Spontaneous Photos Versus Staged Photos

The post Spontaneous Photos Versus Staged Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

This is a subject that runs to the very heart of what makes photography special for many people. The convulsions that many had when Steve McCurry decided he was in fact a visual storyteller show just how passionate people are about this subject.

Indeed, a more recent example of this occurred when a photography contest winner was found to have submitted an allegedly staged photo. To a certain degree, we’ve allowed photography to be romanticized by believing amazing photos are all about the moment of capture. That’s certainly an idea many travel or photography magazines have encouraged. In this article, you’ll learn about staged photos, spontaneous photos, and why learning both approaches will improve your work.

A shard of light was used to light this man’s face.

Spontaneous photos

Getting the moment of capture is often what makes or breaks a photo. Landscape photography isn’t always about this, but a lone hiker in your landscape photo can add narrative. Of course, street photography is almost always about moment of capture. So what can you do that will improve your chances of adding that x-factor to your frame?

Visit places with lots of action

If you want to exercise your body, you go to a gym, visit the swimming pool or perhaps go for a run. If you want to get good at taking spontaneous photos, you need to visit places that have lots of decisive moments. These places will train your eye to be razor sharp and alive to the potential of a decisive moment before it happens. This is the opposite of a staged photo.

You’ll want to visit the following places:

  • The local market – Find out where your local market is, and when it’s going to be busiest. Some markets are night markets, while your local fish market will be busiest at the crack of dawn. Vendors preparing their stock, street food being prepared, and interaction with customers all have great potential for a decisive moment.
  • An event – Events are also great places to practice. These can be sports events, festivals, or parties. Again interaction between people caught at the decisive moment. You’ll often need a lens with a longer focal length to be effective in this setting.
  • A busy street – Of course, street photography is what many will think of when you look to take photos with a decisive moment. Get your 50mm prime lens on the camera, and hit the streets looking for interesting characters. It’s often a good idea to choose a location and stop there for a while. Look for those moments of capture to come to you – perhaps against the backdrop of an interesting wall.

An event such as the balloon festival is a chance to capture moments.

Experiment with focal distance

The majority of decisive moment photos you’ll take will be street photos. These will be on the street, or perhaps within a street market. The general rule here is to use a 50mm prime lens, though experimenting with other focal lengths can also give you good results. Using a longer focal length means you can stand in a less noticeable location, allowing the action in front of you to unfold naturally. You’ll also feel more comfortable at a distance, and can anticipate your moments of capture and build your skill for anticipation. Once you have a knack for this anticipation, use wider angles and see how your results turn out. Of course, as mentioned before, sports and often event photography require longer focal lengths to capture the action.

In this photo, a longer focal length of 135mm was used. Markets are great for interactions between people.

Wait for the moment to come to you

This is a little like staged photos, except it’s a natural moment. It could be argued that this is the very opposite of spontaneous, but it is nevertheless a moment of capture. When you take this type of photo you will have a pre-composed frame, and you’re waiting for a person to walk into the right position within your photo. You will need a lot of patience, as you could well be waiting for at least an hour.

  • A frame – Set up your photo and wait for a person to walk into the frame within your photo. This will immediately give your photo a greater narrative. If possible, wait for more than one person to walk into that frame, so you can choose the most interesting subject.
  • A shard of light – A great technique to practice a decisive moment is to wait for people to walk into a shard of light. This gives you a defined condition when you need to press the shutter, so you will need to be fast. Look for an indoor location, and a gap in the roof to let the light through. Then expose at around -2 or -3EV for the background, and normal or slightly underexposed for the sunlit area.

In this photo, the scene was pre-composed. I then needed to wait for people to walk down the path.

Be quick on the draw

Of course, there are times you’re just going to have to be lightning fast. You’ll need to have eyes everywhere, constantly alert to possibilities, and seeing things to the side of you as well. Having your camera setting already setup is essential in this scenario. A more forgiving aperture of say f/8 rather than f/1.8 will also help with quick focus.

In some cases, you will have to use a larger aperture according to the light levels you are photographing in.

If you’ve been practicing in the market where there are many chances to capture a decisive moment, you will get quicker at bringing the camera to your eye and getting the shot immediately – the same skill you’ll have used to capture people walking into a shard of light.

There are times you need to be aware and very fast. These monks crossing the street is a split second moment.

Staged photos

The opposite of spontaneous photos is staged photos. This style of photography will be what you practice regularly if you work with models, or perhaps take pre-wedding photos for people. Of course, the recent controversy surrounding these is centered on travel photography, which is all meant to be natural moments. If you want the most striking photo possible, though, the ability to control all aspects of the photo will give you maximum creativity. So what goes into a successful photo of this type?

Going on a photo-shoot with other members of a photography club can be a great learning experience.

Solo vs the group

The photographer who recently ran into trouble with their winning image allegedly used a staged photo from a group photography event.

Of course, it’s quite possible to make a staged photo look natural, and for it to carry a strong message. In fact, if it doesn’t, you need to go back to the drawing board.

The question is, however, when you’re photographing with a group of other photographers, how much are you in control of the creative process? How much is that photo really yours because you pressed the shutter?

Learning with the group is a great way to improve your work. However, to really allow your own creativity to come to the fore, it needs to be you (and only you) who controls how the photos are staged.

Organizing a photo session with a friend or model where you work one-to-one gives you much more control.

The narrative

Control the narrative, and you’ll get the photo. To be a good visual storyteller, you need your photo to have that strong story as you guide your viewer’s eye through the frame. So you no longer need to capture the decisive moment. Instead, you’re going to create it.

To do that you’ll need to think of the following:

  • Design elements –You can choose your location to perfectly match the photo you want to take. Use frames, or perhaps even create your own frame. Leading lines such as paths or tunnels make for good photos. Good composition skills and a composition that harmonizes with the story you’re going to tell are things you are looking for.
  • The story –This could involve your subject looking off into the distance, cooking some food, or perhaps talking with a friend. The aim is to make these moments look as natural as possible, even though they’re staged.
  • The background – Lastly, the background should look after itself if you have applied the points made for design elements. Nevertheless, keep an eye on the background. Unless you’re in a studio, people can walk into the background of your photo, affecting the narrative of your photo.

This photo has been staged. An off-camera strobe is placed left of the camera to light the ladies face, and the smoke from the cigar.


The management of the photo can go beyond what’s list above. You will want to really micromanage your photo. That means controlling all aspects of it from lighting to what people are wearing in the photo.

  • The time of day – The position of the sun is going to dominate your photo. With staged photos, there is absolutely no excuse for getting this aspect of the photo wrong. The same goes for spontaneous photos as well. You should only be attempting these with the sun in the right position.
  • Lighting – You’ll need to decide whether you want to use natural light only. If if you only use natural light, you still have the potential to use reflective surfaces to bounce light where you want it to be. Beyond this, you can use strobes, and give your outdoor photo a studio look.
  • Clothes – Ahead of the photo shoot organizing with your model what they’ll wear is another aspect that can be controlled. Spend the time liaising with them so that the clothes match the location you have in mind.
  • Location – Where you choose to photograph can be controlled for any type of photo, whether it’s spontaneous or not. You’ll need to think about how this location will play off against the model and narrative you hope to acheive. Do you want the area busy with other people, or would it be better to choose a quieter time of the day?

In this photo, the framing was created by sticking together pieces of rice paper using tape. The chef is making fresh spring rolls, using rice paper.

Creative techniques

Unlike spontaneous photos, you can use creative techniques with your staged photos. In most cases, creative techniques take time to set up – time you only have when you stage the photo. There are many ways to be creative in your work. You don’t always need to use techniques like these. So take the following as some ideas you could use:

  • Light painting – You’ll need to photograph at night, but light painting is a great way of adding interest to your image. You’ll also need a model who can stand or sit very still. Think about the pose position. Some poses are much easier to be statuesque than others.
  • Refraction – Photography using prisms, fractal filters or lens balls can give your photo another twist. Your results with such techniques will be better if you stage the photo.
  • Flour – Throwing flour in the air is a great way to add a more dynamic feel to your photo. You’ll need to combine this with off-camera flash. The flash needs to be directed so it correctly lights up the flour while it’s mid-air.

In this image, light painting has been used to highlight two monks who are standing still for the photo.

The commercial aspect

With staged photos, you are almost certainly aiming at the commercial market. You’ll be photographing with a model who it’s very likely you’ll pay. If you’re new to this type of photography, you might consider building a relationship with your model, where you both give each other time rather than money to build each other’s portfolios.

  • Contests – Contests will ask for the model release of the person in a photo. So, to a certain extent, this rather says a commercial element to the photo is okay.
  • Publishing – It’s always nice to see your work published. Look at the photography type you have produced, and see if you can match that to a magazines style. You may well need to produce a set of images, and even write the article that goes with it.
  • Stock – As long as you can’t tell the photo is staged, staged photos work very well for stock photos. They’ll be model released, so you’re really ready to go. That extra passive income never hurts, and can pay for your next photo shoot.

Why you need to learn both

There is a temptation to say “I’m going to be a street photographer,” and not look to other types of photography. There is merit in becoming the master of your field and not diversifying. However, a model can transition to photography. They have the advantage of knowing what’s going on in front of the camera. Taking the time to take staged photos will allow you to see the potential for spontaneous photos in a different way as well.

Having staged the photo using off-camera flash, and seeing where things should be positioned in your frame is a skill that can be brought across to the more organic environment of street photography. That is to say; you should be a fashion photographer for a day, learn those ideas, and see what you can bring from that across to your street photography.


The desire for that perfect photo is always there. The purist is likely to want to achieve this organically, using honed photographer instincts to get that moment of capture. There is a lot to be said for learning the other side of the coin and getting in touch with your inner visual storyteller.

Which style of photography do you prefer and why? Would you consider photographing in a different way, even for a day? Here at digital photography school, we’d love to see your example photos.

Please let us know if you took them spontaneously, or if you staged the photo. You can even post an image, and see if the community can guess whether you staged the photo or not.


The post Spontaneous Photos Versus Staged Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

Managing Your Photography Process From Shooting to Editing

The post Managing Your Photography Process From Shooting to Editing appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

You spend a lot of time learning about your gear and how to use it to produce great images.  You also invest time and money into learning to improve your technique for capturing and processing your work. It is therefore fair to say that developing a consistent workflow in handling your images after (and sometimes before) they are captured is also of importance. Here are a few steps you should be taking to help you manage your photography work.

Before you shoot

1. Make a plan

What are you going to shoot today? Is it an event in a dimly lit place or is it in the middle of a sunny day and outdoors? What will be your source(s) of light? What gear will you need?

Prepare by planning for your subject and thinking through your shoot. That way you can think of possible outcomes and pack accordingly (and in some cases avoid overpacking). Weather conditions, time on your feet, length of your trek/journey and environmental constraints will also help you determine if you need to scale down your gear to the essentials or rethink how/what you pack.

2. Set up your camera

If you are used to shooting the same genre of images, you may have your settings already dialed in. This takes into consideration the creation of presets to handle different scenarios that you face. Keep a reminder to adjust your white balance for the type of light you will be shooting in. Will you need a flash or supplemental lighting and what settings will you need when you add those?

Do you want to shoot your images in RAW or JPEG? Both have their advantages and disadvantages and you need to choose what works well for your planned shoot and expected outcome.

After you shoot

1. Moving images from your card as soon as possible

A good practice is moving the images from your memory card to your computer as soon as possible. A card reader transfers images faster than using a direct connection from your camera to your computer. While recent computer card slots are comparable to card readers in speed, there is still a preference to the latter.  One school of thought is that a good quality card reader is built to minimize the chance of corrupting your memory cards.

While the objective is to move the images, it is advisable to copy the images across (as opposed to move). After you copy, compare the number of files on the memory card (and size) to what was copied. This is especially important if there was an interruption during the copy process.

Note: If you choose to move instead of copy, this comparison will not be possible. More importantly, there is a higher probability of loss or corrupted files, if there is an interruption during the move process.

2. Making a backup

Prepare for the failure of your devices. Having more than one copy of your image gives you some peace of mind that it is safe somewhere. There are many backup combinations you can use, but the most basic is to have two copies of your images. You can have a copy on your laptop/computer and one on an external drive. You can save on more than one external drive or even go with an external drive/cloud combination. An ideal backup strategy involves two copies where you have one offsite (off premises/cloud).

An essential part of having a backup is testing it from time to time to ensure that it works and can restore your images when needed.

Backup processes can be revised as your workflow progresses. For example, after a shoot, you can copy all of your images to a secondary place. After you have culled your final selection, you can replace those images with your selection. When you edit and find your best images, you can add this to your library later. Whatever system you choose to work with, they all require a level of organization.

3. Clearing your memory cards

A good rule to adopt is to clear your memory cards after you have backed up your files to two locations. In each instance, copy from the memory cards directly. After your copy, compare what was copied to the number of files (and size) of those on the memory card. This is especially important if there was an interruption during the copy process.

4. Using management software to browse your images/cull your images

A digital asset management software system is a great way to browse, preview, locate and rate your images and mark them for processing. Two of the most used asset management systems are Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Bridge. There are a few others that work similar to these, with a primary focus on browsing and rating images.

Most people do not take advantage of the rating ability of asset management software, but it is quite a useful tool to cull your work. When you browse your images, you give the highest ratings to your best images – those to keep, review or edit. The next rating is for those with potential and worth a second look. You award the lowest rating or no rating to images that do not make the cut. These would include blurry images, those that are not salvageable or ones you will never review/edit. These can be marked for discarding at a later time (when space becomes an issue) or immediately (if that is how you streamline your work).

5. Post-processing images

Many times post-processing immediately follows shooting and nothing is wrong with that. Once you develop a workflow that suits you, then there are no rules as to when to do what. Whenever you post-process, remember that your edited images need to be saved in several locations (especially if they are for a client). Saving your final images with a descriptive name/date in a sub-folder will help you easily find them later on.

Note: Post-processing also can be broken down into its own workflow, which includes processing multiple images at a time (batch processing).


Your images are worth protecting, thus developing a habitual photography workflow is important. Find a way that works for you, keeping in mind that you will be thankful for spending the time on a proper backup strategy.

Finally, create with the assurance that your work is organized and managed from capture to delivery.

Do you have any other tips to add here? Please share in the comments below.


The post Managing Your Photography Process From Shooting to Editing appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

5 Product Photography Tips to Improve Your Images

The post 5 Product Photography Tips to Improve Your Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Product photography: you’ve probably heard that it’s hard and very specialist. But your friend who runs their own business asks you if you’ll just shoot a few product pictures for them to use on their website or social media. Or perhaps you have your own business that regularly needs new product photography. Of course, you’re happy to have a go. It could help you improve your photographic skills too by giving you some new challenges. But how do you approach this highly specialist field of photography that you have very little experience with?

When many photographers think of “product photography” they think of a certain style that often involves complicated lighting, setup, and retouching. Sometimes blending dozens of shots in post-processing, using specialized lenses or lighting equipment, or shooting on perfect white backgrounds.

These styles of photography do have their place in the world of marketing and advertising. And you may even decide that it’s the right look for the products that you’re shooting. But in recent years a more natural feeling product photography has been creeping into advertising via social media influences. This style can be easier to dabble with because it requires less equipment and specialist knowledge – although it is still incredibly tricky to master!

The most important thing in product photography is to match the look and feel of the images to the product and the brand. A shot of an exclusive fountain pen aimed at CEO’s will be photographed very differently to a vegan surf-wax aimed at Californian surfers!

Whichever style you decide to try out when you have a go at product photography for the first time, there are some simple things to keep in mind when you’re shooting. If you keep these guidelines in mind, then you should be able to shoot images that show off a product to its advantage.

1. Get your camera on a tripod

It cannot be said often enough in still life photography how great tripods are. Firstly, they protect against camera shake. If you can get your camera (or phone) on a tripod, then your shutter speed can be as long as you like without risking any blur from camera shake. A nice, crisp image is essential to product photography.

If people cannot see what they are purchasing clearly, then they will most likely move on and choose a different supplier!

Blurry pictures are never desirable for product photography. You need to make sure they are clear and crisp.

If you can’t stretch to a tripod then make sure that you use a relatively fast shutter speed to compensate for any slight movements you might make while holding the camera. You may find that you have to compromise and raise your ISO in order to get a clear, bright picture.

The other advantage of tripods is that they hold your camera in one place while you work on your composition. If you are styling your images for social media (rather than shooting flat e-commerce images), then it might take a couple of attempts to get it right.

Keeping the camera in one place leaves you free to work on the styling and composition.

There are a huge variety of tripods available, all with different features and at different price points. If you can stretch to it, then a tripod with an arm that bends over at ninety degrees is an excellent investment that will make the popular flatlay (top-down) shots for Instagram easier.

2. Use good lighting

Let’s bust a myth – good lighting doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Yes, there are certain kinds of product photographers who spend hours or even days lighting a single product and getting it perfect. Of course, many high-volume photographers prefer to work with studio lights in a closed studio. That way, they can replicate lighting time and time again when doing repeat jobs for the same client.

But you can light a product with just natural window light, or even take it outside, and still get great results. You don’t have to have expensive studio gear or even a whole room dedicated to photography. Many people photograph products quite successfully on a table pulled up to a bright window. With the right backgrounds and props, it certainly doesn’t have to look like it was shot in your living room!

Lighting can also help to make your object look three dimensional on a flat screen. Shadows and highlights help viewers to interpret the image and understand it correctly.

The crucial thing is to match the lighting style to the product and brand. For something sleek and high-tech, you might want a more artificial feel to your light. Whereas, a more natural artisan product would probably benefit from just simple window light.

3. Shoot multiple angles

If people are buying online, then they can’t pick up and touch the product. That means you have to try and convey all the small details to a potential purchaser. The best way to do this is by making sure that you capture a variety of angles of each item. Also, get in close to show the details if it’s relevant.

This is especially important if the item is handmade. Getting in close can show off the care and consideration that an artisan puts into their work. The details are what often sets handmade products aside from their mass-manufactured counterparts. So be sure to show them off!

Shooting multiple angles is also an easy way to generate lots more content for social media accounts. Many business owners struggle to find enough content to post regularly on social media, so it can really help them out.

4. Find out the platform specifications

It’s important to shoot product photographs with the final use of the image in mind. Different online platforms will have different specifications for how photographs look best on their sites.

For instance, if you are shooting for someone with an Etsy store, you’d need to consider that portrait photos look best on the product page, but the search thumbnails are landscape. That means a clever photographer would shoot images that look good when cropped to both portrait and landscape. It might mean that you need to leave extra space around products when you shoot them and crop in later in post-processing.

Instagram can be a particularly tough platform to shoot for if people are looking for images that look good on social media. Images should ideally be posted in a ratio of 5:4 to take up as much space as possible and be more eye-catching when scrolling down the feed.

However, on a users profile grid, they automatically crop to a 1:1 square format. That means you lose details in the top and bottom of the image in the thumbnails. On top of that, the “stories” feature uses images that are in a 16:9 ratio – much taller and skinnier than the news feed! When shooting specifically for Instagram, I tend to set my camera to shoot in a 16:9 ratio. Then I know I can almost always crop other ratios out of that base image.

Also, research the pixel size that each online platform uses. If you produce images that are too small, then they’re likely to look pixellated or blurry when uploaded.

5. Don’t forget the packaging

More and more people are shopping online, so the packaging of a product contributes heavily to the first impression of a brand.

Artisan companies and small businesses often spend lots of time considering their packaging and branding. So it’s undoubtedly worthwhile to shoot the packaging as well as the product.

As well as demonstrating brand values, you can also show the buyer that it’s going to help their purchase get to them safely. This is especially important if it’s a product that is breakable or if it’s likely to be given as a gift. It helps instill confidence in the brand!

Plus, on platforms like Etsy that give you multiple slots to upload images of your product, having packaging photographs can be an excellent way to show off the product styled in a new way.

Always remember…

Keep your product photographs well exposed and in focus.

As long as you’re getting these two things correct, then you’re already on the right track. All that’s left to do is practice, practice, practice until you’re shooting products like a pro.

Remember to comment below and show us the pictures you’ve been shooting using what you’ve learned!


5 Product Photography Tips to Improve Your Images

The post 5 Product Photography Tips to Improve Your Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

What to Do When Your Images Get Stolen

The post What to Do When Your Images Get Stolen appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

If any of your images live online in any shape or form, it is inevitable that they will get stolen.

With the Internet, copyright infringement has become rampant and is a worldwide phenomenon.

Some individuals don’t understand copyright and think that because an image appears online that it’s theirs for the taking.

However, there are a lot of companies that steal images and use them for commercial purposes – to sell their own products!

How do you know if your image has been stolen?

You can do random image searches on your images in Google. This is a cool feature, but rather tedious and incredibly time-consuming. If you have an extensive library of images, this could take more time than you’d want to spend.

A better alternative is sites like Copytrack, Pixray or Pixsy, which are image tracking services that not only find your stolen images but also will file a copyright infringement claim and sue for damages on your behalf.

This is a great way to seek restitution for stolen photos without the hassle of having to do everything yourself. Not to mention, there is no way you could scan millions of images on the Internet, looking for your work. The technology these services offer does it all for you.

Utilizing an image tracking service is something every photographer should consider. It’s a sad reality that so many photographers today are struggling, while thieves are profiting from our hard work.

An image tracking service can save you a ton of legwork. Most of the time, it’s as simple as uploading your photos. If you get notified that some of your photographs are appearing without permission or licensing, you can file a DMCA takedown notice or a legal claim through the service.

The image search function is free – to a point. It depends on how many images you upload. If you file a legal claim, the service will take a commission.

One caveat to using an image tracking site is that if you do stock photography, it can be hard to ascertain where your image has legitimately appeared.

Stock agencies don’t usually disclose to you who licensed your image. Also, many have partnered up with other stock agencies to sell your work, making your images even more difficult to track.


How an image tracking service works

According to the image tracking site Copytrack, 3 billion images are shared online every day. 85% of them get stolen.
Licensing images is about more than just tracking down infringements. Once you discover an infringement, you need to make a decision as to what you’ll do about it.

Both Copytrack and Pixsy can handle the legal side in the fight for fair payment for your work.

You simply upload your images while their Reverse Image Search functions in the background. They will notify you of your matches by email.

Once you confirm the stolen images, they take steps to enforce your copyright.

You don’t need to do anything.

What are scraper sites?

One of the worst types of offenders in the realm of stolen images and copyright infringement online are scraper sites.
Scraper sites steal your content for their own sites or blogs. Some will just scrape content, but most use automated software that takes your images and posts content on their own site.

These sites take images from Pinterest, Google, and your own website and host them illegally.

Not only does your website host the images for them but also they take up your bandwidth!

If you write a blog in addition to post photos, you may find your content appearing on these sites.

What are your options if your image gets stolen?

If your image gets stolen, your first option is to do nothing, which is exactly what many photographers do. The hassle can make it seem not worth it sometimes.

However, if the company that has stolen your image is a large one, you can hire a copyright attorney to take them to court, as this type of claim may be worth thousands of dollars to you.

In most cases, the best option is to use a company like Pixsy and either have them file a DMC Takedown Notice, or file a claim on your behalf.

A DMC Takedown Notice is a request to remove content from a website at the request of the owner of the copyright of the content.

How to file a DMC takedown

DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act. To get your stolen content removed from a website you need to file a DMCA takedown notice.

To file a DMC takedown, you can either hire a service or do it yourself.

You need to find out who owns the website. You can use a Who Is lookup tool.

The problem is that it can be difficult to find out who the website owner is in order to send them the notice, as a lot of these sites hide this info. For example, they use Cloudflare to hide their real IP address.

Luckily, there are DMC takedown services that can help you with this. DMCA charges $10 USD a month for their protection services and charges $199 USD for a full takedown.

How to register your copyright

As a photographer, you automatically own the copyright as soon as you create the image. This means that you do not necessarily have to file copyright for all your photos.

In most countries, you do not need to file copyright papers to prove you own the content or copyright. Government Registered Copyright is NOT necessary in order to get your content removed, however, suing for damages IS easier if you have registered your copyright.

To register your copyright, search online with keywords such as “register copyright Canada/US/Australia” etc., to find the Intellectual Property Office in your country.

In Conclusion

If you have had your images stolen, it’s up to you to decide if you want to pursue restitution.

Small transgressions may not seem worth the time and energy, however, if someone is making money off your work, you may want to consider seeking compensation. Not only for the money but also the principle.

Have you had any of your images stolen? Share with us in the comments below.


What to Do When Your Images Get Stolen

The post What to Do When Your Images Get Stolen appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Iconic

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is ICONIC!

Go out and iconic buildings, subjects, products, or places. Just be sure they are iconic! They can be color, black and white, moody or bright. You get the picture! 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 anything ICONIC

5 Ways to Photograph Travel Icons

Tell A Different Story Of A Timeless Icon

Travel Photography Subjects: Icons

9 Creative Architecture Photography Techniques for Amazing Photos!

How to Tell Stories with Architecture Photography

Tips for Different Approaches to Architecture Photography


Weekly Photography Challenge – ICONIC

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 #DPSiconic 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 – Iconic appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

10 Questions to Ask a Tour Operator Before Signing up for a Photography Tour

The post 10 Questions to Ask a Tour Operator Before Signing up for a Photography Tour appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

The company has an entrancing website and bedazzling photos. The itinerary looks all-encompassing and the testimonials seem positive. You’re excited and have your credit card ready for the deposit.

Slow down, partner.

Before you hand over your money, it’s a good idea to ask a number of questions of the photography tour operator.

Asking questions before paying for a photography tour is all about setting expectations – both yours and the operators. It’s also a chance to learn about the professionalism of the person or company you are signing up with.

Here then are 10 key questions to help you with your tour choice.

1. Do they have insurance? And what will it cover?

Protecting yourself is important with any tour, and it’s important to know what your tour operator has in place before you sign up. With the proliferation of photographers jumping to offering tours, it’s possible not all have put serious thought into insurance matters.

At the least, your operator should have insurance covering accidents during the trip – both ones they cause and ones out of their control.

The reason operators may skimp on insurance is simple – it’s expensive. And that cuts into profits. It’s also often the reason two operators who offer roughly the same itinerary will differ in price by 10-20%. Make sure you are covered before paying your deposit.

2. What is their guest to instructor ratio?

Everyone has their own ideal when it comes to instructor-to-guest ratios. Some enjoy one-on-one instruction all the time, and others prefer a small group of maybe five or six. Still, others may love the anonymity of a large 15-person group so they can do their own thing without interference.

I prefer groups no larger than six guests per instructor. This allows for some hands-on, one-on-one time. It also ensures the instructor is not being asked 5,000 questions while you wait for your chance.

Also, realize that an instructor may have a low ratio, but the over-group size might be larger, meaning they may bring in other instructors to help out. This is usually not a problem, but if you are hoping to hear directly from the lead instructor who attracted you to the tour, be aware you might not get the amount of facetime you’re expecting.

3. Is this a tour or workshop?

What’s the difference between a workshop and a photo tour? Susan Portnoy has a good comparison on her site, The Insatiable Traveler.

A tour is a chance to be guided through an area typically rich in photographic content. There is less direct hands-on instruction, moment to moment, and the subject matter can cover a large spectrum.

A workshop, by contrast, is usually more hands-on and directed to a specific goal. An example of this is a one day workshop on street photography. Your instructor will be close at hand to make all those small course corrections and critiques needed for improvement.

4. Do they have any other assignments during this trip or is this their only gig?

I’ve run across this myself while taking a tour. The instructors brought us to a scenic overlook and then POOF! Gone.

It turned out they had an assignment in that area. While they only headed off five minutes away, it was rather disconcerting to think I, and the other guests, were less important for that hour of ‘other work.’

It’s important to also realize that having other work isn’t necessarily horrible for you. However, it’s important to know about it up front, and then you can decide if it is acceptable. Most of us are okay with some deviation if we know about it in advance.

5. Will there be daily opportunities to review work?

Some people love to have constant feedback and need that on their tour. While others could not care less because their art is a personal endeavor.

If you want regular feedback, ask about it. Again, it’s about setting expectations, so you’re not disappointed when your needs aren’t being met.

Sometimes the reviews are just back-of-camera check-ins to see what you’re seeing and offer correction or encouragement. Or maybe you want an hour of the instructor’s time every three nights in front of a laptop so you can get more in-depth critiques. Either way, know before you go.

6. Why do they run tours to this location?

This is a big question that should be easy for any operator to answer. I believe the best answer is, “Because I love the area/region/country!” Often, the answer in the background is, “Because it is highly profitable or super popular.”

There’s nothing wrong with making a profit or leading tours to popular spots, but I feel it is important to know why the operator is running the tours they run. If it’s for the love of an area, you’re more likely to get hard-to-acquire information, background details, and unique locations. Experience certainly matters in the photography tour business for access to hidden experiences.

7. What is their cancelation policy?

This item is pretty straightforward. You should ask this for tours, workshops or any time you are plopping down a large sum of cash for a service. Do they offer full refunds? What is the deadline for canceling without a fee? Do they offer to reschedule if extenuating circumstances or family health are involved?

What about the operator canceling a tour? Will they try to rebook you with another, similar operator? How quickly will they offer a return of all funds?

8. What is a typical day like?

The advertisements and website you researched looked incredible! Beautiful images and exotic locations abound in that slick presentation.

But what will it really be like when you’re on the tour? Sure, no two days will be the same if you’re traveling all around. However, it is important to understand if you’ll be on a bus for five hours each day or if dinner is planned without thought to sunset timing each night. It’s often the difference between a photo tour and a regular tour.

In my mind, a photo tour should be a balance of exposure to opportunities with time to reflect and take a break. Food is also very important to keep energy up for shooting all day. If you’re always on the move, you won’t have time for photos. If your itinerary covers too much ground, you’ll see a lot of things through car or bus windows without many opportunities.

Pacing can be essential during a week or two-week long tour. If every day is packed with 18 hours of photography and instruction, you’re going to be exhausted by Day 3. Flexibility is also important so that one event taking extra time doesn’t make the rest of the day’s itinerary crumble.

9. How much instruction can you expect?

This question is also a chance to make your expectations known. If you want hand-holding the whole time, and have barely touched a camera, let the operator know so they can decide if the trip will be a good fit.

Perhaps you have a particular skill set you want to develop. Letting the operator know early will help them prepare, and both of you can work on a simple plan to help you improve during the tour. Everyone on your trip will have different aspects of photography they want to improve. Expressing your desires will help all involved.

10. Do they handle all logistics or work with local operators?

This is another question that has no right or wrong answer, but it’s important to know in setting your expectations. Some operators, to increase profits or because they desire more control, will want to book all the hotels, events, admissions, etc., themselves. This can also lead to a lower cost for guests. But it can also lead to the operator taking more time away from instructing.

On the other hand, an operator who hires a local guide or tour company should have more time for instructing. It can also help to have a local when things go sideways, and a deep understanding of local customs and protocol is essential. It allows for a division of labor; the local guide can go ahead and check the group into a hotel and have rooms ready while the group continues to soak up a particularly beautiful sunset.


Many of the questions I posed here have no right or wrong answer. However, I feel they are all important to ask in setting expectations before investing time and money in a tour. Asking them can also help expose a guide who is not organized or ready to take a group on a trip due to lack of diligence.

Can you think of other important questions to ask? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below.


photography tour questions

The post 10 Questions to Ask a Tour Operator Before Signing up for a Photography Tour appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

5 Reasons to Consider Aperture Priority Over Manual Mode

The post 5 Reasons to Consider Aperture Priority Over Manual Mode appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

Choosing aperture priority mode in difficult lighting situations can free your mind up to deal with the things that matter most to the photo, like timing, rather than messing around with the dials to get the same result.

There’s a lot to be said for the manual exposure mode on your camera. When you’re starting out, learning how to shoot in manual will help you to learn the relationship between shutter speed and aperture. This ensures that you learn what the camera is doing every time you make an exposure. It also builds the basis for you to take what you learn about exposure and correct for the camera’s inability to cope with extreme exposure situations as well as to make creative choices for your images.

After you’ve learned the ins and outs of manual mode, however, there are a few reasons why you might want to forego your hard-learned manual skills for Aperture Priority mode. This article outlines five of these reasons and details what Aperture Priority mode might offer you and your photography in some situations.

1. Aperture priority does the same job as manual mode

In manual mode, the meter in your camera is taking a reading based on your set ISO (provided you’re not using auto ISO). The chances are likely that you’ve picked a deliberate aperture setting before you even lifted the camera up. To get your exposure, you now have to alter the shutter speed so that the indicator on your camera lines up with what the meter dictates is a correct exposure.

Aperture priority does the exact same thing, except that the camera sets up the shutter speed for you.

In instances where you are trusting your camera’s light meter (let’s be honest, that’s most of the time), this will result in the same exposure every single time whether you are shooting in manual mode or aperture priority mode.

What aperture priority mode does is remove the need for you to set the shutter speed yourself. It frees you to concentrate on things like composition without having to constantly keep an eye on the meter.

Exposing for the meter in manual mode resulted in an exposure of f/11 at 1/50th of a second.

Exposing the scene in aperture priority mode just a second later resulted in the exact same exposure. f/11 at 1/50th of a second.

In situations where you need to compensate for dark or light subjects, aperture priority mode still gives you full manual control of the exposure through exposure compensation. Are you taking photos of a dark subject like a black dog? Dial in -1 stop of exposure compensation just one time and keep shooting without having to constantly adjust your settings to get to the same result. Are you taking photos of a fluffy white dog? Same again. This time, add +1 stop of exposure compensation and away you go.

Dark subjects will require you to underexpose them. In Aperture priority mode, this is easily done with exposure compensation. Once you dial in exposure compensation, you are set to go until it has to be changed again. With light-toned subjects, you will have to overexpose them to maintain the correct exposure.

High contrast subjects, like this sheep’s white face lit directly by the setting sun, will also have to be underexposed by at least a few stops.

The only difference between aperture priority mode and manual mode in these circumstances is that you will be spending more time focusing on the creation of the photos than you will be on the dials on your camera.

To be clear, I am not advocating for not learning how to use manual mode. For the best results, it is important for you to understand how your camera works in relation to exposure. Using manual mode is the best and fastest way to do that. So, please, don’t skip over manual altogether. However, once you have it down, using other modes alongside your knowledge of exposure and how it works will help you and your photos in the long run.

2. Speed

The backlighting in this image created an extremely high contrast situation. By dialing in -3 stops of exposure compensation, I was able to ensure that the issues were dealt with in a series of images with one turn of the dial.

As mentioned, using aperture priority reduces the amount of time you have to spend watching the camera’s meter. Because the camera is now setting the shutter speed for you, the only thing you have to worry about in most situations is exposure compensation. Once you set your camera to aperture priority mode, it takes only one finger (on all modern cameras that I’ve used) to adjust the exposure compensation settings.

Need to underexpose by a stop? Just turn the one (relevant) dial three clicks. Done.

The only other thing you might have to worry about is if you have the need, or want, to change your ISO. But that is going to be more uncommon.

3. Aperture priority still gives full manual control

At the risk of repeating myself, but I feel this point really needs to be driven home. Aperture priority mode gives you full manual control over your exposure. It is not automatic, or an auto mode, in any way more than it allows the camera to set the shutter speed based on the meter you are already using.  At any time while in aperture priority mode, you will still have full manual input on what exposure the camera is recording. You just have less physical steps to go through before you get there.

4. Helps to create a constant exposure in changing lighting conditions

One scenario in which aperture priority mode really shines is in changing lighting conditions. For example, if you’re out on a windy and cloudy day, the light levels can constantly shift. In aperture priority mode, your camera changes the shutter speed for correct exposure (already taking into account any exposure compensation that you might have set). Thus, helping you to achieve a consistent look for all of the images in a sequence. This is most useful in terms of shooting a sequence of images to later stitch into a panorama.

When creating a sequence of images for a panorama, aperture priority can help to ensure a consistent exposure throughout the frames.

If you were shooting this sequence in manual mode, it would require you to be constantly looking at the meter and changing your shutter speed settings as required. This isn’t a big deal, but using aperture priority mode allows you to get the same results without constant fetter over the settings.

At sunset, the light rapidly changes. Add a moving subject to that high contrast scene and you have an exposure nightmare. Aperture priority can help to maintain a fairly consistent exposure between frames.

This isn’t perfect, and extreme shifts in lighting can have drastic effects on your images and your exposure. You will still have to pay attention to the details to ensure nothing is going wrong. On normal days, however, it will work just fine.

5. TTL and HSS enabled flashes

Using aperture priority with TTL and HSS enabled flashes might just be the perfect match.

When you are using a flash with TTL (through the lens metering) and HSS (High-Speed Sync) enabled, the chances are that you are going to be working with a fixed aperture anyway.

Remember, shutter speed does not affect flash exposure, only ambient exposure. Aperture priority mode will give you the freedom to set your desired aperture and then let the camera do what it needs to match the meter.

Not only will you still have full control over the exposure compensation for the ambient, but you will also have full control over exposure compensation with the flash unit.

Again, this allows you to get the exposure where you want it one time, and then you are free to concentrate on the actual photos.

That’s it

Aperture priority can be a fantastic tool for any photographer. At the end of the day, it does the exact same thing that manual mode does. It just takes away some physical steps that you have to go through in manual mode to set the exposure.

That said, like just about everything else in photography, it is not perfect, and it won’t always be a solution.

If you take only one thing away from this article, let it be this: shooting only in manual mode does not make you a better photographer. Aperture priority and shutter priority modes do the exact same thing, just in a different way. Use whichever works for the situation you’re in.

Do you use Aperture or Shutter Priority? Share with us your thoughts in the comments below.


5 Reasons to Consider Aperture Priority Over Manual Mode

The post 5 Reasons to Consider Aperture Priority Over Manual Mode appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

How to Create a Documentary Photography Project

The post How to Create a Documentary Photography Project appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

We all love a good story. A tale that captures your attention and draws you in to discover more. Creating a documentary photography project can be a great way to develop your photography. It can also help hold the attention of your audience for longer.

Monk in a Saamlor tricycle taxi in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Random collections of unrelated images tend to be glanced over. This is especially so when most of your photography is viewed on social media platforms. Making your photography stick in people’s minds is a constant challenge.

Developing a photography project and working on it over a period of time, be it weeks, months or even years, can help you stand out from the crowd. Your personal skills and style will evolve in a more meaningful direction. The deeper commitment you have to a documentary photography project the more you will benefit.

Have a plan and a purpose for your photography project

Charging into a project on a whim will sometimes work, but not often. Without purpose and a plan, you are more likely to lose interest. You’ll struggle to keep momentum and find it too challenging to come up with fresh ideas to keep your project alive.

Start a list. Write down ideas as they come to you. What would most like to photograph? As you start, don’t restrict yourself. Jot down whatever comes to mind, giving no thought to whether or not it’s practical. Let your list grow over a week and then review it.

Market Tricycle Taxi Ride How to Create a Documentary Photography Project

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Give yourself some space alone with your list. Edit it down to what’s practical. What can you photograph every day, or every week? If anything on your list is not accessible to you, remove it. Add it to a list for future projects.

Concentrate on what excites you. What’s on your list that you’d most like to commit to photographing regularly? Having a passion for your theme or concept will keep you motivated. Don’t choose ideas you think will be easy. Being challenged is good for you.

Narrow your list down to two or three ideas. Mull these over before deciding on one of them. Even make a start on more than one. You can begin work on more than one project, then, if it’s too much of a commitment, pick the one you’re enjoying the most.

Now write another list of what you will do with the photos you’ll create for your documentary project. Stories are for sharing. Who will be interested in the tale you are telling? What’s the best medium or platform for you to display your images?

You might want to make a physical scrapbook with prints of your favorite photos. Instagram or Pinterest may be an ideal outlet for you, or your own website. Photo sharing sites like 500px or Flickr are also options. You could email a small selection of your project photos to one or two photographer friends each week for their feedback. Consider what you most want to achieve by sharing your photos.

Tricycle Detail How to Create a Documentary Photography Project

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Know your subject better than anyone

Research. Dig into your chosen project idea like it’s brand new. Even if you already know a lot about it, find out more. Telling a story built on thin information will not hold people’s attention for very long.

The more of an expert you become on your subject, the better the story you will tell. You might even want to plan a narrative. What will be the beginning, middle, and end? The greater your knowledge about it, the more interesting detail you’ll be able to include. You want other experts on your topic to be surprised at what you are showing them in your photos.

Look into the history of the project idea. Talk to people who know about your topic. Don’t only rely on the internet. To touch the heart of the thing will require experience – yours and other people’s.

Tricycle Taxi Rest How to Create a Documentary Photography Project

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Take lots of photographs

While it’s important to plan, don’t be held back by it. Make a start as soon as you have decided on what your documentary photography project will be. You might start slowly and change direction a few times, but that’s okay.

Procrastinating will not help you achieve your goals. Once you begin, you will see your story develop, and you can steer it in any direction you feel is right.

The topic for your project may dictate how frequently you can take photos. Hopefully, this will be regular, especially if you are embarking on your first documentary photo project.

Vary the images you are making. You may decide to use one prime lens. If so, push yourself to create a diverse selection of compositions with it. Or use your widest and your longest lens with the same subject on the same day for variety.

Waiting for a Ride How to Create a Documentary Photography Project

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Use a mixture of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings to also help build an interesting series of photos. If there’s movement, let it blur out using a slow shutter speed. If you would normally photography a subject with a wide aperture, close it down and get as much in focus as possible. Stretch your technique beyond what you would typically use.

Photograph in a mixture of lighting situations. Take some photos in the morning and others in the afternoon or at night. Aiming for variety will give you a more interesting body of work to edit down from for the images you will share.

As you build up a body of work, you will begin to see your strengths and weaknesses. You will see the photos you like the most. Organize these into a separate folder, or series of folders so that you can compare them often.

Taxi Rider in Chiang Mai, Thailand How to Create a Documentary Photography Project

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Cultivate a relationship with your project

Photographing a project will involve some amount of repetition. You’ll visit the same locations. Photograph the same things. Meet the same people. Experience weather and seasonal changes.

Be aware of your feelings each time you are working on your project. Make photographs that are in tune with your mood and how you are experiencing what you are doing. This will make your story more personal and interesting.

Your view of the world is unique, and your photographs should portray this. The concept may seem a little abstract, but as you are mindful of it and practice over time, you will find your photos become more expressive of who you are.

Waiting for Customers How to Create a Documentary Photography Project

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Interacting with people who are part of your project, if there are any, will help develop the character in your photo story. You might prefer to only take candid photos of people, but the way you do this will also reflect in your pictures. Using a long lens, or a wide one, will result in very different candid images.

Engaging with people throughout your project is very interesting. At the start, people may be uncertain of what you’re doing or why. As you revisit and photograph them, your relationship with them will change. People will become accustomed to you and will be more relaxed in your presence. Others may become irritated or bored. The nature of the photos you make of them will change.

Observe the differences. What’s changed since the last time you worked on your project? Look for subtitles you may not have picked up on if you’d only photographed in that place once. Over time you will start to see things you did not pick up on before. These details can add a depth of interest to your documentary project.

Poise of the Rider How to Create a Documentary Photography Project

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Review your photos and seek feedback

What do you think of your photos? Are others enjoying your visual storytelling?

Working on a project allows you to see your own photography developing. Because you’re photographing the same theme or concept over a period of time, you will reproduce similar types of photos. Compare them. Can you see growth in your skills and style?

Separate the top 10 or 20 percent of your photos after each session you have working on your project. This will give you a clearer idea of your progress. From time to time, review these photos and look for gaps in your story. What’s missing? What are you photographing too much?

Having a photographer friend or mentor look over your photos and share their critique on them will help you see things from another perspective. They may point out things or ask questions you have not thought of. Healthy feedback can lead to a deeper, richer story being told.

Cycle Taxi Shadow How to Create a Documentary Photography Project

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Let your documentary photography project grow organically

Go with the flow. Don’t stick to your plan too closely if you feel a more exciting story is emerging from your project. Let it develop organically. This will help you keep interested in what you are doing. You may stretch your project out for longer than you had planned.

Start today. Begin writing your list of ideas. Don’t rush it, but don’t let the idea stagnate. Once you begin, keep thinking about your project and adding to it. Right from when you start your list, through to the taking of photos and sharing them.

Have you ever given yourself the challenge of a documentary photography project? You may find you love the more in-depth storytelling aspect of working on a body of work.

Do you already have a project which has stalled a little and needs a kickstart? Design a story for it and plan to share it. This can help you get back on track.


The post How to Create a Documentary Photography Project appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

How to Make Friends and Collaborate in the Photography Industry

The post How to Make Friends and Collaborate in the Photography Industry appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Karthika Gupta.

Have you ever seen or been a part of a photography conference? Or even just walked into a camera store and spent some time observing people interacting in the store? It is as if we photographers speak another language, live in another world, or even belong to a cult. Of course, I mean this without any form of disrespect. Photographers and photography enthusiasts are a class apart. We all get excited about new lens and gear, talk in F-stops and ISO settings, and some of us save for years and years to buy a particular brand of camera or lens!

Ballet inspired styled shoot collaboration with other wedding vendors Karthika Gupta

The photography industry is growing in leaps and bounds – not only in technology but also in the number of people who are aspiring photographers or even hobbyists. With easier access to gear and a wealth of free education around, photography is a career choice for almost any generation. However, it also means that many people are doing the same or similar things. Most photographers, at some point or another, think about industry competition to get ahead of the curve in the kind of money and work they think they need to get ahead.

I want to assure you that making a living is possible in this space. There is more than enough work to go around. Your peers and colleagues are not out to ‘get you’ or ‘steal work from you.’ Let go of that scarcity mindset and instead think of how you can collaborate with your competition in ways that can become a win-win for both of you.

Often times, the colleges and friends you make in the industry do more for you than you could imagine. They send their overflow work your way, and you make genuine friendships with people who speak the same language as you. You also get to collaborate on creative projects that improve your own skill as an artist.

There are several ways you can make friends and collaborate in the photography industry.

1. Attend conferences and photography related events

There is nothing quite like getting a bunch of photographers in a room to talk shop and discuss the latest and greatest gear and techniques. The energy and the learnings at such events are incredible. Most conferences and events get the best speakers and teachers, so this is a great way to increase your skill set and also meet some of your mentors and peers.

As someone who has started to speak and teach at conferences and events, I am just as nervous to get up on stage as you might be to come to an event! However, I am so happy to meet and mingle with my people – folks who love photography as much as I do.

So go with an open mind and be willing to put yourself out there to make genuine connections and friends.

Food styling and food photography workshop Collaborate with other photographers Karthika Gupta

I had the opportunity to attend a conference and took some food styling and food photography classes. While there, I made some amazing friends who, to date, have been very supportive of each other’s work.

2. Join local groups

If traveling for a conference or an event is not your thing, thanks to apps like Meetup and Eventbrite, there are plenty of local chapters and groups that are photography specific. Some groups routinely go out and photograph. Others have workshops and classes where members exchange ideas and knowledge. Find what works for you and be open to give as much or more than what you receive.

3. Connect with photographers who you admire

I have to admit; this one is one of my favorite ways to connect with others in the photography space. Most photographers are on social media because it is such a great visual tool to showcase your work. So I find it easy to find photographers whose work I admire on social and engage with them regularly. Sometimes it is a ‘like,’ other times it is a comment or a direct message (DM). Nothing crazy or weird, I just say hello and compliment them on something that I find enjoyable. This is not a place to ask favors or ask for work. Instead, this is a place to connect and be social. The more you engage, the more you become a familiar face. Then when the time comes to collaborate or work together, let that organically happen.

Don’t ask open-ended questions or ask to pick their brain. Instead, do your research and ask intelligent questions. Ask about their motivation or inspiration or an accomplishment that they are proud of. Perhaps you could ask how they get over a creative slump…anything that humanizes you and them.

Collaborate with other photographers Karthika Gupta

I collaborated with another photographer who I met online. I stayed at her house for the weekend and created some amazing work that I am most proud of to date.

4. Be friendly and cordial

Always be friendly and cordial. No matter the stage of business you are at, always remember you too started at the bottom of the ladder too. Just because you have ‘achieved’ success doesn’t mean you have to be rude. On the flip side, to the person who is reaching out to other photographers, do the same. We are all in this together. You will make genuine friends when you are honest and genuine yourself. You will just put people off when you are insincere.

5. Offer something of value – no, it’s not always money

I am of the school of thought that money is not the ultimate form of success. Yes, we need money to survive – to put food on the table, pay the rent and other necessities like that – but there are many people out there who are motivated by something other than money.

Find your passion and find what feeds your soul. The money is sure to follow.

When working with others, offer something of value. When you are collaborating with other creatives, put your best foot forward so that the collaborative effort is worth its weight in gold. That way, it is a win for everyone included.

Styled shoot and portfolio building Karthika Gupta

I conducted a styled shoot for new wedding photographers, and as a result, collaborated with many vendors who got photos in exchange for products and services – a win-win for all.

6. Pre and post follow through is important and essential

When collaborating with other creatives, communication about expectations and outcomes is critical. It is important everyone is on the same page so that each party knows what they need to put in and what they are going to get out of it.

Communication can be as formal or as informal as you all agree. Typically everyone pitches in or brings something of value (time, talent, props) to the table. After the collaboration, people share each other’s work, give critique and sometimes even share images for each other’s portfolios.

No matter what process you use, make sure everyone agrees.

It is also important to do a debrief on the collaboration. Figure out what worked and what didn’t. How can you all make it better next time? Make sure to address any issues so you can all walk away with a positive experience.

Collaboration isn’t just with other photographers. It can also include vendors and businesses in your area of specialty. You can make a trade of goods and services in exchange for photos. Here pre and post-follow-up are critical so that all expectations are met.

Collaborate with vendors and businesses not just other photographers.

Collaboration, when done properly, should be a mutually beneficial arrangement. By collaborating with others, you get to learn, improve yourself, and help others as well. It is a very healthy and creative way to inspire and be inspired while working on something atypical.

Have you collaborated on some great projects? Share your experiences with the dPS community in the comments below.


The post How to Make Friends and Collaborate in the Photography Industry appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Karthika Gupta.

When is the Best Time to Photograph the Moon?

The post When is the Best Time to Photograph the Moon? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

Moon phases are a key to understanding when you should be out taking photos. These days it’s easy to predict where and when you will see the moon for the type of photos you want to produce.

First let’s start with some tools you might want to look into, then options for different moon phase photos.


Astronomers have known the secrets of the moon’s phases and timing for eons. Ancient civilizations built monuments and shrines in regard to locations of the sun, moon and stars long before computers were invented. Our modern tools are a little easier to access.

Newspapers and Websites

Not into learning full astronomy? My first suggestion is to Google the phase you’re looking for. It’s that simple. One of the top sites that will appear in the results is Time & Date. You can find all the phases of the moon, based on the location of your Internet connection, right here. If the location isn’t correct, simply search for your city and the site will give you all you need to get started.

Another great option (that also has an app, but it is so much better on a large computer screen) is The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE). I wrote about using TPE here on DPS and they have a Web App available for those who don’t use phones and their apps.

The US Navy has a simple site that allows you to print out a year’s worth of times for any location on the planet.

Don’t have an Internet connection while you travel? Newspapers still print the information for the moon and sun phases (as well as setting and rising times).


Everyone loves a good app, and there are three that I keep loaded on my phone for photography purposes. All of these apps will show you the angle of the moon at any time, its phase, and some even help you calculate the best time to photograph the moon.

Full moon over Washington’s Cascade Mountains

My choices are:

Catching the Full Moon

The best time to photograph the full moon is the day before or after a full moon. Why’s this?

A full moon is marked at the height of its path across the heavens and this is often after midnight. Let’s say the moon reaches the height of its fullness at 12:26 am on July 2nd. This means the full moon actually rises on the day BEFORE that which is marked on the calendar. Throw in use of Daylight Saving Time and the timing can be wonky.

Full moon rising above Washington’s Cascade Mountains and Puget Sound

Going out the day before the moon is actually marked as full means you’re catching the moon rising just about at the same time as the sun is setting. So the sun is lighting the moon and often the foreground of your scene. This gives a nice, even lighting to your scene.

The same can be said for shooting the full moon setting the day it is marked on the calendar.

Late at night, you can still capture great images of the moon. However, you have to understand that the contrast difference between the moon (a giant reflector in space) and the black sky will be immense. This means you will lose detail in the moon if you attempt to hold the shutter open long enough to exposure the foreground. Some creative light painting can come in handy in this case.

Full moon and chorten with the Himalayas in the background. Mong La, Nepal

Half/Quarter Moons – Daytime wonders

Some people call them half-moons because half of the moon is illuminated. Some call them quarter because they are at the quarter phase of a full cycle. Either way, they look the same.

Half-moons will rise or set in the middle of the day. It matters on whether the moon is waxing or waning, meaning if it is getting closer to full or further away in its cycle. This is a good time to use an app or Astro calendar to plan ahead.

You’ll be best served by catching a half moon when it is rising or setting, just like with a full moon. Having it closer to the foreground subjects will help it appear larger. Let me give you an example.

Here’s the half moon rising in Canmore, Alberta, Canada just behind the Rocky Mountains.

Half moon and the Canadian Rockies

Nice and large when using a long lens and the moon is close to the ground. It is fairly high in the sky here as I am looking way up at the mountain.

Now, here are two examples with a nearly half moon over Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, and another of it over Seattle, Washington.

See the issue? It’s still a half moon, but later in its cycle, when it is far from foreground objects, it is relatively small and loses some grandeur.

Slivers or Crescents

Slivers, or crescents, are visible just before and after a new moon. Look for them a couple of days before and after the new moon and, just like full and half, try to find a time when they are low on the horizon.

Crescent moon setting over the Himalayas

You will also notice the sliver will seemingly rotate as it crosses the heavens and this may affect your composition choices. As with the half moon, you will have even more trouble giving the moon prominence in a mid-day shoot when it is high in the sky.

Lunar Eclipses

Lunar eclipses are all the fashion these days with this or that news source touting, “This will be the last blah, blah, blah for decades!”  But don’t let them fool you; lunar eclipses happen often enough – about once a year. However, their location can be the biggest issue. Let’s go back to Time & Date’s site for more info on upcoming lunar eclipses for the next 10 years. You’ll need to click on the “Lunar” tab once on the page.

Not all of those eclipses will happen in your neck of the woods, so you’ll have to click through and see where they will happen. As with solar eclipses, when the sun is blotted out by the moon, people will often travel far and wide for lunar eclipse shots.

A full lunar eclipse, at its height, means the moon will be completely in the shadow of the Earth. Because of the distance between the Earth and moon, some light still slips past the Earth, which causes it to have all colors except red stripped away. This is why lunar eclipses are sometimes called blood moons.

Again, having a foreground subject helps because the eclipse often happens high in the sky. The whole sequence of the moon moving into and then fully out of the Earth’s shadow can take a little over an hour, and you should plan accordingly. The colorful and best ‘action’ of the eclipse will span maybe 5-10 minutes.

More tips on capturing lunar (and solar) eclipses are found in this DPS article.

New Moon or No Moon – Photograph the Stars

When the moon’s not out, it’s a great time to photograph the stars. And my, oh, my, do we have a batch of great articles to help you with that!


Moon photography is a fun and challenging subject because the moon is constantly changing phases and its location in the sky. Thankfully, we have plenty of tools at our disposal to track and plan for great moon photos. While full moons are alluring, try your hand at the other phases, too.

Feel free to share your photos of the moon with the dPS community in the comments below.

best time to photograph the moon


The post When is the Best Time to Photograph the Moon? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

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