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Weekly Photography Challenge – Red

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

Earlier I rounded up 19 images that use the color red – you can see them here.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Red

By rich_f28

By Tony

By Tim Green

By Lóránt Szabó

By Steve Snodgrass

Color is all around you – it’s your job this week to seek out and photograph anything red. Remember to follow good compositional guidelines to create impact in your images, and use lighting that is appropriate and enhances your subject.

Share your images below:

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge. Sometimes it takes a while for an image to appear so be patient and try not to post the same image twice.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

You can also share your images on the dPS Facebook group as the challenge is posted there each week as well.

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Red by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.


19 Vibrantly Colored Crimson Images

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

Here are 19 really vibrant images featuring the color red for your visual stimulation.

Hope you enjoy them.

By liz west

By Bernard Spragg. NZ

By theilr

By Ivan Bandura

By Harsha K R

By jimpg2_2015

By Bernard Spragg. NZ

By VaMedia

By jasleen_kaur

By aotaro

By d26b73

By Mike Beales

By sean_hickin


By Jim Lukach

By inthepotter’shands

By Sebastian Rieger

By Johan Neven

By coniferconifer

The post 19 Vibrantly Colored Crimson Images by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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.


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.


How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

In this article, I’ll show you a fun way to make abstract photos using stuff you have in your house already – fruit and vegetables.

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

Produce and photography

They feature in renaissance paintings, religious symbolism, fine art photography and advertisements for your local supermarket. It’s your everyday fruit and veggies! Not only do they keep you full, fruits and vegetables have some remarkable detail, making for great photographic subjects.

As demonstrated by masters like Edward Weston, produce and photography work really well together. The matter that makes up organic material has a natural and sometimes surprising ingenuity. That’s why, with very little prep time, creating abstract photos with fruit and vegetables is a such a simple and fun project with surprisingly beautiful results.

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

As diverse as they are tasty, fruit and veggies make for some of the best subjects you can point a camera at!

Supplies you will need include:

  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • A selection of fruits and veggies
  • Hand towel or wipes (to remove any juice off of your hands)
How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

I placed a clear glass sheet over the top of these strawberries and pressed down a little. The juice from the fruit started to spread, creating this liquid effect.

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

They can make you cry, but the intricate layers of onions can make beautiful abstract photographs.

Gathering your produce

So what fruit and veggies should you use? The answer is, any and all of them! One of the best things about abstract photography is the variety of subject matter available. Check your fridge, your fruit bowl, and failing that, check out your local grocer. All varieties of fruit and vegetables have their own artistic properties, let alone every individual piece. If you stick with produce, you’ll never be short on subject matter for abstract photos.

Personally, I enjoy focusing on the textures and layers that make up organic material. That’s why I often concentrate on photographing vegetables like leeks and onions. The intricate swirls you can see when you cut an onion in half are as unique as a thumbprint, so you will never photograph the same thing twice.  Fruits like strawberries and oranges that have a very distinct pattern are great for incorporating leading lines and pattern into your photography.

Opposite on the spectrum in terms of texture and softness, the curving lines in an onion peel and the texture of a rock melon’s skin are beautiful and intriguing at the same time. Just grab whatever catches your eye. If you decide you don’t want to photograph a fruit or vegetable later, just eat it instead!

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

Once you’ve selected a nice range of fruit and vegetables, it helps to pre-cut a few slices so they will be ready to photograph. Cut nice thin slices, making as level cuts as possible so they will sit square with the camera lens. Don’t cut all your fruit and vegetables up at once though, as they will brown when exposed to the air for too long.

Setting up

If you have your fruit and camera at the ready, you’re halfway there. To truly capture the detail in your fruit and veggies I recommend using a macro lens or extension tubes. For these images, I used my set of Kenko extension tubes with my EF 24-105mm Canon f/4 lens. Set up your tripod and camera near a good light source to illuminate your subjects. A window with natural light coming through should be plenty. Lay out your fruit on a plain, flat surface and arrange them how you like.

Start by focusing your camera on areas that appeal to you the most. The texture or the pattern on a potato might catch your eye, or you might want to focus on the delicate gradients of color in a peach. You’ll find that the more you investigate your produce, the more you’ll have to photograph. Training your eye to recognize these subtle intricacies will prove invaluable in developing your inner photographer’s compass.

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

The delicate colors and lines in this image of an onion and onion skin complement each other and highlight similarities and differences

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies


One you begin to investigate the visual qualities of fruits and veggies, you’ll never look at the grocery store quite the same. And that’s great! Photography is about opening yourself up to new visual experiences. The more you explore, the more you’ll want to see. That’s what makes us photographers tick.

Not only will photographing fruits and vegetables broaden your critical eye for detail, it might broaden your pallet too, bon appetite!

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

The layers in a leek can be gently sprung open to reveal a shell-like structure.

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

The loose rings of a leek settle gently against a white backdrop. Photographing vegetables and fruits in new ways will draw a viewer’s attention to the unusual perspective.

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

Arranging vegetables and fruits in a pattern can bring out the intricacies and details often left unexplored.

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

Converting an image to black and white can isolate your subject, lending a surrealistic effect to the photograph.

The post How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies by Megan Kennedy appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Tips for Doing Concert Photography like a Pro

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

Imagine being a concert photographer and getting the chance to cover loads of concerts. Imagine standing just feet away from your favourite artists as you capture so many shots of them. Doesn’t that just sound like the best thing? As opposed to other genres of photography like portraiture, fashion, etc., we have little to no control over lighting, the artists, and tons of other factors in concert photography.

So what are some of the best settings and tricks to capture those perfect shots at concerts? Images which will make you proud, make the artists and the viewers sat “Wow that is indeed one brilliant capture.”?

Tips to capture concert photos 7

Use a fast lens and shoot wide open

Using a fast lens is highly important and is a basic requirement for concert photography. Almost all concerts happen during evenings or night, or indoors under low lighting, which is why your camera sensor requires more light to enter through the lens opening. Moreover, the performers keep moving around the stage so you need to use faster shutter speeds to freeze their motion.

A fast lens is one which allows shooting at wider apertures such as f/2.8, f/1.8, etc. By using lenses like the 50mm f/1.8 or 135mm f/1.8 at the smallest aperture value, you can capture a well exposed shot by keeping the shutter speed fast enough. Another reason for using a fast lens is because usually the distance between the backdrop and the subject is minimal, so to create a shallow depth of field with a bokeh effect, a smaller aperture value would have to be used.

Tips to capture concert photography 5

Shoot in Aperture Priority Mode

Using Aperture Priority Mode to shoot concerts allows for more stress-free shooting. You simply tell your camera the aperture you want to use and it automatically sets the corresponding shutter speed. For many newbies shooting their first few concerts and even for many pros, using aperture priority allows for hassle free shooting.

Also, since the your mind is not all occupied by technical settings, you have freedom to look around at the artists, the crowd, etc., and end up shooting something really creative.

Shoot in aperture priority, with your f-number set to the smallest available on your lens, usually f/1.8 or f/2.8.

Crank up the ISO

Tips to capture concert photos 1

Concerts usually take place in low light settings and for many reasons, using a tripod is not possible. So you can resort to the one setting which you have control over and can easily use, the ISO.

Before the concert really gets going, fire off a series of test shots at different ISO values to judge after what point the noise becomes unacceptable. (Usually ISO 3200 or 6400). Some noise is actually okay and is far better than having a totally underexposed or blurry shot simply because you didn’t increase your ISO value.

The noise generated by the high ISO values can be used creatively to capture something unique. A monochrome shot with some noise would lend a really cool film grain effect to your shot. High noise can be fixed later on in post-processing too. So don’t think twice before cranking up that ISO, it’s far better than having no photo to show.

Avoid using your flash

Tips to capture concert photography 2

MOST important- Avoid using your flash at concerts. It is looked down on and frowned upon a lot. Imagine that you are firing your flash towards the performer(s), and there are 10 others doing the very same. That is surely going to annoy the artists, not to mention almost blind them.

Another important aspect of concert photography is photographing the audience, and no photographer would like to distract the audience from the artist who is performing for them. Repeatedly firing the flash at their faces while capturing their photos can easily annoy audience members.

Also, if we are aiming to capture candid photos of either the artists or the crowd, then firing a flash at them surely is not the right way to do that. And yes, a majority of photos using the built-in pop-up flash simply aren’t worth it. They look flat and uninspiring.

Move around

Tips to capture concert photography 4

You are not there to stand at one place and shoot the same picture 10 times. As a concert photographer it goes without saying that you will have to move around. Move with the artists, move as the lighting changes, etc., to capture those standout moments. (Note: unless, of course, the venue or artist has put restrictions on photographers moving around.)

If you find people blocking your view, you have to move. After all, they have paid to watch their favourite artists perform. If the lead singer moves to one side of the stage, then you have to follow him over there.

The lights too will change from time to time, and it is important to know when which area of the stage will be illuminated to capture the performers properly with adequate lighting.

Tips to capture concert photos 6

Moving around will always get you some really creative shots. You could capture a shot of the lead guitarist under the spotlight, a shot of the lead singer standing isolated from everyone else, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Wait and anticipate

Waiting for that perfect moment is as important as learning to anticipate it. This is a habit which can be developed easily, and is only fine tuned over time. Observe the artists and you will notice certain habits of theirs.

Moments such as a guitarist bending backwards during a particularly intense moment, a DJ waving his arms in the air, a singer grabbing the mic in a particular manner, etc., are all moments which would make for a perfect shot. It is important to know when these moments are around the corner so that you are ready to fire your camera when they come.

Tips to capture concert photography 3


These are just a few tips to help you do better concert photography. Please share any others you’ve learned as well as your concert photos, in the comments below.

The post Tips for Doing Concert Photography like a Pro by Kunal Malhotra appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How To Avoid 4 Photography Mistakes That Will Hinder Your Development

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

Teaching photography workshops has made me aware of four mistakes people make which hinder their development as photographers. If you can learn to avoid doing these four photography mistakes you will become a much more creative photographer and find more enjoyment in using your camera.

4 photography mistakes 01

Mistake #1 – Always thinking your camera is not good enough

Most people who join our workshops come with DSLR or mirrorless cameras and have made a reasonable financial investment in this equipment. They have researched what to buy, carefully chosen and purchased a camera they decided will be right for them.

But many people still are stuck on the idea that if they upgrade their equipment their photography will improve dramatically. This can be true in some cases, but generally, it’s a mistake to be easily avoided. It’s most often a mistake to think like this because you are telling yourself you cannot improve unless you get new gear.

4 photography mistakes 02

Changing your thinking about wanting new camera equipment is the best way to avoid getting stuck in a photographic rut. Sticking with the camera you have, getting to know it and love it will enable you to become a far better and more creative photographer. I’ve had my main camera now, (a Nikon D800,) for over five years – a long time for any digital hardware, and I am more than satisfied with it. I have come to know it well and therefore, use it easily. I’ve been using Nikon cameras for over 30 years so am pretty familiar with the way they work.

Sticking with the camera you have, and getting to know it well will enable you to concentrate more on composition, lighting, and timing. You will not be distracted trying to figure out which dials and buttons to use to set the camera the way you want. Making these settings will become second nature once you are intimate with your camera. By upgrading your camera too often you are not as likely to get to become truly familiar with it.

4 photography mistakes 03

Mistake #2 – Not studying how to use your camera

Another mistake I find people often make is not learning how to use their camera. We had a customer recently who had studied photography in high school and also taken courses in photography at university, but they did not really know much about using their camera. I was shocked!

One of the easiest ways to avoid frustration and undoubtedly help improve your photography is to study your camera before you study anything else about photography. Learning how your camera functions and how to control it should be the first step you take in your photographic journey. Unless you are confident with your camera and can use it with ease, you will be distracted from the more creative aspects of photography.

4 photography mistakes 04

Picking up most camera manuals it’s not difficult to understand why people so often do little more than skim a few pages before putting it down again, as they are notoriously challenging to make much sense of. There are other ways to learn about your camera settings.

Getting online and using Google and Youtube will typically result in an incredible amount of good information about most camera models. Many top brands have authors who write independently about their cameras and the information in those books is often far easier to digest.

By deciding to enjoy the camera you have and learning how to use it, you will be avoiding two of the biggest mistakes I find people make that hinder their growth as photographers.

Mistake #3 – Using your camera infrequently

Hopefully, if you are committed to avoiding the first two mistakes you will naturally avoid this third one I find many people make – not using your camera frequently enough.

4 photography mistakes 06

If you only use your camera when you go on vacation, or for family gatherings or to photograph your kid’s soccer game, you are not using it enough to become a really proficient photographer. This is an easy mistake to avoid if you build a healthy habit of taking your camera everywhere, (and you don’t just leave it in your camera bag).

Using your camera frequently, every day preferably is the best way to integrate what you have learned about your camera into practical experience. Taking up what’s known as the 365-day challenge is a great way to help form a creative habit which will do more for your development as a photographer than any other method I know. Choosing to pick up your camera and take at least one photo a day, every day of the year, is a commitment destined to shape and speed your development as a photographer.

4 photography mistakes 07

Mistake #4 – Relying on auto exposure

Most people who join our photography workshops have their camera’s set to one of the auto modes, typically aperture priority, at the start of the day. Before we are through the first hour, most have their cameras set to manual mode. I am very good at convincing people to make the switch to manual because I passionately believe it is a big mistake to allow your camera to make the creative choice of setting the exposure. Your camera is smart, the artificial intelligence in modern cameras is incredible, but your camera is not creative.

4 photography mistakes 05

By taking control of your exposure using manual mode you are avoiding one of the biggest mistakes people make. Knowing how to use manual mode on your camera will empower you to become so much more creative, but you must first overcome the mindset that tells you it’s too difficult. It really isn’t, especially if you are avoiding the first three mistakes I’ve written about in this article.

Camera manufacturers love to promote all the new technology in their cameras and you never see much encouragement from them to use manual mode. I believe learning to use your camera in manual mode is a lot less complicated than learning all the auto settings. Learning to set your exposure manually you have control over the way your photographs will look and you will truly be able to develop your own unique photographic style.

4 photography mistakes 08

Take creative control

By making the mistake of relying on the camera’s AI and using your camera on auto you are relinquishing creative control to a piece of equipment manufactured to return standardized results. If you want to avoid all your photos looking like most other people’s I would encourage you to switch to manual mode and take creative control of your photography.

This is a big step for many people and does require practice to learn the principles of exposure. We have had so many people leave us lovely reviews and thank us for encouraging them to make the switch to manual mode.


4 photography mistakes 09 4 photography mistakes 10

Even if you can avoid making one or two of these mistakes you will notice an improvement in your photography. Managing to avoid all of these photography mistakes will take some time and commitment, but to excel in any creative expression does not happen easily for most people.

The post How To Avoid 4 Photography Mistakes That Will Hinder Your Development by Kevin Landwer-Johan appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks for Your Photography

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

This article is about how I think you can use social media network sites for your best benefit. I am suggesting there is one single thing which you should concentrate on that you can get there with just five steps.

As I have already suggested, I do recommend photography-centric social media networking sites. The one I have used most is Flickr, but I am not endorsing that particular site. Search “social media networks photography” (or similar), and almost any of the sites found will do the job, in largely similar ways. Play around, you might find one which better suits your style, your way of thinking.

Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks

And much more!


This photograph has over 14,000 views and has been added as a favorite 600 times. It is my most viewed and most faved photograph on Flickr. How can that be? Really? What are its merits which cause it to be so lauded?

Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks

Girls of Bahrain.

The truth is that its photographic merits are VERY limited. I could give you an explanation of why this image has been such a success, but that is not important. What matters is that it helps make the point that “views” and “faves” and even casual comments such as “Great capture, cool shot” mostly mean very little whatsoever.

That is an extreme way of putting it but I’ll stick with it and avoid drawing it out and giving a long justification. However, I think those numbers below mean very little. Though it might have some interest, it is not what you would call a good photograph.

Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks

I have never properly thanked the person concerned, maybe the mention in this article will make up for that.

King of the souq.

I shared this photograph. The comment I received was:

“Another very “Richard Messenger”ish shot. Do all your subjects coincidentally make the same expression, or do you somehow force it out of them? Haha. His somewhat-there-but-still-flat-sort-of-smile looks very familiar to previous portraits you’ve taken.”

I think I knew the truth pretty much straight away, but it took a little while longer to fully accept it. At some point I linked the comment with Rick Sammon’s adage that “The camera points both ways” and realized why too many of my subjects did, indeed, have that same expression. They were simply reflecting my expression.

It is very difficult to make that sort of realization on your own. People pay thousands of dollars to gain such insights. I had received the comment, and great insight, from an honest person, with clearly good intentions, who expressed themselves kindly AND who happened to be right. What more can you ask? Good comments are priceless.

Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks

Comments please.

What I want, and what I think will move your photography forward too, is comments. Receiving AND making comments has certainly helped me. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that you can simply post your photographs, however stunning they may be, and expect people to start commenting. You will need to do a little work.


Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks

Do unto others.

The Golden Rule is among the values espoused by most religions and philosophies. Of the various versions, this seemed a good, simple way of expressing how to approach making comments.

“Try to treat others as you would want them to treat you.”

Or, on a perfect day, we could turn to Lou Reed.

“You’re going to reap just what you sow.”

However, you want to put it, in terms of religion, philosophy, or pop culture, it is a good principle to hold in mind when you are making comments.


Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks for Your Photography

Just look … think …

You might want to start on the nursery slopes for the first day or two, week or two even. There is a lot to be learned by looking at photographs and keeping the following in mind.

  • Why do you like a particular photograph?
  • How do you think it was taken?
  • What is it that appeals to you?
  • When was it taken?
  • Which equipment was used?
  • Why was it taken?
  • Where?
  • … and so on


Here’s the thing. I am not going to burden you with long paragraphs of explanation, give real world examples, or quote academic research. I am just going to tell you that the person making a comment often learns more than the one receiving the comment.

Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks for Your Photography

Will she? Won’t she?

When you are ready to abandon all buoyancy aids, this is where you jump into the swimming pool. You now begin to sow, so try to treat others as you would want them to treat you. Keeping in mind Kipling’s six mates, you now start to comment.

Just taking the example of Flickr, there are a massive number of groups, with all sorts of specialized interests. You will probably find it productive to browse around, join them, and start making comments within the different rules of each group. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

My personal rule is that I do not hang around. If a thought does not start to form very quickly in respect of a photograph, I move on. It is, of course, totally up to you, but I suggest that you do not spend too much time scratching your head.

Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks for Your Photography

What can I say?

As many a politician would testify, “no comment” is better than a rubbish comment.

Then, as a guideline, you might follow a Rule of Threes. Start off by simply trying to say three things (even just two) which you like about the photograph. Three positive comments stating what you think of the scene, how it makes you feel, what you think the story might be, and what compositional aspects you like. You may find it best to stick to only positive comments for a week or two. It is possible that you will start to get reciprocal responses, but you cannot guarantee it.

(To avoid all sorts of complications, but not without some mild embarrassment, I am commenting on my own photographs).

Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks for Your Photography

River bed scavenger.

  • An unusual and very appealing photograph.
  • I get the impression that the woman is almost lost in what is a much bigger space.
  • The texture is amazing, and the limited color palette really helps draw attention to that.
  • I really like the way the two patches of dry land balance and seem to point to the solitary figure.
  • It is one of those photographs where you immediately start to wonder what the story is and ask what she is doing.


Then the next step is to start making a comment or two on technical aspects that you think are good, and which you think contribute to the photograph.

Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks for Your Photography

Innocence captured.

  • This is a lovely picture of innocence.
  • The contrast between her smooth skin and the textures in the shot work well.
  • The muted colors enhance a mood of loneliness, maybe even sadness.
  • It is really effective to see how you have used the bars, and the shape of the doorway in the background to suggest a frame within a frame.
  • The depth of field seems to be perfect, throwing her face into the highlight, concentrating the viewer’s focus.
  • I would be really interested to know what you did in processing this shot.
  • The subject is central, but I think there is plenty happening around the frame to make the image dynamic enough.


Finally, you might tentatively start to suggest things that you might change, or which you think might be helpful. Remember – do unto others!

Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks for Your Photography

Hey, did you happen to see…?

  • I have never seen this view of the Taj Mahal before. It remains instantly recognizable even though it occupies a very small part of the frame. You did really well to find the shot.
  • Having seen your photographs before, I know you do limited manipulation in processing, so very well done on capturing the bird in just the right place.
  • Lovely evening (?) light, with good exposure keeping just the right amount of detail in the right places.
  • I cannot see the EXIF data and would be very interested to know what focal length you used. It looks like a wide angle to get the tree in the frame, yet the Taj Mahal seems quite close.
  • Any suggestions regarding such a good photograph will necessarily be tiny details. If you had just dipped your knees even an inch, I think it would have been even more perfect to have a gap between the top of the right-hand minaret and the tree branch.
  • I wonder of a small crop, perhaps a sixth off the top and the left side, may have concentrated the view.


You can always hint, or just ask directly, “Can you please comment on my photos?”. However, my experience is that once you have commented on their photographs, people tend to feel inclined to comment back. Again, this is my personal rule, but I would strongly argue that it is a good one. I try to always respond, or at least acknowledge any comment.

Admittedly, I have not always taken criticism well, but I think I’ve learned to give it more credence, to encourage it. One example of this is if the person commenting suggests something that I can change … a crop, a processing adjustment, changing to black and white … whatever, just do it and post the result. If there is a way of tagging the person, that is likely to help sustain the conversation.

Without being religious or philosophical, can I just give the same advice again, in a different, rather parental way, PLAY NICELY! and remember to say Please and Thank You.


Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks for Your Photography
There are a quite a lot of places which are specifically aimed at giving a critique of photographs. As you might have spotted, these include the Digital Photography School Facebook group.


The single thing you should concentrate on is making and receiving comments. Getting worthwhile comments is your aim. Take some gentle steps, apply The Golden Rule, and you might just develop a good community. You really can benefit hugely from making and receiving worthwhile comments when it comes to social media networks.

The post Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks for Your Photography by Richard Messsenger appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials, Post Production Tips

Nobody likes a grainy photo, right? The majority of the time we want less graininess. In the digital world, we see grain as the enemy. But is it really? I’ll tell you now that grain isn’t always bad. I’ll go even further than that and say that grain can actually be something that adds to the strength of your photographs.

Film grain gets a bad rap because it’s often confused with digital noise. The two are, in fact, entirely different. In this article, I’ll talk about the difference between noise and grain. Then I am going to show you how to use Lightroom to purposefully ADD grain to a photo. Get ready. Be bold. Embrace the grain.

It’s grain…not noise

The difference between digital noise (sensor noise) and grain comes down to the light sensing properties of each. Digital sensors convert light into an electronic signal using an array of photosensitive diodes. These are the “pixels” or “picture elements” of the sensor. Digital sensors carry “noise” based on a number of things such as the size of the sensor, its temperature, and the ISO setting.

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

Digital noise at ISO 5000

Film, on the other hand, uses light sensitive silver crystals which are embedded in the emulsion of the film. The physical manifestation of these crystals is what we perceive as film grain. The higher the film’s ISO, the more crystals are present, hence more grain.

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

Agfa Vista Plus 200 ISO 800. A cropped section of an image by Akio Takemoto

Grain is an organic characteristic of the analog film process. It’s almost like a fingerprint exclusive to the type of film you’re using. Perhaps that’s why film grain is gaining a growing acceptance among new photographers in this digital age of imaging.

This notion hasn’t been lost on the developers at Adobe and they have given us a way to simulate the grain patterns present in film with our digital images. Depending on your photo, adding some creative film grain can impart a vintage feel of earthiness to your digital image. And you’re about to learn how to do it in Lightroom in…3…2…1….

I hope you enjoyed the dramatic countdown.

Adding Grain in the Effects Panel of Lightroom CC

You can find Grain in the Effects panel of the Develop module in Lightroom CC. It’s where you can do a number of things but for this occasion, we are going to focus on the grain section. You’ll notice there are three adjustment sliders; amount, size, and roughness.

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

This is how you will essentially replicate those light sensitive crystals found in film emulsion I mentioned earlier.

**Note, it’s wise to apply grain (like most effects) as the last part of your final steps in post-processing.

Amount of grain

The amount of grain is controlled by, you guessed it, the “Amount” slider. Think of this as the number of crystals you are adding to your image. The higher the amount, generally the higher ISO look the effect. Here’s a +40 grain amount on an image shot at ISO 640.

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

It is a good idea to use a large increase in the amount of grain while adjusting the next two sliders and then back it off from there until you reach the desired amount.

Size of grain

The size of the grain plays a big part in how apparent it will be in your final image. Larger crystals will be more noticeable even at low amounts. It’s virtually the same concept as high and low “grit” sandpaper. Now here’s a +40 boost in grain size from the last image.

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

Keep in mind that the further to the right you move the slider the larger each grain will become. This can diminish small details in your photo so use with caution.


Grain roughness is closely related to grain size. The difference is that the roughness slider controls how raised the grains appear to be from the image. Essentially how rough or smooth their surface appears. The next image shows the same +40 amount of grain with the size set back to the +25 default. This time I increased the roughness to +70.

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

Think back to the sandpaper analogy. The more raised the grain the rougher the overall texture and thus the texture of the final grain effect.

Here are a few more examples of using simulated grain in Lightroom. Black and white images have always loved grain.

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

Black and white image with Grain set to +50 Amount, +71 Size, +50 Roughness

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

Grain set to +30 Amount, +66 Size, 0 Roughness

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

Grain set to +60 Amount, +18 Size, 80 Roughness

Final thoughts on grain

Never forget that grain is completely different than noise. Grain is, in some ways, the signature of film. Adding it to your digital images can sometimes, not always, give your photos a non-mechanized flavor that hints back to the organic appeal of analog film.

You can control this effect easily in Lightroom by adjusting the amount, size, and roughness of the grain. The combinations are virtually limitless. Just remember, as with all processing effects, use them up to, but never past the point they were intended. That being said, never be afraid to experiment and “go against the grain”…sorry, I had to say it.

The post Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom by Adam Welch appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Tips for Using Off-Camera Flash at Weddings

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Portrait Photography

Over the past eight years of shooting weddings, I have slowly evolved in how I work. I believe that’s normal for most photographers. Most will start as “natural light” photographers. I actually began a little ahead and was using one on-camera flash, bouncing it off of the ceiling. Next, I dabbled in some off-camera flash very lightly and steadily grew my skills over the years.

I will say, that life is so much easier for me now, and I can create so much more with off-camera flash than I could when I began. I’m not sure where you are in your journey, but I’m here to help you speed up the process. In this article, I’m going to share all of my different off-camera lighting setups for weddings.

Off camera flash weddings 02

Use flash when needed

Let me start off by saying that I don’t use off-camera flash the entire day. I still use natural light when I need to and I’ll use on-camera bounce flash when that’s appropriate. These on and off-camera flashes are just tools that I use to create, just like a painter uses different brushes and paints. I can’t necessarily tell you when to use them; that’s up to you and your personal preference. My suggestion would be to keep an open mind, practice these ideas, and see what works best for you.

Photographing details

I start using off-camera flash pretty early in the wedding day when I’m shooting details. For most situations, I try to keep it simple and use one flash at a 45-degree angle to the subject. To keep light from going everywhere and to create a more dramatic photo, I usually use a MagGrid from MagMod.

Off camera flash weddings 01

I’ll use this setup for ring shots, a few of the dress, flowers, possibly shoes, and other details. It works really well for the ring shot because I’m usually shooting at such a high aperture that I need a lot of light. I also make sure to take some with natural light or a bounce flash just in case the couple doesn’t like the dramatic look.

Off-camera flash for portraits

The newest way I’ve been using off-camera flash, and I just love it so much, is for creating portraits. If you really want to create something cool and different for your clients, this is the way to do it. There are many ways to do this (too many to mention here), but I’ll share some of my favorite setups.

Off-camera flash setups for wedding portraits

The groom usually doesn’t get much attention on the wedding day. He is just along for the ride. I try, though, to give him the spotlight and create something fun. This setup is basically the same as the detail shot. I’ll use one single flash with a MagGrid. The big difference is I lower the ambient light so the flash is really all that is seen.

Tips for Using Off-Camera Flash at Weddings

One light dramatic setup for the groom.

To do this, start off without the flash. Adjust the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture until the photo is pretty dark. Then, bring in the flash. Try to position the off-camera flash at a 45 degree angle, in relatively close to the subject. The further away the light is the more it will spread. I try to keep most of the focus on his face.

Another fun trick is to do this with all the groomsmen and put it together later in Photoshop. I did this recently with a group that all had super hero shirts under their suits. It created a very dramatic, fun photo. All you have to do is move your flash to one person, take a photo, and then move to the next one. Either put the camera on a tripod or try to keep it in the same position and height. Then, later, you just line them all up and use layers to hide and reveal the parts you want.

Tips for Using Off-Camera Flash at Weddings

The bride and her dress

The bride is the star of the show, so you need to make sure you create lots of photos of her and the dress. I will usually spend twice as much time with the bride as I do the groom. I also use a few different lighting patterns with her to give her more variety.

I don’t do it often, but you can actually use the same lighting setup that we did for the groom, with the bride. It’s going to create a dark portrait, but one thing I do differently is I make sure there aren’t any crazy shadows on her face.

Sometimes I have the bride turn her head toward the light or I rotate the flash more to light her entire face. It’s good to try this out occasionally, but make sure you give her some other options.

Tips for Using Off-Camera Flash at Weddings

Grid for Bride Tips for Using Off-Camera Flash at Weddings

One flash dramatic lighting setup.

In most cases, I use a much softer light with the brides, to open up shadows instead of creating something dark. I use my small flashes for some situations, but when we are outside I usually go to my larger flash, the Xplor 600. This gives me more power and I can put a softbox or octabox on it to soften the light.

My go-to bride setup is to put the sun behind the bride and then light the front of her. A lot of wedding photographers will do it this way without adding the light to the front. This can work, but you are left with a blown out background and possibly deep shadows in the eyes.

With my lighting setup, you can have the background exposed correctly and remove those nasty shadows. I still place the flash at a 45 degree angle but there are a few other things that make the photo look completely different. One, using a softbox or Octabox softens the light and allows it to illuminate most of the subject while the MagGrid kept the light pretty hard and focused.

One flash off-camera balanced with natural light.


Also, the exposure is going to be different. Turn off the flash and get a proper exposure for the background instead of it being pitch black. Then, turn the flash back on to light your subject and adjust power as needed. As far as setting the background exposure, I prefer bumping up the shutter speed versus bumping up the aperture. You can only do this, though, if your flash can do high-speed sync.

Off-camera flash setups for group photos

Another tough situation to light is the family portrait setup. If we are outside that isn’t really a problem, but if we’re indoors, the light is usually pretty bad. To keep everyone in focus, I also use a smaller aperture, which just makes matters worse.

I’ve used a few different off-camera flash setups for family portraits, and honestly, I’m not sure which I prefer. If you only have one flash, I’d put it at about a 30-degree angle.

If you have two flashes, there are two different ways to set it up. You can put both flashes, at equal power, at opposite 45 degree angles. This will cover everything, but it can make some weird shadows. The other option is to keep one light at 45 degrees and bring the other closer to the camera and lower the power. This is the basic main light and fill light setup.

Family portrait Tips for Using Off-Camera Flash at Weddings

Family portrait lighting with two flashes.

Tips for Using Off-Camera Flash at Weddings

The problem I’ve run into with this is that the people further away from the main light don’t get as much light. The last thing to consider is whether to bounce it or use direct flash. Bouncing is going to create a more even lighting, but it uses more power and doesn’t work if the ceilings are dark or if you’re outside. Direct flash takes less power, but the light tends to be harsher and create darker shadows.

Sometimes I will try one setup and then quickly switch to another if things aren’t working. You might find yourself doing this as well.

Off-camera flash at the wedding reception

Creating lighting for the dance is one of my favorite things to do. You really can create some amazing shots. My general setup is two off-camera flash, opposite each other, with MagGrids attached. This really creates a moody effect, but you can get some dark shadows.

Tips for Using Off-Camera Flash at Weddings

Dance lighting setup, two flashes.

With this setup, I keep a flash on top of my camera, and sometimes I’ll use it to bounce some fill light into the scene. When I’m done with the first few dances and the big groups get out there, I remove the grids so the light will cover a larger area. As far as my position, you can move around with this light setup and get some really different looks. For the most part, I try to keep one light beside me at a 45-degree.

One quick warning: make sure your lights are secure and out of the way. People will run into them and knock them over, and you don’t want broken equipment and/or injuries and a potential lawsuit.

Off-camera flash for creative wedding portraits

The last scenario that I use off-camera flash at weddings is for doing creative portraits with the couple. I really enjoy taking them away from the action once it has gotten dark to create something special. These are more of a creative, artsy portrait, and they are often my favorite shots from the wedding day.

Tips for Using Off-Camera Flash at Weddings

Two-light backlit setup with blue gel on the background.

The possibilities are pretty endless with this, so I’m just going to run through how I do it in general. The first thing I do is find an interesting background. This could be the front of the venue or some place with an interesting structure and hopefully some kind of lights. Next, I figure out where I want to place the couple. I like to have them be part of the environment, so I position them where I can do a full length shot and still capture the background.

Now we are ready to figure out the off-camera lighting setup. My go-to setup is a front light at 45 degrees with a grid and another flash behind the subject. With the backlight, I’ll either have the light aimed at the couple to give them a glow, or I’ll aim it at the background to show off the structure more. If you want to get a little funky or artsy, throw a colored gel on the backlight. After I’ve done that, I usually remove the front light and just aim the backlight at them and make a silhouette. If you know what you’re doing, you should be able to pull these shots off in less than 10 minutes and send the couple back to the party.

Off camera flash weddings 05

Tips for Using Off-Camera Flash at Weddings

One light backlit setup.


I know that was a lot of information and you may be overwhelmed. If you are feeling confused, reread each section and look at the diagrams. If you’re still confused, feel free to comment, and I’ll help you out.

Also, don’t feel like you have to try all of these setups at once. Remember, weddings are a once in a lifetime event, so avoid going in there if you aren’t confident in what you are doing. Practice at home and start by trying one of these setups. Practice some more and then try out other setups. Do this for one year and at the end of that year, I bet you’ll be in a whole new level, and you’ll never go back to your old way of shooting weddings.

The post Tips for Using Off-Camera Flash at Weddings by Bryan Striegler appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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.


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.