11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Musicians, magazines, fans, and record labels alike turn to skilled photographers to tell a story of a momentous performance and return unique concert photos.

Concert photographers are often on assignment for a publication that has sent them out to capture meaningful pictures that could very well go down in music history. Otherwise, music photographers are individually hired by the performing artists. Whatever brings you to the photo pit, your goal is to capture something wonderful.

That being said, the music photography industry has become surprisingly saturated in recent years. In order to stand out amongst the crowd, you have to take live music photographs that differ from others in your photo pit. Here are 11 tips on how to take more unique concert photographs.

#1 – Don’t Forget About the Detail Shots

still life concert image - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: Behemoth

Although you want to focus heavily on the musicians performing on the stage, the detail shots are just as important.

Many bands put in a significant amount of effort into their live show productions, from stage props to lighting schemes. A unique and effective statement to your live concert gallery are some close-ups of the epic stage props that the band uses.

At the very least, the artist who created the props or the instrument company will thank you!

#2 – Play with Art and Distortion Lenses

blue and pink concert lighting - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: MGT. Shot with the Lensbaby Burnside 35.

Though concert photography is often an assignment from a journalistic outlet, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a couple of minutes to yourself to do something vastly different. You do not have to be afraid of using artistic or distortion lenses at a live show. If anything, they make the frame exceptionally cool!

The fish-eye lens became very famous by well-known concert photographers by being used at live shows. I, myself, love using the Lensbaby lenses at live concerts. The manual focus can oftentimes be much more effective than relying on autofocus.

Try using a copper tube to create very cool swirls around your subject.

art lenses - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: A Mirror Hollow. Shot with the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L IS USM lens.

You can submit the standard shots to the outlet, and the unique ones to the band. I am telling you, the musicians will love a new take on their live performances.

#3 – Tons of Flying Hair is Great

hair whipping - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: Cradle of Filth

Naturally, try to capture the facial expressions of the performers. However, you are dealing with rockstars here, and part of the cool factor of these rock gods is their wild style.

Take advantage of the flying hair and fun headbanging, they can sometimes make cooler shots than your standard singing portraits.

#4 – Perspective is Everything

band between legs - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: HIM

Although concert photography can be very limited, between shooting time restrictions and limitations on your shooting location, you can still play with perspective.

The key to being different is viewing life through a lens that is more diverse than those around you, no pun intended. Get low, low, low to the ground and shoot up or move yourself to the very far side of the photo pit and shoot from there! Photograph in between the heads of fans or get up on the balcony.

Whatever you do, find new angles, views, and compositions to take advantage of to create more unique concert photos.

#5 – The Musician Doesn’t  Always Have to Look at You

musician on stage - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: Nightwish

It is true that the viewer connects best when the subject is looking at or engaging with the camera.

However, you don’t always have to fight for that type of shot during a live concert setting. It’s okay for the musicians not to interact with you as a photographer. Shots of them looking away or down can be just as eye-catching.

#6 – Embrace the Light, Don’t Avoid it

stage lighting - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: IAMX

Having a good grip on lighting will aid you in your concert photography journey. Stage lighting can differ tremendously between shows, venues, and even what lighting is available for that evening. The lighting can range from bright white strobes to deep reds.

Understanding how lighting is photographed by your camera, how it reflects on the instruments and equipment, and how the bulbs affect the performer’s skin tones will change how you take the photograph.

Most incredibly safe and tame images come from the photographer being wary of taking advantage of the lighting situation at concerts. Don’t be afraid to jump right in there and take advantage of whatever bizarre lighting scheme the performers have cooked up for you.

At the end of the day, the lighting is a part of the concert experience, and your job is to capture that.

#7 – Lens Flares are Rad

lens flare musician performing - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: Epica

On the topic of lighting, lens flares can be very cool!

This is, of course, an aesthetic choice, but I personally find them to be quite fun. You can cause a flare in a similar fashion to photographing during sunset or golden hour. When the light hits the front glass element of your lens at a specific angle, a flare will appear.

#8 – Overexposing and Underexposing Can Work

moody concert lighting - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: The Misfits

To help accurately capture the emotion and feel of the show, it is alright to overexpose or underexpose your frame. This can also create a rather unique and uncommon type of photograph.

Use your best judgment and common sense here to determine when such exposures are appropriate.

#9 – Don’t Be Afraid to Get Close

close up of a band member on stage - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: Jyrki69

Guitarists don’t bite (not hard anyway)! Don’t be afraid to get close to the performers on the stage. Take a wide-angle lens, such as a 16-35mm lens, and get right up in there. The perspective distortion can make for a very cool shot.

However, that being said, be aware of your surroundings. I cannot reiterate this point enough. Absolutely be aware of your surroundings!

It is easy to get lost in the moment and fall into a creative bliss when shooting, but a live music event is not the place to lose yourself.

If you’re not growing eyes in the back of your head, you’ll most likely get clonked right in the temple by a crowd surfer, tangled in a microphone cord, or smacked by a flying guitar. This will help you avoid injury to yourself and others.

#10 – In-Between Moments Tell a Story

singer between songs - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: HIM

The band may have put their instruments down for a moment, but that doesn’t mean that the job of the photographer ends there.

Some in-between moments can become incredible iconic images through their powerful storytelling ability.

#11 – The Moment is More Important than Technical Accuracy

red concert lighting - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: IAMX

Let’s face the facts, we all pixel peep. I believe that over time, passionate photographers get a bit anxious about technical perfection in their images (I know I sure do sometimes). However, some niches such as event photography are not as fussed over technical mistakes as long as the moment captured is important.

There is be a fine balance between taking a good photograph by technique and taking a good photograph by design (aka a great and powerful moment). However, if you have to choose between capturing a fantastic story and ensuring equipment perfection, pick the story.

Many wonderful images are overlooked because the focus is too set on ensuring that an image is tack sharp rather than what the subject portrays.

Of course, this isn’t meant to be interpreted as disregarding technical proficiency. You should aim to take exceptional photographs, but don’t get lost in your pursuit and forget your purpose for photographing the event.

Your turn

Now that you have these tips in your photography toolbelt, go out there and take some wicked shots!

Band: Epica

The post 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School.

5 Photography Mistakes You Need to Avoid When Shooting Seascapes

Here are some practical steps to take and 5 photography mistakes you want to avoid in order to help you capture better seascape images.

Capturing seascapes is a very popular past-time and one of the most enjoyable and fascinating types of landscape photography. People love to capture the ocean and for good reason.

Seas around the world are more accessible than ever to the majority of us. People take regular holidays to visit the abundance of natural beaches and the ocean provides a fantastic place of escape and freedom from bustling towns and cities.

beach and palm tree - 5 Photography Mistakes You Need to Avoid When Shooting Seascapes

The ocean is a breathtakingly beautiful place and offers peace, tranquility, and an ideal opportunity to capture some memorable images. While the coastline offers photographers spectacular seas and atmospheric skies, recording these scenes can be challenging.

Mistake #1 – Cloudless skies

A common mistake that is often presented in seascape imagery is a vast expanse of empty sky without any texture or formation from clouds to lift the image.

Seascape rocky shore sunset - Here are some practical steps to take and mistakes you want to avoid to help you capture better seascape images.

To avoid this pitfall, head to the coast on partially cloudy days. Photographing ocean vistas to include the different patterns and shapes of clouds above the sea will help your images to become more inspiring.

If you find yourself taking pictures by the sea during first and last light, you will discover the colors in the sky can look even more dramatic than at other times of the day. This can beautify your image with vibrant sunset skies igniting the sky.

Alternatively, capturing big white clouds to complement a blue sky or dark, moody and overcast skies can add drama and emotion to your images.

Seascape with clouds - 5 Photography Mistakes You Need to Avoid When Shooting Seascapes

Mistake #2 – Not checking the tide schedule

If you are unprepared during a visit to photograph the ocean by not checking the tide schedule, you may get caught out by incoming tides and even freak waves during adverse weather.

The sea and waves can be unpredictable and powerful. I have ended up with wet shoes countless times while trying to capture the moving waves. Be mindful of the risks the ocean presents to you and the harmful impact the saltwater can have on your camera and equipment.

Always protect your camera (a plastic bag can keep it safe from the salty sea air) and be sure to clean your camera when you return home.

Seascape long exposure - 5 Photography Mistakes You Need to Avoid When Shooting Seascapes

If you would like to capture the swell of the ocean at high tide or an exposed bay of rocks during low tide, be sure to check the tide times and visit at the right hour.

You will find that planning to be at the coast when the tide is at a certain point will help you shoot better compositions and seascape photos.

Mistake #3 – Not considering your composition

Capturing beautiful images of the coast is not as straightforward as you might think, especially if you don’t think about your composition carefully. A few things worth considering are leading lines and the rule of thirds.

Seascape blue sunset - 5 Photography Mistakes You Need to Avoid When Shooting Seascapes

Leading lines are a great way to lead the viewer’s eye into the frame toward the main focal point in the photo. They can help to create depth in an image and provide more purpose.

When photographing the sea, you will find that placing the horizon in the middle of the image will generally be less effective than positioning the water level above or below the center of the frame.

Seascape simplified - 5 Photography Mistakes You Need to Avoid When Shooting Seascapes

You may be asking if should you include more sea or more sky in your composition? Well, that depends on the nature of the scene in front of you and what is the most interesting and important aspect of the story.

If the sky is compelling and vibrant, your image will be stronger by including more sky. But if the sky is uninviting and lacks drama while the ocean is swirling beautifully, compose the image to include more of the sea.

Whatever you decide to shoot, be imaginative and creative with your composition and capture some great images.

Mistake #4 – No focal point

Seascape blue water and a fish - 5 Photography Mistakes You Need to Avoid When Shooting Seascapes

One of the great benefits of being by the coast is the variety of subjects to shoot. However, it is surprising to see the number of times beginner photographers take images of the sea without including a strong focal point in their images.

You could focus your camera on any number of interesting material at the sea such as piers, fishing boats, lighthouses, cliffs, rocks or fish.

Mistake #5 – Not including any foreground interest in the shot

While the sea can make an exciting subject, a mistake newbie photographers tend to make when capturing the ocean is to photograph the sea and sky with nothing in the foreground.

This can occasionally work well in the right light and setting.

Seascape foreground rocks - 5 Photography Mistakes You Need to Avoid When Shooting Seascapes

But capturing an extra element such as cliff ledges, flowers, shells, or footprints in the sand will add context and another dimension to your image to help it stand out.

Conclusion

The best seascape images rarely happen by chance. Instead, they are the result of careful planning, diligence, and practice. Keep exposing, avoid these photography mistakes and use the tips and with plenty of practice, you will soon be capturing breathtakingly beautiful images!

How about you, what do you enjoy about seascape photography? Please share your tips and images below, as well as any questions you might have.

The post 5 Photography Mistakes You Need to Avoid When Shooting Seascapes appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Color Management Can Be Easy

Color Management is the starchy, techie term assigned to a complex set of issues facing photographers every day. How to accurately capture the colors in a scene, display those same colors on a computer monitor and then print those colors successfully on paper.

While this is a very complicated challenge (on the level of herding cats), the answer is a lot easier than you might think.

The Problem in a Nutshell

Color photography is a visual communications system that attempts to equalize the differences between three utterly different technologies.

Red Green Blue - Color Management

Imagine three people trying to discuss a difficult topic while speaking different languages. Words and phrases in one tongue have no equivalence in the others. Cultures and behaviors clash as convictions and meanings get misinterpreted. The result is frustration. This scenario pretty well describes the complications of color reproduction.

Chromacity Luminosity - Color Management

Cameras record light in one color language, monitors interpret that same light in a different language, and printers try to explain the monitor’s interpretation in yet another language. All three are doing their level best, but collectively they aren’t communicating.

Is it any wonder why accurate color reproduction sounds more like an oxymoron than a truthful description?

Further, cameras are influenced by the color of the light in a scene, monitor colors appear different based on technologies and brands, and printing inks and papers alter how colors are reproduced. Cameras record light frequencies, monitors transpose those frequencies into numbers and printers translate the numbers into colored dots and spots. There is unity but not harmony.

Learn more with the Datacolor complimentary Color Management eBook.

Vive la Différence

camera monitor printer - Color Management

Just as foreign languages and international currencies require accurate translation and timely exchange rates, cameras, monitors, and printers interpret colors uniquely. Like both spoken languages and currencies, color reproduction requires an accurate translation of values.

It would be wonderful if all the systems spoke the same visual language, but they simply don’t.

 

World history notes that in 1878 an attempt was made to unify all national languages and adopt a new common language called “Esperanto.” This proposal was initiated by an ophthalmologist named L. L. Zamenhof in an effort to reduce the “time and labor we spend in learning foreign tongues” and to foster harmony between people from different countries.

While the concept is quite noble and though the movement still exists, the monumental undertaking to reduce all spoken languages into a single world language has proven impractical.

Color Management - Color Management

Accurately translating the varied languages of color is a challenge, but one that can be easily handled by adopting a straightforward process. That process is called color management.

The Gray Standard

Every conflict can be resolved when all differences are accurately acknowledged and clearly defined. In the case of color, defined standards have now been established that align the capture, display, and printing processes so that they individually recognize and pledge allegiance to a single corporate “Gray Standard.”

When each stage in the process has been internally aligned to this universal standard and all three processes are linked, then true color consistency is achieved. It really is that simple.

All color issues for all three individual contributions to color reproduction revolve around this single color of neutral gray. The utter simplicity of the concept of color balance is focused on the unbiased and “uncolored” tint of gray. The science of color is based on the fact that all photographic images are recorded as three channels of colored light; red, green, and blue.

Color Wheel Neutral Gray - Color Management

When these three colors are produced (captured, displayed, and published) in equal values, the result is the combined color of neutral (no color cast) gray. Gray is the Holy Grail standard of all color. In the middle of the color wheel, between all the primary (RGB) and secondary (CMY) colors is the color neutral gray.

When this balance is maintained in a color photograph, all colors remain “balanced,” the ultimate goal of color management. While the complexity of the process is immense, the control involves only a three-stage process, and the system itself is quite elegant and simple.

Once your camera recognizes neutral gray, all the other colors in the visible spectrum will be recorded accurately. When your computer monitor is taught how to display this same neutral gray (as well as an extended range of primary and secondary colors), it will display the full range of spectral colors.

While the myriad of print technologies, inks, and papers available today is staggering, all printing devices can be taught to produce quite consistent and pleasing results – all focused on printing a patch of color inks that appear colorless.

Here’s how it all works.

Camera Capture

The first commandment of color photography:

Thou shalt faithfully capture balanced lighting.

Balanced light is all about neutrality; respecting non-color. When the camera recognizes gray, it automatically orients all the other colors in the scene. Color always obeys gray. Items like automobile tires and shadows cast on white buildings are examples of reliably neutral color.

All digital cameras are predisposed to see colors accurately during daylight conditions, generally between 9 am and 4 pm. Under this lighting, any neutral-colored objects are recorded faithfully.

CheckrCapturePro High - Color Management

The light that illuminates each scene influences the colors captured by the camera. But light is always changing. Even natural sunlight changes (color) temperature constantly.

Each time clouds pass overhead the daylight color of 5500°K – 6500°K changes slightly. When alternative light sources are used (incandescent, fluorescent, halogen, etc.), the colors can change drastically, ranging from 2500°K to 6500°K. These measurements are recorded as degrees of Kelvin (K), with the higher numbers recording whiter light.

SCK100 Product SpyderCheckr dooropened highres - Color Management

There are several ways to ensure that colors are captured accurately in the camera. You can utilize the camera presets (daylight, overcast, cloudy, incandescent, flash, fluorescent, etc.), include a reference “gray card” in a target shot for establishing color balance in post-processing, or establishing a custom color balance (also using a gray reference card).

Monitor Profiling

Computer monitors, like TVs, have a mind of their own. There are a variety of video technologies that use ultra-mini RGB pixels in LCD (liquid crystal display), Plasma, LED (light emitting diode) and OLED (organic light emitting diode) flatscreen displays. Each technology delivers light and color uniquely and has their own spectral qualities.

In addition to the delivery systems, individual monitors of the same technology can display colors slightly differently. There is simply no guarantee that your computer monitor will automatically deliver accurate color straight out of the box, and even less so after it ages a bit.

monitor and device - Color Management

But there is a surefire way to tune-up each of these displays so that they will produce accurate color. The tune-up involves a monitor colorimeter device; a mouse-size instrument that analyzes the color of light as it gives the monitor a visual exam.

spyder5 - Color Management

This colorimeter dangles in front of the monitor while special software makes the monitor flash dozens of variations of RGB light on the screen. The device reads the color temperature and intensity of each of these flashes as it records the three-minute light show.

After the show, the software automatically compares the results of the monitor’s performance to a reference table of ideal readouts. This comparison reveals the difference between what the monitor should deliver and what is actually delivered. The two lists are juxtaposed and a visual color personality or “profile” of the monitor is generated.

This profile contains precision adjustments to the normal monitor output and adjusts the monitor’s display signals to compensate for any abnormalities. The monitor’s color “guns” are monitored and adjusted on the fly to deliver color-accurate signals to the display. What once just looked pretty now looks pretty accurate. It’s pretty nifty!

Printer Profiles

Printers face a multitude of variables based on three factors: printing technologies, ink brands, and paper surfaces. Each of these factors has a significant effect on the way colors print.

There are currently three distinct kinds of color printers that can deliver photographic quality results; inkjets, laser printers, and dye-sublimation. Each of these technologies deals with very unique “ink.” I use the word ink loosely because only one of these actually uses ink, as we know it.

Herb Laser vs Inkjet - Color Management

Laser printing toner-based geometric dots (left) versus inkjet stochastic-style liquid ink pattern (right).

Laser printers deal with toner, which is a colored powder that gets fused into the paper. Dye-sublimation overlays dry sheets of variable-density colored dye which get baked on top of each other. Inkjets are the only printers that actually spray microscopic particles of multi-colored liquid ink onto the paper.

The colorants (inks) used by each of these printing devices can be purchased from multiple suppliers and thus the consistency of color from one batch to another is a concern. Paper shades and surfaces also affect the appearance of colors printed on them. Ink tends to sit on top of coated papers but absorbs into the fibers of uncoated papers, which changes the way light reflects from the surface and changes the color saturation values.

Light Refracting - Color Management

For this reason, printer manufacturers usually provide “printer profiles” embedded into the printer drivers (the software that controls the printer when files are sent from the computer).

Ink Surfaces - Color Management

Side view of paper surfaces. The two top dots illustrated here, demonstrate how differently inkjet inks behave when printed on uncoated (top) and coated (middle) papers. The bottom dot shows that laser toner particles are “baked” onto every paper surface.

Printer profiles are color correction “prescriptions” for specific paper and ink combinations. Because printer profiling is a very specialized process requiring specialized equipment, manufacturers usually provide individual profiles for their own brand of papers and inks.

Printer Dialog - Color Management

They test each of their papers and inks for reproduction accuracy and then supply you with the “prescription” color correction files for those papers. When you select the correctly profiled paper from the print driver, the printer generally delivers accurate color.

Here’s how the profiling process works

A special file is sent to the printer containing thousands of very specific color patches that get printed on a specific paper. A very specialized device called a spectrophotometer then reads the patches on the test file. It analyzes the color patches and compares the results to the actual color values.

Profiling software then uses the difference between the two readings to create a profile; a set of instructions that tells the printer how to color correct any image file printed on that paper.

Color Management Simplified

So here’s the bottom line to controlling (managing) the colors in your photographic process.

  1. Camera – Take note of the color of light illuminating your photo scene and set the camera accordingly.
  2. Monitor – Purchase an inexpensive colorimeter device and run a 3-minute tune-up process every 60 days on your computer monitor.
  3. Printer – Take note of the paper you load in your printer and choose the proper profile when you print your pictures.

Color management is a very complicated science, but thanks to some great products and information from Datacolor, controlling that science is pretty simple. All it takes is an awareness of the issues and three simple actions.

Don’t be intimidated by technical information – learn all you need to know from the Datacolor Color Management eBook. Sign up to download the free eBook here. Each dPS reader who signs up for the Datacolor FREE eBook will receive one chapter per month and will be signed up for the Datacolor informational newsletter.

Ebook 580x400 NSA EN

Disclaimer: Datacolor is a paid partner of dPS

The post Color Management Can Be Easy appeared first on Digital Photography School.

5 Rules in Macro Photography and When to Break Them

In any genre of photography, you’re going to be faced with so-called rules, guidelines, or commandments. Macro photography is no exception.

Consider advice such as, “shoot with a narrow aperture,” or “use a uniform background.” You’ve probably heard those time and time again. In fact, I’ve taught most of them, myself!

flower abstract macro photography tulip

While these rules are often useful to beginners, as you become a more advanced photographer, you’ll find times when you need to break all photographic rules. But how do you know when to follow rules, and when to break them?

In this article, I discuss five rules in macro photography, and when they can be discarded. I use examples from my own work so that you are able to see what both following and breaking the rule looks like.

Ultimately, you’ll learn how to break rules in your own macro photography, which will allow you to really take your work to the next level.

flower macro photography gerbera abstract

Rule 1: Use the Rule of Thirds

This is probably the number one most talked about rule in photography, including macro photography. After all, it has the word “rule” in its name!

The rule of thirds is simple: Divide your viewfinder, screen, or LCD into both vertical and horizontal thirds. This creates a grid. The main elements of your composition—horizon lines, leading lines, faces, eyes—should lie somewhere along these lines.

It’s even better if they fall on one of the “power points” of the grid, the place where the lines intersect.

flower macro photography tulip

The place where the stem meets the petals of this tulip lies on a power point.

How does this apply to macro photography?

Often, you’ll be advised to place flower stems along the Rule of Thirds grid. You’ll be told to place flower centers along the power points of the image. The same goes for insects and leaves.

The points of focus should fall on the power points of the composition, you’ll be told.

flower macro photography dahlia close up

The center of this dahlia is positioned at one of the power points on the Rule of Thirds grid.

This is often great advice. The Rule of Thirds has been used for centuries and generally results in very pleasing compositions. But sometimes it’s best to break out of this mold and get something a bit edgier, a bit more unique.

When should you break the rule?

Let me tell you about two scenarios when I like to break the Rule of Thirds.

The first instance you should break the rule is when you have a symmetrical subject. Symmetry can be very powerful, and it’s usually best emphasized by putting the point of symmetry (the place around which the image is symmetrical) in the dead center of the image.

flower macro photography dahlia symmetry

The second time you might choose to break the Rule of Thirds is when you want to have a more spacious, off-balance image.

I like to place my main subject at the very top or bottom of the image and leave tons of negative space in the center and at the top. This can produce a minimalist feeling, one that I really love.

flower macro photography grape hyacinth - negative space

Rule 2: Keep it Simple

Another common macro photography rule is to keep your compositions simple.

You should have one point of focus, no distracting elements, a clean and straightforward image. Indeed, this is often wise. Random chaos takes away from the main subject and causes the viewer to become confused.

flower macro photography tulip simple one subject

However, more controlled chaos might be just the thing you need to create a unique image.

I like to use controlled chaos when I’m faced with a complex scene. Many overlapping flowers, for instance, are great subjects for a more chaotic image.

The key is to make sure that there is a main subject that stands out and remains as a point of focus. At the same time, it’s okay to let the background or foreground get a bit messy, as long as it complements the main subject.

flower macro photography chaos in composition

The flower on the left creates order in an otherwise messy composition.

For instance, you might have a background with colors that match the main subject. Alternatively, your background might include some flashy lights or brightly colored bokeh.

Just make sure that you keep the eye focused. It’s a fine line between having a complex but controlled image and making a big mess.

Rule 3: Have a Single Point of Focus

Macro photographers are often told to compose with a single point of focus in mind. That means something that the eye can focus on. This rule is especially relevant because I suggested that you use it in the tip above!

flower macro photography peony single subject

Notice how the eye is drawn straight to the center of this peony.

However, while there is a time and a place for this rule, there are also times when it should be broken.

For instance, when faced with a noticeable pattern among leaves or flowers or ferns, it is sometimes better to think less in terms of a point of focus, and more in terms of the image as a whole. Try to emphasize the pattern, and let the eye follow it through the image.

flower macro photography focus

There may not be one point of focus, but the image will remain pleasing.

Rule 4: Have a Uniform Background

Uniform backgrounds are especially emphasized in macro photography. Macro photographers will often shoot on a completely black or pure white background for this very reason.

The rule makes sense – the more uniform the background, the less distracting it is. I use it often myself.

flower macro photography tulip pink and green

However, this is a rule that I also often break. Why?

To be frank, uniform backgrounds can be boring. More colorful uniform backgrounds are better. I find a uniform gold or orange to be the most pleasing, but sometimes even that isn’t enough.

flower macro photography grape hyacinth background colors

To take your macro photography to the next level, try looking for complementary backgrounds. In other words, backgrounds that offer a bit of substance while enhancing the main subject.

One trick is to place a second subject just behind the first. Choose an aperture that keeps the second subject slightly out of focus, but yet still recognizable.

flower macro photography tulip light and airy image

Another trick is to shoot towards the sun, so that you get creative flare effects and beautiful highlights.

flower macro photography red poppy

But be careful: you don’t want to go from uniform to messy. The key word is “complementary.”

Rule 5: Make Sure the Whole Subject is Sharp

I’ve saved the most interesting rule for last. It’s a fairly simple one. Just make sure that your subject is completely sharp.

If you’re shooting a butterfly, make sure that it is sharp from edge to edge. When you’re shooting a flower, make sure that it’s sharp from the tip of the front petal to the edge of the back petal.

If you can’t get the entire subject sharp, the rule advises that you should get as much in focus as possible. This is done by narrowing the aperture. It’s common for macro photographers to shoot in the f/8 and beyond range.

Me? I rarely venture past f/7.1. In this sense, I’m a bit of a rebel.

Of course, I recognize that there is a time and a place for images that are sharp throughout the frame. But that is one particular aesthetic, and there are other looks that you can achieve by widening the aperture and shooting in the f/2.8 to f/7.1 range.

flower macro photography bleeding heart

This is how macro photographers produce that “dreamy” feeling in their images.

Use a wide aperture. You work at higher magnifications and manually focus on a recognizable part of your subject; a leaf or the edge of a petal.

flower macro photography aster

Then you shoot and come away with an image that is barely sharp, but for some people is very pleasing.

Conclusion

Macro photography rules (or photographic rules in general) can be very useful, especially for beginners. However, as the saying goes, rules are made to be broken.

By breaking the rules discussed above—that is, by breaking the Rule of Thirds, by creating more complex, chaotic compositions, and by focusing only on a small part of the subject—you’ll come away with more unique images.

flower macro abstract photography grape hyacinth

Know any other macro photography rules that you like to break? Please share them in the comment area below.

The post 5 Rules in Macro Photography and When to Break Them appeared first on Digital Photography School.

5 Rules in Macro Photography and When to Break Them

In any genre of photography, you’re going to be faced with so-called rules, guidelines, or commandments. Macro photography is no exception.

Consider advice such as, “shoot with a narrow aperture,” or “use a uniform background.” You’ve probably heard those time and time again. In fact, I’ve taught most of them, myself!

flower abstract macro photography tulip

While these rules are often useful to beginners, as you become a more advanced photographer, you’ll find times when you need to break all photographic rules. But how do you know when to follow rules, and when to break them?

In this article, I discuss five rules in macro photography, and when they can be discarded. I use examples from my own work so that you are able to see what both following and breaking the rule looks like.

Ultimately, you’ll learn how to break rules in your own macro photography, which will allow you to really take your work to the next level.

flower macro photography gerbera abstract

Rule 1: Use the Rule of Thirds

This is probably the number one most talked about rule in photography, including macro photography. After all, it has the word “rule” in its name!

The rule of thirds is simple: Divide your viewfinder, screen, or LCD into both vertical and horizontal thirds. This creates a grid. The main elements of your composition—horizon lines, leading lines, faces, eyes—should lie somewhere along these lines.

It’s even better if they fall on one of the “power points” of the grid, the place where the lines intersect.

flower macro photography tulip

The place where the stem meets the petals of this tulip lies on a power point.

How does this apply to macro photography?

Often, you’ll be advised to place flower stems along the Rule of Thirds grid. You’ll be told to place flower centers along the power points of the image. The same goes for insects and leaves.

The points of focus should fall on the power points of the composition, you’ll be told.

flower macro photography dahlia close up

The center of this dahlia is positioned at one of the power points on the Rule of Thirds grid.

This is often great advice. The Rule of Thirds has been used for centuries and generally results in very pleasing compositions. But sometimes it’s best to break out of this mold and get something a bit edgier, a bit more unique.

When should you break the rule?

Let me tell you about two scenarios when I like to break the Rule of Thirds.

The first instance you should break the rule is when you have a symmetrical subject. Symmetry can be very powerful, and it’s usually best emphasized by putting the point of symmetry (the place around which the image is symmetrical) in the dead center of the image.

flower macro photography dahlia symmetry

The second time you might choose to break the Rule of Thirds is when you want to have a more spacious, off-balance image.

I like to place my main subject at the very top or bottom of the image and leave tons of negative space in the center and at the top. This can produce a minimalist feeling, one that I really love.

flower macro photography grape hyacinth - negative space

Rule 2: Keep it Simple

Another common macro photography rule is to keep your compositions simple.

You should have one point of focus, no distracting elements, a clean and straightforward image. Indeed, this is often wise. Random chaos takes away from the main subject and causes the viewer to become confused.

flower macro photography tulip simple one subject

However, more controlled chaos might be just the thing you need to create a unique image.

I like to use controlled chaos when I’m faced with a complex scene. Many overlapping flowers, for instance, are great subjects for a more chaotic image.

The key is to make sure that there is a main subject that stands out and remains as a point of focus. At the same time, it’s okay to let the background or foreground get a bit messy, as long as it complements the main subject.

flower macro photography chaos in composition

The flower on the left creates order in an otherwise messy composition.

For instance, you might have a background with colors that match the main subject. Alternatively, your background might include some flashy lights or brightly colored bokeh.

Just make sure that you keep the eye focused. It’s a fine line between having a complex but controlled image and making a big mess.

Rule 3: Have a Single Point of Focus

Macro photographers are often told to compose with a single point of focus in mind. That means something that the eye can focus on. This rule is especially relevant because I suggested that you use it in the tip above!

flower macro photography peony single subject

Notice how the eye is drawn straight to the center of this peony.

However, while there is a time and a place for this rule, there are also times when it should be broken.

For instance, when faced with a noticeable pattern among leaves or flowers or ferns, it is sometimes better to think less in terms of a point of focus, and more in terms of the image as a whole. Try to emphasize the pattern, and let the eye follow it through the image.

flower macro photography focus

There may not be one point of focus, but the image will remain pleasing.

Rule 4: Have a Uniform Background

Uniform backgrounds are especially emphasized in macro photography. Macro photographers will often shoot on a completely black or pure white background for this very reason.

The rule makes sense – the more uniform the background, the less distracting it is. I use it often myself.

flower macro photography tulip pink and green

However, this is a rule that I also often break. Why?

To be frank, uniform backgrounds can be boring. More colorful uniform backgrounds are better. I find a uniform gold or orange to be the most pleasing, but sometimes even that isn’t enough.

flower macro photography grape hyacinth background colors

To take your macro photography to the next level, try looking for complementary backgrounds. In other words, backgrounds that offer a bit of substance while enhancing the main subject.

One trick is to place a second subject just behind the first. Choose an aperture that keeps the second subject slightly out of focus, but yet still recognizable.

flower macro photography tulip light and airy image

Another trick is to shoot towards the sun, so that you get creative flare effects and beautiful highlights.

flower macro photography red poppy

But be careful: you don’t want to go from uniform to messy. The key word is “complementary.”

Rule 5: Make Sure the Whole Subject is Sharp

I’ve saved the most interesting rule for last. It’s a fairly simple one. Just make sure that your subject is completely sharp.

If you’re shooting a butterfly, make sure that it is sharp from edge to edge. When you’re shooting a flower, make sure that it’s sharp from the tip of the front petal to the edge of the back petal.

If you can’t get the entire subject sharp, the rule advises that you should get as much in focus as possible. This is done by narrowing the aperture. It’s common for macro photographers to shoot in the f/8 and beyond range.

Me? I rarely venture past f/7.1. In this sense, I’m a bit of a rebel.

Of course, I recognize that there is a time and a place for images that are sharp throughout the frame. But that is one particular aesthetic, and there are other looks that you can achieve by widening the aperture and shooting in the f/2.8 to f/7.1 range.

flower macro photography bleeding heart

This is how macro photographers produce that “dreamy” feeling in their images.

Use a wide aperture. You work at higher magnifications and manually focus on a recognizable part of your subject; a leaf or the edge of a petal.

flower macro photography aster

Then you shoot and come away with an image that is barely sharp, but for some people is very pleasing.

Conclusion

Macro photography rules (or photographic rules in general) can be very useful, especially for beginners. However, as the saying goes, rules are made to be broken.

By breaking the rules discussed above—that is, by breaking the Rule of Thirds, by creating more complex, chaotic compositions, and by focusing only on a small part of the subject—you’ll come away with more unique images.

flower macro abstract photography grape hyacinth

Know any other macro photography rules that you like to break? Please share them in the comment area below.

The post 5 Rules in Macro Photography and When to Break Them appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Wedding Photography Tip – 3 Ways to Tame a Bridezilla

One of the most terrifying things in wedding photography is a bridezilla. You’ve likely read the stories of photographer’s careers being ruined by an impossible to please bride. Of course, this is a worst case scenario and fears become heightened by the bridezillas you see on TV.

“I think of photography like therapy.” – Harry Gruyaert

But it’s normal for photographers to encounter some level of bridezilla behavior. The question is how to deal with it.

I’ve learned from photographers like Joe McNally, Zack Arias, and Jasmine Star that it’s our job as photographers to make great photos – no matter what.

So if you’re faced with a bridezilla (or any overwhelming person) at any point in your career you simply need to know how to handle them. Here are 3 ways you can do that.

bride in a pond - Wedding Photography Tip - 3 Ways to Tame a Bridezilla

This was one of the most laid back and down to earth brides I’ve photographed. Hard-working, yet easy going and ready to have fun every step of the way. Unlike some brides, she learned to handle the stress of a wedding very well.

1. Understand

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” – Ansel Adams

Even the most difficult situations become easier to deal with when you understand what’s going on.

The truth is, most bridezillas never actually wanted to become bridezillas. So why do some brides act like that? Major changes in your life come with stress. Marriage comes with one of the highest levels of stress. In addition to the stress, there is also decision fatigue, personal baggage, and pre-wedding depression.

Maybe the question should be why there aren’t more bridezillas!

portrait of a couple on a truck - Wedding Photography Tip - 3 Ways to Tame a Bridezilla

This photo was taken at golden hour. The unique shape of the sun flare was caused by moisture on the camera lens. There was a mist in the air that led to the surprising effect.

They don’t start out as Bridezillas. Not long ago she was living a normal life as somebody’s girlfriend. Then in the blink of an eye, her entire life changed as she became engaged.

When you put a person in a dramatic situation, you find out how much they can take before they crumble under the pressure. Planning a wedding provides more than enough stress and drama to make a person blow up.

Everybody reaches a threshold of how much stress they can handle. And for a variety of personal reasons some brides reach that threshold on or before their wedding day.

Bridezillas are people like you and me who have discovered what it takes to make them break.

couple seen under a tunnel - Wedding Photography Tip - 3 Ways to Tame a Bridezilla

This photo was taken from in the water. The couple was sitting on an abandoned train bridge. I thought the tunnel would make a good frame for the photo, so into the water I went.

2. Anticipate

“When there are other limitations, I don’t let myself be a limitation.” – Fer Juaristi

There is more than enough time leading up to the wedding day to anticipate who might become a bridezilla.

You can almost guarantee that if a bride comes from a happy family and she handles stress well then she isn’t going to become a bridezilla. But if her life is filled with stress and chaos and she doesn’t handle it well, there is going to be trouble on her wedding day!

couple on the back of a truck - Wedding Photography Tip - 3 Ways to Tame a Bridezilla

Engagement sessions are a perfect chance to get to know the bride and groom. Take time to see how they are handling the stress and find out if there are ways you can help.

When I meet with a couple who is interested in having me as their wedding photographer, I ask questions that let me know what sort of temperament the couple has.

Ask about their vision for the wedding. Then ask what would ruin the wedding for them. I had great fun with a couple who insisted that even if a tornado came along and they had to move the wedding to a basement shelter, they still wouldn’t care because their family is what means everything to them. The dress, flowers, and the decor were all secondary.

Ask other questions like, “What simply must be perfect?” or “What is your biggest fear for the day?” and “What would totally ruin your wedding day?”

Ask how quickly her emotions change to the negative and what cheers her up most in life.

couple on a bridge with a river flowing - Wedding Photography Tip - 3 Ways to Tame a Bridezilla

This photo was created using a slow shutter speed (about 2 seconds).

If a bride tells me that the most important thing to her is that she has a perfect Pinterest wedding, I know there could be trouble.

There are enough problems with the dress, flowers, and decor to drive anybody crazy. If the bride is anxious and disagreeable, to begin with, planing her perfect Pinterest wedding will drive her nuts. She’s a perfect candidate to become a bridezilla.

bride in funky socks - Wedding Photography Tip - 3 Ways to Tame a Bridezilla

When the bride is wearing fun socks and cowboy boots, you know she’s not overly stressed about the details.

Being a wedding photographer means knowing how to work with people. So if you can’t handle the stress of working with a bridezilla, you should politely decline weddings when you think there is a good chance she’ll become one. Let her know you don’t think you’re the best photographer to help her have a perfect wedding.

3. Encourage

“It is more important to click with people than to click the shutter.” – Alfred Eisenstaedt

If you understand the things that lead to bridezilla behavior, and you’re happy with the challenge of working with one then good for you! You could actually help her get through her wedding day without baring her teeth and lower her stress level.

The truth is, most bridezillas don’t enjoy being bridezillas. You can’t help the ones who enjoy it. But you can help the ones who are afraid of becoming a bridezilla.

bride spinning on the dance floor - Wedding Photography Tip - 3 Ways to Tame a Bridezilla

Weddings can be an exhausting journey, not just for the photographer who works all day, but for the family who has worked for months or years to get to this day.

If she’s open to having help, you can assist her in setting goals, seeing the big picture and embracing what is truly important about her wedding day.

Find out what’s bugging her the most and share stories about other couples who have dealt successfully with these things. That way you’re not just pushing your opinion on her, but sharing stories of real people who found a way not to crumble under pressure. You can even publish these stories on your wedding photography blog.

Help her see her goal and what is truly important to her. Help her pivot around obstacles, and there will be less of a chance of her crumbling under the pressure of her wedding day.

No matter what you do, be the one who helps, not somebody who makes it worse.

wedding couple kissing - Wedding Photography Tip - 3 Ways to Tame a Bridezilla

When a wedding is done right, the bride and groom are still excited and energized at the end of the day.

Happily Ever After

“If a photographer cares about the people before the lens and is compassionate, much is given. It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument.” – Eve Arnold

No photographer wants to photograph a bridezilla. No bride wants to be a bridezilla.

You can surpass a bride’s expectations of you as a photographer by understanding her situation and being the most flexible, helpful, encouraging person on her wedding day.

All it takes is one good friend to be a calming presence amidst stress and anxiety to help a bride not turn into a bridezilla. This person could be you.

The post Wedding Photography Tip – 3 Ways to Tame a Bridezilla appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Tips for Culling Your Photos – How to Throw Away the Worst and Concentrate on the Winners

Can you happily throw away your worst images and concentrate on your winners? Are you confident culling your photos to find the best?

I know many photographers struggle to cull their photos after coming back home from an enjoyable photo session. It can be effortless to create hundreds of images from a photo session you are immersed in. But feeling buried by a mountain of new photos to post-process can be discouraging.

The key to breaking free of this dilemma is to discern which of the photos are worth keeping, which are the best, and which to throw out. To do this you need a method, a good healthy workflow. Possessing a positive attitude will be a considerable help too.

I use Adobe Lightroom to import and cull my images and I will refer to it during this article. The workflow I am sharing can be utilized with any similar software.

woman catching a pumpkin - Tips for Culling Your Photos

Start by Seeing Your Best

Creative people often excel at being negative when it comes to their own creations. How many times have you heard musicians tell you they are not practiced enough to perform? Or friends who paint tell you they don’t have the confidence to complete a canvas they are working on?

It is quite typical of creatives to be too hard on themselves.

When you first load your images from a new photo session be purposefully positive. Don’t let yourself get sucked into negative thoughts. Start looking for the best photos in a series you have made, not the worst.

Take some time to scan through and get an overview of your new pictures. Look for the ones which excite you and mark them. You can use a flag, color or star rating.

Buddhist monk making art - Tips for Culling Your Photos

Take Out the Worst

You will usually have some photos which are clearly not usable. It is best to remove these from your workspace right at the start.

The most common problems not able to be fixed are:

  • Poor focus
  • Bad timing
  • Very poor exposure
  • Unwanted image blur

Bad focus

You cannot fix poor focus in post-production. If you have a photo that is not sharp where it really needs to be, delete it. It is not worth keeping. Some amount of sharpening can be applied but is only somewhat effective on photos which are slightly out of focus.

monk making pressed metal art - Tips for Culling Your Photos

This one gets deleted. It is not focused.

Very poor exposure

Working with RAW files produced by a modern camera, the images need to be really over or underexposed before I throw them out. You must know your camera and your own post-processing skills. Still, if the exposure is way off, delete it.

Unwanted blur

Sometimes we want blur in a photo. That nice silky look waterfall. The bicycle rider passing. The people walking by in the market. When you have motion blur because your subject moved or your camera has moved, delete those images.

Occasionally you can still make something of an image like that. Not by fixing it, but rethinking it and applying some careful post-processing, but not often.

Bad timing

Maybe someone has walked in front of your camera just as you took a photo. Perhaps the bird you were photographing had already flown out of frame. Many things can happen like this that means you have missed the shot or the decisive moment. Delete them.

Pumpkin Store at the Market - Tips for Culling Your Photos

Poor timing makes this photo unusable.

Don’t Want to Delete?

If you are nervous about deleting photos at first, you can just hide them. I use the flags to determine which images I see and which I do not.

In Lightroom when you are in Grid view in the Library Module with the filter bar showing at the top, click on Attributes at the top of the window. If you then click on the black flag to turn it off all the images you apply a black flag to (rejected) will be hidden from view. To quickly apply a black flag to an image, select it and hit the X key to mark it as rejected.

You can bring the hidden black flagged images back into view by turning on the black flag in the Attributes bar.

Once I have am confident I want to delete my flagged images I turn off the other two flags in the Attribute bar. With only the images I have flagged as rejected showing, I select them all and hit the Delete key and delete them from my disk.

NOTE: Lightroom will give you the option of just removing them from the program or deleting from your hard drive as well – I do the latter, but make note they will be gone forever so make sure you have the right images before hitting delete.

Screen Grab for Black Flag - Tips for Culling Your Photos

Use the grid view, Attributes and flags to help your workflow.

Select Similar Images

Now begin to work through to separate out the best of your photos. Many photographers will take multiple frames of whatever they are photographing. This results in too many images that are really similar. To deal with these, it is good to compare them to each other.

Do this by selecting four to six images and hitting the N key. The selected images will be displayed and the others will be hidden from view. You can now begin to compare your similar images. Using this method it is much easier to concentrate on the qualities of the photos and decide which ones are better than others. Look for similarities and differences in each frame.

Maybe your timing is noticeably better in one than the others. Maybe your composition was a little different or more interesting in one over another. Narrowing down your options as you go will help you see the stronger images more easily.

To do this, keep using the X key to flag the photos as rejects (note: do not do this using the comparison N view as it will tag them all at the same time) so they become hidden. Once you have only one photo in view, press the G key to take you back to Grid view. Now you can select more photos and repeat the process. I sometimes keep the best image from my last selection to compare with three or five other images in the series.

lightroom thumbnails - Tips for Culling Your Photos

Select similar images (use ctrl+click) and the N key to view only the images you have selected.

lightroom compare images side by side - Tips for Culling Your Photos

Look for Strengths in Your Photos

Choose photos which are well-exposed and well composed. Look at your backgrounds. Are there unwanted distractions which will be too difficult to remove? If so, use the X key.

Do you have one or two where your exposure is bang on? These will be potential keepers. Using the P key will mark them with a white flag (as a Pick). You could also use colors or star ratings (from 1-5) to mark your favorites.

Focused Monk - Tips for Culling Your Photos

In this frame, the monk was well focused (pun intended)

Find the photos that make you feel good. Narrow down your selection step by step.

By making comparisons with a small selection it should be less vexing than with all your photos showing at once. You will be more confident to come to recognize your best work using this method. If you are more randomly browsing through hundreds of photos at one time you are less likely to find your best photos as easily.

The post Tips for Culling Your Photos – How to Throw Away the Worst and Concentrate on the Winners appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Long Exposures

This week, for your dPS photography challenge, you will need to get out your tripod and remote trigger because you’ll be doing some long exposure photography.

Shooting star trails is the ultimate long exposure photography.

There are many ways to incorporate a long exposure into your images. Here are a few ideas:

Car light trails – this image is a combination of several frames shot to capture more lights.

Light painting is another idea for long exposures.

Try an intention motion blur, in this case, the lens was zoomed during a long exposure.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Long Exposures

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

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

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

Long exposures on moving subjects like this carousel can turn out great.

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Long Exposures appeared first on Digital Photography School.

A Guide to Shooting Long Exposure Landscape Photos

Here’s a 21-minute photography guide from Gordon Laing that looks at the long exposure technique. This is where you increase the shutter speed of your camera, letting in light to the sensor over a longer duration to create unique effects.

Long exposure photography

Long exposures are often used for smoothing out moving water, or smudging clouds as they drift past in the wind. Whatever the reason, long exposures can produce dreamy and magical results, and they are a key weapon in any landscape photographer’s arsenal.

“It’s also very forgiving in bad weather,” says Laing. “It allows you to grab moody-looking images on overcast days, or even in the pouring rain.”

Laing also points out that all of the normal compositional rules of landscape photography apply to your long exposure images. A long exposure is most-often used to enhance a particular scene, rather than create something that varies so drastically that the composition is different.

There is no set duration, either. You could shoot anything from a couple of seconds to multiple minutes (such as by using the LEE Filters 15-stop Super Stopper).

A longer duration will bring out more movement in the image, but you may find that the effect is too strong or that camera shake is introduced by something as simple as the wind buffeting your tripod.

Check out the full video above for a great guide to long exposure landscape photography from Laing. If you want more check out these dPS articles on the topic:

The post A Guide to Shooting Long Exposure Landscape Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

sunset on the water - Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

Over the years, HDR Photography has become synonymous with over-saturated, over-processed, and unrealistic images. Some hear the term HDR and never give it a second thought because of their perception of what it is. Add to that, all the camera dynamic range improvements and many say that HDR has lost its place for good.

So how exactly can HDR photography still be beneficial to you? How can you use it to your advantage?

Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

The oversaturated look that has become synonymous with HDR photography. 

What exactly is HDR Photography?

HDR or high dynamic range refers to the difference between extremes – the brightest and darkest areas of your image. In reality, your eyes can adjust for shadows and highlights in the same scene, but a camera cannot (again this has come a long way over the years).

Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

A more realistic looking HDR image.

Have you ever witnessed a scene that took your breath away, but were unable to capture it as is because you had to choose what your camera captured?

Exposing for the highlights left some of your image too dark or exposing for the shadows left your highlights too light. Or maybe you tried for somewhere in between and ended up with both dark shadows and light highlights?

Well when you want to capture the dynamic range of an area, you sometimes need to take more than one photo. To do that, you need to use bracketing, which is taking multiple images of the same scene at different exposures.

Most cameras now come with auto bracketing modes (AEB) , but you always have the choice to manually adjust your exposures between shots.

house in the trees - Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

HDR Photography usually involves several bracketed images with a minimum of three images to capture the dynamic range. One image is exposed for the darker areas in your scene, another for the mid-tones and the third for the highlights. When you merge these images, you create an HDR image which reveals more detail than a single shot.

Fun Fact: Did you know that HDR photography has existed since the days of film?

How does this work to your advantage?

If you are not interested in creating mind-bending images with HDR, what’s the point? Well, the main benefit is capturing/revealing any lost details and doing so in a realistic way.

Think of it as extending the tonal range of what your camera reproduces to mimic what your eyes see, as opposed to the graphic style that HDR has become synonymous with.

building ruins - Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

Subtle HDR also helps reveal textures in an image.

Steps for a Realistic HDR Photo

Truthfully the steps for making a realistic HDR are not drastically different from one that looks overly processed. The key is to know when to stop processing.

1. Selecting a scene

So what kind of shots are right for HDR photography?

Typically these include scenes that have a lot of contrast, for example, landscape and architectural photography. HDR is not recommended for scenes with a moving subject, or for shooting portraits (as it has a reputation for aging faces).

It is fun to experiment with bending the rules though and seeing the results.

old saloon hotel - Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

2. Capturing your images

To eliminate or minimize movement between your shots, a tripod is an essential tool. This also ensures that each image in your sequence has the same composition.

An HDR image is usually composed of between three to seven bracketed images. Three exposures are sufficient for a more photo-realistic HDR, at two stops (EV) apart. If done manually, this means that your first shot will be metered for the mid-tones of the image (0EV), followed by dialing down your exposure to -2 for your second shot, and lastly where your meter is at +2 for your third shot.

dark image -2 Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

Bracketed image underexposed (exposure -2).

Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

Overexposed (exposure +2).

Bracketed image mid-tones (exposure metered at 0).

Use the HDR or Auto Bracketing (AEB) feature of your camera to accomplish this automatically.

Note: If you are shooting into the sun, you may need to do five exposures at one or two stops apart.

3. Processing your images

Processing HDR photography is essentially combining your images and adjusting your tonal mapping for detail. When it comes to processing, you have a choice of software: Photoshop, Photomatix, Lightroom and Aurora HDR to name a few.

Processed bracketed images – reveals more details (warmth boosted).

Again, processing is the place where you can push your HDR too far or end up with a nice photorealistic image.

Usually, HDR software comes with presets that give you a range of looks. If you want your image to be more on the realistic side, you need to take control of the settings. Some of the settings you want to control include; reducing noise, fixing chromatic aberrations and dialing back your tonal adjustments.

Conclusion

The main benefit of HDR photography is recovering detail in your images. Landscape and architectural photographers often use HDR realistically to portray high contrast scenes.

HDR photography is often associated with overcooked images, but when it’s not overdone it can balance out a scene and makes it more appealing to your viewer. Your objective is to post-process just enough to maintain a natural look.

The post Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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