fixed (built in place) backdrop consisting of two intersecting wall sections that have been curved seamlessly into one another and the floor so that there are no visible corners. By curving the corners, the background flows from wall to wall to floor.  A cyclorama is a practical and durable backdrop. However, it is also the least flexible (it won’t move) and is only one color (usually white). It makes the subject appear to be floating with an infinite background and is a great way to create cut outs to modify your background.

This type of backdrop takes a lot of space, time and effort, but makes for great photographs.

Sizes and handling

Seamless paper doesn’t usually have any texture. It comes in large rolls of varying widths, with 53 inches and 107 inches being the two most common sizes. Seamless paper also provides the flooring in front of the background without a corner edge. Because it is paper, you need to be aware of dirty or wet footwear because they leave marks and can damage the paper. When the paper is too damaged, you roll out more paper and discard the dirty or damaged section. The rolls generally have lots of paper, somewhere in the range of 9-12 yards (27-36 feet). White seamless paper is often ideal for a studio set up when you want to cut out the background and replace it with something else.

11 - How to Choose the Right Photography Backdrop

Santa in front of black muslin backdrop

Muslin backdrops come in different styles: standard, washed, crumpled and hand-painted. Standard sizes are 10 feet wide by 12 or 24 feet long. They can be challenging to manage but cover a wide area. Ideally, they come sewn with a pocket at the top that allows you to run it on a rod. Folds in the backdrop can evoke an older photographic style, so most contemporary photographers try to flatten out the muslin. Wrinkle elimination sometimes requires a steamer.

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Model with a large muslin backdrop

Because canvas is a much heavier material, these backdrops typically come on rolls. If you don’t manage them as rolls, they can be difficult to handle. Standard sizes are about 6 feet wide by 8 feet tall. Most suppliers have a range of sizes. Canvas tends to hang in stretched out to avoid any folds. If you are doing full-length photographs, you will need to consider what you are using for the floor.

Vinyl backdrops vary in size. Similar to canvas, you need to stretch them to eliminate folds. Some vinyl backdrops come with printed flooring (such as hardwood floors) and can be used together, provided you deal with the interface. Stretching the vinyl on the mounting allows for the image to present well. When shooting with vinyl, you need to ensure that the lighting does not reflect into the camera lens. If you’ve used a backdrop with a three-dimensional image, a reflection will make it clear that the background is not real.

Mounting

There are a few options for mounting backdrops. The determining factor tends to be the size and type of backdrop you are using, as well as the frequency with which you plan on changing them. In general, you want some ability to change and mix up the backgrounds.

The basic options for mounting are fixed bars or portable stands. If you have a permanent studio and never plan on taking any of your backgrounds on the road, fixed bars or rollers are ideal. You mount them on the ceiling or wall so that they are suitably high, and allow the paper or fabric to roll off. Mounting on the ceiling means the backdrop will be high enough for your tallest subjects. Framing can be done merely with conduit and small size piping. There are also large electrically controlled rollers available. The costs can range from very cheap to very expensive.

13 - How to Choose the Right Photography Backdrop

Stands, allow for flexibility of the configuration. Some stands are intended for backdrops and often come as a set with clamps included. With portable backdrops, clamps play an integral role in making the background smooth and even. It is particularly the case with muslin or canvas backdrops, but seamless paper also benefits from strategic use of clamps to ensure that it does not keep unspooling as you hang the rolls.

There are also pop-up stands that you can use for canvas or vinyl backgrounds. You simply clamp the background to the edges of a springy stand. There are multiple systems for this, and many come with their own backgrounds as a complete set.

Using

Regardless of your backdrop choice, keep the subject at least 3 feet away from it to avoid casting shadows onto the backdrop. This all ties to the strategic use of lighting setups. Your goal is to have the backdrop disappear behind the subject, making it the center of attention.

Some backdrops, particularly white seamless paper, may need to be lit separately. If you don’t light the backdrop you may have uneven colors behind the subject that detract from the image or prevent the easy masking of the backdrop.

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Dog in front of muslin backdrop

In general, keeping backdrops clean can be a challenge. Some are easier to clean than others. However, hand-painted canvas and paper backdrops can’t be cleaned without damaging the surfaces, while muslin and vinyl backdrops are easier to clean. You may need to wash large muslins commercially. It is also important that any washing gets done in such a way that the fabrics don’t become altered or damaged.

Conclusion

Choosing the right studio backdrop can affect the mood and overall feel of your images. My personal favorite is hand-painted canvas, but I have used them all (except a cyclorama) effectively. The use of backdrops work hand in glove with your chosen lighting setup, and you should consider both together. If used well, you can make your images pop by having the backdrops pull focus onto your subjects.

 

The post How to Choose the Right Photography Backdrop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

Moment Smartphone Lens Review for Photography and Videography

The post Moment Smartphone Lens Review for Photography and Videography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

It’s no secret that smartphone cameras are getting increasingly better with every new release. But did you know that you can enhance your smartphone photography even further with lenses? There are several smartphone lens manufacturers out there, but one of the most popular and premium choices out there comes from Moment. This Seattle-based company offers four lenses that can take your smartphone photography to the next level. I’ve long been curious about these lenses and was delighted to finally have a chance to try them out.

best moment lens for smartphone review

Specs

Currently, Moment has four smartphone lenses on hand: the Superfish (fisheye), Wide, Macro, and Tele Portrait. Each lens ranges in price from US$89.99 to US$99.99. The lenses are attached via a custom Moment smartphone Photo Case, so you’ll need one of them too. Presently, there are Photo Cases for Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy, and iPhone. Each case varies in design and price depending on your smartphone brand, but they’re in the US$30 or less range. This test and all resulting images were done with a Samsung Galaxy S8.

Build quality

Physically, each lens varies in presentation, which helps tell them apart at a quick glance. All lenses are made of metal and glass and have some nice heft to them. They also come with rubber lens caps that protect the front element. While there are no end caps to protect the back elements, at least they are small and relatively easy to keep clean and protected if using the included velvet lens drawstring bags.

best moment lens for smartphone review

Attaching the lens to your Smartphone

Lenses attach to your phone via the bayonet-style mount on Moment’s custom phone cases. You simply match up the lens mount to the phone case and twist the lens to lock it into place. It’s relatively easy to do with no added tools required. However, the lens mount is so small that it can take some trial and error to get it mounted. Once locked in place, these lenses are solidly attached to your phone case and it would take significant force for them to accidentally fall off.

Wide lens

Moment’s wide lens is equivalent to 18mm, which is significantly wider than my Samsung Galaxy S8’s 26mm (35mm equivalent) focal length. It’s a rather large lens with a curved, fisheye-like lens. However, there are zero fisheye effects in the resulting images. In fact, there’s no distortion, vignetting, or blurring around the edges.

best moment lens for smartphone review

Superfish lens

This 170-degree Superfish lens offers the widest field of view out of all Moment lenses. It’s rather compact with a flat front-facing lens. However, the resulting image generally takes on a fisheye appearance.

Macro lens

Moment’s macro lens is arguably the best-designed lens of the bunch. It’s also the flattest and most compact lens. Offering 10x magnification, the Moment macro lens comes with a plastic diffuser hood. This hood is very important for helping you determine how close the lens needs to be to a subject (hint: it’s VERY close), but the hood can also be removed. Design-wise, I love how detailed this lens is, particularly on the front element of the lens.

best moment lens for smartphone review

Telephoto lens

While I didn’t get to test the Moment telephoto lens, here’s a brief overview. This 60mm equivalent lens offers roughly double the focal length of most smartphones. Best of all, this lens gives you a telephoto effect without having to use your smartphone camera’s digital zoom, which often degrades the quality of your images.

If you can only buy one lens…

These lenses aren’t cheap, so it makes sense to invest in one or two initially, and then build up your collection from there. Personally, I found the Macro lens to be the most fun. It offers a unique perspective on just about anything and can be great entertainment for all ages. I’d pick the Superfish lens as my next favorite as it also offers a fun and different way to capture your surroundings.

Moment lens accessories

Straight out of the box, each Moment lens comes with a velvet drawstring bag. It’s a thin lens case that is better than having no protection at all, but it doesn’t offer the best padding. As a result, I highly recommend investing in the Moment Lens Pouch. This pocket-sized zippered pouch is nicely padded and has enough room to store two Moment lenses. If you need a bigger carrying case, the Moment Travel Case is a larger version of the Lens Pouch with room for 4 Moment lenses and extra accessories.

best moment lens for smartphone review

Bottom line

If you’re on the hunt for premium lenses to extend the capability of your smartphone camera, Moment offers the very best. Not only do their lenses look and feel professional, but the resulting images are noticeably sharper. Sure, there are much cheaper smartphone lenses out there, but they often compromise on physical quality. You won’t find any compromises if you go with Moment. The only catch is that you have to use one of the high-end smartphones that Moment makes a phone case for.

Moment lens sample photo gallery

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Moment Lens Superfish Lens

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Moment Lens Superfish Lens

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Moment Lens Wide Angle Lens

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Moment Lens Wide Angle Lens

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Camera phone – before the next Macro lens shot.

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Moment Lens Macro Lens – Seashell

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Moment Lens Macro Lens – Coffee Beans

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Moment Lens Macro Lens – Back of my hand.

Video

The post Moment Smartphone Lens Review for Photography and Videography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

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