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How to Understand the Science of Photography and Technical Terms for Mastering Image Tonality

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

What is it that makes one picture appear dull and another more striking? What is it that makes some tones appear detailed and others smooth and transient? The answer to both of these questions involves the issues of color hue, color purity, and tone distribution.

Prague A - How to Understand the Science of Photography and Technical Terms for Mastering Image Tonality

This street scene in Prague is the original underexposed camera image.

Prague B - How to Understand the Science of Photography and Technical Terms for Mastering Image Tonality

The same image after tonal and color adjustments have been applied.

The science of color and tone

All color detail is determined by these three elements. In the Photoshop/Lightroom world, you’ll recognize these terms as HSL or Hue, Saturation, and Luminance. The world of photography is both an art and a science. The science part is filled with graphs, measurements, and strange words that most people don’t encounter every day.

These terms come from the scientific vocabulary of engineers, chemists, and mathematicians in the photographic trade. When digital cameras were introduced to the general public years ago, suddenly everybody could push around the colors and tonal range in their own pictures. While Adobe Photoshop provided a serious workshop, it showed up with a boatload of technical color science terms.

Unfortunately, if you don’t fully understand the terms, you may not be taking full advantage of the controls they provide. In this article, I’ll do my best to bring these terms down to Earth and make them understandable. We’ll get past the technical jargon and get into the practical application of these terms.

Hue, Saturation, and Lightness

Hue, Saturation, Lightness (luminance) are the irreducible minimum building blocks involved in good color editing and reproduction. While there are many more issues to be addressed in the processing of an image, these three are the make-or-break elements that must be understood and adjusted if you want your color images to catch a viewer’s eye.

Incidentally, when editing your images, these elements should be addressed in that very order; value (hue), intensity (saturation), and tonality (luminance). While hue and saturation concern color, luminance refers to the tonal structure of an image; pretty much an issue of dark versus light.

The Saturation slider affects the intensity of the color in an image. This is a powerful tool; exercise restraint.

Genoa A - How to Understand the Science of Photography and Technical Terms for Mastering Image Tonality

The Saturation effect on a Genoa Italy cathedral – normal saturation levels.

How to Understand the Science of Photography and Technical Terms for Mastering Image Tonality

Genoa B - How to Understand the Science of Photography and Technical Terms for Mastering Image Tonality


HSL Dialog Sat Low - How to Understand the Science of Photography and Technical Terms for Mastering Image Tonality

Genoa C - How to Understand the Science of Photography and Technical Terms for Mastering Image Tonality


HSL Dialog Sat High - How to Understand the Science of Photography and Technical Terms for Mastering Image Tonality

A Primer on Image Detail

Contrast usually refers to the overall light-to-dark extremes of an image but the real power of post-production editing is in pushing the tonal values around inside the overall range.

But if you really want to make the detail in your image stand out, you must adjust the internal contrast of the image. The biggest difference-maker adjustment should be the middle tones of your images; tones in-between the lightest and the darkest in your image.

TrafalgarSq A - How to Understand the Science of Photography and Technical Terms for Mastering Image Tonality

Trafalgar Sq O Levels - How to Understand the Science of Photography and Technical Terms for Mastering Image Tonality

The middle slider in Photoshop’s Levels dialog is referred to as the gamma slider. Gamma is another one of those legacy scientific terms that you can think of as a “mid-tone” adjustment. Moving this elementary slider from left to right actually shifts the entire middle range of tones from lighter to darker.

TrafalgarSq B - How to Understand the Science of Photography and Technical Terms for Mastering Image Tonality

This picture of the King Charles statue in London’s Trafalgar Square is backlit and was dark, but a simple middle tone adjustment opened up the shadows and revealed hidden detail.

TrafalgarSq A Levels - How to Understand the Science of Photography and Technical Terms for Mastering Image Tonality

Photoshop’s Levels tool is the most basic of tonal controls. There are actually several much more effective tonal shaping tools available in Photoshop and even more comprehensive controls in Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom. We won’t get into a thorough discussion of these tone adjustment tools and workflow recommendations in this article (perhaps at a later time).

Leaves A - How to Understand the Science of Photography and Technical Terms for Mastering Image Tonality

Leaves B - How to Understand the Science of Photography and Technical Terms for Mastering Image Tonality

This picture of winter leaves was fairly well exposed but required both tonal and color adjustments to reveal the rich colors in the original scene.

Camera Raw dialog - How to Understand the Science of Photography and Technical Terms for Mastering Image Tonality

Editing for Tonality

There’s a reason why tone adjustment should be your number one issue in image preparation; even more critical than color accuracy.

Your eyesight has tonal perception and interpretation capabilities that far exceed the dynamic range of any digital camera. Make no mistake, capturing seven stops of light range is an amazing feat. But capturing this wide range of tones doesn’t automatically translate into detail, image definition, or good tonal distinction.

Properly reassigning those internal tones to more closely match what your eyes see is where the real editing magic happens. Hang with me here because this will get a bit involved, but I think it will definitely be worth your time.

LinearCapture Eye Camera - How to Understand the Science of Photography and Technical Terms for Mastering Image Tonality

This chart shows the difference between the way your eye registers light and how your camera records it.

Camera View – Human View

Your camera’s image sensor records light quite differently than your eye perceives it. The camera actually records a lot of data from the lighter portion of the scene and very little data from the darker portion. The image sensors capture light in a linear fashion. Unfortunately, humans view the lighting in scenes in a logarithmic fashion.

You might say that original camera files usually benefit from a “fashion” adjustment, generally lightening the middle tones. Camera images that don’t get their tonal values adjusted almost always lose detail in the darker areas of the image. Virtually all camera images benefit from internal adjustments.

Chrominance and Luminance Explained

Chrominance deals with the color component of an image while luminance deals with the contrast or tonality component of an image.

Chroma refers to the color in an image while luma describes the non-color or tonal part. Achromatic is a fancy scientific word that is pretty simple to understand. Remember your high school English… the prefix “a” means “without,” so a-chromatic literally means without color.

In the HSL model of color, hue, and saturation fall in the chrominance column while tonality and contrast are on the luminance column (the structural or tonal backbone of an image).

Basic Luminosity Adjustments

Where does the term “luminance” come from? Light is measured in lumens. A lumen is the smallest measurable unit of light visible to the human eye. Luminosity then is the measure of lumens reflecting from (or transmitted through) a light source and perceived by your eye. The more lumens, the brighter the light. Light measurements are also made in increments called candelas. A candela is roughly the value of light produced by a single household candle.

Photo by Akshay Paatil on Unsplash

Just as “horsepower” is a carryover index of a measurement of power (relating to the pulling strength of multiple horses) candelas is an index of the cumulative light emitted from multiple candles. These legacy terms are sometimes confusing, and it would be nice if photographic color science terminology were simplified for those just entering the process, but until then, you’ll have to get acclimated.

I’ll take it slow, as you can easily drown in the scientific terminology minutia. I’ll keep the terminology on a basic digital imaging level so that you can make practical use of what you learn.

Basic Color Science


As stated before, all color is composed of three elements; value, intensity, and luminosity. Value (or hue) refers to the “color” of color, or what differentiates red from orange or purple. Intensity (or saturation) refers to the purity color, distinguishing pastels to pungent colors (the more white light is combined with pure color, the more the color strength is diluted). Luminosity is the measure of the brightness and relates to the image’s lightness or darkness.

Hue (value) differentiates one color from another. Saturation (intensity) determines the purity of color. Luminosity (brightness) determines tonality.

The detail in digital imaging terminology is the degree to which colors and tones distinguish themselves from each other. While hue, saturation, and luminance all play a significant role in detailing an image, the heavy lifting of detail is done by luminance or the shaping of the internal tones in an image. Detail is a product of contrast, and contrast is almost completely controlled by the luminance element. This is why post-production professionals perform all their sharpening adjustments in the luminance channel exclusively.

Shadows Highlights dialog - How to Understand the Science of Photography and Technical Terms for Mastering Image Tonality

Photoshop’s Highlight/Shadow dialog box

Camera Raw dialog - How to Understand the Science of Photography and Technical Terms for Mastering Image Tonality

Adobe Camera Raw main dialog.

Shaping Light

Contrast, like audio equalization, cannot be effectively accomplished by using a linear (bass-treble) type control such is the luminance slider in the HSL panel which simply lightens or darkens an image. The effective shaping of an image requires the individual adjustment of five specific tonal regions of an image; highlight, quarter-tone, mid-tone, three-quarter tone and shadow. I use a variety of controls to shape my tonal contrast.

Ansel Adams once stated, “Half the image is created in the camera, the other half is created in the darkroom.” Though you may never use a darkroom to produce a photographic image, the essence of his statement is still true. Capturing pixels with your camera is only your first step in producing a good picture, what you do with the image that comes out of your camera will determine your skills as a photographer.

Digital photography provides almost limitless avenues for personal expression. Shaping the color and tonality in your images is the backbone of great photography. Determine to learn something new about this fabulous art form every day. Push pixels around and stay focused.

The post How to Understand the Science of Photography and Technical Terms for Mastering Image Tonality by Herb Paynter appeared first on Digital Photography School.


6 Tips for How to Photograph Waterfalls

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

Waterfalls are some of the most beautiful natural features you will ever get the chance to photograph and are a very popular subject for landscape photographers. Photographing waterfalls provides a great way to get outdoors and explore nature.

 Tips for How to Photograph Waterfalls

There is something magical about the patterns and sounds of flowing water that really heighten your senses and make you feel at one with nature. Although waterfalls look great, you may be wondering well how do I photograph them? Here are six tips to help you on your way.

1 – Get the right equipment

You will be better equipped to photograph waterfalls if you have the right equipment. A wide-angle lens is essential to broaden the angle of view and ensure you are able to photograph the whole waterfall. You will also be able to get up close to the falls rather than photographing them from a distance.

Once you have found a great waterfall and have the right equipment to capture it, you are ready to take some photographs.

6 Tips for How to Photograph Waterfalls

2 – Experiment with different shutter speeds

So now that you have the gear, how do you take photos that capture the authenticity and beauty of the scene?

When photographing waterfalls, finding the ideal shutter speed involves a lot of experimenting. This step is all about trial and error, which is part of the fun. Try taking shots with different shutter speeds and check out the results to see the differences.

I would recommend taking pictures with both fast and slow shutter speeds ranging from between 1/500th of a second to a few seconds and see which style of image you prefer.

3 – Freeze motion

How you shoot waterfalls effectively depends on the look and feel of the image you are trying to achieve. If you want to capture the water in a static way, you will need to choose a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of the water. This isolates the water in motion and gives a very different result to using an extended shutter speed.

See the difference between the three images below and how the change in shutter speed affects the water. (Images courtesy of dPS Managing Editor, Darlene Hildebrandt)

ISO 100, f/4, no ND filter, 1/640th of a second.

ISO 100, F/22, o.3 sec with ND filter

ISO 100, F/22, 1.3 sec with ND filter

4 – Blur motion

Using a slow shutter speed will help you to capture the water’s movement. You will find that the longer the shutter is open, the smoother the water will be. Be careful not to use a shutter speed that is too slow if the water is very fast flowing as the water may become one large white mass without any definition.

6 Tips for How to Photograph Waterfalls

Generally, you will obtain better results by using an extremely slow shutter speed of over a second. However, this will not be possible if you are hand holding the camera due to excessive camera shake, which brings us to the next tip.

5 – Use a tripod

Investing in a tripod will help to keep the camera more stable and enhance your chances of getting good images. The main advantage of using a tripod is that you are more likely to capture images of waterfalls that are sharper as the camera is less prone to movement during slower exposures.

Using a tripod will allow you to use slower shutter speeds to give you a smoother look and feel to your waterfall images. Images captured using long shutter speeds tend to look more dramatic and the silky water looks more appealing and pleasing to the eye.

If you do not have a tripod, you could set your camera on a stone or some other object to capture part or all of the waterfall.

6 Tips for How to Photograph Waterfalls

6 – Use a polarizing filter

One of the best ways to add some color to your images is to use a polarizing filter. This is a great way to deepen colors by increasing their saturation. But be aware that the polarizer also cuts the amount of light entering the camera, and thus increases your exposure by up to two stops of light.

6 Tips for How to Photograph Waterfalls

Polarizers also help to eliminate glare and reflections from the surface of the water and can be used to increase contrast. This is especially true when shooting during the day in bright conditions.

When adding a polarizer, the water you capture should become blurred, depending on how fast it is flowing. The advantage to using a polarizer is that you can increase the exposure time and slow the shutter speed, as the amount of light going through the lens is decreased. This allows you to create images with motion and silky-smooth water action.

Your turn

With these practical tips, it’s time for you to get out there and start photographing your next waterfall!

The post 6 Tips for How to Photograph Waterfalls by Jeremy Flint appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography Towards the Sun

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

Avoid photographing towards the sun is one of the most common tips you’ll hear for landscape photography. In fact, it’s a tip that I’ve shared previously myself.

While it’s not without a reason that’s it’s a well-known tip, it might not be as relevant today as it was several years ago. Today’s sensors and post-processing opportunities are much more forgiving and what once was a bad idea can now be an opportunity.

In this article, I’ll show you how including the sun in the frame can enhance the atmosphere and add an extra dimension to your images as well as sharing my best tips for doing so.

Why you should include the sun in your images

I’m sure that many of you are ready to jump straight into the comment section right now and tell me how much of a bad idea it is to shoot towards the sun. But give me a minute to explain a few reasons why it’s something you might want to consider doing with your landscape photography.

Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography Towards the Sun

The greatest benefit of adding the sun in the frame is that it adds depth to the image. Take the image above as an example. Remove the sun and the image becomes flat and much less interesting. With the sun included, the image comes to life and drags you into it.

Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography Towards the Sun

Compositionally it can also be beneficial. Of course, this depends on where you place the sun. In the example above, the bright sun serves as a focal point. Naturally, the viewer’s eye is guided along the cliffs and up towards the bright area.

Keep in mind that our eyes are naturally attracted to the brighter parts of the image.

Another benefit of shooting towards the sun is that you often get beautiful shadows striking towards you. This serves as additional leading lines and benefits the composition.

Tips for including the sun in your images

Now, there’s one thing I need to make clear; including the sun in an image won’t always be beneficial. There are certain conditions or methods you should take advantage of for this to work. Here are some tips.

The time of day matters

While there are exceptions, the best images come when the sun is low on the horizon. The sun then creates a soft glow and gives a nicely balanced light.

Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography Towards the Sun

During midday when the sun is positioned higher in the sky, the light is harsh and less pleasing to the eyes. Generally, this is something you want to avoid.

Consider the sun’s placement within the frame

I’ll start by saying this, there’s no one single correct spot to place the sun within your image. Sometimes it’s beneficial to place it in the center, while other times it’s better to place it on the side.

This is where trial and error, and experience come into play.

Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography Towards the Sun

In the image above, I chose to place the sun at the very edge of the frame. Partly obscured by the clouds, it doesn’t take too much attention but instead, you’re drawn to the beautiful light hitting the landscape.

If you are familiar with semi-advanced post-processing techniques, you might be aware of a processing style called light bleed. This is a technique that involves heavy dodging and enhancing/creating a light source that strikes through the image. However, this is an effect you’re able to get in-camera as well by placing the sun at the corner or edge of your frame.

Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography Towards the Sun

Other times, you want to place the sun in the center of the image. In the image above, placing the sun in the center adds a light source that your eyes naturally go toward. Had I instead placed the sun to the side, this image would be less balanced.

Obscure the sun

In my opinion, one of the most efficient ways of including the sun in your image is by partly obscuring it. Combining that with a narrow aperture, you get a nice sun-star or sunburst.

Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography Towards the Sun

Use a Graduated ND Filter

Since the sun is so much brighter than the surrounding landscape, it can be hard to capture a well-exposed image when including it in the frame. By using a Graduated ND Filter you’re able to darken the sky in your image – meaning that you can capture a well-balanced image even with the sun in the frame.

Unfortunately, a Graduated ND Filter is not always ideal. Since the transition between darkened and transparent parts of the filter is a straight line, it can create some unwanted effects if you’re photographing a scene where something is projecting above the horizon.

Graduated ND Filters are better to use when the horizon is flat, such as the image below:

Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography Towards the Sun

… Or bracket multiple exposures

Another more flexible method of capturing well-balanced images with the sun included is to bracket multiple exposures and blend them in a photo editor. This is the better choice when the sun is at the highest position in the sky, as the contrast is even greater.

For the image below, I captured three images; one exposed for the landscape, one exposed for the sky and one even darker to balance out the brightest parts.

Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography Towards the Sun

Your turn

Hopefully, I’ve been able to convince you that shooting towards the sun isn’t a complete no-no anymore. Have you captured any images that are shot towards the sun for your landscape photography? I would love to see them in a comment below!

The post Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography Towards the Sun by Christian Hoiberg appeared first on Digital Photography School.


dPS Writer’s Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

The Canon 100mm macro lens was on my Want List for such a long time, next to the Canon 10-22mm Ultra Wide-Angle. Oddly, once I did get it, I never used it, and it sat gathering dust in the cupboard for a couple of years. Now it is my go-to lens for doing still life, food and of course, macro photography.

dPS Writer's Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro

Why is it my favorite lens?

Sharpness, image quality, color, and versatility – it has it all!

I know when using this lens it is going to pick up absolutely every detail, and when it is sharp it is crystal clear. Unfortunately, due to the combined weight of the lens (625g) on my Canon 7D MK II, I find it difficult to handhold and get sharp shots. So I use it on my tripod to guarantee the focus is bang on.

dPS Writer's Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro

Merits of the Canon 100mm macro lens

This lens has a richness to the colors that I appreciate, it gives the best color reproduction of any of my lenses. Also when you are shooting at its native 2.8, the soft background blur is quite delicious as well.

Finally, the versatility of this lens, given it is a macro lens, is impressive. I use it for macro, food photography, flower photography, and other still life subjects. It is also a favorite lens for portrait photographers due to the factors that make it my personal favorite.

It’s quiet, it’s fast and it’s a lovely lens to use. Once I mastered the art of fine focusing with a really tiny depth of field and was able to consistently get sharp shots, the quality of the images impressed me more and more.

dPS Writer's Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro

How I use it

1 – Food Photography

Working with natural light in my home studio sometimes means the light is not always abundant. Or possibly you need to filter it quite heavily so you don’t blow out the highlights on some whipped cream or icing. So working in slightly less than ideal light conditions is where I find this lens really comes into its own.

With a 67mm filter diameter, it has a lot of surface area to bring in the available light.  The native f/2.8 aperture captures all the light possible. While I might have to increase ISO a small amount, it is not enough to affect the quality of the image.

With such high image quality, capturing the finest small details really adds character to food shots taken with this lens. Water droplets on fruit or the tiny hairs on a raspberry become things of wonder, brought into view by the capabilities of this lens.

dPS Writer's Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro

2. Flower Photography

Doing photography of flowers is what finally forced me to get my Canon 100mm lens out of storage and start using it. I had become interested in still life photography and was using flowers as the subject to base my compositions around.

Flowers offer so many opportunities to be creative with this lens, you can shoot the whole flower, move in to shoot just a portion of it, or really get into the macro side of things.

dPS Writer's Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro

The lovely colour and soft bokeh suit flower photography very well, and I enjoy using it a great deal. It is a lot of fun to experiment with areas of selective focus or just using depth of field in unexpected ways.

dPS Writer's Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro

3. Macro photography

There is a whole world of things too small for our eyes to see naturally that suddenly become revealed when we shoot with a macro lens. It is fascinating to uncover tiny details in everyday objects.

Playing with abstracts of textures or just exploring the things we cannot normally see are possible with the 100mm macro lens. The ordinary becomes extraordinary when you can get up close and personal. When my camera is mounted on my tripod, I know that I can get sharp focus with a very narrow depth of field on a very small subject.

dPS Writer's Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro


4. Other options

I am not a portrait photographer but I do have cats, and they are fun to shoot with this lens as it picks up so much detail. I personally struggle to sucessfully handhold my 7D Mark II with this lens and get sharp images, so I don’t shoot with it off my tripod very often.

dPS Writer's Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro


The Canon EF 100mm F2.8 IS L Macro lens – full specifications on Canon site – 625g, minimum focus distance 300mm, Hybrid Image Stabilization for handheld macro shooting.


  • Sharpness
  • Depth of field
  • Bokeh is smooth
  • Color
  • Hybrid Image Stabilizing
  • EF and EFS compatible
  • 1:1 magnification
  • Comes with a lens hood and carry bag


  • Heavy and can be difficult to handhold, requiring a tripod
  • Expensive
  • 300mm minimum focus distance


Overall for me, the pros of shooting with this lens far outweigh the cons. Have you used the Canon 100mm macro lens or one similar? Please share in the comments below if you enjoy it as much as I do.

dPS Writer's Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro

The post dPS Writer’s Favourite Lens: Canon 100mm Macro by Stacey Hill appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Easy Color Grading With LUTs and Luminar 2018

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

Focusing on color can help you communicate style and emotion. This approach is often referred to as color grading.

Color grading versus color correction

You may have wondered how this differs from color correction, which is more of a technical adjustment. A tungsten bulb, for example, will produce a color shift in your images that’s warmer than what you’re accustomed to seeing with your eyes. Often you want to adjust that hue, cooling it off a bit so that it appears more natural. That’s a correction.

Color grading, on the other hand, leans toward the artistic. You may want to add or enhance orange tones and teals to create a mood similar to what one would experience in the movies. Exact reality isn’t the goal. It’s more about a creative look that elicits a feeling.

Here’s a simple example. Compare these two portraits. The first picture seems perfectly fine. The rendered colors are similar to what we would perceive if standing there during capture.

Color Corrected Portrait - color grading in Luminar 2018

A reasonably color correct portrait.

The second image is color graded to communicate a style, a look. And even though it isn’t natural by everyday lighting standards, it’s interesting – and probably more engaging than the “correct” color version.

Color Graded Portrait - color grading using LUTs

This version was color graded in Luminar 2018 using Chrono-Steel LUT by

All image editors are equipped to correct color. But some are better than others at providing the means to manipulate it stylistically. Luminar 2018 is one of those creative applications.

The Power of LUTs

Lookup Tables (LUTs) sound like a technical adjustment. And indeed there is plenty of color science at work under the hood. They are used to precisely shift colors from one spot to another. But those shifts can be stored in a container, such as a “.cube” file, that can be used to color grade an image.

So even though LUTs are precise color science, their recipes can be wonderfully artistic.

Las vegas comparison - Easy Color Grading With LUTs and Luminar 2018

A side by side comparison of this Las Vegas scene shows how color grading can breathe life into an image.

The original version of this Las Vegas scene was serviceable, but certainly not exciting. Nor did it convey the majesty of the building. By color grading with a teal and orange LUT, suddenly the scene comes to life.

Does it look exactly like that in reality? No. But does the image feel like Las Vegas? Definitely more than the original.

Applying LUTs in Luminar 2018

Your gateway to this type of color grading in Luminar 2018 is via the LUT Mapping Filter. You can add this adjustment to your workspace by clicking on the Filters button, and by choosing LUT Mapping from the Professional category.

Adding LUT Mapping - Easy Color Grading With LUTs and Luminar 2018

LUT Mapping is available via the Filters menu in Luminar 2018.

Once the filter has been added to the workspace, click on the popup menu inside the panel to reveal the built-in LUTs (such as Tritone and Kodack chrome 3), or to access LUT files that you may have already added to your computer via Load Custom LUT File.

Before After Color Grading

LUT Mapping Filter - Easy Color Grading With LUTs and Luminar 2018

Luminar comes with built-in LUTs, or you can add your own.

Once you select a LUT, the image is color graded via the LUT’s recipe. You can fine-tune the recipe using the Amount, Contrast, and Saturation sliders. Also, a good companion filter for this color grading with LUTs is HSL, which provides color adjustments for hue, saturation, and luminance.

HSL Filter - Easy Color Grading With LUTs and Luminar 2018

Tips for Effective Color Grading with LUTs

Creating a separate adjustment layer for your color grading provides lots of flexibility. The base layer is used for basic adjustments via the Develop filter and the other tools that you need to establish a good range of tones. The adjustment layer (Layers > Add New Adjustment Layer) contains the LUT Mapping, HSL, and other creative filters. You can then use the blend modes and the opacity slider for precise control over the grading.

Custom Preset - Easy Color Grading With LUTs and Luminar 2018

Saving your LUT as a custom preset provides you with a preview thumbnail as well.

Another handy technique is to save your LUT color grading as a custom preset. Luminar makes this easy. Once you achieve a look that you want to use again, save it as a custom preset. Use the “Save Filters Preset” button in the lower right corner of Luminar. This provides the added benefit of a preview thumbnail for the LUT and its accompanying adjustments. You can create custom presets for all of your favorite LUTs. That’s a real time saver.

LUTs are also terrific for film emulation. There are LUTs for Kodachrome, Polaroid, and B&W film looks. This is a high-quality way to build your own Instagram-like filters, with a pinch of your own creativity added.

Downloading and Organizing More LUT Files

Skylum maintains a LUT downloads page that you can access through Luminar. Click on “Download New LUT Files” in the LUT Mapping popup menu. This will take you to the Skylum LUT catalog.

Download New LUTs - Easy Color Grading With LUTs and Luminar 2018

Once you download a new collection of LUTs, store them in a place that you will remember, such as a LUTs folder in Pictures or Documents. You’ll have to navigate there when you use the “Load Custom LUT File” command in Luminar. The application doesn’t store LUTs for you, so you have to remember where you are.

Bonus tip! Store your custom LUTs in Dropbox so you can access them from any computer.

Save Your Work

If you’re using Luminar 2018 as a standalone app (as opposed to a plug-in or editing extension), then save your favorite color gradings as a Luminar file. This allows you to return to the image and its settings at a future date to continue your work, or to change the color grading to another style.

Make it Look Easy

Your viewers may not realize the techniques that you used to create the enticing color schemes in your images. What they will notice are your style and creativity. Using LUTs can contribute greatly to that pursuit.

Disclaimer: Skylum (formerly Macphun) is a paid partner of dPS.

The post Easy Color Grading With LUTs and Luminar 2018 by Derrick Story appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Make Simple Stickers From Your Photos

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

When I was a kid a family friend used to pick me up from school and drop me off at home. The friend’s daughter and I always had a roaring time in the back seat, screaming and messing around like kids do. Then one day we were offered stickers for good behavior. And no stickers for bad behavior.

We silently collected a sticker each day and reverently stuck them on the inside of our wardrobes. We’d compare our collection when we visited each other’s houses and swap if we could agree on a fair trade. My friend moved away a long time ago, and I moved out of the family home. But my precious sticker collection remains in what is now my sister’s bedroom. And I’m not shy to admit that I do check in on them from time to time.

What is a sticker?

A sticker is a type of label made up of various materials that have a pressure sensitive adhesive on one side and an image on the other. They’re used for anything from decoration to functional purposes to bribing children. They can adhere to almost anything – walls, cars, clothing, and paper, to name a few.

While stickers are often associated with fun, they have quite a political presence, most commonly in the form of bumper stickers that demonstrate support for ideological or political causes.

How to Make Simple Stickers From Your Photos

A sticky bit of history

The history of stickers is more interesting than you might think. Some historians trace the origin of stickers back to ancient Egyptians where salespeople used a type of adhesive to advertise their wares. There is, however, conjecture about where the modern sticker originated. Some believe it was Sir Rowland Hill who invented the sticker in 1839 when he introduced the self-adhesive postage stamp. Others believe the stickers were created by European food merchants as an advertising technique – much like the Egyptians.

By the 1800s, lithography became the primary method for label making, though it was an expensive and complex process. But technology was moving quickly and toward the end of the century, and the labels became much more intricate and colorful. Labels around this time were affixed with a sticky gum or paste that required the user to lick or wet them before use. In the 1930s, R. Stanton Avery invented pre-cut stickers that didn’t require licking or wetting. As a result, stickers were used in mass as bumper stickers to distribute ideas to as many people as possible.

Because technology continued to streamline the making of labels, stickers exploded in popularity in the 1960s. This was especially the case for kids, who were fascinated by the colors and images. And they’ve “stuck” with us ever since.

Making your own photos into stickers

Making stickers is incredibly simple. You can send images to an online printing company and have a couple hundred stickers delivered to your door in a few days. Homemade stickers are a little different, but they’re more fun to make. They are also more personal, so they make lovely gifts too.

What you will need:

  • A printer
  • Some images on a computer
  • Plain sheets of label paper, not pre-cut
  • Scissors
How to Make Simple Stickers From Your Photos

Plain, un-cut label sheets are available at office supply stores.

How to Make Simple Stickers From Your Photos

Notice that the label paper here isn’t pre-cut into rectangles. This means you can print your images as large or as small as you like.


First of all, open up your label paper. Some label packs come with sheets pre-cut into rectangles. Make sure you purchase sheets that aren’t already divided up. You will need a plain solid sheet of label paper or your images could be cut in half.

How to Make Simple Stickers From Your Photos

I really liked this sign I spotted on a trip overseas, I thought it would make a great sticker too.

Select a few images you are fond of. You could select images you find visually appealing, or perhaps some that hold some significance personally. Insert the label paper as you would a regular sheet of plain paper and print your images out.

How to Make Simple Stickers From Your Photos

Insert the label paper as you would regular paper and print your images out.

How to Make Simple Stickers From Your Photos

Finally, cut out your images and you are ready to go! Your own personal stickers ready to use anywhere you like! Simple, right?

How to Make Simple Stickers From Your Photos

The stickers you make are totally up to you. Find something sentimental or funny, or just gather a few photos you find inspiring.

Get creative

Of course, you don’t have to select your own images to print. Here I’ve sourced some designs for smaller stickers. Simply place your images into a Photoshop document as you would your selection of photographs. After printing simply cut them out and they are ready to go.

How to Make Simple Stickers From Your Photos

How to Make Simple Stickers From Your Photos

After printing this character onto label paper, I found that it made a great sticker for my boring phone case.

For this print of a cute little character named Pipo-Kun, I decided to add a layer of holographic contact paper to make the sticker a little more eye-catching. Peel and stick your original sticker to the front layer of contact paper. Then, when you want to stick your image somewhere, peel off the protective layer on the contact paper and stick it down instead.

Give it a try folks! I’d love to see the results!

The post How to Make Simple Stickers From Your Photos by Megan Kennedy appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Show More with Your Photographs by Thinking Outside the Frame

Filed Under Composition Tips, Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

In its simplest form, a photograph is a representation of a very limited part of space at a very limited point in time. This article is about choosing which tiny bit of reality to represent and how that choice can make a photograph into much more than just a record of time.

01 photography tips thinking outside the frame

The most obvious elements of any photograph are the subject, the foreground, and the background. The light and the time it takes to create the photo are equally essential. In this article, I’ll be focusing on an ingredient which may be less obvious, sometimes even overlooked, but never absent: the frame.

What is the frame?

By frame, I don’t mean a picture frame, but the edges of the photo.

02 photography tips thinking outside the frame

Take a look at the photo above. What’s going on? There’s the subject (a cat) the foreground, a bench, the background (a pink wall) and a branch of some kind. So what does the frame have to do with all this?

The frame of a photograph is what separates the obvious from the inferred. It’s part of why a good photograph means different things to different people because that which is inferred is subjective.

Consider the photograph of the cat again. The cat is about to pounce, which means that there’s something going on outside the frame. Maybe another cat is walking by, or maybe there’s a delicious-looking bird on the ground.

What’s outside the frame is just as important

03 photography tips thinking outside the frame

What is left outside the frame can tell a story of its own or be an essential part of the subject of the photo? By creating tension between the obvious and the inferred you wield a powerful tool to make even better photographs. Every image has a relation to the rest of the world, even though the immediate surroundings aren’t obvious or don’t seem to add anything.

04 photography tips thinking outside the frame

So how do you start thinking outside the frame?

I will show you a few examples so you get the idea.

1 – Make it obvious

The obvious way is to make it clear that there is something outside the frame that isn’t being shown. The easiest way to do this is to capture an interesting gaze or photograph a detail.

05 photography tips thinking outside the frame

In the image above, the groom is not looking at the camera, but towards something more interesting outside the frame. For those who recognize the setting, it may be obvious that he is looking towards the church door, which will soon reveal the bride; for others, the interpretation could be different.

06 photography tips thinking outside the frame

These photos show a part of something larger. The hands suggest a person, and might even reveal something about that person. The spiraling tree creates a looping line that continues outside the frame.

2 – Tie the subject to the setting

The scene inside the frame can be tied to a larger setting without the subject directly or indirectly touching the frame. This can make the subject seem large or small, create an open or claustrophobic feeling, or give the surroundings a sense of continuity.

07 photography tips thinking outside the frame

Take a look at the photo above. By surrounding a tiny subject with a single, strong color, that color almost always feels like it continues on and on. In this picture, does it give you a sense of comfort or claustrophobia?

08 photography tips thinking outside the frame

The idea with the photo above is somewhat similar, but the feeling of it is quite different. Here is a playful animal in its seemingly limitless element, suggesting unlimited enjoyment. Or do you see something quite different?

3 – Use pattern or rhythm

By using a pattern or rhythm in the photo, you can create an effect that allows the viewer to imagine infinity. The idea is the same as in the example above, but the execution and effect are different. Here, the pattern or rhythm itself can be the subject, and it’s that subject that leads the viewer outside the frame.

09 photography tips thinking outside the frame

The pattern of cracked sea ice works like a block of color. But since it’s more interesting than just a single color, it can stand by itself and let the eye wander through the details in the photo and the mind continue beyond.

10 photography tips thinking outside the frame

A seascape like the one in the image above can suggest an infinitely large ocean just by showing an unbroken horizon. The ocean doesn’t only continue into the photo, though, it also continues sideways and beyond the edges of the photo. The rhythm of the clouds emphasizes this illusion.

4 – Reflections

Reflections are also an effective way of suggesting a wider world outside the constraints of the photograph. It’s a more direct way of pointing to the wider context.

11 photography tips thinking outside the frame

Concrete walls can suggest many things, but thanks to the reflection in the window it becomes quite clear that the photo is not taken in a concrete jungle, but in a verdant and sunny place. Reading the expression on the subject’s face becomes quite different thanks to the wider context.


Photography is always about choices, conscious or not. The more photography you do, the more deliberate your choices will become. Being aware of this gives you more control over your creative process. The creative decisions you can make based on those choices is what makes photography art.

How you frame your photographs is just one of the things to keep in mind when you photograph.

Do you pay attention to what you leave out when you take a photo? Do you have any examples or thoughts you’d like to share about how you’ve used the frame and what’s beyond as an element in your photography? I’d love to hear about it and see your photos in the comments below.

The post How to Show More with Your Photographs by Thinking Outside the Frame by Hannele Luhtasela-el Showk appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Exploring the Fundamentals of Light to Improve Your Photos

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

Let me point out from the start, it doesn’t matter what camera you use. From a fancy DSLR to your phone you can use these lighting tools to improve your photographs.

Photography and light go hand in hand. Simply put; if there is no light, there is no photograph.

Sunrise - Exploring the Fundamentals of Light to Improve Your Photos

Light is so important to great photography I’m going to ask you to put your camera down for a moment and observe. Really look at the light. The color of it, the way it’s falling on people and things. What shadows are being created?

Try looking at these different times of the day:

1. Early morning before the sun rises and while it rises

The color of light - Exploring the Fundamentals of Light to Improve Your Photos

You’ll see the light change from a cool blue to red, orange, and yellow light in the early morning. It will shift from a soft shadowless light to one that gives shape and texture to everything it touches. If the weather is right, you’ll witness the same in reverse, going from warm to cool at the other end of the day (sunset)!

Shape texture - Exploring the Fundamentals of Light to Improve Your Photos

Budding photographers tend to photograph the actual sunrise or sunset. It is beautiful to be sure. Instead, try looking at what the sun is doing to the trees or the plants or a person’s face and clothing. When the sun is low in the sky it creates gorgeous shapes and textures. On a beach, look at the texture of the sand or the shape of rocks and shells scattered here and there.

2. High noon

Raccoon eyes - Exploring the Fundamentals of Light to Improve Your Photos

High noon is a time better left to gunslingers! This can be the worst time for photography. It is the same light you see in office spaces with overhead lighting. It will give your portraits unflattering raccoon eyes like the image above.

What are you to do then? There are two easy solutions. Turn on your flash is one possibility. The second is head into the shade outside and use window light indoors.

3. Window light

Window light is beautiful directional light. What’s directional? This means the light is coming from one direction, one source.

What we too often see is a person standing with their back to a bank of windows with their faces dark or the outdoors completely white. Instead, place your subject perpendicular to the window using the light to illuminate one side of their face. You can use window light with equally effective results whether photographing a person or an object.

Window light - Exploring the Fundamentals of Light to Improve Your Photos

You’ll want to try using this kind of light when the sun is not shining directly through the window. Pick a cloudy day, use a north-facing window, or shoot after the sun has moved overhead away from the window.

4. Stormy weather

The light changes as you move into and out of a storm. Watch how the color of flowers, leaves, and even cars comes to life during these times of shifting weather. You can add saturation in Photoshop to images today, but you will find it far more realistic if you can capture the saturated color you enjoy at the end of a rainfall.

After the storm - Exploring the Fundamentals of Light to Improve Your Photos

And don’t be shy about heading out into a snowfall or rainstorm with your camera in tow. You will discover a whole new world most folks hideaway from. You will bear witness to people and scenes not normally seen. I guarantee people will exclaim, “Wow, how did you get that shot?!”

5. The Seasons

Your observations of light will inform you of many things. I imagine you will start to see things I don’t see as well. That’s my hope. One other thing you might observe is that light changes over the course of the year too.

Fall color - Exploring the Fundamentals of Light to Improve Your Photos

For example, the sun’s position in the sky changes. During the summer here in southern Ontario the sun rises directly out my back door facing east. Come November, that same ball of fire is rising about 45 degrees further south or to my right. So, it is now lighting things from a very different angle than it was in June, creating different shapes and textures on objects in the same space. How cool is that!

Another piece of the lighting puzzle I’ve discovered is the light becomes clearer and sharper almost overnight moving from August to September. The muggy air of August creates a softer light because it is filled with particulate scattering the light around. As the air cools in September the air is fresher and cleaner giving us a sharper light. This is in southern Ontario, but I guarantee the same effects will occur at some time in your neck of the woods.

Brave the weather

People in these parts complain when it hits -20 Celsius. That’s the time to grab your camera and head out into the world. We get a lot of gray weather during our winters. Ninety percent of the time when it’s very cold we get crisp, clean, beautiful light with these gorgeous blue skies.

Cold morning - Exploring the Fundamentals of Light to Improve Your Photos

I recognize I’m talking about my home, but I ask you to start observing what effect the seasons and the weather have on the light in your area. Which times excite you visually? When does the color jump out at you? Perhaps you like the softer light?


I encourage you to observe and then explore different light to discover your preferences. If you’re excited, you will start creating stronger images you want to share.

Let’s finish with a challenge to share. It’s hard to put your photographs out there. The thing is, with whatever medium you choose to express yourself, you bring a unique vision to the world.

What is truly fantastic about photography is that seven or 70 of us can photograph the same scene, and we will typically all come up with a different perspective. When we share, we learn. My recommendation? Be yourself and share. Start by posting an image in the comments below and tell us about the light you used to create it.

The post Exploring the Fundamentals of Light to Improve Your Photos by David McCammon appeared first on Digital Photography School.


8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

If you are a photographer, you probably heard that the camera doesn’t take a good picture, the person behind the camera does. It’s true because with right knowledge and practice you can take great photos with an entry level camera or even a mobile camera. But if you don’t have an idea about lighting, composition or the features of your camera, the world’s most advanced camera can’t take good photos for you.

8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger

But when it comes to some special equipment, this phrase sometimes doesn’t apply. One piece of such equipment is called the MIOPS Smart Camera Trigger. This high-speed photography trigger can take photos at a precise moment which just impossible doing your own.

The trigger has various modes like lightning, sound, laser, time-lapse, scenario and DIY that can help you to take some outstanding images which you may have seen only on the internet previously. It can trigger your camera or fire the flashes and you can control everything using your smartphone.

So, let’s see what we can do using this wonderful high-speed trigger.

1. Popping Balloons

8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger

When you burst a water-filled balloon, the water inside the balloon makes a shape similar to the balloon for a few moments before it falls on the ground. It happens so fast that you can’t see it happening live but you can capture it using your camera.

The MIOPS Smart Trigger has a sound mode for this kind of photography. As soon as you pop the balloon, it will trigger your camera or flash. You can change the sensitivity so it doesn’t trigger with other sounds and it also gives you the option to set a delay time for triggering so that it clicks at the exact moment you want.

The sound mode can be used to photograph bursting balloons in different ways. For example, you can place sunglasses or a hat on a water-filled balloon, burst it, and capture the shape of the water wearing a hat and glasses. Or you can burst a balloon with an arrow or a dart, fill the balloons with different colored water, and take different shots and merge the images into one. The possibilities are endless.

2. Lightning

8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger

Lightning is the most beautiful natural phenomena. But it’s extremely difficult to photograph because you have no idea of when and where it will strike and chances of missing the moment are very high.

MIOPS Smart Trigger has a lightning mode for this scenario. All you need to do is set your camera on a tripod, attach this trigger, start lightning mode and leave your camera. When lightning strikes, it will trigger the camera automatically and capture that beautiful moment.

3. Paint Sculptures

8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger

You can create amazing paint sculptures and satisfy for your artistic soul with the help of this sound trigger. Do do this, you need to put a rubber sheet on a speaker, put some watercolors on it and play sound. The sound will generate vibrations on the rubber sheet and because of that paint will jump up and make different shapes.

With the help of sound mode of the MIOPS Smart Trigger, you can focus on creating different sculptures by experimenting with quantity, density, and placement of colors. Thus you leave the tough job of clicking at the perfect moment to the MIOPS.

4. Dancing Colors

8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger

It’s just like paint sculptures, but you can use dry colors instead of watercolors and create totally different results.

5. Water Droplet Refraction

8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger

Imagine capturing our Earth or even the entire universe inside a drop of water. Yes, it is possible.

MIOPS Smart Trigger has a laser mode that can help you to take such pictures in the easiest way. All you need to do is create a setup to release water drops and place a picture in the background that you want to capture inside the drop. When the drop comes in front of the camera and breaks the laser beam, the camera will capture it automatically.

6. Water Galaxy

8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger

When you spin a water-soaked ball, the water comes out from the ball and creates a beautiful galaxy shape which looks amazing.

You can capture this moment by using the laser mode of MIOPS Smart once again. When the ball comes between the trigger and the laser, the camera will shoot automatically.

7. Collision in Mid-air

8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger

Imagine a scenario where two glasses filled with colored water or paint collide in mid-air and create a beautiful splash. MIOPS Smart Trigger’s sound mode helps you to take such pictures, as seen above.

8. Action Sports Photography

8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger

You can capture high-speed action sports like a cyclist in mid-air or someone jumping on a skateboard with the help of the laser mode of this trigger. It’s very useful when you are performing the action yourself and shooting it too. Just set the MIOPS Smart Trigger to laser mode and start doing actions and leave the rest to the MIOPS.


You can also photograph birds or insects using laser mode. Just set the laser near the bird feeder and when a bird will come for feeding, the camera will capture it. Also, you can shoot fireworks with the lightning mode. The possibilities are endless, you just need to use your imagination.

In addition to this, MIOPS Smart also works as intervalometer in time-lapse mode and clicks images on a set interval to convert to time-lapse videos. Using HDR mode you can capture bracketed images and merge them into HDR. You can check the MIOPS Smart User Manual to learn more about the MIOPS Smart Trigger.

Disclaimer: MIOPS is a paid partner of dPS.

The post 8 Amazing Photography Tricks You Can Do With a High-Speed Camera Trigger by Ramakant Sharda appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Avoid These 5 Major Mistakes Made By Travel Photographers

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

Whether you are traveling abroad or within your own country, there are several mistakes that I’ve seen travel photographers make that hinder the process of making memorable photos.

Five Major Mistakes Made By Travel Photographers

Mistake #1: Not being aware of cultural sensitivities and laws

When you travel to another country it’s easy to forget that the people there may see certain things differently than you. For example, in China, you will see signs up in temples asking you not to take photos. So it should be fairly obvious that doing so may cause offense.

Others are not so obvious. Did you know that in Spain the law prohibits photographers from taking photos of people in public without permission unless they are taking part in a cultural event such as a festival? That’s right, Spain is not a great place to be a street photographer (although that doesn’t stop people from doing it).

Unless you know this, you probably think taking candid photos of people in Spain is perfectly okay (as it is in most other places). Once you understand the attitude (and the law) towards photographing people in Spain, you can adjust your behavior to fit in with local expectations and behavior.

If you want to create a street photo of somebody, it’s best to stop them and ask for permission. That way you protect yourself and (added bonus!) keep out of trouble with the police.

Avoid These 5 Major Mistakes Made By Travel Photographers

I made this street portrait in Cadiz, Spain after asking the street vendor if I could take his photo. If I had tried to take a photo without him noticing it would have been illegal, and if he had called the police I would have been on the wrong side of the law.

Some countries have laws forbidding the photography of certain buildings, like airports. Did you know that photographers have been arrested, jailed, and accused of spying in Greece for photographing an airshow at a military base? If you’re going to Greece it’s a good idea to know which buildings are out of bounds for photographers. Make sure you’re aware of any legal restrictions in your country of travel.

Mistake #2: Being disrespectful to local people

When you travel somewhere new, especially somewhere that is exotic to you, it’s easy to treat people as if they were laid out, like colorful extras in a movie scene, for you to take photos of. That is not true, and it’s disrespectful and unkind to act as if it is. Imagine how you would feel if somebody from another country came and tried to take photos as you went about your daily life, without consideration for you and your feelings.

It seems to me that a big part of the problem is when people travel through other countries without interacting with locals in anything other than a commercial context, such as renting a hotel room or eating in a restaurant. Sometimes this is down to language – it’s hard to strike up a conversation in China if you don’t speak Chinese, for example.

But your travels (and life in general) can become a lot more interesting if you are open to non-commercial experiences with local people. Try having conversations with people about their hopes and dreams, what they do for a living, how they like living in their town and similar topics. You’ll gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the places you’re traveling through when you do.

Avoid These 5 Major Mistakes Made By Travel Photographers

A Spanish friend of mine invited me to see a farm owned by a member of her family. I would never have gotten to see the farm or make this photo if we didn’t know each other.

Language study is an excellent way to meet local people. I have many good friends in Spain and South America that I met online through websites aimed to help people learn other languages. I’ve met most of them in person and learned a lot about their culture and countries in the process.

Mistake #3: Not putting safety first

Another mistake I’ve seen photographers make is forgetting to take care of their personal security or failing to take appropriate precautions to guard their gear against theft.

Most photographers travel to most places without any security problems, but there is always the potential for something to go wrong, especially if you don’t put much thought into your personal safety and the security of your camera and computer equipment. Some countries are safe, others can be dangerous, so make sure you do your research beforehand and take any appropriate precautions.

A good travel insurance policy that covers your gear (check the fine print) will help give you peace of mind if the worse does happen.

Mistake #4: Taking too much gear

We’ve all seen the type of photographer that walks around with a large dSLR camera and telephoto lens, perhaps even two, swinging from their side.

At the other extreme are photographers who travel with just one camera and one lens. When I worked at EOS magazine we published an article about a photographer who traveled to India with one camera and a single 50mm lens. He made some beautiful images so the approach worked for him.

Avoid These 5 Major Mistakes Made By Travel Photographers

During a recent trip to China, I calculated afterward that I had used my 35mm lens for 73% of the photos, including the one above. That tells me that I probably could have taken just that lens and still enjoyed a very productive journey.

There’s nothing wrong with taking lots of gear, especially if it works for you. Professionals often take lots of lenses so they know they are covered for just about any situation they may encounter. But there are a couple of things worth considering.

  • The first is that a large camera and lens combo is an obvious target for theft. Smaller cameras attract less attention and don’t look as expensive.
  • The other consideration is creative. If you have too much gear it’s heavy to carry around and you can waste time trying to decide which lens/camera combination to use.

The key is to think in advance about the subject matter you intend to photograph and what gear you’ll need for it. If you are into long exposure photography, for example, then you’re going to need a tripod, cable release and neutral density filters.

If you are photographing people, you need to decide what lens or lenses you are going to use for portraits. If you are photographing local architecture, you will probably need a good wide-angle lens. If you are going to walk around all day taking street photos, a small camera and lens are much less tiring than a large DSLR with a telephoto zoom.

You get the idea. Ultimately, you need to find the right balance between taking enough gear to meet your needs and taking too much. Also, if security is a concern, you may want to consider leaving your more expensive gear at home.

Mistake #5: Not doing enough research

If there’s one mistake that links all the others, it’s this one – not doing enough research. It’s important because it makes you aware of any local laws or cultural sensitivities you need to know (mistake #1).

As part of your research, you may get in touch with local people (mistake #2) who can give you advice or help you gain access to places or events you would never know about otherwise. Some photographers go even further and work with a fixer – somebody who introduces you to other people, translates if necessary, and acts as a bridge between you and the local culture.

Research alerts you to any security considerations (mistake #3). It helps you decide what gear you need to take, and avoid overload caused by taking too much equipment (mistake #4).

In other words, doing your research is a key part of avoiding the mistakes that many travel photographers make.

Avoid These 5 Major Mistakes Made By Travel Photographers

Research also helps you find interesting places to photograph, such as this ancient fishing village in north Devon.


These mistakes are based on my observations of other photographers while traveling. But what mistakes have you seen other photographers make? What mistakes have you made yourself? I’m looking forward to hearing your responses in the comments section below.

The Candid Portrait

If you’d like to learn more about street and travel photography then please check out my popular ebook popular ebook The Creative Portrait.

The post Avoid These 5 Major Mistakes Made By Travel Photographers by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.