Important Things to Consider When Photographing Winter Scenes

The post Important Things to Consider When Photographing Winter Scenes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.


Winter is a great season for photography and a magical time of year to be outdoors. Photographing winter scenes can be an exciting opportunity to capture some unique and wonderful images, particularly when a familiar scene is covered in a blanket of snow and takes on an entirely different perspective. Here are some considerations on how to photograph winter scenes:

1. Make the most of winter’s longer dusks and dawns

In spite of the colder temperatures, one of the joys of winter is that the sun tends to linger longer at dusk and dawn. It also remains lower in the sky throughout the day, providing great light.

If you can brave the elements and venture outside to capture these magical moments during the winter, you are more likely to have a productive shoot and be rewarded for your efforts. One advantage of photographing at dusk and dawn in the winter is that sunrise is much later than in the summer, and sunset is earlier.


Winter landscape, Oxfordshire

2. Find contrast

When photographing winter scenes such as snow, there are usually displays of strong contrast between subjects and colors that can make for striking images. For example, the whiteness of snow stands out really well against the darkness of a tree silhouette and combines beautifully with a colorful sun.

Alternatively, warm winter skies work really well with the cooler tones of snow. Look to find and photograph these types of contrast in your images, and the results will be more visually stunning.


Oxfordshire, England

3. Shoot bright and colorful scenes

Make the most of the winter light and shoot brightly-lit scenes. The bright white snow adds a certain beauty to a winter scene and can make a dull subject more interesting. A great time to shoot colorful winter scenes is when the sun is shining.

Image: Yosemite, USA

Yosemite, USA

Seek out colorful vistas that may include an animal, a tree, people, a house, a building, or even a snowman. Capture their warm colors in the glowing light. You may find you will need to overexpose a touch if your pictures are coming out slightly dark to make your images slightly lighter.



4. Bring plenty of batteries

Batteries tend to lose power and run out faster in colder weather, especially when photographing winter scenes.

Be sure to fully charge them before you set off to maximize your shooting time and keep spares in a warm place, such as an inner pocket.

5. Keep warm

One of the most important challenges with photographing winter scenes is keeping warm. It is amazing how quickly your body temperature can fall when standing still photographing in the cold.

Wear layers to keep the heat in (thermal and wool base layers work really well). Wrap up warm with gloves and a hat and consider hand (heat) warmers. These are great for heating your hands after they have exposed them to the elements, especially if you have to remove your gloves to navigate the camera buttons when taking photos.

There are winter gloves designed specifically for photographers. The thumb and forefinger flip back so you can keep your hands warm while photographing. Consider investing in a pair if you will be in snow and cold a lot.

Also, bring snacks and water to stay energized and hydrated.

6. How to photograph snow:

Snow brightens the landscape and makes everything outdoors look amazing. However, photographing snow does come with its challenges. Here are some useful tips worth considering when photographing snow:

  • Setting White Balance to “Cloudy White Balance” or setting your Kelvins to the warmer spectrum will help to make up for the bluish-tinge snow gets. This is particularly evident on overcast or cloudy days when you may get a blue cast to the snow in your images.


  • Overexpose when shooting snow so that the snow is white rather than “grey”.

Snow can trick your camera meter into underexposing when using your camera’s automatic metering system.

In order to achieve the correct exposure, you will need to compensate for this by adding positive exposure compensation (overexposure) of 1 to 2 stops. The raised exposure value (EV) will help the snow to appear whiter rather than a dull grey. Then your images will be more accurate and a better representation of the snow-covered scene that you see as a result of this.

This applies whether you are capturing falling snow or after it has settled on the ground.

Also, consider using a polarizer filter – this can cut glare and reflections off the snow when it is sunny. It can also help you to see through streams of water better because it cuts through the reflections on top of the water.

Image: Yellowstone, USA

Yellowstone, USA


Winter can be a brilliant season for photography, whether you are capturing photos close to home or at more distant exotic locations. Don’t be deterred by the challenges faced when photographing winter scenes. Get out there and have some fun with your camera this winter, and use these tips to capture some great photos you can be proud of.

Share your winter images with us below and any further tips you may have.



The post Important Things to Consider When Photographing Winter Scenes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers Explained and How to Use Them (Part 2)

The post Photoshop Adjustment Layers Explained and How to Use Them (Part 2) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.


Part 1 of How to Use Photoshop Adjustment Layers introduced you to the first eight of the adjustment layer type editing tools, which allow you to work non-destructively. Here, we continue to look at some of the other tools available as Adjustment Layers.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers Explained and How to Use Them (Part 2)

1. Photo Filter

Did you know that there are colored filters that you place in front of your camera lens that alter the color temperature and balance of your final image? Well, the Photo Filter adjustment layer adds a color filter to your image similar to this.

There are many preset photo filters in Photoshop, but the most common are those that make your image warm or cool. You can further tweak each preset to your liking. For instance, you can change the density of the effect easily using the Density slider. There is also the Preserve Luminosity box to check so that the applied filter does not darken your image.

You can also choose an exact color that you would like to overlay as a filter by clicking on “color” and chosing from the color menu or by using the eyedropper tool to chose a color from your image.

Image: Warm (oranges) and Cool (Blues) Photo filters applied to the image above

Warm (oranges) and Cool (Blues) Photo filters applied to the image above

2. Channel Mixer

The Channel Mixer Photoshop Adjustment Layer is another great tool to create stunning black and white and tinted images.

The principle is similar to that used by the Black and White Adjustment Layer. In each of these, you can adjust the displayed grayscale image by changing the tonal values of the color elements of the image.

There are three channels in the RGB view: red, green and blue. Note: The source channel is the one that defaults to 100%. The Channel Mixer, therefore, allows you to combine and mix the best of each channel. It does this by adding (or subtracting) grayscale data from your source channel to another channel.

Also, of note, adding more color to a channel gives you a negative value and vice versa. Hence, at the end of your edit, it is advisable that all your numbers total 100%.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers Explained and How to Use Them (Part 2)

The Channel Mixer also allows you to exaggerate color and make creative color adjustments to your image.

3. Color Lookup

The Color Lookup adjustment layer uses presets to instantly color grade or change the “look” of your image. The presets are called LUTs or lookup tables. Each lookup table contains specific instructions for Photoshop to remap the colors in your image to a different set of colors to create the selected look.

Image: Applying the Late Sunset LUT creates a dramatic finish

Applying the Late Sunset LUT creates a dramatic finish

When you choose the Color Lookup Adjustment Layer, three options are available to you: 3DLUT File, Abstract and Device Link.

Most of the presets reside under the 3DLUT File option. Of note, 3D (in 3DLUT) refers to Photoshop’s RGB color channels (and not three-dimension).

Image: Late Sunset LUT applied at 60% opacity for a more realistic finish

Late Sunset LUT applied at 60% opacity for a more realistic finish

Furthermore, LUTS are available for download from various websites or you can create your own LUT.

4. Invert

The Invert Photoshop Adjustment Layer is self-explanatory. It inverts the colors and is an easy way to make a negative of your image for an interesting effect.

Image: The first image with colors inverted gives a surreal otherworldly effect

The first image with colors inverted gives a surreal otherworldly effect

5. Posterize

Looking for a flat, poster-like finish? The Posterize Adjustment Layer gives you that by reducing the number of brightness values available in your image.

You can make an image have as much or as little detail as you like by selecting the number in the levels slider. The higher the number, the more detail your image has. The lower the number, the less detail your image has.

This can come in handy when you want to screenprint your image. You can limit the tones of black and white. This is also true of the Threshold Adjustment Layer.

Image: Posterize Adjustment Layer

Posterize Adjustment Layer

6. Threshold

When you select Threshold from your Photoshop Adjustment Layers list, your image changes to black and white. By changing the Threshold Level value, you control the number of pixels that are black or white.

Image: Threshold Adjustment Layer

Threshold Adjustment Layer

7. Gradient Map

The Gradient Map lets you map different colors to different tones in your image. The gradient fill, therefore, sets the colors representing both the shadow tones on one end and highlight tones on the other end of the gradient.

Likewise, checking the “Reverse” box swaps around the colors of your gradient. This means that the shadow colors are moved to the highlights end and vice versa.

A good rule of thumb is to keep your shadows dark and your highlights brighter for ease of reference.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers Explained and How to Use Them (Part 2)

Your gradient map also makes available many presets that are adjustable via the gradient editor window. Additionally, you can also define/create your own gradients by changing the slider colors.

8. Selective Color

Use the Selective Color Adjustment Layer to modify specific amounts of a primary color without modifying other primary colors in your image. Check the Absolute box if you want to adjust the color in absolute values.

Example: If you have a pixel that is 50% yellow and you add 10%, you are now at a 60% total. The Relative box is a little more complicated as it would adjust the yellow pixel only by the percentage it contributes to the total. Using the same example, if you add 10% to the yellow slider (with relative checked), it actually adds 50% of the 10%, which brings your total to 55%. Relative, therefore, gives you a more subtle effect.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers Explained and How to Use Them (Part 2)

However, when it comes to this editing tool, the potential is far beyond this simplistic edit technique. You can use it to correct skin tones and for general toning.

While selective color adjustments are similar to hue/saturation adjustments, there are subtle differences. Selective Color allows you to subtract/add color values, whereas Hue/Saturation does not.

The Hue/Saturation adjustment allows you to work with a range of hues that are included with the six color ranges in Selective Color, so there is more control there if you need it.


These basic examples of how to use the Photoshop Adjustment Layers tools merely scratch the surface of their capabilities. Certainly, you will appreciate editing non-destructively, whether you are just starting out or advanced with adjustment layers.

Some of the adjustment layers seem similar, but each has its differences and its pros and cons. Either way, there are many possibilities of playing around with your image, while preserving the original.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Part 1 in this series.

Do you use Photoshop Adjustment Layers? If so, which ones do you use and why? Share with us in the comments.

The post Photoshop Adjustment Layers Explained and How to Use Them (Part 2) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

Tips for Posing Models (videos)

The post Tips for Posing Models (videos) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

If you are interested in portrait photography, one of the hard parts (after learning your lighting and camera skills) is knowing how to pose your models. Particularly, if they aren’t professional models.

When you are taking portraits of men and women, their poses can be quite different because their bodies have different shapes and bend in slightly different ways. A pose that looks great for a guy, may look totally wrong for a girl and vice-versa.

So, to help you on your way to achieving better portraits by getting better poses from your models, I have compiled some videos for you to take a look at.

If, however, you don’t like to watch videos, you can grab yourself the dPS e-books, Portraits: Striking The Pose or 67 Portrait Poses (Printable).

Alternatively, see the list of articles you can read on posing models down below the videos.

Tips for posing men in portrait photography

This video is by photographer, Anita Sadowska.

This video is by photographer, Julia Trotti.

This video is from the perspective of a model agency, DLM Model Lifestyle, giving posing tips.

Tips for posing women in portrait photography

This video is by CreativeLive, featuring photographer, Lindsay Adler. These tips are for photographing people in a seated position.

This video by AtchatChannel Ubonratchathani, gives 60 model poses in 1 minute.

You may also like:


The post Tips for Posing Models (videos) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Lamps

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Lamps appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

This week’s photography challenge topic is LAMPS!

Lamps can be beautifully designed, and they can add lovely ambient light to your photos.

Whatever form they take, we’d love you to go out and capture their many looks and feels in this week’s challenge!

They can be color, or black and white. They can be a small part of a wider composition or you can focus in on their fine details. They can add light to a portrait, or a still life scene, or an interior architectural scene, or they can be street lamps in a landscape – the decision is yours!

So, check out these inspiring pics, have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Check out some of the articles below that give you tips on this week’s challenge.

Tips for Shooting LAMPS

3 Tips for Photographing Mixed Lighting in Interiors

Stealing Light – Using Street Lights for Portraits

4 Tips to Help People Photographers Shoot Interior Spaces

3 Easy Tips for Photographing Details in a Scene

Shooting Details to Tell a Visual Story

Architecture: Photographing Exterior Details

Tips for Getting Started with Still Life Photography

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.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

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

If you tag your photos on Flickr, Instagram, Twitter or other sites – tag them as #DPSlamps to help others find them. Linking back to this page might also help others know what you’re doing so that they can share in the fun.

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Lamps appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

How to Achieve Awesome Black and White Photos with Digital Filters

The post How to Achieve Awesome Black and White Photos with Digital Filters appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.


When we think about black and white photographs, we generally associate them with an absence of color.

This is certainly not the case.

Like all photographs, black and white images are made from light, and light consists of innumerable wavelengths that produce the colors we see with our eyes. With black and white photography, we might not see the saturation of colors the same way, but the luminance values of these colors remain the same whether we view them in color or black and white.

This is why it’s so important to shoot digital black and white photos in RAW mode so that we can later manipulate these intact luminance values to control the contrasts within our digitally-converted black and white photos.


All of this is based on the use of physical “color” lens filters, which filter out different wavelengths of light to produce varying contrast effects in black and white photography.

A red filter produces dark, dramatic skies in landscape photos while orange filters can radically reduce the appearance of freckles and other skin blemishes in your portraits.

Of course, this means carrying a set of filters with you constantly and also compensating for the slight reduction in light with adjustments to your exposures.


But what if I told you that your DSLR or MDC (mirrorless digital camera) most likely has all of the color filters you will need for outstanding black and white work right at your fingertips?

I know, I was initially just as surprised as you are. Read on.

Black and white digital filters

Real black and white color filters work to filter out other wavelengths of light that don’t fall into the color spectrum of the filter. This means red filters allow red wavelengths to pass, blue allows blue, etc.

The cool thing is, many major camera manufacturers have seen fit to include digital amalgamations of these color filters. They could very well be slightly buried in your camera’s settings, but Canon, Nikon, Olympus, and Panasonic all offer models which sport built-in black and white color filters.

As always, your camera user manual is your best friend. However, you may often find these filter options (if you have them) in the monochrome settings of your digital camera. In our example, I’ll be using a Canon 5D MKIII.


I’m about to say something not usually encountered when it comes to digital photography these days – when using these digital black and white filters, it can be best to shoot JPEG…not RAW.

Sure, you’re going to lose some post-processing leverage, but seeing that you can see the effects of your filter choices and you likely intend to end up with a black and white photo anyway, there’s not much reason to save the color information with a RAW file.

The wonderful thing about digital black and white filters is that you can enjoy real-time feedback of the filter effects.

Which filter to use?

We’ve touched on a few of the circumstances where color black and white filters are best suited. In most cases, your digital camera will have a set of digital color filters from which to choose: red, yellow, orange, green and blue. These options, however, will vary. For instance, my 5D MKIII has no blue filter option.

Have a look at some examples and each of these below. I’ve used the same scene to show the varying effects of each filter. I’ve also listed a few quick scenarios that may help you choose a particular filter setting.

Here’s the original color photo for reference:

Image: Color image with no in-camera black and white filters applied.

Color image with no in-camera black and white filters applied.

Red Filter

This filter is a great way to pump in instant drama to most black and white landscape photos.


Notice the immediate darkening of the blue sky with the red filter

The red filter drastically reduces the transmission of blue wavelengths, thus darkening blue skies and making clouds pop. Some scenes can take on an almost infrared appearance.

Orange Filter

Taking it down a notch from the heavily-apparent effects of the red filter, the orange filter produce similar, yet subdued, contrasts to its red cousin.

How to Achieve Awesome Black and White Photos with Digital Filters

Orange color filters are great “general purpose filters” for adding in contrast to your black and white photos. They darken blue skies and help to bring out the appearance of clouds.

For portraits, they work great for reducing skin blemishes like moles and freckles.

Orange filters are also great for reducing atmospheric haze and fog.

Yellow Filter

A yellow color filter produces effects even less “in your face” than the orange filter. A yellow filter is a good option for bringing out the contrasts of foliage and can also be a good choice for a general black and white photography filter when the orange filter is a bit too harsh.

How to Achieve Awesome Black and White Photos with Digital Filters

The next two filters are less useful for most shooters but still bear mentioning. Well, not less useful, but perhaps not found as commonly in black and white photography as the other color filters I’ve mentioned.

Green Filter

Of course, this filter allows the transmission of green light. This makes it a good choice for flower and foliage photography as it helps to add contrast between the often green-colored stems and leaves of the plants. All while providing separation from the different-colored flowers and blossoms.

How to Achieve Awesome Black and White Photos with Digital Filters

Green filters can also brighten blue skies but not as much as the last filter we’re about to discuss.

Final thoughts on in-camera digital filters…

Digital photography has made many things easier and more accessible for photographers. Even more fortunate, many of the same tried-and-true technical and optical principles still apply to our digital cameras. Built-in digital black and white color filters are just one of the many benefits of our brave new digital age.


Many popular camera manufacturers have included digital black and white color filters with their digital camera offerings, so check your particular model.

Black and white color filters allow you to add instant strength and contrast to your black and white photos.

Depending on your particular scene or subject, you can produce amazingly powerful black and whites before you ever download them from your camera. Color black and white filters have long been a standby of serious photographers, and it’s great to see them still holding their own, albeit in a more modern, digital incarnation.

So go out and try these black and white digital filters, and share your photos with us in the comments section!

The post How to Achieve Awesome Black and White Photos with Digital Filters appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime!

The post 7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime! appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.


When it comes to photographing children at portrait sessions, most often it’s not the gear that gets them to enjoy the session or has them laughing. In this article, we are going to share the best tools for photographing children that are not gear related and useful for every portrait session with children.

7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime!

1. The squeaky chicken (rr any noisy toy)

When it comes to tools for photographing children, there is nothing more fun than a toy that makes noise. A weird, interesting, noisy, and curious squeaking chicken is all of those things and more. They come in various sizes and offer lots of ideas for getting the attention of smaller children and laughs from older children.


This is the chicken that I have. When squeezed, it makes a sound that is able to capture anyone’s attention. As you can see it gets used quite a bit.

Use the toy as a way to get the child’s attention toward the camera. A great tip is to bang your head with it and pretend that it hurt in a fun and interesting way. Children love unexpected reactions, and you’ll definitely get big smiles using the chicken.

You can also play hide and seek with the chicken popping it from behind you in a different direction each time. The child won’t know where it’ll pop up from next! A huge hit!


These laughs are brought to you by the chicken hitting me on the head. Camera is on a tripod to avoid shaking.

When the children are a bit older, you can plop the chicken, or any other noisy toy, on your camera and ask “Hey, where did my chicken go? Have you seen it?” This can get a great reaction out of the child and also keep their attention as a fun way to look at the camera long enough to shoot off a few frames.

2. Bribes

This one is a staple for all children at portrait sessions, but first, make sure you consult with the parents before the session to know if bribery is okay.

7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime!

Ask your clients if you should bring candy or if they can bring a favorite treat for the child when its time for the session. Only use in emergencies since children can lose interest if they have to continuously work for it.

A small lollipop or chewable candy works wonders when you need them to smile. You can bribe them with a taste or piece. Make sure to work quickly, though, because they’ll want that bribe instantly!


Here we used two different games with the parents. The swing game while they walked and the tickling game. Smiles all around!

3. Play games

Games are probably not going to get you many of those photos where the children are looking at the camera, however, they will bring about some smiles and great photos of the family interacting. Luckily, you don’t need much for this other than some interesting games for all ages!

One that works great with children is to pick them up, especially for the younger age group. Have mommy and daddy tickle them too.

7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime!

Another one is to ask the family to look at each other and make some silly faces! Children love to make silly faces. You can ask them to do one with silly faces and then one where they smile big at the camera!

Chase is a great game, just make sure you focus fast and can capture the motion! Children are pretty quick and mommy and daddy will also get a kick out of chasing their little one around while getting big laughs!

Peek-A-Boo is a great game to play with smaller children under the age of 3! They know it so well from playing with their parents that when you do, it will seem familiar. They might even want to play along! Play peek-a-boo from behind your camera or use a toy to hide and pop out. Both work really well to grab the attention of the child.

7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime!

A game that gets the biggest laughs is also when you get close and tickle them and then back away quickly. Only, the next time you go in to tickle you don’t actually tickle. It’s good to say “I’m gonna get you” as you play this game so they anticipate the game!

This trick works best when you have an assistant so that you don’t miss any shots. If you have to do this yourself, try and put your camera on a tripod with a wireless shutter release so you get the smiles even if you’re not at your camera. That works wonders! If the parents don’t want contact, have one of them play the game with their child and it can also work to get lots of laughs!

7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime!

Also, children are great at making up games. So when they start to play, have everyone play along and then ask them to smile or look your way! Sometimes you’ll get the child looking at you and other times you will get great interaction among the family members. Both make great additions to the final gallery of images!


Children are great at playing games, let them have fun and they’ll look at the camera soon enough.

4. Children’s playlist

When it comes to tools for photographing children, consider music. Children love music. So it would be a good idea to have a playlist on your phone of all the classic favorites like Wheels on the Bus, The Ants Go Marching In, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and others.

Also, ask your clients what the child likes to listen to as far as music goes and create a specific playlist for that session.

7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime!

A good plus would be to have a small external speaker so you can have it on location. That way, you don’t really have to move or hold onto your phone for the songs to hear the songs. External speakers also sound a lot louder than just your phone, which can grab the attention of the child.

5. Mommy and Daddy

One of the best tools for photographing children is Mom and Dad! Using mom and dad as a way to get the attention of the child can help because the children can recognize their voice and identify them quickly, even when they are very young!

Have the parent stand behind you or at least very close to the camera. That way, when the child looks at them, it’ll seem like they were looking at the camera.

7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime!

It’s also fun to play games while the parent is close to you and have them bonk your head or act like daddy farted. That one works best when the children are around 4 years old and usually gets a laugh out of them.

Getting the parents involved in the fun makes the child feel more comfortable around you, who is new to them or maybe not so familiar. Have the parents toss the child up into the air or just raise them up high and smile.

7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime!

They can also go exploring, dig in the sand, and walk hand-in-hand with the parents if they’re willing to participate! It will get a lot more laughs and more authentic expressions from the child.

This tool works great, especially when the child isn’t cooperating, or it’s difficult to get their attention. The parents know their child best and can help get those smiles, and they’ll be glad to help!

6. Using the Uh-Oh method

When a child is small, typically around 3 years and under, the sound of “uh-oh” can get their attention much more than a solid “no”.


Using “uh-oh” can be a great way to get a child’s attention and stop them from doing something that is not allowing them to look at the camera or follow instructions. Of course, they’re young, and sometimes won’t follow instructions at all, so using “uh-oh” can divert them much better.

7. Props

Props work for various reasons as they can help with the session set up and overall look. However, when it comes to children, props help keep children engaged and, most often, in one spot.


Speak with your clients and see what props will work best for the age of their child(ren). For little ones perhaps cars, blocks, and plush toys work. For a bit older children, perhaps a kite, picnic set up, or game works best.

Look for items that add to the session rather than take attention away from your clients. Choose toys or props that are neutral in color or go with the color scheme.


In conclusion

7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime!

While your gear is important during portrait sessions, especially with children, adding in games, toys, and noisemakers to your set of skills and gear can really change the way they experience the session. Your clients will thank you for providing a fun experience for everyone, all while capturing great images of their children!

Do you have any other tools for photographing children that are not gear related? Share with us in the comments!

The post 7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime! appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

What is Shape and Form in Photography?

The post What is Shape and Form in Photography? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.


The words shape and form in photography are sometimes used interchangeably. However, the terms are actually two distinct visual characteristics. In this article, we’ll take a look at the difference between shape and form and their application in photography.


What is a shape?


In basic terms, shape describes a flat, enclosed area of space. Shapes can be constructed with colors and lines, but all shapes are limited to two dimensions – width and length.

Curves and other irregular, flowy shapes are known as organic shapes, while angular shapes like squares and triangles are geometric shapes.

Early rock art is an early example of the use of shape in visual culture. During the Renaissance (and for many years thereafter), form was the predominant characteristic of two-dimensional art. However, with the advent of modern art, artists returned to the use of shape within abstracted and minimalist artistic movements.

Artists like Piet Mondrian, Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky and Agnes Martin all applied the language of shape to convey a visual experience.

What is form?


Forms in visual art differ from shapes because they are perceived as three dimensional – they operate on width, length and depth. Forms can be either geometric or free-form, with no specific delineation or visual boundary. In two-dimensional formats like painting and photography, three-dimensional forms are generated with aspects like line, movement and value (darkness and lightness).

Artists from Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo to Mark Rothko and Georgia O’Keeffe are well known for their execution of form.

Shape in photography


From Anna Atkin’s cyanotype impressions to Grant Mudford’s flattened architectural depictions, shape has had a strong presence in photography since it’s inception.

Lewis W. Hine’s Steamfitter, an iconic depiction of the 1870s industrial labor, makes use of strong, flat shapes to emphasize the form of the subject.

And Harry Gruyaert and Ed Peters both incorporate bold shapes into their street photography.

Form in photography


Form has also had a consistent presence in photographic history.

Carleton E. Watkin’s Sugar Loaf Islands is an example of texture elevating form.

And Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Abandoned Theater series studies the power of light in sculpting form and time.

Philippe Halsman’s famous Dali Atomicus combines shapes and forms to create a dynamic and surreal portrait of Salvadore Dali.

And Robert Frank’s Parade, Hoboken, New Jersey appeals to our sense of both shape and form in photography to create an intriguing street perspective.

How to use shape and form in photography

There are endless photographic opportunities for both shape and form. Focusing on aspects like light, perspective, depth of field and color/black and white will help coax out shape and form in your photography.

Focus on light


Depending on the angle of a light source, light can either elevate or flatten a subject. If you want an image made up of dramatic forms, aim for angled lighting to encourage shadows.

Silhouettes, on the other hand, render subjects as dark two-dimensional shapes. To create a silhouette, photograph a subject positioned against a light background with little or no front-lighting.

Get some perspective


Sometimes form can be stimulated with a change in perspective. Photographing front-on to a subject can flatten forms into shapes. Approaching your subject from an angle reveals shadows that cultivate form.

Dive into depth of field


Depth of field affects the way shapes and forms are read.

A shallow depth of field separates the subject from the background (and sometimes foreground) of an image, conveying a more dimensional picture.

The borderless nature of blurred forms also create a sense of activity within a photograph, contributing further to the perception of form.

Experiment with color/black and white


To place greater emphasis on form, many photographers choose black and white over color. Often you’ll find that depth can be emphasized to a greater extent with the tonal sensitivity of a black and white scheme.

On the other hand, solid colors emphasize the ‘flatness’ of shape. Using blocks of bold color is a way to enhance the immediacy of two-dimensional structures.


What is Shape and Form in Photography?

Form is often visualized with fluid borders. This effect can be created through intentional camera movement (or ICM). ICM involves moving the camera during a long exposure (usually 1/125th or less). The results are abstracted forms that are unique, engaging and fun to make!


While shape and form in photography play different roles, each cultivates a distinct level of impact and engagement.

Through the use of light, perspective, depth of field, color/black and white and movement, we can use shape and form to enhance the construction of an image.

The post What is Shape and Form in Photography? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

The post 2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

We know how difficult it can be to find the perfect gift for anyone at Christmas, let alone a photographer! So, we have done the research and hard work for you, and put together this gift guide for photographers. It has a range of gifts to suit all budgets and all photographers!

We've included some pros and cons of each, along with some info on the products, and where applicable, a link to dPS reviews so you can get further insight.

So, take a look, and happy shopping!

2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

Fujifilm X-T3 Mirrorless Camera

A great camera for street photography and portraits

  • Cool retro design and great jpegs straight out-of-camera
  • Fujifilm’s famous film simulations, including the newest Eterna
  • Wireless and Bluetooth connection
  • Timelapse recording
  • Not full-frame, so may not suit printing really large images.
  • The old-school aperture, ISO and shutter speed dials may be hard to get used to.
2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

This popular mirrorless camera in the Fujifilm X-Series line of cameras is perfect for those photographers who like to shoot great photos straight-out-of-camera, as well as shoot video.

The Fujifilm X-T3 is the newest Fuji camera to date, using a brand new sensor and processor and longer battery life than it's predecessor, the X-T2. It also has a tilting screen and 20fps continuous shooting.

Fujifilm also added a slew of video features such as 4K60p, a higher bit rate (400mbps), and a headphone port. All in all, the X-T3 is made to entice today's hybrid photo and video shooters.

For more information on this great camera, read Suzi Pratt's review here.

dPS Rating


MIOPS Capsule 360

World’s most versatile and compact motion box ever created!

  • Single box, multiple functions. Motion Time-lapse Modes, Video, 360° Product Photography, Panorama and more.
  • Smartphone controllable for easy operation
  • One touch face tracking for taking self videos
  • Award-winning design
  • Gives you a freedom for creating pan and tilt moves easily
  • Centered load capacity up to 15lb (7kg) in pan mode & up to 4,5lb (2kg) load in tilt mode
  • Needs multiple products for multi-axis movement at the same time
2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

MIOPS Capsule 360 is a miracle motion box that combines multiple operating modes in a single unit. Your imagination and Capsule 360 together can do anything. There are no limits what you can do with this amazing product.

• Thanks to the unique design of Capsule 360 taking Motion Time-Lapse has never been
so easy.
• You can enjoy 360° Product Photography by using Capsule 360’s special features.
• Capsule360 has the ability to take 360-degree Panorama just in a few minutes
• With One Touch Tracking feature Capsule 360 can track your face or an object with
a single touch on your smartphone
• Capsule 360 offers Cable-Free Automatic Setup and saves you from the cable clutter

You can get high-tech MIOPS products and new features from


Pixelstick Lightpainting LED Tool

Great for light painting tips and tricks

  • Programable to create any light pattern you want
  • Can import BMP files onto an SD card, which can then be slotted into the pixelstick’s operating system
  • Endless creative opportunities
  • It's long length is not ideal for traveling
  • Only works well at night or in dark areas
2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

The Pixelstick can change the way you do photography if you let it! Perfect for the photographer who wants to experiment with creative ideas. Great for long exposure photography and for light painting

The Pixelstick can be used to frame a model, and/or create leading lines towards the subject making it a powerful tool for portrait photographers.

The customization available with the Pixelstick makes it a fantastic choice for product photography. One of the main niche genres is car photography, where the ribbon lines or checkered flag designs can be used.

Read this full review by Simon Bond.

dPS Rating



Great for alternative creative photography

  • Offers a unique creative perspective
  • Allows the photographer to take refraction photos
  • Endless creative opportunities
  • They can be heavy to carry
  • You need a macro lens to shoot these
2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

Lens ball photography, or also known as crystal ball photography or refraction photography, is a fun and creative way for any photographer to take photos.

Use a lens ball in your landscape photography for a unique perspective on a scene.

See a lens ball in action in this article by Simon Bond.

dPS Rating

2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

Tamron 100-400mm Di VC USD

A great camera for street photography and portraits

  • Lightest weight, 39.3 oz lens in the ultra-telephoto zoom lens class
  • On crop-sensor camera, get super telephoto reach to approx. 620mm
  • High-speed Dual MPU control system delivers quick AF and 4-stops image stabilization
  • Superb image quality in an ultra-telephoto zoom lens
  • Moisture -resistant construction and front-element fluorine coating
  • On full-frame camera may not have the reach for small distant birds
2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

Experience heavyweight performance in a compact lens with the Tamron 100-400mm Di VC USD, the ultra-tele that boasts the lightest weight in its class. Dual MPU system provides precision AF for shooting instantaneous movement with the utmost clarity and 4-stop image stabilization. Both combine to provide vivid images with amazing clarity. Close-focusing, moisture resistant construction and fluorine coating round out this impressive telephoto zoom.

Optional accessories include Tap-in Console, 1.4X and 2X, and Arca-Swiss compatible tripod mount. For Canon and Nikon mount for DSLR cameras and mirrorless cameras with the manufacturer’s adapter. $699 after $100 Holiday Instant Savings thru 1/5/20.


Lensbaby OMNI Creative Filter System

Large, for 62-82mm Filter Thread

  • Produces flare and creative reflections including ethereal light streaks
  • Easily attaches to any lens in the 62-82mm filter range
  • Easy to use, ready right out of the box
  • Great for interesting portraits and band photos
  • There is also an expansion pack available for more effects
  • You need to disassemble and reassemble for most camera cases and packing situations
2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

The Lensbaby OMNI Creative Filter System is a fantastic set of wands that attach to the front of your lens. When the light shines through the various-shaped wands, it refracts the light to create light streaks, rainbows and colors onto the lens wherever the wands have been positioned.

The great thing about this set is that it attaches to your lens via a its filter system, and each wand is moveable, and can be swapped around.

There are also extra wand that can be added to this via the expansion pack.

See these in action in this review by Anabel DFlux.

dPS Rating


Annie Leibovitz: At Work

A book for any budding portrait photographer

  • Fantastic photographs to be inspired by
  • Includes details of gear Liebovitz uses
  • Discusses portrait techniques
  • An opportunity to be inspired by one of the great portrait photographers
  • Being a hardcover book, it can be heavy
2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

Annie Leibovitz is one of the classic portrait photographers of our time. 

This in-depth book includes many of her famous celebrity photo shoots of just about everyone from the Queen of England to Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Rolling Stones.

She also discusses many of the photos themselves and explains what gear she uses to achieve her work.

An inspiring book for photographers of all genres and levels.

Read a review on the book here.

dPS Rating


Neewer Flash Accessory Kit

with Barndoor, Conical Snoot, Mini Reflector, Sphere Diffuser, Beaty Disc, 8x12inches Softbox, Honeycomb, Color Filters, Universal Mount Adpater

  • A great set to give your flash photography more diversity
  • Perfect for portrait photography outside a studio because of its portability.
  • Allows the photographer to have more control over lighting their subject.
  • May not get much use if you don't do much flash photography
2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

This great Universal Strobist set has many accessories so any photographer can experiment with light!

It comes with a universal adapter that you can use with any camera flash that has a max width of 85mm and height of 34-58mm.

The set comes with seven strobist accessories including a softbox, diffuse sphere and mini reflector, honeycomb, conical snoot and barndoors.

The Softbox, Diffuse sphere and Mini Reflector offer a more diffuse light, while the Honeycomb, Conical Snoot and Barndoors make you able to aim the light more directly.


Lens Cleaning Kit

Something every photographer shouldn't be without!

  • Removes dirt, dust and fingerprints from lenses
  • Ensures clearer pictures 
  • Easily fits into any photographer's camera bag
2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

A lens cleaning kit is a must for every photographer.

It is impossible to keep lenses and sensors completely clean all of the time. Dust and dirt can easily make their way onto the front of the lens and sometimes onto the sensor when changing lenses (especially when out in the elements).

Includes things like a lens brush for sweeping away dust from a camera or lens; air blower for removing dirt from a camera body, lens, mirror, or DSLR sensor and 50 sheets of lens-cleaning tissue paper—safe for all multicoated lenses (no scratches or residue).

So, a lens cleaning kit like this can be a photographer's savior when out on a shoot!


KUVRD Universal Lens Cap

Fits most camera lenses!

  • Protects your camera lenses
  • Covers more of your lens than a conventional lens cap 
  • Easy to use and weatherproof
  • May make it more difficult to immediately see what lens you are using
2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

The KUVRD Original Universal Lens Cap prevents water, mud, and the finest dust and sand from entering your lens.

The cap stretches from 60mm to 120mm and can be used as both a front and rear lens cap, for extra lens protection.

The caps are also shock absorbent, meaning bumps to your lens are less of an issue!

They also compress down to fit in your pocket, or wallet when you are using the lens.


Sony Alpha A6400 Mirrorless Camera

APS-C sensor with 16-50mm lens

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Great for travel photography 
  • The rear flip screen makes it great for street photography
  • A wide range of E-mount lenses available
  • The flip screen stands directly in the way of the hot-shoe mount
  • Offers only 2-axis stabilization if you use a stabilized lens
2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

This Sony Alpha a6400 mirrorless camera, is a great compact system perfect for travel photography and street photography.

It is a 24.2mp APS-C camera with AI assisted autofocus.

It allows for high dynamic range capture, plus interval recording for time-lapse video.

It also has rear LCD screen that can flip up 180-degrees. This is ideal for vloggers or those who want to monitor footage while in front of the camera. However, when in this position, it does cover the hotshoe area, making it difficult to attach a light or microphone.

Access to Sony E-mount range of lenses.

dPS Rating


Thinktank Vision 15 Camera Bag

A stylish and function camera bag for on the go.

  • Fits a DSLR mounted on a long lens
  • Great organization for extras with expandable bottle holder
  • It can handle a portable office
  • Can't easily attach a full-size tripod
  • Can't fit a drone inside
2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

ThinkTank’s Vision 15 camera bag is one in a line of stylish camera and computer shoulder bags built for photographers who want a functional bag that looks good walking down the street. It’s designed for someone who wants easy access to their gear and isn’t looking for a backpack.

Inside the spacious main compartment is space enough for a few lenses and speedlights. 

While the generous top flap of the bag keeps the elements at bay, a secondary zippered flap will help keep prying hands away.

It has a generously-padded strap and easily fits under the seat of a plane for those photography travel trips.

Read Peter West Carey's full review here.

dPS Rating


Capture One Pro 12

Imaging editing software, Single-User 3 Seats

  • Superior tethering capabilities
  • Ability to edit using layers 
  • Fantastic color management capabilities
  • May be a steep learning curve if switching from another image-editing program
  • Fewer third-party presets and plugins available
2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

Capture One Pro is Phase One's photo editing software. Designed for professional photographers, it offers top quality color management, file management and editing capabilities (including multi-layer editing).

For the professional photographer who needs superior tethering capabilities, Capture One Pro is the best in its class.

For more information on the true capabilities of this fantastic software, see this article Capture One Pro - Should You Make the Switch by Darina Kopcok.

dPS Rating


Joby GorillaPod 5K Flexible Mini-Tripod with Ball Head

Grip it. Wrap it. Stand it.
Handy travel-size, flexible tripod

  • The wrappable legs allow you to secure professional camera equipment to virtually any surface
  • The ball head allows you to control the angle of your camera
  • Super strong: Holds devices weighing up to 5 kg (11 lbs)
  • Rubberized ring and foot grips stabile in difficult terrain
  • Precision-engineered ball head with Arca-Swiss® compatible quick release plate
  • May not be suitable where there is nowhere to grip it to
  • Fewer third-party presets and plugins available
2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

This flexible mini-tripod with ball head is an ideal photographer's companion.

Perfect for traveler's who need a tripod but don't want to use too much space in their camera bag or pack.

The Gorillapod's flexible legs allow you to wrap it around objects such as a tree branch, so that you can give your camera stability, when taking photos or video.

See a video review of the Joby Gorillapod 5k tripod here.


Sekonic L-308X-U Flashmate Light Meter

Great for portrait photographers

  • Allows you to quickly get your exposure light readings correct
  • Perfect for use with flash photography
  • It's great when using multiple light sources
  • Perfect companion for the studio photographer
  • Landscape photographers may not find as much need for one
2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

Using a light meter like the Sekonic L-308X-U Flashmate, can save any photographer loads of time in getting the correct exposure. Sure, you can do this with lots of trial and error, and looking at the back of your camera screen each time you take a shot. But light meters really save you loads of time and that is time better spent taking the actual photos.

It is a perfect studio photographer's companion or can be taken on location when shooting portraits.

See the advantages of using a light meter in this article by John McIntire.


Olympus TOUGH TG-6 Camera

The rugged, take-everywhere camera that even the kids can use!

  • A perfect adventure companion for photographers of all ages
  • Microscope and Underwater Modes
  • Waterproof, dust-proof, shockproof and freeze-proof.
  • In-camera focus-stacking
  • 4K video capabilities
  • A lot of noise at high ISOs
  • No control over shutterspeed
2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

The Olympus Tough TG-6 camera is built so tough that even the kids can use it! But this camera isn't just for kids – this camera is built for all adventurous photographer-types. It's also a perfect size for just throwing in your pack or putting in your pocket.

You can use this camera in the water, with it's dedicated underwater mode. Alternatively, you can use Microscope mode to capture macro shots of bugs in the grass!

Check out this full review by Mat Coker.

dPS Rating

2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

NISI Filters

Great for the avid Landscape Photographer!

  • Great all-in-one system including holder, adapters and filters
  • Great for doing long exposures when the sun is bright
  • The graduated ND filters allow you to tone down bright skies
  • Fits lens sizes from 49mm-82mm
  • Very little color cast
  • May be out of some people's budget
2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

Neutral Density (ND) and Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filters are an ideal companion for the avid landscape photographer who wants to use longer shutter speeds to get those soft, dreamy seascapes and waterfall images.

They are also great when shooting in the harsh daylight so that you can tone down highlights. The GND filters are great for balancing the exposure between your landscape and harshly lit skies, allowing you to tone down the skies.

Want to learn more about these filters? See this article by Christian Hoiberg.


Sandisk 256GB Extreme SD

A high-speed, high-capacity extreme SD card

  • Great for writing large RAW files quickly
  • Large 256GB storage for lots of photos or video
  • Better write capapbilities for video with the high transfer speed of 150mb per second
  • Lock feature so that you don't overwrite your images
  • May not need such a high-performance card
2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

The SanDisk 256GB Extreme SD card has a high-speed transfer rate of 150 mbs per second, making it ideal for photographers who shoot RAW and in continuous shooting mode. It transfers the files quickly, and the big 256GB size means you can fit loads of photos.

The high-speed transfer rate also makes this card great for those shooting video with their cameras, meaning you don't get lag when shooting and the camera won't cut out.

The post 2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

How to Prevent, Detect, and Recover from Dumb Photographer Mistakes

The post How to Prevent, Detect, and Recover from Dumb Photographer Mistakes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.


I make ’em, you make ’em, all photographers make ’em sooner or later – dumb photographer mistakes.

Today’s cameras are now essentially computers, and the saying about computers is, “They do what you tell them to do, not what you want them to do.”  Leave a switch in the wrong position, forget to restore a setting after taking a prior image, or toggle any myriad of other possible things other than they should be and it’ll happen – the “gotchas will getcha.”

I’ve yet to meet the perfect photographer, the one that never makes dumb photographer mistakes.  The difference is learning to quickly discover a problem, determine what the problem may be, and knowing how to quickly recover.  The intent of this article is to cover some of the more common mistakes and perhaps spare you the pain of learning them the hard way.

“Smart people do stupid things. Stupid people don’t learn from them.”
Frank Sonnenberg

Image: We all make ’em – Dumb Photographer Mistakes. When the gotchas getcha, being able to qu...

We all make ’em – Dumb Photographer Mistakes. When the gotchas getcha, being able to quickly recover is key.

The “Happy Idiot”

The worst mistakes you can make in photography are the ones you don’t detect until later, after the photo session, maybe even back home when you finally sit down to edit your shots.

Before digital, this was the kind where you might happily shoot an entire session, get home, open the back of the camera and see you’d forgotten to load any film.

This might still happen in a digital camera if you have the setting “release shutter without card” turned on and then never “chimp” your shots to see what you’re getting.


When in a store in demo mode, it might be fine to have the shoot without card mode enabled. In all other cases, it’s a very bad idea.

Some photographers will tell you that chimping your shots (checking them on the LCD after taking them), is a sign of an amateur.  Okay,  you “perfect photographers” might not need to do this.  Me?  I chimp whenever I can.  The times when I’ve been burned most often were when I didn’t check.

One of the best things digital photography gives us is the ability to immediately review our images after taking them. We can do so right there in the field where we can immediately detect and remedy any problems.

I still bow to the wedding photographers who used film. They shot an entire wedding and were so confident in their abilities that they rarely had any nasty surprises when they developed the negatives.

There’s nothing worse than snapping away like a “happy idiot,” clueless that you’re just making those dumb photographer mistakes.

Something’s wrong here

In the medical world, they talk about “early detection.” Catch a problem early, and you can reverse it. You minimize the damage and perhaps even find a cure.

So let’s use that medical terminology; symptomdiagnosis, and cure as we look at some typical dumb photographer mistakes you might make.


Everyone will make dumb photographer mistakes occasionally. A smart photographer can quickly identify symptoms, diagnose the problem, and affect a cure to recover quickly.

Focus Faux Pas

Flubs, foul-ups, and a few other f-words can describe what happens when you fail to get fine focus in your photos. Worse is that while we can sometimes rescue an exposure issue in editing, to date, there is no cure for a misfocused, unsharp, image. Let’s use our terms to address some of the dumb photographer mistakes you might make.

Symptom – The entire image is fuzzy, nothing sharp in the shot

Diagnosis – If you’re using Autofocus, is the switch “on”? Are you half-pressing/holding/getting focus lock and then squeezing the button the rest of the way to trip the shutter?

I’ve seen many newbies either push the shutter button in one quick motion (both shaking the camera and not allowing it to get focus before making the shot). I’ve also seen them half-pressing, getting focus, releasing, and then pressing the button a second time.

Image: Did you forget to turn on the Autofocus switch? Or used Manual Focus and then forget to turn...

Did you forget to turn on the Autofocus switch? Or used Manual Focus and then forget to turn it back on? When you are having focusing issues, this should be the first check.

Another possibility is that the shutter speed is too low. If you’re handholding the camera, remember the “Reciprocal Rule,” which simply means your shutter speed should be at least the inverse or your focal length. So, with a 50mm lens, that would be 1/50th. Out at 400mm, that would be 1/400 second.

You might get away with a slightly longer shutter speed if your camera or lens has image stabilization. However, it’s better to err on the side of a faster shutter speed when you can.

Of course, if you want to freeze a fast-moving subject, a shorter shutter speed will be required.

If you’re manually focusing, such as when making landscape photos, you can go to live view. Use the magnifying feature to check critical focus on a particular spot, and then make your shot. But here’s the “gotcha” with this one. (Don’t ask me how I know about this.) You use that method to make your photo, then go onto making other shots, but forget you’ve turned off autofocus. The camera may still fire, even if the focus is slightly off. While you might not detect a very slight misfocus while in the field, you’ll cuss later when back in edit, you detect your mistake.

Cure – There is no editing cure for photos where the focus is soft.  Yeah, I know Photoshop and other software has some tools that claim to fix blurry photos.  Some are even using  Artifical Intelligence (AI) to do it now.  It sorta, kinda works, but there is no substitute for getting it sharp in the field.  Learn proper focusing techniques.  Let’s look at some other typical focus flubs.


Understand and use the autofocus points in your camera. Most cameras will default to the center point, and if your subject is not in the center, you may not get focus on the subject you want.

Symptom – Some things in the image are sharp, just not where you wanted

Diagnosis – Did you use the focus-points in your camera and put them on what you wanted in focus? Beginners often don’t know about focus points, merely using the default center point. Then, when what they wanted in focus wasn’t in the center, they wonder why the subject isn’t focused. Another possibility is too wide an aperture giving too limited a depth of field. A good example is a group photo where people in the front row are in focus, but the second-row people aren’t.

Cure – There’s no cure for the shots you already made that are blurry. However, if detected in the field, check to be sure you are using the focus points properly.

If your subject is moving, perhaps continuous (servo) focus might be appropriate. Be sure your aperture selection gives you adequate depth-of-field too.

Image: When working on a tripod, turn off the image stabilization. It won’t help, and in fact,...

When working on a tripod, turn off the image stabilization. It won’t help, and in fact, might hurt image sharpness.

Symptom – You were on a tripod, but your shots are still slightly soft

Diagnosis – Is the stabilization switch on your camera or lens on?

Cure – When working on a tripod, turn off the auto stabilization.  It won’t help and could possibly hurt your images, attempting to compensate for motion that isn’t there.

Switches and buttons and menus, oh my!

There are so many settings in modern cameras that it can be overwhelming. Many of the auto modes can be lifesavers, relieving the “chores” of photography and letting the photographer instead concentrate on being creative.

They are great when they work.

Where they fail is when the camera is “fooled” by circumstances where an intelligent photographer would choose differently, or when settings are inadvertently left on or off.

Let’s look at some examples.


Spot metering has its uses, but forget to switch back to something like matrix/evaluative metering when you’re done, and you will puzzle over why your images are wildly exposed.

Symptom – The exposure seems completely out of whack, regardless of the mode you’re using

Diagnosis – Did you go to Spot Metering for a previous shot and forget you left that on?

Cure – Many cameras now warn the user they are in spot metering mode with a “!” mark in the viewfinder.  Spot metering has very specific uses, and in those cases, it’s terrific.  In most other cases, it will wildly mess up your exposure and leave you to wonder why.

Image: Auto Noise Reduction works by taking a second black frame and combining it with your exposure...

Auto Noise Reduction works by taking a second black frame and combining it with your exposure. You get to wait while it does that. Decide if that’s acceptable before engaging the option.

Symptom – You make a shot and it seems to take the camera a long time before it’s ready to make another.

Diagnosis – If you have the Long Exposure Noise Reduction feature turned on and are making longer exposure images, the camera will take a second “black frame” image and then use that to reduce noise.  Sometimes that’s great, but realize it will take twice as long for the camera to process and store the image, sometimes making you wait.

Cure – Use the Low Exposure Noise Reduction feature only in special circumstances (perhaps when doing astrophotography where high ISO and noise might be involved). Otherwise, turn it off.

Image: You might use multi-shot bracketing to make images you’ll combine later. Be sure to tur...

You might use multi-shot bracketing to make images you’ll combine later. Be sure to turn it off when done or you’ll get a surprise when making subsequent shots.

Symptom – You click the shutter, the countdown timer activates and then fires off five shots

Diagnosis – You probably set up the camera with a 2-second timer and also for a 5-shot bracket.

Cure – This is a great feature when you want it, but after you’re done, return the settings to single-shot and turn off the countdown timer setting.  Otherwise, when you only want a quick single shot, you’ll wait while the time counts down and then get several.

Image: You might have an occasion to only want .jpg images, but don’t forget to put it back to...

You might have an occasion to only want .jpg images, but don’t forget to put it back to Raw when you’re done. Your editing options are much more limited with .jpg files. You will be very sad if you intended to make Raw images and only come home with .jpgs.

Symptom – You get home from a session and all of your images are .jpg, no raw images to be found on the card

Diagnosis – You probably did an earlier shoot where you only needed .jpg images. You set the camera to do that, and then forget to put it back.

Cure – You can still work with .jpg images, but you will have greatly reduced editing options.  Chimping will not tell you when this is happening as the image you see on the LCD is always a .jpg. So make it a habit to always put your camera back in Raw Mode after a shoot if you’ve changed it.

Return to a standard

I could go on about all the settings, buttons, and dials you might have in the wrong position, what will tip you off, and how to correct such problems. There are dozens of “gotchas” when this occurs.

The common cure is to always return to your personal defaults if you’ve strayed for a special situation. Make it a habit to check and return your settings to your defaults when you put the camera away. Then, when you’re driving down the road on the way home and Bigfoot (Yowie in Australia, or beasts with a few other names in other parts of the world), suddenly steps out of the forest, you can quickly turn on the camera and have a better chance of getting the shot.

Seriously, for any situation where you don’t have time to fiddle with all your settings, you want a standard that will pretty much give you quick point-and-shoot capability. I can’t tell you what that is for you, but it’s your base settings. It’s the place you most often work from and use for a good majority of your photos.

For me, this is the “P” or Program mode of my camera, Single-point Auto-focus, Auto White Balance, and Auto ISO. Sure, that’s quite automatic and perhaps not where I’ll ultimately go. Maybe I’ll be using Aperture Priority, Continuous Focus, and ISO 100 or even Manual exposure mode, but it’s a great default to work from.

My brain might (hopefully) be better, but the camera is quicker. Plus, the engineers that developed auto modes were no dummies. When seconds count, and Bigfoot appears, I can be ready.

Program in specialized settings

I love that I can also have more sophisticated set-ups stored in the Camera User (C1 and C2) modes on my Canon 6D. Many other cameras have this option too, a way to set-up and store various settings and then recall those so that with a spin of the mode dial, you can use all those settings.

For example, should I want that 5-shot bracket with a 2-second timer, Evaluative metering, ISO 200, Auto ISO, Aperture Priority with a f/11 f-stop, and perhaps a few other things thrown in, I can get there with a turn of the dial to C1 or C2, wherever I have that combination stored. When done, I put the dial back to my standard. Quick to turn on, quick to turn off, no “gotchas.”

Mistakes are lessons inside out.”
Matshona Dhliwayo


My Canon 6D has two memory storage locations; C1 and C2. They are great for entering more complex camera settings with the ability to turn them on and off with the turn of a dial.

Filter forgetfulness

I wish I didn’t know about this one first hand.

I was shooting earlier in the day with my circular polarizer on. Later that evening, as the light was getting low, I knew I’d have to perhaps raise the ISO a bit, so I did. So why was I still having to use longer shutter speeds and wider apertures than I thought I should? Oh well, I made my shots figuring I could deal with the issue later in post-production.

As I was putting the camera away, I saw my blunder – the polarizer was still on! Arghhh!!

I’d needlessly given up two-stops of light because I hadn’t taken the filter off when I was finished using it. I won’t make that mistake again. The takeaway? Turn your mistakes into lessons so you won’t repeat them.


Here’s a fun and educational game to play with your photographer friends.

Play “Stump the Chump”

Here’s an exercise I’ve used with photo students to teach them to quickly detect, diagnose, and recover from a camera problem. I take their camera, have them turn their back, and then purposely change a setting, flip a switch, or do something else that will create a problem. I might even swap in a dead battery or a full storage card.

When they turn around, I hand them the camera. They have three minutes and three shots to put things right and make a good image. The fourth shot, when the three minutes are up, must be a good one.

This exercise teaches them the controls of the camera and how to detect and cure camera problems. It’s all too easy to inadvertently bump the wrong button, select the wrong menu item, or leave a setting in the wrong position after a previous shot.

Something else to practice is learning where all your camera controls are in the dark. How many times have you fumbled in a low light or night photo session because you haven’t memorized the basic buttons and settings on your camera? When the situation is fleeting, and you must get the shot now, having to futz around with the camera is the mark of a rookie.


Take a page out of the Boy Scout Handbook when packing your camera bag for a photo session or trip and Be Prepared! It will head off many dumb photographer mistakes.

Be prepared

It’s the Boy Scout motto – Be Prepared!  You will head off many dumb photographer mistakes by taking the time to check, maintain, properly pack, and re-check your gear before you go.

Here is a checklist that you might want to copy and save:

  • Have the camera bodies and lenses you might use?  Don’t carry more than you need, but also don’t leave home something you might want. Learn how to properly pack for any given photo session or trip.
  • Batteries fully charged?  You wouldn’t start a trip with a half-tank of gas.  Don’t go out with a battery only half-charged.  Don’t be “half-gassed.”  Have extra, fully-charged batteries and charger.
  • Storage cards off-loaded, formatted, and empty before you go?  Always have more storage than you expect to need.  You never want to have to delete photos in the field so you can make more room.  Don’t use your cards for long term storage.  After a session, offload your images to your computer, make a backup elsewhere, and then format your card with the camera.  Deleting images with the card in the camera increases the risk of file corruption.
Image: A smudge on your lens can ruin an entire photo session if it goes undetected. Clean your lens...

A smudge on your lens can ruin an entire photo session if it goes undetected. Clean your lenses before a shoot and then periodically look at them during a session.

  • Lenses cleaned? A big smudge, undetected can ruin an entire session.
  • Have your filters? Digital editing tools have greatly reduced the need for specialized filters, but the one for which there is no substitute is the circular polarizer.  What you want will, of course, depend on what you expect to be photographing.
  • Tripod cleaned, screws tight?  Is your tripod plate or L-Bracket on the camera or attached to the tripod?  Not being able to mount your camera to the tripod, or having something break or fall off, will ruin your day and maybe your camera too.
  • Sensor cleaned?  Yeah, you can remove sensor dust specks in editing, but save yourself the work by checking it before a shoot. Clean it when necessary or have a pro do it if you feel you don’t have the skills.
  • Have your camera strap? When going handheld, the camera strap is your “safety belt.”  Fumbling and dropping an expensive camera has been known to make grown men cry.
  • Have a camera rain cover? Check the forecast, and if in doubt, have a rain cover.  I just keep one in my pack at all times.
  • Have photographer comfort items Hat, gloves, sunscreen, and bug repellant?  When you’re miserable, your photos will suffer.
  • Water and snacks? A happy photographer is a well-fed, well-hydrated photographer.


“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”
Eleanor Roosevelt


It’s been said that if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough. I would add that if you’re not more adventurous and explorative with your photography, always shooting the same subjects with the same camera settings, in the same way, you’re likely in a rut. You might make fewer mistakes, but you will also make fewer unique and exciting photos.

The same goes for learning what you can do with your camera. If you always work in full Auto or Program mode, always use Auto-Focus, always shoot .jpg or rely too much on your camera to do your thinking, you’ll make fewer mistakes, but just average photos. Be adventurous, go full-manual, try new things, and make some mistakes. It’s okay. When you do, think about what went wrong and try it again.

As for the just plain “dumb photographer mistakes,” the kind we covered here, they are a fact of photographic life. You’re gonna make ’em.

Learning to quickly detect, diagnose, and rapidly recover – that’s the mark of a pro. We can also learn from each other, so be a little humble and share your mistakes here with your fellow photographers in the comments section below. We can all have a chuckle and then perhaps not have to make those same mistakes ourselves.

The post How to Prevent, Detect, and Recover from Dumb Photographer Mistakes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

The post The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.


Even if you do most of your editing in Lightroom, you’ll still find that you need Photoshop to really finesse your photos. Because it’s a pixel editor, Photoshop offers you more retouching tools and gives you further control than you can obtain from Lightroom.

In still life photography, like food and product, every aspect of your image needs to hold up to scrutiny for maximum impact. It needs to look clean and perfect.

There are certain tools in Photoshop that will help you tweak the best out of your images.

Although this article won’t go in-depth for every single tool – you’d need several articles for that – it will get you up and running in applying some basic treatments to your still life photography.

So without further ado, here are the most useful Photoshop tools for still life photography.

Photoshop for still life photography

1. Spot Healing Tool

The Spot Healing tool is one Photoshop tool that you’ll use on every still life image you retouch in Photoshop. This tool has improved greatly over the years.

Similar to the Healing Brush tool, it samples pixels from the surrounding areas to correct blemishes and imperfections. However, unlike the Healing Brush, it automatically samples the pixels without your having to specify where they should come from.

Why is this so great? Because the Spot Healing brush does this way better than it used to. This means you can remove dust and small marks very quickly.

If you’ve ever tried the Spot Removal tool in Lightroom, you’ll know that clicking on it repeatedly will quickly slow down Lightroom’s performance. Photoshop will give you better results, more quickly.

When you’re dealing with still life photography, remember that you want a clean-looking image. Zooming in on your photo at 100% and cleaning up any dust or blemishes will make a big difference in the overall aesthetic.

To use the Spot Healing tool, select it from the tool menu or hit J.

Zoom into your image and simply click on the blemish you wish to correct. It will automatically sample from an appropriate area and apply the pixels.

You can also clean up a larger area by brushing over it.

One thing to note is that if you use it repeatedly in a small area, the pixels can start looking unnatural and plastic-like.

The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

2. Patch Tool

The Patch tool is another Photoshop tool for still life photography that you’ll most likely use on the majority of your images.

It works great on small areas by creating a selection and replacing the pixels with other pixels of your choosing. It considers lighting, shade and texture when sampling an area.

The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

In the image below, I wanted to get rid of the yellow filament from my flower because I found it distracting.

There are many ways to do this in Photoshop, but I find the patch tool quick and seamless for this type of correction.

To use the tool, select it from the toolbar.

Draw a selection around the area that you wish to correct.

The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

Click on your mouse and drag the selection to an area that you would like to replace the selected pixels with. Let go of the cursor.

Press Command D to undo the selection.

To have greater control over the final result, make sure you have Content-Aware selected in the tool menu and play with the Structure and Color to further influence the edges.

Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

3. Content-Aware Fill

Content-Aware Fill is sort of like the Patch tool on steroids.

It was first introduced in CS5 as a fill option in the Fill Dialog box. In 2019, Adobe improved this tool by leaps and bounds.

Content-Aware analyzes the pixels from a chosen area to determine what pixels it should use to remove unwanted objects. With the improvement, it allows you to choose exactly where you want it to sample the pixels from. It gives you so much more control and also allows you to rotate, scale or resize your selection, and preview the results.

To use Content-Aware Fill, draw a selection around the area you would like to correct. The Lasso tool makes a nice, versatile tool, but I often use the Rectangular or Elliptical Marquee tools.

Go to Edit and choosing Content-Aware Fill from the dropdown menu.

Photoshop tools for still life photography

This opens up the Content-Aware task space.

Photoshop tools for still life photography

On the right-hand side of the task space, you’ll see a Preview area that will show you how the changes are affecting your image.

If required, resize the sampling area with the Sampling Brush Tool.

You can find the tools for Content-Aware Fill in the left-hand corner of the workspace. The Brush tool is the first one on the top and the one you’ll most often use.

The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

You’ll also notice on the right-hand side of the workspace that you can make adjustments to the opacity.

The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

Save your changes as a Duplicate Layer.

I often use Content-Aware Fill to even-out my still life photography backgrounds, which tend to look less even in color and texture as I would like.

In this image of a salad, I wanted to even-out the left-hand corner of the image, which was looking too dark, despite my removing vignetting. I used the Rectangular Marquee tool to select the part that I wanted to change and brushed out the parts of the image I didn’t want sampled from.

The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

I played around with the opacity until I got something that looked good, which in this case was 66%.

4. Clone Stamp Tool

Can anyone live without the Clone Stamp tool?

No matter what kind of photography you do, you probably use the Clone Stamp tool a lot. Great retouching is largely about cleaning up the little things, which all come together for a powerful, transformative effect. Clone Stamp is one of the crucial Photoshop tools for still life photography.

The Clone Stamp tool allows you to copy pixels to a different part of the image to another. It’s great on areas where you have texture and pattern, or an edge. However, with this tool there is no real blending, so you often have to use it with other tools to get a more seamless-looking result.

Note that if you work with the Clone Stamp tool on its own layer, you can use it with other tools such as Free Transform to make further adjustments to the cloned areas.

Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

In the image above, I used a surface that was textured and knotty, but I wanted it to look smoother. I did this (achieving the image on the right) by cloning smoother areas over the bumpy areas.

To utilize the Clone Stamp tool, select it from the toolbar by hitting S for the shortcut, or hit Cmd/Ctrl+S 

Photoshop for still life photography

Select the area that you wish to paint the pixels from by choosing Opt/Alt. The selection point will be indicted by the crosshairs.

Paint with your cursor over the area you want to correct while making sure the crosshairs don’t pick up any pixels you don’t want.

Photoshop tolls for still life photography

5. Transform

Transform is another of the useful Photoshop tools for still life photography because it allows you to make changes and adjustments to objects in your image, like straightening and shaping.

For example, I decided to make a change to the olive oil bottle in the image below. I wanted to adjust the direction the handle was facing and to make the bottle appear larger in scale. I did this easily and quickly with Transform.

The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

Start with your background layer or your top layer. Use the appropriate tool to make a selection. In this case, I used the Lasso tool but I could have also used the Quick Selection tool.

photoshop tools for still life photography

Copy the selection onto another layer by hitting Ctrl/Cmd+J.

The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

Then hit Ctrl/Cmd+T to bring up Transform, or go to Edit and choose Transform from the Menu.

Make the adjustment by manually rotating or expanding the Transform box by clicking on the white points/squares.

photoshop tools for still life photography

Hit Enter to accept the adjustment.

Always make sure to constrain proportions when necessary.

6. Focus Stacking

If you’re shooting a product, you’ll usually need your subject to be sharp throughout. This means using a high F-stop number like F/13 or F/16. However, this requires a lot of power if you’re using flash.

You can also get lens diffraction at these higher numbers, which will degrade the quality of your photo.

The answer to shooting with a wider aperture and still getting a sharp image is to focus stack in Photoshop.

This is when you take two or three images with different focus points and blend them together to create one image file that is sharply in focus throughout. It’s a quick process and isn’t anywhere near as complicated as it sounds.

To utilize focus stacking, make sure your images have the same exposure and alignment.

Export PSD files into a folder or onto your desktop where you can easily navigate to them. 

Follow these steps:

  • Open Photoshop.
  • Go to File and choose Scripts.
  • Select Load Files into Stack.
  • Click Browse and select all the images from where you saved them initially.
  • Check the Box for Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images.
  • Click OK. Each of the images will open as a new layer in Photoshop.
  • Hold down Shift and click on the top layer in the Layers panel to highlight all the layers.
  • Under Edit, select Auto Blend-Layers.
  • Check the box for Stack Images and also for Seamless Tones and Colors. DO NOT check ‘Content-Aware.’ Click OK.
  • Save the final image.

If you have uploaded a lot of images, flatten the final image by selecting Layer -> Flatten Image -> Save.

photoshop tools for still life photography

Three images focus-stacked in Photoshop


Photoshop is a powerhouse of a program and there are many tools that can help you retouch your photography. The tools mentioned here are my top Photoshop tools for still life photography. They are easy to learn and utilize, and will quickly take your images to the next level.

Do you have any other Photoshop tools for still life photography that you’d like to share? Do so in the comments section!

The post The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

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