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Apr
15

A Guide to Landscape Photography Workflow and Post-Processing

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Featured, Post Production Tips

NewImageToday is an exciting day at dPS HQ because we’re releasing an eBook that has been asked for many times by readers – LOVING Landscapes, a Guide to Landscape Photography Workflow and Post-Processing by Todd and Sarah Sisson.

Early in 2013 we looked at our growing library of photography eBooks and realised that we had a big hole to fill – we were yet to publish a Landscape Photography eBook.

We began the hunt for a photographer to create a guide.

After much searching we came across the photography of husband and wife team Todd and Sarah Sisson and fell in love with their images. We began to talk to Todd about creating an eBook with us and mid last year released a guide to Landscape photography called LIVING Landscapes.

The eBook was a huge success and became one of our fastest selling eBooks ever.

That first eBook from Todd and Sarah received some amazing reviews and we still get positive feedback about it almost a year later. But alongside the praise was a request – a request for a guide to post processing landscape photos.

While the first eBook touches on some post production techniques it was not the place for comprehensive teaching on the topic – so… we began to talk with Todd and Sarah about a followup eBook that explored the topics of Workflow and Post Processing.

What they produced in LOVING Landscapes is pretty amazing. Inside you’ll find over 200 pages of practical information that leads you through 12 chapters of advice to help you bring the images that you take to life with a little post processing love.

Here’s the table of contents which will give you a feel for what’s covered.

NewImage

What I LOVE about this eBook is that it is packed with heaps of actionable information that you can apply immediately to the photos you’ve already taken.

Alongside that information are inspirational examples of the techniques in practice.

You’ll come away not only inspired but informed and ready to apply what you’ve learned.

NewImage

An Ideal Companion Bundle or a Great Standalone Guide

With the launch of Loving Landscapes we now feel like we’ve got a great complete guide to both ‘taking’ and ‘processing’ beautiful landscapes.

These eBooks are designed to be useful separately if you’re just interested in one of those topics – but together they also make an incredibly comprehensive guide through the whole topic of creating beautiful landscape images.

Grab Your Copy Today and Save 33%

Our Loving Landscapes eBook will retail for $29.99 but as a limited time Early Bird Special you can pick up a copy today for just $19.99 USD (33% off).

If you want to pick up both Living Landscapes and Loving Landscapes eBooks together you can bundle them together today for the special price of just $39.99 (normally $59.99 so today it’s also 33% off).

Want more information about this eBook? Get the full lowdown here.

The post A Guide to Landscape Photography Workflow and Post-Processing by Darren Rowse appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Dec
2

Using Sun Flares and Starbursts to Create Stunning Images

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

This is a guest post by Katie McEnaney

An Introduction to Sun Flares and Starbursts

A sun flare or starburst is an incredibly cool photographic technique and one that is easy to achieve without any special post-processing or editing tricks. You will be amazed at the effects you can create by learning a few simple settings and knowing the proper situations for taking beautiful sun flare and starburst photographs.

McEnaney sunflare vertical tree

How to Shoot Sun Flares and Starbursts

It is possible to obtain sun flare and starburst images with a point and shoot camera, but for more reliable results, you will want to use a DSLR or interchangeable lens camera with adjustable aperture. A UV filter on your lens is suggested to protect your camera’s sensor, as you will be shooting directly into the sun when capturing sun flares. Stability is critical for capturing starbursts, so a sturdy tripod and remote shutter release are recommended.

The technique for shooting successful sun flares and starbursts is to use a narrow aperture such as f/22 and a relatively wide focal length like 18 mm. With a narrow aperture, the blades inside your lens close down to create a very small opening for light to pass through. This narrow opening creates a slight diffraction or bending of the light, which causes a point source of light (described below) to become a starburst shape when it hits and is recorded by the camera’s sensor. Different lenses are built with different numbers of blades: the more blades, the greater the number of points on the flare or starburst. The wider the focal length also contributes to the size of the starburst shape, as a wider focal length can create a larger starburst.

For settings, you want to start by shooting in Aperture priority (Av for Canon or A for Nikon) mode and setting your aperture to f/22. You also want to shoot at a fairly low ISO, around 100-200, to avoid the increased noise of higher ISO values. The camera will then choose the shutter speed. If the final image turns out too dark or too light, you can switch to shooting in Manual mode, dial in the same settings, and then slightly increase the shutter speed for a lighter picture or decrease the shutter speed for a darker picture.

McEnaney Capitol night starbursts

In lower light situations, your shutter speed may become so slow that you need a tripod to ensure a steady shot. (The general rule of thumb is that you should be able to successfully hand-hold a shot at a shutter speed of 1 over the focal length of the lens. For example, you should be able to hand-hold a shot with an 18 mm lens at 1/18th of a second or faster or a 50 mm lens at 1/50th of a second or faster.) If you are photographing starbursts after dark, then your shutter speeds will generally be slow enough to require a tripod or other stable surface. The alternative option would be to start increasing your ISO, which will also increase the noise in the final image.

Along with the tripod, a remote shutter release (corded or wireless) is helpful to avoid shaking the camera when pressing the shutter button. If you do not have a remote, you can set the 2-second or 10-second timer on your camera instead. A remote shutter release also allows you to use the Bulb setting on your camera to get shutter speeds longer than 30 seconds.

Timing and Strategies for Sun Flares and Starbursts

Sunbursts and starbursts are created from small point sources of light, rather than larger dispersed or diffused light sources. A point source is one where light is emanating from a singular location: a bulb in a street lamp, a car headlight, a direct flashlight, even strings of holiday lights. A dispersed light source is one where light is emanating from a broader location: a frosted light bulb, an overhead florescent light panel, or the tubes of a neon sign. A diffused light source is one where the location of the light is very spread out or difficult to detect: the sun in an overcast sky, large studio lights with diffusers or softboxes, or light bounced off a large surface or reflector.

McEnaney sunrise sunflare

The sun is not generally a point source of light, as it is often too bright and overwhelming to create a sun flare. So, the best time to capture sun flares is when the sun is low in the sky, either in the early morning or late afternoon. The winter season is ideal for sun flares, as the sun is lower in the sky for longer periods of the day.

sun flare and starburst photo

Once you have the right time of day, the second step for creating a sun flare is to position the sun in your composition so that it is partially obscured behind another object, such as a tree or the edge of a building. Even at low angles, the sun can still be so bright that it will overwhelm your scene and create large bright patches rather than a starburst shape. Partially obscuring the sun also serves to amplify the effect of the narrow aperture. Position the camera so that the sun is directly behind the object and determine your final composition. Then, move the camera slightly until the sun is just beginning to peak out from behind the object and take the picture.

McEnaney sunflare two trees

To create starbursts at night, you need to find suitable point sources of light. Street lamps and strings of lights work well. Because these sources are not as overpowering as the sun, you do not need to partially obscure them. This gives you a wider range of compositional choices. You can also combine multiple point sources of light to create an entire collection of starbursts in a single image. Moving lights will be rendered as blurs or light trails, while stationary lights will become starbursts.

McEnaney traffic trails

Composing with Sun Flares and Starbursts

Be willing to be patient and experiment with your compositions and angles for sun flares. Slight differences in the angle of the sun and the amount of sunlight streaming in can make a big difference in your final image. The two images below were taken of the same tree, two minutes apart. The only compositional difference was backing up several feet for the second image, so that the sun was only barely obscured by leaves rather than partially blocked by the trunk.

McEnaney sunflare compare

Once you have mastered the single flare, you can step up the challenge and capture multiple sun flares in a single image. An easy way to do this is to use reflected light. Light reflecting off several points or different surfaces can create multiple individual point sources. Look for situations where sunlight is bouncing off water, vehicles, or other reflective surfaces. In this goodbye photograph of my old car, the multiple flares were created by the sunlight bouncing off the dents and divots of the hail damage on the hood (bonnet) of the car.

McEnaney car sunflares

Starbursts are a great effect to use with holiday lights. Each individual light is a point source and can be rendered as its own starburst. The starburst look adds an extra sparkle to your holiday images, but you can use strings of white or colored lights to add starbursts to any kind of subject you choose.

McEnaney holiday starbursts

For cityscape starbursts, seek out locations with congregations of street lights or other point sources of light. The blue hour (the approximate hour before sunrise or after sunset) is an ideal time to photograph lights outside, as the deep blue colors in the sky set off the scene. Your camera will record these blue colors for a short time even after they are no longer visible to your eyes.

McEnaney starbursts water

Now that you know the basic idea behind sun flares and starbursts, you will start seeing opportunities everywhere. Get your f/22 aperture ready, and get out there!


Katie McEnaney is an educator and photographer from Madison, Wisconsin. Read more tips on her blog, Boost Your Photography, and connect with her on Google+, Twitter @archaeofrog, and Flickr. Her first eBook, Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR, will be available soon on Amazon.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Using Sun Flares and Starbursts to Create Stunning Images

The post Using Sun Flares and Starbursts to Create Stunning Images by appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Nov
19

Start To See Photographically In Six Easy Steps

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

We are living in a time of unlimited free shutter clicks. This is both an advantage, and a disadvantage for you as a photographer. On one hand, the learning curve is faster, easier and definitely a lot cheaper. On the other hand, many photographers have a tendency to shoot without taking much care in their composition and rely on the occasional lucky shot.

Stop shooting randomly and start photographing with intent. Before you click that shutter, ask yourself: “What do I want to convey? What story do I want to tell?” There are many ways to achieve this, here are few easy steps to help you step up your game, no matter what camera or lens you use.

Six Steps to Start to See Photographically

1 – See the light

Play with def=”http://digital-photography-school.com/book/naturallight”>light and shadows. Be aware of the quality of light around you (hard versus soft light) and its effect on objects, buildings, etc. The more aware you become of the quality and quantity of light, the better you will be at harnessing it and making it work for you, no matter the time of day.

See the light, its effect on building and objects around you.

See the light, its effect on buildings and objects around you ©Valérie Jardin

When you see light, any ordinary object will become a wonderful subject. ©Valérie Jardin

When you see light, any ordinary object will become a wonderful subject ©Valérie Jardin

2 – Express your vision with basic composition rules

There are many ways to express your vision and they all start with the decisions you make before you press the shutter.

Use focus point and depth of field

The obvious way to lead the eye of the viewer is by focussing on the subject and using the right depth of field so that there is no mistake as to where the eye should go. It only takes a fraction of a second to lock your focus and recompose. You have to put some thought into it and soon you will make quick decisions that will make your images stronger.

Use focus point and depth of field to lead the eye to your subject ©Valérie Jardin

Leading lines

Too often ignored, the use of lines is a powerful tool to lead the eye.

Use leading lines in your composition. ©Valérie Jardin

Use leading lines in your composition ©Valérie Jardin

The rule of thirds

Positioning your subject in your frame is one of the most important decisions you will make in regards to your composition. You cannot overuse the rule of thirds, but it’s okay to break it as long as it is done intentionally.

The rule of thirds works, use it! ©Valérie Jardin

The rule of thirds works, use it! ©Valérie Jardin

Break the rule of thirds as much as you want, as long as you know why you’re breaking it. ©Valérie Jardin

Using color

Just like using focus point to draw the eye, using color is another powerful compositional tool. Alternatively, because color draws the eye, it is also a reason to convert your color image into B&W to remove distracting colorful elements and make stronger images!

Negative space

The clever use of negative space makes stronger images as it puts more emphasis on the subject (positive space).

Use negative space to give more impact to your images. ©Valérie Jardin

Use negative space to give more impact to your images. ©Valérie Jardin

Patterns

See and use repeated patterns or, even better, look for breaks in the pattern!

See repeated patterns. Even better: a break in the pattern!  ©Valérie Jardin

See repeated patterns. Even better: a break in the pattern! ©Valérie Jardin

Soon you will see stronger images that incorporate several elements such as repeated patterns, leading lines, rule of thirds and color that draws your eye to the main subject. ©Valérie Jardin

Soon you will see stronger images that incorporate several elements such as repeated patterns, leading lines, rule of thirds and color that draws your eye to the main subject. ©Valérie Jardin

3 – Less is more

Learn to make stronger images by leaving unnecessary elements out of the frame. One thing I notice all the time when I look at my students’ work is that they tend to include too much in their frame. What you decide to leave out of the frame during your composition will make or break the image. Keep it simple. Learn to see and crop in camera.

You don't need the subject in it's entirety to have a strong image. Practice cropping in camera. The use of a fixed lens will help you! ©Valérie Jardin

You don’t need the subject in its entirety to have a strong image. Practice cropping in camera. The use of a fixed lens will help you! ©Valérie Jardin

Less is more, think minimalist and give more impact to your images! ©Valérie Jardin

4 – Get close and fill your frame

Objects, even the most ordinary ones, look more interesting if you frame them tight. Get close. You think you’re close enough? Now get closer!

Fill your frame! ©Valérie Jardin

Fill your frame! ©Valérie Jardin

Get close, and then get closer! ©Valérie Jardin

Get close, and then get closer! ©Valérie Jardin

5 – Work your frame

Try shooting from different perspectives, shoot high, shoot low. Tilt your camera for more dynamic images.

Work your frame: Shoot high, Shoot low... Things don't look very interesting at eye level. ©Valérie Jardin

Work your frame: shoot high, shoot low… things don’t look very interesting at eye level. ©Valérie Jardin

6- Watch your background!

It only takes a second to scan the edges of your frame and check your background for distracting elements. It also only takes a quick second to move one step in either direction to get rid of a distracting element or avoid a branch to stick out of someone’s ear.

This image would have been ruined had I not stepped slightly to the right to avoid the potted plant to be directly on top of the gentleman's head...  ©Valérie Jardin

This image would have been ruined had I not stepped slightly to the right to avoid the potted plant to be directly on top of the gentleman’s head.  ©Valérie Jardin

Next time you go out with your camera, try to slow down and think more about what you want to convey with your images. Unless you are photographing birds, busy toddlers or action sports, try to make every shutter click count!

Soon these composition rules will become second nature. You will see them without having to even think about them, you will learn to see photographically, and your work will improve.

Have fun!

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Start To See Photographically In Six Easy Steps

The post Start To See Photographically In Six Easy Steps by appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Oct
23

Reflectors: Your Secret Weapon for Amazing Portrait Photography

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Featured, Portrait Photography

By: Oded Wagenstein

There is no doubt that using natural light in portrait photography can get you the best results.

However sometimes, as you all probably know, natural light does not do what he’s told. So here comes into action what I like to call my secret weapon in outdoor Portrait Photography.

It is cheap, easy to carry and especially does not frightens my subjects, who themselves can be a little intimidating at times.

Reflector

 
It is just that! It reflects light. There are hundreds of different types of reflectors, which differ in sizes and colors (i.e. white, silver, gold, etc.). A reflector is usually a reflective fabric, stretched over a bendy ring, allowing it to fold, and easy to carry.

With so many types of reflectors on the market, I cannot review them all. This mini-guide will focus on the main reflector I use for my work.

12 ” in size, and costs less than a movie theatre ticket.

I sometimes use other larger reflectors (mainly in cinematography productions), but this 12 inch reflector suits my needs in travel photography; mainly because it is small enough, allowing me to hold it with one hand and the camera with the other.

To Fill up Shadows:

We all love taking pictures at sunrise and sunset. But when dealing with the harsh mid-day light, a reflector is almost a must.

Fstop of 2.8, shutter speed@ 1/100 and ISO 200

Fstop of 2.8, shutter speed@ 1/100 and ISO 200

In the above picture, taken in the western Indian Rabari tribe, for the National Geographic Traveler magazine (Israeli edition), our model was sitting in a dark mud house. He was sick; therefore it was not an option to move him outside.  On the left wall of the house, there was a small window (as can beautifully seen illuminating in the background), My trusty camera assistant Hardik Pandaya, held a silver colored reflector below the subject ‘s face in order to fill any shaded areas such as under the eyes.

reflectors portraits 2

The above picture was taken on the border of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Please note that although the woman is standing in the shade and the background is bright, the woman is not a black silhouette and the background is not burned out.  I measured the light from the background (using spot metering). In such a situation, without using a reflector, the character will turn out completely black (silhouette) but with a reflector held on my left hand, I was able to light up her face.

Fstop of 8, shutter speed@ 1/250 and ISO 100

Fstop of 8, shutter speed@ 1/250 and ISO 100

reflectors portraits 4

Below is 80 years old Getho. A fisherman from the small community of Sea Gypsy living in, Thailand. This image is a little bit complex in terms of lighting, because there are three sources of lighting here. Just like in the studio, my main light source (key light) was the house door (right side of the frame). The light was coming from a 45 degree angle, creating this dramatic volume on Getho’s face (you can read more about “sculpturing” with 45 degrees light in this post here).

In my left hand I held the small Silver color reflector, filling the shadows (fill light) on his face and behind him was an open window for additional  light on his beautiful white hair (back light).

Fstop of 4, shutter speed@ 1/100 and ISO 320

Fstop of 4, shutter speed@ 1/100 and ISO 320

refectors portraits 6

Sometimes a reflector is the only option to shoot under strong sunlight, as you can see in this picture.

reflectors portraits 7

Choose the Right Color

Most reflectors come in multiple colors. In this picture, taken in Western India for the National Geographic Traveler magazine (Israeli Edition), I wanted to preserve the golden-brown color which was dominate in this scene. So I asked Hardik to hold the reflector on its golden side giving the woman’s face a golden glow.

Fstop of 4.5, shutter speed@ 1/80 and ISO 100

Fstop of 4.5, shutter speed@ 1/80 and ISO 100

reflectors portraits 9

Choosing the right distance

It is important to keep in mind that the closer the light source is to the photographed subject, the stronger and less soften it will appear. Thus, a small reflector is easier to carry and hold; however it will be not as soft as a large reflector.

A “catch light” is an interesting spark in the eyes of the subject, “pulling” the audience to look straight at them. There are lots of methods to create a catch light in the subject’s eyes. For example using a flash or a flashlight. However, as we are discussing on the usage of natural light, a reflector can become a great tool for creating a catch light. Just place the reflector under the person’s face.

You can see some catch light examples here:

Fstop of 3.5, shutter speed@ 1/640 and ISO 250

Fstop of 3.5, shutter speed@ 1/640 and ISO 250

reflectors portraits 11

Fstop of 2.8, shutter speed@ 1/200 and ISO 100

Fstop of 2.8, shutter speed@ 1/200 and ISO 100

One of the most useful techniques, in order learn how to work with natural light in my opinion, is by observing the images of other photographers. Try to guess the direction of the light and the position and color of the reflector in the images below:

Fstop of 2.8, shutter speed@ 1/320 and ISO 3200

Fstop of 2.8, shutter speed@ 1/320 and ISO 3200

Fstop of 4.5, shutter speed@ 1/160 and ISO 100

Fstop of 4.5, shutter speed@ 1/160 and ISO 100

Fstop of 3.5, shutter speed@ 1/320 and ISO 1000

Fstop of 3.5, shutter speed@ 1/320 and ISO 1000

Fstop of 2.8, shutter speed@ 1/15 and ISO 200

Fstop of 2.8, shutter speed@ 1/15 and ISO 200

Fstop of 3.5, shutter speed@ 1/320 and ISO 160

Fstop of 3.5, shutter speed@ 1/320 and ISO 160

Fstop of 2.5, shutter speed@ 1/1000 and ISO 250

Fstop of 2.5, shutter speed@ 1/1000 and ISO 250

Like pinning images? Here’s one we created for you.

Reflectors: Your Secret Weapon for Amazing Portrait Photography

The diagrams were created by http://www.lightingdiagrams.com

Oded Wagenstein is a Travel photographer and writer. He is a regular contributor to the National Geographic Traveler magazine (Israeli Edition) and he is known for his intimate portraits from around the world. You can join his Portrait & Travel Photography Facebook page and continue to discuss on travel and people photography and get more amazing tips!

You can check out Oded’s new eBOOK “The Visual Storyteller“. It is all about creating better photographs by bringing stories to your image.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Reflectors: Your Secret Weapon for Amazing Portrait Photography

The post Reflectors: Your Secret Weapon for Amazing Portrait Photography by appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Oct
13

21 Inspirational Natural Light Portraits

Filed Under Digital Photography Case Studies, Digital Photography School, Featured

21 Inspirational Natural Light Portraits

One of the most effective pieces of lighting gear ever invented is available to almost every photographer in the world… unless you’re living in a cave (and even then you might have one).

It’s the window.

Here is a collection of natural light portraits. They were all taken predominantly with natural light – in most cases at or near a window. Enjoy.

portrait

Image by Daniel Zedda

Image by Anna Gay

natural light portraits

Image by Eric Meuller

I hear many photographers asking about what lighting gear to purchase to light their portraits – but I’m a firm believer that the natural light provided by a window can often do the job as well – if not better – than any expensive gear that you might buy.

natural light portraits

Image by Meredith Farmer

natural light portraits

Image by Shandi-Lee

natural light portraits

Image by Paul Goyette

Image by John Meuller

natural light portraits window light

Image by Mr Story

natural light portraits window light

Image by Beni Ishaque Luthor



natural light portraits window light

Image by Gabriela Camerotti

natural light portraits window light

Image by The Q

natural light portraits window light

Image by Sebastiano Pitruzzello

natural light portraits window light

Image by Gabriela Camerotti

natural light portraits window light

Image by Jay Ryness

natural light portrait

Image by Raymond Larose

natural light portrait

Image by gabriele fanelli

natural light portrait

Image by Sebastiano Pitruzzello

Image by Jay Ryness

Image by Drew Herron

Image by brice hardelin

Image by Lauren Nelson

Further Natural Light Portraits Reading

We hope you enjoyed these Portraits. If you have some shots to share please do so in comments below. If you’re looking for a little inspiration – check out these links.

Understanding Natural Light Portrait Photography (tutorial)
Natural Light: Mastering a Photographers Most Powerful Tool (eBook)

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

21 Inspirational Natural Light Portraits

The post 21 Inspirational Natural Light Portraits by appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Sep
3

Discover the Secrets of Beautiful Portrait Lighting

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Featured, Portrait Photography

NewImageToday I’m excited to announce the launch of a new dPS eBook – Portraits Lighting the Shot – by Gina Milicia.

In January of this year we released a brand new Portraits eBook called Portraits: Making the Shot.

It was an ebook written by renowned Aussie celebrity portrait photographer Gina Milicia on the basics of how to shoot amazing portraits that reflect the true character of your subject.

The overwhelming response from readers of the eBook was that Gina had created a valuable resource that was helping thousands of photographers to improve their portraiture – but they wanted more.

One of the biggest requests that we’ve received since releasing ‘Making the Shot’ was for some teaching on ‘Lighting’ portraits.

Using light effectively can be the difference between a portrait that captures the true spirit of your subject and one that simply records a moment.

Based upon this feedback we immediately began work with Gina to create a guide to lighting portraits.

I’m pleased to announce that it is ready for you to download today at a limited time Early Bird price of just $14.99 (25% off).

What’s Covered in This eBook?

  • The Rules:  The ten golden rules to to live by (when lighting a portrait).
  • The Gear:  The gear you need, might need and actually don’t need.
  • The Way:  How to ‘see’ the light, by using the ‘force’ in a non nerdy way.  This section is GOLD.
  • The Style:  Understand Gina’s style, but importantly how to use all your new skills to create your own.
  • Troubleshooting:  How to handle those tricky lighting scenarios.
  • Building the shot:  Build your shot, one light at a time

Get full details on this valuable new eBook here or buy it directly by clicking the Download it Now button below.

download_it_now_lighting


Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Discover the Secrets of Beautiful Portrait Lighting

Jul
23

Living Landscapes: A Guide to Stunning Landscape Photography

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Featured

Landscapes coverToday I’m very excited to announce the launch of an eBook that we’ve been working on all year at dPS HQ. It is called Living Landscapes: A Guide to Stunning Landscape Photography – an eBook authored by New Zealand Landscape Photographers Todd and Sarah Sisson.

The eBook We Just Had to Release

Before this release we’ve built up a library of 12 dPS eBooks but the one request we keep getting from readers has been for a Landscape Photography guide.

I’ve long wanted to publish one as Landscape Photography was my own first love but have been waiting for just the right photographer to author the eBook.

I’m glad I waited because at the beginning of last year I stumbled on a Google Hangout with Trey Ratcliff which Todd Sisson. I was impressed with Todd for a couple of reasons.

Firstly his photos were gorgeous – I got lost for a good hour or so looking through his portfolio.

Secondly Todd was a great communicator. He was funny, personal and even on that short Google Hangout I learned a thing or two about shooting landscapes.

Todd and I began to talk about a potential collaboration on this eBook last year and as a result of that initial conversation he guest posted here on dPS with a post called Composing Dynamic Landscape Images. That post was our 3rd most popular post on the site in 2012 and helped hundreds of thousands of people improve their Landscape photography.

This showed us the need for a more comprehensive guide to shooting landscapes and so Todd – and his wife Sarah who is also an accomplished landscape photographer – began to work on creating this guide.

Informative and Inspiring – You’ll Love It!

The result is a gorgeous eBook filled with some amazing photography – it is going to inspire you – but also some really practical tips from Todd and Sarah.

They write this guide in a very down to earth and personal way which will be accessible to those just starting out but also helpful to those who’ve been shooting landscapes for years.

What You’ll Discover in this 130+ page eBook

Here’s some of what you’ll find in Living Landscapes:

  • How to simplify the process of making engaging and technically proficient landscape images.
  • How to overcome the unique challenges that landscape photography presents.
  • The 4 landscape fundamentals that turn bland into beautiful.
  • Workshops and guided tours of some amazing landscape images.
  • A straight forward explanation of the gear you need.
  • Landscape specific post-processing techniques.
  • Advanced tips and techniques specific to the following landscape photography topics: mountains, water, bush and forest, black and white and panoramic stitching.

Grab Your Copy Today and Save 33%

I LOVE this eBook and am so excited to practice what I picked up in it in an upcoming family trip. I’m also looking forward to seeing the images that our readers take as a result of reading this eBook.

Living Landscapes is available for you to purchase and download right now at the special Early Bird Price of $19.99 – a 33% discount on it’s regular price.

Want more information about this eBook? Get the Full Lowdown Here. Or grab your copy by hitting the ‘download it now’ button below.

download_it_now_landscapes


Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Living Landscapes: A Guide to Stunning Landscape Photography

Jul
17

Composing Dynamic Landscape Images

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Featured, Other Photography Tips

A Guest Post by Todd Sisson from www.sisson.co.nz.

As a landscape photographer I am constantly seeking that next X-factor shot – an image that leaps from the screen or page and demands the viewer’s attention – preferably attention of the favourable variety.

If you spend an hour or two on a photosharing site like Flickr viewing landscape images in un- curated groups you will note that a very small percentage of the total image population stands out from the crowd.

However, if you view a carefully curated collection of top-shelf landscape images you will probably start to notice some themes appearing. Certain visual cues and devices appear across multiple images – there will often be subtle commonalities between these attention hogging photos.

In many instances these images will possess the qualities of what I consider a dynamic landscape image.

What is a Dynamic Landscape Image?

Summer Storm, Queenstown New Zealand. An example of a dynamic landscape image. To maximise the number of dynamic elements in this image I locked this composition off in the field and shot multiple images. The best of about five wave-action frames were then blended together to form the final image.

There is no dictionary entry that defines a Dynamic Landscape Image* – heck, there’s not even a Wikipedia entry – so it is a somewhat personal interpretation.

To my mind, a dynamic landscape image is one that in some way conveys the energy and scale of the natural world. Dynamic images also often seek to breach the confines of their 2D medium by inferring a sense of depth – many truly dynamic image have an almost 3D quality about them.

*As far as I am aware, the term Dynamic Landscape was first popularised by the late Galen Rowell – one of the most influential American landscape photographers of his generation. Rowell used the term to demarcate his work from the somewhat literal colour landscape photography that dominated the early 1970′s. Although he was certainly not the only photographer employing these principles in his work, he appears to have been an excellent self-promoter and the term is somewhat synonymous with his name.

Dynamic Composition

Composition is the backbone of all great photos – dynamic or otherwise – but it is essential in the creation of a truly strong landscape image.

I feel that the goal of a successful composition is to draw the eye into image and hold it there for as long as possible – which is seemingly, a maximum 15 milliseconds these days*. The following image is an example of an image that I feel achieves this objective.

Sunrise Over The Moeraki Boulders, Otago New Zealand. Seascapes lend themselves to the creation of dynamic landscape images.

This image combines all of the elements that I feel comprise a Dynamic Landscape Image:

  • Leading or converging lines
  • Interesting perspective
  • Visually interesting foreground elements
  • Visually interesting mid-ground & background elements
  • Vivid colour or incredible light
  • Vision-locking tonal control
  • Suggestion of movement

It is important to note that not all dynamic landscape images possess all of these factors. In fact, it is depressingly rare to have it all come together in one moment. It must also be stated that what follows is not a recipe for creating great images. Photography can only be practised as an art when personal interpretation is injected into the process – only use this information as a guideline for evolving your own images.

So let’s have a very quick look at each of these Dynamic Landscape factors.

Leading Lines & Converging Lines

One of the simplest ways to draw a viewer’s attention into an image is to use converging or leading lines. Converging lines have been used by painters for centuries to create the illusion of depth within a 2 dimensional medium.

This is why photos of wharves, roads, and rivers make such successful photographic subjects. Although many consider such subjects to be cliches, I strongly council my workshop students to shoot them heavily to build an awareness of the power of a line in an image.

Leading lines not only draw attention into the image, they can also help to hold the eye within the confines of the image.

Check out the crudely overlaid wharf image below combines the strong converging lines of the wharf with secondary supporting lines in the water, hills and clouds.

Look for these lines whenever you are shooting – they are almost everywhere.

The Wharf at Frankton, Queenstown New Zealand. Shoot 'cliched' subjects like wharves and roads until it hurts a little. The pain is just your visual muscles growing stronger. Shooting man-made lines will teach you to look for more subtle lines in nature.

Although the wharf is the primary leading line device in this image there are a number of leading lines present in the water, hills and clouds. The darker reflected lines in the water help hold the eye in the central region of the frame.

Interesting Perspective

As a photographer you are an artist not a forensic documentarian. You get paid the mega-bucks and live the champagne lifestyle to show your audience something a little different – that is your raison d’être.

Hence I rarely find myself shooting at my natural standing position. For some reason, compositions seem to get more dynamic the closer you are to the ground/mud/ snow/ice-encrusted cow turd – it’s just the way it is.

This is especially apparent when using an ultra-wide lens. Subject matter becomes incredibly diminutive and interesting leading lines really lose their visual power when viewed from 5 or 6 feet high – so try getting uncomfortably close and low.

Aim high also. Look for ways to gain elevation to find that privileged viewpoint – I find that this often works really well when shooting telephoto lengths for some reason. Try scrambling up banks, standing on cars and sitting on your wife’s/husband’s shoulders (sans tripod) in an effort to find an interesting perspective.

Paddock Bay, Lake Wanaka New Zealand. Getting uncomfortably low in this instance dramatically altered the perceived form of the rock on the lower right of the frame. B y moving about I was able to create the satisfying impression of the rock 'interlocking' with the reflection. Note the strong leading line formed here also.

Foreground Elements

I believe that a dynamic image almost always possesses a strong foreground element, or elements, that complement the greater scene.

Take a sunset/sunrise for example. Sure, spectacular light makes for great images, but personally photos that contain nothing but vast expanses of super-saucy red clouds do little to engage me as a viewer.

The best dynamic images typically have a strong point of interest in the lower half, or foreground. This is your visual entree into an image. If your foreground element happens to include leading lines you are quite possibly onto the much vaunted money-shot.

Lupin(e)s, Fiordland New Zealand. Yeah, this is cheating – foreground elements don't come much easier than this. That aside, keen observers will note the subtle converging lines formed out of the lupin pattern. This was accentuated by deliberately placing a bloom in each corner and leaving a little empty space at the bottom of the frame. Sunstars make an exceptional background element (segues niftily to my next point)

Visually interesting Background Elements

I often compose back to front. Firstly I will find the subject of my image, say a spectacular sunset playing out on mountains, and then I will run around like a deranged prison escapee in search of a foreground element to complement the background.

It is very much a balancing act – defining who or what element gets to play the lead role in your composition. Ideally the background is where the eye should gravitate to and the foreground should pick up a gong for best supporting actor.

Milford Sound, Fiordland New Zealand. The star of this image is the dramatic light playing out in the clouds over the eye- catching form of Mitre Peak – the foreground & mid ground elements are critical supporting parts of the whole composition but don't hog the lime-light.

Unusually, I didn’t scramble to find a foreground element for this image – I staggered. Four minutes earlier I had been happily sleeping in the back of my truck – my alarm went off and I saw this – panic ensued….

Vivid Colour or Incredible Light

By now it should be obvious that I have some un-checked colour-dependancy issues. I love colour*, especially natural light shows. However, I feel that vivid colour needs to be kept in balance and be a part of the overall composition. Too often I see images that rely solely upon dollops of super- saturated colour.

For a dynamic landscape image to work, balance must prevail. Hence I attempt to avoid filling the frame with too much colour (yes, there is such a thing – see below).

*I am even partial to the American version – colour.

Sunrise from Mt Taranaki / Egmont, New Zealand. In this image the main act was the rapidly dissipating beams of sunrise goodness and the rich colour in the clouds. Lens choice and composition mean that the sunrise colour is just one component of the image. I often like to keep dark forms in my images (anathema to the HDR readers amongst you) as a counterpoint to the extreme lightness of a sunset/sunrise. I find the dark hills here quite mysterious in contrast to the sunstar and clouds.

Too much colour. This was one of the most intense sunrises that I have ever witnessed. I should have just sat and enjoyed it – this is just too much colour for my tastes – it looks un-realistic. This shot has actually been partially de-saturated in an effort to tame the colour.

Vision-locking Tonal Control

I am tempted to trademark this term – it sounds like a mind-control experiment deployed by shady branches of the US intelligence community.

Basically all I am referring to is the phenomenon of vignetting.

The eye is drawn towards lightness within an image, particularly near the centre of frame. Furthermore, the eye is restrained by darkness at the edges of the frame.

When employed deftly, the viewer’s eye is gently drawn into the image by lightness and held there by the darker edges of the image.

Look at all of the images above and you will see this technique in use. Often this happens in- camera just by virtue of the composition and through use of ND grad filters. However, I will often darken the top edge of an image in post and even add a subtle vignette as the last thing I do. Weird Cloud formation & Road to Nowhere. Alexandra New Zealand. In order to achieve vision-lock here I painted in a brighter layer near the central portion of the image. A little vignetting was added to further enhance the effect.

Suggested Motion

Suggested motion, by way of blur or frozen motion is not always an achievable, or desirable, element to utilise within an image – but it can add another layer of dynamism to a composition.

Don’t just get locked into shooting long exposures either – frozen, or partially-frozen motion can convey movement just as well as a long exposure in some circumstances (see the first image, Summer Storm, for an example of this).

Moeraki Boulder, Otago New Zealand. Long Exposure motion blur creates a dynamic tension between the static boulder and the relentless sea. Note the other dynamic ingredients added to this image - interesting perspective, use of colour, vision-lock, foreground/background interest.

Can Dynamic Landscape Images be B&W?

Absolutely. There are many thousands of truly incredible B&W dynamic landscape images. No style renders texture and contrast better than B&W – at it’s best it is magnificent.

In order to compensate for their ‘lost’ colour Black & Whiters will often apply industrial grade quantities of Vision Locking Tonal Control (that’s why vignette sliders to go -100) and rely heavily upon strong graphical elements such as leading lines (you will find a lot of B&W photos of wharves and sewerage pipes heading out to sea).

I would show you an example of this, but I am mono-challenged. If you want to see B&W Dynamic landscapes at their best check out the work of Mitch Dobrowner & Hengki Koentjoro.

So Are All Good Landscape Images ‘Dynamic’?

Not at all. Stunning images can be made by avoiding almost all of the techniques that I have just espoused in this essay. Dynamic Landscape composition is just one style of landscape photography.

In fact, many of my favourite images by others are beautifully composed static, flat compositions. These ‘static’ images respectfully comply with the two dimensional constraints of the photographic medium and rely upon a separate set of visual devices in order to ‘succeed’.

If they will have me back here at DPS, these static landscapes will be the topic of my next blog post.

Todd & Sarah Sisson are full-time landscape photographers based in Central Otago New Zealand.

Their work can be found as fine art prints & canvas prints at www.sisson.co.nz Todd also offers private and group photographic tuition. They can be found on facebook, Google Plus and twitter.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Composing Dynamic Landscape Images

Jul
17

Composing Dynamic Landscape Images

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Featured, Other Photography Tips

A Guest Post by Todd Sisson from www.sisson.co.nz.

As a landscape photographer I am constantly seeking that next X-factor shot – an image that leaps from the screen or page and demands the viewer’s attention – preferably attention of the favourable variety.

If you spend an hour or two on a photosharing site like Flickr viewing landscape images in un- curated groups you will note that a very small percentage of the total image population stands out from the crowd.

However, if you view a carefully curated collection of top-shelf landscape images you will probably start to notice some themes appearing. Certain visual cues and devices appear across multiple images – there will often be subtle commonalities between these attention hogging photos.

In many instances these images will possess the qualities of what I consider a dynamic landscape image.

What is a Dynamic Landscape Image?

Summer Storm, Queenstown New Zealand. An example of a dynamic landscape image. To maximise the number of dynamic elements in this image I locked this composition off in the field and shot multiple images. The best of about five wave-action frames were then blended together to form the final image.

There is no dictionary entry that defines a Dynamic Landscape Image* – heck, there’s not even a Wikipedia entry – so it is a somewhat personal interpretation.

To my mind, a dynamic landscape image is one that in some way conveys the energy and scale of the natural world. Dynamic images also often seek to breach the confines of their 2D medium by inferring a sense of depth – many truly dynamic image have an almost 3D quality about them.

*As far as I am aware, the term Dynamic Landscape was first popularised by the late Galen Rowell – one of the most influential American landscape photographers of his generation. Rowell used the term to demarcate his work from the somewhat literal colour landscape photography that dominated the early 1970′s. Although he was certainly not the only photographer employing these principles in his work, he appears to have been an excellent self-promoter and the term is somewhat synonymous with his name.

Dynamic Composition

Composition is the backbone of all great photos – dynamic or otherwise – but it is essential in the creation of a truly strong landscape image.

I feel that the goal of a successful composition is to draw the eye into image and hold it there for as long as possible – which is seemingly, a maximum 15 milliseconds these days*. The following image is an example of an image that I feel achieves this objective.

Sunrise Over The Moeraki Boulders, Otago New Zealand. Seascapes lend themselves to the creation of dynamic landscape images.

This image combines all of the elements that I feel comprise a Dynamic Landscape Image:

  • Leading or converging lines
  • Interesting perspective
  • Visually interesting foreground elements
  • Visually interesting mid-ground & background elements
  • Vivid colour or incredible light
  • Vision-locking tonal control
  • Suggestion of movement

It is important to note that not all dynamic landscape images possess all of these factors. In fact, it is depressingly rare to have it all come together in one moment. It must also be stated that what follows is not a recipe for creating great images. Photography can only be practised as an art when personal interpretation is injected into the process – only use this information as a guideline for evolving your own images.

So let’s have a very quick look at each of these Dynamic Landscape factors.

Leading Lines & Converging Lines

One of the simplest ways to draw a viewer’s attention into an image is to use converging or leading lines. Converging lines have been used by painters for centuries to create the illusion of depth within a 2 dimensional medium.

This is why photos of wharves, roads, and rivers make such successful photographic subjects. Although many consider such subjects to be cliches, I strongly council my workshop students to shoot them heavily to build an awareness of the power of a line in an image.

Leading lines not only draw attention into the image, they can also help to hold the eye within the confines of the image.

Check out the crudely overlaid wharf image below combines the strong converging lines of the wharf with secondary supporting lines in the water, hills and clouds.

Look for these lines whenever you are shooting – they are almost everywhere.

The Wharf at Frankton, Queenstown New Zealand. Shoot 'cliched' subjects like wharves and roads until it hurts a little. The pain is just your visual muscles growing stronger. Shooting man-made lines will teach you to look for more subtle lines in nature.

Although the wharf is the primary leading line device in this image there are a number of leading lines present in the water, hills and clouds. The darker reflected lines in the water help hold the eye in the central region of the frame.

Interesting Perspective

As a photographer you are an artist not a forensic documentarian. You get paid the mega-bucks and live the champagne lifestyle to show your audience something a little different – that is your raison d’être.

Hence I rarely find myself shooting at my natural standing position. For some reason, compositions seem to get more dynamic the closer you are to the ground/mud/ snow/ice-encrusted cow turd – it’s just the way it is.

This is especially apparent when using an ultra-wide lens. Subject matter becomes incredibly diminutive and interesting leading lines really lose their visual power when viewed from 5 or 6 feet high – so try getting uncomfortably close and low.

Aim high also. Look for ways to gain elevation to find that privileged viewpoint – I find that this often works really well when shooting telephoto lengths for some reason. Try scrambling up banks, standing on cars and sitting on your wife’s/husband’s shoulders (sans tripod) in an effort to find an interesting perspective.

Paddock Bay, Lake Wanaka New Zealand. Getting uncomfortably low in this instance dramatically altered the perceived form of the rock on the lower right of the frame. B y moving about I was able to create the satisfying impression of the rock 'interlocking' with the reflection. Note the strong leading line formed here also.

Foreground Elements

I believe that a dynamic image almost always possesses a strong foreground element, or elements, that complement the greater scene.

Take a sunset/sunrise for example. Sure, spectacular light makes for great images, but personally photos that contain nothing but vast expanses of super-saucy red clouds do little to engage me as a viewer.

The best dynamic images typically have a strong point of interest in the lower half, or foreground. This is your visual entree into an image. If your foreground element happens to include leading lines you are quite possibly onto the much vaunted money-shot.

Lupin(e)s, Fiordland New Zealand. Yeah, this is cheating – foreground elements don't come much easier than this. That aside, keen observers will note the subtle converging lines formed out of the lupin pattern. This was accentuated by deliberately placing a bloom in each corner and leaving a little empty space at the bottom of the frame. Sunstars make an exceptional background element (segues niftily to my next point)

Visually interesting Background Elements

I often compose back to front. Firstly I will find the subject of my image, say a spectacular sunset playing out on mountains, and then I will run around like a deranged prison escapee in search of a foreground element to complement the background.

It is very much a balancing act – defining who or what element gets to play the lead role in your composition. Ideally the background is where the eye should gravitate to and the foreground should pick up a gong for best supporting actor.

Milford Sound, Fiordland New Zealand. The star of this image is the dramatic light playing out in the clouds over the eye- catching form of Mitre Peak – the foreground & mid ground elements are critical supporting parts of the whole composition but don't hog the lime-light.

Unusually, I didn’t scramble to find a foreground element for this image – I staggered. Four minutes earlier I had been happily sleeping in the back of my truck – my alarm went off and I saw this – panic ensued….

Vivid Colour or Incredible Light

By now it should be obvious that I have some un-checked colour-dependancy issues. I love colour*, especially natural light shows. However, I feel that vivid colour needs to be kept in balance and be a part of the overall composition. Too often I see images that rely solely upon dollops of super- saturated colour.

For a dynamic landscape image to work, balance must prevail. Hence I attempt to avoid filling the frame with too much colour (yes, there is such a thing – see below).

*I am even partial to the American version – colour.

Sunrise from Mt Taranaki / Egmont, New Zealand. In this image the main act was the rapidly dissipating beams of sunrise goodness and the rich colour in the clouds. Lens choice and composition mean that the sunrise colour is just one component of the image. I often like to keep dark forms in my images (anathema to the HDR readers amongst you) as a counterpoint to the extreme lightness of a sunset/sunrise. I find the dark hills here quite mysterious in contrast to the sunstar and clouds.

Too much colour. This was one of the most intense sunrises that I have ever witnessed. I should have just sat and enjoyed it – this is just too much colour for my tastes – it looks un-realistic. This shot has actually been partially de-saturated in an effort to tame the colour.

Vision-locking Tonal Control

I am tempted to trademark this term – it sounds like a mind-control experiment deployed by shady branches of the US intelligence community.

Basically all I am referring to is the phenomenon of vignetting.

The eye is drawn towards lightness within an image, particularly near the centre of frame. Furthermore, the eye is restrained by darkness at the edges of the frame.

When employed deftly, the viewer’s eye is gently drawn into the image by lightness and held there by the darker edges of the image.

Look at all of the images above and you will see this technique in use. Often this happens in- camera just by virtue of the composition and through use of ND grad filters. However, I will often darken the top edge of an image in post and even add a subtle vignette as the last thing I do. Weird Cloud formation & Road to Nowhere. Alexandra New Zealand. In order to achieve vision-lock here I painted in a brighter layer near the central portion of the image. A little vignetting was added to further enhance the effect.

Suggested Motion

Suggested motion, by way of blur or frozen motion is not always an achievable, or desirable, element to utilise within an image – but it can add another layer of dynamism to a composition.

Don’t just get locked into shooting long exposures either – frozen, or partially-frozen motion can convey movement just as well as a long exposure in some circumstances (see the first image, Summer Storm, for an example of this).

Moeraki Boulder, Otago New Zealand. Long Exposure motion blur creates a dynamic tension between the static boulder and the relentless sea. Note the other dynamic ingredients added to this image - interesting perspective, use of colour, vision-lock, foreground/background interest.

Can Dynamic Landscape Images be B&W?

Absolutely. There are many thousands of truly incredible B&W dynamic landscape images. No style renders texture and contrast better than B&W – at it’s best it is magnificent.

In order to compensate for their ‘lost’ colour Black & Whiters will often apply industrial grade quantities of Vision Locking Tonal Control (that’s why vignette sliders to go -100) and rely heavily upon strong graphical elements such as leading lines (you will find a lot of B&W photos of wharves and sewerage pipes heading out to sea).

I would show you an example of this, but I am mono-challenged. If you want to see B&W Dynamic landscapes at their best check out the work of Mitch Dobrowner & Hengki Koentjoro.

So Are All Good Landscape Images ‘Dynamic’?

Not at all. Stunning images can be made by avoiding almost all of the techniques that I have just espoused in this essay. Dynamic Landscape composition is just one style of landscape photography.

In fact, many of my favourite images by others are beautifully composed static, flat compositions. These ‘static’ images respectfully comply with the two dimensional constraints of the photographic medium and rely upon a separate set of visual devices in order to ‘succeed’.

If they will have me back here at DPS, these static landscapes will be the topic of my next blog post.

Todd & Sarah Sisson are full-time landscape photographers based in Central Otago New Zealand.

Their work can be found as fine art prints & canvas prints at www.sisson.co.nz Todd also offers private and group photographic tuition. They can be found on facebook, Google Plus and twitter.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Composing Dynamic Landscape Images

Jul
1

How to Photograph Fireworks Displays

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Digital Photography Techniques, Featured

FireworksPhoto by hupaishi

Do you want to know how to photograph fireworks? With 4 July just days away I thought I’d refresh this article in which I give 10 Fireworks Photography tips to help you get started.

Fireworks Displays are something that evoke a lot of emotion in people as they are not only beautiful and spectacular to watch but they also are often used to celebrate momentous occasions.

I’ve had many emails from readers asking how to photograph fireworks displays, quite a few of whom have expressed concern that they might just be too hard to really photograph. My response is always the same – ‘give it a go – you might be surprised at what you end up with’.

My reason for this advice is that back when I bought my first ever SLR (a film one) one of the first things I photographed was fireworks and I was amazed by how easy it was and how spectacular the results were. I think it’s even easier with a digital camera as you can get immediate feedback as to whether the shots you’ve taken are good or not and then make adjustments.

Of course it’s not just a matter of going out finding a fireworks display – there are, as usual, things you can do to improve your results. With 4 July just around the corner I thought I’d share a few fireworks digital photography tips:

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1. Use a Tripod

Fireworks-1Photo by Piero Sierra

Perhaps the most important tip is to secure your digital camera to something that will ensure it doesn’t move during the taking of your shots. This is especially important in photographing fireworks simply because you’ll be using longer shutter speeds which will not only capture the movement of the fireworks but any movement of the camera itself. The best way to keep your camera still is with a tripod (read our series on tripods and how to use and buy them). Alternatively – keep in mind that there are other non Tripod options for beating camera shake.

2. Remote Release

One way to ensure your camera is completely still during fireworks shots is to invest in a remote release device. These will vary from camera to camera but most have some sort of accessory made for them. The other way of taking shots without touching your camera is to use the self timer. This can work but you really need to be able to anticipate shots well and its very very hit and miss (read more on remote shutter releases).

3. Framing Your Shot

One of the most difficult parts of photographing fireworks is working out where to aim your camera. The challenge you’ll face in doing this is that you generally need to aim your camera before the fireworks that you’ll be photographing goes off – anticipation is key. Here are a few points on getting your framing right.

FireworksPhoto by Stuck in Customs
  • Scope out the location early – Planning is important with fireworks and getting to the location early in order to get a good, unobstructed position is important. Think about what is in the foreground and background of your shots and make sure you won’t have people’s heads bobbing up into your shots (also consider what impact you’ll have on others around you also). Take note of where fireworks are being set up and what parts of the sky they are likely to be shot into – you might also want to try to ask some of those setting up the display for a little information on what they are planning. Also consider what focal lengths you might want to use and choose appropriate lenses at this time (rather than in the middle of the show).
  • Watch your Horizons - One thing that you should always consider when lining up fireworks shots is whether your camera is even or straight in it’s framing. This is especially important if you’re going to shooting with a wide focal length and will get other background elements in your shots (ie a cityscape). Keeping horizons straight is something we covered previously on this site and is important in fireworks shots also. As you get your camera on your tripod make sure it’s level right from the time you set up.
  • Vertical or Horizontal? – There are two main ways of framing shots in all types of photography, vertically (portrait) or horizontally (landscape). Both can work in fireworks photography but I personally find a vertical perspective is better – particularly as there is a lot of vertical motion in fireworks. Horizontal shots can work if you’re going for more of a landscape shot with a wider focal length of if you’re wanting to capture multiple bursts of fireworks in the one shot – but I don’t tend to go there that often.
  • Remember your framing – I find that when I photograph fireworks that I spend less time looking in my viewfinder and more looking at the sky directly. As a result it’s important to remember what framing you have and to watch that segment of the sky. Doing this will also help you to anticipate the right time for a shot as you’ll see the light trails of unexploded rockets shooting into the sky.

4. Focal Length?

How-To-Photograph-FireworksPhoto by asmundur

One of the hardest parts of photographing fireworks is having your camera trained on the right part of the sky at the right time. This is especially difficult if you’re shooting with a longer focal length and are trying to take more tightly cropped shots. I generally shoot at a wider focal length than a tight one but during a show will try a few tighter shots (I usually use a zoom lens to give me this option) to see if I can get lucky with them. Of course zoomed in shots like the one to the left can be quite effective also. They enable you to really fill the frame with great color. Keep in mind however that cropping of your wider angle fireworks shots can always be done later to get a similar impact in your photography.

5. Aperture

A common question around photographing fireworks displays is what aperture to use. Many people think you need a fast lens to get them but in reality it’s quite the opposite as the light that the fireworks emit is quite bright. I find that apertures in the mid to small range tend to work reasonably well and would usually shoot somewhere between f/8 to f/16.

6. Shutter Speed

How-To-Photograph-Fireworks-3Photo by *vlad*

Probably more important to get right than aperture is shutter speed. Fireworks move and as a result the best photographs of them capture this movement meaning you need a nice long exposure. The technique that I developed when I first photographed fireworks was to shoot in ‘bulb’ mode. This is a mode that allows you to keep the shutter open for as long as you hold down the shutter (preferably using a remote shutter release of some type). Using this technique you hit the shutter as the firework is about to explode and hold it down until it’s finished exploding (generally a few seconds).

You can also experiment with set shutter speeds to see what impact it will have but I find that unless you’re holding the shutter open for very long exposures that the bulb technique works pretty well.

Don’t keep your shutter open too long. The temptation is to think that because it’s dark that you can leave it open as long as you like. The problem with this is that fireworks are bright and it doesn’t take too much to over expose them, especially if your shutter is open for multiple bursts in the one area of the sky. By all means experiment with multiple burst shots – but most people end up finding that the simpler one burst shots can be best.

7. ISO

Fireworks-2-1Photo by Mr Magoo ICU

Shooting at a low ISO is preferable to ensure the cleanest shots possible. Stick to ISO 100 and you should be fine.

8. Switch off your Flash

Shooting with a flash will have no impact upon your shots except to trick your camera into thinking it needs a short exposure time. Keep in mind that your camera’s flash will only have a reach of a few meters and in the case of fireworks even if they were this close a flash wouldn’t really have anything to light except for some smoke which would distract from the real action (the flashing lights).Switch your flash off.

9. Shoot in Manual Mode

I find I get the best results when shooting in manual exposure and manual focus modes. Auto focusing in low light can be very difficult for many cameras and you’ll end up missing a lot of shots. Once your focusing is set you’ll find you don’t really need to change it during the fireworks display – especially if you’re using a small aperture which increases depth of field. Keep in mind that changing focal lengths will mean you need to need to adjust your focusing on most lenses.

10. Experiment and Track Results

Watching-FireworksPhoto by y entonces

Throughout the fireworks display periodically check your results. I generally will take a few shots at the start and do a quick check to see that they are OK before shooting any more. Don’t check after every shot once you’ve got things set up OK (or you’ll miss the action) but do monitor yours shots occasionally to ensure you’re not taking a completely bad batch.

Also experiment with taking shots that include a wider perspective, silhouettes and people around you watching the display. Having your camera pointed at the sky can get you some wonderful shots but sometimes if you look for different perspectives you can get a few shots that are a little less cliche and just as spectacular. Most of the best shots that I’ve seen in the researching of this article have included some other element than the fireworks themselves – whether it be people, buildings, landmarks or wider cityscape perspectives.

More Tips from DPS Readers

  • “Find Out the Direction of the Wind – You want to shoot up wind, so it goes Camera, Fireworks, Smoke. Otherwise they’ll come out REALLY hazy.”
  • “Also, I find that if you shoot from a little further back and with a little more lens, you can set the lens to manual focus, focus it at infinity and not have to worry about it after that.”
  • “Remember to take advantage of a zero processing costs and take as many pictures as possible (more than you’d normally think necessary). That way, you’ll up your chances of getting that “perfect” shot.”
  • “Make sure you are ready to take pictures of the first fireworks. If there isn’t much wind, you are going to end up with a lot of smoke in your shot. The first explosions are usually the sharpest one.”
  • “Get some black foam core and set your camera to bulb. Start the exposure when the fireworks start with the piece of foam core in front of the lens. Every time a burst happens move the foam core out of the way. You will get multiple firework bursts in one exposure”
  • “Another tip I would add to this is pre-focus if possible (need to be able to manually focus or lock down focus for good) before the show starts so other elements in the frame are sharp They did mention that you only need to focus once but its a lot easier to take a few shots before the show starts and check them carefully rather than wait until the show has begun and you are fiddling with focus instead of watching fireworks!”

Tell us your fireworks display photography tips in comments below. Don’t forget to tell us which city you’re in and what the fireworks are like there!

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Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

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How to Photograph Fireworks Displays