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5 Ways to Take More Meaningful Photos This Christmas

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

Christmas goes by in the blink of an eye. But taking photos helps us to savour the moments long after the tree is gone and the kids are grown up. When you follow these 5 tips, you’ll have better and more meaningful photos this year.

First - 5 Ways to Take More Meaningful Photos This Christmas

1. Don’t Get Caught Off Guard

The first step to photographing an upcoming event like Christmas is to do a little planning. Start by considering the traditions and moments that you want to look back on in photos. Write an actual list so that you don’t forget what’s on it.

When you’re finished writing out your list, do this exercise to help you figure out what is truly meaningful about those moments. When you do this exercise, you’ll be able to capture deeper themes in your photos.

Take each moment and ask yourself, “What about this moment is important to me?”

For example, you might put “opening presents on Christmas morning” on your list. That’s an obvious one. But ask yourself, “What about the kids opening presents is important to me?” Perhaps the answer is something like, “seeing the look of delight on their faces.”

But don’t stop there; you’ve only gone a little bit below the surface. Now ask yourself, “What about seeing the look of delight on their face is important to me?” Maybe the answer is, “I remember what it was like as a kid and I want to pass that magic and excitement on to my kids.”

Sleep - 5 Ways to Take More Meaningful Photos This Christmas

Do you remember when you were a kid how hard it was to fall asleep on Christmas Eve? After putting the presents under the tree, I snuck in to take this photo of my son as he lay sleeping. This is the book we were reading for his bedtime story.

Now you’re getting somewhere! But you can still keep asking that question until you get right to the bottom. What about “passing on magic and excitement” to your kids is important to you? “Well, this is such a short time in their life. Soon they’ll be grown up and stressed out like me. I just want to slow that down and make their childhood good.”

You’re finally getting deep, so ask the question one more time. “What about slowing down and making their childhood a good one is important to me?” Maybe the answer is that “these are the most formative years of their life. If their childhood goes well, they’ll likely grow up and become good and strong adults themselves.”

By asking the question, “what about this moment is important to me,” you will discover the deeper themes in your photos. Now you can look for those themes in other moments too. Where else do you find the magic and excitement of growing up?
Get in touch with the things that will shape your children as they grow and the things you care most about.

Instead of a few random snapshots of Christmas morning chaos, you can photograph all sorts of meaningful moments to look back on.

Better Christmas photos 01

This is one of the most meaningful photos I have of Christmas time. Not only do I love the quiet moment and beautiful candlelight, but the photo was taken at my grandma’s church on Christmas Eve. It was my son’s first Christmas Eve church service and it was our first Christmas without my Grandma. The photo reminds me of the traditions and hope that is passed down the generations in our family.

Sick - 5 Ways to Take More Meaningful Photos This Christmas

A tender moment between mom and daughter. Our daughter came down with a fever this Christmas. Giving our kids gifts is an exciting part of parenting, but so is comforting them when they are sick. I knew this was a moment worth capturing.

2. Prepare for the Light

You’ve got your list of moments to photograph and you’ve checked it twice! Now you need to consider the type of light in which you will be photographing. When you’re able to handle the light, your photos will look better.

Go ahead and use the flash on your camera (or phone) if you have to. It’s better to have a photo lit with flash than a dark and blurry photo that isn’t worth looking at.

Better Christmas photos 02

This was our first Christmas together as a family. I had read that you shouldn’t use the flash on your camera, so I didn’t. Unfortunately, the photo is so dark you can’t see us. I wish I had used the flash!

Better Christmas photos 03

I used the popup flash on my camera for this photo. It doesn’t always work out this nice though. If you’re going to use the little built-in flash on your camera, then get as close as you can to your subject. The flash will light them up, but not affect things in the background so much.

If you have a DSLR camera and you’re going to use flash, consider using an external flash called a speedlight. When you use an external flash you can bounce the light and your photos will look far better than the little pop-up flash on your camera.

Better Christmas photos 04

An on-camera speedlight was used to light this photo. It was pointed up toward the ceiling so that the light would become softer as it bounced back down toward my son. The Christmas lights in the background are far enough away that they weren’t affected by the flash.

But whenever possible, use natural light. When you’re taking indoor photos, one of the best sources of natural light during the day is a large window. Many of your holiday events will happen in the living room, and most living rooms have a large window which lets in lots of light.

Place your Christmas tree beside the window instead of in front of it and allow the window to become a large, soft light source, making your photos look beautiful.

Better Christmas photos 05

Here the kids are at Grandma’s house. There is a large window to the right which is lighting them up. The Christmas tree is tucked into a corner away from the window.

Better Christmas photos 06

Again, there is a large window providing light for this photo. The tree is tucked away from the window allowing the lights to keep their glow.

When the sun goes down, and you don’t want to use flash, try using lots of lamplight in your photos. The lower placement of lamps simulates the position that the sun is in during golden hour or sunset. The lampshade diffuses the light making soft sidelight for your photos.

Better Christmas photos 07

This photo was lit with two lamps. The warm, soft light provides ambiance for the moment.

3. How to Make Your Photos Look More Exciting

There is a secret that will instantly make your photos look more exciting. Use a low angle! It sounds simple and it is. Just crouch down a little bit and look up at the person you’re photographing. If it’s an exciting moment then use a low angle to make it look exciting in the photo.

You should take note that low angles are not generally good for formal portraits. A low angle exaggerates a person’s size and adults don’t usually like that. But, if it’s a portrait of an athlete or rock star then a low camera angle is a must.

Better Christmas photos 08

We all remember how fun it was to play with the empty wrapping paper rolls as kids. I wanted to make this moment look epic so I crouched down for a low angle.

Better Christmas photos 09

When my son unwrapped his emergency set he wanted to play with it immediately. I went for a low angle because in real life we always look up to see a helicopter flying. It’s just a photo of a boy with his toy helicopter, but I wanted a more dramatic effect. Notice the burst of backlight coming from the big window in the background.

Better Christmas photos 10

This low angle gives us the fun perspective of the toys looking up at everyone.

4. Tell a Story With Your Photos

As you’re photographing your most important moments, in beautiful light, from interesting angles, be mindful of the fact that you’re photographing a story. Your story is filled with characters (your friends and family), with an emotional plot that takes place in many settings (around the dinner table, the Christmas tree, at church, in front of the fireplace).

Photograph the unique personality of each character. Take more than one photo of each moment and link them together to show the plot-line. Make sure to include the background as part of the setting for your character’s story.

The photos below illustrate a story being told over time.

Better Christmas photos 11

This was the year that my son first learned to print letters and read simple words. Here, he’s writing the tags for Grandma’s presents.

Better Christmas photos 12

The following Christmas he had begun to spell out words on his own.

Better Christmas photos 13

After our family Christmas trip to Grandma’s house was over, both of the kids were really sad. So as they went to bed that night, they drew pictures to mail to Grandma. But my son wrote her a whole letter. He had never done anything like that before.

It’s exciting when we bring our kids into our traditions. Something as simple as filling out a gift tag is a huge step in their growth and part of a bigger story.

5. Practice Before Christmas Day

Christmas isn’t just about what happens on December 25th. For most families, Christmas has a month-long lead up. So work on your list of things to photograph, but remember to start photographing Christmas before it even gets here.

Practice looking for deeper moments in beautiful natural light (or using your external flash). You’ll be far more confident when the big day arrives and you don’t have time to over think the photos you’re taking.

Better Christmas photos 14

This was my first Christmas using a speedlight with my camera. As soon as our tree was up I began experimenting so that when Christmas arrived I would know how to use it. This shows a pretty good balance of ambient light from the tree mixed with the light from my flash.

Listen to Your Heart

When your heart tells you to pick up your camera and snap a photo, do it. Don’t hesitate, just take the photo. It may not turn out to be the perfect moment or the best angle. But at least you’ve got a photo.

Better Christmas photos 15

This is one of the most precious photos I have.

The photo above is my daughter and my grandma. It was just a fun little moment that they were having together. My camera is never out of arm’s reach at Christmas time. I saw this moment and clicked a few photos. I didn’t know then that these would be the last photos I would take of my grandma. My little girl won’t remember this moment, but she will always be able to look back and see the love that her great-grandma had for her.

Your Checklist for Deeper Christmas Photos Than You’ve Ever Taken Before

  1. Make your list of important moments
  2. Look for beautiful light and have your external flash ready
  3. Use low angles to make exciting events actually look exciting in your photos
  4. Tell a story with your photos
  5. Practice before Christmas day

The post 5 Ways to Take More Meaningful Photos This Christmas by Mat Coker appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Have your say: Best smartphone of 2017

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

This year was a busy one for smartphone manufacturers, with major new handsets released from all of the big players. Take a look at some of 2017's noteworthy new phones, and vote for your favorite!


Have your say: Best smartphone of 2017

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

This year was a busy one for smartphone manufacturers, with major new handsets released from all of the big players. Take a look at some of 2017's noteworthy new phones, and vote for your favorite!


All dPS eBooks just $9 Today! (Save up to 80%)

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

It’s that time of year again where here on dPS we put together some amazing deals in the 12 days leading up to Christmas.

In that time if you’re subscribed to our newsletter or watch the blog here you’ll get access to some mega-discounts on dPS products as well as some very special offers from our partners.

It all starts today with all of our dPS eBooks available for just $9 each (USD).

That’s up to 80% off! But don’t delay – this deal will be gone in 48 hours.

With 23 titles in our eBook store there’s loads to choose from and at this price if you see more than one that you like you can create your own little bundle of photography training and still not break the budget.

Here are 3 of our most popular eBook guides:

But that is just the tip of the iceberg. There are eBooks on post processing, lighting, black and white photography, travel photography and much more.

Be sure to checkout all 23 titles here to find the guide that will take your photography to the next level.

Bonus Parter Offers

This year we’ve added some extra special bonuses for anyone who makes a purchase during our 12 days of Christmas.

Buy anything during this week and you get access to exclusive partner bonus offers – like saving $200 on online photography courses from our friends at the New York Institute of Photography.

The post All dPS eBooks just $9 Today! (Save up to 80%) by Darren Rowse appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Our favorite finalists from the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2017

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

Later this week, on December 14th, the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards will reveal the winning photos for 2017, each chosen from a pool of 40 finalists revealed earlier this month. The 40 images showcase fun and funny scenes captured by wildlife photographers around the globe: singing elephant seals, a laughing mouse, macaques on a motorbike, and more.

More than 3,500 images were submitted to the competition this year.

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards goes by the tagline "conservation through competition," providing photographers with an lighthearted contest through which they can share fun photos of wildlife while helping raise conservation awareness.

You can see our favorite finalists in the gallery above, then head over to the contest's website to see all 40, view a gallery of last year's wildlife comedy finalists, or check out the 2015 and 2016 winners.


Instagram now lets you follow hashtags, is testing ‘recommended’ posts

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

Instagram will now let you follow hashtags in addition to individuals. The change, announced through the Instagram blog, comes about a month after initial reports surfaced that Instagram was 'testing' the feature with small groups of users.

As Instagram explains in its blog post, this is all about 'enhancing' discovery:

Every day, millions of people share photos and videos and tag them with relevant hashtags. #onthetable, #slime and #floralnails are just a few examples of hashtags that represent the many interests and passions of our community. To make these posts even more discoverable, we’re introducing hashtags you can follow.

Hashtags can be followed by clicking the big blue 'Follow' button on the hashtag's landing page. Once you've followed a tag, top photos and stories from that tag will begin appearing in your newsfeed and stories queue up top.

One More Thing

The ability to follow hashtags began as a test back in early November, and Instagram just launched another feature test that seems likely to make it to prime time very soon. The Verge reports that Instagram is testing a 'Recommended for You' feature that will add posts to your news feed that it believes you will like.

These might include photos people you follow have liked, or images Instagram's controversial algorithm believes you would enjoy based on your activity.

Instagram confirmed that the feature was being tested in a statement to the The Verge, who is also reporting that users can hide the Recommended for You section... at least for now.


Google launches three mobile photography ‘Appsperiments’

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

Google today launched the first three installments in a series of experimental photography apps that the company calls 'appsperiments'. The apps build on a range of technologies that are currently under development at Google, including: object recognition, person segmentation, stylization algorithms or efficient image encoding and decoding technologies.

Storyboard - Android only

The Storyboard app is currently available for Android and converts videos into single-page comic layouts. After shooting a video the app automatically selects interesting video frames, creates a layout, and applies one of six visual styles to the imagery.

And since privacy is a big concern with anything 'intelligent' like this: all of this happens on-device, without sending any data to the cloud.

Selfissimo! - iOS and Android

Selfissimo! is available for iOS devices and Android. Once you activate the app, it automatically captures a black-and-white selfie each time you strike a pose. The app encourages you to pose and captures a photo whenever you stop moving.

You end the 'photoshoot' by tapping on the screen, and can then review a 'contact sheet' to save your favorite images.

Scrubbies - iOS only

Scrubbies is an iOS app and allows you to adjust the playback speed and direction of videos, as well as create looping clips. The idea is to shoot a video using the app and then 'remix' it by 'scratching' on the screen like a DJ would do with vinyl.

Scrubbing with one finger plays the video. Scrubbing with two fingers captures the playback so you can save or share it.

If you try one or more of these so-called appsperiments, you can send your feedback to Google via in-app feedback links. More information about each of these creations is available on the Google Research Blog.


19 inspiring entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

19 of the best entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

The Sony World Photography Awards—one of the largest annual competitions in the world of photography—is just a month away from closing its entries. To remind photographers of this deadline (and just maybe brag a little bit about the quality of the entries they've received so far—World Press Photo has released a teaser of 19 stunning entries submitted to the competition so far.

From perfectly composed black-and-white street portraits, to spectacular wildlife images, to landscape photos that'll rev up your wanderlust, there's a little something for everyone in this Holiday teaser.

Scroll through the slideshow to see them all for yourself. And if you're planning to submit your own entry, you can do so for free right here. Just remember: the submission deadline for the Open, Youth, and National Award competitions is January 4th, 2018, and the deadline for the Professional - Best Series of Works competition is January 11th, 2018.

Press Release

New images released to mark one month until deadline of 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

December 5, 2017 – Photographers worldwide have just one month left to enter the 11th edition of the Sony World Photography Awards. To mark this deadline, the World Photography Organisation, the creators of the Awards, today releases a new selection of entries from the Open competition. Submitted by photographers from around the world, the images cover a wide variety of topics, from stunning aerial landscapes to intimate portraits and animals in the wild.

The internationally acclaimed Sony World Photography Awards are one of the most important fixtures on the worldwide photographic calendar, with many of its shortlisted and winning photographers gaining global exposure and recognition. Last year's Photographer of the Year, Frederik Buyckx (Belgium) said, "Being named Photographer of the Year has given me more exposure than I could ever have imagined. It has opened doors but, just as importantly, the awards has also encouraged me to keep on working on my personal projects."

Past shortlisted photographer Simon Butterworth (UK) said "It's impossible to overstate the importance of this achievement to my career, the global coverage was amazing, in fact, interest in my work as a direct result of the awards continues to this day."

All entries to the Awards are free at

Deadlines and Jury

The 2018 judges have been tasked to reward the very best contemporary photography from the past year across the following competitions:

Open - best single image
Youth - photographers aged 12-19, best single image
National Award - best single image taken by a local photographer from 60+ countries Deadline: January 4, 2018

Professional - best series of works
Deadline: January 11, 2018

The juries are chaired by Mike Trow, Picture Editor, British Vogue (Professional competition) and Zelda Cheatle, Curator (Open, Youth competitions and National Awards). Full details about the 2018 jury can be found at judges

Key dates

The shortlist for all competitions of the Awards will be announced on February 28, 2018. The Open and National Awards winners will be announced March 20, 2018. The Photographer of the Year and the Professional category winners will be announced April 19, 2018.

Prizes and exhibition

Prizes include $25,000 (USD) for the Photographer of the Year and $5,000 (USD) for the overall Open competition winner. All category winners will receive the latest Sony Digital Imaging equipment and Professional category winners are flown to London to attend the Sony World Photography Awards dinner on Thursday April 19, 2018.

The Awards’ winning and shortlisted images will once again be exhibited at Somerset House, London. Running April 20 – May 6 2018, the exhibition will also include exclusive new works by the recipient of the Outstanding Contribution to Photography Award, to be announced in January 2018. Previous recipients include Martin Parr (2017), RongRong&inri (2016), Elliot Erwitt (2015) and Mary Ellen Mark (2014)

19 of the best entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

Back to the future by Sung Lok Cheung | Image © Sung Lok Cheung, Hong Kong (China), Entry, Open, Portraiture (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

The photo was taken at TeamLab, Dance! Art Exibition, Shenzhen, China, in a venue called the Crystal Universe. The light illusion is an artwork that uses an accumulation of light points to create a sculptural body.

By this time, I had been waiting with my friend for the right composition to happen. I saw a little girl in a red dress running around. I kept on waiting and waiting expecting that she would come to the perfect spot. Luckily she ran out again by the channel. I found it is so called “The Decisive Moment”. I couldn't wait to press the shutter, when the lighting was perfectly right, to create a beautiful moment. It looked like the girl was crossing a time tunnel.

That is why I put “Back to the Future “ as the title of my photo. I was inspired by the idea that opportunities are to be left to those who are well prepared. Or, to put it another way, that good preparation is the way to become successful. By pressing the shutter at the right moment, an amazing photo was finally realised.

19 of the best entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

Life in Macau by António Leong | Image © António Leong, Portugal, Entry, Open, Street Photography (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

Macau is probably better known as a gambling city near Hong Kong, but very few know that it is the most densely populated city in the world—over 18,000 people packed in a km square. High rise residential buildings are everywhere in town. How many stories are in each Kilometer cube?

19 of the best entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

African Mystery by Matthieu Rivart | Image © Matthieu Rivart, France, Entry, Open, Wildlife (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

The photo was taken during my last trip in Kalahari (Kgalagadi Park, South Africa), last September. The Kalahari lions are famous for their black mane.

After a long drive through the park, I came across two of them, sharing a springbok kill. A violent fight took place between the two to get the best pieces. They ultimately headed towards the nearby waterhole, where they got a rest during the sunset, which gave me the perfect opportunity to capture their legendary beauty.

19 of the best entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

Morning Glory by Huibo Hou | Image © Huibo Hou, United States of America, Entry, Open, Landscape & Nature (2018 Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

Morning glory hot spring in Winter, Yellowstone National Park, USA

19 of the best entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

The Horns at sunrise by Vincent Chen | Image © Vincent Chen, China, Entry, Open, Landscape & Nature (2018 Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

I took this photo in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile’s Patagonia region in Feb 2017.

I came to this secluded viewpoint in early morning and was fortunate to get pretty amazing weather. The sunshine shone onto the famous Cuernos del Paine peaks—they looked magnificent and incredible.

19 of the best entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

On White by Chris MacDonald | Image © Chris MacDonald , Canada, Entry, Open, Wildlife (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

A red fox stands in the snow. I was out for a hike in the early January snow when I cam across a set of fox tracks. I followed them around a curve and found this fox standing in a clearing. I got down to my knees quickly to try not to scare him off and started taking pictures.

As some of the heavy snow fell of the trees, he paused and turn to see what was making the noise. I have photographed this fox over many years. His nose is so distinctive it helps to identify him. By getting low, it gave me the snow in the background to create the isolated effect of white.

19 of the best entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

Untitled by Oliver San Juan | Image © Oliver San Juan, Philippines, Entry, Open, Street Photography (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

This photo was taken somewhere in the famous Divisoria Market of Manila, and shows 3 generations of men.

First is a kid that seems to be playing, the middle-aged man in the center seems to be thinking of something deeply, while the last man sits very relaxed while reading a newspaper. It is like an evolution from being a playful kid to a relaxed, worry-free old man.

19 of the best entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

Newspaper... by Martin Schubert | Image © Martin Schubert, Czech Republic, Entry, Open, Street Photography (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

I was waiting on a tram in Prague, and this man was sat eating a snack. First, I photographed the scene from another angle, but when I noticed the poster behind him I moved fast to the right place and shot this picture. After 30 seconds he stood up and left.

19 of the best entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

Little Indian by Virgilio Liberaton | Image © Virgilio Liberato, Philippines, Entry, Open, Portraiture (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

The photo is taken around March or February 2017, when its still cold here in Kuwait. Its a park we shoot in actually here in Kuwait, where its not allowed to shoot at any park or location unless you have permits—let's just say I'm a run and gun photographer.

The park is named Green Island. It's near the seaside and not too many photos were taken there because you need to pay to get into the park. It was a little bit cold at that time, so not too many people were going to the park. The model is wearing a Native American headdress because we can't bring extra people on that shoot, and its also not allowed for that headdress to be seen here in Kuwait.

This scene was just timing. We had finished our shoot, and while going home I found the spot that would be great for her: a bush that she could pass through, but only a little space so I imagined letting her pass by and calling to her. In the instant I captured her eyes, its hard for her because of small thorns of the bushes.

So thats how I got her photo. Paying attention at the last minute helped me find that great spot, which I didn't see when we came to the location.

19 of the best entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

Nattfari, Húsavík by Matteo Redaelli | Image © Matteo Redaelli, Italy, Entry, Open, Travel (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

Whale watching is a wonderful experience to enjoy if you travel across Iceland. This boat, Náttfari, is a traditional Icelandic wooden boat sailing the most of the year around Skjalfandi Bay, where you can enjoy this majestic and unique experience of whale watching.

The afternoon I took this picture was really unexpected because the morning the weather was truly better. That is the fun part of Iceland. I feel joyful when a normal morning suddenly transforms into an unusual afternoon. That was exactly what happened during this day.

I remember that it was very cold but at the same time so nice because was unexpected such a lot of snow around Skjalfandi Bay on Náttfari. Knowing that the Bay was surrounded by humpbacks whales was another point for the wonderful experience it was. I love to travel and share my time with nice people as the crew was on Náttfari for the time I was there for a scientific project.

19 of the best entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

Lunch Break by Omer Faidi | Image © Omer Faidi, Turkey, Entry, Open, Street Photography (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

At lunchtime in my office, I went out to the balcony and when I saw the workers at the construction site next door, I said "wow!" I went back inside to get my camera and shot them from the 6th floor. They were looking very peaceful and natural.

I returned shortly after, and the moment had passed.

19 of the best entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

Jump by Milo Angelo Ramella | Image © Milo Angelo Ramella, Italy, Entry, Open, Wildlife (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

Jump: A snowy owl flies, alarmed by the call of another female.

19 of the best entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

Wanma Pentium by Shen Jianfeng | Image © Shen Jianfeng, China, Entry, Open, Travel (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

My image was taken in July 2017, in the grassland grazing area of Wulangbu Dam in Inner Mongolia, China.

19 of the best entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

The Big Meringue by Placido Faranda | Image © Placido Faranda, Italy, Entry, Open, Landscape & Nature (2018 Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

Scala dei Turchi (The Turkish Steps) is a white cliff in Realmonte (Sicily), made of a soft limestone and a blinding white marlstone. Natural erosion has created steps on the cliff face, making it look soft and sinuous, like a Big Meringue covered with sprinkles (the people sitting and walking on it).

The origin of the name “Turkish Steps” is intriguing. While there is a big resemblance to Pamukkale (Turkey), the designation of “Turkish” was given centuries ago by local people, for the frequent raids carried by Turkish pirates on this area. Legend says they would find a shelter for their boats behind this rocky formation, and then climb the “steps” of the cliff and raid the villages.

Today, Scala dei Turchi is a wonderful spot for viewing the sunset, as the bright white marl turns into a strong orange. Only after shooting this image, while watching it on a bigger screen, did I notice the newlywed couple in the frame kissing for their wedding photoshoot. Exactly at the edge of the cliff.

19 of the best entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

K means kite by Krzysztof Ćwik | Image © Krzysztof Ćwik, Poland, Entry, Open, Street Photography (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

The kite competition on the Marseille beach. France.

19 of the best entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

Papuma by Haryadi Bakri | Image © Haryadi Bakri, Indonesia, Entry, Open, Enhanced (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

The picture of Papuma taken on 8 October 2017 on my 7 day trip to Bromo Mountain, then to Papuma Beach at East Java, Indonesia.

It was my first time visiting Papuma beach, at Jember City. I arrived at midnight from the Surabaya night train after finishing my 3-night trip hunting star trails at Bromo mountain.

Papuma Beach is not actually at the city, but far on the southern tip of the coastline. I had to return to to beach 3 times in a day just to make sure I had the right location for capturing the clouds and the stars at night—sadly, it was very cloudy at night, so I'm combining the star trails from Bromo mountain.

That's it, but before combining, I made sure the south pole in the picture is in the right position as the real location. No doubt, this is the image that I wanted to create.

19 of the best entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

The child and the reindeer by Pehuen Grotti | Image © Pehuen Grotti, France, Entry, Open, Travel (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

Every morning, all the reindeer are released so they can graze all day, and at night they all come back themselves. Here we can see one of the Tsataan children taking care of his reindeer before the cold night comes.

19 of the best entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

Golden Happy Hour by Hans Gunnar Aslaksen | Image © Hans Gunnar Aslaksen, Norway, Entry, Open, Landscape & Nature (2018 Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

This image was taken in October in a small bay in Larvik, southern Norway. Larvik is a small town south of Oslo.

The location for this image is not far from where I live. It is kind of a secret gem that few people know about. I discovered the place and its potential on a local hike I did. I have been here several times under different weather conditions. This location is quite tricky as it needs perfect waves to work. That means that they cant be to big or else you and the camera will get soaked. But calm water will not add enough interest and dynamic to the image.

This specific evening the waves where just perfect. Just big enough to wash over the stones and not to big so I could get a low angle with the camera. The setting sun was also in a perfect position—the low sun was not obstructed by clouds and it lit up the rocks in the bay beautifully.

I knew that the sun would set in just half an hour, so I had to work fast and find the best composition. The light just got better and better and I knew that I had a chance to capture something special. I tried to anchor the shot with the beautiful stones in the foreground and experimented with different shutter speeds to create interesting movement in the waves. I tried to make every element lead up to the sunstar for a strong composition. I am very pleased that also the clouds acts as leading lines towards the setting sun.

19 of the best entries from the Sony World Photography Awards

Frazzled by Zhayynn James | Image © Zhayynn James, India, Entry, Open, Wildlife (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

A handsome alpha male Lion-tailed Macaque keeps a wary eye on the rest of his troop after a drink of water. They are one of the most endangered primate species in the world and are highly endemic to the Western Ghats of South India.

Their species is fragmented across the Western Ghats in pockets and their future, much like this male's mane, looks frazzled.


Review of the Breakthrough Photography X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

Make no mistake, this is, in fact, a review of the X4 Circular Polarizer from Breakthrough Photography. That being said, the entire subject requires a little bit of photographic geekiness in order to grasp the full understanding of the product being reviewed. So, if you absolutely don’t want to add any more brain wrinkles feel free to skip the next couple of paragraphs. If you do skip…shame on you.

Geeky stuff about polarizers

Polarizers – we’ve all heard of them and the majority of us photographers have used them extensively from one time or another. How do they work? And more importantly, how do you know when you’ve found a good one?

These are all great questions and oddly enough these things aren’t always well known by even some experienced shooters. Polarizers are just filters. These filters work to sift out polarized light which commonly occurs in our photographs from reflections and glare. The noticeable byproduct of this filtration is the reduction of said reflections and glare as well as the deepening of colors and most noticeably, the darkening of the sky.

Review of the Breakthrough Photography X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

Polarizers come in two flavors: linear and circular. It’s somewhat of a weird concept as all polarizers are in fact linear…but not all linear polarizers are circular. That might sound slightly cryptic but that is not the intention.

At their most basic definition, the way polarizers work is to filter our non-linear rays of light. Circular polarizers further enhance this effect by adding what’s called a quarter-wave plate to the camera side of the linear polarizer. The quarter wave plate serves to essentially convert the incoming light into a helix and the polarization effect can then be dialed-in to whatever degree is needed. This is of great benefit because the majority of SLR and DSLR cameras are sensitive to polarization and linear polarized light can cause internal camera metering to malfunction.

The X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

Now that you’ve had a crash course in how circular polarizers work, it’s time to talk about the X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter by Breakthrough Photography. This will be my fourth time evaluating filters by the folks at Breakthrough. With each piece of gear I have been consistently impressed with the build and optical quality to such an extent to where I find it difficult to list any faults. The X4 CPL is no different.

Breakthrough Photography currently markets this polarizer as being the “world’s most advanced circular polarizer” so I put the X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter to the test to see just how this claim holds up in real-world shooting.

Build Quality

The construction of theX4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter is blackened brass, much like their line of X4 ND filters. The filter housing is robust and feels extremely sturdy. Deep traction grooves are cut around the bezel and provide for a solid grip even with gloved or wet hands.

Review of the Breakthrough Photography X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

An interesting property of brass is that unlike other metals such as aluminum it is non-galling. This means that it is less likely to bind and become stuck when stacking multiple filters. The filter bezel turns quite smoothly when engaging or disengaging the polarization effect.

The optical element is made from SCHOTT Superwhite B270® optical glass. Each side of the glass is then treated with eight layers of Breakthrough Photography’s proprietary nanotec® and MRC (multi-resistant coatings) optical coatings which cause dirt and moisture to essentially slide right off of the glass itself.

X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

Overall, the build quality of theX4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter is exceptional and it looks great to boot. The company also backs the filter with a 25-year guarantee.

Optical Performance

Of course, the real question about the X4 CPL concerns its optical quality, which in turn will greatly impact the final quality of your finished photographs. When it comes to photography filters, the sharpness, vignetting, and color cast, are the three main points of interest for most photographers.

While it’s great to talk about all these points actual test images speak louder than words. So have a look at the sample images as you read my thoughts on the results and judge for yourself.


In terms of sharpness, the X4 CPL exceeds all expectations. No image degradation was observed even at the maximum strength filtration.

X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

To left is the image without the X4 CPL applied. The image at the right is with the X4 CPL. Both zoomed to 1:1 for comparison.

Images remained crisp and detail was not lost due to the addition of the filter.

Color Cast and Vignetting

A common problem seen with polarizers and most filters, in general, is the unwanted color casting sometimes encountered. The color cast happens due to the coloration of the optical glass and often worsens in lower quality filter systems.

X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

An image with a high color cast from an ND filter. Low-quality polarizers can carry the same effects.

The images produced by the X4 CPL seem to be completely free of this discoloration just as they are advertised. No discernible color cast was observed in any of the test images I made using the filter.

X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

The same is true for vignetting. Darkening of the corners of the photos was not observed even at the strongest filtration setting.

X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

Final Thoughts on the X4 CPL

There’s a certain feeling of uneasy optimism which begins to surface whenever I come across gear which does not seem to have any obvious weak points.”Have I missed something? Is this really that good?”

Having reviewed multiple pieces of kit from Breakthrough Photography I can say that they have consistently produced insanely high-quality photographic gear that is innovative, sturdy, and relatively cost-effective. I use quite a few of their filters in my own personal photography work and have put them into environments from Death Valley to the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and everywhere in between (or least it seems).

The X4 CPL has thus far given no reason for me to believe that its quality would not serve any serious photographer’s needs for years to come. The build quality is heavy-duty and the image quality, especially sharpness, is outstanding. It retails for $129-159 USD (depending on filter size) at the time of this review. Find out more details about the X4 CPL here, or shop Amazon for the size you need here.

Rating 5/5 stars – my first ever! 

The post Review of the Breakthrough Photography X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter by Adam Welch appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Toshiba unveils world’s first 14TB conventional magnetic hard drive

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

Toshiba has unveiled what it claims is the first ever Conventional Magnetic Recording (CMR) Hard Drive (HDD) with a massive 14TB capacity. This drive, which is billed as a model for enterprise use, boasts nine disks and a helium-sealed design, 3.5in form factor, 7200rpm speed, and a 6Gbit/s SATA interface.

Toshiba announced the new drive, which is part of the new MG07ACA series, last week alongside a smaller 12TB 8-disk model. Both hard drives boast a lower operating power profile than the previously launched MG06ACA series, according to Toshiba, as well as better storage density.

The 14TB drive in particular offers a greater than 50% improvement in power efficiency versus the 10TB MG06ACA version. Conventional magnetic recording drives such as these are faster than similar models that use shingled magnetic recording tech.

Talking about the new MG07ACA series, IDC's HDD Research VP John Rydning said:

Toshiba’s new helium-sealed enterprise HDD is the world’s first 14TB of storage capacity using conventional rather than shingled magnetic recording technology, giving enterprise customers the highest capacity HDD available in the market today for existing server and storage system architectures.

Consumers interested in this new enterprise series will need to contact Toshiba directly for purchase information, but as 4K and even 8K video becomes standard, ultra-high capacity enterprise drives like this might not be limited to traditional 'enterprise' users for long...

Press Release

Toshiba Launches World’s First 14TB HDD with Conventional Magnetic Recording

The 14TB models use an innovative 9-disk, helium-sealed design to deliver massive capacity that fits into standard 3.5 inch SATA drive bays

Irvine, CA – December 7, 2017 – Toshiba Electronic Devices & Storage Corporation today announced the launch of the MG07ACA Series, the world’s first enterprise 14TB Conventional Magnetic Recording (CMR) HDD. Using a 9-disk, helium-sealed design, the new MG07ACA Series provides the power-efficient capacity and storage density needed by cloud-scale and enterprise storage solution providers to achieve their TCO objectives.

“We have raised the bar with the new MG07ACA Series 9-disk helium-sealed design,” said Akitoshi Iwata, Vice President of Storage Products Division, Toshiba Electronic Devices and Storage Corporation. “By utilizing an innovative design, we continue to improve the benefits that high-capacity disk storage can deliver to our broad global customer base.”

The MG07ACA Series features both 14TB 9-disk and 12TB 8-disk models. The helium-sealed 3.5-inch mechanical design realizes better storage density and a lower HDD operating power profile than the previous MG06ACA Series for optimal TCO in cloud-scale infrastructures. The series also utilizes Toshiba Group’s laser welding technology to ensure the helium remains securely sealed inside the drive enclosure. The drives support a SATA 6Gbit/s interface and 7,200rpm access performance. The 9-disk 14TB models achieve a 40% increase in maximum capacity over previous MG06ACA 10TB models. Additionally, the 14TB models improve power efficiency by over 50% (W/GB).

“Toshiba’s first helium-sealed nearline drive intercepts the market at a class-leading 14 TB capacity with CMR,” said John Chen, industry analyst at Trend Focus. “Its early time-to-market for this capacity positions the company well to meet the storage needs of large hyperscale and cloud companies. Additionally, the company’s choice of a 9-disk platform paves the way to achieving higher capacities in future product generations.”

“While enterprise server and storage customers realize that shingled magnetic recording (SMR) technology can improve HDD capacity, the adoption of SMR HDD products into server and storage systems is a transition that will take several years,” said John Rydning, Research Vice President for hard disk drives at IDC. “Toshiba’s new helium-sealed enterprise HDD is the world’s first 14TB of storage capacity using conventional rather than shingled magnetic recording technology, giving enterprise customers the highest capacity HDD available in the market today for existing server and storage system architectures.”

Sample deliveries of MG07ACA Series drives to customers sequentially begin today. For more information on our full line of HDD storage products, please visit: