My Digital Photography

Enhance Your Digital Creativity

Archive for the ‘Cameras and Equipment’ Category

Aug
17

How to Use a Reflector to Improve Your Natural Light Portraits

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

Reflected light can add depth and a fresh dynamic to your natural light portraits. Sometimes naturally occurring reflected light can be used, but by far the easiest way is to use a reflector. The most important thing is to learn to see the light falling on your subject and then control the strength and quality of the reflected light you are adding. Here are some tips to help you learn to use a reflector.

Hmong woman drying skeins of hemp thread outdoors - How to Use a Reflector to Improve Your Natural Light Portraits

Hmong woman drying skeins of hemp thread which are reflecting light back onto her face.

Naturally reflected light

When making candid portraits, I’m always looking to see if some reflected light is affecting my subject. At the right angle, any surface can bounce light back onto your subject. You can train your eye to see it.

It may be light bouncing off a nearby wall or pavement, an open newspaper or skeins of yarn (as in the photo above). With the strong sunlight behind the lady as she hangs out her skeins of washed thread, the light is reflecting softly back into her face.

Thai woman holding a bamboo tray of steamed fish - How to Use a Reflector to Improve Your Natural Light Portraits

A fish vendor at the fresh market with light reflecting onto her from an adjacent white wall.

Naturally reflecting light is easier to make use of if you are posing your subjects and have some control over where they are positioned. Finding a location where the sun is hitting a large light-toned neutral surface can provide you suitable reflected light for portraits.

In this photo of the fish vendor at the local fresh market, the light is reflecting off a white painted building behind me. Behind her is an open entrance to a room with no windows, providing a dark background to nicely isolate my subject.

Types of reflectors

Close up of a Kayan long neck girl with traditional face painting, make-up

Close up of a Kayan long neck girl with traditional face painting makeup.

When there’s no naturally occurring reflected light, a folding reflector is a fabulous accessory to have on hand. These reflectors are relatively inexpensive and come in various shapes, sizes, and colors. The most efficient are the ones which have multiple reflective surfaces.

Note: you can even DIY and build your own reflector.

These reflectors typically have a sleeve which covers a translucent fabric attached to the foldable frame. The sleeve is removable and reversible with four different surfaces (5-in-1 reflectors). Normally they are white, silver, gold, and black. Some even have more complex reflective surfaces. Learning to use this type of reflector well can take some practice, but it’s worth while for the fresh dynamic lighting it will bring to your portraits.

How to Use a Reflector to Improve Your Natural Light Portraits

One of my models assisting me during a portrait session.

How to use a reflector

Having someone to hold the reflector is the best way to use it as the direction of light and angle of the reflector in relation to your subject is important. If the reflector is not at the best angle you will have too much or too little light bouncing onto your subject. You may need to coach whoever is assisting you and demonstrate the effect the reflector has, so they can hold it precisely right for the best lighting.

Careful choice of reflective surface for whatever light you are working in is important too. If you are making portraits outside in full sunshine the use of the white reflector surface may be best. It’s likely the silver or gold surfaces will reflect too much light back onto your subject. Don’t be afraid to experiment though, as that is a great way to learn.

KAren Woman Smoking Her Pipe against a black background

Karen Woman Smoking Her Pipe against a black background.

Using a reflector in bright sunlight

In the bright sunshine, the person holding the reflector needs to be careful not to bounce strong light into your subject’s eyes as they are searching for the best angle to hold the reflector. That can be most uncomfortable for your subject. It’s a good idea to instruct your subject not to look directly at the reflector. If they have not seen a folding reflector before many people will look at it as it is unfolded.

Two long neck Kayan ladies laughing together in a village in Thailand - How to Use a Reflector

With this photo of the two laughing ladies, my wife was using a medium sized gold surfaced reflector. She is an expert assistant and photographer so she knows how to get the optimal reflected light in most situations. My subjects were standing in the shade of a tree and the reflector was also in the shade, so it was not bouncing back full sunshine.

I find the gold surface works well with Asian skin tones. With the strong back light, the bounce light fills in the shadows nicely reducing the over all tonal range in the photo. Because the reflected light is stronger on the ladies faces, (where I was taking my light reading from,) it is more balanced with the light in the background. The bright sun reflecting off the light colored ground also adds nicely to this photo. If my wife had been standing so the gold reflector was in the full sunshine the light would have been too bright and harsh, blinding our models and creating hard shadows on them.

How to Use a Reflector

Reflecting light to balance with the ambient light can reduce shadows without eliminating them.

Using a reflector in soft light

On overcast days a silver reflector will bounce a clean, soft light onto your subject. If you can position your reflector so it balances with the ambient light, gently filling in shadows on the face but not completely eliminating them, you can obtain some very pleasing results.

Varying the angle of the reflector in relation to the light source and your subject will vary the amount of light affecting your subject. You do not need to always have the reflector blasting out the maximum amount of light as this can look very unnatural. Using the white surface rather than the silver side will also reduce the amount of reflected light.

Senior Pwo Karen woman smoking a pipe against a black background - How to Use a Reflector

With the sun behind the model, an overhead diffuser and reflector to my left and the ground also reflecting light.

Other uses for reflectors

Black or white surfaces of very large reflectors can make great backgrounds and the translucent inner part can be used as a screen to hold above your subject to block direct sunlight. In the past, I have used this method but now prefer to use my *portable daylight studio to provide a black or white background and filtered back lighting, (in principle it’s the same thing.) I then use my large folding reflector to help control the light on the front of my subjects.

Sunlight also reflects off the ground. Typically in a northern Thai village, the earth is a light color and creates a pleasing reflection. But if I have to work on grass we lay down some large sheets of white plastic to avoid having a green color cast in the images.

*Reading Irving Penn’s book “Worlds In A Small Room” was the inspiration for my portable studio which I have used in many locations in the mountains of northern Thailand and occasionally when teaching our workshops.

Portrait on a black background of a senior Pwo Karen man - how to use a reflector

A careful balance of reflected and diffused light.

Conclusion

As you practice using a reflector you will learn to manipulate just the right amount of light onto your subject. At times you might prefer hard light and other times soft light will be more pleasing. Learning to see how light affects your subject and learning to control it will greatly improve your portraiture.

The post How to Use a Reflector to Improve Your Natural Light Portraits by Kevin Landwer-Johan appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Aug
14

Review of the Polaroid Pro Studio Digital Flash Umbrella Mount Kit

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

One of the biggest challenges for amateur photographers is getting comfortable with shooting with off-camera flash. Not only does the technique take much time to master, but lighting equipment is expensive! This is where Polaroid is aiming to help out. The new Polaroid Pro Studio Digital Flash Umbrella Mount Kit might be a mouthful to say, but it is exactly what it says: a portable umbrella lighting kit. What it doesn’t mention is that it is also very affordably priced for the amateur photographer (under $65!). Find out more details about the new Polaroid lighting kit below!

Review of the Polaroid Pro Studio Digital Flash Umbrella Mount Kit

What’s Included

Altogether, this lighting kit weighs a total of 8.5 lbs and runs $64.99 USD. According to the product description, the “Polaroid Digital Flash Umbrella Mount Kit includes all of the essential lighting equipment you will need.” These items include:

1) Two Light Stands

These Polaroid brand light stands are three-sectioned twist locks AND they are air cushioned. They fold down to 26 inches and can extend as high as six feet and hold up to 15 lbs. The weight of the light stands isn’t stated, but they’re not heavy at all. This means they travel very easy, but you’ll have to compromise some stability and support.

Review of the Polaroid Pro Studio Digital Flash Umbrella Mount Kit

2) Two Umbrellas

Umbrellas are one of the simplest, most compact ways to beautifully diffuse light. Polaroid smartly includes two white satin umbrellas with this lighting kit. Both umbrellas have a removable black backing, allowing you to use it as a bounce or shoot through umbrella. Best of all is the fact that the removable backing is stiffer, with sturdier end caps than competing (even higher-end) umbrella brands like Westcott. This makes it much easier to put the backing back on the umbrella.

These octagonal umbrellas are about 33 inches in diameter, which might be a miss for those who need a larger size. But based on the sturdiness of the light stands, you probably don’t want to stick overly large and heavy umbrellas on those stands anyway.

Review of the Polaroid Pro Studio Digital Flash Umbrella Mount Kit

Review of the Polaroid Pro Studio Digital Flash Umbrella Mount Kit

3) Two Cold-Shoe Mount Umbrella Adapters

The last components of this lighting kit are the cold-shoe mount adapters. These allow you to attach the umbrella to the light stand, and mount a speedlight flash. Polaroid’s own adapters each have a swivel, umbrella socket, and a cold-shoe mount that should fit most standard speedlight flashes. The adapters are adjustable, allowing you to shift the angle of the whole setup.

Review of the Polaroid Pro Studio Digital Flash Umbrella Mount Kit

Review of the Polaroid Pro Studio Digital Flash Umbrella Mount Kit

4) A Carrying Case

One of the best parts about the Polaroid Pro Lighting Kit is that all of the above items come delivered in a perfectly sized carrying case. The bag is about 29 inches long, 8 inches wide, and 7 inches high. It’s also very lightweight and holds all of the lighting kit components, with room to spare. The inclusion of the carrying case is a really nice touch, as many other lighting stand providers almost never include a case.

Polaroid Pro Studio Light Kit

What’s Not Included

You may have noticed that a few critical lighting kit items were omitted: a camera, flash units, and flash triggers. Thus, this does not include all of your “essential lighting equipment you will need,” so note the need to purchase these additional items. On the bright side, there are some affordable flashes and triggers on the market that you can add to keep your overall lighting kit inexpensive.

Review of the Polaroid Pro Studio Digital Flash Umbrella Mount Kit

Note: Flash unit and flash triggers are not included.

This kit is for you if…

If you’re just getting started with off-camera flash and studio lighting equipment, the Polaroid Pro Kit is a great way to start out. The kit is affordable while providing you what you need. It may not hold up in the long run, but at this price, buying a second kit doesn’t hurt. Also, if you’re a pro photographer needing a lightweight, portable lighting kit for on-the-go shoots, this may meet your needs as well.

For photographers needing extremely durable lighting stands or umbrellas bigger than 33 inches, this kit probably isn’t for you. It costs $64.99, and you get what you pay for. If you’re needing equipment for a pro studio for daily use, spend more money on heavier-duty gear.

Verdict

After testing out the Polaroid Pro Studio Digital Flash Umbrella Mount Kit, I fell head over heels in love with it. The kit isn’t much different from my current setup (two Manfrotto 5001B Nano light stands with Westcott umbrellas). While my Manfrottos feel sturdier than the Polaroid light stands, the price of one Manfrotto stand is nearly equal that of the entire Polaroid Pro kit. Not so terrible.

I used this lighting kit on a couple of on-location food photography photo shoots and was pleased with the results, plus the kit’s extreme portability. Sample photos taken with the Polaroid Pro kit are shown below. All images were shot with a Canon 5D Mark III with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens and Canon 580 EXII Speedlight Flashes.

For simple professional jobs where I’d use a 33-inch umbrella, the Polaroid Pro kit is ace. However, if I were planning to work with bigger, heavier lighting units or modifiers, I’d definitely turn to a heavier duty option.

The post Review of the Polaroid Pro Studio Digital Flash Umbrella Mount Kit by Suzi Pratt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Aug
8

7 Questions That Will Help You Decide Which Camera To Buy

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

People often ask me for advice on which camera to buy. Most often they expect me to say, “Buy a Nikon” because that’s what I use. But that is not what I tell them.

If you were to ask me which camera you should buy I would first ask you a series of questions. From the answers, you give me I would guide you towards either a compact camera, mirrorless, or DSLR. So if you aren’t sure which camera to get, ask yourself these seven questions before you go shopping.

1. Why do you want a camera?

Doesn’t your phone take good enough photos? I’m not joking, this is a serious question.

Phone - 7 Questions That Will Help You Decide Which Camera To Buy

I know if you are asking questions about buying a new camera you’ve already given some thought to the decision and are reasonably serious about it. I’m looking for an answer telling me how your phone is failing you in your endeavors to make photos. I want to know what you are hoping a camera will do that your phone cannot. Your answer will help me guide you towarwd the type of camera that will best suit you and your needs.

2. How and when will you use your camera?

The answer to this question will help determine what size camera to buy. Recently I’ve had two friends who are embarking on a once in a lifetime traveling experience ask me about what camera to buy. Both were thinking of buying DSLRs, expecting that those big cameras would give them the best results. But, I encouraged them each not to buy a DSLR because they are big and heavy!

It’s often said that the best camera is the one you have with you. If your camera is reasonably small you are more likely to want to carry it everywhere with you while traveling. Read more on this subject here: Must Have Gear for Travel Photography Newbies.

Compact travel camera - 7 Questions That Will Help You Decide Which Camera To Buy

If you want to mainly use a camera to photograph products for your online store or to take pics of your garden I would be more likely to suggest you look at DSLRs (depending on the answers you give to some of the following questions).

The size and weight of a camera must be seriously considered because it’s no good buying a camera you find too big and heavy to carry with you. You will not use it often and will be disappointed with your purchase.

3. What will you use the photos for?

Enthusiast - 7 Questions That Will Help You Decide Which Camera To Buy

Your answer to this question will ascertain the level of image quality you will need. These days most people want photos to share on social media. If this is you, then you will not need a camera with the maximum megapixels available! Most compact cameras these days will produce images of high enough pixel quality for social media posting.

Producing prints, photo books or photos to sell online will require a camera with a larger sensor. For people who enjoy time in front of their computers post-processing photos, more megapixels and a larger sensors in DSLR and mirrorless models will be an advantage. Which leads me to the next question.

4. Do you take time to post-process your photos?

Full frame dslr - 7 Questions That Will Help You Decide Which Camera To Buy

If you enjoy taking the time to do some post-processing on your photos and want to maintain high technical results, this starts to narrow down your camera options. Generally, cameras with larger sensors will produce photos that hold up to more post-processing. For example, a full frame sensor (36mm X 24mm) containing 24 megapixels will allow more post-processing before the image starts to deteriorate than a smaller 24 megapixel micro four thirds sensor (17.3mm X 13mm.)

You want to have confidence that your image quality will remain intact as you apply some color balancing and filters or more advanced post-processing techniques.

5. How big are your hands?

Small hands - 7 Questions That Will Help You Decide Which Camera To Buy

Seriously! If you have small hands you will find it difficult to use a large camera. If you have big hands, you will find it more difficult to use a small camera. You will need to consider the layout of the buttons and dials on a camera so you are comfortable using it.

Some camera manufactures manage to design small cameras which have well configured layouts and are easy to use, others do not seem to do such a good job. Before you buy, go hold the cameras you have short listed in your hands and see how they feel.

Small hands - 7 Questions That Will Help You Decide Which Camera To Buy

6. What’s your budget?

This is an obvious consideration for most people, but you are best to consider it along with these other questions, not separately. Sometimes budget limits your choice considerably. Sometimes the answers to other questions will lead you to purchase a camera and spend less than you may have thought initially. I think both my friends who asked for travel camera advice found this to be the case.

You may find a high-end compact camera with a one-inch sensor will give you more pleasure and provide high enough quality photos than a DSLR … because it’s small and you will take it with you everywhere.

Compact happy - 7 Questions That Will Help You Decide Which Camera To Buy

7. Do you have a preferred brand?

I do have a preferred brand of camera. But I will never push people to buy the brand I use just because I like it. If you are already familiar with a camera brand and are happy with it, that is a good reason to stick with it.

Dslr - 7 Questions That Will Help You Decide Which Camera To Buy

Camera manufacturers often configure their cameras to feel and function the same with each upgrade they produce. I like it when I purchase a new camera that has the same feel in my hand as the one from which I’m upgrading. It makes it quicker and easier to start using the camera intuitively.

If you do not have a preferred brand I encourage you to stick with one of the major brands that fit within your budget.

Conclusion

Doing some careful research will help you make a decision to be able to buy a camera you’ll be satisfied with, one that will hopefully last you a long time. Using your new camera frequently and enrolling in a course or taking a few workshops will help you up-skill more quickly and gain more enjoyment from your purchase.

What other questions might you ask yourself before making a decision on which camera to buy? Do you have any other tips or advice for photography newbies just starting out? Please share in the comments section below.

The post 7 Questions That Will Help You Decide Which Camera To Buy by Kevin Landwer-Johan appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Aug
6

Flash Shopping Guide – 5 Things to Consider When Buying a Speedlight

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

Lighting is one of the most challenging aspects of photography and is often the thing which makes or breaks a photograph. There are several problems when you shoot with the built-in flash on your camera. The images appear washed out (overexposed), have red-eye, and many other issues. Using the built-in flash also creates harsh shadows, and gives you a rather flat-looking image.

External flashes, or speedlights, are photographic equipment which can be used to compensate for the pop-up flash. They allow far superior control over the lighting and exposure of an image, even in low-light shooting conditions.

Use a speedlight or flash to create better lighting.

For newbies in the field of photography, and even for people who have been shooting for quite a bit of time, choosing the correct external flash can be a huge challenge. There are countless brands on the market today offering a huge variety of flashes which makes it all even more confusing.

Below are the five essential things that we felt must be considered, before investing your money on an external light source. Read this if you are about to buy a new flash or speedlight for the first time.

Flash Shopping Guide - 5 Things to Consider When Buying a Speedlight

#1 – The Brand

Initially, buying a flash was really simple. If you wanted to buy a speedlight then you had to buy it from your camera manufacturer – usually Nikon or Canon. Today the situation is completely different, and the market is flooded with several other companies that sell speedlights such as; Yongnuo, Godox, Nissin, etc. So you can opt to buy the flashes by your camera manufacturer or purchase one sold by one of the third party companies.

Although the flashes sold by Nikon, Canon, etc., are really expensive compared to the third party options, many photographers believe that they are still a better buy as they have a longer life, are more durable and are more compatible with their DSLRs.

However, even the third party speedlights these days are increasingly giving competition to the big brand names in terms of performance, durability, and more. Another plus is that they are a lot cheaper. A flash by Godox is much easier on the pocket than one by Canon, which is a welcome point for many looking to buy their first flash.

#2 – Flash Life and Longevity

Speedlights are just like any other bulb, as in they too have a limited life before which they “burn out” and stop working. Thus, before purchasing any speedlight, be it of any company or any model, do some research about its longevity, and the amount of time it can be used effectively before it needs to be replaced.

If a flash does not fire properly and at full power, then it would disturb the lighting of an image and give you an unusable photograph as well in many cases.

#3 – Flexibility

Flash light buying guide 4

Light from a speedlight used off-camera with light modifiers.

Apart from its many drawbacks, another major restriction with the pop-up flashes are that they are completely fixed and not movable at all. They only point in one direction, forward, and cannot be moved along with the camera. Thus, the light being fired cannot be controlled or bounced, as per the photographer’s wish.

This is why it is important to check the flexibility of a flash unit before purchasing it. If the head of the flash you buy cannot be moved, tilted, or angled up-down, left-right, etc., then that defeats the very purpose of using it. A speedlight is used to bounce light around, reflect it off different surfaces, and so on, and if the flash doesn’t have that much control, then using it would virtually be a waste of time.

#4 – Automatic (TTL) or Manual Control

There are two types of flashes or speedlights – TTL and fully manual. TTL simply stands for Through The Lens, which is a type of automatic flash.

Flash light buying guide 5

Do you need TTL or will a Manual flash suffice for your needs?

A manual flash has to be told and directed by you, as to how much light is to be emitted. Any change in the power of the light emitted by a manually controlled flash has to be done by you according to your requirements. These manual flashes are cheaper because their build is much simpler and more basic than a TTL flash.

A TTL flash, on the other hand, is an automatic speedlight, which interacts and communicates with the camera to determine the optimal amount of light required to illuminate a particular scene properly. An additional advantage of TTL flashes is that they can also be used in full manual mode, if you wish, for greater control.

TTL flashes have proven to be extremely accurate and reliable. Although there is a slight chance that they might not give the expected results. But that is a very minimal risk.

#5 – Flash Recycle Time

This is a point to consider especially by sports and action photographers, who often have to shoot multiple bursts of shots together. The recycle time or recycle rate is simply the time taken between two pops/firings of the flash for it to be ready to fire again. The recycling rates are usually always mentioned by the manufacturers in terms of seconds.

The specs for a speedlight will usually have two different times mentioned (e.g. 0.3-5 seconds). The lower number denotes how soon another flash shot can be taken if the flash produces its lowest light output (lowest power setting) while the higher number indicates the time it will take before taking another flash shot when it has generated its maximum light output (full power).

Flash light buying guide 6

If you need a flash that recharges and is ready to go quickly, make sure to check the recycle rate before you make your purchase.

The important recycling time to consider is the one at maximum output. Always aim to get a flash that has a shorter maximum light output time. However, even along with keeping this point in mind, remember that you also need to buy a proper battery for your flash to get the recycle rate mentioned by the manufacturer.

Conclusion

So, it all comes down to what you are comfortable with when buying a flash, depending on your usage needs and budget. To begin with, you can go with a basic manual flash and once you start understanding the application of a speedlight you can always upgrade. Nowadays, the third party flashes are almost on par with the brands such as Canon and Nikon, so nothing is stopping you from capturing creative frames irrespective of your budget.

The post Flash Shopping Guide – 5 Things to Consider When Buying a Speedlight by Kunal Malhotra appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Aug
1

Recommended Gear for Doing Long Exposure Photography at Twilight and Dusk

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

Have you ever come across beautiful cityscape photos captured at twilight and dusk (the so-called “blue hour”) with silky smooth water, like this Marina Bay (Singapore) photo below, and wonder how you could do that yourself? Assuming that you’ve already got your camera (a body and lens), let me go through some of the other gear that is required to do stunning long exposure photography at twilight and dusk.

Recommended Gear for Doing Long Exposure Photography at Twilight and Dusk

Marina Bay (Singapore), shot at 35mm, f/11, for 194 seconds (just over a 3-minute exposure).

Use a Tripod

A tripod is the single-most important piece of gear for photographers shooting at twilight and dusk. Photos shot at these hours require long exposures sometimes lasting for many seconds or even minutes. Therefore, a sturdy tripod is absolutely essential for keeping photos blur-free.

Unlike your camera body, a tripod isn’t something you will upgrade often. So, try to get the best possible tripod within your budget. A good tripod could last a lifetime! I own a Manfrotto MT190CXPRO3 Carbon Fibre Tripod (supports up to 7kg). If your tripod doesn’t come with a tripod head (like mine), get yourself a steady ball-head or 3-way style, whichever you prefer (I own Sirui K-20X Ballhead that supports 25kg).

Tripod - Recommended Gear for Doing Long Exposure Photography at Twilight and Dusk

Mini-Tripods

Mini tripods come in handy at locations where a full-size tripod isn’t allowed inside (e.g. The observation deck of a tower). I own a Joby Gorillapod Focus for DSLRs which supports up to 5kg. It has a dedicated ball head (Joby GorillaPod Ballhead X for Focus) that you can buy as a bundle, but I’m using my own ball-head (aforementioned Sirui K-20X Ballhead) as I feel it’s redundant to have two.

Mini tripod - Recommended Gear for Doing Long Exposure Photography at Twilight and Dusk

Clamp Tripod

A clamp tripod is another tool that comes in extremely handy when there is no appropriate space to set up a tripod. I own the Manfrotto 035 Super Clamp without Stud (supports up to 15kg). Into that, I plug the separately-sold Manfrotto 208HEX 3/8-Inch Camera Mounting Platform Adapter (or a cheaper alternative Manfrotto 037 Reversible Short Stud) into the socket in order to firmly mount a tripod head and camera on top of that. Then I clamp the whole setup onto handrails, etc. This setup is rock solid and is a game changer for us cityscape photographers aiming to take very sharp photos at twilight and dusk without using a full-sized tripod.

Clamp infographic - Recommended Gear for Doing Long Exposure Photography at Twilight and Dusk

This graphic shows how to mount a DSLR on Manfrotto Super Clamp by using a camera mounting platform adapter.

Steps:

  1. Plug a camera mounting platform adapter into a Super Clamp socket and secure it with the double lock system.
  2. Mount a tripod head with DSLR on the mounting platform adapter, just like you do with your regular tripod.

Clamp - Recommended Gear for Doing Long Exposure Photography at Twilight and Dusk

Neutral Density Filters

Neutral density (ND) filters help reduce the light that is coming through the lens, allowing your shutter speed to be extended much longer. This is a must have tool if you want to create the silky smooth water effect typically seen in long exposure photography.

ND filters come in different strengths such as; 3-stop, 6-stop or 10-stop. The bigger the number, the darker the filter and the less light that is let through. My favorite is 6-stop ND filter (I own a B+W 6-Stop ND Filter). With this attached to my lens, a base exposure of 2 seconds (i.e. when no filter is attached) can be extended to 128 seconds. Each “stop” of the ND filter doubles the required exposure time (2 seconds ? 4 seconds [1 stop] ? 8 seconds [2 stops] ? 16 seconds [3 stops] ? 32 seconds [4 stops] ? 64 seconds [5 stops] ? 128 seconds [6 stops]), which is long enough to create silky smooth water effects.

Filters come in two types, screw-on and square filters. If you’re getting screw-on filters, be careful with the size of filter you’re purchasing. It depends on the filter thread size of your lens (e.g. 77mm for Nikon 12-24mm, 67mm for Canon 10-18mm, etc. – look inside your lens cap for the filter size of that lens). If you have two or more lenses with different filter thread sizes that you’d like to use an ND filter on, get one that fits your largest lens (i.e. lens with the largest filter thread size). Then purchase a step-up adapter ring to make the single filter fit into other lenses with smaller thread sizes.

Filters - Recommended Gear for Doing Long Exposure Photography at Twilight and Dusk

Left: Screw-on ND filter. Right: Drop-in square filter (image courtesy of Tiffen).

Or, you can get a square ND drop-in filter instead, along with a holder and adapters (check out at these options we’ve reviewed and featured here on dPS). The advantage of square filters is that you only need one filter to fit all of your lenses. That said, I still prefer screw-on filters because they take up less space in my camera bag and I only own one lens that takes front filters (my trusty Nikon 18-35mm with 77mm filter thread), anyway.

Wireless Remote or Cable Shutter Release

This is another essential tool, as it lets you take photos without touching the camera and helps keep your photos sharp. No need to get a pricey one, though. I’m still using a Phottix IR-Nikon (wireless remote) that I bought years ago for $20 (it is available for Canon as well).

Wireless remote - Recommended Gear for Doing Long Exposure Photography at Twilight and Dusk

Long Exposure Calculator App

When you use a semi-manual mode (e.g. Aperture Priority), the shutter speed cannot exceed 30 seconds on most DSLRs. With a 6-stop ND filter used at twilight and dusk, much longer than a 30-second exposure is required. So this is where you’ll need to switch to Manual Mode and take the full control of the camera yourself.

But, how will you know the correct exposure time (shutter speed) to use when your camera no longer assists you? Well, there are a number of free phone apps that help you determine a correct shutter speed. I’m using Long Exposure Calculator app by Junel Corales (get it here for iOS devices or here for Android).

Long exposure calculator - Recommended Gear for Doing Long Exposure Photography at Twilight and Dusk

By setting your filter density (e.g. 6-stop) and base shutter speed (e.g. 2-seconds), the Long Exposure Calculator app automatically calculates the required shutter speed you will need to use (2 minutes and 8 seconds [128 seconds] in this case).

Lenskirt

A lenskirt is a handy tool when shooting through the glass window of an observation deck, hotel room window, etc., as it helps eliminate reflections (such as yourself, room lights) off of the glass window. It might catch the unwanted attention of other visitors due to its odd shape but it has worked quite well for me and has found a permanent place in my camera bag when I’m traveling.

Lenskirt - Recommended Gear for Doing Long Exposure Photography at Twilight and Dusk

Lenskirt in use on the 100th-floor observation deck of the Shanghai World Financial Center. By attaching it to the lens and its pushing suction cups onto the window, it shades the front element of the lens and cuts reflections from the glass window, leaving no chance for any stray light to get into the camera.

Conclusion

That’s all about it. I hope this will get you started with long exposure photography at twilight and dusk. For me, dusk is the most beautiful moment of the day. It ends in the blink of an eye, and that’s what makes it even more special. Try to capture the beauty of long exposure photography at twilight and dusk with this gear.

If you have any other pieces of gear you use for long exposures that you find indispensable, please share them in the comments below.

The post Recommended Gear for Doing Long Exposure Photography at Twilight and Dusk by Joey J appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Jul
30

The New Canon 6D Mark II – Hands-On Previews and Thoughts

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

Recently Canon announced the release of their update to the 6D, its popular full frame camera body, with the Canon 6D Mark II. It’s getting some mixed reviews – let’s see what these reviewers thought:

PhotoRec TV – too many deal breakers?

Things many consider this camera to be lacking include:

  • No 4K video capability
  • No headphone jack (but there is one for a microphone)
  • Flash sync speed of only 1/180th of a second
  • Only one memory card slot

Pros:

  • Finally a fully reticulating/tilting (touch) screen on a full frame camera
  • A full frame Canon body that includes WiFi and Bluetooth finally (and GPS)

digiDIRECT – hands on first impressions

Some points from this review:

  • Improved battery life
  • Body has improved weather sealing
  • New 26.2 megapixel sensor
  • Increased low light performance (native ISO up to 40,000)
  • 45 cross-type autofocus points (over 11 on the original 6D)
  • Dual pixel focus
  • A burst rate of 6.5 fps (compared to the 6D which does 4.5 fps)
  • This camera is aimed more towards still photographers, not those doing video because of some thing it lacks (no 4K video, no headphone jack)
  • It does, however, have a new time-lapse feature

Thorough overview of the 6D Mark II by Tony Northrup

In this video, Tony goes over most of the new features of the Canon 6D Mark II as compared to other camera bodies in the Canon line-up and other brands. See what he thinks are the pros and cons of this new Canon.

Ready to buy the 6D Mark II?

If you feel this is the camera for you – they are supposed to be available by the end of July, order yours on Amazon now.

Have you tried it out, is it on your wish list? Share your thoughts on the Canon 6D Mark II below.

The post The New Canon 6D Mark II – Hands-On Previews and Thoughts by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Jul
25

How to Use a Synology DS216 NAS to Get your Photos Online Quickly and Easily

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

If you’ve read my articles here on dPS about storage and backup, you’ll know that they’ve mostly been about slightly larger systems with lots of space for people who have lots of data in the form of photographs. It’s been a while, so I thought it might be time to write about the smaller system I’ve been using for a couple of months, not only from a backup and storage point of view but from a delivery and sharing your work angle, too. Enter, the Synology DS216.

Hard drives

The crew at Seagate have some specific NAS (network attached storage) drives, like the Seagate IronWolf (such a sexy name for a hard disk!) which I have put in this Synology DS216 for this test. The drives are running well, have not over-heated despite lots of large file transfers, and appear to be handling things quite nicely. I’ve gone with two 4tb disks and after using the Synology Hybrid Raid, I have about 3.6TB of usable space.

The two Seagate Ironwolf NAS specific disks I’m using in my setup, 4tb each giving you about 3.6tb of useable space.

I also have a “1 disk fault tolerance” which means that one disk can die, and I still have one copy of my data remaining! I can then swap out the dead one and copy it back across both (called rebuilding) and I’m good to go.

Here you can see the individual disks are 3.6TB each

How to Use a Synology DS214 NAS to Get your Photos Online Easily

And below you can see the capacity is 3.57TB

How to Use a Synology DS214 NAS to Get your Photos Online Easily

SHR is kinda like a normal raid, but a little different… And for those of you that have no idea what RAID stands for, it’s “Redundant Array of Independent Disks” or “Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks” depending on your age. Basically, it means that you have more than one disk that the info (in our case photos) is being copied onto. (NOTE: Raid on its own isn’t really a backup, while it will give your NAS / Storage unit some redundancy, it’s not considered a backup)

How to Use a Synology DS214 NAS to Get your Photos Online Easily

Rather than get all geeky and talk figures and facts about backing up and how to set everything up, I wanted to give you a scenario you might encounter as a photographer, professional or not. I’ll show you how you can really benefit from a little setup like this one, so keep reading.

Real-World NAS use for your workflow

Imagine you’re on a shoot. You’ve set up your kit and are doing some portraits, headshots, or food photographs and you can shoot tethered. Alternatively, you’ve gone on a holiday and you take a load of great photographs that you copy onto your external drive via your laptop while you’re sitting on your balcony sipping a tasty orange juice (the little Lacie in my example). Then after your shoot or your holiday, you get home and you want to do one of a few things…

  1. You want to share your holiday photos with friends and family.
  2. You want to send an album of images for your client to select from.
  3. You want to put either set of photos into your NAS as a means of backup.

Now, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from sticking your drive into your computer and importing your images as you would normally. Then you would import them (we’ll presume RAW) into Lightroom, export some jpgs and then uploading those to your website.

But what I’ve found with the Synology DS216 setup, is that all you need to do is plug your external disk in the front of the Synology and wait a little while (the little NAS has to generate thumbnails etc., and it’s not the fastest processor in the world but it does just fine). Your images, even raw ones, will then show up on your default web site. Naturally, there is some setup required. But for the import process I’ve mentioned above, you only need to setup your rules once. Then when you plug in a certain USB device the NAS will see you’ve plugged it in, and run the rule that you’ve setup for that particular drive.

One example is that I’ve come back from a weekend away with my little Lacie external drive. I had copied all of my jpgs from my GoPro timelapse and the RAW files from my Sony a7ii into a folder on the Lacie while I was sitting around one night over the weekend (having a tasty espresso, since you asked). I arrived home and plugged my drive into the NAS, headed off and get the kids into bed, unpacked my case and then came back to my computer later. All the images were copied across, thumbnails generated and the photos are now available online for anyone that I’ve given the album link to.

But what about my privacy?

You can control exactly who gets to see your photographs through passwords. So you can have an album online for a set amount of time, take albums offline at any point, and allow comments. All of these things are in a really easy to understand menu, and you don’t need a degree in computer science to get it set up exactly as you’d like.

You can pop across and look at the demo album I’ve uploaded for you,  or you get an idea via the screenshot below. It shows a shared album (yes, that’s an out of focus photo of my friend Glynn, great example Simon!) and to Glynn’s left you can see an album called Petey (who is an admin in our Facebook group, thanks for your help Petey!) that shows how the password protection works (type in password13 to see it)

How to Use a Synology DS214 NAS to Get your Photos Online Easily

Conclusion

In conclusion, if you’re after a simple to use network storage system that allows you to quickly and easily share your photographs online (be it for a client or for your family and friends) the Synology DS216 is a great solution that is among the easiest and most flexible I’ve tried. As a side note, you can also share your images to your TV in a slideshow. Great for family holiday photo nights!(depends on your tv, it works on my few year old Sony).

If this was a pure gear review, I’d give the combined gear five out of five stars. I considered giving the NAS four stars because while it’s simple to use, I do have a background in IT and I thought “maybe it’s only simple for me”. But it really is simple, robust and mostly forgiving if you screw things up. I hope this helps some of you and please feel free to ask me any of your storage questions about this gear in the comments below.

The post How to Use a Synology DS216 NAS to Get your Photos Online Quickly and Easily by Sime appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Jul
23

How to Make Funky Colorful Images of Ordinary Plastic Objects Using a Polarizing Filter

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

A cornerstone in modern manufacturing, plastic is an amazing thing. Look around and you’ll see an abundance of plastic materials used in an endless variety of products. From pens to planes – yep, even modern commercial aircraft are cutting down on weight by introducing plastic composite components – plastic has revolutionized the way we live. And while much of the plastic we encounter is discarded after the first use – this photography tutorial will give you a good reason to hang onto those plastic knives and forks. By using a polarizing filter, some plastic materials and a computer screen, we can reveal a surprisingly beautiful side to the internal stresses of hard plastic material.

How to Make Creative Colorful Images of Plastic Objects Using a Polarizing Filter

Supplies you will need:

  • Polarizing filter or polarized sunglasses
  • Computer screen
  • Camera
  • Clear sticky tape
  • Sheet of glass
  • Tripod (optional)
  • Transparent plastic objects

Setting up

In basic terms, what we’ll be doing is sandwiching a plastic object between a polarized light source and an on-camera polarizing filter. Polarizing filters that screw into the front of a camera are used by photographers to add contrast and reduce glare.

How to Make Funky Colorful Images of Ordinary Plastic Objects Using a Polarizing Filter

Don’t have a polarizing filter? Use your polarized sunglasses in a pinch.

If you don’t have a polarizing filter, a pair of polarized sunglasses will do the trick. Simply position the sunglasses so that one eye sits over the front of the camera lens like a filter. Keep in mind that the shape of the eyepiece will probably prevent complete coverage of the front lens element. If this is the case, some cropping may be required in Photoshop later. You may also need to do some sticky-taping to ensure the glasses sit correctly.

Now gather some clear plastic materials to photograph. Objects like plastic bags, sticky tape dispensers, plastic food containers, clear plastic cutlery and packaging all turn out well. Basically, any cheap, transparent plastic will work to some degree, so have a good scavenge around!

How to Make Creative Colorful Images of Plastic Objects Using a Polarizing Filter

Finding good backlighting

Next, you’ll need a polarized light source to shine through the transparent plastic material. Conveniently, modern desktop and laptop computer screens emit linearly polarized light. First, you need to maximize the white light emitting from our computer screen. To do this, download a plain white background from Google Images. Once downloaded, open the file in a default image viewer and set the image to Full-Screen Mode. This will spread the white backdrop over the entirety of the functional computer screen, providing the backdrop for our polarized objects.

Once downloaded, open the file in a default image viewer and set the image to full-screen mode. This will spread the white backdrop over the entirety of the functional computer screen, providing the backdrop for your polarized objects.

How to Make Creative Colorful Images of Plastic Objects Using a Polarizing Filter

Set the viewing mode of a clean white image to full-screen so that it completely covers the screen.

Arrange the subjects

Once the white background is set, you can start arranging your plastic items on the computer screen. If you have a choice between using a desktop or laptop computer, I recommend going with the laptop. Unlike a desktop computer, you can turn an open laptop upside down, so the screen lays flat on a surface. This turns your laptop into a home-made light box of sorts, perfect for sitting your plastic objects on.

Keep in mind however that laptops with touchscreen capabilities may not work as effectively. From my own experience, these laptop screens deliver far less pronounced results. Note: A large tablet or iPad may work as well.

How to Make Creative Colorful Images of Plastic Objects Using a Polarizing Filter

Viewed through a polarizing filter, this transparent stencil is placed on the top of a touchscreen laptop. While the polarizing effect can still be seen, the finished image falls flat.

Workaround for desktop screens

Because the screen is upright, using a desktop computer for this project can seem a little trickier. Rather than tipping a full sized computer screen on it’s back, I’ve been fixing my plastic materials to a sheet of glass with tiny pieces of clear sticky tape. Easily recovered from old photo frames, the glass sheet means you can avoid sticking tape directly to your computer screen, without blocking out any light. For best coverage, a larger sheet of glass is preferable, just make sure that it’s dust free. Once you are finished taking your photographs, you can remove any evidence of the sticky tape with the “Clone Stamp” in Photoshop.

For best coverage, a larger sheet of glass is preferable, just make sure that it’s dust free. Once you are finished taking your photographs, you can remove any evidence of the sticky tape with the “Clone Stamp” in Photoshop.

How to Make Creative Colorful Images of Plastic Objects Using a Polarizing Filter

I’ve affixed this transparent stencil to a pane of glass to keep it upright against the computer screen. The small amount of tape can be removed easily in Photoshop later.

How to Make Creative Colorful Images of Plastic Objects Using a Polarizing Filter

In this image, a small piece of the clear sticky tape can be seen.

How to Make Creative Colorful Images of Plastic Objects Using a Polarizing Filter

Taking advantage of the solid black background, any trace of the sticky tape can be removed by using the paintbrush tool with a black swatch selected

Getting the shot

Once you have assembled your objects against the computer screen, it’s time to see some results!  Grab the camera you outfitted earlier with either the polarizing filter or the polarized sunglasses. While looking through the viewfinder (or LiveView Mode) point the camera at your plastic assemblage. Like magic, the boring clear plastic materials are filled with a beautiful array of colors.

Change the angle – change the background

Depending on the angle of the polarizing filter, you’ll notice that the backdrop of your image ranges from the white computer screen to jet black. The degree of polarization you see through the lens is dictated by the angle of the filter in relation to the wavelengths emitted by the computer screen. This means that by changing the angle of the polarizing medium, you can adjust the brightness of the computer screen without impacting the color of the plastic objects.

Simply hold the camera in one hand (or use a tripod) and use the other to slowly rotate the filter around. The same effect can be achieved by manually tilting the polarized sunglasses from side-to-side.

How to Make Creative Colorful Images of Plastic Objects Using a Polarizing Filter

An image of a pretty shell shaped container I had on my dresser. The polarization effect highlights the stresses in a plastic material, rendering them as beautiful arrays of color.

The same shell container, this time with the filter angled so that the white light passes through to the camera sensor, rendering a white background

Your turn!

Now that you’ve got the basics, it’s time to raid the recycling bin! Post your results below and have fun.

How to Make Creative Colorful Images of Plastic Objects Using a Polarizing Filter

How to Make Creative Colorful Images of Plastic Objects Using a Polarizing Filter

How to Make Creative Colorful Images of Plastic Objects Using a Polarizing Filter

The polarizing effect caused this plastic bag to take on a rugged, mountainous appearance.

How to Make Creative Colorful Images of Plastic Objects Using a Polarizing Filter

How to Make Creative Colorful Images of Plastic Objects Using a Polarizing Filter

How to Make Creative Colorful Images of Plastic Objects Using a Polarizing Filter

The post How to Make Funky Colorful Images of Ordinary Plastic Objects Using a Polarizing Filter by Megan Kennedy appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Jul
18

Concert Photography 101: Cameras and Lenses for Beginners

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

If you’ve ever wondered how to become a concert photographer, one of the very first steps is to acquire the right gear. You’ve probably been to a concert or festival and seen music photographers hauling tons of equipment such as two camera bodies and enormous lenses. While it’s certainly ideal for a professional to have this much stuff (and then some), most beginners or amateurs absolutely don’t need this much gear to get started. Read on for some of my suggestions on how to gear up as a beginning doing concert photography.

Concert Photography 101: Cameras and Lenses for Beginners

Concert photography rules

Before we get into gear, let’s discuss your typical concert photography setting. Whether you’re shooting a big arena show or a small, casual performance in a bar, concert photography rules are more or less the same. You get to shoot for the first three songs only, and cannot use a flash or strobe of any sort. With these two rules in mind, this means that you need gear that allows you to adjust and shoot quickly and pull off shots in a low lighting setting.

What kind of camera do you need?

First off, invest in a solid DSLR camera. While there are point and shoot cameras that could arguably get the job done, you need the lens choices that come with DSLRs. It doesn’t really matter what brand you choose. What does matter is being comfortable using it and knowing that you have a wide variety of lenses to pair with it. Canon and Nikon are two of the biggest camera brands that are among the most popular for concert photographers.

Crop Sensor or Full Frame?

When researching DSLR camera options, you’ll have a choice between investing in a crop sensor or full frame camera. The differences between the two types of DSLR cameras is best explained in this article.

To quickly summarize, crop sensor cameras are typically smaller in size and much cheaper than full frame cameras. The main disadvantage to crop sensor cameras has to do with their smaller sensor sizes that will impact available ISO options, thus resulting in slightly noisier or grainy photos than full frame cameras. In short, start out with a crop sensor camera if you’re on a budget, and aim to upgrade to a full frame camera the further you get in your concert photography career.

Concert Photography 101: Cameras and Lenses for Beginners

Canon 5D Mark III (full frame) on the left and a 6D on the right.

Suggested concert photography cameras

Full Frame

Crop Sensor

What are the best concert photography lenses?

After you’ve invested in a DSLR, be sure to budget for the purchase of accompanying lenses, which can end up being just as expensive as the camera body. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t use the kit lens that automatically comes with your DSLR camera.

Most of these kit lenses are fine for shooting in ample lighting conditions, but they won’t perform well in the low light settings of concerts. Instead, what you want is a fast lens with a wide aperture (or f-stop) of between f/1.2-f/2.8. This will help you capture moving subjects in dark settings.

Concert Photography 101: Cameras and Lenses for Beginners

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200 f/2.8.

Start with prime lenses

For beginning concert photographers on a budget, prime lenses are your best bet. While these lenses have fixed focal lengths, meaning you can’t zoom with them, their low f-stops mean they will shoot better in low light. Prices and exact lens models will vary according to which camera brand you’ve chosen. Since I’m a Canon shooter, these lenses are geared toward Canon.

Put these lenses on your wish list

Pretty much every professional concert photographer will have two go-to lenses on hand: a 24-70mm f/2.8 midrange zoom lens, and a 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto lens. Neither of these lenses is cheap and should definitely be considered a long-term investment. But if you can afford one or both, don’t hesitate to add these lenses to your concert photography kit.

Concert Photography 101: Cameras and Lenses for Beginners

Keep an eye on third party brands

While it’s certainly ideal to purchase lenses in the same brand as your DSLR camera manufacturer, there are many third party companies producing cheaper and sometimes even better options. Great lens options exist from Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina, to name a few. Again, the specific options will depend on the DSLR camera body you’ve chosen, but here are a few possible options for Canon shooters:

If you’re on a budget

It’s a reality that concert photography equipment isn’t cheap. But there are some ways to score more affordable camera gear. First, look into used or refurbished camera bodies and/or lenses. As long as you purchase from an accredited source, you can save hundreds of dollars on gear.

On the flip side, keep in mind that camera gear retains its value as long as you take care of it. So if you buy a lower-end camera or lens and want to upgrade later on, it’s pretty easy to sell off your old gear to help you invest in newer options.

Finally, look for older models or previous versions of gear. For example, you could spring for the brand new Canon 5D Mark IV camera body, or you can save over $1,000 by investing in the older yet still very functional Canon 5D Mark III. The same is true for many other camera bodies and lenses on the market. It all depends on your budget and what kind of features you absolutely need to have.

Concert Photography 101: Cameras and Lenses for Beginners

In Conclusion

Consistently pulling off pro-quality concert photos often requires investing in pro-grade camera gear. But it’s best to start small and to upgrade over time as your skills and budget increase. What are your go-to concert photography cameras and lenses? Let me know in the comments below!

Concert Photography 101: Cameras and Lenses for Beginners

The post Concert Photography 101: Cameras and Lenses for Beginners by Suzi Pratt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Jul
16

Clear or UV Filters – Essential or a Waste of Money?

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

In this video from Phil Steele he discusses the debate over whether or not you should use clear or UV filters on your lenses. It’s a highly heated topic, and Phil makes some very good points. See what he has to say, and then tell us your opinion.

What are your thoughts?

Please fill in this quick poll and tell us if you use UV filters on your lenses or not. Add your comments in the discussion area below – we want to hear from you.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

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 Steele Training.com.

The post Clear or UV Filters – Essential or a Waste of Money? by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.