Tips for Creating Compelling Nature Photography

The post Tips for Creating Compelling Nature Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Karthika Gupta.

tips-for-creating-compelling-nature-photography

Nature photography is one of the most common forms of photography out there today and in this article, I’m going to give you tips for creating more compelling nature photography.

Instagram alone has more than 80 million posts under the hashtag #naturephotography. Not to mention that variations like #naturephotos and #naturephotoshoot have their own massive following. No matter what genre of photography you practice, getting out in nature and capturing images of the natural world is always fascinating.

Perhaps some of the charm and pull of nature photography has to do with the fact that it is free, easily accessible (depending on where you are), and there is never a shortage of subject matter, light or even creative framing – all elements that contribute to a stellar photo.

Tips for Creating Compelling Nature Photography

Nature photography doesn’t have to be boring or mundane. Nor is nature photography only images of dramatic landscapes in exotic faraway locations. Even your house plant or tree in your backyard can become compelling nature photography if done correctly. There are a few things you can do to take your nature photography from boring to amazing.

Focus on the subject

Look at any photography course, cheat sheet, or guide. It will talk about the importance of your subject as it relates to the overall image. The subject is everything. A subject can make or break an image, and I don’t say that to just sound dramatic.

Some photos have so much going on that we are confused about the message. On the flip side, some images use a shallow depth of field to focus on one element, yet nothing else gives context to what is going on in the image. We are often left wondering what the intention of the image is.

Don’t let that happen to you. Focus on the subject based on what story you are looking to tell. Ask yourself if the subject helps or distracts from that story.

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We were photographing wild horses in Utah when the sun set. My subject was still the horses but, for me, the element of the setting sun just added more drama to the scene.

If you want to photograph a tree in your backyard in the Fall, wait until all the leaves turn a bright red color to complement the story of fall colors. If you want to photograph a landscape at golden hour, figure out the direction of the sunset and watch the weather to see if conditions are right for a dramatic golden hour and sunset.

Understand what you are photographing and the story you want to tell. This will help you conduct the right kind of research needed for executing your shoot and the results you want.

Understand the light you are working with

If there is one thing I would shout from the rooftops as it relates to photography, it is about the importance of light in photography.

There is no such thing as bad lighting. Lighting is just different at different times of the day.

Not all lighting is the same in terms of quality of light. Light is just different at different times of the day. Sometimes the light is perfect – that warm, soft glow that translates beautifully in pictures. Other times, the lighting is harsh and strong. I wouldn’t say that type of lighting is always bad – it is just not the same every time.

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Morning Light In The Tetons

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Harsh mid-day sun in the Himalayas

Image: Setting sun along the Oregon coast

Setting sun along the Oregon coast

The sooner you train your eye to read the different types of light, and what it can do to your images, the sooner you will be able to analyze your imagery better. You’ll also get photos closer to the style you like without wasting too much time in post-processing. No amount of editing can really fix an image taken in poor lighting conditions.

As it is with nature photography, you cannot always control your light source, that is, the sun. There might be many instances that you are out in nature during the harsh midday sun. This light is strong and very warm. Learn to use that to compliment your photos.

If you can get outside during golden hour, use that light to add some drama to your nature photos. But make sure that you don’t photograph directly into the setting sun as it leads to a lot of sun flare entering your frame (unless that is the effect you are after). It can also make the shot appear muddy and blown out to the point of not being able to see the subjects clearly.

Focus on the details

Most of us focus on the bigger picture when we photo nature and landscapes: big skies, large mountains, or even vast open waters. But there is something to be said about slowing down and noticing the details around you. The feel and texture of sand, the colors of pebbles at the beach, the curling leaves under flowers or the colors of a butterfly’s wings. There are so many ways to include details in your images to create compelling nature photography.

Just because something is larger than life, doesn’t mean it is the only thing that matters. Details create depth, texture, and complement the narrative.

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Explore colors in nature

I recently came across a YouTuber who prepares natural paints from colors found in nature and uses that for her art. I found it fascinating to watch her grid stones and use their powder for colors, harness indigo from blueberries and red from wild roses. There are countless colors that are found in nature if only we know where to look.

Use colors to convey emotions and meaning. We all know that some colors are associated with certain types of feelings in the eyes of the viewer. Yellow evokes happiness and enthusiasm. Red means strength and energy. Orange shows creativity and warmth. Green signifies harmony and growth.

Use colors in your photography to give that element of wow to your images. Nature has an abundance of color all around – just look for it.

Tips for Creating Compelling Nature Photography

Simple always triumphs complex

I alluded to this earlier in the article, where I talked about the chaos in an image. Clutter can be messy and sometimes put off a person in real life. Some busy photos where there is a lot happening can be complex and chaotic. Life is crazy enough. We don’t always need to take that into our art.

Nature Photography has the power to transform us to a magical and fantastical place, someplace calm and peaceful. By simplifying our photos, we can transport the user to a place of calm so that they can emotionally connect with our images.

Image: I used a simple black foam board to highlight the white and the fellow of these flowers.

I used a simple black foam board to highlight the white and the fellow of these flowers.

I hope these simple tips help you create more compelling nature photography. Nature has the power to heal in so many ways, and by using that effectively in our imagery, we can convey that narrative to our audience.

Do you have any other tips for creating compelling nature photography? Share with us in the comments!

The post Tips for Creating Compelling Nature Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Karthika Gupta.

Tools for Doing In-Person Photography Sales to Boost Your Income Stream

The post Tools for Doing In-Person Photography Sales to Boost Your Income Stream appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

in-person-photography-sales

It seems now many clients only want digital files, however, there are still photographers doing in-person photography sales and making more from their art than the shoot and burn photographer. You don’t need a lot to get started with in-person photography sales. You can add products, samples, and such as your sales increase. Learn the tips you need to get started by reading below!

What are in-person photography sales?

In-person photography sales are where you set an appointment with your clients to give them a personalized viewing of their photos and conduct a sales meeting with them at the same time.

You can set the date for the in-person photography sales appointment before the actual session or when the photos are ready to view. It all depends on how you handle and schedule your calendar.

An in-person photography sales appointment is for photographers who wish to sell products like prints, frames, and other specialty items. These have a set profit margin so you can make the most out of a portrait session or wedding.

Why have in-person photography sales to begin with?

When a photographer gives away their photos in digital format, the client is allowed to print outside of the photographer’s studio, resulting in a loss in money for the photographer. With in-person sales, you are able to offer your clients their most valuable photos of their family, or event, and get top-quality products in return.

Image: You can use a gallery mock-up like this to sell wall galleries, frames, or other products dur...

You can use a gallery mock-up like this to sell wall galleries, frames, or other products during the in-person photography sales appointment. It helps your clients visualize the final product.

In-person photography sales give your clients more personalized attention. It also allows them to get their photos off digital format and onto their walls.

Giving your clients this personalized attention will also make your clients feel taken care of in the most intimate way. This rounds out the whole portrait photography experience. You’ll have them come to you next time they need that personal experience again.

What do you need to get started with in-person photography sales?

To begin with, you need an action plan. You’ll need to determine how you’ll be conducting the sales appointment. Choose a location with minimal distraction and noise, so that you can tailor your sales appointment to have the atmosphere you want. It can be a shared space, a rented location, or even in your home or the client’s home.

You’ll also need some sort of device to showcase the photos from the session. This can be a laptop, iPad/tablet, or even a screen projector to showcase the photos large. If you have a studio space, you can choose a room or location inside that has a TV or computer to show their images.

Sign up with a professional lab

Next, you’ll need to make a catalog of the products you’ll be offering. Make sure to use a top photographic lab and not your friendly neighborhood Costco. While there’s nothing wrong with Costco for personal printing, they are not a professional lab with professional printers and top quality control.

Image: WHCC offers a program you can use on your iPad called Studio to create mockups of products yo...

WHCC offers a program you can use on your iPad called Studio to create mockups of products your clients want to buy.

White House Custom Color, Bay Photo Lab, Black River Imaging are a few of the leading professional photography labs, among many, many more. Find one that you like best and give them a try. All of them offer a variety of products ranging from loose prints to specialty items like tree ornaments, bookmarks, and even mugs with photos on them.

After you figure out what products you want to sell to your clients, figure out the pricing. Factor in shipping and the cost of the product. Only then can you determine how much of a profit margin you want. Depending on your market, you might be at a 40% profit margin or perhaps more.

Image: A digital catalog can help you showcase your products and pricing to clients without having t...

A digital catalog can help you showcase your products and pricing to clients without having to order samples. Some labs offer free product guides without branding or prices.

If you have capital, get samples of the products that you think will be top sells, and loose prints in various sizes. If you’ll be offering to frame, get the sample corners.

Each photographer has their own set of top sellers. With time, you can accumulate samples of those products. However, if you don’t have money to invest in samples, create a sales catalog in Illustrator or Photoshop. That way, your clients can see the products.

Image: Having sample albums in smaller sizes can help your clients visualize the final product.

Having sample albums in smaller sizes can help your clients visualize the final product.

WHCC has a site without any branding that you can use to get your clients excited about products. Many professional labs also offer samples at a discount so that you can afford some of the products to help you sell.

Payments

Sign up with a merchant account of some sort so that you can take credit card and debit card payments. You can get a card reader with some services like Square and PayPal to make processing credit cards and debit cards much easier. These also allow you to email receipts to your client.

Some gallery services like Instaproofs offer merchant services and invoicing to photographers right from the gallery. They can also provide direct printing straight from the gallery.

Figure out what works for you and which service offers a better plan for you. It’s really helpful when more and more people use these types of services.

To recap, you’ll need the following:

  1. Figure out your plan. Where will you have the in-person photography sales appointments?
  2. Sign up with a professional photography lab.
  3. Figure out the products and pricing you’ll be selling.
  4. Invest in samples or create a catalog of products to show clients.
  5. Get a merchant account, Square, or PayPal for payments with cards.
  6. Stick to your plan!

What are the benefits of having in-person photography sales?

The benefits are many in that you are giving your clients something that they won’t get anywhere else – your personalized attention throughout the whole photographic experience.

Tools for Doing In-Person Photography Sales to Boost Your Income Stream

By having an in-person photography sales appointment with your clients, you are showing them their beautiful portraits via slideshow or even just in the gallery one by one. You are helping them choose their favorites, and setting them up with products that they’ll treasure for many years to come.

When you hand over digitals via an online gallery, you are missing out on the emotion behind the whole experience. They download, print, and buy somewhere else – leaving you with a loss.

Image: Showing your clients what their photos can look like in their home is also a good way to sell...

Showing your clients what their photos can look like in their home is also a good way to sell products.

Even if you offer digital products, having an in-person photography sales appointment with clients is the best way to show them that you not only take great photographs but care about your clients. It shows then that you are there with your knowledge and expertise to find the right product, photo, and gift to make their photos stand out.

In-person sales appointments are a great way to end the whole experience and create a deeper bond with your clients that an online gallery or digital photos never will.

What if my clients can’t meet or live out of town?

Although it’s better to be physically face-to-face with your clients, sometimes you can’t, and that’s okay. Luckily, there are other ways to hold an in-person photography sales appointment.

Image: Even digital mockups of products can help you sell more to your clients. Show them on your la...

Even digital mockups of products can help you sell more to your clients. Show them on your laptop or tablet after you show your clients their gallery.

If they can’t meet with you in person, offer a video chat style of sales appointment that best fits into their busy schedule. It’s understandable that clients can get busy with their families, life, work, and travel, however, make it a point to have some type of face-to-face appointment with them.

Use Skype so that you can share your screen with them and show them the slideshow of photos you’ve prepared. You’ll see their reactions and emotions to the beautiful photos and can then begin the process of selling your products.

Image: On the left is a catalog unbranded from a professional lab. On the right is a digital mockup...

On the left is a catalog unbranded from a professional lab. On the right is a digital mockup of various products using my own photos.

Make sure to send your product guide/catalog to them before the meeting so that they are aware of what type of products you offer and at what price points they begin.

Make the most out of in-person photography sales appointments

If you offer digitals with your packages, don’t make them readily available to your clients before your sales appointment. Chances are, they’ll walk away with the digitals and forget to make or go to the appointment since they’ve gotten their digitals.

It’s best to schedule the sales appointment before you have the actual session. That way, you can set a time and day that works best for everyone ahead of time. Families especially need careful planning so that they can attend the sales meeting.

Set the tone for the in-person photography sales appointment. Even if you don’t have physical products yet, bring copies of your catalog. Perhaps offer drinks or snacks during the appointment and have the slide show and gallery ready to view. Make sure there is no need for an internet connection in all of your prep, just in case you meet at a place that doesn’t have wifi.

Give your clients an incentive for purchasing their photos. You could offer a gift print with purchases over a certain amount. Or if it’s part of your business plan, include a digital print of the photos that they get in prints or products so that they can keep that as well.

Offer a payment plan to your clients. Put their credit card on file with a payment date so that you can automatically charge their cards when the payment is due. This allows them to have the products that they want most. Sometimes, payment plans can increase your sales because they offer more flexibility to your clients.

Set about two minutes worth of favorite images to music and create a slideshow. After, have your order form, catalog or samples, and begin showing the rest of the gallery to your clients. This creates excitement around seeing the rest of the images.

In conclusion

Having an in-person photography sales appointment doesn’t mean you have to have a studio or even samples.  You can get started right away with a catalog of products and prices. You can use a rented or shared space, or even have the in-person sales appointment in your clients’ home or via video chat.

Either way, giving your clients this personal and handheld experience to get the most out of their photos will mean more income for you and wall portraits for them. This makes the whole photographic experience more meaningful!

Do you make in-person photography sales? What tips can you offer other photographers? Share in the comments!

The post Tools for Doing In-Person Photography Sales to Boost Your Income Stream appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

How to Find and Photograph Wild Landscapes for Epic Images

The post How to Find and Photograph Wild Landscapes for Epic Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

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Wild Landscapes can be described as “unspoiled areas of land including hills, mountains, and rivers where wild animals, trees, and plants live or grow in natural surroundings and are not looked after by people.”

Venturing into the wild with your camera can be a great adventure that provides a unique opportunity and rewarding exploration to photograph untouched and pristine landscapes. Embarking on such a trip requires careful planning before you go.

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Sinai Mountains, Egypt

The first thing you will need to do is choose a wild landscape location to visit. How to go about finding these places is simply a matter of looking for potential destinations. Certain areas around the world are famous for their wild landscapes and rugged beauty including the majestic mountains of Scotland, the highlands of Iceland, the Grand Canyon in the USA, the Canadian Rockies, the deserts of Namibia, Patagonia in South America and many more.

Closer to home, you can find wild landscapes within national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and amongst local nature.

Two UK-based photographers worth following who like to photograph wild landscapes include, Thomas Heaton and Alex Nail. Both produce great visuals of wild landscapes, outdoor photography and nature, and are very inspiring.

Once you have found a suitable location, there are several things to consider before going out to photograph wild landscapes.

Go prepared

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Brecon Beacons, England

When going on a shoot, make a packing list and be prepared from wearing the right gear to having plenty of food and drink supplies to keep your energy levels up.

Take the right clothing

The clothing you take will determine how comfortable you will be. For example, appropriate rain gear is essential if this is the forecast. In sunny weather, you may be uncomfortable in too much clothing, and in colder weather, you will be chilly if you don’t wear enough layers. So you will need to wear appropriate clothing.

Footwear

Choose the appropriate footwear for the terrain you will be walking on. A sturdy pair of waterproof walking boots with good grips on the souls are essential for long walks over rough grounds with rain forecast.

Supplies

Supplies of food and water are important to keep you fuelled and hydrated. Take more than you estimate for your journey in case of any difficulties, such as burning more calories than expected on a long hike to your destination.

Consider wild camping

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Torres del Paine, Chile

Consider taking a lightweight tent and camping out overnight somewhere to photograph an epic scene of the wilderness. There are advantages to wild camping beside a great view. They include being able to capture the sunset and sunrise, and not having to walk to the destination twice.

The right camera gear

Travel light, especially if you are going to stay out overnight somewhere. Cut back on the camera equipment you take as much as you can. Make room to carry other essentials such as food and drink supplies. Only take the lenses you think you will need, such as a wide-angle lens.

Other equipment

Be sure to take a map with you as a precaution. Also, take a fully-charged phone with a GPS app or an ordinance survey map for directions.

Let people know where you are going

It may seem obvious, but it is essential to tell people where you are heading, and for how long, as a safety precaution. This helps in the unlikely event that you experience any unforeseen circumstances. This could include bad weather (for example, thick fog on a mountain top) or sustaining an injury where you are unable to return at the anticipated time.

You will feel more comfortable in the knowledge that someone knows where you are if you require assistance.

Time your visit

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The Rockies, Canada

When shooting a wild landscape, it is important to consider the weather conditions.

Time your visit to go and shoot when the weather is good or dramatic. It depends on the kind of image you want to achieve.

There is no such thing as ‘bad weather’ for photography, as in different conditions, you’ll gain different results. For example, a wild stormy sky is great for a powerful and energetic image. Calm and still conditions can give you a minimalist outcome. Each has its own appeal.

You can even shoot landscape images in the midday sun if you prefer to visit during the day.

Choose a viewpoint and composition

When it comes to photographing an epic wild landscape, you will want to choose a viewpoint and composition that captures the location well. Seek out strong compositions that show the majesty of the place, such as a striking mountain range or some intriguing details.

Tripod

It is worth setting your camera on a tripod, especially to help shoot in low light or blustery weather where the conditions can adversely affect the outcome of your images. This will assist in providing more stability and essentially sharper pictures.

Light

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Sossusvlei, Namibia

When photographing wild landscapes, consider the light to create great images. You can photograph spectacular scenes by using light creatively. Capture sidelight (when the sun lights the landscape from the side, often creating interesting shadows and textures), backlight (shooting in the direction of the sun where your subject can be silhouetted or have bright edges) or front light (where the sun is coming from behind you and straight onto your subject). You can also include the sun in your shot to make images with different tones and brightness.

Conclusion

Photographing wild landscapes can be a great adventure and an opportunity to explore pristine and untouched landscapes. You can find wild landscapes within national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and amongst local nature. Remember to consider clothing, footwear, food and water, camera equipment and a map and be sure to let people know where you are going. Choose an interesting viewpoint, use a tripod and be creative with light. Share your pictures of Wild Landscapes with us below.

The post How to Find and Photograph Wild Landscapes for Epic Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Mountains

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is MOUNTAINS!

Image: Cathedral Rock and the Hump Mt Buffalo in Winter  by Caz Nowaczyk

Cathedral Rock and the Hump Mt Buffalo in Winter  by Caz Nowaczyk

I have a big fascination with mountains and have recently been visiting Mount Buffalo in Victoria, Australia again (I visit here a lot because it is such an incredible landscape!). This has inspired this week’s challenge!

So go out and capture mountains. They can be color, black and white, moody or bright. Just so long as they have mountains! You can also manipulate them in your favorite post-processing software. You get the picture! Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Image: The Cathedral and the Hump at Mt Buffalo National Park, Victoria in Winter by Caz Nowaczyk

The Cathedral and the Hump at Mt Buffalo National Park, Victoria in Winter by Caz Nowaczyk

Image: View from The Horn to The Cathedral and the Hump in Mount Buffalo National Park by Caz Nowacz...

View from The Horn to The Cathedral and the Hump in Mount Buffalo National Park by Caz Nowaczyk

 

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

Tips for Shooting MOUNTAINS

 

5 Tips for Avoiding Boring Photos of Mountains

Simple Tips to Improve Your Travel Photography – Photographing Mountains, Hills and Valleys

9 Tips for Photographing Mountain Lake Reflections

A Set of Awe Inspiring Majestic Mountain Images

How to Photograph a Minimalist Landscape

These Inspiring Landscape Photographers will Make You Want to Take Better Photos

The dPS Top Landscape Photography Tips of 2018

Weekly Photography Challenge – MOUNTAINS

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 #DPSmountains 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 – Mountains appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

How to Copyright Your Photography and Why You Really Should

The post How to Copyright Your Photography and Why You Really Should appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

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In today’s digital world, it has become crucial to register copyright for your images. Theft online is rampant, so you need to protect yourself and your work. Read on to find out why you should and how to copyright your photography.

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What is Copyright?

Copyright protects the legal rights of the owner of intellectual property or work of art. In simple terms, copyright is the right to copy. As photographers, this means that only we as the original creators of our images, and anyone we give authorization to, are the only ones with the exclusive right to publish or otherwise reproduce our images.

The moment you click the shutter on your camera, you own the copyright to your images. No matter your level of skill, or whether you’re an amateur or a pro, your images are protected by law.

Keep in mind that copyright laws do vary from country to country, therefore the information in this article is general. It’s also meant for educational purposes since I’m not a lawyer and not qualified to give legal advice.

The lack of knowledge or education about copyright has caused a lot of problems in the photographic industry. Many new or emerging photographers are not educating their clients on copyright and usage, so clients assume they own their images and can do with them whatever they wish. To compound this problem, lawyers often advise their clients to always obtain copyright from the photographer, but in most cases, this is completely unnecessary, unless the client wants to sell the images and make a profit from them.

All of the big companies like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s never ask for copyright. They don’t need it. They license images for a specific use and time frame.

Any discussion about buying out copyright should include very large numbers.

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What is published versus unpublished work?

There are two types of work that fall under Copyright: published and unpublished.

Digital media falls under copyright protection, but it has not been updated to be clear. Published works, in this case, are different from a patent, which covers inventions or discoveries, or trademarks, which covers designs, symbols, logos, and words.

To qualify as published, the work must be distributed to the public in some form, whether digital or print. There has to be some form of copies or multiples. A website or blog doesn’t qualify as published because your photos are not getting distributed. Social media is also considered unpublished. It is not distributed to the public in copies the way stock photos are, for example.

How to Copyright Your Photography and Why You Really Should

Why you should register your copyright

It’s an unfortunate by-product of living in today’s world that your images will get stolen. If you post any of your photography online, chances are that some will get stolen at one time or another. Some of this theft is due to the ignorance of the public, while others knowingly take your images without your permission, without paying for usage licensing.

Unfortunately, a lot of large companies do this, and there have been numerous high profile lawsuits where photographers have won hundreds of thousands of dollars for copyright infringement.

Filing copyright on your photos will protect you in the case you need to go to court to sue for statutory damages and lawyers fees. In a copyright infringement suit, a judge or jury can award you statutory damages as defined by the Copyright Act – thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars, if you can prove that your image was stolen with willful intent.

Photography is becoming more commoditized, but there is still immense value in it because it allows companies to make a profit by advertising their products. If someone is trying to gain financially by selling a product with stolen images, that is a big problem. Think of it this way: it’s not just the images that are stolen; it’s also the profit of the photographer.

When you don’t charge for usage, or go after those who are using your images unlawfully, that’s money out of your pocket. And what’s worse, you may actually be struggling to pay your overhead and make a profit in the first place.

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How to file for Copyright

Filing for copyright can be a bit tedious, but it can be done online fairly simply. For example, as I’m based in Canada, I Googled “Canadian Copyright Office” and easily found the website for the intellectual property office. I have registered photographs and even a photography eBook I sell on my blog online very easily.

Some countries have agreements with the U.S. to enforce U.S. copyright laws. It’s often useful to register your copyright in the U.S. even if you’re not a U.S. citizen, to obtain the statutory benefits of registration in the United States.

Ideally, you should copyright any images before they are published, but you can copyright them at any time. You can even copyright them after you’ve discovered an unlawful use of one of your images. It will just be a bit more complicated from a documentation standpoint.

The cost of registering copyright varies from country to country. In Canada, it’s $50, and in the U.S., it’s currently $55 for a group of images. You can copyright your images as a group, to a maximum of 750.

For more information about registering photographs with the U.S. Copyright Office, go here.

The portal is fairly simple to use, but this resource will give you more information. You have to upload a .jpeg for each image you’re copyrighting, and submit a title list in an Excel spreadsheet. The preference is that these items be submitted in a .zip file.

Research the copyright laws in your country. Although in many countries like Canada and the U.S. copyright is immediate upon creation of a work, you still have to register copyright before you can sue.

Conversely, in Australia, there is no formal copyright registration system. The law ensures that certain forms of expression are automatically covered under the Copyright Act.

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To sum up

Copyright is something that a lot of people don’t understand – even clients. It’s important to educate yourself and those you work with on the ins-and-outs of copyright. As I mentioned, laws vary from country to country, but you can find a lot of this information online. It’s crucial to protect yourself and your work.

Do you have any other tips on how to copyright your photography? Have you had your images stolen? If so, share with us in the comments below.

The post How to Copyright Your Photography and Why You Really Should appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

How to Use a 16-Stop ND Filter for Extreme Long Exposure Photography

The post How to Use a 16-Stop ND Filter for Extreme Long Exposure Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

extreme-long-exposure-photography

Long exposure techniques are a fantastic way to inject interest into your photography. By nature, these techniques present your images in a way that is different to how the world is perceived by the human eye. Blurring moving elements within your frame (whether that be water, people or clouds) can also be a tool to help you isolate and focus on the elements of a scene that you want your viewers to focus on. This makes long exposures a valuable asset for composition and design. While most long exposures last for a matter of a few seconds, there are tools available that will allow you to do extreme long exposure photography – even in the middle of the day.

How to Use a 16-Stop ND Filter for Extreme Long Exposure Photography

This tutorial will show you how to use a 16-stop neutral density filter to do extreme long exposure photography. It will take you step-by-step through the equipment you need, the steps you need to take to get started, and the considerations you need to make to overcome some technical issues. There is also a list of tips at the end to help you get the most out of your 16-stop ND filter.

Why 16 stops?

Extreme-Long-Exposure-Photography

Using the long exposures provided by a 16-stop ND filter, you are able to blur moving elements (such as clouds and water) to simplify your frame and reduce visual clutter.

Long exposures, even with strong 10-stop neutral density filters, are usually limited to low light situations. For the most part, this is fine as that means you will be out at golden hour or blue hour when the light is at its very best for most types of photography.

What a 16-stop ND filter allows you to do is to extreme long exposure photography in the middle of the day when the light levels are at their highest. For example, a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second (sunny 16 rule) turns into an 8-minute and 44-second exposure when you put 16-stops of neutral density filter on the lens. This kind of exposure time turns the water and clouds into an almost ethereal, milky texture that works well visually. By blurring these elements, you are also potentially reducing visual clutter and contrast in your scenes, making them more visually appealing.

What you need

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Apart from the filter, this technique is going to require a few other pieces of equipment as well.

  • A camera with a Bulb setting.
  • A sturdy tripod that will hold still for several minutes or more.
  • A release that will allow you to trigger the camera without touching it.
  • An exposure calculator.
  • A 16-stop ND filter. (This tutorial will work the same with any strength of ND filter.)

How to do it

Once you’re out on location, setting up for a long exposure is pretty easy. In fact, these steps remain the same whether you are using a three-stop filter or a 16-stop filter.

Step 1: Set up your camera and line up your composition.

Make sure to attach all of your releases or filter holders at this point as well. Anything you can use to reduce the chance of camera movement between now and the time your exposure finishes will help to ensure there is no camera movement affecting your images. Take your time with this step and if you need to, take as many test shots as possible. Once you put the filter on, you will be stuck in place for several minutes.

Be sure of your composition before you get to that point.

Step 2: Meter and calculate exposure

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Here, a metered shutter speed (without the filter) of 1/160th of a second becomes 6 minutes and 49 seconds once the 16-stop ND filter is applied.

If you’ve taken test shots, you already know what your exposure is (without the filter). If not, read the camera’s meter. Take the exposure it has given you and input it into the exposure calculator of your choice to calculate the exposure required for 16-stops of ND filter. This will give you your required exposure for your final image.

There are a lot of exposure calculators available on iOS and Android. They all provide the same end result, so pick whichever one you would like.

Step 3: Set focus

Set the focus where you want in the frame and then place the camera in Manual Focus mode. Autofocus will not work at all with a 16-stop filter. It is way too dense. Putting your camera into manual focus will make sure that the camera does not attempt to focus when it can’t, thereby rendering your photos out of focus.

Step 4: Switch to Bulb

Put your camera into Bulb mode to allow it to keep the shutter open for as long as your exposure requires.

Step 5: Attach the filter

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With everything in place, you can now attach your filter. If you’re using a rectangular slot-in variety, attach the holder to the ring you’ve already placed on your lens. If you’re using a screw-in variety (shown), be very careful not to jostle your set-up because, if you do, you will have to start the process again.

Step 6 – Input shutter speed

Extreme-Long-Exposure-Photography

My trigger is controlled by my phone, so the shutter speed is inputted into the app as shown.

With the filter set up, you just need to input your shutter speed into whatever trigger you are using. In these examples, I am using a Pulse trigger which allows me to control it from my phone. There are a lot of available options at a variety of price points. Be sure to choose one that doesn’t require you to hold down a button for ten minutes though.

Step 7 – Release the shutter

With that done, the only thing left for you to do is to start your exposure and wait.

Easy as that

How to Use a 16-Stop ND Filter for Extreme Long Exposure Photography

This process may seem like a lot of steps, but it is quite easy. As long as you take care not to move the camera throughout the process, you will be fine. You will be able to set it up in a minute or so once you have practiced a bit. The key here is to know your equipment and to practice the movements so you can perform them as second nature.

Considerations

Now that you know how to create long exposures with your 16-stop ND filter, there are a few technical considerations you should bear in mind.

Noise

Image: Noise is a problem when taking long exposures and is especially prone to showing up in the sh...

Noise is a problem when taking long exposures and is especially prone to showing up in the shadow areas of your images. Be prepared to take care of it.

Unfortunately, long exposures with digital cameras mean noise. The longer the exposure, the more noise appears in your images. If you use a higher ISO to achieve shorter exposures, that will also increase the noise levels in your images.

To alleviate this as much as possible, try to avoid really, really long exposures if they are not necessary. If your camera has a Long Exposure Noise Reduction (or similar) feature, turn it on (remember that this will double your exposure time). It will also help if you to familiarize yourself with noise reduction software, either inside Photoshop or Lightroom, or other third-party program.

Hot pixels

Image: The two circled white dots are hot pixels. They’re easy enough to clone out just as lon...

The two circled white dots are hot pixels. They’re easy enough to clone out just as long as you are aware of them in the first place.

Hot Pixels are an unfortunate side effect of long exposures using digital cameras. While there is no way to truly avoid them, you need to be aware of their existence as they have the potential to ruin your efforts. These defects happen when your sensor gets hot during a long exposure (a simplified explanation, but it will serve).

To deal with them, you can heal, patch, or clone them out in Photoshop. Alternatively, you could use the Long Exposure Noise Reduction (or similar feature as appears in your camera system), but be aware this doubles your exposure time. If your exposure is close to nine minutes, that now means that all of your exposures will take about 18 minutes.

Light leaks

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While light leaks of this nature can be easy to take care of, there are a few steps you can take to make sure that they don’t appear in the first place.

With such long exposures, light leaks can be a common problem. These happen where excess light falls onto your sensor. This can happen where the filter attaches to the lens, or it can happen where the lens attaches to the camera. It can also happen through the viewfinder.

If you’re worried about light leaks, you can buy dedicated accessories that help to prevent them. If the leak is coming from the lens mount, you can also wrap material around it for a cheaper option. Some camera brands have a little rubber rectangle attached to the camera strap. This handy little feature is used to cover your viewfinder during long exposures. Simply slide off the exterior case over your viewfinder, and slide the rubber rectangle from your camera strap in its place. This will stop the light leaking in through the viewfinder.

Another option is to shoot a wider composition than you need and crop the light leaks out. This wouldn’t be my preferred method, but it will work in a pinch when you have no other choice.

Changing light

Image: This image is underexposed by several stops. Although it was taken at the exposure the meter...

This image is underexposed by several stops. Although it was taken at the exposure the meter dictated, the light dimmed significantly during the exposure, meaning the original exposure time was inadequate.

In the middle of the day, your exposure will be close to a near-constant. Later in the day, however, light levels can start to change rapidly.

If you meter for a long exposure of a hypothetical half hour in the late afternoon, it is entirely possible the light will lower in intensity during that time. Therefore, the actual time required for correct exposure will be much much longer. This will result in underexposed images.

You can compensate by preparing for that possibility beforehand. Choose a longer shutter speed than your meter dictates if you suspect that the light will change on you. This will be mostly guesswork based on plenty of experience though, so be sure to be out practicing as much as possible.

Filter size

Image: For the most versatility, consider opting for a filter system that will fit the complete rang...

For the most versatility, consider opting for a filter system that will fit the complete range of your lenses so you have the choice to use it at all of your available focal lengths.

Image: Alternatively, feel free to shoot wide and crop in. Not ideal, but this works just fine. Crop...

Alternatively, feel free to shoot wide and crop in. Not ideal, but this works just fine. Cropping is also a useful way to get rid of light leaks that appear at the edges of your images like in the example shown.

If you opt for the screw-in variety of filters, you may find yourself limited with the lenses you can use. In my case, I bought a filter that would fit my 16-35mm wide-angle zoom, and almost immediately found that I wanted to put it on my 70-200mm to crop in close on a particular building.

I was convinced that I wouldn’t want to use it on anything but the wide-angle lens. You can always buy stop-down rings, but if you think that you’ll use your filter on a  variety of lenses, a filter that fits a slot-in system may be the better choice for you.

Releases, triggers, and remotes

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As mentioned, there are a lot of options to fire your shutter without touching your camera. It doesn’t matter which you pick. However, it would be best to altogether avoid any releases that require you to hold down a button for the entire duration of the exposure. For thirty seconds, this may not be a problem, but in terms of ten-minute exposures, you are just increasing the chance that you might slip and ruin your frame.

Tips

Here are a handful of tips to help you get the most out of the technique.

ISO

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If you want shorter exposure times without using a different filter, you can increase your ISO. Here, changing the ISO from 100 to 400 (2 stops) has cut the exposure time by over 75%.

If you don’t want to wait around for, say, ten minutes for an exposure, you can halve it by upping your ISO one stop. This may introduce some more noise to your images, but as long as you don’t try to go past ISO 800, and your exposures are under or around 10 minutes, you should be fine as long as you are aware of the possibility.

Lighting

Image: In overcast conditions, the effect of the 16-stop filter can emphasize the flatness of the li...

In overcast conditions, the effect of the 16-stop filter can emphasize the flatness of the lighting. This may or not work with what you are trying to achieve.

Image: Conversely, the technique also helps to emphasize hard lighting and the contrast in such scen...

Conversely, the technique also helps to emphasize hard lighting and the contrast in such scenes. Use this to your advantage.

This is no rule, but I’ve found that this technique works well with subjects in direct light as the heavy contrast suits the technique. In overcast conditions, the flatness of the light is emphasized, and the results can feel a little less than inspiring. Again, this is not a rule and if you have no choice but to shoot in overcast conditions, do so anyway.

Moving things

Extreme-Long-Exposure-Photography

On a rare and anomalous sunny day in Manchester, this river was full of numerous boats that constantly went through my frames. The near ten-minute exposures have caused all evidence of them to disappear.

The longer your final exposure, the less any moving thing will show up in your frame. Is there a lot of river traffic in your scene? A bunch of tourists? Chances are those things will have left your frame by the time your exposure is finished. If you’re at a particularly crowded spot, see if you can make your exposure as long as possible to increase the chances that every unwanted element is removed from your frame.

Be sure of your composition

This technique is a very slow and deliberate form of photography. If you get something slightly wrong, it will cost you a fair amount of time to try again. To prevent having to do that, take your time with every single step in the set-up process and make sure that it is right. Composition, in particular, is vital for you to get right before you press the shutter release.

Embrace the time

Whilst your camera is recording your exposure, you will have a lot of time standing around. Take advantage of it. Take the opportunity to appreciate the scene around you without the viewfinder to your eye. Mindfully think about any other compositions in the area. It’s easy to start worrying about the remaining time on the exposure clock, but I encourage you not to. Instead, take a quiet few minutes for granted when you have nothing to do but stand next to your camera.

Be aware of your surroundings

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I was aware of the tide coming in here (I was counting on it) but did not expect it come this far in less than ten minutes.

Because you are going to be standing around for at least a good few minutes, it’s important that you pay extra care to your surroundings during your exposure. During normal-length exposures, you won’t usually have a problem with things like the tide coming in and submerging your tripod during the exposure. With exposures that last into the minutes or hours, that’s more than a possibility.

Simply put, pay attention to your environment and keep yourself and your equipment safe.

End results

Finally, here are a few examples of some of the results you can expect to achieve with a 16-stop ND filter.

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How to Use a 16-Stop ND Filter for Extreme Long Exposure Photography

How to Use a 16-Stop ND Filter for Extreme Long Exposure Photography

How to Use a 16-Stop ND Filter for Extreme Long Exposure Photography

How to Use a 16-Stop ND Filter for Extreme Long Exposure Photography

That’s it

If you already have experience with long exposures, the only thing new to you with this technique is the amount of time the shutter will be open. The skills may be basic, but the extra few stops of ND filter can lead to wonderful results.

I encourage anyone interested in long exposures to give the technique a try. If nothing else, experiencing the mindful, deliberate, and slow approach to photography that this technique commands are well worth the effort. Also, it is a nice departure from the faster-paced styles of photography.

Share your extreme long exposure photography with us in the comments below!

The post How to Use a 16-Stop ND Filter for Extreme Long Exposure Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

How to turn your DSLR into a Digital Pinhole Camera

The post How to turn your DSLR into a Digital Pinhole Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

how-to-turn-your-dslr-into-a-digital-pinhole-camera

For all the advances made over the last 190-some-odd years of photographic history, at its primordial core, a camera is a highly simplistic apparatus. Our cameras are just light-proof boxes except for an opening that allows a small amount of light to enter. Any photograph ever made owes its creation to the technology of the camera obscura, from the Latin words meaning “a dark box” or “a dark room.” These magical devices project images consisting of light rays which pass through a singular, relatively small opening (aperture), thus casting the inverted scene inside the darkened space. If you were to add an optical element (lens) and an image receptor (digital sensor, film, other material) then, my friends, you have yourself an essentially modern camera system.

how-to-turn-your-dslr-into-a-digital-pinhole-camera

Even today, some cameras operate without lenses, relying only on the raw essentials of image-making to produce a photograph. These are “pinhole cameras” and consist of the bare-bones of photo-making – a light-proof box with an aperture and an image receptor.

A pinhole camera is, in fact, so easy, so simple, that you can morph your current DSLR or mirrorless digital camera into a surprisingly efficient pinhole camera. You can do so, using only a few basic materials that you likely already have on hand.

Not only is making your own digital pinhole camera a great project for all ages, but it is also an excellent way to “reset” yourself if you’ve become a little burnt out with your current photography gear.

For lack of a better phrasing, using a pinhole camera is arguably the most “pure” form of photography you can practice, in terms of tools involved. Let me show you how to turn your DSLR into a pinhole camera.

What you’ll need

As with most things, you can make your digital pinhole camera as simple or as complicated as you would like. For this example, I’m going to show you the most basic construction method I have used thus far. Now, let’s get down to business.

Materials:

  • An interchangeable lens digital camera. Although there is little chance of damaging your camera, I still recommend using a camera that you don’t rely upon daily. The reason being that you will have a small opening in which dirt or moisture could enter your camera. For our example, I’m using the back-up for my back-up; a Canon 7D MK1.
  • Aluminum foil
  • A pin or thumbtack
  • Tape. Preferably opaque such as electrical or gaffers tape
  • Scissors

how-to-turn-your-dslr-into-a-digital-pinhole-camera

That’s it! Yes, really. This is the basic materials that you need to turn your camera into a digital pinhole camera.

A brief introduction to pinhole photography

Before we continue, let’s take a quick time-out to talk about a few of the basic principles of pinhole photography. First of all, this is not going to be a tutorial for making a perfect digital pinhole camera.

Believe it or not, although incredible lacking complication, pinhole photography is an extremely nuanced craft. There are formulas for figuring out the optimum aperture size (the pinhole), and how to determine the actual F-stop you will be shooting to calculate exposure.

Even though we’ll be forgoing the complexities, it’s still good to have grounded knowledge in the principles of pinhole photography before you start.

Focal length

For our purposes, the focal length of your pinhole camera will be practically equal to the focal flange distance (FFD) or your camera. The FFD is just a fancy way of saying how far it is from the lens mount of your camera to the image sensor plane. Most cameras will have a symbol that demonstrates the image plane location.

How to turn your DSLR into a Digital Pinhole Camera

Check out this handy database over on Wikipedia for finding the FFD for your particular camera. In our case, the FFD is 44mm, which is also our effective focal length. This will come into play when we learn about optimal aperture size for the pinhole camera; which we’re about to talk about right now.

Optimal aperture (pinhole) size

Believe it or not, there is a beautifully elegant equation derived by none other than Joseph Petzval which helps us to determine the best size for the opening of our pinhole camera based on the focal length. In our case the FFD, and the wavelength of light. The equation is as follows:

How to turn your DSLR into a Digital Pinhole Camera

In the formula “d” is the diameter of the pinhole, “f” is the focal length, and lambda (the “l” with a kickstand) is the wavelength of light. Unless your goal is to make an extremely precise pinhole camera, you can essentially forgo all of the information in this section. Still, if you’re a camera nerd like me, it’s cool to know.

So, based on our formula, my “optimum” pinhole diameter is about .011mm, which is TINY. In fact, if we were to manage it, our effective aperture at 44mm focal length would be about F/157. Again, this is all just food for thought, and it won’t actually play into our final pinhole. You won’t need to crunch any numbers to turn your DSLR into a digital pinhole camera. So let’s move on to the good stuff!

Putting it all together

Now, let’s get to making our pinhole camera. As we’ve said before, this will be an extremely simple construct. We’ll begin by cutting out our aluminum foil diaphragm. This is the operable component of the entire system, as it will be what we eventually use to form our pinhole aperture.

Keep in mind that aluminum foil has a shiny side and a matte side. This will come into play later. A piece of foil 3×4 inches (7.6×10.2cm) should be plenty for almost all cameras.

Image: Shiny side…

Shiny side…

Image: …matte side.

…matte side.

Creating the Aperture

I like to use the front cap for the camera to trace a rough outline for the diaphragm. Just flip the cap over and this will give a good approximation of the front surface of the camera flange. Feel free to trace the outline on either side of the foil. Don’t worry if you don’t have a front cap to use as a guide, cut the foil as best as you can, making sure to leave some overlap.

how-to-turn-your-dslr-into-a-digital-pinhole-camera

Remember to trace the cap (if you have one) face down.

How to turn your DSLR into a Digital Pinhole Camera

Throughout the cutting process, try to keep the foil as unwrinkled and flat as possible.

how-to-turn-your-dslr-into-a-digital-pinhole-camera

Next, it’s time for our bravery test. We need to make our pinhole now. If you remember from earlier, our “optimum” pinhole size is .011mm. Of course, we won’t be able to achieve this exactly, so the best we can hope for is to make the smallest hole with the tools we have on hand. The pin I’m using has an approximate diameter of .77mm, which is still much larger than our optimum calculated hole size. So we’ll try to make the opening as small as possible using just the tip of the pin.

Lay the foil shiny side up on a semi-firm surface like a cutting board, or in our example, a piece of poster board. Aim for the approximate center of the foil disk and lightly press down with the pin. Don’t attempt to press the pin completely through the disk. Just a small amount of pressure will likely be sufficient to puncture the foil.

How to turn your DSLR into a Digital Pinhole Camera

And there you have it; our freshly minted pinhole.

how-to-turn-your-dslr-into-a-digital-pinhole-camera

From here, it’s just a matter of fixing our new pinhole diaphragm to the front of the camera.

Mounting the pinhole

Center the pinhole diaphragm as close as possible to the lens mount of your camera. Then, carefully tape the foil to the lens flange. I’m using a few pieces of electrical tape. It’s a good idea to use tape that is as opaque as possible and one which won’t leave excessive residue on your camera once it’s removed. Again, keep the foil as flat as you can.

How to turn your DSLR into a Digital Pinhole Camera

how-to-turn-your-dslr-into-a-digital-pinhole-camera

Begin at the outsides of the foil and be sure that the tape seals the diaphragm as tightly as possible. After this, I like to add a few more pieces of tape to the front of the foil for added strength. A delicate touch is required here. Be mindful not to cover your pinhole!

how-to-turn-your-dslr-into-a-digital-pinhole-camera

I know it’s difficult to believe, but you’ve just made a pinhole camera!

Tips for shooting with your pinhole camera

As you have likely already assumed, pinhole cameras make use of relatively small apertures. As such, shooting with them will require longer exposure times. So, a tripod will always be a good idea to have on hand for your pinhole work. Furthermore, it will be complicated to compose your images visually. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t shoot your pinhole camera handheld!

Here are some suggestions for getting the most out of your pinhole camera when shooting with and without a tripod:

  • Bump up that ISO. Use the highest ISO you are comfortable with in order to bring the required shutter speed into a manageable range for handheld shooting.
  • Forget the viewfinder. While it’s perfectly acceptable to keep the camera held to your eye, it won’t benefit you all that much. Try shooting with the camera in a “waist level” configuration, holding it close to your body for added stability.
  • Pinholes love long exposures! Try mounting your pinhole camera on a tripod and lowering your ISO for some great long exposure images. That small aperture is your friend when it comes to super long exposure photography.
  • Protect your camera. Remember, you are now shooting without the protection of a lens. Even though the pinhole is extremely small, dirt and moisture can still make their way into the internal components of your camera.
  • Be ready to observe any and all dirt present on your sensor. Seeing as you will be shooting at extremely narrow apertures, any specs of dust or dirt on your camera’s sensor will be readily apparent.
  • Try a few extra pinholes. There is no rule saying you have to limit yourself to a single aperture. A few additional pinholes can produce some amazing effects. Experiment with different numbers and configurations of pinholes.
  • Embrace the blur. By its very nature, pinhole photography is imperfect. Remember that the beauty of working with a pinhole camera stems from the simplistic nature of the method itself.
  • Pinhole photography works great in black and white. Converting your pinhole images to black and white can change the entire dynamic of the photo.

Here are a few examples of images I made with my converted pinhole DSLR:

How to turn your DSLR into a Digital Pinhole Camera

 

How to turn your DSLR into a Digital Pinhole Camera

How to turn your DSLR into a Digital Pinhole Camera

How to turn your DSLR into a Digital Pinhole Camera

How to turn your DSLR into a Digital Pinhole Camera

How to turn your DSLR into a Digital Pinhole Camera

How to turn your DSLR into a Digital Pinhole Camera

These last two images were made after I introduced three additional pinholes…

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how-to-turn-your-dslr-into-a-digital-pinhole-camera

Ways to improve your pinhole camera

You can make more heavy-duty pinhole apertures using more sturdy materials and by more precisely measuring and cutting your pinholes. Of course, this means additional work and will likely require much more advanced tools. Still, we can make our pinhole camera perform much better through some simple ingenuity.

The best way to up-the-ante of your digital pinhole camera is by adding a bit of flocking to the inside surface of the diaphragm. Flocking is just a way of reducing reflections and glare inside of the camera by darkening the components that might produce these sorts of problems.

Even though we faced the matte side of the foil inward (told you this would come into play), we can still help further reduce the reflections by darkening the inside of the foil. The easiest way to do this is to use a black permanent marker to darken the inside surface of the diaphragm.

Image: Careful not to color over the pinhole. The aperture is extraordinarily delicate.

Careful not to color over the pinhole. The aperture is extraordinarily delicate.

This will help to reduce stray light rays that can degrade image quality. An even better solution is to add dark tape to the inside of the diaphragm. This will make for a much more efficient flocking material. If you plan to add tape flocking, it’s a good idea to apply it prior to making your pinhole. Again, leave a small amount of room around the aperture so that the diaphragm remains as thin as possible.

How to turn your DSLR into a Digital Pinhole Camera

Final thoughts on pinhole cameras

While I was making the images for this article, I realized what might be the greatest benefit of turning your DSLR or mirrorless camera into a pinhole camera; it makes you forget. What I mean by this is that when you use such a simple camera, most of your worries over composition and tack-sharp focus seem to fall away. It’s an odd feeling, really.

What’s more, given the fact that you’re shooting at such small apertures, it produces an enormous depth of field. This means that the entire scene will technically be “in focus.”

At the same time, you know that without the benefit of a lens, the entire photo will simultaneously be less sharp, even dreamlike. When operating under these conditions, it forces us to strip away our pretenses and focus (photo humor) on the core values of our images.

If you’ve never used a pinhole camera before, I hope that this tutorial has shown you that it is incredibly easy to turn your DSLR into a digital pinhole camera. Follow the steps shown here, and you can have a digital pinhole camera in your hands in less time required to read this article.

Have you ever used a pinhole camera? If so, be sure to share your thoughts and images in the comment section below!

Author’s note: While the method shown here poses little risk to your camera, I strongly urge you to only attempt projects such as these using equipment that you wouldn’t mind being damaged. As always, use good judgment and proceed at your own risk.

The post How to turn your DSLR into a Digital Pinhole Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Simple Tips to Improve Your Portrait Photography Immediately

The post Simple Tips to Improve Your Portrait Photography Immediately appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

tips-to-improve-your-portrait-photography-immediately

Getting started with portrait photography can seem like a daunting task. Once you start researching all the techniques, equipment and (so-called) rules, and everything else you have to memorize and acquire, it can all feel a bit overwhelming. Even so, the journey is worth it, and portraiture is a rewarding pursuit. Throughout your time taking portraits, you will meet, talk to and get to know a lot of people, and hopefully take some great photos of them as well. Instead of focusing on what you need to take great portraits (that’s a camera by the way, nothing more), this article outlines eight tips that you can take and start using immediately to help you improve your portrait photography immediately, without spending another penny.

1. Use softer light

tips-to-improve-your-portrait-photography-immediately

Soft light is an incredible tool to get the very most out of your portraits. Using it is not the only way to do things, but it’s a great place to start.

If you’ve read anything about portrait lighting before, this is a tip you’ve already heard, but it needs to be repeated over and over again. Hard light, such as that from the midday sun, is usually the quickest way to attain contrasty and harsh portraits with unflattering shadows and highlights. Taking the time to seek out pockets of softer light (or creating it in the studio) is by far the quickest and most effective way to improve your portrait photography without doing anything else.

Outdoors, look for areas of open shade or take advantage of overcast days where the light is diffused by the cloud cover. Of course, golden hour will provide you with amazing light most of the time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go out and search for pockets of diffused, flattering light at any other time of the day.

Image: For soft light in the studio, big modifiers in close will do the job just great.

For soft light in the studio, big modifiers in close will do the job just great.

In the studio, make sure that you are using as big of a modifier as you have. If the light is still too hard, you can diffuse your light with a diffuser (yes, I know that might require another purchase, and I apologize for that), or you can move the light closer to your subject.

Just remember that the bigger the apparent light source is to your subject, the softer the light is.

Is all this to say that you shouldn’t use hard light for portraits? Absolutely not. Hard light can make for wonderful portraits, but in a lot of cases, and especially as you are starting out, you will find it beneficial to learn how to use and understand soft light first.

2. Light for the eyes

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Making your subject’s eyes a priority when you are lighting your images will ensure that the eyes are bright and remain the focal point of your images.

Eyes may be the most important part of a portrait. When your viewers look at photos of people, most of the time they engaging with the person’s eyes first. This is because that is how we humans engage with people in face-to-face scenarios. To make sure you get the very best from your subject’s eyes, start making sure that you light for the eyes at the beginning of every portrait session before you even take your first frame.

To do this, watch your subject’s eyes carefully as you arrange the light, whether that be outdoors or in the studio. Direct your subject (or move your light source if you can) so that the catchlight in their eye is near the top of their eye. It also helps if the light is going directly into their eyes. This will help you to get the most detail in your subject’s eyes.

You will also find that making the eyes a priority at the capture stage means that you will rarely have to do anything to them in post-processing.

In short, light from above whenever possible and direct your subject’s pose so that the light is going into their eyes.

Image: If you use a really big light source (i.e. to get softer light), the less bright the eyes wil...

If you use a really big light source (i.e. to get softer light), the less bright the eyes will be. This is a good thing to keep in mind as you start looking towards big octaboxes and parabolic umbrellas.

As an aside, the softer the light source, the less detail will record in your subject’s eyes and the darker they will appear in your images. The harder the light source, the more detail.

This will only become an issue if you are using really, really big modifiers in the studio, or if there’s particularly heavy cloud cover. You should be fine if you’re using medium (normal) sized modifiers.

If your goal is simply to get the most detail possible out of your subject’s eyes, you might need to go for a harder light source. You could also mix light sources so that your subject’s eyes are lit by a hard light source, but there is still a softer light source evening-out the contrast in your images.

3. Rapport

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Having a good rapport and good communication with your subjects is the best way to get the best expressions out of them.

It should probably go without saying that if you are serious about undertaking portrait photography, then your people skills are going to be paramount to your success. In order to get the best reactions and poses, and to keep your subjects comfortable and engaged, you should build a rapport with each and every subject. Every person is different and no two techniques or methods will work the same with everyone, so you will need to build a catalog of techniques to help you encourage the best from people.

You can start by always, always being polite. Stay positive and complimentary even if things are going completely wrong. Instead of saying: “this isn’t right,” try something along the lines of “This is cool, let’s move on to something else.”

Also remember that as the focus of your portrait is the person you are photographing, so should your attention be. Talk about your subject, and let them talk about themselves.

Try to avoid talking about your photography and definitely avoid technical jargon. Unless you are photographing a photographer, nobody cares. I know that’s tough to hear as you as a photographer care deeply about that stuff, but nobody else does. The confusion and disinterest that those topics inspire in other people will clearly show in the final photos.

If you remember that it’s not about you or your photography, but the person in the photo, you mostly can’t go wrong.

4. Background

Image: On location, making sure your backgrounds are clean and distraction-free is a vital skill to...

On location, making sure your backgrounds are clean and distraction-free is a vital skill to develop.

This is one of those skills that once you learn, you will start to do it automatically and never have to think about it again. In the beginning, however, it is vital to pay close attention to the backgrounds in your images. Ensure there are no extraneous elements creeping into the frame. Make sure there’s nothing like poles, trees, or cars intersecting your subject. If your background is blurred with a shallow depth of field, make sure there are no blobs of contrasting color or value that take away attention from your subject.

In short, pay as much attention to your backgrounds as you do your subjects and ensure that they are clean and distraction-free.

tips-to-improve-your-portrait-photography-immediately

Background clutter is just as much of a pain in the studio. Lights, cables, reflectors, edges of the background all seem to find a way to creep into the frame.

This is easier to do in the studio environment, but there are still things that you can look out for. Avoid using wrinkled backdrops (they never, ever look good). With plain walls, look out for marks and cracks from subsidence or similar. Just taking a moment to pay attention to these small details can help to improve your photos immensely. It’s also a lot easier to spot these things and deal with them in the moment than it is to retouch them out of your photos later.

5. Get close

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Filling the frame with your subject will help to emphasize the focal point of your image.

It was Robert Capa who said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”

Out of all the photography quotes ever quoted, this is the one I find the most useful by far. It applies to all genres of photography in general, but in portraiture, it’s a particularly important concept. Whatever the focus of your photos (people in this case), ensuring that that your subject is the focal point, and the only focal point in the image, is important. Get close and fill the frame. In most cases, you don’t need much background, and in a lot of cases, you don’t need any background at all.

Doing this helps you to make sure there are no distracting elements in your images. It also helps to emphasize that your portrait is a portrait of a person and nothing else. Sure, there are plenty of instances when you want more background in your images.

Environmental portraiture is a fantastic genre that I love to look at, but if you look at some of the best examples of these, you will probably find that the subject still dominates the frame. The background is just ancillary information that is used to complement the focus on the subject rather than detract from it.

tips-to-improve-your-portrait-photography-immediately

All that said, the use of dead space is a valuable and wonderful compositional element.

Another instance you might opt not to get too close is when you want to use dead space as a design element or perhaps for editorial photography. That’s also fine. The key in these situations is to know when to be close and get a tight-framed portrait, and when to step back and let more into the frame. Most of the time with portraits, however, you will be well-served by getting in close and filling the frame.

The beginning

There you have it, that’s a few tips that will help you to improve your portrait photography without spending another penny. Perhaps not all of these tips will suit you and your photography, but I encourage you to try to implement them for the sake of seeing what you can learn from them anyway.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and if you have any tips you feel should be shared with beginners to help improve their portrait photography, please do leave them in the comments.

The post Simple Tips to Improve Your Portrait Photography Immediately appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

Using Creative Zoo Photography for Awesome Animal Photos

The post Using Creative Zoo Photography for Awesome Animal Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

creative-zoo-photography

Wildlife photographers are a dedicated bunch.  They spend money to travel to exotic places, brave miserable conditions, deal with whatever light conditions are present at the time and then sometimes don’t even see the animals they came to photograph.  Pandas in China, tigers in India, lions on the Serengeti, polar bears in the frozen Yukon or maybe gorillas in the Congo.  You could spend a lifetime photographing wild animals in their native lands.

creative-zoo-photography

Bengal Bath – Photographed in the wilds of India or in a zoo? You tell me.

Or, you could take a cue from Simon and Garfunkel –

“Someone told me it’s all happening at the Zoo”

                     – “At the Zoo” – Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel

I’ll grant you, photographing a lion in the zoo doesn’t have the same thrill as being on safari. If you have the time and the money to do such things, by all means, go for it.  For many of us though, the zoo offers a chance to photograph animals we’d never see otherwise and, using the tips we’re about to cover, you can still make some very nice images.  You don’t have to tell your friends where you took them, right?

creative-zoo-photography

It’s hard to make a zoo photo look like it was taken in the wild with a chainlink fence in the background. Go with a wide aperture to throw the background out of focus if you can.

Challenges

In the bush, the challenges of photographing wildlife are likely finding the animal you’re seeking and, depending on the species, perhaps trying not to get eaten.  At the zoo, there are cages, glass or at least barriers designed to separate you and the creatures.  Safer, yes, but also a little frustrating when you’re trying to make a nice photo.

Let’s look at some workarounds for zoo photography.

Image: Sometimes this is what you encounter when trying to do zoo photography. When the animal is ri...

Sometimes this is what you encounter when trying to do zoo photography. When the animal is right up against the wire, there’s not much you can do.

Image: Get a little separation between the animal and the cage, get close to the wire, use a large a...

Get a little separation between the animal and the cage, get close to the wire, use a large aperture, and you can do this. This could probably be cleaned up further with the cloning tool in post-production.

Cages

Zoos are getting better at designing structures so that the animals aren’t always behind bars or chainlink fences, but sometimes you will still have to deal with this.  If the animal is up close to the fence, you might have no choice but to include it in the shot.

But, if you can wait until the beast moves further away from the barrier, this trick can work.  Get close to the fence if you can, then use a wide aperture.  Zoom into and focus on the animal.  You may find that the limited depth of field pretty much renders the fence as a blur, barely showing up at all.  Often you can clean up what remains of the fence or bars when editing.

Image: Having to work through the glass, the top image is straight out of the camera. But, with some...

Having to work through the glass, the top image is straight out of the camera. But, with some editing, a pretty nice Panda Portrait results.

creative-zoo-photography

An aquarium is a zoo of sorts where all the animals will be behind glass. Note how I rescued the turtle image with editing and monochrome conversion.

Glass

Sometimes the barrier between you and the animal will be glass.  You’ll have to deal with grime, scratches, and reflections.  Carry a cloth in your bag when you go to the zoo and clean a spot on the glass where you’ll be shooting.  Get as close to the glass as you can, again with a wide aperture to help blur any scratches.  If reflections are a problem, consider throwing a jacket or cloth over your head or perhaps just the camera to help eliminate them.  Later in editing, the dehaze tool can be your friend with photos made through glass.

Using Creative Zoo Photography for Awesome Animal Photos

Distance

Many times I’m glad there’s some distance between the animal I’m photographing and I. (The Komodo dragon was a scary guy for sure!). The difficulty becomes making the animal in your photo more than just a speck in the shot.

You’ll have even more difficulty with this if you’re visiting a wild animal park where instead of the animals being in smaller cages or enclosures, they roam a wide area, and you drive through the park on a tour bus. There’s only one solution here – longer telephoto lenses.

More about lenses in a bit, just know that to get those nice portrait shots, you’re often going to need some bigger glass.

Image: Frame tightly as you would with a human portrait, be sure the eyes are in focus and you...

Frame tightly as you would with a human portrait, be sure the eyes are in focus and you’ll capture a more engaging image.

Backgrounds

Though you’ll be photographing animals at the zoo, you’d prefer to have your images look like they were taken in the wild.  Your story about photographing zebra on the Serengeti plains will fall apart if there’s an obvious chainlink fence in the background.  So, a couple of possible options here:

  • Fill the frame with the animal, including as little of the background as possible in the shot.
  • Zoom in and use a wide aperture so the background blurs.
  • Consider your vantage point when composing your shot.  Could you move a little to put natural vegetation, rocks, or something not manmade in the background to better simulate the animals’ natural habitat?
creative-zoo-photography

Watch, wait and be ready, and you can capture animals behaving as they do in the wild.

Capturing behavior

A photo of a lion just standing there might be okay, but a shot of a lion roaring…that’s the one you’d like.  Images that capture animal behavior are the prize winners.  The difference is waiting for the moment. Waiting, waiting, and perhaps waiting some more.

Perhaps you’re not up to being another Dian Fossey living with the mountain gorillas so you can get that unique photo.

Or there’s Guido Sterkendries, who spends weeks in the stifling heat of the Brazilian rainforest on a perch in the treetops to photograph poison dart frogs.

But, rather than just taking the minute or so the average zoo visitor views each exhibit, you might have to wait, watch, and be ready when the animal does something interesting.  Also, watch for animal interactions and make photos that tell a story.

creative-zoo-photography

Mamas and babies can make good photos. Look for animal interactions that tell a story.

Set up, be ready, and perhaps have continuous mode and servo-focus activated. Then, when it happens and the subject does that intriguing behavior, fire off a burst of shots to guarantee you’ve got that one really great shot.

After all, would you rather go home with a boring photo of every animal in the zoo or just one superb shot of one animal engaging in some really interesting behavior?

When to go

Sometimes you get to a particular animal exhibit at the zoo and the animal is nowhere to be seen. Or maybe he’s over in the corner, zonked out and sleeping – hardly a great photo subject.

Often the trick is to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon when it’s cooler, and the animals are apt to be more active.

Photographers are also quite familiar with the “golden hour.” Not only will the light be better during these times, but the animal’s up, about, and ready for their closeup. Feeding time can also provide some action.

If you can, talk with the zookeepers to find out the best time to come, especially if you have your sights set on shots of particular animals. They will be a great source of information.

Including people

Sometimes the action at the zoo can be on the other side of the cages, the antics of people reacting to or aping for the animals.  Keep an eye out for these kinds of behaviors too.  Sometimes people are the funniest animals.

Equipment

If you’re going to spend a day at the zoo, you may not want to bring your whole photo kit. Firstly, it’s not much fun schlepping it around. Secondly, while you’re intent on making a shot, an unscrupulous bandit could help themselves to some of your gear.  Thirdly, you really don’t need that much for zoo photography.

Here are some things you might want:

Camera

Something with the ability to go manual if necessary and, of course, shooting Raw is almost always better.

creative-zoo-photography

A Canon 100-400 zoom was a great lens to have to allow these bird portraits. Wildlife photographers use long lenses and at the zoo, they can help too.

Lenses

You might very well be able to get by with a good wide-range telephoto for zoo photography. Something like a 70-200mm, or if you have something longer like a 70-300 or 100-400, better still.

You’re not apt to need a wide-angle lens at all.

The only other possibility is for zoos that have a butterfly exhibit where a macro could be useful.  One or two lenses should have you covered.

Image: Sometimes zoos will have a butterfly exhibit. If where you’re going has one, take a mac...

Sometimes zoos will have a butterfly exhibit. If where you’re going has one, take a macro lens.

Tripod

You may find that some zoos prohibit tripods, so it would be a good idea to check before you go.  A monopod can be a good substitute.

Flash

Probably not.  Again, some zoos will prohibit them, they spook the animals, and you’re not apt to want a “flash look” anyway.

Polarizing filter

This can be a good idea.  The fur of many animals is shiny and a polarizer can help tame that, also giving you richer colors.

Cloth

Cloth is great for cleaning the glass on animal enclosures that use that.

Settings

You will encounter a variety of lighting situations at the zoo, from dark animals lying in the shade to light animals in the sun, to the dreaded speckled light situation.

Some animals may barely move while others may leap wildly about.

There’s no substitute for knowing your camera and how to deal with varied conditions.  Often going fully manual, both for exposure and focus will be your best option.

Fences or glass in the foreground can too easily fool the autofocus, so be careful there.

Image: Some zoos will have a walk-in aviary. If so, it’s a great opportunity for bird photogra...

Some zoos will have a walk-in aviary. If so, it’s a great opportunity for bird photography. Again, have a long lens and if you’ll be handholding the camera, keep the shutter speed high.

In general, a wide aperture to blur the background, coupled with a fast shutter speed to freeze any animal movement, is good.  You may also be dealing with a long focal length, and having to handhold is a recipe for camera shake/blur.

Try to keep the shutter speed as fast as possible.  Also, keep the ISO low to minimize noise.  In varied lighting conditions, you may also want to consider Auto ISO if you understand how it works with your particular camera.

Continuous mode can be a good option so that when an animal does something interesting, you can fire a burst of shots, helping guarantee you capture the moment.

Composition

If there’s any mistake I see beginners making, it’s not filling the frame with their subject. Of course, not every shot needs to be a tightly cropped “portrait,” but the problem comes in when the subject in the image is so small it’s barely identifiable. Alternatively, the shot is so cluttered with other things that one questions what the real subject is. This is where a long lens can help with zoo photography.

Real wildlife photographers must sneak up on their subjects in places where enclosures don’t restrict the animals. So, often they will use – really – long, (and really expensive), glass. You need not go to that extreme, but you do want to make the animal in your shot the star, so frame accordingly.

Image: The eyes have it. You can have parts of the animal out of focus if you must, but the eyes nee...

The eyes have it. You can have parts of the animal out of focus if you must, but the eyes need to be sharp.

As when making portraits of people, when photographing animals, keep the eyes in sharp focus. Having other parts of the animal out of focus or a very limited depth-of-field is forgivable, but if the eyes are not in focus, the shot is probably a candidate for the delete button.

Use manual focus or learn you use your focus points to force focus on the animal’s eyes. Simply using the default center-focus point will likely fail you almost every time. Be the master of your camera’s focus.

This is a tricky one because enclosures, cages, and places where the animal will be won’t always allow this, but where possible, try to get on the same level as the animal.  Looking down on the subject just won’t be as impressive.  Perhaps you’ll have to put your camera on the ground or use something like a Gorillapod, (appropriate for the zoo, yes?) but do what’s needed to improve your shot.

Image: This could have been even better if I could have got down at the same level as the beast. The...

This could have been even better if I could have got down at the same level as the beast. Then again…

Editing

As with any photo editing, you want to use the tools and tricks in your editing program to improve your shot. Always consider whether a crop may help eliminate distractions or better highlight the animal. Use the exposure, highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks sliders (if editing with Lightroom), to bring out the color and detail of the animal.

The Dehaze option may help, especially where you made a photo through a glass enclosure.

The new Texture slider can also work wonders, bringing out details in an animal’s fur.

Image: Monochrome can give a classy look and in the case of this cheetah, emphasize his spotted camo...

Monochrome can give a classy look and in the case of this cheetah, emphasize his spotted camouflage in his environment.

Don’t forget to take a look at going monochrome with some of your images.  Sometimes a black and white version of an animal image can be especially striking.

Go zoo it!

So grab your gear and get down to your nearest zoo.  You’ll have a great time, get some nice images, and if the song is right, “the animals will love it if you do.”

Do you have any other zoo photography tips? Share with us in the comments! Also, share with us your zoo photography photos.

The post Using Creative Zoo Photography for Awesome Animal Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

How to Use Lighting and Gels for Modern Portrait Photography [video]

The post How to Use Lighting and Gels for Modern Portrait Photography [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this video from Lindsay Adler Photography, Lindsay deconstructs an image that she has lit using colored gels to make it look as though she photographed it in a nightclub or bar.

Inspired by a red velvet couch that she has in her studio, Lindsay decided to make her studio look like it was a nightclub or bar. She takes us through the process to teach us exactly how she achieved this look.

When choosing the color of her gels, Lindsay chose red to unify the subject with the color of the couch. She then used color wheel theory and used contrasting/complementary colors, so she went with a color close to green – teal.

Lindsay uses three strobes with fairly basic modifiers – bare bulbs and umbrellas.

Lindsay states that “The shot as lit overhead by a small white umbrella (no gel). The right-hand side of the frame was lit by a large deep umbrella with diffusion and a red gel to wrap around most of the frame. Finally, a bare bulb with a teal/green gel was used to light the shadows on the left of the frame. The colors selected helped create a sense of atmosphere to the otherwise static black environment.”

During the video, you’ll find out why these choices were made to combat particular issues that arose, including the wall being a slightly reflective surface.

You’ll also see some post-production choices that Lindsay makes with the image, as well as discovering why Lindsay chose to have the model posed in this particular way.

But more importantly, you’ll learn how to make a photo like hers!

What did you think of Lindsay’s video? Did you find it helpful? Let me know in the comments!

 

You may also find the following helpful:

Your Guide to Studio Lighting Equipment

Understanding Broad and Short Lighting in Photography

5 Creative Portrait Lighting Tricks Using Only Phone Light

How to use Off-Camera Flash to Create Dramatic Images with Cross Lighting

5 Lighting Setups You Can Do Using an Octabox

How to do Clamshell Lighting: A Reliable Two Light Setup

The post How to Use Lighting and Gels for Modern Portrait Photography [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

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