Why You Should Have Photography Heroes

The post Why You Should Have Photography Heroes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Why You Should Have Photography Heroes Kayan Girls

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Daily bombardment by images can leave us desensitized to truly inspiring art and cause creative catharsis. Pictures crowd our lives more than ever before. They are on the internet, social media, tv, billboards, pavements and walls. Images are on pretty much every product we purchase. Filling the whole sides of buildings or as miniature graphic icons on our phones.

Anyone interested in growing their photography skills may find this saturation somewhat nauseating.

Narrow your sphere of influence. Purposefully. Feast your eyes on the best and your creative muse will be full and satisfied. Indulging in visual junk food will only make you bloated and unhealthy. Uninspired.

Those Who Have Gone Before Us

Masters of the camera are plentiful. True photography heroes have produced impressive bodies of work in every genre imaginable.

Learn from the best. Find those who have distinguished themselves and whose work stands out and moves you. These days it’s very easy to research and locate portfolios of photographs which inspire you.

How to Find Your Photography Heroes

Why You Should Have Photography Heroes Karen Men

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Make a list of the styles of photography you are most interested in. Maybe there’s just one. Google your results and include the word ‘photographer’. You might search ‘street photographer’, ‘landscape photographer’ etc. The results will provide you with a starting point you can work with and refine. Also, try searching photography specific sites like 500px. Pinterest is another good option. Searching hashtags on Instagram also produce fruitful results. But on these uncurated websites be careful to find the best, most renowned photographers.

Don’t just read camera manuals and ‘How To’ books. Read blogs and books by photographers whose work you admire. Reading what they write can provide valuable insight into how a photographer thinks. How did they achieve a certain look and feel to a particular photograph? What was the process they worked through in the development of their distinctive style? Which equipment did they use?

There are lots of amazing online documentaries you can watch about famous photographers. Sitting down for an hour or so to see and hear how photographers work is a terrific way to learn.

Go to exhibitions. Viewing curated bodies of work, printed and framed beautifully is a far different experience than looking at photos on a computer monitor or on your phone.

Talk to your photographer friends and find out who they draw inspiration from.

Follow any of these suggestions and your inspiration will increase.

New to Photography? Seek a Wider Sphere of Influence

Why You Should Have Photography Heroes Lahu Smoker

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

If you’re new to photography and not sure where to start, take a broader approach. Look at books on photography where more than one artist and style is discussed. Draw from the ones who move you the most.

I think the very first photography book I owned was called The Camera. It’s part of the classic Time/Life series ‘Life Library of Photography’. The last chapter of the book profiles ten photographers and introduced me to the work of Ansel Adams, W. Eugene Smith, Diane Arbus, amongst others.

Two photographers who caught my attention in this book are Irving Penn and Henri Cartier-Bresson. I have continued to study their styles and methods over the years. Looking back I think it is the connection with the people they were photographing that touched me the most.

Natural Light Portraiture

Why You Should Have Photography Heroes Karen Woman Smoking

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Some years later I picked up Penn’s book ‘Worlds in a Small Room’. His use of natural light in his portraits had always captivated me. In this book, he writes about developing his outdoor studio and using it in countries like Papua New Guinea and Morocco. He motivated me to emulate this innovation. I designed and built my own version of a natural light studio and use it in the mountain areas of northern Thailand.

From time to time, as the opportunity arises, I enjoy photographing the various ethnic minority peoples who live in this part of the world, (where I also live.) During the past ten years or so, I have had many enjoyable experiences photographing these people in their villages. The studio allows me to photograph them in their space, within their comfort zone. Using the studio, I have more control over lighting and background than I would otherwise have.


Why You Should Have Photography Heroes Saamlor Photo Montage

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Shortly after purchasing my first camera I was introduced to the photo joiners David Hockney was dabbling with at the time. I saw this video. The idea of making images beyond the conventional photographic boundaries of time and space constraints appealed to me, so I experimented.

Back then we had no internet and information, and examples of Hockney’s photographic montages were hard to come by. I started messing around and chewing through lots and lots of film.

Once I went digital a whole new world opened up. I began to produce video and photos to incorporate into my montages. I am still experimenting more than thirty years after being introduced to this cubist form of image making. The concept still captivates me and draws me to explore wider and deeper.

Be Purposeful in Your Hero Worship

Seek to emulate. Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Make the most of what you see in other photographers work. Don’t just admire it, mimic it. Build the techniques and methods you see your heroes using into your photography. Then incorporate your ideas, or things you have seen in various other photographer pictures.

The daily bombardment of images into your eye space hopefully presses you to produce better, more exciting and creative photographs. It is too difficult to do on your own. Find your heroes and pay them homage by developing a style of your own, inspired by the images they’ve produced.

The post Why You Should Have Photography Heroes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media

The post Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Search Instagram for #foodphotography today and you’ll find almost 30 million posts.

Blogs and social media have turned what was once a weird little niche in photography into a worldwide phenomenon. From Baltimore to Beijing, there is no doubt that people love to take pictures of food.

However, as appetizing as your filet mignon may look to your eye, it may not to the camera. Throw in some bad restaurant lighting and a wide angle smartphone lens into the mix, and the potential for ugly food photography is high.

Here are my top five tips for great smartphone food photography for social media that will make your Instagram and other social channel images stand out.

Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Use Natural Lighting Whenever Possible

When it comes to food photography lighting is everything. The knowledge of how to use light is what separates the amateurs from the pros.

Although flat lighting has been a trend in food photography lately, food looks best when the light is natural and directional.

The reason a lot of food images taken in restaurants looks so bad is the fluorescent lighting, which is hard and unflattering. It is also often tinged with a green or yellow color cast.

When shooting food indoors on your smartphone, try to get beside a window.

Natural window light is what every professional photographer tries to mimic with complicated and expensive flash systems.

It is very flattering for food.

Just be sure that the sun is not too bright, as it can also cast harsh shadows that are unflattering to your dish.

When shooting food with a smartphone, notice where the light is coming from. It should be from the side or the back of your plate or set-up.

While front light is beautiful in portraiture, it will make food look flat and also can cast unwanted shadows.

Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Choose the Right Angle

Does your plate ever look like it’s sliding off the table whenever you shoot with your smartphone?

This is because the camera has a wide angle lens, so certain angles make your food look distorted.

To achieve the best results, shoot your scene at 90-degrees or straight-on. A 3/4 angle rarely works.

An overhead angle gives a graphic pop to an image because it flattens depth. You can also get a lot more into the frame than you would if you were shooting at 45-degrees.

It’s a perfect angle for tablescapes, but also more minimalistic compositions.

90-degrees is not a good angle for tall foods, like burgers or stacks of pancakes. You want to see those layers, so shoot these kinds of subjects straight-on.

Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Take a Minimalist Approach

Tablescapes are fun and look appealing, but they are oftentimes difficult to do.

It can take a lot of moving the various elements around to make a pleasing composition and by the time you get it right, the food will no longer look appetizing.

A minimalist approach usually works best, especially if you’re a beginner. After all, the focus should be on the food!

Look at it this way: if your food is nicely plated and styled, then you’re already more than halfway there!

All you need is an additional prop or two, like a utensil or a piece of linen tucked under the plate.

How you approach your propping will really depend on the food. In the image of the poke bowls below, the food is already bright, colorful, and full of texture. Adding more than a set of chopsticks would have distracted the viewer’s attention from the dish.

Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Heed the Rules of Good Composition

One problem you often see in food pictures on Instagram is that they look messy. Sometimes the food looks messy but also the environment in which the food is captured in.

The background is cluttered, or there are too many props that are distracting and don’t add anything to the shot.

Some of this can be solved with tighter shots and by taking some unnecessary elements away.

But you should also be aware of some of the basic principles of composition.

Try to have some negative space in the image. That is a clean area where the eye can rest for a brief moment as it moves through the image.

Resist the urge to fill every part of your image.

Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media-Darina Kopcok-DPS

If every area of your surface is covered with ingredients or a prop, it confuses the viewer and gives a claustrophobic feeling. Negative space provides a bit of breathing room and helps us focus on the main subject.

You should also be familiar with the rule-of-thirds. This is a compositional guideline that divides an image into nine equal parts, using two horizontal lines and two vertical lines, like a tic-tac-toe board.

Rule of Thirds

The important elements in your scene should fall along these lines, or at the points where they intersect.

Smartphones already have a grid like this as an overlay when you turn on your camera. Use it to help you place your focal point. That is the area where you want to create emphasis and draw the viewer’s eye.

A focal point can be created with color, an area of contrast, or isolation. A garnish can serve as a focal point.

Tell a Story

Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media-Darina Kopcok-DPS

I have stated that a minimalist approach is often best, however, be mindful that adding a narrative quality to your images can also be very powerful.

Everyone loves a good story. Give your viewer an idea of a wider story taking place beyond the confines of the frame.

For example, you can do this by partially cropping out some of the elements in an overhead table shot, or show someone’s hand serving food or holding a cup of steaming coffee.

This human touch has become wildly popular in food photography, and this lifestyle element has spilled over from Instagram into the world of commercial food photography because it creates a sense of atmosphere and relatability.

Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media-Darina Kopcok-DPS

In Conclusion

Hopefully, this article has given you some tips to improve your smartphone food photography for social media.

Whichever approach you choose, be conscious of consistency and developing your style.

If you look at the most successful accounts on Instagram and other social media, you will find that they have a specific look in terms of color treatment or palette.

Take a good look at your images for the consistencies in your style and work on developing them. This may mean you take a lot of bright and airy images, or maybe you do mostly close-ups of your food.

The more you hone your style, the tighter your feed will look and draw an audience that loves what you do.

I’d love to see some of your smartphone food photography, so please share in the comments below.



The post Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

5 Tips to Guarantee Great Road Trip Photos

The post 5 Tips to Guarantee Great Road Trip Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

1 - 5 Tips to Guarantee Great Road Trip Photos

Few things say “Midwest United States” like hay bales and rolling hills. You won’t find scenes like this on most interstates and major highways though.

For some people, the idea of taking a road trip can seem like a dull proposition. One fraught with mundane scenery and near-endless hours of staring out of the window watching the world outside whiz by at 70 miles an hour. However, with a little planning and creativity, you can turn any long car ride into a precious opportunity for amazing pictures.

The countryside you are traveling through may seem uninspiring. You may have already made the drive dozens or even hundreds of times. Still, there are a few things you can do to set yourself up with some fantastic photos, of which to be proud, at the end of your journey.

Take the road less traveled

I live about 400 miles from my parents and siblings, so I end up making the drive back to my old stomping grounds a few times a year. The easiest route to take involves a turnpike, followed by hundreds of miles of interstate. Due to the speed limit being higher, and the drive straighter, I don’t have to slow down every 20 minutes to pass through a small town. However, when it comes to photo opportunities, this type of travel precludes a lot of good chances for picture-taking.

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I was driving down a highway when I saw this dirt road off to the side, so I pulled over and got a picture while also taking a minute to stretch my legs.

Interstates and other thoroughfares are great for getting to your destination quickly, but not so great for photos. Instead of taking the quick and easy path, as Yoda might say, look for alternate routes to your destination. Alternative routes that may not be as fast but are far more photogenic.

Pull up your preferred mapping software, or unfold a physical map, and look for highways or other types of two-lane roads. When you are driving down these types of roads, you pass by scenery that is more interesting than you find on the interstate.

Moreover, you also have the luxury of being able to pull over and stop without causing a traffic jam.

Plan your photos

When taking a road trip, have an idea in mind of the types of pictures you want to take. Keep a sharp eye out for those opportunities when you are on your drive. Hoping to find something interesting along the way to your destination may work out, however, planning ahead to photograph something specific, is likely to achieve much better results.

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On this particular drive I wanted to take pictures of windmills and sure enough, once I had that thought in my mind I started noticing windmills all over the place.

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is a weird trick your brain plays on you. When you start taking notice of one particular thing, say a specific type of car or style of clothing, you start seeing it everywhere. This concept comes in handy on road trips. While you may not know what you are going to encounter along the way, you can plant the seeds for some great photos with a little mental preparation in advance.

For instance, on a recent drive back home, I pulled out a map and found some slower, but more interesting, highways to take. I told myself to look for windmills along the way. I couldn’t recall ever seeing windmills before.

However, given that I was going across the midwest United States, I felt sure I would end up going past at least a few. I was stunned when, as the hours ticked by on my drive, I kept passing one after the next and ended up with some excellent pictures as a result.

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Try applying this method next time you’re on a road trip. You might be equally surprised at how well it works. Before you leave, think of a particular subject or type of picture you want to take. Then look at how often you see those opportunities along the way. Things such as dilapidated barns, weathered billboards, old bridges, tall cacti, mountainside vistas, or even dirt roads can all be exciting subjects for road trip photos.

If you plant these seeds in your mind, by the time you reach your destination, they could very well grow into fascinating and beautiful photos.

Time of day is paramount

Sunlight can make or break almost any type of photo. The same holds true when it comes to making images on a road trip. The journey you are taking might be perfect for some sunrise or sunset shots, but those aren’t going happen if you set out at noon! It might seem too simple to mention, but just knowing that your photos are dramatically affected by the sunlight affects your departure time and helps you plan accordingly.

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There’s about a two-minute window for getting sunrise shots like this. Plan your drive accordingly.

If you aren’t sure what type of pictures you want to capture on your road trip, plan to leave at least 30 minutes before sunrise. You may see something compelling. Alternatively, if you know you are going to pass by a particular photo location, make sure you get a good picture of it by adjusting the timing of your trip. That way you maximize the chances of getting good light in that particular spot.

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Allow more time than you need

If I take the interstate to get back to my hometown and plan on stopping only once, I can make the trip in about six and a half hours. However, that’s not how I prefer to make the drive. Taking less-traveled roads and stopping half-a-dozen times for possible photo-ops, I usually get there in seven-and-a-half hours. So, when planning for the drive, I always allow at least eight hours for unexpected photo opportunity stops.

One of the worst situations a road-trip photographer encounter is coming across a stunning sight or landmark only to realize they don’t have enough time to stop and take a picture. Give yourself some wiggle room by adding an extra half-hour into your drive schedule. Make sure that time is not a limiting factor.

Having extra time is also an excellent excuse to get out, stretch your legs, and see the scenery even if you’re not sure of the photographic possibilities.

7 - 5 Tips to Guarantee Great Road Trip Photos

On one recent drive to see my folks, I ended up driving past a vast field of beautiful sunflowers by accident. The lighting wasn’t great, but I stopped for some pictures nonetheless. I made a mental note to go back to the same spot on my return drive. Not knowing how long I would need, I made sure to build in plenty of extra time on my drive and achieved the shot you see above. This extra time gave me the ability to pull over a few hours later to capture this shot of an oil pump and wind turbine.

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Don’t worry about your gear

At this point, you might be thinking about how to apply some of these tips on your next drive. However, you may not think you have the right gear for the job. On the contrary, the nice thing about road trip photos is you probably already have the camera equipment you need to take great photos. Something as simple as a mobile phone camera is enough to capture sweeping landscapes or beautiful countrysides.

9 - 5 Tips to Guarantee Great Road Trip Photos

I shot this with some expensive camera gear but based on the exposure settings (f/4, 78mm, 1/180 second, ISO 220) a nearly identical image could have easily been taken with a basic DSLR with a kit lens.

Don’t let your camera gear, or lack of it, hold you back from taking good photos the next time you are in a car for hours on end. Fantastic shots are achievable with a mobile phone, a DSLR, or anything in between. If you have a tripod, go ahead and bring it because you never know when it might come in handy. However, don’t stress over whether your camera is good enough.

As you develop your skills, you may find yourself gravitating towards a particular lens, or camera depending on the shots you like to take. Things such as lighting, planning, and taking less-popular roads achieve better results than merely buying a new camera.

10 - 5 Tips to Guarantee Great Road Trip Photos

I took this shot on a road trip with a simple point-and-shoot camera, and all it required was some good light and an observant eye.

What about you? Do you have any favorite tips or tricks for getting good pictures while out driving? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post 5 Tips to Guarantee Great Road Trip Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

7 Top Tips For Running Photography Mini-Sessions

The post 7 Top Tips For Running Photography Mini-Sessions appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

For many photographers, especially those who photograph families and children, there are certain times of the year which can be great opportunities for photography mini-sessions.

1 - 7 Top Tips For Running Photography Mini-Sessions

If you have done mini-sessions before, you’re probably already a seasoned pro. But if this is your first time doing one, these tips may help. It’s better to start planning months in advance to get the word out before people’s diaries fill up.

Mini-sessions are a quicker photographic session that is captured at lower than your full photographic session rate.

The most obvious opportunity is the Christmas mini when parents book photo shoots for their children or their family for holiday cards or to give to grandparents and family as gift prints. Then there’s Valentine’s day, Mothering Sunday, Easter/Spring, Father’s Day, Summer shoots, Autumn shoots.

Unless mini-sessions are all you do, I suggest deciding on which one to do from the above opportunities instead of offering a mini-session for each month of the year!

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I thought it would be fun to do this in a DO and DON’T format. DON’T forget these are only my suggestions. Ultimately, DO decide for yourself what is best for your business.


DON’T do more than two in one year.

DO select carefully the ones you want to do and whether you vary them each year or stick to the one or two. Running them more often than this only encourages a client culture of waiting for mini-sessions, much like waiting for a sale. You may lose full-paying clients. Whilst you end up with many new contacts and families, you may be missing the opportunity to market to clients who want to have a longer session with you.


DON’T invite everybody.

DO invite only the clients who don’t usually go for full-price packages in the first instance or those who have a budget. Extend the invitation to their friends if spaces remain. If you don’t fill up, then you may well decide to make the invitation public. You may find that clients have like-minded friends. Knowing their friends do a mini instead of a full shoot, they may tend to follow suit, even if they can afford the full package. You don’t want your normal full-paying clients to suddenly switch to mini-sessions for their annual photoshoots.

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DON’T do several days or weeks.

DO specify one day (2 if you have more than you can take in one day), one location and short time slots. Make sure your time-slots do not have long breaks in-between. Be clear as to the duration of the mini-session, that is, when their time starts and ends. Make this much shorter than your usual photo shoot. It helps to have a short time in-between slots for a bit of leeway in case a shoot runs over. However, not too long in between so your client knows you have to wrap it up as there is another family waiting after their slot is over.


DON’T overshoot.

DO have a maximum number of images to shoot in mind so you don’t take far too many and end up with more editing hours equivalent to a full shoot. When shooting very young children, we normally have to shoot plenty to make sure we get good ones but don’t labor a pose. Take a few and move on. It helps to have a mental (or physical) list of shots and combinations as well as spots and locations for poses or positioning of subjects to help keep to the session’s time duration.

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DON’T leave all the outfit planning to your clients.

DO give your clients an idea of the set or backdrop color beforehand so they can plan outfits to suit or you can suggest clothing. I usually ask them to send me photos of their outfits beforehand so we decide together. Having great outfits really make a difference to the final look of your images and may even help strengthen your branding if and when you decide to blog the session.


DON’T allow an unlimited number of props.

DO ask them to bring only one or two props or items from home. For example, special teddies or toys for the kids to use as a prop or to comfort them if necessary. Usually, something that has special meaning works well. It’s a bonus if it goes with the outfits too. Again, you can discuss this with your client beforehand during the planning stage.

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DON’T send the children off without a little gift after their session.

DO show your appreciation. Applaud their effort and reward their time with one small gift like a small bottle of bubbles, sticker sheets or a little car. They will feel appreciated and that their hard work is recognized and valued. Who knows, this might set you up nicely for the next shoot with them where they warm up to you quicker than the last and be more obliging too. It’ll be a win-win.

I hope these tips are helpful. Do share your thoughts on photography mini-sessions and comments below, or if you have more tips to add.

The post 7 Top Tips For Running Photography Mini-Sessions appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

Weekly Photography Challenge – Shadows

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

Your weekly photography challenge – SHADOWS!

Still River in black and white by caz-nowaczyk

This week, I challenge you to embrace shadows in your photography. Shadows can be used to tell stories, create drama and mood, as well as mystery.

Your photos can be color, or black and white, and be landscape, portraiture, street photography or any other genre. Either way, I can’t wait to see them!

Check out today’s video on embracing shadows as well as some of the articles below that may give you inspiration for shooting and editing Shadow pictures.

Here are some cool insta pics for inspiration too:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Manuel Pena (@manolobrown) on



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Julia Coddington (@juliacoddington) on


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Dilerious Dilettante (@loulou_mcphee) on


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jeremy Perez-Cruz (@sleepingplanes) on


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Gregory Urquiaga (@eight_spicey_ducks) on

Add Impact to Your Photos by Including Shadows

5 Tips for Mastering Shadows in Your Photography

How to Use Shadow and Contrast to Create Dramatic Images

24 Dark and Mysterious Shadow Images

25 Shadow Images to Inspire You

Still Waters in black and white by Caz Nowaczyk

Weekly Photography Challenge – Shadows

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll be 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 #DPSSHADOWS 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 – Shadows appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Embracing Shadows in Photography – A Lesson for Light and Life

The post Embracing Shadows in Photography – A Lesson for Light and Life appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this fantastic video by Sean Tucker, he takes a look at the ways shadows can be used in photography to create mystery and depth.


Shadows in film

Throughout this process, he examines the work of cinematographer, Roger Deakins, and looks at stills from his films Skyfall, Bladerunner, Jarhead and Unbroken. Using these amazing film stills, he analyses how the Deakins uses color, backlight, selective lighting and loads of deep shadows to create mystery and mood in his images.

According to Sean, many photographers say that using film as a point-of-reference for this type of photography is difficult because the same type of images cannot be captured in stills. As photographers, we simply don’t have access to million-dollar lighting set-ups and set design.

Photographers who tell stories through shadows

So, as part of this perspective, Sean also looks at photographers, Constantine Manos, Ray Metzker, Saul Leiter, and Trent Parke who manage to capture shadows in creative ways. These photographers manage to do this through the use of natural light and in the genres of landscape, portraiture and street photography. Through these images, they sculpt light, create character and tell stories with an interesting narrative. These images draw the viewer in and tell richer stories.

In the video, Sean also discusses the limitations of cameras to see the full dynamic range of the eye. He shows us exactly how this theory works with our camera through a diagrammatic presentation. A helpful tool for those wanting to understand dynamic range.

You may also find the following articles helpful:

Add Impact to Your Photos by Including Shadows

5 Tips for Mastering Shadows in Your Photography

How to Use Shadow and Contrast to Create Dramatic Images

24 Dark and Mysterious Shadow Images

25 Shadow Images to Inspire You

The post Embracing Shadows in Photography – A Lesson for Light and Life appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Taking a Measured Approach to Learning Photography

The post Taking a Measured Approach to Learning Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Whether you have just invested in your first camera, or you did so a while back, taking a measured approach to learning to use it will help you improve your photography.

Woman Photographer at the Shopping Mall - Taking a Measured Approach to Learning Photography

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Beyond camera skills, there’s a whole lot more to making great photos. Composition, lighting, timing, and relationship with your subject are all important aspects of photography. All are largely unrelated to camera tech.

Photography is a journey. You can make it as long or short as you like. You can stick to a well-beaten path, (and create photos much the same as most people do,) or be more ambitious and scale lofty peaks. If you want to do the latter you better have a good idea of where you want to go and be ready to develop the necessary skills for the adventure.

Where do you start and how do you become competent in both the technical and creative aspects of photography?

Start with What’s Essential

Camera manuals are notorious. They are often difficult to understand and the information can appear disjointed. However, these books provide you with valuable insight. To be able to create interesting photographs you need to have a good knowledge and understanding of your camera first.

Taking a Measured Approach to Learning Photography Happy Photographer

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Start with your camera manual. Read it in the language you most easily understand, (and ignore all other language options.) Don’t try and absorb it all at once. Spread out your reading over the first week with your camera in your hands. Take in a little at a time and practice it.

Google and Youtube will often provide you with information about your camera that’s more straightforward. Search your camera make and model. Find one or two sources that cover it in depth and spend time studying it.

Get a good grasp of the basics of how your camera works. Get to know it’s settings and functions. Learning these things will help you avoid a lot of frustration when you are taking photos.

Concentrate on the Basic Functions

Trying to learn all the intricacies of your camera right at the start can be confusing. Modern cameras are packed with more whistles and bells than you will ever need to use.

Taking a Measured Approach to Learning Photography My First Camera

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

My first camera was a simple tool. I had no option but to learn to use it manually. It had no automatic functions. This was a great way to learn. Thirty years or so later as I was preparing to launch my photography workshops, I had to study how to teach using the auto settings. I had never used them.

It’s a little like driving a car with an automatic transmission after learning in a manual shift car. Easy, because you’ve already mastered the essentials in manual mode.

Personally, I think using manual mode gives you the freedom to become more creative with your camera. I encourage you to do this. If you don’t have the time or commitment, experiment with the auto settings on your camera and find one or two which suit you best. Don’t be distracted by the scene modes or the many other functions your camera has. When you are starting out these will just add confusion.

Taking a Measured Approach to Learning Photography Camera Police

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Be Regular

Picking up your camera frequently and regularly is the one thing that will advance your photography. Make a habit of taking at least one photo a day. It only needs to take a few minutes.

Once you form a habit you will find it easy to make more time for photography. As you become familiar with your camera you will start to enjoy it more. When this happens you will notice you are beginning to take better photographs. It can become addictive.

Using your camera infrequently will lead to some frustration each time you do pick it up. You will have to think again which dials and buttons do what. You will not be familiar enough with the controls to use your camera with ease. Taking at least one photo a day will help you learn the camera controls and before long you will know them and use them intuitively. You don’t need to make a masterpiece each day, just try to improve a little at a time.

Taking a Measured Approach to Learning Photography Example

© Pansa Landwer-Johan

Learn a Little More

Studying – along with regular camera use – will accelerate your photography learning experience. Find a good book, online course or enroll in some classes.

Look for a teacher or author whose style you like and would like to emulate. Some people who teach photography will have you concentrate heavily on the technical aspects of the craft. Others will encourage you to leave your camera on auto all the time and let the camera do the work. It’s your choice which path you choose to follow. I prefer to teach a mix of the creative and technical aspects of photography.

Taking a Measured Approach to Learning Photography Monk Photographer

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Building your technical ability is important. You need to understand your camera and how to manage the settings. Receiving some good teaching on the functions of shutter speed, aperture, ISO, focus and other essential controls will lead you to be more creative. Once you have learned these skills your mind will be freer to focus on the creative elements that make good photographs.

Having a good grasp of composition, light, color, and timing is equally important for being able to make good photographs. Much of the creative side of photography is very subjective. You can study it and gain foundational knowledge. This will set you up towards developing your own personal photographic style.

Without a balance between technical and creative study, you can end up unbalanced. This can lead to technically perfect snapshots or terribly exposed, out-of-focus ‘creative’ photographs.

Three Helpful Tips to Help Your Progress

Make a separate folder on your computer, somewhere you can access it easily. At least once a week, go through the photos you have made and choose a few of your favorites. Put them in this new folder. This is your portfolio. You don’t need to share it with anyone else (but it’s a good idea to.) It’s there so you can see your photographs improve over time.

Taking a Measured Approach to Learning Photography Market Photographer

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Having your work critiqued by a more experienced photographer helps. You may not always see what you have done wrong. You may look at your photos and know they are not great, but not be able to figure out why. This is where an experienced photographer can help you. A good critique will be positive and constructive but not shy away from pointing out changes which need to be made.

Finding someone to mentor you is one sure way that will help your photography progress. Regular contact with a more experienced photographer who’s committed to helping you learn will accelerate the process. The feedback a mentor can provide is invaluable. A good mentor will teach and guide you. They will also set and assess assignments for you.


Taking a Measured Approach to Learning Photography Kevin Teaching

© Pansa Landwer-Johan

Like learning to play a musical instrument or losing weight, the level of your commitment will be reflected in the level of your success. The more committed you are to learning to use your camera well, the more successful you become.

Frequent camera use and study will propel you more quickly to your goal. It’s your choice. Make regular study and camera use a daily habit. Go through and separate out your favorite photos once a week or so. You will be encouraged by the photos you are making. You will never achieve your potential by only occasionally picking up your camera.

The post Taking a Measured Approach to Learning Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Black and White in the Outdoors: Learning to see in Monochrome

The post Black and White in the Outdoors: Learning to see in Monochrome appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by David Shaw.

1 - Black and White in the Outdoors

To determine when black and white is the best option in nature photography, you need to learn to see your scene in black and white. Most beginner photographers arrive at their monochrome images by experimenting with post-processing. While this occasionally works, shooting with black and white in mind results in far better images.

In other words, you need to SEE in black and white.

Look for Contrast


In color photography, there are almost unlimited options to juxtapose contrasting and complementary colors or to provide an attention-getting subject in a flashy tone. But in black and white, you lose the ability to use color in the traditional way and are instead left with shades of gray. Contrast, rather than color, is our compositional tool.

Most of us see the world in rich color and there is no saturation slider in our eyes or brains with which we can switch color on and off. But we can train ourselves to see contrasts.

As I’m writing this, I’m looking out my window onto the spruce trees in my front yard. The sun is shining on a layer of fresh snow which fell over the past few days. The limbs of the spruces are draped in white. Looking south, toward the low sun, I can see flashes of perfect white where the sunlight is illuminating fresh snow. Those bright highlights contrast sharply with the dark, shaded trunks and exposed branches of the trees. In fact, even in the shaded areas, the difference between the snow and the dark needles is remarkable. With little color in the scene to begin with, it doesn’t take much to “see” this scene in black and white.

Because I can “see” this scene clearly in black and white, I can recognize that images like this will translate well from color. Here, let me step outside for a few minutes and make a few photos, to show you what I mean.

(A few minutes later…)

I’m back. I’ve pulled a few images and did a quick black and white conversion in Lightroom. Here are a couple of shots; first color, and then black and white.

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3 - Black and White in the Outdoors

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This is a straightforward example. As most people can see, lacking many colors, the snowy trees were a likely subject for black and white. However, the next step is harder.

Color Contrast

I had another black and white shooting session a few months back when “seeing” in black and white was much more difficult.

Each fall, I make a pilgrimage from my home in Alaska’s interior to the Kenai Peninsula. This year, I spent a day exploring the forest and mountains of Kachemak Bay State Wilderness Park, across the bay from the town of Homer. I hiked for several miles through the wet forest making images of the rising autumn colors, and the fog-draped mountains. It was a sea of greens and yellows, red highlights, grays, and browns. Some images were perfect for color, others not so much. Telling the difference in the field was a game I played as I walked.

6 - Black and White in the Outdoors

Some black and white images were clear in the gloomy forest. The dull yellow, jagged leaves of Devil’s Club against the muted greens and browns of the forest floor were an obvious contrast that I knew would translate well into black and white.

Others, like the pale green of fern fronds, were less contrasty in the field, and yet translated beautifully into shades of gray.

7 - Black and White in the Outdoors

These ferns were dying back at the end of the season and were largely a dull brown. Kind of ugly really. However, the color doesn’t matter in black and white, and the contrast between the pale brown fronds, and the deeply shaded background worked.

8 - Black and White in the Outdoors

This patch of ferns was pale green and popped against the darker green background. This is my favorite image of the series. It was a shot that took me a moment to “see” in black and white.

Another shot of an autumn stalk of bright red fireweed, I thought would look good in black and white when I first made the image, but upon examination of the back of my camera in the field. There was actually little contrast in brightness between the greens and red. That image didn’t work quite as well.

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10 - Black and White in the Outdoors

Lighting Contrast

Later that same afternoon, bright sunlight started to filter through increasingly thin clouds. It wasn’t yet hard light, but it was bright enough to be directional. The sun came through the forest canopy in patches, illuminating and shading different areas.

And this brought about a third option for black and white: lighting contrast. In the differing light, even similar colors will contrast in black and white.

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Beyond Details

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Seeing a large scene in black and white is the next step. I was photographing by a lake this fall. It was early in the day, the sun not yet far above the horizon, but any lingering sunrise color had faded. Most of the lake, some rising fog, and the surrounding mountains were in shadow. Aside from the sky, there wasn’t a lot of contrast. I was about to pack it in for the morning when the sun got high enough to illuminate a patch of fog, which flashed white in this scene of muted blues. Not much for color, I thought, but in black and white? That, I realized, would work.

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Terrible Light

At times, when photographing in harsh light, black and white can also salvage an otherwise impossible situation. A number of years ago, I was shooting in the altiplano of Bolivia. I arrived at mid-day at the spectacular and weird Laguna Colorado. It was savagely bright; cloudless skies, high elevation, middle of the day, and within a few degrees of the equator. Lighting conditions couldn’t have been worse.

While the landscape was uniformly drenched in harsh, ugly light, there was contrast in the colors of the desert. A polarizer darkened the sky and removed the worst of the glare. The resulting black and white conversion, was if not perfect, at least the best of a very bad situation.

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15 - Black and White in the Outdoors

Frequently traveling photographers find themselves in beautiful locations at bad times, and we don’t always have the freedom to return when the light is better. In such situations, consider black and white. It’s not a cure-all, by any means, but nasty light will often translate better into monochrome than full color.

The situation I described above was not unique on my trip through Bolivia. The sweet light of morning and evening lasted only minutes in the high desert, quickly replaced by glaring light. And yet contrasts in the landscape salvaged many a scene for me.

16 - Black and White in the Outdoors


If you can recognize a black and white subject in the field, it will open up your eyes to new compositions you may have previously ignored. Black and white photography is not simply the removal of color, it is a way of seeing.

When next you venture outdoors with your camera, look at the way colors and even shades contrast with one another. Look for lighting conditions that cause contrast to appear and embrace those situations in the form of black and white photography. Even on those days with rotten, bright light, consider how removing those washed out colors might help your final image, sometimes black and white can salvage an otherwise desperate moment.

Give it a try and then share your results in the comments below.

The post Black and White in the Outdoors: Learning to see in Monochrome appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by David Shaw.

4 Tips for Building a Photography Portfolio and Business

The post 4 Tips for Building a Photography Portfolio and Business appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

dps-Building a Photography Portfolio and Business

For some of us, a photography business springs from a hobby and grows into a paid endeavor, and so we feel it just landed in our laps. To others, it was more of a dream that was kept close and dear and planned to make a reality for a long time. For others, doors of opportunity open at the right time and place, and they’ve grabbed it.

Regardless of how your photography business has come about, for your business to take shape and grow, there are necessary steps to take. These steps require many initiatives and work and do not depend on luck or open doors of opportunity.

Let me share with you a few tips for building a photography portfolio and business. This article is of benefit if you are building your business from scratch or have been in operation but have relocated, requiring you to start afresh in a new location.

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1. Build a Strong Portfolio

Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t expect that you have a massive pile of photoshoots under your belt in the beginning (although that would be great.) All you need is a handful of carefully curated photos for your portfolio. If you have any images from practices or hobby shoots, choose your very best images. The best of the best, even if you only end up with a handful. If you are brave enough to do so, choose one genre and focus on that!

Usually the more niched, the stronger the portfolio.

3-dps-Building a Photography Portfolio and Business

2. Call for Models

If you don’t have any images to use or you feel your images are not good enough yet, plan a model call-out. Shoot new images that are more focused and consistent – your portfolio benefits from more consistent images. The goal down the line is that you are the one people think of when they need a photo shoot of a particular type.

You’re the expert in that field, and therefore you can also command decent prices. Having this in mind at the very start of your portfolio-building helps you streamline your model call plans in regards to age group, style, outfits location, and set-up. Branding is vital, especially at this stage. One could go as far as saying branding is everything.

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You have two choices for model calls:

1. You can ask friends or friends of friends. You can do a public call on your social media platforms. If going the friends’ route, you may decide not to charge as you may feel they are doing you a favor. That is your call. However, money doesn’t grow on trees in business. Money comes from clients or investors who want a return on their investment.

Therefore, don’t be quick to offer your services for free, especially if you want to start charging decent fees or market rate. It’s hard for a potential paying client to start paying good money after initially being offered a freebie.

2. There are other options far better than offering freebies. You can do a barter of some sort. Think of something that either party finds beneficial with relatively equal values. You can also charge a fair rate for portfolio building that is lower than the market rate. You can offer the session at no charge in exchange for the model call but sell the prints. That way it’s not a total freebie.

Right off the bat, learn to accept money from clients without feeling guilty or feeling that you don’t deserve it. Also, don’t be embarrassed about it!

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3. Have a Web Presence

Nowadays, if you are not on the web, you are not on the map. You don’t need a super-fancy website either if you feel that is out of reach at the moment. Although, it is easy enough to start a website using readily adaptable templates. More importantly, use social media platforms that are free and easy to set up such as Facebook and Instagram.

If possible, have both. However, if you are only doing one, a top tip is to think about your audience. What platform is your target market using? Parents with children are usually on Facebook. Younger age groups, like seniors, early 20s and 30s, are on Instagram. If you are after more real-time conversations and engagement with your followers, you could also link your accounts on Twitter.

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A Web Presence is Your Virtual Office

Having a web presence is like having a virtual office. People can contact you and view your strongest images in your portfolio. This tool can be leveraged to reach more people, especially friends of friends. You can tag friends, share on their page, and ask them to share. All of these methods help to spread the word about you.

By tapping into your contacts’ friends, you are starting from a position of trust. You are no longer a stranger to a potential client but a referral. Use that to your advantage. By being reached easily on social media channels, you become more of a real person than just a webshop.

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4. Print Some Business Cards and Stationery

While they may seem old-fashioned, business cards are useful because some people expect them, and they are great if you are networking in-person. If you want to be memorable, make your cards into a magnet, so you stay on people’s fridges! Think of something quirky, or at least different, so that you stand out more.

Having some printed promotional materials like mini-brochures and vouchers are invaluable. They come in handy if you want to collaborate with other small businesses in your area, such as your local health clinics for baby and maternity shoots, or boutique shops that sell outfits that fit with your branding.

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I hope the tips in this article will help you in some way as you start your photography business. If you have any other tips, please share them in the comments below.

You may also find this article helpful.

The post 4 Tips for Building a Photography Portfolio and Business appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

6 Ways to Capture Coastal Scenes to add Impact to Your Photos

The post 6 Ways to Capture Coastal Scenes to add Impact to Your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

1 - 6 Ways to Capture Coastal Scenes to add Impact to Your Photos

Myrtos beach, Kefalonia. © Jeremy Flint

Coastal photography is a popular genre and provides a plethora of photographic opportunities. At the same time, it is an enjoyable experience being by the sea. Whether you are visiting the seaside on a day trip or as part of a holiday, or are lucky enough to live near the coast, the fresh sea air is a refreshing draw while the coastline can be incredibly scenic.

Here are 6 tips to help you capture coastal scenes with impact and take your photos to the next level:

1. Colors of the Seashore

You don’t need to be taking a vacation on a paradise island to capture a beautiful beach shot. Light and water always make an inspiring subject. Captured in the right light, which may only last minutes, a pebbly or sandy beach can become transformed into a strikingly colorful image. With careful framing and the right conditions, a color in the sea in good light and with waves can add impact to your images.

Look at the beach in different ways. Close-ups of vibrant textures in the sand or sea make for great abstract pictures. Alternatively, add contrast to a scene. You can achieve contrast by adding another element such as the sky or white foam in the water.

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© Jeremy Flint

2. Crashing Waves

Have you ever been on the coast and enjoyed seeing the dramatic effects of a rough sea and crashing waves? Capture one of the cycles of waves when the next big swell hits. It may take a few attempts to get a picture that is pleasing.

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Dunseverick Falls, County Antrim, Northern Ireland © Jeremy Flint.

Be careful to position yourself in an area that is out of danger, so you don’t end up wet. Some coastlines can produce unusually large waves so stay at a safe distance. Use a zoom lens to capture the action and avoid being too close to the sea if the conditions are hazardous.

3. Fast-Flowing Water – Sea Shot

Fast-flowing water can be a challenge to photograph well. There is often a sharp contrast between the dark shadows and the brightness of the water. In bright sunlight, there is the added disparity of light and shade. Take some test shots and adjust the shutter times for creative effects. If you want to record sharper images of the moving sea water, use shorter shutter speeds, or use a longer exposure to give a milky effect. Try different settings and see which effect you prefer.

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La Digue, the Seychelles © Jeremy Flint.

4. A Tranquil Scene

Idyllic, peaceful seascapes are great subjects to photograph by the coast.

So how do you capture a tranquil scene well? Some things you should consider are location, tone, and color. Select a suitable location, use gradients of tone to draw the eye into the picture and use color to suggest movement. Capturing a serene and calming scene can be very inspiring and great for the soul.

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The Giants Causeway, Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland © Jeremy Flint.

5. The Colors of Sunset

Who doesn’t love witnessing a spectacular sunset by the sea? Photographs of this spectacle can often be underwhelming but vastly improve when vivid skies shine brightly overhead. Aim to arrive early to capture the sunset and be in a position to capture the last rays of light on the ocean.

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© Jeremy Flint

Don’t forget to turn around and capture the sky and landscape opposite the sunset which gets bathed in beautiful light.

Take in and photograph the warm yellows and deep blues as the sun reaches the horizon before dipping below.

For subtle or dramatic tones, shoot the palette of colors left in the sky after the sun sets.

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© Jeremy Flint

6. Cloud Formations

Magnificent cloud formations are always worth photographing and help take your coastal images to the next level. If you look up from the shoreline, you can see clouds change constantly. They often take on wonderful shapes and patterns that encompass great colors interacting with the seascape.

You can create a fabulous picture of cloudy seascapes just by capturing these changes and shifts of light.

Watch for low clouds in the sky too, which can produce a magical spectacle.

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Durdledoor, Jurassic coast, Dorset © Jeremy Flint.


In summary, photographing the coast can be a great experience and a brilliant opportunity to capture coastal scenes beautifully. Crashing waves, fast-flowing water, tranquil scenes, clouds, and colors can all be utilized to create images with impact. Once you capture coastal scenes near you, please share your images with us below.

The post 6 Ways to Capture Coastal Scenes to add Impact to Your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

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