Weekly Photography Challenge – Chimney

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

This week’s photography challenge topic is the fabulous CHIMNEY!

Your photos can be anything that includes a chimney. They can be color, black and white, moody or bright, landscape, architecture or industrial. You get the picture! Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

 

Some Inst-piration from some Instagrammers:

 

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A post shared by In The Blink Of An Eye (@intheblinkofaneyeo) on

 

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A post shared by Guy Davies (@guydaviesphotographer) on

 

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A post shared by Maurice Robinson (@mauricearobinson) on

 

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A post shared by Jonny Mendelsson (@jonnymendelsson) on

 

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A post shared by JHT (@memofromturner) on

 

 

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

Tips for Shooting a CHIMNEY

How to Tell Stories with Architecture Photography

9 Creative Architecture Photography Techniques for Amazing Photos!

How to Enhance your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

Urban Exploration Photography – Urbex

How to Create Powerful Silhouettes by Telling a Story

5 Tips for Better Winter Landscape Photography

 

Weekly Photography Challenge – CHIMNEY

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 #DPSchimney 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 – Chimney appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

The Real Reason You Need to Print Your Photos

The post The Real Reason You Need to Print Your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

Each creative pursuit has its own fulfillment. It is that moment when we can stop and see that our finished creation. A play is written and performed – a score is composed and played by musicians – poems written and then read out loud. The fulfillment of our creative pursuit as photographers is a printed photograph.

When you print a photograph, it becomes physical. A print is the embodiment of the digital file. As a print, it becomes part of our daily physical existence. As a constant part of our life the print comes to play a role in our life, perhaps effecting us in ways we didn’t expect.

Making small prints

A few prints that I stumbled across from my childhood. Each time I come across these memories, I’m reminded of my place in my family as a son, a grandson, and now a father myself.

Coming to life

When something lives in the digital world, it is easily scrolled past, or swiped away and forgotten forever. Digital photos live a ghostly existence.

We experience digital photos like a dream. Just as a dream vanishes when we wake up, a digital photo vanishes as we scroll past it or close the file. But as a print, your photograph becomes part of the real world and a part of your life.

One day I saw one of my digital images – a headshot – on a huge billboard. I was so surprised I had to circle the block just to see it again! I had seen that same image on the internet many times, but to see it in the real world brought on emotions that had never arisen when viewing the photo online.

Yes, “an image is an image” whether it is digital or printed. But a printed image has a different existence – a bodily existence – and becomes part of your world as something physical rather than ghostly or dreamlike.

Printing photo books

Before setting out for the East Coast, I knew that I wanted to make a photo book after the trip. Part of the fun was anticipating the project, then living the adventure as we traveled. But the creative experience was not complete until I had finished the book. A lot of the fun was selecting the paper, the lay-flat style and the dimensions.

Daily life

Consider the difference in the way we normally experience digital and print photographs.

A print is displayed somewhere and might remain for a very long time. However, a digital photo is at your mercy – only viewed on your whim and dismissed almost immediately. If you do not wish to see them, they are gone. A digital photo is not ever-present as a print is. Digital photos count on you to come looking for them.

A digital photo is given a physical existence when printed. When it is displayed at home or in our studio, it becomes part of our daily life.

Display your prints

Most people are quite tactile – collecting books, rocks, and small keepsakes. Our family often brings home a jar of dirt from the new lands we visit.

Inspired and called

When printed, our photographs are ever-present reminders of what is important in life.

Unlike the fleeting excitement that digital photos bring as we scroll past them, the inspiration of a printed photograph is always there to view.

When you’re bored of the flow of digital photos, you shut them off. However, you don’t turn off a print; it is there whether or not you wish to see it at that moment. This is important because when we choose our prints carefully, they can be sources of encouragement when we need it most.

An ever-changing sea of digital images is part of your daily landscape. Images pound you like waves, only to disappear once they’ve made contact. They exhaust you as they hit all day long. You live in a chaotic world where you are most likely to forget what is important in life.

You should print photos that inspire you and call you to a good life. The portraits you hang can remind you of who is important in life. Even the landscape you print can calm and inspire you in tough moments.

Print and frame your digital photos

In my son’s room, there is a picture of him and my grandmother together. It has been there for years. It’s also on my computer. I can tell you the exact folder it’s in, but I haven’t seen the digital file since I made the print. I made the print for my grandmother and received it back when she died. It once reminded her of the joy of her great grandchildren and now it reminds me of the joy of my grandparents.

A stronger experience

While I can hardly recall any of the images I just scrolled through online, I can still remember some of the images in the photography magazines I read as a kid.

When I knew a new issue of Photo Life was due out, I’d check the mailbox every day until it came. I knew the feel of it when I reached into the mailbox. The cover photo would strike me first, then the smell of the brand new magazine. I suppose I did all but taste those photographs!

Imagine the life of those photos. The photographers would conceive their ideas and work away until they had their collection of images. The photographs were developed, culled, and selected by an editor. Once printed, the magazine was shipped around the world. Finally, it would get carried by post for photography lovers to grab from the mailbox or snatch from a newsstand. We’d carry them with us, reread them, and add them to our collection of back issues.

Print versus digital photos

You can close a photo book and put it away, much like swiping away a photo. But a book is placed on the shelf, while a digital photo is swiped away and obliterated into 1’s and 0’s.

The digital world is a gift

Digital photos are important – just as imagination, thoughts and dreams are. But dreams disappear, thoughts are forgotten, and imagination begs to come to life in the real world.

There are many gifts that the digital world has given us. Perhaps most of all the digital world gives us a place to play and experiment before we decide which photos to make real. We have transcended many of the limits of film (although many of those limits may have been healthy for our creativity).

Even though our creative activity is not complete until we have made a print, we don’t need to print all of our digital photos – only the ones that deserve to rise up and become worthy of embodiment.

Create something that becomes real

While there is joy in taking photos and viewing them digitally, our satisfaction is not properly realized until we have printed our photos. A photo that isn’t printed is like a script that is never performed, or a musical composition that is never played. There is still value in the digital photo, just as there is value in a script or musical composition. But the value is mainly the hope that one day the digital photo will be printed and share a bodily life with us – to inspire us, cheer us, and remind us.

The post The Real Reason You Need to Print Your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to Food Photography

The post The dPS Ultimate Guide to Food Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

What was once a weird little niche in photography is now a worldwide phenomenon. Food photography is only growing in popularity if the 32 million posts currently on Instagram are anything to go by.

Food photography is here to stay, but it’s not an easy genre to master.

Our guide gives you some of the top tips and tricks to help you get mouth-watering results.

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Equipment

Cameras

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The first thing to think about when you’re on the hunt for a new camera body is the size of the sensor.

Whether you decide to buy a camera with a cropped sensor or invest in a full-frame, your budget will likely determine your choice.

The important thing to know is that your camera and lenses behave differently when they have a cropped sensor than a full-frame.

Every camera has a crop factor. This is a number used to describe how much the camera is cropping your image in relation to the standard 35mm.

A full-frame camera matches the 35mm cropped standard of a traditional film camera. It has a sensor size of 24mm x 36mm. A cropped sensor is smaller than this and is therefore cheaper for camera manufacturers to make. It doesn’t match a lot of lenses and the final images look different.

The Canon Rebel, for example, has a crop factor of 1.6. This means that you multiply 1.6 times the focal length of your lens to get the actual focal length that it will look like your pictures were taken at.

On a full-frame camera, a 50mm lens behaves like a 50mm. Put that same lens on a camera with a cropped sensor, it behaves more like an 80mm.

Lenses

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Lenses are where you should spend the most significant part of your budget. You should look at them as a long-term investment in your craft.

Here are the factors to consider:

Sharpness

Your biggest concern when shopping for a lens is sharpness.

Prime lenses are preferred when shooting food because they are sharper than zoom lenses.

Zoom lenses have more moving parts that enable the zoom to function. This tends to result in lower image quality and sharpness.

Prime lenses are usually ‘faster’. They have a larger maximum aperture, which enables quicker shutter speeds.

They also give you a much tighter depth of field, enabling you to isolate your subject and get that really nice blurred background we all love in food photography.

The 50mm Lens

The 50mm can also be a useful lens, especially if you don’t have a zoom. This lens is good for overhead shots and tablescapes. However, it can give you some distortion when taking a portrait-style shot. In food photography, the 50mm is actually considered a wide-angle lens.

The 50mm f/1.8 is often referred to as the “nifty-fifty” because it gives you decent results for a very low price. If you’re just starting out and your budget is tight, get this one.

The 24-70mm Lens

Although primes are ideal, it’s actually very useful to have one zoom lens in your kit, such as a 24-70mm.

It’s very sharp for a zoom lens, and really versatile. Many food photographers consider this a staple in their kit.

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The 60mm Macro

If you’re shooting with a cropped sensor, then a 60mm macro is a great choice.

On a cropped sensor, it’s more like having a 100mm. If you upgrade to full-frame, you can use it like you would a 50mm.

This lens allows you to get 3/4-angle view shots of your subject with a nice bokeh on a cropped sensor.

You also won’t get the distortion at this angle that you would when shooting with a wider focal length, like a 50mm.

The 100mm Macro

An excellent lens to have in your kit is a 100mm macro lens. This lens is not only for macro or close up shots, although it’s great at these, too.

By pulling further away from your set, you can get very nice portrait-style shots as well. The focal length will give you a great blurred background.

If you go for the 100mm/105mm macro lens on a cropped sensor you will be shooting at a focal length of 150mm.

This will be a very tight crop, which can be a problem if space is an issue.

Tripods

A tripod is a must for food photography. It helps you create consistent images and frees up your hands to style according to what you see through your camera.

The biggest requirement in a tripod is stability. A tripod needs to be able to handle the weight of your camera and lens.

When shopping for a tripod, look for one with both adjustable height and orientation. This is where you have a center column that you can move.

Make sure that it has rubber feet to avoid slippage, and that it has a high payload.

Payload refers to the amount of weight the tripod is able to withstand. It needs to bear the weight of your camera, lens, and any other additions such as a bracket or extension arm.

Food Styling

The objective of food styling is to make food look it’s very best. Most food needs a bit of doctoring to make it look presentable for the camera.

Here are some things to consider when approaching food styling:

Use the freshest food possible

The food you shoot needs to be as fresh as possible so that it looks appealing in your images. When shopping for your ingredients, take care to buy the freshest and best-looking items available.

Always have your scene, lighting, and camera ready before placing your food on set.

When you’re adjusting with your lighting and camera settings, use a substitute in a similar color and shape as your food as a stand-in. Replace it with your “hero” (your main food subject) at the last moment, so that it looks as fresh and appetizing as possible.

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Buy more than you need

When shopping for groceries, be sure to buy more than you think you’ll need for the shoot. Food dries out, melts, goes brown, or otherwise begins to look unappealing within a short time frame.
It needs to be replaced with fresher items.

Depending on the food, you may also need a lot of the items to fill the frame.

Plating

The most important factor when choosing the dishes on which you will present your food is the size.

Objects can look very different to the camera than to the eye and often look bigger than we expect. For this reason, it’s a good idea to choose smaller dishes than you would ordinarily use.

Present your subjects on salad plates or smaller dinner plates. Large plates can dwarf the main subject and dominate the frame.

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Garnishes

Herbs and spices, and items such as croutons, can enhance your food shots.

Sprigs of various herbs like rosemary can be tied together with kitchen string to make little bouquets you can use to add context to your food story.

You can enhance a plain bowl of soup with a drizzle of cream and a sprinkling of chopped chives.

The key is that your garnishes should make sense within the wider context of your scene. If you’re shooting salmon with a lemon dill sauce, then don’t garnish it with basil.

When using herbs, use the freshest possible and replace them as you shoot. They wilt or oxidize quickly. Cut herbs can be kept fresh in the refrigerator much longer when wrapped in some wet paper towel.

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Props

You need to have a collection of food photography props.

A prop is any item you use on set to enhance the image. In food photography, this is typically kitchenware, like plates and flatware, serving bowls and utensils, and linens.

When selecting your props, think about your food photography style and what types of props would complement it.

If your style is really clean and elegant, or more refined, such props would not make much sense and you’d be better off with more delicate pieces.

In general, stay away from very bright colors and bold patterns, as they distract from the food. Colorful pieces can add a point of interest, but they need to work with the overall composition and feel of the photo.

Don’t use a lot of props. A couple of the right props can have a lot of impact in telling a visual story, but too many will distract the viewer and dominate the image.

When selecting your props, start with one or two pieces, perhaps a neutral salad plate and a vintage knife or spoon. If in doubt, keep it simple.

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Backgrounds

You’ll need a variety of interesting backgrounds on which to place your food.

Use a variety of items for your backgrounds, like fabric, craft paper, or large floor tiles. You can also get creative and make your own.

Buy sheets of wood and paint or stain them yourself. There are also some great online resources for buying professional food photography backgrounds and they ship worldwide.

When shooting food, neutral or cool-toned backgrounds like blue generally work best.

Lighting

Lighting modifiers

Whether you use natural or artificial light, you’ll need to modify your light source.

One important item in your kit is a diffuser. This is a panel of sheer white material that you place at the edge of your table to soften the light that hits your scene.

You’ll also need some simple tools to bounce and absorb the light. You can buy a professional 8-in-1 reflector kit, with foldable discs in a variety of materials to use in your shoots, as pictured below.

The silver reflector, for example, can brighten your food, while the gold reflector will add warmth. It usually comes with a diffuser as well.

For a DIY version, you can also use simple black or white cardboard purchased from a craft or dollar store. White brightens your scene, while the black absorbs the light.

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Lighting styles

You should have an idea of what you want your final image to look like before you pick up your camera. Do you want the light to look soft and dimensional, or are you looking for striking contrast?

The greater the contrast between light and dark, the more dramatic your image will be. Often, your subject will dictate the light you choose.

The next time you shoot, photograph your subject in both soft and hard light and note the difference. How does each approach affect the final result? Many photographers tend to gravitate to one or the other as part of their style.

Side lighting

This is when your light is coming from directly beside the food.

Side lighting is a good approach for a lot of your food photography. It works for most set-ups and is easy to use.

Place a reflector or bounce card on the opposite side to the light. Depending on how much shadow you want on the side of your food, move it closer or farther away, or use a smaller or larger reflector.

When shooting white and airy scenes, you still want some shadow to add dimension.

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Backlighting

Backlighting is when you position your light behind your food.

If you imagine the face of a clock, it’s at 12 o’clock. This is an ideal position for beverages or soups, as it adds a sheen and highlights the liquid properties of food.

In general, backlighting is very flattering to food. It makes it gleam and brings out its texture.

However, it can be tricky to work with because it can cause your image to be too bright at the back, and too dark at the front. Too much contrast means the back of the photo will be blown out, with a loss of detail blurring into the main subject. Not enough contrast will result in a blown out photo or one that looks washed out, which is what happens when you shoot with too much light.

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Side backlighting

Side backlighting is a combination of the first two types of lighting. It’s the best of both worlds and the easiest to work with. Here, our light is placed between 10 and 11 o’clock.

With this lighting style, you get the surface shine provided by backlighting without the risk of overexposure. You also don’t have to reflect as much light onto the front of the food because the light is coming at more of an angle.

When using side backlighting, you’ll have to play around with the height of your light relative to your scene, depending on how you want the shadows to fall.

The closer your light source is to your set, the softer the fall-off will be.

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Camera Angles

Camera angle can have a powerful effect on your final image.

Before you pick up your camera, you need to think about what kind of food or dish you are shooting and which camera angle will help bring out its best features.

There are three main camera angles used when photographing food: overhead, 3/4 angle, or straight-on.

The 3/4 Angle

The 3/4 angle is when your camera is placed anywhere from 25 to 75 degrees in relation to your subject.

The 3/4 angle is a popular angle because it’s so versatile. You can usually show the front and surface of the dish, as well as the sides.

You see this angle a lot in commercial food photography.

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The Overhead Angle

The overhead angle is the 90-degree angle. This has become a very popular angle lately due to Instagram.

This angle definitely has several positives. It’s good for fitting several elements into a scene, like in a tablescape. This also makes it a great storytelling angle. You can see a variety of props, ingredients, or dishes of food in the frame when you shoot from overhead. It is also often easier to compose your shot using this angle than a 3/4 angle or straight-on.

However, the overhead angle doesn’t work for every type of food shot. It eliminates depth, which gives a more graphic pop to an image but is not suitable for every type of food.

With the overhead angle, what you most emphasize is the shape of the food and various elements of the scene.

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The Straight-On Angle

This straight-on camera angle is most suitable for “tall” foods, like burgers or stacks of brownies or pancakes. It emphasizes the height of a dish.

When you’re shooting burgers and sandwiches, the bun or the top piece of bread hides what is inside, so taking the shot from anywhere above the food doesn’t make sense.

Remember, the objective is always to focus on the best features of the food.

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Composition

Compositional tools can help us make better photographs, however, not each tool will work for each image.

Before you begin to shoot, know the goal of your image. What is the mood?  What is it that you want to convey? What is the purpose of your shot and how will it be used?

Good food photography evokes the viewer’s emotions. Composition is one of the main tools that help us do this.

Line

Line is the most basic element in visual composition. Lines lead the eye through a photograph to key focal points and elements and keep the viewer’s eye focused on the image.

There are a couple of things to be aware of when working with lines. When using lines to direct the viewer’s eye, they should point to the main subject, or into the frame.

Lines should also never point outside of the frame, as the eyes will be forced to leave the image. This weakens the image and can cause the viewer to lose interest.

Rule of Odds

The rule-of-odds states that when photographing a group of objects, having an odd number of elements in the frame is much more visually interesting than having an even number of elements.

Odd numbers create a sense of balance and harmony and provide a resting point for our eyes, whereas even numbers of objects can divide our attention and compete with each other.

When there are more than five elements in an image, it becomes difficult for the mind to register the higher number. For this reason, it’s a good idea to compose many elements into groups of odd numbers whenever possible.

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Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is intended to help you place the main elements and focal point within the composition.

Think of an imaginary grid that divides the image into nine equal parts, like a tic-tac-toe grid. The ratio is 1:1 per rectangle.

Rule of Thirds is a great place to start. It helps add harmony to your images and helps you take the first steps in composition as a new photographer. In fact, it can work for many images, particularly landscapes.

When it comes to food photography, however, this rule can be limiting. You can end up making images that are unbalanced and awkward.

The Phi Grid is a similar concept that is more powerful than the Rule of Thirds. Both grids look almost the same, but the centre lines of the Phi Grid are closer together.

The Phi Grid

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Phi Grid

The Phi Grid is an expression of the Golden Ratio. It helps you create a balanced and naturally pleasing image.

The Phi Grid follows the ratio of 1:1.618, a ratio that is a constant in nature and one we automatically gravitate toward.

It appears throughout the natural world, from a nautilus shell to the number of petals in a flower.

You can find the golden ratio everywhere in the world around us, though no one can explain exactly why it exists this way.

You can use this knowledge in your photography. Thinking about how the eye moves through an image and incorporating some expression of the golden ratio will help you create images that the brain will recognize as aesthetically attractive and harmonious.

Negative Space

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Positive space is the space taken up by your main subject. Negative space is an area where your eyes can rest. It provides balance, a bit of breathing room, and emphasizes the subject.

Negative space can portray movement and give context to an image. It may also give the viewer the idea that there is a story beyond what the eye is seeing.

In food photography, there is a tendency to shoot with a lot of negative space due to text placement, particularly when it comes to magazine work, product packaging, or advertisements.

When an image doesn’t make use of negative space, it can feel a bit claustrophobic and cluttered. Also, when there is too much going on in an image, the viewer is unsure of where to look.

Repetition

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Repeating elements also add interest to an image. Repetition can occur spontaneously in the subject or can be created by added elements such as props and supporting ingredients.

Sometimes patterns can become monotonous, so breaking up a pattern can create a stronger photograph.

There are various ways to create a break in pattern, such as with a break in color, shape, size, or texture. Where you place this break is crucial; you want to place it in one of your focal points or along intersecting lines.

Color

Color is an important part of a composition. It evokes emotions and creates a sense of mood within an image.

Cool and dark colors such as navy blue and black recede, while light or warm colors like yellow bring objects forward.

Backgrounds and surface colors that are too bright can detract from our subject; they should be chosen according to the mood you want to create, as well as in harmony with your chosen elements.

Color combinations can be monochromatic when they are tonal variations within a single hue. This approach has its place, but utilizing complementary colors is a great technique to apply to food photography.

Complementary colors appear directly opposite each other on the color wheel, such as red and green, or blue and orange.

The color scheme you choose to work with will, in part, be dictated by the food you are shooting.

Your colors should also be balanced in terms of not having too many colors in a frame, which will appear chaotic.

Texture

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One of the best ways to add interest to your photographs is with texture. It adds contrast and detail and enhances food subjects.

Texture occurs naturally in food, but can also be used effectively in backgrounds and surfaces, and your props and linens, as long as it’s not overdone.

Lots of texture in the food, linens, and backgrounds composed together can look too busy and overwhelm the viewer.

Editing Your Images

Adobe’s Lightroom is an excellent post-processing program. It’s more intuitive and easier to learn than Photoshop.

I recommend using Lightroom to do your global adjustments and then to fine tune your image in Photoshop if need be. For example, if you need to work on specific areas of the image.

Let’s look at the most important tools:

The Histogram

 

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It’s important to have a basic understanding of the histogram to make the proper adjustments to the exposure and tones in your image.

A histogram maps out the tonal range of an image. Brightness is graphed on a grayscale. Every pixel in the image is assigned to a value.

Black is on the left, while white is on the right. You can find the shades of grey in between.

The distribution of the tones in the histogram will tell you about the overall exposure of the image.

A big peak in any of these regions means that the image has a lot of pixels at that particular density. An open gap in the histogram means that there are no pixels at that density.

Check if you have a strong peak at the black or white end of the histogram. If you do, your image could be underexposed or overexposed.

Generally, most images look best if they contain both dark and light values. Otherwise, they may lack contrast and look flat.

Cropping

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It’s a good idea to crop and straighten your image before you start making global adjustments.

To straighten an image, start in the Transform panel and click on -> Auto.

If this doesn’t work, you can try one of the other settings, or do it manually under the Crop Tool.

To access the Crop Tool in Lightroom, click on the grid symbol under the Histogram in the top panel. Or hit R for the keyboard shortcut. This will allow you to crop your image by bringing in the corners with your cursor.

Note that when the lock is closed on the lock symbol, the tool will crop each side of the image evenly.

If you would like to freeform crop, simply click on it to unlock it.

White Balance

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White Balance in a very important aspect of post-processing your food pictures.

I recommend shooting with a grey card and adjusting your white balance in post-processing. This removes incorrect color casts and ensures that your whites are truly white.

A grey card is a piece of grey plastic you can buy at a camera supply store. It is exactly 18% grey, which is what your camera looks for when metering a scene.

Take a picture with your grey card in the scene. In Lightroom, take the White Balance eyedropper and click on the grey card. It will automatically read the proper white balance.

The Basic Panel

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This panel is where you may end up doing a lot of tweaking before you settle on a final look.

Exposure affects the brightness of the range of tones in your image, however, playing with your shadows and highlights, and your whites and blacks will give you a more precise balancing of tones than simply relying on the Exposure slider.

Check if the bright areas look muddy, or the shadows still need more light. Move the sliders to points where the image looks good overall.

You will likely need to go back and readjust your exposure slider once you have made edits with the other sliders.

Vibrance & Saturation

Vibrance is also an important slider in editing food photography.

It’s a better editing tool than Saturation because it’s more subtle. It adjusts the less saturated colors without intensifying the already saturated ones.

Vibrance will first boost the saturation of the muted colors and then the other colors.

Whether you actually use the saturation slider depends on the image. In general, a conservative approach is what works best when editing food photography.

If you decide to use this slider the slider, nudge it up a tad, to about +5 or +6.

Tone Curve

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New users often find the Tone Curve challenging,  but it’s one of the most powerful tools found in Lightroom.

The Tone Curve is a graph that maps out where the tones in your images lie. The bottom axis of the Tone Curve starts with Shadows at the far left side. It ends with Highlights on the far right end. The mid-tones fall in the middle, in a range from darker to lighter. They get darker as you move lower, and brighter as you move up the axis.

You can control the lightness and darkness of your tones. Adjust the Point Curve itself or the Region Curve.

The Region has sliders for each part of the tonal range. As you drag each slider, the curve, and the image both change.

To make adjustments with the Point Curve, click on the area you want to affect. This will create an anchor point at which to control the tone.

Dragging the point up lightens that tone; dragging it down darkens it.

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Assess the mid-tones in your image to see if they are already bright.  If not, click on the middle of the tone curve and bring the point up.

If they are too bright, bring the curve down. Check the other parts of your image.

If you’re just getting started with learning the Tone Curve, play around with the Region sliders first. Take note of how the various sliders affect the curve.

Whichever approach you choose, be sure to watch the histogram as you make changes. This way you’ll make sure that you are not losing important detail.

HSL

HSL stands for HueSaturation, and Luminance. This is where you balance the colors in Lightroom.

Color adjustments are usually more subjective than tonal adjustments. This is because color gives a photograph a sense of mood.

There are two ways to make color adjustments in this panel. You can adjust them all at once under HSL/All. Or each color individually under the Color tab at the top of the panel.

The Hue tab or section at the top of the panel is where you choose how warm or cool you want each color in your image to be.

For example, I find that greens almost always look off. I slide the greens slightly more towards the left or right to get them looking more realistic.

To add more warmth – meaning more yellow – to your greens, slide it to the left. For a cooler hue, sliding it to the right adds more blue.

The Saturation slider in the basic panel adjusts the color of the whole image. But the saturation sliders here adjust each color individually.

If you adjust a color to be more saturated, this will affect the saturation of that particular color throughout the whole photo.

Whether you’re working in the basic panel or the HSL panel, saturation requires a light hand.

Lastly, Luminance affects the brightness of the color. These sliders are more valuable than the saturation sliders, so work with these first.

Editing in Lightroom is all about balance. The same goes when working with Hue, Saturation, and Luminance adjustments.

Sharpening

Sharpening should be the last editing step. It adds contrast between pixels and edges, which creates definition and a more refined look.

However, you don’t need to apply sharpening to the whole image because, in food photography, there is not much point in sharpening the props and the background.

The focus is on the food, so that is what you sharpen.

To do this in Lightroom, mask out the image to select the areas of the image you want to sharpen. Hold down the Alt/Option key while clicking on Masking in the Sharpening panel.

Lightroom will show you where the sharpening is being applied in white. Your image will look like an x-ray.

Slide it to the right. The further right you go, the less the image will be sharpened.

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You will find that you will be in the +70-80 range for sharpening for food photography.

In Conclusion

There is a lot to learn when it comes to shooting food, but hopefully, this guide has given you an overview of what’s involved and some ideas about how you can improve your images.

The more information you have, the more empowered you can be in your creative decisions.

Above all, lots of practice is what is going to take you to the next level in your food photography.

The post The dPS Ultimate Guide to Food Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Before and After: Students Becoming Better Photographers After 31 Days Course

The post Before and After: Students Becoming Better Photographers After 31 Days Course appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

Remember when you first started taking photos? Feelings of excitement and hope being replaced by disappointment and confusion when you couldn’t figure out why you and your camera didn’t seem to be seeing the same thing? Or maybe that’s you right now?

We just had to share these ‘before and after’ photos taken by students of our course, 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer, just to remind you of where we all start, and what is possible. If you’re a seasoned photographer, please jump in the comments and give these photographers the encouragement they deserve to continue their photography journey.

If you’re a beginner, take some inspiration by what is possible with the right support and guidance. We’re very proud of all of our students and thank the few below who have allowed us to share their progress with you.

Current course intake coming to a close soon

We open the doors to our most popular course just a few times a year so that instructor Jim Hamel can focus on his students and guide them through the course. He is the most attentive mentor we’ve seen, and our students love him. Doors close for the current class midnight (PDT) on the 18th of April so be quick and check out the details here.

Our students’ before and after photos

A big shoutout to our students below for letting us share these photos of their progress, and to all of our students who have taken up this course. We’re very proud of how far you’ve come!

Rebecca Garnett

Rebecca says, “I enjoy taking photos at the beach and was not happy with the way my photos were turning out.” The before photo was taken in 2017 at Pismo Beach when she had taken the camera off auto and used aperture and shutter speed priority.

Rebecca Garnett Beach Before the 31 Days Photography Course

Rebecca Garnett’s beach photo before taking 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer Course

 

Rebecca Garnett Beach Photo After the 31 Days Photography course

Rebecca Garnett’s beach photo after taking the 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer Course.

The after photo was taken in December 2018 at the same place but shot in Manual Mode.

“I never thought I would ever use manual mode as it was too confusing, until Jim’s course. The course was awesome! It helped me get to know more about my camera and improved the way I take photos and editing. The class was enjoyable, and it was great interacting with the other classmates on Facebook. Well worth it!!”

~ Rebecca Garnett

George Conant

George shares, “Before taking this course, I appreciated really good photos from others but found most of mine weren’t that good. This course improved my photography a lot.”

George Conant's landscape photo before taking Jim's course

George Conant’s landscape photo before taking Jim’s course

“This photo was taken (I think) in auto mode. Although the clouds look good there is no major point of focus, nor rule of thirds. I had no thought at the time of working on focus. The result is that the distance is not in focus, and the in-focus foreground is not very interesting,” says George.

George'a landscape after taking the 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer course.

George’a landscape after taking the 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer course.

In addition to the huge improvement in his photo, George’s commentary on his ‘after’ photo clearly demonstrates what he has learned from the course.

“This photo was better than the last for several reasons.

  1. There is a leading line with the road.
  2. The sun is at an angle coming from the left.
  3. There is interesting color contrast, particularly with the red in the bushes to the side of the road.
  4. While the foreground is not in great focus, much of the photo is from a point part way down the road, extending to the mountain.
  5. The composition is more interesting with the bushes forming a bit of a V with the mountain in the distance.”

“Jim is an excellent teacher. He provides both really good videos and documents that include what he discussed in the videos as well as providing homework for each day. He motivated us class members to post our ongoing work in a Facebook group for our class, where he and other class members provided praise as well as constructive criticism. He was very good at answering posted questions. Finally, even though the course I took finished in early 2018, Jim still participates in our group. I don’t know of any other course this good for people like me.”

Lorayne Hudson

“Prior to this course I took few photographs and when I did, the camera was always on Auto. My main issues were with my landscapes never looking like they’re in focus, and not being able to get close to flowers,” says Lorayne.

Check out her before and after photos which illustrate her continued improvement.

Lorayne Hudson's 'before' photo at the river

Lorayne Hudson’s ‘before’ photo was taken in 2010 at Fingle’s Glen, Dartmoor with no post-processing as she didn’t know it was possible.

 

Lorayne's 'after' photo at the river

Lorayne’s ‘after’ photo was taken this year one early morning whilst out for a walk. The sun was just coming up and there was a light mist on the ground.

 

Lorayne Hudson's photo of a flower before 31 Days course

Lorayne Hudson’s photo of a flower before taking the course

“This is a standard photo of a flower that I have very many of… it’s flat with no light. Taken in Auto, I had no idea about depth of field, but was quite impressed with the blur but didn’t think much further. I now strive for similar effects knowing how it’s done,” explains Lorayne.

Lorayne Hudson's flower photo after taking the 31 Days Course

Now Lorayne’s flower photos look like this, with minor adjustments to the highlights, shadows and clarity in Lightroom.

Lorayne shares what she has learned from the course:

  1. To use my camera with confidence and not be afraid of it or the subject.
  2. The right light can make such a difference to the subject.
  3. Rules are made to be broken.
  4. Don’t just stand, move around, up and down, change your perspective.
  5. Using post-processing tools is not cheating – they are your friend.
  6. Having a good group of like-minded people to share your photographic achievements – and woes with – makes photography more enjoyable.

Bob Truran

An example of Bob Truran's beach photos before the course

An example of Bob Truran’s beach photos before the course

 

Bob Truran's beach photos after the course

Bob Truran’s beach photos after the course

Bob is pleased with the many compliments he has received for his ‘after’ photo.

“I have seen a marked improvement in my photography and have even received many new followers on Instagram as well as added comments from my friends on Facebook. This course is great for beginners as well as those that may require a brush-up.”

Marie Costanza

Marie gets the unofficial dPS prize for best ‘duck transformation’!

Marie Costanza Duck Before

Marie Constanza’s ‘before’ photo of a duck

 

Marie Constanza's after photo of a duck

Marie’s photo of a duck after taking 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer Course

“When I began the course, I was a novice photographer who used Auto mode for all my images. I occasionally tried Aperture Priority, but I was totally intimidated by Manual. A year later, thanks to this course, I completely use and understand how to use Manual, but more importantly, I understand several techniques for composing an effective image.

Thanks to Jim’s excellent teaching style, and the effective resources that he provides, I now feel like a competent photographer. I have actually won several competitions, was asked to display an image in a local photography gallery and have been asked to show 8 images in an upcoming gallery show. A year ago, I never would have believed that I could do all of this. The pace of Jim’s course, his calm teaching style, the practice assignments, and the regular feedback provided by Jim make this the most effective photography course I have ever taken.”

~ Marie Costanza

Rick Willingham

Meet the once overwhelmed Rick – “How in the heck am I supposed to figure out how to use this thing?” His first ‘selfie’ image was taken in 2012 from his then brand new Canon T3i.

Rick Willingham's 'before' selfie

Rick Willingham’s Selfie on his new camera, before taking the course.

Rick Willingham's 'after' selfie

Rick’s ‘selfie’ after taking the 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer course – ISO 100 or 100 proof?

The latter was shot almost one year after purchasing the 31-days course, with a Canon T3i and a nifty-fifty EF 50mm f/1.8 lens.
Rick's before shot of the ocean in 2012

Rick’s before shot of the ocean in 2012

Rick Willingham Beach photo after the 31 Days Course

Rick’s ‘after’ beach photo shot shot with a recently purchased refurbished Canon 6D and 24-105 f/4L II lens.

So, what does Rick see as changes or improvements to his photography?
  1. Shooting earlier/later in the day
  2. Using post-processing to get the visual “mood” I want
  3. Getting lower to get the shot
  4. Using lighting to my advantage
  5. Composing shots more carefully than before
  6. Controlling the depth of field to match the composition
  7. Conscientiously selecting the shooting position and focal length to match the desired composition

Shaun Bentley

Shaun Bentley's river photo before he took the 31 Days course

Shaun Bentley’s river photo before he took the course

 

Shaun Bentley's 'after' shot of the river

Shaun Bentley went back to the river to take this shot using what he had learned from the course

The first photo was taken back in 2017 as a standard jpg. Shaun returned earlier this year and got a similar shot but this time applied the camera and post techniques he learned from Jim Hamel.

Of the course he says, “Simple yet comprehensive instructional videos combined with sharing and learning groups made the course easy and enjoyable. I now have the knowledge and confidence to take my photography further.”

Kay Koufalakis

Kay says, “Apart from post processing, the biggest improvement I have made is looking at things from a different perspective and planning – when to go to get the best shots, for example. I still have a way to go, but I can see progress and it is getting easier.”

Kay Koufalakis' waterfall before the course

Kay Koufalakis’ waterfall before the course

Whilst she captured the water the way she wanted in this photo, she really wanted sky too and left side of the waterfall is overblown.

“I’ve learned that this is a difficult shot to get in one and now know how to take it bracketed,” says Kay. The following ‘after’ shot of a waterfall demonstrates her understanding of taking a different perspective. “Same waterfall, different perspective. I climbed higher which negated the overblown and shadows problem,” explains Kay.

Kay Koufalakis waterfall photo after the course

Same waterfall, different perspective!

Can you become a better photographer in 31 days?

Well, these students have proven that, yes, you can make some amazing progress in a short time. But the teaching (and learning) doesn’t just stop after 31 days! Access to the class Facebook group is for 3 months and many of our students then transfer to our Graduates group. Here they continue to learn and support each other with challenges and constructive feedback, and the instructor Jim Hamel still pops in to see how they’re all doing.

If you’d like to be in our next graduate group with your own before and after photos to share, sign up today before you miss the cutoff!

The post Before and After: Students Becoming Better Photographers After 31 Days Course appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

5 Tips for Photographing Portfolio-Worthy Costume Portraits

The post 5 Tips for Photographing Portfolio-Worthy Costume Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

There’s been an explosion of interest in photographing costume portraits over the last few years. From movie cosplays to historically-inspired portraits – there’s no end to the kind of costumes that could make their way into your portrait portfolio.

Shooting someone who is playing a role can bring a whole new dimension to your images. It can add depth and vibrancy to your portfolio. People often lose their inhibitions about being in front of the camera if they are pretending to be someone else!

With that in mind, here are my top five tips for creating portfolio-worthy costume portraits.

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1. Be inspired by history

Fabulous costume portraits have been created throughout history, both in photography and in other kinds of art. Julia Margaret Cameron, for example, was a British photographer born in 1815 who used to shoot people dressed up as characters from Shakespeare. Her contemporary, David Wilkie Wynfield, would photograph his friends wearing fancy dress in the style of the great 16th-Century Venetian artist, Titian.

And don’t just stop at taking inspiration from photographer either – there are thousands of years of portraits to take inspiration from. In the portrait above, I took inspiration from a painting called La belle ferronnière by Leonardo da Vinci. Other times I’ve been inspired by different historical artists – Rembrandt lighting is a popular technique amongst photographers too and a great place to start!

Never be afraid to try self-portraiture when you’re experimenting with different lighting and looks inspired by historical portraits. It can take a bit of practice to get it right, and you will almost certainly be your most patient model! The shot above is the result of an hour locked in my studio experimenting with light and self-portraiture. I cannot recommend the Fujifilm camera system and app highly enough for shooting self portraits. You can focus and shoot at the touch of your phone screen!

Costume portraits are a great excuse to step away from the kind of lighting that you would usually use and try something different. If you always use studio lights then how about trying some available light? That’s how artists would have mostly worked in the past, and if it worked for them then it must be worth trying! Equally, if you usually work with available light then perhaps this is an excellent opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and try something tight and controlled with studio lights?

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2. Check the costume faithfulness

I’m not suggesting for one moment that you should become a victim to historical or film accuracy in your costume portraits. But it does pay to just think through all of the elements that your subject is wearing or surrounded by.

In a costume portrait, even more so than a regular portrait, every aspect of the costume and any props contribute to the story being told by the final image. Ideally, nothing should appear in the final image that wasn’t intentionally put there to be a part of the story.

So if you are shooting a portrait inspired by a period of history, or perhaps inspired by a film or comic book, just take a little time to research your inspiration before scheduling a shoot. Check that your costume, accessories, and props aren’t going to be jarring to the story you are trying to tell.

This is where it might be worthwhile working with costume designers if you are new to styling costume portraits. Their expertise and advice on putting together and styling different kinds of costumes could save you an awful lot of time and heartache in the long run! Of course, there are always opportunities to hire costumes from theatres too – it can be a surprisingly cost-effective option.

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3. Set the scene

Think about the scene that you want your character to inhabit. Are they royalty sitting atop a beautiful throne, or are they a post-apocalyptic warrior tracking danger through the forest? Scouting out a location and sourcing props to suit can be half of the fun when it comes to staging a costume portrait!

You can find great locations in the most surprising places. I have shot in front of huge roller shutter doors on industrial estates, in a scrubby bit of forest that looked like a dreamy estate in the final images, and against an old stone wall in my back garden. With the right lighting, lens selection, framing choices, and post-processing the most unexpected locations can look great in portraits.

But, of course, there’s always the option to head into the studio! Taking a subject into the studio and placing them against a plain backdrop can serve to really highlight the story you are telling through their costume and appearance. It puts the focus squarely onto the subject. This style of studio shooting can be a double-edged sword. There’s less room for mistakes in this kind of controlled studio portrait, but the payoff can be more than worth it when it comes to portfolio-worthy images.

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4. Give your subject a character

When people usually sit for portraits they are playing themselves. So when you have someone sit for a costume portrait, it is helpful if you can have them play a role. It can help them to get into character more quickly and easily.

Before you do the shoot – while you’re pulling together your styling and location – think about the character that you’re looking to capture and write down a few thoughts as part of a shoot plan.

Are they a brooding young Victorian poet who lost their love? Perhaps they’re an underground rebel trying to uncover a government conspiracy four decades in the future? This is the driving force behind the entire shoot, so gear everything towards bringing this character to life.

Once you have your subject dressed up and with makeup done, equipped with props, and in the location you have chosen, all these elements should come together to help them portray the character. It’s their portrayal of the character that will shine through, tell the story, and truly make your shots portfolio-worthy.

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5. Don’t forget the post-processing

You’ve styled an amazing shoot in a fantastically atmospheric location with a great team, and you’ve collaboratively told a compelling story. So what is next? Post-processing – that’s what.

The choices you make on the computer or in the darkroom after the shoot really help you focus the storytelling. Good post-processing can help elevate a portrait to something extraordinary.

You can make stylistic choices in post-processing that you may not otherwise make if you were shooting regular headshots or family portraits. For instance, when I shoot images with an apocalyptic theme, I tend to add lots of layers over the top to create a grungy look to the piece. If I am shooting something inspired by a sci-fi movie, then I often choose to push the colors quite hard to resemble the film grading used by cinematographers. Moreover, if I shoot something medieval- or viking-ish, I usually dull all the colors down and make the finished shots look “dusty” and worn.

With practice, you’ll find your style for post-processing costume portraits. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and do something different from your usual approach. Everything about these images is already completely different from how most people would approach a regular portrait. It’s a chance to experiment!

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Now that you’re armed with my top tips for shooting costume portraits, it’s time to try it out yourself! Remember to create a character, set the scene, and think about every element that you’re placing in the image. That way, you’ll tell a compelling and consistent story that shines through in the final image.

I’d love to see your attempts at shooting costume portraits. Post an image in the comments for everyone to see!

The post 5 Tips for Photographing Portfolio-Worthy Costume Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

12 Photography Errors You’ll Make When You’re New to Photography

The post 12 Photography Errors You’ll Make When You’re New to Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

It’s a universal truth that everyone has to start somewhere. It’s also true that when you start something new, you’ll make mistakes. All the expert writers on this site will have gone through this process – myself included. In this article, you’ll learn about 12 common photography errors that are typically made, and how you can quickly correct those mistakes. So read on if you want to avoid some of the pitfalls of photography, and fast forward to creating amazing photos!

To demonstrate that everyone has to start somewhere, the photos used here are among my earliest photos. Taken with an SLR camera, and of course in the days of film. There are plenty of mistakes in the set of images in this article. At this point, I certainly knew my way around an SLR camera, but clearly there were still things for me to learn.

1. Crop in the wrong place in pursuit of minimalism

You’ll have heard photography is the art of subtraction. That is, removing unwanted elements from your frame will give you better photos. You’ve arrived at a popular location to take photos, only to find crowds of people there. The solution is to begin your photo, where the head of the tallest person in that crowd ends.

In other words, crop your photo halfway up the side of a building. While this does remove that unwanted element, it leads to a poorly composed photo in the pursuit of minimalism. This could arise from other objects like parked cars, or wires in the wrong place in your image. So what can you do instead of this overly tight composition?

  • Arrive early – One of the best ways to avoid crowds of people or cars is to arrive early. Wake up for sunrise, and get that great angle before the crowds get in the way of it.
  • Multiple photos – Set you camera up on a tripod, and take a sequence of photos of the same scene. Ensure people are moving around. Then stack the photos in Photoshop, and use the median function to remove people from the photo.
  • Cloning – You can use clone stamping to remove elements in the photo you don’t wish to be there. This requires some skill, but can be used to remove wires, people and sometimes larger objects.

This is a photo that would benefit from more foreground being visible. There is too much dead space at the top of the image.

2. Photograph into the light

Not taking the time to plan when you’ll visit a location will lead to this mistake. Perhaps you’re on a walking tour, and your next location is a famous landmark. It just happens to have the sun behind it, with all the interesting detail of the object obscured by bad light. The same is also true when you photograph a person towards the light, unless you’re reflecting light back onto them or using external flash then the portrait is likely to be lacking. So what solutions are there for this problem?

  • Know the light – Do your research on the location you’re visiting, and make sure to arrive when the sun is in the right direction. You can use suncalc for this purpose, it shows the direction of the sun in relation to time of day and geographic location.
  • Change sides – In some cases, you can move to the other side of a building, where you’ll be able to photograph a person from the other direction. This is a relatively simple solution that can improve your results.
  • Light modifiers – The use of reflector discs and or off-camera flash can make portrait photography towards the light possible.
  • Digital blending – Photographing towards the light, when the main subject is larger than you’d be able to light with external flash? You can instead bracket your photos, and use digital blending with your image. This is an effective solution when you want to photograph towards a sunset.

A photo that’s reasonably composed but that would have benefited from being taken at another time of the day. This type of photo would work well during blue hour.

3. Never change your point of view

If all your photos are taken from a standing position, or perhaps seated position when you’re eating, then you’re missing a trick. A change in perspective is a great way to produce much more interesting photos.

That’s not to say there aren’t great photos to be taken in a standing position. A lot of street photography and portrait photography uses this perspective to great effect. There are plenty of other angles to use though, and adding variety to your photography through these angles is a great idea.

Changing your angle might be as simple as kneeling down, or as challenging as finding access to a high vantage point from a nearby building. The worm’s eye view and bird’s eye views can be used to great effect.

You don’t need to photograph straight up or straight down though. Photographing from lower down might emphasize a leading line on the road that much more, or allow plants and flowers to become a more important element within your frame.

Clearly the focus of the image is the roof tiling and the eagles. Area’s to the top and bottom of this image are not needed, and different framing should have been used.

4. Over reliance on post-processing

One of the common photography errors you can make is an over-reliance on post-processing. The aim as much as possible should be to get your result in-camera.

Your camera is, after all, an incredibly powerful creative tool. Of course, it’s important to learn post-processing. If you don’t do so, you’ll be at a disadvantage. It’s a good idea to learn how to use your camera and post-processing in conjunction with each other.

What can happen if you allow your skill in post-processing to outstrip your knowledge of the camera?

  • Fix the photo – Instead of getting the photo right in camera, the idea is to correct mistakes in post-processing. This will stall your progression as a photographer, and it makes you a lazy photographer.
  • New photography techniques – Post-processing can add that “x factor” to your image. So much so, that you may progress more slowly in learning new camera techniques.
  • Transformations – It’s possible to make some quite radical changes to your photo. Compositing images is certainly something you should learn. It’s also possible to just change the sky in a landscape scene to something more dramatic. In doing this, are you as motivated to return to a location many times, until you get a dramatic sky in real life?
  • Filters – Post-processing is all about subtle changes. Overcooking your photo by using a filter at too strong a strength might make your photo stand out, but perhaps not in a good way.

This photo needed to be taken at another time of the day when the sun lights up the building. The lamp to the left also adds nothing and should be removed by changing the angle.

5. Not learning your camera settings

Your camera is fulling of settings that affect your image. A lot of these settings are connected to one another as well. The relationship between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO is fundamental to photography. You need to take the time to learn each of these settings on their own, and how changing one of them can impact another setting. The first and most important thing to do here is to stop using your camera on automatic.

One setting at a time

You won’t learn everything at once, but you want to get to the point that you subconsciously know the correct settings to use. It’s a good idea to spend time getting to know one particular camera setting at a time and what it does.

A good setting to focus on is aperture.

Learn how aperture can be used to control the depth of field, blur the background, and perhaps produce a starburst in your photos. Having learnt how this setting works, move onto a new setting and learn that one.

This detail photo would have been improved by using a larger aperture. At the time this sort of lens wasn’t available to me.

6. Not using selective focus

Getting sharp images is an important part of photography. To get the sharpest images you’ll need to learn how to use the focus settings on your camera correctly. One of the most important of these settings is selective auto-focus.

Another of the common photography errors is to let your camera decide where to focus for you.

Instead, you should be in control of this process.

It’s not always the case that you’ll want to have your focus point in the center of the image. Use selective focus, so your camera focuses where you want it to focus. Your camera will have a grid array that can be seen through the viewfinder. Use your camera’s direction controls to move the focus point to the appropriate position, and you’ll be ready to photograph.

The photo uses the rule of thirds, so composition is okay. The tree on the left is somewhat distracting though.

7. Going it alone

Photography is a great past time to practice on your own. It dovetails very well with nice long walks by yourself in the country or city. Indeed you can learn a lot about your craft through self-exploration, and perhaps reading articles on sites such as this one. To only do this would be a mistake though. There are a lot of good reasons to seek out and befriend other photographers. Here are a few things you’ll gain from teaming up with other people.

  • Feedback – One of the best ways to improve as a photographer is feedback. Some of the best feedback you’ll receive is from fellow photographers.
  • Collaborations – Not all photography is easy to achieve on your own. Once you start using off-camera flash to photograph models, working as a team makes sense.
  • Learning – Tapping into the knowledge base of other photographers is invaluable. Different people learn about different things in photography, so being able to share that knowledge helps a lot.

The horizon line isn’t straight, showing this photo was taken too quickly. Another indicator of this is not waiting for the man to move out-of-frame. A rushed photo, and a poor result.

8. Not developing your own style

This is true not just in photography, but in many art forms. It’s easy to look to famous photographers, or perhaps local established ones, and look to emulate their photography. It’s a good idea to learn about how photographers take their images on a technical level. Once you know how other photographers work though, it’s then time to interpret these techniques in your own way.

There are, as mentioned, many benefits to joining a group of photographers, but one potential pitfall is developing their style of photography. Learn what makes their photography work, then spend a bit of time of your own developing a style that suits your work.

A photo that is spoiled by the wire at the top of the frame. Simply moving forward and using the same composition would have removed this wire from the photo.

9. Not learning new techniques

As you progress and become comfortable in your skin, you’ll come to one of the next big photography errors. You’ve developed a style, but then stopped progressing. It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially if you’re getting attention for the photography you’re now producing.

Photography is always evolving and to stay at the vanguard of the field you need to be learning new techniques. They might not necessarily become your signature style, but learning new ideas allows you to freshen up those styles that are your signature techniques. This might lead to you combining two photography techniques. You might learn a different way of post-processing your images that allows you to improve all the photos you take in the future.

This was once a photo I liked. Today, I know that it really needed a graduated neutral density filter for the sky. This aspect of photography was something I’d not learnt at this point.

10. No main subject

How do you elevate a good photograph into a great one? To do that you’ll need a narrative to your photo, and that means a main subject.

It’s possible to take nice photos of a landscape or abstract detail photos that are very eye-catching. A silhouetted person on the brow of a hill instantly adds more story to your scene, making it a stronger composition. A detail photo with one part of the image that’s different? Now you have a photo with a subject.

Sometimes the main subject will be readily available, like a single tree in a landscape scene. At other times you may need to wait patiently for a person to walk into your scene, thereby giving your scene its subject.

This is an awkward photo that lacks a main subject, and leaves a lot of dead space on the right.

11. Too many distracting elements

In photography, you want to keep it simple. Once you’ve settled on a strong main subject, you need to frame it correctly.

Another regular in the photography errors list is a busy photo. This is often because the background has too many elements, but distracting elements can also extend to the foreground. How can you eliminate extra elements from your scene such as unwanted wires? It’s true that you could use post-processing. On the other hand, you can develop your photographer’s craft. So what options are there?

  • Angle – That means changing the angle, perhaps as dramatically as walking to the other side of your main subject.
  • Focal length – You can also use different focal lengths, longer focal lengths will compress your scene which might allow you to remove things you don’t want from the frame.
  • Aperture – Get stuck on automatic mode and you won’t learn about this. A great way of removing a busy background is to blur it out. You can do this by using a large aperture, the resultant shallow depth of field will blur the background but keep your main subject sharp.
  • Closer – Walking closer to your subject, when that’s possible, means you’ll remove elements from your frame. They’ll now be behind you, but you might need to use a wider focal length to take the photo.

The water makes some nice patterns, but the photo lacks interest. In addition to this, the bottom is overexpose. A well-placed GND filter could have fixed that problem.

12. Bad composition

There are some basic rules of composition, and it’s worth knowing what they are. These are things like the rule of thirds, leading lines, and framing. It’s also true that not every photo benefits by doggedly sticking to the rule of thirds, those photos that use minimalism for instance might not work so well. It is a good idea to know what composition techniques work though, and to look at how you can apply them to your photography. When you don’t do this you’ll begin your photographic journey with awkward composition mistakes.

Chloe, I miss you. This is quite a nice photo of this dog. The foot should not have been cut off though, and the angle is clearly from a standing position. Kneeling down might have worked better here.

Cut down on your photography errors!

As you’ll see, there are lots of photography errors you can make. Are there any on this list you’ve made? Perhaps there are other photography errors you’ve made while learning, and you can share them with the community here? As we all know, making mistakes is a part of the learning process.

So now it’s time to pick up the camera, and having read this article, hopefully you’ll know more of the photography errors to avoid!

 

The post 12 Photography Errors You’ll Make When You’re New to Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

The Real Consequences of Taking a Break from Photography

The post The Real Consequences of Taking a Break from Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

Have you ever felt fed up with your photography? Disillusioned? Frustrated? Uninspired? Burnt out? If that’s the case for you, you are not alone in those feelings. Most of us feel that way at some point or another, often on multiple occasions. Fortunately, there is and always has been a lot of sound advice available for when you feel that way.

Advice that prompts you to try new techniques for a different perspective and a fresh outlook is one great example of common advice that may help you to overcome the frustration.

Sometimes doing something different, like getting out of the studio, can be enough to give you a fresh perspective on things.

This article discusses one particular piece of common advice that’s given to photographers a lot. You will have probably heard (or read it) given to someone else at some point, even if it hasn’t been given to you. That advice is when you feel this way, take a break from photography. On the surface, this can seem like a great idea and a great piece of advice. However, once you dig a bit deeper and dissect the possible outcomes (as this article does), you should see that the repercussions of following through with a break from photography can be significant.

Where is this coming from

This topic is quite personal. I followed this advice several years ago after struggling with severe burn out. Because of this, the topics discussed in this article are based on some of the things I experienced after taking a break. That said, even though this is quite personal, I try to keep that aspect out of this article as much as possible and keep things analytical and leave the anecdotes to a minimum.

Even so, you’re situation and experiences won’t be the same as mine. I may have experienced these consequences, but that doesn’t mean you will. If you are considering taking a break from your photography, do have a good, hard think about if any of this applies to you.

There are benefits

Taking a break did allow me the chance to spend time creating images that matter to no one other than me.

As mentioned, the advice photographers often get is to take a break from photography. This does have some benefits (and I did experience those).

By taking a step back, you can gain both space and time to give things an honest appraisal and discover exactly what is causing the feelings of frustration that led you to the point of wanting to take a break in the first place. This a huge advantage and if used well, you can take that insight and fix, or cut out, whatever was causing your frustrations.

Some of the things that are easier to evaluate from a safe distance include: what you like and don’t like, the direction your photography is heading in, your working habits, and your personal values and how they apply to your photography.

I used to use a white background a lot because I loved it. At some point, I stopped loving it and became bored, but didn’t realize until I took a long step back.

That time can also give you the opportunity to let some information sink in. If there’s a concept or a technique that you just can’t wrap your head around, stepping away from actively pursuing it gives your brain the opportunity to work on the problem in the background.

The downsides

While the positive consequences of taking a break can be obvious, some of the potential negative consequences are less so.

Habits and systems

As you develop as a photographer, so does your list of processes and systems that help you achieve what you do. A post-processing workflow is just one example of something that may be disrupted by taking an extended break from photography.

If you’ve been involved with photography for any amount of time, you have gradually built a series of habits and systems that you go through every time you take photos. This could be your post-processing workflow, it could be the way you research locations, or it could be the way you conduct yourself on social media.

The thing is, these habits and processes were built step by step. You didn’t just wake up one day and have a complete post-processing workflow in place.

When you decide to take a break, you’re taking a break from your habits and routines. If these were developed over years of practice and daily ritual, what happens when your break is over? Chances are, when you come back, you may very well struggle to jump back into those complex habits. Instead of building things up gradually, you are trying to get back into a routine all at once. This can extremely difficult at the best of times.

While on my break, I spent a fair amount of time shooting landscapes for fun and as an excuse to be outside. While fun, landscape photography requires a very different approach and set of processes to portraits.

If you think about this just in the context of social media, posting content everyday (or at least regularly) can be a significant job with plenty of work going into each post. Stopping that routine and then trying to come back to it months later could be overwhelming and it might take significant effort to overcome a challenge like that.

Once you add that to the possibility that once you step away from social media, you may very well recognize just how toxic it can be, which makes it all the harder to willingly step back into that arena.

Things change

Depending on how long your break is for, things that you take for granted can change dramatically. My break lasted a couple of years. In that time, Photoshop transformed into something only slightly recognizable. Lightroom transformed into the go-to for photographers, and Instagram went from iOS users only to taking over the world.

You can probably see the disadvantages here. In this technological world, everything changes at a ridiculous pace. By taking time out, you are removing yourself from a position where you can adjust to these changes as they happen. When you decide to come back, you now have an enormous workload of stuff that you have to learn or relearn just to put yourself at the same level you were before.

People change

If you’re a portrait photographer, or any sort of social photographer, this is probably the most applicable point to you.

Much as the tools of the trade change over time, so will your network. Once you’re on a break, any previous contacts or clients will move on and find another photographer. Models, make-up artist and other collaborators may move on or change focus themselves.

Over time, your network of clients, collaborators and co-conspirators changes organically. However, if you’re on a break, you don’t have as many opportunities to add new people to your network.

This applies equally to social media and real life networking.

If you weren’t on a break, this would still happen, but your network would still be growing naturally. However, if you’re not there to grow that network, the holes that these people leave will be empty once your break is over. If your break is an extended one over a couple years, you may come back to find that the network that you put a significant amount of time and effort into building is decimated.

Piecing it back together

All of these things on their own may not seem insurmountable, but once you add them all together, they can accumulate to an enormous challenge that will set you back in both time and effort.

Having to refocus on these things also means that once you’ve decided that you’re ready to come back to photography, you have to put a great deal of time into the things that aren’t photography.

For a lot of people who are frustrated and disillusioned with their photography, it is often these ancillary administrative tasks that cause the feelings of frustration and disillusionment in the first place.

Weigh your choices

If you are in a position where you are considering taking a break, I understand and I empathize. A lot of photographers have been there before.

Before you make a decision, please, please take the time to consider all of the possible consequences of taking a break.

Again, my circumstances will be different from yours and your consequences may not look remotely like mine, but there will be consequences that you may not be able to see yet. Please try to take them into account.

Have you taken a break from photography or considering it? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

The post The Real Consequences of Taking a Break from Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

5 Secrets for Stunning Creative Bird Photography

The post 5 Secrets for Stunning Creative Bird Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Do you want to capture stunning bird photography…

…that goes beyond the usual, standard bird photos?

You can!

In this article, I’ll give you 5 bird photography secrets that will ensure you consistently create incredible bird images.

Images that are creative, unique, and original.

Sound good?

Let’s dive right in!

1. Get Low for Gorgeous Bird Photography Backgrounds

Here’s the bread-and-butter of creative bird photography:

Get down low.

Really low.

It may seem tough. You might prefer to stay up high, away from the dirt and water and mud.

But if you want incredible bird photos, you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone. You’ve got to get down low.

Specifically, you need to get on a level with the bird. Your lens should be about even with the bird’s eye.

Why is this so important?

When you shoot from down low, the distance between the bird and the background is greatly increased. And that causes the background to be far more blurred.

Therefore, you’ll capture some beautiful bokeh.

And beautiful bokeh?

Makes for a stunning bird photo.

This is how professionals capture such dreamy backdrops in their bird photography.

They get down as low as they can go. That’s all.

It really does make a huge difference!

Try it. I can guarantee that you won’t regret the resulting shots.

2. Shoot in water for stunning reflections

Do you want to capture especially gorgeous bird photography?

One of my favorite ways to do this…

…is to shoot reflections.

Let me explain:

A photo of a bird is nice. It’s standard. It can be beautiful.

But if you add a reflection, the image immediately becomes far more captivating. Viewers are instantly sucked into the scene.

The reflection adds a sense of subtle beauty and delicateness – one that you can’t get any other way.

Now, here’s how you capture gorgeous bird reflections:

First, shoot by still water.

Mudflats (with puddles) work well. Same with sheltered lakes.

If you’re struggling to find water still enough to generate full reflections, try shooting during the early morning. That’s when the wind tends to be a lot less noticeable.

Second, make sure the sun is low in the sky. (The lower, the better.) This will ensure that the reflection includes some nice colors.

You also have to be careful not to get too low over the water.

Why?

If you’re too low, the full reflection won’t come through. And a broken reflection has far less power than a full reflection.

Bottom line?

Find some birds near the water, and start taking photos!

3. Capture action for compelling bird photos

One of the biggest problems with beginning bird photography…

…is that it’s static.

The bird just stands in the frame.

And while there are methods of making this type of photo work, it’s often just a boring photo.

That’s why you should spice up your bird photos using action.

Once you’ve found a subject, watch it through your camera. Keep your finger on the shutter button.

Then, as soon as it starts to move, take a burst of photos. The more photos, the better!

Of course, you’re going to have a lot of failed shots. But you’ll also capture some keepers. And these will (with a little luck) blow you away!

Some of my favorite shots involve birds flapping their wings, preening, or feeding. If you wait for this behavior, you’ll get some stellar action shots.

One thing I’d recommend:

When you’re watching a bird through the camera viewfinder, keep some space between the bird and the edge of the frame.

Because birds can rapidly change their size – just by opening their wings. And clipped body parts are one of the easiest ways to ruin a bird photo.

Just remember these tips, and you’ll be capturing some great action photos in no time!

4. Shoot through vegetation for unique images

Another way to capture original images…

…is to find a subject.

Get down low.

And shoot through some vegetation.

This creates a gorgeous foreground wash – one that frames the subject without dominating the photo.

To pull this off, you generally have to lie flat on the ground. I advise experimenting with a few different angles – move around your subject, testing different possible foregrounds.

Note: It’s important that the vegetation is very close to your lens (and very far from your subject). Because the farther the vegetation is from your lens, the more in focus (and distracting) it becomes.

It’s also important to limit the amount of vegetation in the photo. You don’t want to cover up the bird entirely. Instead, you want to frame the bird with the vegetation.

Make sense?

Then start taking some shots with a foreground wash. You’ll love the shots you get.

5. Capture silhouettes for dramatic bird shots

Here’s one more way to capture creative bird photos:

Shoot silhouettes!

Silhouettes are really easy to pull off – and they look incredible.

Here’s how you do it:

Go out as the sun is just about to set. Find a subject (birds with a clear outline are best).

Then change your position so that the bird is between you and the setting sun. Ideally, the bird blocks the sun from your camera. This will prevent the sky from being completely blown out.

Make sure that the bird is in front of as much of the sky as possible.

That is, you want to frame the bird with sky – and you don’t want any dark patches behind the bird (from trees or other objects).

If you’re struggling with this, try getting down as low as you can. Because the lower you get, the more sky you’ll include in the frame.

Finally, ensure that you drastically underexpose your subject. One trick is to set the exposure based on the sky next to the bird.

That way, you’ll get a beautiful sky – with a nicely silhouetted subject.

Creative bird photography: next steps

Now you know how to capture stunning, original bird photos.

You know how to produce amazing backgrounds.

You know how to generate interest.

And you know how to capture incredible foregrounds.

The next step…

…is to get out and shoot!

Have any tips for creative bird photography? Share them in the comments!

The post 5 Secrets for Stunning Creative Bird Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color BLUE and its use in Photography

The post Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color BLUE and its use in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

As one of the three primary colors in traditional colour theory and the RGB colour model, blue’s greatest impact is in its capacity to convey strong emotion. Painter Vincent van Gogh once said “I never get tired of the blue sky”, his fascination proving integral to many of his most famous paintings. In this article, we’ll have a detailed look at the history of blue in visual arts and what it means for your photography.

The psychology of blue

Color has a profound effect on our psychology. Rayleigh scattering, an optical phenomenon that causes the sea and sky to appear blue, forges a psychological association between the color blue and the perceived qualities of blue in nature. For example, the ancient duality of the sea and the sky generates a visual relationship between blue and impressions of consistency and trust. Blue’s associations with water tie it to cleanliness and refreshment but also tears. Consequently, a person experiencing sadness is said to be feeling blue.

The cool light of winter and the blue tint of ice draws connections between blue and the cold. Clear blue skies have become synonymous with happiness, relaxation and tranquility. The blue tint of daylight helps regulate our circadian rhythms. Blue also lowers stress levels, stimulating calm. This has practical applications; hospitals are often painted in shades of blue to help ease patient anxiety. Additionally, many medications are dispensed in blue pill form.

Blue is believed to symbolize the male gender in the Western cultures – though this hasn’t always been the case. In China, blue manifests itself as a color of healing, relaxation and immortality. In countries like Turkey, Greece and Albania, blue is said to repel evil. Hindu tradition associates blue with Krishna, a deity that embodies love, virtue and divinity. Furthermore, in German, Swedish and Norwegian languages, a naive person is said to look upon the world with a blue eye.

Jodhpur – the blue city of India.

The evolution of the color blue

Egyptian blue

Egyptian blue is considered to be the first synthetic pigment. Produced by the ancient Egyptians from around 2,200 BC, Egyptian blue was made from a mixture of ground limestone, sand and a copper-containing mineral (like azurite or malachite). The mixture was heated up to 1650°F, producing an opaque blue glass. The glass was then crushed and combined with thickening agents for application.

Associated with the River Nile and the sky, ancient Egyptians used Egyptian blue to paint murals, statues and ceramics. Eventually, Egyptian blue spread to the Near East, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Roman Empire. Egyptian blue’s usage continued throughout the Late and Greco-Roman periods. However, the pigment died out in the 4th century AD, when the recipe for its manufacture was lost.

Ultramarine

Lapis lazuli first appeared as a pigment in 6th to 7th century AD paintings in Afghanistani Zoroastrian and Buddhist temples. During the 14th and 15th centuries, Italian traders shipped the pigment to Europe. There, it was called ultramarine or ultramarinus (meaning beyond the sea in Latin).

For centuries, the cost of ultramarine pigment rivaled the price of gold. Subsequently, artists used ultramarine in only the most imperative aspects of a painting. This judicious application culminated in associations between the color blue and status.

Ultramarine remained almost prohibitively expensive until an artificial process was discovered in 1828 by Jean Baptiste Guimet. Commercial production of the synthetic ultramarine had commenced by 1830, and became known as French ultramarine.

Cobalt blue

In the 8th and 9th centuries, cobalt blue was used to color porcelain and jewelry in China. An alumina-based version of cobalt blue was later discovered by the French chemist, Louis Jacques Thénard in 1802. Commercial production of the pigment began in France in 1807.

Lightfast, stable and compatible with other pigments, Impressionists such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet readily adopted cobalt blue as an alternative to pricey ultramarine. Post-Impressionists such as Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cezanne also made use of cobalt blue. According to the Musee d’Orsay, van Gogh used a combination of Prussian blue, cobalt and ultramarine to create the nighttime hues of Starry Night Over the Rhone. Van Gogh himself stated that “cobalt is a divine color and there is nothing so beautiful for creating atmosphere…”

Cerulean

Cerulean is a Latin word which translates as sky blue. Originally composed of cobalt magnesium stannate, cerulean was refined by a process developed in 1805 by Andreas Höpfner in Germany. Cerulean wasn’t sold as an artist’s pigment until 1860 by Rowney and Company. When it did become available, however, the color, ranging between azure and dark sky blue, proved popular among artists.

In 1999, Pantone released a statement declaring Cerulean Blue as the color for the millennium. Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, stated that “…cerulean blue could bring on a certain peace because it reminds you of time spent outdoors, on a beach, near the water…in addition, it makes the unknown a little less frightening because the sky…is a constant…that’s the dependability factor of blue.”

Lisa Herbert, vice president, corporate communications worldwide, Pantone Inc., went on to say “our studies show that blue is the leading favorite color…regardless of culture, gender or geographic origin….[in the] U.S. [and] Europe and Asia as well. We’ve chosen cerulean blue as the official color for the millennium because of its mass appeal.”

Cerulean is the Latin word for sky blue

Prussian blue

Prussian blue was apparently discovered by accident. Around 1706, pigment and dye producer Johann Jacob Diesbach was mixing crushed cochineal insects, iron sulfate and potash to create cochineal red lake. Unbeknownst to him, the potash he used was contaminated with animal blood. The resulting concoction turned out to be the first modern synthetic pigment, a rich, dark blue that was quickly recognized for its artistic applications.

Inexpensive, easily produced, non-toxic, and intensely colored, Prussian blue spread throughout the art world. Pieter van der Werff’s The Entombment of Christ is the oldest known example of Prussian blue in an artwork. Other early examples include Antoine Watteau’s Pilgrimage to Cythera and paintings produced in Berlin in 1710 by Antoine Pesne.

Japanese woodblock artist Katsushika Hokusai used Prussian blue (as well as indigo dye) to create the Great Wave off Kanagawa. In 1842, English scientist and astronomer Sir John Herschel’s experimentations with Prussian blue led to the invention of the cyanotype.

International Klein blue

International Klein Blue (IKB) is a deep blue hue developed by French artist Yves Klein and Edouard Adam, a Parisian art paint supplier. Klein suspended his favorite ultramarine pigment in a matte, synthetic resin binder made of petroleum extracts. This allowed the rich blue hue to be applied without the loss of vibrancy. Single-colored canvases as well as elaborate performative undertakings were underpinned by Klein’s extensive use of the brilliant IKB.

YInMn blue

Much like Prussian blue, YlnMn (pronounced Yin Min) blue was discovered by accident. In 2009 at Oregon State University, Professor Mas Subramanian and his then-graduate student Andrew E. Smith were investigating new materials for making electronics. The pair were experimenting with the properties of manganese oxide by heating it to approximately 2000 °F. What emerged from the furnace however, was a striking blue compound.  Named after its chemical makeup of yttrium, indium, and manganese, YlnMn blue pigment was released for commercial use in June 2016. According to paint company Derivan YlnMn blue is “non-toxic with excellent archival attributes”.

Blue in visual arts

Ancient art to the Renaissance

Blue is an enduring presence throughout art history. Ancient Egyptians decorated murals and tombs with shades of blue. The walls of Roman villas in Pompeii had frescoes of blue skies. Greek artists used blue as a background colour behind the friezes on Greek temples and to colour the beards of statues.

Dark blue was widely used in the decoration of churches in the Byzantine Empire. Byzantine art depicted Christ and the Virgin Mary dressed in dark blue or purple. Elaborate dark blue and turquoise tiles were used to decorate mosques and palaces from Spain to Central Asia.

At the beginning of the Middle Ages in Europe, blue played a less significant role to that of other colors. However, in the 12th century, painters in Italy and greater Europe were instructed by the Roman Catholic Church to paint the robes of the Virgin Mary with ultramarine, the newest and most expensive pigment at the time. The Virgin Mother’s updated wardrobe resulted in blue being associated with holiness, humility and virtue.

During the Renaissance, artists began to paint the world as it was seen in real life, mixing blue hues with lead white paint to articulate shadows and highlights. In Titian’s Noli me Tangere and Bacchus and Ariadne, different shades of blue are layered to cultivate depth and tension. In another example, Raphael’s Madonna of the Meadow depicts Mary wearing a deep blue mantle set against a red dress, a striking contrast against a background populated with brown and light blue hues.

Rococo to contemporary art

The Rococo art movement depicted mythology and light-hearted portrayals of upper-class domestic life with pastel blue skies and rich blue furnishings. Romanticism used blue predominantly to convey drama in the heavens, and Impressionists like Claude Monet used blue to investigate light and movement in both natural and artificial landscapes.

Emphasizing strong colour over the representational, Fauvist Henri Matisse’s figures in Dance circle naked under an open blue sky. Expressionist van Gogh’s seminal Starry Night, conveys the night sky in active blues and yellows. Cubist Pablo Picasso’s extensive use of Prussian blue defined his Blue Period while Surrealists adopted blue to simultaneously orientate and disorientate the viewer.

From the 20th century artists began to free themselves from the confines of the literal. As a result, artists looked to color as a tool to channel emotion. Exemplified in abstract expressionism, Jackson Pollock‘s Blue Poles, is made up of chaotic strands of blacks, greens, oranges, whites, yellows and grays tempered by nine vertical blue lines. Mark Rothko experimented extensively with blue, as did Barnett Newman, both artists using color as a device to transcend the confines of the canvas. And Helen Frankenthaler‘s stained blues emphasize both the flattening and dimensionality of space.

With the arrival of modern technologies and materials, contemporary examples of blue in art are rich and varied. Roger Hiorns’ crystalline Seizure, transformed space with color, light and chemistry. Katharina Fritsch’s Hahn/Cock plays with our sense of scale and relationship to animals. And Anish Kapoor’s Sky Mirror, Blue challenges our perceptions of an urban environment, re-imagining the landscape through the lens of a large, blue concave mirror.

Blue in photography

Birthed from nature and art, blue’s associations play a critical role in conveying the nature of the photographic image. Luigi Ghirri explored the relationship between shape and space by incorporating large fields of blue sky into his imagery. Color pioneer Martin Parr makes use of rich blues to create a surreal juxtaposition between subject, object and nature. Bill Henson uses blue hues to cultivate experiential photographic dramas. David Burdeny photographs precision landscapes, using blue to illustrate the materiality of his abstract vistas. While Gregory Crewdson and Didier Massard both use blue to signal time, place and atmosphere throughout their imagery.

The color blue has other applications in photography too. Occurring just after sunset and just before sunrise, the blue hour is a period when the sun drops below the horizon and residual sunlight takes on a blue hue. Valued for its soft quality of light, blue hour is popular with portrait and landscape photographers. In addition, blue filters (applied on-camera or in post production) are used in black and white photography to increase the appearance of mist and haze.

Conclusion

Yves Klein once said “blue has no dimensions, it is beyond dimensions”. Over history, blue has communicated the ineffable, transcending colour and touching on our spirituality and sense of self. Associated with nature, calm, reverence, purity, trust and sorrow, blue embodies the visual weight of emotion and human experience.

Have you used blue in your photography? Feel free to share them with us in the comments below.

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The post Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color BLUE and its use in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

A Beginners Guide to Exposure When Mixing Flash and Continuous Lights

The post A Beginners Guide to Exposure When Mixing Flash and Continuous Lights appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Have you ever struggled with high contrast situations? Perhaps you’ve encountered shadows so dark or big that they steal the attention from the subject? That’s because sometimes you need to add a second light to your images. However, if they are different types of light, it can be difficult. Keep reading for a beginners guide on how to expose when you’re mixing flash and continuous lights.

Taking a photograph means to capture and register the light, so understanding how to do that is key to obtaining a good result. In this tutorial, I want to talk about continuous light and flash lighting, and how you can set your exposure to register both. First, I’ll explain what I mean by these terms.

Types of lighting

Continuous lighting

Continuous light (also called constant light) is the light that is on for the entire duration of the photo. This can be natural light when you’re outside, but can also be window light when you are inside. It can also be artificial light such as a table lamp or even professional photography lighting. Basically, it ranges from the sun to a candle – as long as it is continuous.

Flash lighting

Then there is flash lighting, which is only available for a quick moment when triggered. It can be from a professional strobe light, an off-camera flash, or the flash integrated into your camera. You can use these two different lights exclusively or together to complement your lighting. You can use them to create a special ambience or to achieve a particular effect. In this tutorial, I’ll explain how you can set your exposure when you use both continuous and flash lighting in the same shot.

Mixing the lighting styles together

I want to show you a situation in which I used continuous natural light as the main light and then filled in the shadows with an off-camera flash.

This first shot I took with only sunlight coming in from a window on the left and behind the camera. The camera settings used were ISO 2OO, f/8, and 0.3 sec. It’s enough to light the bowl of fruit; however, the dark shadows it has cast on the wall are not appealing.

Photography is about representing our tridimensional world in bidimensional ways. To do this, we make use of different things. One of them is shadows because they give depth. So we don’t want to eliminate all of the shadows – we want to control how many there are, how dark they look and their direction. If I slow the shutter speed to let in more light and try to ‘fill in’ the dark shadows to soften them, it overexposes the main subject.

If I slow the shutter speed to let in more light and try to ‘fill in’ the dark shadows to soften them, it overexposes the main subject. It happens here at ISO 2OO, f/8, and 2 seconds.

Therefore, it needs another source of light from the right. You can add this light source using either another continuous light or with a flash. I did this image with ISO 200, f/8, 0.3 seconds – the same settings I used for the correct exposure using only the continuous light. This solved the problem of one set of shadows but ended up creating new ones on the opposite side, so I need to fix the exposure again.

Since the flash is just a shot of light that lasts for a fraction of a second, it doesn’t make a difference how long your shutter speed is open like it does when shooting with continuous light. You can set your shutter speed as slow as you want or as fast as the synchronization limit allows you (in my case is 1/250 sec). The flash lighting exposure needs to be regulated by the aperture.

I used ISO 200, 1 sec, f/11 for this image.

In this image, I used ISO 200, 1 sec, f/16.

If you set the shutter speed to the light coming in from the left, meaning the continuous sunlight coming from the window, and set the aperture according to the light coming from the flash on the right side, you can control the complete illumination of the scene.

Conclusion

You can decide which shadows are good to keep and which ones to fill and by how much. In summary, have an image with depth and enough information both in the highlights and the shadows to either keep as shot or post-produce to your liking.

Exposure ISO 200, 1/250, f/8

*Extra tip

As you may have noticed on the examples, every light has a different color temperature, that’s why some photos have warmer or colder tones. This is a broad topic that I can’t manage to cover in this one article, but I did want to mention it. When you’re mixing different types of lighting you may need to deal with this. Sometimes the auto-white balance of the camera does a good enough job. However, if it doesn’t, I advise you to do some more research about it.

The post A Beginners Guide to Exposure When Mixing Flash and Continuous Lights appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

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