Important Things to Consider When Photographing Winter Scenes

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


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

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

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

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


Winter landscape, Oxfordshire

2. Find contrast

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

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


Oxfordshire, England

3. Shoot bright and colorful scenes

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

Image: Yosemite, USA

Yosemite, USA

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



4. Bring plenty of batteries

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

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

5. Keep warm

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

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

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

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

6. How to photograph snow:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Image: Yellowstone, USA

Yellowstone, USA


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

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



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

Tips for Posing Models (videos)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for posing men in portrait photography

This video is by photographer, Anita Sadowska.

This video is by photographer, Julia Trotti.

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

Tips for posing women in portrait photography

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

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

You may also like:


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

Weekly Photography Challenge – Lamps

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is LAMPS!

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for Shooting LAMPS

3 Tips for Photographing Mixed Lighting in Interiors

Stealing Light – Using Street Lights for Portraits

4 Tips to Help People Photographers Shoot Interior Spaces

3 Easy Tips for Photographing Details in a Scene

Shooting Details to Tell a Visual Story

Architecture: Photographing Exterior Details

Tips for Getting Started with Still Life Photography

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

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

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

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

How to Achieve Awesome Black and White Photos with Digital Filters

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


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

This is certainly not the case.

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Black and white digital filters

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

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

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


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

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

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

Which filter to use?

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

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

Here’s the original color photo for reference:

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

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

Red Filter

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


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

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

Orange Filter

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

How to Achieve Awesome Black and White Photos with Digital Filters

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

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

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

Yellow Filter

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

How to Achieve Awesome Black and White Photos with Digital Filters

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

Green Filter

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

How to Achieve Awesome Black and White Photos with Digital Filters

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

Final thoughts on in-camera digital filters…

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

1. The squeaky chicken (rr any noisy toy)

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


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

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

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


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

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

2. Bribes

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

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

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

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


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

3. Play games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

4. Children’s playlist

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

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

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

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

5. Mommy and Daddy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Using the Uh-Oh method

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


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

7. Props

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


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

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


In conclusion

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

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

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

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

What is Shape and Form in Photography?

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


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


What is a shape?


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

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

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

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

What is form?


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

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

Shape in photography


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

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

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

Form in photography


Form has also had a consistent presence in photographic history.

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

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

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

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

How to use shape and form in photography

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

Focus on light


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

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

Get some perspective


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

Dive into depth of field


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

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

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

Experiment with color/black and white


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

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


What is Shape and Form in Photography?

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The “Happy Idiot”

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Something’s wrong here

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

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


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

Focus Faux Pas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Switches and buttons and menus, oh my!

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

They are great when they work.

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

Let’s look at some examples.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Return to a standard

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

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

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

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

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

Program in specialized settings

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

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

Mistakes are lessons inside out.”
Matshona Dhliwayo


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

Filter forgetfulness

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

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

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

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


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

Play “Stump the Chump”

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

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

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

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


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

Be prepared

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

How to Light and Photograph Smoke and Steam in a Home Studio Setting

The post How to Light and Photograph Smoke and Steam in a Home Studio Setting appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.


Every subject has different properties according to shape, color, and material that determine the way you light it. With smoke, you want to keep a dark background and a grazing light. Here are a few things to consider when you light and photograph smoke in a home studio setting.

How to Photograph Smoke in a Studio Setting

Have you ever tried to photograph smoke or steam? Perhaps you’re doing a portrait of a smoker or a steaming cup of coffee. Odds are that sooner or later you may face this challenge. Fortunately, the lighting technique is not as elusive as the subject.

Safety first

Before you start to photograph smoke, keep safety in mind – even if it is just smoke. If using a cigarette, always place the cigarette on an ashtray, or place incense on a burner, etc. Remember, you are working with ignited materials – you can never be too careful to avoid burning yourself or starting a fire. Also, it’s always good to have a fire extinguisher handy.


To photograph smoke, you first need to set up a lightbox. If you don’t have one, make the set by putting a piece of cloth as a backdrop. Black or any dark color will create more contrast.

How to Photograph Smoke in a Studio Setting


To create the smoke, you can use an incense stick. It’s the best way to create continuous smoke for a long period of time.

home studio set up

Place the incense far enough from the background so that it’s well separated and the light won’t spill into it.


Set up your flash to the side of the subject. Never place it directly in front of the smoke or it will illuminate the background. Then put a piece of cardboard to direct the light towards the subject. For more tips on this, you can check How to Control Your Background Tones by Manipulating Light Fall-Off.

It also works best if it’s a hard light.

You can always use a continuous light source too, but be sure to narrow the light fall-off by using a modifier or barn doors.

front light

If you place the light in front you won’t get the dark backdrop you need.


Place your camera in front of the subject, the distance will depend on the focal length of the lens you’re working with. I recommend a telephoto lens because you will get better background compression. To help you decide which one is good for you, see this article.

focal length, wide angle, telephoto

With a telephoto lens, you can work with a smaller background. The left image was made with a 35mm lens, and the one on the right with a 75mm.

Also, if you work with a telephoto, the background can be smaller. And not less important, you can position your camera further away, which will protect your lens from any damage by the smoke.


Again, this will depend on the focal length, the distance between camera and subject, and the intensity of your flash. However, I can give you some pointers to take into consideration.

Shutter speed

When setting your shutter speed, try to keep your settings fast so that the lines of the smoke are well-defined, instead of a blurry cloud. This is particularly important if you’re working with a wide source, as with this pot of boiling water. If you’re using something smaller, like a stick of incense, the effect is less drastic. Still, don’t underestimate it.

How to Photograph Smoke in a Studio Setting

A longer shutter speed creates a stronger motion blur. This image was made with a 1/30 of a sec.


Keep in mind that the smoke is not a flat, static surface. You want your aperture to be wide enough to keep it all in focus. But you don’t want it to be too much that it will capture the texture of the background. Don’t forget to consider other elements of the composition if you have them.

How to Photograph Smoke in a Studio Setting

A small aperture creates a deeper depth of field. This image was taken with an f/11.


Using manual focus, set it before you turn off the lights. Focus the source of steam or smoke you’re using. For example, the tip of the incense stick if you’re going to do some abstract smoke shots. For this to work, you need to use a tripod so you don’t change your distance.

How to Photograph Smoke in a Studio Setting

Extra tip: to create more smoke, capture the image just after you put out the flame. If you placed it inside a container, keep it covered to concentrate the smoke, then uncover it to let it all out at once.


Keep your ISO as low as your lighting and other settings allow you to go. This is because you want to avoid noise as much as possible, and dark colors make it more evident.

How to photograph smoke in a studio setting

Higher ISO settings create more digital noise. This image was taken with a 12800 ISO. Notice all the color speckles? That’s the noise.


This is a very basic studio set-up to photograph smoke that can be done at home with minimum equipment. As you can see, it can still be very effective to photograph smoke. While this can be very easy, capturing the perfect smoke shot may not be, so keep shooting until you’re happy with it.

smoke, abstract, low key photography

If you have any other tips to photograph smoke, or would like to share your smoke photos with us, please do so in the comments!

The post How to Light and Photograph Smoke and Steam in a Home Studio Setting appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Why You Should Photograph Like a Movie Director When You Travel

The post Why You Should Photograph Like a Movie Director When You Travel appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.


Part of the movie director’s job is to visualize the screenplay. They must imagine how the story will be told visually. The fulfillment of this task depends entirely on the director’s creative expression.

Travel photographers often seek to tell a story with their pictures. Doing this can enhance the documentation of their journeys. This can be helped by using some techniques movie directors use to achieve their goals. One of the most effective methods of clear visual storytelling is to incorporate three different types of photograph:

  • wide,
  • medium,
  • and close-up.

Why You Should Photograph Like a Movie Director When You Travel

Consider yourself a location scout

I often encourage photographers who take part in our photography workshops to imagine they are a location scout for a movie. Alternatively, think like a reportage photographer working for a magazine editor.

Task yourself with capturing a range of images. Aim to portray each different travel location you visit clearly. One of the best ways to do this is including wide, medium, and close-up photos. You want people who have never been where you are to form a clear picture of the location. What it looked like and what the atmosphere there felt like.

Including only wide-angle photos gives an overall impression, but misses the details. Close-ups could be taken anywhere and will lack a sense of location. Medium photos can show some action and some amount of detail. Often they will not provide a broader awareness of the place.


© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Wide photos

Seek to include as much relevant detail about the location as you can. In movies, this is known as an establishing view.

Pick places to stand where you can see a lot of what interests you about the place. Think about what is unique or iconic in this area. Include these elements in your pictures.


© Kevin Landwer-Johan

In the photo above, I wanted to include some of the hand carts the porters at Muang Mai Markets in Chiang Mai use. They are very recognizable as part of daily life there. By incorporating a few of them in this wide photo, I have helped emphasize the location. People who’ve visited this market will more easily recognize it.

People who haven’t been there will get a clear impression these wire baskets on wheels are very much part of the place.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Capturing an effective wide photo when there’s limited space to work in can be challenging. Sometimes you’ll need to put on your widest lens and back yourself into a corner.

You don’t always need to capture the entire scene. When you can, try and include a feature in your photo. In the picture above, I composed it focusing on the vendor in red and included the street in front of her stall.


© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Looking for an overhead vantage point you can stand on is often helpful, if you can find one. Getting up above the location provides an interesting alternative perspective.

Medium photos

Medium photos will show more general action, but not necessarily give an idea of the broader location. Typically, these compositions will feature one main element and some surroundings.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

This could be the entrance of a building and some of the frontage, but not the whole structure. It might be a car parked in the street, filling most of the frame and giving little clue as to where it is. It may be a vendor selling something at a market, but it could be a market anywhere.

This type of photo helps build a narrative. To make photos with the most meaning, concentrate on what appeals to you. Think about why, and capture that aspect as best you can in your photos.


© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Depending on the location you are covering in your travel story, you may want to include more medium photos than wide or close-ups. Medium compositions include enough detail and one central focus. They are a balance between wide photos with lots of general information and close-ups which include plenty of detail.


© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Close-up photos

People often omit or take too few close-up photos when they travel. Close-up compositions can provide so much information that can be glossed over in wide and medium photos.

Again, look for what you find most attractive and photograph those things. This way, your pictures will contain more meaning and feeling.

During the workshop sessions we have at the local markets in Chiang Mai, many people love to get close-ups of chilis. I think it might have something to do with them being such a major ingredient in Thai cuisine as well as their lovely shape and color.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Getting in tight to your subject, you can often find wonderful patterns. You can also isolate color and make your entire composition a single hue.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

How much does focal length matter?

Does focal length matter when you photograph like a movie director when traveling? Not so much. I often use my beloved 35mm f/1.4 lens for wide, medium and close-up photos. I don’t often carry a lens longer than my 105mm. It’s all a matter of where you stand and how close you get.

Both of the close-up photos above I took with my 35mm lens, as were a number of others I’ve used to illustrate this article. Don’t be constrained by the norms. You can use a long lens to capture a wide scene. Sometimes this works particularly well because a longer lens compresses perspective more. This can create a sense of place in a different way than a wide-angle lens will.

If you’re in a tight spot where’s there’s not much space to back up, you will often need a wide lens. You can also use a wide lens for medium photos. Just get in closer. This will produce more intimate photos than you’ll capture using a longer lens. It also adds character to your image selection.


Next time you’re taking a journey, or even photographing your kid’s birthday party or soccer game, photograph like a movie director by thinking about these three types of photos. Cover the event or location as best you can by incorporating a good mix of them into your final selection. Doing this, you’ll be narrating your visual story in a clear and interesting manner.

Do you photograph like a movie director when you travel or do any type of photography? Do you have any tips or stories you’d like to share? Please do so in the comments.

The post Why You Should Photograph Like a Movie Director When You Travel appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

6 Ideas for Creative Funfair and Amusement Park Photography

The post 6 Ideas for Creative Funfair and Amusement Park Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.


When the nights draw in its time for funfair and amusement park photography. When a fair comes to town, it’s an opportunity to photograph something new and vibrant for your portfolio. The bright lights, constant movement, and enthusiastic crowds provide endless photographic opportunities throughout the evening.

funfair and amusement park photography

My favorite time to photograph the funfair is during the blue hour – that hour or so before night truly falls. It creates an incredibly dramatic backdrop for the lights and colors that you’re going to photograph.

It’s a good idea to get on location an hour or more before the scheduled blue hour so that you can plan your route through the attractions, work out what looks interesting to shoot, and even start to plan some compositions.

But what about the actual process of taking the photos? How do you decide what to shoot and how you’re going to take the images?

Decide on your shutter speed

There’s a real risk when shooting funfair rides that they’re going to look static and very unimpressive. This usually happens because your shutter speed is too short, and so the action is frozen without any sense of movement.

funfair and amusement park photography

Lengthening your shutter speed up to half a second or more can lend a real feeling of action and excitement to your funfair and amusement park photography. But don’t forget that you’ll want to ideally put your camera on a tripod so that the rest of your shot stays clear and in focus!

It’s my preference to use shutter priority mode for this kind of image. Each ride will be traveling at a different speed, so you’ll need to adjust as you move from shot to shot in order to get the most dynamic images.

Watch the crowds

The story doesn’t stop at the rides – it’s going on all around you! Take a step back from focussing on the thrill-seeking action to see what the people on the ground are doing.

funfair and amusement park photography

Almost everyone at the funfair will make a great subject, and they’ll be bathed in gorgeous, atmospheric light from the rides and stalls. Take some time to watch the action and see where people naturally stop and do interesting things.

Look for great compositions and stand yourself in the perfect place to capture people enjoying their environment. Be ready to capture fleeting emotions and interesting behavior.

You might want to use a shallow depth of field to make your background less distracting. Getting everything in focus means there is more competing for your viewer’s attention.

Look for the unique angles

At any funfair you go to, there will be at least a dozen other photographers who are also looking for a great shot. You’re not in competition with them, of course, but it’s always nice to come home with a unique photograph.

funfair and amusement park photography

Once you’ve got a ‘safe’ shot (you know, the kind of image you often see posted online after the funfair), challenge yourself to see the same scene from a unique angle.

Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Look up. See what the ride looks like when you frame it against the sky.
  • Use the architecture of the town that you’re in.
  • Shoot through something to get an interesting foreground effect.
  • Go completely abstract.
  • Experiment with leading lines.

Try an unexpected technique

The bright lights of the funfair provide an opportunity to try out techniques that you wouldn’t traditionally associate with this kind of photography. It’s a great time to experiment and see what works for an alternative take on funfair and amusement park photography.

6 Ideas for Creative Funfair and Amusement Park Photography

The shot above was taken using ICM (intentional camera movement) techniques. A long exposure combined with moving the camera can create an abstract image with a painterly feel.

You could also perhaps try zoom bursts for a different kind of dynamic action. Or have a go at making custom bokeh shapes to convey different messages in your photographs. Never stop experimenting – you don’t have to show anyone the shots if they don’t work!

Convert to black and white

Funfairs are a fabulous riot of color, but sometimes that’s not what we want in our photography. If a shot just seems too intense and busy, it’s always worth seeing if a black and white conversion works.

6 Ideas for Creative Funfair and Amusement Park Photography

When you’re deciding if a photograph is a good candidate for black and white conversion, there are a few things that you want to keep in mind. Your shot should have good contrast between light and dark areas so that the image doesn’t end up flat and lifeless.

Black and white images also often rely heavily on composition for their impact, so make sure that your subject is both interesting and well-placed in the frame.

Make sure that you experiment with different color temperatures during the black and white conversion too. The nature of the colorful and changeable lights at the funfair means that some ‘recipes’ for post-processing will work better than others.

Photograph the funfair during the day

The funfair doesn’t disappear during the day. Instead, it looks completely different. Taking your camera to the funfair during the day can open up a whole different set of possibilities to shoot.

funfair and amusement park photography

Instead of photographing the movement and excitement of the rides, try to capture the time when the fair workers are setting up ready for the day. Look around at the colors too – they’re very different from the colors you see at night once the sun has gone down!

This would be a great time to think about approaching some of the attraction holders and asking if you can shoot their portraits. And if you do this during the day, they’ll remember you when you go back in the evening, perhaps even posing for you again during a quiet moment. (Remember to get their details so that you can send them the picture.)

Time to get out and shoot!

No matter your level of experience, there’s something for everyone when it comes to funfair and amusement park photography. If you’re a beginner photographer, then taking a tripod and shooting long exposures is a great way to try night and long exposure photography for the first time.

If you’re more experienced as a photographer, then a whole world opens up with candid shots, portraits, and experimenting with creative angles and techniques.

Have you done any funfair and amusement park photography recently? Show us your pictures in the comments!

The post 6 Ideas for Creative Funfair and Amusement Park Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

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