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Weekly Photography Challenge – Red

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

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

Weekly Photography Challenge – Red

By rich_f28

By Tony

By Tim Green

By Lóránt Szabó

By Steve Snodgrass

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

Share your images below:

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

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

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

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


19 Vibrantly Colored Crimson Images

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

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

Hope you enjoy them.

By liz west

By Bernard Spragg. NZ

By theilr

By Ivan Bandura

By Harsha K R

By jimpg2_2015

By Bernard Spragg. NZ

By VaMedia

By jasleen_kaur

By aotaro

By d26b73

By Mike Beales

By sean_hickin


By Jim Lukach

By inthepotter’shands

By Sebastian Rieger

By Johan Neven

By coniferconifer

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


How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

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

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

Produce and photography

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

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

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

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

Supplies you will need include:

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

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

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

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

Gathering your produce

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

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

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

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

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

Setting up

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

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

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

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

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies


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

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

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

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

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

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

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

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

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

How to Create Abstract Photos with Fruit and Veggies

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

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


Tips for Doing Concert Photography like a Pro

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

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

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

Tips to capture concert photos 7

Use a fast lens and shoot wide open

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

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

Tips to capture concert photography 5

Shoot in Aperture Priority Mode

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

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

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

Crank up the ISO

Tips to capture concert photos 1

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

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

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

Avoid using your flash

Tips to capture concert photography 2

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

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

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

Move around

Tips to capture concert photography 4

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

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

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

Tips to capture concert photos 6

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

Wait and anticipate

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

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

Tips to capture concert photography 3


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

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


How To Avoid 4 Photography Mistakes That Will Hinder Your Development

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

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

4 photography mistakes 01

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

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

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

4 photography mistakes 02

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

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

4 photography mistakes 03

Mistake #2 – Not studying how to use your camera

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

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

4 photography mistakes 04

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

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

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

Mistake #3 – Using your camera infrequently

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

4 photography mistakes 06

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

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

4 photography mistakes 07

Mistake #4 – Relying on auto exposure

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

4 photography mistakes 05

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

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

4 photography mistakes 08

Take creative control

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

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


4 photography mistakes 09 4 photography mistakes 10

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

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


Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks for Your Photography

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

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

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

Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks

And much more!


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

Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks

Girls of Bahrain.

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

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

Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks

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

King of the souq.

I shared this photograph. The comment I received was:

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

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

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

Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks

Comments please.

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


Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks

Do unto others.

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

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

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

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

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


Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks for Your Photography

Just look … think …

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

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


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

Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks for Your Photography

Will she? Won’t she?

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

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

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

Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks for Your Photography

What can I say?

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

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

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

Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks for Your Photography

River bed scavenger.

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


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

Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks for Your Photography

Innocence captured.

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


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

Five Steps to Benefiting From Social Media Networks for Your Photography

Hey, did you happen to see…?

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


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

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

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


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


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

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


Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

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

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

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

It’s grain…not noise

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

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

Digital noise at ISO 5000

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

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

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

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

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

I hope you enjoyed the dramatic countdown.

Adding Grain in the Effects Panel of Lightroom CC

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

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

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

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

Amount of grain

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

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

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

Size of grain

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

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

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


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

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

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

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

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

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

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

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

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

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

Final thoughts on grain

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

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

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Weekly Photography Challenge – Blue

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

Color adds mood and feeling to an image. Cool colors like blue tend to have a calming feeling, like these 19 images with blue subjects.

By Christian Weidinger

Weekly Photography Challenge – Blue

This one should be pretty easy. Just go find something blue – OR even convert an image to black and white and add a blue tint to it!

Another option is to go out at dusk and photograph during the blue hour. Here are some tips to help you do that:

By Jeff S. PhotoArt at

By ~lzee~by~the~Sea~

By Fiona Shaw

By Thomas Hawk

Share your images below:

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

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

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

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


19 Cool Images of Blue Subjects

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

A while back we took a look at images with the primary color of summer, green. Now let’s have a peek at the color of the night time – blue.

Of course, there are many other things which are blue as well, as you can see below.

By StudioTempura

By Albert Vuvu Konde

By O. R.G.

By Joao Clerigo

By Maarten Takens

By Bill Dickinson

By Roy Cheung

By nathan_gamble

By Mirai Takahashi

By Stanley Zimny (Thank You for 24 Million views)

By Neil Tackaberry

By Javier Díaz Barrera

By Neal Fowler

By Stanley Zimny (Thank You for 24 Million views)

By Maria Eklind

By Tom Roeleveld

By Michiel van Nimwegen

By Ivan Rigamonti

The post 19 Cool Images of Blue Subjects by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Let Go of Perfection in Photography

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

In the digital era, where perfection seems within our grasp through post-processing and limitless opportunities to reshoot, it’s easy to get hung up on perfectionism. In some genres, such as product photography, it’s a necessity. Your commercial client won’t appreciate blown-out highlights on a shampoo bottle or soft focus on the wheel of a prestige car.

But in many other areas of photography – especially when it comes to your personal projects – letting go of perfectionism can help unleash your creativity and ensure that you don’t miss important moments.

B&W image of child illustrates letting go of perfection in photography

Beautifully imperfect.

My brush with perfectionism

Earlier this year, my firstborn turned 18 and I wanted to create a slideshow of photos from her birth to the present day. Since I was still shooting film for the first 10 years of her life, this involved trawling through printed photos.

What stood out to me was that among my favorite photos, very few were technically perfect. Some were poorly composed. Others were out-of-focus, underexposed, or badly lit. In fact – and I hate to admit this – if I’d shot these photos in the digital era, I’d have rejected many of them, or attempted to reshoot them to get them “right”. But they captured expressions that epitomize my daughter. They had caught candid moments between sisters, and snippets in time I’d forgotten, but want to remember.

Letting go of perfection in photography

Grainy, underexposed and soft, this photo of my children snuggled into an armchair reading books is priceless to me.

Embrace the imperfect

Almost everything about the black-and-white photo at the top of the page is imperfect from a technical stance. The subject is too centred; the sun has cast shadows over her eyes and highlighted her nose; the highlights are blown out, and the focus is soft on the eyes. To me, though, it is exquisite. The windswept hair, the tilt of her head and quirky smile capture her sweet nature, and the way she looks (to this very day) when she is daydreaming.

Three photos showing letting go of perfectionism in photography

In all three photos above, there are technical faults. But the clumsy embrace, the dimples, those eyes and that cheeky pout could never be replaced by technical perfection.

While this article is not about film versus digital, it is hard to deny that the digital era has brought out the perfectionist in us all. Those of us who cut our photographic teeth in the film era will remember what it was like to accept imperfection. When you had a maximum of 36 frames on a roll of film, there was no room for rapid-fire shooting in the hope of getting one good shot. Unless you did your own printing, or were prepared to pay for custom printing, you were stuck with the composition you’d shot. There was no histogram to meddle with, no brushes to delete stray hairs, and no actions or presets to smooth everything out.

Perfectionism is the enemy of creativity

My youngest daughter is wildly artistic. She’s a keen photographer and has an eye for composition, lighting and quirky camera angles. To my frustration, she refuses to master some of the basics such as the exposure triangle and depth of field. While I think this has more to do with teen rebellion than creativity, I have learned something from her.

Technical skills are important, there’s no question, as we need to master the fundamentals of our craft. In photography, this means understanding light, how focal length and depth of field work, and the relationship between shutter speed, iso and aperture. We should be aware of the rules of composition even if we choose to veer from them.

But digital photography allows us to take our perfectionist tendencies to an extreme.

Letting go of perfectionism in photography.

Would this photo be improved if it were straightened, and the white balance perfected?

Perfection is a myth

When you make perfection your goal, you’re often left with a sense of failure. Rather than enjoying your achievements, you waste time lamenting what you failed to achieve and what you could have done differently.

Creative minds are rarely tidy (neither are their workspaces – just ask the aforementioned daughter). Creation can be a messy business, yet making a mess is something that’s discouraged from an early age. Creativity is the explosion of paints and brushes across the table. It’s the random words smudged across school books that become poems and songs. It’s burnt saucepans, twisted ankles and spilt ink, and it’s weird composition, missed focus, and unwanted backgrounds. These messes can lead to wonderful things that you’ll miss if you are focused on reaching perfection.

It’s worth remembering that Penicillin, potato chips, Scotchguard and the pacemaker were all the result of mistakes.

I am no landscape photographer, but when I revisited my birth country I wanted to capture how the majority of South Africans live. The photos below were shot from a slow-moving vehicle, and a landscape photographer could point out their many imperfections. But I think I achieved what I set out to do, and that’s good enough for me.

Letting go of perfectionism in photography. Photo shows Khyelitsha township in South Africa, with Table

Khyelitsha, a township on the outskirts of Cape Town, was established during the apartheid era as part of the Group Areas Act, and is now home to around 2.4 million people.

Letting go of perfectionism in photography. Photo shows Khyelitsha township in South Africa, with Table

Tins roofs, uninsulated buildings and a riot of electrical wires overhead.

Letting go of perfectionism in photography. Photo shows Khyelitsha township in South Africa, with Table Mountain in the background.

In the background, the mountain range for which Cape Town is famous. In the foreground, the outskirts of Khyelitsha.

Perfection is boring

There is a long list of famous songs which were recorded with mistakes, including Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, The Police’s Roxanne, and Radiohead’s Creep. It takes nothing away from our enjoyment of them – in fact, it enhances them. It reminds us that they were made by humans, who are fallible just like us.

I believe there is something in the human psyche that craves imperfection. In recent years, we have seen a resurgence of vinyl in the music industry. The trend in photo editing, especially for portraiture, has swung towards emulating film. And it is the millennials, raised in the digital era where everything sought to be perfect, who have led these trends. Lightroom presets such as Mastin Labs and VSCO are doing a roaring trade making digital photographs look like they were shot on film.

The flat tones in this photo were the result of underexposure. Now there’s a preset to emulate this look.

Image shows two gilrs at camp fire, illustrates letting go of perfectionism

In this photo, the skin tones are too green, the central composition could be improved, and that red bucket draws too much attention, but contributes nothing to the story. Yet the photo reminds me of how much fun my children had on their first camping trip, and is evocative of my own childhood.

You’ll miss the important moments

Henri Cartier-Bresson, a master of candid photography said, “Sharpness is a bourgeois concept.” To him, photography was all about capturing the decisive moment, not getting hung up on technical perfection. Get too fixated on perfection, and you’ll miss the moments that take your breath away.

Your subjects can’t repeat a candid expression because you missed focus. An embrace is only spontaneous the first time. Spend too long worrying about shutter speed or depth of field, and you’ll miss it. If it’s restaged, it will show.

Letting go of perfectionism in photography.

Discovering what my children had done when left unsupervised with craft paint in the backyard: priceless.

The photo below of a woman with her teenage daughter is an outtake from a family photo shoot, snapped in the break when they had dropped their guard. Because it is out of focus, I was tempted not to show it to them, but I was so drawn to their natural smiles and the warmth in their embrace that I changed my mind. It turned out to be one of their favourite photos. The outtakes are often the best photos, when people behave spontaneously.

Teen girl and mother embracing and laughing, illustrates letting go of perfectionism

This photo of my daughters was shot on 35mm film. Had I been shooting with a DSLR, I may have reshot it because the focus is soft. I’m so glad I didn’t. That split-second interaction sums up their relationship – the little one’s curiosity while her big sister asserts her superior status.

B&W photo of two little girls illustrates letting go of perfection in photography

A moment is only candid the first time.

Progress over perfection

Candid photography and photojournalism are all about capturing the decisive moment, no matter how imperfect the conditions. You can’t reschedule the moment your baby takes his first steps until the light is right. And trust me, if those photos are blurry and the cat makes a guest appearance at the critical moment, they will still move you to tears when you look at them 18 years from now.

Regardless of what genre you like to photograph, keep shooting. Keep learning; read widely and take inspiration from anywhere you can. Learn from your mistakes and strive for improvement, but don’t get hung up on perfection. Enjoy your photos and, most importantly, the process of creating them.

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